Northwest Chocolate Festival and Lieca's Lie

This is the second year that Vanessa and I have gone to the Northwest Chocolate Festival - http://nwchocolate.com/. It's a great place to buy exquisite chocolates for less than you would pay online or in the stores. Chocolate makers from around the country come and bring lots and lots of samples.

We learned our lesson last year - stock up on enough chocolate at the festival to last you for a full year. Otherwise, you will spend even more at the store. Incidentally, the best place we have found to purchase chocolate in the Seattle area is a store called Chocolopolis - http://www.chocolopolis.com/

I shot all of the photos with the Leica X typ 113. These are all the JPGs from the camera, and they are indeed lovely. The camera is fairly easy to shoot. Once you learn the handling of the camera and it's quirks, it's quite responsive. 

My biggest complaint is that I feel Leica improperly calls the lens a f/1.7. It's more like an f/2.x lens for pretty much everything I shoot. Most of these shots were fairly close range, indoors, and fairly poor light. I attempted to shoot most of these images at f/1.7. Only two of them were because the subject was quite a distance away from the camera. Most were actually shot at f/2.5 and f/2.8 even though I had the camera set to f/1.7. It's very misleading and false advertising. Honestly, had I known about the variable aperture nature of this camera, I probably wouldn't have bought it. To me, the lens - a Lieca, 35mm equivalent, with a fast f-stop of f/1.7, for the price, was going to be a winner, but that's not really what you're buying. Shame on you Leica!

I did happen to find in the manual on page 136:

"To enhance picture quality, the aperture setting is also corrected automatically between 2.8 and 1.7 in the close-up range, i.e. at distances of 0.2 - 1.2m to the subject."

I didn't realize I had to download a manual and read the fine print before buying a camera.

Just for reference, here is a PDF from their website, advertising the f-stop of 1.7. Nowhere do they say it's variable.


Leica X typ 113 - Anya's 3rd Birthday

All of these are JPEGs straight out of the camera (resized for this blog using JPEGmini). I shot these using the vivid mode in camera. I'm quite pleased with the image quality, the autofocus isn't fast, but mostly adequate. Still, I would like more manual control with regards to f/stop, shutter speed, and aperture. Also, the lens almost always stops down to f/2.8 even though I have it set to f/1.7.

Hello Leica X Typ 113 - Goodbye Fuji X100S

Well, as you might have read, I bought a Fuji X100S last weekend. I got it for a good deal at $750 and plan on selling it on Craigslist for $850. $100 profit and a week of fun - not bad! Besides, I just got my first Leica.

I've always been interested in the Leica brand - great reputation, good looks, but big cost of entry. I read about their newest X camera with a 35mm equivalent focal length (my favorite) and a bright aperture of f/1.7. 

Initial impressions:
  • Feels and looks cheap and plasticky.
  • The manual controls are not as manual as I would like. I would like more control over the shutter speeds - not these wide jumps from 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, etc. I would also like more control over the ISO, not just 100, 200, 400, etc.
  • The live preview doesn't accurately reflect the shooting conditions. I would like it to be a more realistic representation of what I'm shooting in regards to the exposure.
  • Lens is sharp and images are cleaner than the X100S.
  • The aperture is variable and isn't constant - this is an annoying and not positive surprise.  The closer the focus is to the subject, the aperture shrinks down to 2.8. That's a big difference than the advertised f/1.7.
  • Images are clean.
  • Autofocus is reasonably fast and more accurate than the X100S
  • Battery and SD card slots are less than desirable - it's easy to put the battery in the wrong way, and the SD card removal seems to grab on the sides of the card.
  • Lightroom 5.6 seems to oversaturate the DNGs and increase the exposure - I had to dial both of them way back to get a decent starting place for editing the images.
I haven't taken any pictures worth saving or posting tonight, but I will be shooting with it this weekend - tomorrow at my daughters birthday party and at the Seattle Chocolate Festival as well.

How to sell or buy anything online! No, not eBay…

I love photography, cameras, and lenses. Of course, funds are limited, and I can’t own every piece of gear that I want to. Renting is an option, but it is a costly one. I’ve found that I can find some good deals online, play with the gear, and sell it later without too much of a loss - sometimes, I’ve even been able to sell gear for a profit.

Without going into any detail (you can always Google it yourself), personal experience has taught me that eBay, PayPal, and dealing with that entire eBay ecosystem as a seller or a buyer is an awful endeavor plagued with scammers, time wasters, non paying bidders, and inane and stupid questions. Thus, I now use Amazon for the majority of my online sales with Craigslist being a few here and there. 

There’s no secret to buying or selling online, it comes down to price - that’s it! How do you get your items to sell? Have your price lower than everyone else! How do you know what price to pay for something? Look at the lowest price that the item you’re interested in buying is selling for and pay that. The end! So why am I still writing this blog entry then? Because so many people selling or buying on Craigslist have no clue about this basic concept. Here’s an example: 

This weekend, I was in the market for a used Fuji X100S. Any seller should realize that a person savvy enough to send an email to them off of a Craigslist ad should have the wherewithal to check prices on other websites, but apparently not. The X100T was just announced, that alone drops the price of the X100S. Other X100S’s were selling online for about $750 - some more, but why anyone would pay more eludes me. So, I emailed a few sellers, and they were staying “firm” at $1,000! Even after emailing them the locations of retailers and other ads for less, they insisted that their price was “fair.” One reasonable seller had his listed for $800, I emailed him the same info, and he agreed to $750. Bingo! Now, had I offered him less, he should have told me to pound sand - it does work both ways.

Bottom line, be reasonable with your pricing when selling and be reasonable with your offers. Stick to your guns, don’t be impatient, and move on if the seller or buyer is unreasonable.

Goodbye PS4 - I like the Wii U better anyways. Death to Blu-ray and DVDs. Oh yeah, and a Fuji X100S

When I was younger, I used to love playing video games. After school, weekends, and during vacation, my friends and I would go to the local arcade and play Street Fighter 2, Strider, driving games, Moon Patrol, and others for hours! The home machines were fun, but nowheres as cool as the arcade machines.  Today they have been replaced by home consoles. Before we had kids, I used to play the Xbox 360 and PS3 - not for hours on end, but a few hours a week. Nowadays I play video games maybe 30 or 45 minutes a week, but only with my kids. 

What changed? Well, I got older yes, but the games changed. When I was a kid, you could play through a whole game like Pitfall in 30 minutes or less (Google Atari 2600 if you're younger than 35). I also played games like Kings Quest and Space Quest on the computer. Those games took many hours to complete, but you could save your game, walk away, and then resume play days or weeks later where you left off. Gaming was fun, it was casual, it was something to do when you had free time. Most importantly, you could walk away and have a life away from gaming.

Starting with the Nintendo Entertainment System, the whole gaming culture changed. Games took hours to complete, you couldn't save your game anyplace - if at all, and you had to devote a large portion of your life to completing the games. 

Then first person shooters came onto the scene. It seems as though even to this day, most games are first person shooters. Things jump out at you and scare you, you need to be on the edge of your seat, gore, and violence prevail. Personally, I play games to relax - not get all hyped up. Also, I don't like getting scared - it's not my idea of fun.

Today, I'd much rather play with the kids, take photos, edit pictures, go to karate, play on Facebook, or watch Doctor Who than play video games. However, once in a while they are fun. 

Last year, I bought a PS4 on launch day - no I didn't have to wait in line, I ordered it on Amazon. With it, I purchased Battlefield 4. In the past year, I've played the game less than ten hours total - some online, some offline. When I played online, I was getting killed left and right by seasoned gamers and didn't stand a chance. I suppose I could have bought the book with all of the cheats and hints, practiced, and then held my own, but what a waste of time! It's supposed to be a game - for fun, not a skill that I have to devote time and energy mastering. 

Shortly after I bought the PS4, I also bought a Wii U to play with our six year old daughter. Over the past year, we've played Mario Kart and Just Dance. They are fun games that you can play for 15 minutes, and then turn them off. What a concept! Over the past year, our Wii U has been played a few times a month, while the PS4 played Netflix or a Blu Ray once in a while. Moreover, after looking at the new titles on PS4 and the Wii U, there's nothing on the PS4 that interests me in the slightest.

I decided this weekend that I'd rather sell the PS4 and buy yet another camera with the proceeds. If I used the camera just an hour a month over the next year, it would have seen more use than the PS4 had since I bought it. So, the PS4 went up on Craigslist and was sold in less than 24 hours. With the proceeds, I bought a used Fuji X100S camera - also off of Craigslist. The photos in this gallery are straight out of the camera - my early impressions are that the X100S takes better photos than the PS4 - smiley winkie face.

The funny thing about the buyer of the PS4 is that he's a young father with a two year old. He was late to meet me because his "kid was having a meltdown." Also, when we were talking, he said that he should have more time when his child is older. Maybe he should have bought a camera or a Wii U instead.

Well, now that I have no PS4, we can no longer play our Blu-rays or DVDs in anything other than our computers. I suppose it's inevitable, but the days of buying a DVD, Blu-ray, or CD are going away. I've been fighting them for a long time, but iTunes and Amazon have made purchasing media too easy. In fact, later this evening I'll be watching this week's Doctor Who on that I purchased on iTunes on my computer.

Pumpkin Picking

I love autumn - when it's not cold and rainy. The colors are beautiful, the temperature is just right, the days aren't too long nor are they too short, and the air feels clean and crisp.

For the second year in a row now, our family ventured down to Picha Farms in Puyallup. You can see their Facebook page right here: http://www.pichafarms.com/pumpkins.php. Going there has become an annual event for our family. There's a hay ride, great photo opportunities, a pumpkin slingshot, popcorn, a corn maze, and of course pumpkins. The only thing that doesn't cost is your admission. Still, the kids can run around and have fun - within reason (we're not those annoying parents that let their kids go crazy and misbehave). Of course, the scenery makes for some great photos too.

These pictures were shot between one and two o'clock in the afternoon, mid-day sunlight, harsh shadows, and no flash. I used the Olympus E-M1, 12-40mm f/2.8, and a polarizer (that really helped with the sky and also the color of the pumpkins). Image processing was done in Lightroom and finished off with Alien Skin Exposure 6.