Sunday, 29 December 2013

Lives matter

People today seem to be obsessed with themselves, they have little time for anyone else and it seems that the modern principle of being in a hurry, being in debt and being busy all the time means that only the squeaky wheel gets oiled.

So its no surprise that those who we loved who have passed away are perhaps ignored by many in daily life.

That's one of the things I love in Finland: that is not the case. Christmas is the time to spend not only with your living relatives but to spare a thought for those who have passed before us.

A visit to the cemetery in Finland on Christmas eve shows that the place is alive with people (who out of human dignity, I didn't wish to capture in these images) paying their respects to their loved family members.

Lives are important, even the lives of ones who no longer are among us.

So the hautausmaa is not a dark and desolate place in Finland at christmas. Everyone comes to light a candle (often a long burning one which can survive some snow and sleet for up to 60 hours) and remember those who lived who they loved.

And it is not restricted to those who only have living relatives. For all Finns who have lived and died are remembered. For many still remember the lives lost in WW2.

I am sure that here in Finland the people still know that everyone who lived and died has not just vanished from memory, at the very least they remain alive in the hearts and memories of those who remain in this world. Most people here believe in life after death. Most certainly it is not life as we know it, but its probably not just lights out as is the popularised line.

My own dear wife has passed before me, which is intensely sad for me and her family. She may not be here with us, but she is not forgotten.

Her life matters to me. She lived and I live in hope that her existence remains somewhere.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It has been a long year for me. To say that I am glad to see these days behind me is vexing, for it also means that I walk further away from my darling Anita. But it is inevitable that my journey must continue. I begin to see that her passing is a point but that in some ways her love (and mine of her) lives on in my heart.

I took this shot a few weeks ago from the bridge here in town. On that day it was -23°C (no wind chill, and thankfully no wind).

So my Christmas Message is simple and obvious:

Enjoy the time with Family and Friends. Take this time to just Love and forget about the arguments.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Me, Myself and I

I am, but me is who I am ... when I was myself.

As I have observed at nearly this time last year, who I was (an old me) is dead, killed by the death of my wife and my other half, Anita.

This year gone has been not only one for reflection but one for handling many health challenges which it could be argued threatened my life.

I did not die (although that was something I wished for).

For the last year I have struggled with many things. I have slowly walked the path of comprehending the changes in me, and the changes in the world in which I live. Only recently has this left me wondering about myself, for earlier I was preoccupied with her death and survival.

Tonight I have been looking at a candle which I lit on the table. It is beneath some flowers I bought to share with her. You may shake your head and dismiss this as slightly insane (perhaps it is). However I have come to feel that she is not gone, but passed.

It is small things, a song I hear, a call I get ... I do not know if these are things I only imagine, or if there is messages being left in the world, like the way a bit of stuff is washed upon the beach. If I was less sensitive (and perhaps less interested) I may not have noticed them. But I did.

Peace is not the right word, but tonight I feel strange. I feel that amid the sadness (and the tears welling in my eyes) that I am less anguished by her absence than I was. I look at her paintings and the roses and feel that somehow she still knows I love her. I know that the trip to Heinavesi tomorrow will not be as hard as it has been.

Perhaps I have made progress towards my goal of becoming better not bitter (as I wrote on the 30th of December 2012).

The other day I listened to a talk by a Rabbi who learned that buried amid the muck of religion was an old Jewish idea that God himself wished to seek atonement for all the bad things which happen to good people. That God knows that these things are horrible and shares our anguish at these wrongs. This concept challenges many things that I have been taught, yet at the same time sits well with my view of what God should be (if God at all loves us). Perhaps this is in itself an important step, for this whole thing has challenged the way I have thought of God.

Perhaps next year I can work on building myself into a new me. Perhaps I can be a better man than I was.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Power of Prayer

My personal experience over many years has been that the Power of Prayer is rather like that of the sting in many Hornets which capture spiders, that is to say it causes paralysis.

Prayer is the little lie told to infect your mind and convert you from a person able to do things, into that little whinging brat at the supermarket who plagues mother "mummy, can I have [insert selfish wish]"

For a person who has faith in God, prayer is that little lie that is told to you that takes advantage of your weakness (and your selfishness) and quite probably your ego to get you to believe that you (or worse, you in concert with others) can influence the will of God.

Wow ... talk about appeal to the weak minded or the egotistical. What a complete crock of shit it is.

It is but a ploy to remove from you the power to actually do something to help yourself in your life. If you believe that Creation was the work of God then why would God create a bunch of whinging handwringers to sit around praying for something when they could go and do something about their lives themselves.

