Category Archives: gear

Pyle Pro PDJ480UM review

Pyle Pro PDJ480UM review.

Pyle Pro PDJ480UM review

The PDJ480UM is a twin digital music player and mixer combined into a compact rack mount unit. I bought one of these to do a live ambient music mix. I found it via Amazon where it had good reviews. PDJ480UM user manual.

This is a great piece of kit in many ways and was ideal for my needs. It has one major flaw that makes it unsuitable for serious beat matching.

The unit is mains powered. There are phono connections on the back for the external inputs and a gain selector for each one to choose between phono or standard levels.  There’s two phono outputs on the back, one for the main amplifier and one for recording from. There’s full size jack sockets for headphones and microphone on the front.

The mixer is well thought out. It has gain, bass and treble for each side. In the middle are master gain, headphone gain and mic gain. A cue switch allows the headphones to select one of the two channels. There are selector switches for each side to allow a choice between external inputs or the digital players.

The two digital decks are completely independent of each other and don’t share USB/SD cards. They read the cards quickly. A single push/rotate button is used to navigate and select tracks. Pushing this also toggles between folder and track selection. It took a little while to get used to this.

Pylepro pdj480um
View from the yoga mat

The folder order confused me at first. The folders are listed in the order that you downloaded them to the card. If that was alphabetical and then you decided to add some more folders then they will appear at the end unless you wipe and reload the whole card. Sub folders are listed in the main list as if they were top level folders.It’s best not to go more than 1 folder deep in the file structure.

I find the speed with which the full file name scrolls across the screen is too slow. I edited my file names to make the first 10 digits or so enough to work out the whole track to work round this.

When a track is selected then it’s loaded up at the start point. The jog wheel can be used in “jog” model to navigate through the track. Jog works best if the track is paused, otherwise it’s too slow. It’s not easy to jump forwards and backwards quickly in a track; there’s no back to start button. It sets the cue point at the point where you release the deck from being paused. I found this confusing at first and not always ideal. Pressing the cue button will pause the track back at the cue point.

Pylepro mixer and digital playerThe pitch slider range can be set to +/- 4,8 or 16% or off completely by holding the button down. There are pitch bend buttons beneath the slider. This is the same function and rotating the jog wheel when not in “jog” or “scratch” modes.

The loop works quite well with simple “in”, “out” and “reloop” buttons.
The “single” button means that the unit stops at the end of the track. The “time” toggles the time display between elapsed and remaining time. There is also a progress bar showing in the screen.

Brake cause the track to slow to a halt. It also causes a track to come up to speed from a halt if you start it with brake on. Reverse works well, though it won’t work in a loop.

The scratch is OK but its behaviour when you let go isn’t that impressive if the track is in play mode.

The biggest let down on this unit is that the pitch steps are too coarse for accurate beat matching. With the +/-16% range it goes in 1% steps and with +/-8% and +/-4% it goes in 0.5% steps. These are too large and the main reason I’m looking to move towards a higher spec unit.

Overall it’s a loveable unit with a few limitations. If you want to mix music without beat matching on a budget then it’s a great piece of kit.

How to edit a Garmin fit file

How to edit a Garmin fit file

Garmin edge 200This is very handy if you accidently leave your device recording after an activity and want to delete some of the points. Garmin gps devices log their data in a fit file.

  1. Copy the fit file to your computer. They are stored in the activities folder on the device. Use CTRL+C and CTRL+V to copy and paste.
  2. Convert to a csv file using the online fit repair tool. First press the browse button to select a file. Screen grab. Then press the “convert to .csv” button. When it is finished then select “save file” and it will save onto your computer. Possibly into the downloads location depending on which browser you are using.
  3. Edit the csv file using a text editor. It’s best to right click on the file name and select “open with” to select an application. I use notepad++ for this. The standard windows notepad also works quite well. Be careful if you use Excel – ensure that the file is saved in csv format. The file format is fairly obvious.  Logging data is stored line by line and starts with the keyword “data” each time. There’s a timestamp stored as the third record in each line so you usually work out which bits to delete. Delete lines and make sure that the line with “TIMER, STOP_ALL” is retained. Screen grab.
  4. Convert from csv back to fit file using the online fit repair tool. Screen grab.
  5. Upload the fit file to Garmin connect, Strava or where ever else you want to use it. Most sites have a direct upload button on them for this purpose.

