Thursday, 18 August 2011

08:45 – Pity the poor European Central Bank, which has the tiger by the tail. Two weeks ago, the ECB began buying Spanish and Italian debt. That intervention worked, driving down Spanish and Italian bond yields from considerable more than 6% to the 5% range. That still isn’t good, but it puts off the crash a bit longer.

The problem is, having started, the ECB can’t stop buying Spanish and Italian debt because no one else will buy it. With Spain and Italy no longer having access to the capital markets, if the ECB doesn’t buy their debt, the yields will jump catastrophically. We saw this happen with Greece, Portugal, and Ireland, and it will most certainly happen with Spain and Italy. Rather than 5% yields, we’d soon see yields climbing into the 10%+ range, and eventually probably into the 20% range, as happened with Greece.

That means the ECB must buy essentially all debt offered for auction by Spain and Italy. Considering rollovers, interest payments, and new debt already scheduled to be auctioned, for the remainder of this year that comes to something like $50 billion per week. Call it $1 trillion between now and the end of the year.

And, in an incredible irony, Finland announced yesterday that it would require full collateral from Greece if Greece expected Finland to participate in the Greek bailout. In other words, Finland wants Greece to cough up enough cash to allow Finland to buy AAA bonds as collateral against Finland’s share of the bailout. Of course, if Greece had any collateral it wouldn’t need the bailout. Later yesterday, Austria, Slovenia, and Slovakia also announced that they’d require collateral from Greece before they participated in the bailout. The Netherlands is expected to require the same. In other words, all of these countries, and others likely to make similar demands, are running as fast as they can away from the Greek bailout, which means the Greek bailout may never happen.

The real irony, of course, is that everyone is pretending this is a liquidity crisis, when in fact it’s a debt crisis. And Greece is small potatoes compared to Spain and (particularly) Italy, and eventually Belgium and France. The simple truth is that these countries owe far too much to have any chance of ever repaying what they owe, and that bill is quickly coming due.


I have to order a new Pentax DSLR. The one Barbara took to work was damaged by a power surge, and her firm is reimbursing us for the cost of a new camera. The damaged camera still functions, but the power surge killed its USB port, which is essential for using it on a microscope. Her firm will keep the damaged camera, which still works for shooting images. It’s no problem for them to transfer images by removing the memory card and putting it in a card reader.

I plan to order a Pentax Kr, which is the nearest current model to the one we’re replacing. One thing I insist on is the ability to use AA cells. The Kr comes with a lithium-ion battery, but AA-compatibility is now optional, via the $40 D-BH109 adapter. I’ll order it with the kit lens, which is an excellent 18-55mm zoom. I’ll also order a fast memory card or two for it. I haven’t looked at memory cards lately, but I’m assuming that 4 GB and even 8 GB cards are pretty inexpensive nowadays. At 12 megapixels, a 4 GB card would probably give me roughly 200 image files in RAW format per card. The last time I bought a memory card, fast cards were roughly twice the price of slower ones, so I might be able to get a fast 4 GB card for what I’d pay for a slow 8 GB card. Any advice would be appreciated.

21 thoughts on “Thursday, 18 August 2011”

  1. Regarding the memory cards I have to ask why you need the speed? High speed cards are typically used for continous shooting such as in sports. For what you are doing the speed would not be essential. The camera probably has a 5 to 10 image frame buffer anyway. However, if the fast card is the same price as the slower card, or even just a couple of dollars more it really does not matter.

    My personal preference is Lexar cards. I have a 32 gig in my Olympus E5 (12 mp) and I can get over 2,000 raw images. If you do video go with a larger card. Currently a 16g SDHC card is $40.00 at B&H whom I highly recommend. A two-pack is available for $60.00 which is a good price.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/755862-REG/Lexar_LSD16GCRBNA1332_16GB_133x_SDHC_Card.html

    I also only recommend the Lexar professional series as they have served me extremely well with never a problem. Also with the Lexar professional series you get Image Rescue 4 software which works quite well for recovering images. Never used on my cards but I have for friends.

    The size of the card is your choice. For my work I stick with many smaller cards and change them often. I don’t want all my images on one card in case there is a failure in a single card. For your work it really should not be an issue.

    Go with Lexar in my opinion.

  2. Thanks. I was going to order from B&H, which I’ve been buying cameras and darkroom gear from since the mid-1960’s. I was going to go with SanDisk for the card. Here’s the one I was considering ordering one or two of.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/580122-REG/SanDisk_SDSDX3_008G_A31_8GB_Extreme_SDHC_Memory.html

    It appears to be faster than the Lexar card, and write speed may be an issue for me. I think 8 GB is sufficient, even if I want to shoot 720p video.

