Archives For January 2014

and now it’s here

January 28, 2014

The Fujifilm X-T1 officially arrived today, in much the same manner that Olympus’ OM-D E-M5 arrived back in 2012  – amid a lot of careful leaks stoking wild speculation on the enthusiast gear sites. Looks like Fuji stole a page from Olympus’ marketing playbook.

The one photo of the X-T1 that caught my eye was the one above. The camera is cradled in a pair of human hands. In an instant you gain an understanding of the camera’s overall size and placement of the controls. The camera isn’t “retro” by any stretch. It’s classic in the type of controls it provides on the top deck as well as their overall placement. If anything, that view of the X-T1 is more Olympus OM film body-like than Olympus’ own OM-D series. Especially that big, wide faux pentaprism hump.

This is the type of camera that Nikon should have made when they made their Df. The X-T1 has a clean, chiseled look like the OM-D E-M1. Not a single extraneous line or stamping anywhere. The Fujifilm X-T1 harkens back to classic times when primes were the rule, not overly expensive zooms. Just grab two or three primes (28mm, 50mm, and 85mm equivalents) and a body with a half dozen 36 exposure rolls and you’re off to experience the world. And I most certainly like the breadth of the X lens series.

Speaking of controls, one of my favorite features (so far) of the X-T1 are its dials: shutter speed and ISO on top, and with the right lenses, aperture on the lens barrel where it belongs. Want to go all auto on any setting? Simple. Just spin the dial to the ‘A’ setting (for automatic) and the camera just does it for you. That’s what film cameras had going back to the mid 1970s. I know this to be true because my Minolta XE-7 and XD-11 had this capability. And they weren’t the only ones. Having a PASM dial on today’s digital cameras is an acknowledgement by the camera makers that once upon a time photographers used a simpler way to tune automation on their cameras. As for all the other superfluous features on a camera, such as  scene modes or art filters, I can do without. One other superfluous feature I can do without is the top deck LCD. We have those on other cameras because we need visual feedback on how the camera is configured. With analogue dials you don’t need a top deck LCD. And if you reclaim that expensive real estate, you can afford to make your dials big and fat and a joy to handle, with easy to read numbers.

It won’t be here until sometime in February. When it does arrive it’ll come with a kit lens that’s a cut above every other kit lens of its type out there: an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom lens. A kit lens that’s a half stop to a full stop faster. Olympus and Panasonic equivalents (14-42mm) are f/3.5-5.6, and even the APS-C equivalents in those focal lengths aren’t as fast. Fujifilm understands that what photographer’s want (at least this photographer) is the fastest possible lenses we can reasonably afford. The only lens that comes even close to the Fujifilm 18-55mm is the Olympus FourThirds HG 12-60mm f/2.8-4 zoom. I loved that one lens and miss it still. I doubt the person or persons who stole it really appreciate what they got out of my car.

I’m at a cross roads of sorts in my photographic life. At $1,300, body only, this is an expensive camera. I’m thinking I’ll get one more camera before I give it all up and “retire.” But the cost puts it right in the competitive thick of it, against Olympus (E-M1), Pentax (K3), Samsung (NX-300), Canon (70D), and Nikon (D7100). I’ve held them all and have enough test shots to know that they’re all equivalent. Ergonomics are pretty much a non-issue with me. The real bargain in that group is the Samsung at around half the price of all the rest. Quality body, quality lenses, and surprising features. I didn’t include the Samsung Galaxy NX because I’ve held it and can’t stand it. The Samsung NX30 is something of  a dark horse that may be another competitor in that group, one that I would consider. And Sony I don’t consider because they’re all over the place with ergonomics and a paucity of native lenses for their E-mount cameras, both APS-C and 135mm.

I’m not rushing out to place a pre-order. I’m content with what I have. I’ll continue to use it until such time as the cameras all break or someone comes out with something truly revolutionary and reasonably affordable. My E-M5 is my “big gun” camera, while all my other µFourThird cameras are my artistic, carry around cameras. I’m set and don’t need to buy anything else for the time being.

