Saturday, November 25, 2006

Buying a Digital Camera

I must admit I am no expert on this. However since I have extensively used two different models in last three years, and did decent amount of online "research" before buying each of those, I can certainly give a few helpful suggestions in layman's terms. And no, I am not going to talk about digital SLR's, restricting myself to non-SLR digital cameras.

The most common question I hear,
I want to buy a good camera. Which one should I go for?
This question, to be very honest makes no sense. There is no absolute "good" camera, it all comes down to one's budget and intended usage. There are point and shoot cameras from maybe a hundred or so dollars to digital SLR's costing thousands of dollars with all accessories.

And the most common "mistake",
Choosing a camera based on mega pixels. I agree that they increase the "resolution". However, whats the point of an increased "resolution" if one never "sees" it? Again, I am no expert on this, but to the best of my knowledge, most computer screens have a resolution of hardly 1-2 mega pixels, and that's where most of the photos are viewed anyway. The small percentage of the photos do end up getting printed, and for the postcard size prints, again 3 mega pixel comes out extremely well. Unless one is printing out larger size photos at regular intervals, anything more than 5 mega pixel is virtually useless. Just to throw in some numbers, to print 10 inch by 14 inch photo in 200 dpi resolution, which apparently is professional quality, a 6 mega pixel camera is good enough.

So what does one need?
Optical zoom. That is what brings far away objects in closer focus, which is so essential in outdoor photos. However, high optical zoom almost always affects the image stability, and unless they come equipped with some sort of internal image stabilization mechanism, one should avoid them. Last seen, a few Kodak and Nikon models did not have that.

Other not so trivial factors,
Different cameras store images differently. Sony and Fuji uses extremely expensive memory cards, while most others use Secure Digital (SD) or Compact Flash (CF) type memory cards, which are getting cheaper by the day. Just to throw in some numbers again, today I saw a 1 gigabyte Sony memory card in Bestbuy for $50, while a same size SD card (which my Panasonic Lumix uses) cost me $4. When going for a long trip, the savings in memory do add up to a significant amount.

On a similar note, Panasonic uses their own battery, and consequently their own charger for it, which costs significantly more than standard rechargeable batteries you get off the shelf from Walmart.

So which one is indeed a good camera?
For beginners, or who are just interested in capturing those fun moments with their friends and family and may be occasional getaways, within a couple of hundred dollars they can get cameras with 4-6x optical zoom and 3-4 mega pixel. At this level, most good brands like Canon, Nikon, Panasonic or even Kodak have fairly "good" models.

For mostly outdoor photographers or those who have overgrown those point and shoot cameras, high optical zoom cameras are the solution. Among the 12x models, I would vote for Canon S3 1S or the Panasonic Lumix latest model. They are both very similar performance wise and do not have any major flaws. Being a Panasonic user, I'm slightly biased towards them, and should point out that Panasonic uses Leica lense, and the reaction time to save one photo and be ready for the next is incredibly small, compared to most other cameras. I am sure Cannon would have its strong points too. Last time I saw, they were available for $300-$350 range.

And for those people who wants very sleek cameras, and are ready to shell out more, I believe Sony and Casio have those.

Only those who want to have large print quality images should go for high mega pixel cameras, as I mentioned before.

And finally, when is the best time to buy?
Now. The price of most digital cameras, at least the ones I keep checking, are always decreasing, averaged over any long enough time period.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A "Thank You" Note

We all love to claim academics is a solitary pursuit, Ph.D is something you do only for yourself. While that is absolutely true, its the small and not so small things along the way which helps one move along. It is kind of like that snake and ladder game, one lucky break here, a mini disaster there and always that little something away from being "done". I have seen incredibly motivated people losing it all, quitting in frustration or living a miserable existence. On the other hand there are people who enjoy each and every moment of their research career, doing what they love and loving what they do. And then there are people who just treat it like just another job and keep on surviving.

