Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Mad grows up

as a kid I loved Mad Magazine. It was a fun read. Of course we never thought about who the kid on the cover was, but I've started to figure out who he is now.

If you ever read ZeroHedge you'll see that many of the posts are done by Tyler Durden. Reading today its pretty clear Tyler is doing some interesting journalism

wow ... the biggest drop since 20 years ago. Well looking at the various indexes on the web (after they've published) we see on Yahoo.

that its a little widdy piddle down over there on the right, with much bigger devaluations in March 2013 and July 2013.

The picture on Google (zoomed into today) ...

does indeed show a massive ramp up in USD, its a pitty that taking that in a larger historical context (you know, like as little as 5 years)

reveals it the even more of a piddle that Yahoo short timescale charts reveal.

I believe that Tyler has spent too much time in the wrong places when growing up, and has picked up some distinctly bad journalistic habits. This hidden camera shows Tyler doing 'research' on the latest thing...

Tyler ... you really should start looking at taking the red pill rather than the twisted dream you're living.

But then he's just a Poe Boy from a Poe family. Well at least that's what the Raven said to me

I bet King Wang subscribes to ZeroHedge.

Long live the King.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

lenses which are gold

Since the late 70's the price of Gold has gone from about US$200 per Oz to about US$1300 per Oz, which many finance people will tell you is not really growth, but a reflection of lack of losses (while the value of money falls)

Such store of value can also exist it seems in the photographic world with some items.

I have a friend and fellow blogger who is also interested in camera gear, and in a recent discussion on his blog discussed the Minolta 250mm f5.6 mirror lens. His words were to the tune of:
It has proven itself for the purpose of its design: small, lightweight, and inexpensive. The inexpensive part does not apply any more because this lens is selling at a few times more than its original price, but it's truly small and light
Which had me curious, I know well the advantage / disadvantage set of the mirror lenses. As the owner of a 'regular optical' legacy FD 200mm f4 lens (which is quite opitcally good btw) I thought I'd dig out the current selling price and found that its gone up like Gold.

To quote form JarJar Binks ... "Exqueeze me!"

Mirror lenses have an optical mirror which is coated in Silver ... but somehow this lens is Gold.

I understand the value of compact, and I also understand the downsides of donught bokeh and no aperture control. I don't know if the advantages are driving this price or if its "Kingdom of Wang" buyers. I understand that my friend picked it up back when the prices were sane ... but at these prices I genuinely expect that owners get more "joy of ownership" than use.

Like the ebay ad says "no signs of use"

I sincerely hope that the 4/3 rumor site is on the money with Olympus bringing out a new and current version. For that should restore some balance to the market.

Meantime I'll keep using my FD200mm as it cost me about $60, and I get to take pictures that I like with it. But be careful in picking your FD200mm because there are substantial differences between the New FD and the old FD editions. The more modern one weighs about half (at 440g) and has much better lens coatings. It also has a built in retractable lens hood and uses a more modern Inner Focusing design. Worth every penny of $56

I sometimes wish I could examine the Minolta and give it a test use, but at the current prices its out of my interest zone.

All taken with the FD200mm f4

Friday, 21 February 2014

Teles with Teleconverters (on x2 crop factor cameras)

Too much is never enough - or is it?


Many photographers starting out into 'birding' or other telephoto work always lament that their lens just isn't long enough. I grew up in the time of 35mm film (well and other films too) and a 300mm lens was something exotic that I just dreamed of.

For a long time I had to make do with a 80-200mm zoom (which actually did some good work for me) and eventually (as time passed) bought a few 300mm zooms to see. I liked them but they were often not as good at f5.6 (looking better at f8). The step up to a high quality fast (like f4) prime lens was out of my league.

Much later in my life (like a few years ago) I discovered the benefits of rapid obsolescence: NB the wealth of older Manual Focus lenses the market.

By this time I've moved over to Panasonic micro4/3 and could take advantage of insanely low prices in FD lenses (which pretty much could not be used on anything else previously {except NEX}).