Decision: mountain biking camera

Canon S90 compact cameraI finally made a decision on my new mountain biking camera. This is mainly intended for cases where I want to capture photographs at events like the Mondraker enduro series (those photos there were taken with a slightly damaged Canon S90 compact, shown there –>). I also wanted to use it for general travel and social photography.

I covered some basics of photography in mountain bike photography tips. If I was riding then I’d probably still take a small compact like a  Canon S120 or the slightly better G7X / Sony RX100 (read about it here). Wikipedia have a handy table showing the Canon Powershot models including the S90 , S95 , S100 , S110  and  S200 which is a blend of the S95 and S110.

I wanted something that could handle low light levels better than the pocketable compacts which meant that I needed a bigger sensor. I compared suitable cameras in compact camera reviews 2015 and  best compact review.  I had a hands on look in rx100-vs-g7x-vs-lx100-vs-g1x. I then considered system cameras which are probably the best choice for image quality.

2015_04_04 Jessops Canon G7XWhat swung it for me was that I expected to take this camera out in dirty conditions so I was looking for something fairly cheap that I wouldn’t worry about too much. The Canon G1X mk1 prices had sunk to around £230 on Ebay vs £330 for G7X, £400 for the RX100 and £450 for the LX100. That made me think again about the G1X. Despite being regarded as a flawed first attempt could it be right for me?

I did a numerical comparison exercise:

  • I calculated the light per unit area delivered to the sensor. This 1/f number squared (f/2 means f=2, so would be 4 in this example).  I scaled all the numbers relative to the S110.
  • I multiplied this by the sensor area to give the “total light” collected.
  • I divided this by the megapixel count to give the light gather per pixel.
  • This gave me two comparison factors.
  • This needes to be done at the same field of view for each camera….most of them go down to 24 mm (35 mm film equivalent) but some only go down to 28 mm. This doesn’t make the comparison fair. Update coming on this!

I included the following cameras:

Canon G1X
G1X: It isn’t pretty but I think I could be in love.

By this point I’d just about had enough of thinking about cameras and I was still having fun with my slightly damaged S90 so I decided that the time had come to get on with buying something! After a quick scout round places like the London Camera Exchange, DigitalRev , MPBphotographic, Wex Photographic and Amazon nothing was able to beat Ebay.

I looked at a few cameras on Ebay in order of price and went for the third one. The first one had dust all over it (£190) , the second one had a long delivery time (£220) and the third one looked sound and was being sold by  a camera shop who hopefully knew what they were doing (£230).

Some G1X reviews:

Compact camera systems 2015

Index of all my recent camera posts.

This follows on on from my survey of the best compact camera in May and is a survey of compact camera systems 2015.

The mirrorless system cameras with either micro 4/3rds or APS-C sensors offer image quality that can match DSLR cameras and generally in a smaller package. I wondered if a compact camera system could match the Panasonic Lumix LX100 compact for size and performance.

I had a look at the dpreview guides on entry level and mid range compact system camera models. This list is a selected summary of what I found in order of size.

  • The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is the benchmark “just about pocketable” camera in this thought process. 4/3 sensor. £450 on Ebay.
  • Smaller than LX100: Panasonic Lumix GM5. 4/3 sensor. £500 on ebay.
  • Smaller than LX100: Sony A5100 with kit lens. APS-C sensor. dpreview liked it. Around £400 on Ebay.
  • Same size: Samsung NX3000 with kit lens. APS-C sensor. dpreview didn’t like the jpeg noise reduction much. Around £220 on Ebay.
  • –> Slightly larger than LX100: Sony A6000 with kit lens. APS-C sensor. dpreview liked it.  80% Gold award.Around £400 on Ebay.
  • –> Slightly larger than LX100: Fujifilm X-A1 / Fujifilm X-M1 APS-C sensor. dpreview loved the jpgs. Refurbished models for £200 on the Fuji online shop. 77% Gold award.
  • Larger: Panasonic Lumix GX7. 4/3 sensor. 79% Silver award.
  • –> Larger: Olympus E-M10. Large body. 4/3 sensor. 80% Gold award.
  • Larger: Sony A3000

