Sunday, January 24, 2010

Auckland Zoo and the Camera Result

Well enough about Mobility Saga's. Onto the real reason I went to the zoo. To try out my new Camera. Whenever I want to try out a camera, I always pick the zoo as a place to shoot. The reason is there is a wide variety of subjects - not only the animals, but people, landscapes and the zoo gardens are beautiful as well.

On Friday though, I was only interested in testing out my camera for speed. I was after fast animals. So my first port of call was the Australian Aviary. I don't know what they were doing, but the aviary was empty. Almost devoid of what makes it an aussie aviary. The Lorikeets and the King Parrots were simply.... gone!

However I did get a few Zebra finches, which move at the speed of a silver bullet. I was quite happy with the result...

The only thing I don't like about the above image is that you can kind of see the wire cage in the background. When I take Zoo photos, I try and avoid anything that looks man made in the background. This makes the image look more 'natural', as if you've taken the image in the wild, rather than in a zoo.

This one is better. I'm wondering if Zebra Finches Blink, or whether this one was feeling a bit dopey...

Regardless, I was happy with the performance of the 7D with these two bird shots. Both images I took on ISO 800 and a fast shutter speed. This does increase the 'grain' or 'noise' but I can live with that.

Onto the Hippo Pool. It was deserted at first as the keepers were raking up old hay and cleaning down the concrete in the enclosure. So the ducks had the pool all to themselves. This duckling swam to the beat of his own drum while the hippo pool was being cleaned. Instead of being with his other 13 siblings near to mum, it swam around the pool all on it's own for ages. I was amazed at how fast it could go, when it was all of 2 inches high! It was one plucky ducky!

There were others about - I got a group of three here, although my depth of field was a little bit on the narrow side as not all of them are in perfect focus. The joys of zoom lenses! While the water was a bit on the murky side, I loved the sharp reflections.

Then the Hippos came back. I loved the detail the 7D afforded me from such a distance. Wouldn't you love to get your hands on his nose hairs and pluck them! Do a proper facial on him! And look at those lips! Botox he doesn't need!

Keeping my camera on fast shutter speeds and high ISO helped freeze the water in this shot. A pleasing result!

Onto the Seal Pool to find two seals fighting. I was surprised how quick they were able to move for their size. It tested out the action shots, one I'm pleased with, the other not so. This one I was happy with - nice and sharp.

I also went and viewed in the underwater section. I had thought they were fast up on top, but underwater, they are like torpedoes. Whilst some of the water looks like it's 'noisy', in actual fact it's millions of tiny little bubbles from the creatures stirring it up in their play. They rolled, dived and put a real show on for me!

Onto the otters. These are the fidgeters of the animal world. They never stay still and are always a challenge to shoot. I got some good ones with my old camera (20D), but I have to admit the 7D made it easier... The burst mode per second with the 7D far outstrips the 20D so I was able to get lots of sharp images.

I love how it's brought out the detail in the water.

Lots of newborn chicks around the zoo. I guess wherever there's an abundance of food for the taking, there will always be high population of birds, and population explosions. The zoo has a number of bantam chickens running around and it seemed they all had lots of family... This chicken has been perhaps my best ever 'perfect' shot on the technical side - a perfect bell curve of light after taking it. Amazing!

Those are all the images I've processed so far - lots more to do. The downside of having a camera with such a huge amount of megapixels, is that I notice the processing is a bit slower. My 4gb of RAM in my laptop all of a sudden isn't quite 'enough'! But it will have to do!

Auckland Zoo and the Mobility Scooter Saga

On Friday, I decided to head over to Auckland Zoo to try out my new camera. Parking the car, I limped into ticket booth and my ankle was sooooo sore just walking from the carpark to the entrance, that I decided to hire a mobility scooter from them.

At the information office, the conversation went something like this...

