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December 15, 2006

Fujifilm F30 Camera

My Sony DSC-P71 (from 2001), one of my most faithful travel companions, was finally taken by silicon valkyries to the Electonic Valhalla. As the holidays approach, I needed a camera to record the festivities.

This brought up the central issue: SLR or compact? Digital SLRs are approaching reasonable prices, and maybe it would be fun to explore the photography as a more serious hobby. However, they are bulky, and require extra space in the travel bag. Even if one invests in an SLR system, a compact is still a good choice for travel or spontaneous pictures. It was really a no-brainer: A compact digital camera is a necessity.

But which compact? There are many excellent cameras out there. I did most of my research on the net, with some notable advice from Philip Greenspun of Photonet, and even Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.

I ended up with getting the Fujifilm F30, via Amazon. I bought it because of its great low-light sensitivity (I hate how the flash washes out pictures), and includes all of the features that I need. A full review of the camera is at Digital Photography Review.

My biggest gripes so far include the accessories: I wish that it used SD memory cards (rather than the somewhat-rarer XD cards), I kind-of wish that it used standard rechargeable batteries (rather than its proprietary battery pack), and I really wish that it used the same USB interface that my other gadgets use. The different USB interface and proprietary battery pack mean that I have to carry more wires than before.

I've posted a couple of sample shots below, taken as I get used to the camera. I need to get familiar enough with the menus and switches and such, so that when the right situation arises, I can properly capture the picture. Other than the problems listed above, I like the camera, and I think that it is taking some good photos.

My condo complex, during the day
A shaded flower bed in my condo complex.
The new highrise near my house (consider it a later view of the first picture in this blog entry). The low-light qualities of the camera can be seen… I wasn't even using a tripod.
Another night shot, of Wilshire Blvd. I steadied the camera on a wall, but no flash of course.
A daytime picture of Westwood, from the Long's parking lot. The camera seems to have a tendency to "overexpose" when using the default settings.
But the picture turns out great with a little manual exposure adjustment.
The author and new camera. Notice that the camera is on a Joby Gorillapod, an early Christmas gift from Aunt Mary-Frances. That could be the best tripod ever.

Added 12/17/2006: Photo.Net has a good set of suggestions for point-and-shoot photography. They point out that shadows are important to good photography. Since the on-camera flash reduces the shadows available to it (but does fill in light from other angles), it leads to the odd advice: Turn off the flash in the darkness, and turn on the flash in the brightness!

December 07, 2006

Display problem with laptops: Mirroring vs Extended Desktop

I was having problems with my Dell Latitude D600 laptop. I had used it in extended-desktop mode for a while, with an external monitor connected. Today, I wanted to use it for a presentation, with the projector mirroring what was on my laptop screen. It failed to work… No matter how many times I pressed the Fn-F8 (CRT/LCD) key, the projector would just become an extended portion of the desktop (not a mirror). PowerPoint presentation mode doesn't quite work right on an extended desktop, so I was reduced to leaving PP in "edit" mode on the projector.

How to fix? This pdf (by Robert Ralston of UC Davis) has the path to the answer, under the heading "PC Laptops With ATI graphics".

It didn't work exactly as the pdf states, possibly because I have a slightly older laptop. (Or, maybe, because my projector works differently than his.) His instructions were to start with the projector on, as your second desktop. Use the Display Properties window and uncheck the "Extend Windows Desktop" for the projector (second monitor). Then, on the first monitor, click "Advanced", then "ATI Displays". The second monitor should have a red tab next to it.

Mine did not. It appears as though, when deactivated (when the "extend desktop" was unchecked), the projector detached from windows.

The solution was to start over. Start with the projector on as the second desktop, again. Click "Advanced" on either of the monitors, and go to "ATI Displays". Under the "monitor" quadrant, click the box to make it "Display 1". (Notice that the "panel", i.e. your laptop screen, becomes "Display 2".) Press "Ok". Now, you can pretty much follow the directions above. Go to monitor 2 (in the Display Properties) window and uncheck the "Extend Windows Desktop". This will turn your laptop screen blank. Then, click on monitor 1, Advanced, and ATI Displays. Click the red tab next to "panel". If you hit "Apply", then your laptop screen should re-ignite, and have the same contents as the projector. Success! It will work better if you click the button in the panel quadrant with the concentric circles, so that the laptop panel will be the "primary" monitor if you disconnect.