Mar 222014
 

A digital camera has an image processing chip that converts light (analog) into digital information. A single point of processing or conversion is a pixel (from picture element). Most people obsess over resolution as measured in megapixels, concluding that 20 megapixels must be better than 12, for example. However, the size of the sensor is very important in such comparisons.

Imagine taking a box and arranging 20 cups inside (say, 4 x 5). If you get a bigger box, you have options for bigger cups (which hold more than the smaller ones) or more cups of the original size. Either will hold more liquid than the original cups.

In so many tech areas, we think smaller is better. You’d rather carry a little camera than a giant one. However, when it comes to pixel size, larger pixels gather more light (just like those larger cups hold more liquid). Moreover, in electronics, components tend to interfere with each other (referred to as Signal to Noise — more signal, less noise is the goal). Cram too many, too small pixels into a space and you not only capture less information but you increase the noise from adjacent pixels. Therefore, larger pixels are better. Ironically, a specific camera’s pixel size may not be easy to find. (See www.snapsort.com and look closely at Specifications.)

Comparing two cameras that have the same image sensor, more pixels means smaller pixels, which probably means lower image quality. Ironically, that 12MP camera might be better than 20MP (at that point, compare other features).

Comparing two cameras that have the same resolution, say 12MP just for example, the one with the larger sensor will also have larger pixels and better image quality.

Point and shoot cameras include compacts, cellphones, and superzooms. (Point and shoot cameras have a fixed lens that can’t be replace.) The vast majority of point and shoot cameras use the smallest processor there is. They vary in how densely they pack small pixels.

It used to be you could call anything that wasn’t point-and-shoot a DSLR (digital single lens reflex). (DSLRs use interchangeable lenses.) Every camera that is not point and shoot uses a larger image processor than all point and shoots.

The only point and shoot exception I know of is the Fujifilm X-S1. It uses a sensor that is slightly larger than other point and shoots, but far smaller than any non-point-and-shoot.

Engadget Primed: Why your camera’s sensor size matters

What to look for and why

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Engadget Primed: Why your camera’s sensor size matters

Above, the smallest green box is the size of most point and shoot sensors (1/2.3). The slightly larger dark blue box (2/3) is the size of the Fujifilm sensor. It can convert more light into information with less noise. When you get out to the much larger Four Thirds and larger, you’re comparing DSLRs (and equivalents). 35mm is the gold standard of film and slides.

Large vs. Small Sensors — Pro’s and Con’s

More Effective Light Gathering
Imagine cramming millions of photo sensitive dots on a postage stamp size chip and you can appreciate that each of these must be microscopically small. Increase the surface area of the sensor by about 2.5x (to 24x36mm), and each pixel can be much larger; hence, it can capture more photons (light particles) in less time. That enables the sensor to provide greater signal purity: a stronger signal-to-noise ratio so less gain or amplification is required at high ISO levels. The resulting images are “cleaner”. They exhibit less digital noise, without obvious “graininess” or colorful speckles that can and less need for Noise Reduction processing that can obscure intricate detail.

When compared to the "typical" 1.8x23.6mm sensor used in many DSLRs, a full-frame 24x36mm chip is huge. While the difference may not be impressive at a glance, it's worth noting that the surface area of the full-frame sensor is roughly 2.5 times larger. Assuming the same number of pixels on each chip, you can assume that the size of each photodiode will also differ significantly.

When compared to the “typical” 1.8×23.6mm sensor used in many DSLRs, a full-frame 24x36mm chip is huge. While the difference may not be impressive at a glance, it’s worth noting that the surface area of the full-frame sensor is roughly 2.5 times larger. Assuming the same number of pixels on each chip, you can assume that the size of each photodiode will also differ significantly.

