Friday, May 30, 2008

Making The Switch: Olympus to Canon

My wife and I flew home yesterday from our trip to Europe. That was 14 hours of flying in one day - not something I want to do very often.

But we survived and had an incredible time over there. We spent time in France (Paris) and Italy (Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Milan) and are so chock-full of thoughts and visual images of what we've just seen that it will take a few days to sort it all out in our head.

I took three cameras and took over 2,000 pictures on the trip - that far exceeds anything that I've ever done before! For the first time, I am not going to be able to process each one in Photoshop due to the sheer number of them, but I will be processing the best ones and adding them to this blog over the next few weeks.

Before I begin that huge task, I just wanted to get geeky for a few minutes and talk about the camera situation. I am finally retiring my old 5 megapixel Olympus C-5060 (shown below to the right). I have been a staunch Olympus fan for years, but awhile back I had forgotten it on a trip and bought a newer 8 megapixel Canon S5 IS to get me through until I returned home.

I took both these cameras to Europe with us, and the Canon is far and away the superior camera - no comparison. That may be because it was released several years after the Olympus (May 2007 for the S5 IS, September 2003 for the C-5060), but whatever the reason I have become a big Canon fan.

The old Olympus has served me well, but it basically lost it's mind on this trip and so I must put her away, never to be used again. The electronics are behaving strangely, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to offload the pictures today. But it has now snapped its last photo.

My first digital camera was a Olympus D-400Z 1.3 megapixel and it also lost its mind one day (electronics went awry) - it makes me a little nervous that I have had two Oly cameras do that to me. When I'm on a trip, the last thing I want to worry about is if my camera is going to be reliable.

When doing in-depth comparison of Olympus to Canon over the years, I have not been able to see a compelling reason that Canon's additional cost was worth it: shows sample images from comparable offerings of both companies and compares their color and sharpness characteristics, and I am usually hard-pressed to see a big difference.

It turns out, it seems, that the biggest difference is in the other features that Canon offers.

There were two major Canon features that had a massive impact on the quality of the photos I brought back: low-light and image stabilization.

The Canon does infinitely better in low-light situations. This is a situation I found myself in often on this trip, as many of the museums and other places we visited did not allow flash photography. Without flash, the Olympus took practically worthless pictures while the Canon got down to business and gave me very impressive results.

The S5 IS has image stabilization, meaning it has some sort of feature that makes up for my shakey hand. Again, many places we visited did not allow tripods (and I don't bring one on trips anyway - there is a limit to my geekiness!) and thus some hand-shake is inevitable. Additionally, I had to be quick on the draw to get many shots as people were passing by and I took many shots from moving busses and trains, all of which contributed additional shakiness. I have only looked at about 20 of my 2000+ pictures, but from what I can tell the image stabilization is jaw-dropping in it's results.

To be fair, there is one area where the old Olympus outshines the Canon, at least with default settings. When adding an external tilt-flash, the Olympus correctly sensed the right flash level and never overexposed a photo. The Canon, however, is doing that quite regularly with an external tilt-flash. There may be a setting that I can adjust to get around this, but I have not found it yet (not that I've had much time to look).

The third camera I took was a pocket camera (Olympus FE-230 which also has image stabilization), so I will be closely checking the output it has given me. It was introduced in January 2007, so it should be on-par technology-wise with the Canon. I think the Olympus pocket camera will continue to make a nice companion to the Canon on those days when I don't feel like lugging the bigger camera around.

Finally, there are other features I have quickly grown attached to with the new Canon. First, it takes standard AA batteries and not rechargeable proprietary batteries like the Olympus. This is extremely handy in Europe as the Oly charger does not work with the 230 current over there. So once my Oly battery died, it was history. With the Canon, I just stopped at the nearest shop and picked up four more AAs.

Second, the Canon card can hold over 3,500 photos! That is an incredible number! The older Oly, by comparison, can only hold a few hundred. If I'm ever going to take 3,500 photos in one trip, then the AA battery vs rechargeable advantage becomes even more critical.

And lastly, it is extremely easy to turn off flash on the Canon. If I don't want flash, I simply don't raise the flash swivel - ie, flash is off by default! On the Oly, it is on my default and I must manually go through about four movements to shut it off. Not only that, but the Oly doesn't remember that I turned off the flash when the power is cycled (something I must do between pictures since the rear screen is such a power hog), meaning I have to go through the four movements all over again. Grrr.

So there you have it - much too much information on how and why I am making the jump from Olympus to Canon. Now, stay tuned for the much more fun and interesting posts coming up over the next few weeks as I process the pictures.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2008 Travel Trend: Dogs

If the travel trend of the last few years has been increased security, I have noticed an entirely new trend in 2008: dogs!

I have been traveling quite a bit lately (the reason the blog entries have been fewer and farther between the last two months), and I can confirm that many dogs are now taking to the air. On my trip to the east coast this week, I counted FIVE dogs! When I stepped off the plane in Dallas, I saw a chihuahua being walked proudly down the center of the walkway, as if he owned the place. Judging from people's reaction, he did.

A little later at the same airport, there was a second miniature dog being walked in a similar manner. When I arrived at the east coast, I saw this cute little west highland white terrier. He was all eyes as he took in the hub-bub of the airport, not a word out of him.

On the way back, I saw a larger dog in a dog carrier and one more small pocket dog. None of them said a peep - were they sedated? I just hope they were being taken on short trips, as I'm not sure where these fellows would do their business in an airport environment. The other interesting thing is that all five were being tended to by women - have men not caught on to the trend?

Not long ago, we were wine tasting in a winery on the mid-California coast when a couple walked in with a Great Dane who could peer over the bar (and order himself if he so desired). We nudged the gentleman next to us and pointed. He turned back to us, unbuttoned his coat, and revealed a little brown chihuahua in his coat pocket. We couldn't stop laughing, it was so fun! Of course, the wine helped.

Thursday, May 1, 2008