Tuesday, 31 March 2009

the Panasonic G1 (brief review and impressions)

Well my G1 has arrived and I'm happy to say that it has totally met, my built up and maybe unrealistic expectations.

One of the major ones I had of the camera was for its physical size (NB compact). I've scoured the websites which have comparisons (such as dpreview) of this and other cameras. From that I'd been able to get a rough comparison of sizes by looking at the images from them (such as the one I've used before to the left here) resizing them based on their dimensions and overlaying them.

Not having a G1 in any shops around me its hard to get one in my hands and get a feel for it. Just holding one makes understanding things much easier. Its very compact!

So now that I've finally got one I've been able to use it hold it and take some pictures of and with it. Here they are together on my desk.

Here you can see the fully exposed sensor as well as the focusing screen in the moving mirror of the 10D. The G1 looks a little more compact, but 2 dimensional images are deceptive.

comparedSo I took this pair of pictures on my kitchen scales (for a constant reference) and merged them into a morphing animation. I think it shows well not only the size difference but the weight difference. I put my EF 50 lens on the 10D as this is about the same weight as the "kit" EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens which often comes with cameras like Canon and has the same "effective focal lengths" as the kit lens on the G1. (note: both are image stabilized which is very nice thank you!)

This comparison shows up that the Canon 10D (which is more or less exactly the same as the 20D, 30D 40D and 50D) is really quite a chunk beside the little G1.

Yep, and as you can read on the scales the 10D weighs just over 1Kg while the G1 around 0.64Kg, this is with both having a battery in and a media card ready to roll.

Worse for me is that the 10D can not use the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (although later models like 20D can) and I use instead the Tokina 12-24 lens as my normal lens. This is a really nice wide angle lens, but its rather bulky weighing in at 560g and bringing my camera to 1.4Kg.

Here is a picture of my nikon Coolpix (which is almost exactly the same size as the G1) beside the 10D with the Tokin on it. I loved the images I got in India with my 10D and this lens, but I really didn't like carrying the brick around my neck.

Not only is the G1 much lighter (nearly half) but its considerably smaller and thiner in all directions. Using the G1 makes me feel like I've got my Pentax MX back in my hands again (if you don't know the MX, it stamped compact as being possible on professional 35mm SLR when it was released in the late 70's).

In fact, my film EOS 630 (which I still have after 17 years of use) is more compact in my hands and feels better than any of the digitals I've used before this G1. The 630 was quite a camera when it was released, with the fastest AF in the business and 5 frames per second motor drive. Strangely I've always thought that the digitals were 'bulky' for what they were (even more so when you add something like the BG-ED3 grip to theses cameras. Perhaps it might be a nice fantasy to have a "big chunk" to look like a professional, but I'm willing to bet many professionals would be happier if their 1Ds was more compact.

If a camera has to be bulky, then fine, but I don't love bulk for bulks sake. The Imaging Resource also have some excellent images comparing the G1 to the even smaller Canon Rebels here.

I recommend reading that review in fact, they have a different style to DPReview and present different and interesting information. For example they have this diagram demonstrating just how much depth the camera saves by not having a moving mirror and an optical light path.

At the prices these cameras seem to be selling for I can only say that its well worth getting one.

While I have really liked my 10D (and there is still nothing wrong with it), after using the G1 for a few days I am very much sold on the lightness and image quality. It is so good that it competes with the Canon 40D and 50D quite evenly. I encourage you to download the DPReview test images for the 50D here and for the Lumix G1 here.

View Finders

quite a lot seems to be discussed about electronic view finders on cameras, but it seems to me that many have really no basis to compare anything with anything. Before I started using 35mm SLR cameras (yes, film ones) I used 35mm range finder cameras. I liked SLR cameras because they offered a way to be sure that what you were seeing in the viefinder was actually what you were taking (no parallax issues). However they were rather difficult to tell if you were exactly focused on subjects (especailly when its a little dim) compared to range finder cameras (like the Leica or Nikon range finders). This is especially an issue when using zoom lenses which aren't very bright (like f4.5 or 5.6) compared to nice prime lenses like the EF50 f1.8

With the advent of effective auto-focus (AF) systems I can honestly say that most of the time I simply rely on it as most optical viewfinders are simpy too small for critical focus.

My first digital camera with a swivel body was the Nikon Coolpix 950. After being able to view through the lens from any angle I wanted I was sold, I could never go back to only peeping through a small hole in the back of the camera.

Better yet, the display screen of a digital camera provides us with immediate exposure and compositional information on the image we've just taken. Digital camera screens are nice but suffer from difficulty of actually seeing what's being displayed when you're outdoors in full sunlight, and this is where the electronic view finder "EVF" of the G1 simply rocks. Compared with any other EVF I've ever used this one is the largest and most detailed. So, if you're a digital camera chimping kind of user you'll love the G1 because when using the EVF in bright light you don't need to chimp its there instantly.

None of these advanced features is available with a plain optical view finder as on cameras like the EOS series.

Worse, on the cheaper models the optical viewfinder is so small dark and pokey its frankly an insult to anyone who's used a proper SLR before. Do yourself a favor, go visit a second hand shop and pick up any decent Japanese film SLR from the 70's you find, look through the view finder and compare it to the dim small thing (search on penta-mirror) that are found on "starter" DSLRs like the 350D, 450D or even Nikons D60.

Once upon a time big bright viewfinders where what people sought ... now its just "DSLR" without any idea as to why.

Whats not to like?

well, first cab off the rank is battery. Why do makers continue to shaft us with one-off orphan batteries and charge ridiculous prices for them. At the moment a battery is 89 Euro or over US$100. I feel so strongly about this that f I had been thinking about it in the beginning I would have avoided buying the camera. Seriously I feel that strongly about it. For years I avoided any digital camera that didn't have AA batteries simply because the proprietary Li-ION battery's are annoying:
  • don't last as long as AA NiMH batteries
  • are often way more expensive
  • require you to have a specific charger for each camera (I now have 3, one for a Canon, another for a Nikon and one more for this Panasonic). A friend has 2 canon IXUS camera's and each has its own charger and battery.
  • do not allow you to go "whoops I forgot to charge the camera while on the way to a camping trip / wedding / party and thus you have no options for buying disposable

Next, well lens selection really, though this is a two way street (if you don't mind used manual focus lenses via an adaptor) and not an absolute as some people are buying these cameras because they can use other lenses.

The camera comes with a 14-45mm lens, this is about 28-90mm in good old 35mm world and is 90% of what I'd like to have (and almost exactly what comes with my Coolpix 5000 as well as most compact digital cameras). I've used cameras for quite some time now and to be honest this represents 99% of what I like. In fact with 35mm I often use only either a 24mm or 50mm fixed focal length lens.

Certainly for a working professional this may be an issue (depending on what you do with the camera), but for many folks I wonder just how significant it really is? In fact these days I prefer to use a less extreme wide lens for landscapes and stitch. This image for instance was made with a moderate wide angle lens and stitched together (using PTGui) from 4 images. This gives so many more pixels that a 50cm wide prints looks magnificent above my desk (and I'd need a vastly more expensive camera to achieve it without stitching).


Because this system is slightly different to the regular 4/3rds system it needs an adaptor to use their lenses and will not work fully compatibly with them either. Panasonic publishes a list of compatible lenses here, and reading it seems a little disappointing with almost all of the telephoto lenses operating in manual focus mode only and many having compatiblity listed as "NG" (which seems to be technical for unworkable).

But its not all grim, as the micro 4/3rds offers the ability to interface with many older (and beautiful to use) manual focus lenses. Such is the interest in these cameras that there are already options out there for adaptors. I've just bought one and an FD 300 f4 myself. I've paid about US$75 for the adaptor and about US$300 for the lens.

bird buttholeIf you've ever taken wildlife photographs much you'll know that AF can be annoying (bird goes out of AF spot and paf .. focus goes nuts .. while trying to recover you miss any good shots) and if you've ever used (or grew up on) older manual focus lenses you'll know that the build quality and focus feel is just beautiful. You'll need to spend thousands of dollars to buy (say) Canon EF 300mm L series lenses to equal them.

Even better, the smaller sensor means that my FD 300mm lens will more or less turn out to be a 600mm lens on the little G1, for birds thats fantastic as in the past I needed to either use a tele-converter (which degrades image quality) or buy a longer lens (which degrades my bank balance).

I will be posting more on how this lens works out when I get it.

anyway ... that's all for now, check back later for more details on how its going :-)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

digital camera evolution

Some things seem to be coming together at the moment in digital cameras to perhaps give us something many of us have been looking for in a digital camera; compact and high quality.

