Three Years

Sometime around today marks three years since I bought my first “serious” camera, the Sony A390.

This photo was taken three years ago today. I look at it now and I wish I would have framed the branches out of the shot and probably opened up the lens more.

DSLR-A390, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM @55mm & f/13, ISO 100, 1/160s

I have tons I want to post later, but I realized what the day was, and it has been a good three years since. Before I depart, however, I want to share the view I have today at the place I am working.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~23/25mm f/2.2), ISO 100, 1/353s

I’m in the building casting a shadow over the stadium. I have a photo taken in the opposite direction. I wish I had a better quality shot, but the point is where I am and not what I am shooting.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~23/25mm f/2.2) , ISO 320, 1/60s
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Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 5, Part 1: My trip to Austria: en route)

And finally, almost a month later, I am posting about Austria. I don’t get a lot of page views. I have a relatively small audience. In the past few months I have gotten the most page views from Austria and the country with the second most views, USA, isn’t even close.

Anyone who has read my blog or who may know me knows I am relatively new to what I call “serious photography”. Sure, I have been taking photos for a while, but I have been paying attention to metrics like white balance, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and so on since early 2011. I have never taken a class, but I am a student of the game and I know I am not perfect. Through this blog I have been contacted by people on five continents, but my principal poster is also my biggest mentor, Christian in Austria. This trip gave me the opportunity to meet him and his family, try out some of his equipment, and learn. Boy, did I learn! Christian and his family were very accommodating during my visit and they ensured I got to experience as much of Austria as I could, and sites which were not typical tourist destinations.

I am going to break this post into a couple as I took nearly 4000 photos while I was in Europe. I actually flew in to Munich, Germany as my flight options were better and shorter, and it is relatively inexpensive to take a train to Vienna from Munich. I spent a few hours in Munich on my way in and had an overnight stay on my way back. Otherwise I got to see a ton of Austria.

Munich

I arrived in Munich about 4 hours before my train to Vienna was to depart, so I went to the central train station and found something I was absolutely thrilled about. Luggage lockers. For one euro I got to ditch my suitcase for a couple hours and walk around. I got a ton of shots.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/80s, EV+0.7

Needless to say, I took a right at this sign. Here is a building in Munich about a kilometer from the central train station.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640s, EV+0.7

As you can see, I was blessed with beautiful weather. In fact, it rained only during the night while I was in Europe. Here is another building in Munich.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/2, ISO 100, 1/2500s

I had received my Lumia 1020 a couple days prior so I made a point to put it through its paces during the trip as well.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f2.2), ISO 100, 1/1186s

The central train station in Munich was very lively, with many different shops, a couple grocery stores, at least a dozen restaurants and more. I can tell you one thing: I didn’t shop at this place.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/200s

Eventually I got to my train. This bad boy topped out at around 230 km/h and the Munich-Vienna trip took about four hours, with about a half dozen stops along the way.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 400, 1/200s

Along the way I used the Lumia 1020 to get a couple shots of the landscape.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f2.2), ISO 125, 1/500s

Not bad through a dirty train window, going 230 kph. More to come later in Part II (and likely more) of this one-month overdue “catch-up” post.

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 2): The I-SHOT-IT 200 Contest

I have documented in the past about some of my submissions to i-shot-it.com. They started a new contest a few months ago when they reached 200,000 “Likes” on Facebook which was a free contest where the subject had to have something to do with the number 200. The submission time ended today and it appears there are 1114 submissions.

65 of them were mine.

Did I stuff the ballot box? Maybe. Am I playing the game? Maybe. I’ll call it research. I have 1 in 17 submissions. There are 20 prizes and a grand prize. While some of my shots were really just the number 200 showing up somewhere, I like my chances with some of the others.

I took photos in 4 US states, Germany and Austria with 200’s in them. This particular photo was taken in Hallstatt, Austria.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/500s, ISO 100, –.2 EV

This self-portrait was taken in Munich

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/640s, ISO 100

And this was taken on my way to Vienna from Munich. I would argue this submission should count as two. Both screens display the 200 km/h speed

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f/2.2), ISO 320, 1/100s

A few shots I had to fabricate, like this photo of page 200 of the only available option in my hotel room on a rainy day in Houston.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/200s, ISO 100

And others I had to just shoot because they were there.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, 1/1250s, ISO 100

But I shot a lot of them. And there is a 1-in-17 chance they’ll see one of mine in the list. And again, some I should get credit for two.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO3200, 1/20s

And I had a couple of natural thoughts when I hear the number 200 I had to act on at my house…

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/30s

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 1): The Nokia Lumia 1020

As promised in my previous post, I have some catching up to do. I am going to do the catching up in a different order than I would have implied, but I will catch up nonetheless.

