Back from Cancun, what I learned equipment wise
I got back into town a couple of days ago and I’m now in recovery mode. The 1 week trip felt like 2 weeks, but in a good way. As expected, I need a vacation after my vacation to get back into the swing of things and to organize all the photos I took. Equipment wise, I got to play with a couple of new things, the Olympus TG-2 camera and the iPad Mini based backup system. All in all, the trip was a success, as a vacation as well as a test bed for new technologies.
At final count, I took 2,812 photos and videos spread over 6 SD cards which totaled 42.7GB. Camera usage broke down this way, 432 photos taken on the Olympus E-P3, 1,320 photos taken on the Olympus E-PM2 and 889 photos taken on the Olympus TG-2. I had 171 videos which were mainly taken on the TG-2.
The carefully selected cameras and lenses worked out great. I never felt like I was missing a critical piece of equipment and I also ended up with a very light setup. My two new Canons the 6D and G15 stayed at home. The 6D takes the best pictures of course but I felt it was too bulky and would be a chore to bring on vacation. The G15 is my high-end point and shoot but it is in the middle, image quality wise, between the TG-2 and Olympus Pens. I was going to bring the water proof TG-2 no matter what — it was a beach vacation after all. But I wanted better image quality for my non-water photos, hence the Pens over the G15.
The Olympus TG-2 did its job well for the most part. It made it though the beach, ocean and snorkeling intact and in good shape. It started to malfunction after the first day on the beach, however. It would take pictures but none of the other buttons would work. I cleaned the camera in fresh water and that did the trick — everything returned to normal. My guess is that the really fine Cancun sand got lodged in the shutter mechanism.
The TG-2′s image quality at ISO 100 is nice and looks good on a 27″ screen. As casual snaps, ISO 200 and even up to ISO 800 works in a pinch. When used with care and not pounded by waves or on bumpy boat, things can work quite well — It’s a snappy and fun camera. But as things get rough or under water, focusing speed and accuracy diminish. For the casual camera phone or point and shoot user, it maybe the only camera they’ll need. For me, its a good companion to have in camera unfriendly environments. It’s strictly a snap shot shooter that is better than camera phones but rugged enough to take anywhere. The video also works reasonably well and it’s easier to use than on the Olympus Pens.
The iPad Mini backup experiment was a success but there is a fair amount of work involved. The Maxell Airstash which I used to transfer files to the iPad works well most of the time. On occasion, it would flake out and I would have to restart it and restart the corresponding iPad App. It could be slightly frustrating but not a deal killer. The transfer speed over WiFi is more of an issue, especially given how many photos I took. A typical user with JPEG only photos should have no problems. Many of my photos were RAW so it made the process a lot slower. The next time, I think I will also experiment with Apple’s SD Card reader for the iPad. That should work a lot faster.
Blogging on the iPad Mini is also doable, though because of my special process, it makes it more cumbersome. I’ll go more into this in a future post. The bottom line is that for most people with JPEG photos, the iPad is a viable tool for both image backup, processing and even blogging or Facebook updates. For serious, high volume photographers shooting in RAW, things get a bit more challenging. Available space on the iPad is certainly an issue, though there is a new full size iPad with 128GB of memory.
I’m reconsidering my 3 copy rule on the road, where I make 3 copies of a photo for safe keeping. I think it’s still wise for hard drive copies but with flash memory, which should be more reliable, perhaps 2 copies will be enough. That would certainly simplify and speed up some of the workflow. Ultimately, though a MacBook Air would work the best. I can keep the same Aperture 3 based workflow and enjoy all its benefits for blogging, backup and post processing. I brought my wife’s Air with me on this trip but I didn’t use it. I stubbornly stuck with my iPad experiment. Between the smaller cameras and even with the MacBook Air, the weight of my gear is down considerably to an easily manageable 12 pounds. A few years ago, when I went to Hawaii with my DSLR plus lenses and the MacBook Pro, the backpack came in at 25 pounds.