Monday, April 26, 2010
Sid & Herbie: My All-Seeing Eyes
This is the FujiFilm Finepix S9500. My computers have names, my phone and iPod have names, but my camera does not, which is unusual given it's the oldest piece of technological fun I have. I suspect this is because it plays a different role to the rest. The others are servants, they carry things around and do things for me, not unlike familiars. The camera however acts merely as an extension of myself.
For the sake of simplicity, I'm calling him Sid.
Sid is four years old. I bought him just before I went to the USA in 2006, and we got to know each other very well as I went hiking through the Rockies. He's been to Japan and Patagonia, down the Great Ocean Road, to the zoo, and chances are if a photo on this blog is not a dodgy webcam shot, it's one of Sid's.
Sid and I have a very happy relationship.
That said, Sid is four years old, which in the digital world is quite a few rings around the trunk. I was content with him until in Patagonia, where everyone else on the truck had newer, more powerful cameras, and I got some serious camera envy going on. When there were others to compare him to, I felt Sid's limitations.
I wasn't really planning on buying a new camera, but, uh, these things happen.
This is the FujiFilm Finepix HS10. For the sake of simplicity, I'm calling him Herbert.
As you can tell from the photo, Herbie and I are currently in that awkward getting-to-know you stage of the relationship, in which there are more faux pas than anything else.
When it came time to fork over the money, the choice lay between Canon and Fuji for hybrids, purely because they were the only ones that offered AA battery as a power source (very important if you intend to traipse about the mountains and not see a power point for days on end).
I decided to stick with Fuji less out of brand loyalty (although, seriously, Sid is the best camera ever) and more because it was only a few weeks before I leave for China. The last thing I wanted to do was learn a new camera and menu system while out on the road. If I took that risk, I knew I'd end up with a series of photos that get progressively better as they go on, meaning all the early shots (which will be of BEI-FUCKING-JING) will be considerably less than awesome. I'm not okay with that.
And okay, a little out of brand loyalty, because seriously, Sid is just that awesome.
On paper, Herbie appeared to be perfect. He was presented as the current equivalent of what Sid was, the biggest difference being zoom. Sid can do x10 optical. Herbie can do x30 optical.
Which...holy carp and swordfish.
Of course, even staying within the brand, there was going to be a teething period. Yesterday, that came to a head.
I took Herbie for a walk in the Yarra Bend. Well. I say 'walk', but the way I hike with camera is really an 'series of stops with intermittent ambling'.
Herbie shat me to no end.
I had him set to record photos as RAW+JPEG. I don't work with RAW, but as someone pointed out, just because I don't now doesn't mean I won't later. If I save as both, I can put the RAW away on a disc somewhere and forget about them, and should 'later' ever come about, then they're there for me to tweak to my heart's content.
It takes Herbie TEN FUCKING SECONDS to write RAW to the memory card.
This would be okay if I was, say, taking a photo of a rock that was being a rock and not moving. And my light source was consistent. And I wasn't in a rush or anything. And didn't mind TEN SECONDS OF MY LIFE being eaten by an overworked processor. Might as well go make a cup of tea while waiting to be able to take another photo.
That isn't how I take photos though. That is way, way, way, way, WAY too long.
He also appeared to be having issues focusing, and that I wasn't pleased with either.
I played with the Panorama function. This initially had me very excited in a capslock sort of way. Are you thinking panorama of the Himalayas? I am.
Panorama is a temperamental function. It won't have a bar of any zoom whatsoever, and seems to make up its own mind about when a sweep is complete, regardless of what you're doing.
I did get to play with the zoom though, and that was...holy carp and swordfish. I sniped a starling so close it gave me a fright.
Not entirely satisfied with the field test, I took Herbie home to give the results a good going over. Hooked him up to Eddie (my MacBook), at which point they entirely failed to talk.
When I plug Sid into Eddie, they get along wonderfully. Eddie recognises Sid as a big ol' harddrive and I pull pictures off without needing any finicky photo storing program interfering. I APPROVE.
Herbie refused to reveal himself to Eddie at all.
This, I am not cool with, as Eddie is my photo computer.
