Archive for January, 2012
Those of you who are regular visitors to this organ will no doubt have initially welcomed the increase in posts this month, only to find that the majority of them were concerned with camera tech, a subject in which you probably have no interest. How disappointing for you. Probably of little comfort for you to know that January marks a new high in visitor numbers to Pattaya Days, mainly due to a link to my GX1 review from the DPreview site which has a zillion visitors per second.
Anyway, I have got all this gear stuff off my chest now and I can assure you that there will none of that nonsense in February (apart from on the 8th, you have been warned). Instead, we will revert to the usual petty whining and trivial chatter for which this site has rightly not become famous. Of course there will also be photos; and some of them may include creatures with four legs. And there will be grammatical errors, because otherwise genuinej became (sic) restless.
Thank you for your patience, normal service is about to be restored.
Some time ago I wrote a review of the Fuji X100. To save you the trouble, my conclusion was: “as a carry everywhere camera which produces beautiful photos even when the light is low, which is discrete and non-threatening on the street and is a pleasure to hold and operate (usually), then it is hard to beat”.
More recently I wrote a review of the Panasonic GX1.To save you the trouble, my conclusion was: “I think the GX1 is the best compact system camera on the market right now”.
It would appear that I am an overly effusive in my praise. Cut the bullshit Spike, which one of these cameras is best?
I freely admit that I bought the X100 based not on any need, but because it looked beautiful and took beautiful photos. It was a slower than my GF1, the interface was crap and macro was a non-starter. But the viewfinder was spectacular and the images that popped out of it were so much cleaner than the GF1; especially at higher ISOs.
If you are not in a rush, The X100 will be a willing companion and reward you with some lovely photographs. And I have enjoyed it in that mode, although I have at times been tempted to throw it against a wall in frustration thanks to its shitty interface.
And now there is a GX1 in my life and the failings of the X100 are amplified. The X100 is a slow to focus, especially in low light. The GF1 was faster, the GX1 is faster still. I was taking some social event photos at the weekend. I have been using the X100 because of the quality of the output, the downside of this is having to ask your subjects to talk amongst themselves while you try and persuade the damn thing to lock focus. This weekend, in frustration, I pulled out the GX1. Instant focus lock, even in the semi-darkness. Refreshing.
The interface of the X100 was designed by a committee; on crack. A charming idiosyncrasy becomes wearing over time. The GF1 was better, the GX1 is way better, with tactile buttons, touch screen, quick menus and four programmable function keys. The knurled knobs on the X100 are all very well; but if the rest of the controls are buried in menus you can’t reach because the button is too small for your finger….
Ah, but the viewfinder. Well indeed, the X100 hybrid viewfinder is a thing of joy and the GF1 viewfinder is the opposite of a thing of joy. But the GX1 viewfinder is a much improved beast, although the vote would still go to the X100 on that one. Oh, and it also wins on the silent shutter issue; given that it has one and the GX1 doesn’t.
Lenses? The X100 has one and it is very good. The GX1 of course has access to an entire world of lens-based goodness, so it is not a fair comparison; but worth noting in passing that the X100 gives you a camera and the GX1 gives you a system.
But, but, what about the images I hear you not asking? The X100 stood clearly above the GF1 on that one. Lovely smooth images with good colours straight out of the camera. Similar could come out of the GF1, but you had to work on them; and they never had that Fuji look.
So how does the GX1 stack up? Let’s have straightforward daylight shot, a medium where the Fuji shines:
Both are clean with no base ISO noise. The Fuji’s colours are a touch more vibrant out of the camera and overall I prefer the look of the Fuji image; but enough to justify having the camera…?
Moving indoors and let’s take an ISO 1600 shot. Against the GF1, the X100 was a clear winner, but how will it do against the GX1?
Both have retained colour well, we will need to look closer to check the noise:
The Fuji still wins, with noticeably less noise. But the Panasonic is not far behind and bit of noise reduction in Lightroom could clean up both of them.
The much improved image quality of the GX1 has narrowed the gap to the X100, but the X100 still has a slight edge.
So, to summarise:
In the blue corner we have the X100. A thing of beauty which has slightly better images, a silent shutter, an hybrid viewfinder and some shiny knobs to twiddle. On the downside there is the sluggish focus, the wanky interface and the hopeless macro.
And in the red corner we have the GX1. A thing of less obvious beauty with almost comparable images and a good viewfinder which can handle any lens. Fantastic focusing, slick, customisable interface and support for manual/macro focusing. On the downside there is….nothing major I can think of.
In conclusion, the GX1 is a clear winner and my X100 is going on eBay next week.
The Canon 1D is a pretty amazing piece of machinery. Consider the shot below (and yes, I know I promised no more polo; sorry):
The polo pony is heading towards your intrepid photographer at considerable speed. I point the camera at it and half press the shutter. The camera immediately locks focus, and it also starts a process in one of its many onboard computers to calculate where the horse will be if and when I want to take a photo. It’s called predictive focusing and it is needed because:
If I press the shutter to take a shot, there is a very small delay while the lens is stopped down, the mirror is lifted and the shutter is opened. During that delay time, the horse will have moved closer to me and if the focus is based upon the position of the horse when I pressed the shutter, then the shot will be slightly out of focus. So instead the camera works out how fast the horse is coming towards me, the direction of travel, whether or not is accelerating or decelerating, and, after allowing for the delay that will occur before the shot is taken; predicts where the horse will be at the time the image is captured.
I find that rather mind-boggling; but it gets even more technically impressive if I keep my finger on the button.
To take the first shot, it had to take a meter reading for the exposure, lift the mirror to an upright position, shut down the aperture of the lens to the F stop required, move the glass in the lens to the predicted focus position, and then open the shutter for the appropriate length of time to capture the image. Then close the shutter, open up the lens aperture and drop the mirror. Job done; but if I still have my finger on the shutter it will immediately do all that again (including recalculating the focus and aperture), and it will do that for up to ten shots every second. Quite extraordinary. And quite necessary; the shot above was one of seven in a sequence, the rest are boring. Without ten frames a second, I may have missed this moment.
Of course, to make all this work you also need a lens with a good wide aperture and a focusing mechanism which will work in speedy unison with the messages coming out from the camera body; a 300mm F2.8 perhaps.
Then all the photographer has to do is point the camera in the right direction, anticipate,and be ready to pump the shutter when the time comes; and out will pop photos like the above. Oh, and you need about $10,000 to buy the camera and lens combination.
A little on the pricey side, is there not a cheaper solution, a Panasonic GX1 perhaps? Let’s find out.
First thing to note is that DSLRs like the 1D use something called Phase Detection to obtain focus and cameras such as the GX1 use something called Contrast Detection. Traditionally, Contrast Detection has been considered inferior because, unlike Phase Detection, when it is out of focus it doesn’t know whether it is front or back focused. So it moves the lens one way and checks. Oops, wrong way, and it goes in the other direction in a series of iterative staggers until focus is obtained. This made it much slower than the DSLR solution. But progress, particularly by Panasonic and Olympus, means that the likes of the GX1 can focus on a static object as quickly as, and often quicker than, a DSLR. Once obtained, Contrast Detection focus tends to be more accurate and is not plagued by the calibration issues that many DSLR/lens combinations suffer from (been there, been frustrated by that).
In practice I can’t differentiate between the 1D and the GX1 in terms of focus acquisition time on a static subject, they are both almost instantaneous.
But what if your subject is moving?
Prowling Walking Street at night, I had already established that focus tracking on the GX1, even in the near dark, works really well:
Next step was to try something a little faster; motorbikes on Pratumnak Hill:
Not in the same league as the “got focus in a nanosecond and will never let go, not ever, not even if you paid me” 1D, the GX1 nevertheless found focus reasonably quickly, locked onto the subject for several seconds (although it sometimes lost interest and wandered off), and then delivered a sharp shot when required. Certainly acceptable and much better than my previous failed attempts with the GF1.
And so to the big one, polo. To be fair to the GX1, I could only sneak shots when the pack was doing something unexciting at the far end of the field, and I had to take every shot with approximately ten kilos of Canon swinging from my neck. But I did manage to grab a few, e.g.:
Grabbing focus was a bit of a chore, especially if trying to pan a sideways shot, and maintaining focus while waiting to take a shot was hit and miss. When I did take a shot I could usually only get one before the focus gave up; although it occasionally staggered through the three per second it was meant to be taking.
What to conclude from all this? The GX1 is a stunningly fast camera when taking static subjects and does a good job of tracking slow to medium speed objects. If you wanted some shots of a high-speed event, and were not weighed down, literally and contractually, to having to concentrate on gathering shots with another camera; then I am sure it could give you enough keepers to serve as a record of your attendance, whilst simultaneously annoying the crap out of you when you missed certain shots.
If you really need/want to nail endless perfect images at sporting events, then you are going to have to pony (sic) up for a monster DSLR and associated fast lens. If you are just an occasional sports shooter, then I reckon the GX1 will give you enough pleasing images to satisfy you without having to drain your energy reserves and your bank balance.
Another afternoon of standing in the heat. I thought this was still meant to be winter….
Anyway, a higher level of player this weekend which means they are prepared to assume positions on a horse which look foolhardy to me; but then I am not Argentinian and I was not born in a stable (which makes me wonder, the purportedly magic Jew must have been an ace polo player).
So, a selection of shots showing grown men doing stuff they probably shouldn’t.
Sadly, I will not be posting any more polo shots. At least not until the next tournament in two weeks time. You may weep now.
Trust you had a pleasant day yesterday. I spent it stood on a field at a spot where I usually stand, but this time I was joined by a large number of ants who found it amusing to bite my ankles throughout the afternoon. And it was hot, brain-melting humid heat which sapped my will to live.
But it was worth it for a handful of shots like this:
More again this afternoon; already looking forward to my post-event shower and beer.
She who must be obeyed is a fan of twinkly things. Jewellery of course, and if the jewellery twinkles can be augmenting some vile Japanese cartoon creation, then that is even more pleasing to her eyes. She also like twinkles in photos. When she saw this…
..she demanded to know how I made the little stars and how she could do the same. I explained that these stars were due to a stopped down Voigtlander lens and no she couldn’t borrow it.
Small huff, but then she was away on some other wishlist; but she does occasionally return to the desire to make little stars in her photos.
And now she can, thanks to Topaz Stars which allows you to take a boring shot like this:
And turn it into a boring shot like this, but with stars:
Easy to use and only $19.99 introductory price, worth it so that my wife can have some extra twinkle in her life whenever she wants it.
There comes a time in life when a gentleman has achieved much of what he set out to achieve. He finds himself comfortably well-off and able to indulge himself in the finer things in life. A pleasant home, a motorised carriage with at least 500 horsepower and all the accessories for the living of a civilised life.
A most necessary item for any gentleman is an appropriate timepiece to sport upon his wrist. Known by the lower classes as a “watch”, a real gentleman knows that his horological enhancement exists not just remind him when it is appropriate to open the gin (10:30, if you didn’t know), but it is also a statement of his class, his achievements, his status within the world.
So, how about a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso 80th anniversary special edition in pink gold?
The idea for the Reverso was born in India during colonial times when the army polo players used to smash their watches during a game. So the Reverso was invented, with a design where the watch face can be reversed and therefore protected, with the added bonus that the back can then be personalised. So, why not recognise the history and personalise this one with an engraving based on one of my photographs.
I am sure you agree that any man wearing this would be accepted in any club, could attract any woman, and would instantly have larger genitals.
Sadly, it’s not mine, I just borrowed it from the polo player owner to photograph. I’ve got a shitty three year old Casio, which pretty much sums me up.
I realise that this site has already descended into being a camera tech blog; and this is not going to help, but….
I seem to have been indirectly responsible for a few of my gentle readers investing in the very fine Panasonic GX1. Those readers may like to know that Panasonic have released a firmware (or as we call it in this home, spermware) update for the GX1. You can, and probably should, get it here.
You will also notice that you can also update the spermware of your lenses; and the rather excellent 100-300mm has an update too if you happen to own the lens.
End of message. You’re welcome.
You see them cluttering up trendy magazines; current buzzwords scattered over the page in a variety of colours and orientations. I believe they are called “word clouds”, and they are utterly pointless. All the more reason why you should make some of your own.
You can guess which web site this was extracted from:
A Dylan song:
All made with Wordle.
For some reason I couldn’t make the menu options work in Firefox, but Safari was OK. Maybe just the way my Firefox is configured. Anyway, go create!