Sunday, 26 June 2016

Thought for the Day

It is my way to write down in a journal my thoughts when I'm moved to do so. I have a number of headings to these thoughts, but one such is "thought for the day". As I approach 4 years without Anita I thought I'd share one such thought with you.

What was and what is and what is only in memory.

Its easy to live in the now and be unbound to the past. However living that way brings reactions to things and fears from half remembered things which are twisted in memory by the inaccuracies of human memory.

To live in the past and have all actions dictated by what was is fraught with an inability to move beyond that point, stuck in an arrested development, held ransom to nostalgia or some other manifestation.

The question is how to live with what was and what is and yet move forwards to adapt to and enjoy what comes. It becomes more profoundly difficult when that encompasses the loss of ones you love. I write the word in the sense of present continuous not past, because in many ways that love is undying. Sure, some people love and forget and move one .. sometimes its due to completion, sometimes its due to growth in their "self" to realise that maybe they didn't love that person, but were projecting a desire to love onto that person because they (quite simply) were there.

For the grieving person living with the reminders of that love makes living hard. These reminders may be the house you build together, the places you visited together or even the scars on your body of things you went through together. So not all can be discarded even if you wanted to.

Though it has been nearly 4 years I struggle with the absence, with the feeling of love that is not possible to be returned. For if I loved someone from afar who never returned my love that would be quite different to having been together in love and without any trauma or fight to be a breakup, with only the daily evidence of it getting better with much more to happen as we aged together to lose that in a single sudden stroke is hard to comprehend.

Humans are designed to be able to carry trust and love for many years , I would argue that from our earliest nomadic times such things were amplified by the evolution of who we are. So I can not forget Anita and the love for her, even though my intellectual brain knows that I'm not just "working away from her, to return later in the season".

Perhaps I will return ... either way I will only know when I die. At that point in time my knowledge will perhaps never be complete (if death is simply the end).

So I remain dogged by who I was designed and shaped into being by evolution of my species, dogged by a beautiful thing - a love shared with a beautiful spirit.



I hope you never truly know what it is that I'm talking about.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Oppo F1 - HDR mode further explored

important "pre" POST SCRIPT:


this morning I took a photo off the balcony which I put the camera into HDR and I got an interesting shot, I say interesting because I took two shots and attempted to make a proper HDR. In doing this assembly, I found that there were actually interesting artifacts in one image image which is familiar to anyone who makes HDR images by hand ... movement artifacts. To Wit:


the double image or "ghosting" of the wires, and support and the birds is quite similar to image overlay artifacts. You may note that I had to zoom in in my viewer to 214% to make them clear, but to me they seem to match the "pattern" I know so well. This suggests to me that it may actually be taking 2 or more images and blending them ... which would also explain the oddness I find below with the ISO as it may be recording only the lower of ISO's used in taking two images. This is because ISO shift is another method (shutter speed is the other) for gaining the two exposures. If you take two images and combine them what do you do with the data of each? Usually ignore it, or perhaps use one of them.

More Testing Needed

So now later in the day more testing is done: I've taken a shot in full sunlight (to force a high shutter speed) of a friend rapidly moving his hands. That should test any HDR algorithm that composites 2 or more images as this will reveal movement ghosting were it present.


Now, examining that image carefully I found just such a ghosting artifact over on Kevs left hand:



So this answers the question of "is the Oppo HDR a proper HDR" ... yes it is.

To be clear the image above has sufficiently high shutter to preclude "motion blur" with the speed that Kev can move his hands at:
Filename - IMG20160621100231.jpg
Make - OPPO
Model - F1f
ExposureTime - 1/1503 seconds
FNumber - 2.20
ISOSpeedRatings - 100

What it doesn't solve is why a tone mapped single image from a RAW file actually gives a better result ... except to say that the JPG writing engine on this phone is crummy.

Eg from my earlier post:

Standard JPG



HDR :


processed RAW (taken as RAW + JPG on the first exposure):


So HDR is a big improvement over the standard JPG, but you know it could be much better, it could be as good as Snapseed made.

Why Oppo? Why cripple your camera module with this crappy JPG engine.

The rest of this post now serves to show what benefits you can get from using HDR mode in many situations, for most owners will be barely wanting to even engage another mode like HDR, let alone bugger about with RAW and have an app like Snapseed on their phone (or drag it across to their PC and edit it there).




carrying on from my previous post on this topic I thought I'd put the Oppo on a support and without it moving take two shots in identical light to answer the question of:
That could be part of the algorithm or it could just be that it "picked differently" due to slightly different composition ...
So forgive my lack of foreplay and lets just get to it. So with the phone on the support I took these two shots. The left is "default" and the right is HDR



I know which one I prefer ... now, as I did nothing more than trigger the shutter button, change mode and again trigger the shutter button. They are both "undisturbed" and identical compositions, the differences therefore are down to the algorithm chosen as a result of the camera programming.

