OK, I went to Disney. I’ve got some shares, so it’s worth a check on how business is doing, and my friend works there, so I got in on a guest pass. I’d never been to Animal Kingdom and wanted to ‘check it out’.
There is more “there there” than in this slightly old map, but the Disney site was “user hostile” to attempts to find a simple linkable map, and I didn’t feel like wasting another 3 MB of image storage with a photo of their handout. So this map is ‘close enough’.
Along the way, I’d bought a new camera and wanted to know if it worked well enough to be ‘worth it’. My conclusion is that it does… The tiger up top lets you see such things as overall sharpness and image quality. Click on it to get the truly enormous 12 Mega Pixel image… (I especially like the way if you zoom in on the mouth you can see he sleeps with the tip of his tongue stuck out just like my house cat does ;-)
This picture, BTW, is taken through the plexiiglass enclosure window so is of lesser quality than the camera can produce directly… Yes, I like this camera… This shot was taken with some zoom on it too.
OK, the short form: Disney was a lot of fun and the Animal Kingdom would be a great place to take kids or parents who don’t want to do a lot of rides. It’s one of the most fun zoos I’ve been to, even if not the best at showing you a large variety of animals in cages.
The Camera, a Fujifilm Finpix S1800 was almost all I’d hoped it would be and is a fine choice for what I wanted to do. The “issues” I ran into are relatively minor and not particularly worrisome. It was listed as $200+ retail but “on sale” at Target for $180.
I’d been looking for a ‘pocketable’ camera with some degree of manual over ride and preferably with a viewfinder option. (In low light, I’d need to fumble for glasses to see a screen up close… where a viewfinder is not so encumbered. In bright light, the screen is washed out so the viewfinder again wins…) But … no such cameras seem to be offered any more. I tried Costco, Target, Best Buy, BJ’s Wholesale, and a couple of others. Maybe a dedicated camera store would know of something, but I couldn’t find one by wondering around ;-)
The one I got is one of those “not quite pocketable” crossover cameras that looks like a miniature 35 mm SLR but isn’t. It might fit in a generous coat pocket, but stuffing it in the pants pocket looks like a mutant squirrel is trying to rip your pants apart. So it’s mostly a hang around the neck thing.
Quite a bit. It has an 18 to 1 PHYSICAL zoom range and an optional ‘digital zoom’ cropping you can put on top of that for 6x more. 113.4x per the manual all told. In the end, it’s more than I really needed. From wide angle laying on my back in bed it gets most of the room and my feet look far way and small, to full zoom where it just barely gets 2 1/2 of the RCA phono plug type jacks on the VCR front panel about 12 feet away… Nice. The manual says its 28 mm -420 mm for the lens in 35 mm equivalents. Then you add the 6x ‘digital’ cropping… or about 2500 mm equivalent. Yeah, it gets hard to hand hold. I bought a mini tripod for $6 or so and well worth it… Actual lens spec f=5-90mm F3.1(w)-5.6(t)
It has Macro (in two stages) that worked OK. It has a “panorama” mode that stitches 3 images together adequately and is an interesting thing to play with. It’s got shutter speed up to 1/2000 and down to a few seconds (8?) It has an ISO / ASA range up to 6400 and it’s 12 MPixels.
It takes decent pictures.
The focus is fast and when it ‘snaps in’ it puts a little x on the spot along with a yellow box indicating the size area it’s interested in. It has a face detection mode that will preferentially focus on faces. Where many of the pocketables would wander around and never clearly tell me what they were focused upon (and with a small LCD and no glasses, I had no hope of being sure they were focused on anything) this camera gave a very clear indicate (including optional sound) of FOCUSED on THIS.