So there’s a lot of hype around the Nokia Lumia 1020 and its 41 Megapixel camera. I’m here to say the Lumia 1020 lives up to the hype for the most part. It is a Windows Phone, so it has a very similar application experience to the tiles in Windows 8 and it integrates seamlessly with any setups you already have through Windows on other devices. I use a Surface Pro as my travel computer and I am able to immediately see a 5 MP sample of the photos I take on the Lumia 1020 on my computer as soon as I take it as long as I haven’t disabled synchronization (more on this later).

My wife has a Lumia 920 and it is a good phone and has an above-average cell phone camera on its own, the 1020 is almost the exact same size except for one thing, there is a giant bulge where the camera lens and flash live. It does not lie down flat on the table.

Enough about the unimportant stuff, right? What about the photos? A regular reader of my blog (which there are maybe 3 or 4 total now since I have been slacking off) knows I carry 24MP Sony Alpha bodies with an array of prime lenses, two of which are Sony Zeiss lenses. This phone has a 28mm equivalent f/2.2 fixed aperture Zeiss lens with six elements and claims a 41 MP sensor. The resultant shots are 38MP, and the shots posted to Facebook, Twitter, Text Message, or automatically to the cloud are 5 MP copies or crops of the original 38 MP shot. I suspect the other 3 MP is dedicated to stabilization. In order to get the 38MP shot I have had to attach my phone to my computer using a USB cable. I imagine I could use Bluetooth as well but haven’t tried.

Here is the first shot I took with the phone as soon as the battery had enough charge.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (28mm f/2.2), ISO 100, 1/230s

Not bad. Here is a full resolution crop of the same shot.

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Definitely not bad for a cell phone. And think, this crop above is only 636 pixels wide. The original is 7712×4352!!

The camera claims a digital zoom, which is actually not a zoom, it is a crop. So if you don’t zoom, a 5MP copy of the 38MP shot posts. If you do zoom, a 5MP copy of a smaller portion of the 38 MP shot posts. The cool part is, the original pre-zoom 38MP shot stays on the body, and only the cropped shot is viewable in the default UI. You can adjust the shot if you zoom/crop too much or align incorrectly in the Nokia Pro Camera application.

Here is an example of the 2.5x “Zoom” 5mp shot seen on the camera.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (28mm f/2.2), ISO 320, 1/60s

And the 38 MP shot saved on the phone:

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I received the phone the day before release as I was lucky enough to live close to the shipping origin and the package arrived the day before it was supposed to. This is a good thing because I was able to bring the phone on my trip to Germany and Austria and I had plenty of time on airplanes and trains to figure the camera out and plenty of subjects to shoot.

The phone comes with a handful of applications to shoot with. There is the native Windows application, which gives you one or two settings to toggle and the rest is automatic. But the default is the Nokia Pro application, which gives you an array of settings to toggle. You can adjust the flash/focus light settings (on, off, focus light only, no focus light, auto), white balance (auto, cloudy, sunny, florescent, incandescent), focus (auto or about 6-7 inches to infinity), ISO (100-4000), shutter speed (auto or 4s-1/16000s!), and exposure compensation (-3EV to 3 EV in 1/3 increments). Here is a shot I used Exposure Compensation on.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (28mm f/2.2), ISO 100, 1/1600s EV-0.3

There are other applications installed by default on the 1020; Nokia Smart Cam, Panorama, Nokia Cinemagraph, and Creative Studio. And you can download many others free in the Windows Store. I haven’t had much time to play with any of these. I mainly used the default Nokia Pro Cam application.

So I can say without a doubt this is the best camera I have used on a cell phone. I will even go as far to say it is better than any point and shoot I have ever owned. It isn’t a replacement for my Sony Alphas. Anyone who says it has DSLR quality is probably only talking about ideal shooting situations. One little bit of oddness I noticed from the Lumia on the trains in Europe or riding in cars is a slant in the subject. I am not sure if it is an effect of the shutter or an effect of their stabilization compensating for the movement.

This shot was fixed at 1/2000s

This photo was taken with a cell phone while sitting on a moving train.
Nokia Lumia 1020 (28mm f/2.2), ISO 125, 1/2000s

Initially I didn’t think anything of the shot, I was pleased with the color saturation straight off the phone. I was on a train moving approximately 50-60 km/h at the time pulling away from a station. The next day I attempted the same shot with my A99 and my 24mm Zeiss lens.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA@ f/4, ISO 200, 1/2000s

Whoa. Now I notice the difference. If you aren’t quite sure, here is a closer look. Here is the Lumia:

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And the Sony Alpha:

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A little bit of a slant is apparent, even at 1/2000s. The Sony gives straight lines. This was the same train on two different days. I wonder why this occurs. The color saturation is a tad higher on the Nokia than the Sony, though I didn’t pay attention to the white balance or my color profile on the Sony, I am sure I could oversaturate the colors a bit to get the same effect.

