Saturday, December 31, 2011

Feet and metres

Having cappuccino with Judy, 39, and Jade, 11 (well, she had ice-cream instead of the coffee), talk fell upon the technical drawings of crop circles which I have framed on my walls. I mentioned that one of the largest ever was over 900 feet. Young Jade had to have that translated into meters, whereas Jude says she only uses feet, not the metric system. I find that funny. The world does change, but sometimes very slowly.

The famous, enormous Milk Hill formation:

(It was also formed within a single 4-hour summer night without any witnesses.)

TikTok manufacturing

This shows the manufacturing of a brand of iPod Nano wrist watch adapters. I find it lovely the precision which is applied in all the steps, for example the exact amount of pigment put into the silicon mass for the strap.

Here are more videos about that product. It seems like a very nice one.

Here's a particularly nice one, the new LunaTik Lynk, black-anodised aluminium:

A funny thing, going full circle, is that they also make real old-style watches for the bands now! Thus entirely leaving out the Nano, the product which started the whole thing.

Guitar strings!

 Cool. Though the effect is from the digital shutter, not the strings' actual vibration.

POPA button

Here's an interesting new iPhone (4 and 4S) accessory: put a camera button (and a handle) on the iPhone.
Just for one thing it seems one can use the iPhone camera one-handed, something which is virtually impossible with only the screen button.
Aluminium and leather, sounds like it'll look and feel good. (Not super-cheap though, about £50/$75.)
It communicates to a dedicated app via the connector.

[Update: I have mine now, and it does not perform so great really. It keeps loosing the connection to the phone, and support doesn't seem to have a solution. A shame.]

They say the fit is very secure and snug, the phone won't drop out. They also say that one can use all the normal iPhone functions while the POPA is mounted. That's good. It would be clumsy to have to take it on and off. And I suspect it will make the iPhone easier to hold too, while still fit in many pockets.
It was originally called RedPop, here's the introduction video on Kickstarter. And a newer FAQ page.

I've ordered one, I'll be interested to use it. I think the new iPhones are great as take-everywhere cameras, but one has to admit they are slightly fiddly to hold and shoot.

Here's a very positive review of the POPA. Among the interesting bits of info is that the shutter is instantaneous, since it does not wait for focus lock. But since the iPhone autofocuses continually, or you can use touch-to-focus, I think this is a good feature, potentially allowing for precise capturing of moving subjects, one of the things which has always been an issue with phone cameras and other compacts. Of course one has to learn to watch for whether the subject is in focus before pressing the shutter. (*Not* having to learn that is the reason compact cameras have that focus wait.)

That is a feature of the app, actually (and the app is free and can be used without the grip). This other review says:

"Yes, I’m still shooting with the iPhone 4, but the amount of time it takes for the camera to focus, un-focus, focus and then finally lock focus has been killing me*.  As a street photographer, speed is everything.  Capturing moments that might exist for a split second simply cannot be accomplished with a great deal of shutter lag.
Enter the POPA app. 
What Brendan and his team did with the POPA app is put the camera on a sort of ‘shutter release’ priority as opposed to a ‘focus’ priority.  Which, in turn means … you guessed it … no shutter or focus lag.  When you press that big red POPA button, or tap the red POPA button on the screen, the camera fires."

*A little real life research tells me that interestingly, on the iPhone 4S (but not the 4) and when using the Volume Up button as shutter (but not the screen button), you also have an instant shutter, regardless of focus!
And in my testing, the 4S is no slouch at focusing, less than half a second normally, so it's not so durn bad as a street camera just in itself.  You have to be pretty hot on that shutter button to catch out the camera on focus.

UPDATE: TCGirl found these better pictures on The Verge (an interesting tech mag, by the way).

By the way, one-handed shooting should only be done in bright light (short shutter-times) to avoid shaken pictures, particularly since the lens is at the extreme other end of the iPhone from the handle.

1948 Buick Streamliner

[Thanks to Kirk]
More pictures here.

(I wonder how they produced metal sheets to such smooth curves back then.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Canon S100

For people who think that even the Fuji X10 (see posts below) is too large, for those who prefer a real breastpocket-camera which disappears when it's not needed, I think the brand-new Canon S100 should hit the spot. Very rarely is so much quality and so many professional options (Shutter- and aperture-priority, RAW capture, etc) placed in such a small body.
I have the Canon S90 which I love. The S100 has slightly longer zoom (5x vx 3.8x), more pixels, 12MP instead of 10MP, and HD video recording.

