Friday, January 10, 2014

The Sony QX-10 - A Little Competitions

So I recently picked up one of those Sony QX10 cameras, you know the ones that pair with your phone.  They are the lens and the camera internals, but you control the whole thing from your phone.  When you are done, the pictures are all on the phone (ready to be modified or shared as you wish - though a copy also remains on a memory card in the camera).  So if you have read this (and I do not update it often), you will know I like to carry around as little as possible.  I have been taking more pictures with my phone as a result of that (and when I wanted a better camera I bring the Canon SX260 along - I almost never carry the DSLR anymore).  However, the SX260 still leaves a lump in the pocked, and the QX10 is much easier to carry around (and no funny eye-fi cards to deal with).

However this all begged the questions.  Is carrying anything around really worth it as the GS4 gets pretty good pictures on its own?  Will the QX10 be able to fully replace the SX260?  Does any of this really matter anyway?  and finally why do I really care.  Well, if we ignore the last 2 questions, I think we can really get somewhere.

First of as I said before, the SX260 can not replace the DSLR.  I know I take fewer and fewer pictures with the DSLR, but when I really want something off the wall and special, I have to get the DSLR out (though it is getting old in the teeth as I have not updated in along time).  It has all the controls for exposure - more flexible flash and I can mount a lens that best suites the situation.  So I still have the DSLR, but do not use it much anymore.

Just looking at the SX260 and the QX10 somethings will jump out at you.  First is that the QX10 has no flash.  I think this really is its biggest short fall.  I like to use a little fill flash on many of my shots, and the QX10 just does not offer this option (I can use the flashlight on the phone, but that is not much use most of the time).  The second obvious item missing is the zoom range.  The QX10 is a 10x optical zoom (which is respectable).  The SX260 is 20x (and it does mean alot).  There is also one non-obvious short coming to the QX10 and that is control.  The QX10 is largely automatic (there are varying levels of automatic control, but there are no manual modes like the SX260 supports).

However, where there are short comings, there are also strengths.  The first is that the camera is stand alone.  There is a little piece that allows you to attach it to your phone (so it works more like a phone), but I hardly ever use this (and I do not carry it).  This means that I am able to get different vantage points easily.  For example I can hold the QX10 over my head while composing the shot on my phones screen.  This allows me to get over a crowd (or just a different vantage point).  This is also really nice in pictures I plan on being in (I can actually see the end result instead of framing it and walking over).  Yes the QX10 does have delays (so you have time to put the phone in your pocket or get it out of the picture).  Obviously this also means that I can leave the camera somewhere (hanging with my Gorilla tripod) so I can get even different perspectives.

The major strength however is the connectivity.  If you look back, I purchased the eye fi card for the SX260 as I am a bit paranoid about losing pictures (it happened to me once when out on vacation, the story should be somewhere below).  With the QX10, there are copies on the phone and on the camera (so you need to lose both).  Once on the phone they are easy to upload and save (no clunky eye fi interface).

Ok, so those are the physical differences, but what about quality (and why did I not bring up the GS4 by itself yet - though really those shortcomings and strengths are obvious extensions of the above).  So I went outside and took a few pictures with each (it was a grey day, so I apologize).  The last set of pictures are probably the most important with some low light issues.

As always, click the picture to get a full view.  Also for the GS4 and the GX10, I left them in Auto (they are designed to be in Auto) for these pictures.  For the SX260, I left much of it in Auto, but forced the ISO to 200 as any higher the noise starts to get bad.

First we will do the GS4 by itself:

Not bad.  The green comes out and there is reasonable sharpness though it looks like a little haze crept in.

Now for the SX260:

Again, not bad, the color on the canon is actually a little greener and there is no haze.

Now for the GX10:

Unfortunately this is a little more zoomed in, but the colors are still good, but the sharpness is off the charts compared to the others (but the zoom might help).  It is even possible to make out the moss on the bark for the tree.  This is pretty good and the best of the bunch (though the zoom helped it a little that does not explain it all).

Now, lets try a turning around and looking at a few leaves.  Again, we will go with the GS4 first.

