I’m a fan of Lens Rentals. I use Lens Rentals to audition a lens before I buy. Sure in theory I could do that locally but only in theory. There are just two camera stores with any significant inventory left in my metorplex and to leave with a lens you will have had to pay for it. Or I can drive into San Francisco and hours later still have to buy a lens to see if it’s worth keeping. At least one of the Bay Area stores charges a hefty restocking fee – so no.

Renting and spending a quality weekend or even a bit longer kicking a lens around a bit (metaphorically) is a very good thing. Also there is that vacation which somehow requires a really long or really wide lens that you don’t want / can’t begin to afford once the fun is over.

And I’ve become a fan of Roger Cicala’s lens reviews and lens vivisections.

Now add to all that an new site, LensAuthority.com which appears to be the place that LensRental sells off their no longer needed lenses. All the lenses I looked at were used, had a short description of what used meant to that particular lens and rated. You will not find the absolute latest and greatest there but you will find lenses recent, well maintained lenses for a fair price, shipped quickly and I suspect, given everything else I know about the company, the will arrive just as they were described.

Good stuff.


The Part Where I compare it to the Fuji X100

I, along with many others, jumped at the chance to own an EOS M (arriving loaded with the latest 2.x firmware) for a deeply discounted price. It’s a nice camera with a surprisingly  well made, good to good plus STM kit lens – I bought the zoom. Canon, among camera manufacturers, seems almost alone in getting touch right. It’s not Apple good but it’s good enough.The few physical buttons are well made and unfussy. It tears though batteries like a Bugatti Veyron gulps premium gasoline.

And I think it’s too small to handle well. Yes I understnd that there is a race to small in this sort of camera but at the expense of utility and handling? Why?

My problem, and I don’t intend to get over it, is that I also own mirrorless done right – the Fuji X100. It has a lengthy list of idiosyncrasies, a lousy LCD and remarkably fussy buttons. It also has a very nice Hybrid viewfinder,  just a bit more size and the prime Fuji lens. I take pictures and the Fuji is better at taking pictures than the EOS M. I suspect that the Fuji (and it’s siblings) is better at taking pictures than any of the Mirrorless herd. It was designed with a cleaver and entirely successful viewfinder.

The hybrid viewfinder separates the Fuji from the rest of the mirrorless masses. Using the rear LCD is optional so batteries don’t suffer from powering the viewfinder, internals and providing camera shooting information. It is possible to set the Fuji X100 up to take more images than it’s battery would seem to allow by powering down all the standard mirrorless displays and using the viewfinder in optical mode.

The EOS M, and by extension all mirrorless cameras that require the rear LCD to do the heavy lifting, all strain their batteries. Add an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the battery is officially out of it’s depth.

Size Matters – Too Much

The EOS M body is just slightly larger than the S90 we have here (and by extension the S100 and S110). As good as the S90 (and the subsequent s100 and s110)  is it’s  too small to hold correctly. The EOS M, likewise, is not enough larger to hold well – especially with the zoom. One-half inch on the right side with a bit more bump would solve that… it does with the Fuji x100.

To many a mirrorless camera with interechanagle lenses THAT also fits in your pocket is a design goal, But at the expense of proper handling? Really? After some initial enthusiasm mirrorless sales have tanked. The drop in sales is the result of at least three questionable design decisions:

  1. Relying on “live view” aka the rear LCD panel for framing requires that the camera be held out and away from the body. This is a silly way to hold a camera – especially if it has any weight. A mirrorless camera with a zoom lens will always weigh more than a cell phone.
  2. Leaving out the mirror and the accompanying mechanism, found in a DSLR allows for a significantly slimmer camera. It doesn’t require a tiny camera, just a slim one. Pictures are lost with bad ergonomics. A Canon EOS 1D-X is a brute but it’s a joy to hold and shoot.
  3. An advanced level / pro camera requires a viewfinder. Not an optional one, a built in, integrated, included-in-the-sales-price viewfinder. Fuji has my money for their Hybrid viewfinder. Other manufacturers are welcome to offer an alternative but so far the efforts are weak.

It Stays – For Now

The EOS M has some redeming qualities. It was inexpensive, costing roughly what the STM zoom cost as the “clear the warehouses” sale began. Buy the body, get the lens for free or vice versa.  It shoots nice video and the current generation IS is a genuine help when shooting hand held. The STM kit zoom is nearly silent. Focus is quick enough for my style of shooiting. It’s fine at reasonable ISO’s though the sensor shows it’s age above ISO 1600.

