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tirsdag 25. april 2017

The LX200 .....Loading....Loading....

It really shouldn't be a surprise that the LX100, which came as a thunder bolt to the rather nichey enthusiasts compact market. A true wonder of shoe horning and mischievous use of an mFT sensor, something which I and many others forsaw years ago.

Where this camera should have placed is in the professional compact market, which is basically anything a pro will take as a back up camera and use for more candid or photo journalist work, or when taking a big camera would be impractical or attract the wrong sort of attention. That includes these days some serious work being done on top end Android and iPhones, so really image value counts more than absolute technical image quality.

Surely then the LX100 takes better shots than say an Olympus PEN of 1965 vintage, used by some of the true greats of the genre of candid, political leader imagery? What is pro-quality ? It can be argued that even medium format 120 Ektachrome shots are less than the equivalent 20mpx, and mid end lenses can't actually resolve below 12 on APSC!

Anyway, there are some features pros 'need' like a large buffer and outstanding autofocus apparently, funny how any of them made a living with thumb winder levers and 36 frames per reel  in days of film.  Pros though have always made their true living in the after work it has to be said, in terms of everything from choosing the coolest frame on a set of contact prints to burning in the salient areas for high contrast impact. So yes pros these days want high image quality OOC so that any lossy or other wise subtractive after effects don't influence the final output, which is likely to be printed at only 330 dpi anyway if you are lucky, or shown as a fragment on a 1080 resolution screen.

The LX100 seems to have attracted controversy and 'haters' from the word go. Some of them had pretty thin profiles on the chat rooms at DP review and elsewhere it has to be said, and perhaps there was some outright comercial trolling going on from areas which would rather no have such a plumb camera with such a fast lens at such a good price point. There are though enough 'flamers' out there looking to comfort their older purchases or appear like geek gods that this is unlikely., but I was surprised how much negative buzz the camera attracted and how several of the negative threads include no images from the OP nor on their profile!!

For a travel camera you are generally looking for something which does the wide to mid end admirably and you are able to live with some compromises. In the good old days, and for many ILC compact users today, that means planting a 35mm lens on and enjoying a jacket pocket sized camera which could be hidden from Genoa's worst street thieves, known to grapple SLR owners to the ground by their camera straps! Shoving a zoom with a bit of reach ( and a crop zoom) plus image stab' meant that cameras like this and some of the Canon G's are much more than an ILC with a 35 despite being smaller!



Expectations and Wish Lists for the LX200


There is some debate as to whether Panasonic will launch the 200 or not - given they came with the LX15 - but just as the LX100 came as a pleasant surprise I reckon that they will be launching one this autumn or latest at consumer electronics shows in the spring 2018.

They can afford to take their time. The camera was a little GH3 in some of its workings but with the wow factor of 4K video, which technically is not all that difficult. So our first expectation can be that there will be some exciting elements in the 200, while also it will pull from established Panny technology.

Here I think we will see a crop factor to the mFT 20 mpx chips, because is it not the case that it is a cropped 16 now? Or a 14mpx mFT sensor? Now this doesn't really help 4k much, because it is a compression to 8mpx per frame so the more in, the more processing and resulting heat in those hard coded compression circuits.

20 Mpx though means that the alternative crop aspect ratios will perform better for stills though, and that any application of digital zoom will be far superior in this new outing for the 'hundred' series LX

Upgrading to a newer sensor may also bring better high ISO performance, which has been criticised with 1600 quoted as the top 'workable'. There may also be some better colour rendering and better microcontrast, but the main issue with all this technical chip IQ improvements will be the resolving power of the lens, and the buffering and write to SD ability of the wee black box itself.

A lens upgrade is 'demanded' by the sceptics and pixel peepers who see the soft edges wide opened and also point to the lens's 'front focus' problem. These are to my mind non issues in the 200 - the latter was/is an annoying foible in landscape fotography which can be worked round in several ways, the former is well, what do you expect? A lens as good as the 'pro' level mFT wide end zooms? It is a compromise not worth adding extra size to the camera snout over imho.

The next upgrades which are 'anticipated', or rather would be on the project punch list if this was a crowd funded camera, are to do with the wee screen at the back. To me the ethos of this camera is that you have far more control over how you actually capture and you will most likely not just be sitting in a P modus, you will be flicking around. The screen being a 2010 vintage type is not an issue , it is a place to do menus and check an image quickly for sharpness, composition and so on. But there are whole armies of photographers out there  who just must have a tilting screen so they can get those catwalk shots from above the madding crowd, or capture that bee on that flower on the ground because no bee has ever pollinated a daisy before nor will ever again. Once in a life time that you have to be able to tilt, and live with an extra chunk of plastic box and a very big, vulnerable mechanical system to go wrong or get damaged. No, the screen for me can just have touch ability for menus and focus point as an upgrade.

One thing I do expect is an upgrade in the price though. The camera sold more initially than anticipated, going onto back order in some outlets,  but there are rumours that it is just a steady seller and that Canon has stolen its' muster. I expect that they will use a price hike to sell some units of the LX100 out in the supply chain and make way for the new on as the display model and soon, only one available.

Now here I come to my own point, that Panasonic should sod the casual photographer who thinks they could maybe go pro, or the enthusiast who wants great value for money, and get this camera to really work at pro level. This would mean a sharper lens and something cool like weather resistance. In fact why not just make as near to the 12-35 as possible and shoe horn it down as a collapsing lens ?  Then you have a camera which could retail for maybe three times the current list prices for the LX100 on the internet shops. It is a margin- volume trade off though, but that is where their once rich adoptive child, Leica, still play of course when they are left to their own devices.

I expect rather that the price point will be up around 15% over the launch price in 2014, and that the camera will have a touch screen, 16 mpx effective sensor, touch screen, better EVF and some form of connectivity to microphones and headphones since the 4K is so darned good. Also I think we will see what all enthusiasts 'hate' but which always helps sell more units to 'dumb people' who want to take fireworks. In this I think we will see more on the in camera pre-effects, such as with focusing and digital bokeh - waf-fer thin deh-oah- eff monsieur Creosote? Soft focus, high key photos?

