Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Future of Palm PDA

How time flies when it comes to technology! A few years ago the Palm PDA was a big hit. Sales were soaring and work groups were thriving discussing various ways to make new exciting applications that made our life easier. It seems that all this came to a dead end suddenly as innovation stopped and the future of the famous Palm PDA became doomed. I don't see the conventional PDA device surviving side by side to the more powerful iPhone and other PDA/phone devices. The iPhone does not need a stylus, and has similar capabilities to a MAC laptop in addition to a phone function. I am afraid to say that the conventional PDA has become obsolete. It is sad because I liked this invention so much, the Palm PDA that is, but that is the pace of technology which makes any stagnant idea obsolete in a matter of a few years. Palm needed the visionary thinking of Steve Jobs, but instead they ran out of innovation, and that made the end loom so near. I will probably still use my Palm PDA for another year or two, but sooner or later I feel that I will be switching to an iPhone, or whatever new gadget Steve Jobs is going to come up with next. Change is the only constant in life, and this is becoming more and more demonstrated with the advancement of technology. We have to continue adapting and buying new gadgets on almost a yearly basis now. How far is this going to continue? Are we going to adapt to technology on a monthly basis soon? Then on a weekly basis? Then what? There must be a self-limiting mechanism that will kick in to stop this madness. I just wonder when and how. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

RAW or JPEG Photo Format?

I have been using the RAW format for all the photos that I take with my Canon DSLR camera lately, until I found out that it was a big pain to convert large number of them later on to JPEG that is necessary to share with others. The converted files are in the order of 10 MB each. If I use JPEG format at the time I shoot the pictures then each picture comes to about 2.5 MB. So what am I really gaining from shooting in RAW format? It is supposed to give me maximum flexibility in editing with software like Photoshop, and it has the highest clarity and minimum processing leading to least artifacts possible. However, after weighing the advantages versus the combersome conversion to JPEG eventually I decided that it is not worth shooting in RAW format except for special purposes. Image editing software like Photoshop or GIMP can still process JPEG photos with as much flexibility as for RAW photos, and the end result is almost identical between the two formats for the naked eye.
Recently I visited Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, and I took this photo from my hotel room which had full view of the Falls. The original picture was shot in RAW format and was converted later to JPEG without any editing of the RAW picture. This picture was the pick of the day on the accuweather website at
Well, the fact that I did not need to alter or edit the original RAW photo shows that it was not necessary for me to shoot RAW in the first place. Of course this is not always the case, but as I mentioned one can still edit JPEG photos as easily and the end result is more or less the same.
So I'd say forget RAW for regular everyday shooting. Wouldn't you agree with me?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Photo Comparison

I promised to show photos showing a comparison between different camera technologies. In the following are two photos of the Grand Canyon taken by two different digital cameras: An HP 3 Mega pixel camera, and an Olympus C7000 camera with 7.1 Mega pixel resolution.

The first photo is that taken by the HP PhotoSmart camera and its original size is 446 KB. The camera settings were as follows: Focal length 5.9 mm, shutter speed 1/111.1 sec, aperture f 9.8, and exposure compensation was 0.0EV. The second photo is that from the Olympus C7000 camera and had an original size of 390 KB. The camera settings were: Focal length 7.9 mm, shutter speed 1/500 sec, aperture f 7.1, exposure compensation -0.7EV, and ISO sensitivity 100.
Obviously the two shots are not the same but they were taken under similar conditions four years apart. No adjustments were possible with the HP camera as it was a simple point and shoot camera, but the Olympus shot was taken with Shutter priority setting with the above settings. The focus in both shots was automatic, although it is possible to adjust the focus manually with the Olympus camera.
Which photo looks better? It seems to me that the first picture was sharper and had fuller colors than the second one. I don't know about you but I think that the older and simpler HP camera takes better pictures than the more advanced Olympus one. What do you think?

