Sunday, April 19, 2009



First the disclaimer: I am no photographer. There are many other motorcycle bloggers who take much better pictures than I do, and the engineer in me leans toward documentation rather than art, I must admit. Nevertheless, I enjoy snapping pictures as I explore the places I ride, and I sometimes get one that is attractive, occasionally even artistic.

In the digital age, I find that I take more photographs than I did with film. This is probably because the bad pictures can simply be deleted, but you still have to pay for those on film.

My first digital camera was a Sony Mavica FD-88. I bought it used for $50 about fourteen months ago. New in 2000, it would have cost about $750 (!). Some of you may be old enough to remember floppy disks. Well, this camera records images on 3-1/2" floppy disks. Each
1.44MB floppy diskette holds between four and eight images. It is amazing how good the pictures are despite the fact that the best resolution is only 1,280 x 960 pixels. (There are also two lower resolutions, 640 x 480 and 1024 x 768.) It has an 8 power true optical zoom that reaches out to the equivalent of a 400mm lens on a 35mm camera. Here is a review, and here is another one. The time to record onto the floppy disk is surprisingly short as well -- about as long as it takes for some digital cameras to record onto flash cards, albeit the file sizes are not the same.

Here is a photo
of my Kawasaki Ninja 650R taken hand-held with the FD-88 from a distance at Keowee-Toxiway State Park.

Here is a picture taken from the same spot with full 8x zoom, still hand-held.

I think both photos came out pretty well.

Another advantage of using floppy disks is that you can take someone's picture and give them the diskette to take with them. Since floppys are very plentiful and cheap, you can easily afford to do that. One problem, though, is that not many new computers include a floppy drive.

I took most of my early blog photographs with this camera, but I wanted something smaller and with greater memory capacity so I don't have to pack dozens of floppy disks. I also wanted something that was quicker to download from the camera.

I checked a few Internet camera sites and found the Panasonic DMC-LZ8. It has a
resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels (plus several lower resolutions and aspect ratios) and a 32mm (35 mm equivalent: 32-160mm) 5x optical zoom Leica DC lens. There is image stabilization for those of us with shaky hands, and it has what they call the Intelligent Auto mode, so it figures out what it is looking at and decides what settings to use. That is the way I have used it so far. It also has many manual settings that I have only begun to explore. It can take movie clips. I paid $108 on line, and $10 for an 8 gigabyte memory card at Christmas last year.

So far, I have enjoyed using this camera, and most of the blog photos since Christmas of 2008 have been taken with it.

Problems that I have not solved:

  • Where should I stow the camera so it is ready for a shot on short notice? I keep it in my tank bag, but it takes some time to get it out and shoot.
  • How do the other bloggers manage to shoot a picture while they are riding? Why don't their gloves interfere and how do they keep from crashing while they are playing photographer?

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