Monday, December 19, 2011

Tis the Season for night light pictures

I do not seem to be updating this as often as I at first hoped, but judging by my reader count that is not bothering anyone.  I have linked this to my Google+ account (and I may move more over there, my web page is going next).  Maybe if I can put it all together, I will actually update this some more.  Enough of that, now onto the task at hand.

Normally when I go out for an outing, I take my little SX210 with me.  It is easy (as we are doing other things).  Funny thing is that I have not been really happy with the SX210 from a quality perspective (noise is the big issue here), and wanted to step up.  I have not been able to find anything that made me happy though (no small package - might as well use the DSLR).  So since I own a Digital Rebel, I took it with me to Kozair's Christmas Village this year (I wanted some better pictures - not getting anything from the DSLR if it is being protected in the closet and only used on specific occaisions).

Though the goal was to improve pictures, this had a funny side effect that ended up messing me up though.  The DSLR gets better pictures, but has more configuration on it.  I last used it taking pictures of the Soccer playoffs (in November, so it was not that long ago).  Now, I am smart enough to change the mode appropriately for Christmas lights (as well as other settings), but I am obviously not smart enough to check the focus settings (it was set for center which I use for fast moving activities so I keep my subject in the middle and go).  Alot of my pictures had the close subject but off to a side (so they were out of focus and it did not stand out in that little screen).  I think I would have caught this sooner but my new glasses seem to not do the job quite as well (I did not notice the focus light shining in the middle with all the lights - it just blended in).  So the first of my pictures were ruined (this is a side effect of using a more simplified camera so much I stopped thinking when doing other activities instead of focusing on the camera for a few seconds).

Additionally though the 28-135 is my favorite multi purpose lens, it has drawbacks.  For some of the shots of the buildings it was great.  However when I wanted to put someone in the foreground, it was tough.  With all the crowd (and it was crowded when we went), I had a hard time standing back far enough to frame it properly.  Also I took a picture with Santa (they allowed one picture).  I just could not get far enough back.  For these photos the 10-22 lens would have been best (now I am starting to remember why I carry the SX210 most of the time).

Enough of the crying, I will be carrying the DSLR more often.  I know how to use it, so I will get more used to checking the settings before I take the shot (not letting the camera do it all).  Laziness should not be an excuse (strange that I am using it as one though).  Picking the right lens will be more difficult though.  I tend to use the 75-300 most (kids sporting events wildlife etc), but if I have it in more settings I will have to be more aware of what I carry.

The image above (way up there) is on the other side of the lake at Kozair's Christmas Village.  Gives sort of a nice reflection in the lake (though the water was not perfectly still).  I figured it was a good start to my blog (sent the right message so I put it up front).  However, now lets step back and be a bit more ordered.  The first of my pictures was actually the one below taken at the Ottawa Parliament building.

You can see the trees in front are lit up, and they project snow flakes onto the building.  There are lots of random lights scattered throughout the city, but we did not see a concentrated display like the others below. Note that this was taken with the SX210.  It actually did  not do a horrible job.  For the picture it took, there was not alot of noise (so the SX210 might be fearing losing snaps to the DSLR?).  The 210 did not do as good of a job with someone in the foreground (one of the other came out well).  So I kept none of those pictures.

The picture above was also taken with the SX210.  Again not a bad job at all.  I tried to get a little bit of reflection in the stream in the front, but it did not work out that well.  However the lights are sharp and noise is not an issue (note, these pictures work out better as there are lots of black, put some other dimly lit object in the picture and noise starts to become and issue).  These were dancing lights, so it was hard to capture (they kept changing).  I had to snap alot of pictures to get one with the colored lights on.

The above was taken from the road leading up to Kozair's.  This was also taken with the SX210 (its what I had on me, the Digital Rebel was in the back).  No, I did not pull over to take the shot, but believe me, I was not moving.  As I said, we picked a bad day (Saturday instead of a weeknight).  The traffic was backed up, and we were not moving at all at this point.  Just needed to snap when there was not a car on the other side (which fortunately there were not many).  However a few shots were ruined by cars coming up the road in front of me.  Normally I do not like pictures taken from the car (through the windshield etc), but this one is not bad (again a not bad for the SX210).  

The above shows a good example of what can happen taking light pictures (handheld in a crowd).  It is often  hard to hold still.  Here it makes the bulbs look a little long (must have shifted left to right a little).  The exposure was long (1/3 second) and I was zoomed a bit.  I used ISO 800 to try and limit the time, but maybe I should have gone to 1600.  Note, to me this looked fine in the display on the camera (not the best of displays, and my new glasses as I commented before seem to be lacking - good to blame something).