It hits the Goldielocks spot between an always-there camera like the one built into the best phones like iPhone 4S, and a serious enthusiast's big-compact like the Fuji X10 or the Canon G12. There is very little this camera won't do, although of course for space reasons many settings are banished to menus rather than have dedicated buttons for them.

It's also available in "silver". The photo is from this review.
... Actually when I heard that the S100 had a longer zoom, I immediately had doubts, this (and the tighter pixels) might affect image quality. And in fact the above-linked review confirms that the S95 has the edge in pure image quality. And one is likely to find it cheaper! (It should be said that the PhotographyBlog review disagrees with the image quality assessment, though. I'm sure they're both very good.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ice fountain

Cool (and cold) old photo from

 Detroit circa 1904. "Fountain of ice, Washington Boulevard." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative. (Super size.)

1909. "Mid-winter carnival, 'storming the fortress,' Upper Saranac Lake, New York." 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. (Super size.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gift of small sensors (updated with S90 pic)

A little demonstration of the gift that high-quality small sensors (and lens tech developments) have given us...
Granted, technically there's over 30 years and tons of differences between the two cameras, so an actual comparison would be rather silly, but still. The Olympus was a *miracle* of compactness when it was made, and that included the lenses. (It's still a remarkable and beautiful camera.)
The Fuji, because of today's fantastic small sensors, has at least comparable quality (I'd say it beats the O in many ways, plus a ton of features), and it jacket-pocketable. Its zoom, granted, has slightly smaller reach (120mm (equivalent) vs 150mm), but then it goes much, much wider (28mm vs 75mm), and it's way faster (F:2.0 to 2,8 vs F:4.0).
(If I'd had an F:2.8 zoom from back then, it'd have been twice the size and heft of this Olympus lens.)

The Fuji lens is shown in its folded-up size, and the Olympus lens is shown at its shortest setting, though it looks like it's zoomed out.

Wait, I do have a full frame F:2.8 zoom to show. OK, it's a bit longer still, 80mm-200mm, but just look at that beast! And it's not even an old lens.
The Nikon with lens is 2.3 kilograms! The Fuji is 360 grams. (Five pounds vs 0.8 pounds.)
(By the way, that Nikon lens cost over three times as much as the whole Fuji camera, but when they started making full-frame cameras, it turned out the corner quality was really poor, so they had to replace it fast.)

Like I said, I know that these are not really comparable sets of gear, this was just for fun.
If I'd put the Canon S90 (or S95 or S100) on the left, it'd be even smaller yet (breast-pocketable), and have a not-dissimilar quality, though the handling of course suffers on such a tiny camera.

UPDATE: Russ says:
Olympus has been making high quality, pocketable cameras for decades. My favorite is the XA model. It has a wonderful 35mm 2.8 lens. However, I think the best feature is the almost inaudible shutter. Makes for great stealthy street photography. Even though most are now over 30 years old, you can still find good working examples on eBay for relatively little money.

Yes, the XA and similar film-cameras like the Minox 35, the Rollei 35, or the Konica Big Mini, are amazing.
Though in order to be this compact, they are confined to a 35mm lens, probably F:2.8 or less. This can be all right, and I have owned and several of such cameras*, they are highly useful and I love them.
But if one want's a zoom, it gets a lot bigger if one keeps the large film/sensor size. And if one doesn't, on film the quality suffers badly.  This has been the issue, and personally I find that the Fujifilm X10 is so far the best compromise I have seen in these matters, brought about by advances in lens and sensor quality.

*My first film super-compact was a Ricoh with a gate design like the Minox, I loved it. But it's apparently lost in the tides in history, I can't even find a photo of one, boohoo. Wish I'd kept it. A couple of my more successful pictures were taken with it, this one for example. This one was also taken with such a compact, though I forget which, I only had it briefly.

UPDATE: Okay, I just had to include the Canon S90 too, for completeness's sake. Outstanding camera, for a real pocketcamera. (28mm - 105mm zoom.)

No nipps please

It is apparently common when they make movies and TV shows, that if a woman's nipples are showing too clearly through a shirt, they will tape them down!

