Canon vs. Nikon – who cares?

06/12/2014
Green or Blue?

Green or Blue?

It’s that age old argument. Back in the 80s it was Z80 vs. 6502, Sinclair vs. Amstrad. There’s also iPhone vs. Android, PC vs. Mac.

So often I have heard at our camera club, “Great picture, obviously because the photographer uses Nikon”, or “obviously a good photographer, he uses Canon”. Maybe in jest, but with some meaning behind the snipe.

Really, there isn’t such a thing as a really bad camera thee days. Even phones (Android OR iPhone!) take great images. I bought a cheap SLR (<£300) earlier this year, and honestly, are the images any sharper, clearer or better than my £1000 camera or my pro cameras? Answer: No.

It’s about the quality of the lenses and what you do with them, plain and simple.

When someone asks me what I use and they discount me because of the answer, I in turn discount them because of their childish opinion. They have not learned to respect the art and don’t understand that it’s the photographer, not the camera.

I chose my brand of camera years ago, switching because of a whim would not be very efficient. Not just the cash to swap but I would have new UIs to learn making my shooting slower and less reactive. That’s the only difference between the cheap SLR and the Pro cameras really. The controls are quicker to use to change settings and the build is more robust. OK, full-frame vs. a crop sensor makes a difference to images, but that’s it. Once the light gets through the lens, it hits a sensor. Sensors are very similar. Given ANY camera I could, once I have got used to the controls take just as good (or bad) pictures. In fact, I have said in jest that all my pro cameras allow me to do is take more high resolution, bad pictures quickly in worse conditions to fill up my storage systems.

Same thing with a choice of computer and phone. Some gadget fans say you are mad if you use a particular brand of computer. Again, it’s what you are used to and what it does for you. If you get through your tasks without having to worry about the computer tech. (unless you actually like that sort of thing), then it’s good for you. If you can do your work on Linux, why not?

If your phone syncs your contacts, calendars and so on, again, it’s good for you. Oh, and making phone calls is important, I suppose.

So, stop sniping because of what others shoot and use, and get on with your own thing. If it’s not working for you, then you probably just need more practice, not a different brand.


A New Wireless Camera Controller

16/07/2012

Update 18th July – the second prototype

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been working on a new camera controller.

Like many photographers, I often use a cable release to activate the camera. This has a number of advantages in allowing the camera to remain steady on a tripod, or simply to allow me to look over the camera while shooting. More recently, I’ve been using a radio remote controller which has the same simple shutter release control, but is wireless.

I’ve been involved in Bluetooth technology for some years now, and a new development is Bluetooth SMART – also known as Bluetooth Low Energy and included in the Bluetooth 4.0 standard that is appearing in mobile phones, tablets and computers now.

Bluetooth SMART is a very low power protocol, designed for low-data throughput devices such as temperature sensors, switches etc., and it lends itself quite well to the camera controller function I mentioned. Devices will run from a
coin cell for years – unusual for a wireless device.

So, I set about developing such a device, but rather than just have simple shutter control, I have added timer functionality.

You can trigger the device and take a single shot, just like a normal radio remote, but you can also set parameters that allow you to start a timer running which will wait for a period of time, then take a number of shots at a programmed interval. Once the parameters are set and the timer started it will run autonomously. Range is about 100 metres, so it’s a very useful remote trigger too.

All of this can be triggered and controlled from any Bluetooth 4.0 capable device, such as the iPhone 4S, iPad 3, most new Mac computers and newer PCs. Most new devices include Bluetooth 4.0, so expect to see many more in the coming months.

The prototype is all working, with a program in the device to give this functionality. The next steps are to produce a PCB (printed circuit board) to allow these to be made in higher volume – and neater – rather than like the hand-built prototype above. I also need to develop iOS and Android apps that will allow the device to be controlled from smartphones. This can be done at the moment, but via a rather clumsy generic Bluetooth application on these phones.

Bluetooth SMART Controller Prototype

I reckon the device could be made available in the retail market at £50, with the iOS app being a free download. Different versions to connect to Canon, Nikon, Sony cameras would be available (a different connector is needed for each manufacturer) and the controller is your phone – which you have with you, rather than a second box for the trigger.

So how to do the next steps? Design the PCB myself, design the iOS app? both of these are new to me, but I know people who could do this. Maybe use Kickstarter to finance the project? Not sure.

Watch a demonstration of the controller here:

But, I am looking to move this forward – if you have any bright ideas, let me know!

