Posts Tagged ‘camera’

Leica S2 Samples on Dpreview.com

November 15, 2009

Leica S SystemI love the look of the sample pictures that Dpreview.com published recently for the Leica S2 medium format camera. They warn that they are not from a production camera, but I don’t think Leica would have let them publish pictures unless they felt they are representative.

See http://www.dpreview.com/gallery/leicas2_samples/

I like the understated British way Dpreview describes them as “snapshots”. If Dpreview was an American site the description would be littered with superlatives and exclamation marks!

I particularly liked the two black and white pictures at the end taken by Dpreview’s founder Phil Askey. He does not seem to write camera reviews any more but I am glad he is out and about photographing.

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ISO 102,400?

November 14, 2009

Canon EOS-1D Mark IVHere’s another camera the Bangkok Frugal Photographer won’t be purchasing unless he wins the Lottery. The US$5,000 Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. And that’s for the body only. None of my inexpensive lenses would do it justice.

Of course it looks like a lovely piece of hardware. Far too heavy to carry arround though.

The extended ISO speed of 102,800 “the highest ISO ever offered by a Canon SLR” caught my eye. To me that’s an un-imaginable capability to gather light. I will be very interested to see an independent test of its capability. Dpreview.com may have to develop a new test procedure to exercise it.

The marketing statement implies that other SLRs have offered a higher ISO capability. Or perhaps that a Canon non-SLR exists or existed with a higher ISO. Is that true? Or are they attorney weasel-words to be ultra-safe?

What is the fastest analog film ever produced?

 

Thai Lottery Tickets

Thai Lottery Tickets - No They Were Not Winners

 

 

Camera / Lens Test

November 6, 2009

I’m always looking out of my apartment window at the grand view I have of Bangkok. The window faces west and I have a fine view all the way from Rachadapisek Road all the around to the tall office buildings in the Chatuchak District.

Today I noted someone had erected a new billboard on a building about three miles away to the north. I thought I’d see if I could read it from a photograph.

I have two Canon DSLR bodies: a 2004 vintage EOS-300D (the original silver Digital Rebel) and a 2006 EOS-30D.

My longest lens is the Canon EF 75-300mm F4-5.6 zoom (non-IS). It is good for a US$200 lens but of course not up to “L” standards.

I decided to do a test using the same lens on both bodies with the same shooting conditions. Fortunately today was clear in the morning so I had a good view.

I set the cameras up on a tripod with a cable release with these settings:

  • Aperture priority – F8. (I read this is the len’s optimum aperture)
  • ISO 100.
  • RAW
    • 3072 x 2048 for the EOS-300D‘s 6.3MP sensor.
    • 3504 x 2336 for the EOS-30D‘s 8.2MP sensor.
  • Pattern metering mode.
  • Zero exposure compensation.

I took photos at 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm with the same lens on both cameras.

I imported all the pictures into Lightroom 2.4, converting them to DNG and the Pro Photo RGB colour space in the process. I used the Lightroom “Camera Landscape” camera calibration profile (which matches Canon’s Landscape Picture Style). I set the white balance to Daylight (5500K).

Here are the views taken at 75mm:

Bangkok Chatuchak District from the Apartment (EOS-300D)

EOS-300D

Bangkok Chatuchak District from the Apartment (EOS-30D)

EOS-30D

You can examine larger pictures on Flickr by clicking on each picture.

I was interested in the pink billboard at the centre of the pictures.

I used Lightroom to make two crops of the 300 mm pictures’ DNG files to show only the billboard. Here they are:

Billboard (EOS-300D)

EOS-300D

 

Billboard (EOS-30D)

EOS-30D

 

Yes! I could read them.

They are advertising new “Paradise” condominiums on Chaeng Watthana Soi 14. They have an offer of free furniture.

But I was surprised that the picture from the old EOS-300D seemed clearer. I think I applied the same processing parameters in Lightroom. I would have thought that the newer EOS-30D would have delivered a better result.

Maybe the EOS-30D’s sensor is dirty. I don’t have the courage to try to clean it myself.

I have not yet found anywhere in Thailand where I can rent Canon camera equipment. It would be great to rent a L telephoto lens for a few days to compare the results in real use.

Is there anything wrong with my methodology?

Entry Level Leica – The X1

October 8, 2009

Leica X1

Leica X1 Hands on Preview: Digital Photography Review.

