Wednesday, June 25, 2008

That's all?

There is a current large discussion thread about Foveon and Red.  I have been aware of other questions about the chip's capabilities with red and so I participated.  I had hoped to learn something about the DP1's capabilities.

As near as I can tell from the thread, this chip sometimes produces a red with too much pink overtone.  Umm...huh?  Is that what this is all about?  A piece of cake adjustment in Aperture or Photoshop or one of many other programs generates this much discussion?

An inability to focus properly or render fine detail now that's a REAL problem.  A completely blown out unrecoverable red channel...yup a REAL problem.  A little too much pink?   C'mon.  Really?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

DP1 and Red

                                   D80 100mm

                                   D80 12 ~ 24mm

Quite a buzz in dpreview today about the Foveon chip and red.  It seems that there is a general wisdom that this chip has a problem with red.  On it's face this makes absolutely no sense to me.  33% of the sensors are for red on a Foveon chip and 25% of the B&W sensors of bayer type chips are masked to read red.  On it's face 33% is larger than 25% so the confusion starts.

There would be at least 3 avenues here, perhaps more.  The 3 I see are:
How well it reproduces color;
how well it focuses on red detail; and for me most importantly,
how it does in red light.

As I photograph a lot of musicians I often enter clubs with the stage lit by red spot lights.  I usually mention to the club management that the red light is quite unflattering to the musicians.  If this doesn't work I just grumble like other seasoned photographers.  I usually carry a small film camera just in case.
Let's be real blunt here.  With a Bayer chip you WILL NOT get a good photograph in red light.  Don't care if you desaturate to B&W, skin still looks horrid.  If a flash is used the power it takes to overcome the red light burns right through all of the other channels as well.

I have been using the DP1 in red light situations and although were not talking works of art here I do believe it does a better job than my Nikon.

I don't do much macro work or close-ups of flowers so I have little experience with true colors here or focusing abilities.  I did take the above shots today of my tail light. 

With the Nikon I used 2 lenses, a 100mm macro lens and a 12-24mm set to appx the same setting as the DP1.  I tried different f stops and a couple of different ISO's to ensure fast shutter speeds.  WB set to Daylight, DP1 images developed as X3 and saved as 16 bit tiffs, Nikon developed in Aperture 2.

Interesting to me is how orange the 100mm shot is, and how poorly it focused, perhaps due to short DOF.
The other shots are quite similar.  The DP1 color seems a bit pink but this is very easily adjusted in Aperture as well as other programs.  I also see the DP1 image much more is in focus (look at right side of the image) but perhaps this is due in part to the Sigma lens quality.

In any event.  If there's an inherent red problem with the Foveon chip I'm not seeing it.  As someone mentioned though this may be due to ultra violet influence of some sort in flower photography.

Monday, June 23, 2008

DP1 Accessories 3

I have the HA-11 Hood for my DP1.  It works well but causes a problem.  The square hood doesn't have a cover or accept any conventional type cap as near as I can determine.  The problem then becomes deciding if it's better to remove the hood and carry it separately or to leave the lens uncovered.  If the lens is uncovered it seems to actively attract dust which is hard to remove unless of course I remove the hood.

Fortunately the round section of the HA-11 is threaded and another camera's hood will screw into it, in my case the metal Contax GG-2 hood.  Further, the GG-2 size is 55mm meaning the cap from my Tokina 100mm macro fits perfectly, more easily than the Contax cap.  Now if only the GG-2 was threaded so I could use the damn fine polarizer I bought for the 100mm Tokina.

One side note, with this installed I am able to turn the DP1 on without worrying about first removing the Sigma lens cap.  A small thing to be sure but to me a comfortable one.  

With the multi color hood, the Tokina cap and the invisi shield plastic installed and peeling it sure is a raggedy looking thing.  Fits me somehow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

DP1 Accessories 2

been some mentions of wrist straps on the Sigma group at dpreview.  There would be 2 great functions for a camera strap.  One is to keep the camera positioned to always be ready to shoot.  However your arm was moved the camera would always be facing the proper direction and the shutter release button would be near a finger.  I don't have any idea what this would look like but I often find myself wrapping the camera neck strap around my hand trying to figure it out.