As a bonus, larger pixels also provide a wider dynamic (tonal) range: more detail in both the bright and the dark areas of a photo. That’s useful because it minimizes excessively bright highlights (blowout or clipping) and very dark shadows that can be entirely devoid of texture or detail. This can be important particularly in high contrast illumination when a scene includes both very light tones and very dark tones. For instance, imagine the interior of a cathedral, with light streaming in through a few stained glass windows but illuminating only a third of the interior. A sensor with a wider dynamic range will provide images with more visible detail in the entire scene.

Large vs. Small Sensors — Pro’s and Con’s

Note the following comparisons: Snapsort rates the HS50 higher than the X-S1, despite this difference.

Specifications – Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR vs Fujifilm X-S1

Pixel size Help 1.9 µm² vs 4.8 µm²

Specifications – Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR vs Fujifilm X-S1

Even the very popular SX50 has pixels less than half the size of the X-S1. (This is just one variable, albeit an important and obscure one.)

Specifications – Canon PowerShot SX50 HS vs Fujifilm X-S1

Pixel size Help 2.3 µm² vs 4.8 µm²

Specifications – Canon PowerShot SX50 HS vs Fujifilm X-S1

One more oddity: Consider two point and shoots that are as close to identical as possible except that one has the smaller sensor. If the lenses are identical, the smaller sensor & lens yield a much greater zoom than the larger sensor with the same lens. (A variable called crop factor is at play here. See the Y-axis of the first graphic.) That’s why the Fujifilm HS50 EXR has a 42x (1000mm) zoom while the nearly identical X-S1 is “only” 26x (624mm). The HS50 will get you closer but the image quality will likely be lower, especially in less-than-bright conditions, where more light gathering with less noise is of increasing value.

 Posted by at 6:33 pm
Mar 182014
 

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is the best camera I’ve had for shooting the full moon — assuming you want to do so with automatic settings.

This first shot is with the Canon near 20X. The color is pretty good.

IMG_4846

At maximum zoom (50X), the color is off but overall the exposure is acceptable and can be tweaked.

Canon moonshot

Using automatic settings, this is what the FujiFilm X-S1 shot. Many cameras set exposure based on the large amount of very black sky, overexposing the moon. I had similar experience with several Sonys. Why is the Canon automatic mode  so much smarter than others.

DSCF1165

I got better exposures from the Fuji using manual settings, but the focus was screwed up. These are difficult things to work out in the dark and cold in the brief time it takes the moon to clear the horizon. Practice beforehand.

This one was taken with the Sony HX1 using f/5.2 at 1/500 sec.

 full moon over Weminuche Wilderness

And this was the Sony HX100v using f/5.6 at 1/250 sec.

la bella luna

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Mar 082014
 

In my experience, cameras often have trouble with brightly lit white and yellow subjects. In the photos below, I think the Fujifilm X-S1 handled the first instance better than most point & shoot cameras I’ve used. One can see details within the brightest areas, even in the cropped area (second photo in pair). The second pair is more typical of other cameras. If I hadn’t included the ragged edge, one might not know what part of the photo appears in the cropped version.

DSCF1058DSCF1058 (2)

DSCF1062DSCF1062 (2)

 Posted by at 1:00 pm
Mar 072014
 

In this series, the first photo of each pair was taken using the Fujifilm X-S1 and the second was taken with the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. I attempted to frame the photo as similarly as possible. I used automatic settings. Each photo leads to a full-size photo, if you want to see those. Most of these are full-frame (uncropped), except as noted.

DSCF0492IMG_4836

DSCF0493IMG_4837

DSCF0494IMG_4838

DSCF0494 (2)IMG_4838 (2)

Below, a wide angle shot followed by maximum zoom. Of course, the Canon 50x gets you closer than the Fuji 26x.

DSCF0504IMG_4841

DSCF0507IMG_4843

However, a crop of the same area in both photos from above shows that closer isn’t necessarily better. (Neither is particularly great.)

DSCF0507 (2)IMG_4843 (2)

Below, zoom followed by cropped version.

