Sunday, 23 November 2008

Techno Update

In order to leaven the Triple M Effect* of blogging (and also in a shameless attempt to pick up a few more readers), I promised in earlier posts that I would let you know how I was getting on with a couple of hi-tech toys.

The Panasonic DMC-LX3 camera:

A nice feature of the LX3 (see post The Start of a Beautiful Friendship) is the availability of three aspect ratios (the proportions of the image rectangle), including a wide 16:9 which I have found myself gravitating towards. It suits a certain kind of picture-making that I enjoy.

The Optoelectronics Manufacturing Laboratory

Electricity Substation at West Quay

In the pursuit of lo-tech (OK, cheap) solutions to hi-tech problems, I've made a couple of good moves:

1. I've been hanging the camera from a neck cord (inherited from my Olympus Mju) attached to just the right hand strap lug. This means it can dangle under my coat as discreetly as an ID badge. You can also get a good grip on the thing by wrapping the cord round your hand. The supplied strap is too stiff, makes the camera look like a Leica that shrank in the wash, and has branding all over it. I'm very much a No Logo person, and would rather be taken for a tramp than impress anyone with my purchasing decisions.

2. There's a cheap clip-on viewfinder around at the moment, branded as Helios. This is actually ideal for the LX3. There are brightlines for 35mm, 85mm and 135mm, and if you position the zoom at its 60mm (equivalent) extreme, the bottom of the 35mm brightline is the bottom of the actual view (i.e. it's corrected for parallax), with the sides falling halfway between the 35mm and 85mm brightlines. This is "close enough for jazz", and works very well.

Although the wide setting is the camera's USP, I prefer the 60mm setting, as the lens is then at its most compact position -- easier to have beneath a coat without snagging, and less obtrusive for the kind of grab shots you'd be using a viewfinder for.

There is also a viewfinder which was made for use with wide and tele supplementary lenses for the Yashica Electro rangefinder cameras. The "tele" end is a mere 60mm (perfect), and the wide about 35mm (again, hopefully this will act as a parallax guide). These get detached from their kits and turn up on Ebay as "wide tele" viewfinders, because that's about all they have written on them. One is on its way to me, and I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

So far, I've identified two design faults that can be aggravating:

1. The mode dial is far too easily shifted by even gentle contact with a pocket or coat, or when pushed into a bag. This is incredibly annoying. You can easily find yourself going from Manual to Programmed Mode between shots.

2. There is no way to select a focal length between the two extreme positions other than unsubtle trial and error. It reminds me of the electric windows on our Renault, which lurch to every position but the one you want. The perfect thing would be the ability to specify a start-up position, as the Olympus C5050 was able to do, combined with preset hyperfocal depth focussing positions. I believe this is a feature of the Ricoh GX cameras, the obvious competitor to the LX3.

The Bookeen CyBook Gen 3 e-book reader:

I have nothing but praise for this device (see post My New Toy). It works. It's even easier to read in bed than a book, and hurts less when you fall asleep and it drops on your face. It's frustrating that more books aren't yet available (I'd like to join the Cult of Mankell, for example, but there's not a single title) but that's down to publishers, not the ebook reader manufacturers: there's no Henning Mankell for Amazon's Kindle yet, either.

One design fault: the rubber bung covering the USB port is far too difficult to remove when the reader is inside its natty case, unless you have supermodel fingernails. Otherwise, nice job, mes amis.

Friday Sunset at Southampton Docks
(Message for Andy Weir)

* i.e. "Me Me Me" -- thought I'd made this up, but it seems to have occurred to a lot of other people, too!

No comments: