29 December 2014

foot in two systems II

The one thing Samsung's nx300 lacks that I need (not merely want) is weather sealing.  Pentax plays that game very well, though the new NX1 and S-glass brings Samsung up to speed.  Buying the S-series lenses is an expensive proposition right now, but hopefully over time that will change.

While checking in virtual back rooms I found a bargain DA50-200 WR zoom and a K200D body.  The K200 has been in my stable twice before, a fine weather resistant camera with one of the last CCD sensors for a dSLR.  I believe that only the K10 and K200 have weather-sealed bodies and a stabilized CCD sensor; Sony went to CMOS in the A700 as did Pentax with the K20.  The K200 sensor was also in my Sony A200 - so I've used it often in the past!

Here's a shot with my first K200 on a moist day in Mukilteo .. probably taken with my first DA50-200WR!
 How could a 2008 camera take such an image?  Clearly this requires two dozen focus points
and serious predictive-AF tracking algorithms?!?  Or .. not.
So today's kit|s consists of a WR Pentax with manual primes and a WR telephoto, and Samsung with its K adapter, 30mm pancake and OIS zooms. Pig or no pig, That'll do!

10 December 2014

Samsung's 30mm f/2

Every camera brand has a few consensus picks: lenses or gadgets that every owner must choose or at least consider.  For NX owners the 30mm f/2 pancake is one of these.  Its tiny size, fast aperture and wonderful image quality is unmatched by the several kit zooms that overlap this focal length.  Consider that Pentax has their FA 31mm film lens that is universally praised at around $900, and I picked up the 30mm for $175 (to my surprise and delight).  I cannot compare the FA31 and NX30 as I never paid that amount for any Pentax lens - but I can say with confidence that images with the NX 30/2 are consistently great and fully deserving of its acclaim.  And being tiny it has no reason to stay at home!

30mm f/2 wide open
Samsung has other pancakes at 16 and 20mm.  Those are also convenient and faster than zooms in the range, but for the most part reviews are less consistently positive than for the 30.  None of the pancakes include stabilization, which is too bad.  Perhaps in the future I will pick up one or both but for now zooms, the 30mm and a few Pentax primes will do just fine.

08 December 2014

diversion/rant: PJ and the Hobbitses

Sir PJ has done amazing work on the Hobbit trilogy. 
No, that is not a compliment, coming from me!

When I look back on life to see things that shaped me, Tolkien's classics come quite early - before Tangerine Dream (1974), my first really good camera (1972), both Yes and dreams of wilderness treks (1970) -- even just before my first telescope (early 1969).  My sister handed Middle Earth to me in sixth grade, so in 1968 I began my 'unexpected journey'.  I read it countless times over the years, and willingly stood in line three times for opening-night showings of the Lord of the Rings.  I felt several serious disappointments in its execution but overall found them to be good story-telling with insights I hadn't caught on my own (e.g. Saruman being the prime antagonist and not merely serving Sauron after the wraiths' fall at the Ford of Bruinen).  What was done with Faramir was inexcusable and lamely explained away as contrary to the Ring's evil - yet Tolkien himself had no issue with Nûmenor overpowering Sauron both here and in the Second Age.  (yes, go ahead and say it: I am a Fundamentalist Tolkienist!).

I was looking forward to the Hobbit as a film.  When it was rumored as two I was still cautiously OK. Once it reached three I feared that Sir PJ had far more story to tell than Tolkien himself did.  This came true swiftly as Azog failed to die at Nanduhirion and became a major player (diminishing Dain Ironfoot in the process, my favorite non-human just as Faramir was my favorite human in LOTR).  When the childhood tale mutated from a tedious jaunt in failing weather to a life-or-death chase to Rivendell, all I had left was the Gollum scene.  That went quite well, though even there it did not sit right: Bilbo held Sting at Gollum's throat before reconsidering, which would glow regardless of the Ring I'm thinking.  The Great Goblin scenes were silly enough to be in Tolkien's original intent for a scene, but other than CGI gone wild it did nothing for me other than allow me to roll my eyes away from the screen.

The second movie was as ugly as I expected, though PJ was kind enough to allow Beorn a few lines and Bolg to be introduced.  Radagast is insulting, Tauriel gratuitous - and Dol Guldur never captured Gandalf by the way.  Early scenes at the Lonely Mountain was nicely done, up to Smaug chasing dwarves  - then off it went over the top again with molten gold waiting for a lever to be pulled and everything being just in the right place and time.  Ugh.

Now I've watched many snips of the final part in trailer form, and while shocking nothing surprises me in its telling of a story I do not know.  I figured that nothing could be diminished by my seeing them, and I was correct.  Doubtless a few great scenes await, but oh the annoying sideways plots to endure...

What really rankled though was the interviews with Sir PJ, Phillipa and the other WETA masterminds.  They spoke in reverent tones of their treatment of the work, noting with certainty that the Battle of Five Armies was Sauron's first real stroke in the War of the Ring which ties the two stories together so well.  This allowed them to create transitional scenes that would fit nicely into the previous work in the Fellowship and beyond.

That's entirely crap.
  • The Sauron that JRR introduced me to was well ahead of circumstances except for Smaug's demise; he was feinting his dissolution when the White Council cleared Dol Guldur, to reappear in Mordor as planned.  Fighting a major war would sorta show too much strength in Tolkien's happy-ending Hobbit book, and that's the ending this movie should have if Tolkien's intent were respected.
  • Sauron was not controlling the Misty Mountain goblins in their dreams of conquest; gold and radically annoying Dwarves was more than enough motivation!
  • The Woodland Elves must have been miffed at Thorin, but shoot to kill anything on the Mountain?  Oops, teaser.. :p sorry
  • Other than High Elves leaving Middle Earth (and Frodo did NOT meet any High Elves in the Shire!) that's about the only 'transition' that could be correct.
  • Sir PJ puts me entirely on the Tolkien family's side on the interpretation of events by their father/grandfather and I am relieved that so much extra material was withheld.  PJ and crew's arrogant statements that their work on the Hobbit movies transitions well into the flaws that they  introduced in LOTR?!?  To that I can only quote Thráin: 'this cannot be borne!'
There: I believe I am done.  I can move on without further expenditure of venom or any consideration of this work of fantasy that claims to reflect in any way the Tolkien material that I have savored for over forty-six years of my life.  Please keep these people away from the Silmarillion, Histories of Middle Earth and every bit of mythology, genealogies, botany, languages and other parts of Middle Earth that they might try to use for their gain.  

Ted Sandyman would be proud of Sir PJ and his team.  Oops, one last venomous drop!

06 December 2014

learning by doing

I tried out a few nx300 features to see - not read about, but see! - how they perform.
First up was the panorama feature, something I hadn't owned since the Fuji F550.  One can do this with the camera held in either direction, and just release the shutter button when you have enough.  It does lock down most settings, and that needs to be seen in a photo to be understood.

My test shot began on an indoor wall so the nx300 set focus and exposure.. including white balance.  The shot swung left past our kitty and out to the porch.  Duncan is a much fuzzier cat in the photo as he's inside the set focus point, and outside is fuzzy overexposed and mighty blue due to tungsten WB!  These are not surprises, just part of what comes with certain features, and seeing it at its worst will help me use it better in the future.

Another feature I tested is in-camera processing.  Pentax has that down to an art, but we're holding a Samsung now.  I took a fine image of Duncan resting near the crackling fire with the 30mm f/2 pancake lens.  I then went into playback, cropped it mostly square (via touchscreen, quite nice!) and then added vignetting to lessen the distractions and focus on flames and cat.  Nice look and swiftly finished.  I do need to see if I can control vignette settings though, in my haste to try it I did not look for alternatives to the preset value.  Either way it worked well and looks good.

There's plenty more to learn on this camera - and relearn as well!  I took an HDR image early on but now I've forgotten where that setting resides.  Oopz!  Found it: a dynamic range setting of course..

Learning also extends to Lightroom 4, which is a much different game from PS Elements v10.  I may need a guidebook for that, looks more complex than the Sierra Nevada above timberline.. :-)

01 December 2014


The nx300 received a Thanksgiving-week price cut of about $100 with 18-55ois (and battery and manual and Lightroom CD and Samsung CD and ..?).  Not bad, although my assembled-in-pieces kit still wins out.

Amazon is one of the dealers with that price, at least in some colors.  When that happens it pays to seek barely-used copies in their Warehouse; that's where I picked up my K-5 a few years back, in 'very good' condition.. and it appeared new to me.  Sure enough, several 'used - very good' nx300s available in white for.. er.. $310 and change.  Hmm $[250+60+14-CDs-manuals]= my great deal was just topped, if the two kit lenses are comparable.  For speed they are, but one has slightly more reach and ois while the other impresses by its compactness.  Many users and reviewers praise the tiny 20-50 but with kit lenses each copy stands on its own for quality and value.

Always more deals this time of year.. hard to resist a second copy for my wife.  And 4 days later, the price was $100 higher!