Digital Photography

Sony RX10 Problem and Frustration

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Sony RX10, f/5.0, 1/100" at ISO80
Sony RX10, f/5.0, 1/100″ at ISO80
Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.0, 1/125"
Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.0, 1/125″

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I didn’t post the usual Friday Image on Friday. My apologies for this but I am still battling with too much to do and too little time. I have fallen some way behind in responding to emails and queries as the numbers have shot up recently. I love replying to everyone but it takes time.

Anyway, I set out on a walk in the Peak District today with a camera. I was going to take the new G16 but in the end I went for the RX10. I really do love this camera but it’s been somewhat of a frustrating relationship. My first ever outing found that the white writing around the edge of the lens reflected onto my filters when the sun was at certain angles. The other major frustration I have is that the image stabilisation is poor. Sometimes I find myself keep checking if it is actually on.

It’s very easy to find the shutter speed has dropped below 1/25″ as I like to shoot at the base ISO of 80. I find that 1/25″ is pretty much as slow as I can risk, even at the wide end of the focal range (the camera has a 24-200mm f/2.8 constant lens). Below this and camera shake is evident and ruins pretty much every shot unless you are lucky. That’s one of the problems with a sharp lens, you notice the smallest of movement.

More recently I have become attuned to this problem and now push the ISO to 200 or 400. This goes against the grain with me as I always want to shoot at the lowest ISO and I hate noise. But you know what, even at ISO400 you can barely notice it and the image quality is that much better.

So this has been a bit of me rambling (pun intended) to tell you that the RX10 is one of the most enjoyable cameras I have and the one that I increasingly turn to when I just want to walk and can’t be bothered with different lenses.

More from the Canon G16

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Canon G16, F/4.0, 1/200"
Canon G16, F/4.0, 1/200″

In my previous blog post I shared some of my first impressions about the Canon G16 compact camera I had purchased. Today I would like to share a little more about my thoughts about the image quality. Of course these revolve around my approach to photography so may differ from how you would use the camera. None the less, it may prove useful to some of you out there.

First, how I like to use the camera…

Where possible I shoot at the cameras base ISO. You may be tempted to think this is the lowest ISO but this is not always the case. With the canon G16 the base ISO is ISO80. This should give the combination of least image noise and highest dynamic range.

I tend to use the wide angle end of lens a lot.

Many of my compositions need good depth of field because there are elements in the foreground and distance.

Whilst I need good depth of field it’s the foreground elements that need to be at their sharpest. I therefore tend to use an aperture range of f/4.0 to f/5.6. I feel this allows the lens to perform well whilst giving me good depth of field.

Selecting the right point of focus is important to me as this helps with the depth of field but also ensures the key foreground elements are sharp.

Keeping all this in mind, I have included the full sized image for you to examine. This was from a capture made in RAW format which was then converted to TIFF in Lightroom. A small amount of capture sharpening was applied and a little processing was done in Viveza. The image was then saved as a JPEG. Enjoy.

 

 

Friday Image No. 46

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Tree in the Lake District. Olympus EM5 ISO200, f/7.1, 1/125", 28mm
Tree in the Lake District. Olympus EM5 ISO200, f/7.1, 1/125″, 28mm

It’s a very quick post for this week’s Friday image. That’s because I have only just got home and I need to pack for a trip to the Lake District tomorrow. Hopefully I can take advantage of the forecast snow.

I wasn’t too sure which image to post so I thought I would resort to another from my last trip to the lakes. I was browsing through and noticed this one I had shot. There was just something that I liked about this tree. I hope you do too.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Resolution Broken

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Loughrigg Tarn captured on a Panasonic LX7, ISO80, F/5.0, 1/8" handheld
Loughrigg Tarn captured on a Panasonic LX7, ISO80, F/5.0, 1/8″ handheld

I’m currently preparing a presentation on Lightweight Photography for Chorley Photographic Society where I have spoken in the past. As part of this I decided to take a few shots with my Panasonic LX7 when I was out in the Lake District on my last trip. Above you can see one of the images which I have also printed at A3 to take along on the day. The print looks quite nice with lots of detail. With the addition of a little grain I would say that it doesn’t look very “digital” at all.

This exercise got me thinking that I haven’t been using my compact camera very much over the last year. This time last year I was missing the LX5 which I had replaced with a Sony RX100. I then found I didn’t enjoy using the Sony as much so sold it for the LX7. Don’t ask me why but I never seem to be carrying the LX7 and this defeats the objective of owning a compact camera.

Anyway, I found that I really enjoyed shooting with the LX7 in preparation for the presentation and before I knew it I had ordered a Canon G16. What a bargain; £290 new from Amazon and then £40 cash back from Canon. This is where breaking the resolution comes in as I said I wouldn’t buy any more equipment this year.

I can’t yet report on the Canon as although I took it on a walk with me over the weekend the terrible weather meant that I didn’t shoot anything that’s worth showing. What I did notice is that the image stabilisation doesn’t seem to be as good as the LX7 but the noise handling appears better. Time will tell but I did find I enjoyed using the G16.

Catching Up

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Ulswater Sunrise, EM5 + 12-40 lens. ISO200, f/6.3, 2"
Ulswater Sunrise, EM5 + 12-40 lens. ISO200, f/6.3, 2″

Well that’s Christmas and New Year over with, at least for another year. It was great in that I managed to see many of my family, some of whom I don’t get to see that often. On the down side I ended up not achieving much on my ever growing list of work. Current projects that I intended to finish over the period (and didn’t) included:

  • Publish my latest book “Beginning Photography the Right Way”
  • Launch a new set of Lightroom Presets called the “Polaroid Construction Kit” and which as the name suggests allow you to give images a “Polaroid look” in Lightroom.
  • Produce Video Tutorials to support my “Essential Photoshop” book. I have wanted to do this for a long time but only now found software that I’m happy to work with.
  • Finish the new website as there are some areas that need further development.

I did manage to:

  • Publish the quarterly newsletter including a video tutorial
  • Shoot some new material in the Lake District (see above image)
  • Answer all the many emails that came in over the holiday period

I think it’s about time I set myself a strategy and defined some goals for the year or I could find myself busy without achieving anything. Hopefully I can include shooting lots of new material and sharing some video tutorials.

An Important Decision

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Ullswater Boat Jetty, The Lake District, England
Ullswater Boat Jetty, The Lake District, England

It was an early start yesterday. Up at 4:30 in the morning in order to make the 2 hour journey to Ullswater in the Lake District for a dawn shoot. Despite the early morning start it was without question one of the most enjoyable days photography that I have ever had.

Overnight the temperature had dropped like a stone and there was a thick haw frost on the ground. Most waters in the Lakes had a thin layer of ice starting to form around their edges but because the temperature had dropped rapidly the deeper water was still cooling. Instead of ice covering their surface they had a wonderful mist and the conditions just got better as the day went on. The image you see above is of the boat jetty near Pooley Bridge, at dawn. Captured on the Olympus OMD EM5 with Olympus 12-40mm lens and a 0.3 ND Grad on the sky. Aperture was f/9.0 (a mistake as I would have shot this at f/7.1 usually). ISO200 and shutter speed 1/125″.

So you might ask, what is the important decision? The answer is, that I have decided to sell the Nikon D800; but I want to explain and share my reasoning.

Firstly, this is the third trip I have made where I can’t bring myself to carry the extra weight. When I returned from Bolivia I suffered a prolapsed disk at the base of my neck and for a while it looked like I might need major surgery. Fortunately, this is looking less likely now but the pain over the past couple of months has been unbearable at times – and pain killers just didn’t have an effect on it. I was finding that even trying to lift and support the heavier equipment was aggravating the pain.

OK, so this might be a temporary condition (I certainly hope it is) but other things are more permanent and important. One of the reasons I bought the D800 was that a lot of people were claiming how the image quality is exceptional with the right lenses and I would agree, yes it is. The camera would perform very well even with lesser quality lenses but needed a little more adjustment to really bring this out. But the important point is, the image performance is no better at low ISO (which I use almost exclusively) than the EM5. In fact, the corner and edge sharpness of the EM5 images beats the D800 even with high quality lenses.

All I really get with the D800 is an image file that produces a 24.5″ inch image rather than 15.36″ at 300dpi. Does this additional image size matter? Well, unless I am going to be making a print larger than 30″ and look at this with my nose pressed against it. You really need to be doubling the print size to notice the difference in output quality due to the way inkjet printers work. If you print on Matt paper then you might even need to go larger than this. As for output to the Internet, there is no benefit to having more pixels and then throwing most of these away by downsizing the image.

Where the D800 does score well over the EM5 is in the RAW files. I seem to be able to push these all over the place in editing and see almost no noise, even in shadow areas. This is very nice but again it comes with a downside. The RAW files from the D800 do seem to need much more processing in comparison to the EM5 RAW files. It’s almost as if the D800 RAW files are a little flat, possibly to the additional dynamic range the camera has. Whatever the reason, it feels like I am having to relearn how to get the most out of the camera and I don’t really have time for that at the moment.

