Today was yet another grey day. Not quite so bad as last week, when the rain set in almost as soon as we set off on the walk, and I got no usable photographs at all. I did do a little better this week.
I am still without my Olympus. I am told that it may take a month to repair. So, once again, I am using my Panasonic TZ70, which has made today a real getting to know my equipment day.
I am often quite curious as to why designers make the decisions they do, when the logic of the decision is not at all obvious. For instance, the TZ70 has a ‘Dynamic Monochrome’ mode, which I use for this project. If I use this mode, I have no control over when the flash will fire. I fancied trying daylight flash in the gloom, so tried to set the camera so the flash always fired. This would potentially have made some interesting shots with a highly illuminated foreground against a dark background. I would have thought such a shot was dynamic. But I am denied any such control. Why? The same mode also seems to accentuate the contrast. To get a decent monochrome from a lot of the images I took today, I would definitely need to go back to the raw file and do the conversion myself.
On the plus side, the TZ70 has a tiny sensor ( I believe the crop factor is over 5), which gives great depth of field, which is ideal for macro work. My lead image of a teasel head is a fine example of this.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, given the prevailing lighting conditions, all my successful shots today were made keeping the camera very close to the subject.
This next shot is of some late flowering dandelions. It is the kind of situation that interests me – the different shapes and textures in the undergrowth. Here, the nettles contrast nicely with the grass, while the dandelions themselves provide focus. For someone like me, who is interested in natural history, this is a picture of ecology in action, as the three plants fight it out, each having its own strategy for hogging the light, inhibiting other competing plants, and dealing with marauding herbivores. I have thought of making a false colour image, such as NASA images of a distant planet. I haven’t yet tried though.
This image is also all about differing textures. This field was just a mass of hawkweed (I think). Now late in the season, there are just a few flowers left among the grey feathery seed heads.
When I first set out, I intended to photograph fungi. But it wasn’t until nearly the end of the walk that I found any. I liked this one with a strong contrast in both lightness and texture to the surrounding ivy.
My final image if of an inkcap toadstool. Taking this picture made me really miss the fully articulated screen of my Olympus. Not being able (or willing) to lie down on the boggy ground, this image was made with quite a lot of guess work. This is also a nice illustration of the depth of field with the TZ70, sharpness extends for inches beyond the fungus.
Overall, I feel this has been my most successful foray yet.
This week joined by Mrs T I went in search of Dartmoors southernmost Tor which some say is Ugborough Beacon but Western Beacon is almost as high and is further south. A quick Google finds both Wikipedia and Tors of Dartmoor listing Western Beacon as the southernmost hill (Wiki) Tor (Tors of Dartmoor). Furthering the confusion is that in the Dartmoor 365 Book by John Hayward he states that Ugborough Beacon is the southernmost Tor and that Western Beacon isnt formally a Tor (but he does say that it is the southernmost hill) also in the Dartmoor Tors pocket guide by Janet and Ossie Palmer the Gazetteer of Dartmoor Tors only lists Ugborough Beacon. ??
Our walk started below Western Beacon but I had seen a disused Quarry marked on the map so we went to have a look at that before setting off up Western Beacon. It turned out to be a lot less of a Quarry than I had expected.
On the way to the Quarry we passed what appeared to be an old bridge long since disused/derelicted. Had we not got a long hike ahead of us I would have liked to go down to explore it but it will have to wait for another visit.
We had more pressing matters (the beacons) so we went back to the Moor Gate and headed up Western Beacon.
On the way up the first slopes we could see the rather quaint looking Mooraven Village.
Western Beacon itself has been quarried but that isnt evident from the map.
It also has a rather odd group of rock piles on the Cairn.
Once over Western Beacon we headed for Butterdon Hill which is also further south than Ugborough Beacon and is also known as Black Tor by some.
The Stone Row points the way which takes you past the Longstone beside Black Pool (not the seaside town). This view looking back towards Western Beacon.
