Marius Van der Werff – Watercolours

My very dear and wonderful friend Marius is a gifted watercolour artist. Since he retired from work in television as a production designer he has devoted his time to painting the most delicate watercolours. I persuaded him to allow me to turn them into a book. I used Blurb and had the images printed on a paper called Proline Uncoated. We were both really pleased with the quality. I’ve put the book for sale on Blurb’s bookshop here and you can preview some of the pages.

marius_book_cover

SONY RX100 III Camera vs CANON G7x Camera

I’ve been using the Canon G7x camera for several months. The image quality is excellent as is its handling quality, but with one major exception – it has no eye level viewfinder. I struggled trying to compose with the LCD and convinced myself that I would get used to it. I was making progress and found by tilting the screen at 90 degrees I could use it like a reflex camera without the eye level prism. All was going well until a hint of summer arrived in April and viewing an LCD with sun shining on it was impossible.

I’d read rave rave views about the Sony RX100 III with its electronic eye level viewfinder (EVF) and was intrigued. The downside was the more limited range of it’s 24-70mm (35mm equiv) lens, but I persuaded myself this would not be an issue. I eventually got my hands on the Sony and was blown away with the quality of view from the EVF. Included in the viewfinder was exposure information, camera level, focus points etc. I was very impressed. I had the odd twinge of doubts about wee things though. The folding LCD seemed a bit fragile and the pop up EVF looked if it would fall apart in a year. None the less I ran it through my usual exhaustive tests for image quality and was not disappointed. The lens was very slightly better for sharpness in the corners than the Canon and at high ISO (1000 ASA and above) the noise levels were half a stop better.

sony_rx100-2

The ultimate test was now to happen. It was one of these very bright overcast days with hazy sun and I was in the town of Paisley taking shots of the town’s magnificent but crumbling architecture. How did the EVF perform in the outdoors? Well pretty awful really. The EVF is simply not bright enough or the image big enough to see what you are doing. The brightness level can be increased in the menu (navigating anything in the menu is a nightmare) but not enough to be useful. That was a big let down but I persevered. I was using the camera in both servo and fixed focussing. The servo was poor – the camera would continue to hunt before it locked focus and this was a static subject not one moving. The number of keepers in servo mode was poor. OK in fixed point mode.

sony_rx100-3

Well that was it – Sony has lots of promise but slightly disappointing. A summary in relation to the Canon. Canon is better built – feels more solid – although limited in angle of tilt the LCD is more robust. Canon focusing is precise in all modes, the menus are easier to navigate. The lens range of 24-100mm (35mm equiv) is more useful. The Sony has less noise above 1000ASA, has slightly sharper corners at edge of frame in the image.

sony_rx100

You will see many reviews preferring the Sony over the Canon but the dim EVF, poor focusing and limited zoom range really go against it for me. The Canon is very slightly noisier above 800ASA and the corners slightly less sharp, but on an A2 print or a 1600px image for the web these differences will be hardly noticeable.

There is a new Sony RX100 IV on the way but I think the EVF will be similar but hopefully the focusing will be better.

 

BBC SSO Chief Conductor Donald Runnicles 60th Birthday Concert

BBC SSO Usher Hall. Donald Runnicles 60th birthday concert.

Edinburgh’s huge and impressive Usher Hall was the venue for a concert celebrating the 60th birthday of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra‘s chief conductor Donald Runnicles. It was Sunday afternoon 16th November. The program had two items: Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (for Violin and Viola) and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The concert was a sell out and I was there to capture the event. The chance to hear the orchestra in a vast hall with a chorus of over a hundred was not to be missed.

BBC SSO Usher Hall. Donald Runnicles 60th birthday concert.

