Canon Powershot A2400IS CHDK timelapse test

Meh. I'm really not impressed, but then perhaps I have no right to be considering it's a 70GBP camera. The colors are extremely flat and the image is very grainy. It's very much an inferior sensor compared to my old S90. Well, at least now I'm no longer in doubt about whether I should use this camera as my main camera.

If only the S120 could get released soon..

Forgot to mention: the camera took about 1400 photos on one fully charged battery, one every 5 seconds.

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Stolen camera equipment in Portugal

You can read the whole story in the previous post. Here's the serial numbers of the items that were stolen. If you ever encounter these, please contact Xi at her blog or at web (at) xiyuonline.com, reply to this post or drop me an e-mail at mrhazard (at) gmail (dot) com.

  • Apple iPhone 4 – IMEI 012843003902532
  • Apple iPad 2 32GB – DN6G8TZRDFHY
  • Canon Powershot G11 – 8938011011
  • Canon EOS 40D - 0630127435
  • Canon 100-400mm – 00241829
  • Canon 24-105mm – 00846940
  • Sigma 10mm fisheye – 11527120
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Relaxing

I'm not doing much today. I woke up at 8AM and hung around the youth hostel while my laundry was being laundrified. Then I took off on my bicycle, struggled with my gears as I went down the hostel hill and cycled into the city center. I bought lunch at a convenience store and cycled onwards to a riverside park, where I spent most of the day doing nothing. The temperature was just perfect in the shade and I enjoyed finishing a book called The Zahir, which was a very inspirational read. Besides that I picked up a new road-map-book for the next stint of my trip. It'll still take 2-3 days from here until the northernmost tip of Kyushu, but I think I can navigate that without maps.

My little friend the caterpillar
A random park in Hiroshima
Road-map-book-thing

On a very awesome note: the CHDK firmware is available for the Canon S90! I was waiting for this for a long time, and now it's finally there, thanks to the great work of some creative hackers. Besides being able to play Sokoban, Mastermind and Othello on my camera I can now take time lapse videos in very high resolution without connecting my camera to a PC. Excellent.

I've had plenty of time to think, and I am definitely forming a good picture of my situation in my mind. Right now I've identified that my issue is not so much the issue of leaving Japan or not, but rather a choice between following my dreams or accepting reality. If I follow my dreams then I choose to do what I really like: Cognitive Science. This means going back to study, which for me is the easiest to do in the Netherlands, as I get money to study until I'm 30. That doesn't mean that I ruled out the possibility of studying elsewhere though. The other option is, generally speaking, getting a job, which for me means getting a job in Japan, because I really like it here. If I choose a life of comfort it'll be in Japan.

Obviously I haven't decided yet, although formulating my problem in slightly different wordings makes it a choice between something epic (following my dreams) and something boring (getting a job), which is a whole different perspective. That's all I'm going to say about my choices for now, as I like to take a bit more time to think about this myself.

Changing the topic, here's some statistics of my trip:

  • I've been on the road for 22 days.
  • Approximate distance traveled: 1600 kilometers (I'm missing a couple of days because of cyclocomp mishaps and because I forgot to write down my daily stats)
  • I blow my nose about 20 times a day. I'm a snot machine.
  • Maximum speed: 55.4kph
  • Highest daily average: 18.6kph (this drops rapidly at the end of the day because I have to find a camp site or discover the path to the hostel)
  • Longest distance traveled in one day: 118 kilometers
  • Hottest day: 05/04 at ~27C
  • Coldest day: 04/16 at ~4C in the snow!
  • Number of nights spent camping/hosteling/business hotel: 5/10/6   (and 1 homestay and 1 capsule hotel)

Tomorrow there's only one thing I want to do: visit the Peace Memorial Museum. After that I'll move westwards again towards the tip of the main island of Japan, where I will somehow cross over to Kyushu. Today's the sky's been looking a bit gray-ish, but I'm hoping the weather will get better again after a couple of days. I really need to camp more and internet less.

