Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The UCA-5 Comes Back From The Dead

Well, don't I feel a bit silly. A while back my Samsung UCA-5 starting playing up. It developed a fault in which it would turn on but freeze after a few seconds. It happened after I left the camera in a coat pocket, and throughout the day the coat was being moved around quite a bit. I presumed that the camera had been been knocked, and as a result has developed a permanent fault that would not be worth spending the money on to get fixed. I mean, it's only a cheap camera and I've had so many years of use out of it, that I thought it was finally time to upgrade. So I did.

I bought a Samsung WB500 which came with a 2GB SD card. The SD card was only class 2, so I bought a much faster 8GB class 10 card, and the difference in write speed was definitely noticeable. But then I was thinking.. My Samsung UCA-5 still uses the same 64mb MMC+ Plus that it came with all those years ago when I first bought it. I know, lol. 64mb is nothing in this day and age, and I should have upgraded it a long time ago. But I just never needed to.

Anyway, now that I had the spare 2GB card from the new camera at my disposal I thought I would try it in the UCA-5 to see if it was compatible. I put it in, turned the camera on and it is compatible. And more importantly, and the reason for this post, since I've put the new SD card in the fault has completely disappeared! To my surprise, the camera now works perfectly again. So maybe the card got knocked / shocked and developed an error.

I never for one second thought that a fault with a memory card could make the camera crash like that. The camera would come on for a few seconds and then the screen would crash and go all fuzzy. Bad cluster on the memory card perhaps. I would have thought if the issue was a card fault the camera would have just thrown up a "card error" or something similar, not just totally stop working. I think this is very strange. But more experienced users might have encountered this problem on more than one occasion.

After comparing the two cameras over the duration of a few weeks, the WB500 has many more features and modes, but the UCA-5 beats it hands-down in auto mode by being able to capture really good images without too much effort. The WB500 is much more hit and miss when it comes to auto mode. Furthermore, the image sharpness from the UCA-5's SHD lens just has more clarity than than the WB500. Even though it's only 5mp and the WB500 is 10.2mp. However, video recording is much better on the WB500, and it has the ability to zoom while filming, a feature the UCA-5 does not have.

In the future, if I don't get a Bridge camera or an entry level DSLR, and want to stick with another small Samsung, I will definitely buy one that has an SHD lens. They seem more sharper and just better overall. I'm blown away by how long this camera has lasted me. It is one of the most reliable electronic items I have ever owned. First, I've owned it for over 10 years. And second, I thought it was dead twice. Once it was knocked off a window sill with considerable force (2 - 3 foot drop) by a cat. After that it was faulty for a while, but somehow managed to fix itself. And this time, just when I thought it was definitely dead, it turned out to be the memory card with the problem. What a great camera this has turned out to be. I've had my moneys worth many times over. But yet again, it's still going strong.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Red Tailed Hawk Photos UK

Recently, I took the Samsung WB500 out for the first time and ended up getting some decent images. On my travels I ended up coming across some people who were out training their birds of prey. One bird was a Red Tailed Hawk, and the other was a Northern Goshawk. Just walking along and then bang, out of nowhere, coming face to face with these magnificent birds, it was quite surreal at the time.

I'm no expert on bird species, and only just found out the second bird was a Goshawk through the expertise of someone else. The owner of the bird, who had a foreign accent, did tell me the species but I couldn't remember what he said after we parted company. Anyway, it turns out the Goshawk is possibly from Germany or Finland and that does make sense now considering it's handler / owner spoke with a European tone.

Anyway, this post is about the Red Tailed Hawk. I got a few pictures of the bird spreading its wings. I hope you like the pictures in this post. The lowest images is the picture of the Goshawk. There are two other pictures of these birds at the link above.

After coming face to face with these birds, and admittedly being blown away by how stunning the Goshawk was (I liked the Red Tailed Hawk too), I did a bit of research on this bird and came to find out that the Goshawk can be extremely territorial. They are a force to be reckoned with. In fact, some people call the Northern Goshawk The Red-Eyed Terror! Very interesting. There are some great videos out there on this bird. I've been watching them all day!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Samsung WB500 Camera First Impressions

In a previous post I mentioned that I was waiting for my new camera to arrive. It's a Samsung WB500 that I bought on eBay used for £30. Well, it has arrived! First impressions regarding the condition are WOW. The camera looks like it's hardly been used. Not a mark or scratch on it, and it wasn't damaged while in transit. So at least that's some good news.

Now on to the design and image quality of the camera. First off, the design is not too bad. My previous camera was also a Samsung so I'm quite familiar with the layout of the buttons and certain features that each one is responsible for. However, comparing this to my old camera I quickly came to realise, the WB500 has so many more settings. Almost too many. And one thing about the design I do not like is the shutter button is quite far over. It should be the first button on the top to the right, but that is where the camera dial / mode wheel is.

First impressions are not good to be honest. It seems like its much harder to actually "Point and Shoot" with this camera on Auto mode and capture a nice sharp, crisp image. A lot of them are blurry. And let me just say, I have an extremely steady hand. Auto mode on my old UCA-5 is much better. With the WB500 it seems like you have to work a lot harder to capture a good picture, going through all the different settings trying find the right set up for the scene. Don't get me wrong, the images are Okay, but dare I say it.. The images on my old UCA-5 appear to be more crisp, and much easier to achieve. Could that be because the UCA-5 (5 mega pixels) has an SHD Lens and the WB500 does not. I don't know. Some good things about the WB500 though, the flash is good, build quality excellent, and the battery duration (1050mAh capacity) has been impressive. Start up is also very fast. It's ready for action within a second or two. And the battery / SD card compartment door has the smoothest open and close mechanism ever.

Now, I'm no expert on cameras and SD cards, but one thing that I noticed was the 2GB SD card that came with this camera is Class 2. So the write speed is rather slow. Can that affect the overall quality of the image.. Some people on certain forums think it can. I'm going to find out, as I've just ordered an 8GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC Class 10 Memory Card - 40 MB/s. Let's see if that makes a difference. From what I've read in the manual, 8GB is the maximum this camera can hold in terms of memory card size. Hopefully, Class 10 should be compatible.

I was reading about the WB500 on Photographyblog.com long before I actually bought it, and one thing I remember which the reviewer said, was that the images sometimes seem a little surreal, almost too vivid and looking borderline fake. And you know what, I agree with him. At first, when I was using the camera and going through the settings taking pictures, I found a mode called "Vivid" and I thought to myself, ah, the reviewer must have had the camera in vivid mode all the time he was testing it for the review without realising it.

But he didn't. See, what I've come to find out is that Vivid mode and "Normal" mode are basically the same. I can't see much difference at all. And another thing I don't like, when looking at the LCD screen just before taking a picture, the image looks great. Super sharp and colourful. I take the image and all seems well. But when transferring the image to my computer and looking at it enlarged (smaller than their actual size of 2592 x 1944) it's just not the same. The clarity has diminished some how. And there is a fair amount of noise, even when the image is not full size. I know I didn't pay much for this camera, but I expected better image quality than this. Quite disappointing to be honest. Maybe I was expecting a little too much from a now older model 10.2 mega pixel point and shoot camera.

There might be a image subject / scene where this camera may be really strong. I'm thinking maybe city shots, people, buildings etc. Because one area where it seems to be terrible is with close up / macro shots. They just don't have the sharpness, or at least, I can't seem to achieve it. And when I do capture a sharp macro shot, when shown at actual size on a computer monitor it seems to be out of proportion. Like it's not well balanced. Some images appear too close, even though when the picture was taken it looked to be at the perfect distance for a nice capture.

Maybe I'm judging the camera too early, who knows, I might come to love it. But those are my first impressions. I will keep using it, testing out different settings and hopefully getting to the stage where I've mastered the art of taking really good pictures with the WB500. One area I haven't tested much is video mode. Looking at the sample video on Photographyblog the quality looked really good. But then again, so did the image quality in their sample images and I've been somewhat disappointed so far.

*Update: While in the process of writing this post I have received the 8GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC Class 10 SD Card. And today, I have had the chance to get out for a while and take some pictures. Please Note: All images in this post were taken with the new SD card. I think the new, faster card has made a big difference, and now I'm kinda thinking I may have been a little harsh with my judgement of this camera. I take most of it back. Some of the images I captured today were actually not that bad, even when viewed at their actual size. The beautiful Birds Of Prey topped my day off, as that was a totally unexpected meeting with two men that I just happened to stumble upon in the middle of nowhere who were out training their birds. They were kind enough to let me take some pics. Great result.

So, is the better image quality down to the new Class 10 SD card, or just due to shooting various subjects under many different lighting situations. I can't be 100% sure, but like I said, I think the faster SD card has made a quite a big difference. I also managed to do a quick video test to see what the quality was like. Not too bad at all, and definitely good enough to film something, upload it to YouTube, and not have people commenting "Was this filmed with a Potato".. See below for the sample video. It was filmed at the highest resolution - 720p (1280HQ) with the Class 10 memory card @ 30 Frames per second (FPS). There is an option for 60 Frames per second but for some reason it's greyed out and can't be chosen. I'll have to see what setting or mode is needed to enable 60 FPS.
The best shooting modes for me so far have been Auto and Dual Mode. Dual Mode offers maximum image stabilisation. However, even in these two modes it still seems to be a little too "hit and miss" as to whether you get a sharp image or not. But, I guess that's the same with the majority of cameras, even the costly DSLR's. I've seen my fair share of pictures that were taken with expensive DSLR's that I thought were terrible. All the images displayed in this post were taken with the WB500. I chose some of the better ones rather than showing the many blurred shots. I would like to hear what people think about the quality, and whether you consider the clarity / sharpness to be good considering the cameras age and specification. Pictures have been resized, making them a bit smaller. But no effects or anything else have been added. I never do that to any of my photographs.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Samsung UCA5 Finally Becomes Faulty

I've had the same camera for many years. My Samsung UCA-5 has served me extremely well. I think I bought it around 10 years ago. Within that time it has taken thousands of pictures. And for a 5 mega pixel camera the image quality has been really good. So how did this camera finally break..Well, it was my own fault. I had it in a coat pocket and was moving the coat around, and somewhere along the line it must have gotten banged, so now it has developed a serious fault.

Don't get me wrong, it does still work. But now its starting to freeze after being powered up for a few seconds. Sometimes it won't freeze as quickly and I can take some shots. When it locks up the screen completely crashes (squiggly lines or just pixelated in a random colour). Once this happens it's a case of taking the battery out, putting it back in, and then powering up the camera again. After doing this it allows the lens to retract back into the camera, giving me the chance to reset and start again.

The pixelated black screen of death

But I don't want something that's now unreliable, not as my main camera anyway. Specially when a replacement camera can be picked up for super cheap on eBay. I've had my eye on various cameras, from point and shoots to Bridges and DSLR's. However, after doing a fair amount of reading and research about cameras, I was looking at a website (KenRockwell.com) that was basically saying that (within reason) its not about the camera someone is using but the person taking the picture that's more important for getting really good images. It makes a lot of sense to me. That, coupled with some comparison tests that shocked me, has really made me think. Do I even need a DSLR? Probably not.

Comparison tests: An Olympus Trip 35 (Old Film camera) was compared to what was at the time, a top spec DSLR. The results were surprising. I actually thought the DSLR would be significantly better at everything. But it wasn't. Nowhere near. In fact, I'd go as far as to say the Trip 35 (excellent old school camera!) actually produced the better images. Same thing with another test. A Sony Ericsson K800i Cyber Shot mobile phone was put against two high-end DSLR's for that time period.

The same picture was taken with each camera. Again, the results were shocking. While the DSLR's performed slightly better on paper (Technical details), to the naked eye there was almost no difference what so ever in quality. What difference there was didn't justify the price difference between the products. Of course, if the images were blown up to much larger sizes and them printed, I guess the DSLR images would have less noise and more clarity. But how many times does anyone actually do this? Personally, I never have.

Back to my camera search. I only had a small budget for a new camera. Well, not new, used. I did want a Panasonic Leica point and shoot, like the TZ7, TZ9 or DMC LX3. However, they were selling for more than I had to spend. So I starting looking at other brands. Naturally, with my Samsung UCA-5 lasting as long as it has, I thought why not get another Samsung. So I did.

I have ended up buying a Samsung WB500 point and shoot from eBay. It's a used camera (boxed with accessories + 2GB SD card) but from the pictures it looks to be in really good condition. It hasn't arrived yet. It has a Schneider KREUZNACH (10.2MP) Lens with a 10x Zoom. Looking at the sample images and video footage on PhotographyBlog.com, it looks to have really good quality for the price, given its age. And considering how cheap I bought it for (£30 including postage), it appears to be a good little bargain. I just hope it arrives in good working order. Fingers crossed.