Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The World had gone on its head!

Perhaps that should read off its head. The world has gone crazy lately in terms of photography. I’m not talking about innocent parents taking bathtime snaps of little Susie then getting hauled up in front of the beak for publishing them online as though they were some sex crazed pedophile. I’m taking about overall developments in photography.

Back in the days of film, photographers used film and stored their negatives or slides in binders or boxes, returning to them when they wanted to locate a particular image. These boxes or binders were usually stored in the hobby room, garage or attic.

After film came digital. The memory cards were costly and small so photographers learned to store all their images on delicate little hard hard disks. Without plugging the disk into a computer it was impossible to know just what was on a disk. With the shift from each photograph having a big upfront cost of around a dollar people were economical with their picture taking. The cost being seemingly removed by the use of hard drives, people took more photos than ever before. I’m going to say a completely insane number of photos. I’ve heard of people taking a thousand and more photos on a family vacation. Then there are the people that document every aspect of their lives and publish it online as though with so many people doing just that, anybody is actually going to admire what they publish or even view it!
That’s the obligatory - oh - that’s me shopping in Walmart photo. Who cares? Spinach is fine - at the dinner table. Shopping is a tedious necessity. We don’t need to know that you’re shopping in Walmart and buying spinach. The world certainly does not need a blow-by-blow account of your shopping expedition in photos any more than it needs a wipe-by-wipe photographic extravaganza of your latest visit to the toilet!

A lot of modern photography is absolute garbage. People have forgotten the things that matter in favor of trying to justify their purchase of expensive camera gear or an expensive phone. My phone cost me $29 and it’s a frustrating piece of junk. I would much rather have a flip phone but for the fact I get GPS on my current phone and can use it as a hotspot. The rest I couldn’t care less about.

The camera on my phone gets used a lot. I use it to document progress on my self-build motorhome project. Other than that it’s just used as a utilitarian tool. The photographs all end up stored on the memory card and seem to zip off to Google’s cloud too. While the cloud is useful for blogging, that’s its only value.

The cloud and cloud storage sounds like an absolute dream. Store your pictures free for life and you have no responsibility for curating them. Google can’t possibly fail... or can they? BCCI was too big to fail but it did. ZTE the smartphone maker was faced with closure in the face of US sanctions. There’s no such thing as too big to fail.

In the event of a Google failure virtually all smartphones with the Android operating system could just cease functioning. All the photos in Google’s cloud could end up being casually deleted as the disks are wiped then sold off to some 3rd world country. For some that would be their entire photo album vanishing overnight with no hope of recovery - births, graduations, marriages, engagements, babies - all gone.

The photographer using film is laughing because he still has all his albums. The photographer that stores all his images on a local hard disk is laughing too because he still has all his images. The world has changed since we all went over to recycling memory cards and using hard drives. I’m going to say that I’m not such a great fan of hard drives any more.

Before that let’s examine the difference between the modern photographer and the photographer of old. The photographer of old would go on holiday and take pictures. Something stunning or unusual would catch his eye and it would merit one photograph. The modern photographer photographs retry much non stop and on their return from vacation, goes through the photos, very often saying “Nice vacation. Pity I missed it”.

Part of the problem is that people look at a scene and hope that by taking loads of photos they’ll end up with something special. Ooh look - big tortoises. Let’s just keep taking pictures in case one does backflips and the other pulls out a small table and a chair and starts to make a pina colada.

Fifteen million images later - it’s still a picture of a damned tortoise. That’s not even worth a single image on Facebook. What do people do? Broadcast live images of tortoises doing absolutely nothing. They’re off their heads!

But back to hard drives.... With the price of memory cards there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to keep using hard drives. So an 8GB card might cost $10. So what? How many hundreds or thousands of images can you store on it? Why would you even want to transfer them to a hard drive when memory cards take up little to no space.

Let’s look at the costs. Using a common 16mp camera though realistically any camera from the last 10 years produces images of higher resolution and quality than 99% of us will ever need. Raw files would be in the region of 2 megabytes. That means in the region of 500 images on a 1GB memory card. If, of course, you used JPEG then you’d likely be using way less memory and would be able to store way more images. If you cannot afford to buy a $10 memory card every 500 images or so then something is very wrong. Either you’re taking way too many images or you’re so broke you can’t afford the gas to go out to take images.

I’d rather my chances of keeping memory cards in a fire safe than letting some megacorp be my only solution. In the case of Apple, you get 5GB of storage online before that charge $50 a year for using their storage. $50 a year will buy a 128GB memory card with $5 left over at today’s prices. That’s 25 times the storage for the same price. I just don’t understand why people just don’t want to save their money!

Look again at the photographs taken. Most are trash. The only photographs future generations will value are those of past family members. They won’t care what they were eating, seeing, doing. They just want good record photos of family members. The rest is totally irrelevant. That wonderful image of a unicorn as it leaps out of the bushes with a leprechaun impaled on its horn? Nobody will give a hoot. It’ll just get tossed out.

Time to reduce the number of stupid photos you take; concentrate on quality and family and of course take responsibility for your own image storage.

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!