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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tripod Resolution

Every now and then when the moon is almost full I grab my camera. I think it's because I love the phrase "waxing gibbous moon." Waxing is the opposite of waning; it means it's getting bigger. And gibbous is the opposite, or the complement, of crescent; it means a partial moon larger than a half moon. I've always wanted to title a picture Waxing Gibbous Moon.

Two nights ago I took the camera out by the garage and took this. I tell myself in those situations that there's no time for a tripod. For this shot, I turned on "Anti-Shake" (actually, I never turn Anti-Shake off) and jammed the camera up against the garage door.

When I saw that the exposure wasn't totally sharp and the moon was still blown out (this would be a good application for two quick exposures blended with one of those actions that combines two exposures for extended dynamic range—I'm not just imagining that those exist, am I?), I had one of those "tiny epiphanies" of which my days are full—I realized I dislike tripods on principle. That is, I don't think of myself as a tripoddy kind of person, all finicky and particular. I'm an anti-tripodite.

Real Purple: This unsharp waxing gibbous moon Kind of Blue moon
—a detail from the shot above—is also one of the few times I've ever
actually seen bonafide purple fringing from my 7D and 28–75mm lens.


I have a friend named Christopher Bailey who was once a house painter. I remember keeping him company once four stories above Georgetown. I couldn't leave the window, but Chris was scampering around on boards laid on scaffolding with nothing under him but sidewalk, dizzyingly far below. Now, I'm scared of heights, dramatically so, so just watching him had my stomach in knots. At one point I said, "Chris, aren't you afraid of falling?"

At that, he started jumping up and down on one of the boards, which flexed beneath him and then flung him upwards. He jumped on it like it was a trampoline. "Oh, I don't know," he said, "I just feel like if I fall, I'll get my hands on something."

Bingo. That's how I feel about steadying the camera. I'll use anything and everything to brace the camera on or against—mantelpieces, car windows, someone's back, whatever. I like to extemporize. More than that, I like to think of myself as someone who can extemporize. Even when I do use a tripod, I just jam the camera down on the top plate with my hands—I seldom actually attach the camera to the tripod head. What I realized the other night is that I avoid tripods just because of this self-conception I have—even when they're called for, and would be appropriate and useful. There was really no reason at all not to grab a tripod when I went inside to get the camera the other night.

So here's my resolution. The next time I shoot a waxing gibbous moon (granted, the shot above is another miss), I'm going to get the tripod out, and use it properly. In fact, I'm going to try to use my tripod more often in general. I don't care for "tripod snobs," but being an anti-tripod snob is no better.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Cliff: "Waxing Gibbous Moon—Nikon D70, Nikon 18-200 VR, 1/400 sec. F5.6:"

Featured Comment by Joe Decker: Image stabilization can save the day when tripods won't do the job. This was taken from a moving ship (Canon 300L/4 IS, f/4, 1/160, ISO 400):


Featured Comment by DMayer: "While I agree with your comments both pro and con about both tripods and VR/IS/whatever, I'd like to humbly point out that the argument would be moot (mooot?) for moon shots. To successfully photograph the moon you have to shoot at a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the moon and to make the earth's movement negligible. At usual f-stops, the proper exposure would be fast enough to freeze the moon with a 'normal' lens in a shutter speed range that would allow your IS to be effective. Shoot slower, and a tripod may yield a sharper picture of everything else, but your moon would either be blurred or grossly overexposed. Cliff's WGM looks good at screen resolution, and was presumably shot at 200mm at a high ISO (I would guess around 800?) At this shutter speed some people may not need the VR, let alone a tripod, especially if you use the stabilization method that you (Mike) used for your moon shot. And let's not talk about the need for remotes and mirror lockup while on your tripod. Sort of takes away the spontaneity a little, eh? Yes, I do have a tripod (carbon fibre of course, sniff-sniff), a remote cord, and a usable MLU function on my camera, and do from time to time use these functions, but I also have VR lenses, and in a pinch which do you think would yield a more successful moon shot? (The smarta-answer is the tripod, used a couple days before the full moon around sunset, when the difference between the sky exposure and the moon is within the dynamic range of your sensor and the moon is close to the horizon. Luck has nothing to do with making a good photo.)"

Once in a Blue Moon

Today is the Blue Moon—the second full moon in a calendar month.

Blue moons happen about seven times every nineteen years.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Doug (seconded by many other NPR listeners): "Based on a story on NPR last evening, it seems that this was not a Blue Moon and that people have been using the wrong definition since 1946 when it was incorrectly reported in Sky and Telescope magazine.

Idle Response by Mike who actually knows nothing about it: Doug, perhaps that will end up being one of those "errors" that are sanctified by popular acceptance into becoming true. For instance, there is (or was) no such word as "troops"—"troop" (or troupe) is already plural; the singular is "trooper." But I doubt you could convince many Americans, or even many lexicographers, of the non-existence and/or incorrectness of "troops" as a legitimate English word.

(I'm hoping the same thing isn't going to become true of "loose" for "lose," which I think is one of the most persistent misspellings on the internet. Or maybe it just annoys me the most.)

As for Blue Moon, we would probably need the AHED Usage Panel's scientific advisory panel to render a verdict on this one.

Further Comment by dasmb: "I've a degree in rhetoric and agree with Mike—the only definition of a term that matters in terms of effective speech is the one that your audience expects. Dictionaries are a largely academic thing—it doesn't matter if your usage is right by the dictionary, if it contradicts popular belief then it's unsuccessful speech.

"As for me, I'm going to celebrate this lunar event falsely called a Blue Moon with a nice tall glass of Blue Moon, a beer falsely called a Hefeweizen."

Random Excellence


Jan von Holleben's Dreams of Flying.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with thanks to David A. Johnson

They Needed to Talk


And family friend William Eggleston, his camera at his side, felt compelled to shoot

By Emily Yellin, Smithsonian magazine

The details are a bit sketchy now, but everyone agrees the picture was taken in Memphis, Tennessee, on a late summer night in 1973. Karen Chatham, the young woman in blue, recalls that she had been out drinking when she met up with Lesa Aldridge, the woman in red. Lesa didn't drink at the time, but both were 18, the legal age then. As the bars closed at 3 a.m., the two followed some other revelers to a friend's house nearby. In the mix was a 30-something man who had been taking pictures all night. "I always thought of Bill as just like us," Karen says today, "until years later, when I realized that he was famous...."

READ ON

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with thanks to Robin Mellor

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Banner Year for Big Cameras?

