Blog entries tagged with "camera"

A GPU for Lightroom

Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 11:57 am

In the four years since I last upgraded my windows desktop the only hardware change was that I had added hard drives for additional storage. On the software side it is also similar, except newer versions (Windows 10 instead of Windows 7, updated browsers, Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC, etc).

In mid 2015 when Lightroom introduced the ability to use the GPU my initial experience was negative as it broke the develop module. It was detecting the GPU in the onboard video, but was failing to use it properly. It turned out the solution was to install the Intel drivers instead of using the generic Microsoft ones. At the time there were people saying that unless you had a really high resolution display that you shouldn’t bother enabling the GPU, I didn’t notice a different either way so I left it enabled.

I don’t make panoramas that often, but I was glad that there is now merge functionality built into Lightroom, except when it fails. There was one panorama I was trying to merge earlier this year that would fail with an internal error, but it would succeed with the GPU disabled. I only had the default amount of memory allocated to the GPU, but increasing it didn’t help.

I haven’t played games for a long time so the onboard video was sufficient, but a small part of me started to wonder whether adding a graphics card with a decent GPU would be worthwhile. It doesn’t need to be a fancy gaming card, just something better enough than the onboard video.

Last Monday I went along to a Canon Collective workshop that was about shooting panoramas to make into little planets:

Federation Square

When performing the initial merge I found that it would again fail when using the onboard GPU, and then when the GPU was disabled Lightroom would max out the CPU and RAM, failing about half the time. So yesterday I picked up an Nvidia GTX 750 Ti graphics card, the second cheapest card available at local stores, but still rated around 450% better than the onboard GPU.

I don’t notice much difference while adjusting images, but based on what I see in task manager it is using less CPU and memory. However there is a big difference when merging images into the panorama. Where before it would take 15 minutes and all available memory, the same merge now takes around 3 minutes and about half the available memory. So a useful improvement.

The other thing that came out of the panorama workshop was the benefit of a tripod head that lets you pan independently of tilt. The Manfrotto 486RC2 ballhead that I use has one locking action, so to pan I used the kludge of rotating the tripod column. This isn’t ideal so on a whim I checked ebay, within 24 hours I had upgraded the ballhead to the (now discontinued) Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead. This also came with a spare quick release and plate, which I believe I can use to make an L bracket, which will be a post for another time…

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A zoom lens that doesn’t zoom

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 at 9:31 am

For many years (longer than I have had the Canon 7D body) I have had four lenses for my camera:

  • a “nifty fifty” EF 50mm f/1.8 that I have rarely used, when I got a new camera backpack earlier in the year this lens didn’t make the cut
  • an EF 70-200mm f/4 that I have mainly used at airshows
  • an EF 28mm f/1.8 that I use for low/ambient light indoor shots
  • and a heavily abused EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 that I use most of the time

There are lenses better than the 17-85mm but the both cost a lot more and do not give me the same range on a crop body such as the 7D. I would love to have a lens like the 24-70L or 24-105L, but I cannot justify the cost and to get the same practical use out of it I would also need to upgrade to a full frame body.

So far I have stuck with the 17-85 (it has been my everyday lens on the 400D, the 40D and currently the 7D) but it has not been without its issues. The biggest being a fault with the aperture control cable part of the way through a road trip from Melbourne to Perth and back. For the remainder of that trip I stuck with my 28mm lens (buying a polariser the first chance I got) and then took the 17-85 to Canon for repair once I got home.

Yesterday I found that the 17-85 had developed what I found to be another common fault, it was stuck at 17mm and would no longer zoom. I still spent the afternoon travelling around Portland, but I had to shoot everything at 17mm. I couldn’t even change to my 28mm as it was back in my room. The 50mm and 70-200mm were also not an option as I didn’t even bring them along on this trip.

Once back in my room I did some Google searches which is how I found it was a common issue that is usually caused by a single screw working loose inside the lens. Unfortunately you need to disassemble a fair amount of the lens to get to that screw. I briefly considered tracking down the required tools, but then I decided against taking the lens to bits here in my room in the Portland State Uni student accommodation.

As the remainder of my days in Portland will be taken up by OSCON I don’t need the lens working right now, but I am then spending six nights in San Francisco, a place where 17mm and 28mm are not the only focal lengths I have to work with.

One thought was to find a local lens repairer who could repair the lens before I flew out. I looked up a couple, but what their sites said about turn around was in the order of weeks. The option was there to call them first thing Monday morning.

I also started considering if it was time for a new lens. The 17-85 was introduced ten years ago, since then other lenses have been introduced that improve on its design. The obvious replacement being the 15-85mm which is both slightly wider and also slightly faster. The reviews of that lens say it is quite good, but priced a bit high. There are also non-Canon lenses that could be an option, but I need to take my time with the research as I don’t want to waste my money.

Then I thought about renting or borrowing a lens. Would it be possible to rent a lens in San Francisco to get me through to the end of my trip? The answer is yes and that is what I am doing. Through LensRentals.com I will be renting a 15-85mm lens (and polariser) that I will pick up from the FedEx store near where I am staying. Then before I head to the airport I will drop it back at a FedEx store with the provided return label. As well as giving me something to use for those six days, it will also give me information to feed into any future decision to buy that lens as a replacement for the 17-85.

