Sunday, June 25, 2006

Amazing how bad preview can be

For reference: 100% giant flower from today's activities.

Here's what it looks like in GraphicConverter:

GraphicConverter 100percent view

and in preview

Preview 1 step back from actual size

Preview's "actual size" view is quite a bit closer than GraphicConverter's 100% view. Additionally, the colors are different. Most of all, there is TERRIBLE interpolation error. Look at some of the out-of-focus droplets.

NERRR.

The camera's better than the software I use to view its results. Hmm... wonder if I can get someone to pay for photoshop for me! Beh, I don't want photoshop.

Not the best day for it

... but I went to DC again anyway.

Space tail

Gallery here. The pictures are ... well, I don't know, I guess you can see what you can see. I think some of the flowers worked out well, though I had no idea I would be stopping there. I actually had planned on going to the Hirschorn again, but I decided that posting pictures of other people's work is not so much.

I chose the Air & Space museum because it's good to remember why you are where you are in life. I wouldn't have come to Maryland if not for wings and engines and learning how the two result in flight. So there you go.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sensor dust

I learned two lessons today.

1) Sensor cleaning kits are expensive, and the people at Ritz are too monumentally stupid to even carry them.

2) It's a very good thing I never shoot stopped down because cleaning the sensor only made it worse, if not damaging the protectant.

Crap!

Isn't that pretty? That's what my squeeze blower did. Now, after expending four of my 12 swabs (that cost me, along with their methanol, over 60 dollars), that stuff is mostly gone. It appears there's a scratch on the upper right corner of the sensor as-you-face-it, which means there are weird markings at the lower right corner of the image. sigh... I think it's scratched now, but I guess I'm sending it off to whoever to have it professionally inspected at some point. Maybe it can still be cleaned by someone more able than I. Maybe not. I guess, if nothing else, I can use this as an excuse to buy a K100D in a month or so.

And uh... even if not, it's a good thing I shoot wide-open, right?

sigh.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

and here's a picture

BOoooooring

See? It's not text :-!

I get to make new posts

An anonymous asked: "question for both of you, if that's ok - why the specific equipment selections?"

I can respond clearly instead of burying it at the bottom of crappy blogger comment pages.

When I got my first camera, it was a 110 format point and shoot that I loved to death. I think literally; I don't remember what happened to that camera.

After that, I graduated to my first self-chosen camera - I loved the APS cameras that let you choose the print size. I got a kodak P&S camera that I still have, and actually used a couple times a few years back. I don't remember how much it cost, but it went around the country a couple times with me. Then my grandparents got me a Nikon 35mm point and shoot that I rarely used because I stopped taking pictures for many years. I still have that, as well.

About 2002, my mom switched systems because someone got her a Canon Rebel film camera. She liked the features and such, and so gave me her old Pentax MX and two lenses for it: the smc-P 24mm f2.8 and the smc-P M 135mm f3.5. I started buying Kodak Max 800 film because of the aforementioned shake problems, though I would run a black and white roll here and there. I never much got into B&W, so I tend to miss the things people who shoot color tend to miss, most notably Aperture Priority metering.

My dad elected to get me a pair of Tamron zooms for Christmas one year, a 28-80 f3.5-5.6 AL and the now-discontinued 80-210 f4.5-5.6. He also found/bought a smc-P M 50mm f1.7. I used the zoom so extensively that I started to get itchy for a body that supported Av mode. That led me to the near quixotic quest of finding a pentax film SLR that didn't have the crippled K mount (like the ZX-30/60 and *ist). Surprisingly, the Ritz had something like that in stock, which led me to the Pentax ZX-L. Probably the most versatile film camera they'll ever sell short of the MZ-S, it supported almost all of the functionality of the previous pro models (excepting power zoom, the useless panorama mode of the PZ-1P, and something else I'm forgetting) while adding the wireless flash control and high-speed flash sync of the MZ-S. I don't believe in flashes, so that didn't matter to me, basically.