Which category I belong to? I don't think I can answer that question unbiasedly, but I would feel I oscillate between all three phases randomly. However I am fortunate to have a wonderful advisor, have settled down pretty well in this place over the years and mostly like my work. And add to all that, so far the biggest support in my workplace was my senior student. Anytime I got stuck or was looking for ideas, help was just across the room. He had solution for every problem, answer for every question, fix for every error and a "script" for getting every job done. And most importantly, he always had time to answer my stupid and not so stupid questions.

Once he suggested me to get rid of the Windows in my laptop and get Linux instead. I knew, like all of his advices, this one made sense too. However, I tried to point out to him that I use my laptop for non-Physics activities too, namely chatting or music or movie. His answer was prompt. I do not do either, he said.

So I am sure he would not read this, but here is congratulating him for graduating today. People said his was one of the better defences they have seen in a while.

All the best Craig. And thanks for getting me started.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An unforgettable moment

This is the view of the blocked field goal securing our win in the last seconds of the game from North Endzone, just where we were seating. And trust me, it was order of magnitude louder there at Swamp when that happened. That sure played a part.

With a potential National Championship run in the line, we came up with an improable third blocked kick attempt of the night. This team may not be winning pretty, but its showing that champion's heart. We have not lost in Swamp in two years. And thats what Florida football is all about.

Steve Spurrier said, "This could be the year of the Gators".

We sure hope it is. Go Gators.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Random Events

Reiterating for the hundredth time, I am lazy. There were a hundred things I wanted to write about, and may be I'll end up talking about a few of them. In totally random order.

Those stupid do-not-put-your-photo-in-orkut emails. I know people are dumb, but I tend to give them benefit of doubt. This, however is beyond that. The story is, some frustrated guy made a fake profile of a girl he was slightly more than interested in, putting her real photo and phone number and some not so innocent details. Naturally she ended up getting some obscene phone calls and emails. While I fully sympathize with the poor girl, I simply do not understand whats wrong with Orkut per se. Ohh well, there are actually, the major ones being its too addictive and a also a major source of spam, but certainly not this. Its impossibly easy to get a photo of you nowadays, specially if I know you directly or indirectly, and if I do not know you at all, I wont really care about making all the effort of maligning you. Its incredibly easy to harass someone online, but its almost never a complete stranger stalking you, and vague acquaintances have a hundred other ways to harass you if they are that determined apart from a few social networking websites. We always have this habit of blaming a higher being for our perils (like blaming the central government for all of our states troubles or castrating America for all the troubles in the world) and this is just a small example of that mentality.

Sharad Pawar getting the nudge. Ahh, how I loved it.

Democrats winning it all. It sure was an exciting night. It was just six years back when Al Gore came tantalisingly close and they still make fun of Florida for that. It was just two years back that Kerry lost Ohio and consequently the presidency. And the red-blue divide could not have been deeper. Now seeing big shot republicans from almost every corner of the country going down, do give hopes for the future. And few people noticed this, but a big reason for Republican Sen.Allen's downfall in the decisive Virginia Senate race was him calling a campaign volunteer of Indian descent from his opponents camp by a racsict slur.

Our fall color viewing trip. Last year I went to New England. Sometime i want to go to Colorado. But the usual suspects, lack of time and money restricted me to a road trip in Northern Georgia and Tennessee-North Carolina border in Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests. I know people up north are proud of their colors and understandably so, but we did get to see pretty good colors here, and fortunately we went right at the time of peak colors. It was fun to drive at those mountainous, sometimes incredibly curvy roads and surrounded by blooming colors and at times dense fog.
Here are the photos.

And finally, some football. After that heartbreaking, potentially season ending loss to Auburn, we are again knocking on the door. First SEC Championship game after 2000, and with some luck, onward to Glendale, AZ. But the saddest part is, after following the whole season so passionately and intensely, I'll be flying out at the exact same time of the championship game in Atlanta. Damn.

P.S - Did anyone notice that the protagonist from the "The Devil's Advocate", the bright young lawyer Kevin is from our Gainesville!?

Birthday wishes for Suchismita (5th october), Arpita (31st october), Satabdi (2nd november), Ranjani (2nd november).