inside the jcmt


I was up at the JCMT last week helping out with ‘Imiloa and SkySkan film crew as they collected footage of the telescope for their 3D productions which they show at the ‘Imiloa planetarium. They are doing all the telescopes on Mauna Kea and this past week was our turn. They have a nice set up. Two Nikon D700 cameras with mounted next to each other at the inter-ocular distance, so that when the images are projected onto the dome with the 3D glasses on, the 3d you get is actually very realistic. They had two of these set ups (i.e. 4 cameras) which they rigged up at various positions around the dome. The cameras would then be set to take up to 7 frames per second for about half an hour or so (you do the math as to how many images that is!). Ben, one of our Telescope Systems Specialists, would set the telescope in motion as the cameras fired away. I can’t wait to see what the final results will be like. Especially in the big dome at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

While I was there, mostly shepharding and not always successfully trying to stay out of the way, I tried to take a few shots of my own. The image above shows a detail of the support structure on the back of the 15-m JCMT dish.

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Film vs Digital – Gadget Show style

When I was back in the UK one of my favourite geek-and-gadgetary shows was The Gadget Show (nothing to do with Suzi Perry’s leather boots – not much anyway!). I was reading Jao’s blog today and noticed that he had a link to it, where the Gadget Show team have undertaken a, literally, huge comparison between film and digital camera technologies. The video clip is below. The comparison was between the full-format Nikon D700 and the Nikon F5. The team tried to keep the experiment/comparison as controlled as possible using the same lenses on both cameras, shooting in identical conditions with the same pro photographer and using the same printing service. Oh and the print, wow! It took 2 days (yes two days!) to print out the 17 metre tall images, big enough to drape down the side of a building.

Here’s the video (and remember, we’re interested in the comparison between film and digital and not Suzi Perry’s leather cat suit).

Digital wins out (clearly) but, as Jao points out, I wonder whether real portrait or landscape film photographers would have been using ISO400 in this situation. I would have liked to have seen comparisons at ISO100 or even ISO50.

Hitler rants about the new Nikon D3X

After a long day stuck in a meeting, this was welcome relief and made me laugh:

As I said in my previous post about the D3X, I don’t want to get into the debate over the price but this is really funny. The best bit is when the people outside the war-room are getting worried over Hitler’s increasing madness and one lady comforts another by saying “It’s OK, He only shoots JPEG “! Classic.

Thanks to TimJ for throwing this my way.

Q: I don’t think that this video is taken/stolen from the new ‘Valkyrie’ movie? So which one is it?

The new Nikon Monster

There’s been a lot of fuss on the interweb this past couple of days with the release of Nikon’s newest camera, the D3X. It is being dubbed by several bloggers as a “digitial monster” – Nikon refer to is as a Digital Masterpiece. The basic specs are : 24.5 megapixels, full format (35.9mmx24mm) sensor, 138MB RAW files (!!!), 51-point AF system. There’s more but I’m running out of breadth. Why? The cost of the camera is $8000!

So forget about it! Not for mere mortals then, but clearly aimed at the high end of the market where pros could get that money back with the first image they take with the camera. I’m not really moaning at the price. It’s the market – the point is they can sell them at these prices otherwise they wouldn’t be marketing them so. And there are other camera manufacturers who do the same. For instance, you can pick up the Canon EOS-1Ds MarkIII for $6700 at B&H Photo. But if you want to go medium or large format, then check out the Hasselblad H3DII-39MS SLR Digital Camera Kit with 80mm Lens which you can pick up for a mere $44,000! Nice of them to throw in the 80mm kit lens…

It’s just like wanting the latest Porsche you see parked on the street from your 8-year old Honda Civic! I’m outside, looking in – somebody, please close the curtains! I know I shouldn’t be looking but there’s something vouyeristic about high end geek-and-gadgetary.

Comparisons are usually mundane, at times uninformative and often boring. But,  Jeff Revell at PhotoWalkPro has an interesting one (although, arguably, not very informative). Apparently, when the Kodak DCS420 Digital SLR came out in 1994, it cost $8000. It was at the very high end of digital imaging then (what happened Kodak?!) and it came with 1.5 megapixels (most crappy phones have more nowadays). Furthermore, we all know that geek-and-gadget gear gets cheaper as time and technology move on right? So, Jeff made this estimate: the D3X (and other camera’s of its monster-ilk) would have cost about $140,000 in 1994.

It’s a bloody bargain! By the way, Jeff also points out that you can pick up the DCS420 for about $69 on eBay.