DSCF0508IMG_4845

DSCF0508 (2)IMG_4845 (2)

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
Mar 062014
 

I’ve been using the Fujifilm X-S1 daily for about a month, during which time I’ve taken 1000 photos. Since my first digital camera 12 years ago, I have pursued superzooms, high-end point & shoot cameras. These cameras are sometimes called “bridge” cameras because some of their features are similar to those found on DSLRs, which are cameras with removable, interchangeable lenses, unlike point & shoot cameras that have non-removable lens.

In a dozen years, I have had over half a dozen superzooms. When I started, superzooms were those that had 10x magnification or more. This ‘x’ factor refers to the difference between the wide angle and the maximum zoom.

Until now, each new camera I have bought had more zoom than the previous. I have the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, which has 50x. Often, these numbers are converted to the older scale used on pre-digital 35mm cameras. The Canon zooms from 24mm to 1200mm. The Fujifilm X-S1 is ‘only’ 26x, zooming from 24mm to 624mm. However, the images the Fuji captures are consistently superior to the Canon’s or any other digital camera I have used. The main reason for that may be the fact that the X-S1 has a larger image processor, the chip that converts light into digital information. Larger is better in this regard for a host of reasons. Don’t be fooled by reported resolution because that is often achieved by shrinking pixels to pack more into a small chip. (I’m looking at you, Sony, my former favorite.) A larger pixel processes light better and is subject to less interference (noise). The Canon and Fuji have the same resolution (12MP) but the Fuji’s pixel size is over twice the Canon’s.

Another strength of the X-S1 is the electronic viewfinder, which has the highest resolution I’ve encountered on any point & shoot. You can distinguish details in that little eyepiece.

Finally, autofocus on the X-S1 uses 49 points, whereas the Canon uses 9 (and poorly at that, in my opinion).

Another photographer would highlight different features. In fact, though I recommend www.snapsort.com for comparing cameras, that site gives the Canon a score of 100 (#1 rank) and the X-S1 only a 64 (#15). (See comparison.) Snapsort clearly isn’t emphasizing the features I consider most important after using quite a few superzoom point & shoot cameras.

Below, the two cameras appear side by side (Canon left, Fuji right).

WP_20140306_12_52_20_Pro

With zooms extended.

WP_20140306_12_52_50_Pro

The Canon is an impressive camera in such a small package. However, it has disappointed me too often. The autofocus is wacky. The Fujifilm’s manual zoom has a very nice feel (it’s that large ribbed section in the photo). I’d rather carry the Canon but I’d rather use the Fujifilm X-S1.

PS: Two months ago, I returned the Fujifilm HS50 EXR because it wasn’t any better than the Canon. I’m keeping the X-S1. (Snapsort.com ignores that the HS50 has even smaller pixels than the Canon, jamming 15.9MP into the same small chip. See their comparison of the two Fujis side by side. Amazingly, they rate the HS50 higher: 74, #8. This is what comes over overemphasizing zoom and resolution.)

 Posted by at 3:10 pm
Feb 102014
 

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Hands-on with Build 16610 | Windows 8 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

Just days after the first public leak of Windows 8.1 Update 1, we’ve received a second, more complete leak, which appears to be final or near-final code. Not surprisingly, this newer version includes a few more changes, plus some refinements to previously revealed features.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Hands-on with Build 16610 | Windows 8 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

 Posted by at 4:49 pm
Feb 052014
 

Make sure you have the latest Fujifilm X-S1 firmware installed by following this procedure. As of 2/5/14, the firmware version is 1.01.

Firmware for X-S1 | Fujifilm Global

Firmware version checking procedure

Turn on your “Camera” while holding down the [DISP/BACK] button. The number will displayed “CURRENT” showing the camera’s current firmware version. Press the Disp/Back button to Cancel. Then, turn off your camera..

