Tuesday, 29 September 2009

nice one Clive

Seems that Clive Palmer reckons we're being racist against the Chinese by not selling out everything to them (interpretation from The Australian). Because:

any Chinese investment in Australia requires the approval of federal Treasurer Wayne Swan and the Foreign Investment Review Board


Perhaps that's prudent?

Well Clive perhaps it didn't occur to you that there is some difference in the Chinese methods of doing business and the Western ways. Perhaps we also share some more history with the USA too?

Open and transparent is the way all such contracts should be conducted. I don't think the checks are because of "the colour of their skin" as you seem to suggest, but its nice of you to throw in the racist red herring there mate.

Now that you mention it, perhaps everyone should be subjected to similar checks?


Unlike many "mining magnates" some of us would like to see some of Australia left for our kids. You may be keen to sell off all of it off (and your business interests seem to show the Colonial Heritage of dig it up or shear it) but personally I think that we need to be careful with our Foreign investment. You may make more money by just selling the resource now, but you know, we're just custodians of the place ... it really belongs to our future.

Perhaps you're not focused on that...

In case you're not aware of it, I recommend you read a short piece by C. J. Dennis called The Glugs of Gosh. In this story, foreigners who were once the enemy of the Glugs approached the King and Queen with a neat importing deal...

"We'll sell you pianers and pickels and spanners
For seventeen shiploads of stones:
Smooth 'uns or nobbly 'uns,
Firm 'uns or wobbly 'uns,
All we ask is stones."

It all sounded very good, but eventually someone noticed something wrong.

But a Glug stood up with a cast in his eye,
And he said, "Far too many baubles we buy;
With all the Gosh factories closing their doors,
And importers' warehouses lining our shores."

There are some parts of China which are hateful of the west and wish to see China returned to the true place it belongs to ... center country ... or didn't you know that's what the name meant?

Some parts of China hate the west (quite rightly) for its involvement in exploiting them with the opium wars ...

Guess you'll claim you didn't know or you've never read history to know that some people there have long memories and an axe to grind with the west.

Australia is a little place ... we need to be careful ... don't you think?

Saturday, 26 September 2009

our new Vietnam - lets avoid this one hmm?

I was reading this morning about our governments attempts to cover up injuries to our serving troops in Afghanistan. I fully understand the military need for secrecy to protect sensitive operations under way, but there is also something more important at stake here. That is the future welfare of the men and women who are serving now.

When nine members of the Special Operations Task Group were hit by heavy rocket and machinegun fire in an attack on the Taliban in September last year, Defence had no intention of releasing any details about the battle after the casualties were brought in.

In a briefing two months later, special operations commander Major General Tim McOwan complained that news of the battle "was leaked and found its way into the Australian media".

Because of the leak, Defence was forced to confirm the incident, in which Trooper Mark Donaldson became the first Australian to win a Victoria Cross in 40 years. McOwan said the Taliban exploited the news on local radio stations the same day.

"In essence," he said, "an information release by us afforded them a propaganda opportunity."

Reading the above segment of that article carefully confirms this, but it raises another question. Would Mark Donaldson have ever got recognition for his bravery?

In the years to come the men and women who are involved in the covert operations will have to take their place silently in Australia and pretend nothing had happened.

We know this has had profound consequences on the young people who came back from Vietnam, so why in such a short time are we setting up to repeat the same problems?

It is a political issue if you agree or disagree with our Governments decision to to be involved in Afganistan, but irrespective of that we owe recognition and respect to the people who went into harms way.

We need to send a clear message to our military leaders that while objectives and battles are important so too is the support and understanding of the Australians who are humans not only soldiers. This is something our Armed Forces needs to pull its head out of its ass about and start acting on.

Less propaganda more reality back home please

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

G1 (or any smaller sensor) and wide angles

I happen to like wide angle lenses, back when I used 35mm film I usually liked 24mm or (used carefully) 21mm. The first thing I found when I picked up digital cameras in the year 2000 was that I didn't like what options existed for wide angles. To this day the options in wide angle for 4/3rds are quite restricted ... I can think of only the Panasonic 7-17mm and the Olympus 9-18mm lenses.

