Tesco Photo Magazine

posted 6 May 2012, 07:03 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 6 May 2012, 07:23 ]

Tesco's "Photo" magazine cover Issue 1
I'm a bit af a grumpy old man these days; usually finding myself writing in to complain about trivial (or sometimes not so trivial) things that could be done better.
However, now and again, I find myself rather impressed at the things people do. This even stretches to companies now and again.

Today I picked up a free Photo magazine from Tesco, and I have to say it's very well put together. I'm not sure an enthusiast like myself will learn anything new from it, but it's a really excellent guide for the majority of casual users.
It groups cameras by application, ie. Everyday, Active (Tough/Waterproof), Advanced, Superzoom, Bridge, System, and DSLR) and explains the pros and cons of each type. Then it shows the range available from Tescos along with prices and specifications, before moving on to the next application type.

I think a lot of people interested in buying a new camera would find this really useful - good job.

Seat Exeo Armrest / Handbrake Design Fault

posted 6 Jul 2011, 11:58 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 6 Jul 2011, 12:16 ]

Damage to bumper of Seat Exeo caused by rolling back onto garage wall
I really like my Seat Exeo which I've had since last November. However, it does have a basic design fault that has cost me (or my insurers) nearly 300 pounds.

Actually, that could be a story in itself; can you really believe that's what it costs to repair a scratch like this ?

Anyway, the story :-

On returning from work, I parked my car on the driveway as usual, and went indoors. However, the handbrake was apparently not fully engaged and it must have rolled back whilst unattended. I was completely unaware this had happened until my wife returned about an hour later and asked why my car was touching the garage wall (!).

My driveway has a very gradual slope and the car had bumped the corner of the garage wall. This caused minor damage to the rear bumper on the nearside (at least I thought it was minor until the quote came through!) :-

Whilst this was my fault, there was a high contribution from a design fault in the Seat Exeo handbrake, which I have subsequently found has been noted by the motoring press:-

When the car is new, the handbrake can be fully engaged without touching the armrest. It can be a little awkward but the natural tendency of the human body is to adapt to this by using the elbow and the top of the armrest like a lever.

This works fine until the handbrake cable loosens over time, inevitably leading to a failure of the kind I observed. At this point, the driver is likely (as I have done) to change behaviour and always put the arm rest up before parking the car:-

Composite image showing how Seat Exeo armrest interferes with normal handbrake operation

It is very fortunate that the damage was only superficial – this was a “near-miss” incident that could have been much worse, eg. If a small child had been playing behind the car while it was parked.

If you know someone with a new Exeo, please point them to this page or send them a copy of the PDF attached below.

Stenaline : Harwich to Hook-of-Holland

posted 9 Oct 2010, 04:34 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 11 Oct 2010, 05:47 ]

This week I took the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, and drove to Antwerp with some gear needed for work I'm doing out there.

See :- Ferry Trip Set on Flickr

Overall, I was really impressed:
Taking the overnight ferry from Harwich let me get a good night's sleep and I was in the Office at Antwerp by 10.15am the next day.
Coming back was more interesting, but the real benefit of the ferry is actually travelling while you're asleep.
Accommodation in the cabin and public areas was excellent and meals/refreshments were much better value than airports.

Overall cost is much less than flying from Norwich, though I think I'd probably leave my car at Harwich and take trains in the Netherlands/Belgium if I go again.
The drive wasn't bad but you have to keep your wits about you because of the number of times you have to "keep left" or "keep right".

Faster Broadband

posted 1 Sep 2010, 17:12 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 1 Sep 2010, 17:31 ]

Opal now have LLU equipment on the Blundeston exchange, so I've had my first speed upgrade since Max in 2006.

Pleased to report download speeds of over 12mbps :)

Vintage Photographic Glass Plates

posted 13 Aug 2010, 11:51 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 13 Aug 2010, 12:00 ]

Just spent some time scanning some vintage glass plates belonging to my friend Ashley.

Most of them seem to be from the Norfolk Broads / East Anglia and taken some time between 1908 and 1930.

You can see these in two sets on flickr :-

Box 1 (Mostly Norfolk Broads)
Box 2 (Some Lakes and Hills + General including what appears to be a holiday in Gorleston-on-sea)

If anyone can help out by identifying any locations/people etc., I'd be most grateful.

Atom GPS - Auto-geotagging Software

posted 7 Aug 2010, 09:51 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 7 Aug 2010, 10:05 ]

Found a really useful piece of freeware that works well with my old Garmin Etrex Legend GPS unit.
It's called "Atom GPS" and basically it synchronises a GPS track log with a set of jpeg photos using the photos' timestamp from its EXIF data.

Works very well indeed and will apparently work with quite a few types of GPS.

See my set on Flickr

Lowestoft Journal Photo Of The Week

posted 9 Jul 2010, 02:20 by Kevin Millican

Pleased to report that one of my photos won the competition this week :-

Lowestoft Bridge and Harbour

1960 Consumer Camera Test

posted 2 Jun 2010, 16:46 by Kevin Millican   [ updated 15 Jun 2010, 12:41 ]

Following on from my recent comparison of Digital vs 35mm Film, I was inspired to find out how consumer-level photography looked just prior to the wide adoption of the 35mm format.

The thing that interested me about this subject was thinking back to early family photographs in old albums - they were a lot smaller in those days !
I think this had a lot to do with the prohibitive cost of colour film processing back then. By the time I got interested in photography in the late 70s, it was pretty mainstream, but relatively much more expensive than today. However, looking through old pre-35mm photos from my parents' time, it is clear that many of the prints were not much bigger than the original negatives. For example, the photo on the right of me as a baby with my Auntie Sadie is roughly 8 x 8 cm. Note that this photo is just slightly younger than the camera shown on the left.