To bore you all then I hope that the camera is more about internal evolution rather than external, bulky revolution. There will be changes and they will be for the better and there will be of course an LX200 You read it here, April 25 , 2017!








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mandag 29. august 2016

Acer Iconia A1 - Fixes for Start Up Freeze

Acer managed to pull off a fantastic little product, especially if you managed to get a 16GB 810 on offer for less than half the price of an iPad mini.

However despite the quad core processor and all that on SSD board memory, they are a little vulnerable to 'stack height' and virtual memory issues.

The best way to avoid these and thus crashes and freezing on start up, is to keep at least 1.2 GB free. When cleaning out then, aim to free up 2.2 gig to give some cushion time to your next check.

Clear out includes gong throiugh apps and deleting memory used for each, but also you can find otjer, large yet hidden folders through the memory menu on settings. Here i found 330 mb for Viber which did not show on the app' settings. deleted withoit any trauma. Noticed of course that images was the big baddie, over 9 gig. Many chat apps store images and videos, so worth chosing out that option if possible or cleaning often.

My tablet had become so full that there was not enough stack and virtual to start up properly. It hung on the first Acer logo screen. This can mean worse news- a corrupted boot sector, which then entails a reboot of the ROM base,  factory settings, delete everything to reboot.

However øuckily in my case I could " Unix" start with the volume control up held in, then choose 'fastboot' which allowed the machine to start but at a lower memory use, thus I bought time to check it was otherwise workijng såand discover jsut how muhc memory i was wasting !
w to enter Acer Iconia Tab 8 A1-840 Recovery Mode, Hard reset (Wipe) and Pattern Unlock.

Recovery Mode Acer Iconia Tab 8 A1-840

Turn off the devicePress and hold Volume UP keyKeep pressing Volume Up key then Press and hold Power key about 5 seconds then release itKeep press volume up key until the screen turns on then you will see Recovery modeUse Volume keys to select MenuUse Power key to Confirm.

Try Fastboot first, rewstarting on the top power button only. Firs boot may be a little slow, or it maybe worth both carghjng the device and letting it stand off for 20 mins.s
See if you casn gwet it to work before then going through clear all files and then back to use reboot to affect a factory reset, where the original ROM is loaded and should fix all the boot aectoe issues.

Having cleaned out memory, try restarting with a couple of minutes pause while off. The first full restart ,may takr longer than usual beforee you think that it is atill frozen.

søndag 14. august 2016

Custom Settings and TIps for the E-450 revisited

I did a blog a while ago on custom settings for the E-450 which got a 'whole bunch of hits' over time and really I needed to add a couple of comments or updates to it.

One repeating issue is unsharp images, with users blaming the kit lenses - Olympus kit lenses may be plasticy, but they are far higher quality than Canikons for their period. Yes there are bad, late friday shipped examples, but these are few and far between. Read on to seehow to solve soft, unsharp image output.

1) The Vrontiak Files. The Raw and the Cooked.

His (or hers) settings are basically up +1 on the Sharp , Contrast and Gradation, but the latter can be left on Auto quite happily.

In addenum to this though I would say do not pump up the saturation, leave it zero, or even drop it in scenes with a lot of grass, foliage or greens. Oly does them nasty in their colourspace, which favours wonderful blues and flattering skin tones in stead (R B with nasty G)

Olympus has a great JPEG engine in this particular camera to which these vrontiak settings help make OOC images instantly publishable, but remember if you shoot RAW ORF files, then Olympus Viewer will actually impose these settings on the preview you see and 'developed' jpegs,. I think there is a work around for this in fact, or you can use a non native editor or RAW developer which accepts ORFs.

2) Shoot Cooked and Keep it Cold  - Jpeg is fine, natural , Base ISO

Just as a follow up to 1, really a sub point but you should just really reserve RAW for finer landscapes, or portraits in low light or high contrast- in my honest opinion you will just waste card space and your own time processing general shots from RAW instead of allowing Olympus to make its rather fine JPEGs as you go. All of the work I have published to print media, and that includes litho colour separation, has been in jpegs and some of them are reduced pixel size to help the guys on the other end with an old mac or a heavy Heidelberg laser cut queu.

Keeping it cold though means not going above ISO 200 for anything which is going to be of artistic value or in quality print. Also as mentioned above, turn off or down saturation, and shoot always in NATURAL mode or even MUTED when you have a lot of light and any greens or reds.

RAW is by no means a total waste of time by any means- there is a lot more detail in the shadows and three quarter (darkish)  tones, a bit better tonal depth through the range and a  little more general detail and microcontrast to be had from a USM in a good editor. Hightlighs seem to blow when the sensor decides anyway, but yes there is some sublteties to be had for landscapes and finer portraits.

However as soon as you talk about batch processing then you are back to sending your film off to a cheap lab who ran a single, first frame test shot before printing from the negatives and made your whole roll look mediocre. You are not big and clever batch processing a hundred, random and varied images dropped off your card. If you are not at a very controlled shoot, in very constant light then each and every image needs its own RAW developing., If you use oly viewer to develop RAWs to nice, easy to work on JPEGs then you are also fooling yourself a bit because it is very similar to their incamera, first pass hard programmed jpg engine.

3) Shoot Fast  and Delay in Low Light- Use Shutter Priority and Mirror Lock Up Delay

For some reason the real bug bear of this camera even for family snap shots is camera shake, and this is in part down to it not being super ergonomic, but also that it has one hell of an agricultural mirror mechanism.