So in this article I'll compare the same angle of view on full frame and the 4/3rds. I say angle of view as focal length is really a meaningless measure unless you clearly understand the relationship between that and format ... not everything in the world is 35mm you know. Thus we are talking about a wide angle of view in this article.


Before I moved over to the Panasonic G1 I was a Canon EOS user for many decades (well since about 1990 actually). I have owned the EOS 10D and 20d but I have not owned a full frame digital, I of course still have 35mm bodies lying around.

One of the things which is true with smaller sensors is that to get the same angle of view you need a shorter focal length lens.

So looking at the diagram to the left to get the same 73 degrees angle of view the smaller sensor (yellow line) needs to be much closer to the lens than the larger sensor (blue line).

This means that for the smaller sensor you need a much shorter focal length to get the same angle of view.

So more or less if you use a 21mm lens on your 35mm camera you need a 10mm lens on the 4/3rds.

If all things were as simple as this then there would be no problems, but they of course are not so simple. For a start the difference between the 35mm frame and the 4/3rds frame means that to get the same angle of view you need about 1/2 the focal length (again since the aspect ratio is different its not exactly that, but lets leave this simple).

As it happens designing a zoom lens of such short focal length that will work on a digital camera is not simple and is as such more complex than a 21mm on a 35mm. This means that your lenses may be more expensive.

I used for this experiment an old Olympus 21mm f3.5 lens on the full frame and an Olympus 9-18mm Zoom for the Panasonic 4/3 camera. As I said I don't have a full frame digital camera, so the full frame images are scanned 35mm film. I used 200ISO negative. Actually this turned out to be an interesting basis for also comparing the latest digital with 10 year old film based digital photography (yes, I call scanned film digital ... no ni).

So firstly lets have a look at the overall image from the 35mm:



Next (not quite the same angle I'm sorry) the image from the G1.



Looking at the overviews I think you'll agree i got the colour quite close ... to get the same look I started with the RAW file and processed that significantly using a few steps which I've learnt. Its interesting to see how the shadow details are similar on both but the digital still managed to have trouble with the white of the birch trunk. That might look ugly in printing if your not careful.

I still find that negative film has much better recording capacity when you need to deal with strong light. I certainly found this in my previous explorations with my 10D and 20D, but its interesting to see that nothing has changed, and even careful use of RAW files does not stop this.

Secondly I am immedately struck by how much nicer the background "bokeh" looks on the 21mm lens ... to me the 10mm looks harsh and distorted. The little Olympus 21mm is a sweet lens for sure.

Now onto the detail. Below is a screen shot of the images at 50% res on the screen. I find this a useful determination of how a print will look at close inspection. Bear in mind we're essentially looking at a print which would be 34.0 x 25.5 cm ...


Its really close isn't it ...

If you think that the top of the mushroom is looking a little fuzzy, thats because the 21mm lens has a shallower depth of field at f5.6 than does the 10mm lens, and the focus was 'just slightly' ahead of the mushroom ... need to be careful in focusing manually!

But depth of field will be effected as the important criteria there is the diameter of the aperture, not the f-stop. Please take a moment to read my article here to confirm that for yourself.

So to have an 10mm lens giving the same DoF as I get with my 21mm @ f3.5 I would need around f1.8 The Olympus 9-18 zoom is simply not that bright, its f4 so to get the same DoF I would need to stop the 21mm down to f8 From this I'm sure you can see that the "look" of images between the lenses focused on something close will not be equal if we get the f-stop the same.

I thought I'd try another angle, one that requires distance this should eliminate DoF and get rid of the significance of any Bokeh.

Full Frame



G1



I think you'll agree that aside from colour matching them (close but no banana) the images look more or less the same (well and aspect ratio).

Differences in colour rendition is significant though as I think that the digital image (lower one) handles the subtle grades in the sky better than negative does ... this is something I've found before, that digital is better suited to capturing subtle shades than Negative is, and that negative works better when you have a wide dynamic to capture.

Looking at the detail there is surprisingly little in it. There is of course no difference between Depth of Field (as infinity is all thats in the focus here) but its also quite significant that the film scanned with the Nikon LS-4000 holds so well against the digital (or is it that the digital does so well against the film? you pick).




