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Topics - distant.star

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PowerShot / Christmas Camera, Under $100US ??
« on: December 02, 2012, 06:04:48 PM »

I hope someone here knows something about cheap P&S cameras.

I have a five-year-old niece. For our Thanksgiving dinner day, I gave her a Kodak disposable camera to take pictures. Once she stopped taking pictures of her finger, she did well. She actually took a couple of good pictures. So, I've been thinking about giving her a cheap digital P&S for Christmas, but I don't know much about those cameras.

Canon and Nikon seem to have comparable items around $79, but that's the extent of my "shopping."

Does anyone know how durable these things are -- would they hold up well in the hands of a young child? I do know Canon has a problem with zoom lens sticking in some of their low end cameras. That seems to be triggered by foreign objects getting between the lens segments. I know that won't work with a child.

Her mother is computer competent so she could upload for her so she can display.

Any thoughts? Thanks.

Landscape / Sandy -- Ocean Grove, NJ
« on: November 10, 2012, 10:26:29 PM »

Amazing image from one of the finest photographers I know:


The pier at Ocean Grove, NJ during the storm.

Software & Accessories / Perfectly Clear?
« on: November 01, 2012, 06:12:44 PM »

I just got an email solicitation for a plugin called "Perfectly Clear." Has anyone used this? Any experience?

They say it will instantly make a whole range of corrections -- thereby saving lots of time.


Curious to know if anyone has any experience with this.


Landscape / Four Freedoms
« on: October 24, 2012, 07:39:48 PM »

Anyone yet made images of the new Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York?

It looks like a great place, both for park pictures as well as city skyline, river sites, bridges, etc. Can't wait to start seeing some images. The granite blocks have slight separations between them -- tempting to shoot through.

I will go up there if we get a great winter day, otherwise I'll wait until spring. I expect since it's new there will be crowds for a while.

PowerShot / Powershot Perils
« on: October 09, 2012, 09:46:15 AM »

The convenience of the Powershot line is hard to overestimate. With the S95, etc., you can put a lot of photography power in your pocket. Unfortunately, those great little cameras can also be easy to lose, misplace, overlook, etc.

Last Saturday I went out on an all-day imaging spree, doing several events and some general street/transit stuff. DSLR in hand, and lenses, batteries, memory cards, etc. in a bag -- and my S95 in my pants pocket. When I got home, my S95 did not come home with me. So, I spent a couple of days calling event organizers, police departments, etc. I also began pondering if there is a Sony RX100 in my future. (That should give Canon pause.)

This morning I got a call from a transit agency. One of their police officers found my camera in a train station and turned it in as found. Reunion is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

It can happen to you! I was extremely fortunate; I really did not expect to ever see the camera again. I also found I was not as prepared as I should have been. Insurance is the obvious first possibility, but that's got drawbacks, not the least of which is a deductible that may not leave much coverage with the lower values of Powershots.

Somewhere I probably have the camera's serial number, but I'd have to do a lot of searching, and I might not have it around here. I had registered it with Canon though, so the serial number is there -- huge help in documenting it with police in recovery.

Anyway, just a word to think ahead a bit. If you've got a Powershot in your pocket, be ready one day to arrive home without it. As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared.

Site Information / Missing Persons -- Brian??
« on: September 17, 2012, 11:16:49 PM »

Briansquibb was doing 10 posts a day until last month. He seems to have dropped off the earth.

Anyone have any idea why or if he's okay?

I enjoyed his posts and the banter. Miss having him around now.

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Regrets -- Your One Missed Picture?
« on: September 04, 2012, 09:41:14 PM »

"Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention "

-Frank Sinatra
My Way

I just looked at a picture of a saguaro cactus and suddenly realized I never took a picture of one. From 1996 to 1999, I lived in Tucson -- could have stepped out on my balcony anytime and got a picture. Sadly, I wasn't taking pictures during that period. I don't think I took more than one or two rolls of film pictures in those three years.

Anyway, it got me thinking about missed pictures, ones that good, avid photographers might regret having missed. What was a picture that, for one reason or another, you just didn't get -- one you could have but it didn't happen? I don't mean going to the moon and snapping one of Armstrong's footprints. I mean one you probably could have taken, one you missed, one that failed that will never happen again.

Mine may be a saguaro in a desert sunset, maybe up in the purplish light of Sabino Canyon. I'll have to think about it. I don't think I'll ever get back to the Sonoran Desert, so that's a regret.

I'm curious. How about you?

Pricewatch Deals / EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Available at LensRentals
« on: June 20, 2012, 03:58:16 PM »



They say you can have it for this weekend. Price for a week -- $19.

