An Interesting New Camera

There are a couple of main trends in cameras these days, many of which benefit everyone who takes photos, but a few of which try to pigeon hole any photographer into narrow definitions. For example sensor technology improves every year, leading to lower noise sensors for everyone. The other trend at the moment is towards smaller cameras, but almost exclusively through removing the mirrorbox and optical viewfinder. I like optical viewfinders, in fact I love optical viewfinders. Using an optical viewfinder makes using cameras more fun to me. To the degree that I like old film cameras because they have viewfinders that put the best of today’s cameras to shame.

One of the cameras I own (and starting a sentence thus is a sure sign I own too many cameras), is an olympus 4/3 camera. The 400 series, which is their intro model. I considered the 500 series, which might have gotten me a slightly better sensor and in body stabilization. But after thinking about it, the lighter weight and increased portability of the smaller camera won me over. But four thirds seems to be a dying system, no matter what Olympus might say. The last four thirds camera released was a few years ago, and the lenses are getting more difficult to find every day. So while it’s a great system, it’s almost like using my old film cameras. Amazing technology & utility, but sadly no longer made.

So I was excited to hear that Canon is introducing a new camera this year, I believe it’s the Rebel SL1, or 100D. And it’s essentially one of their crop sensor cameras, except miniaturized to the degree possible while retaining an aps-c sensor. So modern sensor (win), great lens selection (win), optical viewfinder & smaller size. If I were looking for a camera this one would certainly be near the top of the list. Probably my biggest worry would be the mirror instead of prism viewfinder. Now if only I had a collection of Canon lenses instead of Nikon.

Anyways, gizmodo did a nice write-up & you can see the specs on Canon’s website.

Photography Without Wires

The iPhone is actually the most popular “camera” on flickr.  And by a wide margin too.  That said it takes awful photos.  Like unbelievably, ridiculously awful.  And it’s actually among the very best camera-phones.  Camera phones have much worse actual resolution, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions, worse color depth, dynamic range, noise artifacts… The only thing they have going for them is portability and connectedness.  And I would claim that the latter is about the determining factor in getting photos from on a device to out into the world where everyone can see them.

The question is then what are my options for easily getting photos off a real camera.  And I have the feeling that this will be of temporary use given the number of cameras which are starting to incorporate connected features.  But anyways, for the moment:

At the moment there are three ways of getting photos off your camera without resorting to taking out the storage or using wires.  The best is wifi/cell data inside the camera, but this is still limited as of the moment.  Next we have the dongles, these plug into one port or another on the camera and can then connect to some wireless network.  I am avoiding these at the moment because I don’t want a dongle hanging off of or sticking out of my camera.  These also tend to be specific to a camera manufacturer or even a specific camera model.  Finally we have the networked flash storage.  These are memory cards which connect to wireless networks.  This was started by Eye-Fi, but by now numerous other manufacturers are joining in.  For me the real appeal is automation, reducing the number of steps between pressing the shutter button and having a photo online.  And as far as automation is concerned eye-fi seems to still be leading the crowd, since one can set it up to transfer files automatically.

These methods of getting photos off the camera are slightly flexible in terms of where the images end up, but it’s still not great.  Eye-Fi will automatically push photos onto my android phone (I imagine one can do the same with an iphone).  And from there I actually have a number of options of moving the photo further along.  First eye-fi offers an application, but the interface is kind of a pain to use, and requires windows (possible also osx, but in either case, no linux).  

Navitar DOZ-6X12.5 on Micro Four Thirds

I have a 20mm security tv camera lens which is hands down my favorite micro four thirds lens.  It has flare like you wouldn’t believe, and the aperture doesn’t even try to approximate a circle as you stop down, but indoors neither of these present real problems, and at 1.4 it lets you keep the iso way lower than the kit lens.

