Tagged: Canon S95

Culture Shock

(A picture of the adjoining property which has been digitally aged using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.)

I haven’t written much, if any, about living here at Homewood of Plum Creek since moving here six months ago.  I wanted to give myself six months to get acclimated and settle in.  In the last six months I have devoted myself entirely to adjusting to living in a Continuous Care Retirement Community (CCRC).  I haven’t traveled or even been back to my previous home town in those six months.  Basically I like living here, but it has been a culture shock.  In many ways it has been like turning the clock back in time.

There have been three major changes that have taken some getting used to.  These three cultural shocks have been associated with major differences in race, age, and activities.  When we lived in the MD suburbs of Washington D.C. it was like living in a United Nations community.  We were surrounded by people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.  The White non-Hispanics were only around 18% of the population and I’m now living in a town where they are over 86% of the population and mostly of Germanic descent.

In the neighborhood where I previously lived, I was older than my neighbors.  Here I am one of the youngest in the community.  Where I lived before, I had to do all the maintenance or find and hire someone to do it.  Here everything is taken care of for me.

While I wouldn’t classify any of the changes as being good or bad, they are certainly different, interesting, and require different responses and adjustments.  My biggest adjustment has been one of filling my time.  Since all maintenance is done for me, I have excess time on my hands. Even minor things like going to the store to purchase something takes a lot less time since everything is within about a 3 mile radius.  Since we moved away from our daughter, her husband, and our two granddaughters, it also meant that we no longer benefited from close, almost daily, contact with them and are no longer occupied with family activities.

I have tried to spend a lot more time pursuing my hobby of photography but I am quickly running out of new and interesting things to photograph; therefore, I have spent a lot more time reading articles about photography on the computer. So far, I have done a lot more reading and napping.  I even have two Kindles … one of the originals for reading text in the presence of bright light and a Kindle Fire so that I can read photography books with color prints.  In addition to reading a lot, I have been doing more eating and drinking (coffee) and that is something I need to do less of.

They have lots of activities here but they are more suited to an older generation and I have only taken advantage of a few of them.  Even the music played in the hallways of the main buildings and on the closed circuit TV is of an older generation and reminds me more of my parent’s time, but that is because many of the residents are the age of my parents if they were still living.  Basically, I think that I need to look outside the community if I wish to become engaged in doing something different.  I think that is what most living here who are closer to my age are doing.  It is easier for them since they are mostly from around this area, have family and friends around, etc.

I really need to find something more meaningful to do and try to get out more … well at least as much as I can.  I think I have walked and looked for pictures on most of this approximately 86 acres … probably time to expand my range.  I’m hoping that will be the case this summer.

Still Simplifying … Getting Prepared for Summer

The above was taken in my front yard with the Panasonic G3 camera and the Panasonic 45 – 175 mm lens at a focal length of 107 mm.

As mentioned in earlier articles, I have been simplifying my photography gear.  My desire has always been to be able to get down to one camera that is small, lightweight and does all I need.  My Panasonic G3 almost does it.  I have sold my K-5 and all the Pentax lenses as well as my Olympus E-P1 and E-PL2 cameras, and all of my Olympus lenses other than for the 14 – 42 mm kit lens for the E-P3.  The only reason I have kept that lens is for when I eventually sell my E-P3.  I also plan to sell my Canon S95.

While I initially preferred the Olympus micro 4/3 cameras over the Panasonic ones since the Olympus cameras have in-body image stabilization, I have switched to Panasonic cameras.  I did that since 1) Panasonic was quicker to switch to a refined, better sensor, 2) Panasonic had a built-in viewfinder, and 3) the Panasonic cameras were more reasonably priced.

The one shortfall that I experience with the G3 is the ability to carry it in a pocket or a very small bag; therefore, for the near term, I am keeping my Olympus E-P3 to cover that need.  Eventually I hope to replace it with a micro 4/3 camera that is easier to carry in a jacket or vest pocket.  Until that happens, I will use the E-P3 with either the 14 or 20mm Panasonic lens on it when I don’t think I will need the G3, or at least don’t wish to take it with me.