Now this one worked out a bit better.  I was not as zoomed, and the exposure time was a lightning fast 1/5 second (ok, I jest).  Either way, I was able to hold still and get a nice shot of the house (still in Kozair's) all decorated and some of the trees in the yard.  This one came out well, and is the type of picture I hope to get more of with the Digital Rebel.

Now too bad I was sort of bumbling with the Rebel at Kozairs.  The picture above had some nice depth, and adding someone in the foreground would have really added dimension.  However, as Kozair's was the warm up, we have the picture below from Nay Aug Park in Scranton.

This is not a good picture, but I am a bit limited.  First, it is hard to get them together for a picture.  Second, there was not alot of good opportunities (they removed all the walking areas at Nay Aug and it is drive through only.  We had to park, let cars go by and go out and get a picture (I wanted to get something).  Because it was just for drivers, it was just a bunch of flat displays along the road.  I did get some in the back ground though to show how it could have been captured.  It would have been nice to not have been such a bone head, had the focus setup right, and taken some pictures like this at Kozair's (there is always next year).

I do plan on using the Digital Rebel more this year (so next time I will be more used to it, and not expecting the more automatic SX210).  This should change up this blog a bit (as pictures will be taken with a phone, pocket camera and DSLR).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ocean City Kite Fest

Well, here we are with one hobby meeting another.  I enjoy flying kites, and taking pictures, so what to do.  Guess I should do both.  So, I will probably be commenting more on the kites (and a little less on the photos) in this update.

Before I get into the pictures, a comment about cameras.  I spent sometime here stating how nice it is to have a camera in ones pocket.  I even took it as far to start to compare that SX210 with my phone (portability is most important when quality is close).  I am now questioning my logic.  When I look at pictures with the SX210, and the Digital Rebel there is really no comparison.  Still way too much noise in the SX210 (guess its time to try and find something that better fits my desires).  Personally, I am thinking that the sensor is just too small, and I need to really think before I move on (but have started looking already).

Having said that, I was happy to have the SX210, not the Digital Rebel for the kite fest.  I wanted to do some flying and not focus on the camera.  This year I even competed (well we will get to that, competed might not be a good word).  Carrying around the DSLR would have been tough (and I might have had to lay it in the sand for the kite fights).  Additionally, I gave the camera to Denise to take some pictures while I was competing (that word again) and she would not have had an easy time with the DSLR, but the SX210 was just point and shoot for her (I will show one she took later).

Lets start off with some of my kites (its my blog).  A word of warning, weather was far less than optimum (both for pictures and for kite flying).  The sun did not show itself at all during the weekend (and there were many periods with no wind at all).  As always, click the image for a larger one.

The kite above is just a 6 foot delta (nothing special).  However the wheel is cool (if this were a movie and not a picture, you would be watching it spin).  I needed the 6 foot delta to get the wheel up (not alot of wind).  Was not easy to put up, but I worked it up (using air spaces between and around the hotels etc).  Because of the tail, it got alot of looks.  

Before we move on, this picture is a good example of an issue with the SX210.  Notice the corners are a bit dark (in this and the other images).  This was not just the cloud pattern, but happened on all the images at full zoom.  So not just noise, but vignetting at full zoom.

Above is my EO 10 (Expandable Object).  I think it should be EOS (edge of sanity).  Kite looses its wind, collapses flat (which is how it is carried) and comes down in an interesting dance (as I said, wind was inconsistent).  It looks better when the sky is a bit brighter as you can really see it has three colors.  However, this is less than optimal conditions (so it is what it is).  This is considered a box type of kite, did not replace my old favorite though.

Above was one I bought this festival, still hoping to give my favorite a rest.  This is the Mega Wolf Cross Box kite (impressive name isn't it, good start).  The top is a box, and the bottom a cross.  I think this would look really cool in sunlight, as the black would really make the colors stand out.  

This is my favorite kite.  The sky should be a give away that this was taken last year (but I wanted to include it).  I did fly it this year, but I had the camera in the housing - see the post below this one.  I was taking pictures of the kids on the beach and playing in the sand and wanted to keep the moisture and sand out of the camera.  I had this picture (which was better than anything I would have gotten on that gray day anyway).  

Notice most of my kites are darker in color (I think darker colors stand out better against the bright sky, so I avoid light colored kites).  This is a simple box kite, no wings nothing but box.  This always gets alot of looks and points from the people going by.  Also when it is up in the sky, the colors give an optical illusion (starts to look inside out and like it is standing up, not laying down).  