The second (or perhaps first) great function would be to prevent the camera from hitting the floor.  I have found that if something hits the back of my hand, or I bump it while walking perhaps, my fingers just spring open...seems to have become an auto response.  I have a wrist strap for my DSLR which was made by OPTECH/USA and it has saved my Nikon more than once in crowds.  Looks kinda geeky but Oh Well.

When I bought a DP1 I went to the local camera store browsing straps and found another strap also made by OPTECH/USA.   Like the SLR strap it has kept the DP1 from meeting the pavement more than once.

The attachment string is much too thick for the DP1 lugs but fortunately the DP1 neck strap comes apart in sections.  I attached the clip to the DP1 neck strap and the wrist strap to the clip.  Works pretty well. about $10.00 if I do find the perfect strap at least I won't feel like I've thrown my money away.

DP1 Accessories

I have found that regardless of their advertising device screens scratch.  Also, when i drop a device (as I do semi-often) the case is usually damaged.  So.  One of the first things I do after buying a new electronic device is cover it with protective plastic.  A custom designed bullet proof body condom would be great but they're almost never available and if they are the price is prohibitive.  

I found a product called "invisi-shield" a few years back.  The clear plastic is quite indestructible. The company selling this product changed over time now calling themselves Zagg I believe.  I purchased a kit for a cell phone 2 or 3 years ago and it worked great.  The plastic protects the screen and the extra pieces seem to work well on the edges of the device.  Not perfect protection from drops but quite good.  I even had an extra piece which i installed on my son's point n shoot before his first tour to Afghanistan.  Son and camera home unharmed each time thank God.

So I purchased the largest piece they had available, fit for a laptop computer and I cut pieces from it with a very sharp pair of scissors.  Knifes (or razors) don't seem to trim this substance.

I had to return my DP1 because of dust. I peeled the plastic off and re used it on the replacement camera.  The sticky stuff still works pretty well but it doesn't look as good the second time around.  In a way though this is actually better.  When folks first see my camera they often think it's held together with scotch tape.  I'm imagining it's less attractive and less likely to go home in someone else's pocket that way.

One thing I learned from a previous camera is that a mono-pod scratches.  I put a piece of plastic over the tripod screw hole (difficult to cut properly) and there are no scratches.  I also cover ends and corners against the inevitable drops.  As I had a dust problem I have also begun to cover seams.  Who knows if it will help or not.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Subtle Differences

Differences which may seem obvious are often hard to quantify meaningfully.  Jerry Seinfeld had a comedy routine where he would mimic sprinters approaching the finish line.  The winner had his head forward at a 90 degree angle to his body.  89 degrees was second and the person with his head upright was dead last.  Seeing who won was easy, determining the qualitative differences between athletes is quite a bit harder

I look at some of my DP1 images and the differences between these and similar bayer type DSLR images is immediately obvious.  Quantifying what the differences are however requires more words.

The above image, taken near my home looks west over the southern part of the Puget Sound towards the Olympic Mountain Range.  I have taken many many many images from this spot so the images demand comparison.  Most of the images were taken with a Nikon D-80.  The 10mp chip in this camera is first rate and I have a collection of glass,  all quite good.  I have a handful of film images, chrome and negative from this spot as well.

What I have come to expect from digital is a "Snapping-up" of the colors in the sky, an unusual ring (brilliant yellow) around the sun and a complete loss of detail on the sun's disc.  I have tried many different exposure and filtering methods as well as Photomatix Pro HDR combinations.  None rock me.

The DP1 shot surprised me immediately with no yellow ring and cloud detail over the sun.  This translates quite well in a print.  Further study also made me realize that the colors are more as I remember them and the color transitions softer.  There are DOZENS of differences in color shade between the sun and the clouds and many more in the clouds themselves. 