Readers of my blog will know that I value a compact camera for hiking and that I also like images of high enough quality that I don't feel tempted to be dragging along my 4x5 camera.

I've been very keen to see results of the new Panasonic G1 as a great light weight camera for hiking that doesn't have the bulk of the traditional DSLR.

Reading the latest tests on DPReview for this camera make it clear that it makes images which at may rival full frame DSLR's such as the 5D. I can wel understand why some people may be skeptical, so I thought I'd put together a few views on "how can it be so".

There are some points which need to be considered in understanding how digital cameras are presently and how they may be (without technology changes) for example:
  • resolution of DSLR cameras is often sensor limited (meaning higher density will reveal more of what the existing lenses can produce
  • manufacturing sensor density is already at its peak (particularly in the case of compact cameras)

many of the APS sensor DSLR cameras (and some of the full frame ones) were until quite recently limited in how good their images can be due to the limits of the sensor. Even full frame cameras like the 5D which can record about 50 lp/mm still don't record what the best lenses will produce. So your camera may not be able to record the image quality that the lenses can deliver. A quick peek at DPReview will show that with the same lenses images from (for example) the Canon APS series (10D, 20D, 40D, 50D) have been showing more and more details as sensor density increases.

This means we need higher packing density than the DSLR's are giving.

So, how high density can we have on our sensors?

Well right now have the ability to pack very high, with (especially compact) digital cameras being so high that we are hitting limits. The problem is that the photo-sensors are now getting so small (due to packing density) that this is effectively a limiting factor because they are not getting enough light hitting them (compare a bucket in the rain vs a thimble, while the thimble won't get filled the bucket will perhaps get a deeper amount of water in it than the height of the thimble).

So after sensor densities get higher than a certain size the amount of noise gets higher than you would want. So there comes a trade off point where you can't pack them any more and to get images of higher quality you need to get a bigger sensor.

Where might that be?

Now, when it comes to low noise images my old 3 Megapixel Coolpix 990 was pretty good, and my Coolpix 5000 at 5 Megapixles was good too. But my Canon A520 which is newer produces noisy images which are dreadful. Its interesting to note that the A520 has a much smaller sensor and thus a higher pixel density than the Coolpix.

So this gives us a kind of empirical measure of the limits. The A520 is about 16 MP/cm² in packing density while the Coolpix 5000 is more like 5 MP/cm².

Some time ago I wrote a page about image noise in digital cameras, in this article I explored the issue of image size vs sensor size as well as that of image noise comes from JPG processing over RAW post processed on a PC images. In that page I suggested that as :

.. the camera image sensor sizes are:

CP5000 sensor size = (8.80 x 6.60 mm) with an image size of 2560 x 1920 pixels
20D sensor size = (22.5 x 15.0 mm) with an image size of 3504 x 2336 pixels

This gives the CP something like 290 pixels per mm of sensor and the 20D about 156 pixels per mm of sensor.

Following this 'calculation' I guesstimate that for a sensor the same size as the 20D could get (22.5 x 290) x (15 x 290 ) = 6525 X 4350 pixel area if packed to the density of the CP5000.That's about 28 Megapixels.

So if you take this that I felt that at 5 MP/cm2 5000 was a reasonable upper limit of packing density VS noise tolerance. This means you could make an APS sized sensor DSLR's that would make images equal in per pixel quality to the Coolpix 5000 as big as as 28 megapixels.

Given that the Canon 50D is already 15 megapixels I don't think this metric is out in space cadet world.

So where should we go from here?

This is where my present highly desired camera (the Panasonic G1) comes in. Sitting nicely in the middle of the balance of compact size / smaller sensor / reasonable packing density. It has enough size to allow big photo sites and high enough packing density to make use of high resolution lenses.

With a 10Megapixel output, and a packing density of around 5 MP/cm2 its not that far from the latest Canon 50D (which works out to be 4.5 MP/cm2), yet its all in a nice compact device which weighs less than 1/2 the 50D.

To the left I put this into a table to show the increases over successive models.

Looking at this table the G1 produces nearly the same number of pixels as the 5D and with 4 times the packing density should be able to reveal more of the details captured by the lenses.