    I also see that B&H is backordered on the AA adapter. For about the same price, I can order a second Pentax-branded lithium ion battery. What has been your experience with Li-ion batteries. Do they eventually refuse to hold a charge?

  3. There are signs that Ireland might make it, but Greece is toast.

    Then again, what would the Acropolis be worth as collateral? It’d make quite a tourist attraction in Helsinki – or Houston. And there are a lot of temples in Greece.

  4. Ireland is the odd man out in the Euro crisis. Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and France simply borrow too much money via sovereign bonds. Ireland’s problem was a banking crisis brought on by a housing bubble. At one point, I think on a per capita basis, Ireland was building literally 10 or 20 times as many new homes as the UK. That came back to haunt them when the bubble collapsed and their banks went bankrupt.

    In my uninformed opinion, Ireland is probably the most salvageable of the Eurozone countries that are in difficulty. It’ll mean even more austerity measures than have already been implemented, but Ireland could return to the capital markets in as little as five years from now. The problem is, I don’t think there’s that much time remaining, and I think Ireland is going to end up being dragged down by the southern tier Eurozone collapse. At least Ireland has, so far, avoided the pressure to increase its corporate tax rates, which would simply drive Intel, Google, et alia to another country.

  5. The SanDisk cards are good. You may want to consider a 16 gig instead of 8 gig. Not that much price difference. The Lexar cards are also class 10 cards so the speed overall is about the same. The Lexar cards specifiy a minimum speed of 20 MB/s where the SanDisk only specify up to 30 MB/s. Take the speed ratiings with a grain of salt. Both cards are class 10 so both will work well.

    Yes, the Li-ion batteries eventually wear out and will eventually have diminished capacity. My use is obviously more than what you would experience so it is hard to judge how you would fare. I get about three years use and then I buy new batteries. I always carry a spare set of the batteries and have never needed to resort to my AA pack for my cameras. I use an external grip that holds two of the camera batteries but will also accept an AA (or CR-123) adapter in an emergency.

    The batteries are proprietary but I have never been in a situation where the batteries did not meet my needs. On some very cold football games I have run out of power before the end of the game. In that case I just pull the extra batteries from under my coat and keep going. I put the cold batteries back under my coat and that seems to revive them. Some weddings have required almost 8 hours of continuous use of the camera. About 6 hours in one set of batteries will need replacing with another set.

    I like the proprietary batteries because it is less to mess with. With AA I would need to swap 6 batteries, with the system batteries only 2. Alkalines would quickly exhaust themselves in my cameras and I consider them emergency, last resort items. High power AA’s are expensive and the only rechargeable AAs that I have found satisfactory are the Enelope batteries. There may be others but when I found the Enelopes I quit looking.

    I see no issues with you getting a second battery to use on trips and in fact think it is a good idea. Eventually you may have to replace the batteries. Over time it may be cheaper than the AA batteries. Having charged batteries has never been an issue for me. The batteries will typically recharge in less than 3 hours on my system and I suspect Pentax is the same way.

  6. Eneloops or bust. I tried “Camelion” once, and they sucked.

    If you go proprietary and have a choice between Pentax and a cheaper, Made-in-China version, get the branded one. The Made-in-China version of the proprietary battery for my Lumix isn’t up to spec.

    I’ve used the SanDisk Extreme IIIs for years. Love ’em, they write quickly. One died not too long ago and I wish I’d saved the receipt for warranty replacement.

  7. Do you even need a receipt for warranty replacement? I had a CF card die once, I think it was a Crucial card. I just filled in the information on the web site, sent in the card, and got a replacement. Actually a better card, larger and faster, because they no longer made my particular card.

    I have yet to have a Lexar card die. But the year is still young. I suspect that Lexar is no more reliable than any name brand. With the Lexar card you do get their recovery software. Lexar sells the software for $29.95 and you can get a card for less than that and get the software. May be worth getting just one Lexar card for the recovery software.

    Oh, and one other thing. I really try hard to avoid using the USB cable to connect my cameras to the computer. I remove the card and install in an external reader to access the files. Seems to be faster as most cameras are USB 1.1 or 2.0. The card readers I have are USB 3.0. Not that speed was the real issue, it was just a matter of safety.

  8. If you go proprietary and have a choice between Pentax and a cheaper, Made-in-China version, get the branded one.

    Absolutely concur. Those Chinese knockoff batteries can be a disaster. Overheat, leakage, improper charging, all sorts of nasties. Stick with the branded batteries by the camera maker.

  9. Do you think SanDisk will accept it if it’s in pieces? I thought maybe the lock switch was busted, so I took it apart…. Might still have the pieces around here somewhere.

    I tried low-level formatting using various software, one which came from the SDHC folks themselves, I think.

  10. Do you think SanDisk will accept it if it’s in pieces?

    I suspect that probably voids the warranty.