Disgruntled, I poked around online looking for USB drivers or the like, only to find that as Herbie is so new, only a couple of months on the market, he has no support.
Well, surely they wouldn't have shipped him without drivers. Further disgruntled, I installed the Finepix Viewing Software, and unsurprisingly this made exactly no difference.
Fortunately Herbie did talk to the Decepticon (my desktop PC), and I was able to finally get the photos off the camera.
To discover that saving as RAW+JPEG does not actually save two file types, one being JPEG. It saves two RAW files. With marginally different file names, but definitely two RAW files. Being as all my photo software is on Eddie, the Decepticon had no idea what to do with RAWs, so even further disgruntled I installed the bloody Fuji shyte program on him too.
For the record, the Finepix Viewing Application is ugly and useless on both platforms.
So! Finally managed to view the bloody RAW files, and they looked like shyte. Noisy and horrible and full of dull colours. This is no doubt because I'm used to working in JPEG, and am not used to uncompressed noise.
Regardless, this isn't something you want to see your brand new camera do.
Figured the only thing to do was get the photos onto Eddie where I could view them in the same software as my other photos, to make a comparison. Dragged the files across the network.
Discovered Fuji does not save as RAW at all. RAW is supposed to be universal and unowned. But no, Fuji save as Fuji RAW.
My program looked at it, looked at me, and said, "WTF is RAF?"
To which I replied, "RAF is fucking inconvenient, that's what RAF is."
Queue more installing and grumbling and discovering yes they're still noisy as fuck and the panoramas look like rubbish. The panorama function is limited to no taller than 720 pixels, which is nothing, it's blocky horrible chunky crap, and the stitching generally not very good. The colours were poor in everything.
At this point I went and did something else and didn't look at them again for the rest of the night.
Today, I took both Sid and Herbie to the Royal Botanical Gardens. I was pretty much set on taking Herbie back, but had to be sure. Comparison shots were required. I took Herbie off RAW entirely, and when shooting purely JPEG his write speed is fine. As much as was possible between the two, I had them on the same settings.
First comes Sid, then comes Herbie;
In the 'Silver Garden'.
I really should pay attention to the names of the plants I'm shooting. This plant was decorated with leave balls.
I shot this plant just to freak them out, but both cameras handled the colour bombardment pretty well.
Aside from shrinking them to a sensible size, none of these photos have been adjusted.
Not much difference to speak of. When I had all the photos together to have a good comparison, I was pretty happy.
When viewed at 100% zoom, Sid still beats Herbie in image quality. Sid's photos are smoother. There's a speckledness in Herbie's photos, and I'm told this is in part to compensate for his ridiculous zoom. It's minimal, to say the least.
Panorama still utter shyte.
The zoom blew me away. Especially on macro. I died. This is an area Sid simply cannot compete in.
Herbie still won't talk to Eddie, but that's something I'm sure software/firmware will fix in due time. I'm still pissed about the RAW thing. It feels very much like I've paid for something I haven't received. RAW taking so long to write and then being Fuji tilted is useless.
Tomorrow I'll take them for another walk, probably up Ruckers Hill to get some landscape scenery type shots (I get far too carried away with macro on the gardens). At this point, however, much less inclined to return Herbie. I suspect the HS10 is one of those cameras that, in another couple of years or so, will be unbelievable, but right now has some growing pains.
Aaaaand, here are a few other shots that I just adore;
LOOK AT THIS.
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT.
IT IS AN INSANE PHOTO.
I DIDN'T TAKE IT, THE CAMERA DID. I JUST PRESSED THE BUTTON.
(Regardless of how Herbie compares to Sid, he's still quite an amazing camera.)
The heron has spied a tasty snack. By tasty snack I do of course mean crunchy dragon fly. The heron is all about tasty snacks. It does not care if the tasty snack goes straight to its hips. It's a heron on a mission.
And the heron has its tasty snack!
I'm particularly taken with this photo as also caught in the photo is a second dragonfly buzzing by the heron's beak, probably screaming, "You ate my girlfriend! NoooooOOOOOooooOOOOOOooooo...!"