Monday, 10 December 2018

fence post

I was out wandering with the A7 and found this to be interesting.

As it happens its also a good example of why I like the A7 and my legacy FD series lenses. This is not to say that other lenses are not as good, it just happens I've gathered a selection of FD from when I got into micro43 back 10 years ago.

The A7 gives me a dynamic range that I would be unable to get with my m43 cameras (even if I had newer ones) and the larger capture sensor gives me a much more exaggerated DoF experience than I can get with m43 (something I've known since I first started with APS-C, which is almost the same sensor size, some 20 years ago).

35mm used to be the first size (the smaller end) of films which I considered useful for anything other than snapshots (or macro, a place where small digital sensors have been great from my first experiences)

Friday, 7 December 2018

Creative Desctruction (or how to move towards business evolution)

No, not the video game, but the philosophy of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter.

I often wonder how (if?) we can move beyond a competition based economy into something which can robustly absorb change without causing harm to people. We do need change after all.

Myself I sit on the side of Ecological Modernisation (meaning that we need to move into technology to solve our problems caused by population growth and our desire for more modern stuff). You know, stuff like this electric bicycle which would really effectively answer many of the commuting needs of people in big cities, while at the same time drastically reducing the need for power.

It has occurred to me that one of the failures (for humanity) of the competitive system is that if any industrial innovation which makes old technology obsolete (or drastically reduced in effectiveness) will be seen as a destructive force (bad) by those invested in the old (because it is going to be devalued or obsoleted by the new).

However if we were not engaged in "competition" (with one business as being a winner or loser) then we could more easily adapt and adopt newer technologies, thus making innovation in the business cycle a bonus to society (rather than a horror story for investors and employees).

The Machine is like a social ladder, some climb it, some fall down it, and most fail to see its existence.

Knowing the Machine is there (in the form of corporations) is the first step, understanding that it was made by us and can be therefore redesigned by us to better suit us (not better suit it) is the second step.

Now, all I need is an epiphany on how to move towards step 2...

Thursday, 22 November 2018

dealing with heat

Its not just people who get hot, gear gets hot too.

Just the other day we had over 35C in my area (and my house insides too) and I observed that my phone had not charged much when I had put it on the charger (I know how fast it usually charges).

A bit of investigation revealed that the internal temperature (reported by an App that reads the temperature off the sensors inside the phone) showed that it was very close to 50C inside the phone, so I whacked it onto a "cold pack" until I could come up with a better solution.

This wasn't an ideal solution as while it chilled the phone it took it too cold and moisture condensed on the phone (known to technically apt as a "bad idea") and so I sought a proper solution at my earliest convenience. Indeed I expect that as battery damage occurs when temps are over 50C and would logically block or seriously slow charging (if you're an American reading this and don't know what 50C means then I expect the rest is technically over your head too, so don't worry).

From battery university:

Solution: get rid of heat

This is a heat sink.

its made out of aluminium to enable it to rapidly conduct heat (from the source) and disappate it via the fins (which being black also allow for good radiation too).

So with my phone sat on this it was only a few degrees above "ambient" air temp.

which is great.

Somehow it happens that I didn't blog about my "home made phone stand" (from old wood) which I also made a few of for office colleagues:

I sit it like this when not charging:

but as the charging port is on the side, I turn it sideways (notifications harder to read that way as orientation sensor does not do everything everywhere) when charging. As it happens my "home made stand" also works to allow heat dissipation through the screen in this orientation..

I've always disliked phone covers (which will act to also trap in the heat) and so this only works well because the phone is in good thermal contact (it has an aluminium back even) with the heat sink.

Sorta looks funky too dunnit.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Camera Mentat

being a Dune fan I don't know why its taken me this long to come up with this:

Camera Mentat

It is by will alone I set my lens in motion.
It is by the choice of ISO that sensors acquire speed, 
the files acquire noise,
the noise becomes a warning. 

It is by will alone I set my lens in motion.

So its unsurprising that I choose to use manual focus and manual aperture control lenses ;-)

Sunday, 11 November 2018

the EV "Fest" at the convention center

being intersted in (despit appearances) EVs and EV development  (I have no doubt that it is the future for many vehicles, just "when" remains uncertain to me) I went along to the Brisbane Convention center with a mate and had a look around. It was nice to see some offerings from mid priced manufacturers:

such as Hyundai as well as a bunch of home brew stuff (which I always love to see done well). This little Suzuki 4WD was excellent:

 and showed how much space can be made in the engine bay without as much engine there

I didn't find out about the engine on that, but instead got chatting with the owner of the orange beetle behind it (visible in the above photo).

The guy was probably the most down to earth (realist) in the whole place and he seemed to enjoy chatting to my mate and I about his vehicle (perhaps because we're both interested in older cars too). His view was that the EV conversion made his (mid 60s?) beetle a great daily driver and increased its reliability.

This is the "engine" he had in the beetle:

which was quite compact (as can be sen from the automotive clutch and ring gear here to fit the VW). Details on the makers website here, but a very tidy little conversion. The owner has said he's modified the original gear box to have only 2nd and top ... works well with the torque range of the motor.

Naturally there were some EV bicycles which I also have an interest in (being in my view the most desirable city EV to have). I liked this one the most, and it happens to be a folding type so you could easily bring it into your apartment:

love that single sided front and rear swingarm:

A little pricy for my taste (just under AU$5000) but if I lived in the center and wanted to get about it would be a very tidy choice ... (although myself I still lean towards an actual 200cc motor scooter like the Honda dio), but with rego costs and access to bike ways it may eventually balance out as the ideal. Just make sure you don't forget to keep it charged because you can't really just "go to the servo and fill up" if its flat.

All in all a great morning (thanks Dom)

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Pretty Scenery

I went for a ride down to the Coast yesterday and took my new Sony A7 camera with me, there was opportunity on the way home to snap a couple of things (one planned, one impromptu) which I thought I'd share here not least because they're (to me) images of beautiful countryside.

On the way home I passed this "wetland" area (which is flodded because of a water dam).

I wanted to explore this area in a little more detail so I switched out the wide angle for a mild telephoto (100mm). First the silo

I was just stunned with the image quality which the a7 gave me, so lets look at a segment of that image closer:

well ... wow ... great handling of highlights and shadows (photographed in RAW and processed on my tablet) with very little noise and even at 100% ... The details in the rusted tin roof, the birds on the fence and rock. All this with a 1979 Canon FD lens (which was purchased used for $130)

Another shot of the "wetland" over near the dead trees (with the 100mm)

myself I would have wanted to wait for more like sundown to get the reds, but still, this was a "test run"

On the way home I was glad I didn't linger, because I had opportunity to see a magnificent sunset with rim-lit clouds and smoke in the skies (from some small fires). I saw the sun going down from further away and around that ridge.

 If I'd had any other camera the above picture would have been inky, and attempts to resurrect it in post processing would result in horrible noise in the shadows with many cameras.

So ... WOW

Moving further along the valley (towards that ridge on the left, which I needed to ride up) I was greeted by this wondrous scene just as the sun had set (which I again snapped).

And again was able to get the brilliant beauty of the clouds and (to my eye) the right level of "evening" in the valley.

Loving this camera ... and the well priced, optically excellent lenses from nearly 40 years ago that it enables me to use (for the first time on Full Frame, as no other DSLR can).

Friday, 19 October 2018

Ciecio7 E mount FD adapter

Readers of my blog (the old ones) will know that I've regularly used FD lenses on my m43 camera; these require an adapter to allow the FD lens to fit onto the m43 mount.

The same is true for a Sony A7 (E mount).

So as I have a small collection of FD lenses already it made sense to get a adapter; naturally I chose my favorite maker.

Now I'm a bit perplexed that this guy (from Poland) who makes without doubt the best "non electronic" adapters is somehow not yet "famous" on the internet, given that he's been making FD adapters (and many others) since at least 2009.

