Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where is the Nikon D400?

It's been a bit over a year since the catastrophic earthquake and following tsunami in the Sendai area of Japan.  It's been several months since the devastating floods in Thailand.  Those threw the modern world of manufacturing into chaos.  Should I have said "utter chaos"?  Writing idioms are plentiful elsewhere, wouldn't you say?

New cameras have been arriving in a trickle.  Nikon has brought a lot of the excitement lately with the D800/D800E and the D4.  I'm waiting to see the D400.  No, I'm not a Nikon fan so perhaps, a bit of history will help.  I chose an Olympus E-1 over the D70 or D100.  At that time, there wasn't much comparison.  Even with the smaller sensor, the E-1 had better image quality.  Another factor was that you couldn't pair it with cheap, rubbish or old lenses.  It was all digital and required new lenses, all of which had outstanding quality.  Given the cost of equivalent lenses, Nikon would have cost me about twice as much.

Fast forward (okay, a writing idiom) to 2007 and the Olympus E-1 successor had finally arrived.  So had the Nikon D300.  The Olympus E-3 looked somewhat less than adequate against the D300.  Mind you, the auto focus was not pathetic, finally.  11 cross-point auto focus sensors were brilliant.  Contrast that to the D300's on-again-off-again-are-we-in-the-correct-situation 51 AF sensors and people see the sheer number of sensors and forget the rest.  The D300's 51 AF sensors aren't always all in use and the remaining number is much more humble.  Still, it's quite amazing as a system, but overly complicated.  The Olympus AF works its best with certain lenses marked "SWD" for SuperSonic Wave Drive, of which the 12-60mm was represented as the fastest AF in combination with the E-3.

The E-3 had one truly pathetic downfall--the anti-aliasing filter was too strong and the images were not very sharp, even in studio lighting.  Sure, it had a 10 MP sensor, but you could get great images from the E-1, being careful about the 5.1 MP size.  You just couldn't fix the anti-aliasing filter of the E-3, no matter what.  Cue the funeral march.

In 2010, Olympus introduced the E-5.  It fixed the critical issue with the E-3, brought a higher resolution LCD, kept the brilliant AF system, used a dual-core CPU and 12 MP sensor, and made Four-Thirds shooting good again.  It still used the poor ergonomics of the E-3 but so what?  Set things ahead of time and plan around the problems.  I made the jump in November 2011.

I want to say that I'm incredibly pleased but there is an underlying noise from ISO 400 up and I'm not comfortable with ISO 1600 images at all.  Looking at some images from a D300, they're no better at ISO 2500.  It wouldn't have helped to jump ship.

So, where is the D400?  Given that the D7000 is arguably better than the D90, I'm wondering how much better the D400 will be.  The exposure metering system will have been improved, probably with double (or more) sensors.  I doubt the AF system will have been improved, except for tweaks.  (I don't use AF, by the way, but it's important to many people, especially the professionals who keep everything on automatic.)  Of course, the big change will be the image sensor.  Will it be the 16.x MP sensor from the D7000 or something newer but equal in number?  I suspect Sony will supply a slightly enhanced version for the D400 and it will also go into the D7000's successor.  I still haven't heard any rumor about the D400, except that it's delayed until the D4 and D800/D800E bodies can be put to full capacity in the factories.

Considering Olympus' new OM-D series, I'm wondering if many people will jump ship the other way and take advantage of some good fixed focal length (prime) lenses.  The E-M5 was just given What Digital Camera's Gold Award in their review of the camera and that says a lot to me.  Now the final total was 90 % which puts it dead even with the E-3 and three points behind the E-1.  Considering how mirror-less system cameras were doing poorly at the beginning, I'm shocked.

It's a matter of time until dSLRs become a thing of the past.  I suspect they'll be there in medium format for a while but for handheld jobs, smaller and lighter are better.  Olympus showed the world that back in the 1970s with the OM-system and Nikon complied with demand and went smaller.  I can't wait until all brands announce smaller systems with exceptional image quality.  I know that the Nikon D400 won't be smaller, but I'd like to see it, just the same.

Update 2012.11.11: Still waiting, and with the D600 out, plus the D5200, everyone is wondering, I'm sure. 

Update 2013.10.08: The D610 has been announced.  It's likely a matter of manufacturing capacity and anticipated demand.  I suspect that Nikon feel that the "full frame" fanatics who would have bought the D400 have gone to the D600 already, the majority of the remainder might have gone to the D800, and the remainder are complaining that there is no D400 yet.

Given that Ricoh/Pentax have announced the Pentax K-3, I think the wait is over for those who wanted to switch because of the D400.  This new body has an amazing array of technology and seems quite capable of going where the D7100 has not--sports, what I photograph. 

Update 2015.11.29: Holy shhhhh!  In the last few months, there have been rumors about the D400 again, especially since the Canon 7D Mk II was put on sale.

Back in April, the D7200 was introduced to supplant the D7100 and D300s.  I have one and it's good, but whether it could replace the D300 in all ways, I'm not sure.   The body isn't nearly as strong.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The best dining experience?

What is the best dining experience?

I was thinking back to my birthday in 2009.  My mum and I went to a pseudo-Italian restaurant, an "Italian Grill", as they called it, though it wasn't Carraba's.  I was underwhelmed by the huge open space with a ring of tables.  The ceiling was held up by columns with fake plastic columns around them.  I liked the menu choices and ordered gnocchi (potato pasta) with Alfredo sauce.  How do you mess up Alfredo sauce?  Hmmm, you leave out the cream, the cheese, and the black pepper to really mess it up.  What remained?  The oil and the butter.  Tasty, wouldn't you say?

It made me think of an episode of the tv series Still Standing where Bill (the husband/father) and his friends go to this Hooters-like restaurant regularly and just can't get over the food.  Bill's wife Judy thinks that it's a scam.  In the end, she tells how the busty waitress has children and feet problems, which really ruins Bill's naughty image of her.  Then, Judy serves him some of his favorite food from the restaurant and he practically chokes on it, it's so bad.

So, what makes a good experience?  Friends, cleavage, or even good food?

There were times when I was out with friends and we'd just agree to go to a place and we enjoyed it.  It wasn't always great food, like from a fast food restaurant, but it was better because we were together.  Of course, going to a place and they ask "Is it just you?" really doesn't start the experience on a positive note.

I'm still impressed that Hooters and Wing House can stay in business.  I don't believe that the food is better than other places and they can't be drawing a lot of couples into their places, right?  I remember Hooters' radio advertising talking about how it was a family restaurant.  So, where were the male waiters and the flat-chested female waitresses?  Family place, sure, and men read Playboy magazine for the articles.

What is good food?  Is it more expensive, less expensive than everything else?  Does it have better ingredients?  Does it remind you of your grandmother's Sunday dinners?  For me, it's often the lack of things: the lack of trouble, the lack of brown lettuce in the salad, the lack of a fake environment.  When I walk through the door, I want a good experience.  You don't have to be sticky sweet but don't act as though I'm an interruption to your day.  Help me with the menu choices, including the daily specials.  Even if I saw the board at the freezing cold entrance, I may not remember every item.  If you have to repeat them, you're earning your tip.  If you're letting me know that you're exasperated at me, you're losing your tip.  Don't bring me yesterday's lettuce and, if the soup was just thrown out, tell me something else, if you want me to stay.  "Oh, I'm sorry, but that soup won't be ready for another hour.  It was, ummm, very popular."  Bring my food and drink prepared as I wanted.  If you ask me many times how things are or if I'd like dessert, I'll get the impression you want me to vacate my seat.  I don't need that.  I want to enjoy my meal, especially if I'm with a group.

I had an experience in 1985.  I was staying in the city of Kobe, in Japan.  My friend's brother's friend took several of us in his car to Kyoto and then, to Himeji Castle.  At the end of the sightseeing, I was not well.  My friend told me that we were going to a restaurant and there was no choice.  That's my Japan--obligation, even as the guest.

We arrived at a French restaurant.  Now, what I know about French food is to avoid it.  It's not well cooked and it usually has some element of surprise.  I don't really care for surprises in my food.  As the five of us enter the building, we're greeted by the owner and his staff, as well as my friend's parents.  There are no other people in the restaurant.  My friend's father has hired the restaurant for us--for me!  I'm feeling tremendous pressure for this to be a positive experience, no matter what, no matter what I feel.

A generous salad arrives and we eat with knife and fork.  There are no chopsticks for the first time in 2 weeks.  I do my best to be graceful and not toss salad around the restaurant.  Then, they replace the empty salad bowls with a plate containing half a large lobster with some potato salad-like substance adorning the open section.  It's fine so far, but as I'm tallying the price in my head, it's not phenomenal.

As we finish with the lobster, we're treated to the largest steak I've ever seen, and it's Kobe Beef--the most expensive beef in the world at US$75 per pound in 1985.  My mental calculator has just come up with $400 per person for this dinner.  The thing to note here is that I mentioned that I wanted to try Kobe Beef.  I thought about going somewhere and getting a couple of small, grilled cubes on a skewer.  Yummy, sufficient.  I was thinking that I should be more careful in what I say.  So, all eyes are on me.  I cut into the steak, and blood comes out.  Being a French restaurant, they've apparently waved the steak over an open flame to heat it delicately.  How elegant!  I apologize for possibly 10 minutes, begging for the steak to be cooked.  I don't want to shame me, my friend's family, or the owner of the restaurant, but I cannot find a way to eat it.  The staff took it back and waved it over the fire a few more times.  It was warmer.  I ate as much as possible and exclaimed profusely how wonderful it was.  That night, I had been paralyzed temporarily, though I don't know that the food had anything to do with it.

On the way out of town, my friend and I picked up lunch boxes at the train station.  They had 3 slivers of Kobe Beef, cooked well.  I enjoyed them immensely.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting the most out of your photos

How many photos come out of a camera or phone perfectly exposed with just the right colours?

I'd say it's an incredibly small number of them.  Why?

When most cameras and phones default to producing JPEG files and the developers don't have a good software engine for creating files true to the original scene, it makes things much more difficult.

There are also problems with cheap sensors, bad settings, bad ambient conditions, and then, there are the people using the camera that provide some input into the situation.  (In the computer world, we had an acronym: PEBCAC, Problem Exists Between Computer And Chair.  I suppose that could work for cameras, as well.

If you're using a mobile phone or a low-priced point-and-shoot camera, you don't have a choice about the files you create, except that you can choose a better compression ratio.  2.7:1 is much better than 8:1, so if you have a choice between a few good photos or many bad photos, what do you choose?  (Hint: you can't fix the bad photos easily, if at all.)

The superzoom (5x, 10x, 26x, 28x, OMGx) or performance point-and-shoot cameras almost always come with an option to create raw files.  These are basically files which each camera uses internally when capturing a photo.  Unfortunately, they're individual to that camera, so if you don't have software to support them, you can't do anything with them.  Thankfully, the cameras that can produce the files come with software available to process them.

You can also buy software to process them and it usually works more quickly and does a better job, not to mention that you can often makes changes to a group of them without trying to make the changes individually.  I use Phase One Capture One, but you could be using Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, Silkypix or a number of others.  There are even free alternatives on Linux.

Why raw files?

Do you ever look back and wish "If I'd only changed this setting, that photo would have been okay."?  It's almost that easy, though settings like shutter speed and aperture can't be modified.  You can change the exposure, deepen the blacks, and whiten the whites without degrading the photos as you would when you're using JPEG files.  Most raw developer software keeps track of the changes separately from the file, so you can start over, if need be.

If your camera comes from a company other than Olympus, I would suggest that you attempt to switch to raw files for your photos' sake.  Why not Olympus?  They have the best JPEG engine, bar none.  While I always use raw files, 90 % of the time, I could use JPEG files and get by with them.  Before I found good raw development software, I did use JPEG files.  Most companies don't produce good in-camera JPEG files.  It's a shame but it's the truth.  They're probably using the extra firmware space to deal with all the low light situations that Olympus handle poorly.  (I love Olympus.  I do, I really do.)

The learning curve

No matter the type of file you use, you're bound to have problems with lower contrast photos and colours that just don't pop.

The histogram is your friend.  Learn it.  Live it.  Love it.

I should probably add a screen shot here but for now, what I can tell you is that you'll see a long graph from dark to light.  If you're using Photoshop, you'll have 3 markers that can be moved, along with the numbers 0, 1.0, and 255, if I remember correctly.  When a photo is not so contrasty, you can move the outer markers inward.  Be gentle with them, as you can create a disaster quickly.  It's also best, if you have adjustment layers available, that you use layers until you're happy with the result.

Use saturation to put the rosy glow back in the cheeks.

Okay, this could go quickly into making a clown.  A little too much saturation of one colour or the other, and suddenly, you have nightmares about being at the circus.  Many times, just tweaking the overall saturation will make your colours pop without overdoing it.  However, I've seen a few times when you'll have too much green in the skin tone and a selective tone de-saturation will help.  Photoshop will allow this and has several individual sliders, along with the overall slider.  Alternately, you can use Color Balance, but it doesn't work as often for me.  With a few of the raw developers, they'll give you a circle of colour and you move the marker around the circle to get the balance right.