Me: "I'd like a mobility scooter if there's one free for today", pointing to my bandaged foot - "I have a sprained ankle and it might be easier for me to get around on one of the scooters"

Zoo Lady "Do you know how to drive one?"

Me: "I'm sure I can figure it out"

Zoo Lady: "Do you have a current drivers license"

Me: (very bemused) "Well I did drive to get here showing my car keys STILL in my hand"

Zoo Lady: "It $30 deposit which you get back when you return it"

Me: "That's fine" and I promptly pulled out my EFTPOS card to pay.

Zoo Lady: "Oh - it's EFTPOS - okay" so she wrote that down on the form. "We won't charge you then"

I started reading the form. I had to sign that I would *NOT* go into the Meercat Tunnels with the scooter. I found that hilarious too - anyone who has been in the Meercat tunnels would know that a mobility scooter would not FIT into the tunnels at all. There were a few more things I wasn't allowed to enter, but I didn't get a copy of the form, and once I had left the centre, I couldn't remember which ones they were.

Anyway - the long and short of it - I was shown what speed I was allowed to go (it was set with a pin so you couldn't go over that speed). There was a lever you press and the scooter goes. When you release the lever it stops. Another lever on the other side did the same for reverse. Hey - I need a current drivers license for that!!!! So I pressed the lever. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. My car goes somewhat faster than this!

Zoo lady then over-rode the pin and told me not to go into the 'red zone' as it would be too fast. She set it just before the red zone. I pressed the lever. Nothing happened. Finally she put it into the red zone and the mobility scooter started going. No faster she said. Now this was *slower* than walking pace. If I had been with anyone, they would have got very impatient at this speed.

Anyway, I decided to do as I was told and very very slowly took off. When I was out of sight of Zoo lady - I then upped the speed. A lot. Zoomed around the Zoo. I didn't kill anyone.

The mobility scooter was excellent for my sprained ankle, but I would love to remind Auckland Zoo that people who are disabled, are restricted only in mobility. Our brains work perfectly fine. I'm SURE that I do not need a current drivers license to buy one either, or in fact use it anywhere in any public place. I know of no ministry of transport mobility scooter exams, or road code. I truly believe it's simply courtesy and common sense you need to use one.

Whilst you provide an excellent service, you might like to overhaul the system a bit an stop treating people with mobility restrictions like idiots!

New Camera - the Canon 7D

I finally did it. I plucked up courage and spent a small fortune in upgrading my camera. The camera shop now has enough money to keep Lichtenstein going for several years! Not really but it feels that way. I bought the latest Canon DSLR - the Canon 7D, and so far I like it, although it took me 10 minutes to try and figure out just how to turn it on!

I took the manual to bed the first night, great reading material I know, and am wondering if I should put that manual into my booklist! It seems to be the size of a Harry Potter book with the amount of information in there. I only managed to read a few pages before falling asleep. Manuals do that to me.

So the second day I went through the manual and started learning all the settings. Technologically, it's way advanced in comparison to the Canon 20D, which isn't surprising as the 20D was one of the early DSLR's that Canon put out, and they've had plenty of customer feedback and practise since then. The difference between the two is like watching the original Lost in Space series and comparing it to the latest Matrix movies in terms of special effects!

The 7D has more buttons to press, and if you press all the right buttons, it'll take great photos. I haven't quite mastered it yet, but I'm getting there. I am getting help. David Roos bought his Nikon 300D a few weeks ago and has already mastered his new camera. He took the camera back home to Japan for a photoshoot over christmas so managed to master his camera in the Camera's county of origin! So he popped over the other day and setup some custom programs for me - birds, birds in flight, landscapes. The biggest difference in the 7D which I'm trying to learn is the metering system.

You can see David's Photo's here. It's well worth the look - full screen for best effect. Not bad for a Nikon camera either!

The only disappointment I have with my new Canon so far is the fact the battery is different to that of the 20D. Therefore I have to go out and buy another as one battery is definitely not enough. As it's an 18mp camera, I'm also going to have to get a couple of bigger compact flash cards. I'm sure there will be other things I will need over time too - a few more lenses, some overseas travel to try it out.....

The first image I took though with the camera was of a leaf. I am severely restricted at the moment because of my sprained ankle which is driving me nuts! But I was happy with the result...

I guess you'll be hearing more on the subject, and you will see more photos once my ankle gets better!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cochlear Implant - 9 month Review

My 9 month review for my new Cochlear Implant was yesterday. Most results improved, except for the ones in background noise....

HINT (open set) Sentences at 3 months: 100%
HINT (open set) Sentences at 6 months: 98%
HINT (open set) Sentences at 9 months: 100%

In background noise +10db SNR at 3 months: 92%
In Background noise +10db SNR at 6 months: 96%
In Background noise +10db SNR at 9 motnhs: 83% (gone down!)

In background noise +5db SNR at 3 months: 24%
In background noise +5db SNR at 6 months: 47%
In background noise +5db SNR at 9 months: not tested

CNC Words Alone at 3 months: 63%
CNC Words Alone at 6 months: 65%
CNC Words Alone at 9 months: 68% (Slowly improving)

CNC Words Alone Phonemes at 3 months: 82%
CNC Words Alone Phonemes at 6 months: 83%
CNC Words Alone Phonemes at 9 months: 87%

My map itself - I am weird about the high pitches, I obviously don't like them much so tend to have my comfort levels decrease as the pitch goes up. So this time my audie tilted the map up to raise the levels slightly in the high frequencies. It worked - my scores (apart from background noise) increased, however today I'm getting non-auditory stimulation so they in the high frequencies which is an utter pain. So either an electrode needs to be turned down again or one needs to be turned off. I am hoping it's not the start of anything serious!

For the last 2 maps, my threshold levels have had to be increased - each time I get a remap, I can no longer hear where I heard it the first time I was switched on. However I have a very wide or large dynamic range so no one is worried about that at this stage.

I am worried by the fact I don't cope so well in background noise - espeically compared to the first implant (N22) which I had for 15 years and heard in background noise no problem at all, and this frustrates me. I would like to know whether it will improve, or whether this is as good as it will get.

Back to the clinic on monday to fix that electrode I hope!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vintage Camera #3 - Minolta Miniflex

The third vintage camera I was given was the Minolta Miniflex. This is a much newer camera than the other two, made in 1959, however I find it the most fascinating cameras of the three, because of the twin lens reflex system, much like a hasselblad.

This camera is in pristine condition - probably because a), it looks like it didn't get that much use, and b), it's was sitting at the top of the wardrove since the 1970's!

The Minolta Miniflex can take twelve exposures in 4×4cm square format. The film is advanced by a knob on the photographer's right, at the bottom, engraved with an arrow and the word WIND to indicate the turning direction. The film runs from the upper chamber to the lower chamber. This method reduces film distortion compared with the reverse travel direction.

The film advance automatically stops at each exposure and is unlocked when the shutter release is pressed. There is a round window on the advance side for an exposure counter. The position of the first exposure is set via a red window on the right of the back, protected by a large spring-loaded rotating disc, marked CHIYODA KOGAKU OSAKA JAPAN. Then the exposure counter is reset to "1" by pressing a button near the advance knob. This button is hidden in a slot and can be pressed with a fingernail or a coin; it has this shape to avoid accidental action.

The back is hinged to the top for film loading, and locked by a small rectangular key at the bottom. The tripod thread is integrated in the body casting and is not part of the back.


There is a big focusing wheel on the photographer's left, turning 120 degrees and driving a heart-shaped cam moving the front standard back and forth. This wheel contains a film reminder, and there is an additional plate with depth-of-field indications. The distance scale is engraved either in metres or in feet, depending on the intended market. The minimum focusing distance is either 1m or 3.3ft.

The viewfinder is integrated into the body casting, unlike most other TLR cameras. This construction allowed to reduce the cost of the viewfinder part. The viewing hood has a peculiar three-fold, specially designed to avoid the side plates going deep into the body and to prevent the entry of dust. It contains a square magnifying lens hinged to the top but no sportsfinder. It also has a logo at the front, showing the letter M in silver on a deep red background.

The nameplate is made of translucent plastic, with the name minolta miniflex written in gold letters in the typical 1960s Minolta font. The body number is inscribed on a small metal strip above the nameplate. There are strap lugs on both sides of the body, for use with spring-loaded clamps on the strap itself. These strap attachments were specific to the Miniflex at the time it was introduced. There are two accessory shoes, one on each side, buried in the body casting in the space left free by the special viewfinder construction. Each contains two spring-loaded spheres to hold the accessory on the shoe. The right-hand shoe has an indentation at the bottom, whose purpose is unknown. This shoe is used to attach the accessory sportsfinder (see below). Unlike most other TLR cameras, the Miniflex is held horizontally when using the sportsfinder.

The shutter release is at the bottom of the front standard and protrudes towards the right; it was specially thought to make it comfortable to trip both in the vertical position and in the horizontal position. The button contains a screw thread for a cable release. The shutter is an Optiper Citizen MVL (B, 1–500). It is cocked by a small lever at the bottom. The self-timer lever is on the same side as the release button and is painted green. The opposite side has a red painted M/X selector and a PC synch socket. The shutter name is inscribed between the two lenses: OPTIPER on one side and CITIZEN MVL on the other.

The speed scale is on the left side, as seen from the front, and there is a Light-Value scale in a window below the taking lens. These two scales are inscribed on the same disc, moved by a lever placed near the release button. The aperture scale is engraved on a second disc placed above, and appears opposite the speed scale. This second disc is directly turned by hand, and has a small index moving along the Light-Value scale and indicating the Light-Value corresponding to the selected settings. The two discs move freely and are not interlocked, unlike other Light-Value systems.

The taking lens is a four-element Minolta Rokkor 60mm f/3.5, and the viewing lens is a three-element View Rokkor 60mm f/2.8. Both have a seven-digit serial number and a three-lug bayonet attachment.

The camera has two-tone blue finish: medium blue hammertone paint for the body shell, back and moving front standard, and light blue lacquer for the viewing hood and the casing surrounding the lenses. Original documents from the company call the darker colour "greenish blue" and the lighter "silver grey". The sides and the back have a matching blue-grey leatherette covering. With time, this leatherette covering tends to change colour and get a brownish tint on many examples.

The Minolta Miniflex was announced in Japanese photography magazines dated May to July 1959. The Miniflex was briefly advertised in Japanese magazines in October and November 1959. The October advertisement in Camera Mainichi presents the camera along with the Minolta A3, and does not mention a price. The November advertisement in Shashin Kōgyō, mainly devoted to the Minolta 16, makes some room for the Miniflex and indicates the price of ¥12,700 (case ¥1,800 extra).

Body numbers are confirmed in the 100xxx, 102xxx, 103xxx, 104xxx and 105xxx ranges, and lens numbers are known in all thousands from 1100xxx to 1105xxx. The body, viewing lens and taking lens numbers usually do not match, sometimes by a wide margin.

The highest known numbers are body no.105258, taking lens no.1105178 and viewing lens no.110504. Various sources say that the production did not exceed 5,000,but the available data seems to show that a few hundred more were made.

With only 5000 worldwide, the camera is one of the rarer ones and could possibly be worth much more than the first two vintage cameras on my blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vintage Camera #2 - Pontiac

A while back - I wrote in my blog that I had been give 3 vintage cameras. I had meant to post more information on each of them, but things got busy, and time got away with me until tonight when I thought I would catch up a bit on my blogging.

To recap - I wrote about Vintage Camera #1 Someone from a Camera Museum in the USA emailed me and told me that the camera was a pre-war 1932 Wirgin Pronto. So really interesting to get that information.

The second camera I was given was a 1945 Pontiac.

Upon investigation on the internet, I found this camera is a 1945 Pontiac Bloc Metal 45. 65 years old is amazing because this camera is still in good working order. The only problem is I can't source any film for it in New Zealand. Wouldn't it be good if digital cameras were made to last as long!

The “Bloc-Métal” name referred to the solid metal construction. Despite the name and the date of introduction, production for sale seems not to have started until 1946.

I loved the metal strap which is actually indented with red, although it doesn't seem very red on this particular image.

The Bloc-Métal 45 is often regarded as the most beautiful of all folding cameras, not least by the French themselves. It is constructed from cast aluminium alloy, it really does look lovely and very compact, although mine could use a little polishing with something to remove the oxidation of the last 50 years, seeing that the last 40 years it's just been sitting at the top of a wardrobe unused!

The camera can come with variety of 102mm f/4.5 and 105mm f/4.5 triplet lenses, and possibly with one or two Tessar-type four-glass lenses. The shutter is a Prontor II, 1 second to 1/200 sec + B and T, with delayed action, flash synchronized; quite advanced for its day.

Marked apertures on the grievously nonlinear scale are f/4.5 and f/6.3 (one stop apart), then f/8 (2⁄3 stop), f/11, f/16, f/23(!), and f/32. Below is the depth of field calculator which looks utterly confusing to me!

I loved the way it folds up inside, and viewed when you open the back of it. However mine looks like there is a little bit of wear at the top.

This camera is still in good working order and I would dearly love to try it out, along with the 1932 pre-war wirgin. I can buy the black and white film from places in Chicago or from B&H, for very reasonable prices, the postage to New Zealand is prohibitive (about $40USD to get it here). I guess I'll have to wait until I know someone is going to New York!

Fascinating these vintage cameras - Pontiac or Obwandiyag (c. 1720-1769) was an Ottawa chief who allied himself with the French against the English, but it seems more likely that M. Laroche just liked Pontiac cars and regarded them as the epitome of modern styling and affordable excellence.

The history of the company itself is also interesting. MFAP was one of the few French beneficiaries of the German occupation, which forbade the founding of new optical companies in occupied France. This allowed M. Laroche to bring out his new all-metal camera model in ’41, and essentially gave him a free run for the next few years. He even advertised himself as the leading French manufacturer of cameras: this was probably true during World War II.

Value? It’s impossible to say on any vintage camera. They are only really worth what someone is prepared to pay for them. However, the Pontiacs are not very common, even in France, and despite the export drive of the later ’40s, they are distinctly rare in the USA. Their looks and history makes it a camera that does stand out over other vintage cameras.

New House - week 4, 5, 6 and 7

It's been a while since I updated my blog with the new house. I've been really busy and also away. I got new pics of the house from the builder 2 days ago so I thought I better update everything this morning so you can all see where it's at...

Week 4:

Back before Xmas week four saw the windows and doors put in, and the roof starting to go on. The house was completely wrapped in building paper (no red bow though!!)

Week 5:
Saw the roof tiles actually start to take shape. This is a photo courtesy of a neighbour :)

Week 6:
Saw the roof finished and the bricks half way up the wall...

It's starting to look like a house ;)

And the one with roof and bricks complete from my neighbour ...

Week 7:

These pics I just received two days ago. The house is complete outside except for the paths and G J gardners are now working on the inside. The gib board is up and has all been stopped and I believe the painters will be in soon, and finished by the 25th January. I then get a move in date. Even better, G J's went back a week early after Christmas which is brilliant for me in terms of a move in date so it's getting exciting...

This is the back of the house - I will be putting a patio in there for an outside bbq area. But see that big mound of dirt - I have to move all that myself for landscaping etc.... Lovely - especially with my ankle !

And finally one image of the inside - of the garage and where the laundry is going to be.

Won't be long now :)