Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's day logo on Google

(At least on Google UK. I think I heard they do this more than Google USA.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Melanistic (All Black) Animals

Melanistic (All Black) Animals, post.
Notice the interesting site it's on, (Thanks to Henry.)

"Melanism is an undue development of dark-colored pigment in the skin or its appendages and is the opposite of albinism."

How creativity is being strangled by the law

The $8 billion iPod

V. funny.
Do you know what "copyright math" is? Find out!

A Shot At Love 2 With Tila Tequila

Wow, I think we are breaking new ground for how fake and bad TV can be.
"I just want love!" Urgh. This is just shockingly bad.

Lenses and sensors

From this post:
You would think that either the lens or the sensor has the highest resolution, and only improving the other one would improve the results. But that is not so, improving either one will improve detail, unless the gap is really huge.

This means for example that upgrading to a 22MP camera from a 12MP one may get you more detail even if you don't have the very best lenses.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Robin Wong pics

Robin Wong, who states he is just having fun with it, comes out with some cool images while just testing a camera.

By the way, he says that for the first time ever, with the E-M5 he can take sharp pictures at one half second, due to the new "5-axis" stabilization. Impressive.

Why not M4/3?

I wonder why basically only Panasonic and Olympus, still, have joined Micro Four Thirds. Why not Sigma, Pentax, Sony, and Fuji (I don't even include Nikon and Canon, they are ultra-separatist)? Is it a kind of ego thing, they have to "be their own man" as a corporation? If they joined M4/3, they could immediately sell camera bodies to people who have the lenses. And if they make good lenses as time goes on, these may be bought by people who have bodies from other manufacturers.

For example, the otherwise very interesting Fuji X1-Pro (or maybe X-Pro1, sigh*.) is hampered by only having three lenses so far, and no zooms. It takes tonnes of money and time to develop a good lens line. Why not join up to an already strong lens line? And the sensor size is almost the same anyway. Why all this super-pride.

*As said in a review of the new Canon G1X: 

Just a few months ago when I reviewed the Panasonic GX1 I joked about the number of new cameras with X in their names. This then included the Leica X1, Canon 1DX, Samsung NX200, Fujifilm X-10, Ricoh GXR, Casio EX15, Olympus XZ1, Sigma DP2X, Sony HX9V – and that's with just one model from each company. Since then, in addition to the Panasonic GX1 and the new Panasonic X series lenses we have had the Fuji X1 Pro and now the Canon G1X. 

Olympus 75mm F:1.8, and portraits

[Thanks to Bert]
Olympus is planning to release a 75mm F:1.8 lens. A bit long for a portrait lens, equivalent of 150mm in 35mm terms, but could be used for that and might be an interesting multi-purpose tele, and it's fast. And surely it'll be of the same excellent quality as the other prime (non-zoom) lenses Olympus has released recently.

And here is where the Micro Four Thirds format is really beginning to show its strength: much smaller lenses. This lens is not far from 200mm-equivalent in reach, and it is slightly faster than Nikon's famous monster of a 200mm F:2.0 lens. And compare the size! (The Olympus E-M5 body is even smaller than the Nikon body, so the Oly lens must be around a quarter of the size.) And the Nikon lens weighs almost three kilos! (and costs over five grand.) That's not a great lens for hand-holding, whereas the Olympus lens clearly is.

By the way, I once took some portraits with a 135mm lens (it was on film so I used a tripod even in pretty good light. What a blessing ISO 1600 is.), and one of the models (Memo, top) made an interesting comment: that with the greater distance the tele lens made for, the camera's presence was far less imposing and intruding than with a shorter lens.

I had to be over five meters away to get these half-body portraits, so such a lens is a bit long for constrained spaces.

Below, this was the kit I used, Pentax ME Super. A wonderfully compact and useful kit, I loved it. A classic camera. (Came out late seventies, clearly inspired by the Olympus OM cameras (like the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 is), and the same size almost to the millimeter.)

Update, Bruce found this site to compare sizes. Here's another good comparison between a DSLR and a M4/3. Nikon D90 with 85mm 1.4, and Olympus E-M5 with 45mm 1.8. The Nikon lens is a bit faster, but only half a stop (they didn't have the 1.8 version):

Scale of the Universe

[Thanks to TidBITS]
Scale of the Universe, interactive demonstration on NASA. (Requires Flash.) That is fun.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses, article.

244 years in continual publication!! And the digital age has ended it. If that doesn't illustrate the power and pervasiveness of digital publication...

“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., a Chicago-based company, said in an interview. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”

You can't argue with that, a paper book is a bitch to update! Especially one the size of EB. Whereas any bit of a web site can be updated in minutes. And these days, data and knowledge changes so fast, that nothing is too fast.

