Monday, October 29, 2012

Intermission

Fall Leaves (Test)
Last week I was up in Virginia, near Alexandria, participating in an system-of-systems integration event. I took the Sony with me and practiced using the camera. Up to this point I've not been particularly pleased with the output from the camera, attributing that to my lack of familiarity with the NEX system. The only way to gain familiarity, and thus satisfactory results, is to practice as much as possible.

Something must be happening because these last few groups of photos are actually beginning to look good. I can still see the flaws from the Sony 18-55mm kit zoom, but they don't bother me anymore. Instead I'm doing something I think I forgot how to do. I'm standing back and looking at the whole picture. And when I do I find the flaws disappear and I like the kind of photos the NEX-5N is capable of producing. I like them very much.
Halloween Pickup
Torpedo Factory
The Shop
Whether taken during the day or after dark, the photos turn out rather well. Part if this comes from working with the various features within the NEX-5N, especially Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) set to level 4. I've also turned on all the in-built compensation for the lens. Finally, I've started shooting JPEG + Raw, and deciding in post which one to keep. More often than not I keep the JPEG, using Raw only when I find the JPEG too far off the mark for my tastes.

Remembering Occupy Orlando

It's been a year since Occupy Orlando first set up in Senator Beth Johnson Park. You can go back to my coverage from last year, starting on 15 October by following the tag http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/search/label/OccupyOrlando. As I stopped by today, the park was remarkably peaceful and empty in comparison to the actions taking place there last year.
Senator Beth Johnson Park
Temporary No Parking
Packing up
The only activity today seemed to be this group packing up a lot of A/V gear from the Double Tree hotel just across the street. It may have been from an event that President Obama was supposed to have conducted, but canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. He was in Orlando earlier that morning, but left around 8am to head back to Washington to keep tabs on the events as they evolved. His motorcade tied up traffic on I-4 westbound from downtown towards 528 and the airport.

Gaston Edwards Park

This park is on Lake Ivanhoe, just a block down North Orange Avenue from Beth Johnson. I stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful fall weather that had suddenly shown up in Orlando, a beneficial consequence of Hurricane Sandy making landfall to the far north. While I was walking about I grabbed a few photos, including these guys with their bikes and possessions playing a friendly game of cards. We've spent such huge amounts of money building fantasy parks for tourists, yet it's amazing and humbling to see people finding enjoyment with just a simple deck of cards and a beautiful day. They weren't gambling, they were socializing, and they didn't need Facebook or Twitter or any other fancy social network to do it.
Transportation and Possessions
The Card Players

What does it all mean?

It means that, given time and practice, the Sony produces quite good, if different, photographs. They're not better than Olympus, nor worse. Just different. The 5N has moved me out of the rut of slavish adherence to a warped standard of what I think image quality is supposed to be. The NEX-5N produces photos with different properties than compared to Olympus, properties I find I like. There's an interesting article on The Online Photographer, "Image Virtues", which speaks of image properties. The lead-off photo to the article, taken by photojournalist Robert Capa, has absolutely no redeeming qualities when judged by today's standards, yet it has a riveting emotional quality that conveys exactly what is happening in front of the photographer; the landing of American troops on Omaha beach. I wish I could take photos like that.

It also means I need to stick with just one camera and one lens for the time being. I have an overabundance of excellent cameras and  lenses, and they're all unfortunately getting in the way of each other and me. It's nice to have only the Sony and the kit zoom with me. It's nice to be challenged and learning something new.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

At Work with Linux: Back to Fedora 17 and WiFi Now Works

Well, I'm back to Fedora 17. I've learned a lot these past two days, and I managed to get WiFi working. You know what the problem was? Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down?

The bloody external switch was off. Yes, off.

When I bothered to look at the side of the notebook and saw the state of the switch I could have screamed. I had basically forgotten that it was even there. I looked at my E6510 that runs Windows 7 Enterprise, and yes, the switch enables WiFi. And of course it works. But the switch on the side of the E6510 I've been installing various Linux distributions on, it was disabled (red showing on the switch). As soon as I turned it on the WiFi icon changed state on the panel. And it found all the local WiFi hotspots. And I was able to log in just like I log in for every device in this house, from Windows notebook to Apple Macbook to smartphone and all the various Barnes & Noble tablets. And WiFi under Fedora 17 on the E6510 with Centrino 6300 WiFi is running like a champ.

It's situations like this that cause support personnel to ask "Have you plugged it in" and "Have you turned it on?" It's situations like this that cause support personnel to call you an idiot (or far worse).  It's also situations like this when I wonder why some little dialog or message doesn't appear saying "Have you checked the external switch", or words to that effect. Now I know to check for external switches in the future when I see cryptic messages such as "RF_KILL bit toggled to disable radio." Yeah. Thanks a lot for that crystal clear message.

Everything on this notebook is now fully enabled and running smooth as silk in all the critical ways I care about. I have it tweaked to give me pretty much what I want on the desktop. I still haven't figured out how to add launchers to the panel (specifically for Eclipse), but I can live without those little refinements. Cinnamon goes a long, long way into turning Gnome 3 into a first-class desktop.

And if you're wondering how I have an eight-core notebook, it's really a quad-core notebook with hyperthreading enabled. Linux (along with Windows and Mac OS X) sees the hyperthreads as distinct cores.

I also modified the file system to combine the root partition and home partition into a single partition. RHEL splits them up as does Fedora (and openSUSE too, but with the majority of the disk space in home). With both combined I have more efficient use of the 120GB SSD total disk space.

I am quite happy for the moment. I hope I don't jinx this moment of happiness by blogging about it.

Update 29 October

Discovered everything wasn't up to snuff with regards to VMware Player. When I installed version 5.0 and attempted to play one of my known good VMs, Fedora immediately dropped me to a text screen showing a general protection fault. A little googling found this Fedora forum thread (http://forums.fedoraforum.org/showthread.php?t=283460) with a link to a patch (vmware9_kernel35_patch.tar.bz2) which I dutifully downloaded, unpacked, and applied the patch to my current kernel. Once that was done then I was able to run my VMs. Note that the patch is for kernel 3.5, but it appears to work equally well for my kernel, 3.6.3.

At Work with Linux: openSUSE 12.2 + Cinnamon on a Latitude E6510

I've been spending far too much time with this over the weekend, but then, I figure why not. This is one of the few times I can install Linux distributions with impunity. So I grabbed a DVD ISO of the latest openSUSE, version 12.2.

Funnily enough I installed the Gnome 3 desktop (Gnome 3.6 according to the openSUSE site) rather than the KDE desktop. After messing with the latest Gnome 3 desktop while I had Fedora running I actually liked the underlying technology, if not the visible implementation. When openSUSE finished installing I found I liked it's implementation a bit more than Fedora's, primarily for such little touches as a computer shutdown entry on the far upper right drop-down user menu.

In the end I would up installing Cinnamon 1.6.1 as my desktop. I would have done the same under Fedora 17, something I'd already said I would in an earlier post. With Cinnamon I finally have a desktop with a minimal touch that reminds me a bit of the Metro desktop and Google webpage designs.  The background may look a little wild, but that's the background, and it adds a bit of bright color to what would be a dull and gray desktop without it.

In spite of how I've been able to tune openSUSE and how it now looks, I may not keep it on the machine. It has a few problems rendering text, such as the following example:
Look at the visual garbage in the search bar and the text on the Bookmarks bar beneath the search bar. I see the occasional but regular corruptions on other applications, such as the Gnome terminal and other applications that render text. Long experience leads me to believe this is a graphic driver problem. This is the only distribution I've seen have this problem so far that uses the Nouveau open-source graphic driver. Oh, and it doesn't handle the E6510's Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN WiFi card, either.

One other issue that really annoys me when installing any modern distribution is where Open Java 1.7 (Iced Tea) is shoved down my throat. I have a hard time blocking its installation as well as removing it when it sneaks into the installation. One bad dependency is with Libre Office. I so want to use it, but if I use the distribution supplied version I get that unwelcome version of Java. I had thought that Libre Office would have removed Open Office's Java dependency, but I guess I was wrong. To get what I really want I have to install Oracle's version of Java, then go get the Libre Office RPMs and install them by hand. I also remove a lot of game and cutesy utilities along the way. Why is this cruft being installed on what ostensibly was supposed to be a software development desktop? It still takes too much time to fine tune a distribution, and the defaults for many key tools are always one to two major releases behind, or else of lesser quality than the official release (Java in particular). I certainly don't mind tweaking and fine tuning, it's the time wasted removing unwanted installed bits that annoys me.

I'm glad I've had this opportunity to experiment with several of the major distributions (RHEL 6.3, Fedora 17, Ubuntu 12.10, and openSUSE 12.2). There's a lot of polish all the way around, and the promise of Gnome 3 is beginning to show up on the desktop. I just wish Cinnamon were included as well as an alternative.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

At Work with Linux: Fedora 17 on a Latitude E6510 (UPDATED)

Fedora 17 base install with Gnome 3 before a massive update
I spent the majority of last week at an integration event. Part of the toolkit I took with me was a Dell Latitude E6510 with RHEL 6.3 installed. Running on top of that was VMware Player to host several VMs that ran additional systems as part of the event. I'd also installed Google's exfat driver to support a 64GB SDXC card and additional drivers from EPEL to support a 500GB LaCie external drive formated as NTFS. It was a decent enough system, and certainly supported the integration event to a very successful conclusion.

When I got back home, however, I wanted a more advanced kernel on the notebook, one that had a chance of supporting the E6510's wifi wireless chipset. The older driver under RHEL couldn't see it (or I never saw it with the tools), so I installed Fedora 17 to get at least the drivers installed. Sure enough, dmesg logs that the Intel wifi chipset was found and enabled on boot:

[ 5.406423] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: loaded firmware version 9.221.4.1 build 25532
[ 5.416058] cfg80211: World regulatory domain updated:
[ 5.416061] cfg80211: (start_freq - end_freq @ bandwidth), (max_antenna_gain, max_eirp)
[ 5.416063] cfg80211: (2402000 KHz - 2472000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[ 5.416064] cfg80211: (2457000 KHz - 2482000 KHz @ 20000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[ 5.416065] cfg80211: (2474000 KHz - 2494000 KHz @ 20000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[ 5.416067] cfg80211: (5170000 KHz - 5250000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[ 5.416068] cfg80211: (5735000 KHz - 5835000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[ 5.428513] iwldvm: Intel(R) Wireless WiFi Link AGN driver for Linux, in-tree:d
[ 5.428516] iwldvm: Copyright(c) 2003-2012 Intel Corporation
[ 5.428533] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: CONFIG_IWLWIFI_DEBUG enabled
[ 5.428535] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: CONFIG_IWLWIFI_DEBUGFS enabled
[ 5.428537] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: CONFIG_IWLWIFI_DEVICE_TRACING disabled
[ 5.428539] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: CONFIG_IWLWIFI_DEVICE_TESTMODE disabled
[ 5.428541] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: CONFIG_IWLWIFI_P2P disabled
[ 5.428543] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: Detected Intel(R) Centrino(R) Ultimate-N 6300 AGN, REV=0x74
[ 5.428648] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: L1 Enabled; Disabling L0S
[ 5.428968] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: RF_KILL bit toggled to disable radio.
[ 5.448659] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: device EEPROM VER=0x43a, CALIB=0x6
[ 5.448670] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: Device SKU: 0x1F0
[ 5.448675] iwlwifi 0000:03:00.0: Valid Tx ant: 0x7, Valid Rx ant: 0x7

iwconfig and lspci also show the hardware as present.

I'm certainly no expert this deep into the kernel, but the statement flagged above concerns me abou the RF_ILL bit being toggled to disable the radio. This, of course, fits in with all the userland tools telling me that the wireless hardware is disabled. As usual, a concentrated search via Google shows a world of hurt with regards to this radio. So much for installing a May 2012 Fedora release on a machine that is over two years old. Oddly enough, everything else seems to work, including the open nVidia drivers for both the desktop effects as well as something as mundane as playing DVDs. And I'm well past the point where I care one way or the other about Gnome 3. Yes, that's the director's cut of Bladerunner I'm watching/listening to while trying to debug the wireless problem.

Fedora 17 after update and with a decent wallpaper, playing Bladerunner via VLC
I think on the end I'll install a copy of Win2k8. I have no desire to try and google for the one lone thread that might give me a clue on how to enable wireless with this particular situation. I got too much to do and too few cycles to debug something that looks like it's fully supported, at least in the kernel (maybe).