Also to make matters worse, the P mode selects a slower shutter than is really optimal, You can work round this by using the wheel in P mode, but really it is a pain. In good light I shoot now minimum 320th using only S mode and have found that the number of sharp images where I can quibble about composition or what is in focus has gone up to 90% from around 60%. I really did think my kit lenses were nearing their pensionable age, and this was just not true, it is my own shakey hand and the little ladies slappy tongue to blame

I find for anything with significant movement needs a 500th btw. Remember at base 200 ISO there is still a lot of detail in the shadows of a FINE; LARGE jpg and more to hank out if you insist on RAW. Underexposed shots which are sharp are usually better than soft right exposed or of course, lots of blownm blocky highlights.

Amazingly for an entry level camera, it has variable mirror lock up, delayed by 2 or 5 secs if i remember right, I have it on 2 secs. Toggle to the Drive mode and you will find a black diamond appear to the right of the usual single frame shot rectangel. This helps dampen things down in low light or slow shutter speed otherwise. On a light tripod you may also want to use timer with this function, which will allow vibrations from your touching the camera to die down too. A remote is a nicer option but sometimes you just want to look and press the god dammed button!

4) Turn on centre Spot Focus only, and Centre Weighted Metering

For photos of a subject or a main light area central to a landscape, select centre weighted metering, which is very good in Oly.  You can always bracket exposures manually on the +/- button and wheel or automatically,  and use a bit of liveview with historgram to check for blow highlights, or heavy shadows.

Centre PD AF spot focus is just a lot more reliable, and intuitive. Okay it is 1995 era technology, but it works. Remember focus, re-compose before 51 point tracking? Well that is my every day camera I am sorry to say and also, a tad nostalgic for.

PITA Warning!!!   You need to set the metering and focus point for the oridnary modes SPAAutoM one by one, and sometimes it seems to 'forget' them.

You can also use the AE button on the back to lock focus, which is useful in various situations like 'simulated macro' using a telefoto or cropping, and if you are waiting for a shot of a sports competitor are a particular spot and have to get it right, prefocusing and leaving it locked with at least f5.6 will solve your challenge of yeah, slightly leisurely focus capture and the risk of back focusing in the heat of the moment. See last blog.

5) Upgrading to Better Glass?

You are kidding me right? I mean Olympus E system die hards are just that, they think their fast glass, two zooms and a macro are worth their weight in gold still, and hope to sell them at about 70% new price to new OMD users.

Joking aside, now I do see that some of the SWD glass is coming down in price as people themselves have upgraded to OMD, and find the lenses are not that fast to focus and are a little clumsy with the adapter an' all, on the new and petite bodies. I see 12-60s now advertised in VGC occiasionally for under 300€ which is an acceptable price for an old lens of indescrimate useage, from a dead system.

Bodies for E system cameras, bar the E 5, are literally being given away and the going street price for a 450 or 420 is only about €80 with one kit lens.

However, there are bound to be some folk getting rid of the 14-54 Mrk II which is a nice, CAF optimised lens for a good price, and no doubt folk will be dumping their SWD glass soon for deposits on what ever takes their fancy and works above ISO 400. Olympus E system tends to have an older user base in the west, who like me, had OMs, and they have hung onto their system longer than whipper snappers who now dump nice little MILCs with kit lenses for fifty bucks after a year or two. Soon all but E5 body owners will most likely jump ship, so I predict a steady decline in used prices of the better glass.

An e450 with the better glass is just a really nice, neat system to have for brighter, photo friendly days, but you have to weigh up say paying €600 euros for two to three pro level, used and aged lenses versus a down payment on a now semi pro level,  full frame like the sony's, the Pentax K1 or the Nikon hundred FX cameras.








fredag 12. august 2016

The Joys and Challenges of Yachting Photography

Photographing boats and races is another kind of obvious side hobby, and indeed you can read more on my sailing exploits and ponderings themselves at Lost Sea Soul. I have enjoyed taking shots of regattas but often yearned rather to be out sailing in those very regattas. Last weekend I had the opportunity to have my cake and eat it, being out in a RIB one day down the Norwegian "Riviera" and then crewing on a 12mR the other.

It reminded me of the challenges of both disciplines - team work, stregnth and wisdom on the one while a sense for a composition and wisdom on the camera side.


The biggest challenge in sailing photography to me is not having a water resistant camera. For others it is likely to be getting close enough to the action or being able to predict when the most exciting and interesting shots can be captured. The first is fixable with either a different camera system, Pentax and Olympus offering mid end weather sealed systems, while on the other, asking some spectators or race organisers what is going to happen can solve problems of where to stand on the shore, or where to go on the water in a motor boat to catch those shots.

My other challenge is not really my own- it is the percieved need for new fangled stuff all the time and how much more "obsolete" camera bodies are considered these days after they are but a few years old. When i started SLR 35mm photography, you would see a lot of older folk with good Nikons and Canons from the early 70s slung around their necks, seperate light meter round their wrists. There was also the OM revolution and the followers at Pentax and Ricoh. All before we went all "electronic operating system" and then much worse, APS film cameras were pushed onto the market to the detriment of photography in general. These days many hobby photographers think it laughable that I persist with a body launched 7 or 8 years ago, but as I stated before, it is way in excess of what was available to me in the 1980s.

Main system equipment aside, what do you need for a good day's yattin' phottin'?

Firstly you don't necessarily need a boat or loan of a boat. You do then need to be within reasonable distance of sailing, and that means either knowing that the racing is at least in part, going to come near land, or positioning yourself at a natural narrows where boats have to sail regardless. Also another alternative is as I found out, to use local route ferries or tourist boats when racing or other 'muster regattas' are on, such as over to the Isle of Wight, Kilcreggan on the Clyde, Syndey Harbour or San Francisco bay area. How I cursed not having a good camera on the way past Alcatraz when a rather infamous I 14 sailor, "The Captain" Came shooting past the "Rock" in his high performance dinghy, bright spinnaker resonant in the mute californian colours.