The largest paper I have presently is 13x19.  When I print several images of this scene taken with both types of digital camera I notice that people will immediately remark "Oh Wow!" at the striking saturated colors delivered by my Nikon but always come back to this DP1 image with a "This is my favorite!"  Mine too.

On the both good and bad side.  I have begun to look again at my recent film images and am liking them a whole lot more than I thought I would,  (subtle colors, smooth transitions).  I was planning to sell the film gear...Oh well.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More DP1 low light

These images are from last week.  The weather here in Seattle has been quite nice, sun and everything for 3 days in a row now.

As the saying goes you can tell the seasons here by which team is playing in the rain.  Mariners it must be summer.

These images, 2 at asa 800 and 1 at 400 were hand held.  I had a monopod with me and should have used it for the night shot but I had found a very small overhang which blocked much but not all of the rain and I was uncertain how much moisture the camera would withstand.  At any rate asa800, f4 at 1/10th second.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

DP1 + Flash

I purchased a Nikon SB-30 flash unit for the DP1.  This is a small flash originally produced by Nikon for their film cameras.  It's still available new from Nikon for under $90.00.  I got mine through  Rated at guide number 52 I believe that this flash is more powerful than the Sigma small flash, the EF-140.  It is designed to cover an area for a  28mm lens, which works out just fine.  I think the SB-30 is about the same size as the EF-140 and it comes with a nylon case with a belt loop attachment.

The disadvantage to this unit is that it's not a ttl flash for the DP1.  This is of almost no consequence for me.  When I was able to purchase my first external flash, 40 years ago, there was no such thing as ttl.  All flash photography involved math...rudimentary math.  It's not really hard.  In addition this flash unit has several settings for various f-stops and film speeds so a quasi-ttl could be set up if I wished.  What I usually do is take a quick test shot, review it on the LCD screen and make adjustments if needed.  Then I'm pretty much good to go.

I set the camera to M.  As it's the f stop that determines image brightness I can set the shutter for whatever creative urges I have.  I generally set the flash to 1/8 if within 7 feet of my subject and 1/1 if further away.  

Interestingly this flash recycles so quickly that at 1/8 power with the DP1 on continuous drive mode the flash fires for all 3 shots.  (at 1/1 I seem to get flash for exposures 1 and 3).  I use this often if at the various blues joints I frequent.  As this camera looks like any other point and shoot the 3 quick flashes are not any more annoying than the "red-eye" flash setting others are using.

Another feature is the "Wireless" flash setting.  When set on "M" the flash will fire in sync with the pop up flash on the DP1.  This works well for off camera flash for up to about 25'.  The "A" setting is for sync at a greater distance but the DP1 doesn't seem to trigger it...the Nikon flashes do though.

This flash also has adjustment capabilities (+1/2, -1/2) as well as a diffusion screen for close-up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Here in Seattle it's raining.  Cold and wet.  Quite a summer so far.  On the other hand I get a couple of fog shots, they're always fun.  I had thought that negative fill light might work well with fog but so far haven't gotten the effect I was looking for.  The adjustment does indeed bring a dreamy-ness to the image but I don't seem to have the control over it's placement that I would like.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

DP1 does Purple

Nikon D-80 above
DP1 below

There's been quite a bit written about the Foveon chip (DP1) and red.  I have my own opinion about this camera with a red environment and will be writing something in the next several days.  Thinking about color though made me curious about this camera with purple.  Purple is a color with unusual properties, it tends to have an emotional impact as well with many people.  It is also a color which is impossible for a digital camera to reproduce.  No matter how purple the print appears, a comparison to the actual subject proves it to be shades of blue but never purple.

We have a small bathroom painted purple and I have used it to test several digital cameras and to prove to others that No, their camera doesn't do purple either.

I brought the DP1 to the "Purple room" and Wang dang Doodle...Purple!   Whad'ya know.