2007 is shaping up to be a banner year for top-end cameras. Not only is the new Canon EOS 1D Mark III now shipping, with its leading-edge high-ISO performance, but it looks like this year will finally see Sony filling out its fledgling line with two higher-end DSLRs—one paralleling the old Konica-Minolta 7D (right) and one situated above that, at flagship level (top)—which might or might not be full frame. Sony is releasing product pictures, but no specs yet.

Even more interesting rumors are swirling around Nikon. "According to the French magazine Réponses Photo (issue 183, June 2007)," went a recent post by one Charles Brugg on the DPReview Forums, "Nikon will soon bring out a new 'pro' camera. It will be available around the same time as the Rugby World Cup later this year." The poster goes on to report that "this new camera will use a 18.7MP sensor made by Sony, slightly smaller than full frame (1.1X) thus allowing further use of the classic F-mount."

This is all just scuttlebutt, so please don't ask me for more information. I just pass along what I hear. My contact at Nikon, for instance, is an illiterate guy named Gitchi who sweeps up under the counters where they solder the circuit boards. I'm sure he knows something, but then, I don't speak Japanese.

It looks like both Sonys and the Nikon might have image stabilization as well, although we will have to wait and see.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by David A. Goldfarb: "Big cameras?

"Indeed, with regular special sheet film offerings from Ilford and Kodak and the East European manufacturers, large format camera builders like Keith Canham, Richard Ritter, Chamonix, and Lotus seem to be selling all the larger-than-8x10" cameras they can make and there is a brisk trade in ULF and banquet cameras on the used market."

Mike Replies: Okay, here we go. 2006. All DSLRs: about 6 million units sold. All film rangefinders from Leica and Cosina (Voigtlaender and Zeiss) combined: about 20,000 units. All ULF cameras (larger than 8x10") sold by the above four companies: I'm going to guess not more than 400 units between the four of them, and I'll even let you throw in Wisner, Phillips, and Gandolfi and anybody else you can think of.

Just a wild guess. What do you think?

Oren Adds: "I guess I'm one of the two people in the universe who found the headline strange.

"When I tell family or friends that I'm heading out with a big camera, it means a big wooden camera that makes pictures on big pieces of sheet film. It would never have occurred to me to call one of those Sonys a 'big camera,' no matter how bloated it is relative to those little sensors."

David Answers: "I'm just poking fun at the 'big cameras' headline, Mike.

"Wisner's been reorganizing their operation, so I don't think he's sold many new cameras in the past year. In addition to those we've both mentioned, Ebony and Shen-Hao should be in there as well.

"400 ULF cameras? Maybe, but among ULF cameras that would be a banner year. I wonder how many are being sold in China, which seems to be the growing market."

Mike Adds: I wonder how many people in our audience have never seen a wooden ultra-large-format camera in person? (I'll never forget the sight of Fred Newman with his 20x24" Wisner...nor of David Alan Jay 'hiding' under its dark cloth when he wanted a break from the Photo East show crowds...).

Glyph Supersale

Encore Data Products, one of this site's sponsors, is having a monster sale on two audio-production-quality Glyph hard drives—you can save 49% and 45% below retail on a 500GB or 750GB Glyph Quad drive, respectively. The sale only lasts until 3:00 tomorrow Mountain time, so move quickly if you want to take advantage!

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Question from Richard Sintchak: "What is it about 'audio-production' quality that makes it worthwhile at so much more?"

Here's the best answer from Glyph's website:

"Glyph was born with a customer service focus, addressing the needs of its coveted clients. The A/V production world is full of content creators and editors providing audio and film entertainment, training materials and broadcast programming as their core businesses. Down time means lost revenues, especially in this market. Oddly enough, most of the companies that claimed they were servicing these niche markets were in fact just large hardware vendors with antiquated service policies based on the commoditized and gigantic general computer market.

"Glyph has instituted some very powerful service policies that are 'standard' with the purchase of Glyph products.

"Since hard disk drives have been replacing analog tape in many studios, quality storage products and minimal downtime are critical to the user's success. In 1997, Glyph launched the Advance Replace program. Still in effect today, if a SCSI or GT Series FireWire hard disk drive fails within the first year of its warranty, it is eligible for advance replacement by 10:30 AM the next business day.

"Glyph offers 5-year warranties on SCSI hard disk drives, and 3-year warranties on FireWire hard drives and enclosures. Any in-warranty product will have a maximum turn around time of 48 hours in the Glyph facility. Simply put, if a product needs replacing, Glyph will install a new or serviced part in the device and ship it back within 48 hours. This requires a serious commitment to on-hand service inventory and the necessary human resources."
—Mike

Featured Comment by Encore Data Products: "Just a follow-up...

"The Glyph drives definitely cost more than an off-the-shelf usb drive you get at Best Buy, etc. For basic backups a cheaper one will work fine; we always suggest brand named product so at least you know where it came from. The benefits of Glyph are reliability, speed, little noise, and quality. Glyph products are used a lot in music, TV & film production where you can't take a chance of the drive not booting up, being loud (especially when recording music), or having slow transfer rates. With Glyph you know the drive will do what it is supposed to. Backed with the best support on the planet, Glyph does well in situations where you don't want to take any chances. If someone is just archiving photos and they don't access them all the time the Glyph quad series is probably more than they need but for ongoing usage it works well. The Quad series also offers 4 port formats: FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0 and eSATA. This helps if you move the drive around and require different connections. The portable storage case is a plus too."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Random Excellence

Purple Day


Damaged

A comment from Nitsa the other day reminded me to revisit her site, nonphotography.com. There is also a book. Nitsa's non-photography non-rule rules:

no special gear (too heavy).
no instruction books (too boring).
no calculations (too calculated).

Nitsa, Self-portrait

Her work has been on CD covers and in movies, featured on the web, in newspapers, on T.V., and in many magazines and now—giving her the recongition she deserves, at last, whew—here on T.O.P.'s Random Excellence. (I kid.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Needle Exchange

Stephen Crowley's latest project.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by dyathink: "My brother died of AIDS from sharing a needle with a friend who also died of AIDS. My brother was not an addict. He was just a young guy looking for a thrill. Seven years later he paid with his life and left a 25-year-old wife and three kids under age five. Thanks, Mr. Crowley, for the compassion and sensitivity."

Monday, May 28, 2007

First Camera Makes $775,000


Mike O'Donoghue writes to tell us that "the Susse Frères black softwood box (1839) went for 480,000€ Saturday at the Westlicht auction here in Vienna. That makes 576,000€ [about $775,000 or £390,400] with fees."

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to Mike O'D.

'A Perfectly Beautiful Place'

This nation's most hallowed burial ground for its war dead is Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery at Arlington Heights, a beautiful area high above the Potomac River across from Washington D.C. and not far from the Lincoln Memorial. Its centerpiece, Arlington House, was the beloved home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his family. It was built in the early 1800s by Martha Washington's natural grandson and the stepson of George Washington, George Washington Parke Custis, who originally dedicated the home to the honor of Washington's memory. He kept many mementoes there from Mount Vernon, his own boyhood home. Custis was Robert E. Lee's father-in-law. During the Civil War it was fortified for the protection of the capital and then used as a refugee camp for freed slaves. In 1864, with Washington D.C. overwhelmed by wounded and war dead, it became the site for a new national cemetery, partly as a spiteful move by a bureaucrat named Meigs to prevent Lee from ever occupying it again as a home.

Two Arlington postcards from the early 1900s
from the collection of Michael Robert Patterson


That gravesites should be used to keep Arlington from being used as a residence again is somewhat ironic in that, during the war, Abraham Lincoln spent his summers north of the city in a cottage at the Soldier's Home—which was then an active hospital and sanitorium with a graveyard continually in use for the interment of war dead. It is another gently spectacular spot in the countryside, with beautiful views. Lincoln would commute to the White House between June and November on horseback. Soldier's Home, which Lincoln is known to have loved, is now one of the few places apart from the White House that still exists largely as Lincoln knew it in his lifetime. In 2008 it will open as a restored national museum.

Jack Boucher, Lincoln's Cottage at Soldier's Home

Robert Lee never did return to Arlington. Down the hillside from Arlington House is the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), where tourists gather to watch the changing of the honor guard, and at the foot of the greensward that we would call the front yard of the house is where the eternal flame burns for John F. Kennedy, himself a war veteran.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nature Photographer Mauled by Grizzly

Last Wednesday, photographer Jim Cole, 57, of Bozeman, Montana, suffered an attack by a grizzly bear while trying out a new digital SLR in the Hayden Valley area of Yellowstone National Park. Jim was swiped twice across the head and face. Jim then had to hike two to three miles back to the road to find rescue. After being flown to a hospital in Idaho Falls, he underwent seven hours of emergency reconstructive surgery, and is now on a ventilator and being fed through a tube, unable to speak. As of Sunday he was listed in fair condition.

Jim's two books on grizzlies, Lives of Grizzlies: Montana and Wyoming and Lives of Grizzlies: Alaska, are the result of a lifetime observing and photographing the animals. (The links are to the Amazon.com pages.) Jim is an outspoken advocate for the protection of bears and their habitat.

"Grizzly" is not a separate species of bear as was once believed. It's a name given to large individuals of the species Ursus arctos, or brown bear, in the northern reaches of its range. The fur of mature brown bears can turn silvery at the tips, giving the animal a shimmering or "grizzled" appearance. The biggest grizzlies are, along with big polar bears, the largest land predators on Earth. They can grow to 1,500 pounds and are phenomenally strong. Their "cuddly," roly-poly appearance is an illusion, created by thick fur and a layer of fat; skinned, their musculature resembles that of supersized, superhuman weighlifters. There are some wonderfully vivid grizzly bear stories in John McPhee's superb book on Alaska, Coming into the Country.

A grizzly, showing the gray or grizzled tips of its fur.
(Photo: John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk, National Geographic)

Bears involved in attacks on people are sometimes destroyed, but Yellowstone Park Rangers do not plan to take any action against the bear. Last Wednesday's attack is believed not to have been predatory, since there were no bite marks on Cole's head or chest. Apparently Cole himself told the Rangers who found him that he believed it was a defensive action by a sow with a cub.

It was the second bear attack on Cole. The first, not as serious, occurred in 1993. In 2004, Cole was ticketed for willfully approaching within 100 yards of bears, but was acquitted of that charge by a judge in 2005. Until Wednesday there had been only eight minor incidents with bears in Yellowstone since 2000, and the last time a person was killed by a bear there was in 1986. Cole's friend Rich Berman told reporter Scott McMillion of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that Jim Cole would not want the bear to be hurt as a result of the incident. "If anything good comes from this, it would be that people learn from his mistake," Berman said. "Jim would want people to still go to the park, enjoy the park, respect the wildlife and be careful.

"And please don’t try to get too close to get the perfect picture."

Our best wishes to Jim for a speedy recovery.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, from reports in the Bozeman [MT] Daily Chronicle

Mark Brautigam

If you haven't seen Mark Brautigam's great "On Wisconsin" series online, have a look. Oren—who admits to having an attitude problem—points out that "self-conscious irony, in color, is all the rage these days," but these pictures resonate with me. In fact, I'd give a knuckle or two to be able to shoot like this guy.

And, not at all incidentally, I found this series through Joerg Colberg's well-loved and much-admired Conscientious blog. Conscientious is the favorite online destination of a great many committed photographers. If you haven't discovered it yourself yet, you're in for a regularly-repeating treat.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Photographers at Work

This is very funny. (Warning: the second picture down is not workplace/
school friendly.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, thanks to Sandy R.

Featured Comment by Aleksander a.k.a. Alkos:












Featured Comment by helge.nareid: "Back in the early '80s I spent a year or so doing quality control in a photofinishing plant. One of my tasks was to spool through rolls of prints as they came off the processing machine. During that time I saw a fair cross-section of 'real people' photographs. I've also seen a fair number of the common mistakes, such as the result of taking a photo of a TV screen with flash.

"One roll of 110 film stays with me though. It shows a series of shots of an uninteresting landscape with an out-of-focus ear on one side. Clearly, the photographer shot an entire roll of film holding the camera back to front, which was easy to do with some of those cameras. The entire roll must have been shot at the same time, the landscape did not change significantly through the roll. I'm still wondering what was so important to the photographer that he wanted to expend an entire roll of film.

"These days at least, you don't have to wait for the film to come back from the lab."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Lens Reviews

I appreciate Erwin Puts' comments in his recent article "On Lens Reviews," and I think he's on to something. His clarification of the various approaches to lens reviewing is right on, and better articulated by him here than I've seen from other writers elsewhere.

He's got me pegged, for one thing, when he says that my approach "takes the whole imaging and viewing chain as an integral process and reviews a lens for its impact on the presentation of the scene as fixed on a print and viewed by an observer." I couldn't have said it better myself, and it's very true—the proof for me is the print, and what you can't see in the print doesn't count for very much as far as I'm concerned.

In other words, I'm an "eyeballer," as Phil Davis used to call me (not very approvingly)—although I'll register my usual protest, which is to say that I think I'm a good eyeballer.

But the empirical, practical approach is in some ways not very descriptive. In fact, I don't even like to call my lens reviews "tests"—I prefer the word "trial," because all I'm doing is trying the lens and then describing my results to the reader. A "test" implies a scientific approach that is experimentally sound, measurable, and repeatable. Erwin Puts names that approach in honor of Geoffrey Crawley (Editor of the British Journal of Photography for a 21-year tenure), but it could just as accurately be called the Erwin Puts Approach.

