Zoomed Owls

I’ve been taking quite a few pictures of the Great Horned Owl nest behind our home, but I can only do that because of the camera I own. As a comparison today, I took photos with my iPhone 7 Plus, my older high zoom Sony DSC-HX400V, and my current high zoom Nikon Coolpix P900. With each camera I took an unzoomed photo and a fully zoomed one – and I also cropped as close as possible to the nest for a closest view …


The iPhone was a 2x zoom lens, and “digital zoom” that claims as much as 10x – the horrible results are a strong indication to NEVER use that feature:


The Sony has a 60x zoom lens and takes very good photos; it’s also a lot lighter than the Nikon:


The Nikon has the highest zoom at 83x and is the camera I bought for and took to Africa for our safari last year – but at the highest zoom levels it’s hard to use without a tripod. Nevertheless if you need maximum zoom, it’s a great performer for the price! The fully cropped image still has resolution more than the normal 1500x that I use for web photos (as you see if you view the full size image):


From this comparison, it’s clear that iPhone is still useless for high zoom images, but that the Sony is generally just as good as the Nikon; if you can find the Sony, it’s a great buy!

Chloe with depth

Checking out the newly rebuilt website I noticed that I’ve not posted any pictures of Chloe for more than two years (I blame Facebook, I just post quick pics there instead of here!); so let’s fix that with this photo I took this afternoon, using the “depth” / portrait feature of iPhone 7 Plus (it blurs the background to make the main subject stand out more):


Morning walk with iPhone 6

I’ve been planning to upgrade my iPhone 4S for a while, and yesterday I got lucky and was able to reserve a new iPhone 6 for in-store pickup. The main reason for upgrade is for a better camera – more and more, my phone is the only camera I carry, and the 4S struggles especially in low light. I’ve also noticed a significant drop in battery life on my 2-1/2 year old 4S; and iOS 8 slowed it down horribly!
I wondered for a while whether to get the iPhone 6, or 6 Plus, but the Plus seemed too big to use sensibly when out walking, and anyway it’s even less available so I couldn’t get one with in-store pickup.

So this morning’s walk was my first with the iPhone 6; as often I set off around 6:30am when it’s still quite dark so a good test for the new phone’s low light abilities. So the first picture is around 7am with the first hints of light in the distant clouds; quite happy with that, lower noise than the 4S … a few minutes later I took a picture in “armadillo trail” which is a walkway through some tree filled wetland so quite dark. There’s a spot along that walkway that I tried to photograph yesterday with the 4S, it simply gave a black image – but today the iPhone 6 does quite a reasonable job considering how dark it still is:

As the sun continues to rise, taking pictures gets much easier for the phone (it wasn’t anything like this bright, but all these pictures are unedited straight from the iPhone 6 camera):


As I approach home again, I can see the sun beginning to appear behind the trees, and finally by 7:20am, the sun is up (the finalpicture is at full iPhone 6 resolution if you click it, showing quite good detail in the leaves, but noise in the darker walkway and grass):


Overall, these pictures are a big improvement from the 4S; the new phone is also lighter even though it’s bigger, and many times faster! Touch ID is great too and of course battery life is improved (this one hour walk with GPS logging the route, used only 5% of the battery). And talking of logging my walk, I used a new App called runtime, which worked well and recorded a distance that matches Google Maps to within 5%:

T-Mobile test drive good / bad

In Massachusetts we always suffered from poor phone service, and as bad as service was at our home there, it was worse at work. Now that we’ve moved, I’ve wondered if there’s a better choice than AT&T which we’ve had for a long time now.
AT&T actually works quite well at our new home, and their pricing has improved dramatically in the last year, but they are still a bit of a devil company … I was interested in T-Mobile since their pricing is even more competitive and they offer great international service. And then recently T-Mobile launched Test Drive which seemed like a perfect way to find out just how good their service is.

