Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend To-Do List

  • Revise job portfolio
  • Apply to Denver
  • Prep job portfolio for other Dec 1 deadlines
  • Prep for PFF class
  • Work on wedding photo book
  • Write 5115 syllabus (cancelled)
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Reboot
  • Call Katadyn, MSR, Marmot
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Work on trip stuff
  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Fix plant stand
  • Schedule exercise
  • Exercise 2x

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vignetting Analysis: Pentax DA 18-250 vs. Nikkor 18-200 DX

One of my key beefs with Pentax was the nasty asymmetric vignetting (falloff), and one of my hopes with switching to Nikon would be that I could have a superzoom that doesn't have that awful behavior.

The Nikkor is much better, though still not perfect -- I'll still need to stop down significantly to shoot blue skies, but the horrible gray fleck in the upper-right corner that plagued me on both copies of the Pentax that I had is gone, gone, gone.

Here's a falloff analysis of the Pentax and Nikkor at 30mm and f/4. Each color band is another 3% luminosity falloff, except for the red band which is the limit of the visualization, so red = serious bad. Pentax is first.

And here's the images that produced the above. Quite a difference.

Verdict: Pentax SMC DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 ED AL [IF] = fail. Note that the Tamron AF 18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro is the same lens, so also fail I would assume.

Weekend To-Do List

  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Reboot
  • Call Katadyn, MSR, Marmot
  • Go to library
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Complete draft portfolio for one job
  • Write 5115 syllabus?
  • PFF prep
  • Celebrate Erin's birthday
  • Help Erin prep for birthday
  • Recover from birthday
  • Analyze falloff for 18-200

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bibble 5 - First Image

Bibble 5
is still in "previews", and the interface changed a lot from 4 and confuses the hell out of me, but it does seem to produce nice images from my NEFs (and the subtle red tint in the shadows seems to be gone).

The above is some barley and brewing tanks of some kind at Surly.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pentax K200D vs. Nikon D90

Some of you may know that I've been making pictures with a Pentax DSLR for the past year. But, now I've switched; a new Nikon D90 and used Nikkor 18-200 lens arrived a few days ago and I hope to have the remaining Pentax gear sold and out the door soon. (Fortunately, it looks like the financial loss will be modest.)

Why? Well, that's a long story and one I'll tell later. Suffice it to say that I managed to get ignored and blown off by all levels of Pentax USA, from customer service on the phone to Mark Davis in management.

Anyway, here's some impressions of the new device. Not comprehensive obviously - you want a multipage review, click here. ;)

The Pentax has far better ergonomics. It fit my hand quite well, while the Nikon is somewhat clunky and actually gives me a blister. I'll have to add padding in some strategic places. Another major fail is the exposure lock button - if you're left-eyed and have a nose (like me), then it's extremely hard to reach this important button without poking yourself in the eye or moving back from the viewfinder. There's a number of other warts as well, like the buttons that can be remapped having a very limited set of remapping choices, and other useless buttons not supporting remapping at all (so I'm stuck with the AE-L in its stupid place).

The Nikon also doesn't fit in the small bag I like.

However, there are lots more things one can do directly with buttons, without needing to enter the menu system. For example, it has two adjustment dials instead of one, making manual mode (where one needs to be able to easily adjust both shutter speed and aperture) quite feasible - it wasn't on the Pentax (though the next higher Pentax does have two dials).

The Nikon system is roughly 50% more expensive in general, as far as I can tell, for "about the same" stuff - maybe, since I haven't figured out yet really what's comparable.

Another thing that seriously bugs me - and this one isn't Nikon's fault - is that Bibble 4 (my raw processing software) doesn't support the camera, even though it is hugely popular and not particularly new. This is because Bibble Labs massively screwed up the Bibble 5 release schedule - it was due Q4 2008, but it's still in "preview" releases - and quit adding new cameras to Bibble 4 some time ago. I'll install one of the Bibble 5 previews and hope it's not too horribly buggy.

On the other hand, the Nikon is clearly a higher spec camera. In addition to the many more buttons, it has a much more capable autofocus system which I don't really understand yet, and max ISO is two stops higher (6400 vs. 1600, i.e. four times more sensitive to light).

The image stabilization on the Nikon is far superior. First off, the experience is great - you're looking through the viewfinder watching the world wiggle around, and then when you push the shutter release halfway and the stabilization activates, bang! it's suddenly rock solid. It's viscerally satisfying, and the sensor-shift stabilization in Pentax cameras simply can't provide this (because corrective elements aren't in the viewfinder's optical path).

User experience aside, it works. I was able to take respectable snaps at 1/4 second and 200mm. For comparison, without VR (that's what Nikon calls it), that kind of exposure looks like complete mush, and the "rule of thumb" for handheld captures at 200mm is 1/250s. The Pentax is completely and utterly outclassed.

Other nice things about the Nikon: it uses a normal USB cable instead of a stupid proprietary one, and the screen is super high resolution (640x480) and gorgeous.

I guess the conclusion is, there are some major annoyances, but overall it seems like a very nice machine, I think it will be an effective tool, and for the most part I suspect I'll be able to work around or get used to the annoyances.

Weekend To-Do List

  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Do dishes
  • Reboot
  • Call Katadyn, MSR, Marmot
  • Go to library
  • Blog about new camera
  • Yard work
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Play with new camera
  • Deal with dead bird
  • Pack up 18-55 lens, bump sale thread
  • Work on job portfolio website
  • Search for job ads
  • Clean up boxes
  • Secret item
  • Think about a bag for D90
  • Chinese food and movie with lovely wife
  • Install Bibble 5 preview

Friday, November 6, 2009

Surly Brewery Tour

Today, Erin and I visited Surly Brewing Co. and took their once-a-week tour.

Sunset waiting for the ride from Erin behind the CS building.

Tasting room before the tour. It was a pretty popular event (these things are free, but you have to make reservations and it's hard to get a spot).

Surly has some pretty dramatic warning signs.

This is the airlock for one of Surly's great big fermenters. It was bubbling quite vigorously & frequently spilling over the side.

Incidentally, these are the first photos on this blog from my new Nikon D90. A future post will explain why I have a new DSLR so soon after the Pentax.