But there is an issue which means I will mean I will probably still use the 17-85 for certain shots, the adapter ring for my LEE filters (ND grad and big stopper) is 67mm which is right for the 17-85, but the 15-85 is 72mm so it will not fit. I might be able to find a 72mm adapter ring, but that might not be a wise purchase as I might not need it in the future depending on what I do long term. I might still make some calls, but I might just have to live with the big stopper shots being at 17mm.

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Two ways to shoot star trails

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Last weekend a couple of us from the camera club went down to Wilsons Promontory. Apart from shooting landscapes of the coastlines and beaches, the sunset from Whisky Bay, we also shot some star trails.

The first method I tried was new to me: shoot a number of 30 second exposures and then combine them later using software.

With my camera in continuous shooting and set at 17mm, f/4, 30 seconds and ISO1600 I locked down the shutter button on my cable release and left the camera alone for a while. By locking down the button (and having long exposure noise reduction off) the camera would keep going until I stopped it, the battery went flat or the card filled up.

My third attempt of the night resulted in 70 images, which when run through the Startrails application gave me this:

Tidal River star trails (70 x 30 seconds)

If you look closely you can see that the trails are not smooth lines, and that I should have been able to setup the camera better.

A bit later in the night we moved down to Tidal River itself where I switched back to the traditional single long exposure. I took two shots (this time at ISO100), one for 10 minutes and another for 17 minutes. This is the 17 minute one:

Tidal River star trails (17 minutes)

As I was doing such a long exposure I turned the noise reduction back on. Which meant that this 17 minute exposure needed a second 17 minute exposure. Coincidentally a total time of 35 minutes, the same as 70 x 30 seconds.

Next time I’m shooting star trails, I am going to go with the multiple exposures.

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Point Cook Air Pageant 2010

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 at 11:51 pm

For the past three days I have been up at Halls Gap in the Grampians with the camera club. Although I returned home yesterday, I took an extra day of leave because I knew that in addition to the long drive, the weekend itself would be tiring because of late nights and early mornings.

So today I didn’t do much, except some photo sorting. Although I did do a little bit of sorting through my photos from the weekend (mostly getting them off the laptop I borrowed) I decided that it would be better to return to the backlog.

The previous weekend I went out to Healesville Sanctuary on the Saturday, and then to the biannual Air Pageant at the Point Cook RAAF Museum on the Sunday. It was the Point Cook photos that I turned to.

This day really made me regret selling my 75-300mm lens when I sold my Canon 400d. Although it was the kit lens, by definition cheap, it would have given me reach that my 17-85mm lens just does not have. I also could have thought ahead and asked at the camera club. Borrowing a 28-300mm would have been excellent as I would have only needed one lens, but borrowing a 70-200mm f/4 would have been good as well.

The big downside of having a maximum focal length of 85mm was that most of what could have been good shots were just too small in the frame which meant that when cropped down they were too noisy with not enough detail. I shot 2000 photos on the day and my first pass brought the count down to 262. My efforts today brought that down further to the 58 that are now up on Flickr.

The weather was a bit ordinary for an airshow. Mostly overcast with patches of blue sky. That worked for some shots as it cast a moody feel:

CAC P51 Mustang

Miss Imogen wants to fly

While at other times the break in the clouds gave both lighting and a contrasting backdrop:

Harvards coming in

Spitfire, Sabre and Mustang

See Point Cook Air Pageant 2010 for all of the images.

Something else that I have done with this set is to try to give each image a unique name, not just “Place/Event (#)”. This did take extra time, but it is something that I should be doing. Plus it makes the subject of the photo much easier to identify.

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A smaller, more portable tripod

Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy with my Manfrotto 190PROXB tripod with 486RC2 ball head that I have had since last November, but since the last camera outing I have been thinking about other options.

The tripod is excellent when I have used it for table top stuff at home (or the camera club) and on outings where I know that I will use it and there is an option of leaving it somewhere. But what about when I am doubtful that I will use it and/or I will have to carry it with me all of the time.

An example of the former is the third Melbourne Photo Walk where I carried my tripod for the entire walk because I knew that afterwards I would be taking some long exposures afterwards. While on the recent camera club outing to Melbourne’s laneways and arcades I decided before I left home that I would not take the tripod, which proved to be the right decision.

Even so, there where a couple of times that a tripod would have been good. So I have been looking at a Joby Gorillapod, specifically (due to the weight of my camera) the SLR-Zoom.

Although it wouldn’t fit in my current bag (a Lowepro SlingShot 100AW) I should be able to attach the SLR-Zoom to the outside without it getting in the way. But there is still a problem, how do I attach it to the camera.

Despite the marketing images, the SLR-Zoom only has a flat top with the thread attachment. The pictured ball head is an additional purchase which almost doubles the price from US$50 to US$95. Even then I wouldn’t be able to attach it to my camera, as I always leave the RC2 plate attached. So this gives me two options:

The 484RC2 will probably be the most cost effective option, and I regret now selling the one I had for a few months last year. Oh well, I should be able to get another one.

There is also plenty of discussion around using the Gorillapod, the Gorillapod Love Flickr pool for one with some examples of the 484RC2 in use.

In addition to holding the camera, the Gorillapod could also come in handy for holding my external flash. I could simply attach the foot that came with the flash to the second RC2 plate…

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The third Melbourne Photo Walk

Monday, July 27th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Sunday week ago I went on the third Melbourne Photo Walk. I have just completed sorting through the photos and uploading them to Flickr.

How I have processed them is a bit of a mixture. The range from pretty much as shot:

20090719T151828_132-6776

to HDR processed that start to look unnatural:

20090719T153342_132-6799And2more

I also played around with the levels of a few to make silouhettes:

20090719T164443_132-7065

20090719T171528_132-7186

All of the images can be seen in the set: Melbourne Photo Walk #3 (July 2009)

Now I really need to get back to the photos I took a few weeks ago on the WCC outing to Macedon as well as the photos from the past three Web Standards Group meetings…

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Results from the photo walk

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 11:13 pm

A few days ago I went into the city for the photo walk that I had previously mentioned.

After catching a train into the city I was quite surprised about how many other people had turned up, I think at least 15.

The walk was quite enjoyable and after Docklands we ended up going past the new exhibition centre to Flinders Street Station. Most people headed home, but a couple of us went for a coffee/beer. I intend to go along on the next one. Whenever that will be.

I took over 500 photos (in RAW which means 5GB of data) and I have just finished sorting through them and uploading the final 67 to a set on Flickr.

I still need to add proper descriptions (instead of the timestamp) and choose which ones to add to the group pool. It is interesting to see others have already added to the pool as it allows me to compare how other people saw the same situation.

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Melbourne Photo Walk this Sunday

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 11:20 pm

This Sunday there will be a photo walk around Docklands. The current forecast indicates it will be a bit hot, but I am probably going to go along.

Thanks to Wes for the heads up.

(this is a post that probably could just been on twitter/identi.ca)

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BBQ and photos at Jells Park

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Tonight, aside from catching up on a couple of blog posts, I went with David to the Waverley Camera Club meeting: A BBQ at Jells Park.

I ended up taking about 200 photos, some of which are multiple exposures ready for some HDR experiments. Now I need to find time to process them, but I have run out of time tonight, and tomorrow I’ll be in the city for Sub Standards.

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Improving my digital workflow

Thursday, February 5th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Earlier in the week I went along to another judging night at the Waverley Camera Club. Like the first meeting I went to, hearing the comments from the Judge, Peter Ryan, was quite informative:

  • being technically correct (focus, DOF, exposure, etc) isn’t enough
  • don’t take the same photo as everyone else, be different
  • what is cropped out is often more important than what is left in
  • removing distracting elements from the edges
  • ditch the rule of thirds and other ‘traditional’ rules
  • push objects of interest into the corners
  • use diagonals to draw interest around the frame

He also briefly talked about how he processes his images; from shooting in DNG and the programs he uses for various tasks.

This made me think again about my digitial workflow, which is currently:

  • Shoot in JPEG
  • Copy files to date based directories with a perl script that uses ExifTool
  • Using Picasa:
    • Review photos and delete unwanted ones
    • Basic editing (cropping, colour adjustment)
    • Export to JPEG

I need to change the first step which is to start shooting in RAW, specifically CR2. But where do I go from there?

  • Do I leave them as CR2 or do I convert them to DNG? This is supposed to be better for long term support.
  • Copying the files from the CF card based on the EXIF data will continue to work after I change my script to look beyond JPEG files.
  • Picasa does support RAW files (both CR2 and DNG), but it doesn’t give the control that a program with proper RAW support gives. I have installed Canon Digital Photo Professional which came with my camera, but there are plenty of other tools (mostly non-free).
  • If I batch update the white balance of the photos, do I then have two copies to manage?

It is a lot to think about. My next step will be to read through explanations of other people’s workflows that I have bookmarked.

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My “nifty fifty”

Monday, December 8th, 2008 at 10:59 pm

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens that I bought secondhand arrived today. From a quick test it appears quite nice.

I also took the opportunity to take a photo of my current lenses, ie the three that I keep in my camera bag:

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8, EF 50mm f/1.8 and EF-S 17-85mm IS lenses

These are the 28mm I got back in May, the “nifty fifty”, and the 17-85mm IS I got in March.

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Camera club outing to Docklands

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Last night the Waverley Camera Club, which I first checked out two weeks ago, went on an outing to Docklands. David and I went along.

After meeting at the Cow Up a Tree sculpture we took photos for a while as it started to get dark, stopped for dinner, and then took some more photos. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the best as it was very overcast (which reflected the city lights) and it drizzled off and on. Apart from that it was an excellent evening.

It was interesting to check out what equipment the others brought along. Unlike when I did the digital SLR course the dominating brand was Canon. Then within that it was interesting to note that there were mostly low end bodies (eg 350D or 400D) but the glass was consistenly good with no kit lenses in sight. I spotted a few Canon L lenses (such as the 17-40mm) but also higher end Sigma’s.

The other area of dominance was in the choice of tripod. Again almost all were a single brand, in this case Manfrotto. However, all of them were recent models, not as old as mine.

Actually using my tripod highlighted two possible issues: the top section of it is a bit too large to grab comfortably (the current models are smaller), and the 484RC2 ball head came undone a couple of times. I’m wishing I had the 486RC2 ball head which, being larger, is able to use the set screws on the tripod which prevents it from coming undone.

I’ll try to get some of the photos put up on Flickr over the weekend.

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Is everything I know about CSS wrong?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 7:52 pm

I don’t know that much about CSS anyway, but I now have a book to tell me.

This was a door prize at Monday’s Web Standards Group meeting where I listened to how the website for the Premier of Victoria was redone to better engage with users through the use of the open source CMS Joomla and the tie in with services such as Flickr and YouTube.

As usual I was also taking photos. However as there were so many people the talks were not held in the back room where my 28mm lens works quite nicely, they were held in the main room and the lens struggled. The April meeting was also in the main room and the 50mm f/1.8 lens I borrowed worked quite well. Especially across the room to where the speakers were.

I’ll be keeping an eye out on eBay for a 50mm lens. In order of preference: the f/1.4, an original f/1.8 and then the II f/1.8.

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Checking out a camera/photography club

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Last night I went along to a Waverley Camera Club meeting to check it out.

They meet twice a month, the first meeting for the guest judge to go through the photos submitted two weeks prior and the second for an outing or workshop. Last night was a judging night.

This type of night involves the guest judge, from the Frankston Photographic Club this time, going through each photo from the two categories, printed and projected, to give a score and comments. They have had the photos for a week for review, so thought has gone into it. Although I didn’t agree or understand all of his comments, most of the others were informative and I did learn a lot about how to improve a photo.

What interests me a lot more is that the next meeting is actually an outing, probably to Docklands for the evening.

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A proper tripod. Cheap.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Another thing I picked up at the digital SLR course was how much better a proper tripod could be. For the long exposure shots in the last class I was lucky enough to use Moses’s Manfrotto tripod with its 486RC2 ball head. It was rock solid, yet so easy to adjust … but almost anything would have been an improvement over the $15 tripod that I had.

So I started watching eBay and it wasn’t long until I got a 484RC2 ball head – the smaller version of the 486RC2 but still ample for my camera – for $78 inc postage. This wasn’t much cheaper than it was listed online, but I was happy.

Now I needed something to attach it to and I was lucky enought to come across an older, but unused, Manfrotto 190 tripod that had no bids – because the tripod was pickup only from Frankston. So for one bid and a drive later I had it for $82 including the EastLink tolls.

But it gets better as I didn’t just buy a tripod. I bought a 190 tripod with a 141RC head, which I have recently sold for $56. This means that it ended up costing me $26. ie just over $100 for an excellent tripod and ball head.

I am quite happy with it.

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Commute videos

Friday, October 17th, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Yesterday I was fiddling with the PowerShot A430, the second secondhand camera I got, and for some reason decided to look up how long it could record video for. Unlike other cameras I have used, such as the S45, which have a time limit of a couple of minutes this camera will keep recording until the output file reaches 1GB.

When set to 640×480 it says that it can fit 47 minutes on the 2GB card. To say it another way: 33 minutes per video. That’s enough to record my commute so before I left home this morning I mounted the camera to my bike. and they have just finished uploading to YouTube

The ride to work:

The ride home:

I only started using that route home a week ago and it is the shortest yet. Not to mention that there isn’t a single traffic light and I avoid a couple of dodgy bits caused by riding on the footpath up Blackburn Road.

Here it is in map form:

Monash Uni to Glen Waverley (October 2008)

The file from the camera is 640×480 at 10 fps and around 800MB for each 20 minute ride. Converting to Xvid at average settings dropped that to around 140MB. To fit under YouTube’s 10 minute limit I sped it up 3x, which also makes it a bit more interesting. Also to make it easier to upload I reduced it to 352×288 to get a much smaller file. I also removed the audio as there was lots of wind and other noises.

While recording video worked well, it’s not an option for longer rides. For those I still want the camera to automatically take a full resolution photo at frequent intervals.

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Riding with a mounted camera

Sunday, September 21st, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Today I went for a ride with Brendan and Hamish (they are getting ready for the 100km around the bay) up the Eastlink Trail to Ringwood, around to the other end of the tunnels and then back. As well as it being the first time riding along that section of Eastlink it was the first time I had a camera mounted to my bike.

Last Thursday I spent some time making a bracket so I could mount the secondhand camera to my bike. I thought I was going in the right direction until I discovered that the older Cateye mount wouldn’t fit on the newer Cateye mount. So I stopped.

On Friday I remembered a bracket that I had in my box of bicycle bits that might be suitable for this style of mount. This is the result:

Simple camera mount for bicycle

with the camera mounted like this:

Simple camera mount in use

I had to remove one of the Cateye mounts, remove the light from the other one and there is no quick way to remove the camera, but it worked surprisingly well. However the camera wasn’t quite level, partly due to the shape of my handlebars and partly because the tripod mount on the camera isn’t centred.

I have another old mount of the same type, so a new version I am thinking of is to use both mounts, one of each side of the stem, with a horizontal bar in between. The camera is then mounted onto the bar. As well as better distributing the weight of the camera it would also keep it level with the handlebars. The bar might also provide a place to attach a quick release for the camera.

Enough about the mount. What about the camera?

For the first two thirds of the ride I had the S45 attached. It was on all of the time and when I saw something interesting coming up I would reach over and press the shutter. I ended up with almost 200 photos, most of which are ok, even if they aren’t necessary showing anything interesting. I also tried out the video function which worked nicely except that it is only 320×240 at 15 frames a second for a maximum time of 3 minutes.

For the last third of the ride I had the Flip video camera mounted and after reviewing the video I can see that it isn’t suitable for this purpose as the vibrations coming up from the path surface are seen as distortions in the video. In contract the video from the S45 is shaky, but each individual frame is fine.

