Category Archives: Cameras

My various cameras

Panasonic DMC-FX78

I’ve been holding off buying a new camera since my Olympus Evolt bit the dust last summer. It was a digital SLR with interchangeable lens and I just plum wore the shutter out. This new one (which hasn’t even arrived yet) is a point and shoot, with style.

I bought Riley a Panasonic Lumix DHC-FH20 for his birthday last December. At the time it was very highly rated, with multiple awards. I watched Riley use it last week, in fact the Vegas shots were from his camera, and I was impressed. So I went looking for a Panasonic.

The DMC-FX78 is their current top of the line in this category. It’s a 12.1 MP Digital Camera with a 5x f/2.5 ultra wide angle optical image stabilized zoom lens and a 3.5-inch touch LCD on the back. The thing has no buttons on the back, just a touch screen.

Technical Details:

3.5-inch High Resolution LCD – Large 3.0-inch LCD features high 230K-dot resolution Intelligent LCD with Touch Screen

Venus Engine VI – The high-speed, high-performance Venus Engine VI is incorporated in the camera to enable the recording of beautiful images with higher quality signal processing including the Intelligent Resolution technology

iA (Intelligent Auto) Mode – When you don’t know which mode will give you the best shooting results, or when a sudden photo opportunity pops up and you don’t have time to change any settings, simply choose the iA (Intelligent Auto) Mode and let the camera do it all for you.

The MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) – Compensates for the blurring caused by hand-shake. Even slight hand-shake movement is accurately detected by a sampling frequency of 4,000 times per second, and compensated to produce sharp, clear images.

Front and back images:

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First Photo

My new DMC-FX78 arrived this afternoon. I ran around shooting things at random, back to the computer to check the PDF, tweaking the settings, setting it to 1024×768 * 2, auto stuff on, auto stuff off and finally: one shot emerged after about 50. Introducing my first photo with the new camera:

I’ve been looking at the large, which is really half of the resolution I shot it at, (2048×1536), and I’m really impressed. Great detail and it seems to jump out of the frame. It’s Friday and I’m going to go soak in the hot-tub under a gorgeous Teton night.

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I’ve bought a new little point and shoot camera from Amazon for $100. It has an optical viewfinder, it uses rechargeable AA’s, the DIGIC 4 Image Processor is the same one Canon uses for some of their larger cameras, and I like the price point. Oh, and it’s not a Panasonic! Click the camera photo to see it on Amazon.

The camera is on it’s way, but in an interesting manner. I can’t determine where it was initially shipped from, but it’s first stop was in Kent,WA. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know I lived there for twenty years before coming here and that’s where my son Riley owns his home. The next stop was Sacramento, ok, you can head east anytime now! Currently it’s in L.A. and I suppose the next stop will be Mexico City :-)

That’s what I get for selecting free shipping

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Canon SX280

My main camera for the last year has been the Canon PowerShot A1300 HD. I bought this little sweety because it was under a $100 and it had a viewfinder. It also had some great Canon electronics and it’s served me well. Alas, I never used the viewfinder…

Steph has lost her old point & shoot. There was a cow mutilation in the Valley recently and I believe the aliens spotted her camera on our deck and used it to document the event. Photographing surgically removed cow vaginas is now it’s new destiny.

Over the last 40 years I’ve made the transition from big 35mm rigs down to something I can put in my front pocket without appearing excited. Tonight I bought Canon’s great new point & shoot, the PowerShot SX280 HS from Amazon for $259 with free shipping and I gave the A1300 to Steph.

It speaks volumes for a manufacturer to have a customer move up to their latest and greatest product, without switching brands, and you deserve it Canon! This thing has GPS and WIFI which means I can geocode each shot and send it to my phone for upload, and it has Canon’s latest DIGIC 6 Image Processor for great pictures.

(Quote: You don't often see the big camera makers debut their new processing chips in compacts, but that's exactly what Canon has done with their new Digic 6 chip and the 20x optical zooming SX280 HS)

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GoPro Hero3+

I got my hand on a GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition today. This is 1080p at 60 fps and 720p at 120 fps video goodness in a tiny little camera that comes with a waterproof case and mounting hardware that attaches to everything that moves. Here’s the hype:

Not only is the HERO3+ Silver Edition 20% smaller and 15% lighter than previous models, it’s 2x more powerful—making it the most advanced Silver Edition camera yet. Wearable, gear-mountable and waterproof to 131’/40m, it captures professional-quality video at resolutions up to 1080p60 and 10MP photos at up to 10 frames per second. With 4x faster Wi-Fi, enhanced low-light performance, 30% longer battery life and compatibility with all GoPro mounts and accessories, the HERO3+ Silver Edition makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.

So, I own this camera now, which means that I can record great video from my bus, or my truck, or my hand, and post it here on the blog that I also own. Life is good!

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I’m still trying to find the optimum video capture setting for my Hero3+ camera. The settings menu defaults to 960p at 60fps (frames per second) with an ultra wide FOV (field of view) which results in a screen resolution of 1280 x 960 (4:3) which is the standard resolution of a typical flat screen monitor along with a fisheye look.