So, this cements in my mind that larger format (sensor or film) works best for wide angles. I would very much like to compare a 5D or other full frame sensor camera to the G1 as I think that it would be just fantastic. On the other hand the G1 costs so little that if you pop that onto your 300mm lens then instead of needing to buy a 600mm lens on a full frame camera you'll get better wildlife shots, this for example was a legacy FD series 300mm lens on my G1:

feeding time

Bang for buck that's cheaper than buying anything for the full frame.

My summary is that
  • If you want wide angle and want nice Bokeh then use a full frame camera and a 21mm lens
  • neg has better handling of sunny contrasty conditions,
  • wide angle on the G1 (small sensor) is ugly compared to full frame, but telephoto on the G1 or APS sensor is advantaged
  • unexpectedly the G1 pulls very close to the 35mm in outright resolution (which means that the main advantage of digital is still workflow and materials costs)
  • if desiring of shallow depth of field, when using lenses wide open aperture favors larger formats like full frame (but 6x7 and large format really needs movements to correct for and is harder to manage)

Monday, 21 September 2009

the great mobile rip-off

I never owned a mobile phone until I left Australia and lived in Japan (in the year 2000). On return home I found that the prices at home were quite extortionate, but thought I'd get one all the same as I'd become used to the ability to contact and be contacted.

To put some perspective on the costs, in Japan I was paying 10c a minute anywhere in Japan any time of day or night using the company AU (no guesses why I liked them at first sight ;-)

Today I read this article in the Australian where apparently:
THE mobile phone is eating a larger slice of the household budget than petrol this year

well bugger me ... seems like someone in the media has noticed.

A quick look around the world shows we're getting shafted on phone costs. How shafted? well I presently live in Finland, where my mobile call costs are 7c a minute. Yes that's right seven cents per minute. And its better than that, as there is no "call connection fee" and charging is by second.

What's more I don't get the cheapest calls possible because I'm not on a plan and I own my own phone, those are 2 cents a minute.

Now before anyone drags out the statistical mumbo on "how big Australia is" and "how we have to cover great distances with a small population" consider this:

Finland has 5 million people, and is hardly small. Wikipedia states that:

"The distance from the southernmost – Hanko – to the northernmost point in the country – Nuorgam – is 1,445 kilometres (898 miles) in driving distance, which would take approximately 18.5 hours to drive.

Population is quite well distributed around so coverage must be better than Australia (ever tried getting signal out of a major city in central NSW?

Given that the Australian population is concentrated along the strip of the East Coast with the greater bulk in the southern end of that its hard to make a case that Australia has a sparce population distribution. In reality the statistics of Australian population density are grossly distorted by the vast areas of emptiness.

Given the size of Australia, and that we have 4 times the populatoin is it really that much different to Finland when it comes to planning mobile coverage?

Actually I think its easier as we have more mountains and hilly areas to put towers onto and more cities with over 1 million populatoin (Finland has one we have three).


Now supposedly we have "competition" in Australia, but if you ask me its more like a bunch of big players all bidding the market up to how much the market will bear. So how much can the market bear and keep grinning?

I think we're on the edge ...

To make matters more filthy, when I was last in Australia (2007) it cost me almost the same to call Finland using my telstra prepaid as it did to call someone in the same town.

HUH?

Yep, it was (and prehaps still is) 77c a minute to call Europe but is still 78c a minute (plus call connection fees ... yadda yadda) to call Brisbane from Brisbane.

So next time you feel like your wallet has been pack raped, what will you do?

keep paying?

Welcome to that Banana republic Paul Keating used to threaten us with...

Monday, 14 September 2009

C mount on a G1

Firstly I am not an expert on C mount lenes, but I do have 2 of them and have done a little dabbling with them. There are 2 challenges to using them on the G1
  • mounting them on the camera (covered a little here)
  • coverage of the sensor
In this article I will address coverage. The trick with the C mount lenses is that they were designed to cover a smaller area than the area of a 4/3rds sensor, but lenses do not simply cut off light after their most efficient area. Thus out side of the area which the designer thinks to be the zone where the lens is good you get some coverage.

