Sunday, September 30, 2012

Raylene Rankin – Passes at 52


Awwwww …. this sucks. I’ve been a fan of the Rankin Family for years, and I saw them live here in Ottawa back in 2007 when they reunited for one last tour. They kind of define the east coast of Canada for me (although there are others, including Rita McNeil and the Men of the Deeps) …

Being a sucker for harmonies, they really do it for me. This is a profoundly sad day .. Raylene was far to young to go, yet she fought an almost constant battle with her health for a decade, so may she rest in peace.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

This blew my fricken mind :-)

Panasonic GF3 – Review Part 2 – Low light fun …

I’ve been poking around with the GF3 for a while now and shot a few miscellaneous images in darkish light. Here are some of the result … all hand held.

Down in the basement, I have my album collection from the 70s … just waiting for me to set up my turntable in a nice usable area. Hopefully one day.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois  @14mm  800iso  f/3.5  1/8  -2/3ev

I’m at a alight angle there, which is why the edges are softer. Very clean for 800 ISO in the dark, though. The lighting down there is very low and is compact fluorescent, which means that I was forced to adjust white balance by adding a lot of blue.

An even sharper angle …

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 800iso f/4.5 1/6 -2/3ev

For fun, I shot an image of the lens cap for the power OIS zoom as a macro. I got this insane magnification by holding my Pentax K 50mm 1.4 in reverse against the front of the zoom’s lens. It leaves a microscopic depth of field, which looks kind of cool here. The red X appears to be floating off the page …

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm 800iso f/5.6 1/6 -2/3ev

A bathroom portrait Smile

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @22mm 800iso f/4.6 1/200 -2/3ev

I made some smokin’ terrific crispy baked chicken last night. Everyone liked it. Simple recipe … dip chicken breasts in beaten eggs, then coat with: Panko break crumbs (Japanese light and fluffy variety), red pepper flakes, Piri Piri spice and black pepper. Place on pan (I use perforated pizza pans and bake with convection) and sprinkle each with more Piri Piri after drizzling with melted butter. Mmmmmmm …. then bake. Seriously easy and amazingly tasty.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm 800iso f/5.6 1/10 -1/3ev

You can see that I finally noticed that I had been shooting at –2/3EV and switched it to –1/3EV. That seems the best overall setting so far. Pretty classic for a RAW shooter.

Delivered the boys to their friends’ houses for parties and on the way I stopped to shoot my Sensei’s place of business in the neighbourhood. His name is Tony Greco and he has built a strong fitness business that includes Karate (a blend of Chito Ryu and Shotokan styles originally from Dr. Chitose in Okinawa and passed along through several masters in Ontario until Sensei Tony taught it to me. I got my black belt in 1996 from Sensei Tony and am still proud to call him sensei.) Sensei Tony is now training some heavy duty NHLers and other celebrities and appears on YouTube in numerous videos on personal training.

So … back to the building … this is the first real flaw I have found in the power zoom – a tendency to flare badly with severe purple fringing. The lighting at the top of the building is really extreme, but still …

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @26mm 800iso f/5.1 1/10 -1ev

Note the –1EV exposure compensation. Preserving lights at night is very tricky, but shooting at –1 or –2 EV is pretty much mandatory if you are to have any chance to retain some detail.

The image is mostly ruined by flare, but it can be somewhat mitigated by desaturating the bright blue somewhat …

Back inside, I shot this image of the Tamron 19-35 3.4-4.5 lens that I am pondering selling. I have been thinking about a total switch to the m4/3 system, as I really like the size of the cameras and as the Olympus OM-D has image quality now on par with my D7000. Of course, I have some great lenses for the D7000 and two excellent flashes, so it is really a major decision.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm 1600iso f/9 4/10 –1/3ev

A surprisingly clean image, considering that the shutter was open for nearly half a second and this is hand held. I like the 800 ISO images I have been getting, but I need at least 1600 as the limit, so I raised it and found that the image was quite good. Especially since it is bathed in low, but very blue, light. And the subject is black, which means that it is nothing but shades of shadow. There is grain in the background, but it is very fine grained and not objectionable at all.