As of now (I know I keep buying and selling cameras :-)), I plan to use the Panasonic G3 with either the 14, 20, 14 – 42, or 45 – 175 mm lens on it, depending on where I’m going and what I’m photographing.  I’m finding that I really like the Panasonic 45 – 175 mm lens for when I’m walking outside in the more open areas, and generally only switch to one of the wider angle, faster  lens when I’m in town or inside a building.

The next lens that I’m thinking about getting is the Panasonic 25 mm lens to use on the G3.  I’m thinking that I will keep the 20 mm lens to use on the E-P3, and then, hopefully on another micro 4/3 camera … probably a future generation of a small micro 4/3 Panasonic camera.   If I proceed with this plan I will then have redundancy between the two cameras and all of the lenses and will be photographing exclusively with micro 4/3 cameras.  Eventually I hope to be down to primarily one camera, but it would have to be a small lightweight micro 4/3 camera with a built-in viewfinder.

Now, if only I could reduce the number of my camera bags.  I have acquired many bags for many cameras and different uses over the last few years, and while you can never have too many bags :-), I do have some larger ones that I will probably never use again.

Down the Road

I have a Canon S95, a Pentax K-5, and an Olympus E-P3 camera with multiple lenses for the K-5 and the E-P3 … more cameras than I need or use.  I mostly use the E-P3 because of the quality, size and weight compromise.  In addition, I seem to be gravitating towards using a prime lens on the E-P3 … the Panasonic 14 or 20 mm, or the Olympus 45 mm.  My dilemma is what will I need in the future?  It’s always easier to look back in time, and these cameras have all served me well under different circumstances.  The question is, what will I need down the road?  Will one of the newer cameras better serve my future needs?

I’m contemplating replacing my cameras with the new Olympus OM-D, E-M5.  It would give me the weather protection that I have with the K-5 but in a much smaller, easier to carry system package.  It would also allow me to continue to use the micro 4/3 lenses that I have and love, but it might not have the image quality that I can get with the K-5. The E-M5 might be the single camera solution that I have dreamed about.

My current reservations are:

  • Will I use a camera enough to warrant buying a new one?
  • Will I really need an all-weather camera?
  • Will I do a lot better with the EVF of the E-M5 due to my eye-sight?
  • Will I be able to handle the E-M5 with one hand if my other hand is holding a cane or walking stick?
  • Should I keep the E-P3 for backup?

If I only knew what was down the road.

Where Does this Path Go?

6th century Clonmacnoise Monastery in Ireland

When I look at this picture I have three different thoughts about where this path goes.  The first is about life in general, the second is about the economy, and the third is about my photography.  Since I have readers interested in all three areas and I couldn’t make up my mind about which to write about, I have decided to make this a three-part article.

Life in General

The first thing that this picture reminds me is that all life follows a very short path and the end is always the same.  All life dies in its due time and the only unknown is how soon; but, others will remember us.  It is our responsibility to make sure that we are remembered for making the best contributions that we can to the long-term evolution of humanity in the short time that we are here.

The Economy

This path reminds me that eventually we will probably have to take a step backwards in time to achieve a sustainable, stable system.  If the correct decisions are made in time, we will essentially hold steady in a very low, to no-growth economy and we won’t need to change much; but, I don’t see that happening.  As I noted in previous articles, I don’t think that the necessary minor changes will be made in time and that we will put off making any major corrections to our economic system and way of life until big changes are needed.  The world has no choice but to step back and recover from its’ debts and make the adjustments to continue in a sustainable way.  The only uncertainty is how soon and thus how big of a change.

My Camera Path

Those of you who have followed this website have seen me go from small sensor P&S pocket cameras to small sensor travel zooms, to the Pentax K-7 DSLR, to the micro 4/3 Olympus Pen cameras, the E-P1, E-PL2, and the E-P3 and the Pentax K-5 DSLR, along with a side excursion to the Canon S95.  In this last year or two I have oscillated back and forth between the K-5, the Pen cameras, and the S95 while seeking a one camera solution.  I have been on a path towards finding & choosing a single light-weight, smaller all-purpose camera with adequate image quality that I can carry with me wherever I go.  At the moment, I have paused along the path and settled upon my Olympus E-P3 along with the Panasonic 14 mm and 20 mm lenses, the Olympus 14 – 42 mm zoom, and the Olympus 14 – 150 mm zoom, but I have kept the Canon S95 for use as a small shirt pocket camera and the Pentax K-5 with the 18 – 55 mm zoom for inclement weather and with the 50 – 300 mm zoom for wildlife shooting.

