First KAP Session with the S100

The Canon PowerShot S100 (and other ones of the same lineage: S90, S95, and S110) is a popular camera for KAP. It’s a bit old now, but it has many advantages:

  • A larger sensor and faster lens than a typical small-sensor compact camera, giving sharper images with good contrast and colors
  • A wide minimum focal length, equivalent to 24 mm on a 35 mm camera
  • It’s fairly small and light, weighing 7 oz with the battery and memory card installed
  • It’s fully supported by CHDK
  • It has a shutter-speed priority mode and can shoot in RAW
  • Can be picked up used for fairly cheap

I decided to gift one to myself, since it was that time of year after all. While I was waiting for Christmas to arrive, I made a new picavet rig designed around this camera. The main goal was to shave off some weight, since the S100 weighs 2 oz more than the PowerShot SD1400IS I was using previously. In the end, the entire rig, including the camera, came in at 10.8 oz, which is only 0.5 oz heavier than the old one. That’s definitely worth it for the image quality upgrade! If you want to read more about my KAP rigs and cameras, browse over to this page.

I also decided to try a new location, George B. Cecil Park. It’s a pretty typical park for this part of the world, with various sports fields and a playground. It’s closer to the west side of the peninsula, so I thought it might be a good idea to see if the Potomac River was visible from the air.

Wind on that day was a little hard to judge. At home, at times it seemed pretty light, and other times stronger and gusty. Better bring the Mini Dopero and the Barn Door kite, just in case. It was also quite cold, around freezing temperature. The wind was still a bit hard to judge when I got to the site. Up in the trees, there seemed to be some decent gusts, but I didn’t feel a lot on the ground. I took the big Barn Door kite to one side of the field on top of a small hill and started the process of setting it up. I immediately noticed more wind at the top of the hill, and soon it became very apparent that it was going to be too much for this kite. At least there was finally some certainty!

So the Barn Door kite was packed up again, taken back to the car, and switched for the Mini Dopero. I brought a drogue too and soon had the kite ready to go. Flying in the gusty winds was challenging, because low to the ground the kite would either not get enough and fall to the earth, or too much and pull off to the side. Obviously, some bridle adjustments were necessary. I was a bit overzealous on moving the tow point forward to cope with the stronger winds at first, which caused it to sometimes pitch forward and lose lift, so I moved it back again somewhat. I also adjusted the upper prusik knot a centimeter or two to the right, since the kite seemed to be pulling left most of the time.

Eventually I got the kite flying stably (or as stably as could be expected in these conditions) and attached the new S100 picavet rig to the line. There was a row of trees looking hungry for a kite to the left of where I launched, so I decided to walk to the right to get a little more breathing room. I first tried the adjacent softball field, then ended up in the empty parking lot. Eventually I returned to the softball field when it came time to land. The progression from launch location to the parking lot was captured by the S100 in the series of images above.

The rest of the flight went pretty well, but I was still nervous about all the wind and the nearby trees, so I didn’t fly any higher than a few hundred feet. I managed a few nice shots, which you can see below. At that height, the Potomac River and even the bordering state of Virginia are visible off in the distance in the last image of the series. I would like to come back here some time when the wind is more agreeable and fly either from either the soccer field or the baseball field on the west side of the park, and get the kite as high as possible to see further. Another option is to point the camera east, where St. Mary’s River should be visible.

This flight definitely increased my confidence in the Mini Dopero in difficult conditions. Properly adjusted and with a drogue, gusts up to about 20 mph are not a problem with this kite. That’s good, because it means that between my two kites, it’s possible to do KAP in about 5-20 mph winds, or about Bft 2-4.

I was impressed with the new camera as well. Despite having slightly lower resolution than my previous camera (12 MP instead of 14), the lens and sensor are better at resolving detail and giving a sharper overall image. Being able to shoot in RAW mode is a big benefit, since exposure, colors, sharpness, shadows and highlights, etc. can all be adjusted afterwards to improve the results. It’s not the ultimate KAP camera by any stretch, but if you’re mostly interested in still photography like me, it would be hard to find a better value.

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