Lets look in more detail, top left corner:



where I see not only brighter, but more smudging from noise reduction algorithms. But...



better contrast and details on the HDR, but


slightly more "oversharpening" on the text on the HDR. Interestingly the wood textures came out better on the HDR

Yet, whites were unsaturated in either:


and if you ask me, the whites are better represented as whites (not greys as in the left hand "normal" image). When I did a course on photography many decades ago one of the early printing assignments (ohh, and we were using film and darkroom printing) was to photograph something white with texture and print it so that it looked white with texture still.

To my eye the right hand (the HDR) side looks better.

So lets look at the data from the EXIF:

Filename - IMG20160619175720.jpg  IMG20160619175704.jpg
...
ExposureTime - 1/10 seconds 1/10 seconds
FNumber - 2.20 2.20
ISOSpeedRatings - 2007 800



So the primary settings are the same, but ISO is about 1.5 stops higher on the "normal" shot when compared to the HDR shot. Since the shutter speeds are the same, this should mean that the normal shot would be brighter than the "HDR" shot which it isn't.

So what's going on?

To answer this we need to get a little into the issues of ISO and dynamic range. Normally as you squeeze more sensitivity out of a sensor (IE increasing the ISO) what happens is that dynamic range (the total difference between floor noise and clipping) falls. This is well known.

So what this suggests to me is that default camera settings attempt to push up the ISO, and squeeze the sensor captured dynamic range into a tighter band which is more compatible with the dynamic range of JPG (which is restricted to 8 bits per channel).

This image (taken with my 10D in India some years back) is a good example of what better software can make of a RAW file, which does not clip the whites and (by dint of being RAW) preserves the entire capture of data including the shadows. Note the better shadow details while maintaining the highlights

This is exactly what good software should do, to properly tonemap the RAW capture (often 12 bits) into the 8 bit space of the JPG ... the HDR mode on the Oppo is doing an acceptable job of this, but needs (it seems) two exposures to do it, while the standard software algorithm in the camera is not doing that very well at all.

The above shot from India was taken with the Canon 10D camera, which was introduced in 2003 ... so its no wonder that by 2009 when I used Photomatix on that same RAW image I was able to pull a "better" shot out of it.

What is less forgivable (or understandable) is why Oppo is shooting their own product in the foot before sending it out.

Clearly they have the HDR mode (because it was shipped with the phone),and clearly it does a better job of rendering a scene into a photograph.

Given that 90% of reviews don't have a clue, and 90% of buyers don't fiddle with settings, I have to ask: why the hell isn't this the standard mode?

Now the question I posed in the "pre post script" at the top combined with these and previous findings raises some interesting questions.


  • now that we have established that HDR is taking more than one shot, why is it so bad?
  • given that the capacity of the RAW file from a single shot demonstrates that the camerahas enough details and dynamic range (here , here  then at the end here) then why is it doing such a bad job of the JPG when in HDR or Standard mode?


Are Oppo wanting to undercut their own product?

Myself I'd want audience reception to be great from day 1 ... not tepid and critical as I read on the web.

outtakes

For those of us who have the F1 and like to use our phones to take photographs I offer you this:

set HDR mode every time you take a shot (or if you're a fiddler use RAW as I've already shown how much better that is in the previous post).

Shalom

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Oppo F1 - HDR Mode

I remain a little unclear as to if this mode is worth a rats arse or not.

As I explore it more I'm learning to "ask the right questions" of my photographs to see.

This morning I took some shots which suggested that it didn't really do much, but this after noon I took some shots which suggested that it did.

The answer seems to lay in "how contrasty is the lighting"

So this afternoon while it was overcast I took this shot off the balcony:


and then (wasn't using the tripod) this shot engaging the HDR setting:

The HDR shot actually seems to just get around the cameras dreadfully bad habit of making the shadows look like you'd scared a squid, while doing little to the highlights. As one who's used HDR a lot myself this is most definately NOT taking multiple shots and combining them into a HDR. So its more or less just doing a better job of tonemapping the initial shot into something like a decent photograph.

I confirmed the same again in my bedroom taking a shot of the clothes in my wardrobe (also in dim light) and the HDR setting was better (on the right).


Again, whites nearly the same (lifted perhaps a little) and the reflection on the floor from the door shows curtain shadow better on the right, where its not just "nuclear white"


... The left shot seems to show more shadow noise, so if it had simply dropped exposure then you'd expect that the lower exposure would be noiser (which is the right), so perhaps it is actually giving a bit more than just holding the highlights and beefing up the shadows.

From the EXIF data:
ExposureTime - 1/17 seconds --- 1/20 seconds
ISOSpeedRatings - 1155 --- 800

so it chose a lower ISO on the "HDR" image (which would tend to darken the image, but improve noise) but a shorter exposure on the NORMAL image (which would also tend to darken the image, were it not balanced by the raise in ISO).

