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.