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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Last week, our Audi A3 was summoned to its first mandatory technical inspection. Since it is a CNG-powered car, I had to bring a supplementary document, attesting that the CNG installation is as it should be – and that required an extra inspection by the manufacturer (one of its dealers, actually). Four years is still young, for a modern car at least, so all I had to do was take the day off and wait a couple of hours in order to get the document. Not really a fun afternoon, but so be it.

The interesting part was that I was offered a look a the CNG tanks, which are normally hidden from sight since they’re under the trunk. Here’s what they look like from below:

Next inspection of the CNG parts will be in 2022.

The mandatory inspection of the rest of the car went well, too. Do you notice the location of the exhaust, which is not where most cars have it? Well, the inspectors trying to measure the exhaust gases had a lot of trouble finding it!

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After a hot summer came a relatively sunny September – at least, the sun did better than average as far as our solar panels are concerned. We ended up with with 104% of the average of the previous eight year. As far as I’m concerned, that may be the case for the coming months as well – but that’s not something we decide, right?

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Yes, a Bugatti Chiron with just 5.3 hp does exist. It weighs about 1500 kg and is made (almost) exclusively from… Lego™ Technic – including the power train, consisting of 2304 little electric motors from the Technic line. The fact that it can actually be driven is quite impressive…

But I wonder: buying all those bricks is going to be very expensive, should you want to try and build one yourself. How about 3D-printing them?

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The numbers are in, now that September is started. All in all, the summer of 2018 was above average in terms of solar electricity production, even though August did not entirely live up to what I had hoped for. I don’t know whether the lower temperatures of the last few weeks have helped: I should install a thermometer on the roof in order to have serious temperature records – but that’s not a priority now ;-)

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It’s a coincidence, of course: just days after I publish my story about the Panasonic cameras, the company announces a new version of their Lumix LX100. The “LX100 II”, as it is called, certainly comes with fine credentials and a promising lens: a 24-75mm equivalent F1.7-2.8 lens. DPReview already has a “first impressions review” about this new model.

The biggest mirrorless announcement came from Nikon, of course, and I’m certain the brand-new Z6 and Z7 camera’s will be great. But speaking for myself: those are not the camera’s I was (am) looking for. They’re way too expensive for me, to start with. The lens line-up is fine for pro photographers to start with, but not for me. Besides, those lenses are still rather bulky – as they have to be, considering the size of the full-frame sensor.

The Nikon announcement does make it clear that “mirrorless” is most likely the way of the future. Not that I needed any confirmation, but it seems to prove that I made the right choice when switching to MFT.

Did you also note that the DPReview TV video titled “Nikon Z7 hands-on first impressions” was recorded on a Panasonic GH5 ? That’s not a coincidence!

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According to DPReview, the Micro Four Thirds format was introduced 10 years ago. DPReview calls it the start of a revolution, because it enabled Panasonic and Olympus to offer serious, even professional, system cameras without a mirror-based viewfinder, thus entering a market previously reserved for Nikon and Canon.

In 2008 I was already committed to the Nikon SLR format. I had been using an F50 film camera for more than a decade, and I had just replaced my D70 of 2006 with a second-hand D80. So I did not really care about the MFT announcement, what I wanted was an affordable full-frame Nikon DSLR (still waiting, by the way).

When my Fujifilm X20 started to show its age a year ago, I started looking around for a possible replacement. I went looking for an affordable small camera with a decent viewfinder, a usable zoom lens, a hot shoe and serious controls. After a lot of searching an pondering I decided that the Panasonic DMC-LX100 could be what I was looking for. But it was still a bit too expensive for me at that time: I looking for a second all-in-one camera, not for a replacement of the Nikon D5600 I considered to be my main workhorse ;-) Some of the MFT cameras that were presented to the public the past 10 years did catch my attention, but the really interesting ones are system cameras, and they would have “forced” me to build up a second collection of lenses – and I did not want to do that, for financial reasons as well as lack of space in my photo cabinet.

At the beginning of this year, just by accident, I found out that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 with its standard 12-32 zoom was offered for (substantially) less money than the LX100.  So I bought the GX80… and that was the start of an unexpected experience.

You see, the GX80 showed me that the MFT platform has matured so much that the image quality rivals that of APS-C, at least for my purposes. No, the viewfinder is not as large as the viewfinder of a Nikon DSLR like the D7500, but it will do for me. In fact, I prefer it because the electronic display is capable of displaying the complete menu system of the camera, meaning that I don’t have to get my reading glasses to change a setting during a shoot! At the same time, the GX80 and its lenses are so much smaller and lighter than the corresponding Nikon material – I admit to having bought a cheap 45-150mm telezoom for the GX80, contrary to my plans for this camera . And the results, in terms of image quality, are good enough for me even now (and I know I still have to learn more about them in order to use their full capabilities).

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80
with the excellent 12-60mm zoom lens

To cut a long story short: I am replacing my Nikon material with Panasonic cameras and lenses. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80 body weighs a bit more than the D5600, but the lenses are much smaller and lighter – and the whole system is weatherproof as well. The ergonomics of the camera are great as well: you need the manual to come to grips with the many capabilities and options of the camera, not with its use. I have added the Panasonic G Vario 12-60 lens to my collection. That means I now have a camera and lens that can do almost everything I want to do while on holiday without having to change lenses, while weighing less than 800g.

I know that an expert or professional full-frame DSLR with premium lenses will deliver better images, even if it’s just me using it. But these products are way too expensive for me, and I don’t want to haul them around a whole day while I’m supposed to enjoy my surroundings – so I have put the dream of owning those to rest.

Having a smaller range-finder-like camera like the GX80 or the GX9, that can use the same lens collection, is another plus. In fact, in combination with the standard 12-32mm lens these cameras are not that much bigger than the Fuji X20, just heavier – they still fit in the supple Nikon camera case I bought a long, long time ago for an L35AW. I don’t see Nikon (or Canon) offer me the same capabilities in the same small package. Unless Nikon or Canon are ready to embrace the MFT platform as well – that would be interesting, don’t you think?

For another view on the MFT platform and its place in recent camera history, check out the DPReview video:

 

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I was under the impression that I had already blogged about Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeesten’, but a search did not turn up any posts on this blog. To redress that inadvertence, here’s a link to the official website of these artificial beasts. Theo has been working on these animals since almost thirty years, and there are already quite a few videos and photos to be found on the internet. It’s good to see that people – be they artists or engineers or whatever – still think about the absolute simplest way of getting things to work, especially in these times of electronic devices.

Thanks for reminding me, BoingBoing!

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