Sunday, August 29, 2010

Using the Sony NEX-5

Well my NEX-5 arrived last Friday and I have been experimenting with it over the weekend. Very pleased, but it is a bit tiny for my hands so I have to be careful not to press buttons by accident. The RAW images can be processed with Lightroom 3.2RC - a free preview of version 3.2 which is due shortly. The lens distortion correction in LR3.2 resolves one of the common issues stated in web reviews.
Learning to use the camera reduces the other issues with the menu structure. The most used functions are readily at hand with the few buttons on the camera - a utilitarian approach like that of the early Leicas. Their competitors were often armed with many bells and whistles to differentiate them from Mr Barnack's creation.
The photo is a close-up taken with the kit zoom lens (please excuse the poor lighting). I set the camera to ISO200, Aperture f/16, spot focus. The RAW file was processed in LR3.2RC. The subject is the Elmar 65mm Macro lens made in Midland back half a century ago in 1960. I have an adaptor on order which will allow me to use the Elmar on my NEX-5 at a crop to the area of a 100mm lens.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A new genre of digital cameras

I saw Fred Warner at the spring fair. He had his new Olympus micro 4/3 camera with him. I was intrigued when he said he had an adapter ring that let him use his Exakta lenses on the camera. The sensor size makes the multiplier 2x - a 50mm Exakta lens acts as a 100mm lens on the Olympus.

After the fair I started to research these new “mirror-less” digital SLR cameras. A month later Sony jumped into the category with its NEX models using an even bigger sensor. The reviews said the images made by the NEX models were very low noise - even at an ISO of 3,200. In fact, the ISO could be set as high as 12,800. The down side seemed to be a complicated menu system (the camera has very few physical buttons) and a kit zoom with higher geometric distortion at the extremes of the focal length.

Now the cameras are available, the two issues in real use seem to be much less onerous. I considered my use of the F828 and decided I would have little occasion to leap into the menu. And pictures by users were appealing. Further, Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 now include adjustments for geometric distortion further reducing the issue.

The “mirror-less” design has a very small lens mount to sensor distance allowing adapters to be used to take other lenses. And like the Olympus, two companies are making adapters for the NEX series. Novoflex in Germany have an adapter to mount Leica M lenses - and with the Leitz skinny ring, the screw mount lenses back as far as 1931. Because the NEX uses the large APS-C sensor, the multiplier is 1.5 - so a 50mm Leica lens acts like a 75mm lens on the NEX.

Videos on YouTube and stills on Flickr! taken with the standard zoom and various Leica and Zeiss lenses are fabulous. The wide angle Leica lenses take images with no distortion visible.

I ordered a black NEX-5 today...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

e-books attract higher tax in Ontario

In May I downloaded the Kobo e-book reader for my iPod Touch. I found my eyes had improved to the point where I could read the fine print of the reader. I started with some free books - out of copyright books, “classics”. And then I took the plunge and bought some titles. I really enjoyed the fact there was no thick pocket book to store or pass on. The price was comparable to buying a paperback with the usual 5% GST.

Imagine my surprise when I downloaded another paid book this month! Sales tax was now 13%! How can that be, I wondered? Why, our premier, Mr Dalton McGinty, had listed the items affected by the switch to HST and books were shown as 5% - even audio books were now 5%.

So I wrote the government. I wrote Kobo. Kobo said they were looking into it and would get back. Unfortunately the link they gave me chased its tail. When I signed in, the site said “no can do, that user is already listed”. A day or two later, the government responded and directed me to a FEDERAL CRA site that listed the ONTARIO HST rules. And guess what? The federal site lists e-books as separate from paper books and audio books and says they attract 13% HST.

How about that - a new technology that will hopefully help reduce the proliferation of waste is whacked with an added 8% sales tax. Nice. Just what I like to see - stomp on the new technology. Then again, if you have been reading about the screw-up in Ontario with the so called eco fee, you can see why some flunky can’t tell an e-book from a book...

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Even the Mac needs maintenance on occasion. Disk drive capacity is quite large these days, but not infinite.

This little multi-platform Java program is a great tool to help you when the time comes to houseclean your hard drives. It is offered free by Karsten Lentzsch in Germany. His company, JGoodies “is a product development, software consulting, and design company focussing on an advanced Java look, UI design and usability”. Karsten “is an architect and designer of Java tools, demos, and several professional Swing libraries. He is considered a leading expert in Java user interface technology and pluggable look and feel. He brings a wealth of experience in designing usable and elegant Java application to JGoodies”.

The program works on OS X, and Windows. It scans your hard drive and profiles the contents by size or age. The results are displayed as a pie chart, bar graph or simple list. You can drill down to lower levels by clicking on the chart. If you need to see what is filling up your disk drives, pick up a copy of JDiskReport, just be sure you have a recent copy of Java installed on your computer.