3.28.2020

Posted just to make my eyes happy.


What do you do when your camera is too small and your lens is too big.

Chihuahua mates with Great Dane.

Yes. I was going to use the Sigma fp camera to shoot some video this evening and I decided to use the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens as the primary lens. But after a few seconds of trying to put the Sigma fp directly onto a video tripod with that giant, honking lens sticking out front I realized that we had a crazy mismatch. The lens must be five or six times heavier than the camera body and even if the lens mount can stand the strain the whole assemblage felt so out of balance it make me laugh.

I grabbed some cage kit "tinker toys" and got to work. I've got a set of 15mm rails mounted directly to the tripod and then the camera is mounted to a plate on top of those rails. The lens is supported by a little device that also fits on the rails (to the front). Its sole task is to prevent the dreaded lens droop.

I have the lens support further back in this example so the front ring on the lens, which is the manual focusing ring, is unencumbered. That's a mandatory thing because I'll be focusing manually.

Once I finish the set-up I'll have a monitor up on the top bar and an SSD drive hanging close to the side of the camera. It's a nutty set-up but I think it's better than letting an unsupported multi-pound lens hang way off the center of gravity. Talk about front heavy...

I have extra time to figure this stuff out in advance now. Moving at a leisurely pace and already dreading the editing on the back end.

Consider this your dose of "Rube Goldberg" engineering for the moment.

A long overlooked, but delightful, small camera got some attention today and got out for some fresh air. Here's what my Panasonic gX85 saw today.



Of all the cameras I've owned over the years I've got to say that some of the smaller (m4:3) models have been among my favorites; at least where digital cameras are concerned. I've been shooting with the full size Lumix S1 cameras for a while now and I feel the weight of the combined body and lenses when I go out for just a casual walk. As an alternative to always having a full size camera along I bought myself a very small and very "on sale" camera just before the holidays last year. 

It's not a brand new model and it "only" has a 16 megapixel sensor but I think it does a fine job making photographs. And it's nicely size-matched to the two lenses that came in the kit. I parted with a bit less than $450 for the camera body, the 12-35mm, collapsible kit lens and also the 45-150mm zoom lens. 

All three of the products are small, light and very good performers for the money. Obviously, the small sensor camera, coupled with smaller aperture lenses, is not going to be the ultimate low light camera but I rarely go out for long walks in low light so maybe it's a better match than you might think. For an "only" camera system it may not have all the bases covered but I am fortunate that it's only one of the tools in the box for me. 

I haven't played with this little system as much as I should have but I'm out to remedy that. The menus are similar enough to the S1 and the (sadly missed) G9 cameras from Panasonic so there isn't that discordant hesitation that comes from crossing over from one brand of camera to another in day to day work. 

When I left the house it was still raining this morning and even though it wasn't coming down hard I took along a rain jacket with a hood for me and a small, plastic bag (as a rain cover) for the camera. 

I parked in the now totally empty parking lot at Zach Theatre since the complex is adjacent to the lake and the trails. I pulled up my hood, retied by old Ahnu walking shoes and headed over to the trail. The rain dusted my camera from time to time but I kept a well worn and washed-a-thousand-times handkerchief and wiped off the drops from time to time. I kept the plastic bag in reserve for more dramatic downpours. 

I brought only the wide to short normal kit lens (12-32mm = 24mm to 64mm on an FF sensor) and was happy with my choice. My brain seems to just adapt to whatever I end up bringing along and I rarely have much remorse about not having X or Z lens along with me. You just start looking for things that fit the lens parameters and start ignoring the stuff that might have required a longer lens...

I've been noticing that on recent walks I've done with a camera I was so intent on replacing the lost exercise of swimming that I was trying to walk as briskly as I could and ended up with one or no photographs as a result. I also noticed that the faster I walk the less I look up and the less frequently I look side to side. I guess I'm so intent on keeping a faster pace that I tunnel in and start ignoring things outside my primary peripheral vision. Today I gave myself conscious permission to take it a bit easier and to pay more attention to the visual rewards along the way. 

There may also have been some teething about how to walk in a time of pandemic that influenced my paucity of images from previous walks. I was being more careful about spacing around people which meant I was paying much more attention to boundaries and anticipating moving around people in a judicious way as I passed them. I was also factoring in people coming from behind on bicycles who would be passing me as well. I can normally hear the wheels as they crunch over the cinder trail but since I was giving more space around people in front of me I needed to plan earlier and take the bike riders into consideration further in advance. 

Today I stayed as far to the right of the trail as possible since I wanted to pull off to the edge of the trail more often to make photographs. 

