Saturday, August 25, 2007

D3 speed. Size, weight, quality.

Video of Nikon D3 first impressions. Man, that's a friggin fast camera, both shooting and ISO-wise.

"Already ordered one?"

No. I might afford it, but hardly justify it at my use level.
Also, it is simply too big and heavy. Very conspicuous, and I'm a walk-around photographer, I don't like heavy.

For a hard working photographer like for example my pal Laurie Jeffery, speed, reliability, features, and ruggedness are much more important that weight and size, up to a point of course.

For an amateur art photographer like me who likes to walk around and be inspired, and not advertise too widely that he is photographing and not to get tilted shoulders, weight and size are quite important. That's why I might get the upcoming Fuji F50fd, and why I keep hoping for more compact and light cameras in professional quality in the future.

It is also why I am looking much forward to either Canon or Nikon making the next camera with a full frame sensor (low noise in pictures), but compact. The next-gen Canon 5D, as it were. My Canon 5D makes totally awesome quality, much better than I ever could with 35mm, so I can only try to imagine what the next step is.

"Canon went for quantity of pixels, whereas Nikon invested in quality of pixels"

Well, Canon did the same with the 1D III. As opposed to the 1Ds III. (Notice the little "s". Stupid naming convention.)

It is anybody's guess if Nikon will make a super-high rez camera too. I think they will though. I think they removed the "H" from the speed camera because it's no longer really a low rez option. 12MP is good enough for almost anything. 22MP is a replacement for big 6x7 studio cameras, maybe even 4x5 inches.

Laurie Jeffery says:
This looks like my kind of camera. It's about time Nikon did this.
I shall be getting one.
Anybody want a very well looked after but much used D2X that only been around the world three times and only ever shot nudes?


Rangefinder camera, Russian Zorki-4, which I bought on eBay. I really wanted this one, I would have paid four times as much, I just think it's beautiful. The snakeskin is new, not from factory.
I got the F:1.5 lens for it, I love the look of the big glass of a fast lens. (Of course a Russian 1.5 lens from the sixties is probably as sharp as a mashmallow and has no anti-reflex coating, but no matter.)


I just got a menu from Dominos Pizza in my mail box. I didn't know we had Dominos here.
Most local pizzarias here charge about five to seven pounds for a 12-inch pizza. Not cheap, I think. (Currently a pound is two dollars.)
Dominos charge around four pounds more.
That is absolutely obscene. I wonder how they get away with it.
Especially since people here in Northern UK are pretty ch... economical. A friend of mine had two cafes, one was a nice one with what I thought was reasonable prices, you could get a nice meal for seven pounds. That one never made a profit. The other one was a super-bargain lunch cafe. That one was busy-busy-busy.
So how does Dominos get away with charging eleven pounds for a pizza? (Call it 20 dollars.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Morninglight II

Two more from this morning.

Oh, and one more example of contrast which cameras can't handle (yet):

Here's something I've observed: too high contrast is aesthetically acceptable (to me anyway) if the affected areas are small and non-essential, as on the top two pictures. If the areas are important, like the tree trunk and grass on the third picture, the effect is ugly.

Image reformatting

Here's something else I did not see coming: "seam carving" for image resizing.
It is making a picture narrower or broader without distorting it, and thus changing the scene which was photographed.

I find it interesting that Mike Johnston (The Online Photographer) hates it. It seems he considers the subject to be holy and sacrosanct, and the subject to be what photography is all about. And he has talked about how digital photography is not really photography, because it is way too easy to change an image.

I dunno. How holy is "reality"? Does it even exist?

Film vs digital

I went over to digital cameras in 1998, and have never looked back, even though my first camera had just dreadful* image quality compared to film. The speed and flexibility was just too seducing.
But in case you're interested, here's an article comparing film and digital.

*The resolution of the Nikon Coolpix 600 was not even one megapixel (it was 768x1024), and even viewed at that size the noise and lack of sharpness was not even as good as the old 110 Instamatic cameras, or a Polaroid picture. But back then it was new and amazing.
The linked gallery is also a bite of history. I lived in Edinburgh in 2000 in a sublet apartment. I did all my work, including image processing and so on, on an Apple laptop. A simple life, and new and exciting.

I later got a Nikon 950, 2MP and a big step up, and a Canon Ixus, also 2MP, very compact and very good.

Contrast (and noise)

Talking about contrast, here is a picture I made as an experiment a couple of years ago. (Note this was done for science, not art! The car is not so fascinating.:)

I took these three pictures and assembled them in photoshop to get the dynamic range.
Now you can do it automatically, but you need to take the pics on a tripod so the camera does not move and particularly don't rotate between images.

Assembled image:

Oh, and apropos to today's discussion of the new Nikon cameras: the 100% crop (click on it) below shows how huge a leap Nikon has just taken in high-ISO perfermance. The picture was taken at 800 ISO with the Nikon D2x. Look at all that noise! The Canon 5D is noise free at that speed. And the Canon 1D III is better than that. And supposedly the Nikon D3 is even better than that. describes big prints from 6400 ISO which look really good. Quite amazing.

Morning Light

Believe it or not, this is the side of the skip on the truck seen above:

Friday morning before 7 am. Nikon D40, Nikkor 18-200mm with image stabilization.

BTW, this trip demonstrates my main remaining gripe: dynamic range. I took many images I was exited about but which simple fell flat because the contrast exceeded what the camera could handle.
Apparently, Nikon, like Canon, has addressed this issue with software in the camera in the upcoming models, let's see how that goes. I doubt it will be as dramatic an improvement as I could wish for.
Look at the picture below: admittedly an extreme subject, but the eye can handle it, so I think we should aim for cameras to also be able to handle it one day, with detail both in shadows and highlights.

Watch cameras

How to choose a camera or a watch.

William Gibson is a watch collector too, and features this interest in his wonderful book All Tomorrow's Parties.

The Nikon Empire Strikes Back

OK, this surprised me: Nikon hits back hard. (And another article here.) Including the full frame DSLR that high end customers have been begging for since the millennium at least. And beautiful it is too, both the design and the features.

One of the most interesting features, especially in the flagship D3, is very high ISO capability. (For low light shooting without too much noise in the images.) This was arguably the point where Nikon was lagging most behind Canon. And Canon increased that gap recently, but now it appears that Nikon has leap-frogged even that big difference and come well ahead. If the cameras live up to this in practice, this is hugely impressive.

Now the top end race has two contenders, gotta love that. If Sony also joins the fray at that level when their pro models arrive, the competition will be stiff. Good for the rest of us.

OK, me, I would better like a less bulky full frame camera a la Canon 5D, but still. It will surely arrive from Canon, and maybe even from Nikon in the fullness of time.

Thom writes about the D300: "... take a D200, which is a very nice handling camera, and stuff some key new components into it and you have something that's as fast as a D2x, has as many pixels as a D2x, has a better focus system than a D2x, writes to cards faster than a D2x, has cleaner high ISO results than a D2x, and, oh yes, sells for US$3200 less (at list prices, at street prices the difference is hundreds of dollars less). What's not to like about that?"

Well said. Viewed like that one can see what remarkable progress is made.

David Pogue wish list

David Pogue wish list.

Geeks and humanitarianism

I have long been a proponent of thinking in numbers, even in humanitarianism, so I was pleased to find this article.

You might remember, for instance, my earlier posts about the wrongness of "heroes" of film and literature being "heroic" by giving in to the villain because he threatened the life of one person, despite that it would endanger thousands of people.

Ab Fab

"You know, it's so long since I actually remember going to sleep instead of passing out. How did we do it?"
- Patsy, Absolutely Fabulous

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


A (relatively) new super-material, aerogel. Super-light, super-insulating, super-protecting. Videos.

Danish foods site

I have been looking for something like this Danish Foods site.

Something tells me it is not founded by Danes, though: the front page features tulips and windmills! ROTFL. They even promote that they sell clogs.
For those who may be confused: tulips and windmills and clogs are used to represent Holland. Denmark would be... I guess the Little Mermaid.

The Office

Because I have become familiar with a couple of the actors, I have again tried to give The Office (UK) a fair shake, and once again I gave up after a few episodes of series One. The show is sometimes funny, but most of the time it's just painful to watch. Like, painfully, toe-curlingly embarrassing. Can somebody explain the appeal?