After doing a lot of size comparisons on camerasize.com and reading the reviews on dpreview I narrowed my choice down to the three highlighted with arrows above. I was interested in having decent controls so I could run in manual mode and the smallest and/or cheapest compact system cameras often lacked enough of these. The smallest models also had a price premium on them.

Out of my shortlist of three then both the Sony A600 and the Olympus E-M10 have compact zoom lenses available as well as wide selection of better zoom and prime lenses. There are no compact zoom lenses for the Fuji x range cameras which is a pity, though the standard kit lens is light and well regarded.

LX100 vs A6000 vs EM10 vs XA1 cameras

More buying guides for compact system cameras:

I compiled the comparison table below.

  • I used the compare feature (on the conclusions page of the dpreview camera reviews) for jpg and high iso subjective ratings.
  • I calculated the pixel pitch in µm for each camera ( sqrt(height x width) / MPcount )
  • Mass came from camerasize.com
  • I picked zoom lens to keep the camera size down….not particularly fast lenses.
  • Dxomark have a handy spec comparison of the E-M10, A6000 and X-M1 and a sensor ranking but not everyone agrees with the relevance of their measurements.
Panasonic LX100 Olympus E-M10 Sony A6000 Fujifilm X-A1
Spec file spec spec spec spec
Sensor type micro 4/3 micro 4/3 APS-C APS-C
Sensor size (mm) 13 x 17.3 13 x 17.3 15.6 x 23.5 15.6 x 23.6
Crop factor 2.2 * 2 1.5 1.5
Pixels (MP) 16.84 (total) 16.11 24.24 16.3
Pixel pitch (µm) 3.7 3.7 3.8 4.8
dpreview jpg ranking 2= 2= 2= 1
dpreview high iso ranking 2= 2= 2= 1
selected lens (mm) 10.9 – 34 14 – 42 16 – 50 16 – 50
total depth inc lens 55 62 58 140
 f number at wide angle  1.7 3.5 3.5 3.5
 equivalent 35mm lens  24 – 75 28 – 84 24 – 75 24 – 75
 equivalent 35mm f no  3.8 7 5.3 5.3
mass (g) 393 490 460 525

* LX100 doesn’t use the full sensor. Crop factor worked out from published focal lengths.

The combination of high crop factor and high f number on the zoom lens for the E-M10 gives it quite a disadvantage. There are larger zoom lenses that go as bright as f/2.8. The proper answer is to put a prime lens on it – those go as bright as f/1.8. It starts to become clear why the LX100 is such an attractive camera if you want a compact zoom lens. The Sony lens range is somewhat limited for bright zoom lens. The Fuji has a 18 – 55 f/2.8 option which is only a few mm longer and gives 27 –  83 mm and f/4.2 equivalent which is close to the LX100.

At this point the strength of the LX100 is clear for a compact camera and the Fujifilm camera for low light performance. It’s got a big sensor, large pixels and large lenses. Imaging-resource.com like it “Is this the best low light camera for under $1500? (even though it only costs $499?)”. Fuji sell reconditioned kits for silly money on their online shop like the x-e1 for £380 and the x-a1 for £199.

Olympus E-M10 cameraI called round to my local camera showroom (aka Jessops) to take a look at my shortlist models. They had a E-M10 and A6000 available to play with (the LX-100 was locked away and there was no Fujifilm model in sight). I spent about quarter of hour with each one messing around with the menu controls to set the controls up in a way that suited me. That’s a thumbs up for the menu systems then – I managed to get what I wanted without any instruction manuals.