The Power of Prayer lies in its ability to subjugate you from actually fulfilling yourself (and if you think God has specific plans) and the plans God may have had for you. Subjugate you? To whom? Well not to God, as God has no need to subjugate you. The answer to such questions is always to follow the trail of money. Do you think God built this?

So get off your knees and get out and do stuff. 

Develop within yourself the strength to face the world (which if you are reading this far you should believe that God created) and man up to the challenges. This is what God wants from what he created.

It is my view that the religions cater to to the masses, while on the one hand attempting to teach them some moral views on the other enslaving them into amassing wealth for the clerical and building great Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples. While they are grand and spectacular architecture that do little to help anyone. Well anyone except the clergy who are made wealthy by this. Oh ... that's right, they're not owners of it, they just bask in it. Well sadly any fool who believes that is beyond help.

So stand up on your feet, stop being feeble and stop believing in the idea that you can influence God. God who created the Universe, all the Galaxies and in that instant, gave it all power to galaxies smashing into each other. Such as in this APOD image.

Untold thousands of worlds are being destroyed by events unleashed at the instant of this universes creation ... and so what is it that makes you think your prayer for a change in your tiny patch of this universe will influence anything in some ill defined idea of a God who created this power?

Oh, its his infininte wisdom and his infinite benevolence?

Best of luck to you ... for this God did nothing to save my wife from the cancer in her brain (which must have been part of His plan) that killed her suddenly. Not all my prayers, not all the prayers of her family, nothing.

Prayer didn't even seem to help Jesus either.

Don't beg for the compassion of God, as just like the little whinging kid in the supermarket, Mummy probably isn't going to give in to it. Unless she wants to raise a selfish brat.  So, go out and make a difference yourself.

If you want to pray, well pray that God allows you to find the strength inside yourself to grow up and do what you have to.

If you feel moved to pray, try this prayer

Friday, 13 December 2013

image stabilization (why I'm not fussed about it)

People seem to place a great importance on image stabilisation in their camera choices. Personally I don't find it of much use. For video its impressive, that's for sure, but for stills I'm unimpressed. Perhaps there is a few situations where it makes a difference (especially for those who can't hold a camera steady or who stab the shutter button like the shower scene from Psycho)

But for me I find that the biggest problem with lower shutter speeds is subject movement. And just like the replicant Roy in Blade runner, IS is just not helping.

A classic example:

Nothing wrong with the rest of the image, but unless you want people to pose like statues you just have to accept that there is no substitute for shutter speed.

In the above example perhaps the pillow could have been a bit sharper indicating that I moved somewhat, but it still wouldn't have helped much on getting the person any sharper and capturing the emotions. ISO was already maxed out on the camera and I was using f2.8 too.

I guess if I'd have had a camera like the A7 I could have used a higher ISO again (like 12,800 which is more or less 2 stops) and would have given me 60th instead of 15th ... might have just made it less blurry but blurry all the same.

I'll leave you with one that was hand held at 1/4th of a second

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Beauty is the Beast

and I suspect modern anxiety is the result of avoiding the beauty for the fear that comes from being there.

Every time I see images of nature which I find beautiful I'm clear on the fact that the place is probably quite harsh.

This morning I went out at dawn in -23° C ( -9 for the F'ers) because I expected that it would be a lovely morning.

I was right.

Of course taking off my gloves to take this shot reminded me how fast one's hands loose energy (and who the bloody hell thought Aluminum was a smart material for a camera) and get stinging cold.

On my walk home I was reflecting on scenery images I've taken (or seen taken by others) and quite often the images which people find 'beautiful' are of what are in reality quite harsh places.

Without my down coat, woolie sox, ear-muffs and gloves I'm quite sure I'd be quite uncomfortable in this place. Yet not only do I like taking photographs in these places, I like going there.

I was on a cliff one day near my home and was watching an Osprey have lunch.

I'm quite sure the fish didn't see this whole thing as beautiful.

I have observed that people who are the least likely to leave behind creature comforts, and actually brave the elements are also those who most seem to feel 'anxiety' about any small challenges in their lives.

I wonder if this is because not having any big challenges they feel more worried about the trivial?

Although it all still feels quite hollow to me, I still enjoy being in the tough places. I'll be sad when I lack the strength to get there (as must happen one day). So if you're always feeling anxious about things perhaps the answer is to go and challenge yourself.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sigma 30mm f2.8 EX DN review and thoughts

Ok, up front I'm a geek, but I'm a geek who's a photographer. So this isn't a typical review, if you want one of them you'll find plenty of sales blurb reviews out there.

