Forgot to push the "Publish" button, March 2009
Third St Almost to Minna
Itís been a while since Iíve written about the web tech of botzilla or random photo gear issues. No time like the present.
First off Iíve been slowly updating all of botzilla to use more modern web frameworks, which happily work well with the ratchety old Moveable Type backend. The blog portions were easy to complete, the older Powershot & Streetphoto archive bits will come soon enough. Iím also rearranging some of the tag bins, mostly to reflect the changes in botzilla intent since the original charter.
Given the general growth of the blogosphere since botzillaís early day, I doubt that anyone other than myself will really notices these changes.
On the camera front, my Canons are being retired, along with my TLRs and Bronica rangefinder (one TLR, the Bronica, a 5D body and a couple of lenses are still for sale!). I initially intended to replace them with the latest Leicasonic LX (LX-7) and later a Fuji X100sÖ to my surprise the littler of these little cameras was dominant for a while, though over time and practice Iíve come to use the X100s more and more, eventually supplanting it with an X-T1 which is terrific and provdes a second career for my Contax lenses, but the X100s is still doing the bulk of my shooting as of September 2014.
Like everyone, Iím also shooting a lot with my phone, occasionally with a tablet, and intermittently with Google Glass. More entries to come on all of these technologies as I stumbled along ahead.
Another, more-recent Paul Graham lament about the lack of respect afforded "straight" photography. and a discussion(?) of the same essay/address, which oddly attributes a review of Jeff Wall photos to.. Jeff Wall? Misreading aside it has an interest list of conflicting viewpoints, like these:
Now, this all got rolling back in February. How dare I blog about something so.... ancient?
I'm increasingly thinking that this is exactly what I should do -- like Garry Winogrand's delayed-processing piles of film canisters, which he left in storage deliberately so that he wouldn't mistake his immediate feelings about the experience of shooting for the experience of seeing the picture. So to, perhaps, it's better to give others the opportunity to shout each other down, mistaking contention for criticism. YMMV.
(And yes, I realize that pointing out a fight is not participating either -- I'll collect some opinions later, though frankly Graham seems to be just pointing himself. There is a problem. That recognition is easy. Solutions and sense about it is harder.)
Almost time to say goodbye to China, now that I'm back in Beijing. Also time to say goodbye to:
If I can just keep my laptop and 5D working for two more days....
(Followup: I remind myself, a bit, of my old second (third) cousin who raced motorcycles and cars and kept soldiering on through the many hospitalizations as just part of the passion....)
Which doesn't begin to compare to what happened to Michael :(
It's common to tell digital photographers: "don't trust the camera LCD as a preview."
Why the heck not? A lot of the time, I happen to like the picture I see on the LCD. So I made myself an Adobe Camera RAW preset that, as best as I could eyeball, would match the tonal range of the LCD on the LX1.
It was a somewhat subjective process, not entirely perfectly scientific, but simple enough. I shot some Kodak grayscale charts, played them back on the camera LCD while simultaneously loading them in Adode Camera Raw, adjusting the corresponding RAW/DNG conversion on my laptop under Photoshop CS3. I could see where the blacks petered-out, and the overall relationships in tones between neighboring patches. So patch 1 was full-on, the grays died out arounf patch 14, the values were a little boosted around patch 5, etc. It made the picture that I liked.
Once I'd made such a preset fro RAW files, I also made a corresponding adjustment curve that would alter camera JPGs to also more-or-less match the results I was getting from ACR. It's easy to make such a curve with a three-layer photoshop file (I like RAW but some situations particularly very fast repeat shooting still require JPEG for this little bufferless compact camera).
To make a curve that matches a JPEG to the ACR result: First, open the JPEG. Next, add a Curves layer and close the Curves dialog (we'll come back to it). Now, open the RAW file in another window, Select-all, and paste it on top of the JPEG (which will make a new layer). Set the blend mode of this new layer to "Difference."
Now all you need to do is open that curves layer again and adjust it until the visible differences between mictures are the absolute minimum. If the picture is black, then both the bottom (JPEG) and top (RAW) layers are a match.
The less-than-wonderful surprise I got was: the pictures don't align. At first I thought it was sharpening, but actually they just don't line up. They are two or three pixels misaligned, apparently at a 45-degree angle. In fact it's not even an integer number of pixels the pic above (a 100% blowup of the previous blog entry) shows the closes I could get, and shifting it in the opposite direction simply moves the various contour-outlines from one side of the face to the other.