That's enough of my kites.  Lets look at the festival a bit.  There is a nice selection of kites you just do not see anywhere else as well as activities (stunt kite demonstrations, fighter kite contests, and games (like dancing and even a silly band drop).  

Speaking of interesting kites, here is a squid (flying above the ocean, wonder how he feels about that).  Do not see this one everywhere (bright and colorful, though some sun would help).  The vignetting looks particularly tough here (though mostly in only three corners this time).  

In addition to kites, there are also alot of interesting wind socks.  These are tide to the strings of big kits and lifted by them.  There was not as many up this year as I have seen in the past (the wind was a little less than helpful).  Even here the red and yellow turtle just cant get fully off the ground.  Wait is that some blue in the sky in the background (I do not think so).

Even more traditional kites are operated in a less traditional mode (here are three strung together. I liked these.  The black with the color really stood out (again could have been better with some sun, even a drab, drizzly day on the beach flying a kite beats a day at work anytime).  

As I said above, there are lots of stunt kite demonstrations.  The Revolution is probably the most popular being demonstrated.  The four lines make them highly maneuverable (they can tap the shoulder on people on the boardwalk as they walk by).  They also require surprisingly little wind.  Here are three strings of revolutions all flying to music (music is a large part of all the performances).  This is really the best part, and the biggest reason to go.  Alot of the demonstrations are really good, and they even setup a little space in the background to let others try there hand at stunt kites (more wind would have made it better).  

Finally, I made the comment about err competing.  Below is a picture of me in the mini Rokkaku fights (getting ready).  I participated in this and the fighter kite.  I was able to do both without scoring a single point (even my kid scored).  To make some excuses, I do not normally kite fight (I do fly a single line fighter, but I fly it like a stunt kite - kites do not want to fight, they want to fly).  

I am the one in the hat in the picture above (I am normally the one in the hat).  I did give my kid my kite in the Rokkaku fight (it was flying better (and took his which was giving him problems).  There was no wind so the only thing keeping the kites up was us pulling them in.  First two rounds I went down quick, and then I used a different attach point on the bridle (which seemed to be working better - I did not want to win, but a point would have been nice).  However my kid (yes mine) was in front of me, got my string under his arm and ripped it.  I also ran into the eventual winner (she is behind the gentleman next to me in the picture) in the first round of the fighter kites and she just took me out.  

Well, those are the pictures.  Not great, but I had fun.  Better conditions would have made better pictures.  I think the DSLR would have done a bit better getting over those conditions (but then I would have to carry that and I was really there to play with kites (and throw the occasional boomerang) not so much take pictures.  So I guess the pocket camera has its uses (as well as its drawbacks).  

My next update will be back to infra red.  There will be pictures from both the phone (I fixed the issue seen a few posts down) and the SX210 (the DSLR is not setup for infra red).  Still not as sharp as I want, but better.  I just want to grab one more example before I do the next update, but hopefully soon.  I will show some examples of true infra red and false color.  All will be processed as shown previously (way down in this blog).  So the next update should be back to more photo focused (pardon the pun).  It should be fun.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Water Fun

With the summer, water becomes a huge draw. It is a shame that on there own most cameras do not do well in a water environment. In order to work around this a good camera housing is required. My first one was a special one made specifically for the camera. It was a hard case with water proof buttons lined up with buttons on the camera. It was nice as all push buttons and controls were easily accessible.

However, every time I upgraded cameras I would need to get a new housing as well. As these are generally expensive (over $300) that makes it difficult to justify the cost (just bought a new camera, and need to come up with another $300+ for a water housing). In order to save some money instead of buying a second dedicated water housing, I bought the one pictured below from Ewa Marine. I have had this for many cameras and many years. It is still available under $100, and stands up to almost anything (may not look it, but the rubber is quite thick).

This works with any small camera (and not so small). I currently use this with the SX210. It does not support the full zoom range, but lets me do some zoom. Though it is not as easy to operate all the controls on this generic housing as on a dedicated one it does gets the job done. The rubber is soft enough that most controls can be operated with some playing. This approach has saved me considerable money as I continue to upgrade to get the latest and greatest camera, but can continue with the same water housing.

The folded up paper in the housing is actually silicon gel packets. These are helpful for two reasons. The first is that they keep moisture out of the casing, so the lens does not fog over. The second is that they are good to place around the camera, in order to hold it in place so the camera lens lines up with the lens in the housing.

A final advantage of this housing is that it floats (so if you do let go of the camera, it will go to the surface). Additionally, if you need to go deeper, the housing will accommodate this (within reason). All you need to do put more air inside the housing with the camera, and it will support deeper dives (though the controls might get harder to operate).