Now, of course there are still has many advantages in the bigger and denser sensor, for example there are now some some pretty hot processing applied to push its high ISO performance to 6400 ISO (and wow, isn't that hot! think for a minute regular film is 100, 200 or 400. 800 used to be as grainy as all shit. 1600 was barely usable and I've never even heard of anyone using 3200 or 6400 in film). But how many of us want to process 21Megapixel images or spend $8000 to get it? Maybe sometimes, but seriously it really consumes memory and resources and I can get a 6x12 120 for much less.

Getting back to the comparison of the G1 with the 5D, it still has a lower density than my older compacts (so noise should be acceptable) and we can also expect that will make images which should be clearer the 5D because it can make better use of higher resolution lenses than the 5D can.

To give a comparative feel here the G1 sensor is a wee bit smaller than APS (the rectancle in green) and about 1/2 the size of 35mm (width or height) making it heaps cheaper to make than the 35mm.

So this (in my opinion) adds up to what we see: a cameras being significantly smaller than APS cameras (like my 10D), having ability to resolve more from the lenses and with a low price point.

I think that the Panasonic G1 is at about that sweet spot between the highest density for resolution and noise. The only way to get better will be to put in a bigger sensor.

I'll go out on a limb here and say: without a major paradigm shift in technology I think we're pretty close to the limits of technology and won't see much in change from this point ... for the next few years at least.

Monday, 16 March 2009

chruch of the magnificat (at Lohja)

I quite like Avo Pärt's works (especially the Magnificat). Years ago when I first listened to those haunting beautiful choral works (and reading the CD liner notes) I never thought I would be able to walk into that chruch ... after all ... Finland seemed so far away from Australia.

Well ... as I'm now in Finland and we were in Helsinki with time on our hands I thought we'd stop by and look at it.

From the outside its an interestingly different church architecture for Finland (which is largely wooden churches and Lutheran). However this church dates from the the middle ages (around the 15th Century) when Finland was in the "Swedish Period" of occupation.

The most magnificent thing about the building (apart from its acoustics) are its interior artworks of early medieval Christianity.

Its stunning.

What I particularly like is the depictions of early Christian stories interwoven with daemons and other creatures of mythology. In some cases the accounts of what appear to be the apostles show what seems to be different numbers of followers to the commonly accepted numbers.

Anyway I'll leave you with a few inteirior shots which will say more about the Church of St Lawerence than I can.

each ceiling segment is richly decorated ... you could spend hours there just looking at the art works

as a note, lighting and colour temperature are a nightmare if you don't use special techniques (eg the image below for a dodge and burn nightmare and above for use of HDRI to smooth out lighting differences)

Friday, 13 March 2009

Noritsu vs Nikon LS-IV ED

Some time ago I photographed an event using Negative (as I prefer it over slide for prints). As my scanner was in Australia (and I was in Finland) I opted to get the images from the negatives placed on to a CD at the time.

Now what I didn't know was that the local mini lab that processed my film was using a Noritsu for the scanning or that they'd scanned it at their highest resolution. I was pretty impressed with the results, although I didn't have an objective comparison.

Last week I finally got my hands on a Nikon Coolscan LS-IV and after spending a week coming to grips with operating it (and I've already spent some several years using other scanners including older Nikons, Epson flatbeds, HP S20 scanners ...) I thought I should turn my hand to comparing it to what I got from the Noritsu.

So, here is an overview of the scene

Now a 100% pixel crop from the Noritsu

and a 100% pixel crop from the Nikon LS-IV

I don't know what you think, but I think its not bad at all.

Actually to even get them this close I had to
  • scan with the Nikon set to scan a positive (so I could set the levels less agressively than it does)
  • put on ICE to cover some developing / handling marks on the film
  • adjust the colour and pay attention to colour profiles

So, for less than 10 bucks at the time of developing VS spending money on a scanner and time scanning (don't under estimate that part) the Noritsu service simply kicks!

What I want to know is, with such outstanding results available for next to nothing why they aren't plugging this service more!

I'll say that whatever the advantages of digital are, one of the disadvantages is that you need to be able to store your files and be able to find them again. This is the greatest weakness of the digital camera system for most "ordinary folks".

Why? well I can't count how many times I have heard friends, relatives or neighbors tell me their computer crashed and they lost all their files (often including digital camera images). With this system you get
  • a CD of your images (to keep as a back-up)
  • your negatives (to keep as a back up)
I just don't understand why this sort of service (which they have already developed) is being left to languish when it certainly adds value to peoples film cameras and gets their images into the digital domain as painlessly as possible.

try it!

snouts in the trough

I was reading the paper again this morning (why do I keep doing that?) and came across this pearl, about the ANZ happily taking Australian Federal Government Funding with one hand while happily signing off the sacking of 500 staff (probably many of them IT workers) to have their jobs outsourced to Bangalore India.

