Technical details. (Latest news first)

December 2016 - Android Smartphone It is 5 years since I aquired my first smartphone, detailed below, and I have had 2 others, now retired, plus my current smartphone (2015).
Android Mobile Telephone


I've had my current smartphone for about 15 months now and this is it. It has an octacore processor, a 5.5 inch screen, is dual SIM and has an SD card slot to take an SD storage card up to 128MB. The camera isn't very good although the results are acceptable but then I didn't buy it to be used as a camera. Some of the Carding Mill Valley photographs were taken using this 'phone because I had forgotten to take my SLR. Silly old me!

The GPS positioning is reasonable and, having a choice of two SIM cards I can usually get a 'phone signal. The battery is pretty good with a full charge lasting 3 days with light use and even with intensive use it should easily last at least a whole day.

I did wonder whether a 'phone with a 5.5 inch screen would seem to be too big. That hasn't been the case but I don't think that I would want to go any larger. I'm still using a lot of the applications that I had on my first 'phone together with many new ones one of which will tell me the position of the sun in a given location and for a specified time. Very useful for photography planning.





December 2016 - Colour Laser Printers

Since my last update, which admittedly is a long time ago, I have had two Colour Laser Printers. The first, an HP LaserJet 1400, was bought second hand and was as big as a garden shed but had a distinct advantage over an inkjet. We don't print very much so the printer sometimes sits there doing nothing for weeks. With an inkjet the ink in the jets dries and clogs the jets which usually means the printer can no longer be used and using an inkjet that has the jets built into the cartriges, which tends to solve the problem, but are expensive to run. So we changed to a laser which can sit unused for ever and immediately print without problems when restarted.

The HP LaserJet did stirling work for a number of years, although it took ages to warm up ready for printing, but eventually gave up the ghost so this year I bought a Dell C2660dn Colour Laser Printer. This one is only as big as a small garden shed but warms up quickly and is ready for printing in no time. So far we are very pleased with it particularly as it will automatically print on both sides of the paper duplex printing).

February 2011 - Android Mobile Telephone (Smart 'phone)

This Android mobile 'phone superceeds my Zaurus pocket computer inasmuch as this telephone is really a small mobile computer but it can also be used as a telephone. I aquired this only last August (2010) so haven't yet been able to try it in the field very much. I did use it when we were in Sandwich to post once to the Blog whilst we were having a cuppa in a tearoom and it worked very well.

Android Mobile Telephone

This is the Android 'phone, switched on, showing two of the numerous screens. The layout of these screens is definable by the user so you can blame me if you don't like them. The length of the 'phone is 4.5 inches overall and the screen being 3 inches on its longest side with a 3.5 inch diagonal (which is how they tend to measure them).

These Android 'phones are a bit of a technological marvel really when you consider that they contain a 'phone, a GPS unit, WiFi, a camera and they allow access to the Internet via a browser and email. Internet access can be either by WiFi, if there is a wireless point nearby, or via the mobile telephone network (2G or 3G).

There are thousands of Android applications available with many of them being free. You may notice in the right-hand picture of the two that there are icons to access applications such as details of traffic problems, local bus timetables and information, railway services, maps etc. etc. Most of the map display applications will, if the GPS is switched on, show your current position on the map.

So, for example, you could have a street plan of London together with details of local bus services and a map of the London Tube system. No more getting lost!

Android Mobile Telephone A useful feature is that it is possible to rotate the 'phone and the screen image then rotates to match as shown here. This is showing one of many applications that provide a Tube map for London.




February 2010 - Epson Stylus Photo 830U

I have, on my laptop, all the Ordance Survey maps of Great Britain and although I take the laptop with us when we go away we have never been in a position where we could print maps when we are away. That has now changed with the purchase of an Epson Stylus Photo 830U inkjet printer. I didn't want to pay a lot of money because it's not something that we'll use very often and I managed to buy a used one on ebay. There is a paper feed support, not shown in the photograph, which clips on the back and is easily removed for transportation and the paper tray at the front folds up making a nice size at 18 inches long x 10 inches deep and 7 inches high which should fit, together with its leads, into a small holdall very comfortably.