A mobile studio

It seems Cali Lewis is moonlighting with some outside gigs (Her normal one is at The web may, historically viewed, still be in the Gold Rush age, but people still have to work hard.

I think this is an interesting look at how a lean and mean mobile video studio can be run.

Now, at first I had imbedded the video, but it has the irritating trait that it starts playing automatically every time you load the page. This would be particular irritating when it's lower on the page, and you have no clue where the sound is coming from. So I'll make do now with a link, watch it here.

George Carlin - Saving the Planet

[Thanks to Anna]
The man had guts.

I like the idea that maybe we are here just because the planet needed plastic but could not make it on it's own.
I just wish most plastic bags weren't friggin white, it really looks ugly in amongst the browns and greens and in photos (it always blows out the highlights!).     :-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The new Olympus OM-D (updated)

[Thanks to Bert]
His series has been updated with a final segment, about street photography.
Look at the picture below. I think it's a good picture (rare, good use of foreground blur), and also a good example of the usefulness of the touch-and shoot screen on this camera. Normally a camera focuses somewhere in the center. May with one which has face-recognition you would actually get focus on this lady. But another way is, with cameras which have it, to touch the screen live where you'd like to focus, and the camera shoots instantly (if that feature is turned on).

You might think that it would make for camera shake. But I find that with a bit of attention, it's not hard to hold the camera still while doing this.
I must admit I'm pleased to see this new camera arrive. I admit love compact cameras like the Olympus Pen, but one has to admit they are not really substitutions for professional cameras in some situations. This new one uses the same lenses, M4/3, of which some really good ones are coming out now, and it's more hardy, faster, has more features, better sensor, all around it's just a powerful camera, while still being smaller and lighter than traditional SLR cameras. I think something like this will be the new level of work cameras very soon.

Photo blogger Robin Wong has tested the interesting new Olympus OM-D EM5 camera. Video and article.
See video here with comments on dynamic range and high ISO capabilities. Both seem to be very good. (See video low on the page, he claims clean ISO 6,400!) (Almost a full stop improvement every year, this is astounding. In the film days it was maybe a stop per 20 years.)

... From the simplicity of his methods of work (no tripod, small hand-held flash), he is really getting great results. He praised Olympus' new 5-Axis Image Stabilization system, which also stabilizes the screen and viewfinder when using Live View, this was not before possible with body-based stabilization.

Another review:

Notice the touch-shutter. You just touch on the tiltable screen where you want to focus, and if you've selected it, it shoots too. And it shoots immediately, the focus is so fast. This is similar to the Panasonic GH2, I think it's great. 

Snow art as exercise

[Thanks to Tommy]
Apparently Simon Beck's motivation for walking for hours to create these kewl snow artworks is exercise.
Some are the size of three football fields!
What I wanna know is how does he plot them so precisely? ... Aha, apparently he uses surveying techniques. Impressive.

Talking Heads: Papa Legba

And the version from True Stories (an old fave movie) (though this is hardly representative):

Readability again

These days, if I don't post a article to Instapaper for leisurely reading on my iPad, I usually just hit the key combo for Safari's "Reader" service. So I had almost forgotten about the Readability service. But I've reinstalled it now, and it actually kick Reader's butt, simply because it's so much more flexible. You can finetune everything, margins, text size, and background colour... For example, I love reading on the cream background I've selected. (There are only a few to select from. I'd have preferred stepless selection, but fortunately that cream one ("ebook" it's called) seems to hit the spot for me.)

Safari Reader:


(More about the Siri article, if you're curious.) 

Monday, March 12, 2012

A TED speaker's worst nightmare

Weird. Funny. It looked planned, except that this guy looked genuinely stumped and baffled.
Maybe they had just planned to do this (spinning beachball show)  in case it happened to one of their speakers.

Update: Aha, thanks to Ken for this article about the prank.

By the by, I read once that in OSX the spinning beachball does not mean "unexpected delay" as much as "this will take a moment, but you can now do tasks in other apps while it's going on". I am not sure if that's just a spin, but I do think that back in OS9, you couldn't do anything at all while a spinning cursor was showing.