"The Crawley-Puts Approach" evaluates the technical properties of the lens in isolation, without even muddying the waters with the contributions of the imaging substrate (film or sensor), much less all the other elements of the imaging chain. The Johnston Approach, as Erwin names it (I'm flattered, even if I'm not sure he means it as flattery!), has the advantage of being more practical, and the disadvantage of being more limited. For instance, I usually include in my lens reviews disclaimers as to what they will not shed any light on—starting with color transmission, since that's largely invisible to the black-and-white films I normally use.

The much more rigorous Crawley-Puts method of describing a lens is ultimately more accurate, as well as more readily applied to differing applications, but has the drawback that it might not be descriptive of what users will actually experience using the lens for their own work. Indeed, this is often reflected in Erwin's writings when he notes that high levels of technical skill are necessary to extract the very best out of any particular lens (and sometimes to detect the differences and distinctions he describes). This is a repeated refrain in his writings, and it's obviously something that concerns him.

Armed and dangerous
The key to writing a good subjective review—the kind I write—is to arm the reader with as much information about the terms and conditions of the review as possible. My recent controversial pair of posts about the Leica M8, for instance, were widely criticized. Some criticisms were simply errors or were based on errors (one commentator concluded that the vehicle in the first picture in the reviews, of a parked BMW SUV, must be my own car. He then used this premise to speculate about my feelings toward German technology. (I drive a Ford.) Another commenter said that I work for Apple, and another stated that I write for Outdoor Photographer magazine. Neither of those things are true either). But many people made criticisms that were very valid. Even certain friends complained that I hadn't done enough shooting with the M8, for instance. I ran into repeated references on other forums saying I had shot only "90 pictures" or some number close to that. Actually what I said was that I filled up most of a single 1GB SD card, which might be 200 or 300 shots when you consider the ones I deleted as I went along—careful reading without assumptions is still required. Regardless, the underlying criticism that I hadn't shot enough with the camera still holds.

But how did they know that? They knew because I told them, that's how. I'm always amused, after I write a subjective review, how many people raise objections using the very information that I deliberately provided for them in the text of the review.

That's how a subjective review works best, in my opinion. Readers should be well informed of the writer's prejudices, the extent of his trials, the conditions under which he worked, even his tastes. They can then take all that information into account when evaluating and applying—or, yes, dismissing—his conclusions.

Called for and needed
The Crawley-Puts Approach admits of no such "slop." There is little room for impressionism. When a technical measurement is made, it must be made exactly: it's not good enough to say "Well, I wasn't being very careful, so maybe the optical resolution of the aerial image two-thirds out from the center is 10 or 20 lp/mm better or worse than my figures show." No. That won't do. Exactitude and rigor are called for, expected, and needed.

In the end, with this approach, what the reader is left with is a description only of the lens and its potential performance, and there is no guarantee that he will see this potential realized in his own work. But the description he does get is complete, thorough, and exact—more so than a subjective trial could be.

There is room for both approaches in reviewing, of course.

I've said nothing about what Erwin calls "A Third Way," but I recommend that you read his comments carefully. What he describes there is, among other things, one of the fatal downfalls of most high-end hi-fi reviews.

A final point could be raised, which is that it is very rare for any single review to be 100% of one type or the other. I, and other subjective reviewers, sometimes employ technical measurements to discover or support a point of argument. And, even in a technical review, tastes and personal judgments will sometimes be found. It is perhaps understandable when a subjective reviewer is not as careful as he should be with technical measurements, but that's no excuse. And it might also be understandable when a technical reviewer is influenced by personal tastes or previous experiences yet casts these things as facts, but he should be vigilant against that error. We all try, I'm sure.

The timing of this article is fortuitous for me, too. I'm about to embark on a new review project, and these discussions make a good foundation for that review.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

OTA*: Colorful Cube

At the risk of further enraging those readers who hate off-topic posts, here's a photo (does it count as on-topic for architectural photography?) of the fantastic new Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision building in Hilversum, by architects Willem Jan Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk. The brightly colored facade, which the Times says "draw[s] on everything from primitive temples to comic-book illustration and the decorative ephemera of Andy Warhol," are made of cast glass. The building is conceived as a cube that is half underground and half above.

Watch the building go up in photographs.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON


*Off-Topic Alert

Friday, May 25, 2007

James Clerk Maxwell's Big Mistake

by Ctein

Contrary to popular opinion, this was not the first true color photograph
ever made. It was experimental error.


There's a certain type of error in judgment that we humans are all subject to. When presented with information that contradicts our beliefs, we tend to be nitpicky and skeptical and aggressively compulsive about every detail. When handed information that confirms our beliefs, we're inclined to accept it without critical evaluation.

What does this have to do with photography? Well, James Clerk Maxwell is credited with having made the first true color photograph back in 1861. Most of us accept his results at face value, because they agree with how we now do color photography. There's one small problem with this. Maxwell's experiment was a failure; it had a major methodological blunder that rendered it meaningless. It didn't prove anything. Few of us caught that, and certainly Maxwell did not.

Here's the key problem, which should have bothered all of us the first time we read about this great experiment. In 1861, there were no panchromatic emulsions. The type of emulsion Maxwell used was sensitive only to blue light, with just the faintest hints of blue-green sensitivity. Nothing beyond that. No yellow, no red. While it's possible the Maxwell used some experimental emulsion that had red sensitivity, there's nothing about this in the detailed account of the experiments written by his assistant, Sutton (who did the actual labor). So, how in the world could they have successfully photographed a scene through red, yellow, green, and blue filters?

(And why yellow? Well, I think the likely answer to that is that Maxwell was also testing out the three-color versus four-color theories of human vision. Newton had proposed that there were four visual primaries: red, yellow, green, and blue. Later, others argued that there were three primaries: red, green, and blue. This was not a settled matter, so it is very probable that Maxwell saw this as an opportunity to test both hypotheses.*)

The unfortunate answer is that he didn't. The blue exposure was just fine—a matter of seconds. In order to make the green exposure, Sutton had to substantially dilute the copper chloride solution they used as a filter. Even then, the exposure ran to 12 minutes. A strong, deep-red filter of ferric thiocyanate resulted in an exposure of only eight minutes, though.

Maxwell should have caught this. Although he could not have known that his emulsions were 100% insensitive to red light (knowing that would take theory that wouldn't be devised for half a century) he would have known that the sensitivity to red light had to be very, very low.

