Sep 022012
 

So I step out of the hotel a little before noon and there is a crowd lining both sides of the ul. Florianska (the street which carries the “Royal Way” into the city and to the Market Square).  The event?  How about a dachshund parade?

Dachshund Parade down ul. Florianska.

On up to Wawel Hill, home of the Wawel Castle and the Wawel Cathedral.

Wawel Cathedral

Passage from Wawel Castle towards the Cathedral.

After Wawel Hill a walk along the Wisla, and a crossing over a pedestrian/cyclist bridge, Love Padlocks (or Love Locks) — and a newlywed couple.

Newlyweds and Love Padlocks on a pedestrian bridge over the Wisla.

The Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orłem).  Operated by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Roman Catholic, the pharmacy was started in 1910 by his father, and served both Gentiles and Jews in Krakow’s Podgórze district.  The district was turned into a Jewish Ghetto by the Germans in March 1941.  Pankiewicz remained on the premise despite the offer by the Germans to relocate him across the river.

Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orłem), taken from Plac Bohaterów Ghetta.

The pharmacy became a hub for a range of activities attempting to support, ease suffering, and to save Jews from transport to death camps.  In 1983 Pankiewicz was recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” for his works.

Walking back, I pass a long line…

A line for ice cream.

The clue is a little brown sign below a red sign on the left of this picture:  “LODY” (ice cream).  I have no idea what makes this shop so popular, but ice cream shops and small storefronts are a feature in Poland — at least in the larger cities.

Sep 012012
 

A dreary day in Krakow, with clouds and occasional rain — Just like the forecast.  But inside it didn’t matter — especially for a couple of Krakow’s highlights.

A dreary day in Krakow — From the Cloth Hall towards St. Mary’s.

Nowe Sukiennice/National Museum in Krakow, Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice

For the first time in four visits to Krakow, the improvements in the Market Square are completed.  The renovations to the Sukienice took place between 2006 and 2010, and a whole new museum dedicated to the centuries of Krakowian history, was built under the square in an area roughly covered by the left half of the photo above.

About half of the “Chełmoński Room: Realism, Polish Impressionism, Beginnings of Symbolism.”

Some of the paintings I liked:

Four-In-Hand, Jozef Chelmonski, 1881

Powerful imagery of horses racing across a barren landscape…One of the Museum’s signature pieces, it is a big painting, as you can tell from the objects to each side.

Four-In-Hand

A Meeting on a Bridge, Jozef Brandt, 1886

A Meeting on a Bridge

Christmas Eve in Siberia, Jacek Malczwewski, 1892

Christmas Eve in Siberia

School of Talmudists, Samuel Hirzenberg, 1887

School of Talmudists

Saint Mary’s Basilica, and the Veit Stoss Altar

Occupying a corner of the Market Square from the end of the 13th Century, St. Mary’s shares major landmark duties with the Cloth Hall, as well as being a functioning house of worship.  What draws visitors is the High Altar, carved by Bavarian Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) between 1477 and 1489.  Opened, it is about 13 meters high and 11 wide.  When the wings are closed, there are 12 scenes of Mary’s suffering.   At the start of WWII it was taken apart by the Poles, crated, and hidden around the country.  The Germans discovered it, and sent the altar to the basement of Nuremberg Castle.  It was repatriated in 1846 and restoration was completed in 1957.

The walls of the presbytery are lined with painted and gilded relief sculptures, and the ceiling is painted blue with golden stars.  Wall paintings by Jan Matejko and windows by Stanislaw Wyspianski and Jozef Mehoffer.

 

View along the side of the Presbytery towards the High Altar.

The main panels of the Veit Stoss High Altar.

The Presbytery from altar to ceiling.

Aug 182012
 

I’m always curious about new camera technology.  So I was intrigued when announcements came out last year about a camera where you didn’t have to worry about focusing when you took the shot…you could focus later.  “Shoot now, focus later”.

I had to wait about half a year for the software to be released for Windows, but I was finally able to preorder in July, 2012 and the camera arrived on August 13th.  I read through the information, checked the camera’s functions, took a few photos, posted some, and now have some observations.

How Light Field photography works, from the photographer’s perspective.

Light Field photography encourages you to produce an image with multiple subjects, or multiple points of interest on a single subject (other wise there is not much point in using Light Field).  You take the picture and when you post it on the Lytro site, viewers can click on different points in the picture.  The selected point will come into focus, and other areas will go out of focus.  Imagine a person standing with one arm towards you, elbow bent.  The viewer could focus on fingertips, wristwatch, elbow, shoulder, eyes, nose, ears, etc.  The selected part would be in focus, and other parts would be out of focus.