So without further preamble here's a quick look at my new Ciecio7 FD adapter

As always the workmanship is first rate, and being machined from a single billet of Aluminum its not only solid, but accurate. Indeed I believe there is more "play" in the nFD mount (with its screws) than there is in this adapter.

Myself I've found these to be far more satisfying and robust than any of the other makes I've ever used.

With the adapter on the camera the front of the camera becomes the same as the front of an FD camera and the lens is easily attached (well if you're used to nFD lenses)

It fits nicely and to be frank, "fits like it was made for it" ... which is more than I can say about some other adapters I've tried (even on E mount).

dismounting it you can see that its just a beautifully made bit of gear and looks great.

From this angle you can see there are two red dots which makes the process of mounting any FD lens easier ....basically you bring the lens to the adapter with the lens Red Dot matching the left (in this picture) red dot. Then you (keeping them together) rotate the lens around to match the second red dot (on the right) and the lens "falls onto" the adapter (as it goes into that groove).

You then rotate the lens to "lock it" in the normal way (Leftie Loosie - Righite Tightie) till it clicks.

In the shot above you can see the "tangs" which engage the aperture control (on the back of the lens), they too are machined ... its just beautiful work (no screws through the side here).

So now I can fit my FD 50f1.4, 100f2.8, 200f4 and 300f4 to my Sony A7 body.

Every time I buy another one of this guys adapters he's put effort into iterative improvement and development. He deserves better recognition than he gets IMO (and no he and I have no relationship, indeed we barely communicate except for me ordering adapters off his eBay store now and then.

I strongly suggest if you're in the market for an adapter to go sus his site out on eBay (link).

A link to all my other articles about this guys adapters is here.


Monday, 15 October 2018

Full Frame (Sony A7) Adventures

For quite some years I shot 35mm film (which nowdays gets called Full Frame (FF)), and there was no digital. Then when the first D-SLR's came out I was abjectly disappointed to find that they were APS-C and none of my EOS lenses (and I had a few) worked well on them (or so I felt), so perhaps its better to say "worked the same".. my beloved 24mm became a sort of slightly wide normal (at effectively 38mm) and was neither wide (like 28mm or less) or "normal" (like 50mm) and wasn't even "fast" being f2.8

Eventually the 5D came out but by then I'd accepted the APS size and by 2009 had sold my EOS system and moved solidly into the Four Thirds (or specifically micro43) sensors with my G1 (and later GH1 and GF1). I have of course written *much* about that on this blog.

Back in 2014 I was looking with interest at the Sony A7 as being perhaps the perfect platform to use legacy 35mm lenses because "they were designed for that coverage" and in particular in "wide" and "normal" prime lenses were well priced (in a day when everyone wants a 24-105 f4 zoom), and (as the famous Ken Rockwell's discussion on wide angle lenses between digital cameras here observes, primes can be quite the advantage in some ways:


Both the above lenses are 28mm (the two zooms variously wider and less wide).

I know some people like to suffer for their art, but that's not me, I'd pick the middle one. Thus I've always preferred a selection of compact primes to a couple of huge zooms ... it brings other advantages with it too ... like DoF control. With a 28 - 70 f3.5~5.6 zoom you don't ever get "shallow DoF" ... thus you have abdicated control.

So knowing that I like shallow normals (which has been a kind of quest for me since I've been into m43) where the absence (at first, then dearth) them in m43 has been a problem. Over time this was solved with both the 20f1.7 and 25f1.7 (and yes I know I can spend big and buy the 25f1.4 or 24f.12 even) which were good and I was glad of but still somehow something was missing for me - low light performance of m43. Sure, f1.7 helped give better shutter speeds, but not enough, not if you wanted higher quality detail (IE: more than facebook or other social media image making demands).