I’m still on a path towards having one camera along with a simplified choice of lenses.  I’m still trying to decide on whether I wish to use zoom lenses on my E-P3 or to just use faster prime lenses such as the 14 mm, the 20 mm, and a 45 mm.  At the moment I’m leaning toward using the 14 – 150 mm, f/4 – 5.6 zoom most of the time along with the 20 mm, f/1.7 prime for when I need low light capability or to keep the camera under my jacket or in a vest pocket and/or for when I wish to be a little more discreet.  Ultimately, the choice will probably be driven by how fast a lens I need.

I have paused on my path to find my one-camera solution until I learn whether I can get along with just the E-P3 and until I see if there is another new camera coming out that will be worth the cost for my single camera; but I’m thinking at the moment that I will settle for a while with just the micro 4/3 system as it seems to be an excellent compromise on flexibility, quality, size, weight, and cost as the best camera for recording my views along my path through life.

Looking Back at 2011

I have gone through some major changes this past year.  I’m not even going to address the physical changes or the move from Bowie, MD where we lived for 45 years, or the move to Homewood at Plum Creek in Hanover, PA.  While those events were quite remarkable in themselves, in this article I’m only going to write about the changes with my photography and cameras.

Some will probably think that I have gone in a complete circle, or series of circles, but I believe that I am making progress … it just hasn’t been in a straight line.  It’s more like I’m spiraling in towards my more minimal set of cameras … or camera.

I started off the year with the Pentax K-7 DSLR and Olympus E-P1 cameras.  When I traveled to Tunisia the previous year, I had taken the E-P1 rather than the K-7 due to weight restrictions, and the results firmed up my feelings about the benefits of the mirror-less micro 4/3 camera-lens systems.  In fact I was so pleased with the E-P1 that I added the Olympus E-PL2 to my collection of cameras and took both it and the E-P1 to Ireland in May of this year.  The E-P1 became my backup camera.

To further reduce the weight and size of my gear, I tried shooting primarily with prime lenses while in Ireland and found that they worked quite well.  I determined that the Lumix 14 and 20 mm lenses on the E-PL2 made a great travel system, but I began to think that carrying two Olympus Pen cameras (one for backup) was heavier than necessary, so I bought a Canon S95 to use for backup and as a true pocket camera for other times.

But, while the two Pen cameras performed OK in the hot, dusty climate of Tunisia and the wet, windy climate of Ireland, I still had some doubts about using them in even harsher climates, so I purchased a Pentax K-5.  My intent was to use the K-5 in future trips to places like the Amazon rain forest or the wet tropical areas of Costa Rica.  I then took the K-5 to Hawaii for a couple of weeks so that I could get more accustomed to using it and to see how well I liked it.  The bottom line is that I liked it a lot, but I could have gotten along just as well with the E-PL2.  For now, I’m keeping the K-5 in case I make any future trips back to the rain forests and/or need an effective 450 mm reach for wild life.

Since the E-P1 and the E-PL2 performed so well and since I have fallen in love with the Olympus Pen system, I decided to replace both of them with the E-P3.  The more I use the E-P3 the better I like it.  If all continues to go as I expect, I will be using it as my primary camera with the S95 and K-5 relegated to collect dust sitting on the shelf.

There have been other changes relative to photography in the past year, but they have been more subtle.  I have come to realize the photographer is much more important than the camera and that having a smaller, lighter weight camera with me is more important than having a DSLR APS camera at home sitting on the shelf.  A continual search for my next camera is an endless pursuit with limited benefits, and I’m tired of reading web sites that compare the minute changes in image quality, etc. for each and every new camera that comes out.  I would be a lot better off devoting more time to getting out and about and taking pictures and perfecting the use of what I have.  Finally, I have embraced shooting all of my pictures in the raw format and using Lightroom (LR) to develop all of my pictures.