Sharpness is good close up.  The details and blemishes show up well in the leaves.

Now for the SX260:

Again, the zoom is off a bit, which will end up working against the GS4, but the SX260 also has very good detail in the leaves.

Finally lets go to the GX10:

Ok, so I was not having a great day (I need to think this more through when I start).  The exposure here is a bit different as I am now looking into more snow and down not up as much (the advantage of being able to hold the camera differently from the viewfinder).  However I think you get the point, detail is really good here as well.  

So all the cameras behave pretty good when outside and plenty of light (guess that should not be a surprise to anyone).  What happens when I bring them inside and take my normal test picture of the book case.  

First up for the final picture is the GS4:

So this is where the GS4 starts to suffer (don't worry, I will post a blow up comparison below).  There is really starting to get to be some noise and even some strange halos (maybe the GS4 is doing quite a bit of noise reduction/sharpening).

Now for the SX260:

Ok, so this is better, but the SX260 still has noise in the picture (if you read below, that has always been my complaint).  However the strange halo's are missing.  This is not a bad picture and for most uses will be really good.

Finally the GX10:

Sharpness here is fantastic.  The detail is extraordinary for a camera of this type (more on that below).  I am really impressed by this.

So to make it easier on all of you, there is a blow up below.  The pictures are not all zoomed the same (look at the box of tissues and the end of the cabinet).  However, I zoomed the SX260 and GX10 about the same (the GS4 is actually zoomed a little less).

The GS4 is on the left, the SX260 in the middle and the GX10 is on the right.  This is not a case of the Sony having more pixels bringing in the sharpness (though it does not hurt), this is the Sony just not having nearly as much noise.  If you look below in other comparisons, you will see how Canon loses noise at it approaches the magic 10MP size (what I thought was probably the best size for there compact cameras).

The Sony is an 18MP sensor, and still look at the colors in the books.  Yes there is some noise, but it does not compare with the others.  So for low light use (and don't we all seem to take our pictures in low light), the Sony seems to be the camera of choice.

After this, I think I am going to be much more comfortable leaving the SX260 home, and just carrying around the GX10 (when I expect to take pictures, the GS4 will still work for some of those surprise settings).  The only item I would like Sony to address with the next version would be some type of pop up flash or something.  I think that the small flash would make this a complete solution.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Phantom in the Sky

As promised (maybe not as timely) here are some pictures from the sky.  In the past I have posted some pictures from the Parrot Drone 2.0.  That is fun to fly, but I can get a higher perspective and better camera with the Phantom (it has a GoPro 3 Black mounted underneath it).  The picture quality is really nice, so lets kick this off.  As always, click the picture for a bigger sample

So it is winter, and I still want to play with my toys, so I take it out anyway (no touch screens, this one has a real remote, so that helps).  This is before I got good at mounting the camera so you can see the landing gear in the right side.  This is a picture of the house you can compare this view with the one I posted from the Parrot.  Much better camera here.

So I took it down to Virginia when I went to see the Grand Parents in March.  Weather was nicer (it was warm, just a few traces of snow around).  This is a shot of there backyard (you can even make us out in the yard watching it go. 

So now we have a grey sort of day in early April.  This is taken from the Riverside field looking back into the town of Hawley.  Got that pesky landing gear in the picture again.  However nice view of the town.

Here is another picture taken from my backyard (still in April).  This time, instead of looking at the house, I took it much higher and looked out towards the lake.  Still no foliage on the trees, so everything looks a little bare.  Funny thing, is my house is really up a fairly big hill from the lake, but this picture makes it all look sort of flat (so we do not look like we are on such a big hill).  That would be a result of the angle and the very wide angle lens (which also magnifies the curvature of the earth effect).

So here we are in the beginning of May.  I venture out to Lackawaxen with my Phantom in tow (I also had the Drone).  I remembered this field, on the intersection of the two rivers.  I got some nice pictures during the sunset (had I gotten there an hour earlier the light might have been better to shoot towards the rivers junction).