Anyway, over the years my film taste shifted to the Fuji Superia 400 film that came oh-so-dirt-cheap from Target and the like to Kodak Ultra Color 400 film. Eventually, I discovered Agfa Optima 400 and didn't turn back. I shoot 400 because I tend to have some severe ADD when I shoot - I will go from macro to wildlife to ... well, that's really all I do... in the course of a single roll, so I need to plan for the highest quality at the worst conditions. For me, that's birds in trees. I got some what-I-would-call fantastic results with the last two types of film, so I wasn't complaining.

What precipitated the shift to digital was a combination of things. First, I can't get consistent quality film processing here. Most of the places that are well known (ESPECIALLY Ritz) are very good at throwing your film around in the cutting process, and more often than not, dragging the blade across the first frame to pass through after a cut. Techlab, a place that ONLY does film processing and printing, was guilty of the same, sometimes even worse than I got from Ritz. I found a good place to go, but the expense of taking upwards of 8 rolls of 36exp film a month had become prohibitive. Enter graduation; I told my family I wanted a camera and they obliged. I got the *ist DL because it was cheap enough (body only) to enable me to get the DA 16-45 f4.0 and DA 50-200 f4-5.6 lenses. Had I known what was up earlier, I would have forgone the longer lens and ordered one off of Willoughby's, but that's a bit of live and learn.

So, in summation: I was gifted into Pentax, I've stuck with it because the lenses are of high enough quality to justify not having fast extreme telephoto capability, and I justified my shooting media by way of "wildlife."

blah blah blah!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Call it a pet peeve

I'm sick of people on the internet putting the *ist DL in a different class than the *ist D or *ist DS. The *ist D, okay, maybe you can make a case for that, but the differences between the DL and DS are mirrors/prism and the number of AF points. That's practically it. All three cameras use the same sensor! My images should, with any given item of glass, be every bit as shiny as someone with an *ist D.

Shut up, internet.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Would you like to see something funny?

I got home and opened the mailbox, as is my heathen custom. Imagine my glee when I remove the three items within it.

... yes.

Wait, what does that say?

PHOTOS - DO NOT BEND

And what does it look like?

Straight as a circle!

Now with a reference straightedge!

WTF USPS.

Thanks, All Parties Involved! I really appreciate you further ruining my graduation photo ops.

Friday, June 16, 2006

New Gallery

Campus

I took more pictures today. The "best" 27 are up, though most are boring and ... boring. Yep. Campus and then Centennial park. I went to take a picture of a particular forest with my MX and 50 f1.7 with some black and white film, and ended up taking a total of 66 digital images as well.

Cheers.

Oh, and I found a new gallery program. Now you can see EXIF data for digital images.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Call Me Odin

Juvenile Crow

No larger version because the picture sucks, but I just wanted to prove it was juvenile or something.

Anyway, I was on my way out of the office at about 8:25... I got to the little four-way junction between Key and Woods when I saw something flapping around the handrail leading down toward Main Admin. I figured "Great, a broken Grackle or Starling I'm going to have to kill... just how I wanted to end my day."

Lo and behold, it's a Juvenile Crow. I can see and hear its parents up above, too... presumably, they were rolling around the trees going "uh... where's our kid?" Anyway, the kid is frantically trying to fly, but it's just too young yet. It's hopping between bars on the handrail and the brick thing you see up above.

Eventually, it hops down onto the side, and I get up really close to it and start talking to it. "Hey bud, you look like you're in a bit of trouble. You gotta go over that way" as I point to the mulched area.

It wasn't listening, so I started pointing while I nudged its tailfeathers.

It looked up at me, then hopped off where I was pointing, retreating back into the corner.

I was going to take a better picture, but as I was getting set up, a blue jay crapped on my hand.

A good end to a terrible day, I say.