These are simple tweaks that don't take much time, though you do need the software to make them.  I believe even Photoshop Elements will give you the freedom in advanced mode to handle these things quickly.  If you use the guided mode, you can probably see all the possibilities in one place and just keep clicking on your desired effect to get there.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The world is a 3 ring circus

I wonder if things will ever settle again.

Every day, we hear about how bad things are and how we're going to suffer.  Outside, I see the sunshine, and think that, no matter what happens, we'll live our lives anyway.

Are more people being more violent or is it just that we have such great communication that we're aware of these situations?  I suspect that we're actually less violent today but these incidents are more pronounced because of the lack of day-to-day violence and the lack of war.

People I've known often referred to the 1950s as a wonderful decade.  I suppose that's true, if you happened to be a white male living in the U.S.A.  White females were subservient because that's what they were expected to do.  My mum wasn't one of those.  She joined the Navy out of high school because she didn't want to be a secretary.  She wanted to be a police officer.  In the end, she was a clerk at a desk in the Navy because that's what most women did, if they weren't nurses.  Of course, there was Grace Hopper, retired a Rear Admiral, but she graduated from Vassar, the most elite school for women.  She helped bring life to the business computer programming language COBOL through the CODASYL work.  I believe she was also responsible for the coining of the term "bug" as it related to computer programming, though her first bug was quite alive.

Do the people of the world need to awaken and accept each other?  I think so.  There are too many starving because we have too many politicians helping each other and not helping the people they're supposed to serve.  It's much like the 1950s where we want material things and to get ahead of our neighbours, even though that makes our lives worse in the end.  We need to talk to people, not ignore them.

I wonder if mobile phones, mp3 players, and portable games are making us less aware of our surroundings and both ignorant and more selfish than ever.

I wanted to delete all of this and start again.  It's probably the wise decision because people don't want to read controversy, do they?  They only want to see it displayed on a screen.  I hope for the people to find a way to get along with each other.  I hope that they'll find that their differences are smaller than their similarities, and that we all need each other.

I took some time last time to write some medical-related reviews on Yelp, concerning my mum.  I cried and I hurt and I think I don't want to write anything else for a while.  I need to leave the 3 ring circus and get back on the road to find my life.  If you know where my life or sanity is, please tell me.  People close to me would be grateful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I want an iPad! No, not that much, really.

Okay, well, I wouldn't mind, but I'm not that enthusiastic about the newest iPad.  There are plenty of people who are.

If I were going to get a tablet, I'd rather wait for the rumored 7.85 inch version of the iPad that should be available about September.  While the bigger one is more useful at home, the smaller one would be more useful for me on the go.

There are situations where the iPhone (or my previous LG Optimus S) display is a bit small, especially when you're trying to show other people things.  You don't want to drag out a notebook computer because it is a lot of mess and the keyboard probably won't get you any closer to the result you want.

There are tablets at 5.x inches and I don't see the advantage.  They're just a bit bigger than phones and the resolution isn't enhanced, so you end up squinting at the display anyway.

There has been a lot of talk about the warm spots on the new iPad.  Those deserve a big yawn.  How many people put a laptop computer on their lap, when it wasn't safe?  How many still do it even after all the warnings about it cooking personal things?

My computer is showing a CPU temperature of 58 degrees C and the enclosure temperature is 31.  That's similar to the iPad when it's running at full tilt, though with the batteries charging, it goes a bit higher.  Is that really a cause for concern?

The anti-Apple people have been talking about how many Android tablets have been sold, but what they never seem to say is how many are being used.  They can tell with the 3G-data-enabled models if they're activated for a data plan.  What I've seen is that there are a lot of tablets just sitting on the shelves, iPad included.

What do people actually do with them anyway?  I can't imagine several million people playing Angry Birds.  Could it be that they're updating Yelp, as I do too often?

Maybe, they're watching NCAA basketball?  Why am I not?  I got this March Madness app and I've been playing with it and it has live video, though I haven't spent that much time with it.  it's sadly amusing that you'll watch an advertisement, then, it will switch to the video feed, and you'll watch more advertising from the show itself.  CBS is the Commercial Broadcasting System, right?

Oh, I got two notices on Twitter that Apple is giving away the new iPads and I could one just by visiting some web address.  How could I have been so foolish to report those as spam and block their authors?

Grumbling, grousing, complaining

During my previous post, I made a few remarks about my Olympus E-5 that would lead a person to believe that I'm not entirely happy with it.  Nothing could the truth.

When I was shooting sports in Florida, I always wished that the E-1 was better in low light situations.  While I was using it, Olympus introduced the E-300 and then, the E-500, both with a new 8 MP sensor instead of the 5.1 MP sensor of the E-1.  This didn't seem quite right.

I thought to myself, "they'll introduce an E-1 replacement in 2005 with an updated sensor", but that didn't happen.  More time passed and they introduced the E-400 for Europe only and then, the E-330 with a different kind of a sensor that was capable of some video, if only for viewfinder purposes.  The way it was described as low power, low noise,  it seemed to be NMOS technology, but was marketed as Live MOS.  The Panasonic version of the E-330, the DMC-L1, looked a proper range finder camera body, but wasn't and surprisingly, there was a Leica version.

It took Olympus until 2007 to introduce the E-3, which seemed to have the same 10 MP sensor as the recent (at that time) E-410 and E-510 but with better processing capabilities.  I thought "This is the end of Olympus.  They can't produce a decent follow-up camera body."  It seemed a mess.  They learned so much about ergonomics and used those in the E-10 and E-20 Zoom Lens Reflex cameras and gained some fans but the E-3 through most of that away.

The E-3 seemed to be a response to those people who thought the E-1 was too small to be a professional camera body.  As big as it was, there was no room for the mode dial.  They put a dial on the front of the grip and another around the back, but it was up to you to hold tiny buttons and turn dials to switch the mode and several other things that some thought should be done without moving the camera away from your face.  Apparently, the new "fastest auto focus" took up so much space that they needed a bigger body to house it.

Worse, the E-3 had a overly-aggressive anti-aliasing filter, so the best images didn't look very sharp.  They compensated by increasing the sharpening factor in the firmware, which didn't help.  Worst of all was that the body would have been great for 2005, but was introduced about the same time as the Nikon D300, which was much better.

The E-5 fixes a lot of what was wrong with the E-3.  The anti-aliasing filter is not so aggressive and the dual core processor has the power to remove the (phase) moire patterns.  The rather speedy auto focus was retained but I still haven't found it to my liking, though I really tried to see it work for me.  What bothers me most about the E-5 is the noise is all but perfectly lit conditions.

The chromatic noise is well-controlled under any condition.  The luminance noise is not.  I have even been discouraged by outdoor daylight photos where a constant background shows an odd pattern.  At the ISO 200 setting, I shouldn't see anything but the background.  This doesn't seem nearly as good as the E-1.  However, the E-5 was supposedly tested against the best that Nikon and Canon had in 2010 and it was supposedly just as good in good light.  What's better than sunlight?  Studio light.

I recently decided to put some inexpensive studio lights to the test and I was incredibly pleased with the output of the E-5.  However, I cannot carry these lights with me everywhere and say "Excuse me, could you stay in that exact position while I return to my car to retrieve my lights and find an electrical outlet?" because that would be ridiculous.

In the last few weeks, Olympus introduced the E-M5, a new camera body from a new series called OM-D, like the original OM-system cameras which used 135 format film.  The sensor is much, much better than that of the E-5.  The increased resolution doesn't matter as much as the low light capabilities and the lower noise.  It bothers me that my E-5 purchase in November may be met with a replacement to the E-5 within a year, perhaps.  I'm all for better, but should I have jumped on the E-5, knowing what I know now?  I had a feeling that there wouldn't be any more Olympus dSLRs, so maybe I'm just making all the wrong choices.

For those reading, do people who speak your language every day make many mistakes?

Native English speakers seem to do a poor job of English.  Native Japanese speakers seem to be more proficient but I've noticed some written mistakes.  I would expect that every language has its problems and its problem speakers.  (Note the use of "its".  "Its" is possessive and is not a substitute for "it is", which is written "it's" as a contraction.  "Its'" is not valid at all.)  Most European languages seem straightforward but you can remove Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, and Polish from any semblance of being straightforward.

In any case, I would like to propose a "No Contraction Day" for English speakers, in order to help them learn English again.

Now that I've complained, maybe I can get back to writing something more worthwhile.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Risk of Photography

What's a safe choice when you're serious about digital photography?  There isn't a safe choice.  At any point in time, things can go sour.