Posted in Cycling , Photography , Spirit of Japan , Thoughts , Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Weekend sux

It's been raining for the past three out of four days, and it's been cloudy and dark and miserable for four out of four days. Can't say I enjoy cycling in this weather, but I did do two quick trips while it was dry, just for the sake of exercising. I'll certainly be happy when the temperatures start going up again...

Went to the bike shop today, got some stuff:

  • Water bottle + holder. Text on the bag says "Use me to quench your thirst". Very quenchy.
  • Inner tire (called チューブ, as in YouTube). I'll be carring that around on my trip as a spare in case I get a flat tire. Of course I already have puncture kits.
  • Brake blocks (called ゴムin Japanese)

Here's the loot from last Friday:

  • Tripod (old one broke -__-)
  • Circular polarizer (didn't have one yet)
  • Waterproof laptop case that was very cheap and made in China
  • Slightly better lens pouch (compared to the Canon pouches I have now which I are not waterproof at all, as I found out last year at Victoria falls)
  • Waterproof plastic bag that I can't figure out how to open cause the instructions are in Japanese

Yes, I know what you're thinking: this guy is only buying more stuff! He should be getting rid of the stuff that he has instead. Well, I'm trying, kind of. I've been trying to sell one of my lenses on Rakuten, but so far nobody's interested. Today I went to our local second-hand store, The Smile Company, to sell one of my old camera's: an Ixus portable cam with underwater case and extra battery. Result: they complained that I didn't have the original box and that the camera had scratches on it. Finally, they offered me 2000 yen. In universal currency, that's about four beers at a nice restaurant. So I politely told them 'bullshit', and they politely told me to 'fuck off'. (No really, it was quite polite). In the end I sold them just the camera for 2000 yen, and kept the underwater case, cause they can't sell that anyway. So an underwater case that's in perfect condition and bloody expensive is now worth nothing, and a slightly broken and scratchy camera is worth four beers. It's all about supply and demand... Anyway, if anybody wants the underwater case, let me know. It's a Canon WP-DC17.

Oh, I almost forgot. Here's some pics of this weekend.

Anti-nice weather
Objects in picture are colder than they appear
My room, minor mess
Posted in Cycling , Daily Life , Photography , Spirit of Japan | Tagged , ,

Screw it!

Finally got word from my last chance on getting fenders for my bicycle: they've already arrived! The fenders are here in Atsugi, but apparently the manufacturer forgot to send the customized screws needed to attach them, so I have to wait a few days until my bicycle will be complete once more. (PS, Sorry Martin for using the word fender instead of mudguard :P. I might side with the yankees on this one..)

I want to treat myself to a new lens this year, and I want to get rid of my 18-200mm. The image quality is visibly poor, even to me, and I usually don't notice image quality issues very much. I've got four options in mind for improvement:

  1. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS L
  2. Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  3. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS
  4. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L

I went around a bit already, trying them out at Yodobashi camera, and I've eliminated the last two. The 17-55m does not have enough range, and the 24-70mm does not have IS and is too heavy. I'm really undecided between the other two choices though. The 24-105mm has better image quality and just feels great, very solid. It also has f/4 aperture even at 105mm. On the other hand the 15-85mm is small, light, and the range is just about perfect. Unfortunately the 15-85's  image quality is slightly worse than the L lens, especially at large apertures.

Preparation status: Yes we can!

Items obtained:

  • tie wraps
  • bicycle computer, wireless (for speed, distance etc.)
  • Funky little stretchy rubber thingie that can attach any device to the handlebar (eg. iPod)
  • Maglite mini flashlight
  • Headlight (as in: mountable on a person's head)
  • Easy-to-wear jeans (for cycling)
  • Small power outlet splitter thingie

I should lose some weight...

Posted in Cycling , Photography , Spirit of Japan | Tagged , ,

Wrong

This video is wrong. But I'll share it anyway.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , ,

Mini-review: Canon S90 compact

A couple of weeks ago I finally received a new compact camera after my last Ixy (that's Japan's version of the Ixus series) broke almost a year ago. I'd been content with lugging the 50D around for a long time, but on some occasions when I didn't want to carry a lot with me the alternative, my trusty G7, proved too big to fit comfortably in my pocket. It's getting old too, so I finally bought a new one: a Canon S90.