Here are a couple of examples.  The first is Scout.  Click on her nose, or the background to change focus.

This is just a bush with a spider web.  But you can click around for different focus points.

Without a doubt the worst ergonomics I have ever encountered in a camera. 

In over 40 years as a serious photographer I’ve used cameras ranging from 4×5 press cameras down to Minox subminiatures. Form really does follow function, and with some cameras you experience how the design of the camera influences and enhances the picture taking experience.  Hasselblads, the Olympus OM series, the Olympus E-1, Minox, Leica rangefinders, Arriflex cine cameras – to name just a few – use design to support the workflow and “thoughtflow” of the photographer.  Not the Lytro.

I can tell that the designers struggled with a way to make the camera “handy”, but still manage to fit in the zoom lens and provide a functional display while still ending up with a pocketable camera.  One of the challenges is that Light Field photography, despite the hype in the photo and computing media, isn’t about not ever having to worry about your shots being in focus.  Good Light Field photography demands that you think about what you are trying to communicate in your photograph, and then take advantage of the Lytro “gimmick” so that the online viewer can select the the different points of focus in the photograph.  And in practice that turns out to be a miniscule percentage of the photographs shot by real people in the real world.

To make the Lytro “sing”, great care must be taken in the composition of the photo.  That means that the Light Field camera will need an LCD display with a wide viewing angle,  is adjustable for different lighting conditions, and is large enough that you can be sure of your composition.  The Lytro is none of those.  The workaround for the limited viewing angle is to rotate the camera 90 degrees at a time to see if your eyes can get a better angle on the LCD.  There is no workaround for the other shortcomings.

That camera rotation, in turn, brings out another set of problems:  The dreadful controls.  This is the point where the designers should be fired.  The zoom control especially will change just through accidental handling, since its design seems to be more influenced by the iPod wipe screen control paradigm than by the needs of a camera user.  Though probably more expensive to manufacture, this control should have been in the form of two buttons that require “pressure”, not “presence”.

The Lytro cameras in the photo below look cool, and Lytro states that “form follows function”‘  The problem is that the function apparently isn’t real world photography of any type.  Want to find the zoom control?  Look at the gray camera…On the upper face, the fourth row of little rectangular “nubs” from the bottom.  You might be able to see some kind of shape there.  Each of those little basic raised nubs is about 2mm x 4mm.  On that fourth row are some even smaller raised things, each about 2mm long x 0.2mm wide, and probably less than 0.1mm high.  Those identify the zoom “control” area.  This works by pressure as you swipe you fingers sideways.  The location of you finger bears no relationship to how far the zoom lens is extended.  And you have to swipe, and swipe, and swipe to extend or retract the zoom fully.

Lytro Cameras (Image from www.Lytro.com)

This isn’t hip, or leading edge…This is just plain stupid.

Normally I’m not one to go on and on about flip-out displays on cameras.  My favorite conventional camera is a Leica M9 – where the issue doesn’t even come up.  But camera position is absolutely critical for Light Field composition and that means that the photographer is going to find him/herself in unusual positions relative to the camera.  That speaks to the need for a display that can actually serve the photographer – who otherwise has to just guess and shoot.  The solution is some kind of articulated or hinged display.

Shoot now, focus later?

This is really deceiving.  It implies a more light-hearted, spontaneous shooting experience.  In fact, the horrible ergonomics might be excused for a simple snapshot camera with a zoom lens — if the quality of snapshots wasn’t so poor.  And I’m not just talking about pixel count here (which wouldn’t have been too bad 12-15 years ago).  As a snapshot camera, the image quality is very poor.  You’d have to smear a lot of something over the lens of your smart phone to get results as bad as the Lytro.  Take a look at these two pictures — One shot with the Lytro and the other shot with my Blackberry.

The photo below was shot with a Blackberry Bold.  It was downsampled to 27% of the original size to fit here.  There was no other post processing.

Snapshot with Blackberry

This next photo was shot with the Lytro.  The only post processing was to downsample the photo to 66.66% of the original size.

From Lytro

The reason for this comparison is to show that if you just want to take a quick picture, “Shoot now, focus later” is, frankly, B.S.  The depth of field with a smart phone camera is so deep that focusing isn’t going to be an issue.  And the quality of the Lytro image is so poor that you’re going to have a very bad looking picture from a $400 camera.  For a quick snapshot, use your smart phone, or go to your local camera store and get the cheapest zoom lens digital camera you can find, along with the cheapest 4GB memory card you can find.

