Archive for June, 2006

Sunday, June 11th 2006

The Top Gear Koenigsegg CCX Didn’t Really Need the Wing

The Koenigsegg CCX beat the Top Gear lap record a few weeks ago, supposedly thanks to an optional wing having been mounted on the rear end of the car. (Episode 4, season 8. Previously, in episode 1, the car had done a rather mediocre lap time, as well as almost killed The Stig.) However, now the Swedish car magazine Bilsport quotes the Koenigsegg press contact Lotta de Salvatore as saying that the record lap wasn’t thanks to the wing – it was thanks to a better chassis set-up.

Here’s a translation of the full article:

Koenigsegg gets Top Gear Wing

After The Stig’s record lap in Koenigsegg’s new CCX it is now possible to get a special rear wing as an optional accessory. It has been named “Top Gear Special Edition”. Bilsport.se can reveal the whole truth about the record – and that the wing isn’t really necessary!

But if the truth be told, the wing has existed as an option previously, too, but since the English TV program Top Gear drove the Koenigsegg it is being marketed in a different way. Carbon Rear Wing (Top Gear Special Edition) is the full name of the carbon fibre wing which is yours for € 5,700, about 54,000 SEK.

When Top Gear’s mystical test driver The Stig drove the Koenigsegg the first time it ended with a crash. He complained about the car being too light at the rear, and meant that a wing was needed. For the next attempt, last week, Koenigsegg had fitted a wing, and voilá! This time things went better. Koenigsegg now top the Top Gear list as the fastest car ahead of the Pagani Zonda and Maserati MC12.

But really the wing isn’t necessary, says Lotta de Salvatore, press contact at Koenigsegg.

Over-steer

The reason The Stig went off the track the first time was that we hadn’t had the time to set the car up properly; it suffered from some over-steer.

For the second attempt the CCX had a perfect set-up, which gave it better grip. The wing doesn’t make any difference at the speeds reached on the Top Gear track. Not until you’re driving at 300 km/h will it start to help.

One-and-a-half year’s production sold

Lotta de Salvatore also says that the sales are going well. This year they have sold 17 cars, and next year they count on delivering 30. One-and-a-half year’s production has been sold.

Now the CCX is being launched in the US, which probably will result in more orders.

80 per cent of the market for super cars is in the US, says Lotta.

Monday, June 5th 2006

Aperture and Sensor Dust

One of the main problems with digital SLRs is their tendency to collect dust on the sensor. Every time you change lenses you risk getting more dust on the sensor.

I noticed dust on my sensor the other day when taking pictures of lightning, since I was using a very small aperture – f/22. (The dust only shows up in pictures taken with a small aperture.)

I thought I’d investigate how small apertures you can use without the dust becoming visible.

I simply shot a series of photos of my white wardrobe door, out of focus, at different aperture sizes.

I decided to make a little animation, running from f/4.5 to f/36:

Series of shots taken to illustrate how visible sensor dust is at different apertures.

It seems as if you won’t see the dust at all if you stick to f/8 or lower, and in most scenes you would probably not be able to find the dust at f/11 either. At f/16 you might see the dust in large single-coloured areas. Apertures f/22 and up should be used with care, since you risk getting very sharp black dots in the picture.

The good thing is that you seldom need more than f/8 or f/11 to get the depth of field you want, at least on crop SLRs such as the 30D and 350D. In other words, you shouldn’t miss those very small apertures much.

Sunday, June 4th 2006

Open Source and Microsoft

Role reversal. This comic strip really nails it.

Sunday, June 4th 2006

Canon EF 28-90mm vs. Sigma AF 17-70mm

The full title of this should have been Canon EF 28-90mm 1:4-5.6 vs. Sigma AF 17-70mm 1:2.8-4.5 at ~35 mm, but it got rather long.

I’ve just done a small series of shots at f/4, 5.6 and 8 with the Canon and the Sigma, at 35 mm focal length.

As you’ll see, this test displays more than anything why it’s worth spending some more money on getting a sturdy tripod. Even though I didn’t intentionally change the camera’s position, it has quite obviously moved between the shots.

Below are 100% center crops. The Canon 28-90 is on the left, the Sigma 17-70 is on the right. Oh, and I should say that the Sigma ended up at 36 mm, and the Canon at 35 mm. First up, f/4:

100% comparison between Canon Ef 28-90mm 1:4-5.6 and Sigma AF 17-70mm 1:2.8-4.5.

Then we have f/5.6:

100% comparison between Canon Ef 28-90mm 1:4-5.6 and Sigma AF 17-70mm 1:2.8-4.5.

Finally, f/8:

100% comparison between Canon Ef 28-90mm 1:4-5.6 and Sigma AF 17-70mm 1:2.8-4.5.

Edit: I just realized that I forgot to write some kind of conclusion. The Sigma is a lot sharper at f/4, but it doesn’t get much sharper at f/5.6 and f/8. The Canon is, in comparison, pretty soft at f/4, but improves significantly to f/8. At f/8 the main difference between the two seems to be the colour. The Sigma looks slightly more saturated. I did have the camera WB set to Cloudy, so the difference shouldn’t be because of the AWB treating the photos differently.

Sunday, June 4th 2006

Taking Photos of Lightning

Yesterday we had a thunderstorm, so I decided to try and catch a flash of lightning with my new 30D. I had been thinking of this previously, so I already had a plan:

  • Rig the camera on my tripod, overlooking the active parts of the sky.
  • Set it to the smallest aperture, or something like f/16 depending on how dark it is.
  • Set the camera to ISO 100.
  • Set it to JPEG quality for improved buffer size.
  • Set the drive mode to high frame rate.
  • Use the shutter-release (RS-80N3) to lock the camera in drive mode, clicking away like mad.

Having the low ISO and small aperture made each exposure ~0.8 seconds, which was almost enough for the CF card to keep up. (A Sandisk 2GB Ultra II, if you’re wondering.) I later adjusted the camera to over-expose by 2/3 of a stop to get even longer exposures, ~1.3 secs. At this rate the JPEGs were written to the card as fast as they were being shot.

Having the camera set in drive mode with long shutter speeds meant that the camera was taking in light perhaps 2/3 of the time, or more. That means that the chances of a lightning strike ending up in a picture were fairly large.

About 20 minutes later I had 1,000 pictures to sift through. I caught four flashes, but none of the pictures are very awe-invoking. In fact, the last one you can barely see at all…

Flash 1

Well, this one is very small, but still one of the clearer sparks.

Flash 2

A very weak one. Didn’t find it when looking through the photos the first time…

Flash 3

The best one. Click and zoom into this one, it’s quite nice up close.

Flash 4

This one is very weak, but if you look at the high-res version you can see that it extends quite far over to the left. Pretty cool.

Obviously, these shots are pretty lousy as lightning photos go… But I had a good time anyway, and I now know that the technique works fairly well. Although, having used up 1% of my shutter’s expected life-span I wish I’d got some better shots… 🙂

If you’ve got a digital SLR I suggest you try this sometime. (Perhaps when you’ve got a thunderstorm.) Do stand somewhere safe though.

An ND filter would allow you to get even longer exposures, so as to reduce the number of frames somewhat and increase the chances of catching a flash on film … um … CMOS. It might also allow you to use a slightly larger aperture, to reduce visible sensor dust.

It would probably have been easier to do this if it had been a little darker, too. A darker scene would also have made for more impressive-looking shots I guess.

I did notice, after 700 odd shots, that the shutter had slowed noticeably. The exposures were still 1.3 secs, so the write speed shouldn’t have been the problem. In fact, the buffer was empty, so write speed can’t have been the problem. So I’m not sure why the camera did this. It was perhaps getting over-heated or something. So if you do try this, keep an eye on your camera and abort the experiment if you see smoke coming out from between the seals or the lens mount… 🙂

Saturday, June 3rd 2006

30D – First Shots

I’ve had my 30D for about a week now, so it’s time to put up some first shots. Here are some that I had the pleasure to take during the last week. All were shot in raw and have been developed using Canon RIT, with the Faithful picture style and sharpness at +3.

Snail on wet grass.

Snail on wet grass. The close focusing of the Sigma 17-70mm is very handy. Technical stuff: 1/125 sec, f/4.5 @ 70 mm, ISO 100. (Sigma 17-70mm.) Cloudy white balance setting.

Reflection of blue sky in the windows of a building in front of grey clouds.

Blue sky reflected. Caught this scene on the way home from work. I hope the mood of it comes across. Technical stuff: 1/800 sec, f/5.6 @ 70 mm, ISO 100. (Sigma 17-70mm.) Cloudy white balance setting.

Old houses.

Old houses. Went for a walk around town to see what there was to photograph. Found this charming street. Technical stuff: 1/200 sec, f/8 @ 21 mm, ISO 100. (Sigma 17-70mm.) Shade white balance setting.

00113 - 2006-06-01 kl 19.11

Bleeding heart. In our garden. Technical stuff: 1/250 sec, f/4.5 @ 70 mm, ISO 100. (Sigma 17-70mm.) Daylight white balance setting.

Wilted rose.

Wilted rose. In our lounge. Technical stuff: 1/800 sec, f/5.6 @ 75 mm, ISO 800. (EF 75-300mm with close-up lens 500D.) Shade white balance setting.

Some sort of violet flower.

Violet bud, unknown species. In our garden. Technical stuff: 1/250 sec, f/7.1 @ 120 mm. (EF 75-300mm with close-up lens 500D.) Cloudy white balance setting.

Unknown pink flower.

Unknown Species II, The Return of Pink. Technical stuff: 1/400 sec, f/7.1 @ 80 mm. (EF 75-300mm with close-up lens 500D.) Cloudy white balance setting.

Saturday, June 3rd 2006

Canon EOS 30D and Sigma 17-70mm, Second Thoughts

Well, I got my 30D on Monday. (Finally!) I ordered it basically a month ago. Oh boy is this a nice camera… I’ve had the lens since the 16 May, but obviously haven’t been able to use it properly until now.

Canon EOS 30D box

Thought I’d give you a little review of it here. If you’re wondering, I’m not having second thoughts about my purchase. I just thought it would be wrong to title this First Thoughts, since I’ve had it for about a week now 🙂 All the same, it won’t be a complete review – there are plenty of those out there for you already. I’ll just comment on a few different aspects of the camera.

The size of the grip.

This is the main reason I got the 30D instead of the 350D. I’m not so bothered about the 5 frames per second, although it is nice at times. Having tried the 350D with a ~400 gram lens and a flash attached, I am convinced I made the right choice. For me, the 350D was far to small to feel comfortable. I got the feeling I was only holding it with my fingertips.

I actually ordered the vertical grip (BG-E2) as well, but canceled it when I read that it wasn’t very high quality, and sometimes could cause power-cuts. I would definitely like the vertical grip for that last bit of hand to fit onto the camera in landscape orientation, and obviously not having to hold your arm up for verticals would be nice. However, having a battery grip on when using a tripod is not optimal in my experience, which is half the reason I decided to skip the BG-E2.

The 2.5-inch display

This, obviously, is very nice to have. Some have complained about the brightness not being good enough for outdoor use. I agree that the default (middle) brightness setting is a bit low for daylight use, but you just need to up it two notches for it to be fine. However, remember to turn it down again, or your pictures will look overexposed when you review your photos in less light.

The viewfinder

Some mean that the viewfinder of the 20D and 30D is on the small side. I feel it’s just right, probably mainly because of me wearing glasses. With it not being huge, I can easily see all of it at the same time. If it were any bigger I would have to keep moving my eye in relation to the camera to see the edges of the frame.

The USB connection

(See the edit at the end of this post.) My largest disappointment with the 30D must be the non-functional USB-to-computer connection. The CD doesn’t seem to include any so called WIA drivers for the camera, which may be why the connection keeps dying in the middle of transfers. I’ve given up completely on moving pictures directly from the camera, because it seems impossible to move more than a few before the camera disconnects from the computer. I’ve ordered a CF card reader. While some may say that I should use a card reader all the same, I feel it should at least be possible, if a little slow, to transfer pictures straight from the camera. Canon, are you listening?

The Auto White Balance

Some reviews have complained about Canon’s AWB not handling tungsten light very well. My thought is that this is because they don’t want to risk taking the warmth out of photos shot at dawn and dusk. I’d love to hear what you think on the subject – leave a comment if you think I’m right or wrong.

The Multi-Controller

There is a small joy-stick thing on the back of the 30D (and the 20D) which is used for moving around when reviewing photos. One of the custom functions (nr 13, set to 1) lets you use this multi-controller for quickly selecting which AF point to use. I think this should be the default behaviour, since it is much quicker and easier than having to press the AF-point selection button first.

The Sigma 17-70mm 1:2.8-4.5 DC

Without having made any direct, scientific comparisons, this lens seems very sharp. Photozone.de have done though, and the charts show that this lens is better than the EF 17-85 IS USM in many ways, apart from the fact that it doesn’t have IS of course. I’ll do a comparison with my EF 28-90mm f/4-5.6 later just for the fun. I realize they will be like day and night, optically. They definitely are quality-wise anyway.

The Over-All Feeling

This is a camera I will have lots of fun using, hopefully for many days to come!

Edit: After consulting my fellow photographers in the MBP Forums, I tried reinstalling all the Canon software. If I had read the manual I would have seen a warning to not connect the camera before installing anything. I must have done just that, because it works fine now that I have reinstalled.