A Brief Musing

We all know about the term "going digital."

I was reading over http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=18815907 at dpreview when something odd struck me: someone said something to the effect of "it took me a long time to get used to digital."

Maybe it's because I just don't care about the features digital has to offer, or maybe it's that I was getting pretty good results with film, but I don't understand what there is to get used to when it comes to digital (except the really obvious like "no processing" and "remember to take memory cards").

Am I missing something?

Also - Josh, wow, does your camera ever hate color film or what! What stock were you using for the lillies?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Seagulls

YA RLY

Bigger?

tee hee.

Too bad I had to dust/scratches it, like all of my film work.

I'm should go look for work as a seagull portraiture artist.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

and because I don't like looking at text...

Ring of pencils

Full size

We had a bunch of golf pencils with a rubberband around them. I added a regular pencil to make it a hexagon, then pushed all of them in the center out so that the edge tension held them together. Isn't that neat? :-!

Lenses and the *ist DL

Note: this post is something of a response to a comment. Forgive me if the part about the 50-200 doesn't make any sense out of context, because I'm not rewriting it.

Here's my thoughts on the lenses I own as coupled with the *ist DL.

smc Pentax-M 1:1.7 50mm
I'm actually not sure I've used this lens forward. I really liked it with film, so I can't see how eliminating vignetting and corner softness could hurt my opinion of it.

Reversed, this lens is about the same in my eyes that it was for film as well. The CCD seems to make softness away from center even more apparent, so there's no benefit in terms of that. The apparent increase in magnification is nice. Color rendition is at least comparable to the DA 16-45, as is seen in these two photos: Berries, reversed 50mm at something resembling f5.6 or half a stop between 5.6 and 8, and then Berries, DA 16-45 f8.

smc Pentax 1:2.8 24mm
Is this lens even an M series? I know I haven't used this lens forward yet. I'll try that this week and let the internet know.

Reversed, this lens is fantastic. You can find sample images here and here. Both of those images were taken at ISO 800, I believe. Basically the magnification is relatively extreme, so if you want to caputre something that's not moving but is very small, good on you. The alien crab demon was probably only marginally larger than the visible portion of the ball in a ballpoint pen. Wink! Downsides include: five blade aperture, which means petal surfaces tend to render as a beautiful solid color field filled with little tiny pentagons of various colors. this is only a problem at incident angles that result in these highlights occuring though, and when I took pictures of the cherry blossoms this way with film, I had no such problem. Additionally, the magnification is SO high that it is very difficult to focus on anything when the lens is stopped down (i.e. when the viewfinder becomes very dim to give a usable depth of field). The working distance is also VERY small, such that at an angle of less than about 40 degrees, the lens housing tends to contact whatever surface is holding your subject. Not very useful sometimes.

smc Pentax-M 1:3.5 135mm
With FOV crop, this lens is roughly equivalent to my old 80-210 on film. The obvious advantage to this is that it's a familiar view through the finder while at the same time also being more than a stop faster (3.5 v. 5.6). This shot was taken with said lens wide open. Here is a 100 percent crop of the frogs. The sharpness is dependent on incident light without the hood extended, as I forgot in that sample up there. You can tell that, if stopped down and used responsibly, it should be a near-perfect lens - I doubt it's easy to resolve spider webs from 25 feet away. It's nice and compact, roughly half the size as my tamron zoom. Since it's metal, it probably weighs twice as much as my DA 50-200 zoom. To say the least, it enabled me to take a shot I wasn't able to take with either of my other telephoto lenses, and that's worth more to me than anything else.