Now just the other day I compared the Panasonic 25f1.7 on my GH1 with the Pentax SMC thread mount 50f1.4 on my A7 (photographing a packet of noodles) but found that test both "wanting" (I'm not really into noodle packets) and limiting. Not least because photographing at that distance isn't quite what I'm into with "normals". Plus I've wanted to use my Canon FD50f1.4 which I have used and tested before on my G1 (which of course using only the center portion) turns it into a crisp and sharp 100mm. Yet it was designed as a normal and I wanted to see how it "looked" ...

Today FD adapter arrived (from my favorite maker of FD adapters, I strongly recommend his products) so I could put my FD50f1.4 onto the Sony and have a look at photographing a person in a "normal" context. I took two shots, one at f1.4 (cos like why not) and the other at f2.8 (or maybe f2?) and they looked like this:


and at f2.8

Which to me look (unsurprisingly) exactly like what I'm after, in contrast the P25f1.7 gave this wide open at f1.7

Its not as distinct from the background as the 2.8 (and indeed it should be closer if we assume the 2stops that exists between FF and m43). Its also a bit "wider aspect ratio because its 4:3 not 3:2 .. none the less its nice, but still, the books behind John are clearer and attract (unwanted) attention.

Overall (especially at this size) there is little rendering difference between this and a phone (less if you've got one of those that does the background Out Of Focus (OOF) in software now.

So what else is different?

Well for a starter I wanted to keep "shutter speed" above a minimum to reduce the possibility of subject blur (and yes I know IBIS will help with that, but won't help it if the subject moves ... as people are prone to). I also wanted to compare noise (which I also expected to show a 2 stop advantage to the bigger sensor, so I put the GH1 at 1600 ISO and the A7 at 6400 ISO (2 stops). This resulted in

  • the GH1 giving 1/250th at f1.7 (so yes its a dim room on a rainy day)
  • the A7 1/400th at f2.8 (and just over 1/1000th at f1.4 which really will freeze motion)
I don't want to pixel peep the shitter out of this because quite frankly it doesn't need that to show the differences, nor is anything more than 50% needed to replicate what a print looks like.  However the sheer amount of extra pixels captured by the A7 (6000 vs 4000 high) makes it hard to present them similarly. So I've chosen to present half size images for the A7 and full size GH1.
So lets dive in...

Straight away, just like with the noodle packet (in the earlier above mentioned post usig the Pentax lens on the A7) we see that the amount of detail available in the A7 just outright exceeds that of the GH1, and also contrast is better. What surprised me was how much more the noise was intrusive in the dark areas and even on the sides of Johns glasses. To me I'd expected that 2 Stops would see them on more equal footing than this. That the noise is larger in size (because its pixels are effectively bigger in the picture) makes it harder to apply Noise Reduction to without destroying detail.

To make the noise clearer (and highlight why colour channel noise is the big culprit here), lets look at just the Red channel.

The A7 noise looks more like "random noise" and the GH1 shows that its on the ragged edge of electrical read (sensor) noise.

This has a very detrimental effect on fine detail, which becomes clear when we look at the shot below.

So you can see the stripes clearly in the cushion, but the pattern in the covering of the chair is simply missing in the GH1 image (buried in noise). Click that image (indeed you should all of them) and look at the larger size ... the details vanished because the "feature size" of the image was about the same as the size of the noise ... so... gone.

Conclusions / discussion

Throughout this discussion I've used the names of the two cameras (the A7 and the GH1) however what really is significant is that one is FF (the A7) and one is m43 (the GH1). This is really the most significant point. All of the observations I've made are consistent with the expectations of the understanding of what is different between these two systems.

Big ticket items first, the FF camera gives better handling of noise and (via lower magnification) better contrast if not higher details. While its true that m43 can resolve as much as FF can its also true that things can erode that in practice, which we see here.

This experiment has shown to me that FF does indeed have benefits that extend beyond megapixel count, that even scaling the FF image down to a smaller than what the m43 camera still has greater details.

The smaller pixel size (relative to detail) allows greater use of post processing NR without destroying what RAW file posses.

So if you (like me) don't mind using manual focus (which requires a better skill set as a photographer) then you can take advantage of some great optics and get great images. Looking at the "native lens" options (meaning with AF and electronic control) available in a "normal" I see:
  • Sigma 50mm f1.4 for US$950
  • Sony E 50mm f1.8 with OSS (an advantage) US$300
  • Sony FE 50mm f1.4 US$1500
  • Panasonic 25mm f1.7 $150 
  • Olympus 25mm f1.8 $350
  • Panasonic 25mm f1.4 $600
Given that the FD50f1.4 costs about $100 it means that for a photographer, you have access to quality optics (but without the "bells and whistles") for a lot less. Yet still it on this camera the system outperforms the m43 option in terms of image quality and noise when in challenging light. Even if the P25f1.4 above could resolve more it would be eroded by the sensor noise. Perhaps its possible that some of the newer sensors (like the G80/85 I wrote about recently would come close to improving that situation, but  I doubt it would equal it let alone improve it.

So in conclusion (as I've expected) the m43 system will in good light give results in sharpness and detail that are well and truly "good enough". FF only pulls ahead when low light shooting is called for.

I'm in no way intending as a result of these findings to move away from m43 ... it offers so many things that FF does not (especially without having AF lenses). I will however be (now that I have a FF system {or at least not a film one}) rationalising my m43 lenses to be more in keeping to what I believe that basis of m43 has been right from the get go ... a compact and light weight flexible and system capable of excellent results as long as you don't have to contend with low light / high ISO.

Some random examples

Sunday, 14 October 2018

GH-1 vs G85 (big generational change)

I've occasionally done a look at the successive generations of m43 cameras, seeing as I started with a G1 (nearly 10 years ago) and then moved to the GH-1 (about 8 years ago,which I've sat with ever since); where I've found that pretty much all the developments have been "interesting" but not enough to "tip me over the scales" and buy a new one.

To my observations the changes have been about conveniences; which would of course be worth having, but for me (who works in RAW and seldom uses the Out Of Camera JPEG file (which I classify as one of the conveniences)) the actual end results in images just don't warrant spending a grand on a new body.

I've looked at different generations twice on my blog:

  1. GH1 vs EM5 (mk 1)
  2. GH1 vs GH4
and both times found that when processing a RAW file there was little actually in it. Meaning that Panasonic just got the GH1 so right back then that every subsequent camera could more or less be a re-tune off all that research and development.

Today I had the opportunity to have a decent look at the output from the G80 / G85 (depending on the market you're in) and compare it directly with my GH1. I' ve decided to put the spec comparison graphs at the end instead of the beginning this time.

Summary: its a game changer for me.

The GH-1 runs out of ISO at 3200, but soon after my first image I knew that it wasn't worth going over 1600ISO for me (which to be honest fits in well with over 90% of what I do or even want to do). Accordingly I'd resolved to not upgrade my GH1 until either it died, or something substantial came along. Well to me it has.

The G80 is well capable of being used at ISO right up to 12800, with RAW results just way nicer to work with than JPG. Throw in the 5 axis stabilisation and its an incredible camera.

1600 ISO

Given this is my comfortable upper limit lets have a look at what the GH1 and G80 produce at that point. Interestingly they both have different views of what "incandecent" colour balance should look like, but that's nothing really problematic.

These are OOC JPG, and as you can see they're both fairly acceptable at this size. You can see a little more flare from the lamp as I clearly sat down in a slightly different position when I returned to the table with the different camera (using the same 45f1.8 lens)

So lets look at the results from the RAW, stepping right into 100% (pixel peeping) we can see a couple of things, shutter speed was 1/60th and the eye reflection shows that while the subject didn't move, the photographer did (shake) and you can see the drop in detail in the pores of the skin and the eyelashes

not to mention (if you open it up and view it full screen) the amount of (not horribly invasive) noise already present in the GH1 (right image).

So marks awarded to the G80 right there ... and its even clearer when you look at the hairs on his head (both the clarity and the colour channel noise).

this becomes patently obvious when we examine just the Red Channel (if you happen to be one blind to what colour noise looks like)

chalk and cheese right?