That could be part of the algorithm or it could just be that it "picked differently" due to slightly different composition ... I'd need to ask that question in my next test by fixing the camera and fixing the same "metering point" to remove that from the equation.

So you see that each time you take a test shot, the analysis of that outcome guides your exploration for the next iteration.

next I'd like to look at the HDR test from early this morning, when I saw clouds low over our mountain range here being illuminated by the newly rising sun.



again, that squid has squirted its all into the shadows ... and escaped with the shadow details!

So with HDR engaged:

we see the much better preservation of the shadows, without destruction of the highlights (which simply increasing exposure would cause). Seems to fit the pattern.

However what could I have got if I'd taken RAW and processed it with Snapseed on the phone (at the expense of a few moments, which could be done at any time later)?

Well cunningly I prepared for this at the time of taking the first photograph above by: setting RAW capture (which also captures the standard shot at the same instant, writing both the card).


So when I "developed" that RAW file I applied two simple tweaks:
  • pushed the exposure up a little
  • pulled the highlights down (which prevents the clouds from going nuclear)
and that gave a much more dramatic version, capturing the highlights, keeping the shadows and actually rendered the upper altitude clouds nicer against the sky - something the HDR mode failed at.

Conclusions
To my mind if you are in doubt at all, then engage the HDR setting ... I actually think that its what the camera should default to. I suspect even that the HDR setting is more or less what a decent algorithm for writing the JPG should produce, and they only have the crummy standard one to make the HDR appear to do anything.

Of course (as always) if you are even thinking that this is going to be a keeper ... engage RAW

:-)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Oppo F1 night shot with "Expert Mode"

been waiting for a tripod mount (clamp) to arrive to test this out with a better result than hand held (which looked promising).

So this is a shot from my balcony well after sundown (looking North / North West). I cranked the ISO to 800 and the exposure time to 8 seconds



I'm impressed, with my eye I could barely make out any details in the bricks of the wall and the sky is of course not blue to my eye (although I've done other posts with my m43'rds camera to show that indeed the sky is blue at night with sufficient exposure).

Quite a satisfactory result!

I look forward to the next full moon to compare it to a shot taken some years back with my Nikon Coolpix


long exposure on a bigger pixel sensor


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Oppo F1 vs iPhone 5s - picture quality

a question arose as to the camera image quality of the Oppo F1 vs an iPhone 5s (from someone presumably wanting and upgrade path at a lower cost)

So as someone in the office has an iPhone 5s I just went to the balcony and took these shots.

conclusions up front:

So my finding is that the Oppo has a slightly better hardware camera module with a wider angle of view than the iPhone 5s - however, the JPG engine is crummy on this phone so to realise that potential of hardware you have to use RAW (actually implemented as a dng) and process in something else (like Photoshop in this case, or Snapseed on the phone if you wanted to).

As menitoned, images right out of the camera show (as I found in my first examination back here) that the Oppo JPG engine does a crummy job but you can sidestep that somewhat with the HDR mode (which rescues some of the shadows). So ...

The images

Oppo F1 jpg


iPhone 5s

which makes it obvious to me that:
  1. the Oppo is wider angle
  2. the iPhone made better exposure decisions and the image looks nicer

Now, I already know (from my earlier exploration) that the Oppo produces mushy JPGs, so there is no point in proving that again, so I decided to shoot RAW (which also simultaneously produces JPG (presented above) and RAW) so here is a processed version of the Oppo F1 image to compare at 100% pixels with what the iPhone system (that's camera and image processing) gives. So from here on in I'm looking at the RAW file.

Oppo F1 dng:

so, "holy shit" (again) ... Oppo, you really NEED to update the JPG engine in your shooter, cos its shooting you in the foot right now!!

the details

Ok, so lets discount the JPG produced by the native camera app and instead focus on the ability of the camera. Yes this is fair because IF you wanted to get the best image (not just something for instagram) then you will want the best and as yet iPhone does not offer RAW (that I know of), so lets pixel peep:

Oppo F1 dng / iPhone 5s centers:



and down at the lower right corner (Oppo / iPhone 5s):


So at 100% pixel peep the iPhone has less outright image feature size (even though it covers less width) and so if you applied some "zoom" on the Oppo to even them out, I'd call it that the Oppo has a better camera.

But all in all, the iPhone proves its not size that matters, its how you use it!!

The iPhone is a good JPG straight out of the phone, but to get this quality from the Oppo I had to do this little dance:
  1. shoot RAW (which makes a 25MByte file btw)
  2. transfer that file to my PC (I could have used Snapseed locally, but I prefer to work on the bigger screen, which I do later)
  3. open in Adobe Camera Raw (or Snapseed) and move the exposure up, account for a little vignetting and then do a little contrast enhance.
  4. lastly colour balance a little (and I think the iPhone did it better even then)
only THEN after that did I get a better shot out of the Oppo. Or Oppo could include a better JPG engine ...


