Tuesday, May 1, 2018

No more walking round like a pregnant camel!

Today the local camera club is having a swap shop where one can sell one’s old camera gear. Sadly the camera gear I possess is not worth as much as I paid. Let’s see what I have and what the KEH price is...

Canon XT - New $800... KEH $69
Canon 30D - New $1200... KEH $139
Canon 17-85IS - New ($500 ish) ...KEH $149
Canon 70-300IS - New ($500 ish)... KEH $248
Manfrotto 3021BN - New $150 ... eBay $89
3D head - new $50... unknown at unknown

That really is a piss poor amount over what was originally paid. Mind, I was scammed by an expert into buying new when my gut instinct told me to buy secondhand.

New I spent in the region of $3250. Secondhand I could get up to $694 (on a very good day). More likely a lot less.

The thing that cracks me up is with this massive depreciation, Camera companies complain their sales are plummeting. Nobody wants to be caught with their pants down like I did.
A while ago, I bought a secondhand Olympus PM1 for $75 and another $75 for the lens. New the camera alone would have been $600is and I have no idea what the lens would have cost. Using pure JPEG for the images, the images are only a little behind what the Canon produces after the CR2 files have been processed. I have not yet got a computer capable of processing Olympus raw files. Thus I shoot raw+JPEG and save the raw files for whenever I get access to a suitable computer.

But look at the difference in camera size. The one on the right takes 20MP images and the one on the left, 8MP. The one on the right is 90% automated but the one on the left is hard to get into manual mode. In terms of image quality it’s pretty much a tie.
That image was taken in CR2 and processed in Aperture on my elderly MacBook. It’s pretty darned good! It was taken on the Canon XT.
That image was taken in JPEG. Sure I could tweak it a bit but that was straight out of the camera with no tweaking. It was taken on the Olympus PM1.

So, it looks like a very close contest imagewise. The Olympus wins sizewise. Manual is possible on the Olympus but it’s a real pain in the rear to engage as is the exposure compensation. Instead of flip flap done on a manual film SLR it’s all fiddle fiddle pokey pokey on digital cameras. Neither is the exception.

The only question is how much I can actually sell and how much I can carry given my bad back. I know when I do sell, I’ll want to get the eyepiece viewfinder and a longer lens for my Olympus.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Now this is really nifty!

A few days ago I was still of the belief that living in a motorhome where the only power supply comes from USB ports, I’d not be able to do any photography. How wrong I was! On eBay there was a charger for my elderly Olympus camera battery that ran off a USB port. I’ve - as you can see - got the battery charging right now.

The other nifty thing about this is I don’t actually have to use any mains electricity to charge my battery. The electricity comes straight from daylight, converted by some very small solar panels. I’d say this is the way to the future. Having said that, I suspect charging might take quite a while. That’s perfectly fine for me though. I have just one battery and take photos only occasionally these days. That’s probably more due to most of my time being expended on building my motorhome and by a strange thing commonly known as “working”.

I could not see any chargers for Canon batteries such as that for the XT or the 30D. Nor could I see any AA or D cell chargers. Having said that I didn’t look extensively. For my motorhome I can definitely see advantages in charging AA and D cells from USB. They power not only auxiliary lighting but currently the shower and the door unlocker. If I were to buy a flash (highly unlikely) then they would power the flash too.

Ages ago I simplified my camera gear down to just what I actually use. That is my elderly Olympus and a single standard lens. Certainly it would be nice to have a longer lens but I can’t really see the value in purchasing or possessing one given both the amount of actual camera photography I do these days and the fact that the standard 14-42 covers pretty much every aspect I’m likely to want. There are those that would argue that one should be able to cover just about every focal range. Good luck to them and their backs, carrying all that crap every day!

The benefit of smaller cameras like the Olympus over larger cameras such as the Canons is not just in weight but bulk. I almost went for a Nikon 1 system. I’m not 100% sure now why I didn’t. I suspect the secondhand Olympus was substantially cheaper. These days I’d probably rather have paid a fraction more and had the smaller Nikon system.

Photographers tend to rabbit on ad nauseous about needing full manual control of absolutely everything. The fact is that automatic is so darned good these days that manual modes are just getting very geeky. My Olympus has several modes and the ability to go for full manual. What mode do I use? iAuto! That gets just about every photo taken perfectly. I just don’t need to get down and dirty with full manual, shutter priority, aperture priority etc as we used to in the days of film. In fact if the photo turns out to be rubbish I can simply retake it.

I’d say the somewhat dubious profession (if you can indeed call it a profession) of photography is dead in the water. Nobody hires photographers any more Everybody with a cellphone has a camera that is so darned good that real cameras are a bit of an anachronism.

The world has moved on from the days of film and real cameras. It started slowly with photographers getting external then built-in light meters in their cameras. Then they got auto exposure, shutter priority, aperture priority etc. Eventually autofocus crept in. By then cameras were so highly automated that I questioned why we still wasted our time on film especially given that TV cameras took electronic images. The ability to take digital images goes way back to 1926 when John Logie Baird built the first television camera. That’s over 90 years ago. Kodak even built a digital camera in 1975 but didn’t sell it because it would have depressed film sales. By the time the short-lived APS film came out in the 1990s I was questioning the worth of APS because with its magnetic stripe for recording exposure data, it was pretty darned close to having digital images.

So, the world gets more electronic, easier, faster and more reliant than ever upon electricity. Even our cars have become overloaded with computerized gadgetry that’s fine when it works but is a major headache when it doesn’t. Speaking of which, I saw my very first Tesla Model X yesterday or indeed my first Tesla ever.
Yes, it’s a cellphone image taken on a dull day but there’s another of my points! I have my cellphone with me all the time. My camera - not so much. I must be a shade behind with technology!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Walking on the dark side

For the past three years I’ve been devoting almost all of my free time not to photography but to building a motorhome out of an old school bus. The concept was that since I only seem to get the rubbish jobs in South Carolina, I’d be better off moving to a different state. Thus the project began and it has taken an absolute age.

In the last 18 months after deciding I wasn’t that good at driving my own bus, I took a job with a school district with the aim of learning to drive a school bus. That turned into a quite acceptable job with more money than I was getting from what I was doing previously.

While photography with a real camera has taken a bit of a back seat for the moment that doesn’t mean my interest in photography has dwindled any. In fact I still enjoy going out and taking photos. I’m saving every penny to complete my motorhome though so I don’t get to go out to fun places very often.

My big photo project of the last couple of years has been my bus conversion. Most of that has been documented with a cellphone purely because the quality of cellphones today is little short of excellent. While dedicated cameras do produce work that is a little better, the difference is pretty minimal to be honest.
Perhaps the most interesting photograph I’ve taken lately is of a bullet hole in a school bus. Yes - somebody fired what looks like a .45 bullet at a school bus while it was on the interstate. It penetrated the outer skin and was arrested by a nut attached to the inner skin. It just dented one corner of the nut and dropped to the floor of the bus. This demonstrates how ineffective pistols are against vehicles and their occupants.

After years of people saying “you can’t charge a camera battery from a USB source” it now appears that it’s possible. I just bought a USB powered charger for my Olympus e-pm1. That’s very welcome!  I won’t be getting one for my Canon though as I just don’t find I use my Canon, these days. It’s just big and bulky as well as heavy. I much prefer my small, light Olympus. It’s not as if I’m ever actually going to sell any photographic works. They’re purely for my own enjoyment.

Those with memories like elephants will recall that somebody managed to pull the wool over my eyes and convinced me photography in the USA was lucrative whereas in the UK had somebody tried to convince me of the same I’d have probably smacked them in the head. Sadly I had several people when I first arrived in the USA trying to and often succeeding to convince me with falsehoods. Anyway the upshot was I ended up with an excess of Canon camera gear - most of which I sold, virtually unused, at a massive loss several years later.  The reason I keep one camera is because it’s something my late mother bought me as a gift. That, I’ll always cherish. Otherwise I use my Olympus.

So, since my bus has only USB power installed, I had to hunt for a USB camera battery charger. I have no idea how well it’ll work but for $9 and being shipped from California (instead of China), it’s worth a shot. If it works that means I’ll be able to charge my camera battery from my solar-powered USB charger. That means if I went for a couple of weeks camping in the Arizona desert that I’d be able to keep my camera battery charged.

I had a look back at some model photos I took some years ago using my Canon and the expensive flash setup I had (that I subsequently sold) and the photos are excellent. Definitely professional quality. In terms of professional photography - don’t make me laugh. Nobody that claims to be a professional photographer is anything more than a bum with a camera. They could live far better by getting a real job and forgetting about photography as an income. Every time I hear the description professional photography, I am reminded of the tale of one of the British photographers who would regularly run to and from from the pawn shop, pawning equipment until he got a paying client.

When I think of a professional photographer, I think of a seedy character who’s not entirely to be trusted. Indeed one or two “professional” photographers come frequently to make paid presentations at camera club meetings. Invariably there’s something seedy and down-at-heel about them. The threadbare clothes or the dirty fingernails. Nothing that says “I make money” or “I am successful” or “this is a good job”.

Would I allow a “professional” photographer into my house? No - I most certainly would not. If one ever came near my property I’d be out counting the geraniums to make sure he hadn’t pinched any.