Monday, 13 June 2016


Twelve versus sixteen megapixels from two different micro four thirds cameras showing same pixel area.

Not all pixels are equal.

I say this, because it's true, if little understood by the non-photography enthusiast.  Understanding why all pixels are not equal is relatively easy explain but, and it's a big but, the explanation requires the willingness to come to grip with things like F-stops and ISO numbers.

F-stops are an abbreviation for the ratio between the focal length (the F in F-stop) of the lens and the size of the aperture and the corollary that one has to have larger lenses for larger sensors.  The F-stop numbers are actually shorthand for one over the number, so F2 is a bigger aperture than F16 because a 1/2th is bigger than a 1/16th.  Therefore the F-stop describes the size of the aperture that governs the amount of light that passes through the lens onto the sensor.  The squiggly math can be found here.

The thing to takeaway is that the more light you let through the lens the better, and bigger lenses let through more light, but everything has a price, which is that the lens is physically larger too.

Then there is the sensitivity of the sensor, which is described using what is called an ISO number.  The three letter abbreviation comes from the International Organization for Standardization, see here.  In short, it's a measure of how well the sensor reacts to light and it tells you how sensitive the sensor is.  But, the higher the number used comes at a cost in image quality – usually noticeable as visual artifacts when there's not enough light to resolve the image being taken.  Ideally what one is looking for is a sensor with a low number like 100 ISO that has a large range that goes up into the thousands.

However, all of the above is relative to the sensor size and the number of pixels it has.  So it should be obvious that a big sensor with the same number of pixels as a smaller sensor means that the pixels are not the same size, and worse still, the amount of light gathered by the lens falling on said sensor is not the same either (if that doesn't make sense – remember that big lenses let through more light through them).

The difference in the ability of a large lens versus a small results in some thing that's called equivalence.  A large frame, 35mm film equivalent film camera, that has an F2 lens will be letting in two stops more light than a micro four thirds camera (equivalent to a half frame from a 35mm film camera) fitted with an F2 lens; or if you prefer the micro four thirds camera's F2 lens is equivalent to a full frame lens at F4.

That's probably confused you unless you're already savvy with cameras and lighting. So what does this all mean for the non-enthusiast user?

Here's a handy-dandy table to confuse matters by over loading you with lots of numbers.

Click to see larger picture.

TL;DR:  The size of the aperture in relation to the size of the sensor matters.

So, if you're using your camera phone, which because it has a small sensor (the smallest frame size in the illustration above), and because a small lens effectively provides a wide angle of view, it will be easier therefore to take pictures of small objects and have more in focus.  But despite whatever the it says about the number of megapixels, because the sensor is so small, you'll be unable to produce high quality big pictures, which may not be a problem if all you do is post to the web.
Here's a simple illustration that compares the size of the sensor of a full-frame camera down to a smart-phone.  Here you can see the big difference there is is sensor size.

Now what this means, bottom line if you like, is that light is everything when it comes to taking pictures.  Also, bigger cameras capture more light, and don't be sucked into the more megapixels is better, if all things are equal, the size of the pixel really does matter when it comes to quality of your pictures.  This is what drives the image quality, which is also called picture noise comes. These are the artifacts or blurring you see when you enlarge a picture, which can be understood if you remember noise is defined by the ISO number of the camera.

TL:DR:  Lots of megapixels on a small sensor are not as good as less megapixels on a larger sensor because bigger pixels are better.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Star Wars X-Wing: The Big Battle

Not your standard tournament game.

Last weekend we went to Brighton to see my Godson, his sister and my dear friends who are their lovely parents.  I, now having a job, was able to fulfill my Godmother role of providing Xmas and birthday presents for both the kids.  Being that they're Star Wars fans, and having got them both the old Star Wars X-Wing core sets a year or so ago, it seemed like a good idea to get them the new core sets as their late Xmas presents and having talked to both of them I had a fair idea of what ships they liked.

So Dylan got an A- and B-wing, the B-wing being his favourite fighter, and Chloe got a TIE Interceptor and Tie Advanced aka Darth Vader's fighter.

It's tricky manoeuvering your fighters when the table is this full.