EOS Bodies / No Refurb Cameras?
« on: June 15, 2012, 12:07:46 AM »

I just looked at the Canon Direct site -- refurb cameras are gone. Lenses still there, printers, etc. Links to the EOS cameras page say it no longer exists.

Anyone know what's up?

EOS Bodies / The Last Flagship DSLRs
« on: June 10, 2012, 05:06:23 PM »
Predictions based on generalized long-term knowledge of the history of technology with neither scientific basis nor specific speculation. Intended only to provoke thought and discussion. If you're response is that I'm an idiot, fine, I'll say that right up front and save you the trouble. So...

1. The Canon EOS 1DX (if it ever becomes reality) is the last 1-Series flagship DSLR Canon will ever make. Like the EOS 1V was/is the last 35mm film SLR from Canon, the 1DS will be the last DSLR. Like the 1V it will be around a long time. Its "obsolesence buffer" will be plenty of room for "upgrading" through software application.

2. A new "flagship" version of the APS-C line will be introduced (e.g. a 7D2), and like the 1DX it will be the final flagship of the APS-C line. It also will be around a long time and see upgrades through software. Given Canon's predilection for super pricing I predict it will be over $2500 U.S. And most people who have a 7D today will buy one! It will seem spectacular.

Meanwhile, Canon will lead a transition to new formats that require far less mechanical apparatus than the tradional SLR. I'll leave speculation about exactly what that may be to others.

The fundamentals of a camera are pretty simple. A lens focuses light on a sensor (chemical using film previously and now a light-sensing semiconductor) and there has to be a means for recording and converting what is sensed into something the human visual apparatus can discern. What we consider a "camera" is a device that enables and manages operator variables between that lens and sensor. Photographic composition drives the decisions that create those variables. Few people buy a camera and just start pressing the shutter button with no concept of a "picture" in mind. That's where need for most of the mechanical and electro-mechanical stuff originates in today's cameras. The operator directs all that electro-mechanical stuff to do different things to fulfill his "vision."

The "mirrorless" design concept has already begun to transform the mechanics inside cameras. I think it will not be long before the flapping mirror and mechanical shutter will be seen as whimsical relics of a primitive age. Since we seem addicted (many of us anyway) to seeing exactly what is seen through the lens (in contrast to rangefinders and today's electronic "viewfinders,") manufacturers may adapt this in new ways. A shutterless camera, for example, might have nothing between the lens and the sensor-- except for maybe a lens cap. When power is turned on, the operator sees exactly what the sensor is seeing (ala today's "live view" projections). I can see this being done through a classic viewfinder and/or using an extremely hi-def display that is part of the camera body as we now have. Pressing the "shutter" would only tell the sensor to save that particular instant. This will likely require different and better sensors than we are using at the moment, and some lens "focus" adaptations may have to be made. I'm guessing most of the fundamental research has already been done, allowing this to be seen as viable options for a camera manufacturer.

I don't know that any of us can predict exactly how this future technology will work, but I do believe it will happen sooner than most us us can imagine. It was less than 15 years ago when I was recording visual images chemically. I could then see that the silicon revolution was going to somehow overwhelm this process just as surely as it was doing with audiotape and videotape and print media, etc., etc. I couldn't
say how, but I knew, sure as shootin', that is was coming.

Perhaps 20 years from now there will be discussions on these kinds of forums about how the old shutter and mirror systems "couldn't be beat" as a recent poster here has posited about film. And ebay may be full of old 1DX cameras for those who want to try their hands at old style picture taking. And, as always, there will be old timers telling newcomers how tough things were in the good old days. "Why, we had to manually clean the dust off our sensors in those days. We didn't have that refractive oxidation process you take for granted today!"

Anyway, that's my sunny Sunday afternoon contribution to the intellectual process here at CR. May the force be with you!

PowerShot / Pogue Trashes G1 X
« on: May 24, 2012, 06:09:24 PM »
David Pogue of The New York Times doesn't think much of the G1 X. He confirms my first assessment -- that it looks like it was designed in a blacksmith shop.


EOS Bodies - For Stills / Waiting for the EOS-1P?
« on: May 10, 2012, 02:06:08 PM »

Given that I'm an upstanding CHAP (Canon Heavenly Assurance Program) member, I know one day I'll be using the EOS-1P (Paradise). However, at my advanced age, I'm starting to lose hope of getting a great Canon camera before I die.

As I've posted previously I was patiently waiting for the 5D2 successor since I want better/faster AF than I have in my now two-year-old T2i. The 5D3 seemed to answer my need, unfortunately, Canon exceeded my skinflint factor. If I gave them all that money, I'd feel used, and I don't like feeling used. So, I scaled back and decided to go with the 7D and live in the 1.6 crop world. It's not a bad place to live.