Both models gave me what I wanted via two control dials. The Olympus E-M10 has two dedicated knurled knobs on the top and the Sony A6000 has one thumb dial and one standard twirly menu dial on the back. Both allow the control dial  and button functions to be configured via menu settings. I preferred the layout and menu system on the Olympus camera though it’s something of an ugly machine compared with the Sony.

Jessops had a deal on and were selling the Olympus E-M10 with kit lens for £449 which was the best online price I could find. The Sony A6000 was £529 also with kit lens.

Sony A6000 cameraWhilst I was there I noticed that they were selling a Canon EOS 100D with kit lens for £389. I had a play with the menus on this and was able to get the single control dial configured to do what I wanted quite quickly. Default was exposure, holding down another key put it into aperture control and the ISO button next to it did what it said. The camera was very light for an SLR and had the appearance of a value engineered version of the EOS range. The dpreview gives it 78%  so it’s not a bad camera but the jpg and low light ratings weren’t up to the standard of the other cameras mentioned in this post.

Canon EOS 100D camera

On the way out from Jessops in Cribbs Causeway I just caught this sunset with my trusty Canon S90.

Cribbs Causeway sunsetIndex of all my recent camera posts.

Best compact camera 2015

Best compact camera 2015.  This follows on from my previous compact camera review and mountain bike photography tips. Most of the information has been mined from the dpreview website. I haven’t tested any of these in real life though I have held most of them and played around with the controls.

Hopefully it will show some of the considerations for sports and action holiday photography where image quality is being pitted against camera size. I want a camera for use at events like the Mondraker MTB enduro and to carry around on bike trips.

The compact camera market has become very competitive in recent years because smart phones are good enough to make cheap compacts redundant. This has put the pressure on for compact cameras that produce images that photography enthusiasts are happy with.

I place low light image quality at the top of my requirements whilst also keeping the dimensions small enough. Manual control is also high in my priorities and that puts me into the “enthusiast” sector. I want a zoom lens which removes the growing sector of prime lens compacts (non zoom).

Low light level image quality is mainly a function of sensor size and lens aperture size (low f number). A large sensor offers better low light performance because each pixel has a larger area and also is coupled to larger lens assembly with a larger aperture.

In 2015 the largest sensor in a truly pocketable camera is the 1″ sensor used in the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 (mk3) and the Canon G7X. The two cameras offer similar image quality and a slightly different blend of options.

Links to comparison of the Canon G7X and the Sony RX100:

This youtube video gives a good summary of the differences:

 

This equivalent aperture vs focal length chart from the G7X review  gives a very good summary of what’s hot. The list below is in order of increasing brightness (lower f number) at 35 mm equivalent focal length. The links go to the reviews on dpreview.com.

The first two have sensors smaller than 1″. The popular Canon S cameras (I had an S90 and loved it, they’ve got to the S120 now) and the Canon G series got by with 1/1.7″ sensors.

The Sony RX100 and Canon G7X have 1″ sensors and are truly pocketable compact cameras. They weigh around 300g and have dimensions very close to 100 x 60 x 40 mm.

The next two are larger and heavier.  The 400g LX100 is 1.7 times the volume of the 1″ cameras. The 550g G1X is 2.4 times the volume. The G1X has a 1.5″ sensor and the LX100 a slightly smaller micro 4/3 sensor but with a faster lens. The LX100 doesn’t have a built in flash or auto lens cover.

At this point I’d say that the Lumix LX100 is the better option if you can live without the flash (or the clip on unit) and auto lens cover. This review from cameralabs.com doesn’t put the LX100 significantly ahead of the RX100/G7X cameras in terms of image quality. But it does give it 91% which is pretty reasonable! Having read a lot of reviews then the image quality gap between the RX100 mk3 and the larger sensor cameras isn’t as large as I’d hoped. You couldn’t go far wrong with an G7X or RX100. The comparison on dxomark.com says the same thing.

This review from the phoblographer compares the Canon G1X with the the Sony RX100.

Sony DSC-RX100 vs Panasonic Lumix LX100

The dpreview enthusiast compact camera roundup has an equivalent aperture comparison and spec table. This shows the LX100 and G1X mk2 as the best options for lens brightness. The Sony RX10 isn’t far behind but this is a bulky super zoom camera with a 1″ sensor.

