TOO MUCH STUFF, REDUX

A couple of days ago, my new 60 mm Olympus macro lens arrived. I didn’t expect it so quickly. I’ve been lusting after this lens for years. Olympus finally dropped the price by $100. I bought it.

I unpacked it, attached it to the new Olympus PEN PL-6. I moved the 20 mm lens to a different camera and put the 40-150 zoom into a pouch because that’s the lens I never use.

I decided to put together a “grab and go” bag of Olympus equipment, but the bag was too small.

Camera bags

After a lot of pulling things out and repacking, I knew a full equipment reorganization was the answer. The big bag I’d been using for “spare parts” moved up to lead camera bag. Previous number one became the grab and go bag.

By the time I finished reorganizing the equipment, I was too tired to take pictures. But I took some yesterday morning — the camera bags and the fuchsia were taken with the new lens.

Today, Garry and I are on a photo shoot in Boston. 
Just to let you know, I'm off-line all day.

The good news? I found a place for everything, sort of. I’m careful with equipment. Every camera, lens, widget, and gadget has a clean, padded place to live. But it’s an incoherent solution. Too much stuff in too many containers. I need one large box with a lid to put cables, cords, wires, connectors, lens backs, flash attachments, filters in a place where I might find them should I actually need something.

empty equipment boxes

The empty box situation is out of control. In recognition that I need to deal with it, I piled the empty boxes on my desk chair. Each time I go in there, it will remind me to reconsider the box situation.

Alternatively, I could avoid the room. Just close the door. It would bother me only when I have to put something away or retrieve something. Which would probably be every day.

Or I could deal with the boxes.

I have the original box from every camera, lens, cell phone, and accessory I’ve bought since 2000, when we moved into this house. The theory is that original boxes make equipment more valuable on resale. Except, I’m not going to sell anything. I already know that. So what’s the point? Why am I keeping the boxes? For that matter, why do I have software and manuals from the 1990s?

Maybe I can re-purpose one of my sweater boxes for spare stuff. Even though I don’t need and won’t use any of it. Anyway, if I re-purpose a sweater box, what will I do with the sweaters?

I’ll think about that later.

My first macro shot. Not too bad.

My first macro shot. Not too bad.

Among the many things I don’t want to think about are trunks filled with doll parts and clothing for antique and collectible dolls. For that matter, one of the closets in my office holds a couple of dozen (small) Madame Alexander dolls from the 1950s and 1960s. In original boxes with tags. Properly stored, face down, so their eyes won’t stick or fall back into their heads. But the poor girls have no place to go.

Another macros hot of fuchsia buds

Another macro shot of fuchsia buds

I would happily give them away, but kids don’t want dolls like that these days. These are relatively common dolls, as old plastic dolls go. They aren’t worth huge money. Antiques and collectibles are the ultimate goodfer. I don’t suppose anyone out there collects dolls and would like a lot of dolls and related stuff? You pay the shipping and it’s yours. Free.

Then, there’s the crate containing books I wrote, the evidence I worked for a living. The books have no value — other than sentimental — because I’m never going on another job interview. Ever. I’m retired.

My office has become a closet. Not disorderly or dirty. Just full.

It comes round to the same point at which I started. I do NOT need another bag. I need to get rid of stuff. I can’t seem to do it. It’s a disease, a disability.

Is there a 12-step program?

SPEAKING OF CAMERAS

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Taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 from hundreds of feet away. Great lens!

Some photographers use a favorite camera all the time. Others use various cameras, depending on what they are doing. I’m one of the latter.

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On some level, I’m always shopping for a camera, lens, a bag, an accessory. Shopping for equipment is as much of a hobby as taking pictures. I guess this counts as a confession. Of sorts. I suspect it’s true for many of us.

We love equipment, the discovery of something new to play with. And, I’m always looking for the perfect camera. The perfect lens, bag. Something.

Swans battle geese

Meet the Super Zoom

I like taking pictures of birds. Doesn’t everyone need a super zoom, at least sometimes? There is no super-zoom lens for my Olympus or Pentax. It’s not even an issue of price. The lens I want doesn’t exist for my interchangeable lens cameras.

My solution is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. It’s got a 24x f2.8 Leica lens. In 35mm terms, that’s 24 to 600 mm. In technical terms, it’s a helluva lens. Faster than the usual glass on a point and shoot. Faster than most long lenses you can buy for big money. It’s a big camera. Not a pocket-size point-and-shoot.

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I love this camera and have loved it from the first day I owned it. Panasonic makes longer zoom lenses, and much more compact versions of this camera. But none of them are as fast as this camera … or can do as much. Did I mention that Garry uses a slightly older version of the same camera? And loves it?

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OLYMPUS PEN PM-2 and PL-5

The backbone of my camera collection are Olympus PEN 4/3 cameras. I have two PM-2, a PL-5, and a PL-6. Why so many? It’s easier and faster to swap cameras than lenses. The PL-5 and PL-6 both have adjustable LCD screens. The recent entry into the U.S. market, the PL-6, has a touch the screen focus-and-shoot function I love.

PL-6 focus test

PL-6 focus test

Finally,I can overcome auto-focus’ programming which defaults to focusing on the foreground. The PL-6 lets you touch any part of the screen. The camera focuses there and snaps the picture. Fast. Of course, all Olympus PEN cameras let you manually focus, but my eyes are not good enough. I have to rely on auto-focus. Age is a bitch.

pl-6

The PL-6 was released more than a year ago in Japan, but never released in the U.S. Until mid-April when for reasons best-known to Olympus, they released at $299.  At which price, it’s a bargain, especially if you have a few credits available to apply.

The quality of the lenses is great and Olympus color is the best. I have five lenses, three “normal” zooms which came with cameras, one medium zoom, and three primes.

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My favorite lens is the Olympus 45mm f1.9. It has a wafer-thin depth of field and gorgeous bokeh. I always say you can’t take a bad picture with that lens. It’s not entirely true. Close.

Really, I’ve taken plenty of bad pictures with every lens. Don’t we all?

PENTAX Q7

Replacing a point and shoot compact camera as my carry-everywhere, the little Pentax Q7 has put the fun back into photography. This little camera is unlike anything I’ve used. It’s better than I expected and different. Hard to explain the difference, but you can see it in the pictures. There’s something about them …

Pentax Q7 plus lenses camera

Specs don’t always tell the story. The Pentax Q7 doesn’t sound like a big deal on paper, but in fact, it’s a great little camera. Tiny, light, it does almost everything its bigger brethren do.

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Low light test on the Q-7

The resolution is startling. You can’t make poster-size prints from these files, but 8 X 10, and 11 X 14 prints are no problem. The focus is fast. The gyroscope level is a great help. Most important, it gives me pictures that are crisp, clear, and true to color.

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Pentax put out a new version recently, the Pentax QS1 but the Q7 is still available on Amazon and other sites.

It is the smallest camera I own — the smallest interchangeable lens camera anywhere. I carry it in a padded insert in my tote. Which is how come it gets used more my other cameras.

Portability is an issue for most of us. I am always searching for the most camera in the smallest package. The Q7 comes very close to it. The camera with 3 lenses weighs less than most compact cameras. But … it isn’t right for everything.

Pentax Q7 camera inset in bag

No Camera Does Everything

No camera is good for everything. The camera industry is based on this fundamental truth. If one camera did it all for everyone, business would be very slow.

1) The Q7 takes gorgeous landscapes and is great for street photography, but it would not be my first choice for portraits, and none of its lenses is long enough for birds or other wildlife.

2) The FZ200 is a great all-around camera, but too big to carry all the time.

3) The Olympus 4/3 cameras are amazing, but I need lenses that don’t exist or at are too expensive for me.

When I combine all the cameras, one is usually just right for the job at hand. If I’m not sure, I default to the FZ200.

From across the pond with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

From across the pond with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

THE BEST CAMERA

The best camera is the one you have when you need it. Whatever you choose, keep it close.

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Comparison Shopping – THE ONLY Way To Go

I only paid full price for a camera once. These days, it’s hard to tell if there is a “full price.” You can find two identical new cameras online, one for $350, the other for $700.

Before you buy a camera or lens, check at least two camera sites, plus Amazon. Buy from a legitimate site, but don’t overpay. You’ll kick yourself when you discover you could have gotten it for hundreds less if you’d looked around.

solarized art effect horizontal kitchen

Using the art filter setting on the Olympus PEN PL-5

How Will I Know It’s the Right One

You won’t know for 100% until after you’ve used it for a while. You can read every review, get advice from every photographer you know and still discover it’s not exactly right for you.

No matter how carefully you do your research, you may not love the camera you buy. There’s no logical reason. It’s like finding the pair of jeans. They look the same, but they don’t feel the same.

We take better pictures if we love the camera. Seriously, we do. The search for perfection is ongoing … and fun.

