Comparing Cameras

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

I’m still trying to make up my mind as to which DSLR to buy. I long ago decided on Canon, and the Rebel’s a little small and a little too low on the megapixels for my tastes. In my price range, that leaves the 50D and the 5D Mark II (or equivalent older models, but I like newer toys. :-) ). The primary difference between these two are:

  1. The 50D is an APS-C sensor with a 1.6x Field-of-view crop. The 5D is a full 35mm camera.
  2. The 5D has 21 megapixels vs. 15 megapixels on the 5D.

I like to take pictures of two things: birds and bugs. (For family, friends, and pets I can use a point-and-shoot.) Keeping that in mind what makes sense?

Silver Argiope

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Large orb weaver in web with stabilimentum, dorsal view
Silver Argiope, Argiope argentata, female
Robert E. Badham Marine Life refuge, Corona del Mar, 2008-10-09

Pallid-winged Grasshopper

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Grey grasshopper in desert
Pallid-winged Grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis
Corn Creek, Clark County, Nevada, 2008-09-28

#446 Wandering Tattler

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

I went back to Robert E. Badham Marine Life Refuge in Corona del Mar tonight after work. Unfortunately I had miscalculated the tides. I knew they’d be two hours away from where they were Tuesday, but I thought they were two hours further away from high tide and instead they were two hours closer to it. In fact,when I got there around 5:45 it was pretty damn close to high tide. I almost didn’t bother walking down from the street to the beach, but I scoped it and fortunately there were still a few birds hanging out including many Western and Hermann’s Gulls. There also appeared to be a few good shorebirds down there: some turnstones and plovers and what not.

When I reached the bottom, I found a couple of dozen Brandt’s Cormorants settling in for the night, a lone Black Phoebe, and small numbers but good variety of shorebirds: about five Black Turnstones, one Ruddy Turnstone, a Willet or two, one Sanderling, and one juvenile Black-bellied Plover. But it was while I was watching about four Black Turnstones in the flotsam, that I noticed one larger bird picking through the seaweed.

At first I thought it was another Surfbird like Tuesday’s, but the bill was much too long. A quick check of the field guide and I realized it must be the elusive Wandering Tattler, #446! It had a thin eye ring and a barely discernible white eyeline. The patterning was right, and although it was hard to make out in the fading light, through the scope you could just tell that legs were a pale yellow.

It was way too dark to get photos of this bird with my 4X point-and-shoot, but I did manage to get some photos of the Black Turnstones that I missed taking on Tuesday when I forgot my camera:

Black Turnstone on beach at dusk

I’m going to have to try this site again at low tide and in brighter light. There are several other spots to the south I also want to check out. Wandering Tattler was the last local shorebird I could reasonably expect, but the winter gulls should be coming in soon too, and possibly some near-shore pelagic birds like shearwaters and jaegers.

Crashplan Pro

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

This looks interesting. Retrospect’s been sucking wind for years. Code 42’s Crashplan Pro is now offering similarly priced, multiplatform backup solutions. Furthermore there’s an expensive but not impossible online option. For a little under $500 per year I could backup my and my wife’s primary computers. (Most online backup solutions don’t offer nearly the storage space or bandwidth I’d need to do this at that price. JungleDisk, for instance, charges $0.10 per gigabyte upload and $0.17 per gigabyte down, as well as $0.15 per gigabyte per month.) I could also backup all our systems locally to hard drives.

The one thing Crashplan doesn’t seem to offer that Retrospect did is support for tape drives, but these days external hard drives are cheaper per-GB than tapes anyway; and I haven’t plugged in my DLT drive for a couple of years now.

Unlike most backup vendors, Code 42 does seem to understand the difference between network and local backup. They know you don’t just treat remote drives the same as a local drive. (I’ve been positively shocked at the ignorance of some vendors about this.)

I could still use a single Time Machine disk per Mac for local backup and restore of individual versioned files. Crashplan would handle the major disk and full system failures. I could stop swapping out Time Machine disks manually. (Yes, I’m paranoid. Running two independent backup solutions really appeals to me.)

What do folks think? How reliable is this? Does Crashplan actually understand the Mac file system, and can it do reliable restores? Do they have enough redundancy on the server to withstand failures on that end?

#444 and #445 at Robert E. Badham Marine Life Refuge

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Since moving out here to Orange County, I’ve spent a lot of time birding in the marshes, mountains, and beaches in about that order. However I’ve managed to miss the rocky coast aside from a couple of not especially productive trips in the early summer. Yesterday I decided to correct that. I checked the tide tables, and they didn’t look good (high tide about 4:00 P.M.) but Beth was at the ballet and I didn’t have anything better to do so I decided to go anyway.

I got to Corona del Mar about 5:30, and parked at the end of Poppy Ave. I started scoping the ocean and rocks from above. Western and Hermann’s Gulls were in abundance. from the road I spotted a couple of Black Turnstones, #444. They were soon joined by several Ruddy Turnstones. A Willet was also hanging out. There was one more bird on the rocks I couldn’t quite make out, so I walked down to the beach.

From the beach, I could easily pick out birds on the rocks with binoculars alone. The turnstones and Willet were still present and surprisingly unafraid of people. I relocated the mystery bird. It acted a lot like a Spotted Sandpiper, but was larger and grayer. There were two obvious possibilities, either of which would be life birds for me: Surfbird and Wandering Tattler. Then it flew from one rock to another giving a distinct flash of white on the tail. That’s usually a good field mark, and checking my Sibley’s, sure enough, there it was: Surfbird! #445. I hung around till dusk hoping for a Tattler to wander in, but no such luck. I did add a Black Phoebe, a Brown Pelican, and a Black-bellied Plover. Maybe I’ll see the Tattler next time if the tide’s lower.