We are getting some early information about the new Leica X1. Dpreview.com have a “hands on preview” (“hands on” being a very British phrase: you never see it in American publications).

Leica must have made Dpreview promise not to publish test pictures as the camera is not production ready yet.

Like many photographers I have always wanted a Leica but they have remained out of reach of my budget. The X1 is predicted to sell for US$2,000 including the lens (naturally, since it is not changeable.)

I thought whether I would get this camera. My initial thought is “no” – I should wait until I can afford the M9 with its interchangeable lenses. Part of the attraction of the Leica is the selection of high quality lenses.

Doubtless the 35mm (equivalent) Elmarit lens is the highest quality but you are still losing a lot of flexibility.

The other issue is the lack of a viewfinder. The photographer must compose her pictures on the display screen. Part of the Leica mystique is the rangefinder design.

I wonder what Chris Weeks would say about it?

Perhaps I’ll change my opinion when the camera is released and Dpreview publish sample images (including London’s Tower Bridge naturally).

There isn’t much on Leica at Picapp. Here’s one picture:

[picapp src=”5/e/1/d/59th_Venice_Film_8690.jpg?adImageId=4735875&imageId=4674672″ width=”397″ height=”594″ /]

VENICE, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 4, 2002: Director and photographer Raymond Depardon poses with a Leica camera at a photo call during the 59th Venice Film Festival September 4, 2002 in Venice, Italy. Depardon is in Venice to present his film ‘Un Homme Sans L’occident.’ (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Picapp has some period pictures taken with a Leica like this

[picapp src=”7/d/a/7/Thirsty_Sailor_c241.jpg?adImageId=4736433&imageId=2358752″ width=”391″ height=”594″ /]

You can look at more by clicking on the photo.

Camera Prices in Thailand

October 1, 2009
Camera Prices in Thailand

Bangkok Camera Prices

I did a quick, unscientific price comparison of popular cameras sold in Thailand, the USA and England. My prior impression was that Thailand is a very expensive place to buy electronics due to high import taxes.

For Thailand I chose the EC Mall retail store at Fortune Town Mall near my home. I understand it is an official dealer, but I think they stock some grey-imports too. I saw some Japanese-language boxes in the window.

I did an internet price comparison with Amazon.com for the USA and Jessops.com in England.

I checked the prices of the following cameras listed on the EC Mall sign above:

Canon EOS-50D body
Canon EOS-450D kit, 18-55 IS
Canon EOS-500D kit, 18-55 IS
Canon Powershot G10
Canon Powershot SX200 IS
Canon IXUS 95 IS / IXY 110 IS
Canon IXUS 100 IS / IXY 210 IS
Canon IXUS 110 IS / IXY 510 IS
Nikon D3000 kit, 18-55 VR
Nikon D5000 kit, 18-55 VR
Nikon D90 kit, 18-105 VR
Nikon D300s body
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40/48
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3/TZ7
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35/38
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

As I expected, Amazon.com (USA) was cheaper than Thailand by an average of 10%. But Jessops.com (UK) was an average of 20% more expensive than Thailand.

Perhaps the UK has both high import duties and higher VAT. It is 7% in Thailand. Amazon.com generally does not charge sales tax.

I ignored the cost of shipping and handling when I got the Internet quotes but I made sure i was comparing like with like. I wonder why manufacturers use different model identities in each market. The EC-Mall sign lists both the US and the European identities.

The Canon EOS-450D was not available new from Amazon.com.

Incidentally, I asked about the Canon EOS-7D. EC Mall did not know when it would be available here through Canon (Thailand).

You can download a  PDF file of my price comparison spreadsheet here. As they always say in England,  E&OE: “Errors and Omissions Excepted”.

Given that if I buy a camera in the US I won’t get warranty service in Thailand, it’s best to buy here even if it is 10% more.

Please correct me if I have screwed up my comparisons or calculations.

Elphel Open Source Cameras

September 17, 2009

There is one! Here is the web site for the Elphel company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Here’s what they say about themselves:

Elphel, Inc. was started in 2001 to provide high performance cameras based on free software and hardware designs. Freedom of the users of Elphel products is our top priority – we value and protect it with the GNU General Public License that covers all the Elphel software and hardware designs.

This freedom extends from the convenience of the out-of-the-box usage of the cameras with the intuitive GUI to the possibility to modify any parts of them. It protects user right to create and distribute derivative products based on our designs, products that may be suitable for the applications we had never thought about ourselves.