Update

Well, I did something I at first swore I wouldn't do. I downloaded the source to the kernel and went looking for the logging message I highlighted above. It has been six years or so since I downloaded kernel source and played around with it. That was when I was running openSUSE and I was writing a generic USB driver for a then-new high resolution digital camera. I wrote the driver and was able to attach the camera to the system in support of an image processing project I was working on at the time. Once that was done I never looked inside the kernel sources again.

Imagine my surprise when I decided to get the sources for kernel version 3.6.2-4.fc17.x86_64. I finally found some fairly convoluted instructions here (Building a Kernel from the source RPM), and followed them well enough to at least get the sources that matched the running kernel. Gone are the days when I could go to kernelorg, download a bziped source tarball, unpack it, apply any patches, and work from there. Those seem like the good old days...

In any event, after a bit of grepping I managed to find how the logging message was constructed in drivers/net/wireless/iwlwifi/pcie/rx.c:

 /* HW RF KILL switch toggled */
 if (inta & CSR_INT_BIT_RF_KILL) {
  bool hw_rfkill;

  hw_rfkill = iwl_is_rfkill_set(trans);
  IWL_WARN(trans, "RF_KILL bit toggled to %s.\n",
    hw_rfkill ? "disable radio" : "enable radio");

  isr_stats->rfkill++;

  iwl_op_mode_hw_rf_kill(trans->op_mode, hw_rfkill);

  handled |= CSR_INT_BIT_RF_KILL;
 }

Such is the nature of this particular message that I had to look for fragments by trimming words away from the full message, starting at the end of the message and moving towards the front, until finally I found this. If you understand a bit of C programming, the message is constructed by the conditional result inside a ternary operator (?:). Basically if the RF_KILL bit is set then you get the logging message that the radio is disabled.

I have tried to unwind a bit of the code that leads to this point, but the most essential information I need, how the chip set in the 6300 works, is no where to be found on the web. At this point I really have no cycles to devote to trying to understand why this particular WiFi system isn't working by reverse engineering the driver source.

Oh. And as a quick check, I downloaded the latest Ubuntu (12.10) live CD and gave that a spin. Dmesg output shows the same logging message, so rather than trying to see if it would work under Ubuntu I decided to go back to Fedora and think about what to do next. I may just install Win2k8 R2 and be done with this. At least I can find working Windows drivers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Toronto 9 September 2012

Toronto Cabbagetown Festival 9 Sept 2012
Subtitle: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I have several thousand photos from the September 2012 Road Trip stashed in my digital shoe box. When I remember to do it I go back and rummage about in there, looking and being reminded of that intense two week trip up to Toronto and back. Today I looked at a few of the 9 September photos that were taken that day with Matthew, Penny, and Judy about. The first three in this sequence were taken at the 2012 Cabbagetown Festival. The last four were taken after dinner at the By The Way Cafe. After we finished our excellent meal we walked slowly down Bloor Street for a ways while attempted a bit of very amateur street photography. Nothing matches the charm and rich cultural texture of a sophisticated urban center like downtown Toronto. Orlando, unfortunately, doesn't have that.
Toronto Cabbagetown Festival 9 Sept 2012
Toronto Cabbagetown Festival 9 Sept 2012
Toronto Evening Walk 9 Sept 2012
Toronto Evening Walk 9 Sept 2012
Toronto Evening Walk 9 Sept 2012
Toronto Evening Walk 9 Sept 2012
While the subtitle could refer to Toronto, it was written more with my NEX 5N experiences in mind. While there's a lot to like about the 5N, and it has features I wish the Pens had, I had to go back and look here to prove to myself that I could take photographs that are reasonably sharp. Trying to learn to use the NEX 5N is really getting to be frustrating to me. I have a quite nice collection of Olympus and Panasonic lenses, the majority of them primes, that can produce beautiful results. These photos were taken with the M.Zuiko 45mm at Cabbagetown and the Panasonic 20mm on Bloor Street.

I have seen too much good work produced with the NEX series, especially the 5N. It has to be something I'm doing wrong. Not knowing what it is is causing no end of frustration for me.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

At the hospital

Dr. Phillips Hospital
Personal

I'm going through pre-op right now (blood, x-rays) for a new awesome cyborg left knee replacement on November 2nd. I've been living with this gimpy human left knee for over a year. Last November it went to hell in a hand basket right after I flew up to Ann Arbor on a business trip. The weekend after I returned I wound up in an emergency room unable to really use the stupid thing. After months of medication and physical therapy it's finally come down to surgery and a partial knee replacement. Today I drove to Dr. P. Phillips hospital with my scripts and my NEX 5N with an OM 2.8/28mm to take care of everything.

The original scripts had me going to Quest Diagnostics here in Orlando for the blood work. I've been to Quest in the past and I've not been particularly happy. To walk into a Quest is to walk into a location that looks like it's seen better days. Dirty carpets, stained furniture, scruffy walls. It makes me wonder if I'll catch something like MRSA or even if they'll properly collect and do my blood work. That's the primary reason I went to Dr. Phillips, as well as the fact it's a part of the overall ORMC (Orlando Regional Medical Center) network, as is my doctor who ordered these tests for me. Everything will go into the network and be available to him.

Photographic

I am back to working with black and white again, this time with the Sony NEX 5N. I recieved an OM to NEX Fotodiox adapter last Thursday, and I've been using it ever since. Today I went with the OM 2.8/28mm mounted on the 5N. The APS-C sensor gives the lens an effective focal length of 42mm, which to me is just something awesome. Unfortunately, I don't think the 28mm is living up to the awesome focal length number.

Maybe it's just the sensor showing how the 28mm really performs, as I get closer and closer to a regular 35mm-sized frame (APS-C is about half-way there). Maybe it's due to a stronger-than-usual anti-aliasing filter over the sensor. Maybe it's me now knowing what I'm doing. Whatever the reason, I'm less than thrilled with this combination. Part of it is most certainly focusing. Of all the frames I exposed this is one of a few that turned out close enough in sharpness to satisfy me. The others I took were flat-out out-of-focus. This in spite of using the 5N's focus peaking. I thought both lenses performed better with the Pen's and regular 4/3rds bodies, but when I went back and looked at everything with a critical eye I didn't see anything that wasn't that much better. Yes, it was better, but I saw plenty of flaws (sharpness and clarity) in the Pen-derived photos as well. I absolutely refuse to lay blame on the camera when I know how imperfect I am as a photographer. I'm just not happy with the results, especially the very low keeper rate.