Some of the more salient points:

So not only will the jobs go, but also the data and data handling techniques too. Its 'comforting' to see that the call center jobs (those which are the least skilled and most frustrating for the workers) will stay in Australia.

With so little to sell and to enhance our economy we seem content to set ourselves up as being nothing more than the front desk and house maid service providers.

Lovely ... thanks ANZ ... now I know why my family has closed all its accounts with you.

Is it any wonder that for centuries caricatures of bankers and the banking industry have been represented by pigs in the satire response to social events.

I wonder when people will get tired of this.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Nikon IV ED vs Epson Flatbed

The aim of this article is to compare the LS-IV ED with an Epson flatbed scanner (in this case a 4870). Since the Nikon's are still pulling good money on Ebay the Epson's seem quite the bargain (with new V700's costing about what you'll pay for a Nikon LS-V or LS-5000). The reason for this comparison is that many people make decisions on which scanner to buy without much personal experience and by only reading web pages of tests of the devices. So, in this article I'd like to compare one to the other in a variety of ways which I hope will be more meaningful than simply individual machine test results.


As a long time photographer with a quite an amount of 35mm film in my store I have long been interested in scanning my film. My first film scanner was a Nikon LS-20E scanner which scanned 35mm quite nicely at 2700dpi giving files more or less about 3700 x 2700 pixels (or 10 megapixels for those more comfortable with that).

One of the first things which becomes apparent to the newbie in film scanning is just how bloody annoying dust is on the film. Nikon (and others) eventually solved this issue with the ICE technology, while the early implementations were a bit harsh on the image quality the Nikon LS-IV ED (or LS-40) was the first model to do so well at this that I was more than stunned at the results. One thing I'll say for certain up front here is that the ICE on the Nikon scanners works very very well. So if you have anything like fingerprints, dust or even washing streaks on your negatives the Nikons ICE does such a good job that the Epson isn't even usable in comparison.

Having started on Nikons and then moving to Epsons for my 120 and 4x5 film needs I had harbored the notion that the Nikon was a much better scanner for dedicated 35mm work than the Epson. My early comparisons between my much older LS-20 E and my Epson 4870 surprised me so much that I stopped bothering with the Nikon (which is clunky to use) and used my Epson exclusively.

One day I got some time on a friends LS-IV ED and was so impressed by how much better is penetrated the shadows of a particular slide and how well the dust removal worked that I decided that I should get the latest model (the LS-V) or a used LS-4000.

Now that I own an LS-IV ED I have done some more definitive testing, and the results surprised me.

Methods and results:

I'd like to use a segment of film for this test which has been discussed on my blog before (here for instance). I took this with my EOS 630 and an EF 50mm lens when doing side by side testing with my 20D, which can be found here.

After getting used to the Nikon for a few days, I scanned this negative and was immediately surprised that it didn't look any clearer than that obtained by my Epson flatbed. I opened up that image (and also the RAW file from my 20D too) for comparison. Below is a screen grab of that.

Now, don't get stuck on the colour rendition of the Nikon as I didn't do much work on that to match the Epsons (and if you've ever used two scanners you'll know how hard it is to match one negative on two machines), but look at the details, the leaves and the brick work. Now I know that 2900 dpi is not enough to capture what's on 35mm (see my 2002 pages on that here), yet still I was amazed that the difference would be so much.

Especially given that the Nikon is often praised as being able to scan a true 2900 dpi and that the Epson is lambasted for being much less than it is specified to be.

Now, you'll note that the image from the Epson (bottom right) is much larger than the image from the Nikon, this is because it is scanned at 4800dpi while the Nikon is scanned at 2900.

Given that people will read on many photographic forums that the Epson scanners only scan more mush pixels when pressed above 2000 dpi, I think that this clearly shows that there is not borne out by my examination results.

I thought I'd try another negative, and pulled out an old favorite which is also quite a challenging negative (being shot right into the sun). I was so glad I was using Negative for this shot as I'm sure a digital would have needed HDRI to get this...