Eventually this coverage runs out and you get a fade to black past the limits of the lenses coverage.

So depending on the lens (and if it was intended for 16mm or 8mm film) you may get
edge to edge coverage on a G1.

Lenses like the Switar lenses may give such coverage, but these are expensive lenses
intended for use in high end cinematography and costing thousands of dollars new.

Elgeet 13mmI've got two C mount lenses, one is a Computar the other is a quite old Elgeet lens.

The little Elgeet is shown at left mounted on an RJ adaptor. Its a fixed focus lens but has adjustable aperture.

Sadly the Computar won't fit onto the RJ adaptor without serious modifications.

It turns out one adaptor will work with the Computar, its the one made by Hawkpeng. I bought the adaptor from Hawkpeng for that purpose and while needed a little filing to adapt the lens base (see this post for some details.) it works well.

However neither lens covers the 4/3rds frame and gives me results like this:

From the Computar:

P1010962


and this from the Elgeet:

Elgeet 13mm on a G1 (sample image)


In the case of the Elgeet lens I'm sure that this is a mechanical obstruction caused by the amount of 'hood' there is built into the lens (see above image mounted onto the G1). I'm quite sure that by filing down the 'hood' that you could get a better coverage .. but that would destroy the look of this sweet little bit of antiquity, and I can't bring myself to do that.

The question to ask is not only "does it give coverage" but "do I like the look", because with 4000 x 3000 pixels you can crop something out and still get something usable. For instance you can make a 10 x 7 inch print from a 3000 x 2000 pixel image which is still giving yourself 300dpi on the print and certainly acceptable.

For instance ... this is what I get from my Kit lens at 14mm which captures nearly the same field of view but unlike the older optics is quite sharp across the range.


and this is what I get from the Elgeet stopped down:

and this is what I get from it wide open:

So while it doesn't fully cover the sensor it sure covers enough, and leaves room for some creative effects which may be to your taste.

For example using the Computar I find that I don't need much cropping when I pick 19:6 as the edges seem to work well that way.

I liked the way that the curvature of field ends up bringing the background into focus at the edges.


tykki

and the darkening of the corners can look ok in the right place

coffee

Even for a wide angle lens the shallow Depth of Field provided by a f1.3 lens is useful.

summary


Essentially the standard lens provides 99% of what a photographer would want. There are plenty of good 35mm focal length lenses out there (FD and M-42 mount to name a few) that unless you have some strong reason to want the effects, I can't give you a compelling reason to buy one.

I just wanted to try them out and so I have. I thought I'd put this page up to give those interested a sample of what they can see ... but I'm not about to spend €2500 on a Kern Switar just cos I can ;-)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Wide options on a G1

Once upon a time there was film, and we tended to think in Formats, 35mm was a format (mainly because almost noone has heard of half frame), 120 roll provided a number of formats like 654, 6x7 and 6x9 and of course there is a number of so called "large formats".

Most people's DSLR cameras are 4/3, APS or Full frame; all of which refer to things smaller than and up to the size of 35mm. Most are however APS.

The diagram to the left shows the comparison in size between APS and 4/3rds (green and yellow) over the Full frame. There really isn't much difference between them in comparison to Full Frame.

One of the things which is an issue for using a smaller format camera like the G1 is how well it works with wide angle photography.
You see, to get a wide angle view you need short focal length lens, but as the format gets smaller you need to have that focal length shorter and shorter.

People seem to get all lost on photography (perhaps because they get caught up in thinking in terms of brands features and functions rather than just grasping the elementary basics, but hey where is the fun in learning the facts when you can be dazzled more easily by magic right?).

It goes like this: you're after wide angle, meaning you want to capture more of left to right than you think of as 'normal' ... To pick an example wide angle I'll choose 24mm focal length on a Full frame camera. This works out to capture 73 degrees of view.

Pretend that the lens is a single pinhole in a flat pate (heard of pinhole cameras?), so depending on the sensor format you are using you need to put the sensor at a specific distance from the 'lens'.

Looking at the diagram to the left you can see the blue line represents the width of the full frame sensor, and is at 24mm from the center (lets keep this simple here). A 4/3rds camera has a smaller sensor right? So for a 4/3rds camera (with its smaller sensor) it needs to be closer to have the same image projected on the sensor. This works out to needing a 12mm focal length lens.