Part of the reason for going black-and-white is all the incredible black-and-white photography I've seen lately. Two very recent examples of this are Vivian Maier (I now own a copy of "Street Photographer") via The Online Photographer and Dennis Darling via The Visual Science Lab.

My attempt is to create the long rich tonality of black and white film and print in digital, with a nice balance of texture and plenty of pleasing mid-tones. There are, of course, plenty of black and white counter-examples (low key and high key begin to give you some ideas), but for the time being I'll concentrate on this particular look. That's what I like.

The photo of Dr. Phillips was taken with the NEX-5N and the OM 2.8/28mm set at f/4. The NEX was set for standard color and DRO auto. Post processing was done in Lightroom 4.2 and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The camera Olympus should have made

Plumbago Lab
Max with Plumbago blooms
About a week ago a NEX-5N arrived at the house with just the stock 18-55mm kit zoom. Today I finally received a Fotodiox OM-NEX lens adapter so that I could use my OM lenses with my NEX-5N. In order to use my manual focus OM film-era lenses with the 5N and the adapter I had to enable Release w/o Lens under Menu | Setup. I then selected Peaking Level of High and a Peaking Color of Red in the Setup menu. And then I went back to shooting raw.

Unless the subject is colored red, focus peaking works a treat with the 5N. This is the one feature above all others I would have liked Olympus to have added to its digital cameras, especially the Pens. I managed, after a fashion, to learn how to manually focus my OMs with my Pens (E-P2, E-PL1 and E-PL2), but it was a slow process. With the 5N focus peaking system, correct focus is absolute and certain, and for me at least a lot faster.

I've also noticed another feature I appreciate on the 5N, and that's its minimal lag when pressing the shutter release. For all practical purposes the 5N's shutter release is just as fast as the OM-4T's shutter release. Between the rapid manual focus and the quick shutter release, I finally have a digital back I can use with my OM film lenses. Right now I'm using the 1.4/50mm and 2.8/28mm, and usually stopped down one to two stops. Focus peaking allows me to quickly focus regardless of the composition or the aperture, no matter where my point of focus is located. With focus peaking I don't have to select an autofocus point in advance or touch a screen to select a focus point. With focus peaking I see instantly across the entire field what's in focus and what isn't. It may sound counter-intuitive, but with focus peaking my manual focusing is a lot more fluid and easier than any autofocus system I've used to date.
Fading Glow
If only Olympus had put an APS-C sensor in an OM-class body and given that to their OM users. Lord knows I would have bought at least one.

When I first purchased the 5N I had no intention of duplicating what I already have with my Pens. I just wanted a better way to use my OM lenses. I have all the focal lengths I really want or need in the Pen system. But I've had a chance to use the 5N with its focus peaking and I'm no longer quite so sure anymore about what I'll do with either the Pens or the Nexies.

The problem with leaving the Pens is the lack of equivalent quality lenses for the Nexies. I've grown to prefer the smaller, faster, lighter primes in the µ4:3rds system. I also know from my current experience that the Sony 18-55mm kit zoom is demonstrably inferior to the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit zoom, and as a consequence have no real desire to invest in more Sony zooms. The Sony menu system, while certainly prettier than the Olympus menu system, is maddening in its own way when you have to go digging for features. Neither Olympus nor Sony builds a good menu system, but they are tolerable and get the job done.

But still and all the IQ of the 5N easily matches or exceeds anything the Pens can produce, can match or exceed the ISO range, and has focus peaking, a key feature I've been truly waiting for for some time. While Kirk Tuck may write glowingly of the NEX 7, I believe I may instead purchase a copy of the NEX 6 simply because I love what the Sony 5N's 16MP sensor can produce.

If I do nothing else with the 5N except use it as a digital back for my OM lenses, I consider the cost of the 5N to be money well spent.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Learning how to play again

Rich Black and White Example 2
Doctor morning for my wife and I. I went to my doctor in preparation for a partial left knee replacement to take place the beginning of November. I then went straight from there to the hospital where they discharged my wife. She's home trying to learn how to live with her right arm strapped down while her shoulder heals. It's been interesting.

Two photos out of many taken with the 5N today in between running errands. Still digging into the menus and features, trying to really understand what the 5N can produce. The top photo was taken with the cameras "rich black and white" setting, while the bottom was taken with the Picture Effect's Pop Color. Both where taken in the very late evening while I was out back grilling chicken for supper. What did I learn from today's impromptu lessons?
  • I love shooting at ISO 3200 with impunity, especially with the kit zoom. I've never felt that way with the Olympus cameras. Either I used a fast lens (M.Zuiko 1.8/45mm or Lumix 1.4/25mm) or else I make sure to shoot where it was reasonably bright, or some combination of the two. I use auto ISO on all my Pens, limiting the high end to ISO 1,600. With the Sony one stop faster I don't even care. It's amazing what an extra stop of exposure on a larger sensor can accomplish. Makes me wonder what might happen if I were to use a 135mm sized sensor camera like the D600 or the Sony α99.
  • I have learned to instinctively use the E-mount 18-55mm and produce results that are satisfactory. But I must admit that the Sony 18-55mm is not as good as the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit zoom.
  • The 5N is definitely a JPEG camera with the 18-55mm kit zoom. Turning on all the in-camera corrections produces good results, better than what I see when post processing raw. Perhaps when I put better lenses on the 5N I can go back to shooting and post processing raw, but for now it's just easier and more satisfying to use the results straight out of the camera (except for a touch of resizing).
  • I think my brief fling with HDR has come to an end. Using in-camera HDR makes you sound like a paparazzi when the shutter goes off in rapid succession. Instead I've discovered DRO (dynamic range optimization), preferring to set it to DRO LV3 to lift details out of the shadows as well as pull some details back out of the highlights. That only requires one shutter exposure, and it back to being discrete.
  • Having said that about HDR, using rich black and white forces the camera to take three images and then use them to produce the long tonality. I'm not sure I like it. What I'm after is the old Tri-X film look, complete with film grain.
Evening Greenery
All the Pens are packed in the bag at the moment. I carry the 5N with me, using it when circumstance permits. It sits discretely in the center storage compartment of the Prius, always ready for action, just like the Pens. The Fotodiox OM adapter should be here by the end of the week, giving me an opportunity to try out focus peaking. I can see why the 5N is as popular as it is, paralleling the popularity of the Olympus E-PL1. They are both powerful budget solutions.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

NEX 5N Experimenting with HDR, Panorama...

Forground/Background - NEX-5N HDR Test After
In-camera HDR applied
Forground/Background - NEX-5N HDR Test Before
Straight exposure, no HDR applied
Another trip to the hospital to see my wife and check up on her after her surgery. She now has a new right shoulder. Unfortunately she'll have her right arm strapped down for a few weeks after being released. Afterwards she's hopeful she'll have her old Olympic softball pitching arm back. I told her to wait until spring training and then we'll find out.

After leaving the hospital I went back into downtown for a little more shutter therapy for me and a bit of experimentation with more of the 5N's built-in features. This time I was playing around with it's in-camera HDR and panorama capabilities.

Based on what I came away with today, Sony's implemented HDR with subtlety in mind. Which is a bit surprising, considering the 5N is aimed at the enthusiast consumer. I had expected the HDR feature to be more garish in nature, but it appears to be implemented with a photographer's eye. The top photo shows what happens after in-camera HDR is applied. Detail in the darkest part of the image (the shadows) is lifted up significantly, but not so that it overwhelms. Note that there are still completely black areas in the lower bushes. The sky towards the horizon has been darkened just a bit to bring out a touch more color and saturation. The cloud in the upper right corner has more texture and detail, and isn't completely white in its center.
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts - NEX-5N HDR Before
Before HDR applied
The 5N's in-camera HDR isn't without its issues. One of the classic problems with HDR of any strip is moving objects. The upper photo is a single exposure with no HDR applied. Note the car on the street. Now look at the lower photo where in-camera HDR has been applied. The moving car has been captured multiple times and shows up as overlayed images. The rest of the photo shows the benefits of HDR, especially in the shadows.
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts - NEX-5N HDR After
After HDR applied - note the car in the lower left corner
If you're wondering how I was able to show two photos of the same scene, one before and one after HDR application, the 5N did that automatically. It's a nice touch; you can decide later which photo you want, the one with HDR or without.
Under The 408 - NEX-5N HDR Experiment
All of the photos except for this one were taken straight out of the camera. All of them show a strong blue cast. The photo above was adjusted in Lightroom to make it more neutral in color. Those colors on the concrete are very close to what I see. This particular shot of the underside of the 408 shows both the older concrete construction and the newer steel addition. The photo also contains more detail in the shadows between the beams without the garishness I see too often in hand-tweaked HDR photos. It also brings back a touch of light blue in the sky in the upper left corner, which is also all I really want. That light blue was the real blue I saw. This was early afternoon shooting towards the east.
Under the 408 Panorama - NEX-5N Pano Experiment
408 Panorama
Finally I gave the in-camera panorama feature a whirl. Literally. I had to practice my panorama technique, which consists of holding the camera and moving it from left to right. It took a number of attempts to do this right because I wanted to just sling the camera around and grab a full 360° panorama. Unfortunately you can't do it with the 5N (or I can't). The 5N would stop and yell at me that I was moving to fast, and would I please slow down? So, after finding the right rate of movement, I finally grabbed a few panoramic vistas under the bridges. About the best I could do in practice was about a 120° sweep. This image, except for resizing, is straight out of the camera.

The camera seemed to do a remarkably good job of stitching the images together which includes correcting for lens aberrations. Verticals are remarkably straight for a hand-held sweep, and the only reason the bridge tops curve is because they do cover a good portion of the scene, and so they must.

There are a number of reasons for using the in-camera features such as HDR and panorama, and they all have to do with collapsing the workflow in post processing. You can buy all sorts of tools to create equivalents using the camera's raw files, then stitching everything together in post. But that makes for a lot of extra effort, especially when what you're after is documentation rather than "art". There's nothing wrong with that kind of art, and there are many magnificent examples done in post. But a lot of us just want to document the scene and move on; we've got too much to do and too little time, or so it always seems.

It should be noted that all of this must be done with JPEG. Selecting Raw output disables all these features. For a little over $400 I'm quite happy to have what I have in the 5N.

It is impressive the amount of computational processing that the 5N is capable of achieving in so small a package. In a small hand-held package I have the ability to perform some rather impressive "post processing" right as the still photo is being taken. Whether it's layering the images for HDR or stitching them together for a panorama, the Sony NEX 5N makes experimentation and documenting the world in the large extremely easy to accomplish.

I think I'm going to try out the 5N's video features next. This should be fun.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NEX 5N Experimenting with Anti Motion Blur

I've been tinkering with the settings on the 5N in an effort to clean up the blurring I found earlier today on the outer edges of all my images. I have configured four camera parameters under Menu | Setup:

  • Steady Shot: - Off (note IS is lens based, not body based)
  • Lens Comp.: Shading - Auto
  • Lens Comp.: Chro. Aber. - Auto (chromatic aberration correction auto)
  • Lens Comp.: Distortion - Auto
I'm turning Steady Shot off to see if it's actually causing issues with the lens. I've seen Olympus IBIS cause problems as well, and I've turned it off on the E-PL1. Unfortunately, when putting the camera into Anti Motion Blur mode it automatically turns Steady Shot back on again. When you press the shutter the 5N fires off six sucessive intermediate exposures, then blends them in-camera into a single final exposure. This is meant to reduce or remove (if possible) the effects of hand-held motion as well as the effects of high ISO noise. According to the EXIF data on the image, the test image shown was taken with the zoom at 50mm, aperture f/5, shutter 1/250 sec, and ISO 4,000. Except for scaling, this image is straight out of the camera.

I note that where the SDHC card is in focus, the lettering is clean and shows no perceptible motion blur (other blurring due to optics is still visible when enlarged). Remarkably there is no noise. Yes, the sensor with a single exposure does have noise at ISO 4,000, but nothing objectionable. There's none here. There does appear to be a bit of "saran wrap" effect in parts of the photo, such as the mouse pad surface.

Would I use it? If I were out documenting an event in low light, probably. As a photographer I'm a pragmatist, not a purist. As a professional engineer I'll always try to be creative with the highest possible quality, but when the objective is to take the photo because that's your only opportunity then you use what you've brought with you to assure success.

I broke down and ordered a Fotodiox OM-to-NEX adapter for $22. I'm going to try some old glass primes next. In the mean time I'm going back to plain old fashioned single exposures with steady shot off. That's tomorrow's experiment. I'll continue to live with the Sony JPEG engine and its results.