Tamron AF 80-210 f4.5-5.6
I only used this lens at full extension. For examples, roll out to my SQH state park gallery and check out the photos of the heron fishing. Color is pretty good, and though I swear that some of the images ended up looking like I had added a coat of vaseline to the lens, sharpness is good. The corner softness you might see in the lens is outside the image circle area, so all in all, it's quite useful for birding. Quite nicely, the lens has a 7-blade aperture, reducing distraction. Problems with this lens are problems regardless of what camera you mount it on: it's a bit large, has a limited zoom range, and has a noisy AF gearing. If I know I'm going to be doing primarily bird photography, this lens will be a must in my bag.

smc Pentax DA 16-45mm f4.0 ED AL
What can I say... Pentax would have had me pay $549.95 for this lens. I got it for $410 from B&H, and I'm sure it would be worth it at either price. I got used to 24mm as a wide angle on my film cameras, so I decided that the equivalent focal length would be worth more to me than the .33x magnification of the Pentax DA 18-55 f3.5-5.6 AL. Sharpness and color are good, as can be seen in images like this one and this one. Add a polarizer, and you get this. Ding. Problems are limited to the physical nature of the lens. At 16mm, the lens is almost 10 inches away from your eye. This is, coincidentally, such a length that your filter is basically making contact with whatever subject you might be minimum-focus-distancing upon. This also means the camera's flash is unusable at wider angles, as the lens barrel itself is in the way. If you're considering a Pentax digital, forgo the kit lens and spend the 300 dollar difference to get this one (as long as you actually want wider-than-28mm field of view). I have noticed some chromatic aberration (purple fringing, specifically) on some shots where there's a great deal of backlighting. This was basically a dark room shoothing through a wire chair between me and the window on an overcast day - it was, effectively, the dumbest picture I could have possibly taken. In practice, this is purely academic, though, as I haven't noticed any problems with it since. SPOILER ALERT!!! It is worth noting that this lens has an 8 blade aperture. None of pentax's literature says this. Needless to say, I was obscenely happy when I discovered that.

smc Pentax DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 ED
I'm not sure my DA 50-200 does the camera justice. The lens seems to be a bit squirrely on AF, though the manual focus is very fast compared to my tamron 80-210. I bought the new zoom for a couple of reasons. First, I decided that I needed ED glass in the telephoto range; I had already noticed some chromatic aberration and occasional softness in images I took closer to into-the-sun angles, so since I have a bad habit of getting myself into that situation, and since the after-rebate price was appealing, I said "what the hell" and went for it. Second, the physical size of the DA is amazing. You can see the difference between it and my old zoom here and here. The whole assembly becomes a lot lighter, which itself has two advantages: first, the balance stays closer to the same place at 50mm when you zoom to 200mm, and second, when I carry the camera around, I don't find the lens auto-extending to full zoom because the front element/lens hood combination weighs too much for the internal mechanisms to resist the pull of gravity.

Downsides? Six blade aperture; this is less a problem for me than most people because, as someone who takes a lot of pictures of birds, I leave the camera on aperture priority mode and have it permanently stuck to the widest aperture. This means I probably get a lot of edge softness. What I avoid are hexagons in the background -- if you don't do what I do, then you may have more of an issue with this than I do. Additionally, there's a little bit of a grinding sensation when you twist the focus ring manually. I think this is just the byproduct of a telezoom with a fixed front element, but it is a little unsettling. Finally, since the front element fits inside a 52mm filter ring with room to spare, I'm not sure how much light this lens actually lets through. It probably has some effect on flare, but I don't know what that is yet.

That's about it. Do with this information what you will.

Oh yeah, one more thing

In 16 days, I've taken 464 pictures. 

Bugtography

Shiny bug

Blah blah blah. I went to Centennial Park again today, digital and film cameras in hand. Unfortunately, the number of visible birds wasn't conducive to finishing off my roll of film from three weeks ago (oops), but I did still manage to take a whole lot of pictures while I was there. 71 to be exact, 31 of which were awful. I just lamented that I never would have taken 31 terrible pictures if not for the digital "it doesn't count" reality... but then again, I also wouldn't have taken 40 decent pictures.

Live and learn? Not so much on the learn, just appreciate.