At this moment, we've got a few different image sensor sizes.

  • Camera phone sensors
  • Point-and-shoot camera sensors
  • Mirror-less system camera sensors
  • Digital SLR sensors
  • Medium format sensors

Camera phone sensors are the smallest, of course.  They have to be small enough to fit around the batteries and communications hardware.  They range from merely bad to pathetically bad in the world of photography.  Nokia has recently introduced a camera phone sensor (in their 808) that uses adjacent pixels to determine what in the image doesn't look good and the camera and software produce a really nice 5 MP image.  A few years ago, Kodak stated that they found a solution to make sensors this size much more like those of point-and-shoot cameras and a few of the camera phones actually produce good results.  This Nokia innovation produces great results.

Point-and-shoot cameras use several different sized sensors and since each camera is an enclosed unit, the company can produce a lens that will work well with the new sensor.  If you're only looking for a 4x6 print, these are quite good.  Often though, they're mated with outlandish lens combinations like a 30x zoom.  Somewhere in the middle of the zoom's range, you'll get good image quality but I wouldn't trust something this size to get an image that I wanted to save and for daily snapshots, the latest group of camera phone sensors does nearly as well, especially when 4x6 prints are what people want.

Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, and Samsung all make mirror-less system cameras with dSLR sized sensors.  Pentax and Nikon initially went with tiny sensors, although Pentax recently announced their odd K01 mirror-less camera body which is little more than their K-5 in a new body without the mirror and reflex mechanism.  Odd and peculiar are good adjectives for this body, as it's mirror-less for the sake of being mirror-less.  It isn't small at all.

Sony has the upper hand when it comes to these sensors.  They've been designing and manufacturing sensors for Nikon and Pentax for years and if they can put a APS-C sized sensor used in a $1700 dSLR into a somewhat cheaper mirror-less camera, the image quality has the potential to be good.  What the camera hardware and software does with the sensor's output is another matter.

Panasonic has a lot less experience but they're enthusiastic to counter anything that Sony does.  Micro Four-Thirds has 3 different sensors currently in use: a 12 MP sensor, a 16 MP, and an 16 MP multiple aspect sensor.  The 12 MP sensor is also used in Olympus E-5 body, which I have.  Without ranting, let me say that the 12 MP sensor is old and tired.  An updated sensor of the same pixel count is on the way.  Its capabilities should parallel the 16 MP sensor being used in the Panasonic DMC-GX1/G3 and Olympus E-M5.  That would be a good thing, as they're once again within spitting distance of the APS-C crowd.

Of course, all of these accomplishments are reflected in the dSLR sensors for the most part.  Pentax and Nikon are using Sony sensors.  Canon use their own, and Olympus is using the older Panasonic 12 MP sensor, which needs an upgrade.  Oops, not ranting, really.  Nikon and Canon recently introduced new/upgraded bodies with 135 format-sized sensors.  (Saying Full Format makes you look dim, since there are several formats.)  Hobbyists won't be all that interested in buying any of these new bodies since the entry point starts at about US$3000.  They will use them to beat people incessantly, due to their brand fanaticism.

Being that the upper end of the dSLR is around US$6000, medium format doesn't look nearly so bad at an entry point of $9995 with Pentax's 645D.  In the 1970s/1980s, 6x4.5 cm frame cameras made medium format affordable and Pentax and Mamiya/Phase One are doing it again.

Perhaps obviously, you can put a lot of pixels into a bigger surface area and they'll be happier than trying to jam them into a smaller area.  (I often relate digital sensors to a bus.  When you put too many people on a bus, people become unhappy and noisy, and you end up with an unpleasant experience.  Digital sensors generally work the same way.  Force too much onto that surface area, and you get degradation, no matter what the salesperson tells you about more pixels.)

In any case, you end up with fantastic image quality and it's no wonder that medium format still reigns in the fashion world.  Why anyone would use the Canon 1D* series or Nikon D3* series for anything but portable work is beyond me.  Medium format has become more manageable so that you could use it on the street, but night shots would still require massive lighting and that's just not so portable.  Kodak has been the source for medium format sensors and it's important to note that the ISO sensitivity numbers, that I've seen have moved from 400 to 800 maximum.  That means you might be able to use them in dim light, but you'd be negating the image quality advantages of the format.

I'm still waiting to see a mirror-less body with a 135 format-sized sensor.  Olympus recently introduced the OM-D series and its first model, the E-M5.  This is a little smaller than the OM-4Ti, but the sensor is listed as 13x17.3mm vs. 24x36mm for the film frame used in the OM-4Ti.  Of course, you have to make room for all the electronics and the dust reduction system, the auto focus system that the OM-series never had, and the image stabilization system.  I wonder if Olympus could produce an OM-compatible camera body, though, that didn't need adapters to use the old lenses and still had the size advantage.

The problem is that Olympus never implemented auto focus in the OM-series and the IS-series, being integrated with the lens (Zoom Lens Reflex, as they called it), never won many advocates.  Would they be able to squeeze everything into such a small space?  If they did it, I think it would cause a revolution the way the OM-system did originally and the dSLR would shrink overnight.

So, what is the risk?  You could get what's not going to be progressed tomorrow.  You could get something that's already obsolete.  You could get something that has no future.  It may be another 15 years until this all settles, if you look at how long film took to produce easy, consistent results.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Giving up on dA

I finally cleared out my deviantART account and had it deactivated.

I wasn't quite certain I could get this far with it.  Every week, it seemed I would upset someone so I wanted to stop.  I've been rather upset over the deaths of my mum and my uncle and I needed to change, but I just took my feelings to dA and pushed them on people.  That's bad form and it's unfortunate for the victims of my emotional drivel.

I've tried several times to go to the site today, since I had my account deactivated, as a force of habit.  I'll have to find a way to deal with the change.  It's part of a long list of things to handle.

I spent a fair amount of time with Yelp today, gathering photos for local businesses.  I hope someone appreciates it.  It's not like volunteers are paid and Yelp is a business, even though it relies on volunteers to give opinions.

It's perfect for me because I have an abundance of opinions.  I'm not saying that I'm correct for most people, but that it's important to let people know when something is really good or really bad.  If more people can have a smoother time in life, why not help?

I'd rather know about a bad place before I spend money there, wouldn't you?

I went to IKEA the other day.  I love the place.  I've been shopping at IKEA since the late 1980s and they always have great food and household items.  Where else can I get prepared salmon at a good price?  They serve it in the restaurant, but you can buy the salmon on the way out of the stores, in the snack shop or whatever they call it.

I also went to a mall and I was surprised how many stores were empty.  Down the road, a Korean grocery store was doing well and so was Sam's Club.  By the time I was ready to leave the area, I realized that I didn't have enough cash to get another meal.  The salmon + soda was more expensive that anticipated at around $8-$9.  Thankfully, there was a bank branch close, on the way to Popeyes Chicken, one of my favourites.

However, I look at all of this some times, and I think "what's the point?".  Is there really a reason to continue?

I still haven't pulled out the dSLR to capture some amazing photos.  On the way to IKEA, I wanted to stop and get some industrial photos from some old factories and such, and it was later in the day than expected and I just continued, so I could get lunch and avoid a migraine.

What's life without photography, without expressing yourself so that others can know your joy or even your pain?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The world is in 3D

This 3D craze is wild.  Everywhere I look, something says "in 3D".  What people don't notice is that the world is in 3D, and you don't need special glasses to see it in all its depth.

Seriously, though, I got a good deal on The Three Musketeers 3D Blu-Ray disc.  For US$19.99, I couldn't do better, as that's about the same price as a Blu-Ray disc itself.  I have a cheapo (for 3D) LG Blu-Ray disc player and LED-backlit television.  They work, but they're not particularly great, nor should they rival a $4000 setup, should they?

I was surprised at the quality.  It didn't exactly make me move out of the way with objects coming at me but the movie didn't go crazy (there were 3 I remember) with ridiculous 3D for 3D's sake effects, either.  It was an interesting experience and it may not be matched for a while, given the price of Blu-Ray and 3D Blu-Ray movies.

Olympus has a new camera body, the E-M5, which is part of a new series of micro Four-thirds cameras labeled OM-D.  They're trying to draw upon their amazing OM-system with a lookalike digital version.  If you don't know about the OM-system, it's important to know that incredibly small camera bodies came out at a time when Nikon was selling the most huge camera bodies taking 135 format film, like the F2.

In any case, digital SLRs take up a huge amount of space for the size of the image sensor.  135 format film had a size of 36mm wide by 24mm high.  It wasn't 35mm film really, though people commonly call it that because it came from 35mm movie film.  Imagine that 36mm x 24mm in a camera body and wonder why the body is so huge.  Why can't I have a sensor that size in a camera body the size of my old OM-1N?