Good for Elephel. I hope they are successful. But I’ll be really happy when a company releases a professional or consumer open source camera.

Actually … There is a half-way house. Think of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It isn’t open source but Adobe publish APIs and specs to allow developers (cleverer ones than me) to extend it. I’d be happy with that in a camera as a first step.

The Stanford Frankencamera

September 16, 2009
Stanford Frankencamera

Stanford Frankencamera Front

Stanford Frankencamera Rear

Stanford Frankencamera Rear

One of the best reasons for living in Silicon Valley, Northern California was proximity to projects like this. It’s the first mention I have seen of an open source camera. See here for a summary of the Camera 2.0 project at Stanford University.

I wrote here that it’s about time for an open source extensible camera. Maybe this is a point on the way. The sponsors of the project are interesting:

  • Nokia Research Center Palo Alto Laboratory
  • Adobe Systems
  • Kodak
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • the Walt Disney Company

The Frankencamera uses a Nokia sensor, Canon EF lenses and from the picture other bits of hardware, but they are not publicly on board.

I think it is only a matter of time before we see an open-source product. Nokia’s involvement may indicate they will adopt aspects of it in their future camera phones. They could be more open-minded than the traditional camera vendors.

I don’t know the numbers but by units sold Nokia may be the biggest camera maker now. Almost every phone they sell has a camera. Of course “real  photographers”  don’t take them seriously (just imagine what Chris Weeks would say about street photography with a camera phone) but they are a real factor in the business.

Of course when an open source camera comes out I will complain because it will need weekly software updates and be prone to infection from malware. As long as it isn’t programmed in LUA.

Nokia N95 Experience

August 28, 2009

Yesterday I got to play with a Nokia N95 8GB phone. I could have bought it second-hand for a reasonable price, but it completely flummoxed me.

Yes, as a basic phone it was easy to make and receive calls and the call quality was good. But I can get a phone for 800B that has those qualities. This was 8,000B less a 1,000B for my old phone (I’m surprised it had any value, but apparently Nokia has such a good reputation in Thailand that even old simple phones have value).

I used the SIM card from my very basic Happy prepaid service. It worked for basic service but I wasn’t surprised that it would not do anything advanced like connect to the Internet. I think I can upgrade my account with Happy and keepthe same number.

It didn’t have an English user guide but I was able to download manuals in English from Nokia UK. The main user guide was 160 pages, and it didn’t seem to quite match the Thai-market phone I had. I probably could have found the a better one if I had searched hard enough. Kudos to Nokia for making their documentation easily available.

At least I was able to make the user interface work in English. It seemed to support over 20 languages – that’s a feat of localization in and of itself.

The phone came out in 2007 so it isn’t the most up to date, but it is light years ahead of my old model. I see Nokia is selling the N96 now so it is only one model behind.

But I found simple things hard to do. I tried to enter a phone number and name into the phone book. But the text entry method has changed from the old T3 that I understand.T3 is primitive but I am so used to it. I know that if I type the keystokes for “soon” it will always guess “room” and I know how to get it to try another word.

The N95 had “smart text entry” – again for many languages – but I could not see how to change its first guess – “AMMO” into a Thai nickname “Boom”. That sort of things should be obvious without delving into the manual shouldn’t it? I left that knowing I would work it out sometime.

I worked out how to take a still photo with the builtin camera. It has a Carl Zeiss lens and it can take movies as well. But the result was terrible! I took a well lit picture out of my apartment window and it was tiny and muddy.

Picture from Nokia N95

Picture from Nokia N95

I’m sure the camera had lots of settings and maybe it was set up incorrectly, but my initial experience was “ugh!”.

My old phone had what I think was called a “POP Port” that enabled me to connect it to my PC. It used a special Nokia data cable with  a proprietary connector on end and a USB plug on the other. I purchased one for US$50 from a Nokia store in America. But the cable failed soon after I came to Thailand so I could never get a good connection. That made me very angry after I paid a ridiculous sum for the genuine article.

The N95 didn’t have the POP port but it had a mini-USB socket. The charger uses it too. The phone did not have a USB cable but to my surprise the cable from my Seagate backup drive fitted. I worried that it wasn’t the official cable and maybe it didn’t have the same pin-outs but it was worth a try.

Before the cable failed I used Nokia PC Suite with my old phone. I was able to backup my phone book and messages. I was also able to download a few pictures so a friend’s picture showed when they called. I rememebr PC Suite being difficult to use – I always thought that, like Canon, hardware makers should stick to what they are good at and leave the software to professionals.

PC Suite version 7.1 is  still available from Nokia, free! Their marketing says:

Nokia PC Suite is a free PC software product that allows you to connect your Nokia device to a PC and access mobile content as if the device and the PC were one.

But … Nokia is also making what looks like a successor to PC Suite – OVI Suite. It’s compatible with the N95 8GB so I thought I’d try it.

To cut a long story short …

The download was only 12.7MB, but when I went to install it the first thing it said was it needed a .NET update from Microsoft. That was another install and a reboot of my PC. When I returned to the OVI installer it turned out that the 12.7MB download wasn’t the OVI Suite but only the Installer for the OVI Suite! It gave me a menu of a dozen or so components. I chose them all and went for dinner.

Good for Nokia – it downloaded and installed everything silently. But of course it needed another reboot.

Both my laptop and the N95 support Bluetooth so I thought I had a choice to connect the phone. I followed the instructions precisely (remembering the trouble I had with the old phone and PC Suite). But I could get neither the USB Connection nor the Bluetooth connection to work.

For USB my PC recognized the N95 as two disk drives. That’s how i was able to retrieve the photo above. But the OVI Suite software would not link to the phone. Maybe it was punishing me because I didn’t use the Nolia cable. But if Windows could see it as a disk something must have been right.

For Bluetooth the two devices were aware of each other. I could see Natong, my PC from the N95 and see the N95 from the laptop. When I tried to connect them the OVI Suite wanted me to type “123” on the phone as a security measure – so it could be sure i was connecting to a device I had control over.

The N95 prompted me for the password but after I typed it the OVI Suite said “could not authenticate device”. That’s when I decided this is all too much trouble.

I am sure that with perseverence and maybe an expert’s help I could get everything working. For example there is a Nokia Software Updater to update the phone. But without connectivity by cable or Bluetooth of course it would not work. I knew I had barely touched the phone’s features but with several hours work I could only take and transfer a very bad picture.

Years ago I would have stayed up all night making it work and then been an expert for friends and family. But I had a Mister Fredrickson moment and decided to return the phone.

If I’d had one “Wow!” experience I would have persisted. But everything I tried was disappointing or indicated I needed to do a lot more work. Clearly it’s me or my PC, or the phone, or the cable, or the wireless connection or …

Nokia’s a great company and people love their products but when you combine a complex phone with a Compaq PC (Bluetooth chip by Broadcomm), software by Microsoft, cell service by True Move  and so on the possibilties for problems are huge.

Would an iPhone or Blackberry be easier?

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)

July 20, 2009

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). This looks like an amazing device. I cannot find more detail than this on the cameras currently in orbit around the moon. I wonder how they compare with the cameras in spy satellites or terrestrial aerial reconnaissance cameras?

There’s nothing I could see about how much they cost, but it’s good to see they reuse a lot of hardware and software from previous missions to Mars.

They plan on producing 70TB (terabytes) of data from the LRO mission. That sounds a lot – but I can buy a 1TB disc from IT City in Bangkok for less than US$300.

The Two Cameras

The Two Cameras

My Old Canon A-1

June 25, 2009

Canon A-1

Originally uploaded by Ian Fuller

This was my main camera for many years. I purchased it in about 1980 or 1981 in Reading, England when I worked for Hewlett-Packard (HP). It was a major purchase at the time. I was very proud of it.

I kept it until I left the States in 2006. I donated it to charity in the hope that somebody would learn “real photography” with it.

Now I miss it and wish i had taken it and the Canon FD 50mm f1.8 lens with me to Thailand. I could have bought an occasional roll of film and re-experienced the thrill of waiting to see the results when the prints or slides came back from the lab.

Surely all this instant gratification with digital photography is bad for the soul. With a film camera I knew I might not get another chance at the image so I took more care with the details of framing and exposure.

Also with fixed focal length lens I cannot rely on the zoom when I’m too lazy to get in the right place relative to the subject.

It’s the only item that I regret leaving behind in America. I had a house full of stuff and haven’t missed any of it.

See http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/canon/fdresources/SLRs/a1/html/index1.htm for more information on why this was such an influential camera.