Belinda cleaned out a closet and found an older camera. It's an Olympus epm-1 which is a very small, very thin m4:3rd camera that hit the market around 2011 and did not take the world by storm. At the time the Olympus offerings, regardless of price, were limited to a sensor resolution of 12.3 megapixels. The epm-1 is the smallest interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that I've come across yet. It's just a tiny bit bigger in one dimension than an iPhone XR and smaller in another dimension. But I don't want to get too multi-dimensional here.... Olympus sent it to me out of the blue. No request to review. No request to write about it even in passing. It came to me some time in 2012 along with a tiny flash that fits in the hot shoe and a highly promotional, super small, black backpack to hold the camera, charger and flash unit. I spent a day trying to figure out where they hid the controls and then, frustrated, I gave it to Belinda to see if she could get any use out of it. Turns out that she is much smarter than me and she used it right up until she discovered the Canon G15. At which point she handed back all the epm-1 stuff to me.
It's funny because the epm-1 arrived back in the studio this week and shortly afterwards I took possession of another G15 so I could have one too. A confluence of weird cameras. (They seem right at home with the equally eccentric - but loveable - Sigma fp).
So, right now I'm "testing" them. What does that really mean? Let me explain. I have a camera test pedestal that is a massive lead and nickel alloy tripod head on top of a reinforced concrete pillar that goes down through the floor of the lab (without touching the actual floor --- too many vibrations!!!) to bedrock forty seven and a half feet below. I mount the cameras on this and use a laser interferometer to get the camera perfectly level and parallel to the NASA test target that I had micro-etched with blue lasers onto an 8 by 12 foot sheet of one inch thick titanium. It's a good test target. It seems dimensionally stable.
I can't be in the room at the time of actual testing because we create a complete vacuum in the space in order to rule out atmospheric anomalies during testing. This also helps to prevent dust from impinging on our test results.
The room isn't state-of-the-art since we only filter particles down to 1.5 microns but we're working on improving our technologies because of the important work we're doing here with used, $100 to $150 dollar cameras, which were created nearly a decade ago.
Before we have our robotic interface run the actual tests we mould the center of a 30 pound warhead core of spent plutonium into the shape of the exterior of the camera and place the final plutonium construct on top of the camera to minimize any residual, external vibrations. A tight fitting, low gamma emitting plutonium pseudo "bean bag" is just the right solution for any shutter shock that might be resident in the cameras as well.
Once everything is clamped into place we test the cameras over a vast range of temperatures starting with an immersion in liquid nitrogen and then increasing the temperatures up to the point of failure, or until the camera's exterior begins to melt.
All professionals should know the "melt" point of their cameras if they are to truly deliver the best results for their clients. So far, of all the cameras VSL has tested in this manner, the Pentax K-01 tops the scale for heat resistance and resistance to electromagnetic vituperative lashings. It did, however, fail our test for high pressure immersion in Diet Coke (one of the toughest tests our lab currently has, in house, for satellites and cameras).
Once we've gotten several thousand terabytes of "metrics" that cover aspect from Nyquist quiescence to all the relevant Ferbil integers from our lab tests, we feel more confident in taking said unit out into the "real world" and "making" test images to evaluate its actual performance. It's a months' long process as we need to shoot the camera in all natural lighting and weather conditions and we sometimes wait months for the right intersection of temperature, humidity and astrological star stage.
Finally we give it to our physics guy so he can take pictures of his girlfriend standing next to her mountain bike. That's the crucial end point of the testing.
We're in early days on the two cameras mentioned above. Really early days. How early? We're still in the battery testing stage at this point. How do we test the batteries? Glad you asked that. First we fire up the cyclotron and.............
Somebody make coffee! This might go on for a while...
But in all seriousness (if I have any left) I'm having fun playing with fun, basic, stupid and cheap cameras this week. Maybe I'll discover something no one else has. Maybe they'll end up back in a drawer for the next 10 years.
Microaggressions. That's when your camera won't switch modes as fast as you want it to. But it seems to require sentience from a camera and that may be a stretch. Conversely maybe it's really the action you take against the camera when it doesn't perform as you'd expected. But really, isn't that why we test?