Even with the housing, there are still obstacles to getting good water fun pictures. For example, it is tough to see and time pictures well inside the housing (or underwater), so sometimes you have to try a few times to get a good picture. The picture below is a fun example. I snapped lots of pictures of the little guy diving/falling and jumping into the pool. Though I did fairly well percentage wise, not all were equal (for example some just had a splash, no little guy). The one below was just as the arm was starting to break the water and really looks fun.

In order to get this picture, it was obvious that both I and my camera were going to get splashed. Well, I was already wet, so no worry there, and the camera was safely protected inside of its housing (so we were good to go).

Of course,with the housing, one can also go under the water (no reason to just hang out on top). Though this picture below is a little boring, you get the idea. We have had lots of fun posing for and taking pictures under the water.

I would like to show one final shot. The picture below was taken way back in 2oo5. Though it was a different camera, it was the same housing (that's why buying a generic housing is so nice). We are here standing in the ocean, getting hit in the back by a large wave (the little guy's facial expression is great). I shot this myself, and the wrist strap is really handy in these cases (obviously holding onto the kid is more important than the camera, but with the wrist strap, you can let go of the camera if necessarily). Obviously, I would not want to take this picture without some protection for the camera.

The water housing makes a nice addition, as it gives you a good reason to cool off while you are still snapping photos. As you can see, though the generic housing has some drawbacks regarding ease of use, I definitely have gotten alot of use from it. I find the housing a necessary part of my camera kit, and allows me to have alot of fun with my photo hobby.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why then a DSLR?

I think I have been doing too much comparisons on the low end (my pocket SX210 vs the Inspire cell phone). Though both have there places, and can take reasonable pictures once there capabilities are well understood, there is a reason people pay more for a DSLR. This update will show that off extremely well as I compare some pictures from the SX210 and the Digital Rebel XTi (the recent holiday provided the perfect opportunity).

All these pictures were taken from a tripod (it was needed due to the long exposures). I took these while sparklers and other small fireworks were being burned. I did not get a chance to play with the settings too much (I think both sets of pictures could have been helped a bit). However, the difference between the DSLR and the SX210 is dramatic.

First lets start off with a picture from the SX210. To start off simple, we just want to see some pattern in the sparklers. We shoot, no flash, and just grab what is there and should get a nice trail. Actually there is a good mode for this already on the camera (fireworks).

Unfortunately, it is hard to get a long enough exposure to really get a long stream from the fireworks. This could be worked going into a manual mode (but A manual mode is more complicated on the smaller cameras, and B due to the limited aperture range, we would still be limited in our timing).

Now for the Digital Rebel. There is no fireworks mode on the camera, but by setting a higher apeture (in this case 7.1) we are able to get the camera to fire for a longer period. Note all pictures were taken in aperture priority mode (so I tweaked the aperture and let the time calculate itself).

There is a bit of the background getting lit up slightly. Might have reduced the ISO (it was 200) and that should have cleaned that removing any background. The advantage of the tighter apeture is increased depth of field (so focusing becomes much easier). This is also evident in the sharpness of the stream.

The stream from the DSLR picture is easily long enough that a word can be written etc. Obviously it is an easy adjustment. Want more time, tighten the apeture, if you want it shorter, open the apeture up. The DSLR definitely wins here for flexibility.

What if we want to see the person behind the fireworks as well (especially for family members etc). Then we would want to fire the flash. Again the SX210 has a mode for this (night protrait), but can also be coaxed to fire the flash and still provide some time for exposure in other modes.

You can see here, that we can definitely make out the person in the picture, but there is not a long trail on the fireworks. Though there is the ability to adjust this, there is not as much (there is not as much aperture range on the SX210 as on the Digital Rebel (will with the DSLR, it is really a function of the lens, but most lenses have considerably more aperture range than a pocket camera.

Finally lets look at the same setup with the Digital Rebel. I used the on board flash (it has more power than the SX210, but there are also external flashes that could be used). Again using the same trick to close down the aperture, and in this case, I bumped up the ISO to 400 (to better grab the person).

This ended up being a 10 second exposure. The problem with this is it is hard for the individual to stand still (especially when waving fireworks frantically), so you get a little ghosting. It is obviously a trade off, opening the aperture (I used 7.1 here again) would decrease the time, which would reduce the ghosting, but would also reduce the fireworks trail. I think the flash did a nice job of grabbing a sharp subject and really overpowering the ghosting (though you see it off to her left).

