I have picked up a couple of photography (and otherwise) related toys over the last month or so.
The weather here in Toronto has really started to warm up early, so I went out and got myself a few bits and bobs from the Spring Bike Show at Exhibition Place to get me all motivated for a long season of cycling. So far I have entered the 75km Ride for Heart event on June 3rd (you can sponsor me here) and I am considering making a 100 mile (~160 km) ride my goal for the end of the season. I will see how my training goes before I fully commit to that one!
I also picked up a nice Pentax F 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 lens from the Pentax Forums Wanted section to replace the one I sold a long while back. I always enjoyed this lens due to its very small size, decent close focus ability, its unusual zooming (the barrel extends as you zoom OUT, meaning it is smallest at the 70mm setting) and sharpness. The copy I received is pretty much as new (better than my previous copy) so I look forward to getting out and about with it again.
Finally I came across a very well priced Pentax Q kit on craiglist locally. I watched it for a while and when the price dropped again I took action and followed through with a purchase. So far using the Pentax Q is a real joy. The fisheye is amazingly fun (especially for street photography) and no doubt you will be seeing a lot more photos from this combo posted soon.
Just a quick post with some updates. I managed to get hold of a tripod yesterday, a great 20+ year old Manfrotto ART190. It is a bit beat up and scratched up but it works great, everything is smooth (much smoother than my old tripod!) and it seems very solid. It has a very old 3 way head on it at the moment, which I will replace with my Benro ball head as soon as I find myself a screwdriver of the appropriate size to undo the locking screws on the head baseplate. This was a great craigslist find, and only cost me a quick $40 and a detour 2 subway stations out of my way on the way home. A big thanks to the seller, by far the most organised craigslist seller I have encountered thus far.
In other news, I am planning on attending my first ever photo walk on Saturday. More so in an attempt to meet some new people in Toronto than to get any photos, but I am sure I will take some of those as well. I discovered a local Flickr user who appeared to have been attending a number of photowalks (based on their photostream) in 1 of the many Flickr Toronto groups. I sent him off a Flickr mail and received a reply back with links to a local Photowalk Flickr group and their website – torontophotowalks.ca. The next event is on Saturday, and happens to be in my neighbourhood, so I will join in and say “G’day”!
As mentioned previously, I was looking for a new Point & Shoot camera and had thought the Canon Powershot ELPH 300 HS (also known as the IXUS 220 HS) fit my requirements. Yesterday afternoon I went down to Henry’s Camera store in downtown Toronto and purchased one. Mainly this will be my wife’s camera, but I intend to make use of it when I want to try shooting some more timelapse’s with CHDK or when carrying my SLR around proves to be a problem.
Why the ELPH 300?
The main reasons I chose this camera over others are:
24mm equivalent lens (wider than most point and shoot cameras)
A new CMOS sensor for low light performance (this model was only released in March 2011 so its nice new sensor technology)
HD video; 1080p and 720p are available, as well as lower quality modes
Size, it is a very small camera
It is a Canon, which means it can run CHDK (eventually)
What Is CHDK?
CHDK stands for Canon Hack Development Kit, and it allows you to unlock many features on most Canon Point and Shoot cameras. It works by placing a custom version of the software which runs on your camera onto your memory card, which is then loaded by the camera on startup. The custom software allows you do all sorts of things you couldn’t otherwise do on the camera, such as save images in RAW format, full manual exposure controls, in camera HDR and my favourite which is running scripts. A great benefit of CHDK is that the software is loaded on startup from the memory card which means there is no need to modify the software which exists on the camera. Modifying on camera software (the camera’s firmware) can be a risky process which can result in a bricked (unusable) camera. With the method CHDK uses you can simply flick the write protect switch on your SD card or swap to another SD card and be back up and running with the standard software immediately!
So What is the Point
Why would you want these extra features? These are my favourite features, a full list of features can be found on CHDK Wiki.
RAW mode allows you to get more data from the camera’s sensor into your image. JPEG is a lossy format, which means not all of the information the camera gets from its sensor ends up in your image file. Usually this doesn’t cause any problems, but if you want push the processing of an image to the extremes then RAW format will allow you to access extra information, usually in the form of more bits/pixel than the JPG format allows. RAW files are also larger than JPG files, so make sure you have plenty of memory available.
