Space – The Final Frontier

One of my goals as a retired senior citizen is to indulge all of the interests I’ve developed over the years, now that I have the time and frankly also the money to do so.

I’ve had a long standing love affair with all things in space and space-related. By that, I mean all things off our own planet. From the early days of the Gemini and Apollo programs in the US, I’ve been gripped by a fascination around what and who could be out there. And of course, Star Trek and its offshoots only served to romanticize the idea that strange, wonderful adventures and discoveries could lie beyond our atmosphere.

I had some good fortune when younger to connect with people that worked on these challenges, at least from the point of view of humans living in space. But I’ve come to realize that humans in space is more of a challenge than we know how to solve right now, and I will never live to see permanent residence of any human anywhere other than on the Earth. But there are other ways to explore beyond our tiny speck of a planet, and I have settled on astrophotography as that method for me.

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Gifts for Me!

A little self-serving? Yes, it is. I admit it. But I’ve discovered that friends and family who aren’t into photography and videography often have little idea on what a hobbyist might like. So I thought I would throw out a few inexpensive but meaningful ideas for that last minute shopper with a photographer on their list.

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How Much Technology is Enough?

There were a couple of articles recently about the growing role of technology in cameras, specifically along the lines of how technology is making photography easy – too easy to be truly artistically challenging, it seems. I’ve written about something similar before, in terms of artificial intelligence and post-processing. This is a bit different. It’s about how much work your camera should do vs. what you should do as the photographer.

I’ll link to one of those articles below, in which the author opens up that argument and concludes the opposite – that technology in fact makes photography more challenging, focusing the artist’s attention on the things that are meaningful and not on the things that are mundane. I agree with that view, with some limitations.

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Rumors and Leaks – Do We Really Need Them?

Are you an “insider”? Do you sign up for newsletters and online posts that claim to provide you with the latest “scuttlebutt” on what’s happening in technology? Do you eagerly absorb each one, hungry for that smallest detail? Do you politely argue with the creators that what they say is not the full picture, or could not possibly be true, or makes no sense if it was true?

I’m discovering that some of the most successful online posts and videos are about, well really, nothing. They are someone’s opinion about what we might see next or how the market might drive those choices. Some have gained a reputation for “accuracy”, even if only half of the posted information does come to pass over time.

The bigger issue for me, though, is why we need such “services” at all. I’ll admit that I’ve watched, even subscribed, to some of these sites, but find it more and more annoying to watch each episode – I usually turn it off after a minute or two. Sometimes I skip posts all together. So why do we bother with them?

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Canon Third Party RF Lens Ban

Yes, I’m writing about this too. Everybody has. But my perspective is very different, so please keep reading.

I’m both baffled and annoyed at the indignant positions taken by many commentators, including folks like Tony Northrup, on the decision made by Canon to issue cease and desist orders to third party lens makers who are (were) producing RF mount lenses. Specifically, here’s the announcement (in case you really haven’t seen it):

Not his first offering on the subject, but in this one, Tony seems particularly hell-bent on trashing Canon for their decision. Although in fairness, he did choose to hide it embedded in a breaking news piece that focused more on Nikon (thank goodness).

The bottom line for Tony is that Canon is making a huge mistake by not allowing third party manufacturers to produce RF mount lenses, and further that Canon has chosen not to license its RF technology to those same parties, foregoing a HUGE revenue stream. SOOOOO many potential customers are saying that they will no longer consider purchasing Canon products because they need and expect access to less costly gear options to justify the huge up-front investment from them that Canon requires for access to its new line of cameras. And indeed, the commentary on most YouTube posts where the decision is trashed is exactly that.

Every once in a while though, there is a solitary voice commenting that the decision was indeed the right one. One of those voices is mine.

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DSLR vs. Mirrorless

Not sure why I haven’t written about this before. Maybe it was because the mirrorless market wasn’t yet mature or maybe it was because I wasn’t yet mature – at least in terms of my knowledge of the subject. Well, today is the day, and we’ll do a deep dive into one vs. the other.