I also found that I used the viewfinder a LOT more than I’d expected. In a variety of lighting conditions, in places where I didn’t want my face to ‘glow in the dark’ and even just as a battery saver mode… I WANT that viewfinder…
You do not constantly fight the flash popping up when you don’t want it. There is a simple and effective button on the side of the lens mount that deploys the flash. If you don’t press it, you don’t get the flash. Even if you shift to full auto point and shoot mode. Push it, you get flash pop up and the flash is used of the camera thinks it’s needed. Nice. Very nice. I’ve fought the ‘pop up flash’ on my Nikon more than once in “no flash allowed” or no flash desired places. To have a simple, direct, human control of it is wonderful.
And a whole lot more I’ve not even begun to explore yet.
There are a few things it does that fall in the “What?” category. I’ve not yet run into one that’s in the “You Bastard” range… These are mostly compromises that the maker made to give you a good number on a brochure AND give you that option, but where the physics or the money just didn’t quite let them to it “first class”. The usual “they cheeped on something” you run into on most products that are not the most expensive and top drawer (and even on them sometimes).
No, none of them are ‘lethal’ to the experience. But yes, they are mild disappointments. I’ll just ramble through them.
ASA / ISO range
That 6400 ASA (and even the 3200 ASA / ISO) is only available in “small” mode. You can have 12 MPixels and 1600 ASA / ISO, or you can have 3200 or even 6400 if you drop to 3 MPixels. OK, so they have a sensor that would “mottle” too much at high ISO, and they are ganging the pixels together to get a better rendition at “high ISO”. It’s a place where small sensor size runs into the physics of photon arrivals and you must choose. Larger sensor (and much larger lens, camera, costs, etc) xOR small sensor (with small camera, costs, lens, etc. – which was what I wanted…) and with that fewer photons to count, so you get more randomness effects with the odd red photon from a blue scene making a single pixel red and giving you ‘mottle’…
They made a decent choice given the options. I get reduced mottle from a small sensor AND the option of very high ISO if I really really need it. I’d have been happier if I’d been able to agree to this choice PRIOR to buying, but it’s an OK choice. It would be a bit better if 6400 used an S image and 3200 used a Medium (IMHO) but at that point you are ‘in the engineering weeds’ without the data to know which is the better choice.
The Aperture Range
Part of my decision to buy this camera was based on the fact that it had A, S, and M settings. Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual modes. That does, in a way, imply you actually HAVE an aperture range to adjust. The lens has a modestly fast wide angle F-3.1 and in playing with the camera it sometimes says things like F-11.x or whatever. Looks like an aperture range… but….
Most of that comes only from the zoom impact on aperture.
Looking at the tech page of the manual we find the aperture entry, in it’s entirety:
F 3.1 and F6.4 (wide angle), F 5.6 and F 11.0 (telephoto) with ND filter.
Yes, you got it. “ND filter”.
There is NO Aperture adjustment at all just a neutral density filter masquerading as an aperture adjustment. Functionally useless for things like depth of field change.
To say it has an “Aperture priority mode” is a bald faced lie. The camera has NO aperture control at all
OK, in their defense. At the 5 mm range of the lens, the depth of field is pretty well ‘everything’ anyway. And at the 90 mm end you are already at F6.4 and that’s pretty good. Yet, I’d really like the ability to hit an F 11 or even an F 16 for better DOF on some shots. (And yes, I know that the image will be softening at those stops as the sharpness is degraded in exchange for DOF). Yes, it’s kind of ‘out in the weeds’ and even a lot of high end photographers don’t realize that image sharpness is best near the middle of the aperture range and degrades as you stop down past that point. So yes, they made a ‘better for most folks’ decision.
But really… calling a Neutral Density Filter an Aperture control? It’s just a lie. Period.
So on several shots where I tried ‘stopping down’ to get better DOF (and being mildly disappointed to find I “only” had a choice of two aperture settings) I now know, having scoured the manual for that one line, that it’s not even got that. I was just wasting my time and my light and increasing my ‘camera shake’ problems with a damnable neutral density filter…
My one significant disappointment with this camera is this single fact.