So I wondered; just how did the cheaper end of the consumer photographic equipment compare with today's point-and-shoot digital gear ?

With this in mind, I went on ebay and purchased a cheap 120 roll film camera (an Agfa Isola). I ran a film through it and ordered a photo CD when I had it processed.

You can see the images I produced in my Flickr set, but I've also included two below. Note that you can see any of these images full size by clicking on them. Use your browser's 'back' button to return here.

Regressing to this form of photography was not without its problems, in particular :-
  • It is really easy to forget to adjust the focus before taking a photo - I messed up a couple of images like that !
  • I was concerned about the small red frame counter window on the camera back so I used a piece of black masking tape to cover it while I was not actually winding the film on. This may have been unnecessary but I think these clear red windows were only any good at preventing black & white film from becoming fogged - any red light getting through could reflect around the insides and easily fog a colour film.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the performance. Image quality was roughly on a par with digital cameras from just a couple of years back. The modern machine processing and scanning produced better colours and detail than you would typically see on old prints.

35mm SLRs became affordable in the 70s, and digicams made it onto the scene around the turn of the century. If you were an enthusiast, there were always higher quality options available but most people used inexpensive gear costing £20-50. My Fujica ST705W was "reduced to clear" at £79 - a real bargain in 1979 when a typical 35mm SLR cost £100-£150.
All other things being equal, the drop from medium format to 35mm must have resulted in a lowering of image quality. However, lenses improved during this same period, and other enhancements such as automatic exposure, wider availability of rangefinders and eventually autofocusing, compensated quite a bit.

There was a dubious flirtation with even smaller film formats such as 110 that led to considerable decrease in image quality. Have a look at this 1976 snapshot of Venice :-

If you click on the photo above, the film grain will be immediately apparent - terrible quality from the 10mm wide negatives. 110 cameras looked stylish and the film came in an attractive cartridge format that was simple to load. The larger 126 film format used a similar cartridge but had a 26mm wide film that potentially could have produced similar quality to 35mm. Unfortunately the emphasis in the 70s was on convenience and there were hardly any good quality 126 cameras made (eg. Minolta Autopak 700/800, Olympus Quickmatic, Ricoh 126C). They quickly gave way to compact 110 models costing from £20.
(Average earnings in 1975 were about £72/week so this was about 28% of a weekly wage)

As disposable incomes increased, 35mm rangefinder cameras became popular. These were significantly more expensive than 110 and 126 models but generally had good lenses and coould produce pretty good images. Many had rangefinder focusing and auto exposure.

There was a further attempt at bringing together a larger negative size with simple loading in the APS format. This cartridge was very innovative and the format provided a degree of smartness with regard to film speeds. APS cameras could even shoot different image sizes and aspect ratios on the same film. All of these ideas were swept aside by the rush towards digital photography at the turn of the century.

So how did those early digital cameras compare ?

Here is a holiday snap from 2001 taken on a Kodak DC215 Zoom (bought in 2000) :-

As you might have guessed these early digicams had very poor image quality - nowhere near that of the Isola, which by this time would have been a 40 year old camera.

Of course, electronics advance very quickly. Things were much improved two years later in 2002 when 3 megapixel zoom models with proper autofocus were mainstream. Here's a snap from a Minolta DiMAGE S304 :-

As you can see, the focus is much better and combined with the increased depth-of-field, the image sharpness is much closer to what we expect today.

By 2006, digicams were typically 6-8 megapixels. Here is an image from a 7mp Sony DSC-W7 in 2006 :-

With a few more refinements such as antishake, face detection, and some more megapixels (at the expense of noise), these cameras evolved into the slick consumer cameras we know today. It's easy to pick up something capable of producing presentable 30" x 20" enlargements for around £100.
(A medium range model costing £200 would represent 28% of the 2010 weekly average wage of £722, and provide a good direct comparison with the 110 camera of 1975 costing £20. However, allowing for the increasing gap between typical wage and the "average", a £100 digicam at today's prices is probably a more realistic equivalent)

It's interesting to note that the potential quality of entry level consumer cameras initially went down from 1960 with the increasing adoption of 35mm films, and even smaller formats such as the 110 cartridges.
Picture quality fell again when the first digicams were produced, and only really improved above the 1960 level with the 2nd and 3rd generation models around 2003/2004. The Agfa Isola is just one example of a modest camera that performed fairly well. No doubt there are quite a few other low-cost medium format cameras from that time with better lenses that would have taken sharper pictures.

Of course throughout this time there have always been better quality models at enthusiast and professional level, but it's interesting to see how the cheap end performed. I think it's fairly clear from this comparison that it took over 40 years to get back to the same quality that your average snapper might have enjoyed in 1960 - if they could afford the processing !

Windows 7 Upgrade Edition Woes

posted 19 May 2010, 13:27 by Kevin Millican

Just had to reinstall Windows 7 on a PC that had a failed hard drive - not a nice experience.

A while ago I purchased the family upgrade pack version of Windows 7 Home Premium. This let me upgrade 3 PCs for ~ £120.
That's the 'Pro' - the 'Con' is that it's an absolute pain reinstalling if you have a hard drive failure because you have to reinstall Windows XP first so that the licence key will work.

This doubles the time needed to reinstall Windows 7 - took about 2 hours in all.

I'm not impressed - Microsoft should sort this.

Reply received from David Cameron's office

posted 24 Apr 2010, 09:31 by Kevin Millican

Had a comprehensive reply to an email I sent to David Cameron regarding marriage inequality in the tax system.

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