  11. There was a GRIN in there, but the new format doesn’t like old-style expressions…

    Anyway, I have a dumb question for you Ray: my old Lumix (DMC-FZ30) only likes 2 Gb cards. Seems to me it will format 4 Gb cards yet use only 2 Gb. Any light (heh) you can shed on this will be appreciated.

    Pournelle bought the same camera at the same time, so he might be interested too. You can’t buy SanDisk Extreme III at the 2 Gb level any more.

  12. SD cards are up to 2GB (generally). SDHC is from 4GB up to 32 or 64GB. Many older devices will not be able to use cards over 2GB at all, while some will be able to use the first 2GB of a SDHC card.

  13. “SD cards are up to 2GB (generally). SDHC is from 4GB up to 32 or 64GB. Many older devices will not be able to use cards over 2GB at all, while some will be able to use the first 2GB of a SDHC card.”

    Ahhh, so that explains it! I don’t expect the write speed would be affected by using the first 2 Gb of a 4,8, 16 or 32 Gb card, then?

    Wonder if I can find a firmware update for the camera…

  14. You can continue to use the card, you only can use the 2gb as you have found out. The write speed will not be affected as the limit has to do with the addressing scheme. You can try updating the firmware if there is one from the original vendor.

    Biggest SDHC I have seen is 128gb from Lexar. Let’s see, on my 12 megapixel camera that would allow 8,000+ images on a single card. However, the $199.00 price tag is just a little steep. I will keep my one 32 gig and the several smaller cards. I would not to put that many eggs in one basket.

  15. You have likely ordered already — and I agree that Lexar and Sandisk are both good brands — but Rob Galbraith maintains a database of SD and CF card performance. If you’re gear head enough, check it out. Otherwise just buy what you planned to buy. πŸ™‚

    http://robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=6007

    I must get back to photography; it’s been too long. On the Li-ion battery question: I use Canon, not Pentax, but for an Antarctic trip (i.e. cold weather) I insisted on having three batteries for my main camera. I never had to replace one while on a shore trip (~2 hours, usually, at ~zero degrees C). IMHO AA batteries (rechargeable, natch) are for GPSrs, flashlights, and all the sundry other electronic items I seem to carry. The only time I use them in photography is in a flash gun. (Note: I’m not a professional photographer, if that’s not obvious; and I’d fly to Brazil sooner than photograph a wedding. :shudder:)

  16. “Some weddings have required almost 8 hours of continuous use of the camera.”

    EIGHT hours?

    I’m thinking niow that we should ban marriage and encourage couples (or however many) just to elope.

  17. I’m thinking niow that we should ban marriage and encourage couples (or however many) just to elope.

    Based on some of the weddings that I have done I certainly think that is a better idea. Would save a lot of money in the process. Families with divorced parents, and hostile, parents are the worst. Why they cannot set aside their petty differences for a few hours boggles my mind.

    Most weddings are about 6 hours, a few 8 hours, a couple were 12 hours. By the time you get there to do the pre-wedding formals, then do the ceremony, followed by post wedding formals, then the reception (that is usually a real drag) spending 6-8 hours is to be expected.

    And I would sooner do a wedding than fly to Brazil as I really dislike flying. Weddings seem like a hassle but once you have done several you know what to expect and how to handle the situations. And it helps to know something about the couple. I have turned down some weddings because the couple struck me as a couple of heavy drinking rednecks.

  18. Wedding or Brazil? The answer is dependent on whether or not it’s Carnival!

  19. “…struck me as a couple of heavy drinking rednecks.”

    hey, I resemble that remark. πŸ™

  20. So, silly question: is write speed only relevant to video? I’ve never been in a situation that the frame rate on the camera was slower than the time to write to disk for still photography. Do such situations exist?

    Oh, and any time you get an invite to a wedding of a couple of heavy drinking rednecks you want to decline, feel free to pass those invites on over to me. Especially if a flight to Brazil is involved.

  21. I’ll do that Paul. They probably won’t even notice you don’t have a camera.

    I have never experienced a problem with speed on the cards. One of my cameras has an 8 image buffer, the other has a 12 image buffer. The difference has to do with one camera having larger images and the vendor chose not to change the buffer size between models. I can exceed the buffer after 10 or 11 images even with the high speed card. I always choose the RAW format for images and they are large. I suppose if I chose JPG the card speed would more than exceed the camera speed.

    The limit is not a problem as I generally only take images when doing sports in bursts of three or four. I am not like SI photographers where they just hold the button down when the game starts and let the button go when the game ends.

    Video has a lower resolution than the pictures taken in the camera. My camera will do HD video and the card has no problem keeping up. I’ve only done it once, probably will never do it again.

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