My Perfect Camera ?

(For all of my pictures you can see it larger by clicking on the picture and then choosing the larger size at the top.)

The perfect camera system doesn’t exist, and probably never will be built, but let me tell how you how I’m approaching a compromise solution.  When I think about a new camera for the future, I think in terms of the overall system, and then look for the best compromise.

Those who have read my blog for a while know that I’m concerned about the overall weight and volume as much as the technical capability of the camera in terms of dynamic range and image quality.  I’m not the kind of hobbyist who goes around with a tripod and a large camera bag filled with multiple lenses, etc.  I usually pick a camera and one lens and put an extra battery and memory card in a pocket when I go out.

I have been using a Canon S95, an Olympus E-P1, an Olympus E-PL2, or a Pentax K-5.  I have various lenses for the Olympus PEN cameras.  I have the Lumix 14 and 20 mm primes, the Olympus 35 mm prime, the kit 14-42 mm zoom, and the 14-150 mm zoom.  For the K-5, I have the Pentax 40 mm prime, the 18 – 55 mm zoom, and the 55 – 300 mm zoom.  That is more than enough to cover the range of limited shooting that I do.  In fact it is too much, and I would like to reduce the amount of “stuff”.  Ideally I would prefer one camera system and while I hope to eventually get there, for now, I’m seeking to reduce the above to two camera systems: the K-5 and the ???.  In addition, I have been finding that I have a preference for using small, pancake prime lenses, and using the longer focal length zooms less and less.

Before I get around to picking my other system in addition to the K-5, I need to bring up image processing.  Two subjects that you often see in the forums discussing compact cameras are dynamic range and lack of high ISO quality.  They are correct in that most compact cameras suffer in these regards when compared against APS size sensor cameras, but how big a problem is it?  I don’t think that it is as important if we shoot in raw formats and then use processing software to address the problem.  I now shoot in raw and use Adobe Lightroom software to process all of my images.  If you look at the picture above, and are familiar with this kind of picture, you know that it is hard to get an image with the tonal, or dynamic range that we like.  In the above case, taken with the E-PL2 and the 20 mm lens, I tweaked the exposure and other aspects to produce the image … and partially overcame the limitations of the older micro 4/3 sensor.  Also take a look at the following two images.  They were taken in good light … one with the K-5 and the other with the E-PL2.  If you are a pixel peeper, you will note differences; but for use on the web, you don’t notice extreme differences– after processing with Lightroom.

Getting back to the camera-lens portion of the system, you will find that many of the new APS sensor size cameras are as small as micro 4/3 sensor cameras, so why not just choose one of them?  I’m thinking about the new Sony NEX cameras and the new Samsung NX cameras.  The answer is that while they might have better sensors, they are still saddled with the larger APS size lenses and have limited pancake prime lenses available.  As a system (camera plus lenses) they are quite large and heavy to haul around, as compared to the micro 4/3 system.

There is another aspect about the ideal camera that I would like to point out.  Many of the newer, small APS size sensors also have much higher pixel counts.  There is a significant (at least to me) disadvantage with so many pixels.  It takes much longer for the cameras to write to the memory card, and it takes much longer to read the images off of the memory card, and it takes a lot longer to process the images on my computer.  I weigh this as a significant disadvantage for me unless I wish to also upgrade my computer.  I find that the 12 to 16 MP sensors are good enough for anything that I do.

Since I have used and liked the micro 4/3 Olympus PEN cameras in the past, and have a range of lenses, my first choice to replace the E-P1 and the E-PL2 cameras is the Olympus E-P3.  I have one on order to try out.  The E-PL2 has been OK, but I prefer having the upper thumb wheel of the E-P1 or E-P3 and the slightly improved operational details of the E-P3.  I should get it later this week.  After I try it out I’ll let you know if I think it is the one for me as a daily carry-with-me camera.  My next desire, if I don’t think the E-P3 is the one for me, would be to try the Fuji X100 and make do with its’ single lens.  Actually I have fewer reservations with the lens and have more uncertainty about learning to live with its’ operational quirks.  If it had cost less, I might have tried it instead of the E-P3.  My best alternative might be to just continue with what I have and wait for another new camera to try.  Hmmm, I still feel like I’m waiting for Godot.