Conclusion

in absolute terms the Oppo at under $300 is a better value for money camera than even a used iPhone 5s, but its not an absolutely better camera without a lot of fiddling.

As I proposed in my earlier post, if you are wanting to remember to use RAW mode when those "must have" shots are present then the Oppo will give you a better shot than an iPhone 5s ... unless you just leave it on JPG ... in which case it sucks


PS: here is the snapseed version



clicking it, then right clicking it, then clicking the magnifying glass should load the full file

Monday, 13 June 2016

Oppo F1, not quite a review : or how Smart Phones are getting dumber

or perhaps "the unsmartening of Android"

For some years now I've been using a Symbian phone and have not found any strong reasons to move to either iPhone or Android. Its not that I haven't tried both, its just that I've always been left "with a bad taste in my mouth" by either. I've tried (and in some cases ditched) Froyo, Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich, KitKat and now Lollipop on a variety of Phones and Tablets.

Bottom line first:

I like this phone, its good value for money and in the current reality of the market its hard to get better value for money.

  • camera is good (and the reviews complaining about it are usually operator error / ignorance). It lacks Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) but even the iPhone 6 only puts it on the Plus model
  • 4G connectivity is good and voice quality and data are good
  • system memory is a good amount compared to many other phones
  • its slender and fits in my pants pocket well
  • screen is good and clear
  • comes with a bunch of actually useful things pre-installed
What I don't like is
  • giving up my physical keyboard - the ergonomics of typing on these increasingly larger phones is extraordinarily frustrating. Back when phones were smaller (like iPhone 3 and 4) the balance was no so precarious as it is now.
  • 5" is bigger than I'd like, I happen to like the iPhone 4s and 5s form factor, but you know everyone tells me "I'll get used to it" ... there is a name for this mental problem: Stockholm Syndrome
  • its difficult to handle without setting off things or your hand touching one part while trying to touch another (but you'll get used that that and just laugh it off with a slightly nervous girly laugh
  • the Oppo arrangement of buttons is backwards (recent apps on the left {and a long press at that}, and navigation back on the right ... like WTF?
  • lack of granularity of simply selecting sounds for the ringer / sms suitable to my situation (back yard working, meetings) ... but you'll get used to it right?
So aside from the many factors related to the stupidity of a touch screen (and not even pressure touch like on the palm - and wait what are apple introducing) with no decent bezel to hold it safely nor any tacticle feedback) its an extraordinarily good package.

Frustratingly all of the reviews that I've read either are written by kiddies without a clue (perhaps the market?) or are unaware of the basic facts of life. Such things as complaining about 'blurred images' when the actual problem is 1) their miserable skills as a camera operator 2) the touch screen issues mentioned above.

So for those chasing a review of the phone, I suggest this review by another Australian. I don't know the bloke from a bar of soap, but his review sits well with my experiences and helped cement my decision to buy it. Unlike the plethora of other reviews there is no King Wang on his review and its not written by a nong.

Ok, so what's this here for?

Basically I need to move towards a 4G capable phone, and the phone I have and like is not capable of that because it was made before 4G existed. So I've been forced to upgrade, or should I say "side grade".

For myself I find that the 5" phone is bigger than I'd like a phone to be, but smaller than I'd like a tablet to be. So its a compromise which I don't happen to like. The current crop (and its been that way for some 5 years now) of phones are expensive, fragile and suck bandwidth at a phenomenal rate. This leads to you never having enough money because you're stuck in an expensive upgrade cycle of upgrading your phone, leading to upgrading your plan, leading to upgrading your phone.

I doubt that anyone who thinks like me will find this in any way informative because they have probably already shared my pain.

I doubt that kids of today will get it, because they've never had experience with anything else and so just like they couldn't tell a real 4WD like a Landy, from a city type styled one (like a Freelander), they don't have the right expectations to tell these devices from a functional tool.

It seems to me so much of the market these days is focused on "how it feels in your hand",
how it looks,
how much cachet the brand has and if it takes good selfies.

Using documents, replying to emails on the road, this is "content creation" ... screen only devices by nature are more about content consumption (like watching a movie, looking at a web page, listening to music).

Basically phones have become icons for wankers more than tools for a job and to and the needs of technical or business people (who more or less drove the revolution before iPhone) who have communications needs and expectations. These criteria are now pushed to the side by marketing who know the real money is to sell to sheeple who have to upgrade to the new bling every year or more.

...but you know, there's an app for that.

My problem:

Even with all this as my understanding this phone has shown me that Android is getting worse. I have had a few Android phones and still use two tablets which are ICS I've used earlier Gingerbread and Froyo versions of Android on phones. I ditched the phones (cos my Nokia was better in almost all regards) but kept the tablets because the screen area was nice.