You can see depending on what you are looking for, it is possible to get nice pictures of fireworks. As the actual firework itself is really bright, small apertures can be used as the bright will still capture on the sensor. Firing a flash can stop action for a particular portion of the picture. This is useful with the fireworks, but can also bring out other portions of a picture (I once took a long night exposure of a tree in the fall that had the leaves change to a fiery color - I walked under the tree and fired the flash up into the tree during the exposure (hiding the flash behind the trunk) for a very nice effect).

With all the talk about how phones are replacing cameras (well the pocket variety anyway), I seemed to have gotten caught up in it. Prior to having a good camera on my phone, I would say I took about 70% of my pictures on the SX210. However, the hard ones, or the important ones, I always grabbed the Digital Rebel. This allowed me to focus where important, but not have to carry the big DSLR around much. I am finding that I now take some of the pictures with my Inspire (though I have not really started to do anything with them).

Though it is possible that the line might blur between the Inspire and the SX210 at some point and the SX210 might lose some of its snaps to the Inspire, the Digital Rebel still has its strengths and will not see its snaps diminished in the least by improved phone cameras (well not for the foreseeable future anyway).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Infra Red Comparison

Ok, here is a comparison you will not see on too many websites.  Its the SX210 in one corner with the HTC Inspire in the other corner.  Both wearing the infra red filter (well the SX210 has its brace and gorilla tripod, and the Inspire has me holding the filter in front of the lense).  This did not seem to hurt the Inspire as shutter length did not appear to change with the filter in front.  There must not be any filter to stop the infra red light on a phone.  This makes some sense as cost and size is the priority.

Note, all pictures are processed as outlined earlier in the blog.

I had another visit to Mohonk Mtn, and figured this was a perfect opportunity to take some infra red pictures.  The one above is from the SX210.  I had hoped for more sun (that would have popped the sky a bit better and driven better contrast), but I had to deal with more of a grey weekend.  Given the troubles, this is a great example, with the water (which comes out so black) the foliage and the sky.

The picture above was taken a few minutes later from the inspire.  There is a bit of a dark spot in the middle (and if you remember my orginal write up on using digital cameras with an infrared filter this can happen sometimes).  It should be possible to miminize ita bit if playing with the sliders (instead of just going with the defaults in the process also as described in an earlier post).

There is an interesting point not evident from the pictures themselves.  First a low ISO (80) was used on the SX210 to reduce noise seen in other pictures.  This worked well, but required a long exposure (1 second in this case).  The phone used an ISO of 604 automatically, and the exposure was just the same as normal (not listed).  It might have a little more noise, but it is close (I was able to handhold this picture holding the filter in front of the lense).

The picture above is of the monument on top of the hill taken by the SX210.  It is interesting how the rocks ended up a bit false colored.  This is nice and sharp and with out unwanted noise.  Again this was at an ISO of 80 (which I think really helps).  The drawback is the exposure took a whoppping 4 seconds (yes it was on a tripod - a large gorilla tripod). 

Finally the monument from the Inspire.  Obviously the ability to zoom does not exist (I do not believe in digital zoom, just throws away pixels you paid for, better to crop afterward).  Again the dark spot in the middle.  It can probably be minimzed with a little work, but probably not removed easily. 

Well this is the comparison.  I would say that for outdoor landscape pictures, the flexibility and quality of the SX210 was too much for the Inspire.  The pictures hold more capability for false color with the SX210 (though the whites in the Inspire are stronger).  However, having said that, with a cheap filter, it appears possible to get reasonable infra red pictures out of your cell phone (well the Inspire anyway). 

Unfortunatly, none of the pictures were in ideal light.  There was some sun, but it was broken, so it is possible that the performances might have improved on both with better lighting (next time hopefully). 

Note, I was specific with the outdoor landscape pictures for a reason.  I have tried to take indoor portraits (against soft light backgrounds) with the SX210 with no success.  I just have not found a light that puts out enough infra red to get the picture.  The Inspire with its much quicker response might allow me to do some portrait work (I know, it will look funny holding the filter over the camera, but I think it is worth a chance).

Friday, May 20, 2011

BestBuy is the Best

They let me do it (even though it was extra work for them).  They had to pull the SX230 off the display, so I could put my own memory card in it.  They did this, let me take a few pictures (while I took duplicate pictures with the SX210).  This allowed me to get some reasonable comparison (no outdoor photos, but what I got was enough for me as low light was really my focus). 

Now keep in mind that the resolution on the new camera is actually a little less than the older one (12MP vs 14MP).  When I originally wrote up the SX210, I thought 10MP would be on the high end (the Canon PowerShot G series has both a bigger sensor, and 10MP, and it gets really nice pictures, squeezing more pixels onto a smaller sensor seemed like a chore and likely to increase noise). 

The 230 uses the standard Canon Digic sensor, where the 210 was a break away for Canon and used a CCD (actually I was not aware of that initally).  Canon really spec'd out the 230 to be better in low light than the 210 (and needed the processing of the Digic sensor to do that).  All these pictures were taken with similar settings (and either mostly auto, or for the last one, I specified ISO 800).  Click the pictures to get a bigger view.

Lets start off by looking at a full zoom.  This picture is 14x across the store (over the TV section).  Not terribly dark, but dark enough to make photo's challenging.



Now since I used auto, both took different approaches.  The SX210 used ISO 800 and a 1/13 exposure.  The SX230 went to ISO 1600 and had a 1/20 exposure.  Funny thing is, based on the ISO, I would have thought the SX230 would have more noise (it had the higher ISO), but as you can plainly see, it is cleaner.  So far, the SX230 is meeting its claim as the less noisy picture.

Lets keep with text for a minute, but remove the zoom. Honestly the zoom performance should be the same as it is the same lense (really the sensor is the only quality difference, there is GPS, but I am not reviewing that as I do not see the need, I always name my pictures based on where they were taken).


SX 230

This was taken off a sign right in front of me in the camera department.  Again, on auto settings, the SX230 had the tendency to double the ISO.  In this case the SX210 used an ISO-500 and 1/50 exposure (F/4 for apeture, in the zoom shot above, the apetures were identical at f/5.4).  The SX230 bumped the ISO to ISO-1000 and the exposure to 1/80 (apeture was f/3.5 not much different, there are not alot of choices on these cameras). 

There was a bit of noise in both of these, but the SX230 definitely outdoes the SX210 even with the ISO setting doubled.  This is looking pretty good for the SX230 (and I am trying to justify an upgrade).

However, text is sort of easy, lets do a portrait.  This will be a zoomed in section (just above the left eye).  Keeps my model happy (as she does not make the blog, she was not ready for her picture) and allows us to again look for the noise.

SX 210


Now things start to get interesting.  First, there is a little difference in size.  Part of it might have been not being zoomed exactly (or leaning etc), but part is also the number of MP (14 vs 12).  However, trust me, either would print out more than spectacular even at 8X10, and both could even go larger (I have done 6MP on 13x17 and it looks good).  However, that is not the issue. 

The SX230 is begining to look softer.  Now this is not totally fair as the mode was portrait, and softness is often desired in a portrait, but the SX210 is definitely sharper (the fear is the SX230 is softer due to noise reduction being done post processing).  Note the SX210 was ISO 200 1/60 f/3.1 and the SX230 was ISO-320 1/60 and f3/1.  The fact that everything but the ISO is the same does mean that the processors interpreted this differently (might be light around her, zoom etc). 

So the portrait brings up a possible problem (but it could be a one off picture issue as well).  Finally need to look at something to verify that.  In order to remove the ISO issue the last two pictures were taken at ISO 800 (so we are comparing apples to apples, not just marveling that the SX230 has less noise with a higher ISO).  Note the exposure was identical as well in the following pictures.

The first image is a highlyt zoomed in image of a camera and its sign on an end cap (the end cap had the point of focus, so it should be fairly sharp). 



Both pictures are noisy (it is not bright in the store, even if it looks it to the eye).  However, the SX230 both looks less noisy and a little sharper.  However, here the difference does not seem as pronounced as it did in the text above (though still more than obvious).  Lets grab one more section from this photo.  We had a small gamer playing an xbox, who was nice enough to stay in the frame for both shots.  Note that these snips are not taken from the focus point, so they are expected to be a little out of focus.



Ok, so no face, but we have his pants, and that verizon guy asking if you can hear him.  The SX230 is definitely sharper and less noisy at the same ISO as the SX210.  So Canon did hear the complaints and made the improvements.  I have not decided if it is enough better that I want to spend the $300+ to upgrade (they are not cheap cameras), but you can make your own decision.

It would be interesting to take many portraits and compare to see if it was just a single picture, or if there is some noise reduction algorithm involved (I would not be surprised if it were the later as that is listed as one of the improvements in the new camera).  However, changing modes seems to change the noise reduction (as it should), so you should have plenty of control to get the picture the way you want (and with less noise than on the SX210).

One thing to note.  I keep my SX210 in auto mode, but have the P program mode set for ISO 200 and flash on (I can turn off the flash by pushing it down).  I probably use both of these modes as often (the ISO 200 allowed me to keep the noise to a reasonable level).  I think the same would have to be done on the SX230.  It seemed to want to increase the ISO.  Though there is less noise than with the SX210, still a lower ISO could make even a cleaner picture.  It would take some playing with to figure out.

After this, I am back to comparing the SX210 to my HTC Inspire (I wanted to take a break after the below comparison to see how the SX210 stacked against its newest update - as the HTC Inspire performed fairly well so far against the SX210).  So come back (I might even be able to compare some infrared pictures from both).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Well, so far - I am surprised

Now that everything is fixed, I took some time to start comparing my SX210 to my HTC Inspire.  I figured my first test would be were both should perform well - outside in a nice bright day.  Note the previous review of the SX210 did show some noise at higher ISO with less light.  I expected both to perform well, but the SX210 to show its stuff.  However, this is why we run the tests.

There have been no modifications (except size or cropping on the close ups) to the photos.  So you are seeing them as they come out of the camera or the phone (and as always click to get a larger version but it will be large as I left them as the original 14mp (for the SX210) and 8mp (for the HTC Inspire).  All pictures were taken in full auto mode.

The upper picture is from the SX210, and the lower one is from the Inspire.  This was a good picture to take as it seemed to stretch the contrast in the Inspire (not it seems to lack a little).  However, the colors are beter in the inpire (look to the sky and the tracks (the rust color comes through a bit better).  Performing some adjustments in the SX210 prior to taking the picture could probably improve the colors, but as it stands it would be easier to work the Inspire picture in photo shop.  So in this picture not really an edge.

Once again the SX210 is the upper image.  The bird house was the focus point in the picture.  The Inspire just got a sharper image than the SX210.  Also the lighting and coloring looked better with the Inspire.  This is not looking as good as above, as in this picture there is a definite winner, and it is the phone (if you do not see it in the images above, click on them and bring up the full size - you will see the softness in the SX210 which I commented about in my original review.

For the next 2 pictures I put the SX210 into widescreen mode.  This reduces the pixel count a bit (but cutting off the top and bottom), but duplicates the camera for dimensions (still has more pixels, but the shape is the same).  I did this to rule out liking wide format images better.

Again, the SX210 is on the top, but the better picture comes from the Inspire.  The colors are more correct from the inspire, and it captured more of the blue sky.  Additionally, the sharpness is better on the inspire (the bag on the fence was the focus point).  There is just a blue hue to the SX210 that needs to be removed, and the saturation needs to be improved (and again the softness overcome).  The Inspire also has more of the picture in focus (but there is a reason for that, and I will get to that after the next set).

Once again, the SX210 is above, and again, the better picture came out of the inspire.  Better color, better sharpness and just better tone.  However, a comment about sharpness when comparing different camera types.

If you look closely at the larger images (click on them), the lower image looks sharper both in the foreground and the background..  There is a good reason for this, and that is that the depth of field of the two imaging devices is different. 

To illustrate, on a DSLR, the sensor is further from the rear lense element.  This forces focus to a narrower range of distances (in fact the rule of thumb is that a portable camera has 4 stops more depth of field than a DSLR - as apetrure is the largest factor in depth of field).  The science behind this is a bit complicated, and I will leave that for another day (I have done a study of multiple subjects in the past varying apeture to change the overall feel, maybe this will come up again).

This means that more of the picture is in focus in a pocket camera than a DSLR.  The same effect happens here.  The HTC Inspire will have a larger depth of field than the pocket camera due to the distance between the lense and the sensor. 

So what have we learned.  So far, for certain pictures, the Inspire will not just be able to replace the SX210, but will be able to out perform (I am assuming standard size prints which are very possible with the 8mp from the Inspire, and do not need the 14mp from the SX210).  Now, there could be some things that I could do to make the SX210 perform better (and I will look into them - like changing the color balance etc).  However, the increased depth of field that the phone provides, actually makes it more suited for some types of landscape photography. 

There are some things the Inspire just does not do.  There is no optical zoom on the phone (so getting close to a distant object is not happening).  The SX210 has 14X zoom, and can get close to alot of subjects.  However, some of the softness seen here with the SX210 were also noted in my original review.  Canon just came out with the SX230 which is the next version.  Instead of a CCD it has a back lighted CMOS sensor which is supposed to solve some of the noise issues (and if noise can be solved at the source, then less noise reduction would be needed, so the pictures should be less soft).  Guess I am off to BestBuy to see if I can take a few pictures with my camera and an SX230 there and see how they compare (but I will also compare the SX210 to the Inspire in less than optimal situations).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sorry for the delay - Can a phone replace a pocket camera

So it has been a long time since I posted any pictures.  I will admit I have read some things that bothered me regarding phones replacing pocket cameras.  At the same time I sort of got tired of my Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (it had issues which helped enforce the feeling) and used my free upgrade to get into the Android world (in fact I jumped in whole hog and am typing this on a Motorola Xoom I am playing with).

