Toy helicopter, windy horses and camera interface

MarlaFev14-11Err, that sounds like a lot of different things !?

From time to time I buy a toy helicopter. I wouldn’t really call it a habit, I’m only on my second one. And given it’s much nicer and better built than the first, it may even last us a while. But it always make for some cool photos, as Marla is both fascinated with (she pined for one, and got it as a reward for learning the alphabet) and scared of it, so the range of expressions it milks out of her is pretty wide.

MarlaFev14-10Getting acquainted with the beast. Or should I say, the mosquito ?

MarlaFev14-12Behind Daddy is safe

MarlaFev14-06Or is it ?


MarlaFev14-07It officially belongs to her, but you can bet her dad is using it more than she does πŸ˜‰

MarlaFev14-08The whole helicopter series has been shot with the OM 50/1.8 at max aperture, this is a manual focus lens

MarlaFev14-15And as usual I have very little complaint with the NEX7’s performance or output


MarlaFev14-14Save for a wonky WB due to mixed light source, it did pretty well

Yesterday morning Marla was invited to Noa’s Bday party. It was held (as is fashionable these days, and for good reasons) at a soft play centre. Those have literally blossomed all over the country, we have no less than three in our smallish, rather rural area. Marla’s BF, Matteo, was invited as well, and as always they spent almost the whole morning together.

MarlaFev14-16She likes him, alright

Then we went to the stables for her weekly lesson. Her friend and riding mate Enora was not there, down with a cold, so Marla was left for a one to one with Gwen, her demanding coach. A lady was there with her 10yr oldish daughter to investigate the stables and decide whether it’d be suited for her girl to take lessons. So Gwen had Marla riding her best to demonstrate the school’s teaching level. I was again proud of my girl, who delivered a nearly flawless performance, and pretty insane riding skills for a 5 yr old…

Has5Jan14-01On another note we learned that Eclaire, Marla’s trusty (if mischievous) schooling mare, might leave the stables in a near future, leaving Gwen without a suitable ride for Marla (in size and proper challenge level). That means we might have to buy our own poney sooner than later.

Has5Jan14-02Trust and familiarity is very important between a learning child and their ride.

Has5Jan14-03Eclaire has a lot of temperament and energy, but she is also very affectionate and tolerant of Marla, which leads us to easily forgive her mischief

Has5Jan14-04The light was, again, horrendous

Has5Jan14-05And aside from lower shutter speeds leading to some motion blur, the NEX7 paired with SEL35 did, again, a pretty sweet job of handling it

Has5Jan14-06This is the part of the barn directly in front of the large opening door. Better light right there

Has5Jan14-07NBWill I bore you with a bunch of repetitive shots from the lesson ? I’m afraid so

Has5Jan14-08It’s hard when you’re alone in the spotlight and can’t escape the teacher’s scrutiny even for a second !


Has5Jan14-09Slower shutter speed = blurry pic

Has5Jan14-11First bar on the ground (you can see the lady and her girl watching, on the left)

Has5Jan14-12Then, raised

Has5Jan14-13And a big, big hug

After that we headed to the outdoor arena for the advanced riders’ session. The sky had turned grey, and very cold and violent wind picked up, and pretty soon all horses were excited, fightful, and giving their riders trouble

Has5Jan14-14Ok, now I’m going to tackle the third part of this post. This is getting serious. Actually, I should have named it totally differently, and emphasized what I’m about to discuss, because I bet this would cause quite a stir in the photographic webosphere. So let me drop the bomb : Retro controls cameras *suck*

Has5Jan14-32Say WHAT !?!
(don’t worry about the pics, they have nothing to do with it, but I’ll just pepper the post with them, as I have them at hand, and happen to like them)…

Yeah, you read that right. Namely, the Nikon DF and the likes of Fuji X series *suck*. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, they look good (well, in the case of the Df that’s truly questionable, but the Fujis sure get it right). Let’s face it, as far as cameras go, the Retro scheme is *everywhere*. Olympus, Nikon, Fuji, all have heavily given in to it, and even Sony that’s notorious for its sleek, futuristic designs, caved in somewhat by “humpin up” the A7/R. Olympus, however, is a case in itself. Why ? Because despite having set the trend (I truly believe the planetary success of the E-M5 had a LOT to do with camera designs we’re seing blossom everywhere today), they did it right. It’s the other makers that screwed up along the way.


Yeah, I can see you all shock eyed. Me, defending Olympus, whose camera menus and UI I absolutely hate ?? Yup, because you’ll always see me give credit where credit is due. So, as little as I liked the hump on the E-M5 (or the stupidly smallish and squishy buttons, by the way), the two wheel control scheme was brilliant. In any given mode you get direct control to your exposure settings, and to exposure compensation, as well. And Olympus being king of endless configurability, you can swap functions, reverse rotation, etc, to your heart content.