Isn't that amazing? Here is a free gift of great sexiness, without nudity, and they remove it!
I can only guess that some parts of the general audience are so sexophobic  that even the outline of nipples through a shirt (not even a transparent one, mind you) is so strongly offensive that the movie- or TV-outlet will get in trouble for it. Hokey mama.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Just Go With It"

Just watched "Just Go With It".
Occasionally I thought it was not as funny as it would like to be, and sometimes a bit tasteless, as has been the vogue for some years. But overall I liked it, it was sometimes quite funny too. And it has three actresses in it who are all good, and funny, and show totally amazing bods in bikinis, Brooklyn Decker, Jennifer Aniston, and a surprisingly into-it Nicole Kidman.
It was a very good part for Aniston, once again I think she showed that she is well more than the one who introduced the "Rachel" haircut, she is genuinely funny and very sincere too.
So basically, unless you're fed up with Sandler (which I can get, I don't find him all that likeable in many of his roles) it's recommendable.

The kids are good too, especially the girl, in the movie she's a budding actress and keeps doing this atrociously overdone and funny cockney British accent.

At just ten, Bailee is a very busy actress apparently, and some of her own movies she can't go watch in the theatre because they are R-rated! Too funny.

Heidi Montaq has changed

What a durn pity, she had honest beauty. 


After, after many many changes, none of them wise in my opinion: 

I mean, she's been turned into this plastic parody of what some people think is "hot". 

All Saints - Never Ever

I miss All Saints, perhaps my favorite girl band ever. Seminal and powerful music, great pop.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kate Bush - The Sensual World

The Sensual World was actually always one of my least favorites of Kate's albums, one of the less accessible of an often little-accessible artist's works, but the title track doesn't suck (and neither does A Deeper Understanding).
And the video is pretty. (First time I've seen it, gotta love youtoobs.) Lawd she was hot too.

The cover was striking though. She has been very well photographed.

Pleasing folks

If an artist has no desire at all to please people, he loses his audience. If he has nothing but desire to please people, he loses himself.

Fingertip gloves

Thanks to Russ for recommending Freehands gloves for optional bare fingertips (two on each hand) for cameras and phones. Just got mine, they are nice quality for a reasonable price.
The tips fold back with the help of little magnets, a very nice touch.

A Fine Frenzy

Update: Russ recommended this:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yahoo groups

I've found Yahoo Groups very useful over the years. Probably greatly aided by using ad-blocking software in my browser!

But I'm told that these days to sign up for a yahoo group, one needs to provide a zip code, birth date, and needs to get a yahoo email address.
Can anybody confirm this?
(And can it be fake ones? Surely they can't check?)
(It seems one can add other email addresses to use, later, but it still seems a bit silly that one has to get a yahoo one (although I'm sure it boosts their prestige to advertisers).

Some people hate all this, but considering what I hear from professionals of the difficulties of running mailing lists with tens of thousands of addresses, and the spectacular cost of professional services (Lyris which I'd been using, just boosted their *minimum* fee to $1250 per month!), there must be some downside to the highly flexible and free service Yahoo provides. I've been a member of several groups for many years, and find them very useful and even comparatively user-friendly, and with an ad-blocker in place, I'm not bothered. (I had actually expected ads to appear in the emails themselves, but I don't seem to get that. I think that shows restraint.)

Merry eks-mas to all

Aaaaaanyway... I have decided to take it very easy from now on until a few days after new years at least.
How this will impact my blogging is anybody's guess (I don't tend to plan). But I just wanted to wish you all a very happy and pleasant holiday season, and thank you so much for being with me in the past year(s).
Love, Eolake

Leaf-cuts by Lorenzo Duran

... Case in point. Pleasant art. (While admittedly also on the decidedly mild side, but no harm in that.)

Seoul-based artist Choi Xooang

Seoul-based artist Choi Xooang, more.
I always preferred art which, while it might be challenging in different ways, at least had a core of being aesthetic, or appealing. So it always puzzles me a little when we see the artists who seem to specialize in art which is, well... less so.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snapseed play

Snapseed (Not surprisingly from NIK*) is an iPad app which has become very respected and popular, and I can see why. It has one of the easiest learning curves I've tried, and yet you can do a lot with it. (Some brief demo videos.)
Here is just the first experiment I did.

This was some of the more Effect-y settings, the app will also do basic things like contrast and cropping, of course.

By the way, I hope to take some portraits around new year, that should be fun.

*NIK has some unique filtering techniques so you can apply adjustments to only the sky or a blouse, without a lot of fiddly masking-off. It's pretty amazing when it works best, and I don't think anybody else has anything like it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Street art mixed

More photos.