First attempt at using the Sony

West on the corner of West South Street and Orange Avenue
Looking west at the corner of West South Street and Orange Avenue
Very early this morning (even earlier than necessary because it's a weekend) I dropped my wife off at the local hospital to have her shoulder operated on. After checking her in I drove back a short distance into the center of town and where the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is being built. This was dawn, with the sun just coming up over the horizon.
Dr. Phillips Art Center 13 Oct 2012
Dr. Phillips Art Center 13 Oct 2012
Dr. Phillips Art Center 13 Oct 2012
Not much to write about, but these are my impressions out shooting:

  • After taking 95 photos the battery had dropped to 85%. As a rough order of measure it looks like I will probably get at least 500 photos/battery charge based on how I was photographing this morning. I'm really going to need extra batteries, and probably the higher capacity Wasabi.
  • When I got out I wanted to set the ISO. That's when I found out my soft buttons had been reset back to their defaults. So I spent five minutes or so fumbling through the menu system to set them back. Then I went to ISO 100.
  • After the first dozen or so photos I put the camera in manual mode and "pre-chimped" the image on the back to eyeball for proper exposure. The auto exposure system wanted to underexpose too much, especially with lots of sky in the image. I preferred to set the aperture and shutter speed and then use that no matter which way the camera pointed. I find "pre-chimping" with the 5N to be far more accurate than with any of the Pens.
  • I thought having an active touch screen on the back of the camera would be awesome. Turns out it's not so awesome in practice. I kept having to kill the annoyingly automatic tracking I unintentionally started with my fingers. Looks like that's another feature that needs to be disabled.
  • Walking with the 5N, the grip rested comfortably and reassuringly on my three middle fingertips. It was eerily reminiscent of my stolen E-3. I used to love walking with that camera down by my right side, grip resting comfortably on my fingers, ready to come up to my eyes in an instant.
And these are my impressions in post with Lightroom 4:

  • I finally have a lens that Lightroom has a profile correction for, the E 18-55mm OSS. I used it, and was surprised at how much correction took place between not enabled and enabled. There are no profiles for any Olympus lenses, which has always aggravated me. In spite of what Adobe provides I believe I'm going to need to purchase a more sophisticated tool such as DxO Optics Pro for better control over correction as well as a much wider selection of lenses (Sony and Olympus, as well as the rest of the photographic world). Adobe's collection is sparse at best.
  • I am not happy with the Sony zoom lens so far. The outer third of the image is really unsharp at all focal lengths. I don't give a damn so much about noise, but I do give a damn about sharpness. While I castigate the Olympus kit zoom for using plastics everywhere including the bayonet, the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm produces a much better image across the image than the Sony 18-55mm, at least out in the field.
  • At ISO 100 the files are buttery smooth. There's considerable detail that can be recovered from both shadow and highlight. I love being able to shoot at ISO 100 again. The performance of these files in post makes me wonder how good the files produced with the latest 16MP Olympus/Sony sensors perform. Temptations, temptations...
To be fair with regards to the kit zoom optical performance, the 5N has built-in correction that is applied to the JPEG image. I shot Raw, which is what I always do. I need to go back and shoot with both JPEG and Raw, then compare the results. It may be that the edges are much better if corrected in camera. And it may be that to get the most from the 5N that I should switch back to just shooting JPEG for that camera. After all, that's the way I started with Olympus.

I should also look at purchasing either an OM adapter (and trying out focus peaking) or another lens, preferably a prime such as the Sigma 19mm. And it may be that the newer Sony zoom, the E-mount 16-50mm, should be considered as well. Yeah, I know. Here I go planning on sinking money into yet another camera system...

Friday, October 12, 2012

There's now a Sony in the house

There's a Sony In The House
Sony NEX 5N with E 3.5-5.6/18-55 OSS kit zoom lens
Sony dropped the price of the NEX 5N with kit lens low enough that I finally opened my wallet and purchased a copy. I have read many reviews and seen the results of using this camera and I have been favorably impressed. What finally convinced me to purchase the 5N was an event in Toronto back on the September road trip. I was up at Casa Loma with Matthew Robertson when a vacationing family asked me to take a group photo of them with the castle in the background. It was the silver NEX 5 with the kit zoom.

Once I had the camera in my hands it took me all of about 30 seconds to figure out the general control layout, make sure it was set up properly and then trip the shutter. I flipped up the rear display so I could drop the camera down to about chest level and get a better view of the castle behind the family. I liked the way the kit lens zoomed and the way it locked focus. I especially liked the sound of the shutter. I came away from that moment realizing that blindly culling anything made by Sony was stupid. The only other camera I held that day (other than my own) was Matthew's D800, an act that would later spoil me with regards to the D600 (no, a D600 certainly isn't a D800).

I've already played around with the 5N a bit, having finally charged up the battery and figured out how to configure it so that I can get directly to the most important settings I care about; ISO, PASM, and aperture. All beeps have been turned off and it's shooting Raw.

Here, in no particular order, are what I find interesting so far about the N5:

  • Shutter. The shutter is fast, quiet, and low pitched. It reminds me of the E-1's shutter in that regard. All the Pen shutters (E-P2, E-Pl1, and E-PL2) are a little slower in release, a bit noisier, and higher pitched.
  • Rear screen. It is a joy to look at the back of the 5N, just like it was for that brief instant up at Casa Loma. The resolution and color are nothing less than stunning, when compared to the Pens. And it's capable of being tilted up for waist level viewing as well as partially down for overhead viewing. An articulated view screen is a feature I came to depend upon with the Olympus E-3.
  • Finish. The body has molded magnesium across the top and front, with plastic across the back. The rubberized grip, combined with the front and top, give the 5N a svelte, quality look. The Pens look downright chunky by comparison, but that doesn't mean that the Pens are bad looking, especially the E-PL2. Sony's just a different design ethos that I instantly appreciated.
  • Size. As has been noted ad infinitum elsewhere across the web, the body is tiny while the lens seems too overwhelmingly large. And yet when I hold the complete combination in my hand it feels just fine. That's what I first noticed in Toronto with the older 5, and the 5N carries that forward.
  • Kit lens. I am not at all pleased with how Olympus (and Canon and Nikon and yes, even Sony, with their DSLR/DSLT kits lenses) have gone to plastic all over their kit lenses including the bayonet. The fit and finish of the E-mount 18-55mm kit lens is superb. The lens has a metal bayonet and lower base. The rest of the lens is a silver nicely finished plastic. The zoom is solid and smooth (for a kit lens). The focus is silent. And it even comes with a lens hood.
  • Battery. The battery is physically tiny, smaller even than the battery in the Pens. And that size effects the power capacity of the battery, which is less than the Pens. I've yet to shoot it until it runs out, but I've already got an order in with Blue Nook for a pair of Wasabi Power batteries and a second charger. I use Wasabi batteries in all my other cameras.
  • Auto focus speed. With the kit lens the camera, in dim light, isn't particularly fast, but then it's not particularly show either. Compared to the Pens I can't tell any difference. Oh well. If I'd wanted a focusing speed demon I'd have purchased a Real Camera like the D800. Tomorrow the sun comes up and I intend to grab a few downtown Orlando photos with this camera.
The primary reason for purchasing the 5N was curiosity. It may be a camera, but it also represents a suite of technologies and designs that I wanted to play with, just to see how it all worked. The NEX 5N certainly won't make me an authority on the whole NEX system, but it will help me build up a better understanding.