Then they got to unpack everything and we ended up with sixteen ships on the table: six Rebel Alliance and Resistance fighters versus ten Imperial and First Order ships.  No attempt was made to balance the forces using the points system, all we did was not have any cards in play.  So all the fighters were pretty vanilla, and you know what, it was one of the best games of X-wing I have had the pleasure of playing.

I was the Mistress of the TIE fighter formation flying team.

Final outcome was a win for the Rebels/Resistance who only had to fly off the other-side of the table from where they entered, but the Imperials destroyed the fleeing B-wing.

On reflection, should have made the B-wing something the Rebels/Resistance had to protect, as it would have made for a more balanced game.  But apart from that the rules were up to the job of running a game without it becoming a slog or slowing down, though adding cards might have slowed down the turns, depending on what was chosen.

Fun was had.
PS: a link to a cartoon that says it all.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Star Wars Imperial Squadrons

As any wargamer will tell you, you need two forces for a wargame.  When you buy Star Wars X-wing one gets two TIE fighters to challenge the Rebel X-wing.  I haven't managed to maintain that Imperial disparity, primarily because my interest is in the Rebel Alliance ships, and because money.

Still I plan to add to my collection of Imperial ships because it's nice to be able to make changes in force composition.  Besides which it makes sense to have pairs of ships so that one can have a wingman.  Except for big ships like the Punisher above, or Slave 1 etc.

One of the things where Star Wars X-wing falls short is the ability to re-enact specific moves from some of the movies: for example Darth Vader and his two wingmen in the Death Star trench.  Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, after all this is a game not a replay of a film, but I suppose I would like to have seen a rule that made a nod to this.  Something along the lines that Darth Vader's special ability is to have two junior pilots move when he moves – because at the moment, given the rules about movement order, Vader always moves last and shoots first for the Imperials.

More X-wing to come, as I'm writing up a battle report from a game I played this weekend.  Expect it later this week.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Star Wars Rebel Squadrons

My collection of Star Wars miniatures has been growing slowly mostly down to me being broke.  However, now I'm working I feel I can treat myself to adding to my force because why have one of something when two is better and three or more is better still.  This probably counts as a wargamers mantra, along with oh look shiny!

Besides, this is a game I actually get to play, so I have actual motivation to keep adding to my force.  Though my recent X-wing purchases have been for my Godson and his sister who are both big Star Wars fans and who enjoy playing the game when I go and visit them.  We fly around the board making pew-pew noises and complaining about Dodgey Luke getting all the luck.

Anyway, my plan is get another two more X-wings and then re-touch the paint to make them look like the six main Red squadron craft at the Battle of Yavin.  I have compiled shots of the studio models and will do just enough re-touching to hint at each of the named pilots.

While we don't see A- and B-wings in the original film they are, I believe, canonically supposed to have been there, just off screen, lurking or something.

The Y-wings are of course for my Gold squadron.  Again some minor paint changes will be made to make them look more like what we see on screen.  It took me forever to realize that the markings on the top of the cockpit meant: one stripe for Gold Two and two stripes for Gold Three – dividing the band into two and three stripes and the Y-wing without a stripe was Gold leader.

At some future point, when finances allow, the Fantasy Flight Games Rebel Aces set with the different paint schemes for the A-wing and B-wing will be acquired.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Some More Thoughts on Archery

Left to right: Rowan, Richard, Kevin, Vicky, Susan and me.

On the Bank Holiday Monday I shot in my first one day event at my club's St George's Day Shoot.

On Saturday we had gone to practice as usual, and the weather was perfect.  I had a new set of limbs and arrow heads (heavier to make my arrows flex more the riser and then fly straighter).  I changed my sight settings to compensate for all the changes and was shooting really well during the morning's practice session.

I was optimistic that on Monday I would rock.

Admire my awesome carbon limbs.

On Sunday I lovingly hand waxed my new string for Monday's shoot. Monday the weather forecast was for rain later and the day was cloudy with lots of wind.

I'm shooting what is called a short Western, this is where one shoots three dozen at arrows at 50 yards, then move the target to 40 yards and repeat, and finally pulling it back to 30 yards for  shooting the final three dozen arrows.

Not allowed to wear combats during a competition, so leggings and a skirt.

Before we began the competition we got to shoot six sighting arrows.  All mine fly over the target and I have to reset my sight based on nothing more than my best guess, which isn't much to go on.  The wind is making the arrows fly all over the place and my dream of rocking in the competition disappeared in a gust of wind.

Then the sun came out to play.

So I took layers off as I was getting hot and bothered.  Then the sun went back in and the wind chill cut in.  Just look at those grey clouds in the picture below.

Look at my pigtails flying in the wind.

I was shooting at one butt with Susan and Rowan, a new archery friend, and here's our arrows at the end of the tournament.

By this point the target was 30 yards.

My score sheet is below.

That poor first round killed my chances of coming anything but last.  I had fun, but I was a bit disappointed.

The following Saturday the day was glorious and I had to take my leggings and extra layers off because I was so hot.  If only the competition shoot could have been so nice.  However, I still didn't manage to match my shooting consistency with that of the first Saturday with the new limbs, partly down to having to reset the sight and the change from the new high performance string affecting everything.

Me trying out Susan's 24 lb bow, which I could barely manage to draw only a month or so ago.

What I learnt, and this is the RPG/wargaming relevant content part of the post, is that wind will bugger your chances of making a shot, and that even small changes to your bow and arrows can have a big impact on your shooting.

Monday, 9 May 2016

An Update

I had planned on doing a late May the Fourth post last week but...

I meant to post a piece last week but on Friday I started having problems saving off some pictures I had processed and was unable to compile the image stack.  So, it wasn't until Saturday morning, after leaving said images to be processed on the computer overnight that I realized what the problem was.  I'd run out of space on my hard drive, which given I have 500GBs came as a bit of a shock.

However, the problem was that I had been saving images off onto my smaller partition, which I keep for my work, rather than the random stuff I decide to download off the net.

Given that each RAW file is approximately 16 MBs and each process TIFF file is 48MBs, and a stack consists of 25 images you can see how a partition might fill up.  I also realized that saving off the process TIFF images was taking up too much storage space.  So Sunday I spent the majority of the day reorganizing my hard drive, deleting extraneous TIFF files and doing a complete new back-up of my system.

Normal service will now be resumed.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Snowshill Manor: Additional Picture Added

We were away last weekend visiting the delightful Bourton-on-the-Water, which my friends described as a town, but it felt more like a village to me given that I've lived in London now for twenty years.  Among the other things we did while there we visited Snowshill Manor, which houses the collection of the late Charles Paget Wade.

Of interest for wargamers is the rather nice collection of Samurai armour, suits and weapons ranging from 1500 up to 1800 that were bought for the collection (allegedly larger than the British Museum's collection).  Be warned though there's only one room and it is almost pitch black, which makes it challenging to take pictures as flash is not allowed.

Also of interest is the small amount of arms and armour that is in the main hall.  All arranged for the aesthetics rather than on the basis of showing any historical development.  I managed not to take a picture of the two rather nice rapiers hung on the wall to the left of the picture below.  Partly down to struggling to cope with the lighting levels, which were appallingly difficult.

I, unsurprisingly really, managed to flummox the attendant with my knowledge of Landsknecht swords.  Trivial for a wargamer.  Thinking about it, Mr. Wade would have fitted right in with most wargamers as he clearly was a man who went oh look shiny I must have it.

And after posting this my beloved sent me her picture of the rapiers I saw on the other wall.

This was taken with her Nikon D800.  Enjoy.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

North American Combine Infantry WIP

I took some shots of my Combine infantry that I need to finish.  The above image used my E-M5MkII focus bracketing feature, which meant the camera took 25 pictures starting at the front and moving back adjusting the focus point.  Clever huh?

A close up of my work in progress, which made me want to finish them off.  So guess what I've been doing?

Extreme close-up of the three man squad: 8mm tall don't forget.

Likewise the two man squad.

And lastly the single figure representing a six man squad in the game.  These pictures are all full size crops from original image: as in no zooming in; the picture I took was really that big.

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