Archive for August, 2007

Mini-review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Posted on August 16, 2007, under general.

While I was in New York, I bought two new lenses, a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and a Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM. I’ll review the 10-20mm later, once I’ve used it more, this post is about the 85mm, which Colin recommended.

The main reason I bought this lens was to have a good, fast, flattering portrait lens, and so far I’m not dissappointed. It suits my needs very well. At maximum aperture of 1.8, it’s pretty fast, and it’s got quick & quiet auto-focus even in relatively low-light conditions.

Michele Taking a photo in Union Square
Johnny Girl in Union Square

The speed leads to both rich and deep shadows, and also soft lighting effects, which I like. It’s not quite as good for taking further-away outdoorsy shots, with some visible aberration around light sources. For example the streetlights and signs in these two photos:

Time's Square Time's Square

But with a bit of patience, with only slightly better light, it can be used for producing some great outdoor shots too, with as much richness as indoor shots:


Evil lair building

Like any f/1.8, it’s got amazingly shallow Depth of Field, which is great for taking artistic shots or highlighted portraits. You can see the DOF yourself in these two shots;

Bench

Rail

The depth of field varies depending on how close you are to the subject, the portraits above are reasonable examples of shallow depth of field for highlighting. Apart from the very basic UV protector I bought with the lens, so far I don’t have any filters which fit it’s 58mm size. Without using any filters though it’s still got excellent colour separation and contrast.

Repair work in Central Park

It’s a reasonably light and convenient lens, and it’s quietness helps too for taking photos without people noticing too much. At 85mm, it’s field of view – especially on a small sensor – can be frustrating. It’s not as verdsatile as the 30mm 1.4 (in other words, get that first). But at the price, it’s an excellent lens, ideal for people like me who don’t want to spend too much but taking good looking photos with a wide aperture. Great for portraits and street photography alike.

Damovo fail to understand e-voting basics

Posted on August 1, 2007, under evoting, general.

Unfortunately another IT company has decided to push the e-voting issue again. Damovo have commissioned a survey and are creating the impression that electronic voting would somehow increase turnout. With two features in the Independent and SiliconRepublic.

The articles are simply staggering. By means of a survey, it’s revealed that 44% of the non-voting respondents could not make it to their polling station on polling day. E-voting, it is headlined, is the solution! Well, unfortunately trial after trial has failed to increase voter-turnout consistently. Even in Ireland, when trialled, turnout did not rise with any significance. What about moving the polling day? What about re-examining the postal voting system? What about allowing multiple polling days? The premise that e-voting is the only, or even most effective, solution is flawed.

There are some worrying statements from John McCabe – MD of Damovo Ireland – who says:

“If you can do your tax returns online, why can’t you vote online?”

The simple reason, is that online voting cannot be implemented both anonymously and secure from tampering, they are mutually exclusive requirements. But it doesn’t stop there:

Reminded of the over-the-top controversy around e-voting booths five years ago, McCabe said there are secure technologies available today that would eradicate concerns. “For purpose of identification people could use their biometric passports or use one-off polling cards.”

I’ve read and categorized every single submission to the Commission on Electronic Voting. As far as I’m aware identity fraud was not raised a concern with the e-voting system. It is an unrelated concern. The problem was, is, and will always be the vulnerability to undetectable vote tampering and failures.

Worse still, if we make identity a chief concern, then surely we must rule out all remote voting? The implications of McCabe’s statements are self-contradictory. If McCabe’s statements are a reflection of Damovo’s general competency, I worry for their future.