Firmware for X-S1 | Fujifilm Global

 Posted by at 9:09 pm
Feb 052014
 

Worth a look. Out by early April.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Hands-on with Build 16596 | Windows 8 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

A surprising number of fun little improvements

Feb. 3, 2014 Paul Thurrott

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Hands-on with Build 16596 | Windows 8 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

 Posted by at 4:10 pm
Jan 262014
 

How do you get Windows 8.1 to do what you want it to do? You can command a computer in many ways, depending on your equipment. For example, a desktop computer with a keyboard has different options from a handheld device like a tablet with a touchscreen.

Touch Your Screen

The following terms refer to ways you interact with a touchscreen:

    Tap: Briefly touch the screen. You open an object, such as an app or activate a function, such as a button, by tapping it.

    Press and Release: Longer than a tap. When you release, you may see a context menu.

    Drag: Touch and hold your finger on the screen, then move your finger across the screen. You move an object, such as an onscreen playing card, by dragging it.

    Swipe: Touch and move your finger more quickly than with drag. You can swipe your finger across the screen from any of the four sides of the screen to display options and commands. You swipe pages to move forward or back. Swipe an icon or tile up or down to select it. (You may see the word flick instead of swipe. Some people insist that a flick is faster or shorter than a swipe.)

    Pinch and spread: Touch a finger and thumb or two fingers on the screen. Move your fingers closer to each other to pinch and or spread them away from each other. Generally, a pinch reduces the size of something on the screen or shows more content on the screen. Spreading your fingers usually zooms in, increasing the size of something on-screen to show more detail.

<Tip>

Watch for the words touch, tap, swipe, or pinch to indicate using your finger. Touch actions are often called gestures.

Use a Mouse

The following terms describe methods for using a mouse with Windows 8.1. In each, move the mouse first to position the pointer over a specified item before proceeding:

    Click: Move the on-screen arrow-shaped mouse pointer over a specified item and press and release the left mouse button: that’s a click (sometimes called a left-click to distinguish it from a right-click). This usually opens the selected object, such as an app.

    Right-click: Press and release the right mouse button to display available functions. Note that the word click by itself means use the left mouse button.

    Click and Drag: Press and hold down the left mouse button, and then move the mouse pointer across the screen. When you want to move an object, you drag it. Release the mouse button to release the object. (Compare with Right-click and Drag, which displays a context menu on release.)

<Tip>

Watch for the word click to indicate using a mouse button and roll to indicate using the mouse wheel.

Keystrokes for Almost Anything

Keystroke combinations are fast but require a keyboard and some memorization. If you have a keyboard, you owe it to yourself to learn some of these — they are quite literally handy.

  • Win (the Windows logo key) switches between the current app and the Start screen
  • Win+C displays the Charms panel on the right [other keys take you directly to an option without showing Charms first]
  • Search [Win+Q] (unnecessary on Start screen – just type)
  • Share [Win+H]
  • Start [Win]
  • Devices [Win+K]
  • Settings [Win+I]
  • Win+Tab switches between open applications (compare with Alt+Tab, which includes open windows on Desktop)
  • Win+Z displays the command bar (top and / or bottom of screen)
  • Win+D displays the desktop (minimizes all windows); repeat keystroke to restore open windows
  • Win+E opens File Explorer on the Desktop
  • Win+1, Win+2, Win+3, etc opens or switches to apps pinned to the taskbar on the Desktop. (Usually, Internet Explorer is 1 and File Explorer is 2, but apps can be pinned, unpinned, and reordered on the taskbar.)
  • Win+X opens the Power User’s Menu
  • Win+Down Arrow closes a modern app or minimizes a desktop app (compare with Alt+F4)
  • Win+Up Arrow maximizes an app or desktop window
  • Win+Right Arrow or Win+Left Arrow moves the current app to the right or left side of the screen.
  • F11 displays window full-screen “F(u)ll” (not all applications — desktop version of Internet Explorer is one)
  • Within an app or desktop program:

    • Ctrl+A selects all text or objects in a document or window
    • Ctrl+C copies the selected text or objects to the Clipboard
    • Ctrl+X cuts (removes) the selected text or objects to the Clipboard
    • Ctrl+V pastes text or objects from the Clipboard to the cursor location
    • Ctrl+Z undoes the most recent action
    • Ctrl+Y redoes most recently undone action
    • Ctrl+S saves the current document
    • Ctrl+P opens the Print diialog
    • Ctrl+T opens a new tab in Internet Explorer (and in some apps, like Reader)
    • Ctrl+W closes the current tab in Internet Explorer (and in some apps, like Reader)
    • Ctrl+Shift+T reopens a closed tab in Internet Explorer (repeat as needed)

    I’ve uploaded a PDF of this information.

     Posted by at 1:00 pm
    Jan 262014
     

    Here is a link to the online cheat sheet for Windows 8.1.

    Windows 8.1 For Seniors For Dummies Cheat Sheet – For Dummies

    Windows 8.1 For Seniors For Dummies

    From Windows 8.1 For Seniors For Dummies by Peter Weverka, Mark Justice Hinton

    Take charge of the Windows 8.1 operating system by knowing how to get to the Start screen, what the functions at the edge of the screen are, how to switch between apps, and how to handle passwords.

    Windows 8.1 For Seniors For Dummies Cheat Sheet – For Dummies

     Posted by at 12:20 pm
    Jan 242014
     

    As a Verizon customer, I’m still waiting and waiting for the Black update to my Nokia Lumia 928.

    Stay safe with Windows Phone Driving Mode – Nokia Conversations

    [A]s part of the recent Black Update, compatible WP8 phones now benefit from added safety features when gobbling up road miles.

    If you’re new to Driving Mode, let us get you on course. Firstly, jump into Settings and tap on the Driving Mode set-up option. Here you’ll get an overview of what the new safety feature does. In a nutshell it disables all notifications apart from incoming phone calls and text messages while you’re driving.

    Though, there are various options to customise your level of contact. …

    Stay safe with Windows Phone Driving Mode – Nokia Conversations

     Posted by at 3:00 am
    Jan 232014
     

    Sergey Tkachenko has the steps for turning off the requirement for a password to log into your Windows 8.1 machine. I don’t recommend this for a portable computer — you don’t want it to be easy for someone to use your misplaced / lost / stolen machine. Actually, I feel the same way about my non-portable desktop. Consider setting up a PIN if the password is too much trouble.

    Autologon with Microsoft Account in Windows 8.1 | Winaero

    If you are the only user of the computer/tablet and would like to save your time and speed up the logon process, you might want to enable automatic logon for your Microsoft Account. It is very easy to do this. This method has been used for years to auto logon

    Autologon with Microsoft Account in Windows 8.1 | Winaero

     Posted by at 3:00 pm
    Jan 232014
     

    How do you like the nerdy phrase, “end-user readiness content”? Though aimed at business users, there are enough resource links here to be worth perusing by anyone using Windows 8.1.

    Announcing Windows 8.1 end-user readiness content

    Today we’re announcing the availability of the Windows 8.1 business user guide package. The package provides a range of guides and video tutorials that will ensure your users take full advantage of Windows 8.1.

    Announcing Windows 8.1 end-user readiness content

     Posted by at 11:43 am
    Jan 212014
     

    I use spoken commands with my Nokia Lumia 928 and a bluetooth headset (not required, but handily hands free). I can say “answer” or “ignore” a call, “read” a text, “reply” to a text (and dictate the text), etc.

    Using Speech on your phone | Windows Phone How-to (United Kingdom)

    Using Speech on your phone

    Make a call, send a text message, take a note, open an app or find something online using just your voice? You can! With Speech, you can do all these things and more.

    Using Speech on your phone | Windows Phone How-to (United Kingdom)

     Posted by at 3:57 pm