The Lumix LX100 shares a sensor size and body size with mirrorless system cameras. These have interchangeable lens. For example the Panasopnic Lumix DMC-GX7 is marginally larger (123 x 71 x 55 vs 115 x 65 x 55) and the same weight (without lens) as the LX100. It has a built in flash too. Dpreview rate the LX100 slightly higher than the GX7 (85% vs 77% but the former is a high end compact and the latter is a mirrorless system camera).  This opinion piece puts the LX100 ahead of the GX7 for me  Why buy a Panasonic LX100 when you could buy a GX7?

In their buying guide on mirrorless system cameras dpreview recommend the Sony Alpha 6000 but using their comparison feature against the LX100 then it only has a tiny improvement in jpeg image quality score and a slightly larger improvement in raw image score (the comparison feature is available in the score towards the bottom of the conclusion page) They note that the Panasonic GM5 is very small and good for its size but they think going slightly larger will give better image quality.

So that makes the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 the top contender for my best compact camera in April 2015!

LX100 reviews:

I took a look at Ebay prices. These are typical buy it now or recently finished auction prices from the first 10 lowest priced listings and ignoring any wild cards (repair only or defective).

  • Canon S120 £190, small sensor
  • Canon G16 £220, small sensor
  • Canon G7X £320 – best buy
  • Canon G1X mk2 £400 (mk1 £250)
  • Sony RX100 mk3 £450 (mk2 £350, mk1 £200)
  • Panasonic Lumix LX100 £450 – Tom’s top tip
  • Panasonic Lumix GX7 + kit lens £500
  • Sony A6000 + lens £550

See my thoughts after seeing the cameras in real life.

To make sure that I wasn’t missing any tricks I had a look at compact camera systems and a cheap DSLR.

Eventually and after a lot of thinking I decided that whilst the Fuji mirrorless system compacts offered the best image quality for the money but the enthusiast compact cameras were the best option for me. This was because I expect to be carrying this camera out in bad conditions and I’m not too bothered about doing that with a £250 2nd hand compact whereas with a £450 system camera I would have to be more careful. Out of the options the Canon G1X mk1 offered the best price to performance blend in May 2015. The G1X mk2 is undoubtely a better camera and so is the LX100 but they are both a lot more expensive. See the Index of all my recent camera posts!

Camera crop factor and sensor size

Camera crop factor is a means of comparing cameras with different sensor sizes (or film sizes).

I am interested in the physics and scaling laws for comparing cameras with different size sensors. Equipment is only a small part of photography though so take heed of this article by Ken Rockwell: “your camera doesn’t matter“. Ken also wrote this very amusing article on why many hobbyists get obsessed by gear and never go and take interesting photographs. Matthew Cole has a story on his home page that ends with “The only pictures anybody gives a damn about are pictures of people they know.

If you are not familiar with the basics  ISO, f number and exposure time then take a look at my very short guide or this useful article by Matthew Cole or google it!  The Ken Rockewell and Clarkvision sites are very good for technical analysis.

My interest in this started after watching this video by Tony Northrop on crop factor. This piqued my curiosity and I then spent a few weeks reading articles and thinking about it from an engineering point of view. I am aware that countless online arguments and disagreements have occured on this topic. This is often due to misunderstandings about the definitions of terms or an emotional need to beleive that one piece of equipment is better than another. I haven’t got the time or inclination to get involved in this. I have read widely and thought about this carefully and am happy that the information here is fundamentally correct.