Aparat from the cost of the Flip I am not that concerned as I prefer to have photos of the ride at a much higher resolution than a video camera would give. Instead of reaching over to press the shutter I am thinking of two methods to take a photos automatically:

  • A firmware enhancement such as CHDK that provides an intervalometer function.
  • Wiring up a timer of some kind to the camera that mimics pressing the shutter.

I shall see how things go.

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A new (old) camera

Friday, September 12th, 2008 at 8:12 pm

For the next two months I won’t have my little digital camera, it will be travelling Europe with my parents. I won’t miss the camera, except for when I go for rides. Which I am planning to do a few of in the coming weekends.

Since it’s not practical to take my 400D and the camera in my iPhone isn’t good enough for what I want I ressurected an idea I had when I first mused about taking photos while riding: buy a secondhand camera to mount to the bike instead of the camera I bought new.

So I started watching eBay for cheap, but working cameras, even bidding on a couple. I ended up bidding on, and then winning, a Canon S45. There wasn’t any postage costs either as it was literally around the corner so I walked around to pick it up.

I have two thoughts about how to mount it:

  • the simplest being to attach the mount from an old Cateye light to the tripod mount on the camera and then slotting that onto the brackets used for one of my lights
  • more complicated is a bracket that holds the camera forward and at the same level of the handlebar, possibly with damping to reduce vibrations

I’m thinking the first one … for now.

(lets not mention the Flip video camera that I have also been meaning to mount, but that would be more suited for the second option)

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SLR shutter mechanism in slow motion

Friday, September 5th, 2008 at 11:10 pm

(Normally I don’t post links like this, but this was just too impressive not to…)

Thanks to Gizmodo I found out about a photo sequence of the Nikon D3 shutter mechanism. The original site was down by the time I found out about it, but this animation of the sequence is well worth looking at.

In the final night of the Digital SLR course that I did recently, the teacher explained how the shutter really worked with the mirror lifting up and the two metal curtains that were what really controlled the exposure. I couldn’t really picture it. But now I don’t just have to imagine it, there is an animation.

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The digital SLR course ended last week

Monday, September 1st, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Last Monday was the last week of the digital SLR course that I was doing with David. After covering long exposures we covered exposure, perspective, depth of field and (not) using the flash. From this I have added some more photos to the Flickr set.

These include the stereotypical flower for depth of field:

Small DOF (28mm 1/250s f/1.8)

double exposure using an external flash twice in a long exposure:

Long exposure - flash x 2

and using long exposure again, but with a moving sparkler and the external flash:

Long exposure - Sparklers and flash (1)

I would recommend the course to anyone.

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Three weeks into the digital SLR course

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Last night was the third week of the digital SLR course, and this time we were outside taking long exposures:

Long exposure traffic - Fire truck

If you look carefully you can see the fire truck.

On the second week we were assigned some homework to get photos of moving water and to do some panning which David and I went out to get on Saturday afternoon down at Dandenong Creek. At 3 seconds the water flowing around the rocks looked more like fog than water:

Moving water (3s f/32)

More photos can be found in a Flickr set and I will be adding to it as the course proceeds.

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Canon vs Nikon

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Back when I started thinking about getting a digital SLR camera my choice was between a Canon and a Nikon.

Last night I started a seven week digital SLR course over at Box Hill TAFE. This was actually David’s (who I host ride-extravaganza.com for) idea as he also has a digital SLR, specifially a Nikon D80.

I don’t expect to learn much on the theoretical side, which is what happened last night as it confirmed what I had read or heard from people about apertures and shutter speeds. Practical techniques should be another matter, both from the exercises (some of which are outside with a tripod for long exposures) and from the teacher’s 20 year experience.

What does this have to do with a choice between Canon and Nikon?

Almost of the people I know with a digital SLR have a Canon, the others being two Nikons and an Olympus. From this and what I had seen online I expected this distribution to continue at the course. I was mistaken.

There are ten students in the course; five Nikons, four Canons and a single Olympus. The teacher even commented that not that long ago that Canon dominated (out of 15 students max) with only a couple of non-Canon cameras in each course.

Something that could be indicitive of the recent rise of Nikon (in the type of people taking this course) is that four of the five Nikon’s were the D80 with a single D40x. On the other hand the Canon’s were all different; a handled down 350D, my 400D, a brand new 450D (nice and shiny) and a 40D (even nicer and more shiny).

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A faster 28mm lens

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008 at 9:21 pm

I got another lens today. A secondhand Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM that I intend to use instead of the 28mm f/2.8 that has proved to be quite good for candid shots in low light.

The f/1.8 lens should perform much better, both in that it can let through more light and that the ultrasonic motor will mean it will focus faster and more accurately.

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Two different 50mm lenses

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Last week contained both a Perl Mongers meeting and a Web Standards Group meeting. I have just finished sorting through the photos I took and have uploaded the best (not so much for WSG) to Flickr.

Wednesday night was Perl Mongers at a new location, across the road from Federation Square. Wes brought along his 50mm f/1.4 lens which is a significant improvement over the 50mm f/1.8 lens that I had used previously.