Has5Jan14-17The NEX7 took that yet to another level of usability genius with its “TriNavi” controls. Not two, but three, unmarked, free rotating wheels, giving the user “hot” (or “live”, meaning NO button to press first) access to aperture, shutter speed *and* ISO value, at all times. And direct access to exposure compensation in semi automated modes. That remains, to this day, the best user interface on any mirrorless camera. Period.

Has5Jan14-15Enter, the Fuji cameras. Every hipster, every analog nostalgic, every camera geek ooohs and aaahs, and wet their jockeys, beaming about how it’s finally giving photography back to its true enthusiasts. Err… let me laugh. Let’s look at how the Fuji interface works. First, you have (for most of them, and the higher end ones) a physical aperture ring on the lenses. That’s very nice. Except two things. 1) said ring is a little loser than it should be, meaning aperture value can (and will) get bumped unvolontarily by just handling the camera, taking it in and out of a bag, etc. And 2), when you have your eye to the finder, it’s actually more intuitive and comfortable spinning a dial with either your index or thumb, and using your left hand to blindly reach for and turn the aperture ring on the lens. Try it if you don’t believe me, too.

Has5Jan14-19A little Sigma EX 70-200/2.8 HSM DG Macro II magic πŸ˜‰

So we just saw that direct aperture control on the lens, while looking all romantic and hip, is actually not the best way to go, in *real life use*. But there’s worse. The shutter speed dial. Now, that’s a biggie. On both Olympus cameras and the NEX7 (or even 6 and 5R/T in some configurations), you rotate an unmarked top dial (thumb action) to move shutter speed up and down, without any limitation of value, within of course the available range. That means that if I’m shooting in extremely varying conditions and want to suddenly switch from a meek 1/50s to a serious 1/400s, I can do so in a split second, with one touch of the thumb (the NEX7 and 5R/T wheels, for instance, are wonderfully smooth and dampened and very precise in their action). But with a Fuji camera, due to the cool looking but stupid *marked* shutter speed dial, I can only alter my shutter speed in full stops (60, 125, 180, 250 etc), and THEN have to fine tune the 1/3 increments with the secondary rear wheel. How screwed up, stupid and time consuming is that ?!? What I’m doing with one swift and smooth turn of one dial on the Sony and Olympus, now means rotating two, very different feeling wheels (one is metal, and quite firm, the other one plastic and slightly mushy, as it’s also a click-in dial on some of the Fuji models) with Fuji ?? DUMB.

Has5Jan14-18So with those two major inconveniences, the super cool looking retro cameras are actually just cool looking, and worse to use vs. more traditionally “digital” interfaced models.

Has5Jan14-21Don’t get me wrong I get my share of Fuji XT-1 lust as much as anybody else. But as a Manual shooter only, who changes shutter speed on the fly constantly, I’m extremely concerned that this will kill the camera for me. Instant deal breaker.

Has5Jan14-20In the meanwhile, Sony is about to unveil a revamped NEX6, called A6000. As someone who’s been waiting for a N7 update forever, that is of very little interest to me. However, being curious by nature, I’m likely to give the A6000 a spin for kicks, and to evaluate the so called “faster AF” perf.

Has5Jan14-23And to keep my N7 company until that, I just grabbed a used NEX5R πŸ˜‰

As we’re leaving for a skiing week in the Alps in two days, I figured it’d be slightly more portable than the N7.

Has5Jan14-24It was a steal, too (well, I bargained like a mutt !)

Has5Jan14-25A question is being brought, though. WHEN Sony figures out fast AF (ultimately, every maker will)… We’ll then have fast focusing mirrorless bodies… And very few lenses to use on them, and zero fast one either. The fastest tele zoom available for the E/FE mount, is the ΓΌber expensive 70-200/4. I’m not gonna pay 2.5 times the price I got my Sigma 70-200/2.8 for, to go back to a hardly smaller, one full stop slower zoom. Huh, huh.


Has5Jan14-26So, looks like my LA-EA2 still has some time of use to come



Has5Jan14-29The twins. They ride equally well, but very differently

Has5Jan14-30Actually I think this young lady has the edge

Has5Jan14-31Till next time… stay tuned !



About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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9 Responses to Toy helicopter, windy horses and camera interface

  1. That big, fat horse is magnificent!!!! And I am just totally biased toward black and white these days (an habit I am trying for kick, but it’s hard), so I totally love your BW pic indoor.

    Enjoy your ski trip!!!!

  2. marla2008 says:

    Laurent Fiona is a “Comtoise” mare, and I think she would be very offended to be dubbed “fat’, looool…. She’s indeed avery handsome animal, and quite a character. B&W is fun, I tend to do little as it’s hard to get it just right without diving very deep into a lot of complicated softwares I don’t even own, let alone want to mess with. Snapseed is what I use for quick and dirty conversions, but I do keep them to the minimum. I’ll shoot black and white when I get a sensor that can natively shoot 1:1 squares !!