And finally … I have supported the Harvest House Ministries for decades. They do good work giving people with addiction or other issues a chance to regain some balance in their lives and go on to achieve a level of normalcy that the usual medical programs cannot manage.

This drive resulted in my getting a couple of very nice calendars and a letter opener. The opener is hand carved by one of the fellows at the center, and the must have been disappointed to see the mistake made by the stamper on the website. Bummer, but my gain.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm  1600iso  f/9  1/15 –1/3ev

So … I pronounce the GF3 quite usable in low light in RAW and with Lightroom 4.1. The clarity is very impressive and the noise is very unobtrusive. Super fine grained, just the way I like it.

Neighbourhood walk with the Panasonic GF3

I went out for a brief walk, quite literally around the (very long) block, yesterday at lunch time. I thought I would see how it felt to be limited to the GF3’s paltry 28-84 effective focal lengths. I didn’t mind it that much, although I was immediately faced with a shot that would have benefitted from some reach.

But I am ahead of myself.

The Flyer Force has been around, I notice as I step to the edge of my large step form the porch to the walkway.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois  @24mm  160iso  f/4.9  1/160  -1/3ev

I heard a small plane going over my head, and by the time I got the zoom and focus established, it was vanishing. This is not a strength of contrast detect auto focus (CDAF) as used in mirrorless cameras. CDAF requires a bit of time to confirm focus that phase detect auto focus (PDAF) in mirrored systems and some newer mirrorless systems (e.g. Nikon 1) can use to go directly to perfect focus.

Anyway, I snapped it and thought it was too late. And remember, 84mm is very slight magnification … not even 2x, so the plane is tiny. This is a 100% crop, pixel for pixel sensor to screen, and I am fairly impressed by how clean the image came out. This sensor is quite old, but still has the chops for some purposes.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois  @42mm  160iso  f/5.6  1/1000  -1/3ev

And then, right across the street, a pair of black squirrels were running around and fighting over nuts or something :-) … so I grabbed a snap shot. This is again a very strong crop, yet the detail is pretty magnificent. I surely cannot complain about the little camera …

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm 160iso f/5.6 1/1000 -1/3ev

Wandering along, I was pleased to see that some flowers are still blooming as we approach October. Very nice …

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm 320iso f/5.6 1/80 -1/3ev

Next door, they appear to have a rather unusual lawn gnome :-)

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @42mm 160iso f/5.6 1/100 -1/3ev

Rounding the end of the block, I see this scene for the second time and I just have to capture it on film …

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/2000 -1/3ev

Only one comment …

The fall foliage is just getting into full swing. My neighbourhood is starting to look pretty nice, I must say.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/2500 -1/3ev

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @24mm 160iso f/4.8 1/1000 -1/3ev

As I approached these two bushes separating two properties, I thought that they were probably Hansa, or a similar species of native Rose bush. There are a few blooms visible, but what is also visible is how scraggy these plants get over time. Mine is pretty nasty looking, but is buried inside a lot of other large bushes, so I tolerate its eccentricities.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/1600 -1/3ev

A short while later, I notice two large trees on the front yard. They’ve added a Black Maple tree to the original tree. The contrast is lovely, but the crowding is severe and really obvious. What were they thinking?

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/320 -1/3ev

Rounding the next corner, my back yard next door neighbour has put a big rock and some stones in the middle of a dead patch in the front yard. I do like the stone garden against the fence and parking area … not sure about this though. We’ll see what happens as the grass starts to fill in.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/640 -1/3ev

Along the side of our property, right at the dividing line, Bell Canada (or a subcontractor more likely) dug a huge hole and did some work. I am hoping that they were laying fiber in preparation to offer us Fibe TV and 50/50 Fibe Internet (balanced 50mbps service, which would be incredible.)

