ME AND MY CAMERAS

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

Some photographers have a favorite camera they use all the time. Others use various cameras, depending on what they are doing. I’m one of the latter. Cameras come and go and no doubt always will. I have slots to fill. I don’t have much money, so I have to hunt for bargains.

Olympus PEN E-PM2
Olympus PEN E-PM2

I always need a camera with a long telephoto lens for shooting wildlife. Birds. My first choice was the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ70. It was cheap and turned out to be worth less than I paid. The lens was crap. Bells and whistles don’t make up for bad glass. I gave it to my son and got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. With its f2.8 24X Leica zoom, if it weren’t so big, it would be the camera. But, compact is the one thing it isn’t. I got a great deal on it, before word got around and its price tripled. I could not afford it today.

NOTE: If you are looking for a camera that does it all, size isn’t an issue, and you don’t shoot RAW, check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ60.  With 25-600 f2.8-5.2 Leica lens shooting 20MP, it’s a great camera. Nearly identical to the FZ200, but faster. It’s out of production (the entire FZ line is out of production), but Amazon has some. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

The backbone of my camera collection are the Olympus PENs. I have three of them: two PM-2, and a PL-5. I had an Olympus PEN P-3 which recently moved to a new home. I got the Olympus PEN PL-5 in return. Why so many? I find it easier and faster to swap cameras than change lenses. And the PL-5 has interesting bells and whistles I actually enjoy using. It’s the first time I’ve ever used built-in camera effects.

Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens
Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens

I replaced my go-everywhere camera, a compact point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix ZS19, with a newer Panasonic Lumix ZS20. On paper the ZS20 is a better camera. Jazzier interface. Cooler bells and whistles. But it focuses slower than its predecessor (especially in low light), and burns through batteries twice as fast.

Pansonic Lumix ZS20
Pansonic Lumix ZS20

Specs don’t always tell the story. I lean heavily on my compact camera. It’s the camera I keep close. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I picked up a Pentax Q7 kit. It is tiny, light, yet does almost everything its bigger brethren do. Now that I’ve figured out how to use it (blame the delay on bad documentation and a stubborn unwillingness to ask for help), I’m hoping it will be my go-to compact. So far, so good.

Olympus PEN PL-5
Olympus PEN PL-5

Except for the Olympus PEN P-3, I’ve never paid full price for a camera. Sometimes I stumble on sales. More often, I get an email from a fellow blogger telling me there’s a “flash” sale on a camera, lens, or software.

solarized art effect horizontal kitchen
Using the art filter setting on the Olympus PEN PL-5

These “flash” sales sometimes last as little as a few hours. I got one of my Olympus PEN PM-2 cameras for about $150 because I would take it in white. Otherwise, the price was $450. I got a second PEN PM-2 the same way. In both cases, I got an email from an Internet friend telling me to grab one, they wouldn’t be available long. I did. They weren’t.

Pentax Q7 in pouch
Pentax Q7 kit

Cameras are intimate items. I would rather share my toothbrush than my camera. Not every camera is right, no matter how carefully you do your research. The P-3 was never right, even though it was a great camera, maybe the best of the modern Olympus PENs. It never felt as good in my hands as the cheaper, lighter PM-2. There’s no logical reason. It’s like finding the pair of jeans. They all look the same to someone else, but they don’t feel the same to you.

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Wide-angle normal on the Pentax Q7

It’s hard to explain to a non-photographer the buzz you get from holding the right camera. I’m convinced cameras work better if they feel our love. And we take better pictures if we love them. Seriously, we do.

3 PERFECT SHOTS ON THE PENTAX Q7

Three Perfect Shots

Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence. Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.


The pictures are my living room, picture window, and snowy front yard between yesterday evening and this morning, all taken (finally!) on a teeny tiny Pentax Q7.  You cannot give this prompt to a photographer and not expect actual pictures. I don’t know if these qualify as perfect, but they come with an entertaining story of the continuing battle of human against technology. And, of course includes three pictures.

Taken by the light of a 40-watt bulb. Evening at home.
Taken by the light of a 40-watt bulb. Evening at home.

Weeks ago, I got a Pentax Q7, a tiny, light, compact camera which uses interchangeable lenses. Even shoots RAW, like a real camera. I had never used it, though it has been lurking in the office for a while. It was like an itch I could not scratch.