The Tony Northrop video about crop factor

Sensor Size

Sensor size has a direct impact on some of the performance aspect of cameras. Consider two cameras, one and exact half scale model of the other. The half size camera will have the following properties relative to the large camera:

  • Identical field of view.
  • 1/2 the focal length (distance from lens to sensor).
  • 1/2 the aperture diameter.
  • Identical f number (ratio of focal length to aperture diameter).
  • 1/4 of the aperature area.
  • 1/4 as much light transmitted through the aperture.
  • 1/2 the sensor size.
  • 1/4 of the sensor area.
  • The same light intensity per unit area on the sensor.
  • Each pixel (or photo site) will have 1/4 of the area.
  • Each pixel will receive 1/4 of the light signal. Clarkvision article on pixel size.
  • The sensor signal will be amplified by 4 times as much even though the ISO value will identical. This will also amplify the noise. Clarkvision article on pixel size.
  • a larger depth of field (range of distances from the camera that appear in focus). See articles on photo.net, wikipedia and Cambridge in colour. Narrow depth of field is much loved by some for artistic reasons and the potential for boku.
  • The lens assembly would be 1/8 th of the volume and weight.

The large camera will win outright in signal to noise ratio and potential for a narrow depth of field. Note that some people think that small cameras offer an enlarged depth of field as an advantage inherent to their scaling. This Clarkvision article shows that this is not true.

The large camera will be heavier and, er, larger. The Canon S90 that I’ve used for the majority of my photographs is around 200g and fits in a pocket. The larger sensor G7X is 300g, a G1X 500g and an SLR like an EOS is 800g without lens and a zoom lens equivalent to the compacts is another 700g or so, giving 1.5 Kg to lug around!

How often does someone look at a photograph and say “I like it but on closer inspection the pixel noise ruins it for me”? Even for smart phone photographs taken in poor light? Many enthuasiasts report that they enjoy photography more with smaller set ups because they are pocketable so they carry them to more interesting locations to find the interesting images.

Crop Factor

There are some scaling factors that are often used to work out the 35 mm equivalence of a particular set up. This is somewhat arbitrary since it uses the film size of the 35 mm format as the reference size. The linear scaling factor that any smaller sensor requires relative to the 35 mm size is referred to as the “crop factor” since the smaller sensor is effectively cropping the image.

Some links on crop factor:

Refering to the earlier list comparing the full size and half size camera the following scaling rules can be used with the crop factor to scale up to the equivalent values for the reference sensor size (35 mm by convention):

  • equivalent focal length is the native focal length multipled by the crop factor. Manufacturers usually quote the focal lengths as 35 mm equivalent values anyway; they have already done this multiplication.
  • the equivalent f number is the native f number multiplied by the crop factor. The true (native) f number and focal length of the lens have not changed. The scaled up equivalent value has though. As a thought experiment remove the half size sensor, replace it with a full size sensor twice as far away and replace the lens with one with twice the focal length. Leave the aperature alone though. The f number is now doubled. This equivalent f number shows that the light gathering ability of the equivalent lens is now 4 times worse (light level is proportional to f number squared) and the depth of field is worse. Alternatively, don’t calculate the equivalent focal length or f number and just accept that the iris diameter is halved and hence the light gather is 4 times worse and the depth of field is 4 times bigger compared with what the full size system would have.

Manufacturers usually quote the native f number of the system rather than the scaled version.

  • the equivalent ISO for the larger camera is the ISO of the small one multiplied by the crop factor squared. For any particular ISO number the large camera will be doing a less amplification and this will be in the ratio of crop factor squared. Small sensors are no more noisey than large ones but if they receive less light per pixel then more amplification will be required and the noise will be higher. The Clarkvision article explains this in detail.

Handy guides to sensor sizes:

A handy image showing various common sensor sizes. 1/1.7″ is where the previous generation of super compacts worked (Canon S90 etc), CX (Nikon) is the 1″ size used by the new super compacts like Sony RX100 and Canon G7X. 4/3rds and APS-C are where most consumer DSLRs operate.

Camera sensor sizes

Some extra reading on why sensor size matters (links in order of detail)

Signal noise is related to pixel size so far a particular sensor increasing the pixel count can give more noise per pixel. This can lead to higher resolution images with more noise. A solution is to increase noise reduction levels in the image processing which works by smearing the data and to a degree undoing the level of detail. Personally I find 10 MP giving 3648 x 2736 pixels is plenty large enough. I resize to a width of 800 for blog upload.