Anyway, they filled in the hole and dumped some seed on it. We got lots of rain and wow … it worked perfectly. Lovely patch of lawn amid the desert that is the side yards. Obviously, it can be done.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/160 -1/3ev

Rounding the last corner, on my own yard, you can see the grub damage. Fatal Sad smile

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 pz vario power ois @14mm 160iso f/3.5 1/320 -1/3ev

And that’s that. The little GF3 handled itself very nicely. I am really taking a shine to this thing, despite the fact that the J1 had more range and probably had a slightly better lens. Plus, I had the long lens. Still, this thing handles more like a midrange camera, and that’s what is exciting me about it I suppose.

Some phones are just unlucky …

Nick has been using my old iPhone 3G since I got the Galaxy sIII (seen holding the iPhone up – a demonstration of the size of the newer screen) a while ago. And last night the phone apparently found its way into the street and was crushed, probably by a car.

The phone works perfectly, by the way, but it is time to get the third new digitizer glass … I will order on eBay tonight. Also visible are the edges of every piece of packing tape that is covering the busted glass. This allows the phone to be used while we wait for the arrival of the new digitizer front glass.

Panasonic gf3 + 14-42 PZ vario power ois  1600iso  f/5.6  1/13

This image was shot under my blue LED kepboard light, hance the extreme nature of the fingerprints, dust, and the cracks in the glass. You can pretty much tell that a tire rolled over it at an angle, thus causing a crush injury to the corners. Bummer.

Replacing the glass takes me perhaps 20 minutes now … and it will be literally as new again … but this is one unlucky phone.

Scum – or rather, Air Duct Cleaning Services

This bunch is at it again. Two calls in two days. Each time I tell them that my air ducts have been cleaned and rudely dismiss them. And then they come back the next day.

So how is it possible that, at 6:30pm on a Saturday night, they think they can sell something to someone they have irritated 20 times already?

The answer is that scum do not care …

Testing Blogger Android Application

I just installed the application and this is a wee post just as a test.

An image:

That is the definition of ugly. I think I already blogged test before ... I only chose it because it was in my Picasa album.

Now to insert an image from my camera:

Ok ... that's it then.

Update: Had to edit it on the computer as it posts with small sized images and the images stack at the end in reverse order. Not that useful except to add a comments on a specific image. Cool, though.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Panasonic GF3 – Review Part 1– Autumn foliage and pumpkins …

Just a quick pause on the road today to grab a few shots. I poked the camera through a wire fence and captured the sunlit field with one really nice young tree sporting fall foliage.

panasonic gf3 + 14-42 vario pz  160iso  f/6.3  1/1250  -2/3ev

Quite a lovely scene with extremely fine detail in the branches. Really much more detailed that I am used to from even the best of my Fuji compacts or bridge cams.

A shot of the fence, showing that the sensor is large enough to throw the background slightly out of focus even at 28mm EFL. Nice …

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz  160iso  f/6.3  1/1250  -2/3ev

This next one was against the sun, without a lens hood. The lens handled it well, and the sensor handled the deep shadow of the subject, which I of course pulled up in post processing in Lightroom 4.1.  I think I hit the Nyquist limit on the pattern of ridges on the silos … the weird patterns that the ridges are making give it away.

This is also corrected for heavy keystoning … I’m not sure that I should have done that. Note the blown out clouds … the sun was right there, and I don’t think there are many cameras that could have handled this scene well.

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/6.3 1/1600 -2/3ev

And just down the road is one of the better garden centers. They have pumpkins available already, and there apparently are many more coming soon. Here is where the GF3 really shined in my opinion.

Not sure if you have ever seen albino pumpkins, but then have plenty of them.

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/6.3 1/4000 -2/3ev

Huge piles of the orange ones dominate the place … I like how the one top middle seems suspended in thin air. Cool …

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/6.3 1/640 -2/3ev

And now we get a bit closer and open the aperture to throw that background gently out of focus. So very smooth.

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/5.6 1/3200 -2/3ev

Even more dramatic …

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/5.6 1/2500 -2/3ev

Which one does not belong?

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/5.6 1/4000 -2/3ev

And one last one …

panasonic GF3 + 14-42 vario pz 160iso f/4.7 1/4000 -2/3ev

Yes, I like this thing very much Smile

Democracy – a definition

Saw this definition in a DPReview comment, and it really resonates with me.