This was scanned on my Epson 4870 (at 4800dpi then scaled back to 2400dpi) and I think it did a pretty good job. I scanned it today on the Nikon and even tried fiddling with selecting focus points and adjusting manual focus. Its a nice flat negative (thanks to good storage) so I believe that it scans easily.

It is however a very challenging negative to scan as it has high-light like you wouldn't believe and needs the shadow details to make it a picture. Lets look at some details from it (please click on any of these images to load a larger copy, the ones below are 100% crops from the scans).

A corner of the roof from the Epson:

and the same corner from Nikon IV ED

I think they are pretty equal, perhaps when you look into the patterns in the ends of the tiles there is slightly more detail in the Epson scan and I could get better high-light detail in the sky from the Epson too. To do this with the Nikon I had to scan as positive (muchos fiddling with the SA-21 required to line up the thumbnails for prescan aligment) and set much less agressive clipping points.

Looking again at my scan from my Epson I was surprised, both seemed to show more or less equal detail and handled a very dense negative quite well.

Lets look at shadow details. A segment from the Epson

and segment from the Nikon

Not much to separate them, and if anything I prefer the results from the Epson.


So, after all this time it seems to me that I indeed have had the greener grass (the Epson) all along.

Not only are image quality results from the Epson equal or close to the Nikon, for the Nikon to better them requires significant work, rescans and examination. So operationally its simpler to load 4 strips of 6 negatives into the Epson than it is to feed strips one at a time into the SA-21 film system. Used on Automatic Exposure and thumbnail mode the Epson is a set and walk away machine for 24 images. This may in some ways make it better.

Considering that professional scanning bureaus use flatbed systems (like the Creo iQsmart scanner), not only for their scan quality, but also to simplify operatoins this puts more points to the Epson. While the Epson is not in the league scanners like the Creo in areas such as mechanical precision for 1/10th of the price its damn attractive.

Out of the Box the Epson does not give spectacular results (maybe that's true of the Nikon too?) but with a little tweaking of what you do and how you do it you can get significant returns. So the improvements that can be had with some attention to details in scanning those "have to get the best from it" negatives or slides (some tips can be found here in understanding and addressing the limitaitons of the Epson) I think that the Epson stacks up rather well.

Without doubt the LS-IV is not the lastest and greatest Nikon, you'd need to consider the LS-V, LS-4000 or a new LS-5000 / LS 9000 to get that, but then the 4870 compared here is hardly that either.

But this comparison was not to see if the Nikon was better or worse, in my eyes it was to see if the Epson could come within close limits, and that it did!

Hmm ... perhaps the market also thinks so too, and that's why Nikon is rationalizing its scanner market (stripping out the 'consumer' end and leaving only the 5000 and 9000 scanners) and that Epson seems to be continually developing and improving their scanner "for home users".

So, if you've bought (or are considering and Epson) don't think of it as the poor cousin of the Nikon LS-IV or even the V ... recognize that you've got a very good value for money package.

NOTE: when I bought the Nikon, and did some scans I was thinking that the results were not perfect, so I dismantled it (following this fellows instructions) and found that the mirror was indeed filthy. I carefully cleaned and replaced the mirror and this indeed improved the contrast of the scans (although not the resolution). BTW ... if you do follow his instructions, I recommend turning the scanner on the side not upside down when removing that clip. The mirror can then be neatly removed at no risk of falling with a chopstick with a blob of blue-tac on it.

Lastly, I value discussion, so if you disagree with my findings and have got both units and have made comparisons between them (rather than just have opinions based on personal faith in what should be and some net reading) and would like to supply some evidence then please post a link to that, as I would love to belive that the Nikon is better than the Epson ... and pretty soon this Nikon is going up on ebay and I think I'll be looking at trying an LS-4000 (these really do draw the best from problem negatives).

but who knows, I may just stick with the 4870


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

the fifty

for my 'bucks night' we decided to go to the local shooting range and sample the sorts of pistols that almost no one has a need for, in this instance it was the Smith and Wesson 500.

It doesn't look huge, but it really is. For anyone who isn't built like Arnold Schwarzenegger its rather hard to keep it steady for any serious target accuracy. In this short video below I've got one bullet loaded in the revolver.

you may have noticed that with a firm grip the recoil isn't so uncontrollable (note the paper move from the muzzle blast on the bench). But it sure gives you hand and wrist a pounding. Speaking of size ... I've put a few common size bullet casings below to give you some idea of just how monstrous this thing is...