Summary

Large sensor cameras have larger optics on the front of them which feed more light into the system and therefore require less amplification of the signal from the sensor. Take a look at the amount of glass on various cameras and it’s fairly clear. Think of smart phone vs cheap compact vs high end compact vs SLR.

The larger maxmimum aperture of the larger cameras gives them the potential for a shallower depth of field.

The focal length of a small camera can be scaled up to 35 mm equivalent but the aperture on the front is still the size of the smaller system so the equivalent f number is higher. This indicates both the poorer light gathering ability and the larger depth of field of the equivalent lens.

Large cameras have performance advantages but they are heavier and bulkier so require more effort to carry around. They are more prominent and less discreet so you might intimidate your subjects. It’s up to the user to find the compromise between the various factors.

This scaling factors are generalised and do not allow the actual performance of various cameras to be calculated from a spec sheet analysis. The lens design, sensor performance and signal processing all have a part to play. This is why there’s an army of people writing camera reviews. Picking a camera very much comes down to finding the compromise that best fits your requirements. It is possible to get totally tied up in online discussions about details and most photographers would say it’s better to use that time experimenting with what you’ve got.

Back to mountain bike photography tips and a review of 2015 compact cameras.

Index of all my recent camera posts.

Mountain bike photography tips

Mountain bike photography tips.

There are three variables to play with in order to control the brightness of a photograph:

  • Aperture
  • Exposure time
  • Sensor ISO setting (signal amplifcation factor)

Increasing any of these will make a photograph brighter. If one is turned down then either of the other two can be turned up to compensate. The photographic “stop” system was designed so a notch up or down by a stop resulted in a doubling or halving of the image lighting. The film speed ISO numbers went up by factors of 2, the exposure times by a factor of 2 and the lens f number in 1.4 multiples rounded to convenient numbers. e.g.: as f/1, f/1.4, f/2 etc (f number is lens focal length divided by the aperature diameter, the area of the aperture goes with f number squared (pi r squared), the square root of 2 is approximately 1.4).

See my article on sensor size and crop factor for more information.

With mountain bike photography there is generally the requirement of capturing action in low light. A long exposure leads to blurring so this normally has to be kept down below around 1/250th of a second. A high ISO value tends to increase the noise in the image. Good compacts can produce tolerable results at ISO 800 but it’s better to be down around 400. Therefore it’s best to crank the aperture wide open. This is expressed as the F number which is the focal length of the lens divided by the aperture diameter. A low F number means a wider aperture which is good news. Such lens are described as “bright”.

In practice I always run with the aperture as wide as possible and trade off the ISO noise versus the shutter speed. Lenses tend to be sharper when stopped down a bit but I have to trade sharpness with image noise. Reducing the aperture size also narrows the depth of focus which can be used to create artistic effects like someone’s face in focus and the background out of focus. This is generally hard to achieve on a compact due to the small aperature diameters. Sometimes you might want blur – you can pan with movement and blur the background, or you might want to blur the water on a waterfall.

I shoot in standard jpg and use the GIMP free editor to tweek photos. I generally crop, adjust the brightness curves and fiddle with hue and saturation until I like the look of a photgraph more. I’ve never bothered with RAW and my aim is to get photographs good enough to start with to save editing time. I will make an exception if a photograph excites me and I think I can get more from it.

For most of 2010 through to 2015 I used a pair of Canon S90 compacts for my photographs. In 2015 I considered the top performing cameras in the compact market. See my  index of all recent camera posts for the conclusion.

 

Tesco Mobile Review

Tesco MobileMy 18 month old Samsung S2 was on a 24 month contract with Tesco Mobile. This is actually a virtual network, providing a second tier service on the O2 network. There are many reports of lack of signal in consumer reviews but that wasn’t generally  a problem for me.

The handset overheated when I plugged a USB cable into it to retrieve some photographs. After I’d left it to cool down it would no longer start up. I tried a spare battery, which made no difference. It wouldn’t start when a USB power supply was connected.