I’m not sold on the fisheye look yet so I flatten it out while converting down to 1280 x 720 (1/2 = 640/360). The 60 frames per second may not be such a great bonus because YouTube makes the decisions as to which frames get kept, merged, or dropped when the file is uploaded and converted to 30fps.

The content portion of my blog (what you’re reading here on the left) is built around a 640 pixel horizontal width. Each main (large format) photo is in the long-standing standard format of 640 x 480 and the supporting photos are in mathematically scaled smaller sizes.

While I was writing this, Steph came in and informed me of a mushroom formation she found on one of our berms, so I decided to use it for an example. Here’s the video I shot and uploaded at 1280 x 720 x 60, presented as 640 x 360 x 30:

I can do better. Today I experiment with 720p, not wide, at 30fps. I’m thinking native format aimed at the upload destination (YouTube), with a minimum of conversion, is the way to go.

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Canon Kudos

I’m a bit of a camera buff, a photography nerd I suppose. Back in the seventies and eighties I spent small fortunes on 35mm equipment and even dabbled in darkrooms. In the nineties I used to dabble around in dark rooms and tried to capture digital images. The following century found me moving away from interchangeable lenses to spending small fortunes on point and shoot cameras.

I love these little marvels of camera technology. You can carry one in the front pocket of your shorts without the fear of it pulling your shorts to the ground. They start up quick and take amazing shots. Long-range manual zoom coupled with image stabilization circuitry lets you photograph uncle Rob picking his nose covertly at the wedding while you’re standing well behind the cake.

Unfortunately, a lot of these new cameras have an issue: sensor crud. Dust accumulates on your lens when you turn the camera on and the lens extends outward and becomes exposed to the air. It’s then sucked back into the body when you turn the camera off where it floats around inside until it ultimately lands on your sensor, and then your image results are screwed.

It happened to my $350 Panasonic DMC-FX78 two summers ago. I sent it to their repair center where they took it apart, cleaned the sensor, and returned it at no charge. Three months later new dust had found it’s way back down to the sensor. That poor expensive camera died a quick death shortly after due to an accidental water spill during a road trip to the South, but I was fed up with it anyway.

I replaced it with a Canon PowerShot A1300 which only cost about $100 and performed great, with no sensor crud. I ended up giving it to Steph when I bought the upper scale SX280 which I just recently had to send back to Canon for sensor crud issues. Sigh…

The problem must be that these better cameras have great zooms. If my SX280’s zoom went off in my shorts, I’d be embarrassed!

Canon product support was great. They said they couldn’t fix the crud on my sensor but they would send me a new or refurb unit in exchange. What you see below is what I got and the camera appears to have never been used and it came with a new battery, charger and connector.

I’m very pleased, thank you Canon! I feel for the engineers at these companies who are being asked to drive the technology further and smaller only to get caught up by a single bit of dust on a sensor that can’t be cleaned.

Here’s an example of an artifact before and after some image tweaking. Note the subtle shadow in the upper left corner.

I’ve tweaked the example here to illustrate the artifact, and to expose a smaller dot that I hadn’t noticed before.

Now you know I’m not just being paranoid, I just have a good eye!

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The Cube

If you follow my blog at all you know that a gust of wind blew my GoPro off a Des Moines, WA pier this summer, into the Pacific Ocean. Today, Polaroid announced a little camera called The Cube for a hundred bucks and I jumped on their pre-order. It won’t be available until next month, but it eases my sense of loss just a bit.

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Polaroid Cube

My GoPro replacement, the Polaroid Cube, finally arrived today. It’s been an arduous process as I bought this thing when it was first announced on August 12th. They billed me right away and have enjoyed the interest since, I’m sure. When the ship date of September 20th rolled around, and no shipment, I contacted them.

It turned out that one of the mounting components I’d ordered along with it got hung up in customs, thus delaying the order. I said split the order and send me the camera! which they did, along with free shipping. One thing I noticed about this Photojojo outfit is they like to talk in a cutesy manner and their shipping document continued the style.

Here’s what I got, along with my initial take:

• The camera. It’s got a 720p/1080p switch in the back along with a card slot and a USB 2.0 port. There’s a function switch on the top and a magnet on the bottom. The front has the lens and a microphone.

• The shipping document was very cute and included a plastic dinosaur which I’m sure will become one of my valued treasures. Ok, maybe not…

• A ridiculously short USB cord. Really?

• A 16GB class four micro sd card. Again lame, my GoPro sitting in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean had a 32GB class 10 card, which is prefered for 1080p video. I had the card included in the order without diving into the specs, so it’s my error.

• I shot a short test video and it actually looked pretty good, except there was no audio.

Alright, the USB cord and the SD card can be upgraded, no problem, and maybe I’m missing a setting that would cause the audio to not record, but my gut is saying not…

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Dry Farms Drive

I’m still having issues with audio from my new Cube. I’ve installed Divx-10 and it managed to convert a 1920×1080 .mov video straight from the camera into a 1280×720 .mp4, preserving (or should I say “restoring”) the audio.