I've used iPhones a bit but have been annoyed by things like (but not limited to)
  • limited bluetooth capacity including non-existant bluetooth file or contacts transfer
  • a complete lack of a visible file system
  • lack of IO with anything not Apple
  • music limited to iTunes
  • no SD expansion of the amount of memory
Essentially it was not much more than an MP3 player (without the convenience of your own MP3 collection) , a feature phone, some eye candy and games and a browser.

The public (being shallow and simple) wet themselves over this trinket.

Meanwhile Android offered an appeal to those who were technically literate with a device which was based on Unix, offered access to the file system and had better communications.

While the world quietly wet itself over these toys there were some hard core (often business oriented) users who really only wanted basic WWW, but valued such things as:
  • reading and editing documents
  • email
  • using their device as a shuttle for data
as well as being a phone and general communications tool.

Problem: Google has crippled SD

Yep, access to a file system, just like on a computerone of the most significant selling points (apart from price) that Android has had over iPhone has been scuttled.

Good one Google ... dumb it down because it was too smart for the dumbos out there to handle.

My discovery of this began innocently, I transferred the documents I work on regularly from my Nokia to my Oppo ... that went reasonably smoothly using my laptop to open my Nokia as a drive (as the Nokia has an excellent bluetooth FTP system that allows Windows 7 to just mount the entire phone as a drive and open its internal memory and SD memory via bluetooth FTP. The Oppo's file manager has an FTP driver (which uses the WiFi) that allows me to (via my Laptop) bridge between the two devices and just move files across.

Nice...

It was just about then (when I was opened to edit the spreadsheet for my fuel log) my boat hit the sandbank...

Android no longer allows non OEM apps to write to the SD card ... yes, that's right, and its not just my imagination: here is an article by Android Police:

Google is apparently firming up its position on expandable storage even further, though, and in a way that limits flexibility and changes how we can use it. ... In essence, WRITE_MEDIA_STORAGE duplicated the original functionality of WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE, but with a catch: it was impossible for regular apps to request it. The new permission had a protection level of systemOrSignature, which limited it to system applications (usually those included by Google and OEMs) and anything signed by the creator of the permission (the OS itself). The end result was that the original WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission could only give apps the ability to write to the primary storage, but not secondary storage. ... Basically, this cut off any possibility for 3rd-party apps to modify data on SD cards.

So basically your SD card can be read fine for music , and written to by the camera and some other "pre installed apps" but you creating your own file system and writing to that is now gone.

This is where my annoyances move to frustrations, as essentially I now have to put my documents for editing on the internal storage which is quite limited on this phone. Sure it has 16Gig, but the reality of that is, with almost nothing installed on it the "partitioning" of that 16Gig gives 3 Gig to system RAM and even fresh out of the box I only had 10Gig available, and without even installing much have only 7Gig free right now.


So fairly quickly it becomes apparent that:
  1. 16GB isn't really 16GB you get access too
  2. increasingly your SD is meaningless.
This is not helped by the fact that fuck all apps can actually install to the SD, and indeed may only actually end up using it for "data" ... some really not at all.

Is this a show stopper? Well I'm not sure .. but its a kick in the nuts that's for sure.

Is it a phone, or is it a computer, or is it a ....

I'd prefer to just call it a "device" because compared to my earlier plain old Nokia 1100 phone (which ran for a week on a charge, was tough, rugged ...) , things like my E72 are really computers, which have proper email access, as well as WWW access,have word processors and spreadsheets, have file systems that can be used by external devices, MP3 players, audio recorders, can be WiFi Hotspots for my laptop, have acceptable cameras,  ... hell I've even used m E72 to stream audio and video across the world so friends in other continents could share in a situation live.

Oh, and did I mention native support for SMS locking and encryption?

Its a bloody smart phone, in fact its a computer which makes calls and fits in my pocket...

Well if you like it, why change?

However, the fundamentals of telephony (the RF bands that phones are based on) is shifting, and 4G is now well established in many parts of the world. So much so that GSM (or 2G to newbies) is actually being shut down. So the writing is on the wall ... just like Analog phones and then CDMA the technology of how the phone communicates is shifting, advancing and improving.

I wish I could say the same for the handsets.

Enter the Oppo F1

Already being aware of the limitations of my older ICS tablets (and I use them daily) I had a good idea of what I wanted:
  • 3 gig of "system ram"
  • quad core CPU (above 1GHz)
  • decent battery
  • about 720p screen (more is just a waste of RAM)
  • SD card
  • decent camera
  • decent battery
I already knew that Apple iPhone was out of the question (and its price certainly doesn't help), and while I considered a few options (such as the OnePlus X) the Oppo F1 emerged as the best set within that criteria set.

For a low requirement un-demanding user the Oppo F1 is actually pretty good bang for buck, and indeed if I'd never used a phone before I'd be amazed. I've already put up a few posts exploring the camera of this phone, which is quite good.