A really nice guy...

Full comic here.


An attractive woman pretty much has every man she meets wanting her, so her choices are either to boff them all and making them all ticked off soon (and getting VD), or making most of them sad.

But many men really feel that it's disingenuous of a woman to hang out with him if she doesn't want to sleep with him. That's nuts, and hardly her problem.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Missing vital info

This is just one of the things which bugs me about our whole society: it's a widespread tendency in books, in comics, and in television, that when something is in a series, publishers/broadcasters do NOT inform their customers where in a series a particular title is placed. I look at my Tivo with ten episodes of TBBT recorded, and there's no way to tell which ones I've watched or what seasons they are from.

Haven't these people heard of basic, vital information? This is like selling food stuffs without labelling content and quantity. It's insane and I don't get why it's so widespread as to be near universal.

J. Cameron's Speaker For the Dead

J. Cameron's Speaker For the Dead, no, Avatar.

Well, it's hard to make up new stories.
(I don't recall any of that from Orson Card's Speaker for the Dead, but then it was a very complex and wordy novel (Card said it was nick-named "My Dinner With Ender".)

BTW, I have tried twice, but I never even reached the middle of Avatar. Does it get better?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Four young deer saved by fishing boat

[Thanks to TCGirl]

Four young deer saved by fishing boat, article.

Pretty bright of them to think that the boat and people might be salvation. Most animals in danger are just in mindless panic.

Olympus tells lenders cash crunch looms

Olympus tells lenders cash crunch looms, article.

Of course I hope Olympus will survive and prosper. It has been an important camera company, in the development of compact gear especially. Olympus OM-1 was a shock to the camera industry in the seventies.

Though I did think they flopped a bit with digital, with the four/thirds format, which is smaller than the normal APS-C format, and much smaller than the full-format sensor which many pros prefer. They attempted to make pro cameras and lenses, at very pro prices, with cameras which weren't all that much smaller than other DSLR cameras despite having the smaller sensor.
It's only in the most recent incarnations of their cameras for the Micro Four Thirds format, for example the Pen Lite, that I think they have really hit on something great. But that may be years too late to save the company.

Alyson Hannigan is pregnant.

Alyson Hannigan is pregnant, article.

They named their firstborn "Satyana"?? Oh. Good things kids are always kind, and fundamentalists never take things too literally. So I'm sure she won't be teased in school about that, or give any misgivings about the family to the hardcore Christian factions.

Even if the name has no relation to Satan at all, I wouldn't put too much stock in that fact, in a world where you no longer can use the word "niggardly" (which means being cheap. A niggard is a miser).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fight the Blacklist: A Toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism

[Thanks to Anna.]
Fight the Blacklist: A Toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism, article.
Congress is debating dangerous legislation that would give the Department of Justice unprecedented power to “blacklist” websites without a trial and give Hollywood copyright holders a new way to shut down a website’s financial services for alleged copyright infringement. It’s nothing short of a bill to create a U.S. censorship regime, and it’s moving fast.

Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera

[Thanks to Ian] 
To be frank I'm not impressed with the quality of the stitching of the images, but it's early days and it's all done in-camera and in a cheap one, so...

Anyway, I think it's a good example of how cheap electronics is changing a field and making things which we could not imagine a few years ago.

Another example: a couple of years ago, William Gibson had as an essential plot element in his book Zero History (written in 2009), lighter-than-air toy ballons with cameras, they silently "swam" through the air like a fish through water, one of them shaped like a manta ray. You controlled them with an iPhone app. In the book these were very expensive cutting-edge things, but now, just a couple years later, you can buy such things on a healthy Christmas-present budget.

F.A.A. Approves iPads in Cockpits, but Not for Passengers

F.A.A. Approves iPads in Cockpits, but Not for Passengers, article.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Exciting blue lights

Fantasy novelist number 670:
"... OK, now the two wizards get into a battle. Now, how would wizards battle? Well, the great thing about fantasy is that anything can happen, so let's do something original and amazing. Oh, I got it: let's have them stand there and throw blows at each other, like two boxers except with blue lights instead of fists!"

Comic book writer number 2556:
"... OK, now the two wizards get into a battle. Now, how would wizards battle? Well, the great thing about fantasy is that anything can happen, so let's do something original and amazing. Oh, I got it: let's have them stand there and throw blows at each other, like two boxers except with blue lights instead of fists!"