When I drive the little guy off to baseball practice, and take the Phantom with me.  Though I like to watch him practice, I steal away for a few minutes to get some high flying shots.  This is in Newfoundland.  I took it from the soccer/football field looking back towards the school (so all the smaller soccer fields and the baseball fields were in the picture.  

I decided I wanted to try a different camera angle, so I got an extension, and pointed the camera straight down.  This is my house from directly (quite a ways) up.  You can even see the lake a bit in the top right corner (again we are up a big hill, it is further down than it looks).  This is an interesting perspective, and one I will be playing with a bit more (maybe not straight down, but more down than forward).

Finally, a shot from June.  This one from the park in downtown Hawley.  I took this into the sunlight, and I was impressed with how good this little camera did (picture almost looks HDR, but I have done no processing on this one or any others, these are straight out of the camera).  The picture is of the Gazebo, IGA and Settlers Inn in the distance (with the great sunset above).  

These were just some of my favorites (obviously I have many more).  I am really looking forward to hitting more areas, and trying some different angles.  The Autumn should be really nice, and I hope to take advantage of that (last fall the Drone was broke, so I missed out).  Sort of a fun way to get a different perspective on some pictures.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Phone as a Creative Tool

My continued push into Photography has taken on two different approaches.  One being more use of the phone as a camera (the topic here) and the other using a new quad copter (the Phantom) and getting photos from on high (subject of a soon to be published post).  Not that I do not carry a camera (well not as much).  I still use it for some of the family photos (the quality is still better).  I am just finding having the extra processing power on board (the case of the phone) allows some new artistic freedoms that I am exploring.

This is not to say that I could not duplicate any of these with a regular camera and photoshop (indeed I could probably improve on the end product quite a bit).  However, working in camera, I can go from idea to finished product in a matter of  minutes.  Lets get started, you will get what I mean.

This photo was taken for another project.  Normally I would have used a camera, but the goal was to see what I could do with the phone.  These are two super heroine statues in front of a white sheet and a light behind it.  The color was added quickly and easily in snapseed.  The whole thing from capture to upload took only a few minutes.

This picture is another setup one I was doing as a project (like above).  I have a Cuckoo clock hanging on a knotty pine wall.  The processing was done in PicsArt Pro.  Again it only took a few minutes.  I was looking for a look that made the scene more rustic (to go with the old fashioned clock and knotty pine wall).  

The above is a picture from Johnny Rockets.  It is an old fashioned Burger and Shake joint.  They have juke boxes at each table all with the older songs.  When the fries come, they give everyone a small bowl for ketchup (and start you with a smiley face).  Mine sort of looked like it had a black eye, so I wanted a picture.  To go with the old fashioned theme, I applied a filter to match.  I went from snapping the picture to having it setup as I wanted in a matter of minutes.

Here is a picture outside of Johnny Rockets taken with Pro HDR.  For pictures taken in the dark, that are lit as the restaurant was, you get a nice glow.  This picture required no editing, it was HDR (High Dynamic Range - allows a greater span of lights and darks by combining multiple photos) right out of the phone (no blending photos in photoshop).  I find HDR to be especially effective for sunsets as well, just look at the next two examples.

This photo is straight out of the HDR program with no more modifications.  If I could have been ready a few minutes earlier, I would have had alot more color, but no matter what you are using as your camera, obviously timing is important (and if you look back at the older posts, you will see how big a difference a few minutes makes for sunsets).

This one is almost straight out of the HDR program.  I did use Photoshop Touch to play with the curves (basically effects the lightness/darkness).  The HDR program really allows capture of the colors of the sunset to occur very easily.

The above picture was taken at Steamtown.  A nice old train, in need of a bit of love.  By reducing the saturation, I gave it the old time feel (without dropping to direct black and white).  Again, this took very little time from capture to upload (on Google+). 

In addition to the setup pictures, or trying to get the phone (err camera) to capture the scene the way it feels to you, you can also have some fun with it.  If you look down a bit, you will see the memes of Florida.  Well you do not need to do a meme to have fun, sometimes a picture is all that is needed.

Seems Q does not get enough sleep.  Just walking out to the elevator, he needs to stop and nap in the chair in the lobby.  Well to show just how hard it is to wake him, I decided to add some fireworks (lets see him sleep through that).

Walking around in the woods, there is a new tree that is down (mostly).  As I had Q with me, I figured it would be a great time to make a hulk picture.  Here he is appearing to lift the tree.  In Photoshop Touch, all I had to do was duplicate the layer, make the bottom layer green, and then erase the face and hands on the top layer.  This was extremely easy and a really fun photo to share.

Finally we have a fun picture that took no post processing.  I was sitting (in a mall) across from this fountain. The color lights were changing on it constantly.  I decided to use the HDR camera to get a combination of multiple lights (and that worked, and I took a handful of those pictures and they are all a little different based on timing).  So I figured, have Q walk in front during the exposure (if timed right, he would only be in one of the three exposures and we would get a ghost image of him).  As you can see it was timed right.

So this has been a fun look at using the phone as a camera.  Not all phones are equal (I think Denise gets better pictures out of her Sony compared to my Motorola Atrix 2, but with a little work, I think I do pretty well anyhow).  This blog will continue to have more and more pictures from the phone as I am really not taking as many with the camera anymore (but trust me I still have some camera pictures I might post).

Next up however will be some high flying pictures.  No, not from the Parrot Drone, but from the Phantom (with GoPro mounted on it).  The quality of pictures is much better than the Drone, and the altitude is also much higher.  Stay tuned, that will be next.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christmas Lights - A New Place

This year I went to the Lockheed Users Conference (and it was held late in December opposed to the more normal October).  Across from the hotel I was in was the Shady Brook Farm and there very bright and colorful Christmas lights.  I have been to a handful of the drive through light displays and I will admit that none has impressed me as much as this one.  So lets get this started (and as always, click the image to get a bigger version).

Above is a display I have seen many times (so what makes this stand out).  The big reason is that there are 12 of them (12 drummers drumming).  Most places have 3 or 4, but not all 12 (you might not be able to see them at this angle, but they were all there).  There were plenty other more standard displays as well, but in all cases they were at least full displays.

The above one is another somewhat standard one (I have not seen the train too often before, but it is a more Christmasy type of display).  So enough of the standard ones, how about what was different.

Above we have one that is not holiday focused, but more patriotic.  The Statue of Liberty was new for me as well as the tree.  You will see they lit many trees in many different colors throughout the drive.  I think the trees are what stood out the most for me.  It was something I had not seen alot of (and it was used very well here).  But we will get back to the trees in a minute.

Another example of a display I had not seen before (but again not very seasonal either).  Multiple fish and plant displays were grouped together to make a larger display.  It does not show well in the picture, but this really was a larger display.  A bit bigger scale than most places I have seen.

Well, as I said, we would get back to the trees.  Here are a group of them (this time in blue).  They used the trees as filler between different areas (here it is between a more "nature" area and a coming more Christmasy area (where they had more red in the trees).

For a close on the trees, I move just before the blue trees above, to a green set that were well integrated into a grassy scene (complete with butterflies and dragonflies).  Here nature was well integrated with the displays for a really interesting scene.  

Well here we are at the exit.  There was a little more light here from the stop (where you could go inside get hot chocolate etc).  This lit up the road nicely.  

All pictures above were taken with the SX260 and hand held.  As there were not many cars (it was a week night well still a few weeks before Christmas) I was able to get really nice dark backgrounds (on all bt the last picture).  That is important when picturing lights as this makes them really pop out.  Also because there were not alot of cars, I was able to pull over and take all these (and other) pictures (had there been a line of cars, that would have proven to be more difficult.

So if you want nice pictures, go out early, and when they are not busy.  This will make for the best conditions.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Look up in the Sky - Its a Bird, Its a Plane, Its a Frog

Not bird nor plane, nor even frog, just little old me - Parrot Drone (ok so it doesn't rhyme anymore, still needed to throw out to one of my childhood heros.  So you might have guessed (especially if I am in one of your Google+ circles) I am having some fun with my new Parrot Drone.

So what is a Parrot Drone?  It is basically a quad copter that can be controlled from an Android or Apple phone (or tablet).  The interesting thing about this is that it has a camera on board.  The camera allows pictures to be taken and stored directly on the phone (to be shared).  It also does HD video.  Overall a cool toy (though easy to break, fortunately repairs are almost as easy).  So the camera allows me some interesting perspectives on what is already sort of a hobby.

This is the Drone in action (so you can see what it looks like).  We had it out in the park a week or so ago, and I was able to snap this picture.  Too bad Sandy made it a short Autumn, did not get a lot of chances colorful leaves.

Here we have the little guy flying the Drone.  Yes that is an Ipad he is using (I use my phone).  He is currently a better pilot than I am, but I am getting better (we have both damaged parts on it, but replacement parts are not expensive, and working on it is easy).

Here is a picture of the house from the Drone.  Camera quality is not the best, but not bad considering it is up on a vibrating 4 propeller helicopter.  It is fun to be able to take some of these very interesting pictures.  Note the distortion around the edges.  This is a very wide angle camera (wide angle is much better if you are flying using the camera, and want to see where you are going).

This is a nice aerial shot of the field the little guy played on last year (his home field).  You can go quite high with the drone (up to the limit of the Wifi receiver).  However, have to keep in mind, if you mess up, the higher you are, the further you fall (and though the falling is ok, its the hitting the ground that determines what needs to get repaired).

This picture was taken from the park in Hawley.  Again, a nice perspective.  Too bad I could not get out when there were still colors in the trees (that will be next year I suppose).

I shot this one into the sun (at the Lakeville Park).  Normally I would have moved to avoid the halos from the sun (and I have some pictures taken from the 3rd base side without the halos), but I liked them here.  Sort of gave me the feeling of waiting till next year (which is what the field is doing, letting us use it now as it gets ready for next year).

Below is my first attempt at a movie on this blog.  The movie is also from the drone (I told you it did HD movies).  I picked a shorter one (so loading times should not be that bad).  This video is a simple up and down (no tricks, no flips).  Just so you get the idea.

Another nice thing I have found is that the camera is actually somewhat IR sensitive.  So this summer, I might be able to get some nice IR pictures (if you read this blog, you know I sort of like that).  I have had issues trying to find a filter, but I have a few months (I have found a different lens that actually even makes the camera more IR sensitive, but I will still need some small filter).

Additionally, some people have lifted a Go Pro camera with one of these (better quality pictures).  Something like that might be fun at some point to try.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The MEMEs of Florida

As I had some computer issues (I am on a new computer as brought up before) and did not get photoshop installed too quickly (work was more important), I figure it has already been way to long since the last update, so prepare for pictures edited on the phone (and posted to family for fun).

So as I stated before, I bought this EyeFi card and put it into my camera.  This allowed me to copy all the pictures from the camera to my phone (then from my phone up to Google Docs) so I would not lose them (I had a problem with a memory card on a previous visit to Florida).  One of the other side affects of this is the down time (waiting for food at a restaurant etc) sometimes I pull out my phone and have some fun (in this case with some of the pictures)..

As I said, all edits to these pictures (sharpening, adding text etc) were done on my phone (I brought no tablet or laptop with me, I planned to use the phone exclusively .  The quality came out pretty good for pictures taken with a pocket camera (the SX260) and edited on the phone.

The above picture was taken at South of the Border on the ride down.  If you have been there you understand.  It is a bit of a dive, but fun nonetheless.  However, even the little guy would never confuse it for Disney.  

Next stop was Kennedy Space Center, and here Autumn sees beyond her plans for world domination, and decides to go for the universe.  It was bright (see her struggle to keep her eyes open).  When I took the picture I was thinking playing with the world as a beach ball, but then when looking at it on the phone screen my impression changed just a little.

I thought this next picture just said something.  Our oldest could not make it.  We had always sort of associated him with Goofy.  So a picture of us with Goofy just made it confusing (especially when Goofy was dressed as a ranger, which Andy had done in the past).  

So vacationing is hard work.  Here is the little guy just not making it into bed.  Funny thing is, the table is his bed.  The wall behind him folds down, and that would be his "convertible" bed.  However, he fell asleep watching videos on the iPad.  The picture just spoke to me (along with the words out of gas as he definitely was).

So, I always complain that the little guy ruins my pictures.  Whether it is eyes closed (as is the case here) or something else (so I normally snap multiple pictures so I can delete the bad ones).  However here having his eyes closed sort of worked out (use the force Quinnlan).  

This one shows some of the short comings of editing on the phone (one of the reasons I included it).  Though there maybe a way, I could not figure out how to move the pointers coming out of the speech bubbles (so the wife's is pointing into the water instead of at her).  This is very close to the actual conversation (little guy was not too desirous of sticking his hand in there, and though he did, he would not hold the food properly, so they had problems eating from him.  This was taken at SeaWorld.

There were a few others, but I think this makes the point.  It was good to be able to post this into our huddle (we keep an open huddle with the family) so they could see what we were doing.  I do not want to sound like a advertisement for EyeFi or Android (I used PicShop for all of this in case anyone was wondering).  However, the combination got me the quality pictures I expect when on vacation (because I was able to use a real camera) as well as the ability to instantly share.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Castle's of Disney

First let me start off with apologizing for the delay (again).  I wanted to work through the Disney pictures as other are building up.  However, I had to get a new computer (and I still have not installed Photoshop yet, so all these pictures are directly out of the camera).  For this reason when you click on the image, you will be getting full size images (I have not cut them down at all).

When one thinks of Disney, the castle pops right into head.  The Magic Kingdom is known for there main castle (technically Cinderella's castle).  But a castle by any other name (maybe a giant hat or a golf ball looking thing).  Here are some interesting pictures on what might in some cases be termed loosely as castles.

Since our first Disney day was at the Animal Kingdom, lets show the Tree of Life (technically not a castle, but its my blog and I can be loose with the definitions if I want to).

So we have a hot Quin and Autumn (I have not said this yet, but we were in Florida during the major heat wave).  The tree of life is in the background.  It is one of the more interesting structures of Disney (well thought out) with all the animals together in the bark. Not the best picture of the tree (I think I have one from the past somewhere), but I wanted to include this park (and the weather did not cooperate as when we were closer to the tree later, it was raining quite hard).

The next Disney Park we visited was the Magic Kingdom.  This one is known for its castles (and it is adding more).

The theme of having people stand in front of the castle is prevalent (hey its a vacation and we need some of the "standard" pictures, and the castles are the best places for them).  The castle looks good during the day.

It also looks good at night.  This is just before the fireworks.  It required a very steady hand to hold the camera up over my head, steady enough for a dark shot in a crowd of people moving around. Came out pretty good.  I needed an ISO of 800 (which I try to avoid on the SX260), but I did not get much noise at all, and was able to hold still for 1/13 of a second (and a reasonable zoom).

I did say that they were adding castle's and here is one of them.  This is Beasts castle.  It is quite far back behind a wall (in an area under construction).  I had to use almost all of the 20x zoom to get this picture.  It looks interesting (looks almost like a toy).  I wonder how it will be setup when it is open.

So next we were off to EPCOT.  There are multiple buildings that might be able to be called castles in the different areas of the world, but I will just stick with the globe at the beginning.  My best pictures of this came at night.

So I was being funny in this picture.  The princess (see she is wearing a tiara) wanted a picture with the globe.  I figured I would set it up around her head.  I had to use flash, but with a slower shutter speed (to get the dark areas).  She and I did a good job of holding still.  I can't say that for everyone else as they all look like ghosts of themselves (I like this one).  I did take another after showing this one off (guess my sense of humor was not appreciated).  However, that one is not as interesting.

Our last Disney park was Disney Movie Studios.  If I stick with my theme of the main icon of the park being a castle, we will get a wizards hat.  Note, I obviously did not take this picture (was my turn to join the group in the foreground).  Not much special about this one except to say that it is nice that Disney hands out those little cards (we used the same through all the parks).  Hand the card to the photographer, and when you are done, with your vacation, log into the site, and you can see all your pictures.  It is a bit pricey, but a nice alternative to have everyone in many shots.