What to do?

Lytro needs to decide what it wants to do.  The form and ergonomics of the first generation cameras points towards early adopters, snapshooters, and folks looking for a nifty $400 gadget.  These users will be less likely to produce compelling images.  Good Lytro images need careful composition, consideration of light, contrast, shape, and other factors.  Because the Lytro camera needs to be close to the subject in most situations, even small movements of the camera position can have a large impact on the final image.  To accomplish this, a serious tool (camera) is needed:  2 – 2.5″ hinged (not even fully articulated) display, fast fixed focal length lens (35mm field of view) — perhaps with a flip-down 1.4x converter, truly ergonomic controls, a few more controls for the display, exposure, etc.  That’s not a sexy camera to market.

And all of this might be a moot point.  How do you catch a person’s attention so they’ll be compelled to spend time mousing around an online picture looking at the different focus points?  If you were presented with 100 Lytro photographs online, would you look at each of the first ten images?  What about the next ten, and the ten following that.  Would you even get to the 100th image?

Meanwhile, I’m sending my Lytro back.

Feb 262012
 

A Saturday visit to two centers of art in Washington, DC.

The Phillips Collection

My favorite art museum in DC, this is the place to take visitors from out-of-town.  Located about a block from the DuPont Metro Station (at 21st and Q NW), Duncan Phillips started the collection in the family residence in 1918, and opened it to the public in 1921.

The most famous painting in the collection is Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  People really love this painting, and for good reason.

Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir)

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/25 sec.

A detail of the ceiling and mantlepiece in the Music Room.

In the Music Room

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/15 sec.

The gallery rooms in the original residence are intimate and calming.  They stress that the furniture in the rooms is intended to be used, and these galleries are nice places to relax.

Gallery room in the original residence.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Staircase in the Sant Building, looking out onto the courtyard.  This used to be an apartment building, and a complete interior rebuild was completed in 2006.  It added additional gallery space, an auditorium, a library, classroom, and workshop space.

Staircase in the Sant Building.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/500 sec.

National Gallery of Art, East Building

Part of the immense Calder mobile (untitled) completed just before he died.  It weighs about 1,000 pounds but moves subtly in the air light currents inside the building.

Paintings and Calder Mobile

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 lens; ISO 800; 1/90 sec.

On the main floor with Ellsworth Kelly’s “Color Panels for a Large Wall” in the background.

Main Floor of East Building

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 15mm f/4 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Painting, viewed from above.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/25 sec.

“Multiverse”, by Leo Villareal, is a light sculpture that lives alongside the underground moving walkways between the East Building and the cage/museum shop at the east footing of the West Building.  This shot looked awful in the Leica’s monitor, but it actually “cleans up pretty good” in the computer.  I need to go back and try a few more shots.

Leo Villareal's "Multiverse"

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/30 sec.

Feb 122012
 

One from the Northcoast (Redwood Coast) of California

A friend just made a trip through this area, and that gave me an excuse to look around the archives a little…

This picture was taken in December, 2004 along US 101 between Eureka and Crescent City — just south of Wilson Creek.

Near Wilson Creek, along US 101

This was shot on color film with a Voigtlander rangefinder and scanned.  The color image was very flat so I used Nik Software Silver Efex Pro to render the image in B&W simulating Fuji Neopan 1600 film with a green filter.

Jan 282012
 

Taking a break on the drive from Charleston, WV.

There are several routes between home and the Charleston area.  The shortest, 329 miles and (according to Google) 6 hours non-stop, passes by Seneca Rocks.  It’s roughly half way so it makes a nice break in the drive.

The rocks are a quartzite formation that almost looks like a blade slicing up through the surrounding countryside.  The current satellite view on Google Maps shows this well.

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks and the North Branch of the South Fork of the Potomac River

On the way home last Friday I stopped and spent about 1 1/2 hours just walking around.  It was a pretty dreary day so I was shooting with the hope of coming up with a decent black & white shot, as well as some close-up shots of whatever else caught my attention.

For Distant Viewing

In 1943 and 1944 Seneca Rocks was a training area for the 10th Mountain Division.

Base of the Telescope

The Sites Homestead was established in the early 19th Century.  The log cabin that forms the basis for this house was built around 1839.  It was expanded in the 1870s and remained in the Sites family until the Forest Service acquired it in 1968.  Quite a view when you step out the front door in the morning.