Problem is I'm not a green naive user and I do have expectations that whatever I get does at least what my Nokia E72 did, and hopefully more.

I've had the F1 just enough time now to be past looking at its features and starting to use it in my daily life. Which is where I've hit a number of problems. Todays problem is perhaps the most significant "fly in the ointment" I've encountered yet, and interestingly I've seen hints of it with other peoples devices in the last few months.


The rest of this post I'll use as a list for what I find (and update as I find more) that bugs me. For now I'll list a few things right off the bat. I'll divide it into two sections: whats better and whats worse.

Music

Managing my music collection has been something that I've really enjoyed on my Nokia. I'm not confined to file system folders (although I of course use them) I can put my music in any folder of my choosing on my Nokias SD card. The music app finds them and uses the ID3 tags to collate them into their proper order. From the front screen of the music player on the Nokia I can immdieately choose from:
  • Artists
  • Albums
  • Playlists
  • All Songs
  • composers
  • Genre
If you've never heard of ID3 tags they've been around for a couple of decades now and , well sorry but this article is explaining why things are dumbing down and you may be part of the problem.

Better yet, without even going INTO the music player from the home screen I can long press the * button (and yes, the phone has hardware physical buttons, not virtual ones that come and go, so its there "all the time pal"{Bladerunner ref for the ignorant}) and just speak

  • an album name or
  • an Artist name or
  • a track name or
  • a playlist (that I've made) name
powerful, simple elegant and fucking works.

Android however is made by children who love whizzing screens up and down and playing ineffectively with the GUI ... like children do.

The Oppo player is not bad, and is actually better than the Google one. As I've mentioned I used tablets since 2012 and have gone though some iterations of phones too. It at least doesn't keep shoving your most recently played album in your face as if you're some TeenyPop Kiddie obsessed with the latest track by (insert latest TeenyPop band) and want to hear that over and over and over and over again.

However its searching is limited and is unable to search on album ... but who wants to play a whole album right? I just want to hear Taylor Swifts song again ... and again ...

But yeah, if I don't like it, well "there's an app for that" right? Sure, go ahead and waste the small amount of memory the phone has by just downloading another player.

Waste? Well yes dumbo, you can't actually un-install the old player, so its just going to sit around wasting memory while you download another to occupy more.


So Music is a net FAIL for the Oppo and for Android in general. Although you're probably saying "you old moron, get with the picture, noone owns music anymore. And are probably just use Spotify or iTunes and wonder why your bandwidth runs out ... so you buy more ... but its a bottomless pit right?


Web experience:

This one is a net WIN for the Oppo, helped along handsomely by its inclusion of the a default browser as well as Chrome.

Bravo!

The Nokia browser was good in its time, with many a method available to keep it keeping on, but eventually the onslaught of changes in WWW land made the Nokia browser ineffective.

The OEM Browser is in many ways a superior experience to browsing with chrome, and like the Nokia browser allows reformatting of the page text so that you don't have to turn the phone on its side or be constantly left right left righting just to read the page! Come on folks, remember that centuries of research is behind the choice of newspapers writing in columns ... not straight across the page.

Some wankers reviewing the Oppo have said it was confusing to have two browsers. Right ...that shows their depth (level: puddle) as almost anyone with experience on the web knows that its better to have at least two browsers ... cos some pages just don't work with the other one ... unless you're on a Mac then you'll think the world is Safari anyway.

Oh, but then its not about content and comprehension anymore its about kiddies going "wizz" with their screens and scrolling up and down playing with their toy.


Camera:

Win for the Oppo, the Nokia camera was quite sufficient, but this camera brings adjustability and low light capability which the Nokia lacked. There are many pictures on this blog taken with the Nokia, but I've been increasingly turning to Bluetooth to move the image over to my Tablet, editing there and then posting here ... just because I like to tweak my images. A fine example of this is this image:



The Oppo's camera and software has far surpassed that (quite good) level and you'll find plenty of images taken exploring the Oppo on these pages.

The only down side is that wankers keep expecting more megapixels from the cameras on phones. So rather than getting a great quality 5Mpix Image (and seriously if you need more, get a camera) which consumes storage and consumes bandwidth backing up or transferring.

Crash Testing:

Nobody wants to drop their phone, but somehow everyone fantasises they won't.

The public seems to focus on "how it feels in the hand" and big bright fragile screens.

Its like a dream that you have: you only see yourself looking at it stroking your finger up the screen (or swiping agressively to get through a long list).

You see yourself like in an ad, smiling using it and taking selfies to post to your millions of friends on social media (who of course have nothing better to do than wait expectantly for that push notification).

The reality is more that you're going to drop it - everyone actually knows this which is why there is a booming market in cases and drop protection and screen protectors for your precious. As it happens I've dropped the phone already and its survived the experience. It was onto tiles from about "hip pocket" level as I slid it into what I thought was my pocket and it clattered onto the tiles in the washroom.