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Camera IBIS and Lens OIS in Canon EOS R5 – How Good is It?

I’m afraid that this piece is going to be a little bit technical, so for those who aren’t inclined that way, but who own a Canon EOS R5 camera, let me just say that Canon has really brought it home here: a Canon EOS R5, equipped with a native Canon RF mount lens that includes lens-based image stabilization, can indeed get up to 8 stops of improved low light performance. That simply means that you can shoot images with shutter speeds up to 8 stops slower than you normally could and still get sharp, in-focus images in low light conditions. Up to 8 stops. Ok, that’s the non-techie part. And you already knew that anyway. Non-techies can leave now. But stay and continue reading. It seems that “up to” has proven very confusing. Read on to find out why.

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Electronic or Mechanical – The Latest on Shutters

If you own a recent camera, particularly a mirrorless camera, one of the features you likely have access to is a choice of shutter modes.

In the good old days, the shutter, which is the mechanism in your camera that lets the light in your scene into the camera and onto the film plane or the sensor plane, was mechanical. Originally, it was something as simple as a rotating wheel with a hole cut into it. Mechanical means moving parts.

Shutters until recently were still all mechanical. But we recently were treated to the first professional camera with no mechanical shutter at all. In fact, today, you may not have any mechanical parts in your camera body at all. We’ve come a long way.

So if not mechanical, what? Electronic. Of course. Just as everything else in the world has moved from analogue/mechanical to electronic, so to have the mechanisms that control cameras. Virtually all controls in mid-to-higher-range mirrorless camera bodies are electronic. But the technology is not perfect and so most cameras also still include a mechanical shutter and give you the choice of selecting one or the other, or even a combination of both.

My latest camera, the Canon EOS R5 includes both. I’ve never tried the electronic shutter. Thought it was about time that I did. But first, in my usual geeky fashion, I had to learn when and why to use it. Here’s what I found out.

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Backing Up is Hard to Do

I’ve had conversations with photographer friends from time to time about the strategies they use to back up their files. In those conversations, we discuss camera cards, computers, hard drives and both connected and remote offsite storage. More on that in a bit.

But as we all know, computers are not the only way we capture our photographs now. In this age of mobile devices, many of us take pictures on our cellphones equally often and keep all of those images on our cellphones only. I discovered this when talking to customers in the camera store who come in looking to print their cellphone images for friends and family. Many don’t have data plans, so backup of these images is not generally something they consider and they are genuinely surprised when I casually ask.

Some cellphone operators provide an unlimited pseudo-storage service where a thumbnail sized version of the original image on the phone is always accessible in the cloud. These take up virtually no space but also can’t be downloaded and printed to share or put up on a wall. Great for social media only. If the phone dies or is somehow corrupted, the original images are gone forever.

To complicate this further, many of us now include video in our collections, again on the phone or through any of many other recording devices. Video has become a major element in my media collection now so it too requires some type of backup solution.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve considered all of the sources of my media and have come up with options that I feel comfortable with. Likely overkill for most, but might be worth a read…

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Crop Mode in Camera or Crop in Post

There was a bit of a Facebook exchange recently in our camera club about how best to achieve a fill-the-frame image when your lens can’t provide enough reach. This wouldn’t even have been a discussion a few years ago – the only two ways to do it would have been to zoom with your feet (get closer) or to crop in post production. DSLRs offered no other options.

But today’s higher end DSLRs and all (most?) mirrorless cameras offer another option where you can isolate how much of the sensor read-out is captured in the RAW data for a particular image. When converted, that reduced RAW data then “fills the frame” appearing to create a zoom or magnified effect and brings you in “closer” to your intended subject.

The exchange on Facebook fell into two camps: those who called the result magnification and those who said that was misleading. Well, in fact, they are both right.

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