Movie script writer number 7921:
"... OK, now the two wizards get into a battle. Now, how would wizards battle? Well, the great thing about fantasy is that anything can happen, so let's do something original and amazing. Oh, I got it: let's have them stand there and throw blows at each other, like two boxers except with blue lights instead of fists!"

What to Get Your Girl for Christmas

What to Get Your Girl for Christmas, article.
Oftentimes, the items she points out, while you’re out on the town, or shares with you, whenever you’re together, would be good indicators of things that she enjoys and will give you plenty of ideas to choose from. Mostly, it is how well you have paid attention...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By the handle

A mother's advice to her grown daughter, who is going into the male-dominated cooking trade: "Remember, with either a sharp knife or a dull knife or a man, always grab it by the handle, and it will be far more useful for you."

It's good to let it out

War on leather for tough guys

[Thanks to Pascal]
Activists Missing After Declaring “War on Leather” at Motorcycle Rally, article.

Two others, previously reported missing, were discovered by fast food workers “duct taped inside several fast food restaurant dumpsters,” according to police officials.
“Something just went wrong,” said a still visibly shaken organizer of the protest. “Something just went horribly, horribly, wrong.”

I guess it's a lesson about trying to use force on somebody who is more able and willing to use force than yourself.     :-)

“...motorcycle gangs are one of the biggest abusers of wearing leather, and we decided it was high time that we let them know that we disagree with them using it…ergo, they should stop.”


...protesters arrived at the event in a vintage 1960′s era Volkswagen van and began to pelt the gang members with balloons filled with red colored water, simulating blood, and shouting “you’re murderers” to passers by. This, evidently, is when the brouhaha began.
“They peed on me!!!” charged one activist.


When confronted with the allegations of force-feeding the activists meat, using them as ad hoc latrines, leaving them incapacitated in fast-food restaurant dumpsters, and "farting on their heads", the organizer declined to comment in detail. 
"That's just our secret handshake," he assured the news reporter.

[Can't... breathe...]

“I…I was trying to show my outrage at a man with a heavy leather jacket, and he…he didn’t even care. I called him a murderer, and all he said was, ‘You can’t prove that.’ 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Support TidBITS

If you are or have been a reader of tech newsletter TidBITS, read this.

Eagles and weasels

Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something.
           -- Pancho Villa, last words

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
           -- John Benfield

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.
           -- M. Cartmill

Foolish writers and readers are created for each other.
           -- Horace Walpole

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Chicks with guns"

Mmm, delish. From Lindsay McCrum's book Chicks With Guns.
Book site.
Thanks to tOP.

I don't find guns very interesting, and the title would normally bring to mind such mindless fare as this. But this shot and particularly the woman, is just wunderbar.

Actually I find an aesthetic disconnect from a beautiful woman to a gun. The latter is inherently the opposite of life-affirming, since it's designed simply to kill. If not repulsive, then boring.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Walk Hard" and Jewel

"Walk Hard - The Dewey Cox Story" is a good parody of musician bios like Walk The Line. It's not the greatest comedy ever made, perhaps, but it has a lot of good points and solid lines. It particularly skewers the sentimentality such movies sometimes veer into.

And it has this too-short appearance of Jewel. I had no idea anybody could put so much beauty and sex-appeal (and humor) into one sung word!

(I'm amazed at the quality of this clip, not the least the sound. I filmed it off my HD TV, hand-held! (Ooh, short clip and part of a review, hope this comes under "fair use"...). It was filmed with Panasonic GH2, which is particularly aimed at being a good video camera, and it seems they succeeded very well with the built-in mics.)

A nuts story

Sandra visited New York many years ago, and went to see a show called "Witness the great Schnabel demonstrate his masculinity". The show consisted amongst other things of Schnabel, an exceptionally well-equipped man, crushing three walnuts, whacking them with his manhood.

Sandra did not come back to the Big Apple until forty years later, and to her surprise there was a fresh poster of the great Schnabel. She went again, and Schnabel, now a bit lined and grey, performed his acts, only this time he used coconuts instead of walnuts.
Sandra had to know, so she went backstage to ask him why the change. "Well," Schnabel said, "the ol' eyesight is not what it has been, you know."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fuji X10 at night, hand-held (updated a lot)

[Here is my first post on the X10.]

Update: it was requested to see the size of the camera in my own hands (looks even smaller due to my being 6:4 (195cm) with hands and skull to match). It's not the camera's fault that the photo is dark, I just felt it needed a little drama.

Fujifilm X10 at night, hand-held?
This wouldn't even have occurred to me to try with any prior compact-ish zoom camera, but I thought, what the hell, let's give it the torture test. I just set it all, including the EXR pixel-doubling tech (giving 6MP pics instead of 12MP but enhancing sensitivity), to Auto, and fired ahead. I think this is a pass with honors. Better than I'd dared hope.

This certainly shores up my faith in using this as my all-round, go-to camera. The only limits I really see are the rare occasion when I want extreme tele or wideangle, or extremely blurred backgrounds (the X10 can do a bit of that, but in a limited way). 

(Click for big pic)
1/15 sec, ISO 800

1/30 sec, ISO 800

1/30 sec, ISO 3200

These are uncorrected JPGs straight from the camera except for scaling to web and slight cropping/sharpening. All taken at a wide setting, and at or near F:2.0.
The camera is said to have good image stabilization, though I haven't tested directly for that, but certainly I did not get any shaken images this night (it was midnight). The X10 is also easy to hold steady, with a soft shutter and no mirror to give vibrations.

Here is one more which tests the limits: F:2.0, 28mm, 1/17 second, ISO 3200:
Virtually no noise, dang impressive.

(I like how modern cameras recognize night scenes and don't over-expose them to make them look like day.)

Update: Ian sent an alternative crop of the first one, and points out the "2" on the post.

Stephen Gillette, noted compact-camera art photographer, wrote to me:

Yep, seems that this bad boy is about tops for small-sensor right now. I waited a long time to get an articulating LCD (shooting NEX since this past summer), it would be silly to take that step back. (But I've done sillier things.)
Of course, I'm tempted by the new 50mm f/1.8 E-mount Sony lens (with SSS), which costs half the price of the X10! Not to mention I have fast 50's up the ying-yang: legacy Minolta's (Rokkor-X and Alpha's) and Pentax.
So forget the NEX 50mm, pony up the extra $300, and get the pocketable (big pockets!) Fuji that we all would have died for just a few years back...  
After all, I have shot a LOT with my cell camera (no articulation there)
this year...
Hmmm...maybe not so silly?

Died for? I’d say *killed* for.
I also like a tiltable screen as you know. I really liked my Nikon 2400, nothing has come like it since. But sadly that one had *awful* low-light capability, hampering it.
I got a new Pen Lite for the tiltable screen. But then I run into the limits of prime lenses (if I want to *keep* the camera compact), something I keep waffling on.
For right now, the X10 is my medicine. It’s actually the camera in a long while which the most makes me *want* to go out and photograph. I’m not sure when that last happened.

Sometimes I’m hooked on ultimate image quality. (X100 or Canon 5D2.) But then I look at photos from Henri Cartier-Bresson or André Kertész, and the X10 makes better images technically than most of their wonderful pictures. And 99% of the audience seriously wouldn't see the difference anyway, even in big prints, which I very rarely make.

Good technique is helpful for communication, but it is often over-valued. Sometimes you see ads with absolutely awful technique in one way or another, and I'll bet hardly anybody notices. And for art, less so, it's all about the expression. If bad technique hampers that, it matters, otherwise not.

That may sound like I'm defending a poor camera, this is absolutely not the case. I can't imagine a better camera for the size. And if I'd seen prints twenty years ago from this likkle, X10, camera, I'd have thought they were taken by a huge, expensive medium format camera, so good is it.
Like editor/photographer Steve Hynes said to me: the rising image quality creeps up on you. He took out his old medium format (Hasselblad and such) pictures not long ago, and they were really not so hot as he had thought. I thought the same when I saw pictures from the legendary Hasselblad Superwide camera with the special Zeiss lens... they were not really all that dang sharp.

Here's another tidbit re the X10: The zoom lens is actually smaller (when collapsed at least) than the standard zoom of the Pentax Q... despite being a full stop faster, and zooming longer! Oh, and despite the body having a larger sensor. I think that's impressive. (No doubt part of it is due to the lens not being exchangeable, not a big deal for a compact.) 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11

I wish I had David's perfect native-born accent, so I could use it flawlessly like him.

Fujifilm X10 (updated again)

I just got the Fuji (I still call them that, don't know why they changed it to "Fujifilm") X10.

This is the camera in the "on" stage. You turn it off by turning and collapsing the zoom lens, which about halves the length of the lens, a nice feature.

The reviews so far (I've read a long one in the non-online (except via Zinio) edition of Amateur Photographer) are very positive indeed. And from my short tests so far, I agree.
The camera feels great, the usability seems really nice, it's quick (one forgets the "old" days where every compact camera was slow as molasses to focus), the image quality is real damn good, even in the one area you think it might be a bit weak due to the smallish sensor: low light. (The sensor is smaller than those in exchangeable-lens cameras, but larger than other compact cameras like Canon's G12.)

It's large enough for good handling, but small enough for a large pocket (a jacket pocket or a side pocket on "combat" (cargo) pants.
The manual zoom on the lens is really nice, faster and more precise than the motorized zoom used on smaller compacts.
It is not cheap of course, around $600, but rather less than the X100 at $1000, which sells well though it's more limited.

For years we have been getting closer and closer to what Mike Johnston and myself and others wrote about longingly for years: the perfect street-camera. (Johnston calls it the DMD, the "decisive moment digital", though he prefers prime lenses.) It should be compact, and fast, and have image quality good enough for exhibitions.
A camera like the Panasonic Lumix GF-2 comes very close, except one thing: due to the sensor size, if you put a zoom lens on it for all-round use, it is no longer so durn compact, don't fit in no pocket, no sir.   So, not that universal. Fuji's own X100 has the same issue: it only has a slightly-wide lens, though it is compact for its large sensor.
I have tried cameras like these with fixed-length ("prime, non-zoom) lenses, but I just miss the zoom too much. I am really the happiest when I have a normal zoom from modest wideangle to modest tele.
And the X10 has just that: 28mm to 112mm. And it's fast too: F:2.0 to F:2.8. Very nice.

So I hereby declare, admittedly on slim evidence, that the X10 might be the best all-round, street-, or travel-camera we have seen yet. It has image quality similar to larger-sensor cameras, but it has a zoom and is yet in the big-compact class. This is quite exciting for a certain class of enthusiast photographer.

The one weakness I've heard about so far is the smallish battery: only maybe 250 pictures to a charge. A very active photographer might want to bring a backup battery.  (The battery is really physically unusually small. They must really have struggled with space in this camera.) Fortunately this is not expensive.
A note: in my brief testing, the X10 has surprisingly good image quality for a compact, even at 3200 ISO. This is a big accomplishment, even the older Lumix GF-1 with a much larger sensor suffered at only 1600. And older compact-ish cameras like my old Nikon 2400 from six years ago, had awful, dreadful noise at anything over ISO 200. Even 200 was noisy. This is a revolution.

And it gets even better, due to a special sensor with 45-degree angled pixels, Fuji has a pixel-doubling technology ("EXR") which if selected on the mode dial drops resolution to a still very useable 6 megapixels, but markedly improves fidelity in low light or alternatively in high-contrast situations! (You can set this to auto, and the camera decides which setting is the most called for.) This is very useful technology.
In fact this technology is used in several different ways which all seem promising. Normally I'm one who sticks with default settings, but I think these may be worth using in many difficult shooting situations.

I admit that the advantage in using the EXR technology is not always crystal clear, and it would be smart to learn more about it. But here is a couple good examples, hand-held photos (small crops) taken in a poorly lit corner of my living room (normally I wouldn't even have expected to be able to hand-hold photos in such a dark place) :

Without EXR:

And with EXR:

Notice how the details (in the leather etc) is nicely preserved with EXR, and the photo is less grainy and sharper.
But like I said, even if you forget about EXR, this camera is probably king of the hill right now for compact cameras as regard existing-light photography.

Again strongly cropped... EXR off:

EXR on:

See the detail. (Click for big pic.)

Update: A few have had problems with white-disc shaped highlights. I just now shot at night, and even though that's just inviting problems of this sort, I only found this one, and not a bad one, hardly noticable I'd say.

Fog photos

Photos by TC[Girl] (with slight fine-tuning in Photoshop by me).

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Canon C300

Canon C300, their new pro cinema model, half-35mm frame.
What a gorgeous piece of kit, especially with these monster cinema lenses.

And now people are asking: what if anything will this mean for the hopefully imminent replacement for the ageing Canon 5DII still camera (which has very powerful video qualities image-wise, but not great handling for filming)?
(And why has Nikon never made a competing camera to it? The 700D is a brute and for a different market.)