So essentially a wide lens such as a 24mm on a Full Frame system works out to be a 12mm on a 4/3rds.

For ages a "standard wide" length in Full Frame was 28mm, but many people (rightly) feel that this is not really wide enough. It may not seem like a lot but in fact going from 28mm to 24mm makes a difference.

So with the "kit" lens being 14-45mm (similar to 28-90) wide angle fans are left scratching their heads. There really isn't much in the 12mm or less focal length range.

Two potential lenses are Panasonic's 7-14mm lens which is really wide but at over €1000 leaves people wondering if there are other options. Olympus makes a 9-18mm lens which is perhaps the next logical choice and at less than €600 is often considered. I paid about €100 for the adaptor, so this brings them closer together in price.

There are several tests of the Oly which you can find on the net, not much yet about the Panasonic and very little to say what people think about each. A common question though is what they look like and how do they compare to each other.

To answer that question I have written this page.

On the left is a picture (kindly provided by a member of a good forum on 4/3rds cameras) of the Kit 14.45 beside the Panasonic, owners of a G1 will likely be familar with the kit lens so it makes a good reference. You can see that the Panasonic really is very very similar in size to the kit lens.

Its important to note that the Panasonic 7-14 has a very bulging front element, thus it has a permanently mounted hood (as much for protection of the element as anything in my opinion). This however detracts from the lens in that you can not use any filter with the lens (yes, no polarizer, no Cokin gradutated filters ... nothing).

I have taken an image to compliment the one above and place my 14-45 so that we could compare them side by side. As this image shows, the Olympus is a little larger and a little fatter. Notice that I have got the lens mounted on the required 4/3rds to micro 4/3rds which is needed to use this lens on the G1.

Sorry if the perspective is not perfect, and I left the filter on my kit lens, but apart from the shock transfer between the 14-45's middle you can easily compare the Panasonic to the Olympus at the exact same scale.

To me the Panasonic looks quite similar in size to the kit lens, and the Olympus looks larger but not really by much. I remember when I first opened the box and pulled the Olympus out that it looked small ... much smaller than my previous Tokina 12-24 which I used with my 10D

But the surprise came when I put it on the camera ... you need to see how they look on the camera to get the point, so here this is below:
(please be patient with this image loading, blogger doesn't host animated gif (converts them to something else) so its coming from a slower server).

?

Its really interesting to see it mounted on the camera, as while the Olympus looks a little larger than the Panasonic you really need to keep in mind just how compact the G1 Camera is.

In use it makes the camera more like a viewing screen for the lens. The camera becomes insignificant and the whole thing kind of reminds me of the Sony F717 I used.

I didn't mind it, and in fact it made a nifty handle for shooting at different angles.

If you only have the 14mm wide kit lens and are wondering how different the two are I've put a couple of images below to show you how much wider you get when going from

14mm

to 9mm



This can be tricky to handle but works well in tight indoor situations. Clearly there are good outdoor wide angle opportunities too. Getting rid of foreground can be tricky and depending it might be as good for single shot panaroma like below.

lake with mist

Perhaps stitching and panorama is better use of the camera, but of course can't always be used in every situation. So when you need wide the 9mm is wide enough to get it all in one shot. The image quality of the lens will cope with it too and I am totally satisfied with what it gives, I was at a conference during the week and used the lens to make some interesting images there.


P1030436

the ability to hold the camera in different ways (with its tilting swiveling screen) is excellent for working creatively with this lens. Although you do need to be careful with people shots as the strength of how wide it can be may give effects some may not like such as below ...

P1030433

What I can say, he isn't really an Egg head.

However after using the lens for about 2 months is that it focuses really slowly, and it hunts quite a bit if you are in lowish light. Now I'm used to a diversity of cameras, from EOS 35mm SLR cameras (and yes, with wide angle lenses like the EF24 f2.8 which is not USM) through to to a little Nikon "prosumer" camera from 2001 (an era not noted for making fast focusing digital cameras).