Lens choice, given that you have them. Firstly for dock side photting a 28mm eq zoom or prime is quite sufficient and unlike the wider end, does not distort perspective so much on yachts that you become very aware of the wide treatment. For example - 28mm eq


A typical kit zoom in the range 28-85mm eq ff, will provide for on shore images not only dockside, and passing boats close by on the wide end, but what I really personally like and that is "in context" shots of boats in their often beautiful or interesting seaside land- or town -scapes. At the long end you will get kind of cut off shots though of boats racing at distances of a few hundred yards, which are neither between having enough background to give context nor enough detail to be a photo of a boat. The same will be true of primes in the eq nifty fifty 50mm to portrait semi telefoto, but the added speed of a fast prime at 120mm to say 150mm can make up for lack of composition freedom in capturing detail shots when boats are near enough.

When I say detail shots, this is often in the sailing magazines close enough to recognise crew members, which helps sell copy or gives an otherwise anonymous top competition boat, a relevant human face, such as the instantly recognisable handsome profile of Sir Ben Ainsley. Alternatively, they can be technical shots, which show either nice detail on a wooden boat, the motion of the boat in the sea, or particular action or mishap sequences. In harbour the "wide to mid" zoom will suffice, but for shots at greater distances you need to go up to higher telefoto ranges for both detail shots, and whole boat shots when they are further away up the racing course.

At the telephoto end, I have looked at my own EXIF focal mm, and some other folks on and off the water. From the land, I use quite a lot of 300mm for boats sailing on their race courses, but once out in a boat I find that the shots are split three ways in fact:

Whole boat circa 85mm



cropped action in context 100-120




Close up of action and crew 200- 220





The last shot is a bit misleading probably taken at about 80 actually, because we could drive close to them since they had finished racing and were enjoying the spinnaker run to the harbour. But usually this type of close up would be on the race course, keeping a respectful distance at 200mm approx. More on positioning and courtesay later.

I find the longer end off shore is pretty unworkable above 220mm because you usually are bobbing about in a RIB or small boat, so framing shots becomes difficult as can even getting focus on the boat rather than fore or back ground points.  With f stops on my kit being lower, the shutter speed drops too low on programme, or the images get too dark on S, or worse, if you have forgotten auto ISO then it bumps up high.

I recommend using shutter prioirty at base ISO, there is usually more light than you think at first and shadows and quarter tones can be lifted in post. Shutter speed wise, I find that I cannot get sharp images by in large at under 1/320th and prefer at least 1/500th. Remember if you have a fast lens that this will be pushing the aperture more open and reducing your depth of field, which can be an issue for example here :



If you look closely, you can see that the depth of field is quite shallow and the nice, shiny chrome winches are out of focus, while the hatch is sharp. Be aware to too thin a DOF with boats.

On exposure and light conditions, the vast majority of boats white or light coloured sails and also a large number have white hulls these days, and even ye olde varnished hulls reflect a lot of light. Also as mentioned there is a lot more light around at sea because so much reflects up from the water. I prefer to use a polarising filter which reduces reflections and total, scattered light from the sea and therefore that kind of odd brighter blue in images from the sea. This helps with texture of the sea, while also helping tone down the white of hulls and sails allowing more detail to come out. White, blocky hulls and sails detract from photos IMHO and a polarising filter is a good means to vastly reduce this glare, while maintaining a balanced exposure.

Of course a digital optimised polarising filter reduces the scene by up to -2EV.  Alternatively a ND (neutral density) -0.5 or -1.0 EV filter can be used to achieve some of the effect, and also open the aperture up just a little more to get thinner DOF on very bright days, when you want to throw the background.

Once on the water, in a small boat, it is pretty desirable not to change lens because no matter how waterproof the camera is, when the body cavity is exposed, it is highly vulnerable to water, and salt water is so much more dangerous. Filters can also be fiddely to mount while bobbing about, which is another advantage of a polarising filter because you can vary the darkness or density by rotating it.  Also given my tips based on years of photting myself and recent EXIF checks on some 'pro' flickr images, it is best to have a zoom lens with a range of around 80 to 250mm, and not change lenses.  "Big Whites" or those "Bigma" long telefotos with sub f5.6 apertures, are the reserve of either land based photting or being on quite a substantial vessel where roll and spray are minimal for the same weather conditions.

Camera techniques out of the way, as with any sports photography,  or landscape photography if you like context as I do, knowing your subject and what is about to happen next makes the difference between " i took some shots at a sunny regatta" to the "wow, see what we captured!" Direction of light and time of day are important, with the shadow cast by the sails to one side of boat something to either avoid or take advantage of. For the non sailor reading this, generally speaking boats under sail go through three interesting 'states' and do a couple of interesting manoevres in terms of action beyond "boat heeled over on water"

1. Beating - this means the boats have their white sails closely hauled in, with often elegant curves on their trailing edges. They are sailing up towards the wind, so you can work out where they are going to be next, as they zig zag in that direction.


From the front of the boat, approaching you is the best angle usually, with the bow wave and crew being points of interest, and worth taking multiple shots at high shutter speeds to select the most interesting wave or crew shots.

2. Reaching - This is when boats cross the wind at about right angles, and for many boat types this is their fastest point-of-sail. Often racing boats will have spinnaker up, and out to one side. Sometimes this angle can put a lot of pressure on the sails, and the helmsman is on a knife-edge of being overpowered and spun round into the wind in what is known as a "broach", in spectacular fashion sometimes. One note is that the boats will be sailing fast away from where ever you are stationed.

3. Running - Here the wind is behind the boat, and the white sails are either pressed out, often like "goose wings" on either side of the boat, or on many racing boats, the bright spinnaker will be most prominent, out to one side of the boat. Given a good light direction, then this can make for spectacularly colourful shots, and also with a degree of shadow with back light, interesting semi silouhette shots can be had. Here the light was failing, and I had a polariser on a non WR lens, so this is how it turned out, a little dark and flat:


The manoervres of interest racing boats do are

1) Tacking their bows through the wind in order to zig zag up to the direction the wind is blowing from

2) Gybing - the opposite, swinging their sterns through the wind with it behind them,  and changing sides with the sails, often in interesting fashion with the spinnaker up.

