Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DOF and the benefits a small-sensor camera (the LX3)

Greenery, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday I discussed the question of the E-P1 vs. LX3, and this is a short followup.

The Online Photographer posted recently a story (and a sequel) on the misconceptions about the depth of field (DOF). One of the excellent observations was how "controlling" (minimizing) the DOF has become an obsession to some, especially gear-oriented photographers. But it used to be the opposite: photographers wanted to get as deep DOF as possible.

And here come the small-sensor cameras to save the day. I must say that I have grown to appreciate my LX3 a lot when doing closeup photography. Many of the shots, especially those taken handheld at f/2.0 or f/2.8 would have been impossible with a DSLR (or equivalent).

The small sensor allows a much bigger DOF than on the DSLRs, which makes it possible to fit all of the subject in the sharp region. And there is enough of the blur to make background good-looking.

And in landscape photography, the same applies: you get a sharp image all the way from foreground to the horizon. Thus I must praise a small camera like the LX3.

The photograph shown here does not really benefit from the small sensor, but it doesn't greatly suffer from it either. It was taken today, and I like the green in it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Olympus PEN E-P1 is not for me - because of the LX3

Clover, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunset birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pond at sunset, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have now taken over 50,000 images with my Panasonic LX3 which I bought in September 2008. This is mostly due to my shooting style, taking half a dozen or a dozen slightly different photographs of the same subject in an iterative process.

The LX3 has been a great little camera. It made photography fun for me in a way I didn't think was possible.

Here are three recent LX3 photographs, from yesterday and today, showing different aspects of using the camera.

I have been eagerly following the first impressions and early reviews of the Olympus PEN E-P1 camera. I even browsed through the user manual, checking how well the camera supports my preferences in a camera.

The E-P1 does cater to my needs, even though some things seem to be more difficult than with the LX3. But there are ways of combining autofocus and manual focus shooting, and ways of tweaking so that you can predefine the settings you like and then forget about them.

The speed of the autofocus systems seems to be a possible worry with this camera, but I would expect the E-P1 cope as well as the LX3, which is not bad at all. And then there is the possibility of using preset manual focusing.

A comment on those who criticize the lack of a proper viewfinder on the E-P1. I'm not interesting in a viewfinder (electronic or optical) for my next camera, as I have been very happy with the LX3 "live view" display. A bit brighter display would be good for the summer sunshine scenes, but even here I haven't been unhappy with the display. It works great in most situations, and I like the shooting style which the live display allows (seeing more of the scene, not just the image on the screen).

What worries me about the camera are two things: the size of the camera and the adaptability of the lenses. Although the E-P1 is small compared to DSLRs, it is nowhere near a compact, not even the LX3, even with the 17 mm pancake lens. Thus the pocketability of it is in doubt. And I want a camera which I can carry easily wherever I go.

Another aspect is the versatility of the lenses. The 17 mm pancake (35 mm equivalent) and the 14-42 mm kit zoom are not bad, but as I'm doing also closeup (or macro) photography, I would need another lens, a macro as well. And there is the dilemma, as I would need to carry several lenses with the camera to match the capabilities of the LX3. This would make photography a different type of activity than it currently is, not as straightforward and easy.

I'm starting to appreciate my LX3 even more than I used to. The LX3 was a fine camera during the dark winter months, although I sometimes wished that the noise control and dynamic range would have been better at ISO 400 and upwards. But the f/2.0 lens is great.

Now, during the summer, I have started to appreciate the capabilities of the LX3 in good light. It is an impressive camera for landscape and closeup photography, and of course the occasional family snapshot. In good light the image quality of the LX3 has proven to be excellent.

My dream camera would be more like the LX3 than the E-P1. The same lens, improved noise control at ISO 400 and above, improved autofocus system (it seems that these are now rapidly getting better), with some little tweaks: fix the easily turning mode dial and the easily opening battery compartment door. Do these things, and there it would be, my dream camera, the LX4.

A sidenote to this speculation about the LX4. Considering the lens, I could perhaps live with a f/2.8 lens with 24-80 mm range or so, if the high-ISO capabilities of the sensor would increase by more than one stop. But otherwise, forget about changing the lens. The current 24-60 mm f/2.0 lens does a great job all to way from macro/closeup to wide landscapes.

All in all, it seems that I won't spend money on the E-P1 type cameras any day soon. But when the LX4 comes out, I'll definitely have a close look at it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The durability of equipment

Windows, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Steps, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I had the first equipment failure with my new camera, the LX3. And it was not the camera itself, but the Kingston 8 GB memory card which I bought in January. I thought these cards are almost indestructible, but the plastic cover is breaking into pieces, and the sliding write protect switch fell off. First such failure for me.

Here are two images from today, taken at noon in the center of Helsinki on the way to a meeting, after parking the car. It was sunny and the sky was completely blue which generated interesting patterns and combinations of dark/light.

Enjoyable Finnish summer

Evening sunshine, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'll make two postings here today. First, here is a photograph which I feel depicts well the warm summer we are having here in Finland. I took the photograph two days ago, late evening. I was going to write "just before sunset" but that is not quite accurate, as the day is 19 hours long and it is not dark even at midnight.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seaside at east Helsinki

Vuosaarenselkä, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sea, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are two photographs from yesterday, from the Uutela sea shore area near Vuosaari. It was a warm and sunny day, and it is getting even warmer.

You find an excellent essay by Paul Butzi on photographic expectations here. Too often you search instead of letting discoveries reveal themselves.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Pier, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It has rained quite a lot recently, so the ground is wet and there is a lot of water in lakes and rivers. The photograph shown here was taken yesterday at Kurkijärvi, "Crane Lake", showing the effects of the flooding. But it seems that we will have brighter and warmer weather ahead, so the wetness will diminish somewhat. It has been a cool summer so far, and thus it would be good to have some warm days for a while.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SoFoBoMo - publishing a PDF file at Blurb and Issuu

Garden, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Some time ago I finished my SoFoBoMo book, but there were a couple of loose ends. I discovered a way of generating a small and good-quality PDF file from a Pages-generated output file. A related hint discussed the output of each pages as a separate jpeg file. Both solutions were based on the GhostScript software, which is preinstalled on Mac OX X.

I managed to make a Blurb book of my SoFoBoMo PDF file with these images files, importing the images to the BookSmart software (version 2.0) using the full-bleed layout and the 25 x 20 cm book size. I have ordered one printed copy of the book (the softcover version). I hope the book turns out well.

Also, I uploaded the PDF file to Issuu (see here) for easier browsing and viewing.

The image here was taken today, a hasty roadside snapshot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seeing reality

Two trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Old oak and a bridge, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Mystery tree, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I just want to link two postings on photography. Firstly, Mark Hobson explains clearly his take on photography, discussing "picture makers who are more interested in what they see as opposed to what they want to see". Secondly, Markus Spring finished his SoFoBoMo '09 project, and what a great result it is!

The photographs here are from today, from a visit to a nearby park. Trying to picture trees, to understand what they are.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

400 km and 0 photographs

Snail dish, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I drove the car for well over 400 km, to visit relatives. And I didn't feel like taking photographs at all. The photograph shown here is from yesterday, which was a sunny but cool enough day.

Update: There is an excellent posting on intimate landscapes written by Bob Johnson at Earthbound Light. This is a type of photography I would like to explore more, but often the 60 mm tele end of the LX3 is not enough for this.

Update 2: I don't know whether the term "intimate landscapes" applies here, but a photograph of the droppings of a European hare on spring snow is #2 most viewed of my Flickr photographs. I posted the image here in March, as an experiment in post-processing, but never would have thought that it would be popular.

Update 3: Olympus finally announced the E-P1, a new micro 4/3 system camera. It looks great, and compact. There is already a detailed preview at Dpr. This might just be the camera I have been waiting for. Features include in-body image stabilization, which makes this a great camera to have with legacy lenses (with a suitable adapter). I'm thinking of my old Minolta SLR lenses, for example 50 mm f/1.7.

Friday, June 12, 2009

SoFoBoMo hint for Mac and Pages users: reduce PDF filesize from 161 MB to 8 MB

Eaten, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Although I finished my SoFoBoMo project some time ago, yesterday I generated a new version of the PDF file (7.7 MB).

I produced the new PDF file using GhostScript to compress the original "best" quality PDF output from Pages (file size 160.7 MB). Compression by GhostScript decreased the file size by 1/20. The resulting file is much better quality than using the worst quality setting in exporting the PDF file from Pages, which generated a 4 MB file. In fact, the result seems to be better than the 20 MB PDF file generated by the medium quality setting in Pages.

It seems that when using the "best" PDF output setting, Pages includes the image files as they are. The Pages document size is 160.8 MB and the PDF file is 160.7 MB. Using the lesser quality output settings cuts down the document size significantly, but Pages is doing a worse job than GhostScript in terms of image quality vs. file size.

Have a look at a hint on reducing the file size of a PDF. The needed GhostScript command is this:

gs -q -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=BK_low.pdf -dPDFSETTINGS=/ebook BK.pdf
On a Mac, you need to use Terminal for this; GhostScript is pre-installed. The command can take several minutes to run.

The image here is from Thursday. It was a nice day. I got 3.5 hours of exercise in all, which was a bit too much, but it was needed anyway.

Update: I found another good GhostScript hint, on how to convert a PDF document into individual jpeg image files. (But I used 300 dpi instead of 150 as the output resolution.) I'm testing whether this is the best way to make a Blurb book out of the PDF document.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer sunshine

Dandelion leaves, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Green field, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Brown wire and other stuff, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ref leaf, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last Sunday I made a posting titled "Grayness". These photographs are different, about sunshine, taken today. Weather changed, for the better. And it was warmer, almost 20 °C, during the late afternoon.

Update: I used the new version of the LX3 firmware for these images, and didn't find any difference in tones etc. Also skin color seemed to be ok, no "magenta skin" issues, but then I have never had those.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Willowherb against concrete, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pond, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Shoe, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have taken some photographs daily despite the rainy and gray weather. Summer is progressing despite the cold. Soon, the longest day of the year. Now well over 18 hours of daylight each day.

Here are three images taken yesterday and today. I'm focusing on the grayness, and it isn't a bad subject.

I have been following the rumors of the upcoming Olympus micro 4/3 camera. It promises a lot, but will it deliver. Soon we may know.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

SoFoBoMo - a big pile of books

Rocks and reeds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Gravel road, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Two weeks ago I finished my hasty (three-day) SoFoBoMo project. The pdf is available in two sizes, 23 MB and 4 MB, the bigger is better.

At this moment it feels that I didn't do too badly, and I learned a bit of photography in the process, especially about shooting on the streets (of Copenhagen). And the use of two-page spreads with two related images was a good idea, although I could have implemented it a bit better.

It feels really good to have the book at the SoFoBoMo site. But even greater is to see all the finished books - what a treasure trove! And new ones are appearing daily, which is great.

Here are two images from yesterday, which was once again a rainy day. Tomorrow may be a bit better, though.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cold summer in Finland

Leaf forms, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Young pine, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Monday we had 28-30 °C warmth here in Helsinki region, but today we have 6 °C. Quite a change. Some say that the summer was here and went away. But I'm not quite as pessimistic.

Here are two photographs from yesterday, showing how the rain makes things fresh (if you forget the coldness). Well, at least we don't have a lack of water now.