The 300mm class is a good one (especially in micro4/3)  for a number of reasons:
  • lighter weight (have you picked up a 600mm)
  • lower prices (I paid sweet-F-all for my 300mm)
  • good handling characteristics
  • bright
I have owned both the Canon FD300mm f4 and the Olympus OM 300mm f4.5 (see my views on that here), and found them both neck and neck. Back in that article I made the observation that using the 300mm on a G1 body was like using it on a 35mm Full Frame camera with a teleconverter (and perhaps perfect film scans for those of us using film still).

Actually I've personally found that 300mm is enough to get you good shots of BSB's (that's Bloody Small Birds) and that Manual Focus actually helps you to get images of the thing you want in focus. In this image an AF system would drive you nuts focusing on the branches either side of the bird and after struggling with the camera the bird will be gone.

I often don't think there's more point in getting more than effectively 600mm as being closer actually gets you a better shot.

Well, since teleconverters exist (and can be quite good back in the Film Daze) I wondered about how it would actually work (in reality) on the smaller format digital, especially considering we are already doing an effective optical x2 anyway.

I went out and got a Canon x2-A teleconverter (there is also an x2-B, but the A is designed specifically with 300mm in mind) and had a look at the images. The excellent MIR site shows more information on the Canon x2-A extender here. I picked that teleconverter because I was using a Canon lens which it was designed for and its well regarded. I would expect that any other teleconverter would likely give me only equal or inferior results.


  • Is it worth the effort? to me, not really ... you'll need to work it out for yourself and your needs
  • you don't get something for nothing, there is an exact x2 tradeoff ... perhaps more
  • can upscaling solve the problem for you? Upscaling does have advantages.

the data

So, I took two shots (well more really, I took f4 and f5.6 and the bloody wasp kept moving around so actually I took lots more) one with the Canon x2-A teleconverter.

FD300 overview

FD300 + x2-A

Well it sort of looks like a x2 enlargement doesn't it ;-) Considering that these are scaled back for the WWW if you aren't printing them large, then a crop of the 4000x3000 native image will look just as good. For your interest here is the FD300 image cropped to match the x2-A image (bringing it to 2000 x 1500) and then resized down again to 1600 for web.

Similar isn't it. If you're only shooting for WWW (and not street side signage or posters) then of course the native sizes allow a x2 'enlargement' by being so bloody good at 100% pixels that you can crop the guts out of the images and still have room for a good size.

But that's not the whole picture (of course), as the exposure data is important. Firstly I used 400ISO for this test because I personally feel that after 400ISO the image quality falls off.
FD300@f4 gave - 2500th of a sec (handy to seize movement)
FD300@f4 + x2-A gave - 800th of a sec which is starting to push shit up hill with a fork because as this is effectively a 1200mm that's below the 1 over focal length rule. Actually I had to use a cable release as well as my most stout tripod (and yes, that means I took more pictures, evaluated them found camera shake and took more again).

So yes, you do loose 2 stops of speed (recalling that a stop is either halving or doubling the speed) so two stops down from 2500th - 1250 - 625th (assuming stepless shutter speeds). Now if I'd used 2 stops more ISO to bring the speed up on the x2-A shots I'd need to be 1600, which is like popcorn if you ask me ... YMMV

Ok, so lets look at 50% pixel enlargements. Why do I choose 50%? Well my personal experience is that looking on the screen @50% is very similar to looking at a print closely.

Also its important that if you want to look at these images as I screen grabbed them, then right click the image and open it into a new tab: because blogger scales them down to fit onto the screen.

Ok, so again its still clear that its a x2 enlargement, but something else is starting to become clear ... the x2-A makes the image appear a little less sharp (or perhaps viewed another way, magnifies the "we've already reached" the limits of the lens point).

To be honest contrast isn't as good on the x2-A image either (if you ask me).

Ok, so lets do the mathematical version of the x2 enlargement using a bicubic upsample of the plain 300mm lens image (on the right still)

Actually its not too different if you ask me ... however ultimate pixel peeping (like why?) shows that its not actually exactly the same:

and we see that the bicubic upscale has added a little gritty noise to the image (in the greens even!) and so it may just be that in the ultimate call on this: if you need every last pixel of the image and you really need to get in closer then the x2-A works better than a bicubic upscale.

IF you can live with the much slower shutter speed (cos a blurry image from subject motion blur will suck worse) then there seems to be a slight advantage to the TC, but if you really need the speed (like say under forest cover) then crop and upscale will allow you 2 stops more speed (with perhaps only little difference in quality).

As it happens (not presented here) I prefer the look of the FD300 stopped down to f5.6, it was that bit sharper and more contrasty. However I didn't present that here because on the x2-A version the shutter speed was down to 320th of a sec and most images weren't clear.


Its a tough call to say one is better than the other but if shutter speed counts then upsampled images will work as well (and you won't need the adapter :-)

Lastly, I'm not disappointed that I have it as I've used it on the FD200f4 that I have and found that its not bad. So when I'm not wanting to drag along my FD300 (which is not only physically large, but weighs about 1Kg) I can put the FD200f4 (440g and something I'm likely to carry anyway actually ) and my adapter (200g) in instead.

Have Fun

Friday, 14 February 2014

Gold bugs bug me

As it happens I have an amount of my savings (the wanky name is 'investment portfolio') in Gold. I keep an eye on the prices (out of interest) but I'm not really able to buy right now (lets not go into that, but here is a good start for you).

Today I was reading about Gold rocketing up ... "yeah yeah" I thought. Looking at the 30Day picture its a sky rocket

WOW ... go girl go (say the stokers and the fools). Shit like "these new heights are a testing point", "haven't been seen since..." (... last time)

To quote from Magic Roundabout "boing" said Zebedee...

Zooming back out to the last year ... reveals a different picture

where todays "bull run" is just a little piddle. What is wrong with these wankers? Oh ... right ... King Wang doesn't even have one eye. Get a grip folks (and no, on the facts, not your oldfella)

They say you catch more people with sugar than vinegar. Bullshit seems to work too.

The fact is far more claim to predict than can. If you look at the above graph you can find just as many "up turns" that went nowhere as you'll find downturns (well more downturns really). If you can predict the future then good for you. Myself, I'm just in for the long haul and sell if I need to (like because of life issues).

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

the ME generation

The Who perhaps first brought this generational view mainstream with their "My Generation" classic. None the less I've been interested to observe the shift in focus from: Society  through to My Generation, and now to ME in current western culture.

As a Gen-X person I've often scratched my head with the mememe meme attitude that most Gen-Y'ers seem to have been marinated in. I guess that its become (what would seem to be) a natural progression from the first Generation to be targed by Advertising, the Baby Boomer generation. Then stimulated by instant communications and micro-publishing (through FaceBook where you naturally only focus on the "me" and what others say in responce to "me").

I've thought about this from the perspective of Narcissistic Personality Disorder for some time, but I am thinking that this is not quite the right angle. I think that there is more to the issue and viewing it from that perspective can change what we see.

While NPD was once considered a disorder it has now become so common in our society that it really is becoming the new normal. Quite sad if you ask me.

However to me its not the only explanation of the problem (as I see it).

Changing perspective (to use another metaphor: turning something over in your mind) can reveal that something we saw as being a rectangle and others saw as a circle can reveal that what we are looking at is actually a cylinder.

Equally I think that NPD is simply one aspect of the ME focus. Perhaps it is limited in view because the problem is more complex than anything earlier humans had to solve.

I spent some years living in Japan and South Korea, where the social values are quite different. There (and perhaps more commonly throughout Asia) people are more raised to be thoughtful of society rather than of themselves. Of course this is changing with the 'young generation' (who all seem to be living at home with their parents and spending heaps of time on social media too). See my post on the Rat Race ... its a different tangent. None the less Asian cultures have a different psychology to Western cultures, where the individual has always been more important.

Western Society is both constantly changing and constantly expanding its influence, perhaps even in a 'borg' like manner absorbing anything from other cultures that it finds interesting. This gives it the appearance of being more than it really is: but does wearing new clothes change who you are?

This whole "ME" thing is something I've been observing for some decades now, and to be honest I think its accelerating in growth. Perhaps like some cancers it can recruit and change people as it encounters them. So it does not just need people to be born into that 'generation'. Something like how Zombies recruit others to become Zombies by infecting them.