So when I say (in the above company) the Oly can focus slowly (with a little machine like whirring) and hunts about a bit I really mean it.

Further you don't get Continuous AF only AF-S.

On the upside, the Panasonic G1's manual focus system (with its engagement of zoom focus in the focus point) really comes in handy, so you can intervene or simply leave the camera on manual focus and keep the aperture to f8 or something.

Neither lenses provide image stabilisation, and both weigh about the same. Technically the Panasonic is slightly heavier, but with the Olympus you need to add in the adaptor.

summary / conclusion

The Olympus is a nice lens gives great images and isn't too bulky. I like that I can mount filters like my Cokin system on it and that it is wide enough for my preferences.

Its well priced although with the adaptor required isn't so far away from the Panasonic lens in price.

So in the end I think its not an easy decision. I feel that the price for entry into Wide Angle lens is high on the G1, enough so that you can really consider getting an EOS 5D with a 24mm lens for not much more. So if you are considering this you need to ask youself a number of questions, not just about cost and filters but about handling ease of use and system compatiblility.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Foreign Investment in Australia

I saw this in the paper this morning:

CHINESE state-owned firms are still eyeing off Australian resources companies for strategic investments.

Western Australian iron ore junior FerrAus announced today it had plans to sell 12 per cent of the company to China Railway Materials (CRM) for about $12.6 million.


we're all aware of the threats to Australian ownership of big business and our assets, but are we looking at the small fish ... often there can be tons of tiny fish which can make for a bigger catch than a single tuna.

macro economic vs micro economic


This article reminded me, that talking to a friend of mine at home (I'm Australian but living in Finland at the moment) recently said that some person had offered to buy his business for a foreign investor. The person was intending the broker the operation to sell to a non Australian person simply for the purposes of them obtaining Australian residency.

Seems to be some sort of loop hole which while intended to facilitate business is giving people a leg in who may not otherwise have a an opportunity.

You see, small business is not only one of the largest employers in Australia, it is also the most sensitive. Owning and working in a small business is quite a stressful thing in itself especially in the current times. People often work long hours and have little opportunity to take leave.

So when someone comes along offering to buy your business so that some foreigner can move in and take it over in exchange for a residency it may just seem too good an opportunity to miss.

There is then nothing to say that the new owner will have any sence of how to operate this business and that it may go broke soon, leaving us with migrant who is now a resident while side stepping the immigration procedures.

nice
Looks to me that the immigration department needs to start looking at the bigger picture.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A fool and their money

I am clearly not learning the lessons in life, particularly on just how gullible can members of the general public be. I found this article this morning in the news:

People are being warned against joining a NSW dating service following reports victims were fleeced of thousands of dollars in their quest for love....
... the Tweed Heads company had used misleading and deceptive tactics to induce people to sign expensive contracts for dating services, life coaching and grooming packages .... Some victims reported paying up to $35,000 and $110,000 but received nothing in return. Evidence also existed that the company had preyed on emotionally vulnerable.
Ok ... here's what I'll do, for absolutely nothing I'll offer a strategy to people who might be in similar situations. This will save you money and I'm sure that you'll be no worse off

  1. Stick up an ad at the local supermarket saying:
    WANTED: person of {state required / desired sex} gender to offer: personal advice on grooming; tell me how they think I should to run my life; meetings will be in the form of a date on weekends, at my personal cost. Additionally I will pay you $200 per date. Sexual intimacy not required, but it would be nifty

  2. wait for the calls
  3. go out with the person who calls

Even if you get a date every Saturday night for a year it'll only cost you $20,000 and you'll have had a date every saturday night (with exactly the sort of person most people end up marrying anyway).

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

GF1 - rumor no more

Its out



and man it looks exactly like the leaked images

So toddle over to your favourite review site and check out the facts.

I'll be getting one in a flash with that 20mm lens that I can use on my G1 it makes the price of a spare body a peach.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Gillard takes on the impossible

I never cease to be surprised by our politicians ... I read that Julia Gillard is going to try to stop shonky operators in India who try to mislead students about study in Australia.

Right ... she clearly has no scene of the scale of the place

Julia ... have you tried setting up a stool and holding back the tide with your hand? You've got about as much luck on either count.