Friday, 1 September 2017

new camera pt. 1

I had been watching the Panasonic Lumix TZ100 since it came out in 2016. Great reviews for this 1" sensor in a travel zoom sized beast, but I'd wait for the competition to bring out similar and the price would drop. With the exception of Sony, they haven't, (no 1" sensor with much more than 3x zoom) and the Sony is £300 more. So the price has remained over £500 and I reluctantly bit that bullet. Can I really go running with an expensive camera in my hand/pocket? Best get a warranty as well. And case. And extra battery. And book on how to work it. The manual is very basic and the camera is very complex.

Wednesday the forecast was good, so I extended my holidays further and cycled to Aberlady and across the bridge to visit my favourite butterfly bush. Summer is quickly turning to Autumn and I wasn't sure if the butterfly community would still be visible or hibernating for Winter. As I stepped out the flat with my bike the rain was falling. I said a few bad words but hoped that in the hour it takes to cycle the 16 miles to Aberlady things would change.

I stopped to take a couple of pics on the way, so it was a bit longer than an hour. I really like the chalk improvements on that fountain on the prom. And the artist has signed it too. And the gull on the top of the roof behind the boat at Port Seton.

Across the bridge, then a quick check at Marl Loch. No dragonflies there even though they are dotted along the path sunning themselves. Then along to the Butterfly Bushes. I laid the bike up against a thorny shrub and approached with trepidation. What if there were no butterflies? 

Numbers are certainly reduced, especially the Blue and Brown short grass residents. But the peacocks are still out and about in decent numbers. The new camera is easy to work in iA mode. I always think of that as Idiots Automatic. Most of the first thousand images, I took in this mode. It means all I have to think about is composition (getting all the butterfly etc in the frame, the screen on the back) and making sure I am focussed on the subject. The TZ100 is touch screen and so if it is focussing on the grass or leaf next to the subject you can touch the butterfly on the screen and a crosshair lets you know it is now focussed on the right thing. It also tracks the subject as you inevitably move the camera, inevitably at full zoom, and therefore wobbly. It is spooky how it discerns and tracks what you are trying to capture, although a brightly coloured defined shape against a green background is perhaps obvious to a super smart computer chip.

Which doesn't mean it can't take bad pics. This was the first surprise though it shouldn't have been. All that money and it can still take a bad photograph? Well yes. The hit rate is still about the same. (About one photo makes the blog for every ten taken.) I take loads of photos of the same thing. If you take just one there can be an obvious mistake you don't see till you get it home. So take 2. Take 5. Delete the others. Double check from time to time that most are working, in focus and decent size.

This camera takes raw and 20mp size pics you could print A2 size. I have yet to understand why raw is all that. Also at full size a raw image can be 22mb, as opposed to 3 or 4mb per jpeg. Since I am only putting them on this blog and have limited hard drive space I choose to make them less than 4000 pixels wide. Because this is smaller than maximum, the large sensor gives me back extra zoom. The max zoom is nominally x10. On the setting I am currently using the screen readout says it goes from 25mm to 250mm (x10) then the telephoto lens stops moving; but the zoom increases to 350mm, (x14) before it hits a blue line, then continues (presumably digitally enhanced while glass remains still) to 712mm. This is more than x28. I had been wondering if I'd notice the difference, dropping to x10 zoom from my last camera (the TZ35) which had x20. Happily, no! I have taken some excellent shots at max zoom and there doesn't appear to be the drop off in quality that the reviews in photographic online magazines talk about. I suspect they scrutinise stuff more than I do. 

in conversation?

There is definitely an end-of-season feeling in the butterfly world. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that the Suunto records me being in the area, near the bushes and the shorter grass area, for about 2 and a half hours walking nearly a mile at a dead slow pace. I would wander through the grass looking for Blues and bees and moths. I came across a few Blues and they were all a bit forlorn, with ragged wings and fading colours. Loads of bees as ever. Someone mentioned a lack of bees compared with previous. I have only noticed the reverse, more than any other insect or bird they are universal in every location buzzing away in large numbers, visiting flowers and always ready to pose for photos.

2.5hrs and nearly a mile of butterfly chasing. 
The butterfly bush would be situated in the middle of the top most densely marked semi circle.

To my great delight a Small Tortoiseshell turned up, a perfect specimen, looking like it just emerged. And dressed for Autumn in it's woolly vest too. These are fairly common place, mainly because they hibernate here, and so can be seen for longer in the year than just about anything else.

backlit on a purple thistle

channeling Gonzo from the muppets

I love the above image taken full size as it came out the camera pretty much without tweaking or cropping. I can't remember what I was up to when taking it, but it looks as if I was lying down among the grasses. It was a lovely sunny day I was more interested in getting images than self preservation. I removed about 5 or 6 ticks at various points, and got quite lot of stings, bites and scratches from thistles, nettles, bugs and other invisible sources. Worth it though. I had a lot of fun and then really enjoy picking over the results, seeing things in detail you only glimpse in the field.

these 3 pics show the dance a peacock and bee did circling a thistle

There are a large number of these wee white moths that always fly up when you walk through grasses. Not really sure what their purpose is, and they are so tiny and white they don't make easy subjects. Mostly I don't bother.

meadow brown
Saw some sad and ragged specimens today.

the TZ100 seems to have a better sense of what you would like to have in focus

this on the right is the famous bush

I have wondered is every clump of buckthorn harbouring so much life? I don't think so; this one has a lot of nettles which the vanessids (Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell,) like and often lay eggs on. As well as the flowering thistles which they visit for nectar. The buckthorn provides a useful barrier to stop through traffic (deer, humans etc.) The surrounding shorter grasses can be full of blues and browns. I haven't found any other spots where I return so successfully to find butterflies. I suspect this might be the last fruitful trip of the year. Which was why I have slightly overdone it. Well that, and the new camera. 

I took over 700 photos. I know, overkill! I took a second battery along not knowing what duration to expect. (Info suggested 300 pics per recharge.) Got the first battery down to 1 bar but it held out. Didn't shoot any video or use the flash. The video is 4k btw. And it does a couple of fancy tricks; shooting a 4k burst of video from which you can flip through and choose an 8mp still image. And also; starting the 4k video you can choose to start it, a second before you push the start button. (Think breaching whales.) Also time lapse and hand held nightshots. In fact so much, it is worth getting the handbook. I got the kindle edition because the book was going to take a fortnight, but may get it as well as my kindle is not colour and (for example) the six-different-colour-options illustrations all look the same. Like a parody.

And then to make my day complete a Red Admiral turned up. May have been more than one. But in great condition and although they are constantly on the move, if you are quick you can catch it at just the right point. I was very pleased with some of the blurred background "bokeh". This is a Japanese term much used in photography journalism by people who are using expensive lenses. I did wonder about how you pronounce bokeh but luckily we have the internet. And this is one answer.

this again is full frame straight out the camera as taken
teetering on the limits of the camera and imperfectly framed but kinda cool

perhaps the shot of the day
full frontal showing the underwing patterns really clearly (& nice bokeh!)

meadow brown

another owl pellet - found below a perching fence post

If I'm not mistaken tiny jawbone showing how many fillings Mr Mousey has had, 
before going to the great tawny in the sky.

After the excitement of the butterfly bush I cycled to the beach 
and took a couple of pics of the soft afternoon light. 

TZ100 does panoramas
although better quality they can still suffer the same difficulties of exposure in dark-to-light scenarios.

I also went past Marl Loch on the way out.
Still no dragonflies, but a very cute wee toad. Saw a couple of them today.

and the deer are back

You can tell the middle one is the daft one. I was whistling to get them to look up from eating grass. Mum looked right at me. (Dad was off to the right out the pic) Youngster on left is getting there but middle one was looking absolutely in the wrong direction. They bounced with ease and great elegance over the fence behind.

Too early to give a proper review of the new camera, but I am really having fun with it and the results are a step up from the TZ35. I keep falling asleep reading the handbook - slightly more info than I will ever use but comprehensive, as they say. A lot of the settings are about stuff I would do in post. Filters and the like. But there is stuff like time lapse I am keen to learn.

Pt 2 to follow soon - I've seen the photos and they are special!

35miles cycled, one walked