I suspect that, despite it’s tiny size or maybe because of it, the EOS M will spend a fair amount of time on a tripod as a video camera. The stills meet my definition of very good all the way out to ISO 1600 so that may, on rare occasions, be handy (though that argues for the 22mm f/2 pancake and not the “starts at f/4 zoom.)

At one pound 2 oz (.51 kg) for zoom and body, it will be a nice hiking camera.

It’s easy to speculate that all digital cameras will have fewer internal parts going forward. Slapping mirrors may someday seem quaint. Someday, just not yet. Maybe not for a while.

DxO Optics Pro 8.3 released.

I’ve owned and used DxO for years.and It has always been awkward as part of any workflow. That said it does do some things that Aperture does not. DxO pairs camera bodies and lenses and  the result is very accurate automatic vignetting and, thought I don’t see it much, removal of chromatic aberration with minimal collateral damage.

Today’s release of v8.3 marks a bit of a sea change for main stream RAW converters. The new version has added GoPro HD Hero3 and HD Hero2. Also, and this shouldn’t surprise, iPhone 4, 4S and 5 along with the Galaxy S3 and S4.

Odd group for what was known as a RAW tool but a tacit admission that most of the photographs posted to “insert your favorite photo web photo upload site here” originate on phones.

Not the best — the most. I’ve played with JPEG’s in DxO (and other photo manipulation apps) and substantive manipulations are  seriously limited. That said, DxO can now at least get the geometry, vignetting and chromatic aberration under control in on Phones and GoPros.

Since that’s what everyone is using.

Refinance If That’s What it Takes

I’m not a wildlife shooter but I’ve watched in wonder as the Canon 200-400 f/4 IS has gone from rumor to fact. Now a guy who should know has this to say about it:

I can’t say whether it’s worth the price or not, but I can certainly say it’s the sharpest zoom lens I’ve ever seen, with image quality rivaling the most expensive primes.

There is lots more over at lensrentals.com in another excellent post by Roger Cicala. And the price, but you probably knew this, is $12,000. Lens case is extra.

On The Hyposcrisy of Google

This is not a link blog and John Gruber will never notice any traffic that bounces off this site to his. But on the off chance you land here don’t linger. Go over to Daring Fireball and read this.

Google is good at what it does. The issue, made crystal clear at the recent Google I/O conference, is that what Google does is carefully and methodically  being separated from what Google says that it does.

Google has become the Borg even as they continue to insist that they are the neighborhood Girl Scout selling cookies.

Adobe CC

Much has been written about Adobe’s switch from “we sell software” to “we lease software.” It’s a discussion worth having.

There have been millions, fine, tens of thousands of comments on the Photography sites that I follow. Few are happy with this heroin inspired “sales”  model. The more cogent comments point out the fact that Photoshop files will unusable if at any time in the future you stop your subscription/lease of their products.


Also, what is to prevent Adobe from raising prices in the future?


But for all the dust that has been kicked up, the new CC way of leasing rather than selling only formalizes what has been true for years. Adobe is largely without significant competition in several key areas (some of the competition bought long ago by Adobe.) Photoshop, which is the lone Adobe product I own, has been moribund for years. It’s bloatware with a God awful interface. It’s evolution, much like MS Office, slowed to glacial long ago.

Photoshop has been the Devil for years. But it’s a fairly capable Devil and one that we know.

I started pealing away from Adobe when they bought GoLive and then let it die. Fine, maybe it deserved to die but lots of folks had web sites that used GoLive and Adobe didn’t give a rat’s behind. They did offer a discount on Dreamweaver and that just rubbed salt.

With the killing of GoLive (and much of Macromedia’s catalogue of apps) it occurred to me that Adobe was clearly not a company that deserved my money. Adobe made some of the better to best tools but they were always priced at a premium level while, especially in recent years, they were not evolving as premium level tools should.

So, separate price, separate lease vs buy and any other argument that folks have made about this switch, it’s Adobe that is the problem.

I’m done.

Electronic Viewfinders Are Awful

Luminous Landscape beat me in this post.

I don’t really hate electronic viewfinders. That’s hyperbole. But I really dislike them a lot of the time. The reason why is that they are at best tiny TV sets, and as such have very low contrast ratios compared to the ability of the naked eye or a good optical or large DSLR viewfinder. In bright situations, where there is also deep shade, it can make visibility into the shadows when shooting highly compromised.


In the meantime, what flashed though my mind as I was shooting, was that a Fuji X Pro 1 would have been just the ticket. Flip the front lever and switch to a good old fashion optical viewfinder. Humm…. a friend who visited here a couple of weeks ago had one which I played with..