Updates

[Darth Vader voice] The force is strong in this one…

Heraclitus You can’t eat the same donut twice.
Plato All donuts share an ideal ‘donut-ness’.
Aristotle A donut contains its donut-ness.
Augustine Donuts need grace to be fully donut.
Descartes A donut’s hole proves the existence of the donut.
Locke Donuts taste good  to me.
Hume Donuts exist because I imagine donuts.
Kant A ‘donut’ equals my total experience of donuts.
Wollstonecraft Women deserve donuts, too.
Mill Donuts are good if they make people happy.
Kierkegaard I have faith that donuts are delicious.
Marx Everybody deserves donuts.
Nietzsche Stop at nothing to get your donut.
Saussure Beignet/Krapfen/Ciambella/Buñuelo = ‘Donut’.
Wittgenstein Fried pastry, zero, parking lot spin, spare tire.
Beauvoir Patriarch is responsible for the shape of the donut.

Plagiarized from twitter: https://twitter.com/BestProAdvice
Donut image taken from here: http://www.rachelpictor.co.uk/blog/writing-tips-blog/the-lasting-effect-of-a-donut/

raspberry pi

January 28, 2014

I finally found time this evening to pick up a few items and bring one of my two Raspberry Pi Model B boards to life. My wife and I went out for a simple supper. While we were out I stopped by a local Best Buy and picked up an inexpensive all-plastic 22″ Samsung 1920 x 1080 LCD display and an Apple USB keyboard. The Samsung comes with a convenient HDMI port, which the Raspberry Pi plugs into with the right cable. The Apple keyboard was surprisingly inexpensive as well, the cheapest on Best Buy’s shelves, yet it’s built around a nice machined aluminum frame.

raspberry pi setup

I’d already set up the boot device, a SanDisk 8GB SDHC, with last year’s Raspbian release. When I booted up into the graphical desktop I was pleasantly surprised that the Logitech M305 wireless mouse worked with the system. Power was supplied by my Galaxy S4 charger. The whole time I was running the system the charger never got warm. I tried to bring up wireless networking with a USB WiFi Cisco Valet dongle that’s normally plugged into the back of my Wii, but that didn’t work. I need to dig around and see if I can find a way to inexpensively add WiFi to the Pi.

The graphical desktop for Raspian is Xfce, a simple environment that has been a refuge for many fleeing Gnome 3. Xfce proved to be absolutely no problem. If you’re used to Gnome 2 in any incarnation, then Xfce is dead simple to operate. Besides, give me a shell to work in and I don’t really care what the visual desktop looks like. A quick check of resources shows it has GCC 4.7.2, Python 2.7, and a late version of Ruby. Although I couldn’t start irb up because not all the Ruby Gems were installed.

Working with Raspian on the Raspberry Pi demands patience. It’s slow. Even my Linux VMs on my Windows 8.1 are faster and smoother than the Pi. And yet one must always remember that the Raspberry Pi is, after all, a $35 bare-bones computer running a mid-to-low-end ARM processor (ARM1176JZFS running at 700MHz) with 512MB of RAM. Although, come to think about it, my AMD 32-bit PC from 2003 was only a little bit faster, ran Microsoft Millennium (ME) on 512MB of DRAM. I suspect that if I were to install the current release of Raspian it might run a bit smoother than it does right now. Still, it’s a bit remarkable to see it running at all. I purchased this as an embedded system, not as some ground pounding workstation. For what I intend for the board it’ll be running in character mode to avoid consuming precious memory with a graphical desktop. For what I have in mind I think it’ll be just fine.

It’s a funny old world. Today Mike Johnston over at The Online Photographer published two old posts that have pulled me in opposite directions. The first, “Give That Cat the Boot,” annoyed me no end, and I’ve written about that already. Then he redeemed himself in my eyes as it were by re-publishing “On the Sharpness of Lenses.” I’ll let you mosey on over and read this 1999 post. Needless to say I agree with a lot of his points.

Here’s another point about lenses I’ve slowly learned over the years.

I’ve vacillated quite a bit about whether it’s a good idea to use prior generation lenses on digital cameras, specifically Olympus OM lenses on current generation Olympus FourThirds and µFourThirds digital bodies and a Sony E-mount body, a NEX 5N. I’ve used any number of OM lenses on those bodies. Many times I’ve staunchly asserted that the only way to get quality photographs was to use native lenses for a given digital camera system, only to back slide after a time and sneak an old film prime back on one of my digital cameras.

What I have slowly come to appreciate is that the OM film lenses have an almost understated visual beauty I find missing in today’s pure digital lenses. I attribute their “look” to having been designed for film, not digital sensors. In an age when nearly everyone over obsesses with resolution, contrast, and acutance, the OM film lenses dial that back a smidge and deliver images that look like the optics worked with the light, rather than beat it into submission. Images created with the OM lenses on digital bodies seem to have a touch of romanticism.

The post before this used the OM G.Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 with a pair of adapters on an Olympus E-M5 body. I find that using either the back screen or the eyepiece, I can focus just fine with that lens on that body. Unfortunately, they are the only photos from that body using any OM lens, and more’s the pity. What follows is a smattering of some of the photos I’ve taken, usually with the older 12MP bodies such as the E-P2, E-PL1 and E-PL2. There’s even a few with the NEX 5N. I’ll let you dig deeper into those photos if you want.
Plumbago LabDr. Phillips HospitalRosesMandevilla Bokeh Experiment 2OccupupSycamore BokehSeeding purple glassesSeeding Holly. GladiolaBacklit Orchid Tree BloomDowntown Orlando Orange Ave - test shot OM 65-200mmAs I wrote above these photographs were created using a motley collection of digital bodies mated to 30 year old OM film lenses. If you want the details you can click through. Otherwise, just enjoy them for what they are, various OM film lenses on various 12MP and 16MP bodies. Oh, and if you think you can, try to guess which body was responsible for which photo before you look. As a hint, one of those photographs was taken with an Olympus E-1 (5MP sensor) and an OM 300mm telephoto. As Mike says at the end of the article:

Don’t sweat it too much. The search for the perfect lens is a fool’s errand; it’s like searching for the best-tasting coffee. No matter how good it is, it’s just a cuppa. Enjoy it and get on with your morning. (Analogously: get on with your photography.)

because i can

January 26, 2014

A conflating of inspiration sources; some from atmtx, some from Tammy Lee Bradley, and perversely, some from The Online Photographer and his reprint of ‘Give That Cat the Boot‘, which I first read on Luminous Landscape. Perhaps Mike is trying to be helpful, but I have always taken it the wrong way, the nattering of the “I know better than you” photographer that drives me up the wall. And more’s the pity I should get so wound up over this article, because Mike writes very well (well enough I consider him a Writing Standard) and his photography selections are at times stellar. But this particular article is like waving a red flag in front of a bull; it just makes me want to charge the idiot that’s slewing it around, like showing this article. So I go grab my camera and look for the cats, which just annoys them as well. But then I tell them about this article and they commiserate with me. Perhaps one day I will self-analyze why I feel the way I feel. Sounds like a blog post subject…

First the cat photos. One of Lucy and one of Lulu.

eye see youdeep in slumberAnd then a couple of freebees. They’re here because I happen to like the way they look.

rain and leafabstract signageI haven’t post processed anything substantive from my Olympus cameras since late December. I also haven’t done much with any of my OM lenses. I grabbed the old silver snoot OM G.Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 and starting just playing around. Nothin highfalutin. Just me out with a manual focus lens set wide open (or slightly closed in broad daylight to avoid over exposing). The upper cat photos were post processed in Silver Efex Pro (I like the tones of black and white sometimes), while the two lower color photos are JPEGs straight out of the camera. All of them taken with the E-M5.