Friday, September 28, 2012

Samsung NX210 Initial Observations

My camera bag was stolen about three weeks ago. It had two cameras plus a bunch of other stuff in it. Thankfully, my home insurance policy covered the theft.

One camera that I received was a Pentax K-30, which replaced my old Pentax K-x. The other camera was a Samsung NX210, which replaced my fairly new Samsung NX200.

Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to try the NX210 for the first time. Since it is 99.5% the same as the NX200, I was able to jump right in without any problems.

The only real difference between the NX200 and the NX210 is that the NX210 has wireless capabilities and the NX200 does not. There are some other very, very insignificant changes, but nothing even worth mentioning here.

So there really isn't much to say about the NX210 that hasn't already been said about the NX200. You can read my review of that camera here. Regarding the Wi-Fi on the NX210, I tried it and it seems to work as advertised. I'm not really sure at this moment how useful these wireless features are. I can see them coming in handy in different situations, but not anything I'd use all of the time.

Expect a full review of the NX210 in a couple of weeks.

The eight photographs below were captured yesterday afternoon in my front yard while playing with my two kids.
Fake Butterfly - Tehachapi, California
Pink and White Rose - Tehachapi, California
Back Lit Leaf - Tehachapi, California
Gathering Pollen - Tehachapi, California
Red Ball Throw - Tehachapi, California
Home Lines - Tehachapi, California
Playful Youth - Tehachapi, California
Beginning of Autumn - Tehachapi, California

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pentax K-30 Initial Observations

My camera bag was stolen almost three weeks ago. It had two cameras plus a bunch of other stuff in it. Thankfully, my home insurance policy covered the theft.

One camera that was stolen was my Pentax K-x DSLR. The insurance company replaced that with a brand new Pentax K-30 DSLR, which arrived by UPS yesterday afternoon.
Yearning For Life - Tehachapi, California
By the time I got the battery fully charged the sun was low to the horizon. I had about 10 minutes of sunlight left, so I went out and captured a few photographs just to see what the images would look like.

Here are my initial observations:

The camera looks and feels solid and rugged. In reality, the look and feel of a camera is unimportant. The image is what matters. If a camera looks and feels like junk but captures images in an amazing way, I'd prefer that over one that looks and feels great but captures images in a ho-hum way. Best case scenario is a camera that looks and feels solid but also has great image quality.
Another Brick In The Wall - Tehachapi, California
The K-30's user interface is 90% the same as the K-x, so setting up and operating the camera came quickly and naturally. One area where Pentax excels is designing easy-to-use cameras that get out of the way of the photographs. Almost every adjustment is a one or two step process, and very little is buried deep in the menus.

The pentaprism viewfinder is fantastic! All DSLRs should have one.
Negative Flowers - Tehachapi, California
The handful of photographs that I captured (all saved as JPEGs, I have yet to try RAW) look great. While the differences are very minor, with the K-30 I right away noticed a larger dynamic range, better noise control and sharper images than with the K-x. I'm not sure if the images are sharper because of a better kit lens or a weaker anti-aliasing filter (or both). The light meter and auto-white-balance were spot on.  

The K-30 has a 16 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, which produces plenty of resolution for 99.5% of photographers. Most people don't need 16 megapixels. However, what extra resolution affords you is more cropping or bigger enlargements (or both).
Step - Tehachapi, California
I've only just begun to use the Pentax K-30, but so far I'm impressed. This camera most certainly could be (and will be) used for professional photography.

I will have a full review in a couple of weeks.

Monday, September 24, 2012

NFL Replacement Officiating

This is a photography blog, and I try to stay on-topic. But after watching tonight's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, I just have to say something.

Forgive me if you are not a football fan.

The National Football League should absolutely be embarrassed. I understand that they feel the referees are asking for too much, and maybe they are. And the replacement referees got thrown into the fire. But on such a big stage they should not tolerate what NFL football has become.

When the outcome of games are being decided by the performance of the referees, it is completely out of hand.

Take the Sunday Night Football game yesterday between the Ravens and the Patriots. That is the second worst officiated game I have ever seen. There were tons and tons of bad calls, with flags thrown that should not have been and flags not thrown that should have been. The bad calls effected both teams, but when you review the game and the timing of the bad calls, I believe it effected the Patriots more than the Ravens. And when a game comes down to a last-second field goal (which may or may not have actually been good), it means that those bad calls most likely changed the outcome.

And tonight's Monday Night Football game--the worst officiated game that I have ever seen--the Packers absolutely won that game, except the replacement referees gave it to the Seahawks instead. It was absolutely embarrassing. It was a joke. The NFL should hang its head in shame.

Those are two big stages back-to-back that clearly show why the NFL should bring back the regular referees--and before the game is completely soured. How can they stand for this? They shouldn't, and I hope they do not.

At this point I doubt that I'll watch another NFL game until they take care of this issue. I'm not calling for a boycott, but simply stating that there is a bad taste in my mouth from watching those two games. I am sure that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

The NFL needs to get its act together soon and bring back the regular referees.

Making The Best Even Better: Pentax K-5 IIs

The Pentax K-5 is arguably the best digital camera with an APS-C sized sensor. DxOMark ranks it #1 in that category. Pentax did a brilliant job exploiting the highly-regarded 16 megapixel Sony sensor, squeezing just a little better image quality out of it than Sony or Nikon could.

The K-5 not just outperforms DSLRs with APS-C sized sensors, it also outperforms many full-frame DSLRs and even a couple medium-format cameras! Over at DxOMark, the K-5 is tied with the Nikon D3s and Pentax 645D and ranked above the Canon 5D Mark III and the Hasselblad H3DII-50 (an almost $30,000, 50 megapixel, medium format camera)!

The K-5 has been around for two years and it still remains on top. That's an amazing feat considering how fast technology changes.

So how does Pentax outdo the K-5? Well, with the K-5 IIs, of course!

The K-5 II is not much different than the K-5. Pentax updated the technology a bit, but it is 99% the same camera. The biggest upgrade is the auto-focus system, which performs better in low light situations. The other changes are very minor. Still, when you have a nearly perfect camera, does it need an overhaul?

What is most fascinating is that Pentax will offer a version of the camera without an anti-aliasing filter, called the K-5 IIs. The anti-aliasing filter prevents moire distortion, but at the expense of sharpness. Almost all digital cameras have this filter. Since the K-5 IIs won't include this filter, photographs captured with this camera will naturally be just a bit sharper.

There is a chance you'll get some moire distortion here and there, and that is the risk. For most situations and most photographs, it won't be a problem. There is a risk-reward with the K-5 IIs, but I think the reward will be well worth the risk.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cell Phone Photography

When my digital cameras were stolen two weeks ago, I thought that would put a damper on my creativity. After all, how could I create photographs without a camera? But one tool has proven itself: my cell phone.

To be specific, it's a Samsung Galaxy S, which has a camera with a tiny 5 megapixel sensor, that was "free" with a two year contract. And I used free "apps" to edit the photographs.

It's not the camera that matters. Vision is what's important. You can create great photographs using any camera if you are creative and thoughtful enough. Even a free cell phone camera!

If you are not creative and thoughtful with your pictures, you'll never create great photographs, even with a Nikon D800! That's because cameras capture pictures, but it takes an artist to create a photograph.

The five images below were created today using my cell phone.
Purple Flowers - Palmdale, California
Abandoned Wells Elementary School - Tehachapi, California
This school was open from 1934 until 2001. The school district still uses a small section of the old school for offices, but much of it is empty and unused. An earthquake that registered 7.3 on the Richter scale struck nearby in 1952, killing 12 people and destroyed many buildings. The rumor is that one of those 12 people that died was a young boy that was at this school. Supposedly he still roams the hallways.
There were indeed children that died in that earthquake (which is very sad), but as far as I can tell none were at school. In fact, the earthquake struck at 4:52 in the morning, well before school would have started.
Red Rose Bloom - Tehachapi, California
Two Red Roses - Tehachapi, California
Dandelion Light - Tehachapi, California

Abandonment: George Air Force Base Housing

George Air Force Base, which sat just northwest of Victorville, California, was first commissioned in 1941 as a flight training field for World War II pilots. While many different aircraft were assigned to the base over the years, George was best known for the F-4's that were stationed there from 1965 until 1992.

My experiences at George Air Force Base were as a child. My dad was in the Navy, so we had access to the base, even though he was never stationed there. My sister was born at the hospital on George when I was five-years-old, but I don't really remember that. When I was 12, I got a pretty bad sunburn while at Big Bear, and so I had my own visit to the base hospital. There were also times that we shopped at the BX or the Commissary.

As part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission following the Cold War, George Air Force Base was decommissioned in 1992. While some parts of the old base remain abandoned, much of it became the Southern California Logistics Airport.

The old base housing sits completely abandoned and in ruins. There are two schools, a church, a golf course, and a park from the old base that are still open and used, so there is easy access to the abandoned housing.

Signs warn you to keep out, but my experience with the security patrol is that they don't really care if you are there as long as you're not being destructive or doing something dangerous. However, be aware that a trip to the old housing does involve trespassing. Also be aware that entering the buildings are at your own risk and that there are certainly some risks. Should you ever visit, use lots of caution and be very careful.

It was easy to imagine how life was when the base was open. There would have been kids playing in the streets and yards, moms cooking in the kitchens, dads parking their cars in the driveways, families gathering in the living rooms. There were real people with real hopes and dreams that called this place home. There was life and energy.

Now there are only apocalyptic-like dilapidated structures and fading memories. The streets are still. The houses are quiet. There is no activity.
Window Shadow - Victorville, California
Lifeless - Victorville, California
Off The Air - Victorville, California
Burnt Corner - Victorville, California
The Doors - Victorville, California
Empty Doorway - Victorville, California
No Through Fare - Victorville, California
Forgotten Chair - Victorville, California
Abandonment - Victorville, California
Broken Window To The Past - Victorville, California
A Glimpse of Life - Victorville, California
Old Life, New Life - Victorville, California
Broken Shadow - Victorville, California
Man In The Window - Victorville, California
No Hot Water - Victorville, California
Kitchen - Victorville, California
Fallen Wall, Shattered Window - Victorville, California
The Backyard - Victorville, California
No Mail Today - Victorville, California
Glass Peaks - Victorville, California
Mailbox - Victorville, California
Broken John - Victorville, California
Tumbleweed Dreams - Victorville, California
Destroyed By Fire - Victorville, California
Rusted Junk - Victorville, California
Red Door - Victorville, California
Powerless Outlet - Victorville, California
Open Door - Victorville, California
Morning Tumbleweeds - Victorville, California
Cinder Blocks - Victorville, California
What Remains - Victorville, California
Kitchen Door - Victorville, California
Window of Time - Victorville, California
Shadow Floor - Victorville, California
Gate To Destruction - Victorville, California
Home - Victorville, California
Open Windows - Victorville, California
George's Old Home - Victorville, California
Broken Wall - Victorville, California
Door Circles - Victorville, California
Wooded Window - Victorville, California
Setting Sun On The Forgotten - Victorville, California
Abandoned Sofa - Victorville, California
Remnants of the Past - Victorville, California
Sunset Through The Broken Glass - Victorville, California