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Melbourne Perl Mongers (May 2008) – a set on Flickr

(That raspberry wheat beer was very popular…)

On the Thursday night was a WSG meeting, tied in with the Web Directions South conference, where I was back to borrowing the 50mm f/1.8 lens. There was hardly any light and the lens (and camera) really struggled.

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Web Standards Group (May 2008) – a set on Flickr

While most of the photos look ok when small, some are really bad when the large versions are viewed. Adjusting the light levels just made it worse.

The upshot of all this is that I have more practical experience with different lenses and I now know that in the situation where a 50mm lens (on a crop body) is suitable, I should really get the f/1.4 over the f/1.8. A pity about the massive price difference.

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Another try of the 50mm lens at WSG Melbourne

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Last night I went to the April Web Standards Group meeting where Gerry Gaffney talked about how users really search and John Allsopp talked about the web away from the desktop, in particular on mobile devices.

But that isn’t really what I want to talk about.

In a repeat of the recent Perl Mongers meeting I borrowed a co-workers 50mm f/1.8 lens. This time I kept the lens on my camera all night as it was working really well.

At the venue there was hardly any light but I was able to get some shots:

Gerry Gaffney on How Users Really Search
Downlight above Gerry, reflection from the projected image and light from the laptop screen.

John Allsopp on The Web Beyond The Desktop
John was directly lit by the projector, downlight for the background.

Post talk drinks
Light from behind the bar.

In this case the narrow angle of view at the 50mm turned out to be what was needed as I was able to take these photos from the other side of the room. It is definitely something to consider in my future lens choice.

One other change I made was that instead of having the camera in aperture priority with it wide open, I had it in shutter priority at (mostly) 1/25 second in order to freeze action with the intention of lightening the photos later if they were a bit too dark. It turns out that I only needed to do that to one photo that had nowhere near enough light.

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Trying out a lens at the new Perl Mongers location

Sunday, April 20th, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Wednesday week ago, Melbourne Perl Mongers was held at a new location in Southbank followed by dinner and drinks at the Town Hall Hotel in South Melbourne.

This afternoon I finally got around to sorting through the photos and uploading a select few to flickr:

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Melbourne Perl Mongers (April 2008) – a set on Flickr

For the night I borrowed what a co-worker refers to as his “nifty fifty”, a 50mm f/1.8 lens. This is a pretty cheap and inexpensive lens, so I wanted to try one out before getting one. This was also my first opportunity to use my new camera bag, a Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home.

I found that f/1.8 is a big improvement over the f/2.8 of my 28mm lens, but being 50mm it is too narrow which meant I didn’t use it for much of the night.

When talking to Wes I found that even though he has the better 50mm f/1.4 lens, he is finding that it is too narrow and is thinking about the faster 28mm lens.

That Canon 28mm f/1.8 lens is very temping as it gives a ‘normal’ angle of view on a crop body and is nice and fast due to its wide aperture. It also doesn’t hurt that it it a USM lens as the motor in the 28mm f/2.8 is slow and loud. What would hurt is the price and that it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as available secondhand as the f/2.8 is.

I had also lined up a Speedlite 430EX flash to borrow for the night but that fell through at the last minute because its owner had to make a decision between catching the body or the flash before they encountered the floor. The flash is what ended up breaking.

This coming Wednesday is a Web Standards Group meeting which will give me another opportunity to experiment in low light.

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A walk-around lens

Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at 9:17 pm

The kit lens from my digital SLR is a Canon 18-55mm lens. As well as the quality not being the best (I am far from alone in that opinion) it doesn’t have the zoom range that I want for a general purpose walk-around lens.

A few weeks ago I went into Luna Park with David to take some photos. For this I borrowed Hamish’s Canon 28-90mm lens (that he has since sold) and the extra length was good. However 28mm just wasn’t wide enough.

Last week I went to the Steamrail open weekend (repeating last year with a better camera) and this time I took along Hamish’s Sigma 18-125mm lens (that he has has his main lens). Although this is both longer and shorter than the 28-90mm, it is the shorter length that I used the most.

From a number of options I has narrowed down my choice to the Canon 17-85mm IS lens and for the past two weeks I have been monitoring eBay. After bidding on a few listings, last night I was the winning bidder for the lens, a hood and two UV filters for half what they would all cost new and consistent with the final price of other listings. Fortunately the seller (from the other side of the city) was coming my way and they delivered it today.

I knew it was physically bigger than the 18-55mm kit lens, but until I had handled it I hadn’t realised how much. Compared to my 28mm it is massive:

Canon EF 28mm and EF-S 17-85mm IS lenses

This difference means that the case I got a few weeks ago is now not big enough for this lens, and it is a bit too big if I have the 28mm on. Maybe I should have got a slightly smaller bag for when I will just have the 28mm (such as the upcoming Pub Standards meeting) and a bigger bag to take the camera with 17-85mm attached and the 28mm in a pocket.

That photo above of the two lenses was taken against some off-white paper (slightly larger than A3) curved up against the wall and with a business card to bounce the flash off the (white) ceiling. So it didn’t look dull I had to adjust the fill light in Picasa which resulted in it being a bit grainy. That is why I need to make a lightbox. Decent external lights (flash or floodlights), the camera on a tripid and controlling it via software would be a massive improvement.

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The first Pub Mongers

Thursday, March 13th, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Due to venue issues, there was no Melbourne Perl Mongers last night. Instead there was a ‘Pub Mongers’, sort of the same thing except entirely at the pub with no planned talks.