Colour printer

Buying from ebay is always a little risky and especially so with an inkjet printer because if left unused for too long the nozzles in the printhead clog up. Epsons tend to be notorious for blocked printhead nozzles because they are so small so I wasn't surprised to find that although the colour cartridge was printing well the black wasn't printing at all.

Having tried a few printhead cleaning cycles without improvement I decided to try a cleaning cartridge. I don't know how long these cleaning cartridges have been on the market but they certainly weren't available when we last had an inkjet printer some years ago and I wasn't that hopeful that it would produce any significant improvement. When it arrived I removed the black cartridge and replaced it with the cleaning cartridge. Changing a cartridge seems to cause the printer to automatically go through a cleaning cycle when it's next switched on - which it did. I ran one more cleaning operation and replaced the cleaning cartridge with the black cartridge.

The printer went through another automatic cleaning cycle and then I printed a nozzle check pattern. Previously the nozzle check didn't show any black at all but this time the black patch appeared albeit rather streaky. However leaving it a few hours and trying again produced a perfect pattern. So I take my hat off to cleaning cartridges because they certainly seem to work very well.

So what about the cost? Well the printer cost £15 and the cleaning cartridge cost me all of £2 including postage and I consider that a bargain!

April 2009 - Nikon D80 camera

Nikon Digital Camera

After using the E10 for around nine years I thought an upgrade was probably in order and, so, in April 2009 I bought a Nikon D80. Although both the E10 and the D80 are digital single lens reflex cameras there are a number of major differences.

Firstly the D80 produces a ten megapixel image compared to the E10's four megapixels, secondly the D80 has interchangeable lenses although I don't plan to make use of that feature. My D80 has a 18-135mm zoom lens which should do all that I want so once it's in place it will normally stay there. The Nikon zoom lens has a x7 zoom compared with the E10's x4 which will be a useful improvement.

The E10 was able to display images on the monitor screen on the back of the camera but because it took something like two minutes for the 12MB TIFF images to appear it was totally impracticable to use. The D80 displays the 8MB RAW images almost instantaneously which is much more useful. Another difference between the two cameras is that the E10 used Compact Flash storage but the D80 uses Secure Digital.

Nikon Digital Camera

Like the E10 the D80 can be set to automatic or manual focus although the focus control ring is behind the zoom ring which is the opposite of the E10. The E10 was powered by four rechargeable AA batteries but the D80 has just one lithium ion type HL-EL3e 1500 mAh battery which seems to last very well. Depending on how many pictures I take it lasts a number of days.

The primary reason for buying a Nikon D80 was that it's covered in technical looking buttons which helps to impress any audience Smilley  - Oh, and it takes quite a good snap.

The menu system has an extraordinary number of settings which allows control of just about everything although you must set the "FULL MENUS" option in the setup menu otherwise a lot of the settings are hidden.

October 2006 - Casio Exilim Z850

This is the latest addition to the fold in October 2006 - small but perfectly formed as the saying goes. It is a Casio Exilim Z850 digital camera which hardly notices in the pocket and can be ready for use in about 1 second after switching on.

Compact camera I wanted something good enough to act as a standby in the event that my main camera went wrong and also a camera that I could slip into my pocket and use easily and quickly or that Amanda, my wife, could use perhaps when we were travelling along in the car and after a lot of research on the Internet I decided on the Casio Exilim shown here.

It has an amazing number of features packed into that tiny frame including 8 megapixels resolution, ready for action in about 1 second, 3x optical zoom, optical viewfinder, flash, an LCD screen that occupies most of the back of the camera and on top of that it is really easy to use. The battery seems to last quite a long time (Casio says for over 400 images) and a single 1GB SD Card takes nearly 200 images at the highest quality.

The large circle is where the lens extends when switched on and the small rectangle in the centre of the circle is a protective metal shutter that covers the lens when the camera is switched off and automatically opens when the camera is switched on - no lens cap to lose.

Oh and did I mention that among the very many features that I haven't mentioned it records video sequences, with sound, limited only by the storage capacity of the SD card. The only still image format supported is JPEG with an image size of about 4-5MB and a resolution of 3264 x 2448.

