Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Camera equipment crossroads?

But ThBut whenext the ese commentslI may may changeve camera equipment.  I need to buy something now.  But what?

Here are some fact that may lead me to make a bold decision on my next purchase(s).
  • I really do noTheset like lugging around well over a kilogram of camera equipment.  My Tokina 11-16mm is a great lens, but it is really heavy.
  • When I have been able to use Marty's L-quality lenses, my impression is split: These things make great images but are really (REALLY) heavy.
  • There are much lighter cameras and lenses available that record excellent images.
Let's see some numbers on comparable Canon APS-C and the top end of the Micro Four-Thirds world.

Item Mass DxOMark DxO Score
Canon 7D 816 66
Tokina ATX-Pro 11-16mm f/2.8 DX 550 12
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM 290 19
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM 625 18
Total 2281 49
Olympus OM-D E-M1 497 73
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH 300 19
Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 200 24
Olympus M.ZUIKO ED 60mm F2.8 Macro 185 21
Total 1182 64

(Masses, in grams, are from B and H.  The DxOMark scores are for the Canon lens on my camera; the Four-Thirds lens scores are from the Olympus PEN-5, which should be similar to the new OM-D E-M1.)

It looks to me that I could get sharper pictures and carry around half the weight by trading in my Canon stuff for this Micro Four-Thirds set.

You can get better DxOMark numbers from the lenses, to be sure, when they are on a Canon Full-Frame camera (5D Mark III), but it is even heavier.

Addendum, 6/5/14

These comments are no longer valid for me. I am committed to the heavy Canon equipment for now. 

But when the next EOS M comes out, ...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

50 years on, 1963 was a big year

It seems like every week this year, I see another something that is 50 years old (that is, it happened in 1963)!  Here are the biggies I have observed

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Observations on the Canon EOS Rebel SL1

I am not a gear reviewer, but I feel comfortable expressing my views on the equipment that I have used, especially as it compares to other equipment.

I needed to send my Canon 7D in for some repairs, so I decided to take this opportunity to rent the new EOS Rebel SL1 (known as the 100D in Europe and elsewhere). 

I have included two paragraphs at the end of this post: one copied from the Canon description of this camera, and the other from the conclusion of the review from  In my opinion, these are both quite accurate.

My overriding impression is, well, WOW!  This is an amazing camera! 

The most impressive features are:
  • It is very small.  With my old kit lens it hardly weighs anything. 
    • As they say, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you.  This camera is a breeze to carry with you everywhere.
  • Hybrid AF system is very, VERY useful in Live View and for movies.  It continuously focuses. It finds faces and tracks them.  Really: This is a HUGE improvement in DSLR video capabilities and (IMHO) puts several nails in the coffin of the conventional camcorder.
  • The image quality is superb!  Every lens I own seems to be better on the SL1, especially my two Canon EF-S “kit” lenses.  In particular, the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is quite excellent on this camera. (I only shoot Raw, so it is not a processing difference.)
  • The touch screen is excellent.  It works nicely when you want it to, and never gets in the way.  It has multi-touch, so “pinching” and “spreading” are supported when viewing pictures.  The lack of dedicated buttons is a bit limiting, but the touch screen, in my mind, more than makes up for this.  For example, the "Q" menu is fully touch-ful.
  • The shutter action is strangely satisfying—I like it.
  • It uses SDHC cards.  This is cool for me because my laptop has an integrated SD card reader.  And it also opens the possibility of using the well-reviews Eye-Fi SD card.
  • And, of course, the advantage of owing any Canon DSLR is that there is an unsurpassed array of lenses that work with it.  This "feature" means that it blows away the (equally small but optically challenged) Sony NEX cameras and makes it competitive to the Micro 4/3 offerings.
The drawbacks:
  • The focus system is not very sophisticated. There are only nine focus points, and choosing among them is difficult while looking through the viewfinder.  (It is wonderfully implemented, however, on the touch screen.)
  • In Raw, it only shoots about 3 frames per second, and then bogs down after about six or seven continuous frames.  You'll get better speed if you shoot JPEG, and I thunk there are faster SDHC cards available than the Class 6 card I happen to own.
  • The small battery is clearly a compromise to achieve a particular mass and volume for the camera.  In my shooting, I needed to recharge the battery every day.  One day when I did not, I did a lot of shooting on Day 2 (of course) and the battery was not up to it.

The smallness of this camera, combined with almost no compromises, makes this an great choice for virtually any photographer.  It is a particularly excellent choice as a second camera, especially if your first camera is the gargantuan 5D or 1DX.  It does movies much better than these behemoths.  And did I say it is really small?

Bottom line: If I were to own two APS-C cameras, this would be my second camera. 


Here is Canon’s blurb on this camera:

As the world's smallest and lightest digital SLR camera*, the new EOS Rebel SL1 is small in size but enormous in performance. With a newly-designed Canon 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and speedy Canon DIGIC 5 Image Processor, it delivers images of extraordinary quality - ideal for those stepping up from a smartphone or compact camera. An impressive ISO range of 100-12800 (expandable to H: 25600) for stills and 100-6400 (expandable to H: 12800) for video plus up to 4.0 fps continuous shooting make this camera the go-to for any photo opportunity, even in dim lighting or when capturing fast action subjects. And Hybrid CMOS AF II delivers accurate AF tracking during Live View shooting, helping ensure your photos and movies are crisp and clear. The EOS Rebel SL1 makes amazing movies with Canon EOS Full HD Movie Mode with Movie Servo AF, working in concert with Canon STM lenses for smooth and quiet continuous AF. In addition to its Optical Viewfinder, the EOS Rebel SL1 has a bright, wide Touch Screen 3.0" Clear View LCD monitor II, perfect for viewing a number of special scene modes and Creative Filters available in real-time display. Here is the DSLR you'll want to bring with you everyday and ignite your imagination! summarizes like this:

With everything a family photographer is likely to want and little left over to intimidate, the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 may be Canon's best-targeted digital Rebel to date. As the top end of the Rebel line - currently the T5i - added more and more enthusiast features, the camera got bigger and more complex, and the SL1/100D stands as a suitable alternative without much compromise where it matters. Indeed, it currently stands as the better alternative for those who want to shoot in live view mode, and for anyone who thinks they'll want to shoot a movie now and then, thanks to Hybrid AF II. Image quality is also uncompromised, as we've come to expect from the Rebel line.

Its smaller size and lighter weight make it easier to pack and carry, meaning the Canon SL1 is more likely to be used, and its fuller feature set helps it stand out for those dissatisfied with their smartphone shots. The good news is the SL1 is a real pleasure to shoot, with ergonomics good enough for small to medium-size hands, and snappy performance, both when shooting and reviewing photos. The touchscreen makes menus and playback work like a cell phone, making it familiar to more users than would normally be the case. The only element missing to help it compete in the smartphone-dominated market is Wi-Fi, which can be added via an Eye-Fi card, which is supported in the SL1's menu.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

30000 shutter releases

I just rolled over from _MG_9999 to _MG_0001 on my 7D.  I believe this is the third time, meaning my shutter has released 30,000 times.

Hmmm.  Why did they skip _MG_0000?  Thus, _MG_0001 is actually my 29,998th shutter release.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fixing a Leica M2 camera and lenses

I inherited my father's Leica M2, 35mm rangefinder camera with a 35mm f/1.4 lens and a 90mm f/2.0 lens.  Awesome stuff!

I won't go into a lot of details about what is wrong with these items; here are the highlights:

  • The 90mm lens does not focus accurately
  • The 35mm lens has lost its focus knob
  • The camera body is old (probably bought in 1959).
I have received an estimate from Leica USA in New Jersey on cleaning and repairing these items:
  • 90mm lens: $350
  • 35mm lens: $335
  • Camera body: $800.
I am shocked.  But I shouldn't be, I suppose.  When a new Leica with a Leica lens costs at LEAST $10K, this should have been expected.  Nonetheless, I am shocked!

I haven't fully admitted to myself that I won't pay for this, but I am pretty sure that will be my decision.

So sad....

UPDATE: Aug 10 2013

I decided to get the 90 millimeter lens fixed and I got it back.  since we're talking about film here, it'll be awhile before I can tell if it's any good.  I'll be real disappointed if its not perfect.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Which 70-200mm lens should I buy?

My camera body is the Canon 7D.  I own these lenses right now:
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS
  • Tokina 35mm DX Macro
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4
  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS

I am going to sell the 55-250 EF-S on eBay to help fund this purchase. 


Here are the options for the 70-200's on the market (not including old lenses that aren't produced any more, or crazy adapters):

EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
$      1,299
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II
$      2,199
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
$      2,000
EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
$      1,149
EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
$         674
AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD [IF] VC MACRO              
$         1499
70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM
$         1399

IMHO, there is no particular reason to consider the 3rd party lenses for this purchase.  So it comes down to three choices (eliminating the f/2.8 IS ones because they are too expensive for me right now):

EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
$      1,299
Old but excellent
EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
$      1,149
New model
EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
$         674
Old, but excellent

IS or Extra Aperture?