I've also realized something else. I don't care for big cameras anymore. I now much prefer the smaller cameras like those from Olympus, Panasonic, and now Sony. I suppose I should also consider small cameras from Ricoh, Sigma, Pentax, and Fuji, but they're too niche and expensive for my tastes. As for Leica, there's only one Leica I ever lost my photographic heart over, and that's the black M4. The M lost something essential in the transition from film to digital. I realize now the only film SLR I felt the same way about was the Olympus OM-1. I have very few regrets in life with regards to cameras, and one of them is never having had enough sense to buy and use an OM-1. I later bought an OM-4T, but that's not quite the same. The E-M5 has elements of the OM film series, but it's still not quite the same either...

I have no clue where this will lead me; probably spending more money. I do know I'm looking forward to working with the files produced by the Sony 16MP sensor in that camera. I think it's going to be fun. And I think it's going to knock me out of a rut I've been in lately.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Trip

Daughter #2 deep in thought
Molly the guard cat
This weekend was another world-wind trip, from Orlando to Gainesville to Tallahassee on Saturday and then back home again today. We hired the same house sitter we'd used on our road trip so that we could leave the Labs and make as efficient use off our limited travel time as possible; that means very few stops along the way and thus the shortest travel times possible.

The biggest amount of work was in Tallahassee. We transported a queen-sized bed purchased at the Orlando IKEA up to daughter #2. To get it there I had to put down the right back seat and push the front passenger seat up as far as possible. There was enough room to put everything in. My wife and I sat on the driver side. In spite of all that material loaded in the Prius, we still managed 52MPG, which is more than double what the much older Kia Sedona van was able to get when it was brand new. Granted, the van was much larger, and had a much larger engine (3.5L vs the Prius' 1.8L engine), but times have certainly changed in our lives and the Prius is the right vehicle for our lifestyle and the way our adult children are now scattered about. Even if we were somehow starting over again with children, I'm not so sure I wouldn't purchase the Prius (or even the Prius v) over any conventional van. Gasoline has gotten too expensive to allow for such waste anymore, and it will only get more expensive, especially as we now start to travel more.

My wife and I have made a mutual promise to one another to really get out of the house and begin to travel the world as much as possible. One day one of us is going to wake up without the other. I don't want that moment to come with the regret of not having spent enough time together to add to all the other regrets that always come at such a moment. So we plan and we travel and we photograph what catches our interest. My wife now has her own camera, the Panasonic DMC TS20, the camera that was baptized at Niagara Falls on our road trip. While most of these photos will continue to be taken by me, I will begin to slip her photos in, given her permission to do so of course. It's going to be interesting.

The Beard

I have been nurturing a bit of facial hair since the start of last September's two week road trip. After a little more than a month I am, according to my wife, beginning to look more and more like a cross between a Viking, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert E. Lee.

There is, however, one other late figure of note I think I'm beginning to show some degree of similarity to: Stanley Kubrick. In his later years Mr. Kubrick had a full rich beard and thinning hairline, much like me.

The only difference between him and I is, well, he's well known for cinematic masterpieces such as Sparticus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket, to name but a few. All nominated and/or won Oscars, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes.

And I'm most certainly not.

What got me started thinking about Kubrick tonight were two science fiction movies, 2001 and Spielberg's film, A. I. Artificial Intelligence, a film Kubrick wanted to direct but never did, and instead collaborated a bit with Spielberg before Kubrick died. I was always fascinated by Kubrick's films, none more so than 2001 (and quite a bit by Dr. Strangelove, truth be told). When A. I. first came out I felt like I was watching a move co-directed by Kubrick's ghost.

I don't know where I'm going with this, so I suppose I should sign off.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Florida Economy and Presidential Politics

You're looking at two recently deceased businesses on I-10 at exit 262 north bound on County Road 255 to Lee, Florida, one directly across the other. I found these quite by accident when I pulled off of I-10 to switch driving with my wife.

I say recently deceased because there's very little wear on the businesses. While I was standing there trying to photograph Kounty Kitchen Restaurant a relative of the former owner drove up in his truck to ask if I was interested in buying the business. When I told him "No" he grew a bit disappointed, said goodbye, and drove on. This is indicative of what I continue to see, small businesses all over that are being shuttered, one by slow steady one, while both political parties continue to dither over a solution. I find the unemployment statistic of "only" 7.8% to be something close to obscene. No, I don't believe the numbers were manipulated by the president. Yes, I do find 7.8% just as depressing as any of the prior numbers at 8% or higher. We've been living this sluggish employment nightmare for more than four years. Everyone with major power (political and/or financial) is to blame for the cause as well as the continuation.

I find it particularly noteworthy that "Neutron"Jack Welch, former plundering CEO of General Electric, who under his stewardship ruthlessly laid off over 100,000 employees, pursuing profitability at any cost including the elimination of G.E.'s business ethics, accused the administration of fixing the jobs number so President Obama would look good. Ignoring the fact that Governor Romney continued to lie by omission during the first debate (as well as not really knowing his own platforms plans), and noting that President Obama lied by exaggeration and distortion, I find it incredibly sad that both sides proxies are fighting like junkyard dogs over such a lousy employment statistic. Not only is it still too high, but the jobs that have been found are of lower quality than all those that have been lost.