I got the Q7 on the advice of someone who has one and loves it. He got his in Hong Kong, but he was sure there’d be great deals on it soon. There were. I got it as a kit with 2 lenses for less than a point and shoot.

Spring hasn't come yet, but we live in hope.
Spring hasn’t come yet, but we live in hope.

It looks like a “real camera” that got put through a wash-dry cycle, and shrank to less than half its size. It’s tiny. Its lenses are weightless, but fast at f2.8.

So why had I never used it? It wasn’t for lack of trying. It was set to some weird color setting. Red. Hideous. I couldn’t figure out how to unset it. The manual, like most manuals for Japanese cameras, had lots of pages, but no useful information. How can they publish so many pages without saying anything? I could not find so much as a reference to “Bold Unicolor.”

I tried resetting the camera to its defaults. I went through every menu, every setting. I tried the White Balance dial and went deep into every possible variation on the many menus. Nope. It remained “Bold Unicolor.” I discovered I could pick a different unicolor. Yellow, blue, green, magenta. I could not turn it off.

We've got a bright blue sky and sunshine ... but it's cold out there!
We’ve got a bright blue sky and sunshine … but it’s cold out there!

I was positive the camera wasn’t broken. Also sure the Q7 is shortly going to be discontinued in favor of a newer model and may become abruptly hard to get — which would also explain its low price. Regardless, I was sure there was a dial, button, or obscure menu setting that would fix the problem. All I had to do was keep looking.

Finally, having reached the end of my patience, I turned it around and stared at it from the front. I talked to it and I think I wasn’t very polite.

I generally look at cameras from the back. When I initially get them, I check to see where memory chips and batteries go, where a USB cable attaches. I attach a strap, which I could do in my sleep. Unless I’m changing the lens, I don’t look at the front of the camera much. All the stuff I need is out back.

I sat there and looked. Realized I couldn’t see it very well, so I took off my glasses, turned up the light and squinted. Eureka! Tucked in next to the lens, near the bottom of the body, I spied a tiny dial with minuscule — unreadable — text. I could see there were settings on it (which I have not yet deciphered). One is a plain dot without text. I turned the dial to the dot and I finally had normal color.

I had been brooding over this for weeks. Longer, actually while watching my warranty run out. It haunted my dreams. Last night and this morning, I (finally) took a few pictures on this tiny camera. If you are over forty, bring a magnifying glass. And about that manual …

ALFRED EISENSTADT, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND ME TOO

Garry and I used to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, sharing a house with a bunch of other people from Boston TV stations.

Alfred EisenstadtIn the early 1990s, Garry did a feature about Alfred Eisenstadt and Lois Maillou Jones, both of whom lived on the Vineyard and had been given Presidential Medals of Honor for their work. We became friends with both artists. Eisenstadt was in his early 90s, Lois Maillou Jones in her mid 80s.

I had been an admirer of Eisenstadt’s work as long as I’d been taking pictures. I shot my first roll of film on Martha’s Vineyard in 1966. I had stayed at the Menemsha Inn where (serendipity!!) Eisenstadt lived from late spring till Labor Day. Books of Eisie’s work were all over the inn. In bookcases, on tables. Most of the books featured his landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard.

I was using my first camera, a Practika with a great Zeiss 50mm lens. Great lens, but no electronic light meter. No electronic or automatic anything. It had a crank film advance.  A bare bones camera with a Zeiss lens. I had half a dozen rolls of black and white film.

It was ideal for a beginner. I had to learn how to take a light reading with a handheld meter. I had to focus the lens, set the shutter speed, the f-stop, and choose the film speed — though you only had to set film speed once each time you loaded the camera.

It wasn’t a lot of settings to learn, but they were and are the essentials of photography. If you can take a light reading, set film speed (now ISO), understand shutter speed, depth of field, and see when a picture is in focus —  and you recognize a picture when you see it — you’re home free. Everything else is dessert.

eisenstadt-MV-tree
Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My 50 mm lens was a prime. No zoom. It was a good piece of glass and moderately fast at f2.8. No flash.

If I wanted a close up, I could move closer to what I was shooting. A wide shot? Go back! I learned photography in a way those who’ve only used digital cameras and zoom lenses can never learn. Most of today’s photographers have never held a camera that doesn’t include auto-focus, much less taken a reading with a hand-held meter. (What’s a hand-held meter?)

