Cue End 3A

Just wrapped up exams for the 3A semester and the final exam, ECE 332 Microelectronic Circuits, went much, much better than I could have hoped. There was a point earlier in the week where I was breaking down, fearing a fail in the exam, but after pulling a near all-nighter, I flew through the exam. It also helped that the midterm questions made an appearance on the final. Clearly the professor wasn’t too pleased with our midterm (of which only one person passed…)

Midway through exams, my Dell XPS M1330 (which was my sole computer in Waterloo after taking my desktop home) decided to up and give out, with the video card dieing. The initial indication was some weird artifacting on the external Westinghouse 24″ LCD I use, but I thought it was the fault of the LCD’s since it also exhibited the same sort of issue with my desktop (which in retrospect has a GeForce 8800GT equipped with the G92 chip, which may also be plagued with the weak die-packing issue). However, after unplugging the LCD, the problem persisted and worsened to the point that the display now shows nothing but weird discolorations when I turn on the laptop. I’ve been in contact with Dell regarding the issue, but I imagine I might have to pull some teeth to get it fixed since the problems started a whole 2 days after my warranty expired.

I’m now in relax mode, trying to catch up on sleep, although driving back and forth to Toronto today certainly didn’t help. I’m not having too much luck with finding a temporary place in Toronto for the upcoming work semester. It’s this terrible combination of not wanting to spend too much money and not wanting to live in some ghetto place. I don’t like the big city as it is – I hardly want to sully that feeling further by living in an area where I constantly feel like I’m going to be stabbed. Oh, there’s no need to tell me that it’s blowing things out of proportion; I know it is, yet the feeling remains. At this point, I’m actually considering commuting. Yep, about 4 hours on the road (or rail as it were) each day, but with this 6GB data plan, I could easily spend that time connected to the internet or doing some other bit of work on a laptop.

Also, as a reward for wrapping up the semester, I went and picked up a Sony Alpha A200 DSLR last night from Future Shop. Despite confirming with the sales rep that the camera was indeed new, I came home to find the shot counter at over 1400. The camera quickly went back and with it being the only one in stock, I walked out empty handed. It wasn’t a complete loss – I discovered the image quality to not be significantly better than the Sony F717 that I currently use and the I’m sure the A200’s kit lens is a big factor in that (f3.5 at wide angle compared to the f2.0 Carl Zeiss on the F717). I’ll probably wait until after Photokina to see if anything changes in the entry-level DSLR market before taking another dip in the SLR pool.

4 thoughts on “Cue End 3A”

  1. Charlie, you’re blowing things way out of proportion. You’re not going to get stabbed, you’re more likely to get shot these days in Toronto. 😛 What I can recommend is to see if there’s a last minute opening at UT in their residences. I know it’s heavily unlikely since it’s the fall, but there’s no harm in trying.

    And about the DSLR, nice choice in the A200. You really can’t go wrong with the budget DSLRs like the D40X, XT or XS, or Pentax’s offering. I also like the Olympus 420 with its diminutive handgrip and profile. You’ve got the right idea though – wait until Photokina because they’re going to release better models for the same or cheaper prices, and the current lineup will go into clearance mode. The kit lens on the A200 is pretty crappy, but f/3.5 on the DSLR sensor will probably be better than the f/2.0 on the tiny F717 sensor. You’d get more bokeh and better high ISO on the DSLR sensor, so that negates the difference in f-stops.

  2. Yeah I’ll probably check out the student housing boards at UofT as well. Looks like I just need to pay $22 for access, which should help. But to be honest, I’m sort of looking forward to a nice long commute – if I get a 3G aircard for the laptop, I can stay connected to the internet with the 6GB data plan the entire time and do whatever work I need to. Plus I’m just thinking of all the money I could save and the fact that I was never too receptive to the idea of living in Toronto.

    I tried out the Olympus E-420 and while I initially thought it would be a great choice (small as heck!) it felt really weird to hold. There’s practically no handgrip and with a larger lens than the kit one, I’d imagine it could get unwieldy.

    I initially picked up the A200 because it was quite a bit cheaper than the other DSLRs I was looking at, but after seeing the very soft images it produced, I read through some reviews of the Sony kit lens and discovered (image quality wise) it to be quite inferior to the newer kit lenses from Nikon or Canon. In the end buying a new lens for the wide-angle to low telephoto range for the A200 will probably make the cost more than getting something with a decent kit lens.

    Noise performance was certainly better than the F717, but most of my shooting is at ISO400 or lower and at that range, I’ll take the sharper image of the F717 over the soft-as-mush A200 with the kit lens, despite the noise decrease, which isn’t very pronounced at that ISO level. The F717 is a 2/3″ sensor, which is much larger than the crap 1/2.5″ of most compacts and even the 1/1.7″ of something like the Canon G9.

    I noticed you have a Canon Digital Rebel. Is that what you shoot with mostly?

  3. The non-existent handgrip is one of the most appealing features of the E-420. When you throw on a small prime lens, it’s a throwback to the Leica minimalist days without spending the exorbitant costs of the Leica digital rangefinders.

    I’m surprised the kit lens is so much more inferior than the Canon and Nikon offerings. I would’ve figured that all the manufacturers could nail down the 18-55mm range easily, even Sony since they bought the old Konica Minolta brand. If you’re okay working with user lenses, you could always check out the Konica Minolta market. I’m 99% sure the Sony lens mount is compatible.

    Your F717 is an ancient one. It’s sad that even in prosumer digicams like the Canon G9 and the Nikon P6000 they’re not using larger sensors. It’s an oldie but goodie.

    You’re right, I’ve got an equally ancient Canon 300D. I’m looking to upgrade to the to-be-released Canon 5D replacement. I’ve been eying full-frame for a long time now and even though the 5D was as little as $1800 recently in the States, I think I’m going to spend the extra bit of money for its replacement, since I’ll be looking to use this for the next 4-5 years (how old my Rebel is).

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