The final and most important problem is that the D800 really doesn’t suit my style of shooting. What I don’t like to do is pop the camera on a tripod, spend a lot of time getting into position, check everything and then make one or two good exposures. This just doesn’t work for me. My approach is to move around and into the subject, taking lots of pictures and checking them regularly. As I work I find images that I like or things I like about an image that I work with to incorporate. The shots gradually get better until I arrive at the image I want. This style of working isn’t for everyone but if it’s your style, you will find it hard working with a large DSLR.

I do have to admit though that I didn’t always recognise this. It was only when I moved to the EM5 that my shooting style really started to develop in this way and that I started to feel free. Now when I try to go back it’s as though I am constrained and I have lost that feeling of freedom and spontaneity.

So, this is my reasoning but I will caveat it with a final thought. I reserve the right to change my mind. As I was writing this I was looking back at some of my RAW files from the D800 and they do have a quality that I really like. I’m just not sure it’s enough to make me want to keep the camera.

Something to Say Again

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North Wales would you believe!
North Wales would you believe!

I had a bit of a scare over the holidays that made me realise how sloppy I have become with my backup process. At one time I was pretty rigorous in processing and backing up my images. Everything went into a holding area on my hard drive which was duplicated to a second hard drive. Once the images had been processed and had keywords applied I would then move them to a processed folder set, again duplicated and then also burned to CD.

Over time the image size has increased and so have my storage needs. At some point I seem to have relaxed control and stopped using my complicated, multi copy process. In short, I have become sloppy. I did recognise this a few years ago and took out a little insurance, investing in a Drobo with 4 drive bays. That way if one of my drives dies I still have the data across the others.

Great idea; I love the Drobo and all has been well for the past 4 years.

The only problem I have with this set up is that it’s not very easy to have a backup of 8Tb’s of storage. Sure if one or even two of the disks die I can recover with minimal data loss. But what happens if the whole unit dies. The first thing a Drobo unit does when you insert a new drive is format it.

Gulp!

I had this thought about a week ago and then the unthinkable actually happened. My Drobo wouldn’t boot. Even when I managed to get it started the PC wouldn’t recognise it and the unit would go back to sleep.

I have managed to get the unit started now. I have no idea what caused the problem but it’s made me invest in a second Drobo and hard disks. I am going to spend a lot more time in the coming year developing a sensible archiving policy for all my images. I’m now adding images to the collection far too quickly. I can’t risk losing everything.

Storage may be cheap but the time taken to manage data and image archives isn’t. I think this coming year will be a year of tidying everything up and becoming as streamlined as possible.

Not much to say for myself

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Sand patterns
Sand patterns

It doesn’t happen often but I don’t have anything to actually say for myself today. I also feel a little frustrated that I’m looking through my library of work over the past year and I’m somewhat under-inspired by my efforts. Some things catch my attention but when I look more closely I lose interest. I think I need a few days break over the Christmas period.

I will leave you with this moderately interesting sand pattern from the beach at New Brighton.

Working with Textures

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EM5 imaged combined with texture file

One thing that I really enjoy doing is working with texture files. I like the surprise of the new and enjoyment of creating something more akin to art than photography. I don’t often share this sort of work as many people don’t class it as photography and quite a lot don’t like it.

But if you do like it you might like to share in some of the high resolution texture files I have created. They are available for free download in the members area of the Lenscraft website. There are two styles on there at present; Grunge (dark) and Watercolour and I plan to add more in the future. Here’s a few samples.

Grunge03-thumb Grunge09-thumb Watercolour 07-thumb Watercolour 14-thumb

So if you like working with texture files and want some new textures head over to www.lenscraft.co.uk and log in to the members area.

Enjoy.

Seasons Greetings – I think

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Descent from Scafell, The Lake District. Three image stich from a Panasonic GX1, 14-45mm lens at 14mm, ISO160, f/7.1
Descent from Scafell, The Lake District. Three image stich from a Panasonic GX1, 14-45mm lens at 14mm, ISO160, f/7.1

I need to get something off my chest I’m afraid. Yesterday I sent out a mailing to my Lenscraft subscriber list wishing people a Merry Christmas a Happy New Year. As there are people from all over the world subscribing and no doubt from all faiths I did think long and hard about this as I never want to offend anyone.

In the end I reasoned that sending out my best wishes with the best of intentions wouldn’t be offensive. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes, if I were to receive a message of good wishes based on different faith I would actually be very happy.

It appears my good intentions have been well received by the majority. Someone even thanked me for not using the politically correct “Happy Holidays”. However there have been a few people who have taken offense and become angry. Well I’m sorry if I have offended anyone but isn’t it better to receive a well intentioned greeting than none at all?