"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

PIX: Progress

08:38 Thursday, 17 February 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 64.35°F Pressure: 1021hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 10.36mph

I've deleted about 14,000 images from my iCloud library. So far, these have been the really easy ones. Dupes, out of focus, poorly framed, etc. Whenever I have some idle moments, I pick up an iPad and start scanning.

When I encountered a series of images from an event, I just skipped over it because I thought I'd give those shots a little more scrutiny. I've started giving events the once-over now, getting rid of the easy clinkers. There will be a third and likely fourth review, whereupon the remaining ones may be turned into a printed collection.

It's been bittersweet sometimes. A lot of good memories in those images. Some sad ones too. But I have to do this so I can leave something that's at least somewhat "meaningful" after I'm gone. They're all somewhat meaningful to me, but they can still be winnowed.

FWIW, the mechanical shutter of the OM-1 is rated for 400,000 actuations. Should last me a lifetime.

Just Say OM

04:18 Thursday, 17 February 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 58.57°F Pressure: 1021hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 3.44mph

Thought I might try something different instead of a 3-letter prefix...📷 instead of PIX. Specifically, this might have been CAM, since it's more about cameras than photographs. I also think the International Committee of New Emojis, or whatever they're called, should include an SLR-like image instead of just a rangefinder. Anyway, I digress.

[Ed. Okay, that didn't work. Emojis don't render in titles on export.]

Olympus sold its camera division off a little over a year ago to an outfit called JIP. The new entity was called OM Digital Solutions, and it has since branded its products, OM System.

Since then, there has been a lot of speculation and anxiety within the micro four-thirds community, what type of products, if any, the new company might introduce. It has released one camera, the E-P7 PEN-style camera; and one lens, the 20mm/f1.4 Pro prime.

The E-P7 is a rangefinder-style body, without an electronic viewfinder. This is a step back from the preceding PEN-F, with a built-in OLED viewfinder, but the PEN-F may have always been a one-off homage product if it didn't sell in great numbers. Prior to the PEN-F, the PEN cameras didn't have an electronic viewfinder, though most models since the E-P2 through the E-P5 (no P4, supposedly 4 in Japanese is bad luck), as well as the "PEN Light," E-PL (E-PL1 through the E-PL8) and "PEN mini" E-PM1 and E-PM2, cameras all had an accessory port for an external evf. It was eliminated on the E-PL9 and E-PL10, so it was unsurprising it didn't appear on the E-P7.

It seemed as though the E-P7 was kind of a mash-up of the PEN and PEN Light bodies, with two control dials like the high-end PENs, but more limited customization menus and controls, and less high-end materials. It clearly wasn't a flagship product, though a decent camera in its own right, especially since it carried forward the PEN-F's well regarded color and b&w profiles and facilities for customizing those.

So we were all waiting for what might be forthcoming in a DSLR-type flagship mirrorless body. Would it be a variation on the E-M1x, Olympus's last flagship camera? Or something like the E-M1 Mark 3? Would it be in some ways less than either of those?

Well, the answer came this week with the announcement of the new OM System, OM-1 mirrorless camera. The body is nearly identical to the OM-D E-M1 Mark 3, but with significant upgrades to all of the internals.

The biggest change is the sensor, which had been the same 20MP Sony sensor since the E-M1 Mark 2. I'm still somewhat confused about the spec, with most people claiming its Sony's four-thirds, 80MP quad-bayer, backside illuminated stacked sensor. Micro-lenses are placed over each group of four (2x2) pixels, for an effective resolution of 20MP; and apparently this configuration has something to do with the new auto-focus system with more than 1,000, cross-type phase-detect autofocus points covering the entire frame.

Paired with the sensor is a new TruPic X (pronounced "Ex") image processor, which is supposed to be three times as fast as preceding TruPic 9. The good news on this front is that the computational photography features like Live ND and the tripod and handheld high-res shots being completed in half the time. Onboard memory, which buffers images in continuous shooting and holds the data for the computational imaging modes, has been increased though I haven't seen an official spec.

The third major upgrade is in the evf, with a much higher resolution OLED display. I didn't have any complaint about the old viewfinder, but apparently the new one is significantly better.

There are some minor improvements to image stabilization, which was already class-leading; improvements to weather and dust sealing; and seemingly some improvement in noise reduction in high-ISO jpeg rendering.

Video wasn't ignored either, but I know very little about video and have less interest, so no comment here.

There are changes to the body, with the control dials now mounted within the body, like on the E-M1x, instead of on the top plate; and a slightly thicker grip. I've found that the E-M1 (non-X) bodies are most comfortable with a bottom bracket attached, which gives just the right amount of additional height for my little finger to feel like it has somewhere to be, versus kind of hanging out there, either under the body or on the very edge of the grip and not feeling natural in either location. It was never a deal breaker, but I was surprised at the difference a bottom bracket made.

From a hardware standpoint, there seems to be general agreement that this meets the mark for a flagship product in a competitive marketplace. The other big question was price. Olympus always seemed to charge a premium above what was reasonable in the marketplace for its newly released flagship products. The E-M1x was over $3K when it was released. I bought mine after the price had been reduced well below $2K. The OM-1 is priced more reasonably at about $2,200 US.

It's likely that most of the design had been done while the camera division was still part of Olympus, so the question was what OM Digital Solutions was willing to bring to the market. Would it simply exploit the Olympus brand, and bring a lesser camera to the market? (This is the last camera that will have the "Olympus" brand on the camera.) Or would it try to establish its reputation with a truly flagship product. It seems it has chosen the latter.

Although I need another camera like I need a hole in my head, and the capabilities of my existing cameras already exceed my skills as a photographer, I've pre-ordered an OM-1. As these things go, it's an emotional decision. On the one hand, there's the usual desire to own the "latest and greatest," on the other is a desire on my part to see OM Digital Solutions succeed in the marketplace. The latter is still an issue that is very much in doubt, so I'm doing my part to vote with my dollars. I think the marketplace is better served with more competitors, and Olympus has been an innovator in the space. We'll see what happens, I may simply be foolish.

I may have to go through my collection of cameras and decide which ones might be better served in a new home. The E-M1 Mark 2 is likely to receive little attention anymore now. I have an E-M5 Mark 2 that I like, but have no real attachment to. The E-M10 Mark 4 is a nice, lightweight body that pairs well with the 14-150mm zoom for a walking around camera if I don't want something discreet, so I'll be keeping that. I bought my E-M1 (Mark 1), as a pre-release almost a decade ago, and I do seem to have some affection for it. The E-M1x is a beast, and likely more camera than I wish to carry; but I don't know yet. I shot with it the other day, and it's perfect for just sitting on our back patio, waiting for the little birds to become accustomed to my presence. It was the first camera with bird AI auto-focus, and does a pretty good job nailing focus among all the branches.

The E-M1 Mark 3 is the camera I've been shooting the most with on travel, what little we've done since the pandemic. It has Live-ND, which was fun to play with in Rockport at the beach, and hand-held high resolution. It lacks the AI auto-focus features of the E-M1x and the OM-1, so I'm going to have to think about whether it's worthwhile to hang onto both of them. I probably will keep both, but I am wrestling with it, so who knows?

Anyway, as problems go, not bad ones to have. Happy to see the OM-1. Hope mine arrives before we go out west next month.

Here's a Gray Cat Bird from the other day, sitting outside with the E-M1x and the mZuiko 100-400mm/f5-6.3 attached. It's a JPEG straight out of the camera (SOOC):

Photograph of a Gray Cat Bird perched on a branch.

Still Lazy After All These Years

07:10 Tuesday, 8 February 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 46.85°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 95% Wind: 6.91mph

Since about 2017 I've been involved, at something perhaps just a little more than an insignificant level, with local politics. I sought a seat on the local Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors and won that by dint of having no opponent.

I resigned that seat in 2020 to run for state representative after being asked to do so. Wasn't much fun. Lost, but we knew that going in. Learned a lot.

And I've been involved in various committees and organizations, seeking to help promote change in the region. Most recently, I wrote a handbook for becoming a candidate and the very basics of running a campaign.

Now I think I'm done.

In many ways, it's been quite an eye-opening experience. Everything is far worse than I knew, and there's little prospect for improvement in the near term.

How it became such a revelatory experience perhaps offers some insight into why there's little hope for change, at least for the foreseeable future.

Florida, in the main, and this region of Florida in particular, has been governed exclusively by the Republican Party for more than twenty years. The net effect of that governance has been to create two Floridas. One for people like me, the privileged; and the other for what I like to call the ignored.

Life for the privileged is pretty good in Florida. We have low taxes, and the legislature is constantly seeking ways to lower them more, or place barriers on localities increasing them. The privileged can live in areas with good schools, or send their children to one of the many private schools the state supports with public money. Crime is mostly kept confined to urban areas, and policing is heavily resourced. For the privileged, with health insurance, Florida has an enormous array of healthcare providers and facilities. And although Florida's natural environment is vanishing, what remains is attractive and affords many outdoor recreational opportunities for the privileged.

So, among the privileged, Republican governance has been a good thing.

Not so much for the ignored. Florida has never expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that the program is a net economic win for the state. Affordable housing has always been a problem for the ignored, and it's growing worse now. The ignored are confined to schools that are severely under-resourced. Florida ranks near the bottom of all states in education spending. For decades, Florida has subsidized the tourism "industry" by refusing to raise the minimum wage, ignoring the millions of Floridians living on the ragged edge of poverty. When the minimum wage was raised by a statewide ballot initiative, the Republican legislature set about creating legal exceptions to actually paying it. And now it's working hard to close the ballot initiative window, which also brought back the right to vote for returning citizens, and which the legislature effectively gutted by means of bad-faith fuckery.

The ignored don't have a voice, and the Republican Party has seen to it that if they try to use it, they'll be locked up. That was the whole point of last legislative session's "anti-riot" law HB1.

The Democratic Party might be the voice of the ignored, but much of the Democratic Party in Florida is run, and run badly, by the privileged. Let's be clear, the privileged like their privileges. Which mostly means, their money.

The Republican Party is the party of money for that reason. But Democrats aren't broke. They just don't want to put their money where their mouths are.

There's a horrible story to be told about Republican governance in Florida, but the press isn't going to tell it. It's not news. The frog has been well and truly boiled. It's only found in statistics, and in the places where tourists never go.

Democrats could tell that story, but it would take money. And nobody wants to give any.

Ultimately, this is unsustainable. I don't know how it ends, but it doesn't end well; and there's a lot of needless suffering along the way.

I just know I have little interest in trying to recruit people to run for office, who will be under-resourced. The very first thing that gets reported about a candidate in Florida is how much money they or their committee have. If they don't have any money, they're among the ignored.

It's all very depressing, and I don't want to go to any more meetings, read any more emails about vote-by-mail, or go canvassing or any other traditional, essential and ultimately useless efforts.

In Florida, dollars count more than votes, and for whatever reason, Democrats just haven't got the money.

Still Here

08:10 Sunday, 6 February 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 50.4°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 8.01mph

Just a quick post after building the necessary infrastructure for another month.

Notes From the Underground has gone live. I haven't written much, but I have some ideas gestating.

The Photos library is getting smaller. I've deleted about 6K images. I was surprised at how good the iPhone 7 camera was. There was something about the color too. I skipped the 8 and went next to the XR, which had this weird HDR-like thing going on all the time and all the reds in the sky turned pale orange. Slightly better in the 11, haven't really done many sunrises/sunsets with the 13. But the 7 was nice.

Also see many pictures of my pets, now all deceased. Miss them. Especially little Schotzie. Will I ever have another one? Probably, but it's not something my wife is eager to see. I've never had to go out and find a pet, they've all just appeared in my life. Time will tell.

I'm still reading The German War. It's astonishing and sad how easily people accommodate themselves to evil, how they compartmentalize it. There's a lot of relativism, "this may be bad, but that's worse." I need to read about the history of the Russian Revolution, Marxism and Communism. It's not clear to me how it became so inextricably linked to Jews in the minds of many, not just in Germany. I don't think there's anything unique about the Germans, I think all humans behave the same way, given similar circumstances. It's the circumstances that must be guarded against somehow.

Anyway, the beat goes on.