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does.

The camera was a gift from a friend who had bought a new camera. Armed with the Practika and determination, I followed Eisenstadt’s path around the Vineyard. I discovered where he’d taken each picture, figured out how he’d gotten the perspective, framed it.

I duplicated his shots down to the clump of grass behind which he’d crouched to create a foreground. I added a few twists of my own. I was winging it, but I winged well.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My first roll of film was brilliant — except the photographs were copies of Alfred Eisenstadt’s. He taught me photography by giving me foot prints to follow. By the time I was done with those first rolls of film, I had learned the fundamentals. I’m still learning.

When I actually met Alfred Eisenstadt, it was the most exciting moment of my life.

As we got to know Eisie better, I asked him to autograph his books for me. He didn’t merely autograph them. He went through each book, picture by picture.

He was in his early 90s and had forgotten many things, but remembered every picture he’d taken, including the film and camera, lens, F-stop, and most important, what he was thinking as he shot. He could remember exactly what it was about the image that grabbed his attention.

For example, the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ Day, he said he was walking around Times Square with his Nikon. When he spotted the dark of the sailor’s uniform against the white of the nurse’s dress, he knew it was what he wanted and shot. Light, contrast, composition.

We spent time with him every summer for 5 years until he passed. We were honored to be among those invited to the funeral.

Although we were sad that Eisie was gone, we found things to laugh about. Knowing him was special and some memories are worth a chuckle. I don’t think Eisie would have minded.

THE SERENDIPITY SETTING ON THE OLYMPUS PEN PL-5

I just became the tickled pink owner of an Olympus PEN PL-5 camera. It arrived today, having sped here from Arizona, where its previous owner, an old and loved friends, has upgraded to the OM-D.

Somewhere between yesterday afternoon and this morning, a nasty cold hit me like a runaway train, but the arrival of the camera distracted me enough that I forgot how crappy I was feeling … at least for an hour.

The camera, probably while being packed, had gotten set to the Art Bracket setting. I have never used any of the Art effect settings on any of my Olympus PEN cameras. It turns out that the results of using this setting are … well … interesting. Serendipitous. You really don’t know what you will get.

It’s kind of fun. You snap one picture and the camera gives you 12 versions, each using a different Art effect. The focus and bokeh also change. These are some results. What do you think? interesting, yes?

STUFF AND NONSENSE

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Joints and/or Things You Enjoy

What a combination! Things I just like … or joints. Mostly, I don’t like my joints. They are arthritic and sore. The hips and spine especially. There are other joints of which I’m fond, but for a bunch of reasons, I won’t be posting their pictures.

Where else are joints to be found? Furniture. Buildings. Bridges. Let’s see what I’ve got lurking around my photo files.

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It’s a twofer. Joints and something I really LOVE to do
This falls into the category of "thinks I like to do ..."
This falls into the category of “thinks I like to do …”
Joints!
Joints!
Lots of joints on this former turkey!
Lots of joints on this former turkey!

HUBRIS?

Upturned Noses — Even the most laid back and egalitarian among us can be insufferable snobs when it comes to coffee, music, cars, beer, or any other pet obsession where things have to be just so. What are you snobbish about?


I’m all for equality — especially in the legal system — but.

I’m picky about computers though I’m not sure it qualifies as snobbery. My machines are big, bad, and fast. I’ve been told I’m using archaic technology. I’m not. My computers — 3 and 4 years old — are as fast and powerful as anything they are selling now. How come? Because I bought state-of-the-art, top quality computers in the first place.

Unlike the el cheapo glitzy stuff people buy, then complain it’s obsolete before they take it out of the box, mine keep up with the Joneses, Smiths, or Greenburgs. Why should I go through the hassle of transferring all my data and applications to a new, but not better, computer when the ones I own do exactly the same thing?

Who’s the snob?

75-GearNIK-CR-72

I’m snobbish about cameras. Absolutely. I don’t care how many megapixels you pack into your cell phone. It isn’t a camera. It’s a widget that can take pictures. If you take a horse and teach him to walk on a leash, is he a dog? If the dog can perform a dance on two legs, is he a person? You are welcome to your opinion, but on this one, you won’t get me to change mine.

