Posts Tagged ‘Rambling’

Canon S90 vs Ricoh GRD III

A long hiatus. The real world can be so troublesome sometimes. A few photos first. Words later.

[photo above with Canon S90, photo below with Ricoh GRD III]

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Finding Views

The previous post reviewing the GF1’s EVF sparked quite a long discussion on DPreview.com and inspired a few talking points for me, notably that I need to write more clearly. Today’s post is going to be especially nerdy but bear with me. It’s about the various tools available to visualize your photograph. There are currently FOUR choices available for today’s enthusiast photographer:

  1. The Electronic View Finder (EVF), i.e. a small LCD with some magnification optics mounted in a little viewfinder enclosure that displays the sensor’s image + various information overlays.
  2. The rear LCD, i.e. a large LCD that displays the sensor’s image + various information overlays.
  3. The through-the-lens mirror or prism viewfinder, i.e. what you get on SLRs and DSLRs. Using a mirror or prism inside the camera, you get to look through the lens which is close to what you will see in your final image.
  4. The fixed optical viewfinder, i.e. a very simple lens with frame lines drawn in the glass that you look through. It shows what the view should roughly look like for a certain focal length.
  5. (quasi 5) The rangefinder viewfinder, which is somewhat similar to 4 but with a triangulating rangefinder mechanism.

I’ve used all of them and they all have their Pros and Cons (if anyone likes, I can list them some other day). When someone considers buying a camera, their viewfinder preferences are often make-or-break.

GF1’s EVF Revisited

To be clear, in this section when I say EVF, I am referring to the GF1’s EVF, not any other camera’s EVF.
What is the EVF useful for? In its current state, the EVF is useful in the following situations:

  1. When you need to use its tilting ability i.e. when the camera needs to be quite near a surface and you can’t angle yourself to see the LCD.
  2. Bright sunlight i.e. the LCD has too much glare.
  3. You just prefer to use a viewfinder.

In all other situations, the LCD seems to me a superior option.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also used to own a GX100 with the removable EVF two years ago. Given the (lack of) difference in performance between the two EVFs, it seems time moves very slowly in EVF-land. However, I have handled the G1 as well and that EVF is pretty good so the GF1 got the short end of the stick on this one.

LCD vs the World

I feel sorry for the LCD, I really do. There is an unfortunate stigma against using an LCD as your primary way of composing photographs because of its association with point & shoots, cellphone cameras and being some sort of hapless amateur. I actually used to hate it, too. Standing there, arms outstretched as if expecting a hug while balancing a small camera at your fingertips and feeling a bit daft. But after a while, I got used to it. For the last two years, I have mostly been using the Ricoh GRD II and recently the E-P1 and GF1 and I still got the results I wanted with minimal public ridicule. So why the hate?

In many ways the LCD is an incredibly elegant solution. You have a huge 3 inches to see your masterpiece on. You get all your exposure and histogram information overlaid. You get controllable guidelines. You get a level balance. The major downsides are it’s difficult to use in bright sunlight if you have a lot of glare and it can be quite disturbing to those around you if it’s dark. Other than that though. … why the hate?

There is a very distinct difference in the “feeling” you get when using any tunnel-like viewfinders vs the LCD. When you look through a viewfinder, you close one eye, press your other eye up against viewfinder cup and you are enveloped into a tiny black gallery admiring your postage stamp masterpieces. It’s a nice, heady feeling and sometimes a bit too nice. How many times has a photographer looked through the viewfinder, thought “holy wow, this is my greatest picture ever” and when later reviewing it on the computer or in print form, thinking “o, maybe not”. I find the LCD a little more honest. In the bright harsh glare of the sun, feeling like a hapless amateur, my crappy photo is displayed on the washed out electrified crystal and plastic and remains what it is, a crappy photo.

I’m not advocating the LCD as the be-all, end-all solution for all your photographic needs. After all, a big part of photography is the process and often times, using a nice viewfinder just makes taking photos a lot more pleasurable. However, I would like everyone to try and consider the LCD as a serious tool and spare a thought for the tool behind the LCD. The GF1’s EVF may not be as essential as I originally thought it was.

The Future!

Since my primary interest is in small cameras, the SLR viewfinder is out of the question, the mechanism takes up too much space. The Pentax K7 with a pancake lens is a wonderful combination but I consider the E-P1 and GF1 about the limit in size for this blog and really, my own uses. That leaves the EVF, LCD and optical viewfinder. I’m excited to see what will come next in EVF technology. If they can significantly improve resolution and up the size more, it could be the last word for tunnel-like viewfinders. For LCDs, maybe there will be some magical anti-glare coating to come along or at the very least, a stick-on sunshade. As for the optical viewfinder, well … it’s such an anachronistic device, I don’t think anyone wants it to change anyways.

[ all photos shot with an LCD ]


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Messing with White Balance in RAW

One of the beautiful things about RAW is the flexibility you have with white balance. One of the reasons I hate photographing with JPG is that inevitably I will forget to set the correct WB and my photos will end up with all sorts of terrible colour casts to them. With RAW, not only can I rectify these mistakes later, I can also use WB to twist the way colour is presented.

[all photos with Panasonic GF1 / 40mm f1.7]

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ISO 800 to 3200

I’m always skeptical of claims of good ISO performance. I find it difficult to buy into the reasoning of sensors being more efficient thus lowering noise and increasing megapixel resolution. Seems to me, something’s got to give. That been said, my recent photographs at ISO 800 and above have turned out well so I guess I should try and find something new to complain about.

This photo below is not some random photo of a bush, it is actually a photo of fireflies in near pitch darkness in bushes along the a river in Malaysia. The light of the fireflies was quite bright though very fine, a mere speck. There was nearly no ambient light around me. I switched into manual focus and set it slightly out of focus to exaggerate their light. There’s a bit of motion blur as well since I was gliding along in a raft as I was taking the photo. I was pretty thankful I had the f1.7 lens on me instead of the f2.8. At ISO 3200 f1.7, 1/4s, you can still get a little bit of the feeling of the scene though perhaps not a razor sharp capture of reality.

[all photos with Panasonic GF1 / 40mm f1.7]

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The Halcyon Days of … 2003, Canon SD10

There was a brief period back in the day, when men still wore frilly shirts and dueled each other with rapiers, Casio, then Sony, then Canon (and I think Nikon got involved too) released a slew of “mini-cameras”. They were, in effect, the netbook equivalent of the P&S at the time.

These cameras would have tiny, tiny screens of about 1 inch, a fixed length lens, moth-lifespan-like battery life but would also be really, really small and relatively cheap. I was enchanted by the little things and bought two. One was a Sony that reminded you of a big pill and delivered crap results, and the other was the subject of today’s post, the Canon SD10.

All things considered, the SD10 was not a bad camera. The lens was pretty good, 4 megapixels meant at low ISO, noise was pretty tolerable and although the battery life sucked, you could usually tease one more shot out of it by warming up the battery and turning it on again. It was small, no-nonsense and took pretty good pictures.

In the end, I’m not quite sure what happened to this fork of camera evolution. The Casio range turned into the under-appreciated Exilim range. Sony has those superthin cameras with touchscreens. Canon decided if they are going to make a small camera, it needed to be more capable, with zoom etc. I guess on top of that, we have modest cameras in our phones, iPods, laptops so the mini-camera has gone the way of the do-do. There is one direct descendant though, the little video-camera, but that’s too far out of my field.

Enjoy some photos of the SD10 and its somewhat distant great, great, great grand cousin, the Panasonic GF1. Appreciate that although we have made progress, they were built on the shoulders of really, really small giants.

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Excuse the Dust

You will have to excuse the crappy layout of the blog. This theme is not ideal but I want something that allows me to display 800 px width photos as part of the text. It always irritates me to see small photos on blogs. As it is, this current theme is cutting off part of the image.

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