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner.

Goodbye J1, hello GF3 …

Some of you might be a little shocked at the reversal. Let's just say that some visceral reactions should not be ignored.

The J1 is a wonderful camera. No "ifs, ands or buts."  But [ :-) ], it was not quite for me. Bigger than the compacts it replaced, and not quite the wide angle camera I was looking for. Video excellent, but the lens was not all that suited. The video lens Nikon makes looks like the end of a baseball bat cut off.

So what to do ... my visceral reaction all along has been to grab a GX1. But they are still expensive with the GX2 not even announced yet. Meanwhile, for video purposes I kind of want the rather tiny 14-42 Power OIS zoom from Panasonic, which is fairly quiet and very smooth. And it collapses to pancake size and is half the weight of the next one up. The problem, is that this lens is $449 retail in Canada ... gulp.

I also really like the touch interface, which is really only available right now on current cameras like the OM-D E-M5 (mmmmmm), the GX1, and the GF3. In fact, I've been playing with the GX3 at Future Shop (hi Jasmine :-) and enjoyed it’s user interface while waiting for a new camera to catch my fancy. 

And then I realized that this GF3 kit at Future Shop contains the power zoom for only $429cad. Yikes, they are paying me to take the body for free with the lens itself already discounted … kits can be such a great value, especially as they are at end of life (the GF5 is out now and quite expensive at $699 on sale, almost 300 more than I paid.)

So we'll see ... this is a simple toe dip in the m4/3 pond and so far I am quite enamored with this little camera. Tough to get used to having no controls, lol, but I am. Once you get the hang of the touch interface, you can move around quickly. And there is just nothing like the ability to touch what you want in focus and then shoot. Wow ...

The camera is as small as the J1 and in fact feels smaller because of its curvaceous body.

All of these images were shot with the Fuji F200EXR hand held on a hard white wall panel in direct light from a window.

Note the lovely lens. Small, decently sharp, smooth for video. What is not to love :-) … I was thinking of ordering one of those cool Gordy wrist straps for it, but decided to mount instead one of the generic eBay wrist straps I bought a decade ago or so. Kept them in a small drawer for just such an occasion. They are really nice and comfortable and I doubt that they cost me more than a buck or so each (I have 5 of them somewhere.)

I also kept the bag that I had bought for the J1, the Tamrac 3440 Rally Micro. This is a very nice bag with enough space in it for the J1 and extra lens (i.e. the two lens kit), but that was a tight fit, which contributed top my visceral reaction that this kit was a bit too big for what it could deliver (yet that was still a great deal.)

What is so interesting with the GF3 is that it takes up less than half the bag, and that is simply because I can slide it in the other way, with the lens facing the front or back. What a difference! It feels so much more like a compact, this is very hard for me to describe. It’s visceral.

What I plan to do now is to add another separator from a different bag, which will have to go in at an angle. This should allow me to carry another lens and the battery charger, while still dropping this into my usual travel laptop bag (a back pack) for travel overseas. So far, I am really liking this setup.

So although I really loved shooting the J1, I really did not love carrying it. I suspect that the one lens kit in a purse is what Nikon was thinking, because that’s apparently driving record sales in Europe, and has the J1 in the top 10 of all cameras in Japan.

But for me, m4/3 makes more sense and may in fact become my only system one day. The D7000 is not necessarily safe :-) …

One final image … the D7000 with 17-50 2.8 on it, unstabilized. This combo is gorgeous to shoot but weighs a lot and carries very obtrusively (even with that wonderful BlackRapid strap attached.)

The GF3, on the other hand, has a slower lens, but more reach and is stabilized. And it carries in that small 3440 case very well and without really weighing anything much at all.

Tough call? Smile

This last image was shot with the X-S1 but heavily processed (for fun.)

So … interesting times. This kit is really inexpensive, has excellent Panasonic video, has a very small lens that is quite sharp, and uses a fun touch screen interface that is pretty quick once you get used to it. All in all, a pretty good buy in my opinion.

