Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Six Points and new cameras

It was sometime in September that frequent Trees flier Jim (hi, Jim--seeing as you're the only guy reading this thing) brought the Canon Powershot S100 to my attention, and said something to the effect that he'd be interested in it, perhaps after I bought it and tried it out. Well, Jim, whether you were serious, half-, or just joshin', it's come to pass.

I had thought perhaps to dip into the little pool of modest side savings I have deducted from my pay every month (not to be confused with RRSP contributions--that's 401K to you Yanks) in October. But it was, of course, right at the end of September that little Twinkle got sick, and mid-October when she died. Saddled as I was, and largely still am, with $14,000 in medical bills, I couldn't see my way clear.

But, I've reconsidered. The money is there; it won't speed up my repayment by much; and photography is one of my few hobbies. It's been about two years since I last hooked up with a new camera, and while the Sony HX5V does some jazzy things, I have to admit I've been disappointed in the image quality. Without good image quality, it really doesn't matter if your camera orbits the moon... you just have mushy, soft, JPG-artifact-laden images that have orbited the moon.

I was long a fan of Canon's PowerShot S80. I worked with that camera for two years and there was just something magic about it. The G9 that followed it was powerful but just a little too big. The W1 shoots 3D, but again, the image quality isn't all it might be. And the HX5V I've already pronounced on. I waited and waited for Canon to bring out the S90, but they didn't until a year and a half after I stopped waiting and bought the second hand G9. By then, there wasn't much point. Then came the S95. Now the S100, which is a really nice step up from them all.

I bought the S100 on January 3rd, after looking for low prices in town. To my amazement, for once, the Canadian price is in line with the US price. The lowest price I could find in Toronto (advertized) was $429, which is the low price I'm seeing quoted from US sources too. That place was out of stock and was saying "end of the month", so I turned to the next place, at $459. At the same time, I bought two non-Canon spare batteries for it, and a couple of memory cards at a nice discount... a 16GB class 10 SDHC for $40, and a blazing 32GB UHC for $130, both of them considerably marked down. Well, the 32GB was corrupt and didn't work. So I planned to bring it back and snag a couple of 32GB class 10s at $80 each, and pay the diff.

That happened last Saturday. I called up P-Doug and asked if he'd be interested in helping me shoot Six Points (more on that in a minute) and then going to Breyden's afterward. He was game, so I drove down, picked him up, and took him with me to the camera store on the edge of downtown. They were great. They took back the defective card and gave me the two I was after (oddly enough, the two 32GB class 6s they thought I wanted were about $100 more expensive than the class 10s! Explain that one to me...). So, we made the exchange, and this time, in the parking lot, we tried them both out, in the S100, the W1, and the HX5V. They all barfed on the second card (it even crashed the HX5V). So, back inside. They replaced that card, and we tried it out, and it was just fine. So now I have three class 10 SDHC cards; two 32GBs and one 16GB.

We mounted the W1 to the windshield and videoed our drive to Six Points in 3D. Six Points... well, it's a complicated intersection of three major roads (Bloor St., Dundas St., and Kipling Ave.) in the west end of Toronto, in Etobicoke. Until 1961 (or thereabouts), the road converged very close together, at grade. In '61 Metro rebuilt the intersection in a complicated fashion to keep the traffic going. Kipling was dropped to dive under bridges that sent Dundas over it. Bloor was broken off from itself, stopping dead on the west side of Kipling. And Dundas was forced to do double duty, carrying its own traffic, as well as Bloor's. An elegant solution, except for the ramps needed to connect Kipling to Dundas and Bloor. You need to be an owl to be able to see oncoming traffic when you're trying to merge, and the tie-ups and accidents have gained quite a reputation. So... Toronto's planning to rebuild the whole thing again and put it all back at grade, but now with Dundas Street swinging around far enough to the south that there's room for all the traffic.

Here's what Six Points looked like in 1947... (Bloor runs across, Kipling up and down, and Dundas diagonally upwards to the right.)

...here's what it looks like now (and, to some extent, how it's looked since 1961; the Westwood Theatre is the large, lonely building at the lower-centre-right)...

...and here's the plan for sometime around the middle of the decade. Bridges begone!

Also for the axe is the 50-something-year-old Westwood Theatre, blogged about last spring. I understand it's due to to be torn down this summer, but I think I've been hearing that every year for four or five years now. I was only ever in it once, in the mid-90s, to see A Goofy Movie with a friend visiting from the States, but still, I'll miss it. Dundas Street is going to be rerouted to go right through it.

Anyway, P-Doug and I drove a course I'd plotted through the intersection and several of its ramps to give people in the future the experience of what it was like, and in 3D, too. We parked in what used to be one of the entrances to the Westwood parking lot off Dundas, and I gave P-Doug the S100 to put through its paces. I shot 3D.

I'm really happy with the results. The interesting shots he took notwithstanding, the image quality is superb. P-Doug kept praising how wide angle the lens was, and it does come in at 24mm, which is still fairly generous among P&S cameras even now. At that end, there's a pronounced fisheye effect in the CR2 raw images, but it's wonderfully compensated for in the JPG conversions, both inside the camera in using Photoshop, which has included the algorithms for the S100's raw format in its latest update to its camera raw plug-in (6.6, I believe).

The image below shows what I'm talking about. RAW images to the left (well, actually, pixel-for-pixel uncorrected dumps of the CR2s into JPGs using XnView), Photoshop-created JPG conversions to the right. On the extreme right, a 100% detail look at just how fine and sharp the image actually is... and this is a JPG, too. (Incidentally, the views you're seeing here are of the end of Bloor at Kipling. Out of sight beyond the rise is the rest of Bloor Street. They once connected—at a slight dogleg—and will again, minus the dogleg, in a few years. The sign, the rise behind it, and the bridges to the right will soon be history.)

I'll have to see about posting a few of the shots we took over the next few days, just out of interest.

1 comment:

jim said...

Niiiiiice. I am stunned by the detail you got on the BGS (Big Green Sign).

Is it common to have so much trouble with larger memory cards?

And someday I'll have to do a blog post about TWELVE Points in Terre Haute.