For the impatient:
  • its a great lens for the money
  • image quality is good
  • if you are into legacy lenses then it may not be a useful buy
  • comparing to legacy lenses its makes me wonder why?
  • I might have an explanation for the DXO rating
  • I reckon this lens sucks battery due to its AF system (and conversely why I get lunatic long battery life out of legacy lenses on my GH and GF camera)
bottom line: the DMW-GWC1 is r.r.p of nearly the same as this lens, and that is just an attachment wide angle converter. So what I'm saying is you won't find much available new that's this price.

what I want it for

As it happens back in time when I used a 35mm film camera for my general photography, my favorite travel combo was a 24mm and a 50mm (with perhaps a 75-300 zoom if I was allowing myself more). So with the 14mm under my wing (and the x0.79 adapter) a 30mm would give me almost the same in my micro4/3 outfit as the 24 and the 50 did.

So, lets have a look at them, below is the Sigma 30mm beside the 14mm pancake and the 14-45 zoom

The astute observer will soon see that the 14mm prime is one end of the zoom range and the 30mm sort of close to the middle. The obvious question is that as I have the zoom why bother?

Basically its because:
  1.  the shallow depth of field rendering is there if I want it
  2. I like things more compact if I can
So it makes a difference which camera I use it all on if its to make any difference. I mean if I use the GH1 then the extra size of the 14-45 sort of vanishes. So basically this lens makes more sense on my GF1 (or your GFx or GX or other smaller Olympus pen) than on my GH1 or a Olympus OM-D

Now, just pause for a moment and think about that.

In my view the ultracompact side of micro4/3 is about quickly whip it out, use it and move on - while the OM-D GHx series cameras is more about photography where the photographer engages more seriously and more closely with the subject.

Knowing that makes a difference as to how you think about this lens and what the significance of my following points are. If you're a whip it out fast user then the answer is simple. Stop reading and go grab the 30mm, especially if you have the 14mm f2.5 ... its a great combo.

One of the first things that struck me when I opened the box and looked at the lens was how small the front element was, especially with respect to the OM 28mm I'd been using (you didn't seriously think I'd been without a 50mm equivalent all this time did you?)

Actually if you take another moment to look at that picture you can see that the newer lens coatings really make a difference to lens flare (something which my 28mm is better controlled than my 21mm, but that's another story).

Of course the lens element size is easily explained by the fact that the OM lens is designed to cover the 35mm area and the Sigma lens is only designed to cover 4/3 (and APS).

But it raises an interesting point, why is it so much bigger when something so much smaller can do? Like this is my Pentax 110 system 24mm f2.8 lens beside the Sigma.

I mean seriously if the 14mm can be as it is and have AF mechanism and an aperture, and this 1979 24mm lens is smaller than the 14mm, why is the Sigma this big?

The next thing I noticed was how much larger the Sigma's rear element was:

substantially larger than the element on the OM lens and way bigger than the rear element on the Pentax 110 lens.

The only thing I can attribute it to is that one needs to keep the light hitting the sensor as parallel as possible (a problem full frame digital Leica owners know about) as sensors (unlike film) do not like light arriving at off angles (and thus going through layers of glass at an angle ... if you don't get this go look at an aquarium close and look left and right ... distortions?). See this post for a little more detail.

For instance this is the OM28mm beside the Sigma 30mm

The lens cap on the OM lens is thicker than that of the Sigma and even then its shorter. So looking at the base plate you can see the Sigma is not "compact" (and wasn't the promise of micro 4/3 to have compact stuff?? Oh sorry ... banging on about this again ... its like I feel lied to).

However when you use the OM, because it was designed to work on a 35mm OM1 camera with a reflex mirror flopping around in there, it needs an adapter to 'space it off' the right distance.

So with the adapter on the OM lens and the lens caps off we can see that the 'whole thing' in legacy OM mount is actually bigger than the Sigma is.

So this seems like a good time to mention "SLRalike" bodies vs "compact" bodies. For on the GH1 using the OM lens feels quite natural but on the GF "compact body" the Sigma is much nicer. As the Sigma has AF that is also a real benefit there too.

Lens performance

I naturally took a series of shots at f2.8 f5.6 and f8 with both lenses confirming the already known (the lens vignettes as DXO have also reported) and curiously found something else.

When I do focus tests I tend to use manual focus and the "magnification assist" feature. When one manually focuses the Sigma lens one can hear the stepper motor moving the element in a series of "ticks" when the lens is moving in small steps (you can hear it too when its in AF right about when it snaps into focus inthe AF cycle.

What I found was that Sigma was often unable to focus exactly where I wanted to focus on, it would be a step either side of perfect. I would suggest that this has implications for why the newer Sigma 30mm seems may not perform as well on DXO testing. Now to be sure the differences are slight, but when you're suggesting that a lens / camera combo is 8P-Mpix vs 9P-Mpix you are talking slight.