Cornelius & Kahimi Karie - Live

Cornelius & Kahimi Karie - Live
There are two songs on this video, very different ones indeed. I mainly found this because I was looking for the chorus on "69/96 Girl meets Cassette", which I love, to be found in the last minute of the video.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jade working out

Here is my friend Jade, working out. She is going to try for the light weight championship next year.

New Virus

It's clear to me from my email today that there's a new virus. It says "Welcome to Web Connect"... or "Welcome to CoolPics" or "Welcome to Mobile Fun" or similar, and says your login has been created, and directs you to an IP address to change the login. And surely when you go to the site, some malware will download and infest your machine.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Water filter

I've had a water filter in my kitchen since last year. I got a high end model, not cheap, but if you compare it to bottled water, it pays for itself over time.

And I noticed something recently which tells about the performance of it: a few times recently I've happened to wash soap off my hands using the filtered water... and it takes a loooong time to wash off. Which means that there's no limestone in the water compared to my normal water.

The reason I'm so impressed with that is that my normal water already has very, very little limestone compared to what I was used to in Denmark. Denmark, being flatland, has lots of it. An electric kettle there needs to be de-limed every couple of months, and then it will have milimeters-thick layers of the stuff. If you leave it for many months, it will stop working.

In contrast I'd used an electric kettle here for years (before I got the filter), and I could still see the metal of the heating elements. So in other words, vanishingly small amounts it seemed to me, and still this filter makes a big difference. And that's apart from all the other things it removes, organic and mineral.

Canon 40D

I've been saying that Canon has been behind Nikon technically for a year or two. In the mid- and low-range market, that is. The Nikon D200 and D80 and D40 are very strong. But I gotta say that Canon's upgrade with the 40D is very powerful. It's very fast, more rugged, and it has the same sensor technology which makes the 1D such amazingly low noise in low-light situations.
I would say that it is basically a professional camera, only at "prosumer" prices. Well done to Canon. If one does not demand a full-frame sensor, this camera is a great option.

If I were Canon, though, I would apply more imagination to design and to naming. All these cameras look the same, and sound the same too, 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, D30, D60, D40... blah blah blah.

Notice how much attention Apple got for the new iMacs a couple weeks ago, and they were really only evolutionary upgrades. But because their design is fresh and beautiful, everybody notices and wants them.

Actually Canon's super-compact line (called Ixus in Europe) is really nice looking. They should use those designers for the DSLR line too.

Tim Powers's list of reading/watching


Amis, Kingsley -- Lucky Jim; I Want It Now; The Green Man Bronte, Emily -- Wuthering Heights
Chandler, Raymond -- The Little Sister; The Long Goodbye
Dick, Philip K. -- Martian Time Slip; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Bladerunner
Dickens, Charles -- at least Great Expectations and David Copperfield
Donleavy, J. P. -- The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
Dostoevsky, Fyodor -- The Idiot
Francis, Dick -- Bonecrack; Forfet; Break-In.
Gibson, William -- Neuromancer
Golding, William -- Lord of the Flies
Harris, Thomas -- The Silence of the Lambs
Heinlein, Robert A. Have Space-Suit, Will Travel; Citizen of the Galaxy
Hemingway, Ernest -- The Sun Also Rises
Kerouac, Jack -- On the Road
King, Stephen -- The Shining
LeCarre, John -- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Lewis, C.S. -- The Narnia books; That Hideous Strength
McDonald, John D. -- A Deadly Shade of Gold; The Dreadful Lemon Sky
Mirrlees, Hope -- Lud-in-the-Mist
Pynchon, Thomas -- V, The Crying of Lot 49
Sterne, Lawrence -- Tristram Shandy
Stevenson, Robert Louis -- Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde; Treasure Island
Sturgeon, Theodore -- More Than Human; The Dreaming Jewels
Thompson, Hunter S. -- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Twain, Mark -- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Vonnegut, Kurt -- The Sirens of Titan; Cat's Cradle
Waugh, Evelyn --Decline and Fall, Brideshead Revisited
Wodehouse, P. G. -- any book with Jeeves in the title.
Wolfe, Tom -- Bonfire of the Vanities
Wouk, Herman -- The Caine Mutiny