So, why did the experiment work at all? Because ferric thiocyanate passes a considerable amount of ultraviolet light, and many red fabric dyes reflect in the near ultraviolet as well as in the red. By pure accident, they got a plausible-looking photograph. It was the right answer, but for the wrong reason; had they a chosen a different subject (say, a flower garden or a rainbow) it would have come out all wrong.

The greatest expert on light and electromagnetic radiation the world has ever known got tripped up by a simple experimental error because the results confirmed his expectations. Imagine how easy it is for us mere mortals to be caught in the same intellectual trap.

Posted by: CTEIN


*The answer, not established until the 1970s, is that both are correct! The human eye has three kinds of cells that respond to frequency bands primarily in the red, green, and blue. But the brain interprets the information from those cells as four distinct primary colors.

Feature Creep

-
The Financial Page

by James Surowiecki, The New Yorker

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle. This spiral of complexity, often called “feature creep,” costs consumers time, but it also costs businesses money. Product returns in the U.S. cost a hundred billion dollars a year, and a recent study by Elke den Ouden, of Philips Electronics, found that at least half of returned products have nothing wrong with them. Consumers just couldn’t figure out how to use them.

READ ON

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Robert Roaldi: "This really hits a nerve with me. I'm not a technophobe. I know how to set a VCR. I worked as a software developer for 25 years, sometimes in low-level systems design.

"I have owned two cell phones and still have the second one (though I only use it on vacation) and I cannot for the life of me figure out why people buy new cell phones a couple of times per year. I have yet to meet anyone who knew what their phone's features were or what they were for.

I'm over 50 now and am sick and tired of reaching for my glasses when I am using a camera. I need them to read the menus, read the LCD's, stick the USB cable in, and have to wear them around my neck all the time. I hate this. With my Pentax MX, I needed only to turn two dials, the shutter speed and the aperture ring. Other than ISO, those are still the only two parameters that need adjustment when taking pics so why are modern cameras so finicky to use?

"No one, but no one else I know in my circle of friends and family has the first clue about what the buttons do on all their camcorders and digicams. I have never met anyone, other than other geeky photographers, that has ever read a camera manual. Not one.

"'Feature creep' is the opiate of the masses. It fools us into thinking that we are making choices. Since we don't use the features, having the choice is an illusion. It is a con game that takes places at the point of purchase. It's a come-on.

"We can't buy a large sensor small footprint digicam with a 24–70 mm (equiv) lens. Now that's a choice I'd like to be able to make.

"(I feel better now, thanks.)"

Featured (partial) Comment by MHMG: "...I find myself growing very 'new interface' weary. On a recent trip I stopped at a gas station/convenience store that had just installed an LCD touch screen panel at the food counter. Not realizing this apparent inventory control interface existed for my 'benefit,' I tried to order a hot dog from an employee at the grill behind the counter. The employee said, 'you have to enter your choice on the touch screen over there and then pay for it at that counter over there.' I looked at the computer screen and then said, 'Well, I guess I didn't need the hot dog that bad.' The employee curtly remarked, 'What's so hard about ordering on the screen?' I replied, "What's so hard about giving me the hot dog I asked for so that I can now go over there and pay for it?'

"I suspect that machine interface overload is going to get a lot worse before it gets better!"

(You can read MHMG's complete comment in the comments section.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Eye Heart Camera

What the Duck's new "I Love Photography" merchandise. The design: Simple. Clean. Quirky. Communicative. Kewl! We like.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Taxes: Codae

There are a couple of codas to my "Taxes" post below (in which I tried to affect a sort of rueful tongue-in-cheek humor and evidently, for most readers, failed. Oh, well, I tried). Anyway, consider:

• Photography isn't that expensive. No matter how much you spend on it, there are any number of other hobbies / passions / obsessions / pasttimes which constitute much more efficient ways to pee away specie. You could own a boat, for instance, or collect cars like Jay Leno, or have a passion for racehorses, or be into really high-end audio. Photography can be expensive, sure, but there are lots worse things. Even if you collect photography, and do things like pay $2.1 million for the odd Cindy Sherman, you could always be buying paintings instead and tossing away ten times that. Comparatively, photography always comes out looking pretty good.

• Photography is reasonably wholesome, all things considered. I always qualify this by noting that there are indeed a few ways one can break the law with photography, and there must be a few ways that one could turn it toward immoral ends. But for the most part, it doesn't hurt anybody. Including you. Whenever one of my friends mentions that a spouse or S.O. is complaining about his or her counterpart's immersion into the hobby, I point out that it's better than crank 'n' liquor, poker 'n' prostitutes, yatta yatta, things of that nature—real vices. You could be pouring your wealth one quarter at a time down the throat of a one-armed bandit. That's a far sight worse than overspending on ink, methinks. Wouldn't you say that, on balance, photography keeps more of us good folks out of trouble more often than it gets us into trouble? That would be my guess.

I've always paid the various taxes and been happy. I spend a certain amount of my money on photography, sure. Have for years. But it's my thing. And that's a good thing.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Darkov's Answer

Earlier today I got a comment from a reader called darkov who asked:

There was a music/cd review blog that you had referred to in some previous posts. Any chance of putting a link to it on your "Online Photographer" blog?

Right. Thanks for asking. It's called C60CD, a name with a long and storied history, and it's written mainly by my friends Bob and Kim, who continue to put up some really nice stuff there. They can both be pretty challenging, but I've learned immensely from both of them and my musical life is always made better when I read the site.

I've put up a leetle tiny permanent link so you can always find it—there in blue, over to the left, under the Amazon link. See it?

I need to go write a couple of new reviews myself. It's been a while.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Taxes

Michael Reichman once used the phrase "the Photoshop tax" in a conversation with me about imaging software. That is, every so often Adobe upgrades PS, and you're suddenly behind, so you have to pay a hundred and a half to upgrade and get yourself back to zero. It's a regular if intermittent expense. You know it's going to come around again, like rainy season. The "Photoshop tax."

It got me to thinking. What else is a "tax"?

The "film tax" might be one. You can protest all you want about how great film is and how great your prints look, but like it or not, when you use film, every time you release the shutter you incur costs. Every time you click, it's like throwing a nickel in a can. Or a fist-wad of dollar bills, if you're shooting 4x5 color neg. The "film tax."

There's the "upgrade tax." I know of a few photographers who have been using the same view cameras since Cher had two names, and I talked to one blissed-out guy online once who'd been using one single screw-mount Leica since 1948. He'd never bought himself a second camera. He was still happy with it—this was in the '90s, as I recall—and felt no need to think about a replacement. For the rest of us, well, it's more than a little ironic that we spend so much time arguing about how long our cameras will last. Who wears out their cameras? Before digicams came along, not very darn many of us. No; we get wandering-eye and buy something new, just because, well, we want something new, darn it. My little bro' has a budget line for things he calls "non-recurring recurrables." You know. Like "the upgrade tax."