So, lets look at 100% crops of the exact area I carefully focused on at f2.8 ... First the 100% crop from the Sigma

Then the 100% crop from the OM lens

You'll need to right click and open in new tab (or center click) to view these at the 100%.

Now the OM lens has a slight colour cast issue just on the edge of focus when its at f2.8, but this clears up when stopped down. The Sigma did not exhibit this.

Perhaps you can see that the Sigma focus is not exactly where I wanted it, on the chain. I could get it in steps either side, but I just could not get it right there.

Will this effect picture taking? No it won't ... I'm mentioning it because I believe that it may be a factor in effecting the DXO rating of the lens, for it they can't focus it perfectly (on a flat printed test sheet it will score lower.

How often do you photograph test targets?

The Sigma does vignette a little more than the OM lens.

Shallow normal

I happen to like the shallow DoF rendering in normal focal lengths (well and wide too) compared to the Kit 14-45mm zoom you just won't get shots like this

The background would be much sharper and the trees would be lost amid the background. Now personally I'd like even better separation than this, but in my view that can only realistically be had with larger formats. So the so called Full Frame (which ironically is only the full 35mm frame which was once regarded as miniature) is the only way to get this. In theory a f1.4 30mm lens would do it, but
  1. I've never seen a f1.4 lens in micro 4/3 between 24mm and 35mm focal length
  2. the 20mm f1.7 is close, but as its a bit wider then you need to work closer or you'll loose the effect.
  3. f1.4 still isn't quite as shallow as f1.8 is on a 35mm because the 2 fstop guidelines for determining the effective DoF of the micro 4/3 vs full fame is only really a guideline (see posts here, here, and here)


Basically I like the Sigma a lot. If I was using only a ultracompact body (like say one of the EP series) I'd definately have it and the Panasonic 14mm. It would be a great combo. It really helps cameras like GF1 attain the 'compact' dimensions and become convenient and powerful tools.

However for anyone using the SLRalike bodies who also happen to have some legacy lenses, the case for ownership becomes less compelling. Then the things which stand out are:
  • AF
  • flash compatibility (I don't have any native flash)
  • focus by wire more immediately (although bringing up focus assist is usually quick)
  • better colour balance (with JPG) and exposure decisions (compared to legacy lenses)

I paid €124 for my lens, but as you may know its now discontinued and the newer model is selling for €199, to me that's enough to change the equation. Lets look at some money figures:

A 28mm lens such as an OM or FD or Pentax screw mount lens will cost you about 60 bucks, less if you buy a non branded lens like a Tamron / Tokina / Vivitar .. probably 30 bucks. A reasonable quality legacy adapter will cost you anywhere between 30 and 60 bucks.

So if you have no other legacy lenses and no interest in fiddling in this area then there is no benefit to the older glass, so just grab the Sigma 30mm f2.8, it's your cheapest way to get a prime fast 'normal'.

However if you perhaps wanted to add some other lenses (like say a 50mm and a 100mm for some mid telephoto work) then you can share that adapter across the other lenses. If you are interested in that path then it would be something like this:
  • 30 bucks for the adapter
  • 30 bucks for a 28mm f2.8
  • 30 bucks for a 50mm f1.8 (seriously, don't get a 1.4 you'll be disappointed with the softness and weight)
  • 90 bucks for a good quality branded 100mm or less for a non-camera branded one
So for about 180 bucks (about the same price as just the Sigma 30mm) you'll get three lenses and add heaps more creative potential to what you may do.

So it all depends on what floats your photographic boat.

I may just end up selling the Sigma.

PS: I did sell it as the DoF differences compared to my 14-45 were in 99.9% of cases un-identifiable.

the economic hampster wheel

Ok, so as I understand it, banks approve loans on (say) property by 'creating' the money and then injecting that into the 'community'. So they sort of make up money to give to you to give to the person who you're buying from who will probably give that to the bank ...

So then if the property values fall while you're paying it back or the interest rates rise so that you can't pay it back the bank spits you off the wheel, takes the property and puts it on the market again


Clearly I don't know shit about Economics.

Friday, 6 December 2013

old power - battery adapters to power old cameras (OM-1)

I happen to really like my OM-1

Its a great camera, but it has a significant problem in this day and age; being a rather old device its hard to get power for it.

You see since it was made there has been quite a revolution in both electronics and enviromental (or is that enviro-mental) thinking.

Sadly as most people are unable to be responsible with batteries the uber reliable mercury battery it used is discontinued.

Now luckilly there are a few stalwarts who are serious about these cameras (should tell you how bloody good they are) and have put some thought and effort into keeping the things breathing. One very informative page on this topic is here. So essentially I needed to replace the PX625 battery with something else, in this case it is the common Hearing Aid 675 Zinc Air Battery. As described on Rick's page the discharge voltage curve of the Zinc Air is very similar to the original Mercury type.

Anyway, lacking the o-ring mentioned in his article (and the wire) I first turned to a bit of cut to length cable tie. As long as you get a cable tie of ~2mm diameter (as suggested in his fine post) this can be used in the battery compartment to solve the size difference.

Not wanting to "cheap out" on my OM, I decided to look around and see what might be available. Fishing around on eBay I came across a Japanese seller making a high quality machined part. His name is nobbySparrow, and in the 'invisible hand' tradition of market knowledge I thought I would write up his product (as I have others I've bought).

The product is essentially a 'metal cup' to hold the 675 battery to allow it to be placed into the battery compartment of the OM-1

The smaller battery just slips into the compartment and then the whole thing goes into the camera.

It looks a little 'loose' by today's modern tight manufacturing standards, but the way that the OM-1 battery hatch is designed actually holds it in firmly.

you can see the ridge around the cap above.

So there you have it, a simple, inexpensive and well made adapter for the battery.  I paid US$12 for two adapters, its nice to have two in case I loose one. So for essentially $6 each I have a smooth and simple fix for my OM-1 battery needs. Oh, and a pack of 6 batteries was $2

So now I can just go out and take pictures with my OM-1 and not need a handheld light meter or fiddle around at battery change time.

And take fine pictures it can; especially with Negative in contrasty conditions it not just rivals digital cameras it exceeds them.

and a detail segment:

so its a small investment to keep a fine and functional photographic tool functioning.

Thanks nobbySparrow :-)

Friday, 29 November 2013

To find something, you must first loose it

Today I'm off on a trip to the North. Its a small trip and only little preparation was needed.

But taking my backpack to the bus stop in the cold early morning of early Finnish winter I felt again that I was travelling.

I spoke to the locals in their language (that I am slowly learning) and after I had seated myself on the bus I began to feel as I have not since I was in Korea. Feeling as I was travelling alone, but in the sence that I only needed to organise myself.

This is a nice feeling that is a mixture of enjoyment of exploration and the confidence that comes with competence and experience.

I realised that this was something I hadn't done since Anita and I began travelling together. That is not to say that I did not love travelling with her, for I did. We both loved travelling together and going on journeys together.

But it was different because there was a sence of responsibility that I always had. Responsibility to look after and protect her. Not that she couldn't look after her self! Far from it. But it wasn't just myself I needed to think about.

So my trip today is the first day I have found my old self in some ways. As if to say something to me, the sun has come out too, after a long time of dull and sleeting windy weather.

As I bob up and down on this sea of turmoil there are days that the decks clear of water and I no longer feel like I am sinking.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Onions have layers (as do brains)

Since the passing of Anita I have discovered that while I am changing to accept things that I'm also changing in other ways. Quite distinctly I've become more emotional, and occasionally irrational.

 A friend of mine remarked to me when I discussed this with her:
I believe that if something really good or really bad happens in your life, which you can't explain by using your brilliant brains, you become more emotional.
She has quite brilliant brains and has just had a daughter. So thats pretty emotional (and hormonal) stuff.

So I came think about this, and I wonder if it is something like a mental version of what happens with concussion. As the brain is a massively parallel computing device perhaps there is a subsystem reboot:

anyway, my mental reboot is taking place ... or its stuck ... can't be sure

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

why I love negatives

People may get the wrong idea that I don't like digital cameras, if that was the case I wouldn't be as supportive of and invested in and investigative of digital as I am. Its simply that they have limitations and I'm one who gets sick of "kool-aid" drinkers of hype who ignore reality.

So with that aside, I was just out yesterday with my old friend the OM-1 (and a roll of neg) testing my 28mm lens (after being surprised just how much flare my 21mm has when pointed straight at the sun).

I was wandering around the riverbank in the -4°C day with the intention of seeing how the river is freezing up slowly and testing my OM1 + 28mm f2.8 (200ISO negative) against my GF-1 (set to 200ISO) when I stumbled across this (among others) great scene.

Now, the red rectangle is in there because in my enthusiasm for examining the beauty of it, I took the digital zoomed in too tight, and the red rectangle is the digital framing ... and no I wasn't using a tripod ;-)

When I got home I scanned the film (dropped off at a 1hour developer) and looked at my digitals. The JPG's sucked but as I'd captured RAW I put the ones I liked through dcraw and got this 16bit TIFF from it.