3) Starting - Most boat races have a common mass start, so the boats line up and start all at once. In competitive fleets this means a neat line of boats which is amenable to a 28-35mm from the water. It can be very difficult to spot a given boat btw. It is the sprint, the most stressed point in sailing and crashes do happen.

4) Taking up and down sails (hoist and drop/douse). Usually racing photographers get shots of the spinnaker work as it is a coloured, interesting sail and involves a lot of team work on deck to handle up and down- see image above of a boat 'fishing' with its spinnaker, while the crew do their best to haul it onboard again after it was droped. But other sails can be just as interesting.



Other Equipment 

I am going to invest in a second weather resistant camera, most likely the Pentax K series with a single, WR lens the 18-135 (just the ticket as it covers all my usual focal lengths, and with the latest 16 and 20 / 24 mpx sensors without AA filter, cropping can compensate for lack of 300-400mm reach) , but for those of you maybe either with a water proof DSLR or not, a second waterproof 'tough' camera like the Olympus TG4 or a good water resistant mobile can be a good option, despite the fixed or short focal ranges- here a boat is handy to 'leg zoom' near to the action, while often tough compacts and mobiles have a nice do it all 35mm FF eq focal legnth. 

Weather jackets for cameras are a good idea for any DSLR camera on the salty sea, because salt is not worth the risk of getting into your camera- a single tiny grain will destroy a sensor or lens mechanism. No amount of being careful will stop a sudden wave splash reaching you on a small, open boat. A full waterproof diving box may be a bit excessive, but if you have many thousands of spondoolics in equipment, worth perhaps the bother. Water proof 'kayaking' bags are a good idea too, just taking a single camera 'snout pouch' bag as I say on a RIB (rigid hull inflatable boat ) or the like,m you dont want to change lenses really at sea.

Tripods are ok for cruise liners, but on a small boat or busy public ferry alike, you are better with a monopod to add maybe that one to two stop benefit in steadyness, while also synchronising with the hull's movement on the water, so at least cancelling out your own body's weather leg movements and getting you used to when you will have the subject in frame as you bob up and down. IBIS/ILIS andbest shot selection, will generally speaking be enough to compensate in light conditions at mid shutter speeds for the combined effects of your boats' movement, your body's movement and the subjects movement. 

"Eplilogue" in a non Police Squad sense 

I hope this has been of some use and inspiration to sailors in particular, to get out and take shots of their sport from a motor boat or even land. Use your knowledge of how races operate to position yourself for the best images, and decide what type of shot you are setting up for. Remember to get out of the shadow side of the yacht or course unless you are looking for silhouette effects that is. Take bursts of photos in manoervres, when boats cross each other or if you are trying for a close up 'people shot' -. Otherwise for 'in context' shots or general shots, position yourself and wait until the boat is at the sweet spot, and perhaps use an exposure bracket series if light conditions have either high contrast or very flat light.  Remember to just check that the camera is focused on the points of interest or tracking the boat well, the dof is not too shallow on the subject, you are using shutter priority at say 1/500th or faster, that you are not overexposing white sails and hulls or getting that unatural 'denim' blue from the sea.

For the non sailor, get to know the basics of sailing and racing and look up some youtube clips to understand what boats are up to and when is interesting to get shots. Being on land may severly restrict you if there are no racing bouys near by, but 'narrow' sounds, harbour entrances or peninsulas can get you close to the action. As can using a ferry or tour boat if you cannot persuade someone to take you out in a boat and spectate actively.

Remember that a RIb infront of a boat racing can be both a destraction, a potential collision hazard and casue a wave as you gvet out of the way which can slow a racing boat down,so keep the engine running keep clear by several of their boat legnths , don't make large waves near competitors or which will roll through the whole fleet as you blast off to thge next spot or home with your 'catch'.

The safest and best places for photographing a race on the water are usually just outside the triangular or in effect diamond shaped racing course layed out with three bouys, sometimes it is just two. The 'diamond' shaped racing area in a typical race round marks, is usually about 20 times wider than the start line, and often the start line is half way up or at the 'foot' of the course in relation to the wind blowing down the middle. Best, safe spots outside this 'diamond' are usually to the left of the start line by 30 meters or so, being just slightly ofrward of the bows when they gather and start; being at the windward mark, longest up towards the wind direction where the boats turn and often hoist spinnakers, and being at the converse 'leeward' mark where the boats sail with the wind behind them and usually spinnakers up, and then take them down and go back up to hauling their sails in and sailing in the typical zig zag fashion up wind. 

Other races work in longer distances following the coast sometimes or heading offshore. Typically these have an inshore start and finish line near land, the latter could ential much waiting if it is a long race with variable wind during the day. Also often an inshore 'harbour' or club house start or coastal course  will necessitate the boats passing a harbour wall, or an estuary mouth, and coastal courses often have to pass headlands or peninuslas and want to use minimum ditance to do so, so that is where they come closest to land.


A weather sealed camera system is really what to get if you are going to be on the water often or in rough water, and that is what I am investing in, before I explore the joys of on water yacht photting more!


onsdag 3. august 2016

Will We Ever Get Full Frame Camera Performance in Small Compact Cameras, Even Mobile Phone Form?

Will we ever be able to slip some gizmo out of our shirt pocket and take images akin to those on a Canon 1D or a Nikon 5D ?

The answer is a resounding yes yet an indifatigable no.

No of course not, you cannae defy the laws of optics jim-there are two or so big arguements as to why. In terms of 'real' shallow depth of field, optically this just cannot be delivered by current lens technology on very much smaller cameras and sensors. Secondly the low density of pixel elements allowed for on full frame sensor means a far higher signal to noise ratio per pixel - area increase is on the square so the difference over APS-C, mFT and 1" is bigger than first meets the eye so to speak. This means better dynamic range, better low light performance and vis a vis better high ISO image quality.

However this is all given, precaveated, disclaimer with simple, single lens, esatblished sensor technologies. What can we expect then from technologies in smaller packages?