First,  I never use my two IS lenses anymore.  (The actual reason I don’t use them is because they are not nearly as good as my prime lenses (I consider my 11-16mm as a prime).)  I don’t miss the IS on any of my lenses.  I generally beat the non-IS-ness of my primes by taking 3 or 4 pix in rapid fire, and then eliminate the shaky ones.  Sometimes I get 3 or 4 good ones; sometimes I get none; usually I get one.

I image using the 70-200 for low-light, action photography, like on the sidelines of a high school football game this fall.  So, for this situation, IS will be helpful (but so would an extra stop of aperture).

Pros and Cons

From what I know, the new f/2.8L II gets absolutely rave reviews, including a “four-stop” image stabilizer.  The new f/4L IS also touts four-stop stabilization, but I have not seen a specific review of this one yet.  All of the lenses Canon has introduced in the last year or so have been through-the-roof sharp, so I believe the new f/4L IS will be, too.   

Pros and cons, assuming same price and same IQ:

EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
Wider aperture
EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
Lighter, IS, newer design

My son owns the first one, and I have used it to create some GREAT pix!  For example:

Preliminary Conclusion

At this moment I am leaning towards the f/4L IS.  I need to find an opportunity to rent it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is is

One rarely writes two identical words together in a sentence   But one hears this particular twinning all the time, often form the smartest people in the world:

The question is, "Is this OK?"

This bugs me.

If I had to write this sentence, I would say something like this:

We fundamentally need to know if this is OK.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Scoring an exercise session

I joined Fitocracy some time ago.  It is a nice social site for posting your workouts and getting points.  But of course, the points don't matter, except to motivate you.

Having said that, the Fitocracy algorithm strongly favors weight lifting: Lifting 100 pounds five times is "equivalent" to running a mile.  Yeah, right!

Therefore, I decided to create my OWN point system (again, the points don't matter), which rewards the sort of exercise *I* do (jogging).

Here is the way I figure it (qualitatively).  You get more points for:

  1. Running farther,
  2. Running faster,
  3. Running with extra weight (including your own weight).
The last item is based on the reality that heavier runners expend more energy.  For example, let's say you are a svelte 130 pound marathon runner, who averages around 5:30/mile for short runs.  What would she be able to do with, say, 60 pounds of extra weight?  Could she halve her pace (11:00/mile) for a 5K with that extra weight?  Hmm?  HMMMMM?

Long story short (and I think this will need tweaking), I'll take this form for the algorithm:

Points = (scaling1)*(C1 + miles) + (scaling2)*(C2- pace) 

I'll arbitrarily say that a 1-mile run at a moderate pace for me is worth 5 points.  I'll also set scaling2=C1=1.0 (yeah, I know, the units don't match; ignore it).  A moderate pace for me is 13:00/mile (C2).  Do the arithmetic to see that scaling1=2.5:

points = 2.5*(1 + miles) + 13 - pace.

Now, we add a factor for the weight.  Since BMI is a better measurement of your overweight-ness, I have settled on this formula:

Points = 2.5*(1 + miles) + 0.4*BMI - pace.

There is only one more factor that I have to add in: you can only get points if you go at least 1/2 mile.

Using this scoring system, here are some examples of an 11-point 5K run for different BMI values:
  • 25:00, BMI=22
  • 30:00, BMI=26
  • 32:30, BMI=28
  • 35:00, BMI=30
  • 37:30, BMI=32
The world record 5K is 12:37 by Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia.  Let's say this particular human specimen has a BMI of 18.  Kenenisa would have received 13.4 points for this run.  Patrick Mahu's world's best marathon of 2:03:35 would have earned him (assuming a BMI of 16) 64 points!

My point system favors more frequent, shorter exercises, which is what I need right now.  That is, it is better for me to do five 2-mile runs in a week than three 5K's (about 40 points versus 33 points).

My sort-term goal is 25 points per week.  I hope to increase this to 40 points per week over the coming weeks.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Zoom versus Prime lenses

I know how I stand on the whole "Zooms versus Primes" debate: I prefer primes.

A "zoom" lens has the ability to change its focal length; a "prime" lens does not.  Here is a link to my son's incredible Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L zoom lens.  Here is a link to my incredible Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens.  In terms of image quality, it is arguable that these two lenses, at 50mm, are quite similar.

