Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thank goodness for the tax cut!

With the financial system in ruins we can only wonder what further disasters would have accrued had the Bush tax cuts not ensured that Wall Street CEOs were adequately compensated for their efforts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain thinks Spain is in Dictator's Chains

Americablog (and much of the rest of the net).

Alternatively, 'McCain's campaign goes lamely down the drain.'

YouTube - Hockey Moms Against Sarah Palin

At this point the 'strange women lying around in ponds distributing swords' method is starting to look pretty good by comparison.

Friday, September 12, 2008

McCain can use electronics, But can't drive a car safely.

The Huffington Post tells us Yes, McCain Can Use Electronics.

But take a carefull look at the photograph, in particular the speedometer which is showing 50mph and the fact that both McCain's hands are occupied with a cell phone.

According to the AP the photograph was taken in Arlington Virginia. The Virginia law prohibiting use of a cell-phone while driving only passed in 2007 so McCain's behavior was arguably legal. But certainly unsafe.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Talking Points Memo | Meme Taking Hold?

If we are lucky, McCain is only lying about Palin's Pork.

But isn't a refusal to face reality as it is the principal reason for the disasters of the past eight years? It seems to me that McCain simply cannot believe that the VP he hired as a pork buster after fifteen minutes of conversation turns out to be an earmark queen.

Getting the mainstream media to believe that McCain is dishonest might be difficult. Getting them to believe that McCain is already living in a bubble, much easier.

Monday, September 08, 2008

No it isn't

We are told that CERN's LHC will re-enact the big bang.

No it will not, not even close. The energies that the LHC will achieve are not unprecedented, they are taking place in the upper atmosphere all the time. The only difference here is that we are able to observe the result.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nikon M1 (Otoji)

As the DSLR war heats up the reaction of Canon management vs Nikon becomes interesting. Nikon are clearly benefiting from the Internet rumor mill. I would not be at all surprised if Nikon PR is the source of many of the leaks. That is the smart strategy if you are ahead. Canon is (currently) behind and they are threatening the canonrumors site with legal action over the use of the name.

Which brings us to the persistent rumors that Nikon is planning to make a medium format camera. In particular the recent Otoji spy shot and hints that 'automatic repositioning of the focal plane of the sensor unit when the adapter is mounted' and 'mirrorless design' are key.

It is an interesting technical puzzle. Given what we know about Nikon's technical capabilities, product line and the general photographic market, what specs would make sense for an MX format camera?

First off, the low hanging fruit. The product name could only be M1. We are told that the code name is Otoji, meaning 'big brother' or 'big uncle'.

Second, price point. I would say that to be really successful Nikon would have to bring the price down to $10K and allow at least some use to be made of F-Mount lenses. Mamiya already have a $10K medium format digital camera (inc lens). Hasselblad have a kit of camera plus lens for $13K. Nikon cannot compete if they are significantly above these prices.

Mirrorless design certainly sounds logical. A reflex action viewfinder would severely constrain the design. An electronic viewfinder would provide much greater flexibility.

The leaked photograph describes a camera that has a 40MP full frame mode with a 12MP FX format crop mode. As others have noted, this indicates a sensor that is 54mm on each side. Full medium format is 56mm.

I do not buy the idea of interchangeable backs. The cost of the camera is in the sensor and the electronics. The electronics are built to match the sensor. Nor do I think that moving the sensor just to make use of an FX format lens makes a great deal of sense. There is no magic to the distance from the mount to the lens, its just where the camera and body join. The mount could be closer to the focal plane or further away. The only significant feature of the mount is that all the light rays have to pass through it. A larger diameter mount for MX format lenses might make sense but not a movable focal plane, not if the same effect can be achieved with a piece of metal.

What might make some sense is the ability to shift the focal plane backwards and forwards in order to extend the covering power of FX lenses to cover the full frame, the effect being similar to using a bellows or extenders. But this would shift the focus point of the lens and the expansion would decrease the effective ISO (there being only so much light hitting the sensor, doubling the area that the light is spread out over will reduce the effective ISO by one stop).

The other big question is whether the camera would have a focal plane shutter or an in-lens shutter allowing for fast sync speeds. I don't see why this has to be either, or. Why not both? Nikon have already gone this route with in-camera and in-lens autofocus motors. A focal plane shutter is going to be essential if F-mount lenses are going to be useful but there is no reason why MX mount lenses could not have an in-lens shutter as well. In the digital age it is quite possible to do both.

The part of the story that has received least attention so far is lenses. I think that we can predict that the initial lens set for the M1 will be a 24mm f/3.5, 45mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/2.8.

The reason for this is that these are the focal lengths of the three new PC lenses Nikon came out with this year, to some surprise since a PC lens is a fairly exotic beast and in the age of Photoshop correction, shift is easier to correct for in post-processing.

But consider the fact that the chief difference between the design of a PC lens and a normal lens is the degree of coverge and suddenly the logic becomes clear. The PC lenses allow for a shift of 11.5mm suggesting a coverage of at least 48mm plus whatever extra coverage is required to support the 8.5 degree swing. If the actual coverage is 56mm we can guess that these these are really MX lenses performing double duty.

Now if you were to add a 150mm f/3.5, Nikon would have already covered half the fixed focal length range of Mamiya. And at the same f-stops! That is more than sufficient for an initial launch. And just as many folk have found that DX zoom lenses have sufficient coverage for FX on the upper end of their range it is likely that the same effect would apply..

So what is the probability the prediction is correct? Well Nikon has the MGM arena booked for a BIG event at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers expo. If the D3x/D4 is launched at Photokina as expected the WIPPI launch is almost certainly a medium format camera system.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Testing Google Chrome Beta

So I downloaded Google Chrome

Some features are pretty neat. The handling of tabs is much more logical than any other browser I have seen, although it is not the first one that allows you to peel a tab from the dock.

Integrating all the 'typing' functions into the address bar makes a lot of sense as well. But I do miss the ability to select different search engines which the google toolbar gives me.

Which comes to the biggest, and most peculiar problem: no support for Google bookmarks. I can import bookmarks from FireFox or IE, but that does not help me as all my bookmarks are in Google.