Worth noting is that on a single grey hair there you can see the artifact of a stepping pattern which is I believe exactly what you'd expect with the Anti Alias Filter removed (which the designers of this this camera have chosen to do) (if you don't understand what an Anti Alias Filter is please read this).

So to me this is a nice step in improvement and something I'd not seen in any previous sensors I'd tested.

Very encouraging, so now lets go beyond my comfort zone and look at the higher ISO


3200 ISO is the limit that the GH1 goes to, but for some reason I failed, and didn't take a 3200 ISO with the G80, so we have to compare the 6400 ISO (which the GH1 doesn't even go to)

even at this magnification we can see the reasons I've always stayed below 3200 on the GH1, sensor noise is becoming clear and quite marked ... there would essentially be no hope of clearing that up.  As well there is some strange colour casts starting (which correction will exacerbate noise further).

The image from the G80 though is looking a bit "gritty" or "sandy" but is clean enough even if colour vibrance is falling off (something has to give right). Looking in close (50% this time) we see that skin tones are pretty reasonable with the GH1, but its just lost it with noise ...

and the G80 is actually a full stop higher ISO at 6400 ISO ... like wow

Again, looking at the red channel we see clearly that sensor noise is the real source of problems here, but the G80 is just amazingly showing nothing more than just noise which is rather akin to Grain ... so sensor pattern types of noise are amazingly well controlled here.

Lets push this further

25600 ISO

Well I mean this results in (our dim room) me having a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second ... shit it wasn't long ago that such was daylight exposures ... yet this is what we got:

Simply amazing ... and having a closer look:

Grain is becoming more apparent, but we've gone up 4 stops ... so yes, in the same light we've gone from 1/100th of a sec exposure to 1/500th of a second ... that's amazing.

Further this grain is amenable to noise reduction with even simple post processing NR like Nix

Lets compare that to the GH1 at 3200 again

So certainly its losing colour saturation (which fits what we know from the measurements) but with a little more tweaking (just some saturation and local area contrast masking) amazingly this shows you can still get a usable image from the G80 in what would really be impossible portrait lighting just a few years ago.

So to me this a big generational change, not just a small fiddle.


Specs - and what they reveal to support or even predict this

Despite the contention that exists on forum about DxO measurements of lenses (which I happen to find meets my personal observations) their methodology for sensor assessment is pretty robust. So here is the comparison between actual measured ISO and the camera setting ISO for my GH1, the GH4 and the G80/85

So looking at this graph we see that while the GH4 on its setting appears to goe to a higher ISO it progressively actually only goes to 12800 with 25600 being just a pat on the head to make you feel better (and makes worse images along the way).

Interestingly when the GH1 is set to 1600 (and gives an actually higher ISO of 2154) and the G80 is set to 2 stops higher 6400 ISO (and actually gives a lower effective ISO of 4408) they are infact of shutter speed given only one stop apart (not two) and have similar dynamic ranges (which can be seen in my images above if you go back and look.

I encourage you load the DxO comparison (which I've snapshotted above) and go through the test results carefully.

As I've discussed previously the GH1 is actually performing equivalently at a setting of 1600ISO (when you look at obtained shutter speed) to other cameras (such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5) when set to 6500 (and by that to when its set to 5000 it will give similar shutter speeds to the GH1 when its set to 1600). Meaning that there has been no significant sensor improvement between cameras which are six years apart in release date (2009 and 2015).

However as we've seen the G80/85 camera (and from what I've seen but not presented here the G9 too (and probably the GH5)) indeed does.

I encourage you to have a read of those linked in articles.

bottom line

I feel that the G80/85 is a worthy upgrade for anyone who does a lot of low light shooting, you can actually get usable images from light where the GH1 (or indeed most other m43 cameras) would struggle. Combined with some of your own image processing of the RAW files you can get quite decent images, and in my view probably the equal (in terms of signal to noise and dynamic range) of most full frame cameras (if you are one of those poor bastards somehow in total ignorance and misapprehension lusting after one of them because it'll make you take better images).