Just some stuff about photography

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Changing the focusing screen

in Olympus E-System , Friday, January 30, 2004

...well it may just be me, but this is far from easy. Olympus supply a really bizarre tweezer tool which seems to be mainly designed to make life difficult. First of all, if you're going to try this, read the instructions. But not too carefully, because they're not very helpful. The trick is that everything is actually far less tactile than you'd expect. To start with, there is talk of a tab that needs to be pulled down using the tweezers. Well, first the aperture that gives access to this tab is too small to get the tweezers into. What actually seems to happen is that somehow you sort of brush the tweezers against the tab (certainly you do not "pull it down" as the instructions say) and then the screen swings down. Although "swings" is again too strong a word. Collapses is better. Then you've got to remove the screen by grabbing a protruding tab with the bloody tweezers. The thing is, this would be much easier if this tab was the same size as is illustrated on the instructions. It isn't, it's tiny, and again the tweezers seem to be designed to thwart you. By this point one starts to wonder if all this poking around in $1700's worth of camera is such a good idea. Anyway, once you've grabbed it the old screen doesn't so much slide out as (you've guessed it) fall out, although by some miracle it didn't (a) jam itself behind the mirror or (b) fall on the carpet. So, next step, grab the new screen and insert it. Well getting it out its bag is challenge #1. It obviously liked it in there. Then, using aforementioned tweezers, one simply places it on the holder. Now this is really where I lost the plot for a while. I expected to slide into some locating grooves or something, and much head scratching ensued. In fact, as it turns out you sort of balance it on the holder and push the holder back up. Somehow everything stays where you put it. It all feels a bit flimsy but it seems to work. Next, remove the grid screen, very carefully blow air on it to remove the dust that somehow went along for the ride, and put it back in again - at least you'll know how to do it by now! Is it all worth it ? I think so. I found with the standard screen, in what is after all a very small (albeit very nice) viewfinder, you need all the help you can get to keep horizons horizontal and so forth. But the instructions on such a delicate operation could be a bit clearer. And those tweezers should go back to the medical lab they came from...

Feeding frenzy

The annual PMA show is due, where the photographic industry will display its latest offerings. The net is going crazy with speculation on what will Canon do, what will Nikon bring, etc etc, and it is verging on hysteria. What are people getting excited about ? Well, we have the new Nikon D70, which is Nikon's answer to Canon's mass-market (sort of) 300D DSLR. It actually looks like a fairly bland box, if you peel away the hype. A 6Mpix DSLR in a so-so housing, with, admittedly, some nice features which to a neutral observer gives it a slight edge over the 300D - which of course has been on the market for 6 months, a lifetime in the new world of digital photography. But, finally, the D70 is a capable and relatively economic tool for taking photos. Yep, that's it. And yet some people seem to be investing all their waking hours in furious debate over this thing that so far nobody has even seen. And the Canon-Nikon thing is really bizarre - far worse than the old Mac-PC wars. WHY ? Any Canon, and Nikon is probably capable of better results than 99% of photographers are ever going to achieve. They do more or less exactly the same things, and yet people are prepared to scream at each other endlessly about trivial technical details rather working out how to get out of that 99%.

But it gets worse, because at least up until recently these religious wars have been fought over existing devices. Now they're fought over marketing and press releases.

As a recent DSLR purchaser, delighted by the radical new workflow, I can understand that people get emotionally attached to their new toys - but I can't understand this urge to rubbish everything else. Clearly it is in the interest of all the manufacturers to collude in stirring this up. And to feed the frenzy by releasing new models every 6 months, hyped up with elaborate "leaks" and other guerilla marketing tactics. They're laughing all the way to the bank.

And meanwhile, how long will it take for people to remember that a camera - any camera - is just a box designed to capture light, and to get back to the basics of better photography. I suspect never in fact - the digital revolution has spawned a new type of customer, a mutation of the computer nerd, who's idea of photography is midday shots of Disneyworld taken with a $3000 camera and has no idea what those A, S & M settings are for.

Oh so that’s how you post images…

{categories limit="1"}in {category_name} {/categories}, Thursday, January 29, 2004

Just worked out how you post images in Movable Type blogs.

dawn_generoso.jpg

This was taken this morning just after I got out of bed.... sunrise over Monte Generoso. Taken with the E-1 at 400ASA, 14-54mm lens, ESP metering, only 1 coffee.

Every morning I think if I was a real photographer I'd be out there at 6am.

Studio RAW conversion

{categories limit="1"}in {category_name} {/categories}, Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I've just done a test of RAW conversion using the High Function and High Speed options. I applied zero sharpening in Olympus Studio, and then used PhotoKit to apply capture sharpening. I read RémiG's article on sharpening. I can't reproduce his results: In my case (a winter landscape, similar in type to his test image), there is a slight difference in the results. The HF version seems to have a little extra edge contrast, but it is marginal and only really discernable at 200%. What is slightly more worrying to me is that the two versions have slightly different colour casts. Possibly this has something to do with the (reported) poor color management implementation. But certainly I don't see this "painterly" effect he reports. On this evidence, I don't see much point in HF. However, it will be interesting to look at the results of upsizing. It is possible that HF has slightly more detail. Either way, I'd say that Olympus Viewer and Olympus Studio are two good reasons not to buy an E-1. They're not totally unusable - and maybe are better than Canon's efforts - but they're really not very impressive. If my software team produced this sort of stuff their next career move would be selling burgers...

Web Site Story

Just for fun I thought I'd register my E-1 with Olympus. Seems like a good idea, doesn't it ? Of course you'll only know you can do if you've managed to find a link in the twisted maze of web sites that Olympus has managed to publish so far.

Starting from what appears to be supposed to be the main site now, you can follow a registration link (at the top right), which brings up a form which some genius has decided should be implemented in Flash (and is served from a Japanese domain). This has 9 steps (screens). When you get to screen 2, if you're in Europe or the US, you'll find that you can't select your country. You click on "other countries", and, hey presto, you're dumped here. You select your country, and depending on the selection, fun things happen. If you select Switzerland, you end up in the olympus-pro.com world, rather than e-system.com, but you can't actually register your product. You can however sign up for a newsletter, which apparently is in German. Olympus realise that Belgium, for example, is multilingual, but in Switzerland they haven't noticed yet. Never mind. If you choose "United Kingdom" instead (going back first, not from the drop-down, that takes you somewhere else..) then hey presto you can register your equipment, using an HTML form, and choose any damn country you want. Progress! And it tells you "because we know what you have, we can inform you about the new firmware updates you require". Well I'll believe that when I see it. However you do get an email response thanking you for your application to the Olympus E-membership programmes, which you may well not be aware you'd submitted.


Has anybody got bored enough to work out if there is any logic behind all this ? I assume that http://www.olympus-esystem.com/dea/ is the main site, but really I'm far from sure - http://www.olympus-esystem.com has a different design and doesn't appear to link to /dea, whatever "dea" stands for, and Europe links all end up at http://www.olympus-pro.com.


I'm baffled.
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