Anyways, I was intrigued by the idea of a fast zoom offered by some of the c-mount zoom lenses.  The issue is that there is none or at least very little documentation telling you what sort of coverage you might get with these lenses.  While I have only experimented with one lens it’s likely that the same would apply to other lenses of approximately the same focal length, 12.5-75mm.  You’ll probably get better coverage with lenses that start at a slightly longer focal length, but some of these lenses are really quite large relative a micro four thirds camera, they’d probably look almost comically small and balance much better on an aps-c or full frame camera.  They’ll probably be more comfortable on a dslr styled camera (think g-series) than a compact styled camera (think e-pm1, gx series).  In fact the reason I chose the particular lens I did was that it was very small relative the other options.

The navitar 12.5-75mm DOZ-6X12.5, has an image circle of about 13mm (a little less at the wide end, a little more at the long end).  If you crop to minimize vignetting you get a little more than half the resolution out of your sensor at the wide end, and more than that at the long end.  Nothing is as valuable as examples, so I put some uncropped and cropped images up here.  I would only really look at the coverage, because I wasn’t shooting at reasonable apertures and there’s no guarantee I nailed focus on these photos.  But it’s slightly more interesting than shooting newsprint.
Because of the vignetting these make great toys, but I’m still not sure how frequently I’m going to grab it when going out.  Also, I think its motivated me to add a grip to my e-pm1, because it really is easier & more comfortable to hold the camera steady with something on there.

Choosing Black & White Film

It seems that black and white film is just a little harder to find than color film.  Or at least my amazon search wasn’t instantly successful.  Anyways, Kodak T-Max and Tri-X seem to be two of the most popular.  And it’s a little difficult to find just how they differ on a user’s level.  The most useful comparison I found was here, and after looking at that, I think I might have a preference for T-Max, but I’m going to get a couple of rolls of each and see how it plays out.

Developing Film in NYC

I’ve put together a map with some likely locations of getting film developed inexpensively in NYC.  I haven’t visited all of these yet, but will hopefully update the list as I make the round.

Update: Hands down the best place I’ve visited is Cardinal Camera on the upper west side.

Maximum File Sizes at Flickr

Flickr is slightly confusing in that they have multiple (undocumented) maximum file sizes.  And in order to successfully upload and view an image the image has to meet all requirements. 

First a file size limit, this is the one that’s generally documented (that said I think it should be in black and white on the upload page).

50 MB for Flickr Pro users

30 MB for free users

Second there’s an undocumented maximum pixel dimensions size (it may in fact be a memory limit on the Flickr server, but the effect is the same)

134 megapixels or smaller (11585 x 11585 pixels works, 11586 x 11586 does not).  Note that this leaves some space between the two, but it’s a pretty narrow slice so I’m not worrying about it now.  I feel good enough knowing that 134 megapixels or less will work, and I know I’m not downsizing panoramas much more than necessary at that size.

You’ll probably only run into these file sizes if you do a lot of panorama stitching, but it’s something I’m excited to try, so I wanted to be sure of the limits.

Smart Sharpening in Imagemagick

So, I’ve found that the Smart Sharpening workflow described here can give really stellar results. But I’m lazy, and was interested in a way that I could adjust images without having to open them in a graphical environment, and preferably do a bunch at once. I essentially converted the steps described by gimpguru into imagemagick and ended up with something that works. I’m still testing a few different ideas, but I find it’s working reasonably well at the moment (you can judge for yourself on the basis of examples, though the flickr images will give you a better idea). But in the spirit of sharing… you can find it here.

Timings: 10 MP image, about 35 seconds
Note this will avoid name collisions presently, so if you have a 2, 4 or 8 core cpu, and you use (ls *.jpg|xargs -n 1 -P # smartsharp.pl) you can get a 2, 4 or 8x speedup, or 20, 10 or 5 seconds per image. This is really not a lot of time, and trivial compared to the amount of time you could expect to spend in the gimp doing the same thing.

Apparently someone has already tried to implement this in the gimp. This would be a nice way to try a bunch of different parameters, unfortunately it does not have a preview (and that would be very hard to do), and parameters would not be a perfect match from that one to this one, as I use a different edge detection method. And I don’t believe I can use the gimp edge detect method without quite an investment. I’ll investigate though.

Some examples: These are crops from three larger images (full size available here), the images are the original, the final and the mask generated by the script used for sharpening,.