The brief from the BBC’s marketing department was for curtain call shots only, so that simplified things. I would be using the Canon 24-105mm lens for the full stage width and the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 for tighter shots of conductor and soloists. The only problem is where to position myself to get the best view and be close enough to the stage to get something interesting. I was also restricted by where in the hall I would be allowed to photograph from. The two possible positions were the centre of the circle and camera right of the stalls. I knew from experience that I probably would only have time to be in one position as the curtain calls are pretty brief. I was assured that Donald would be bowing to the audience and thanking the orchestra and soloists longer than usual, so I would have ample time to cover the two positions. However I wasn’t convinced and thankfully stuck to the circle. The curtain calls were over in only 5 minutes.

BBC SSO Usher Hall. Donald Runnicles 60th birthday concert.

The shots are predictable but hopefully show the scale of the stage with the orchestra, soloists and choir.

 

 

 

From Canon G16 to the Canon G7 X

I’ve been searching for a compact camera that approaches the image quality of my Canon 5D MK3. Having tried a G9, G10 and recently a G16, I was always slightly disappointed with the results. I usually ended up taking my 5D kit with me as well.

Canon G16

The big Canon was perfectly comfortable in a backpack even with three lenses but was a hassle if you needed to take a quick shot doing street photography or similar. Carrying the 5D round my neck was uncomfortable and holding it in my hand for long periods, even with the wrist strap, was tiring as well as making the camera vulnerable to damage or theft.

The G series partly solved some of the issues but the cameras were all a bit bulky and images at ISO speeds above 400ASA were noisy. I liked the wee optical viewfinder although it was no more than a guide to what you were taking. It’s advantage was that the recorded image had more in the frame than you saw in the viewfinder. The G16 image quality was actually very good but it did not match that of the 5D.

In October this year Canon released the G7 X. I was in the Glasgow branch of Calumet ordering a new Epson 3880 printer (my 7 year old 3800 had developed a head clog that was proving difficult to clear). I enquired about the G7 X and Tommy, one of the sales team, told me that there was a lot of interest in it. He put me on the list of possible buyers and 2 weeks later it was waiting my collection if I was still keen. It’s noticeably smaller than the G16. It’s lens is equivalent to 24 – 100mm.The viewing screen flips up (no optical viewfinder) and the camera is very comfortable to hold aided by a moulded thumb rest. It ticked nearly all the boxes and I bought it.

I’ve got no regrets. It slips into a pocket (but not jeans) and the image quality is very good. I’m still playing with the camera rather than using it as the tool that I intended it as. The functionality and ease of use are excellent – it can be configured to various custom settings. The downsides so far are poor battery life (the battery is tiny) and although it has a very fast FPS rate in jpeg mode, it’s slower in Raw.

The f1.8/2.8 lens is good. In 24mm equiv. it is sharpest from f1.8 to f8. The corners are soft at f1.8 but only get slightly better from f2.8 on. At 100mm equiv. the lens is sharp from f4 to f8 with f5.6 being the sweet spot. After f8 slight blurring from diffraction kicks in. The lens performs very like the Canon full frame 24-105mm f4 IS L, although the the L lens is better in the corners and sharper than the G7 at the widest setting.

Canon G7 X

 

I’ve got more testing to do and will update shortly.

 

 

Gallery – Colour of Background Overlay

Both myself and very good friend (and fellow photographer) Simon Butterworth cannot agree what colour of background the large image should display on the website, or rather whether it should be white, grey or black.

After lots of testing, focus groups (my pals) and sore eyes, I’ve decided that for most of my subjects dark grey works. For landscapes, where the tones are predominately light, a white background does work best.

However there are caveats. If the image is small in relation to the screen, i.e if viewing on a 27 inch screen with an image 1024px X 686px against a white background, the effect on my eyes is severe dazzle. The colour tends to drain out the image and images that were on the edge of being a tad dark really do look dark. Simon tends not to agree. I tried a compromise of a mid to light grey but doesn’t solve anything – some pics work others don’t.

Decisions, decisions!!

 

Posted in web

New Web Site Layout

I managed to finalise the layout of the main site. I think I’ve got the design for the Galleries sorted out. I need a photo of me for the About page and some content for blogs.

Posted in web