Today, the package arrived – an iPhone 5 already configured and ready to try; the T-Mobile website claims “good” coverage, so I was hopeful:

So, open the box (which curiously implies that I’m agreeing to T-Mobile cancellation terms), turn on the phone, and skip all the sign up / configuration stuff. At least I tried to: the phone refused to work unless I either gave it a WiFi connection, or linked it to my computer! I wanted to do neither, since this was a short term test, but I was forced to connect it to my guest WiFi.
As soon as the phone was working and showing T-Mobile service, I disabled the WiFi connection; then a text arrived from T-Mobile with a “how to set up” link, so I clicked it … and this happened:

As you see, it’s showing EDGE data, and it’s been like this for maybe five minutes now with no progress. It did at one point show 4G, but didn’t get data to the display, till I walked to a front window of the house – closer to the antenna towers presumably. But seeing as my office is in the back, that’s no good.

I then tried phoning the office; Letizia answered and was pausing a lot when I explained I was just testing the phone service – she explained that she could hardly hear me, I was breaking up a lot.

So that was the end of T-Mobile Test Drive. Did the factory reset on the phone, put it back in the box, and will return it.

I very much like the idea of the Test Drive and I wish that all the companies did something similar – but sadly, T-Mobile remains useless outside of densely populated areas.

Android Again

I guess it’s time for an Android update (see original rant); short answer – I still have an Android phone, my iPhone is sold and gone to a (hopefully) happy new owner! Long answer follows, if you’re interested …

On the downside, my Android phone continues to have poor battery life, worse than my iPhone 3GS and much worse than Josh’ iPhone 4 – but it is now useable for a full day, so I’ll just learn to charge it every day. Other than that, this phone sucks at taking pictures in dim light – it “green balances” when using it’s built-in flash! And finally, the choice of useful Apps for Android remains poor in comparison to iPhone …

On the upside, it’s VERY nice to customize the Android lock screen, and to have useable and useful access to notifications. This is my lock screen, customized with WidgetLocker:

I chose the iPhone-like unlock slider, giving lots of space to add stuff – at the top I have live counters for home and work unread email, as well as any Google Voice notifications (of course, AT&T non-visual voicemail is rubbish, so it’s necessary to use Google Voice!).
At the bottom above the unlock slider is the SiMi Clock widget, showing date and time, current weather, and battery charge.
In between are four “slide-to-action” devices that give quick access to phone features without needing to go to the main home screen and open an App – my four do “Camera”, “Camcorder”, “Phone”, and “Call Margaret”.
Really nice, and iPhone has nothing so good (maybe if you jailbreak? But not built in).
Note also all those notification icons across the top of the screen – new mail, USB active, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. Once the phone is unlocked, you can touch/slide down that bar, to access descriptive linkable information for every notification, like this:

So there’s a new email notification – touch it to go to the message; there’s also USB notifications (touch to change how the phone is connected to the computer). The strange “USB debugging” is because stupidly that is currently the only way to capture screenshots on Android – yes, iPhone still wins for some things!
At the top is a left/right slideable list of recently accessed Apps. Easier to get to than double-tapping the home screen!

If you do go to the home screen, you’ll find it (on HTC at least) with nice animated time/weather, as well as icons for Apps and/or folders (like an iPhone):

I had to purchase Folder Organizer to really make folders work well on Android – but now I can (better than iPhone) have folders within folders! So for example all my Apps are organized in one Apps folder, with sub-folders for different categories – and taking only a single icon position on the home screen …


There’s lots of “geeky” things about Android too – pattern-based unlock, System Panel to track phone activity, 3G tracking to monitor data usage, and of course Juice Defender configurable to extend battery life (yes, not needed on iPhone!) …

Sadly I’ve not found anything like Photogene to edit photos, and the built-in photo handling cannot for example resize a photo when emailing it! Similarly there’s nothing to edit videos. But to great benefit, Google influence means that Gmail, Google Voice, Google Reader, all work very well on Android – you can even configure Google Voice to automatically take over any international calls that you dial!

I’d wish for a longer battery life, and for Photogene, but other than that, this phone with huge display, useful lock screen, and can’t-lose-them notifications, is an improvement over todays iPhone. But if Apple could finally do something smart with notifications (and a dashboard-like lock screen configurator) on iOS 5, they would be easily ahead of Android again. Competition is good!