My Photography learning Tips

5-star camera amongst 5-star competition,

Posted in Digital Camera by makelargps on January 17, 2010

I’ve owned an Olympus Evolt E510 for over a year. Here are a few comments that might help you.

The Olympus Evolt E520 adds face detection, a vertical panning IS (image stabilization) mode, and an improved sensor with better noise and dynamic range. Conventional wisdom is that it is not worth upgrading an E510, and further that it is worth looking at E510s on markdown if you can find a good deal. The E520, though, is certainly improved.

There are no bad DSLRs any more. They are all really good, although within a given budget and dimension, designers have to prune certain features. Olympus’ main feature is the four-thirds sensor – this is one of the smaller sensor footprints available, meaning that lens designs are slightly more compact, but small sensors generate more noise in low-light conditions.

In good light, sensor noise is not a problem. For most consumer-level users, ISOs up to about 400 or even 800 are very good – but most consumers would notice the more grainy, washed out look at 1600. I would rate an ISO1600 shot as unacceptable at 8″x10″ on the E510.

The small light circle also makes the Olympus view finder smaller and darker. If you peer through, say, a budget Nikon, the view is noticeably larger and brighter.

However, the Olympus Evolt E520 has image stabilization in the body, rather than the lenses. Lens stabilization is slightly better – it also works while you are framing up the shot – but obviously you pay for it in every lens. Many Canon/Nikon lenses do not have IS.

Neither the Olympus Evolt E520 nor the kit lenses are weather sealed. Be careful in the rain or at the beach. Fortunately, the Olympus self-cleaning sensor is probably the best one out there. I have not had to clean my sensor yet.

You will need an extra battery. The focusing in low light gets slow or fails completely as the battery runs down. I have a Duracell spare – it has been fine.

If you are into HDR (and you WILL be), the E-520 offers only +-1 EV brackets. You will have to use a tripod and fiddle with exposure between each shot for other brackets.

I recommend making a “lens plan” to decide whether to get the body only, or a 1 or 2 lens kit.

Olympus is respected for the quality of the kit lenses. These lens (the 14-42 and 40-150) are extremely compact, with good image quality. They primarily give up speed, but they are well within the speed range of other brand’s kit lenses. If you buy the kit lenses, you will look jealously at the 14-54, and the 12-60 “walking around” lenses – these are highly regarded but much more expensive. Except for the extra speed, most consumers will not notice the difference on a 5×4 print with these lenses over the kit lenses. With larger prints, or with low light, the more expensive glass is worth having.

Overall, Olympus lenses are highly regarded, even by people who are not fans of the format. Expect to pay $200 to $600 for “Standard” grade, $600 to $1200 for “High Grade”, and $1200 to $2000 for “Super High Grade” lenses. Olympus also offers a few obligatory $5000 monsters – these are well into purely-theoretical for an average user like myself.

I added the 9-18 and 70-300 lenses to my 2 kit lenses, for roughly an extra $1000. This gives me coverage from 9 through 300. These are all Olympus “Standard” quality lenses, good image quality, but not weather sealed, and a bit slow.

It is fair to say that the four-thirds system is a bit of a pariah in the camera world. There are a few pro’s shooting with it, but you should be aware that Canon has over 60% of the market, and Nikon something like 15%. If you search B&H, you will find pages and pages of Canon lenses, but only 2 pages of Olympus. Many photographers will pointedly sniff at your 4:3 ratio pictures, instead of their “classic” 3:2 ratio. However, 4:3 is a better crop if you often print out 8×10 pictures instead of the small 5×3 or 6×4, and Walmart and many other developers offer a 5×4 size.

I wish there were more lenses to choose from – yet I would still buy the ones I already bought. I wish the noise performance were better – but I have never really lost a shot because of it, and may add an E-30 body to my bag soon. I’m satisfied with the 4/3 format, and very happy with my camera.

You should google up Wrotniak, four-thirds (on Wikipedia), or four-thirds forum for more information. Olympus Evolt E520

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An Excellent GPS device

Posted in GPS by makelargps on January 14, 2010

This Nuvi does several things very well, and I’ve yet to discover any serious shortcomings. My thoughts:

Navigation: Excellent, as is typical with Garmin Nuvi 765T units. On a couple of occasions the voice (right now I’m using Australian Karen) told me my destination was on the wrong side of the street.

Map: The map is clear, the refresh rate is fast, and all of the right information is provided on-screen, including details for upcoming turns and junctions, speed limit, and traffic alerts. It’s annoying that I can’t choose to switch the display of my current speed to some other piece of info. I already have a speedometer. The 3D buildings feature seems pretty gimmicky, and is implemented sporadically, even in downtown Boston. When there is coverage, most buildings are monochromatic blocks, and not the photo-realistic buildings seen in screenshots.

Lane Assist: This feature has been spot-on so far. It’s nice driving in a new area and not getting flustered about being in the wrong lane. I have yet to see the full-screen 3D Lane Assist Junction View shown in the many Nuvi 765t screenshots — however, I’ve done very little highway driving, and I believe this screen requires that the user press the top-left (upcoming turn icon).

>>>>>UPDATE: After some highway driving, it turns out that the full-screen 3D Lane Assist Junction View shows up automatically before potentially tricky highway junctions. Very nice.

Traffic: As far as I know, I have not been re-routed because of traffic. However, it’s very easy to bring up a list of major roads and their current traffic conditions, and to avoid them at will. The pop-up advertising associated with the “free” traffic is pretty subtle, and never distracting.

Bluetooth: I’m impressed with this feature so far. It mated with my phone (old Motorola RAZR V3) easily, importing all of my contacts in the process. The ability to instantly dial any point of interest (e.g., to check on store hours) is brilliant. The volume from the speaker is reasonably loud. I also tried sending the audio to my car stereo using an audio cable, and the output seemed a bit low (I had to turn my car stereo way up). I have not yet tried sending the audio to my car stereo using the FM transmitter. I called my voicemail, and the built-in microphone picks up my voice reasonably well with the engine running. I’m not sure how well it would work with highway speeds. I’m told that the cheap Garmin microphone (which plugs into the cradle, not the unit) improves voice quality.

>>>>>UPDATE: This is true — the microphone is an improvement, though it adds yet another long cord to your long cord collection. Also, I’ve tried the FM transmitter. It works, albeit with a certain amount of static. I imagine this feature would intolerable if you are driving a long way.

Other features: I haven’t used the SD card slot for anything. I haven’t tried the photo viewer or the mp3 player, and I probably won’t.

Build Quality: Seems solid. The unit has a certain heft to it, and it’s covered in a soft, rubbery coating. I’ve also dropped it already (because I’m an idiot) — still working beautifully.

Suggested improvements: Garmin doesn’t make it easy to look up the actual coordinates (latitude and longitude) for favorites or points of interest. This information should be available at the press of a button.

Needless to say, I’m pleased with my purchase. The Nuvi 756t is not cheap right now, and if you can live without the new features, you might be better off with an older unit. That said, if you’re looking for a gps device with all of the latest features and compatibility, this seems to be a solid pick.

Take from
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