Note, though, that the Panasonic JPEG engine in this camera does not float my boat at all. So I am a confirmed RAW shooter exclusively with this thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The very definition of why I think Conservatives are a dangerous bunch …

On the one hand, the right thing happened today …

Motion to study when life begins defeated in Parliament

On the other hand, a number of members of cabinet and even some Liberals voted for the motion, and that’s just plain scary.

It comes down to who is in charge of a woman’s own body. And there can be only one answer to that, despite the presence of older gentlemen and ladies (wing nuts, if you ask me) who think that they somehow have the right to dictate what rights others have over their own physicality.


Example quote from the article (click the headline above to access the actual article):

Critics said the motion was an excuse to re-open the debate on abortion in Canada and set limits on the procedure. Woodworth had said he hoped having a debate would convince Canadians to oppose abortion.

I certainly hope that Justin Trudeau manages to win the Liberal leadership so that we finally have a serious alternative to the Conservative party at the federal level. These guys just scare me. Some of them sound like Rick Santorum, and that should have people quaking and peeing themselves with fright.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Incompetence – reprise …


More than 24 hours and counting … Best Buy was offline last night as well … but they are up and running today. Hmmm …

My guess is that their inability to perform updates in the background and swap live is costing Future Shop buckets of cash in sales each day … yet this is the second time I can recall them being offline for a long time.
It amazes me that heads do not roll when such things happen …

Update: A further 24 hours along and no change … wow …

Update 2: It's been days and no sign of the web site returning ... double wow ...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

J1 Moon Madness – How many teleconverters does it take to see the Apollo 11 landing site?

The answer is “more than you can shake a stick at” … whatever that old idiom means Smile

Meanwhile, the sky was very clear tonight and the moon was just sitting there, daring me to add that other teleconverter and go hunting for mountains or something … so I added the 1.4x Tamron to the 2x Kenko to see how difficult I could make my life.

The results were interesting … massive magnification with quite a bit of blur. Just about exactly what you expect from two teleconverters totalling almost 3x magnification.

In case anyone has not done the calculation yet, the effective focal length is 500*2*1.4*2.7 … which comes to 3780mm. That’s a lot of magnification. This is what that looks like …

So you can see that it is quite the rig. But it does not weight all that much because the mirror lens has so little glass inside. I tested the rig before going outside to make sure it could be focused. No problem. Imagine one of those test targets with the 1” square in the middle hung about 15 feet from the camera. How much magnification would it take to get pretty much just the little square in the middle to fill the frame?

Nikon J1 + Nikon FT1 + Tamron BBAR 500mm Mirror + Kenko 2x TC + Tamron 1.4X TC  3200 iso  f/22  8/10

Well, about that much. Although not absolutely tack sharp, this is pretty good for our purposes. Next, the moon. The first thing I notice is the breathtaking magnification. I can get about half the moon in frame … wow.

Nikon J1 + Nikon FT1 + Tamron BBAR 500mm Mirror + Kenko 2x TC + Tamron 1.4X TC 800 iso f/22 1/40

An alternate rendering of the same image.

Nikon J1 + Nikon FT1 + Tamron BBAR 500mm Mirror + Kenko 2x TC + Tamron 1.4X TC 800 iso f/22 1/40

The second thing that I notice is how subtle the colours are. Very nice. And just like yesterday, there are many smaller craters plainly visible. Just excellent.

The mountain range that is so prominent at top left is called the Montes Caucasus. Very impressive resolution. So I crop the image on the left side to square it up. So now when I resize to 1000px on the long side, it all looks really big.

Nikon J1 + Nikon FT1 + Tamron BBAR 500mm Mirror + Kenko 2x TC + Tamron 1.4X TC 800 iso f/22 1/40

All in all, quite satisfying. The quality is not astounding, but the magnification makes up for it. Wicked detail from nothing more than a telephoto lens and some teleconverters.

It does not surprise me much that the surface of the moon was rendered more crisply with just the Kenko TC. 2.8x is asking an awful lot.