Last week, thanks to CR, we got a link to a down and dirty 12-hour sale and I got a 7D for $1199 (from a highly reputable seller). Even with free shipping it arrived overnight, and I got out and happily starting making pictures. Unfortunately, the camera was defective. While the AF was the blazing fast I want, it could not deliver consistently focused images. Most had no focus at all. I tried all the AF options. I tried manual focus. In good light using the same lenses that give me great images from the T2i, the 7D could not deliver. Images of the same scene back-to-back would not be the same. So, I sent the 7D back, too leery of the whole thing to make an exchange.

The few decent pictures the 7D did deliver also made me wonder. At low ISO (100, 160) there was far more noise than I'd ever seen in the T2i -- and yet the sensors are essentially the same. While that 7D had some defect, this reminded me of all the comments I'd heard about 7D noise. I can shoot the T2i all day (and night) at 800 ISO and get good images. Any noise is easily compensated in LR, and I'm always happy with the results. Anyway, this is making me question the whole idea of going the 7D route. Even if I can get a good 7D, am I trading better AF for overall lower image quality?

So, then I start rethinking the 5D3. While I HATE the idea of pulling my pants down and bending over for Canon, do I have any alternative? But now I start reading about low ISO noise from the new 5D3 sensor. Shoot at ISO 100 and still have to process noise? Another image quality compromise I'd have to make? What is going on here? Canon is starting to seem like the "soup nazi."

Anyway, for the time being I'll continue happily making pictures with my trusty and reliable T2i -- and waiting. Unless someone can offer powerful reasoning otherwise, I'm back in a holding pattern. Maybe year's end will bring an acceptable solution. But then, that's six months closer to my EOS-1P. Surely, Canon can do better than this here on earth!

Disclaimer: I'm not trashing the 7D (or the 5D3 -- for some it IS worth the money) or the retailer who sold the defective 7D or CR or Canon -- and I haven't even mentioned Nikon (not interested). This is just part of a thought process in getting myself to good image quality with decent AF performance without giving up an unreasonable amount of money.

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Super Moon Saturday
« on: May 02, 2012, 05:22:28 PM »

Biggest full moon of the year this Saturday, May 5, 2012:


Who will get the best picture?

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Sorry 5D3, Insufficient Value
« on: April 20, 2012, 04:37:22 PM »

Maybe I'm just a cheapskate; if so, so be it. Maybe I value my dollars differently than others. Anyway, I've decided I can't justify 3500 Tracy dollars for the 5D3.

As I said here several times before the 5D2 successor showed up, rather than speculating/hoping/fantasizing, I would wait to see what Canon offered, then make a decision about what to do. After limping along for two years with T2i limitations, I knew I wanted an affordable tool that would provide 5D2 image quality and low-light capabilities with 7D or better autofocus speed and versatility.

The new 5D3 has delivered exactly what I want. Low-light capability seems at least marginally improved and the AF is all I would ever need. Despite hearing some whining about sensor capabilities, dynamic range, etc., I suspect Canon realizes this sensor produces image quality better than what a large percentage of users actually need or can use. It surely produces images that satisfy me. So, from a practical standpoint, the 5D3 is my ideal camera.

Only Canon knows why they've priced the 5D3 as they have. I can speculate along with everyone else, but the improvements over the 5D2 don't warrant the additional cost for me. I can see a wedding photographer biting his lip and paying the extra money because the critical improvements give him reasonable value. There may be some other businesses that see it as a reasonable (affordable -- and also available) alternative to the new 1Dx. So, for me, I've decided on my own current solution. It's the 7D with some lens upgrades.

The plan that's evolved as a cheaper 5D3 solution for me is this:

1. Replace the T2i with a new 7D.

2. Upgrade (my interpretation) my walkaround lens from the 15-85mm to a 17-55mm.

3. Upgrade my 70-200 f/4.0L to a 70-200 f/4.0L IS.

4. Get a 10-22mm for the wide side.

I've got an ef-s 60mm that's adequate for macro, but I'll keep it mostly for the non-macro look it provides. I don't know what it is, but that has become a favorite lens for landscape type shots. I'll keep my 135mm f/2.0L for serious headhunting, and I'll keep the 100-400L for the great reach.

This also allows me to sell the EOS-1V as I won't need it for the great AF. Yesterday I was shooting around town with the T2i in one hand and the 1V in the other (with the 70-200) and it's speed is nothing short of joy. The contrast between the two helped make this decision.

One reason I got the T2i initially was that it was the cheapest entry to a decent digital camera. It has virtually the same sensor as the 7D, so if you can sacrifice the upscale capabilities of the 7D you can work with a T2i and good lenses. Here's an image that makes that case for me:

That was taken yesterday with the T2i and has all the IQ I'd ever realistically need. However that is one of perhaps 50 I took of gulls flying around me. The AF simply can't do the job; this shot just got lucky. With a 7D, this shot won't require luck -- or a one out of fifty keeper ratio. And as I've often said, for street photography, by the time the T2i gets it together, the shot is gone. I saw that again yesterday with the lightning speed of the 1V. Even using film, as soon as the shutter button is actuated, the shot is made.

Anyway, perhaps this will help others wrestling with the 5D3 pricing. If you're thinking about Nikon, well that's a different issue!

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Spec Obsession Disorder
« on: April 05, 2012, 04:00:12 PM »

Columnist David Pogue of The New York Times makes a point. Sometimes we seem to miss the image forest for the megapixel/ISO/AF/etc. trees.


Here's the text in case you can't access the NYT site:

April 5, 2012

Spec Obsession Disorder: The Incurable Techie Malady

In my Times column Thursday, I reviewed the Nokia Lumia 900 phone. Plenty of people (including Nokia) consider it Nokia’s last best effort to make some headway in the American smartphone market. Microsoft also has a lot riding on this phone, which runs its Windows Phone 7 software. Like Nokia, it’s currently flopping.

After I review a big-deal product like this, I sometimes go online to see what other critics have written, to see if it struck them the same way. In the case of the Lumia, a number of reviewers mentioned something I didn’t: the Lumia’s processor.

One of the phone’s most notable features is its price: $100 with contract, rather than the $200 phones of this type go for. And one way Nokia got there was to use a 1.4 GHz Scorpion single-core processor, instead of, for example, the dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm APQ8060 found in some of its Android rivals.

Horrors, right?

I smacked my forehead. This kind of thinking drives me batty. Who on earth cares what processor is inside — as long as the phone feels fast? And this one feels fast. Very, very fast.

As far as I’m concerned, for the customer, it shouldn’t matter if the phone has a Snapdragon, a dual core or a hamster wheel. All that matters is how fast the phone winds up.

Among the tech cognoscenti, this is a typical symptom of Spec Obsession Disorder (SOD). You see it all the time.

Back in the day, PC makers used to market their computers by promoting the megahertz rating of the chip inside. Remember that? “Powered by a 2.4-gigaherz Pentium 4,” as though that’s all you needed to know about the computer’s power. The clock speed of a chip was only one tiny factor of many that determined the PC’s speed—and not even the most important factor. The amount of memory, the hard drive speed and size, the bus speed—all of these things determined a PC’s power.

The joke was on Intel, though. Eventually, the company couldn’t make its clock speeds any faster — so it stopped featuring that statistic. It developed other ways to make its processors faster, ways that couldn’t be handily represented by a single number. So nowadays, nobody says, “I’m upgrading to a 3-gigahertz PC.”
Similarly, for years, we were taught to believe that what determined a camera’s quality was its megapixel count — which, I’m happy to report, has been duly debunked. Nowadays, the megapixel count isn’t featured nearly as much, and the smart camera makers (Canon is one) have actually reversed themselves. They’re making cameras with fewer, but better, pixels.

But Spec Obsession Disorder lives on. We still make a fuss about 720p versus 1080p hi-def video, for example. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not entirely sure that most people could tell the difference at normal viewing distance.

O.K., maybe, if they had two side-by-side TV sets, both playing Blu-ray discs. But most people don’t have that. They see a brilliantly crisp picture, and they’re fine with it. (Besides, the source also matters. Standard-def TV doesn’t have enough resolution to fill even a 720p picture, let alone a 1080p one.)
And don’t get me started about contrast ratios. Do you really think the average person could see the difference between a contrast ratio of 500,000:1 and a million to 1?

Spec obsessions also crack me up because, frankly, you’re judging something based on the report of what’s inside. When you bought a PC, did you extract its processor to measure its 3 gigahertz yourself? Do you count the pixels on your hi-def TV or your camera?

No, of course not; you’re just taking the manufacturer’s word for it. And as we all know, that can get you into trouble.

I’ll keep reporting the most important specs in my reviews, because techies care about such things. But to me, the questions should not be, “How much memory is in this tablet? How many nits of brightness does that phone’s screen put out? What graphics processor is in that laptop? How much milliamp-hours does that phone’s battery pack?”

Instead, the questions should be, “How fast is it? How good does it look? Can you read it in sunlight? Does the battery last? How long does the battery last?”

And even those are secondary questions. The bigger ones are, “Is it a good value? Is the design excellent? Should you buy it?”

And on the Lumia 900, the answers to those questions are “yes,” “yes,” and “maybe.”

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