23rd July – added datasheet – Phooto iSMART Datasheet

27th July – new video with the second prototype controller –

2nd August – If you would like to make one of these, let me know, I can provide the circuit diagram and object code to load into the Bluegiga BLE112 used here. You will need to source the module and components. I would be interested to get feedback on the device – you might even be interested in developing iOS software for it?

Blexplr iOS program used to control the timer


6th August – Dr Michael Kroll’s ‘Blexplr‘ program has been invaluable in developing this application – and has now been updated with the UUIDs to support the device. (see picture).

19th August – First Nikon D90 version made.


Delkin Devices Wingman HD DV camera – mini review

08/01/2012

I had the opportunity to have a brief play with the new Delkin “WingmanHD” camera the other day. Being used to my SLR cameras, pro lenses and only occasionally using compact cameras, or the iPhone for record pictures, I wasn’t expecting too much from this little camera.

However, when you consider what this camera is intended for, it’s pretty amazing. If you want decent quality images, get something like a Canon IXUS or even use the iPhone 4S, but – if you want to stick a camera to the front of your car, skateboard, windsurfer, on your crash helmet and leap out of a plane – or even when snorkelling, then this is for you.

The camera is supplied with a waterproof housing, rated to 30 metres. This sort of add-on to a ‘normal’ compact camera would cost over £100 in addition to the camera itself, but this little camera comes complete with that, various mounts and straps for £199. Another nice touch is that Delkin – who are in the memory business after all, include a decent sized 8GB micro SD card so you can get going with the camera straight away.

The included battery will last for 2.5 hours according to Delkin, but I don’t know if that’s continuous video (doubt that would fit on the card anyway), or normal still mode. The package strangely had a US adaptor and an EU one in the package, maybe future UK supplies will include a UK adaptor. The camera will charge from the mains adaptors, but as it charges via a USB lead, also from your computer (as I did), or an included car power adaptor. Not something I can do with my Canon cameras without spending lots of money!

As for image quality, I wouldn’t say that this would ever be your only camera – in the time I had the camera, I didn’t get to find any zoom controls – I assumed it was a fixed lens – so the images I had were very wide and showed some barrel distortion, even fish-eye effects. But, if you were to use this as an action camera, you probably won’t be using it in a viewfinder mode, so a wide angle will be very forgiving. I could correct the distortion to some extent quite easily in Lightroom anyway. The gallery below shows an original image and a corrected version.

One very nice feature for the extreme camera enthusiast is the camera’s ‘Continuous Shooting’ mode. When I first saw this, I thought it was like my cameras – hold down the shutter button, and the camera keeps shooting while the button is depressed. This one operates differently, in the menus you set the interval with a minimum of 2 seconds and (I think) maximum of 60, press the shutter button, and the camera will keep shooting at that interval until you stop it. So, start the camera running, attach it to your cycle helmet with the included brackets and off you go! Low light performance seems OK, but I only took a couple of shots under a desk, not very scientific!

Then, there’s the video mode. This camera records full HD video. A very nice touch is that there is a separate button on the top of the camera for activating video recording. So, when you have gloves on, you don’t have to fiddle with menu settings or rotating knobs to choose between video or stills. Just press the appropriate button, and away you go. In fact, these are the only two controls on the waterproof housing, that could be taken as a pro or a con, I suppose.

Delkin irritatingly don’t include a manual on their web site (a printed one IS included in the box), so now I don’t have the camera to hand, I can’t refer back, but I did use the camera without the manual. I like to keep PDF copies of my manuals in my iPhone, so I always have them to hand for obscure settings. Relying on carrying a paper manual is not very handy!

I’m hoping to get another loan of the camera for an extended period, I’d like to try some parallel shooting when shooting rugby games (using a secondary bracket on my monopod) – and, as the camera is pretty light (about 90 grammes), I’ll tie wrap it to a kite and see what I get. I can also then do some better optical performance experiments, but as I said, this is a camera for a different purpose, not to compare with optical products from Canon, Nikon and the like. I’m sure there’s also lots of features I’ve missed above – like zoom, ISO settings etc. I’ll also then be able to let you have some decent test images and videos to look at.

Delkin’s own web page is at http://delkin.com/i-7579051-wingmanhd-3oz-waterproof-action-camera.html .

It would find a place in my camera collection for sure.


Jessops, you are just incredible.

21/08/2011

Over the years, I have made a lot of purchases at Jessops. Cameras, paper, camera bags and so on. Sometimes because it was good to go and see the products, sometimes for the convenience, but often purely because I wanted it now and it was in stock.

More recently however, Jessops have been in financial difficulties, going into liquidation in 2007, but the brand being rescued by HSBC so it could continue trading. Understandably, stock has noticeably reduced in the stores, from ten years ago when the shelves were crammed with cameras, to maybe 20 or so in my local store today.

So, this morning, we made a decision to buy a Canon IXUS 220 HS for my wife (plus I’d like to play with the slow motion video modes!). Going online, we found that the Jessops in Camberley had them in stock, so I used their “Collect@Store” service to reserve one. I received the email and the reservation number, and we duly jumped in the car and set off to the store.

Once in the store however, it was a different matter. It took the sales assistant a couple of minutes to find the camera – she knew of the reservation, quoting the camera model to me once I’d announced that I had reserved one.

Eventually, she discovered that the one unit in stock was the one on display. We would accept this, looking at the camera it was actually in pristine condition, so all was good. That was until her colleague pointed out to her that they would NOT sell the product because the manager (name of Paul Chapman) had dictated that it should stay on display. I explained that not only had we reserved it on the website, but had made a special journey to collect it. No change in decision. Also that I had in the past purchased a lot of goods from Jessops, but recently less, because the stock situation was so poor. No change.

“Would you like to order one?” I was asked. Frankly, if I’m going to do that, I’ll get it from Amazon, it’ll be a bit cheaper, and I won’t have to travel into Camberley to pick it up. (Also, I’m uneasy giving Jessops any cash up front, given their financial situation). So, I told them, either sell it to me now, or lose the sale. They refused.

I left the store, checked on the Comet web site, checked and reserved – bingo! £10 cheaper too. Collected and purchased, no hassle at all. Plus, by the way, oodles more cameras on display than the ‘specialist’ store called Jessops – and you can handle them all.

So, Jessops have a strange policy, the little stock they have seems to be for display. In this financial climate, surely if you let a customer leave your retail store without making a purchase, they will almost certainly get on the web and find it elsewhere. What’s the point of ordering something from a bricks and mortar store when you can have it delivered to your home for free?

I’m pretty sure I won’t deal with Jessops again. I mean what’s the point?

Jessops, you need to think about this carefully, you will surely go out of business soon if you carry on like this. Mr Chapman, think carefully about letting buying customers leave your store. You’re not only losing business, you’ll be out of a job. I’d love to hear your rationale for losing a sale and making money.


A new project…

16/07/2009
Key parts for the timer

Key parts for the timer

Well, I bought some Arduino boards a couple of years ago and haven’t really done anything with them.  After experimenting with a few devices, I’ve finally come up with a device that I would like to create.

A camera delay controller.

The idea is that the camera can be triggered by the breaking of one (or two) light beams. This would allow for the classic action capture shots of something falling, breaking, bouncing even. The beam could be positioned anywhere in the object’s fall, and a programmable delay will trigger the camera. So for example, the beams could be set up at a height and the delay would allow the capture of the object hitting the floor.

So far, I have the Arduino controlling a display, but I’ve collected a few other items.

A 1 x 4 membrane switch to allow for the control of the unit.  One button for up, one for down, one for mode, the last for manual trigger.

Mode would allow the user to set different modes for control or entering data.

– Delay, allows the entering of the delay time after the beam has been broken.

– Trigger, select input 1, input 2 or both to trigger the start. (the green button will start whatever the setting)

– Shots, How many shots should be taken in total.

– interval, sets the delay between multiple shots.

For multiple shots, the interval cannot be less than 100mS, as most cameras cannot take more than ten pictures each second in any case!

Setting these modes can be done via the membrane keypad, but I will also add an EnOcean receiver to the device.  These allow for operation at up to 300m range, with no batteries in the transmitter.  I’ve already developed the code for the receiver, and have a four button handheld unit as the transmitter.

An 8 x 1 display would be used in the final device for neatness, but at the moment, I have a 2 x 16 display.

Much of the inspiration has come from  http://www.instructables.com/id/SARJDQMFB0B25OG/

I’ll write my own code though, there’s nothing here that is much of a challenge for me with respect to software – the Arduino makes life very simple with respect to driving the LCD and delays, with functions already built-in. The major challenge will be the mechanical arrangement of the beams, but having seen the arrangement elsewhere using piping,

I’ll probably go along that route.

If anyone has further ideas or encouragement, I’d love to hear them!


In The Swing

28/04/2008

Tim's In The SwingLast Friday, I was the ‘official’ photographer at a charity golf day.  After about 70 players, 800 or so images and a shutter failure on my camera – the day raised over £3000 for the local hospice.  More pictures at http://www.phooto.co.uk.