The second surprise was that, despite the fact that these curves reduce the tonal range (that is, they step on constrast), the RAW pic holds detail quite a bit better than the JPEG. I'd expected that since the JPEG had more range than my desired pic, I wouldn't make much difference. But it does. The higher fidelity of RAW still matters even on a low-fidelity images.
As a minor aside, we noticed last night that the LX2 makes a guest appearance in Spiderman 3 in a scene where a photographer loses his SLR, he wastes no time in dragging an LX2 out of his jacket pocket & just keeps on shooting.... (though I'd never recommend carrying the camera in your pocket with the lens and flash both already extended).
I'm something of a believer in half-baked photo tests. If test results aren't obvious except in highly-exacting circumstances, for equipment that's unlikely to be used in exacting circumstances, then: who needs them?
If results can be shown in ad hoc, half-baked test situations, then they're more worth examining. So here's a quick little comparison. I'm not looking at bokeh, or chromatic aberrations, or anything else. Just focus near the center.
I was concerned about some wobble in the focusing elements of my Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens. I figured I should compare it to my corresponding rock-solid Contax-Zeiss 50, that I can mount to the 5D via a "Cantax" adapter. And since I was shooting at ISO 100 anyway, why not do a quick comparison against my compact LX1?
What you see above are pixel-to-pixel crops from the centers of three photos. The white-balance was set to "auto" for all, so the color shifts are not significant.
The results surprised me a bit. These shots are all made around ƒ/4, 1/250th of a second handheld but leaning against a wall. I made several exposures & these are 'representative.'
The first surprise, to me, was how poorly the Zeiss lens did compared to the Canon. I had expected the opposite. While it's possible that my manual-focus skills aren't up to snuff when compared to the Canon AF (even with the special Canon 'S' manual-focus screen), I did check the entire frame, and found that there were indeed areas where the Zeiss focus was a bit better than here in the center, specifically in the corners. So either way, the Zeiss had less flatness, or maybe it was just less sharp at the center.
Or I can't focus. Either way, since in this case I only care about photographs that I myself will make, the net effect is the same: I get a sharper result with the Canon, at least for the 50mm. And that was a surprise (I'll have to test the 28mm lenses after the holiday).
I also found that the wobble seemed to have no effect on the effectiveness of the Canon lens (still disconcerting, and I may have to send it in. If I tilt the lens forward or back after locking focus, the elements move and then I do shift focus. I can also feel a distinct "thunk" when the elements slide).
The third surprise was just how well the little compact PanaLeica held up. At ISO's above 100, or in terms of instant-on accessability, the big Canon dominates but for good light, the LX1 (or LX2, which has the same Leica zoom lens) puts up a real competetive fight! Especially for a pocketable camera that costs one-fifth the Canon price (or even less: since the LX2 came out, I've seen real LX1 deals. I ran into one at Fry's last week, brand new for less than $300).
I promise to try to make this the last "ain't full frame grand" post. This one is the 28mm ƒ/1.8 again, ISO 1600 and pushed a stop further in Adobe Camera RAW 1/200 sec wide open.
100% crop below.
On a whim I checked Craigslist to see what the Canon 100mm f/2 might be going for to my surprise the least-expensive one in the entire Bay Area was on sale just a few blocks away.
I'm incredibly enthused after printing this at 12" × 18" and having each figure clearly resolved, even to the point of making out the webbing in the beach chair on the right.
(ISO 400, Canon 28mm ƒ/1.8 - 1/250 @ ƒ/7.1)
One glance at Craig's List and 20 minutes later I was in possesion of another G, from a fellow just a few blocks away and dirt-cheap. So now I've got a Canon G5 to replace the long-suffering, taped-together, and now deceased G1, and as a quiet digital companion to my Contax G2.
Dumb? Hmm, just last week I picked up an LX1 (aka Leica DLux2) for the wide lens and the 16:9 aspect ratio (looks cool displayed on the Sony PSP a great way to carry a catolog of images, added to my other catalogs on the celphone and ipod)
I forgot to include my other G in this snap: the old Canonet G-III. Ah well.
First impressions of the G5 over the G1: manual use is incredibly improved, along with strobe handling. Sounds like it's time to revise some of the Botzilla Canon pages, now that the G5 has been out of production for months...