Here’s the converted 5 minute video showing a segment of our drive back to Teton Valley Idaho from Rexburg yesterday, accompanied by the sweet rumble of my ’88 Mazda B2200 travel truck, cracked window and all. Welcome aboard!

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Bad Cube

Man, I sure miss my GoPro. Sigh… My ongoing saga with the cheap little Polaroid Cube continues. From a delayed delivery, to audio issues on my very sweet and current Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit system, and now it goes crazy on me.

Photojojo is the exclusive distributor for this product. Polaroid invents the thing and then lets them market it in their cutesy little way. The problem is, when issues arise, you’re dealing with the distributor and not the creator.

Tonight I turned the cube on by holding down the button for three seconds. Next, I pressed the button twice to start video recording. After shooting about 10 seconds of video I pressed the button twice to stop it. Oops, maybe I should have just pressed it once! Apparently I started a video recording on top of a video recording and the damn thing went tits up! Are you kidding me?

There is no way to reset it or power it down since there is no access to the battery. It is now emitting a solid obnoxious high pitched sound and sitting out on a window sill in my garage so I don’t have to hear it.

The whole experience is just leaving a bad taste in my mouth and I’m about to bail and send this thing back. If I heard directly from Polaroid support I would re-consider, but I doubt it. Here’s the arrival and some [video], [video].

Update: Steph brought it back in last night when it finally stopped screaming. I just plugged it in this morning and found that it had reset itself back to normal. I also saw a familiar sight in it’s photos folder, a one second 1920×1080 video with a length of 1,304KB, while the video I shot preceding the crash was about 10 seconds. This is not the first time I’ve seen one second videos identical to this occur with this device! The Cube has some major issues.

My buddy Christina from Photojojo, who’s been really nice and very helpful through this whole ordeal wrote me last night after viewing this post:

Hey Jim, That is wild, and we're not sure why the Cubes are beeping like that. I've been in touch with Polaroid. Here is their e-mail

She also offered a full refund, but wait! That email implies I’m not the only one with issues. Anyway, I fired off an email to Polaroid support last night, and thankfully they got right back to me, sort of:

Please be advised in observance of the Succos holiday, our office will be closing at 6:00 pm on Wednesday October 8th and will remain closed through Sunday October 12th. We will reopen for normal business hours on Monday October 13th. All emails will be answered when we return.


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Cube Update

I got an email this morning from a Polaroid technician named Shaquan. Hmm, I thought they had the day off today? The tech was friendly, had read my review of the Cube and thought they could help with my issues. Here’s the portion of the email that made my jaw drop:

We've just received an update from our manufacturers that state some microSD card formats may not be compatible with the CUBE, or other common action line cameras. The reason I bring this up is because people have been having issues with SanDisk Ultra cards and incompatibility.

Why me tech Lord, why me? Regular readers will recall that I was dissatisfied with the class 4 Micro-SD card that came with the Cube so two weeks ago I picked up a high quality class 10 card from Walmart during a trip to Rexburg. Of all the cards I could have picked, I chose a (wait for it… :-) 16GB Class 10 SanDisk Ultra Plus.

So the one second video issue was not with the Cube, but with the card. Shaquan suggested that I format the card, which I just did, a full format not the quick and dirty.

I’ve taken a test video and it came out fine so I’ll run with the SanDisk for a bit and see what happens. As to the other issue in the case of the screaming cube, I’ve put a bug in Polaroids ear for a firmware update.

Update: The one second video bug is still there. Sigh… I guess I should head back to Washington and dig my GoPro out of the ocean and rescue the card from it, or buy another. Come on Polaroid, recommend one!

In the meantime, my Cube tripod mount arrived. I like!

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Cube Wheel

Riley’s old mountain bike has risen like the Phoenix to become, The Cube Wheel. The bike came with us to Idaho and I’ve ridden it twice, both times unpleasant. It was old, outdated and heavy and has been hanging on a hook in our garage.

Today I stripped the front end out to create a device for taking smooth rolling video shots with my Cube camera. This idea came about when my sister mentioned the camera would be good for making videos of the inside of her rental properties, and I know from experience that walking around with the camera in your hand introduces bounces from your footsteps.

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Black Cube

I guess I’ve voided the warranty on my Polaroid Cube as I had Steph paint it black. We striped off the colorful stripe and her excellent hand-eye coordination converted the soft blue color, to nothing. They should offer this as an option.

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YouTube Player

I’ve been really frustrated lately by the fact that I couldn’t force embedded iframe YouTube videos to start in hi-def mode. I’m uploading in 1920×1080 mode which should playback in 1080p, but they default to 300p.

Screw that, I’m a computer programmer, so I dove into the YouTube Player API and wrote my own player. Here’s a short little video using my Cube on its Wheel moving around our living room tonight in hi-def, played back with my new player:

I find it interesting that real computers (you know, windows/intel or mac) will playback 1080p, but tablets and phones opt down to the lower resolutions. Do they feel inferior?

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