  3. Sometimes it is great to be an ignorant rookie!!!! I was not even aware about the subtleties of Black and White conversion.

    The pony situation is unfortunate. You would think that a successful horse riding school/farm would make an effort to keep horses for young riders, since they are, after all, customers for many years to come!!!!

    Please offer my deepest apologies to Mrs Fiona…

    • marla2008 says:

      Well, the situation is a little different. This is a boarding place, first and foremost, not a poney club in the usual sense of the term. Meaning, it’s supposed to be owners only. We’ve been lucky enough to pay half board on that little mare and benefit from a weekly lesson along with free access to her any time of the week. I’ll be thrilled if she stays… and excited to shop for a poney if she leaves πŸ˜‰ Will pass your apologies along to Fiona πŸ˜‰

  4. MJWC1 says:

    Beautiful photos as always, Claire, and I am with Laurent on the black and whites. The helicopter shots are great and Marla’s expressions are priceless.
    Interesting points about retro cameras (don’t forget to put on your fire retardant safety gear before posting on some of the forums). I do like the look of them, simply because they hark back to film cameras and I still love using them – the weight and the feeling of winding onto the next frame.
    But the word ‘simply’ also has a different connotation here. With those film cameras all the controls were right at your finger tips – but that was it, there were no options. All the control parameters were right there, but that was all you could control. They had major limitations, but no-one knew any better (and there was no basis for most of the options that now come with digitals). It didn’t matter that you only had full stops on the shutter speed dial, because that was all the camera could do. It didn’t matter if it took that bit extra to find the right aperture on the lens barrel, because you weren’t do anything in a hurry anyway.
    Now we do know better and there are options. You can’t have a camera deliver all the options and possibilities that come with modern digital cameras without fundamentally changing the mechanisms and approaches you take to accessing them. Of course you can have dials, but they need to work differently from the way they did in the past (as you demonstrated with the E-M5 and NEX7).
    So, while the XT-1 looks wonderful and one day I will probably buy a NEX7 (or even an Olympus), in the meantime I will get my retro kicks with a camera that looks like it was made in the 1980s – because it was.

  5. Rich says:

    Ha! Expressions I see mirrored in my daughters face every time I get my Hubsan x4 out. Incidentally you should try one – self levelling quad copter and not too pricey.

    Unfortunately my wife is even worse flying it than me so no good pics!

    How do you find the 5R? I’ve been using mine for a year now and apart from the lack of tracking focus I love it.

    • marla2008 says:

      Considering it has the same *brilliant* sensor as the N6, I positively adore it. The sharpness and clarity of the files at nearly all ISO is stunning. Quite the little powerhouse !!

  6. JerryR says:

    Hi, I came across your post via a random search. I enjoyed your rant although I disagree on one point… lens mounted aperture rings. What is your left hand doing while you’re shooting? Mine has a lens comfortably nestled in it. While my right hand is selecting focus points, shutter-speed, or simply riding the shutter-button my left hand quickly selects the optimum aperture with a slight twist of the wrist. To me that’s more natural than my right fore-finger spinning a dial for aperture while my right thumb spins a dial for shutter-speed and my shutter-button is left momentarily untended.

    And while it’s true that you can knock your aperture ring getting your camera out of the bag (although I can’t remember the last time that’s happened) it’s also true that you can see and adjust your aperture and shutter settings before you even turn your camera on. Handy for preparing for a shot when the glare from the LCD might call attention to yourself or for conserving battery life (which is notoriously poor).

    In truth I typically shoot in aperture-priority so the very real weakness you pointed out with shutter-speed adjustment doesn’t effect me often. In aperture-priority I’m constantly adjusting the aperture ring with my left hand while my right thumb rides the exp comp dial, making minute adjustments, and selects focus points. My finger stays on the shutter-button. A very satisfying way to shoot.

    With regards to being a hipster, my kids would disagree. I have found during the past few years that like Fuji, Sony cameras attract a different crowd than many other brands, and there are not a lot of photographers who like both Fuji and Sony. This is unlike Olympus who seem to be a less polarizing brand and have fans from both camps. I’ve owned a few Sonys including the excellent little RX100 but have never come to terms with their UI. They are certainly innovative and I rarely find their IQ lacking although that is what I would expect from a company so adept at image sensors. Your photos displayed here show that same high quality.



    • marla2008 says:

      You’re totally right Jerry, two dials for fine tuning shutter speed is hardly an issue if using a semi automated mode, but for me as a Manual shooter, it’s a pain πŸ˜‰ However the XT-1 remains an amazingly attractive camera, that I’ll be VERY eager to play with.

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