Best Camera for Travel

Those who have followed my blog know that I’m seeking to find the best travel camera while also reducing the weight of my bags.  I have had no trouble keeping the weight of my carry-on bag to around 18 pounds, but am always seeking to lower that more.  My problem is that doesn’t include my cameras.  On my recent trip to Hawaii I took an additional bag that weighed 10.5 pounds.  That was mostly camera gear but did include a light rain jacket and a few medicines.  My preference would be to get down to one or two carry-on bags whose combined weight is no more than 20 pounds … I know, I’m probably dreaming but it makes a nice goal to strive for.

My indecision on which camera to travel with is similar to the above picture.  In the above picture I couldn’t decide whether to place the emphasis on the sky or the foreground.  At the moment I have split the view.  This might go against most recommendations about composition, but it works for now.

Deciding on a camera isn’t that easy; i.e. deciding on whether to place the emphasis on weight reduction or image quality at high ISOs.  When I went to Tunisia and Ireland I used Olympus Pen cameras.  In Tunisia I mostly used a small zoom and in Ireland I mostly used a couple of prime lenses.  For the trip to Hawaii I took my Pentax K-5 DSLR and the short zoom.  The advantage of this system was that it was weather resistant and had good high ISO image quality.  The irony is that I needed that capability more in Ireland than in Hawaii.  I could also have used the weather resistant capability in Tunisia due to the blowing sand which got into everything.

If weight were not a factor, the decision would be easy … take the Pentax K-5 with the weather resistant 18 – 55 mm zoom.  It is more rugged, has very good battery life, and has excellent high ISO image quality.  Keeping in mind that I don’t have any immediate plans for trips by air at the moment, I will travel to environmentally challenging locations with my K-5, while I keep waiting for someone to manufacture an equally capable camera that weighs less.  If I were to travel anywhere before I find a better camera and need to travel lighter, I will compromise on image quality and travel with my Olympus E-PL2.  In the meantime, I’m hoping that someone will build a camera as capable as the K-5 that is smaller and weighs less.  I’ll keep looking.

In addition, I’m looking to reduce my collection of cameras down to one camera.  At the moment I’m focusing my “camera dreaming” on finding a small, easy to carry camera suitable for always having with me … my just-in-case I see something camera.  It would be nice if it filled the above travel needs, but in the meanwhile since I don’t see any such camera on the horizon, I’ll continue to keep the K-5 and look for another camera to replace my Canon S95, and the Olympus E-P1, and the Olympus E-PL2.  Like in the picture above, I’m splitting my views.

First day on the Big Island

On the 28th of Sept, we flew from Kauai to Oahu to the Big Island of Hawaii.  The picture below was taken out the window as we approached Oahu, where we changed planes.  As we flew it was obvious from the aerial views that the islands were getting newer as we flew south and that Kauai was the older island with the most large green plants.  Oahu, which is younger, had less.  You can see one of the extinct volcano cones that we flew past.

We landed at the Kona airport on Hawaii and then drove down around the southern tip of the island, which was the newest portion of the islands.  Since it was also the dry side there was little to see but dry barren land and it was much hotter.  We didn’t stop for pictures and continued on until we started up along the eastern coast where we climbed in elevation and it got wetter.  It actually rained on us for a good ways while we were in the clouds.  When we dipped back down to the coast, and it wasn’t raining, we stopped to see the black sand beaches and to see a different type of terrain along the coast.

By the time that we reached our destination, the “Vocano Village Lodge” it was very cloudy and getting dark so we didn’t see much.

Last Days on Kauai

For those who have wondered where we stayed, it was at a condo in Poipu Shores.   They are in a prime location and this makes the third time that we have stayed there.  For our last three days on Kaua’i, we spent most of our time lounging around Poipu.

We took several walks along the shore line, just watching the wave’s crash onto the lava rocks.

The picture below was taken at Spouting Horn.  It is a lava shelf where water and air are forced through a small hole by the wave pressure.

One of the main attractions at Poipu Shores is that you can look down from your lanai and watch sea turtles swimming.  They are excellent swimmers and they don’t get tossed against the rocks.

I couldn’t leave Kaua’i without showing you our last sunset from our lanai.  The next day we flew from Kaua’i to the Honolulu airport on O’hau where we changed planes and flew on to the big island of Hawai’i.

PS, I took the above picture with the Canon S95.  The date & time in the filename is wrong since I forgot to set them on Hawaiian time.

Future Camera

Some of us are searching for our next camera … ideally the perfect camera.  I’ll say now that there isn’t a perfect camera nor will there ever be one for most of us, so look for the best compromise.  Rather than attempt to define “most of us”, or to define what most would consider the “ideal camera”, I will just address what I’m looking for as well as how I see camera technology progressing.

In general, I’m looking for a camera with the following attributes:

  • Light-weight and small, but not too small.  Ideally I want a light camera/lens combination that fits my hand with controls that are easily manipulated, and that limits how small it can be; but I still want it to fit in a vest pocket or small bag.
  • Quiet.  I don’t want others to notice the snapping of the shutter, etc.
  • Good in low-light situations; i.e. either the lens is fast enough and/or the ISO capability is high enough to enable me to take sharp pictures without a tripod or flash in low light situations.
  • Preferably with a viewfinder.
  • Reasonable battery life … probably around 250 or 300 pictures per charge.
  • Full HD video.
  • Rapid turn-on, rapid focusing, around 7 fps speed, & fast writing to memory card.
  • Has ability to shoot from an effective 35mm focal length of around 24mm to 100mm; with occasional ability to add a longer zoom that reaches out to around 300mm.
  • Has the option to shoot either jpeg or raw files with both automatic & manual control.  I don’t need built-in filters or scene controls.
  • Has a sensor of around 16 mp to optimize quality vs. memory & processing time.
  • Weather resistance would be nice, but is not a requirement.
  • And not least of all, a camera system that is affordable … something around $700, but I might be dreaming.

I’m looking for one camera to replace my three cameras.

I’m looking for one camera to reduce the volume, and to eliminate picking one camera when I go out and later thinking, if I had the …   I also wish to learn all the controls and features well so that I don’t have to stop and think about which camera I’m using.  I’m getting too old.

The good thing is that I’m confident that it won’t be long until such a camera, or one awfully close, will be available.  I don’t know how much you have thought about the camera industry but it is undergoing a change.  We have full format DSLRs on the one end and small pocket P&S cameras, and even phones, on the other end.  Yes, I know we still have larger format cameras available but I’m addressing the cameras that a wide variety of us normal folk use.  After we had full format DSLRs, they came out with APS size sensors … and then micro 4/3 size sensors.  On the other end we started seeing small cameras with more controls and slightly larger sensors like the Canon S90 and S95.  Now we are seeing lots of new cameras, some mirror-less, smaller, with APS size sensors like the new Sony NEX-5N, or the Samsung NX200, or the Fujifilm X100; and some with new size sensors in between the micro 4/3 and small P&S cameras … cameras like the Pentax Q, the Fujifilm X10, etc.

In my humble opinion, what I see happening is the merger of computers with optics, and convergence on the “just right-size camera”.  Camera processors are getting more powerful and enabling the opportunity to use smaller and cheaper lenses while correcting any problems like distortion, etc. digitally.  In addition they are better able to design the electronics to minimize noise and achieve higher ISO.  It is these capabilities that are enabling the design of small, light-weight cameras with good image quality.  I don’t think I will have to wait much longer to find my single camera.  I’m hoping, actually expecting, that by next year I will be able to replace the three cameras above with my next camera.  My only uncertainty at the moment is whether it will have a sensor around the APS size or around the micro 4/3 size.  I’m thinking that it will be closer to the micro 4/3 size since that enables the use of nice sized lenses.

At the moment, I’m wondering about which camera(s) and lenses to take to Hawaii later this month.  If I had a new one I wouldn’t have to make this decision 🙂