The GX85 is a small, unthreatening and anonymous-looking camera. It's the quintessential point-and-shoot camera of the digital age; except that it does take interchangeable lenses. Compared to the denser and bigger S1 cameras, and even the small but densely packed Sigma fp, the GX85 seemed almost weightless. Even with the 12-32mm collapsible lens extended for business the whole package is smaller in one profile than my phone! If this thing hurts your shoulder it may be time to find a willing sherpa for your walks. 

I put the camera on P for program and trusted it, for the most part, to suss out a decent exposure. From time to time I'd nudge it into a darker exposure compensation but then again, I was shooting in raw and knew I'd be better off protecting the highlights with a little underexposure and then lifting shadows in post processing. 

I used center focus, S-AF and was never let down by the system. The deeper depth of field is interesting and somewhat happily compelling after flirting for months with the extremely shallow depth of field offered by the bigger format cameras and the faster lenses I have for them. 

Another benefit of the camera is its very good dual image stabilization. It just works. I feel like a walking tripod sometimes. 

The sun started to peek out just as I finished up mile five of the walk so I trudged back to my car and headed home for lunch. 

Belinda and I can never finish a large pizza from our favorite pizza shop; we always eat what we want and toss the rest into the freezer. Now that there's no business or cash flowing in we've found a treasure trove; literally pounds and pounds, of frozen pizza already on hand. Today, in our ongoing attempt at frugality and cash management, we had a nice lunch of oven-revived pizza. We each got to select our own, personal favorite slices. I had two. One was spinach, mushroom and feta cheese while the other was a blend of vegetables like spinach, green peppers, red peppers, mushrooms and diced tomatoes. 

Regardless of the virus or the financial ruin we're enduring I feel duty bound to have a camera by my side. But in an age (hopefully very temporary) of diminishing expectations it's sometimes nice to have that camera be small and light.  My one day review? The GX85 was a good buy and a nice take-anywhere camera. Not quite state of the art but very much capable of making great images with relative ease. If you can find the set for around $450 new, it's pretty compelling --- unless you already have a camera you are happy with....

Here are some images from this morning with lots of experimental post processing. What are you walking around with this week?


Spring has been so wet and mild that the H&B trail feels like a jungle.





Can't make up my mind but I think I like the color version best....



Social distancing and a small group of cross country runners in the distance. 








Got a text from an old friend who is a bit depressed about the state of the world and 
also his isolation from it. He lives about a half an hour west of Austin. 
We're meeting at his place to re-invent social coffee. 

I'll park at the end of his driveway and bring a lawn chair. 

He can bring a lawn chair from his back yard and we'll sit about seven or eight feet 
apart to drink coffee (I'll bring my own so we don't get into the weeds 
about cup logistics and washing....) and try to solve the problems of modern times. 

Be there for people so they can be there for you. 

What works for a mostly suburban, mid-sized city is probably not going to work in a city of ten million people. We still get to go outside. Officially.

South shore of the hike and bike trails that runs around our downtown river.

Staying inside all the time sucks. Kids hate it. People interested in fitness hate it. Maybe the only people that are enjoying this self-isolation are highly addicted, online video gamers... We're all staying out of shops, restaurants and bars because we're nervous about everyone else and, well, because almost everything is closed.  Besides, we're mostly all freaked out about not having enough money to last long enough; better not to spend big chunks of what remains on stuff we don't really need.

But since we small city people mostly don't live in high rises that force us into small elevators and cramped stairwells, and since there are far fewer of us per square feet in small to medium sized, spread-out cities, we do get to go outside and get exercise. Sanctioned by local health authorities and supervised by our friendly police force.  I'm bummed because all the pools are closed but I'm very happy that we're still able to make good use of the hike and bike trails. As long as everyone follows the rules and uses good judgement... 

To make sure we get the message(s) the Trail Foundation of Austin has been putting signs all around the trail and it's hard to miss them. They aren't strident or preachy but they do get the important messages across.

The signs are everywhere and, in case some people are too lazy to read them there is plenty of group "encouragement" to get the message across. Veteran trail runners are quick to ask people to "stay in their lanes." It's important for new walkers to learn to treat the trails as they would a two way street. In the USA we drive on the right, we walk on the right. Not in the middle of the trail. "On your left!" is a nice way of saying, "I'm about to pass you on your left and you've got your big, fat ass hanging way over the middle of the trail." 

People learn pretty quickly, especially when subjected to repeated reinforcement. "Share the road out there." The trail is nice and wide but it was never intended for entire families to walk side by side and cover all the square footage from one side to the other. Hopefully, in a few weeks, people will be able to get back to work and stop tormenting mid-day runners. Or they will learn the etiquette of sharing our open spaces.






Just a note: If you bring your camera (and I think you always should) be sure not to stop in the middle of the trail to leisurely focus and compose. Pull over to the right and stand at the edge of the trail while photographing so people still in motion can get by. When you are done take a look over your shoulder before re-entering the trail --- just as you would when pulling your car back onto the road.  Thanks!