The Sites Homestead

Chimney and Window, Sites Homestead

Barrel, Sites Homestead

If your GPS can’t find Seneca Rocks, the coordinates of the road intersection (US 22, WV 55, & WV 28) are 38.834576, -79.376246.  The entrance to the Discovery Center is a few hundred yards to the south.  The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center is closed until Spring, but you can park on the lower parking area.

Jan 082012
 

What is it?

Yesterday I stepped out of my car in a parking lot…

…And shot it with my Blackberry.  Should have had a real camera along.  This is the white line between parking spaces, painted with leaves left lying.

Post processing in PhotoShop with Nik Software’s Sharpener 3.0.  The next step was to use a PhotoShop watercolor effect.  I don’t use the “Artistic” filters that often, but the image quality with a smart phone often leaves much to be desired.

Dec 302011
 
Musée d’Orsay, October 2009

One of several big clocks at the Orsay (a former train station), this one is over the entrance.

Clock at Musée d’Orsay

I rediscovered this picture while looking back in my files for images relating to the Orsay’s new photo policy.  This was shot in 2009.  The museum now believes that allowing normal people to produce images like this is too disruptive, probably not dignified, and ultimately harms the museum.

The camera was a Leica M8, and the lens was the incredibly sharp Zeiss 25mm f/2.8.  Shot at ISO 320 and 1/45 second exposure.

Dec 112011
 

Lincoln Memorial, May 2008

I stumbled across this picture while working on another project.

Not traditional composition and framing, which is why I like it.

Lincoln

It was shot with a Leica M8 and a Voigtlander 90mm lens.  The image is very low key, with no startling whites or deep blacks.  Typical for an M8 image, the DNG (RAW) file required very little post processing.

Nov 272011
 

27 November 2011 — Last Day

Cité Metro Station

This is an interesting piece of engineering.  These photos were taken inside what is essentially a big underground steel tank that the tracks pass through.  The station serves Île de la Cité – the island where Notre Dame Cathedral is located.

Cité Metro Station

Another view of the Cité Metro Station, with a train arriving

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral

Looking towards the organ

Around Île de la Cité

"Love Locks" on the Port Archeveche Bridge

An American group performs on the St. Louis Bridge

Looking into the chamber at the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation -- in memory of over 200,000 people deported from France by the Nazis.

A last view of Notre Dame Cathedral and Île de la Cité

[All photos in this posting taken with a Fujifilm X10 camera.]

Nov 262011
 

26 November 2011 — Musee Rodin

A return to this gem of a museum and grounds.

The Hotel Biron is the centerpiece, housing almost 300 pieces of art from Rodin’s collection — including a trio of Van Goghs.

Hotel Biron and the grounds (Fujifilm X100)

On the grounds (Fujifilm X100)

Detail of "Pierre de Wissant Naked Figure" (Fujifilm X10)

Outside looking in... (Fujifilm X100)

...And inside looking out. "Paolo and Francesca in the Clouds" (Fujifilm X10)

Two busts of "The Man with the Broken Nose" (Fujifilm X10)

Statue merges with visitors (Fujifilm X100)

Self portrait -- lower right corner of the mirror. (Fujifilm X100)

Outside, a tradition of leaving the admission stickers on posts and poles.

The Louvre

Almost too big.

Ascent to the "Winged Victory of Samothrace" (Fujifilm X100)

The mob in front of the Mona Lisa (Fujifilm X10)

Nov 242011
 
24 November 2011

Actually arrived on the 23rd, but arrival days are recovery days.  Of note from the arriving flight:  (1) The White Cliffs of Dover really are white in the morning sunlight (sorry, but no picture), and (2) that ugly green de-icing stuff (from Toronto) sticks.

Green De-Icing Goop…

First Stop was the Musee d’Orsay.  One of my favorite museums, but recently saddled with a rather unfortunate “No Photography” policy. This is baffling.  I’m not convinced that the museum management is in touch with visitors and the 21st century — and how visitors interact with museums these days.

There are a few places where it seems to be tolerated, most notably behind one of the two big clocks that face the Seine.

Photos at one of the d’Orsay’s clocks

Nov 122011
 

A Favorite Spot for Shooting

I go out to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport to test new cameras and lenses.  It is a challenging venue, and if things go wrong, they go wrong in a very noticeable way.   From the overhead walkway, this particular location always draws me.

Vantage Point

I like the open space, gray concrete, shadows, the pieces of “museum stuff”, and seeing what people are doing.