By the by 2, have you noticed that interface elements tend to be abstracted into god's blue beyond when they are copied or remade? Tivo has a derivative of the spinning beachball where the coloring is so subtle that you have to look closely to notice that the thing is spinning at all.
And in early Mac OS versions, like OS 6, the active window had clean black striping symbolising a grip surface to show that here is where you grabbed if you wanted to move the window. In OS 8 and 9, these got grey tones and became less visible. In early OSX, they were transformed so they looked more like faint pin-striping. And now they are just gone. (In fact I have always thought that in OSX the visual difference between an active window and other windows is just way too subtle. It's just a shade darker grey is all.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Gherkin" and how to use a lens

This is the London building popularly known as "The Gherkin". I am sure many people hate it, that's always true of the radically different. But at least you can't say that it does not make an impression! It's only from 2004, but already one of the most famous buildings in London, always used in films etc, like the Eiffel tower is for Paris.

Here's a whole 'nuther thing though, if you look at the full-resolution image on Wiki, you'll notice that at 100% (called "pixel-peeping", because in print you often don't notice the flaws which look so blatant on the screen at 100%), the top of the building looks awful, blurred.

I thought, "that must be a cheap or old digicam". But the high resolution said otherwise, so I got curious and looked further.

And it turns out that it was taken with the 3,000-dollar Canon 5D2, and the 2,000-dollar lens Canon 24mm F:3.5 Tilt-Shift. Good gear! Professional gear.
So why is it so blurry on the main subject? (And why the heavy vignetting, dark corners?)  Well, the guy had his camera set at Aperture Priority, and set at full aperture, 3.5. And no lens in the world is at its best at full aperture, not even such an expensive one. Some lenses are good enough at full aperture, but they are always better stopped down a couple of stops. (F:8.0 is usually one of the best settings, re sharpness.)
Further, he or the camera may have focused on the building in the foreground [Update: T/S lenses don't have autofocus, thank Andreas]. Though I'm not sure how big a difference that made at that distance.

Basically, unless you need to isolate your subject with background blur, or you're forced by poor light (not the case here, it was taken at 1/2000 sec), don't use your lens at full aperture if you want optimum sharpness.
Funny thing is that if the photographer had chosen to just let the camera select the settings, at "P", Program, setting instead of Aperture Priority, it would probably have selected something around 8.0 and 1/500th second instead, much more fitting.

Bert said:

...what really bothers me is how the perspective on the buildings in the foreground is so wrong. The tower in the center and rightmost (hotel-like) building really look like they are repelling each other!
I wonder if this is caused (or at least enhanced) by the extreme setting of the lens? I really don't know anything about those.

This special lens ("tilt and shift") allows the vertical lines of buildings to remain parallel, even though the camera is "looking up". It's important to architectural photographers, but I confess I find it debatable which looks less natural, the enforced parallels, or the converging verticals which we are used to from normal cameras.

Rushdie and "napsterism"

"Anyone who thinks that fair pricing that allows authors to make a living is a cabal or cartel system is deep in the grip of Napsterism." - tweet by Salman Rushdie

I think Rushdie is arguing for the Agency Model. Which is the model that lets publishers enforce a price for a book, which was pressured on Amazon by the big publishers, no longer allowing them to put bestsellers for sale for under ten bucks, but letting publisher set a higher price if they wish. This model is now under attack legally, because it was enforced by a "cartel". 

The flaw in Rushdie's thinking here is, I think, that "fair pricing" fails to take into view that sales drop with higher prices, so maximum profit is found somewhere in the middle. It’s great that an author wants 20 bucks for his book, but if that price cuts sales by 80% compared to ten bucks, it helps him very little. 

Where the "middle" is, is of course the Question. One can get survey software which plot a bell curve based on a survey one makes and takes. 

The second flaw is that arguing against enforcement of high prices is hardly "napsterism", by which I take it he means that a person wants to get everything for free no matter what. That's quite a leap from "over ten dollars is too much for a normal ebook" to "I want to get all ebooks for free".

I'm not arguing against people's rights to set their own prices, that is of course a given right. And indeed Amazon's strategy, to buy books at full price and sell them at a loss to gain market share, is debatable from competition viewpoints, and certainly from their competitors' viewpoints! But it's a complex issue. 

"Thumbs Up" grip

This is one of those little great ideas that people come up with occasionally. According to many very experienced photographers, this little thumb support makes your grip, especially one-handed, of the camera way more secure.
They are not cheap, over $100, but I guess they have to be. They are mostly made for Leica, but I find it interesting that they have a model not only for the Fuji X100, but also one for the Fuji X10, saying a bit about this amazing little camera's status and quality.

You just plug the Thumbs Up into the hot-shoe and tighten it, and there's your thumb rest.

They don't show the X10 model seen on its own, but here is one of the models for Leica:

I often like to walk around with a wrist strap instead of a neck strap, having my camera hanging in my right hand by my side ready to whip up, so I imagine that this accessory would improve the grip in that situation too.