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Wide-angle normal on the Pentax Q7

TURNING ON THE OLYMPUS SUPER CONTROL PANEL

Olympus E-PM2 Super Control Panel (SCP) The Olympus Super Control Panel is a special hidden control system. As you can see above, it makes viewing and changing settings on your camera really easy. …

Source: blog.atmtxphoto.com

If you have Olympus PEN cameras, from the PL-1 to the latest OM-D, this is information that you can use to turn on a “one menu does everything” for your camera. Indispensable, but hard to find information!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

PENTAX Q7 – BIG BANG IN AN ITTY BITTY PACKAGE

The little Pentax Q7 puts the fun back into photography. I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer for 45 years, but this camera is unlike anything I’ve ever owned or used. And it is way better than I expected and different, with unique optical qualities.

That a sensor so small produces sharp pictures with excellent color is remarkable.

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The resolution is startling. Although you can’t make poster-size prints from these files, 8X10, and 11X14 prints are not the impossible dream. The focus is fast, and the gyroscope is a blessing for those of us who have trouble getting the picture straight (I drop my right hand). I can’t give you technical explanations of how it works, but the information is available elsewhere online. I can assure you the pictures are crisp, clear, and the color is true.

Battery life is pretty good. They are small batteries, so you’ll get maximum a  hundred and fifty to two hundred shots on a charged battery. I suggest you buy and carry extra batteries when you use the camera. Of course, I think you should do that for all cameras. Amazon sells good-quality, modestly priced, after-market batteries by the bunch. They recharge in a couple of hours. Pentax includes a separate charger with the camera.

The color rendering on the Q7 is almost as good as I get from my Olympus. That is very good indeed. It is true though a bit less rich. It’s easy to adjust in post-processing for more saturation, or change the setting from natural to enhanced. There are plenty of settings from which to choose.

The Q7 is fast, light, and ultra-compact, so it should surprise no one that it lacks a built-in viewfinder. If you demand a viewfinder, this won’t be your favorite camera. Pentax sells an accessory viewfinder, but I have not tried it. I don’t use a viewfinder. Between my eyesight and eyeglasses, viewfinders don’t work for me.

A NOTE ON DOCUMENTATION

The controls are simple and would be even simpler if it included a real manual. The manual it comes with is not “authored.” Likely it was generated by software and includes information without context. It doesn’t even tell you where to find specific controls or function.

Camera manufacturers have unilaterally decided we don’t need manuals. They are wrong. We all need manuals. This issue is not exclusive to a particular camera. It is a malaise affecting the entire electronics industry. Bring back manuals!

OPTICS

The zoom is theoretically “equivalent” to about 90-280mm in 35mm terms, but it isn’t really. That merely describes its field of vision but takes no account of the optical qualities of the lens. The equivalence is inaccurate.

You can’t realistically expect optics to translate by a simple multiplication process. We translate them in a general kind of way for reference purposes, but the field of vision is not the same as the optical quality of a lens. The Q7’s 8.5mm prime lens roughly translates to 50mm (in 35mm terms) if you only consider field-of-view. Depth-of-field, hardness, softness, how it flattens or widens an image are all optical qualities. They don’t translate.

For example, the 8.5mm shoots wide-angle and focuses at about 8 inches. The Q7, however, lets you control bokeh — at least to some degree — and you can get some amazing effects. I’m still learning how to use some of them. I wish it came with a decent manual!

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I use the 8.5mm prime lens for landscapes and close-up work. At f1.9, it handles both tasks well. It’s my default lens, and I bought it separately from the kit that came from Adorama.com with two f2.8 zoom lenses.

I carry the camera and three lenses in an insert that fits into my tote. Sometimes, I bring only the camera with a lens attached. 

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It is the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the market. I originally heard about it from a blogger I’ve been following since before I was a blogger. He has written a lot about this and other cameras. Great photographer, too.

Check out his website at ATMTX PHOTO BLOG Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography.

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Taken from inside a moving car through the windshield glass (which was none too clean).

I shot all the pictures in this post with the Q7 except the photos of the Q7 itself. For that, I used an Olympus PEN PL-5 with an f1.8, 45mm lens.

I don’t do HDR and used minimal processing. Did I mention that the Q7 shoots RAW and JPEG? At the same time, if you like.

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It won’t replace a full-size camera. Its smallness creates limitations. But the range of its capabilities is substantial.

The Pentax Q7 is an ideal travel camera.  It is compact and light, but not a toy. It’s a real camera. You can get a sense of its size from the gallery pictures.