My Nokia on the other hand has been a stout trouper falling onto concrete, tar, gravel, roads many dozens of times in the time I've owned it. Sometimes the hatch flies off and I have to pick up the battery and the cover and put it all back together.

Here is the sum total of damage to my Nokia E72 after years of use and drops.

This is the top corner, I remember this drop well. It slipped from my fingers as I was pulling it out of my top pocket and in reacting to catch it, handballSlammed it into the ground ..




Note the two covers? They are for hot swapable SD card and the micro USB connection which allows it to act as my memory stick as well as charging. The bottom seems to have copped a pounding, but it only shows a little:



No such luck with the modern Humpty Dumpty phones.

So really, with the Oppo unless you've got it in a case that's big and cumbersome (and the phone is already big, so why not make it cumbersome, but hey its not about practicality).

So Net WIN to the Nokia.

But: there is no going back

So with that in mind I have to just soldier on with the present, given the existing market its really not about any choice I'd make for a phone. So we seem to be in a point of time where nothing actually appeals to me and what I have (the Nokia) is really right at the edge of its service life. I guess I should be just happy that the Nokia was so good that it raised my expectations of what a Smartphone can do.

The Oppo is filling the gap.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Oppo F1 - super macro explored

well, as its raining and I can't do the things I planned for the afternoon I thought I'd whack my Oppo F1 onto a support and examine my theory.

Since putting the camera into "super macro" prevents using RAW, I thought I'd do the other method and just apply "digital zoom" (which does not preclude RAW) and have a look at what it does.

For clarity, setting RAW records two files of the same name, one with extension .jpg the other .dng each time you take an image.

So I took this image, and zoomed in (with the volume buttons, to I think about x3):


Does that red patch stand out to you? Mate, that's ham fisted stuff if you ask me allowing saturations of channels to do that. However when I look at the DNG that it wrote, I see this:



no red patch ... and which is what was visible on my screen before I had done any "digital zooming". Given that by definition a RAW file captures only what the sensor captures, and that this is what I saw before "digital zooming" it strongly suggests that this is exactly what is happening on "super macro"  .. just digital zoom on close focus.

So as I said in the earlier post camera is doing cropping and upscaling (because it still writes 4160 x 3120  Pixels) in software.

Does this bring losses?

Yes, but it would be splitting hairs and only pixel peepers will be worried. It does suggest though that the "super macro" is redundant.

The long answer is found looking at the DNG that was saved and comparing it to the JPG created.Will it work out in the "wash"?? To answer that lets look at both clearly we need to:
  • crop and upscale the DNG
  • examine the JPG (which has already been processed in "camera")


So, first up, a pixel peep at the JPG. This is a screen grab of using Irfanview on my PC to examine the JPG



this is (if you click on the image and look in the lower left corner about 50% view, but there is clearly no point in zooming in anymore as the bit of plastic there is already losing details.

Ok, now, this next image is the result from the DNG. To get this:

  1. I used dcraw to conver it to a TIFF and then 
  2. loaded it into Photoshop to get the colours to match closely that of the JPG, then 
  3. used NIK (free google software) to reduce the colour noise, then
  4. cropping the guts out of the middle of the DNG then
  5. doing a bicubic upscale in Photoshop (200%) then
  6. resaved that TIFF.

lots more work right?

Was it worth it?



I think that it shows a bit more detail than the JPG. You can see more detail in the bit of plastic, and also the inkjet marks on the bar code of that bit of sand paper.

But by all accounts the JPG is an excellent result when you factor in not doing much to get it!

Either process is good, but if you weren't zooming then (as mentioned in another post) DNG is the best results from this camera : hands down.

But the results of digital zoom is a hell of a lot better than what you'll get if you just crop the JPG (without digital zooming) to get this same view. Looking at that at 100%:


 It is much smaller and looks quite awful (sorry, added the paper for greater visual information later so they are not the exact same picture).

 I encourage you to open that image file in a new tab or window and observe how much smaller it is ... its 608 x 339  Pixels. So this won't even look good on an MMS...

So I think this validates what I wrote in my earlier exploration of the Super Macro:
  • the camera is doing an upscale followed by a crop of the sensor capture
  • writing out a JPG (which gets smudged up by its crummy attempts at noise reduction)
  • but makes a very good file for your macro shot
If you happen to be inclined to edit on the phone (say using "Photo Editor") then I'd say don't shoot and crop, because the JPG's are so crummy. Digital Zoom will look much better and all you will have to do is downsize (which MMS does for you).

curve ball

I downloaded Snapseed which is a on phone RAW development tool. I think it did a pretty good job, take a look:

and no, I just cropped and didn't do any upscales ... this was my first play with Snapseed and I must say I'm impressed. I ended up making this conversion pretty gritty.

so, in my view...