Samsung S2Tesco mobile passed my issue on to their repair centre who sent me a jiffy bag. I sent the phone off and a week later was told that it would cost £135 to fix because it was “screen damage”. I spent a while on the phone explaining that this was odd but they were adamant that it was screen damage. I asked them to send the phone back to me. I could buy another phone on Ebay for £90 so there was no way I’d be paying £135 for a repair.

I sent the phone to an independent repair centre and they told me that the the problem was a damaged power IC. I assume that this is the power integrated circuit and this is what caused the phone to overheat.

I contacted Tesco mobile with the new information. In a 30 minute session they passed me through various departments until I reached the repair centre. They told me that the opinion of an independent repair centre was worthless. I asked what would happen if a Samsung approved centre said the damage was not screen damage. They said that the word of the Tesco repair centre was final.

Meanwhile I raised my concerns on the Tesco Mobile Facebook page where they said that I could ask Samsung for a second opinion. I also posted on the Moneysavingexpert forum.

I registered my phone on the Samsung Cyber Service Centre and it showed as having a 24 month warranty. I raised a service request and was given a contact number to call. They told me to take the phone into my nearest Samsung Service Centre. I called in the next day and they were quite helpful and sent the phone off to their repair facility.

One and half days later I had an email informing me that the phone had been fixed at no cost to myself. When I collected it the note said that they’d replaced the main IC. No mention was made about any screen damage.

Throughout this Tesco Mobile were less than helpful. They never mentioned the manufacturer’s warranty. They never referred to their obligations under the 1979 SOGA (Sale of goods act). Handy guide on Moneysavingexpert.

There are plenty of similar stories in the Tesco Mobile reviews: S21, Cable.co.uk.

Every little helps eh!

Bought myself a Felt road bike

Felt Z85 bike fitting
Bike set up at Hargroves in Swindon

I’ve just bought myself a Felt road bike!

Years ago when I was a lot younger I used to get around by riding a bike. I owned a few manky road bikes and one day I was given a hand-me-down Dawes Galaxy touring bike. This was a great bike; very comfortable on long trips.

In more recent years I’ve only really ridden off road. I used my mountain bike for  a 90 mile sportive in 2013 and a road ride with Stroud Valleys Cycling Club earlier this year. I enjoyed both of those and fancied buying myself a road bike to make these trips easier and also for general training.

I found someone selling a suitable bike on the MBSwindon Facebook page. Before I had a chance to look at it I called into Veleton on a local off road ride where Pete convinced me that there were better bikes for more money. I decided to have a think about it. Once again new bike pontification had set in.

I was on a ski holiday in France when I looked at Twitter and saw the Red Kite Shropshire Devil event mentioned. I thought “I’m going to do that” and a plan was formed. I would call into Swindon on the Saturday, buy the bike and then do the 85 mile ride on Sunday.

That’s pretty much what happened. I took the bike for a short ride around the local roads (no helmet or hi viz or anything. Shocking!). I thought it was a bit too small for me but after adjusting the set up it seemed fine. I had some lingering doubts but thought “sod it! Get on with it!”. So I bought it. It cost me £390, approximately half the new price.

I called round Hargroves Cycles in Swindon where Mark did a bike fitting. He confirmed that it was the right size for me, levelled the saddle and handlebars and then raised both of them to give a better fit. Whilst I was there I bought myself a frame bag, small saddle bag, bottle cage, bottle, pump, spare tubes and a multi-tool. I felt like the stereotypical over enthusiastic newbie as I handed over the debit card in the shop.

Felt Z85
Ready for Sportive action

I decided to use the flat pedals that were on the bike for my first trips and then convert to SPD shoes at a later date.

Back at home I fitted the new bits. I ran into my first problem. When mountain biking I carry spares, a tool kit, a first aid kit, bottles of water, cakes, muesli bars, spare clothes, maps, a camera and a survival bag. There was no way I could fit all of that into the space available. So I jettisoned most of it but was still not happy about the lack of room for my anorak and first aid kit. I decided to buy myself a larger bag in the future.

My first ride was the 85 mile Shropshire Devil sportive. Write up coming next!

I don’t intend to stop mountain biking. I’m going to use this for additional riding and new experiences.

Nakd bar
Nakd bar storage