  • Variable focal length
  • You can often get a decent zoom lenses with image stabilization for a reasonable price.  For example, this new kit lens from Canon.
  • Heavier lens is sometimes easier to hold steady.
  • It seems that the newest technologies appear on zoom lenses first (like the kit lens linked to, above).
  • Great IQ for not much money
  • Small and light (in most cases)
  • Usually, primes are faster (have a larger maximum aperture) than zooms
  • Many artistic photographers like the constraint of a single focal length (and I am one of them).  It forces you to look at the scene carefully and find the interesting perspectives.
  • Only one moving part (focus)
  • Some primes are incredibly small (e.g., this Canon 40mm pancake lens).
  • To get comparable image quality to a prime, you have to spend a lot of money
  • Large and heavy
  • Usually, zooms are slower (have a smaller maximum aperture) than primes
  • Lots of moving parts (focus, zoom and (often) image stabilization)
  • Cannot change the focal length
  • Image stabilization is not common.  When you can get it, it is quite expensive (at this time).

So, I prefer primes for the reasons I state here.

The bottom line for me is stated as Image Quality/Price--you can't beat that ratio in primes.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Leica, continued.

Actually, I think I need (someday) to buy a Leica body.  This one would work for me:

Contributions are welcome to my PayPal account.  Contact me for details.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

WTF is wrong with my home PC?


The home PC has been driving my wife and me nuts for a long time.  It runs everything, and since I have replaced the power supply and installed an extra fan on the video card, it does not crash any more.  But the memory usage over the course a day (after a reboot) goes from just under 2GB to 6GB (the amount of physical memory I have).

A wee bit of background: HP Pavilion (bought August 2009), Intel i7 (8-core) processor, Windows 7 Home Premium (upgraded from Vista when 7 became available, approximately 5 months later).  6GB of memory (as I said), three internal disks (system disk is 0.6TB; photos is 1TB and videos is also 1TB).


If we use the PC normally for several hours (which is how the day usually evolves) and then go away for a while (e.g., a good night's sleep), when we come back it takes for-EVER to come alive.  For example, I'll jiggle the mouse, the screen will come alive and I look at the screen.  The internal clock say a time that is about an hour after we stopped using the computer.  After about ten seconds, the clock changes to the correct time, and MS Outlook pops up all the emails that have arrived over night (a little pop-up indicator associated with the Outlook icon in the System tray).

I use Adobe Lightroom a lot now--it is a well-deserved memory hog [loading and interpreting dozens of 25MB images].  When I start LR immediately after startup, it works fine.  But when I try to use it at the end of the day, it takes for-EVER to do anything.

My wife tends to use Chrome for everything.  On a normal day, she'll have a dozen or two tabs open.  She likes it a lot.

The Task Manager has some interesting things to say.  First (and foremost): the CPU is almost completely idle.  The other very interesting aspect is that when I sum the memory usage of all the processes running for all users, it is nowhere near the amount that the Task Manager says the system is using: like 2GB in the sum of all the processes, but 6GB total memory used (in the summary box).


I have figured out a few things to measure.  First, as indicated above, rebooting the system resets the memory usage to a normal level for a while.

This morning, I closed all programs and watched the task manager for a while.  I forced several background processes to close: Amazon Sound Cloud, DropBox, Chrome, a couple of ready-to-launch things (e.g., my Garmin GPS watch has one, as does the Logitech camera and a Logitech steering wheel that Son #3 uses), CrashPlan.  The odd part of this operation is that there were about 7 instances of Chrome left long after I had closed it.

Then I logged off my wife and logged into Windows 7 as me (we have two such accounts already setup).  I did a few simple things (checked a web page in Chrome and then exited Chrome), changed my background (to show a series of pictures of my lovely granddaughter), and then watched the Pebble Beach golf tournament.   At the end of this (ahem!) 2 hour experiment, the memory usage had stayed at 0.9GB the whole time!


Then I logged off and logged back in as my wife.  She has several things that run automatically (e.g., Sound Cloud), so the initial memory usage was 1.8GB.  I did some work on Lightroom (it was great and snappy!).  I closed LR and I went away for a while (I watched "Looper"--great movie, if you can get through the violence and gore of the first 110 minutes of it and see the last 5).  When I returned, the memory usage had not increased!


Working Assumption

There is something we run normally that has a memory leak.  My current guess: Chrome.

How do I test this theory?

Here are the ways I can image testing this theory:

  • Uninstall Chrome and re-install it.
    • If this works, it would indicate to me that some sort of stupid-ware has been picked up by this installation of Chrome.
  • Uninstall Chrome and install Firefox.
  • Any other ideas?????
So, that's it for now.  The working assumption is that Chrome is Evil on our home PC.

Update: 2/10/13

The PC ran overnight with nothing in the foreground.  It was using 5.5 GB.  Oops!  I killed a couple of background processes (Amazon Sound Cloud) and the memory allocation went to 4.7 GB.  There is something else wrong besides by "Chrome" assumption.

A Facebook friend (Todd R.) pointed me to the following interesting web sites: