#909. Monday Post (30 Sept 2019) – Memory lanes and October Challenge

By pascaljappy | Monday Post

Sep 30

Inconvenient secret: we reached peak-sensor long ago, with the BSI generation, and don’t/won’t see significant IQ improvement until a profound innovation shakes the industry again (curved sensor, organic sensor, all those wonders reportedly maturing in R&D labs). But the state of the art wasn’t always so flatlined. And, back in the days of rapid – and useful – resolution increases, the following photograph served as a beacon for many dreamy-eyed digital photographers, myself included πŸ™‚

 
 

Or, rather, a photograph of this view with what buildings were standing at the time. London may not be ShanghaΓ― but it’s the fastest evolving city I’ve ever experienced long-term.

Back in ’em days, dpreview was still on the proper side of the Atlantic Ocean (insert silly grin) and various contributors, most often Phil Askey, regularly posted sample galleries shot from London’s Southbank.

At the same period, my summer vacations often took me to the same spots of Borough Market, the docks, Tower Bridge, Saint-Katharine’s marina,the fugly-but-great Hayward gallery, the Southbank center, … so the photographs echoed particularly strongly with me.

 
 

Remember those days when every new release brought with it a tingle of excitement, offering new possibilities such as – gosh – printing in A3 πŸ˜‰ ? Days when ecosystem variety increased month after month (a concept that seems so utopian now that all adventurous manufacturers have been weeded out at the tiranic hand of predatory pixel capitalism)?

For some reason, when I visited the Southbank again a few days ago, those happy-days dpreview galleries immediately sprung to mind. I still vividly remember the D700 shots made at Tower Bridge and in the marina, the fat pixels and lovely image quality out of my financial reach.

And this idea of a dual-memory-lane post followed immediately. Who else (is old enough to remember and) misses the London shots in dpreview? Who else has stumbled accross favourite locations photographed in influential gear reviews? Who else still smiles at the thought of modular cameras, foveon beauties and lens/sensor pairings? Oh, the thrill …

Little things please little minds, I guess (“and little knickers fit little behinds” would add my grandmother, bless her cotton socks) πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

 
 

Moving on. But, briefly, two notes:

(1) If you want to see for yourself how much London changes in a decade, take a look at this photograph (one of those that convinced me to buy a Nikon D80), or the one below, from 2004, kindly sent by Alan McKensie, and compare the skylines behind the bridge.

(2) Back in those days, websites such as dpreview had real clout. I bought several cameras based solely on what the galleries on that great website revealed. Nowadays … not so much. The words yawn and boring come to mind. None of this pixel peeping makes any sense anymore. They could get their mojo back by using a more systematic and qualitative approach to testing.

For example, by shooting the same scene with various cameras and showing how pretty (ghasp, the concept) each makes it. If you ask me, my beloved MjΓΆlner makes those very purdy indeed, and no amount of added resolution would make them nicer.

 
Moving on …
 

T’is time for a new challenge.

A recent post on blurry images struck a chord with many readers and John Wilson quite rightly suggested we make that a topic for the next challenge. So let’s do just that!

 
 

And let’s not be overly restrictive about it. All types of blur are accepted: motion, focus, post-processing, filter, flare … If it’s blurry, and it works well for you, please send it along. All I’d like on top of the photograph(s) is a brief description of why you like the effect in question. In the spirit of Ansel Adams’ “there’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a blurry concept”, let’s send in blurry images of sharp concept πŸ™‚ Blurry by design.

Note: for them what haven’t noticed: I recently published a page in the Creativity section of the website entitled How to Master 3D in photography. You’ll see that blur plays a fascinating role in this matter …

Usual rules of the game apply: please send me (pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com) your photographs in medium res (1000-2000 px long side) with some small (or longer, if you wish) commentary, by mid October πŸ™‚ I’ll post a reminder or two before then.

 
A corporate pro would go apoplectic at the sight of this flare blur (which could have been avoided by placing my hand to the left of the lens) and that’s one reason for my loving it πŸ˜‰ Another is that I feel it adds to the sense of light converging towards the right hand side.
 

So here’s to fond memories of the past and fond anticipation of your future wonders of the blurry kind! Very much looking forward to seeing them πŸ™‚

 

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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    It must be 30 years since I last set foot in Britain*. So I’ve little idea what it’s like, or how it’s changed. I do have two connections to the place – one, that an ancestor from way back was head torturer at the Tower of London – the other, that my oldest friend lives in East Croydon.
    So I’ll have to paddle through other photos to find suitably blurry images.

    *[My first trip there was to visit my friend – back in 1974 – and somewhere I have a rather fuzzy colour shot he took of me, holding his young son while he held the camera. My Zeiss Contarex around my neck. Taken just after I started growing a beard – at about the same time everyone started calling me names like “Serpico” and “Pedro”.
    All the others were business trips in the 1980s, and that business had already fizzled out by the time I made the final trip in 1989]

  • Adrian says:

    By one of those strange and serendipitous coincidences that life sometimes throws, no more than an hour before I read this post, I was shooting blurry images out of my hotel window, with a theme of “surveillance” (I was feeling sneaky and sordid photographing windows of nearby buildings with my plastic fantastic 200mm lens… Perhaps I shouldn’t say any more before I dig a large hole to fall into…)

    If you think London changes (I live there and don’t feel that way – in fact I think we are hampered by excessive bureaucracy and regulation) then you should try cities in Asia such as Bangkok. I last visited 2 years ago, and a very tall condo has gone up next to my hotel, Thailand’s tallest condo is finally nearing completion, a very impressive luxury mall has opened beside the river, and I are dinner with a friend in another new mall on arguably Bangkok’s most gridlocked road.

    I think in London, having taken around 12 years to decide whether or not to extend Heathrow (a stupid idea), they are not counselling public opinion, which will finish at about the same time as the widening of the M25 motorway, which may have to be moved in some of the plans go ahead. You couldn’t make it up.

    I took a picture of that very view of the city with my Nikon V1. It did a really nice job of it, in spite of the 1″ sensor and only 10Mp, which clearly made it junk.

    • pascaljappy says:

      How dare you mention a plastic fantastic lens, Adrian? You should know that any 200mm lens costing less than a mid range compact car is unworthy of discussion on the interwebs. What will the pundits think? They will chuck plastic lens caps at us.

      Maybe it’s the irregular visit pattern that makes the changes in London’sskyline more obvious to me. In the past, there was not that much that was (visually) higher than the Tower of London. Now, there’s a background of steel and glass and hubris. And walking around Brick Lane, Spitafields, Shoreditch, is like visiting a new place year after year. That being said, it’s true that Asian demographics and politics are fare more dynamic than ours.

      Cheers

      • Adrian says:

        Please ignore the previous incomplete comment, the comments editor behaves very strangely on my browser.

        I forgot to mention that I think you are right about the current slowdown in sensor performance. Manufacturers have used all sorts of design techniques to improve quantum efficiency, shorten circuit paths, increase pixel density, reduce noise read, and increase read out speeds.

        I find 2 recent things interesting: the replacement for the Sony A7S is taking a long time, and some rumours suggest its because of various needs related to video; and all the recent sensors have improved read speeds and frame rates and little more.

        Sony semiconductor in press events have made it clear they have 3 aims – resolution, noise and speed. Of course there will still be progress, but may need further innovation. I still think completely shutterless sensors will be the next thing, and with little differentiation between still and video capture (live view after all being essentially a video feed)

        Does anyone else remember the Ricoh GXR? Such an interesting concept, but marred because of course it made the lens modules rather expensive, and the reality was it didn’t seem to really offer any performance benefits over traditional ILCs

  • Adrian says:

    I forgot to mention that I think you are right about the current slowdown in sensor performance. Manufacturers have used all sorts of design techniques to improve quantum efficiency, shorten circuit paths, increase pixel density, reduce noise read, and increase read out speeds.

    I find 2 recent things interesting: the replacement for the Sony A7S is taking a long time, and some rumours suggest its because of various needs related to video; and all the recent sensors have improved read speeds and frame rates and little more.

    Sony semiconductor in press events have made it clear they have 3 aims – resolution, noise and speed. Of course there will still be progress, butmay need

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    What a shame that we have copyright laws in this country! I was at one of my two favourite camera shops yesterday (just buying printing ink, and a replacement for a pair of camera caps I’d misplaced somewhere – nothing over $10,000), and they have a gallery. In fact both my favourite camera shops have one!
    And the display would have swept the floor, in this competition!
    Someone with the skills of Nancee had produced a set of photos of Lake Eyre, in the centre of Australia.
    This ancient lake is 15 metres below sea level, surrounded as it is by the rest of the continent, and located in the southwest of Australia’s Great Artesian Basin. When full – which does still happen from time to time – it becomes the 13th largest lake in the world. Australia (like the Indian sub-continent, Africa, South America and Antarctica) were originally part of the first super-continent, Pangea. After they all separated, other strange things happened from time to time (like the Rift Valley in Africa! – and the Andes in South America!) – one being a period of higher sea levels, during which what we now see as Australia was divided by the ocean, into three vaguely triangular sections, with a “Y” shaped “sea” separating the three parts. Lake Eyre and the lakes and gulfs to the south of it would probably have been in the vertical stem at the base of this “Y”, before the sea levels receded and the continent became one, again.
    The heat (or cold, in mid-winter! – especially at night) – the distance from the coast – the variability of weather conditions – all contribute to make it a fascinating spectacle of very subtle colours. My family once had a pastoral property to the west of the lake, so we all grew up with more than a passing interest in it.
    And the exhibition I saw yesterday of photos of the lake were mind blowing. Ben, who manages the shop, asked what I thought was the best of them, when I emerged from the gallery – and I answered “six of them!” Blurry images – creativity beyond belief – worthy of hanging space in any museum or art gallery! I told Ben about this competition, and he laughed and suggested I should have taken a shot of them with my cellphone, and sent them to you. Unfortunately my “cell” phone is a “dumb” phone, not a “smart” phone, so that’s not going to happen.
    Pity – if the photographer could enter them, Pascal, I’m quite certain he or she would have wiped out the rest of the competition with any one of several of these photos – and I can’t even get hold of a copy of any of them, to show you! πŸ™
    As it is, if I had the money and the hanging space, I would have bought all six of the ones I liked! Far & away the best photos I’ve seen in years!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Un-destinations!
    Nothing to do with this topic, Pascal – sorry for the intrusion – but here is an interesting article on “undestinations”.
    I’ve already marked four of them in my “bucket list”! πŸ™‚

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Ooops – I missed the reference to the article – here it is:

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/undertourism-overtourism-sustainable-destinations/?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=crm-email::src=ngp::cmp=editorial::add=Travel_20191001&rid=B1383D2339C099B77542921FB7833EA1

  • Alan MacKenzie says:

    An un-secret, it seems. And convenient to know sensors have peaked — one less thing to fret about. Thanks!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well, their technology has, at least. There are still micro improvements but most are about speed, not quality. Also, one company is taking *an awful long time* to make the most of its own sensors … just sayin’ πŸ˜‰

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    Thank for saying the submissions may include people. I may have one or two for the challenge.

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