Archive for June, 2014

Camera Tests

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Ramblings

Lately – say in the last two years – I’ve been trying to find an excellent, excellent camera for my own use. (This began after the battery on my old Sony would no longer hold a charge, and batteries for that old 3MP model were no longer available.) Let’s examine all the ones I’ve tried, on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the Holy Grail of point & shoot, and 1 is “puts out a smudged mess that doesn’t even look like a photo.”

Last March (2013) I bought the Nikon Coolpix P510. This was truly an excellent camera. 42x zoom, nice sharp pictures. This one ranks as a 7. Unfortunately it was hugely bulky. It is technically a point-and-shoot, but because of the zoom lens, its size is nearer a DSLR. I did carry it periodically and took some photos, but in the end just couldn’t be bothered hauling it around, so I traded it in.

You may remember this old photo of Leavenworth, WA, which I took with the Nikon and posted to the blog in early 2013.

You may remember this old photo of Leavenworth, WA, which I took with the Nikon and posted to the blog in early 2013.

With the proceeds I first bought a Nikon S02 (tiny, fits on a credit card, and adorably cute, but only takes good pictures when there is a lot – almost an excessive amount – of light). Returned this within the original 30 days. This ranks about a 3; the pictures from my Nokia phone are consistently much better quality.

Stuff in the pantry, taken with flash and the S02.

Stuff in the pantry, taken with flash and the S02.

Same stuff, same camera, no flash.  Ugh!

Same stuff, same camera, no flash. Ugh!

Pens taken with the tiny Nikon S02.

Pens taken with the tiny Nikon S02.

When I returned it, I tried a Nikon S9400. This sounded good on paper, and my test pics were good, but for some reason I returned it. Memory tells me to put it about a 7. It did as well as the older Coolpix, and it was a slimline point-and-shoot, but maybe didn’t have as much zoom? I like zoom for outdoor stuff, like when we go to the beach. I really don’t know why I returned it.

This seems to be the only picture I have from the S9400.

This seems to be the only picture I have from the S9400.

After that, I spent about six weeks on the internet, reading and researching cameras. Finally I thought “the hell with the zoom” and purchased a Sony DSC-RX100 (the first iteration, not the II or the new III). This camera is a 9 or even a 9.5 on everything…except that it only has a 3x zoom. But I kept it and used it a lot, in non-zoom situations, and have been exceedingly happy with it. Factoring in the serious lack of zoom brings that 9.5 down to about a 7.5, but the photos I do take are very strikingly crisp.

Pens taken with the RX100.

Pens taken with the RX100.

A few weeks ago I started to feel the lack of zoom keenly. It was after we went to the beach that day. So I poked around, and we found the Canon Elph 340, which has a pretty good zoom and comes in purple! So we got one. It’s pretty good! Not always, though. This is about a 7 or 7.5. I didn’t award bonus points for the color 🙂

Pens taken with the Elph 340.

Pens taken with the Elph 340.

And then, when I couldn’t stand it any longer (and when Sony dropped the price by a large margin), I got the DSC-HX50V. 30x zoom (yeah!), and takes very crisp photos. Weighs more than any of the other ones (except that old Coolpix, which was a beast), and I can’t yet find a nice slipcase for it, but otherwise when you factor in all the different features, I rank it a solid 8. Zoomed photos could stand to be a little crisper at 100%, but usually they get compressed for blog viewing, and so the fuzzy edges aren’t that important. Here is a shot of the test pen setup.

Pens taken with the HX50V.

Pens taken with the HX50V.

The HX50V will probably become my default camera for taking out and about, while the RX100 will continue to be my at-home camera. I don’t really need both, but the RX100 is just too crisp and perfect with non-zoom situations. Chris has taken the purple Elph for his own, and Alex still shows very little interest in photography. I think we’re all set for a while, don’t you?

Some other sample photos:

The crabapple tree, this afternoon, taken with the HX50V.  Macro shot, not zoom.

The crabapple tree, this afternoon, taken with the HX50V. Macro shot, not zoom.

Crabapple tree, this afternoon, taken by Chris with the Elph 340.  Macro shot, not zoomed.

Crabapple tree, this afternoon, taken by Chris with the Elph 340. Macro shot, not zoomed.

With the HX50V, Bickie at full optical zoom (30x).

With the HX50V, Bickie at full optical zoom (30x).

With the HX50V, Bickie at full digital zoom (60x)!  If you click on this (or the previous pic) to see at full view, you'll see the fuzzy edges I mentioned.

With the HX50V, Bickie at full digital zoom (60x)! If you click on this (or the previous pic) to see at full view, you’ll see the fuzzy edges I mentioned.

Note the caption above. After playing with the settings a little more, and actually reading the user manual, I learned that that was not the 60x full digital zoom. I was a bit suspicious since it doesn’t look that much more zoomed than the previous picture. Turns out I had on a setting called something like Clear Image Zoom. This sort of assists you if you need to go slightly higher than the 30x optical zoom to focus properly. When I discovered that, I left it on, and turned on Digital Zoom to do some experiments. It turns out this camera will go to 120x zoom! WOW. Now, I have no actual pictures of this to show you, because I was wobbling around so badly trying to hold the camera steady. This weekend I’ll get out the tripod, mount this camera (the HX50V) and take some 120x zoom photos, just for comparison.

With the RX100, Bickie on the prowl, no zoom.

With the RX100, Bickie on the prowl, no zoom.

I hope this may help someone make an informed camera-buying decision!

The Brains of the Outfit

Posted: June 3, 2014 in Ramblings

That title does not apply to me.

On Saturday it was a beautiful day. I had an errand to run downtown, but I convinced the boys to go with me, with the promise of brunch at Jak’s afterwards, and then a trip to the beach. We couldn’t find the kite, but that was OK because it wasn’t windy. I told Alex that if it got windy we’d buy a new kite. I packed up my awesome camera and monopod and we left.

Errand: went fine.
Brunch: went very well! We were able to get scrambles made with lots of veg, meat and cheese, so we were not tempted by potatoes or toast. Alex had a huge meal too, which pleased us, because it seems to us that he doesn’t eat enough, sometimes.

Beach: The nice part of Alki Beach (the sandy part) was swarming with people, and we couldn’t find anywhere to park. So we drove to the more scenic part of the beach, which is very rocky and seaweedy, and went for a walk out there. I mounted the camera to the monopod and during our hour-long beach clamber, took about 50 photos of the scenery, the boys, etc.

At least, I thought I did.

When we got home I discovered that (a) I’d left the memory card at home and (b) my camera doesn’t have built-in memory. This is disappointing! Annoying! All kinds of things. I was so mad I went online and looked for a new camera with built-in memory, though the idiocy of that idea struck me almost instantly.

Luckily, Chris took a couple snaps with his phone. Here they are.

Alex

Seagull