Category Archives: Photography

New camera

I’ve been saving up for some time now for a new camera. My Pentax K10D was in need of repair with a price-tag of $300+. For that price, I may as well work towards a newer camera. To that end, I recently purchased a Pentax K-3, their newest(ish) top-of-their line DSLR. My iPhone 6 has been a wonderful companion and I have taken some great photographs with it, but it became clear that it just couldn’t quite do all that I wanted a camera to do. For example, low-light pictures were grainy, and often even otherwise sharp and well-lit photographs still seemed “flat.” Plus I had a bunch of good lenses sitting around.

But enough apologetics. Last night I finally found some time to play with the camera a bit. I’m very pleased with the results. The camera does seem to have a back-focus issue (camera focuses beyond the point it tells me it’s focussed on), which is what needed repair on my K10D, but these newer models have manual auto-focus fine-tuning built right in. So I can solve the focus issues… I just need to decide if I should nevertheless send it in while it’s still on warranty.

Anyway, after fixing the focus issues, I took some black and white shots of our cats. I’m quite pleased with the results. Pictures taken with a 50mm lens at either f1.4 or f2.0, all of them at ISO6400 (except the last, which was ISO3200). Some of them are a little darker than I’d like, but these are all unedited, other than for size (and for the camera’s own processing to b&w jpegs).

I promise I won’t turn this into a blog of cat pictures.

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Analog cameras and pixel peepers

An advertisement on the back of the November 1989 issue of National Geographic talks up Kodak’s new (at the time) EKTAR film. “You’re looking at a 2500% blowup with detail never before possible in a 35mm color print film,” it says. There’s close-up picture of a defeated football player. Inset is the original, uncropped photograph.

In fact, I found the image on Google:

What I find remarkable is that while Kodak boasts “detail never before possible”, the blow-up is actually quite soft. It is far from “tack sharp,” as they say. I read this and remembered several years back when I researched dSLR cameras, read lens reviews, followed the forums. What photogs seem to do these days is called “pixel peep”. They take a photograph, view it at maximum resolution and beyond, and then evaluate the lens or camera responsible based on how crisp the photograph is. I found this odd, as did others, since nobody ever looks that closely at a photograph. At normal viewing size, these photographs could be brilliant, but at the ultra-zoom level, they show flaws.

I remember, too, that the Pentax K10D, which I ended up buying, lost some marks from reviewers because its out-of-the-box settings didn’t produce a desirable quality of photrograph. The problem? The photographs were too soft. They weren’t “tack sharp”.

I’ve never been able to take a “tack-sharp” photograph. Partially because I don’t often use a tripod, partially because that particular Pentax model was design to produce film-like photographs. This is just fine by me. Surely there are other features in a photograph that are more important for judging its quality.

All this to say that that 1989 Kodak advertisement would not make the grade today. The never before possible “detail” in the blow-up would make the pixel-peepers scoff.

I wonder, have we lost something in our age of “tack-sharp” photographs and pixels in the millions? Do digital photographs have the same warmth and “personality” as analog photographs did? I suspect not. That’s not to say that I’m not thankful in many ways for digital cameras–mostly for their instant and forgiving output–or that there aren’t many brilliant and beautiful digital photographs taken. Yet I find that my dad’s old Minolta XG-1 (it’s older than I am) consistently yields better photographic results. And–sometimes–I crank up the ISO on my Pentax to add some of that “noise” and grain that is so hated these days. It may not show detail like cameras can these days, but I kind of like it.

Windpower

I’m still here. Just on holiday. Summerland is not as summery as it was last year.

I took this on the way somewhere in southern Manitoba:

Windpower

Camera

Our credit card includes a rewards system in which, after accumulating a certain number of points, you can take your pick of a gift card for a variety of businesses. Usually we just get Esso gift cards; occasionally we will get FutureShop (an electr0nics store for you non-Canadians) gift cards. Since moving to Otterburne, however, we’ve had some difficulty with the bank. For some reason they are reluctant to send our bills and statements to a box number. Somehow Dixie managed to convince the bank to send our statements to our box number, but we have not been able to convince them to send the gift cards to the same address. (Banks!)

As a result of this obstinacy, we’ve gone a year or more without claiming any of our gift cards. Then we realized, a week or two ago, that we could just use the street address for the school and still get the mail in our box. So now we’re sitting on $350.00 in FutureShop gift cards.

We chose Futureshop because we want to buy a new point-and-shoot camera for our trip to England. I’ll probably bring my Pentax DSLR, but it’s nice to have a small camera handy as well, as I’m not sure I want to carry a large camera bag everywhere I go.

The question is, which point-and-shoot camera should I buy? I did a great deal of research before buying my Pentax DSLR. It seems to me, however, that with point-and-shoot cameras it’s a bit of a crap-shoot. There is a dearth of choice and, in my experience, you cannot count on brand-name alone to make a good choice in the point-and-shoot market. Our first digital camera was a Canon. We spent a ridiculous sum of money on this basic digital camera (back when they were just becoming popular), and I was delighted to find that the results exceeded my expectations.

After a number of years that particular camera deteriorated to the point of near-uselessness. Superstore presented us with an opportunity: no tax on anything purchased on a certain day. So I went out without any research and purchased another Canon. I assumed that it being a Canon would be enough, but I was disappointed. The picture quality, among other things, was disappointing. I spent $250 on that camera, I think. Frustratingly, the $70 Samsung we bought for Madeline the following year took very good pictures–significantly better than our Canon (which is now on the fritz, too).

So, as I say, a crap shoot. I have no idea where to begin with a point-and-shoot search. No–not true. I’d like to begin here: with a Canon Powershot G11. The G11 is about as close as you can get to a DSLR without actually buying a DSLR. It gets great reviews, but it’s pricy, so we’d have to shell out a bit of our own cash.

After that, I don’t know where to go. A Canon Powershot S90? A Pentax Optio something or other? A Samsung? Maybe we should just ask Madeline if we can take hers…

Suggestions?

Out with the old, in with the new

I’ve had essentially the same pair of glasses for some 12 years or so.  I began with a brown-speckled frame and then when I needed new lenses moved to the same frame in black.  For a while I considered doing the Woody Allen/Bruce Cockburn thing and simply wear the same frames for the rest of my life, but this semester I decided it was time for a change.  The before and after:

Old Glasses New Glasses

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The old glasses were, I now realize, a little too small for my face.  The new frames are bigger and bolder and for the most part I think they work.  I do feel a bit pretentious with the new frames, my leather coat and scarf and my dad’s (now mine) flat cap on.

In other news, my brother’s newfound passion for photography has reinvigorated me and I’ve got my photoblog (Photolicious — permanent link above the banner picture) up and running again.  I’ve also decided to try and take and post 365 pictures in 2010.  Photolicious will include both the 2010 pictures as well as some pictures lifted out of the 8,000-odd unsorted and unprocessed pictures I have sitting on my hard drive.  For just the 2010 photographs, you can follow my Flickr set of the same name.  I don’t want to call it picture-a-day because I’ll likely miss some days and other days take more than one good picture to make up for it.

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(8) Shadows