There's gotta be a "camera-bag tax." Who has just one camera bag, and who lets the fact that he already has ten stop him from buying one more? It's like we can't help ourselves. Like every untried camera bag we run across is the green grass on the far side of the fence. If I just had that camera bag....

So what else is a "tax"? What else do you just keep spending money on in this silly hobby, with no end in sight? Anybody got another one?

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Chris: "There's the LBA tax, at least for me.

"Over on the Pentax forum at DPReview, LBA is the acronym for 'Lens Buying Addiction.' I seem to have acquired a fairly bad case of it.

"No matter how many lenses I have (in multiple formats) there's still another one on the horizon that I just gotta get. Places like eBay and KEH are not healthy for me...."

A Perfect Fit


Lest anyone think the most important equipment debate is between a shirt-pocket compact cam and a sling-over-the-shoulder entry level DSLR, here's Carl Weese's new Honda Fit packed up for a two-day photography jaunt through Massachusetts and New York State. Carl tells me that the small brown bag on the far right, besides a laptop and two hard drives, contained a change of clothes and some toiletries. All the rest is photo equipment. Also, there's another case under the tripod that you can't see; it held extra 8x10 film holders and two big lenses for the 7x17" view camera.

Incidentally, Carl noted with some amazement that over the course of one 366-mile leg of the 874-mile trip, the Fit's mileage was 10% better than the EPA Highway MPG estimate, even though he ran the A/C part of the way! It outperformed its EPA estimate for the trip as a whole, too. Not too shabby for hauling all this gear.

It has to hold Carl, too. Although he's not wide, lucky sod, he's quite a bit taller than the average Joe.

Carl Weese, Ballfield, Keeseville, New York

And here's an example, if you can call it that, of why Carl goes out. The web image was scanned from a 7x17" contact platinum/palladium print
made on Masa paper, a Japanese tissue with a rough surface that Carl says works surprisingly well for contact prints. The original is of course exquisitely detailed, and vivid and luminous despite its gentle contrast. The web image is only the merest approximation of the print.

Here's the 7x17 set up at the Transit Drive-in Theater, Lockport, New York, 5/22/07.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Photographers at Work

Unidentified Photographer, Lewis Hine photographing children in a slum, ca. 1910

George Eastman House Collection: Gift of the Photo League,
New York: ex-collection Lewis Wickes Hine


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON


Featured Comment by Tony Collins: Twenty years ago when I set up a theodolite on a tripod in town kids used to say 'Take my picture mister.'

Another more harrassed-looking photographer at work:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Major Low-light Digital Photography Breakthrough Inbound from Korea

The new sensor will enable clearly luminated images from atmospheres as dark
as a movie theater. (Korea Electronic Technology Institute)



by Nirav Sanghani, DailyTECH

Researchers don't want you to worry about bright flashes in dimly-lit scenes anymore

Our eyes will possibly get some relief from the blinding flash of cameras in low-light scenarios. South Korea's Electronic Technology Institute announced the development of a new image sensor chip that allows digital cameras to capture vibrant images without a flash in dark spaces.

The digital camera equipped with the chip will be able to take high-resolution photos or video-recordings at 1 lux. The camera will be able to snap pictures in places such as theaters, underground traffic tunnels, or dark-lit bars and clubs. The chip promises clear pictures with light as bright as the lighting from a candle 1 meter away in a dark room and is said to be 2,000 times [that's 11 stops] more light sensitive than other sensor types....

READ ON

Posted by: DAVID EMERICK


A Splash of Photo History Comes to Light

This century-old Edward Steichen autochrome, probably of Charlotte Spaulding,
has been discovered after decades in storage.

By Randy Kennedy, The New York Times

At first glance the two pictures seem to be gorgeous anachronisms, full-color blasts from the black-and-white world of 1908, the year Ford introduced the Model T and Theodore Roosevelt was nearing the end of his second term.

But they are genuine products of their time, rare ones, among the few surviving masterpieces from the earliest days of color photography, made using a process developed by the Lumière brothers in France and imported to the United States by the photographer Edward Steichen a century ago this year. They were taken by Steichen, probably in Buffalo, and are thought to be portraits of Charlotte Spaulding, a friend and student who became his luminous subject for the portraits, which resemble pointillist miniatures on glass.

Almost as intriguing as the pictures themselves, however, is the story of how they recently made their way from a house in Buffalo, where they apparently sat unseen for decades, to the collection of the George Eastman House in Rochester, one of the world’s leading photography museums, where they will be exhibited for the first time this fall....

READ ON

Posted by: DAVID EMERICK



NOTE: There is also a good article about this at the Independent, called "Timeless exposure: 100-year-old colour photos discovered in attic." (I've misplaced the name of the reader who brought this one to my attention, but thanks to him. —MJ)
Illustrations: George Eastman House Collection

Featured Comment by Ken Tanaka: "They look wonderful and appear to be in terrific condition. I am glad that they're not (yet) in a private collection.

"So, a point of perspective. If Henry Wilhelm is accurate, our Epson Ultrachrome K3 prints will look just-printed fresh when they're the same age as these photographs."

The Image of Woman and Woman-as-Image

My Marilyn, from Color Vision and Art

An oldie but goodie, from 2006.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

OTA*: A Brilliant 96 Pages

About 55% of this site's readers come from countries other than the U.S., and some of you ask me from time to time about U.S. politics, especially concerning Iraq. I do read a lot about the subject—far more, I'm sure, than the average citizen, although far less than the average policy expert. I find it a difficult topic. Mostly, one ends up reading polemics, or immersions into the minutiae of policy, or defenses and condemnations of the red-herring rationales put forward to bamboozle the hoi polloi. If you really want to know what's up with Iraq, in easy-to-digest, compact form, I recommend Part I of Kevin Phillips' book American Theocracy, "Oil and American Supremacy."

Phillips is an outstandingly talented and highly prolific author who writes long books and lots of 'em. But for words aplenty, this sprawling work goes well over the top—one could argue it's some 300 pages too long. His overall thesis is that a sort of "perfect storm" is brewing for America. The three conditions feeding this storm are oil economics, the rise of radical religion, and debt. American Theocracy is thus divided into three parts. Each part could really almost be a separate book, even though Part I—the shortest of the three—is only 96 pages long. Plus, only Part II ("Too Many Preachers") is really served by the book's overall title (most of the criticisms of the book have come from religious quarters). Part I and Part III ("Borrowed Prosperity") don't have much to do with theocracy, although I don't imagine the author minds the implication that we're overly worshipful of oil and money.

I found Parts II and III interesting, if a bit turgid, but not so compelling as Part I. "Oil and American Supremacy" is the first thing I've ever read that has actually made me feel sympathy for Bush and Cheney's misguided goals—and I'd rather kiss a lizard on the lips. I've written a letter to Mr. Phillips and his publisher suggesting that they put "Oil and American Supremacy" out as a separate little book. True, it's only 96 pages, but it's the most trenchant, direct, and clear-eyed explanation I know of that truly explains U.S. involvement in Iraq, in its global, historical, geopolitical, and economic dimensions. If it were shorter and titled more appropriately, more people would read it. That would be a good thing.

As it is, I really believe you can read Part I of this book as a stand-alone essay, ignoring the rest of the book if you're so inclined, and get an awful lot out of it. It might seem bad value to buy a nearly 400-page book just to read a quarter of it, but not in this case. It may be only 96 pages, but it's a brilliant 96 pages.

The book's cheap, too. Here's a link in case you want to buy this book from Amazon.

Back at the ranch, I've also recently found two new technical photography titles that I think are head and shoulders above the crowd—the first ones I've found that deserve to stand next to Bruce Fraser's Camera Raw. I'll be writing about both when I finish reading them.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

*Off-Topic Alert

Featured Comment by Matthew: "You've got a good photography blog, please don't ruin it with political comments. This guy is a far to the left nut—which is just as scary as far to the right nut.

"If your aim is to have a photography blog with only people that think like you politically then forget what I've said above and good luck. One more post like that and I'll simply end my RSS feed and stick with more mainstream photography blogs.

There's enough extremism in the world—no need to add more...

Mike Replies: Extremism? I recommend a book by an historian and that's extremism? Funny, and here I thought extremism was strapping nails and plastic explosive to your torso and detonating yourself in a crowded market, or exploding a truck bomb in front of a Federal building, obliterating a bunch of toddlers in the daycare center there. Silly me.

Kevin Phillips is not a "far to the left nut." He's a white guy who lives in Connecticut—politically more like an Eisenhower Republican than anything else. He has no Communist or Socialist sympathies that I can detect (that is, after all, what "far to the left" means). He's a distinguished historian and one of the nation's leading writers on current affairs. The section of the book I recommended is about geopolitics—oil politics—and it provides useful background about the history of energy (wind in Holland in the 1600s, coal in England in the 1700s, etc.), energy sources, energy policy, and the relationship between U.S. policy and oil and how it's evolving. It's a good read.

I've gotten a number of comments on this posting that are examples of what I call "The Get Out of My Living Room Gambit." As far as I know this originated with, or at least was popularized by, the radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, a yellow journalist and agitator whose brief—whose mission—is to foment anger, resentment, and social strife...but who is certainly clever. The GOOMLR Gambit goes like this: whenever anyone says anything that is not what you want to hear, you can always complain about being within earshot.

Thus, if a writer in a magazine makes a political aside, you write a letter to the editor complaining that you did not "invite the writer into your living room" to have his political opinions thrust upon you. The standard threat is that you will no longer subscribe to the magazine, watch the television station, read that newspaper, or whatever, unless they repress any and all political comments of the sort you happen to dislike.

This would be a laughable ploy, except that it's also kind of, er, sinister. It amounts to saying that you have a right to your ignorance, and you will not take the responsibility upon yourself to simply ignore the writers or articles or shows or posts that you dislike, even if you're afraid to read them. Rather, you insist that everything even mildly unpleasant to you be suppressed, so that nobody can read them.

First of all, you really shouldn't be so afraid to listen to opinions different from your own. Believe it or not, it doesn't hurt to learn things. It doesn't sully your brain to know where other people are coming from. It can actually be broadening and informative to expose yourself to a wide range of viewpoints.

And, in any event, it was only a recommendation—as far as I know, there's no way I can actually compel you to go buy or read the actual book.

Unless, that is, you are some sort of Zombie. Do you have any decaying flesh on you anywhere? Have you been walking around stiffly with your arms held straight out in front of you, intoning, in a broken monotone, "MUST...READ...KEVIN...PHILLIPS..."? Do you find yourself doing whatever I say, with no free will or your own? Did you toss your digital point-and-shoot in the trash can the other day and go buy yourself an old mechanical 35mm camera on eBay?

No? If you answered "no" to all these questions (well, or all but the last), then you can rest easy: you are probably not a zombie. You can leave all those nasty book-thingies alone, and never learn a blessed thing about geopolitics or anything else if you don't want to. Ah, freedom.

On the blogosphere, the whole premise of The GOOMLR Gambit falls apart. There are hundreds of millions of web pages and sites. Millions of blogs. Hundreds and hundreds of photography blogs. Wherever you go, you choose to go. You pay nothing. In this post, I didn't ambush you. I announced in the first sentence that it was about politics, just out of politeness to people such as yourself, so you could skip it if you wished. It was not even the only post for the day, much less the only one you might be able to find to read. And yet, still, your threat is "one more post like that" and you're going to take me off your RSS feed?!?

I'm shakin' like a leaf. Not that! Anything but that! I feel my legs getting stiff, my eyes widening, my arms going straight out in front of me...MUST...STAY...ON...MATTHEW'S...FEED....

Or not. Matthew? 'Bye.
Mike

Getty Claiming Copyright to National Archives Images and Selling Them

By Bob Shell


It seems that Getty Images learned a few years ago that they could buy 4x5 negatives of images from the US National Archives for $5 each. They bought thousands. Now they are selling these same images through their stock agency and claiming copyright on them. The vast majority of the images in the National Archives were taken by government employees and are public domain.

As public domain images, these images belong to us, the U.S. public. Getty, or anyone else, has absolutely no right to claim copyright to these images and sell them.

We need to spread the word on this, and any of Getty's customers who have paid to license such images should demand an immediate and full refund.

Posted by: BOB SHELL

Featured Comment by Morven: "It's unfortunately very common for people to claim control over works that are actually in the public domain.

"Many of them base their 'claim' on the legal theory that lost in the well-known case of Bridgeman vs. Corel, in which it was reaffirmed that U.S. copyright law requires at least a minimal level of creativity.

"They assume that the act of scanning or photographing the public-domain original creates a derivative work which can itself be copyrighted, even though the original cannot. This is what Bridgeman vs. Corel explicitly denied, based on the Feist vs. Rural case (in which it was established that a telephone directory could not be copyrighted, for similar reasons). Because Bridgeman vs. Corel was never challenged in appeals court, they argue that its opinion is not binding and that the law might turn out different—however, it's been eight years and nobody in the industry has been foolish enough to risk finding out for sure that their claims are groundless.