Finding the pathogen

I was quietly mulling this when the other day two things happened:
  1. I got an email from my health insurance company
  2. I read an article on New Scientist called "Worried Sick"

In "Worried Sick" they discuss anxiety disorders. It seems that currently in the USA number of people diagnosed with anxiety is something like 20%. Personally I'd call that an epidemic. What is more interesting (and fitting the word epidemic) is the dramatic increase of the amounts of people with anxiety from about 2% in the 1980 to 20% now. If it continues to develop at this rate it will be like the spread of Zombies in World War Z

... and soon perhaps all but a few will not be effected.

Anecdotally I can say that my observation of this trend is pretty consistent with the above numbers.

First, something about my background.
As you can find on my blog I've had a type of heart problem which is called "Aortic Stenosis" (AS), more specifically mine is from being born with a Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV). When I was quite young a heart 'murmur' was picked up (like back in the early 70s). Some few years before this such a diagnosis was more or less a certain death sentence. However as I was born into a 'lucky time' there was hope for me. For I was born just 4 years after the first Aortic Valve replacement and so as I got older technology developed and when it became critical for me to have surgery such medical equipment was actually around.

Now from that perspective it is interesting to observe that when I was younger (and all this technology was both new and unknown) people were calm in discussion. I never saw open weeping or wailing, patients were quite matter of fact about it and family projected calm when being at hospital.

I don't know what everyone felt, but I know what I felt, I know what fellow patients felt and I had quite a few conversations with their families.

In contrast to that today I see people as howling wrecks with outbursts of tears an wailing.

People today say its all understandable. ... well from someone who went through that with others I say "BULLSHIT, no its not, its more like watching petulant children"

Getting back to the other symptoms of anxiety being epidemic in our society (and trying to find a cause) I come to this email I got from my medical insurance company.

The purpose is to wish me happy birthday (yeah, it was my birthday, so whats it to them?) The email reminds me that its all about me ... not my family, not society, not the world. Nope, its all about me.

How fascinating I am
How unique I am
How fantastic my life is
How Amazing my journey has been.

My first thought was "what the fuck is this shit all about". Next I thought well they wouldn't fucking know.

Its pretty clear that this is just designed to suck up to me. Like some disgusting sycophant would.
NB: sycophant: a person who praises people in order to get their approval
Such communication just wouldn't come from a company when I was a kid, and perhaps would be laughed at too. However now it seems to be what everyone wants.

Like many things institutional, I reckon if you wish to try to understand things, follow the money trail.

Why would someone who I don't know suck up (in that above email example) to me like a hover? What benefit is it to them? Well basically they want my money. Since (in Australia) there is little to differentiate the insurance providers its all about 'perception' (not about reality). If they make customers feel good then they'll get more customers. Hell if it wasn't illegal I'd guess that any company offering free hand-jobs to clients who were waiting to make a claim would have a huge market share. Of course there would be the moral issue of who would do it?

It seems to me that the culprit for this epidemic in anxiety and the 'me' focus today is instituted by companies who seek your dollar. They have no morals (as they are not humans) and so by pandering to people's needs and desires (and then telling them its OK to need more and desire more) increase their market share.

After all its easier to give a perception than a product. Especially when perhaps I'm actually the raw materials from which they reap.

Somehow people seem to have become much like a budgie in a cage looking into a mirror and pecking that bell.

Facebook is exemplary in this, as it not only acts as an accelerant for the naturally NPD, but also assists with infecting you with some anxiety and leaverages off that.

Like the cartoon suggests, you may actually be the product not the customer.

Of course the vain and self absorbed will scoff at this because getting their daily dose of (as Andy Warhol so accurately identified) 15 minutes of fame is reall all that matters. I feel that its an extension of "if you see yourself on TV you've become famous", now you see yourself on your iPhone (and how much did you pay for that again?)

This behavior seems as addictive as many other chemicals are. Recall that its well established that just as some addictive chemicals are found in foods (like Fructose or Nicotine) and others come from internally (such as endorphins) and their productions can be stimulated from behaviors such as exercise (such as addiction to marathon running and over training)

I started my education life in biology (microbiology and biochemistry) and the study of life that is not visible to the eye (fungi, bacteria, viruses...). The study of these things has brought great benefit to our society. I have written a few things about "The Machine" and how it is an invisible cognizant entity which has grown from our scale of society.

Vitiant artus ægræ contagia mentis - when the mind is ill at ease, the body is in a certain degree affected

Getting back to the New Scientist, in that article one sufferer of anxiety reported:
despite trying 20 different therapies and 28 different anti-anxiety drugs, none of which gave lasting relief. ... Stossel first describes what severe anxiety is like: in his case, it is an obsessive fear of vomiting, coupled with uncertain bowel control, crippling social anxiety and panic attacks
It seems pretty clear to me that someone is profiting from this epidemic of Anxiety.

So I believe we have a new pathogen that spreads various diseases of the mind, this one infects individuals to break up social patterns and shift the benefits to itself.  This isn't a new concept really, many people have tried to present this idea in various manners over time, including by fiction.

So are we nudged into becoming more 'anxiety suffering narcissists' simply to make us fit into the needs of The Machine better? Recall that humans irritate oysters deliberately to get pearls... It has been suggested (and in some case demonstrated) that plants exploit animals to get what they want, if the construct of "The Machine" does in fact 'live' then perhaps it is only a natural evolution to entrap its cells more tightly.

I view what ultimately its in your mind so therefore its within your minds power to control it. This is not a 'diss' as you should not underestimate your own power. Even if you don't believe in "the power of the mind" there is good medical evidence to suggest that the mind and your attitude towards things can have a massive impact.

Placebo effect is a good demonstration of this.
Archie Cochrane suggested in 1972[7] "It is important to distinguish the very respectable, conscious use of placebos. The effect of placebos has been shown by randomized controlled trials to be very large. Their use in the correct place is to be encouraged […]"
Ultimately the ball is in your court: be controlled, take control of your life ... only you will benefit, its up to you if you wish to stay inside the control of external forces or take your life in your own hands.

I wish you well on your journey.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

the zombie apocalypse is upon us

I was recently looking at some work where a fellow was showing how legacy camera lenses could work on the new Full Frame Sony a7 camera (hang on, just needed to wipe drool ... ok got it) and I saw this picture published

My immediate reaction was WTF, they're all on the phone ...
Almost every person in the image is looking at either a phone or a tablet (marked with red) except one guy (who's reading an actual news paper!!!) and the cop in the street (marked with blue circle and wearing a blue cap)

One guy seems to be taking a breather from the phone stare ... and looks like some gulping fish I dragged into the boat when out fishing. I'm not sure if he's still 'converting' or if he's starting the next stage ... perhaps he's wearing Google Glasses?

As Spock would say ... "fascinating"

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

trying to understand normal

One of the things I like (and have blogged about) is a normal lens. In this day of everyone starting photography with a 'standard zoom' (something like 28-80mm or so effective focal length) I reckon that most photographers have lost sight of what is a normal lens.

To me as well as the "normal" definition such as producing a normal perspective, I think its also think of them as being able to take photographs at 'normal' working distances. You know, like when you're in a group of people all standing around normally ...

Back in the day the normal lens that came with a 35mm film camera was typically a f1.8 50mm lens. However by the time digital became mainstream zooms were so entrenched as the norm that people really often never even used a "normal" lens.

So its in this world that I hear people saying things like: "I don't even know what a normal lens is" and "I simply can't see in normal" as well as being confused about the background / working distance / depth of field.

So I thought I'd take the opportunity to present a few images to attempt to explain normal. As well Olympus has recently released a 25mm f1.8 "normal" for micro4/3 (which is probably going to cost something like double the price of equivalent normals for Full Frame) which I don't think will really do what people want. It is an inherent issue with 4/3 (or even APS for that matter).

Since I've been scratching my head about the Sigma 30mm f2.8 "normal" (for micro4/3) which I recently bought I thought I'd compare it to the "standard" 50mm f1.8 that came with my 35mm full frame; as this serves to highlight the "shallow DoF" and also demonstrates the advantage of Full Frame at the same time (and also the limitation of smaller sensor sizes like 4/3).

kirstiHauttalle2The main advantage of a large aperture (aside from allowing faster shutter) is to blur the background either side of the subject. People nowadays tend to think this is done only with telephoto lenses, but it can be done (and until recently was commonly done) with a standard 'normal' lens.

To do this you "open up the lens", but the problem is that its not just the f-number you are after, its the diameter of the aperture. I have an old page on another server here to illustrate this (and the javascript for rollover is something I have not worked out here in Blogger yet).

There in lies the problem, for you see that with smaller formats the focal length of a normal changes. You know a "normal" on Full Fame is 50mm, and a "normal on 4/3 is 25mm, that old effective focal length thing.

So to get that same look as a f1.8 gives on Full Frame on the smaller 4/3 sensor you will need not f1.4, not f1.2 but about f0.9

Anyway it boils down to you need about 2 stops more (larger diameter) on 4/3 to get the same shallow depth of field. Its well discussed on the net (and I've discussed it to here and here).

To give you some numbers:
50mm @ f1.8 = 27.7mm
30mm @ f2.8 = 10.7mm
25mm @ f1.8 = 13.8mm
So the 25mm f1.8 is roughly about half the diameter, which suggests its not going to cut the mustard (and it won't).

So here I am hanging with my mate at the mall. I'm just a step away from him and I take this shot.

I focus on his ears and use f1.8 to render the background soft and out of focus so its clear its a shot of him, not the bicycles or the lady walking towards us ... just my mate on the bench.

Now with the Sigma the background is substantially clearer (the bicycles are now more clear as is the other bench over on the right)

But looking a bit more carefully the focus really is on his face. My bag is clearer as well as the background.
Lets have a clearer look

Yep, same angle of view, but just so much tighter in. Focus is on the face and on the ears.

The message seems to be getting out there however with people looking for a nice shallow normal for their micro43rds cameras.

Panasonic already has a 20mm f1.7 lens which is still a little lacking in the 'shallow normal' area as its equivalent to about f2.8 on the Full Frame.

So Olympus has put their foot onto the dance floor with their new normal a 25mm f1.8 lens. Personally I'm a little disappointed that they didn't make it a f1.2.

There seems to be a lot of interest out there in www land about this, but in my view, I just don't think its going to give the same DoF that a humble f1.8 50mm will give on Full Frame.

I mean don't get me wrong, I expect that it'll be sharp and contrasty lens, but will it be significantly different to the existing lenses?

Will it give you the same rendering as a humble (and half the price) normal on a full frame? Personally I don't think it's going to be the equal.

None of the images I've seen in tests show the new Oly as any significantly better the sigma is at f2.8

But I'm sure they'll sell heaps of them to people who have no idea what normal looks like and check out the images on the Web that just wang on about how good it is. Those sites will show lots of great shots. The approach is to imply you'll take images like that with the new lens.

If you feel like buying the new Oly I'm sure you'll be happy with it especially for size and clarity. But if you're buying it to get a shallow normal, well the bad news is that f1.8 just isn't a big enough diameter and its not likely to jump out at you any better than the Sigma 30mm f2.8 (at half the price).

I thought I'd leave you with a few more overviews ... in the format above, but to save wasting your bandwidth I'll just post the 50mm f1.8 and then the detail comparisons. I'm sorry that the colour match is not perfect between the images as I naturally had to use different cameras to compare full frame and 4/3.

50mm @ f1.8

detail segment

and lastly one that's just a side by side

I guess you can see clearly how quickly the distance becomes obscure even at these sizes. If you like the looks that you can get with a normal lens wide open, then my friend you're really going to have to consider a full frame camera. Still ... its your money.

Oh, and also please right click on any of the above images if you wish to see them bigger

Monday, 3 February 2014

different forms of water

I was out skiing around the lake today and at one of the islands I found this beautiful example of the snow and ice.

There was a rocky island out in the lake covered in a bank of snow. Yet between the gaps in the rocks there was still something of the unfrozen (thus warmer) waters beneath the rocks. As the water gasses out from between the rocks, these ice crystals were growing.

getting in a little closer you can see the wonderful crystalline structure.

Of course the lake is frozen into a big sheet of ice (supporting my weight) and covered in snow (making skiing easier). But despite the well below freezing conditions there is still water as a gaseous molecule in the air coming out from the rocks making these wonderful crystals.

All these different forms of water and so much beauty in all of them