Amis, Kingsley (editor) -- The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse, especially the Introduction and "Hiawatha's Photographing."
Auden, W. H. -- lots of stuff, especially "As I walked out one evening"
Baudelaire, Charles -- Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil), the Edna St. Vincent Millay/George Dillon translation, ideally.
Lord Byron -- a good lot of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (especially Cantos 3 & 4), & a good lot of Don Juan (especially the early Cantos.)
Chesterton, G. K. -- "Lepanto"
Coleridge, Samuel -- at least The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
Dowling, Bartholomew -- "East India: The Revel"
Eliot, T. S. -- The Waste Land (in a Norton anthology, with lots of footnotes), & "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Ginsberg, Alan -- you have to have read Howl
Housman, A. E. -- especially Last Poems and More Poems
Khayyam, Omar -- The Rubaiyat, in the Edward Fitzgerald translation (ideally with the Edmund Sullivan illustrations) and/or the Richard LeGalliene translation
Kipling, Rudyard -- "The Ballad of East and West," "Christmas in India"
Macneice, Louis -- "Bagpipe Music"
Millay, Edna St. Vincent -- Collected Sonnets, and then Collected Lyrics
Plath, Sylvia -- the "Ariel" poems, at the very least
Shakespeare, of course -- the Sonnnets
Swinburne, A. C. -- "The Triumph of Time," "The Garden of Proserpine," etc.
Thompson, Francis -- "The Hound of Heaven"
Yeats, William Butler -- obviously "The Second Coming"

Albee, Edward -- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Beckett, Samuel -- Waiting for Godot
Bolt, Robert -- A Man For All Seasons
Brecht, Bertolt -- Mother Courage; The Threepenny Opera
Crowley, Mart -- The Boys in the Band
Goldsmith, Oliver -- She Stoops to Conquer
Rostand, Edmond -- Cyrano de Bergerac, in either the Hooker or Anthony Burgess translations
Shakespeare, of course -- especially Antony and Cleopatra
Shaw, George Bernard -- Arms and the Man; Caesar and Cleopatra
Wilde, Oscar -- The Importance of Being Earnest
Williams, Tennessee -- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Suddenly Last Summer

Alvarez, A. -- The Biggest Game in Town
Asimov, Isaac -- The Universe
Burke, James -- Connections
Burton, Robert -- The Anatomy of Melancholy (just open it anywhere and start reading; after four pages, stop.)
Ciardi, John -- How Does a Poem Mean?
Didion, Joan -- The White Album
Ferris, Timothy -- Coming of Age in the Milky Way
Frazer, Sir James George -- The Golden Bough (more reference than straight-through reading)
Gleick, James -- Chaos (difficult, but astounding)
Hamilton, Edith -- Mythology (everything you need to know)
Hewitt, Paul -- Understanding Physics (a high school text, therefore comprehensible)
Hotchner, A. E. -- Papa Hemingway
Krakauer, Jon -- Into This Air
Leakey, Richard -- The Origins of Humankind
Russell, Bertrand -- Why I Am Not A Christian and Lewis, C. S. -- Mere Christianity (consider them together, as a debate)
Thurber, James -- My Life and Hard Times (in The Thurber Carnival)
Wolfe, Tom -- The Painted Word

All That Jazz (Bob Fosse's cinematic suicide note)
Broadway Melody of 1940
of course Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon
Chinatown and L.A. Confidential
City Lights and The Kid (Charlie Chaplin)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The Godfather
Gold Diggers of 1933
Henry V (the Kenneth Branagh version)
Horsefeathers and Duck Soup
The Hustler
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Manchurian Candidate (Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey)
Man on Fire (bloody but good)
A Man For All Seasons
The Phantom of the Paradise
Repo Man (low-budget, but pretty essential)
Roman Holiday
Satyricon (weird, but good)
Terminator and Terminator 2
The Third Man
The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, the Richard Lester-directed versions
True Romance (rough, but good)
West Side Story (a bit dated, but good)
The Wind and the Lion

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Canon DSLRs

Canon rocks on.
Personally I'd probably be more interested in a replacement for the 5D, surely to come within half a year. If the improvements in the other models are indicative, it will be quite something.

Sadly neither the top-end nor the mid-range camera introduced today has built-in image stabilization. And Canon is introducing a new kit lens with IS built in. So my bet is that Canon will never build in IS in the camera body. And probably not Nikon either. Too bad.

Not so Still Life

It's not often you see a new way of making still lifes. Pretty amazing.