I reckon that what this says is that:
  • if you want the best shot from this camera, use RAW and be prepared to process it
  • if you are inclined to use digital zoom, then do it, as with the way this camera / phone software processing works you'll have the most bang for the effort buck
  • for macro use Super Macro
  • for almost everything you do (especially if you're going to text the image), if you were intending to "crop tighter" then zoom before capture, because for no effort on your part it'll do 90% of the job
  • if you really want to squeeze every bit out of this image making tool, then use RAW (and be prepared for some work)


I don't know where the turn around point on this process is for diminishing returns, but as the above was x3 and there is more room to move, then I think even x4 digital zoom will work quite well enough.

Happy Shooting

how it feels in your hand

pardon me, small rant this morning:

One of the things which endlessly both amuses me and perplexes me is the complete disconnect between reality and ideals which goes on in peoples heads. For instance I've recently been delving into looking for a phone to replace my faithful Nokia E72 and in that process found an amusing term fill the reviews "Premium Feel" ... indeed it was hard to find a reviewer who didn't go on about:

  • feels premium build 
  • how it feels in your hand

of course, this is exactly what a wanker would be focused on too. Especially given that the reviewers don't even go on to discuss is it actually built well or does it just "feel" that way. More support for the narcissistic wanker category.

Why its hilarious to me is that almost universally in those reviews (which of course focus on metal and glass being the premium build, not that awfull plastic) they mention how their "premium feel" device is fragile (because of those premium feeling components are actually fragile) and suggest you put it in a jelly case.

Well then , kiss good bye to your premium feel if its in a plastic case.

You may as well have a fine silk fabric on your sofa and cover it in plastic ... thus never actually taking advantage of that luxurious silk ... and instead sit on a plastic sofa.

This is exactly the sort of bullshit my parents generation did.

So to put it crass terms, you may as well wank with a condom on (oh, and probably a glove in case you get your hand dirty).

As an engineer I find it exemplary of how the masses are driven by narcissistic intentions and have zero concepts of reality to back that up. To me a metal phone is only going to cause problems with the single most important feature of the phone : connectivity.

Yes, making phones out of metal makes it difficult for the designers because metal inteferes with radio waves (and shock, the phone uses radio to make a connection).

Amusingly to me it was Apple (I could be wrong here) who started this whole mess with the iPhone and (IIRC) there was heaps of discussion about this back in the day with the iPhones being quite problematic for getting signal (compared to those plastic phones).

Of course engineers found ways around this for the Wangers so that they can get their premium feel ... only to put it into plastic.

go figga

ohh ... but it feels goood ... ouhh ... ouhhhh ... ouhhhh ...oh

The King is Dead ... long live the King
Wang King

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Oppo F1 - super macro

Ok, as part of the ongoing "review" of this phone (and its camera) I thought I'd look next at the "Super Macro" feature.

As established in my earlier post, the camera software enjoys crappy JPG compression, which makes the 100% views of these subjects seem ... well shitty really.

However, (sorry pixel peepers) all is not lost because in my past experience the 100% view is not a good representation of print (or indeed what you may see on a giant 4K screen). So I prefer to look at the 50% view of things, just to get an idea.

Ok, so I took a shot out in the back yard, nothing fancy, no tripods, just like a regular Joe going "Ouhh Dear, that looks pretty" and snap a shot.

To give you some idea what I was photographing (attempting to give some scale here) its the classic decorative "plumb blossom" which is in our back yard ... this year has been quite a poor showing to other years. None the less, here is a shot of the sort of thing I was photographing, just a wee bit further back than the macro shot:


So now, moving about 10 cm closer to the blossom, and engaging "Super Macro" we get this:


Now for the technically minded (probably not the usual market for the Oppo F1) this superMacro setting almost certainly applies digital zoom and then uses interpolation to "upscale" before saving as a 4160 x  3120 JPG ... (with the usual ham fisted crummy compression).

This brings with it benefits of not having to be really super close to the subject and making it look distorted, and at the same time taking better use of the sensor before the JPG engine muddies up the image.

Now it looks pretty good, and if you happen to want to "print big" your masterpiece then this is the sort of details you can expect to see on close examination of a 35cm wide print:


which isn't bad all things considered.

I believe that the 'fuzzieness' of the hairs at the base of the stamen supports my "upscale - crop" before saving. Given the sorts of detail losses the JPG engine causes (seen in the DNG vs JPG comparison in the last post) it would certainly tolerate this upscale and you wouldn't really tell.

The only way to tell would be to carefully take two images (preferably on a tripod) one with superMacro and the other just in RAW and compare the two results.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that the RAW (which will not allow you to then set superMacro) will be better, but as that would be a Pain In The Arse in camera (seriously) then this is probably the best compromise method to maximize outcome and convenience.

Thumbs Up