In camera HDR is another great benefit of using CHDK. It can be setup so a single shutter press will capture various exposures and automatically blend them all into 1 file, allowing greater dynamic range in your photograph. It is like taking 3 exposure bracketed shots on your SLR and processing them in Photomatix all with the press of the shutter button!
CHDK’s extensive menu system allows you to change pretty much any setting in the camera, even those you would not normally have access to. For example, you are able to adjust the camera’s focus setting. This gives you the ability to focus manually, or even ask the camera to calculate the Hyper Focal distance for your current focal length and set the focus to that. There are so many settings you can adjust that I couldn’t possibly mention them all here.
The scripting feature of CHDK is definitely my favourite. The script feature allows you to load a small file onto your memory card which can automate various tasks on the camera. The main use I have for this is a timelapse script. A timelapse script, once started, will automatically take images at a predefined interval, giving you the images you need to generate a timelapse video. Another script I have looked at briefly is the motion capture script which takes a photo anytime something moves, it is reported to be fast enough to capture lightning! Again these 2 scripts are just some examples of the many scripts you can run on the camera. You can write your own or see what you can find on the internet.
CHDK on the ELPH300 HS (Ixus 220 HS)
The Canon ELPH 300 HS is a new model released in March 2011, this means at the point of writing this post an official CHDK release for the camera does not yet exist. The CHDK software needs to be rewritten to suit each camera model released, and because this is done by volunteers in their own time it can take a little while. To see the current state of CHDK on the new Canon ELPH 300 HS camera you can visit the ELPH 300 page on the CHDK Wiki. If the information on this page is not detailed enough you can have a look on the CHDK forums to see how the porting process is progressing. A quick search for “Elph 300″ should turn up any progress reports.
At this stage there has only been 1 attempt to port the software which was abandoned soon after it began. In time I expect to see the software successfully running on the ELPH 300. Be patient.
Update (21/06/2011): A member of the CHDK forum has picked up the porting process where the previous attempt left off, good luck!
Update (12/08/2011): Unfortunately there has been no action on the development forum for a while now, hopefully some more people are buying the camera and we will see some progress soon.
Update (26/11/2011): First build of CHDK for the ELPH 300 HS/Ixus 220 HS is now available for testing! See the thread here on the CHDK forum for details,
Where is the Review!
I will be posting a review on this camera when I have really tested it out, so keep an eye out here or subscribe to my feed to make sure you don’t miss out.
Some more russian lenses I have thought of since my previous post on the subject which are quite well regarded. Also wanted to mention the fact that I have finally ordered a Jupiter-9 85mm f2.0 M42 mount lens. It may take a few weeks to arrive from Russia itself though. Anyway, back to the lenses. This list should get you started on a collection of great fun Russians
Zenitar 16mm f2.8 fisheye (still made new in all mounts)
Mir-20 20mm f3.5 (quite wide on a film or full frame SLR)
Mir-24 35mm f2.0
Mir-1 37mm f2.8 (but the later Mir 1-B is reported to be a bit soft)
Volna-9 50mm f2.8 Macro around 1:2
Industar 50-2 50mm f3.5 pancake (VERY small)
Industar 61 LZ 50mm f2.8 also Macro around 1:2
Helios 44 series 58mm f2.0 (some discussion about which is best HERE)
In choosing a tripod I had to limit myself to something around $200. In this range there are few options which are of a large size. I looked into the Velbon range, but I was a bit concerned about the build quality. Teds Camera had a special going on the Slik 500 DX Pro at the time. It’s actually huge, stable and perfect, and of course much cheaper than the similar sized Manfrotto 055 series.
When purchasing a tripod, remember its probably worth splashing out a bit, because this is something that can last forever! A good stable tripod will always be useful. The Velbon range was a bit cheaper, but not as stable. The Manfrottos were much more expensive, and smaller and lighter. The 055 is about the same in stability (in my opinion) but I found the Slik to be more stable than the popular Manfrotto 190 series when comparing in the store.
My final purchase was from a local forum which has a photography section. A member had upgraded his telephoto lens to something a bit faster and had his slower Pentax FA 100-300mm f4.7-5.8. I was looking to buy an AF telephoto lens at the time, so I checked its rating on the PentaxForums lens review section, and snapped it up.
This leaves my current line up as follows – Pentax DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL II, Pentax F 35-70mm f3.5-4.5, Pentax FA 100-300mm f4.7-5.8, Pentax M 28mm f2.8, Mir-1 37mm f2.8, Pentax M 50mm f1.7, Helios 44-2 58mm f2.0, Hanimar Auto S 135mm f2.8.
After buying DSLR I went a bit Ebay crazy for old P/K and M42 lenses. It turns out this is not the best idea if you dont really know what you are buying, which i did not. I ended up with a few cheap lenses, many of which had some sort of mechanical issue.
I realised I was wasting money. I did some more searching around and discovered PentaxForums.com. This site provides some good insight into which lenses are worthwhile, and the trading section provides a good place to acquire all sorts of Pentax gear. The general consensus is that SMC (super multi coated) Pentax lenses are the pick for build quality, colour and contrast.
I went back to Ebay, and kept a good lookout for some decent SMC Pentax lenses. I managed to get hold of a Pentax SMC -M- 28mm f2.8 lens for a reasonable price. It is quite well used but it is lovely and sharp, and a great focal length on a digital APS-C sensor. Added to this were the two lenses I had borrowed from Dad’s old K1000 kit. A Pentax SMC -M- 50mm f2.0, and Tokina 100-300mm which has some hazing in the rear elements, and the one good lens from my previous Ebay purchases, a Hanimar 135mm f2.8 M42 which seems to be quite good.
Later I got hold of a Pentax SMC -F- 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 on Ebay for a cheap bid. This is a well regarded older Pentax AF lens, it is quite small, sharp and cheap. Then I went looking for a better 50mm. I found a Pentax SMC -M- 50mm f1.7 (the sharpest of the Pentax 50mm’s) after putting in a low bid. Soon after I was able to upgrade that to a Pentax SMC -A- 50mm f1.7 (has camera controlled aperture) for about the same price as the -M- cost me. I sold the -M- soon after.
Missing from my lens range was a telephoto lens. I bought a Tokina RMC 70-210 f3.5 manual focus lens from PentaxForums for a reasonable price. It seemed like a good cheap manual focus alternative while I waited to be able to afford something better. I took some very nice shots with this lens.
When I first looked at SLRs in mid 2008 I was looking at something small, the smallest one there was in fact – the Olympus E420. I played with 1 in a shop, but decided I wasn’t ready to buy yet.
After discussing DSLRs with my Nikon and Canon owning friends at length, both seemed to recommend a Canon. So I went to get a hands on look at the 450D at my local camera store. However upon closer inspection I discovered the 450D to be quite uncomfortable to hold, it was a bit too small for me to grip nicely. This threw a bit of a spanner in the works, as the 40D felt lovely and comfortable, but was outside my price range by quite a bit.
It was at this point that I remembered that my Dad used to have an SLR. I gave him a call and discovered he had a Pentax K1000 with a few lenses. So I got into looking at the Pentax DSLRs. As it turns out, Pentax DSLRs are compatible with all Pentax lenses (some via adapters though).
Once again cost came into the equation – the K20D was about the same price as the Canon 40D – out of my price range. The previous model was the K10D. This seemed to be a good option. I had recently seen a Samsung GX-10 sell 2nd hand for less than half the price of a new K20D (the Samsung GX-10 is a rebadged K10D).
I decided I was ready to purchase a Pentax K10D, 2nd hand. They were cheap and plentiful a month or 2 earlier. Demand seemed to have suddenly peaked, availability was down and prices were up. Then I discovered the Pentax K200D. Slightly smaller than the K10D/K20D/40D, but larger than the Canon 450D, and with the same sensor as the K10D. It seemed to be a competitor to the 450D but had in body IS (SR) and had a top LCD, which the 450D did not. Pricing was cheap, very cheap compared to the 450D.
I went shopping for good prices. After a couple of weeks I dropped by my local JB Hifi, the K200D was on special for only $644. About 2 hrs later I went back to the store and I was the proud owner of a Pentax K200D DSLR with a Pentax SMC DA 18-55 AL II f3.5-5.6 lens.
A Blog of my Photographic Journeys, Equipment, Techniques and Images.