And then … there’s coffee.

coffee

I have a single, unassailable standard. It has to taste really good. If I could find cheap coffee that tasted like expensive coffee, I would definitely buy it. And, in fact, the coffee I buy is mid-priced. It’s not the most expensive stuff … but it doesn’t come in giant cans from the supermarket either. And I buy it online because I get a better price.

If I’m snobbish about anything, it’s people. I need to be around people who think. Are creative. Have ideas. Read books. Can discuss stuff. Intelligently. Who don’t talk in slogans. Who have their own opinions and don’t mindlessly parrot somebody else’s lines.

I cannot abide people who believe what they believe because “that’s the way I was brought up” or “my minister says so.” To parrot words you’ve never questioned? It doesn’t work for me.

Hyannis downtown people

I know what Jesus said, but he wasn’t hanging with the hoi-polloi either. He talked about the meek, but he had his own tight group of pals and never left their company.

Intellectual snobbery is the Achille’s Heel of the intelligent and educated. If pride is the ultimate sin, then I’m guilty. Pride of intellect, pride of personal accomplishment, pride of knowledge. Can stupid, uneducated people have great ideas?  Maybe, but I’ve yet to see it. Hollywood loves the idea and it makes a great story.

In real life, is it true? You tell me.

ANOTHER ONE JUST LIKE THE OTHER ONE: PANASONIC LUMIX DMC ZS-25

Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS -25
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS -25

I had no intention of buying a camera. I wasn’t looking for myself. Someone else was looking for a camera and I was just doing a little research.When Adorama popped up with a refurbished Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS-25 16.1 MP for under $100, I said “wow.” (There were only two at that price and both have been sold.)

Lazy daisy
Lazy daisy

It came with a Sony 16GB SDHC card and a cute little case (original from Panasonic). It is not new, though it certainly looks and feels new. It’s refurbished by Panasonic and comes with a new camera warranty. Resistance was futile.

I have a legitimate excuse. No jury would convict me.

Day lily, back lit
Day lily, back-lit

My “go everywhere” camera has been the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS-19 and the ZS-25 is essentially the same camera, with a higher resolution. My old camera has a nasty dent on the lens where I gave it a whack about a month ago. So far, it has been okay, but hitting a lens hard enough to dent its case has inevitable repercussions. It doesn’t owe me anything.

The ZS-25 uses the batteries and charger I already own. It’s the same size as its predecessor. So, of course I bought it. Then I had to do a little test drive.

Japanese maple and sunlight
Japanese maple and sunlight

Although the specs make it seem they are the same camera, they are not.

The Leica lens has the same zoom (20X). Both old and new lens are F3.3-F6.4. But the depth of field is different. It’s noticeably shallower working close on the ZS-25 and it has a more attractive bokeh. The color is true — less green, more neutral. It focuses faster and recycles much faster. All useful improvements.

The menus have been simplified and it is noticeably easier to find the functions I use. I like the streamlined controls, too, though I miss the on/off switch. It’s now a button, like every other camera. The view screen has the same specs, but because you can adjust it for varying light conditions, it seems brighter and sharper.

My last red lily
My last red lily

The little ZS-19 has performed yeoman’s service for me. I’ve carried it with me everywhere for two years. It has shot more frames than the rest of my cameras combined.

I am pleased to be able to continue using essentially the same piece of equipment. It suits me well. Compact and light, good lens. Not the longest super-zoom available, but long enough — and wide enough — for most purposes.

My ZS-19 has been a very satisfactory camera and its granddaughter, the ZS-25, seems likely to be equally satisfying. I’m more than pleased.

Camera Effective Pixels 16.1 Megapixels
Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter 1/2.33-inch High Sensitivity MOS Sensor / 17.5 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter
Lens LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR / 12 elements in 10 groups / (3 Aspherical Lenses / 6 Aspherical surfaces / 2 ED Lens)
Aperture F3.3 – 6.4 / Multistage Iris Diaphragm (F3.3 – 8.0(W), F6.4 – 8.0(T))
Optical Zoom 20x
Focal Length f=4.3 – 86.0mm (24 – 480mm in 35mm equiv.) / (28-560mm in 35mm equiv. in video recording)
Extra Optical Zoom (EZ) 25.3x (4:3 / 10M), 30.0x (4:3 / 7M), 36.0x (4:3 / 5M), 45.0x (under 3M)
Intelligent Zoom 40x