"In many places outside the U.S., no creativity at all is required to establish new copyright; thus a simple scan or photocopy of a public domain work creates new copyright and this kind of scam is completely legal.

"In this case, even if Getty et al. were correct about U.S. copyright law, it would only apply to images copied from their copy of the work. This is, however, the way that many museums, art galleries etc. make their money—by restricting access to public domain works and establishing themselves as the gatekeeper to 'legal' copies.

"Because Bridgeman vs. Corel appears to be a good reading of U.S. law, museums probably can't enforce copyright claims on photos and scans of public domain works, though they can still sue the original licensee under contract law if they allow any copies of the public domain artwork to get 'free.'

"Outside the U.S., though, they can lock up public domain works forever."

Featured Comment by Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.: "Has Getty taken the image down? Nothing came up on the link or a search on the photo #.

"Generally, copyright protection is not available for 'any work of the United States Government.' (17 U.S.C. Section 105.) Any work that is 'prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as a part of that person's official duties' constitutes a 'work of the United States Government.' (17 U.S.C. Section 101.) Those works fall into the public domain.

"Sometimes, however, copyrighted works are created by non-government personnnel for the government, such as when the government commissions a piece of art. The artist later transfers the copyright to the government. The 'government works exception' then allows the federal government to hold the copyrights for those works transferred to it by assignment. Some have argued that the government is using this exception unfairly as a way to circumvent the copyright law. The government works exception has been used to prevent the copying or creation of derivative works from such varied items as a film series on early Supreme Court cases and the Sacagawea coin. Recently, The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation, Inc. made claims to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a bronze sculpture created by Glenna Goodacre of Sante Fe.

"The Government Works Exception would not apply to this case. However, since Getty bought the negatives, it can sell the reprints based on the hi-res scan and it does not have to give the negatives to others for them to make copies. Having the negatives does not impart a transfer of the copyright. But Getty cannot prevent others from copying the photo if they can make reproductions from other sources."

Monday, May 21, 2007

High P&S ISOs: B&W vs. Color

Ted Matsumura, Fuji F30 shot at ISO 3200 (click on image for larger version)

Ted Matsumura posted an interesting thought in the comments, which is that he uses his Fuji F30 up to ISO 800 in color but finds that 1600 and 3200 are practical in B&W mode. His blog is here. I think Mitch Alland actually prefers higher ISOs with B&W P&S shooting because it gives a rougher, grainy aesthetic similar to that of 35mm high-speed films.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Random Excellence

Josef Sudek's great portrait of Jaromir Funke, Prague, 1928

(scan from Exibart.com)


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

On P/S High-ISO Noise

In a stroke of serendipity given our recent conversations here, Simon Joinson at dpreview has posted a primer article on digital point-and-shoot noise at higher ISOs. (He calls 'em "compact cameras," probably a better term.) Conclusion? Basically that only the Fuji F10-F20-F30-F31fd series offer usable high ISOs in a compact camera, with good performance to ISO 800 and a usable (if barely) ISO 1600—and pretty much everything else is marketing hype and wishful thinking.

Although it's discontinued, the best buy in this series, the F20, is still available from many retailers. At only $142, it's almost $100 cheaper than the newest F31fd ("fd" stands for "face detection," which might be useful if you're unable to recognize faces for yourself. Forgive sarcasm). That seems very cheap for a walk-around pocket camera that will give you a real ISO 800.

Do read the whole article if you're thinking of getting a point-and-shoot / compact camera—it's sure to be the definitive word on the subject for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to David Bennett

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rate Your P/S!

Yashica T4 Zoom, a long-gone film point-and-shoot
that many photographers found useful

Got 20 minutes to squander for zero real reason? Rate your point-and-shoot! Use the rating system in the "Building the Perfect Point-and-Shoot" post below and tell us how your p/s does.

For Feature #4, award 3 points for each property. For Feature #5, a prime lens deserves a full 10 points if you ask me.

How's yours do? Tell us.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with thanks to Peter

READER RATINGS
(with the "handle" of the reader in brackets):

• Canon G3: 66 [Ernest Thiesen]
• Canon G7: 51 [amin]
• Canon S2 IS: 36 [Tommy]
• Canon A80: 40 [Alex]
• Canon A610: 45 [ctyankee]
• Canon A640: 60–70 [paul]
• Canon SD500: 52 [PleasureSean]
• Canon SD 700 IS / IXUS 800: 68 [mike]
-------------------------------------54 [Eddy]
• Canon SD 1000 / IXUS 70: 63 [david vatovec]
• Canon A710IS: 63 [Tim]
• Canon S70: 61 [Tim]
• Canon G5: 67 [Dan K.]
• Casio EX-Z850: 49 [bob, under protest]
• Fuji S5000: 36 [Albano Garcia]
• Fujifilm Finepix F30: 49 [erusan]
• Fuji Finepix E550: 64 [Robin P]
------------------------54 [Joshua]
• Minolta Dimage A1: 64 [Seungmin]
• Nikon CP8400: 65 [Dwig]
• Nikon P5000: 55 [Ming Thein]
• Nikon 35 Ti (film): 72 [Steve Thurow]
• Olympus c-5050: 78 [Dr Hiding Pup]
• Olympus 770SW: 47 [Matthew Robertson]
• Olympus 720SW: 62 [Brian Auer]
• Olympus c-5060: 47 [Rusty]
• Panasonic FX01: 48 [Bruce McL]
----------------------49 [Paul]
• Panasonic Lumix LX2 / Leica D-Lux 3: 48 [tom]
------------------------------------------------58 [Andrew Fildes]
• Panasonic TZ3: 67 [Ming Thein]
• Panasonic LC1 / Leica Digilux2: 51 [huzur & urmuz]
• Panasonic Lumix FX8: 66 [digiTED]
• Panasonic DMC-LX1: 65 [Yvonne]
----------------------------52 [ayh]
----------------------------48 [Dan]
• Pentax Optio S5i: 56 [John]
• Pentax 750z: 62 [kshapero]
• Pentax A10: 47 [Patrick Mallette]
• Pentax Optio 43WR: 45 [John Banister]
• Ricoh GX100: 54 ("Strictly graded") [jobo]
-------------------56 [Andrew Fildes]
• Ricoh GR-D: 61 [Ming Thein]
-----------------61 [Andrew Fildes]
• Sanyo W31SAII mobile phone with a 1.1 megapixel camera: 29 [JanneM]
• Sony DSC-W30: 53 [Seungmin]
• Sony DSC-P43: 44 [Dorin]
• Sony DSC-V1: 36 [cjobowlsby]
• Yashica T4 Super (film): 70 [Mark]