Saturday, 8 February 2014

Cameras for Birding: The ‘Bridge’ Camera Zoom War: Now There Are Six (Canon SX50, Fuji S1, Nikon P530, Olympus SP-100EE, Panasonic Lumix FZ72, Sony HX300)

I last looked at the superzoom ‘bridge’ cameras last August. Since then others have come in to join the competition. Eighteen months ago there was only one—the Nikon P510. Taking the cut-off point as the 35 mm equivalent of a 1000 mm lens, I can now find six in the category from Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony.

In some respects, comparison is now easier. All have stabilisation; all have 1/2.3 sensors; all have very similar maximum apertures (approximately f/3 to f/6). In the following table I have only shown those features that are of key importance to birders and that I have found information on: zoom range, resolution, output, weight and price.

Optical Zoom (equiv)Resolution (Mpixels)Output Still)Weight (g)Price (GBP)
Canon SX5024-120012RAW/JPG595319
Fuji S124-120016RAW/JPG680399
Nikon P53024-100016JPG494329
Olympus SP-100EE24-120016JPG589349
Panasonic FZ7220-120016RAW/JPG660289
Sony HX30024-120020JPG623319

The prices in the table are those quoted by WEX today. The Canon, Panasonic and Sony appeared in my last post on this subject. The Olympus and Fuji models are new, with the Fuji S1 yet to appear in UK.

In this comparison, there is very little to choose, in terms of theoretical performance, between them. The Canon has a smaller sensor but should suffer less from noise in low light.

The biggest disadvantage in using my Nikon P510 at full zoom is the speed of focusing. I do not know if there is any real difference between the cameras I have listed in this, to me, important respect. The times stated for autofocus may not have much meaning when aiming at a small bird at full zoom. Some have focus limiters, presumably to save the ‘hunting’ for focus throughout the entire range.

There are other fatures, not key ones for birding, that are worth considering. Fuji say that their new S1, is ‘weather resistant’ and has an intervalometer for time-lapse sequences. And yes, I am tempted even though it is much heavier than the Nikon.

Friday, 7 February 2014

'Chorine Recumbent' or 'Crossed Legs'? Who was Charles Newland?

My birthday present in 1956 was popular with my school classmates. It was the British Journal Photographic Almanac for the year and my mother wrote my name in the front flyleaf. It was my second book on photography. The popularity was due not to the information on photography it contained but to the final photograph in the 'Pictorial Supplement'. That photograph (Number 32) was by Charles Newland (England) and was titled "Chorine Recumbent". A footnote stated that it was from the London Salon of Photography, 1955. 'Chorine', incidentally was not the girl's name but is a term for a chorus girl. We did not know that and thought it must have been her name. But 'Chorine' was enough to set the young hormones aflutter in Form 3A.

Clearly the chorine is still able to bring about the same effect in older boys in 2014. I was surprised to see her appear in Servatius's blog 'Antique and Classic Photographic Images'* on 30 October 2013. I was even more surprised when trying to find out who Charles Newland was that this image has, in terms of old photographs, gone viral. The original entry has been re-blogged (in some cases to sites displaying the more exotic tastes of their compilers) numerous times in the past three months and appears on at least three Pinterest boards.

However, the original post has a different title, 'Crossed Legs' 1950s and is shown in an untoned black-and-white. So I don't know where Servatius scanned the photograph from. Was it also published in the catalogue of the London Salon in 1955 under that different title? I have not been able to find a copy.

In BJPA 'Chorine Recumbent' appeared in that sepia gravure that marked the Almanac's style—outdated even in the mid-1950s. I have tried to get the scan as close to the original tonation as I can. Here she is:

You can see at the bottom of the photograph (not the caption) 'Charles Newland ARPS'. I have been completely unable to find any information on Charles Newland. Does anybody know who he was and what else he did?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cine Film: Conversion to Digital

I had all my 8 mm (double 8 and super 8) cine film converted to digital about seven years ago. The experience was not a good one. I delivered the reels of film by hand and told the owner of the business to contact me when the work had been finished so that I could collect it. A few weeks later the postman delivered a badly-packed parcel, split at the seams, with the original reels and new tapes falling out. The conversion was to miniDV tape and not very good; washed out colour and not very sharp (with allowances for 8 mm film). Despite the film being on two large reels, whole random sequences were missing from the digitised version. Not wishing to deal with this individual again, I had the worst of the reels converted again.

Recently, I grasped the nettle of having the whole lot converted again, this time to Quicktime (.mov) files so that I could edit and title easily in Final Cut Pro X. In the meantime, for some family cine film, I had found Evermedia and had found both their service and quality to be excellent. So, off the reels went to them, and the difference in quality of the conversions is amazing; properly saturated colour, sharp focus and correct speed.

I have no interest in the company other than as a very satisfied customer but they are one that deserves success. They are at:

Good as the conversion is, it was still shot on 8 mm film (Bolex C8 with a triple lens turret, Leicina 8V, Bauer C500 XLM), and 8 mm film was not that good. The format was too small. The only advantages of using 8 mm were cost and portability, the same factors that caused camera manufacturers to launch such inherently poor film sizes as 110 and Disc. Even half-frame, with the benefit of hindsight, was, for many types of colour film, too small. That trend has continued into the digital era. Even as sensor technology has improved, some sensors are just too small to avoid noise in anything but sunny conditions. Some camera manufacturers have risked launching expensive cameras with interchangeable lenses with very small sensors. I wouldn't go near them; I've lived with and still see the results of 8 mm cine, 110 and Disc film.