S901

That's it. Nothing special. Just your average black camera. But it's so good. :D

It's like Canon finally listened to all of the criticism it's been getting over all the years, and decided to fix every possible problem they ever had. Well, except one, but I'll get to that later. The controls are great: besides the zoom lever there's the usual ring around the four-way pad at the back, and as an added bonus there's a digital control ring around the lens that I just can't stop twisting. It makes such a satisfying clicking noise whenever you turn it. The ring is digital, so every click changes a setting in the camera, and you can adjust per mode (PASM) what feature it should change (ISO, EV compensation, aperture, zoom). The ring's really easy to adjust, even with one hand, although using the camera with both hands feels slightly more comfortable. The one thing I had to get used to in the beginning is that the direction of operation is the opposite of what I'd intuitively expect: I twist the ring thinking the aperture should become smaller, but instead it becomes larger. This should please Nikon users who want to switch to Canon, I guess. It doesn't take long to get used to, though. The controls are great in every other way too; every button is where you'd expect it to be. The control ring around the d-pad at the back is very loose and easy to use. Now that I think about it, the mode dial was very difficult to adjust in the beginning, but it's getting more smooth during use.

For years now users have been telling camera companies to stop increasing the resolution of their sensors and to focus on image quality (and low-light performance) instead. Well, Canon listened. No huge megapixel sensor inside this camera: it's a 10 megapixel sensor, just like the Canon G7 that came out 3 years ago. That doesn't mean that Canon's been sitting around doing nothing, though. They claim that the sensor they used in this camera is excellent in low-light conditions. And it's not just the sensor: the lens is a beauty: an f/2.0 aperture and a 28-105mm range make for an excellent lens. In theory, at least. Canon feels confident enough to allow ISO values of up to ISO3200, and there's a special low-light mode available that operates at half the resolution.

For some reason Canon cut down on the movie mode. While competitors are starting to offer HD quality movie recording modes the S90 can record at a maximum resolution of 640x480. They've finally changed the compression format so you can record way longer movies on your memory card compared to older Canon compacts. That's great, but since the format is now .mov video I have to find a new video editing software.. Also worth noting is that there is no time-lapse video mode on the S90. Why!?!?! That was such a cool feature on the Ixus series, yet Canon decided to remove it here. Since Canon is not exactly known for adding features in firmware updates our only option is to hope that the CHDK people will be kind enough to hack the firmware so that we can write our own time-lapse scripts. That could take a fair while though, if ever.

So what about the picture quality? It's difficult for me to say, but I guess I'm slightly underwhelmed. Photos taken in low-light are indeed great compared to the G7 I used to use as a compact camera, but they're still far from perfect. I'm quite satisfied in this area though. What I'm less happy about is what the camera software is doing to photos taken on a perfectly clear day. Take a look at this.

grain

Blurry-ish? Grainy-ish? Unfit for cropping, IMHO. Then again, that's not what I plan to do with it anyway. Without cropping the pictures are great, as you can see from the photo three posts below this one. This might be the one area where Canon hasn't improved much since the G7. Still, if that bothers you, you can always take RAW photos instead and process them afterwards by yourself.

All in all I'm very happy with this camera. All previous Ixus/Ixy series camera's I've owned were always lacking in some way, always missing an importing button, control or feature. The S90 has it all, and besides the image quality I really can't think of what could possibly be improved on this camera. My suggestion: if you haven't bought a compact camera in the last 1-2 years, get an S90 now. It's very worth it.

I'll end with these two night shots, taken with the low-light mode and auto ISO, choosing ISO3200 and ISO5000, respectively. Think of this as the worst case scenario.

IMG_0215IMG_0218

Edit: I made a little addendum to this post after using the camera a bit more. Read it here.

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