Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What did I do?

Well, I started a chain of events in motion...

A few days ago I ordered a secondhand Olympus E-PM1. That arrived pretty swiftly and of course that's when all the fun started. It arrived with no lens cap, no filter, no neck strap and no lens hood. Not even a filter to protect the front element.
It's a nifty little thing with a high ISO of 12,800 - way higher than I was expecting. I have been able to download images onto a Windows computer but as there is no raw processing software, I'm a little limited right now.

The good - it works really well. I have yet to take a night sky image that I really like but that's just a matter of perseverance. It's light and small. So small in fact that it's not going to look obvious.

The bad - it really eats up the battery. I suspect I might have to get a couple of extra batteries. Olympus Viewer 3 is not compatible with my Mac as my Mac is 9 years old. I had been thinking of getting a new battery for my Mac since it has been misbehaving and I believe that misbehaviour is due to the 9 year old battery being several thousand cycles past its prime.

My tablet is not going to be sent for warranty repair. I just don't feel it's worth sending my tablet off. Sure - for $10 I could get a replacement tablet but to be honest, it's not up to photography or anything remotely worthwhile. I suspect I'll probably end up using my RCA tablet for target practice in rather the manner of the now famous Death of a Virgin video I did some years ago with a less than satisfactory cellphone.
The question is now whether I should get a way better tablet or a battery for my Macbook. I'm definitely at a point where almost all the technology I have is 10 years old and beginning to show signs of age. Don't get me wrong - my Macbook works perfectly well when it's plugged in now that it has got past the silly stage with the screen going black every time I took a breath.

My aim with the new camera is to take pictures like the following sky picture but sharper in the corners. This lack of sharpness was caused by a less than stellar lens - the Tamron 17-35 f2.8. The corners were described by one critic as "softer than last night's mashed potatoes".
I had a little go with my Olympus and got a reasonable night sky photo. I need to work more on this. I'm finding when I overexpose, I get purple blotches but that's not particularly important. That's just a response of the sensor to chronic overexposure. The photo is nice and sharp though.

Interestingly, the tree leaves aren't that sharp. That could have been due to a breeze though. What I'm more interested by is the sky though. The stars are really showing well. I need to do more practice with this camera. I certainly need to be able to work with the RAW files.

This is a straight out of camera JPEG with the 14-42 lens set at 14mm. It's not too bad. I'll have to do more testing and work out how to get the best out of it. So far I have discovered at least one camera software bug. When I get the connecting cable - it uses a small USB connector that I do not possess so I had to order one from China - I'll be able to use the one Olympus app that did download - the one that allows me to update the camera and lens firmware automatically.

Things are definitely progressing. I might well have to upgrade my computer though. I certainly do not want to go over to Windows. I really detest the glitchy nature of the Windows operating system. Each version seems to be a giant step backward from the previous. I looked into a Chromebook but there's so little difference between Chromebooks and tablets there seems singularly little purpose in having one.

Regarding tablets, I found that just about every existing tablet has a micro USB charging port. That's what failed on my latest RCA tablet. I did have an RCA tablet before but that just didn't have enough memory to be remotely useful. My Nexus 7 was pretty good but the USB socket worked loose and though I could cope with it, the software onboard corrupted itself rendering the tablet non-functional. My Nexus 4 phone (purchased in April of 2013) developed a loose USB charging port too. I had to switch over to using a cordless charger. It charges as long as I hold the USB cord in place so I went cordless instead. My Nexus 7 didn't have that luxury.

I'm slowly trying to dig myself out of a technological black hole. I was dead right that a Mac would last far longer than a Windows laptop. I'd have been through between 3 and 5 Windows laptops in the time I have owned my Macbook and it still works. The alternative (which looks attractive) is a Windows laptop running Linux.

More interestingly, my night sky photo taken with the Tamron lens was taken at 1600ISO and f2.8 for 30 seconds on a Canon XT. My (overexposed) photo with my Olympus at 128000ISO and f5.6 and 40 seconds. That's -2 stops on aperture, +3 stops on ISO and +0.25 stops on exposure. So, it's just over a stop overexposed. I'll play with it a bit more.

Reading around, it seems that some photographers have used F4 with 800ISO to get great night sky images. I've read others that swear by 3200ISO and F2.8 with 30 seconds as being the only way to get a great photo. Given such a wide variance I have to assume other factors are at play than exposure. It might be that there's a wider variation of ISO sensitivity between cameras than there really should be. It could be the ISO standard isn't being adhered to all that strongly. It could be a problem with location - maybe my area of night sky isn't clear enough. I know a few miles away, the best I could achieve was this.
As I've said, there's plenty room for experimentation and practice. Since the daily portion of my current job ends for the summer in a few weeks, perhaps I can head off for a few days to a dark sky area to do some real experimentation.

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