So a minor flaw. It is what it is. A cell phone camera. A damn good one nonetheless.

How does the camera do with low light? This shot was taken without flash with only a little bit of light in the sewers of Vienna. Notice the shutter speed.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (28mm f/2.2), ISO 2500, 1/4s

I can’t complain about that. I think it may have added a bit of light compared to available with raising ISO but it added a neat visual effect. I would only attempt to use my 24mm Zeiss at 1/4s handheld. My other lenses I’d need something rigid to set my camera or elbows against to shoot.

The color rendition is very good, maybe a bit oversaturated which I have expected with cell phones. You can use an array of applications to reduce the saturation. Here is a good test of the colors.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (28mm f/2.2), ISO 100, 1/50s

Nice colors, nothing to complain about.

I am sure there is more to come with the Lumia 1020. Does it replace my Sony bodies? No. Does it keep my Sony bodies at home when I am going on a short trip to the store? Absolutely. There are a few situations I would bring my camera “just in case” and now I am OK with the Lumia 1020 in its place.

Hello from Austria!

I haven’t posted in a long time. I have been busy. I have been working on the single most important project in my career at my main employer and the project is near-complete. Lame excuse, I know. I have a ton to talk about. And I may catch up sometime today or tomorrow as I have a lot of time on trains and planes coming to me. I have a neat little ride from Vienna to Munich and a flight from Munich to Charlotte via Philadelphia coming to me. Plenty of time to catch up if I am able. Chances are I won’t catch up but I will most certainly try.

Here is a list of topics I can post about:

1. Austria: I’ve been in Austria for a little more than a week now. Not only did I get to see the Alps, I got to see a man playing Mozart on violin accompanied by a pianist playing on a clear Plexiglas piano in an ice cave in the Alps. I also got to see a lot of Vienna and a charming little town outside of Vienna called Stockerau (pronounced something closer to Schtocker-oww). But there’s much more and I need to get this list finished first, so I will finish this point further down in the post (I promise).

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T/4.5] STF, 1/200s, ISO 100, +1EV

2. 135 STF. Remember when I said I wanted a 135 STF but I opted to get the 200mm f/2.8 APO lens instead?  I got a 135 STF. It is worth every penny I paid, even at the heavily discounted price I paid for it. More to come.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T/4.5] STF, 1/160s, ISO 400

3. Pretty girls and horses. If you’ve read my posts, you know I did a shoot for Deanna and Stephen’s engagement. Deanna asked me to come back and shoot some more horse photos with her and one of her trainers, Laura. It was awesome. I can’t wait to write about it.

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SLT-A77V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/5, 1/640s, ISO 100

4. Nokia Lumia 1020. I got this little gem of a phone the other day. It has a 41 Megapixel sensor. I haven’t had it more than 10 days, but I do know this thing rocks. It is the real deal. It has exceeded expectations.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 @ f/2.2, 1/1779s, ISO 100

5. Other. Other stuff has happened. I can talk about it if I have time.

So right now I am in Austria and it is 2:50 in the morning. I have to get up early to catch a train but it is important to me to get this last point out. I will write about my week in Austria but it will probably not do it justice. I have had a wonderful time here. I have been hosted by Christian who I actually met through this blog and his wife Monika, and had the opportunity to meet their daughters Doris and Angela, and Angela’s boyfriend Bernd. Below is a portrait Christian and Monika graciously allowed me to take.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5, 1/200s, ISO 100

I know the light is horrible for a portrait, but they are standing high atop Vienna and this was a better backdrop than the backlit view.

Christian has been a mentor for my photography for a little while now online, but I really got the opportunity to learn some tricks an technique I wouldn’t have learned without watching and listening to him in person. He has experience with the early A-mount and before. But more importantly, he and his family are some of the the kindest people I have ever met and they were a amazing hosts. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Austria, but I was able to see sights outside the normal tourist stuff. And I got to see plenty of the tourist stuff as well. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay them for their kindness. Hopefully I will figure something out. I know I probably was an awkward guest at times; I understood very little German and I butchered most of the words I tried. I did try to learn words and how to say them. And I will keep trying after I leave.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/100s

I saw sights I never thought I would see. I saw sights beyond what I imagined I would ever see. I shot photos I have never shot before. I learned how to shoot better wide-angle lens shots. I learned how to shoot better macros. I got to play with a half dozen old Minolta lenses, a few other adapted lenses, Macro tubes, and work with creative shading and reflection. I am excited to apply what I have learned. I can’t thank Christian, or his family enough.

More to come later…