Now its worth re-iterating that the digital is more zoomed in than the digital ... which will help the digital have greater clarity due to lower magnification. So with that said:

Film detail screengrab:

Digital screengrab:

the digital is just so luscious you could suck on it for a week. But the negative isn't so bad as to make you spit it out.

In particular I'm really impressed with the lack of 'grit' and the depth of the shadows details while still holding highlights. That's the reason I dropped the shutter speed to 30th, to get more shadow details.

Now bear in mind
  • that the film shot was handheld at 30th of a sec so higher chances of some shake
  • the digital was a bit higher at 50th of a sec (lower chances of shake and an OIS lens)
  • the film scan is of a much larger area
and I think that its fair to say that the Neg did pretty bloody well. The Nikon LS-4000 made this a peach.

So why am I mucking around with this still?

sure, the "war is over" ... digital won.  I guess noone needs to paint anymore either?

Well the reason for me to fool around with film still (apart from the fact I like some of the look I get with it) is that when I go on a 2 or 3 day excursion in -10°C (or lower) the batteries die on the digital unless I go to extreme lengths to keep them warm. So my plain old mechanical film camera just keeps keeping on.

Not to mention in the contrasty highly reflective lights of winter shots like this one below

are just not possible with digital without resorting to HDRI (and pray there is no wind). I'll leave you with this one from the same spot.

Film too ;-)

Depression - Grief - Denial

I'm lucky ... my friends care about me. It isn't easy for them because they don't really understand.

Actually I'm really glad they don't (because of what that would really mean).

Most of us never really know stuff, we just know the words.

Its like the ice on these rocks: most of the human population lives in places where they only see ice in the fridge. They have never immersed themselves in icy waters and swum and crawled out of the waters.

Yet if questioned they would know its bad, it will hurt and be dangerous.

Such is the way humans pass knowledge. We can learn from each other and don't all have to experience near death experiences to know it may kill us.

Yet there is something missing from this knowledge. Robert Hienlein came up with the term "Grok" in his novel "Stranger In A Strange Land" (its a good book of philosophy and analysis of humanity, I recommend it).

My friends often think I'm suffering from depression after the loss of Anita. Personally I can understand why they think the symptoms are a match, but there are things they just don't understand.

Ask anyone who studies black holes, the experts will tell you that that they don't really know, but they have lots of ideas and untested theories. It is after all hard to study what you can't see.

I believe that most people only experience loss of a loved partner late in their lives. It is relatively rare that people in the midst of their life have to suffer such losses. A friend of mine who lost her husband recently remarked to me that it was not untill she lost her husband that she truly understood what her mother had gone through with the loss of her husband. Sure she loved her father, and when he had died she grieved for some time. But the relationship was (of course) different to that her mother had with her father.

Normally it is the elderly who (after a life together) loose their husband or wife. Those who are younger (like the kids) probably have not lost their husband or wife and consequentially are often confused as to why their remaining parent seems to have difficulty in "getting over it".

There is an Australian musician who I happen to like. I have found in his songs quite good descriptions of the subtle differences between Grief and Depression. Let me quote from Richard Pleasance:


Well you live up above my ceiling and you feed on the filth in my head
You come down in the cool of the evening and get comfortable in my bed

I had it out with you, must have been years ago and I thought that I'd left you behind
Butyou've come back again to haunt me and taunt me and force me to loose my mind
You keep pusing me down down down down down down down

Now I'm seeing thingsand I'm hearing things
I've let the bastard get the better of me and cast me into a well of depression

Well I know that you're not a real person but I know that you're more than real
This time I'm not going to let you screw me, so tell me how does that make you feel?

I reckon there's a good chance he's struggled with depression. On grief he seems to have have some experience too from another song

Cold Change

Brother you've cast off your anger and left this world
So quick, so quick was your exit explains this girl
And cruel, so cruel the disease that pulled you down
Relief from your absence is not to be found

And so cold the change
Deep are the waves, deep is the pain

And tears fall on pictures of you growing up
And she sighs, as she nervously spills the tea from her cup

And so cold the change
Deep are the waves, deep is the pain
So we float, out to sea, out to sea

Now she's lost, as she floats out to sea I call her name
And I pray, I pray I can bring her back safe again

And so cold the change
Deep are the waves, deep is the pain
So swim to me, darling please, darling please.

To me the differences in the sadness experienced by the characters in this song are unlike the sad and tortured experience of depression.

Anyway, I hope you never understand this.

But to my friends I say this: I'm not depressed ... I'm trying hard to learn how to be without out her when I don't want to be without her.

Another photograph (like the one above) from todays walk with my old friend my OM-1 loaded with colour negative film

Sunday, 24 November 2013

clarity in digital (a retrospective with new data)

Well this is here because I became interested in the Sigma 30mm f2.8 lens. Before buying it I thought I'd do a little reading about it. So ... that's why this post started.

*Bigger is Better *More is Less *Less is More

Seems like an Orwellian double-think paradox.

For nearly 15 yrars I've been banging on about digitial cameras and film cameras. Being an IT specialist there is a great appeal to digital for me, but with 30 years of using film there was much experience and a high bar for digital to attain.

I have owned, tested and examined many photographic systems. The reason "why" was always to understand the tools and know what their limits were so I could make the best choices for my needs (which includes my budget).

The image to the left was taken using my 35mm outfit on Kodak slide film many years ago. My interests in digital lay in, convenience, speed of access, lowered costs. Since my first digital camera (in 2000) things have improved in iterations, going from .7Megapixels to my current camera being 12Megapixels.

When I bought my Panasonic G1 (12Megapixels) I owned Canon EOS digital gear (as well as film gear) and was getting tired of lugging the EOS digitals around (10D and 20D). I really appreciated many of the features of the G1 (excellent EVF and all that this brings to the table, tilt and swivel much bigger rear screen, much lighter). After some extensive testing I sold the EOS gear and have only kept the 35mm film cameras because they are just not worth anything to sell and as it happens have been useful photographing a wedding.

That was back in March 2009 and after spending time in the analysis I reached a few conclusions.
  • bigger format was better for wide and normal
  • bigger format was better for contrast and clarity
  • smaller format made better use of telephoto lenses
While looking for clarity and resolution in my images I used tools like Norman Korens lens testing ideas and charts. These enabled me to see effective resolutions on both my Film and Digital camera systems.

Systems is the key word here ... but I'll get to that in a moment.

Looking at the data it supported what I was seeing in my images and that was that my G1 was a better system for clarity and resolution than my EOS system was. When applied to my 6x9 roll film and 4x5 sheet film systems I could 'see' the numbers showing me that they not only resolved more (despite lenses having lower lp/mm) but also had better contrast and texture.

When it comes to capture "Bigger is Better"

Back when I first had my 20D I was disappointed with the images from it (while all the while people were going ape over it) because they just weren't clear enough with EF-S lenses and my EF lenses just didn't look and feel the same on it. My 24 was no longer a wide and my 50 no longer a normal.

Somehow these lenses simply looked better on full frame.

Owning the G1 seemed to be unilaterally better than the 20D (EVF for critical focus, shorter flange distance opened up wide choices of cheap creative alternative lenses, actual resolution was higher, slightly smaller sensor gave a more convenient x2 rather than x1.6 factor...) and somehow also made it clearer to me that Full Frame had something that neither APS nor 4/3 did (plenty of posts on that here).

Quantitative data

Fast forward to last night and I was looking up data from a lens testing site about a Sigma lens I'm interested in. I learned that since I was doing much of my testing (2009) a group has developed a very convenient lens testing metric - the Perceptual Megapixel (announced in 2012).

This is very useful metric, perhaps the most useful metric I've ever seen with relation to digital imaging. For it brings together the entire system (as did the Norman Koren method) yet gives a single number which can be applied in parts of the analysis of lens on almost any camera. Why is it useful? Well previously the only 'metric' on lenses was stuff like LP/MM measurements (quite subjective) and MTF curves (for full on experts), as the guys over at DXO say:
Can you define MTF? Do you know if an MTF20% of 50 lp/mm is better or worse than an MTF 50% of 30 lp/mm? And when reviewing an MTF chart, can you distinguish which curve is best? The short answer is probably no.

Since I bought my G1 (and swapped it later for a GH1 to get video and then added a GF1 last year) I have seen nothing compelling to encourage me to "upgrade" my micro4/3 cameras to any newer model. Seeing this data now gives me some metric to fall back on to support what I was seeing (but it seemed that few if any others were seeing NB:
cameras were getting more megapixels but the images just seemed to have the same levels of detail.
To wit lets look at a few lenses from the dxo site. As I was interested in the Sigma 30mm f2.8 I found that review first (and from there the P-Mpixel):

So the Sigma has 8 Perceptual Megapixels, the 'illustrious' (and slightly expensive @US$529) Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 gives you only 10Mp (from my 12MP camera) and the oft dribbled about on forums Oly 45mm (@US$400) gives you 9Mp. Hmmm ....

So, looking at a few more of the 'top micro4/3 lenses you simply have to have' we see:

9, 9 and 6P-Mpix. Seeing that rating on the 12mm f2 makes me even more comfortable that my bang for buck (based on what I saw in images) x0.79 adapter was good enough.

I get sick of the dribble I hear about how good the original Olympus 17mm f2.8 was (and how it was sooo much better than the zoom, and don't even start me on the 'stellar' 20mm) seing this low rating only confirms what I saw with my eyes. Well to my eyes it wasn't great and now there is data to back this up.

So looking at the performances its not ball tearing stuff is it. I mean none of these lenses will warrant a move up to 16Megapixels in your camera ... you'll just get more mush. In fact it shows that none of these "super zooms" even give you much more value than the original kit 14-45 zoom that came with my G1. It puts some metrics behind the arguments made by people that the Olympus micro4/3 anything zoom on the OM-D anything will compete with Full Frame ... it just can't and this new understandable data metric seems to support what you see when you look carefully at the DPreview comparison images.

So Less is More (more money back in my pocket).

In comparison to Full Frame some quite humble lenses (and my EF24 f2.8 is always bagged by people from the Kingdom of Wang) as well as one EF-S zoom

So no matter how many MP your camera has (and the 7D has an 18Megapixel APS sensor) if you use that lens you'll get effectively no better than 7Mpix (or about what I get on my micro 4/3) while if I used the older original 5D I'd get the full 13Mpix that the sensor had with either my EF24 f2.8 or my EF50 f1.8.

Worth noting is that the EF24 f2.8 when tested on an APS camera gave no more than 7P-Mpix (due to higher magnification demands of the smaller sensor)

This has helped explain to me what I was seeing when 35mm images taken with my EF50mm f1.8 were sharper and clearer than what I ever got with any of my smaller sensor digital cameras.So as well as better shallow normal I also actually get higher definition too.

The older EF24 f2.8 is not available new anymore, but as a used lens in excellent condition you'll find them for less than US$300, which is much better bang for buck than the Olympus 12mm f2.0 at US$800 and will give you higher resolution to boot!!

These numbers make it clear that if I actually want higher resolution and better contrast I'll need full frame (cos APS and micro4/3 just don't have the numbers). This re-enforces that with the lenses being as they are there is no point in having a compact camera more than of 12Megapixels.

So again Bigger is Better, and Less is More.

Does this mean I am disappointed with my micro4/3 move?
No, because it still gives me a light weight camera to mount many and varied lenses on.

My initial choices for moving from my 20D to the G1 was to have a high quality lightweight camera system that was flexible. My GH1 and GF1 are still exactly that. I now know that do get better performance from my micro4/3 system than I did from my APS system as well as better options for low price and creative lens options.

To me pictures have never been about Megapixels and you'll find in my writings for many years that I've often felt that a good and sharp 6Mpix was enough for most needs. So now with this DXO metric I'll say that a 6P-Mpix is good enough :-)

I'll leave you with an image which is an old favorite of mine, it was taken with the EF24mm f2.8 on film. Its certainly got way less than 8P-Mpix in it, but due to the nature of the way things works prints nicely up to 70cm. Please click on it for a larger view

but I like it not because its sharp but because it has feeling. Its an nice photo of my friend and excited dogs down on the beach on a nice day. Knowing how digital blows out in the highlights, I know that I'd have never been able to get this image with a digital, so I'm glad I had only this antiquated equipment.


So I'm really glad that there is now a metric to help me to make appraisials faster. I know that my micro4/3 has limits and I'm willing to live with them. Understanding the limits makes it clearer to me why I won't benefit in the upgrade. In fact something I have not touched on here is I will benefit by not upgrading because more megapixels in the files just means more storage. More storage costs, longer backup times, bigger SD cards .. and all for nothing that can really be seen in the images.

So I'm going to buy the Sigma and I reckon that it'll be a nice addition to my GF1's compactness (cos that 14-45 zoom is a bit bulky). This will give me a nice lightweight travel and snapshot camera
GF1 (380g) + 14mm (55g) + GWC1 x0.79 wide adapter (70g) + Sigma 30mm (135g).
It'll weigh 250g less than just a 7D or a 5D body and give me effectively a 21mm f2.5, a 28mm f2.5 and a 60mm f2.8 Sure it wont have the Megapixel count but who can see that? The camera only has one eye, but those who only read data and chase the megapixel madness are just as blind as King Wang

A wonderful quote on the DXO site:
The Perceptual MPix measure confirms certain rules of thumb such as a 12 MPix full-format camera is sharper than an 18 MPix APS
Just say More Megapixels and the followers of King Wang chant:
Long live the King!
King Wang King Wang King Wang King Wang

but to me Megapixel madness is
King Wang King Wang King Wang King Wang King Wang King