Update 2009: The bad news is that during 2009 I noticed a relatively large black blob in the centre of the monitor screen on the back of the camera. By 2010 another smaller blob had appeared in near the bottom right-hand corner. Looking with a magnifier I can see that these are dead pixels. It doesn't affect it's ability to take pictures and it also has an optical viewfinder but it is rather unsightly. It gives the impression that Casio cameras are poor quality.

October 2005 - Zaurus SL-C3100

Minature computer

I have recently, October 2005, bought myself a Sharp Zaurus SL-C3100 which, as you can see, is a computer in minature and is shown here, with its wrist strap, together with a standard size computer mouse as a comparison.

It fits easily in the pocket and accepts a variety of CompactFlash based accessories such as a wireless network card so that it can connect to the internet when in range of a wirless access point.

It has a 4 GB hard drive and is supplied with Linux only and, as far as I know, is not supported by any other operating system. I have fitted it with a wrist strap so that it is relatively secure when in the field - it prevents me from dropping it.

Minature computer One of its uses, as it has a CompactFlash slot, is to view photographs in the field, much better than trying to see them on the camera's postage stamp size screen. I also have a GPS attachment for it which is also very useful for fixing one's position in the field.

It is an amazing little gadget which can also be used one-handed as a PDA.

It has a touch sensitive screen which rotates and folds down with the back of the screen covering the keyboard as shown here. The display on screen then also rotates so that the display is then portrait format instead of landscape formt. Clever eh?

You can see the on/off switch and the slot for an SD card on the right-hand edge.

Because it has a touch-sensitive screen it can easily be used in this mode.

My first digital camera was an Olympus 1400L and I used a serial link to transfer TIFF images, with a size of 1.4MB, to my computer at home. The image size, in pixels, was 1280 x 1024 and they were stored on SmartMedia cards.

The 1400L was replaced after about two years with an Olympus E10.

Digital camera April 2001

This is my Olympus E10 bought in April 2001. This camera is a digital single lens reflex with a fixed (non-removeable) zoom lens with a range of 9 - 36 mm which is equivalent to 35 - 140 mm on a standard 35 mm camera.

The narrow knurled ring immediately behind the lens is for manual focussing, if required, as it's normally automatic and the wide knurled ring behind that is to operate the zoom.

The TIFF image size on this camera is 12MB, with a resolution of 2240 x 1680, and these images are stored on CompactFlash cards.

Trying to transfer these images on a serial link was impractical so I bought myself a PCMCIA PC Card Adapter for my Dell Latitude laptop (See update below) which runs Debian Linux). The CompactFlash card appears to the laptop as just another disc drive and, when the laptop is connected to the network via a PCMCIA Ethernet adapter, the images can be transferred directly from the card onto my desktop.

I have a small carrying bag and the E10 just fits in the main compartment with three other small external zipped pockets for extra batteries, CompactFlash Cards and a small notebook. There are two small zipped pockets inside the lid which hold my Polarising filter and some more CompactFlash cards.

Because the camera images have a file size of about 8MB some reduction in resolution/size is necessary to prevent a wait of about 3 days while the pages download from the web site to your computer so the pictures on this site are all in JPEG format and are optimised for fast downloading. The largest on-site images have a resolution of 855 x 573 for the Nikon D80, 855 x 641 for the Olympus E10 and 855 x 684 for the Olympus 1400L.

All image adjustments were made using The Gimp. This is totally free and has more image manipulation functions than most people would ever need.

When I am on location I can download the images onto the laptop's hard disc and then wipe the CompactFlash card(s) clean ready for re-use but before wiping the camera cards I always make a backup copy of the images onto a CD using a CD-Writer in the laptop's swappable drive bay.

Laptop update 2005: My Dell Latitude laptop was stolen on one of our trips and has now been replaced, under my insurance, with an IBM Thinkpad R51 which is a very nice machine and runs Linux very well.

I'm happy to answer any questions about any of the items mentioned on this page by email

Photographic sites which may be of interest: