Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Airplane thoughts

So, when I drive to work everyday, I tend to listen to NPR podcasts on my iPod nano. I really enjoy doing that. My normal order of listening is to start with "7AM ET News summary" and then "Most emailed stories". That usually takes me to work, give or take.

Today on the news summary they had the story of the crashed Yemen plane. And I do not know why, but I started thinking about that it seems like the airplane seats and seat belts have not developed much in the last, what, 30 years or so. I guess 30 years ago many drove cars without seatbelts and childseats, well, they did not look like they did today, if you happened to have one. Not that it is a fair comparison, a plane and a car, but still. Remember that plane that crashed into the Hudson river? Well, there all, or almost all, were safe. Not to say that the rest of this blog entry would have necessarily saved anyone in a crash...

So, back to the thought... I am wondering why the airplane seats are not facing backwards instead of forwards. I have always thought that if one do get into a crashlanding, then it seems like a really bad idea to sit and have the next seat like 2 feet or less from your face. And let's face it, it's not like a plane will ever go backwards. So if the seats were facing backwards, one could have support on the whole back, neck and all, if one were unlucky enough to experience a mishap.

I can understand that some people needs to face forward when riding a train or bus, but in a plane, it is not much one sees out the window, so that should not be a big argument. And the planes should be good to go as the seats today are secured on some kind of rails. So it should not matter for the plane. The seats might need some modification I guess. Now, could someone working at Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, or Airbus, help me out here. Why would it be worse to sit and look backwards in a plane. I cannot think of any reason, can you?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Panasonic ZS1 ISO test series

I admit that this can be a little silly and not really what you do in normal use, but having a good ISO series of the same scene makes it possible to judge how good, or bad, the camera is going to be. This is taken in "normal mode" on the mode dial, on a tripod, IS off, 2 second timer, "normal colors", 10M low compression. The scene at 25mm looks like this (ISO 80). Sorry for the mess, this is the "kids" area:

Here are the JPEGs directly out of the camera, not processed. Some have a processed small crop after.

25mm ISO 80 (crop)
25mm ISO 100
25mm ISO 200 (crop)
25mm ISO 400
25mm ISO 800 (crop)
25mm ISO 1600

And here is how (from the same position) the 300mm scene looks like:

Here are the JPEGs directly out of the camera, not processed. Some have a processed small crop after.

300mm ISO 80 (crop)
300mm ISO 100
300mm ISO 200 (crop)
300mm ISO 400
300mm ISO 800 (crop)
300mm ISO 1600

I must say that although I think the high ISO ones looks ok for a compact with small sensor, I am not sure if I like how the lower ISO looks like. Maybe it is more the lens than noise reduction artifacts. Check the ISO80 and ISO 200 crops from the 25mm scene. Are you happy with those?

Anyway, if you want to check out the prices on Amazon, go here: Panasonic DMC-ZS1, Panasonic DMC-ZS3, Canon SD1200IS.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Panasonic DMC-ZS1 hands on...

Ok, so I could not keep my hands off this one. I picked up a Panasonic DMC-ZS1 today and I have made some preliminary conclusions already. I hoped that the somewhat larger camera would be justified with that so intriguing 25-300mm zoom range, and the possibility to use it even when shooting video.

But first some views of the camera:

Nice and shiny, indeed. Not too much larger than the Canon SD1200IS.

For you to be able to check out some photos, I have posted some full size 10Mpixels photos, and three videos, all directly from camera, and provide links here.

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4
Video 1, VGA
Video 2, WVGA
Video 3, WVGA

I guess if you are interested, you have probably seen all of them by now. My short summary of the pros and cons, at this time, would be:

  • Fairly compact for a 25-300mm zoom range
  • Nice wide 25mm lens
  • Zoom while shooting video works
  • Autofocus keeps working during video (not true for SD1200)

  • Soft photos from long end of zoom (at least on my camera)
  • Quite slow zoom operation in general. More so in video.
  • Slow autofocus when taking photos
  • My first impression is that the face tracking autofocus is much better on SD1200
  • Mechanical button for review, shooting not possible without flip of that button
  • Mode dial (on top) has few settings, and turns really easy (easy to do by mistake)
  • Sound in video is sampled at 16kHz. Canon is 44kHz which makes it sound a lot better

I guess what I am trying to say, is that if you ask me right now, I am not that impressed with the Panasonic DMC-ZS1. I guess my Canon SD1200IS feels like a better overall camera. But, it is not fair to come to that conclusion already. I have to give it some more time...

You can check out the cameras at Amazon here: Panasonic DMC-ZS1, Panasonic DMC-ZS3, Canon SD1200IS.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Camera temptation...

It's not like I am unhappy with what I have, it is just that I seem to always want to test new stuff out. I recently saw Panasonic DMC-ZS1 on a Costco flyer and when I saw the details I got interested.

  • 25-300mm zoom
  • Zoom while shooting video
  • Fairly compact

25mm is sweet. I had a Kodak v570 one time. It was the funky dual lens one that had one fixed 23mm lens and one 39-105mm or so lens. I just loved that wide angle, but on the kodak, one could not adjust the JPEG quality and the compression was quite high. And a 12x zoom lens starting at 25mm in a compact format just sounds really interesting. Well, I tried looking for reviews, but there is little to be found. DP review has a brief compact superzoom review where it is, but it is really brief. Get good marks though. It does not have HD video, but the more expensive, feature packed, Panasonic DMC-ZS3 has HD video. I guess ZS1 would be good enough for me. Question is just if I can motivate a purchase....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Macro - SD1200IS

I must say that I am very impressed with the Canon SD1200IS, and also its more feature packed sibling the SD780IS , capability to take macros.

I love macros and I have had a good macro lens for quite some time for my various DSLRs that I have had (right now I have a Canon 10D and Sigma 105mm EX, both bought used), and I appreciate how hard it can be to get good macros even with good, or maybe especially with good, equipment. With the tiny Canon point-and-shoot, the IS and the lens makes it possible to take a decent macro without any practice. Prior to Digic-4 (the imagine chip in the camera) one had at least to turn on the macro focus, but now, in auto mode, even that is automatically done. Just point and shoot :). Here's a sample for you of an unknown but very colorful beetle. And then a crop. Keep in mind that this happened to be ISO 250, so there's going to be some noise and noise reduction artifacts.

~100% crop or nearly so:

Buy SD1200 : Light gray, Dark gray, Pink, Blue, Green, Orange.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

iPod Touch and free $25 gift card deal

I have been considering getting an iPod Touch 8 GB and now Amazon has an offer where you get a free $25 Amazon.com gift card when you order one. I would use the iPod both as a iPod and then also run the free Kindle app on it as one can share the Kindle books between the iPod and the Kindle.

Just add one of these:

Apple iPod touch 8 GB (2nd Generation) LATEST MODEL
Apple iPod touch 16 GB (2nd Generation) LATEST MODEL
Apple iPod touch 32 GB (2nd Generation) LATEST MODEL

and then the gift card and the gift card should be free during checkout. Please make sure you see the -$25 deduction on the final confirmation page. Think the deal is good until June 20th. Now, is it time or not? I am not sure just yet.

Monday, June 15, 2009

SD1200 on approach to SFO

When returning back from vacation yesterday, we had a nice view of North Bay (Marin) and then San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge. Here are some snapshots. I think that the Canon SD1200IS did well considering that it's through a dirty airplane window and we sat behind the wing which means that the heated air from the jet engines are creating disturbances in the air...

What do you think?

Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Angel Island and parts of San Francisco

Golden Gate bridge

Bay bridge and downtown San Fracisco

This is the south part of Novato in Marin.

Buy SD1200 : Light gray, Dark gray, Pink, Blue, Green, Orange.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kindle 2.0 review

My wife reads a lot of books and when she attends a talk given by an author of a book, she usually comes home with a book purchase. I know she had been eying a Kindle, so when Amazon released rev 2.0 and mothers day was coming up, I ordered one.

It really gave a good feeling when we (she) opened it. I guess Amazon has taken some hints from Apple who I think am doing a great job with their design of both the product and how it is packaged. It was a Apple feel in both cases when unpacking the Kindle. Powering it up and instantly you are up-and-running. I guess that is the case when you order it and do not select that it is a gift (I had not). It assumes you are the owner and that you want it to be setup to buy books without any password hassle and so, from the start. I think that is just great.

In addition to reading books, I know that she wanted also to maybe start getting the New York Times (in paper) for at least some days in the week. When I checked, it seemed that the Kindle version of the New York Times would be almost half price of even getting the print edition a few days a week (after the initial discount ran out). And not to speak of all the paper, or trees, that would be saved. All sounded good.

Now, did it work? It's been like 2 months or so, and both she and I have used the Kindle for reading books and the New York Times. So, this is a real end user review. We did not just test it, we kept it :).

In summary here are the highlights and maybe the not so good points.

  • Small, sleek, nice looking
  • Battery life is just outstanding, especially if the wireless is turned off when you know you are not using it.
  • Crisp and clear screen. Displays photos (gray scale) just fine from the NYT
  • Good to home one-handed and read books
  • Nice to be able to get the 1st chapter sample of books before buying
  • Buy book and read it in under a minute, almost anywhere in the US
  • "Free" wireless access in a somewhat limited browser
  • Usable text-to-speech function. Maybe not for a whole book, but for a NYT article, it works fine

  • Navigating the NYT is not ideal (Not really something that cannot be fixed by changing the layout and use of buttons)
  • When you are out of the wireless area (such as our vacation trip abroad) it is a little work to download the books and magazines, and you will not be able to get any first chapter samples
  • No back lit option. Most times this is totally ok and better, but in some cases it would have been nice. You need a light source to be able to read the screen.
  • High price
  • The joystick is a little too stiff making it hard to navigate one handed

I think the benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks, even with the high price. Now, if you only read a book or a few a year, this might not be the case for you. In that case, the Kindle is probably not a worthwhile investment. Keep in mind that Amazon has a very generous return policy, so if you do not like it, if you initiate a return and ship it back before 30 days (I think, check to be sure) you only will pay the return shipment.

I guess we run the risk of that this device will be somewhat old, only after a few years as the technology development is not likely to stop, recession or not. We will take the chance.