On Butterdon Hill there is a Trig Point and from that point we could see across to Ugborough Beacon.
But sadly looking to the West we could also see the scar of the Clayworks at Lee Mill.
From here we could see Hangershell Rock, this was not on the original route plan but we decided to go over and have a look.
Once at the Hangershell Rocks we took time out to have lunch in the lee of the rocks.
From our lunch spot we could see across to Tristis Rock which is on my list of sites to visit but not for this trip, it sits on the opposite bank of the River Erme and needs to be approached from that side. Another day.
As we moved away towards Ugborough Beacon looking back we could see all the way to Plymouth Sound.
We made our way towards Ugborough Beacon.
Passing Main Head which is the start of the spring/stream.
Ugborough Beacon isnt the biggest Tor I have visited but it does have some interesting rock formations.
And some nice views.
I spotted a Kestrel out looking for lunch, I managed to get a shot but I really dont have the right kit for these kinds of shots (Im a landscaper not a wildlifer).
Anyway, it was now time to head off back to the car.
On the way back we saw some curious things, this water hole seemed to be a natural drain for the rainwater into the stream below.
We also passed this derelict building, not sure what it used to be though.
Finally we got back to the Moor Gate and the car.
We did see some Ponies on this trip though.
Thats all for this week folks. As always, comments welcome.
Almost everyone wields a camera these days because they already have one by default on their smartphones. But not just any phone will capture the best results, and that’s why some stand out for particular reasons.
Updated 10/14/2021 by Ted Kristsonis: New recommendations across the board to conform with the latest smartphones from a variety of manufacturers.
Mobile photography is now one of the major battlegrounds for vendors trying to one-up each other. Thankfully, it’s not entirely about numbers, despite megapixel counts hitting new highs, it’s a lot about how effective software can be to do more with the available pixels. That can also depend on how you look at what the software gives you, especially relative to the varying modes phones now regularly offer.
We’re talking about an ever-evolving situation, where new phones may supplant old ones, while others trade places based on how new updates affected performance and output. Whether it’s pro mode features, software that does amazing things, or getting more for every dollar you spend, this roundup is a good place to start. We at PetaPixel will be updating it regularly to reflect a changing and shifting market to give you the insight you need to shoot what you want.
What We’re Looking For
There are plenty of smartphones with what you could consider to be “good” cameras, but the “great” ones are fewer in number, and it often shows. When we look at what would put a smartphone camera on this list, we always look for the best results, particularly when talking about a specific type of photo. That may not necessarily mean the phone is the best in every other facet, but if it’s noted here, there are reasons for it.
That’s why we also broke things down into categories that differentiate between the strengths of certain devices. One phone may be better at shooting portraits, whereas the other has a Pro mode cutting above the rest. Computational software is so integral, and yet, not everyone does it well.
We break it all down into six distinct categories:
Main sensor: 108MP or 12MP (with pixel binning) 26mm equivalent Other rear cameras: 10MP 3x zoom telephoto lens (70mm equivalent), 10MP 10x zoom telephoto (240mm equivalent), 12MP ultra wide-angle (13mm equivalent) Front-facing camera: 40MP Video recording resolution: Up to 8K Price:Starting at $1,200
A year ago, Samsung would’ve struggled just to make this list with the disjointed effort that was the Galaxy S20 Ultra. That’s not the case with its successor, which rectified some key missteps and put together one of the most well-rounded cameras available. It’s not perfect, mind you, and does need work in some areas, but it’s easy to like the variance and output you get.
Samsung used its newest ISOCELL HM3 image sensor to push further on the hardware side, and to some degree, is also pushing smarter use of newer lenses and smarter software. We’re certainly not referring to gimmicky nonsense like the 100x Space Zoom, but more the restrained color output and improved HDR that gives photos so much better composition.
Read PetaPixel’s Samsung S21 Ultra Review here.
The two zoom lenses complement each other well, especially the 10x zoom that emulates a 240mm telephoto. They may be the best images a zoom lens currently takes on a phone, and while the 30x hybrid has its up and downs, it can turn out a decent shot at the right time. Samsung would be better suited to making its Pro mode more accessible to the myriad of rear lenses, but alas, it’s only for the main and ultra-wide lenses, and only at 12MP. Great for low-light, not so much for taking a photo you want to make bigger, unless you try features like Adobe’s Super Resolution.
All that said, if not for the U.S. ban on Huawei, that brand’s P50 Pro would likely have been in this position. One of the most versatile and superb cameras of any smartphone to date, its retail and software limitations, as far as the full gamut of Android goes, preclude us from placing it here. But if you are so inclined, its output won’t disappoint. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra was gunning for the top crown this year, though its availability and efficacy are in question on this side of the world. However, since the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only true Samsung flagship this year, it will continue to be the company’s standard until a possible Galaxy S22 Ultra comes out.
Samsung’s spot isn’t all that secure, either, given that Apple scored key points with the iPhone 13 Pro and Google looks to make a big splash with the Pixel 6. Vivo is also in the hunt, and makes this list with good reason.
Main sensor: 50MP or 100MP or 12MP (with pixel binning) 23mm equivalent Other rear cameras: 32MP 2x zoom telephoto (50mm equivalent), 8MP 5x zoom telephoto lens Front-facing camera: 32MP Video recording resolution: Up to 8K Price:Starting at $1,200
The X70 Pro+ has one of the best phone cameras, as a whole, and what makes its Pro mode compelling is that it tries to qualify the user. Onscreen explainers note what a feature or setting does, opening the door to a learning experience — something lacking in getting more mobile shooters to try a mode like this.
Vivo didn’t dramatically change how it all works over this phone’s predecessor, focusing on the software side of things to make it better. That includes making the interface a little smoother and cutting down the time it takes from pressing the shutter to capturing the photo.
Read PetaPixel Vivo X70 Pro+ Review here.
The other advantage is that you can use all of the rear lenses in this mode, something that isn’t always available in rival handsets. Vivo could’ve moved the lens icons in the interface further away from the composition settings, but once you avoid false positives, you can really start to benefit from shooting in RAW at multiple focal lengths. Even its built-in Macro mode kicks in when going close up, though it would’ve been nice if the mode made it clearer about how close you can get to a subject.
Since Vivo’s Night mode can sometimes over-process shots, Pro ends up being an ideal alternative. The slow shutter mode can handle unique long exposure captures, but Pro often fills in well for low-light shots, especially when using a tripod or flat surface to prop up the phone for a slower shutter. This may have been another one Huawei could win, or at least vie for, but since Vivo has no quarrel, it’s a solid alternative.
Main sensor: 12.2MP (27mm equivalent) Other rear cameras: 12MP ultra wide-angle (16.5mm equivalent) Front-facing camera: 8MP Video recording resolution: Up to 4K Price:Starting at $699
If not for its software, Google’s Pixel 5 would look barebones on a spec sheet. But as the old adage always says, “never judge a book by its cover.” It’s the sort of understated design that has served Google well in wowing people with its cameras can do. Or, more specifically, what its software can do.
Truth be told, the main sensor is long in the tooth, considering it’s essentially the same one Google used in the Pixel 3. It is time for an upgrade there, but in the Pixel 5, you get a phone camera with the best computational software. The HDR interpolation is outstanding in a variety of conditions, and we’ve yet to see another phone match the shadow and brightness sliders in the interface.
It’s a big reason why Night Sight continues to compete as well as it does for low-light shots, despite an aging sensor. Adding the feature to portraits, while also making just about every feature or setting — including RAW capture — available to both lenses makes this phone easier to get a good shot.
Main sensor: 12.2MP (27mm equivalent) Other rear cameras: 16MP ultra wide-angle (16mm equivalent) Front-facing camera: 8MP Video recording resolution: Up to 4K Price:Starting at $499
It would be hard to find a phone that shoots as well as the Pixel 5a does for the price. It’s also not an easy phone to find outside of the U.S., since Google limited its availability. It is a 5G-enabled device that borrows so much from its flagship sibling when it comes to capturing the same photos under most of the same conditions. You also get an ultra-wide lens with a 107-degree field of view, albeit without optical or electronic image stabilization.
Still, the sensors and computational software are otherwise capable of producing images on par with the Pixel 5. That means Night Sight and Portrait mode are going to still look really good, and with RAW capture always available, there’s room to do more in post. For those on a budget, it’s going to be one of the best phone cameras less money can buy.
Main sensor: 12MP (26mm equivalent) Other rear cameras: 12MP ultra-wide (13mm equivalent) Front-facing camera: 12MP Video recording resolution: Up to 4K Price:Starting at $699
Sometimes, a smaller phone just fits better, and it’s hard to find one better than the iPhone 13 mini right now. What makes this phone work so well is that you don’t compromise much for the lack of size. The mini sports the same features and output its larger iPhone 13 sibling does. If not for the 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display and 2458mAh battery, the two phones are otherwise running on the same specs.
Read PetaPixel’s iPhone 13 mini Review here.
And those are different from previous iPhones. Apple says the 13 mini can take in more light and produce better images than its predecessor, the 12 mini. The better comparison is probably with iPhones that came before them, including the most recent iPhone SE, which can’t match the 13 mini’s ability to snap good images. It’s hard to also find an Android phone that can do it in the same diminutive size, though the Pixel 4a is a tough competitor.
That you get a good ultra-wide lens to supplement the primary camera is great, but so is the fact shooting video is effective. Apple included its newest Cinematic mode, though you can only use it with the primary lens.
Main sensor: 12MP (26mm equivalent) Other rear cameras: 12MP 3x zoom telephoto (78mm equivalent), 12MP ultra wide-angle (13mm equivalent) Front-facing camera: 12MP Video recording resolution: Up to 4K Price:Starting at $999
The iPhone is still among kings when it comes to video recording, and it has a lot to do with how well it captures color, tone, and texture. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are essentially the same device, save for the difference in size. They have the same camera system, which means you’re going to get the same results, either way.
Read PetaPixel’s iPhone 13 Pro Review here.
The biggest addition is Cinematic mode, and how it allows you to change focus on a subject, as well as adjust the aperture when editing clips afterward. Eventually, you’ll be able to do the same on iMovie and Final Cut on a Mac, too. The one drawback is that you’re limited to shooting in 1080p at 30fps, but regular video recording offers more options, particularly with resolution and framerate, along with Dolby Vision HDR. Once Apple releases an iOS 15 update to enable ProRes, it may be easier to shoot more while taking up less storage.
If we were talking a truly “pro” level here, the Sony Xperia Pro or Xperia 1 III might take this spot, but those aren’t necessarily made for every type of user. The iPhone 13 Pro is a little more accessible and its video features are at least easy enough to learn.
I think I’ve found my calling! Well, at least for this particular time in my life. In the last few months I’ve been engaged in flower photography and loving it. Who would have thought. Here’s just one of my images for you to enjoy.
There is a strange phenomenon when Sue and I go on holiday. All roads lead upwards. How it is that we can choose routes that we have to walk up and then find we’re still walking upwards on the way back is one of those mysteries of the universe….well the ideal place to suffer from this is Cragside. Take two thoroughly unfit photographers (I blame Covid19 restrictions) and place them in an environment chosen for its suitability for hydro-electric power then it’s a perfect result, I won’t say exactly wheezing and gasping up the hills, but it was hard work. Now we’re back and hills don’t seem to exist around here, so I assume we are now toned and fit.
So, a few pictures from the outside areas of Cragside, a huge estate, and actually it’s a pretty good day out.
Ive just participated in my first Art Show The South Northants Art Trail Art Trail . This year there were 20 locations, with 51 participating artists (including a few photographers). Im not sure what the total footfall was, but our location in Blisworth, with 9 of us exhibiting, had around 800 visitors. This wasnt about making money it was the opportunity to put together a display and to talk to visitors about my work. I hoped that having artists (as well as photographers) look at the images might give a different perspective.
This Art Trail was a great place to start. The costs were low and the organisation and publicity provided by Mike and Jenny at Vitreus Art in Towcester was brilliant. It was hard work preparing all the images printing, framing, labelling as well as making greeting cards using selected images. The event itself was over 10 days and needed nearly full time attention as well as setting up and breaking down. Ready for a good long nap now!
The bottom line was that this was absolutely great. Id thoroughly recommend having a go at something like this if the opportunity arises. I made friends, bonded with all the other exhibitors, had very interesting and exciting feedback from visitors and had the pleasure of selling some images to people that liked them and wanted them in their homes!
I thought it might be interesting to share a few observations and thoughts on this. For those of you who have looked at my portfolio you will have seen some light painting images made with a photographically recording harmonograph. You can see more images on my gallery. I featured these images on the stand, as they are very unusual and eye catching and dont really look like photographs. Below is an overview of the stand. I had maybe more than my fair share of space as I promised to bring in and demonstrate the harmonograph. It was quickly termed The Mesmeriser by the others!
Having the demonstration on the stand worked extremely well. A typical reaction when I told people these are all photographs was What of? so I could show them, and most understood instantly what I was doing after seeing the demo; they then explored the images with renewed interest and understanding! Here is a photo of me explaining things they all seem to be listening.
I tried to keep the prices as low as possible, to make the images more accessible. Im fortunate to be able to print the images myself as well as to make the frames. These werent Gallery prices and there was no way I could make a living out of this, but I certainly covered my material useage and made a significant dent in the costs of my next lens!
It was really interesting to watch people deciding on purchase. I may have had a few too many images on display, so making choice harder. I found it difficult to decide what to use and what to leave out. Some people went straight for the image that caught their eye. Some went for the colour images, some the nearer mono ones. Having a few landscape, floral and macro shots gave diversity. The triptych Sing Dance Fly was very popular, especially when I treated them to Fabios sonification Sonification and told them the story! The interactive print Follow ‘Follow’ was also very popular, and a real draw with both children and adults I now have to make a couple more. I tried to keep the frames neutral they were all waxed or oiled Walnut. Inevitably some would have liked much lighter frames, others very dark. Inevitably a few sales were lost as a result. Maybe I should have had a few alternative frames to show not to swap out in real time, but to be delivered after the event.
Another great investment (and I have to thank one of the other exhibitors for this) is a tin of sweets on the stand. Went down a treat. Having cards was good too. Another exhibitor suggested I put a few words in with each, and not to obscure this with the envelope when putting it into the sleeve. First thing most people do when selecting a card is to turn it over and read the back!
Good, readable, titles with a few words on each image worked well, giving an in to talk about the image and why I had chosen it but the labels have to be quite large to be readable.
I used a low cost card reader as an alternative to cash for payments very simple to use, secure and reliable. Mine was from SumUp; Im sure there are others available.
This was great fun and rewarding overall, and Id really recommend you have a go if you get the opportunity. As we all say What is the point of a Photograph if you dont share it?!
Thanks for taking the time to look at this; Id be very interested in your thoughts and comments.
Cragside is an immense National Trust site and considering it includes a 6 mile self drive route around the woodlands that gives us an idea of how big it really is. You might think it’s a long way to the corner shop, but that’s nothing compared to Cragside. We arrived armed with the Pentax K-3 (Sue) and K-3 II (Me) plus 18-135mm lenses. First off, let’s have a look at some interior shots. This is the first house to be powered by hydro-electricity. It’s in an ideal situation for this, very hilly with lots of rushing water power from the vigorous streams and rivers.
Inside these houses can be tricky as they are quite dark, but be not of faint heart, the ISO on modern cameras can be hiked up quite a way, plus the SR (Shake Reduction) makes those slow shutter speeds manageable. It was in Cragside that I was asked if I was a member of the aristocracy! I guess that regal countenance and fine profile meant something after all. Sue explained “Fat, well fed and a derby tweed jacket did it”, thus deflating the whole moment back to the mundane. Ah well…..
Using small apertures is good for obtaining large depth of field, but go too small and image quality worsens. How bad is the effect and is it worth being concerned about?
Let’s take a look at what diffraction is. I recall physics experiments at school creating waves in a water tank passing through various sized slits in a metal barrier and observing the patterns produced. The waves spread out from the slit, more so the smaller the slit. The observation applies to water waves, sound waves and electromagnetic radiation. It’s this spreading that causes the softening in an image.
During my experiments with depth of field, looking closely, that is at 100% on screen, there is a noticeable softness at smaller apertures. It’s not a lot, and it depends on how large you’re going to print an image and how far away are you going to view it. With higher resolution sensors this softening will be more apparent if you look closely enough. The result may just give the impression that you’ve shot on a lower resolution camera, and for web size images or small prints may well not be a concern for some.
The full image at f/32 as displayed on the web looks fine.
The effect is much more noticeable when I use an extender and extension tube on the macro lens below f/11, but then the lens was never designed for that extreme use. I’ve found apertures down to f/11 are fine, and as depth of field is so minimal at such close quarters I’ll forego that fraction of a millimetre for better overall sharpness.
I used my macro lens for these images which is designed to hold up well at these smaller apertures. I have to say I’ve very rarely gone below f/16 in normal use or noticed anything untoward on earlier lower resolution sensors. That said, all lenses are different so you need to do your own tests. Zooms, particularly at the cheaper end of the market, are much more likely to suffer image quality reduction at the small apertures. I have come across images online that even at that reduced size (from the original capture) do show a marked softness, while at the same time ruling out as far as possible camera rigidity and ISO effects.
Look closely and the detail isn’t as crisp as it is at f/8, but are you going to look this close?
Small apertures and diffraction effects are the reason you won’t find apertures below f/8 on small sensor cameras, and indeed f/8 will, on those cameras, give as much depth of field as you’re likely to need.
Are there good things about diffraction? When you’re down to X-ray wavelengths diffraction patterns are created by the arrangements of atoms which allow molecular structures to be determined. That’s important in areas such as novel drug development. So some diffraction is not all bad.
Just a few steps away from Brinkburn Priory is the Mansion, a fascinating and tantalising insight into what it might once have been and indeed how it was constructed. It’s a pity that our son Mike, who is an architect, wasn’t there as well as he would have been able to answer the questions that I had. Still, one good speculation is worth a thousand certainties, so here goes with a sampling of first the outside and then the interior. Camera was the Pentax K-3 II, used at whatever ludicrous ISO values as necessary, with the Pentax 12-24mm and 18-135mm lenses.
The Mansion is right next to the Priory
The kitchen range has survived in situ
Fragments of the finished interior exist throughout the ground floor
There must have been a point at which the interior was still absolutely gorgeous, maybe faded but something to want to preserve. How it could be trashed so is just shocking really, allowed to rot gently perhaps until it was too late in terms of cost, and then stripped bare of all its valuable fitments, leaving just fragments of fine plasterwork, the ocassional door, some wood panelling and the range. Presumably the range was too heavy to easily shift and regarded as old fashioned anyway.
But we can visit and explore and perhaps hear in our minds the bustle of a busy mansion, the chatter of afternoon teas and the swirling music of the ballroom in full swing.
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