Technically I'm a register Democrat, having walked away in disgust from the Republican party over the rampant abuses in the Reagan administration. Since 2000 I'm essentially an independent. No president elected since 2000 has helped this country. If you consider the abuses that were allowed to occur before the 2000s that let to the Internet bubble, no president elected since 1980 has truly helped this country. As an adult the idea of cutting and running because I don't like either candidate and their party is something I can't stomach, but having written that I have absolutely what I should do, either individually or as part of a group, to help really solve our nation's problems. No nation on this planet is any better and too many are far worse.

Historical Quote
"The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection."
George Washington, 1796
Footnotes

[1] Officials reject conspiracies on unemployment rate http://news.yahoo.com/officials-reject-conspiracies-unemployment-rate-070150404--finance.html
[2] Context lacking in some debate attacks by President Obama, Mitt Romney http://articles.boston.com/2012-10-04/political-intelligence/34252859_1_mitt-romney-representative-paul-ryan-work-on-health-reform
[3] Romney Health Care Debate Claim Gets Corrected By His Own Staff http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/10/06/162404662/romney-health-care-debate-claim-gets-corrected-by-his-own-staff
[4] At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit http://www.amazon.com/At-Any-Cost-General-Electric/dp/0375705678

Friday, October 05, 2012

My Visit to Toronto

Sunday 9 September Evening after Dinnir
Saturday 8 September at Honest Ed's
Yes, you're looking at your's truly in Toronto, taken by Matthew Robertson and posted on his Five Thousand Photos project here and here. The photo at the top shows me with my one week old beard and shooting with the E-PL2. The bottom shows my hands and my walking stick to help compensate for my gimpy left knee. In both instances I am holding my camera in what one Austin wag refers to as the "stinky diaper" method. I find the large LCD on the back something of a boon, especially with my aging and heavily corrected eyesight.

So what Pulitzer quality photos did I take? Feast your eyes...
Inside Honest Ed's, Olympus E-PL2 w/M.Zuiko 14-42mm II
tiff vendor, Olympus E-PL2 w/Panasonic Lumix 20mm
What's interesting (to me) is I was waiting for the Canon photographer to back up and take his photograph so I could photograph him photographing, much in the same way that Matthew photographed me photographing the scene. The Sunday scene was taken at twilight, right after the sun set, so I wanted to capture some of that atmosphere. I don't know why I took the upper photo, I guess I just liked the collection of crying Virgin Marys.

I already miss the two week road trip. Next year's is already in the planning stage. The question is, do I go back up north, or do I go out west?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A Change in Attitude Towards the Nikon D600

Sony α65 with 18-55mm SAM kit zoom
I'm writing this post for two reasons: (1) because 47 minutes into the first presidential debate I got so sick of Romney's smug smile and babbling answers (as well as his flip-flops on a number of key issues) that I turned off the tube panel, and (2) earlier in the evening I'd stopped by the Best Buy at the Mall at Millenia to handle a Nikon D600, and came away totally turned off to the camera.

The Nikon D600 is not worth $2,100. It is the most poorly made camera in that price bracket that I believe I have ever held. The plastic coating is thin and chintzy looking. The pop-up flash should never have been added to the body, as it's thin and flimsy. While I was standing there gently toying with the battery cover it popped off the body into my hand. When I looked at the overall battery compartment I was appalled at the cheesy all-plastic design and construction. I know what some marketing droid at Nikon probably thought: they're going to buy a vertical grip, so why put in the time and effort to make it robust? Add to that the open connector on the bottom next to the battery compartment that is supposed to electrically and electronically tie the two together and I'm left with questions about the so-called moisture- and dust-proof capabilities of the camera, as well as the camera's ability to handle constant use. I was able to hold (briefly) Matthew Robert's D800 up in Toronto. That camera exuded far more quality than the D600. The D3100, D3200, and D5100 cameras sitting nearby embarrassed the D600 by having the same levels of quality for about a quarter of the price. To add insult to injury the D5200's camera compartment was better built than the D600.

While I was there I gave a look at the Canons and the one lone Sony, an α65. While I berate the Canons I had to admire the handling of the T4i as well as the EFS 18-135mm kit zoom lens on the body. Physically, the 18-55mm was the best built of all the kit lenses (the D600 had no lens mounted on it). It was solid and smooth in operation, and reasonably bright in the viewfinder, with quality that comes close to rivaling more expensive lenses. When I picked it up and focused the T4i was quick to acquire focus lock in that environment (although not quite as fast as my stolen E-3). The only real knock against the T4i is when using live view; it was as slow as my stolen E-3, and even exhibited the same behavior; flip up the mirror, focus, expose, then drop the mirror down. That takes a long time. I can understand a five-year-old E-3 doing this, but not Canon's latest Rebel that was released this year. Overall the quality was top notch, equal to the D600 comparing body-to-body.

And then I picked up and played a bit with the Sony. The focus lock speed was simply breath-taking. I fell in love all over again with the focus squares that lit up in green indicating which ones were being used to determine focus. Because this is an SLT camera, it's always in live view. Triggering the camera to take a photo was nearly instantaneous. And it's overall build quality also matched the Nikon.

With the Canon and Sony I liked the way the grip felt in my hand. With the D600 it felt cramped.

I came away from my first physical encounter with the Nikon D600 irrationally angry, more than I have with any other camera in a similar situation. I think what hit me was I was almost ready to spend $2,100, sight unseen, on the D600. I'd certainly bought into the hype sight unseen. Now I'm going to re-re-consider my choices and my prior decisions, and widen the field a bit. The Nikon D600 has definitely been taken down off its pedestal and out of consideration.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Ybor City

Drove west on I-4 this afternoon to a hotel in Ybor City for a two day conference in Tampa. Got here in the late evening, checked in, and then went out with a Pen and the 25mm for a short walk and a bit of super; what Robin Wong refers to as "shutter therapy."

Caddy-cornered from the hotel is a gentrified, Disneyesque section called Centro Ybor (Portuguese for Ybor center). It spans 7th through 9th Avenues, between 15th and 17 Streets. I walked through looking about rather quickly, until I reached 7th Avenue and then began to walk west. That's when I started to see far more interesting things. I grabbed a few photos in the dying evening light, then headed back to my hotel, stopping along the way to enjoy a pretty good supper at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company inside Centro Ybor. Tomorrow is the first of two intense days of work. It starts early but ends early, so maybe I can capture a bit more that's interesting of Tampa and Ybor City, at least from my perspective.