You don’t get all shutter speeds available all the time. In particular, that 1/2000 goes away with some settings of the camera. I’ve not figured out the reasoning behind this. in P S A M modes you get 8 Sec – 1/2000 S. In others it’s from 1/8 S at the long end to 3 S. The top end is listed in the manual as 1/2000 for all of them, yet shifting some settings in the camera has had that 1/2000 choice evaporate leaving me with a top end of lower. The manual makes the cryptic comment of “combined mechanical and electronic shutter” so I’m not sure how much actual shutter range I’ve got and how much motion blur I can choose to get or eliminate…
OK, I’m reasonably happy with the shutter. Not seen any “issues” from it yet. It does some reasonable motion blur effects at long shutters and it suppresses motion blur fairly well at the upper end. It would be nice to know what my actual shutter speeds were as opposed to knowing what my pseudo-“shutter” speeds are…
The manual claims you can get 300 shots on a set of 4 AA Alkaline cells. I got a little over 400 on 2 sets (though in honesty, the second set is still in and only gave a low battery indicate after a series of power hungry zooms, snaps, and ‘stuff’ and is now back to ‘no worries’ … for a while…). Given that in L (large image) mode the camera can put over 600 shots on one 2 GB chip (in default “normal” and 4:3 mode) and up to 5270 on a 16 GB chip (or 26,490 in Small 16:9 mode…) it’s pretty clear that batteries are going to be an “issue”.
Since actual consumption will depend on things like how much time you spend ‘composing’ a shot, zooming in and out, leaving the display glowing as you wander from one exhibit to another (and potentially the focus focusing…) I’m not too surprised that YMMV on batteries. I just wish it gave a better proportional consumption indication prior to the ‘belly up’ point. I’d been in the ‘bat house’ and done about 1/2 dozen fast shots in a row, then the batteries just ‘up and quit’ per the camera. Letting it rest over lunch I was able to take a picture of my “honey chicken” on the dead batteries (and without a new ‘dead battery’ shutdown) but bought more anyway. So maybe I could have ‘stretched them’ with slower shooting?
You must tell the camera if it has Alkaline, Lithium, or NiMH batteries. The manual says to avoid NiCd and “Manganese” (by which I think it means carbon /zinc) cells.
On Lithium it can do 700 shots. So I guess a set of rechargeable Li cells are in my future if I use this for more than the occasional day trip. Otherwise it’s going to be ‘put a set of spares’ in the pocket… I ‘ran out’ just before the tiger pictures and got to buy a set of 4 alkaline at a Disney kiosk for $1.50 each… more on that below…
Oh, and there is no “raw” mode. You get the processed bits and that’s it. It does let you choose between normal, Black and White, and “chrome” color modes, though, along with a Normal and Fine compression and a sharpness control. So my guess is that with a Large image, FINE and Sharp you get most of the information in the bits anyway.
No USB Drive Emulation
Plug the camera into a USB port and nothing happens. You must install their software first. The Nikon does a USB disk emulation. OK, I can put the SD chip in my USB adapter if I want it to look like a disk. But I didn’t have that on the trip and could not upload from my computer (and didn’t want to gratuitously load software on my host’s computer… nor beg for admin rights…). Minor nit. Easily fixed. Once you know about it. But still, it’s the reason you saw no ‘trip pictures’ before now.
OK, this camera cost me all of $179.xx and works great almost all the time. I’ve got a few gripes about some modestly technical stuff most folks won’t care about at all. It’s got more “modes” than I’ve worked out yet (I’m not a “mode” kind of guy, so it’s likely to be a while…) and does what I wanted it to do Just Fine. In the automatic “Select a Mode for Me” mode it does a decent job of scene recognition and adaptation (thought it claimed to detect ‘eye blink’ in portraits with ‘characters’ in them… I think it’s not set up for ‘people’ with pupils of 3 inch diameter ;-)
It’s smarter than most photographers and will do better for most people most of the time than they could ever hope to do for themselves. Ok, got that. Like that. (But I’d be happier if the dial on top did NOT say “A” but instead said 2xND… a lie is still a lie, even if a polite one…)
I like it. I’m keeping it. I’m using it. I’m buying batteries….
I’ll probably say more in another posting some time, and as soon as I’ve got the whole manual downloaded to the PC
I’ll think about posting that PDF too, if anyone is interested. I’ve added the PDF here. (Or maybe just so I can get to it ‘on the road’…)
Generally, I like the place. I’m not going to put much up here about it, or in praise of it. It’s pretty clear what they do well. This is going to be limited mostly to my gripes and a couple of ‘well OK’ comments.
First up, I don’t expect it to be cheap to eat in Disney parks. But I came away feeling distinctly “Ripped Off”. Period. No caveats.
In “Asia” in the Animal Kingdom (while contemplating ‘dead’ batteries) I ordered a lunch from the (whatever Yak Tak Tik Klac food shack) that was one spring roll, one “Honey Chicken” on rice, and a coke. Don’t have the receipt in front of me right now (it’s in a large pile to sort out) but it was $10 for the chicken, $3 for the spring roll, about $3 for the drink. Call it $16. Then you add tax… It was about $18 IIRC. For one person. For lunch.
The good news is that the spring roll was Great. Crisp crunchy crust, pork filling was flavorful and moist. Coke is, well, coke. Overpriced but it is what it is. The cup being absolutely PACKED with ice was an insult I could have avoided by saying “go easy on the ice” I think… It was the Honey Chicken that stuck in my craw. Literally.
It came in a bright orange rendition of the typical Asian restaurant “to go” box. The good news is that 3/4 of the way through it, I could hold no more. A fairly generous portion of chicken on top of a thin layer of vegetables, on top of a pile of white rice. The bad news was that 1/2 way through it I was reaching my tolerance limit for cruddy food and was forcing down the rest so as to not have to buy more food later at rip off prices…
The rice seemed like a medium grain and slightly gummy type (though that could have been the sauce that ran into it from the ladle doling it out on one side of the box…). Not an Asian long grain as it ought to have been. The ‘vegetables’ were a thin layer of soggy (previously frozen?) something or other with nondescript flavor. A bit of broccoli a bit of ? But it was the “honey chicken” that caused me the most ire. It was like McNuggets with a goo of high fructose corn syrup dumped on 1/2 of it. Some were dry and clearly had a sort of a fried crust on them. Others were semi-softened by the goo, but still just lozenges of chicken with mediocre ‘crust’ and some goo.
This was particularly galling after the well done spring roll, as it has set my expectation that this might be food worth eating…
(I may replace this high res picture with a low res one later as it is not worth the storage space for so many bits…)
OK, the rest of the day was much less eventful. I have to give a passing sneer at the Politically Correct Indoctrination Camp of Rafiki’s Planet Watch area. It’s a pleasant enough train ride to it, and a nice stroll through forests to the animal petting area (that’s a great place for kids to find out what a “kid” really is as they pet a goat…). But the whole thing is largely just an homage to PC “conservation” and “being green”. And I’ve become sensitized to how much of that is just PC run amok. It would be better if they just shifted back to their old ways of “animals are neat things and fun to get to know, and we need to keep a place for them in our hearts and in the world.”
Crowds were lighter than I’d expected (so this week Disney posted somewhat lower than expected earnings…) until I reached The Magic Kingdom. Where I was informed that I was going to be kicked out at 7pm (Animal Kingdom closed at 5 pm as the sun sets and animals settle in to sleep) as there was a special event that night (Disney Christmas) and that if I’d only buy another admission after already having an admission I could stay until after midnight… I’m not seeing much reason to increase my holdings and can’t see a reason to recommend the stock at this point.
If I’d paid for my ticket in, and with wife and kids in tow, I’d have been pissed… As it was, I wasn’t really bothered much. Free is free and I was worn out after hiking over all of Animal Kingdom from 10 am to 4:45 pm anyway. A quick circuit of Main Street, Tomorrow Land, and Fantasy Land and end in the New Orleans quarter would likely let me have a decent dinner and then be done. So I trudged through the fairly thick crowds to the Final Destination and playing with the camera on the way. (More pictures than I could possibly post in the storage I’ve got…)
Then I stopped by some diner of other and checked out the menu. I’d though that maybe I’d just ‘cheeped out’ a bit on the kiosk food and the ‘sit down place’ might be better. I don’t even remember the name of it, as I was a bit stunned…
I think it was this place. Liberty Tree Tavern. This “menu” has the stuff on it I remember, and says’s it is $29.xx, but I think it’s just a case of Disney on line not keeping up with the price inflation on the ground…
It has a classical American dinner with roast beef, roast bird of some sort, mashed potatoes and vegetable IIRC. Sounded nice. For that I’d even cough up another $20… Then I saw the price: $32 per Adult (where you start being an adult at 10 years old…) So Mom, Dad, and 2 kids aged 10 and 12 will run you out at $128.00 for a buffet… PLUS tax. And if you have 2 friends along, you will trip over the “magic” 6 party size and an automatic 18% “tip” will be added… Sorry, but if it’s automatically added, it isn’t a tip, it’s a blatant service charge. So you can ‘uplift’ that $128 by about 25% for “tax and tip”…
At that point, I just didn’t feel the least bit hungry anymore. It’s hard to feel hungry when you are busy feeling pissed.
I think it is a cafeteria buffet type place, but frankly, I didn’t even bother to look. Memories of the lump of goo stuck in my stomach for the prior 5 hours flooded back and I just saw no reason to throw another $32 bucks at the wall to see if if stuck in a wad too.
Even the fact that you can buy a beer in Animal Kingdom suddenly turned from a pleasant surprise into a dark memory of the $6 or so price tag. Those $1.50 each alkaline batteries contrasted with the $0.50 each (that I’d bought a dozen of at Target – and left at ‘home’) and left me simmering a tad more as I decided to not even waste a picture on the ‘menu’ for documentation…
With the words “Unholy Ripoff” bouncing around in my brain, I started the long walk back to the front gate (so as to be out of the “park” prior to my ejection time…)
Yes, I had a ‘great time’ taking pictures of fake emotion evoking displays. Yes, I enjoyed my camera and the decorations for “Disney Christmas” (here in November even before Thanksgiving had arrived…). But at the end of it all, I realized that the ($80 or so?) one adult admission along with a $20 lunch and a $35 dinner (tax added, you know) and $6+ for 4 batteries and some other odds and ends all added up to about the $179 I’d paid for the camera.
It “sunk in” that I’d mostly had a good time ‘playing photographer’ and I could do that for free in the Florida country side. AND I could get a great Puerto Rican meal with all the extras for $6 for lunch, about $20 for a full on dinner with drinks to my limit.
At the end of it all, I realized that the time I’d spent ‘playing photographer’ out in the sticks was far more enjoyable net/net than the time in the Disney “parks”.
Met up with my host / friend. He, his wife, and I had dinner at Wolfgang Pucks (in Downtown Disney – so still on the Disney Property) where I ordered a stellar Pepperoni Pizza for $14. Yeah, the wine was $7+ / glass… but even with a couple of them I was under $32 …
All in all, I think Disney needs to address the “food value proposition”. For me, they are way on the wrong side of “not enough value per dollar”. Enough that I’m not going to bother going back to the parks if I have to pay to get in then get ripped off on the one thing I really enjoy at such places (other than photography): Dining out.
So I’ll tank up on a breakfast beyond belief (Ham, eggs, hash browns, toast, etc.) until I can’t wiggle, then hit the parks. That will carry me well past lunch. A cooler in the car with ‘snacks and sandwich fixings’ will be one ‘reentry’ away if I need another meal before my “what? closing so soon?” departure. A large water bottle carried in will solve the thirst in transit issue. Yes, a day at Disney has convinced me that I’ll simply pre-plan better and and NOT bother being ‘immersed’ in the experience. The last immersion is still stuck in my throat…