But that didn’t stop Paul:

Paul using his portable presentation device

Pub Mongers (March 2008) – a photoset on Flickr.

One other change is that I didn’t bother taking my laptop along as the most I have used it for at a meeting for a long time is making a note of something to look up later. What I did take along was my good camera.

I only took along the kit 18-55mm lens (instead of the 28mm F2.8 lens I also have) as I still haven’t got a better walkaround lens (looking at a EF-S 17-85mm IS lens on eBay). This still gave me some experience in pretty bad light so hopefully things will only improve.

Continuing my plan on going to as many community events as I can I should be repeating this next week at Pub Standards Melbourne.

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The other choice is also superceded

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Following on from Canon releasing the 450D a few days ago, Nikon has released the D60 as a replacement for the D40x. So, even if I had chosen the Nikon, it too would now be superceded.

It was hard choosing between the Canon 400D and the Nikon D40x. In the end it was only the lack of an AF motor in the body of the D40x, severely limiting the lens choices, that made my choice.

What about chosing between the 450D and the D60? Based on what I have seen in the feature listings, the 450D is now the easy choice.

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Superceded

Thursday, January 24th, 2008 at 11:11 pm

I have just seen the news that, just one month after getting it, my 400D has been superceded. By the 450D.

While some of the features such as live view might be cool, the only difference I can see in my brief look through the changes that would matter would be the change from compact flash to SD cards for storage. I could have gotten another card with built in USB connector instead of getting a small CF card reader.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the price of the 400D. Some places currently have it on special. But still for more than I got it for.

As for those who would say I should have waited: There was talk that a new model would be released soon, but if you keep waiting for the new model, you will be waiting forever.

(And despite it being announced today, the 450D will not be available until April, at least two and a bit months away.)

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I now have a digital SLR camera

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Earlier in the week I decided that I had thought about a Digital SLR camera enough. After all I had borrowed Hamish’s Canon EOS 300D, borrowed David’s Nikon D80, and read through countless articles and reviews.

Of the Canon EOS 400D and the Nikon D40x (which the reviewers couldn’t decide between) I was initially leaning towards the Nikon for a couple of reasons:

  • I could get it with the 18-135 lens that I really liked when using it on David’s D80.
  • It was a fraction more comfortable to hold compared to the Canon (very briefly with the display models in a shop).
  • It used an SD card, not compact flash. I like being able to just pull the card (with built in USB connector that I got this time last year) out of my current camera and just plug it into an available USB port.

There was however one huge drawback with the Nikon. The D40x (and D40) do not have a focusing motor in the body. For autofocus you must use a lens with a built-in motor which severely reduces the lens options. As I didn’t want to pay more for the D80 or opt for the older D70s (at a similar price to the D40x) I chose the Canon.

And this morning I got it.

Instead of my usual sleep in on a Saturday morning, I got up at a reasonable time and headed out to Knox as there were four shops (JB, Dick Smith, Teds and Harvey Norman) within close proximity and I knew they were on special at three of them, some for a better price than others. After checking out JB (their price was the second cheapest, by AU$15) I was walking around to Dick Smith and I passed Retravision.

I wondered if they had cameras. So I went in. And they had it (400D twin lens kit) for even less than the other four shops, and they still had two (one being the display model) black ones in stock. After doing some other shopping I came back and bought it AND a 4GB CF card for a price that was still less than the other stores. It really does pay to shop around, and not just online.

Coincidentally there was an eBay auction for the Canon 28mm f/2.8 lens that finished this afternoon. With myself as the winning bidder for a reasonable price. The seller is also located in Melbourne so I might even be able to pick it up today. If not today then in time to use it on christmas day.

I still need to get:

  • A small USB 2.0 CF reader
  • A protective sticker for the LCD display
  • A bag/case.

I really should thank Hamish as I am leeching off the research he did…

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Playing around with a digital SLR

Friday, September 21st, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Further to my thoughts about getting a digital SLR camera I have borrowed Hamish’s Canon EOS 300D. In particular his 28mm f/2.8 lens for candid shots in low light without needing the flash.

Tonight we had a family dinner and during the evening I took over 500 photos, almost all of which were of my nephews. The large number was thanks to continuous mode which allowed me to capture interesting actions and expressions. Looking through the photos later it appears that there is only one good photo from each burst. However, that still results in a fair number of good photos.

Something that worked out well for some photos and not so good for others was my decision to attempt to select a appropriate white balance setting:

  • The kitchen has fluorescent lights and the fluorescent setting worked out very well.
  • The dining room has a single incandescent light and with the incandescent setting the photos are slightly yellow. But that could be expected as there isn’t much light in that room.
  • The lounge has compact fluorescent lamps but I was using the incandescent setting. It was only when I was reviewing the photos later that I saw that all of these ones had a green tinge.

For a while now I have been using Picasa as a way of browsing through all my photos. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the automatic colour adjustment did a very good job of removing the green tinge and the fill light control is good for lightening up the photos that are a bit dark.

So, apart from some mistakes that experience should eliminate, using a digital SLR was worth it.

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Thinking about a digital SLR camera

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Early last year I chose convenience in my choice for a digital camera. This has allowed me to have it with me almost all the time, including being readily accessible while out riding.