Olympus have tried to do this with a smaller, 17.3 x 13mm sensor, and the body is a bit smaller than the OM-system bodies.  However, a lot of space is probably used by the 5 axis image stabilization and the dust reduction system.  Including everything would mean having a much bigger body.

They have used a better, newer sensor and the image quality seems to be quite far ahead of my E-5, which I bought in November after it had been on the market about 1 year.  Am I uncomfortable with my decision?  Yes.  I would have preferred better image quality, even though the E-5 does well.  I'm still not sure either could stand against my E-1, or for that matter the OM-1N and a good roll of film.

Have you tried Yelp?  I've been reviewing the world lately, adding businesses, and letting people know what I think about shopping and eating in my area.  It's interesting to see whether I can actually help people from making mistakes or not.  Taste, of course, is very subjective and not everyone will agree.

The whole idea of Check-Ins reminds me of Foursquare, which I haven't used or the feature added to Facebook to produce advertising based on your location.  In one way, it's been interesting to use my iPhone 4S camera to document store fronts.  The camera is actually good, which is a surprise to someone who won't use a point-and-shoot camera.

It's good to use Yelp and I wish the mobile application would work well.  I guess that's something else I'll have to review.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Starting Again

How do you start again?

Do you

  • throw away everyhing
  • selectively keep bits and pieces
  • continue with all that you had
  • punt?

I really don't know how to start again, after both of my adoptive parents have died.  Since I arrived here October 5th, 2008, I've had hell most every day.  I'm no hero but I endured it and most days, I survived somehow.

Somewhere between the Alzheimer's Disease my dad was suffering and the terminal Cancer my mum got, I lost the ability to reason for myself.  I managed to make day-to-day decisions regarding small things, but now that I'm faced with the big things, I don't see any way to decide.

 I need to sell everything that belonged to my parents or give it away and I've accomplished a little of that already.  I also have to sell their house, as well as mine.  I need to plan and make that plan work to accomplish something positive and gainful.

I don't mean to be greedy.  I need to move from this area because it's the last place on Earth I wanted to be and there really isn't much in the way of work or anything else.  It's practically a 50 mile drive to anything that was 20 minutes' drive at maximum from my last place.  Besides that, I am miserable.

I can't change my attitude completely just by moving.  That's so true.  However, when you have misery staring you in the face, do you want to look at misery every day, is it enjoyable?  I think not.

I have choices:
  • California
  • Florida
  • Philadelphia/New Jersey/Delaware
  • Hawaii

I've also thought about other countries such as Australia, Germany, or Malaysia.  I'd like something warm and close to other Asians and possibly close to Japan.

Australia has the advantage of being somewhat close to Japan, as well as being a country of English speakers.  The state of Queensland seems to have good weather, sans flooding.  An 8 hour flight would return me to Japan.

Germany is quite orderly and I've found over the years that I seem to understand Germans fairly well.  There are Asians scattered across the countries and of course, Japanese companies have a presence there, as they do in most countries.

Malaysia would seem an odd pick, wouldn't it?  It's hot and humid, being in Southeast Asia.  It's not quite a third world country but it possesses a lot of those qualities.  It can also be advanced, remote, and friendly.  It's also rather inexpensive, especially compared to its neighbor Singapore, which has a high cost of living and some interesting, invasive laws.

Of course, the states would be the most logical choices.

Hawaii and California have huge Asian populations and expensive and relatively inexpensive areas.

Metro Philadelphia can be both expensive and inexpensive, depending on whether you drive or not.  When I moved there in 1988, it was the most expensive metro area in the U.S.A. for driving and owning a car.  It's a great place to live, though, and the food is amazing.  Changes to the city of Camden, NJ across the Delaware River have made it a dangerous area, too.  If I had a desire to live, and I currently don't, it might be a bit restrictive.  However, I ate Thanksgiving dinner in an area which was under siege at one point and never, ever saw or heard a weapon.

Florida would be good for a temporary location.  It was the last place I lived and I could complete some university degrees more easily.  The main drawback would be how rude the people are.  Maybe, an area other than Orlando would be better.  Miami seemed pleasant.  How's my Spanish?

I've got a lot to decide.  It'll be difficult to leave with a car, a bike, a camera, a computer, and some clothes.  I'd better keep my ramen bowls, too.