So what does this have to do with photography?  Well when I first read about people ditching pocket cameras for there phones, I thought this was nuts and was going to dedicate an  update to the topic.  Though I have not changed this opinion I think I see the argument much better.  The options for taking and modifying pictures right on the phone is much better on Android than anything I had used on Windows Mobile (any version).  Note I have looked at the options with the iPhone and though I have no direct experience, they look as good (or better) than I have seen with Android.  Not trying to compare the platforms, but make the point that there has been a step up with phone pictures that I was not aware of.

However does all of this justify movement from away from dedicated pocket cameras to phones.  I do not think so for me anyhow.  If your plan is to post to flickr or some online location, current phones are probably good enough.  However if the goal is to get to print (especially enlargements) the phone just seems soft.

My next post will include some comparisons (sorry my new phone is already broke and being replaced - this seems to be a trend with my electronic hardware that I hope is ending so I can get back on schedule).  I will try and present it in a manner that demonstrates what I mean (or else I will have to eat my words).  I will use the SX210 not the Digital Rebel as all the blogs and articles dealt with phones replacing pocket cameras not DSLRs.

Be back soon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas Lights

We have just gotten through the holiday season, so I took advantage of the surroundings to snap a few pictures.  Guess this is a million different lights (instead of a big sunset).  Christmas lights offer there own challenges as well as there own rewards.  I will start off with one of the more interesting shots.  As always, click on a picture to get a larger version.

This is a picture of Parliment in Ottawa.  There are lights scattered around the entire city, but they do a nice job with the Parliment building (both with trees lit to the side, and the foliage in the front as well as the projectors onto the building.  They actually use this same concept to project other scenes onto the building (for other holidays).  It is a nice touch here, and well done.

One of the things we like to do for Christmas is go to Hershey park.  Yes, some of the rides are open, but they also have plenty of lights (they also have a drive through display, but we stayed too late at the park, and could not get there this year).  This is a picture of the light show.  These lights dance and change color to the music.  There are multiple places to watch the show (I am on one bridge, and you can go at the one in the distance, or one beyond that).  The candy kiss is sitting ontop of the Kissmus tree (a little corny, but you gotta give it to them).

This is a picture from the other side (so again not from the lower bridge in the middle, but the other side).  I wanted to show the opposite (no color).  There are little trees on the left (not lit when I snapped this) that also light up.  The lights can change quickly, so snapping alot of pictures is a must.  These come out nice and sharp because they are taken from a bridge with a strong rail.  When taking these pictures, it is likely you will not be carrying a tripod, so the best alternative is to hold the camera against something solid.  I did that for both of these Hershey pictures and they came out well.  Reducing camera shake is important in trying to get sharp pictures of the lights.

Another visit we like this time of year is Kozair's Christmas Village.  They have the most lights in one setting that I have ever seen.  Unlike Hershey, this is all lights (they do not have the rides Hershey does, the lights do not dance to the music, but they both do have a Santa).  This picture looks sharp as well.  I did not have anything to brace the camera against, so I had to hold still and depend on the anti shake in the SX210.  This worked out better here as there are more (and brighter) lights, so the exposure time was not as long as those up in Hershey (you can see from the shadows near the model buildings from the other lights). Not all the pictures came out this sharp though as some areas were a little darker.

This is a picture of a walkway at Kozair'sI sharpened it a bit, but you can still see it is not as sharp as the Hershey pictures.  The bigger point here is that the cardboard cutouts are very visible (so there is considerable light from all the lights (there are alot of lights)).  Note there are cutouts all around (these are peanuts, there are other christmas themed (many with the stories written on them) throughout the farm.  In locations like these, it is easy to get pictures with lots of lights.  The harder part is finding pictures that make sense (and not just lots of lights).  I tried to segment my shots to do that (Hershey was already worked out due to the bridges and the staged lights).  At Kozairs, I pictured buildings or areas and tried to capture surrounding lights (my pictures thatdid not have a real focus just looked distracted).

I added this picture to show the final hazard for taking Christmas Light pictures.  But first, notice all the smaller buildings in the background.  All lit up, some are small with displays inside of them.  Others are larger with shops inside (gifts, hot chocolate or Santa).  Also all the lights provide enough ambient light for the rocks to show up in the picture.  However having the focus point of the snow man and foreground added to the picture (if I just zoomed in on buildings and lights it would have looked chaotic). 

Now for the final hazard.  Notice all the ice near the waterfall in the foreground.  Baby its cold outside (I heard that somewhere).  So dress warm and enjoy the lights.