Digital Cameras

I remember the days when I had my old Pentax 35 mm SLR camera in the seventies. I always admired the Canon and the Nikon lenses long before digital photography emerged. I bought a Nikon camera in the mid eighties although I could not afford a good Nikon lens at the time, and I had to settle for a zoom Nikkor lens. I was able to take decent pictures with that camera although I always aspired for better quality photos, mainly more sharpness and richer colors.
Then came digital cameras that changed photography forever. No more you need to wait till you develop your film to see the results, and you can shoot as many photos as you like as long as you have enough juice in your battery. My first digital camera was an HP 3Mega pixel one that I bought in 1997. That one was a simple point and shoot camera that did not have any manual adjustments. It served me well until finally it stopped working in the summer of 2004 when it got wet from rain. Then I bought an Olympus C7000 with 7Mega pixel resolution. That latter camera had all the features that I had in my old Pentax and Nikon cameras. I could choose Automatic, Aperture priority, Speed priority or Manual settings, and I could switch the ISO from 80 all the way to 400 which is equivalent to the ASA settings of the old film cameras. It had a zoom lens that covered wide angle to x4 magnification, and software that made it possible to edit and even stitch photos to make wide angle panoramas. It was quite impressive for its price of $260 (refurbished). The picture quality from that last camera was not bad at all but still the pictures were not as sharp as I wanted them to be and the colors were not rich enough for me. I wanted a real SLR camera that I could use with different lenses, and at the same time make use of all the advantages of the digital technology, like Canon Rebel or Nikon D40 or D80 etc. These cameras are entry level professional grade that allow you to use many lenses just like the old professional film cameras. The Canon Rebel D400 (XTi) and Nikon D80 have resolution of 10.1 Mega pixel and all the features of the film SLR cameras, and most importantly they have a great selection of lenses from wide angle to telephoto and in between.
In particular I am fascinated with the Canon technology and lenses. I admire the Canon L series lenses and would love to own them if I could afford them. But until then I find the prime 50 mm f 1.8 lens, which has a price tag of less than $100, to be an excellent lens. It captures spectacular sharp images with magnificent color and detail. Even the 18-55 mm lens that comes with the Rebel XTi camera kit is good enough if you know its limitations, mainly avoid small f numbers and use at f 11 and higher for wide angle. The price tag for a good new digital SLR camera such as Canon Rebel XTi or Nikon D80 is about $750 without the lens. You could go cheaper with Olympus or other brands but if you are going to spend that kind of money then it is worth it to get the best, because it makes a big difference in the image quality that you will get.
So finally I decided to own the Canon Rebel XTi camera with the 18-55 mm lens that comes with it. I bought it refurbished for $750 which included the lens, an extra battery and a 4 GB memory card. In addition to that I bought a brand new Canon 50 mm f 1.8 lens for about $90, and a new 75-300 mm Canon lens for about $130. The latter lens is not the USM type (Ultra Sonic Motor automatic focus), but has the older DC motor drive. The optics is the same but the USM provides quieter and faster focusing. I think with this gear I am ready to take professional grade photos that I always aspired to. I haven't started yet because the camera and lenses won't be delivered to my house till next Monday, but I am quite excited to try this latest digital camera technology and optics. I intend to show some results in my next posting, so stay tuned ...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The iPod Phone

Just as I predicted before, it was inevitable that the iPod was going to be integrated with a phone in one device. The new device is relatively big, expensive, and limited to 8 Mb memory. With time, however, the size will shrink and the price will come down and the memory will reach 30 G and beyond.
I recently replaced my old T3 Palm PDA with a new Palm TX device, which has WiFi and Bluetooth. Now I can surf the internet with my new Palm, which is a big plus, but I lost some functionality as compared to the old T3 device. The Palm TX has smaller dynamic memory, which I don't understand why. Due to this limitation in dynamic memory, I can't run some of the older applications that used to run fine with the T3 PDA, such as PalmPDF reader and ABC-Morse. The PalmPDF reader fails to open big PDF documents, which makes it useless on the new PDA, while the ABC-Morse application cannot sound the Morse characters smoothly anymore, probably due to this limitation in dynamic memory. Merely adding WiFi function into the PDA made me lose other PDA functions that ran fine on the old PDA. This is exactly what I was afraid of when they integrate more functions into the old plain vanilla PDA , such as phone or WiFi.
Now I wonder what will we lose in the iPod phone besides memory. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting they stop the integration effort, because eventually it will work right. All what I am saying is that there is a price for this integration. I could be nostalgic defending the way things used to be, but right now a plain PDA still works better than a PDA than a phone PDA, and a plain iPod is most likely going to work better than a phone iPod. This might change in the future, but until then I will continue to be nostalgic. What do you think?