Pentax released a new version recently. I’m okay with the Q7, so I haven’t checked it out yet. I don’t know what new features have been added. I hope Pentax will release new lenses. Otherwise, I am very pleased with my current gear.

I’M READY FOR MY CLOSEUP MR. DEMILLE

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: CLOSEUPS

This week’s topic is Close Ups. I know I just used this topic for my Black & White Challenge. I set their schedules differently, so I had failed to realize the two topics of Closeup would run almost back to back. I would suggest using some bright and vibrant color on this one.

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If only I had a macro lens. I yearn for one, but I haven’t been able quite to afford it. It has remained just out of reach.

UP CLOSE KAITY PROM PORTRAIT

My closest shooting lenses are a 20mm (40mm field of vision) Leica/Panasonic for my 4/3 Olympus and an 8.5mm (50mm FOV) for the Pentax Q7. The latter will focus as close as 8 inches. It’s not quite a normal prime nor a true wide-angle but is a bit of both.

December bouquet

The 8.5mm lens for the Q7 is marketed as a normal prime. It isn’t, really.

buds on the trees in April

The optical qualities of an 8.5mm versus a 50mm lens differ enormously, even when the field of vision is similar. I have found this to be one of the hardest concepts in photography to understand and explain. It took me a long time to wrap my head around it.

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Therefore, as close as it shoots, my 8.5mm Pentax lens is not a macro lens. It is fast, sharp, and I enjoy using it, but true macro work requires optical qualities I don’t have.

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Luckily, I have an excellent portrait lens. I can’t imagine ever needing to take a portrait closer than my 45mm (90mm field of vision) Olympus lens can focus.

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ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE – WEEK 15

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 15

The last snow, in the parking lot by the river

The last snow, in the parking lot by the river

The weather has finally turned nice. Really lovely. It was shirtsleeve weather today. Our gardens aren’t blooming yet, but we were able to plant our little live Christmas trees today.

camera bags on park bench

It was bright, warm, and lovely. We went to the nearest park. It turned out, so did everyone else.

camera bag open

We took a few pictures. I didn’t think I was taking that many pictures until I came home and downloaded them, realized I had taken a few hundred shots. Garry took a couple of hundred more.

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I guess we aren’t the only ones with cabin fever. People were fishing, canoeing, kayaking. Chasing their dogs around and laughing. It was a most convivial crowd and the first warm, sunny Sunday since the snow melted.

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camera bags in the park

OVERCOMING TECHNO-LUST

When you love cameras, there’s always a danger you may decide you need another, even though you don’t have enough time to use the ones you already own and can’t afford a new one.

It’s no different than other forms of techno-obsessive behavior.

cameras

It’s all techno-lust, the almost physical need to acquire the newest piece of technology.

Over time, most of us learn — the hard way — that newer isn’t inherently better. That there are a lot of reasons to wait and see if the latest really is the greatest — or is actually a step backward from what you own.

pentax q7 camera in case

What to do when the desire to shop for something shiny and new, with the all the bells and whistles hits you? Your hand begins to shake on the mouse. You want it. You want it now. You don’t even know what it is, but that’s not the point. You are overwhelmed by techno-lust.

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I get my jollies by going on Amazon. I look up cameras I already own. Read hundreds of favorable reviews about my cameras. Discover this one is a marvel of optics and photographic technology. That it has a viewfinder with 100% field of vision. Never mind whether or not I use a viewfinder. What’s important is that I have one. This camera can shoot a leaf on a tree 1000 feet away with perfect detail and no significant image deterioration. I know, I’ve done it.

I can pat myself on the back for my astuteness in purchasing this modern marvel.

gear cameras chargers

Then, if I must buy something — just because — I always need an extra battery, a new SD card, or a filter. In the end, I’ve spent less than $20. I’ve fed my obsession, had my shopping fix, and reinforced my fundamental belief that I am a Shopping Goddess.

The danger is I might discover something I didn’t know was out there, which I absolutely must have, if not today, then eventually.  So I have to stay focused, only look at cameras I own or those which are equivalent  but inferior to the ones I own.

Putting stuff on a wish list is almost as good as buying it because it satisfies ones urge to click.

I advise you not use this remedy when you are half asleep or under the influence of anything. It’s alarming to wake up in the morning and discover you are the proud owner of something you will be paying off for the rest of your natural life. Or longer.

me with olympus selfie

Cancelling and returning stuff is such a pain. Especially when you would rather keep it.

Meanwhile, my money remains where it belongs. In my account. Does this count as a vicarious or virtual shopping experience? Both?