He may find the word “Hate” to be hyperbole, I don’t. It’s, at this point a big, fat compromise and worth hating. We are years into this and an inaccurate electronic viewfinder adds $400 plus to the cost of your plenty expensive mirrorless camera.

One of the themes of the feedback on Canon’s new Very Compact EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 DSLR is that viewfinders are things of the past and / or they would be unusable in a compact DSLR.

Viewfinders are necessary. Fuji seems to be alone in “getting it.” The $400 you will spend on a mediocre electronic viewfinder will get you half way to a shinny new Rebel SL 1 DSLR.

Where My Photography Lives

My portfolio site has examples of both my Landscape and Commercial Architecture work. For those fascinated by Iceland, that spectacular rock in the North Atlantic, there are two portfolios. Also, for those interested in visiting  Iceland, there is a section on “Camping in Iceland.” Camping is remarkably easy and inexpensive in Iceland. This was a 2006 trip but still serves as an practical introduction to the much traveled Ring Road.

If you are interested in  a print or three of my work visit Crated.

William Smithey

So, As I Predicted, Aperture Lives On (if only as a rumor)

Aperture is better at organizing images than Lightroom and it’s equal in most other ways. I also prefer the workflow. It is not an Adobe product so the specter of onerous upgrade prices or, worse, a monthly “rental” price is not a concern. Aperature runs only on Macs and Apple uses it and other apps to sell hardware. Adobe has shown that it’s software only business model is frayhing a bit. Their response has been to squeeze the users of Adobe products a little harder. I am not a fan of being being squeezed nor upgrading simply because Adobe has a virtual gun at my head.

The current version of Aperture is 3.4.2 is where I live as a photographer. With a couple of pug-ins I rarely need to go out Photoshop. When I do I am reminded what a mess it has become. Photoshop is a lifestyle, not an app for occasional use. All the non-photographic cruft is just too much to wade through. Though less able, I can get the little things that Aperture and plug-ins lack from Pixelmator.

So, as I predicted, comes a rumor that Apple is developing Aperture X, a replacement for the current Aperture app. Aperture came out a slow, poorly engineered app which has become a stable, cabable place to do RAW processing and manage a large number of images. As good as it has become, Aperture, it was released in 2005 and  is in need of some fundimental re-engineering,There has been some discussion as to it’s continuing as a product. Well, it looks as though it will.

Which is no surprise. Apple clearly understands the importance of digital photography – the iPhone camera’s starting with the 4s prove this. Even Preview, free on every modern Mac, is a fairly capable photo editor. A reimagined and re-engineered Aperature may just keep Adobe honest – at least in the photographic app space. Aperture is $79 in the Mac App store, which is a genuine bargain for a Pro app, and It has already caused at least two price decreases in Lightroom.

Nice way to start 2013.

Roger Cicala of Lens Rentals and the Canon EOS-M

I think it’s great that Roger, he of LensRentals is doing more writing. This is a “First Impressions” look at a the very interesting (and for Canon, potentially very important) EOS-M. The EOS-M is a mirrorless camera that is, in all ways that matter, a repackaging of the very good T4i.

Roger is on my side of the viewfinder / no viewfinder issue:

I try to disclose my personal feelings first, so you can later use that to discount everything I say that you disagree with. It just makes it easier on both of us. I was predisposed not to like the camera because it doesn’t have a viewfinder. I like viewfinders. If I can’t have a viewfinder, then at least give me an articulating LCD. This has neither. So on the front end I definitely was planning to not like this much.

He has lots of things to say about the camera and it’s available lenses.

But, and there always seems to be one these days when Canon releases a new camera.

We did a simple test: we focused the OM-D and the Canon EOS-M to minimum focusing distance, aimed at a good infinity distance target, and pushed the focus buttons simultaneously. We could hear the focus-confirm beeps quite clearly and thought we’d be able to notice a significant separation. Oh, boy, did we ever. The Canon took almost exactly twice as long as the Olympus to focus. We tried it the other way, too, from infinity to close up. Same result. Exactly twice as long.

It is dog slow at focusing. For what I do, focus accuracy trumps focus speed. If you do sports or street work, well this is not your camera. But Mr. Cicala, who has seen and used hundreds more cameras and lesnses than I have ends with this”

So Who is Going to Like It?

Oddly enough, I do. I’m all about image quality above all other things. This camera gives me great, great image quality in an amazingly small package. It had me at 870 line pairs / image height.