Category Archives: Hardware

This category will be added to as and when I update my equipment.

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Fujifilm X10

This camera was bought as a replacement for a previous advanced point and shoot model from Samsung, the WB650, which unfortunately did not live up to expectations, especially low light performance, a lot of noise on anything above ISO200. I did quite a lot of research before buying but in the end it was a recommendation from a professional photographer that clinched it. I have now had it almost two months and find myself using it on a regular basis, I was really impressed by the low light capability in EXR mode, (a few examples are posted on my Flickr photostream) I tend to use EXR and A modes most of the time , EXR auto gets it right most of the time, depending on the type of image but I will occasionally change to another EXR mode. I really like the build quality and feel of this camera, it fits really nicely in the hand and is easily maneuvered especially after updating the firmware to version 2.00 which has reassigned the RAW button on the back to a “Q” button (Quick menu), no major loss for me as I do not shoot in RAW format.

It’s nice to have an OVF, I know that many feel that this is a little too simple on this model because it does not show any exposure information, a “problem” that the new X20 addresses I believe, but I like it uncluttered, and have now used the camera long enough to know more or less what kind of image it will produce, images so far have been well exposed, although there is a direct exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera I have yet to use it, even when shooting directly towards a low winter sun! but it is early days, I am sure that this dial will come in very useful later on (otherwise I tend to use exposure compensation almost all the time on my DSLR),  another viewfinder “problem” for some is that it only shows 85% but with the great image quality produced a 15% or more crop of a larger image is no problem, obviously parallax is a slight problem but most of my images taken with the camera while using the viewfinder are not of the kind where this is critical, I tend to just trust the camera, and it continues to surprise me!

One thing that is a little disappointing is the original Fujifilm lens hood, expensive and necessary if you want to use filters, yes you can screw them directly onto the lens but 39.5mm (40mm, 40.5mm?) filters are not easy to get hold of, much easier with the 52mm adapter built into the lens hood, but I don’t use filters so what’s the problem? the lens hood obstructs the viewfinder is the problem! it was more difficult than expected to take an image of the obstruction through the viewfinder but because I haven’t seen this done before I had a go! I took the image below with my smartphone, the smartphone camera was the only one that I could get close enough to the viewfinder with, lens on the smartphone was pressed against rubber surround of the viewfinder on the X10, image quality is not good, exposure almost impossible to control, (I tried!) but it does show what is visible and obstructing your view, the lens was at minimum extension (28mm), it gets better when the lens is extended and is not visible at 112mm.  I use a lens hood for what it was designed for, protecting from lens flare, and on this camera that has the lens almost flush with its housing this a very important, the hood also adds a degree of physical protection, but why this round slotted design! OK it looks good but why not a square/rectangular shaped model instead? the filter threads do not rotate when focusing so this could be done, correctly designed it would minimize viewfinder obstruction, perhaps a reader of this blog as used another lens hood that obstructs less?

Lens hood obstructing viewfinder

Lens hood obstructing viewfinder

 

 

 

Tripod

Well it’s been said before but when it comes to tripods, you almost always get what you pay for, previously I had paid almost nothing! the tripod I have used until recently was a Hama Star 61, which was very cheap and rather unstable! it has worked OK for a lightweight point and shoot camera (if the central column was not raised) but it just didn’t cut it with a heavy bridge camera or DSLR mounted let alone one with a long telephoto lens! So I recently shopped around for a suitable replacement, so what was I looking for? well stability of course but there were a couple of other criteria that had to be met, I wanted a model that had a central column that could be easily inverted and also legs with maximum angle adjustment, the models I checked out that were within my budget (1500 > 2000 SEK, about £135 > £180 ) were from Velbon, Cullmann, Manfrotto and Slik, it was not so easy to check them out against each other because one shop would have one or two different models on offer from a couple of manufacturers but none had them all!  but after a lot of fiddling around with the different models on offer I chose a Manfrotto model MK294A3-A0RC2,  which is a kit tripod complete with a ball head, this ticked all the boxes, the legs can be splayed from the standard maximum angle by turning a locking lever at the top of each leg, the central column is easily inverted and stability is really good, there is a down side though, it is an all metal construction (aluminium) with minimal use of plastic so the construction is quite heavy 2.3kg, but for the use I put it to this is not a problem, otherwise I am pleased with the construction it has a nice “feel”, the camera mounting plate locks into place using a safety mechanism so you can’t release the camera from the tripod by mistake! the ball head is very smooth and they have even thought about including a tool which is clipped onto one of the legs for adjusting the leg lock tension, if this should start slipping after a lot of use. The final price was 1490 SEK  about £135, it can be bought cheaper on-line but I try (as long as the price difference isn’t ridiculous) to support the camera shops, (while they are still around!), as you can understand from the above I have no problem recommending this tripod.

Legs splayed, column inverted all set for macro work

Legs splayed, column inverted all set for macro work

Chromebook, Linux and Google cloud printing.

This post will review some of my findings and thoughts about using a Chromebook.
you may ask what this post is doing on a blog about Linux, simple answer, Chrome OS as used on the Chromebook is a Linux based OS!
So why did I choose a Chromebook? I was in need of a new laptop, my old laptop from 2005 running PCLinuxOS was giving problems (hardware related, not associated with the OS), because I normally use the laptop for Internet related work it struck me that a Chromebook would be suitable, after doing a little research I decided upon the Samsung model.
I have now used the Chromebook for 4 months and in general I am pleased with my decision.
It is important to understand what a Chromebook can and cannot do, I have listed these below as pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s
Lightweight.
No fan (quiet).
Quick boot (less than 10 seconds).
Excellent battery life.
Good quality keyboard.
OS updated automatically.
No need for antivirus or antimalware software.
Easy to factory reset if you do get in a mess.
Very easy to use (everything done in a browser window).
Lots of free apps to make the vanilla flavour Chromebook more useful.
Free 100GB of Google Drive storage for the next two years.

Con’s
You cannot install Windows programs.
Limited possibilities to use external hardware, because you cannot install drivers.
Printer cannot be connected directly to USB port.
Although files can be saved to the internal SSD the preferred method is to save files to your Google drive space (some people have qualms about this) personally I do not have a problem with this .

As you can see I have more Pro’s than Con’s others may think otherwise, but it all depends what you use the device for, for my part this is surfing the Internet, writing emails and other documents (this post was written on the Chromebook) and that is about it, I almost forgot, I listen to music using Spotify (there is a beta browser based version that works fine on the Chromebook).
I leave things like photo editing to my stationary PC running Ubuntu, not that this cannot be done on the Chromebook, there are several apps that will allow you to do this (online) but with the small screen I do not think this is suitable (you can connect a larger screen to the Chromebook via the HDMI port), but the built in SD card reader and the portability of the unit makes it very suitable for viewing, and uploading images, so I normally take it on my travels.

You will find that there are (online) apps for doing most of the things you do with your PC , the most important things (writing a document/email) can be done offline if necessary, the Chrome Web Store has a special section for offline apps, but don’t forget you have only a 16GB SSD to save things on if offline on the Samsung (more storage available on the the Acer that has a conventional hard disk).
I have found that with a bit of lateral thinking I can do almost all that I did on the old laptop so really there is no turning back now.
One word of warning though, this concerns printing, as stated previously you cannot connect a printer directly to the Chromebook, yes it has a USB port (two actually, 1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.0) but nothing will happen if you connect in this way because you cannot install any drivers, so how do you print? well it is actually quite simple, the answer, Cloud printing, if you have a printer that supports cloud printing you register the printer and then print via the internet, if you have a classic printer you will have to use another PC on your home network as a go-between, this works but personally I wanted to be able to print from anywhere without having another PC at home running, because both my old HP laser and my HP inkjet were also on their last legs I decided to replace them with Google Cloud print enabled printers, this was where I ran into problems, I decided to buy a Samsung ML 3310ND as a replacement for the old HP laser, I had found a document on one of the Samsung sites that stated that this printer supports Google Cloud print if the firmware was up to date, but this turned out to be incorrect, I contacted Samsung and they also said it should support Cloud print, but even after a second firmware upgrade it still has no support for Cloud printing!
A similar problem occurred when it was time to replace the inkjet, decided upon a Canon Pixma, again I had checked on a local (Swedish) Canon site that the printer had Cloud print support and found that the model in question had this, but after connecting the printer and checking the menu system I saw that this choice was missing, I contacted Canon and they stated that the printer did have Cloud print support, they even sent me a link about configuration! I finally had to take some pictures of the printers built in display to prove that the menu item in question did not exist! after sending these to Canon I received an apologetic email stating that they were wrong, that this model did not have support!, fortunately I was able to return the Pixma and finally bought an Epson XP800, I had thoroughly checked up on Cloud print support for this model and it worked perfectly! very easy to configure, and this is also where Linux comes into the picture again, why? well if you have a Linux PC running the Chrome web browser you are able to access the Cloud print enabled printer you have registered, no (local) drivers needed! yes Epson do have Linux drivers available for this printer, but to be honest I have not installed them, you can open most files from your browser either directly or by importing them into your Google Drive space and print them from there, so now as long as a printer has true Google cloud print support and you print via the Chrome web browser you can print from almost any Linux PC without installing drivers!
So the final word on this is be very careful when choosing a printer if you buy a Chromebook and want to use Cloud printing, make sure it truly does support Google Cloud print before buying, I think this situation will improve with time, at the moment this is so new that not even the manufacturers technical support are always aware of what does and does not support Cloud printing, and their websites can be very misleading.