The camera being tested is the Fujifilm X10 — which hit the dealer shelves on Tuesday.  This shot was made as an EXR JPEG (EXR’s SN mode, for you Fuji geeks) with only a little bit of Noise Ninja in post-processing.  Everything else was done in the camera: 1/35 sec., f/2.5, ISO 640.  EXR makes all the selections once you decide which of three modes you will use.

The intelligence in cameras is getting a bit scary…The X10 produced a very nice image with almost no input from me.

Sep 062011
 

Earlier from Philadelphia…

The previous posting has pictures from a recent trip to Philadelphia.  That reminded me of a shot taken in 2004 (I believe) early one morning from a hotel room window…Hand-held, pressed against the window for steadiness

I’m not sure how good a picture it really is, but I’ve always liked the “atmospherics”.  This how it feels to be in a strange room in a strange city early in the morning.

Early Morning in Philadelphia

This was shot with a Leica M6, using a 35mm f/2.5 Cosina/Voigtlander lens on Ilford chromogenic B&W film and scanned.

Aug 272011
 

Evening Walkabout With the Fuji X100

Attending a conference earlier this week a couple of blocks from the river game me a chance to do a little walking around with the Fuji X100.  The X100 imposes one significant restriction; it has a fixed focal length lens.  No zoom, so you have to compose by thinking through things a little more, and moving the camera (an yourself) instead of zooming the lens (or changing lenses).  That said, the camera’s large sensor and good low-light characteristics give the photographer more technical capacity to work with.

USS Olympia and USS Becuna:  To say that the cruiser  Olympia is iconic is a bit of an understatement.  Commodore Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay, Olympia also transported the remains of America’s Unknown Soldier from France to the United States in 1921.  The fate of Olympia is uncertain, and the ship may be moved, sunk for a reef, or scrapped.  Keeping old ships afloat is very expensive and requires period dry-dockings which may run into the millions of dollars.  Dry berthing, now being studied for the battleship USS Texas, is initially expensive, but may be the only practical way to save these very old hulls.

Becuna is a late WWII submarine which made five war patrols.  Becuna was decommissioned in 1969.

The cruiser USS Olympia and submarine USS Becuna

USS New Jersey:  Berthed across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey as a museum, this ship is an Iowa class battleship, the final class of battleship completed by the US Navy.  New Jersey was laid down in 1940 and commissioned in 1943, the second of six ships of her class, four of which were completed.  New Jersey was decommissioned for the final time in 1991.

USS New Jersey, framed by the restaurant/club ship Moshulu

I like the swans and the color…

Swan boats and kayaks

Local guys fishing near the observation tower. USS Olympia and Philadelphia in the background.

Fishing

There’s just something incongruous about these swan boats watching over an old warship through the night.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Swan boats and USS Olympia at night

Aug 142011
 

It’s been a while…

I’ve got a new camera — a Fujifilm X100.  This is a bit of throwback, since it emulates the classic 35mm, fixed lens rangefinder cameras of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  In practice, I think that the X100 will be both a complement to my Leica digital rangefinder camera, and a good camera to carry as the camera — when I don’t want all the other stuff.

With bad weather threatening today, I decided to take Metro down the the Phillips Collection.  I really haven’t taken the X100 out on enough trips so…

This first shot deals with my fascinations with motion and with mass transit.

West Falls Church Metro Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/6 sec, f/16

The gauze effect of the special shades at the Phillips Collection — looking onto the Hunter Courtyard.

Through a Window at the Phillips Collection

Fujifilm X100, ISO 400, 1/50 sec, f/5.6

And heading home on Metro, during a wait at one of the stations.

Metro Trains Halted in Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/9 sec, f/4.0

Jun 192011
 

Action or Story?

Sometimes you get lucky enough to have two or more frames to choose from.  Or maybe that’s not lucky.  In this case, the first picture is mostly about the the action, while the second tells more of the story.  (The metadata embedded in the file shows that they are taken less than a second apart.)  To even be faced with a choice is a bit of luck, but as Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

I like the story shot.  Shorter on action, it shows the two key players as they realize the outcome of the play.

Observation:  It would be very rare to see a shot as wide as the second one in an American newspaper.  To make the players large enough, this would need to be close to a half page wide.  American papers just don’t allow that kind of real estate for soccer — especially women’s soccer.  But you do see more shots like that in the European press.

Action

Story

This last shot is another example of Woody Allen’s observation on success.

May 152011
 
My Ride (Retro/Industrial)

Just a little photo-diversion…Checking out a new camera (Fujifilm X100) with the scooter in the lower level of the Metro garage.

Piaggio MP3 500 (Shot with Fujifilm X100)

This started out as a normal color image, but was rendered in B&W in Photoshop using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro.  The fill flash also lit up the reflective rim tape and speed tape.

Feb 222011
 

Funny how conversations go — and what comes out of them.

Jim Hamilton runs an online key duplication service for motorcycles and scooters.  Last week he called my cell phone to confirm my shipping address and missed me (I was underground on Metro).  I called back from the Vienna station and missed him.  Later, he caught me at home.  After a couple of minutes of business, we spent some time just talking.  When the topic of locksmiths came up, I remembered this photo that has been hanging around wherever I live for years and years.

Key Man

This was shot in 1972 or 1973.  The gentleman in the picture ran a locksmith/key shop on San Carlos Street, probably between 3rd and 4th Streets.  The shop was, quite literally, in a stairwell.  Thousands of keys hanging on little hooks in front of little paper tags — stretching up those stairs.  You did your business from the sidewalk, and could only see all the way up if you kinda hunkered down and peered into the dimness.

My first encounter was when I was looking for a duplicate key for a Fiat 1100 sedan.  The locksmith walked up several steps, looked a bit, and came back with my blank.

This was a few blocks from San Jose State University where I majored in Photojournalism.  There was a great deli nearby, and also real magazine “rack”, actually a store — the kind with magazines and newspapers from all over the world.

Later I went back to shoot a few pictures.  The camera was probably a Pentax Spotmatic 35mm SLR.  The lens was a Vivitar 28mm f/2.5 — an incredibly sharp lens.  The film was undoubtedly Kodak Tri-X.  The back of the photo mount is labeled “Environmental Portrait”.

Feb 132011
 
Sorry.  I can’t help myself.

This isn’t the usual kind of camera I’ve been acquiring lately, but I was looking for something that was very easy to carry around and would be resistant to hazards.  I hadn’t looked at Panasonic cameras recently after an uninspiring experience with a Lumix LM2.  Panasonic chose to invoke noise reduction even in the RAW files (an action which prompted an online petition drive) and the overall performance wasn’t all that great.  The only happy news from the experience was that I sold it on eBay for more than I paid for it.

But on my recent short vacation back to Oregon, I got thinking on the need for a pocketable compact camera again.  My brother gave his wife a Panasonic and as I played around with it, I found that the user interface was acceptable, and the feature set allowed a certain amount of flexibility.  The things I didn’t like were the retractable lens and the startup delay that lens imposes.  Also, those retractable lenses represent a pathway for stuff to get inside the camera mechanism.

I spent a few hours online researching manufacturers sites and looking at reviews.  After visiting a few stores, I decided on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

Some major factors in my decision were:  Wide-angle lens (the equivalent of a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera); weatherproof/waterproof; folded lens path (no delay on startup for the lens to extend); and optical image stabilization (I just think it’s a better solution to move one lens around than to move the entire sensor around).  Orange?  Since they didn’t offer it in black…

Folded Lens Path -- Allows Camera to be Sealed.

Early in January I went to my usual test location — the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy facility of the National Air and Space Museum — to give it a try.  It’s not a brightly lit venue, and the lighting is mixed.  This puts you right at the edge of a camera’s performance, so you can blow a shot without really trying hard.  A good place for a test.

Images.

There are some brief exposure notes under each image.  I used a monopod for all the shots, with the camera’s image stabilization turned on.  Post processing was in Photoshop; adjusting the curves (for white and black point), cropping a little, Noise Ninja, and some light sharpening

f/3.3 @ 1/10 sec, ISO 400

f/3.3 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

f/3.5 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

f/4.0 @ 1/5 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

To be certain, there is no way that these images can reveal all the performance details of the camera.  Noise reduction is smeary and chunky — and you can’t turn it off and just use a post processing tool such as Noise Ninja.  In terms of image quality, the TS2 is nowhere close to what I can get with my Leica M8 and a Zeiss or Leica lens.  But I certainly find the results acceptable for the purpose of having a camera that’s handy and rugged.

And, naturally, a little over month after I bought my TS2, Panasonic announces the TS3.  The TS3 adds GPS and also has a little bit of a grip on the right side (the lack of a grip was mentioned in several TS2 reviews).  Oh well.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

Bad Behavior has blocked 71 access attempts in the last 7 days.