We also have to accept on the one side how important the "waf-ferr thin" DOF and ultra high ISO performance are to image representation and dessemination today. ISOs of 6400 negate the need for flash photography per se. Beyond that, the mega tens of thousands of ISO points are getting to freezing a frantic blackncat having a fit in a dark room. Outside some special applications and cameras with super fast shutter speeds, these features are my one is bigger and better than yours. They are academic, the returns on investment are at the thinner end of the diminishing.

I would say that what we actually 'need' for taking dslr quality photography from full frame are roughly using some bench marks-

* f2.8 or even f3.5  type of speed and depth of field
*D7000 dynamic range
*  ISO 6400 with little notable noise and only mild smoothing
* 12 - 20 mpx depending on the above vs size of sensor
* tonal depth and colour capture like the D3 and 5dII

Is any of this achievable in a compact camera or even a mobile ? We are really in the realms of not doing the same things but in miniature for the large part but rather emulating the final results with technologies.

Of course mobiles are stealing a march on compact cameras. For years they have been eroding the necessity for shirt pocket compacts and have hit trad' camera brand-sales, which often carried a nonsense premium price mark, out of the ball park. Now they are poised to go up a gear and not only challenge 'enthusiast compacts' but rival mirrorless and even DSLR territory.

Mobile phone technology has also driven some of the innovation we see in user interface and file handling but more than that, the always on immediacey of social media has changed how we view and  "consume" images, with some pro photo journalists and artists shunning their full frames to take people and street scenes where a dslr or even qaulity compact would create a barrier to the subject and perhaps invite a mugging.

The recency and availability is often the wow factor in social media, and often the professional photographer is out of the picture if you pardon my pun. The famous and daring now whip out a mobile and take a selfie a-top Everest, or traipsing up the red carpet to the Oscars. The image then has a different and perhaps higher value in the subject owning the moment, and most often sharing their emotions in a way which as third person behind another lens may make look contrived as they ask them to turn, or wait for theh flash to charge.

We consume images most often at 72dpi and a maximum size of 1080 wide pixels now. I dare say most images now viewed are no bigger than indeed the screen on the iPhone 6s. Gone are the days of the art litho printed coffee table photo extravaganza books. Image technical quality is reduced to the average smart phone's output, with image impact being far more important in the new, nano attention span on line world of image and sound.

Many say that the best camera you can get, is the one you can take with you and have therefore, all the time when you place yourself in a landscspe, street or event. Using live view screens instead of viewfinders has a kind of immersion in the scene and a causualness brought on by the mobile smart phone revolution.

Not only this of course, but smart phones offer not just picture capture but significant post processing ability. They are image systems and they are integrated to this new God, digital social media. An image has not just recency, but immediacey is a large part of its value. Being able to take multiple shots, inspect and select the best, crop and enhance them at the scene and instantly disseminate them to millions is a kind of modern tearing down of the old Rome - the antiqauted print media controlled by the political demigogues.

The way we take and view images then has changed much of the relevancy of full frame and even mid sized sensor photography to the mass market, in which more images have been made and shared in the last five years than in all of preceeding history. There are though some few superior tehcnical features which pro's and IQ snobs alike desire whcih are only to be fulfilled in their eyes, in FF.

There are two or perhaps three major hurdles for small cameras in equalling the final image output of Full Frame. Firstly optics, and shallow depth of field. Secondly there are two sensor pixel density related features - dynamic range/tonal depth and signal to noise ratio. Optics or rather emulating their shallow dof and telefoto images, are something we will return to and are natural physical barriers to miniaturisation actually working.

However in terms of sensor technology, I believe we will see major improvements in the smaller sensors in terms of dynamic range, colour tonal rendition and noise. HTC have already recognised that masses of dense megapixels is not the way to go, and reduced their mpx chip,  for a camera which produces more realistic images with better DR and better low light performance by lower noise levels.

We have a distance to go too with lens and hardware but that in terms od the single lens is limited unless light-field -lenticular capture becomes practical in pocket-thin devices. Small, flat lenses van be very bright, even sub f1.0 , but are limited to short hyperfocal legnths and very short possibilities for zooming within the form factor of consumer mobiles. Yes we have seen 'Phameras" or "Phonecams" and android on compacts which then offer zoom. However digital crop zooming is also now a better prospwct with the advent of shift-sensor multiple capture quadrupling image size. We also have powerful interpolation which 'repixelates" zoomed areas to recreate a higher mpx count, thus enabling crop zooms via purely software. The stregnth in actually acheiving more flexibility in 'apparent' focal legnth is likely IMHO to be from a combination of these three technologies - small zoom lenses, sensor shift and interpolation. These could offer social media ready results in the range of 22mm to say 300mm with small screen acceptable IQ.

Shallow depth of field is something which can also be achieved with software, as any Photoshop fan au fais with mask-and-blur will tell you. Currently 'fake blur' is still in its automated infancy, with equipment or off camera software selecting foreground or faces based on contrast and preprogrommed recognition. One physical answer is to take two images, one with usual focus and the other with a very short hyperfocal distamce near the lens, thus giving a naturalistic blurred background and the software a base point to work from. A more innovative and potentially successful way is the twin camera approach seen in the HTC One M8 and current Huwaei P9.

Dual lens cameras are almost as old as film photography with both stereo and parallax views being used in 3D imaging and range-finder focusing for more than a century. They have a particular appeal in mobiles when one camera captures something different, such as when they are BW and capture more light information, allowing for both better DR and tonal range in the final, interpolated image output from the colour sourced camera, and also delivering more depth queus to the bokeh software. So far the real world results from the HTC M8 and the Huw'P9 are mixed though. Perhaps the real value will be in a second lenticular camera which captures light field information which can then be used create very much more accurate and aesthetic shallow and long DOF images.

Mobile phones by in large are given user interfaces which are to a low common denomintor, yet i the M9 i owned before and the desire Z i hold onto for the keyboard, there are quite a few settings to play with. They are hidden way in menus and awkward to get to or use multiple times. User interface will be another area which will need to improve if mobiles are to ever rival big old cameras, because the photographer needs control over input and output at their fingertips to get the best captures at least.

When we start talking about combinations of technologies we then also hit another barrier which is a function of the mass market naturw of the mobile smart phone- price. It may be great to appeal to enthusiasts, pros and those wanting a great camera in a shirt pocket, but doing some of the combo's i describe above, costs. Top end mobiles are around €~$ 750. That is around the same as enthusiast compacts, mid range "super zooms" and more than entry level DSLRs and MILCs - which are very good indeed these days.

Software though need not be part of that price barrier equation due to firstly the App' phenomenon and secondly, cloud computing. Image processing does not need to happen in camera, nor at time of capture. This opens the field to very advanced computing which is held propriety and 'micro licensed' for each image proceassed in the cloud or App download. Simple computing tasks which require pure power and memory are ideal for cloud computing,  such as face outline matching which would then lead to near perfect blurred bokeh i  portraits within milli seconds.

I have kind of made my conclusions under way, but to summarise we perhaps won't see physical camera features which add to the cost of top end phones, although the follower manufacturers, LG, Huwaei, HTC and most likely Nokia now, may well explore this as a way of capturing more top-end consumers from Apple and Samsung. Software is a different matter economically speaking, either as installed in camera system, as an App' or in the cloud. The cost is inversely proportionate - 'disponential' in that the initial high cost has miniscule unit costs as volume sales increase.

The converse of my proposition is also going to be true of course, that mobile digital telephony becomes more integrated to full frame digital SLRs.

,

lørdag 16. juli 2016

Please End Retro Cameras

I don't know if it was olympus, leica or fuji who first came up with the vintage look  digital camera. However now it has just gone too far, with Olympus prefering to 'quote' mid century Leica film cameras rather than their own original PEN F in their new reworking of this brand name.

Canon first dared to make a better ergonomic camera and a leap if not a quantum one, in the EOS range of 35mm film DSLRs in the 80s. They were almost shockingly modern and insultingly plastic. Now we fly plastic planes from both Airbus and Boeing around the world and have internet tablets like something from a 70s sci fi. Yet we also have a plethora of rather crappy looking, polished alloy and fake leather , random diameter knob studdes mirrorless system and mid to high end single lens compacts.

Olympus were saved by beauty......or rather they knew they were almost two years behind the competition on sensors, yet they dared to come up with the modern day PEN series, which quote the style ques and overall user æsthetic of their original crop framed 35mm film cameras. PENs then and now, are the poor man's Leica. Today's PENs though have always featured some enthusiast level functions, like flash radio remote, all the different shutter-aperture modes, raw orf output and 'a whole bunch' of other stuff. Also in contrast to their 4-3rds partner come rival Panasonic, olympus has a better Jpeg engine for both the photojournalist on a deadline, and the uninitiated would be hipster who bought on style over content and 'caus grandad had an Oly. Back to the hipster, they got a hangover from the E system, art filters which in 2010 were more instagram freindly than those questionable warts on Oly enthusiast heaven E series DSLRs. Olympus must know that some buyers will only use programme mode orherwise and giving them a helping hand to create an OOC image in a trendy or kind of 'gee whizz' style.

Also PEN struck the death knell of the wee, and often noisy, flippy up Mirror as integral on most all single lens reflex cameras. Enthusiasts felt as betrayed as when OM 135 range was dropped, only this time Olympus moved into new waters, leading the way in electronic viewfinder cameras with the OM-D range. They probably picked up more previous OM 135 users than they ever did with the E series, and had a new retro camera for the style conscious, with a slighly shrink fit 70s or 80s OM look. And now we are back to the 135 Canon EOS which eat olympus for breakfast ferom 1989 onward.

The EOS had far better ergonomics than the staid, boxy competition which was basically making cameras with 1967 structure and limited electronics. Canon struck gold in moulded plastic with AF,  and in terms of value sales lead the market in 35mm dslrs. Indeed even the E series Oly are really influenced by this sea change in camera design and accompanying manufacturing methodology. With AF and more advanced electronic control, you could take better images with the EOS. Twisting to focus was made a thing of the past most likely by this one produxt range. Peole ewvwn used them strapless, the modern youtube review poseurs prefered 'acapella' carry style, gesticulating and wafting the cameras like Churchill did his cigars.

Retro look ia on the one hand possibly a marketing stylists reaction to what has been a fairly fugly road in the digital sensor camera age. Olympus and their E1 ugly duckling, not to mention some abortionate zoom compacts. Freed from the 35mm or APS sized film plane and reeling space, deaigners often didnt quite know what to do around a flat pike of  lens, sensor and viewfinder componentry. Perhaps it was Leica's tenacity to hold onto it's heritage and allow theier glass owners to cross over seamlessly to senor bodies,mor perhaps it was a kind of hipster radar blip in Oly markerting, but PEN looked retro as Catherine Hepburn on a sunday afternoon TCM - and it caught the imagination of the affluent, style conscious yuppie of 2010. Olympus had the worst sub APS-C size sensor quality, and with only 12mpx, so they needed to deliver other buying queus to this segment.

Perhaps the basic oblong box format of the PEN and OMD is actually cheaper and easier to build than a curvy, ergonomic camera which meets the hand like a womans buttock and invites tender, secure caressing and indulgent tactility. Perhaps Oly are locked in the style by not only their marketing department and percieved current brand equity, or their mechatronics are all optimised for the shoe box layout  out, I don't know.

Not as mentioned, that Oly can't do ergonomics - the e520 was ok, the 600 better and the E5 really did have a kind of Pentax K thing on the go......and maybe that is where they exactly did NOT want to follow, into a quirky also ran niche where weather proofing and a two lens-does-all offering competes with mid range "Canikons".  They needed style queus and brand heritage to anchor a psychological, if not quite emotional bond to prospective owners. Also Sony saved their bacon , twice, firstly with a cropped down sensor from their APS-C state of the art 20-24 mpx sensora, and then by buying stock to keep the post scandal company afloat. Finally they could compete with mid range DSLRs and rival higher end and FF products in terms of size to image quality and user definable functionality.

Now the market is flooded with retro cameras and compacts which have the same shoe box form. They are by in large not very ergonomic and at worst some quite serious offerings are blighted by in particular, obrtusive dials and buttons which are too easy to activate or alter accidentally during ordinary handling. Also we have some great cameras falling short of their actual potential and most likely, actual price point they could command. Take the LX100 from panny. Ok, you have to get past the dire out of camera JPEGs and get used to batch filing- which makes some people feel big and clever - but really to have to correct Panasonic's output when you take the only camera you'll need on vacation or want to deliver a breaking news item to the photo editor's inbox. Beyond that though there is a fantastic lens for the type of photography people will do with this camera, and traditional hard controls any seasoned photographer with some grey hair will feel fully satisfied with. But its still a shoe box, slightly retro, with poor ergonomics. Also it isn't weather and dust proofed which are features which could have  raised the camera to a must-have for proffessional photo journalists.

Pentax dared to keep up some concept of  tough ergonomics in their K range but now the cameras seem to be a little boxy and even undersized for their weigth in the KS2 and the k50/70. Many have criticised the GH range from Panny as being a little small for the typical western, male hands.  The fact is that cameras in the mid to high marrket don't have to look a particular way, they have to take amazing photos which lure enough of consumers away from their Mobile phone camera to make niches in the market have a market in the niche. Six hundred dollars is now again, a lot for a camera to the uninitiated when you also buy a 500 dollar mobile phone which does the job of snaps  and holiday 'scapes, with direct share to social media witthin seconds.

There is then a need to trade up enthusiasts and appeal to seasoned pro's and 'copyright John Smith-Jones Images' two weddings under their belt pro-ams. For people who really want to shoot and not be conspicuos consumers with retro jewelry round their necks, then ergonomics and weather seailing are two uptrades which cost fairly little compared to the price premium they help secure. OK pentax/ricoh kind of have to have something to offer in the DSLR market at mid priced APSC cameras. But in compacts and mirrorless really it is wide open for a 'proffessional' opening, while in DSLR there is room for a video optimised offering which has some degree of camcorder ergonomics and live knob and dial fiddeling on the fly.

The latter is probably not Oly's bag - they are likely to remain a stills system on 4-3rds with IBIS and live off glass and peripheral sales the next couple of years as the format reaches its limits in stills photography and dminishing returns in performance become uneconomic. There is rumoured Full Frame, but Elvis coming back from the moon is more likely unless Sony decide to own them and relaunch the alpha full frames in a parallel world with olympus doing the user interface and jpeg engines, plus maybe a return to two ZR Zuiko pro lenses which cover all as with the E system's 12-200 (24 - 120 : 100 - 400 f2.8's)  

The way to go is smaller and easier to handle, and better video imho in any mirrorless system or single lens pro level. Now that pro level IQ and speed of glass at least, is a lot cheaper than it was a few years ago, and the must have in camera adjustability and pre-settings pro's want from the D3 days are well documented, while the nice to haves and never actually used settings can be kept out. Essentially this has been Leica territory and top end enthusiast compacts in the 600/900 dollar region. The LX100 has shoe horned itself into being an amateur camera with some appeal for pro's and price-quality  snobs, where in fact it should have dared to be a pro level photojournalist camera with weather sealing and a touch screen at more like Leica pricing - say a grand.

As I predicted before, mobile phone cameras are going to eat more and more into the compact market, moving up a notch with fake f 1.2 layered image bokeh, 4k video and passable quality zoom, shift sensor mpx maxing and digital crop zoom with re-interpolated pixelation. This eats into the percieved need for blurry back grounds and a 'pro' look which then eats into how much a mid range camera can demand in price and how many people see the benefit increment as being large enough to buy a second camera to that (or those ) in their mobile. Olympus should follow the LX100s lead and come up with something fast, sharp, ergonomic and wonderful.

mandag 4. juli 2016

New Camera (s)?

The E450 has served me very well for six years, probably because I came from a 35mm background where Fujichrome 200 was my standard 'shoot' colour slide film.

Now though I find that as a travel camera system it is bulky and even the super zoom (once much beligned as a kind of joke camera class amongst 'serious' photographers) cameras of the last year or so, out do the E series cameras for dynamic range and quite probably overall image quality, especially the Panny FZ1000 and the Mrk II and III Sony RX10s.

To think through a critical path analysis of what I need and what I will be empowered to do then I have to look a bit at the past and the future. A "travel" compact is on the cards, as well as a new system....or should I get a used 12-60, 50-200 combi and stick with Oly as the 'hobby' and get a compact ?

Lets write that one off now: The 12-200 Combi do it all? Well that is down to price, and Olympus owners are not like others, they are generally more experienced photters and think their kit is wonderful, so despite outdated sensors and a clumsy combination with the OM or PENs, they think their fast Glass is still worth a fortune. Cheapest is about 50% new last I looked. I am looking at using mayeb, maybe 300€ on the two. Mission impossible, best use the cash on a new system

There is very, very little middle ground now in compacts. THe RX10 II and III are expensive, a bit slow to zoom in and out, have way too long a reach for real use, but now have a one inch sensor and really. Weather proofing, the fast lens and this reach means


To move forward and even make some cash, sailing photting is a runner, so weather proofing is a must for my system., That now restricts me to in fact the Pentax K series for a system, with a two or three lens set up, and / or the RX10. THe LX200 "due" in september this year, may have weather sealing. But it is far too short a reach for sailing photting where I need about 400 mm reach.

I think a used pentax system and a used LX100 or D LUX 109 is the way to go really, or maybe a bib end 109 with Light Room included in the deal.

There may be a round of new cameras seeking new niches or to open things up like the LX100 and RX100 before it did. One thing for sure is that I have zero point zero budget this year!!!