Ever since one friend got a secondhand Canon EOS 300D and another got a new Nikon D80 I have been thinking about getting a digital SLR of my own. What impressed me was the speed and sensitivity of the camera, in particular in low light without using a flash and an appropriate lens.

The other area I would appreciate an SLR is in taking photos for my computer collection. It would give me much greater control of the photos and also allow me to rely less on the flash (although better lighting would also do that).

So what would I get?

I’m not yet sure. Over the last couple of days I have been reading up on two cameras that are at a similar price point:

The Canon is much more popular and there seems to be a much availablity of lenses for it. Also, the Canon has now been out for over a year and should be replaced in arond six months, while the Nikon has only been out for a few months. I don’t know how this affects any decision I make.

I suppose my next step is to go to some camera stores and have a look at them in person. It would also be interesting to see what the salesperson “recommends”.

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Handlebar pouch for camera

Sunday, March 18th, 2007 at 6:05 pm

Two weeks ago I mused about taking photos while riding. Last week I picked up a small camera pouch from a computer swap meet for the grand sum of AU$5 with an eye to mounting it on the handlebars of my bike.

Earlier in the week I modified the pouch to remove and extra bit of padding that actually made it more difficult to fit my camera (which is one of the smallest…) and today was the maiden voyage one my ride out to Endeavour Hills and back.

How did it go? Excellent as I was able to take a lot more photos that I normally would. It also gave me a location to store a map of where I was riding, given that I folded it up pretty small. My next action is to make a more secure mount as I don’t quite trust the velcro on the belt loop, at minimum I will add a backup connection to ensure that the pouch doesn’t go far if the velcro lets go.

And here it is (follow the link to flickr to see notes):

What's on my handlebars

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Taking photos while riding

Sunday, March 4th, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Ever since I got my camera I have had it with me almost all of the time, either in a pocket, in the top of my backpack or in my laptop bag. When I am riding, such as commuting or rides such as this afternoon, I rarely take photos as it is a hassle to stop, release two clips, swing it around, and unzip the top of my backpack in order to get to the camera.

For a few weeks now I have been considering getting another pouch for the camera to attach to the handlebars of my bike, the headstem in particular. This would make the camera readily accessible. Instead of stopping I could even take the riskier path of actually taking the photos without stopping.

As well as taking photos of landmarks or interesting things I have also been thinking about documenting my commute as has been done by others, and they are just some local ones.

What about taking it further?

Some time ago I found an article about building a simple camera mount. There are other homemade solutions as well as options you can buy but for me they all have the same issue. The view is fixed to be ahead of the bike. What if you want to take a photo of something else?

The next step is to consider recording video instead of taking still photos. As well as homemade options there are commercial options targeted as pretty much any action sport. But whatever option you take it seems that the cost is non-trivial which eliminates it as an option for me.

So what is the outcome of all of this? I’m going to look for a suitable pouch or small bag that I can attach to the side of my headstem. This should only set me back at most AU$20…

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Lose some, win some

Monday, December 18th, 2006 at 7:29 pm

The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh that I spotted on eBay last week finished today. I was the winning bidder for a few seconds and it ended up going for over AU$1000, a few hundred more than I was willing to pay.

On the bright side my order of television DVDs arrived today after a long wait:

This adds up to over a hundred hours of viewing. I hope I get through them by March.

I also bought myself a new SD card for my camera. As well as doubling the capacity the 2GB SanDisk Ultra II Plus card that I got has a built in USB connector. This means that I can easily copy photos off (or other files onto) the card on any computer with a USB port.

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Convenience narrowly wins

Friday, April 28th, 2006 at 7:25 pm

A few weeks ago I rambled on about getting my own digital camera. A few days ago I made a decision and as of this afternoon I have a Canon IXUS 60 with 1GB memory card and leather pouch to do with as I please. As it is smaller than my wallet, even in its pouch, I have absolutely no excuse to not have it with me at all times. Finding suitable things to photograph will be the next challenge and after that will be a convenient mechanism to publish them.

One thing I didn’t realise about this camera is that it lacks the remote capture features that both my parents camera (PowerShot S45) and my other finalist (PowerShot S80) have. I do have to say that I have never taken advantage of that and the last time I saw someone do so was a few years ago for a time lapse of our last lan party…

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Convenience versus quality

Sunday, April 16th, 2006 at 10:53 pm

For some time now I have been thinking about getting my own digital camera instead of simply borrowing my parents camera, a Canon PowerShot S45. Although it is now a few years old it is still a good camera and except in low (or no) light (were a tripod should probably help) I have been very pleased with the quality of the photos. The biggest problem I have is that it is not my camera and if both my parents and I want to use it they win out.

When I was thinking along these lines a few months ago I was tempted to get the current version of it, the eight megapixel PowerShot S80. My current thinking has been altered by two things: that a couple of people of work have ultra compact cameras such as the Canon IXUS 60 and how impressive the photos posted to forums such as the Victoria forum on SkyScraperCity that are taken with digital SLR cameras. However there is no reason I could even come close to justifying that kind of expense.

This leaves me with two options:

  • A good camera that is no bigger than my wallet which makes it extreemly convenient to carry around (eg the IXUS 600 for AU$460); or
  • A better camera that is bigger which makes is less convenient (eg the PowerShot S80 for $680);

Since both of these options are an improvement on the camera that I currently have access to my current inclination is to go for the more convenient (and cheaper) option and see how much I do use it…

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