Canon vs Fuji: R5 Fail

Last summer, I thought to upgrade from the Fuji X-T4 to the Canon R5.

It didn’t last long.

I spent ages poring over specs sheets online, checking image quality, etc.

As a geek interested in various forms of nature photography (closeup, landscape and astrophotography), for over a decade I’ve made a habit of shooting more than one RAW per output image. Whether the scene in front of me benefits from simply average-stacking, HDR, focus-stacking, pixel-shift or panorama, the more data captured at source, the better an image can be produced and the more future-proof it is against further revisiting, potentially years down the line.

Given that I do a lot of my photography during weekend hikes around the countryside, in any given day I’m likely switching between these drive modes on a regular basis as I react to what’s in front of me.

This is where the Canon R5 falls down. For all that the specs suggest it might be a “perfect” camera for landscape, in reality it’s anything but. I found are three areas of major fault that nobody in any “review” seems to have noticed:

  1. The electronic shutter is arbitrarily limited to no longer than 0.5s shutter speed. This renders it impossible to make a focus-stack where the individual frames are any longer than that – so loch-shore landscapes are out. I contacted Canon Support about this and they said they had no plans to fix it.
  2. The 14-bit read-out is only available in burst modes slower than H+; in that mode it drops to 13-bit, potentially making images noisier.
  3. Switching between focus-stacking and exposure-bracketing is a massive pain in the backside. I had to use the My Menu to bring the two drive-modes closer; even so, switching between the two requires entering whichever is enabled, disabling it, going into the other, enabling it and checking the parameters. You can’t store either of these drive modes as an aspect of a custom user mode. If nothing else, it slows me down in the field.
  4. Canon’s attitude – corporate “Big Photo”(TM) – where the EF lens mount is well established, the RF mount is relatively immature and they used patents to stop third-party manufacturers producing RF lenses to protect their profits. Legally fine, but doesn’t sit well with me as playing nice.

I got a few good photos out of it, but the above loomed too large, destroyed my enthusiasm for it – big regret.

So I sold it after only a few months.

Fuji brought out the X-H2 while I wasn’t looking and it is far better suited to my taste.

  1. I know Fuji users tend to like the rangefinder-style exposure controls, but this has sensible PASM controls that allow storing actually useful combinations of settings in my 7 custom modes. (C1 = walk-around aperture-priority starting from f/5.6, auto ISO, colour, AEB; C2 = serious tripod-using landscape in manual mode, base ISO, 1s for long exposures, b&w preview, pixel-shift, …)
  2. 40MP is a major leap forward in APS-C sensors. It goes without saying that it’s 14-bit in any drive mode.
  3. In a first for Fuji, it supports pixel-shift
  4. The drive-modes are a button-push away – all of them including in-camera HDR, bracketing, focus-stacking and pixel-shift – and can be saved as part of a custom user mode.
  5. Long exposures are timed up to 15 minutes! No need for Bulb mode!
  6. The more I use the camera, the more I appreciate little things that show how well thought-out it is – memorably, where other cameras – Sony! – have a USB-C slot for power, transfer and remote control, the Fuji X-H2 has the USB-C slot for the first two but remote cable release is a micro-jack socket on the other side of the camera. So for astrophotography on a star-tracker, it’s an absolute beast – external powerbank coming in, shutter triggering automatically and pixel-shift as a form of dithering on 1-minute sub-exposures, it doesn’t get any better.

I don’t normally much care for brand allegiance – I’ll shift from Olympus to Pentax to Fuji to Sony to Fuji to Canon to Fuji if I think they suit me best at a given moment (over many years, I might add!) – but I can’t help notice this is now the third time I’ve come round to Fuji… it’s almost a habit.

A Geek in Lockdown

I’m comparatively fortunate that the coronavirus and covid-19 have not affected me or anyone I know directly. Having spent the last 15 years working from home, life has not changed as significantly as it has for others.

So, apart from staying home and doing nothing much, what’s a geek to do to contribute back?

First, contribute data. As often as I remember, I update the KCL/Zoe app to say I’m still alive.

Second, grid computing projects.

There’s a significant amount of computer power available and machines would otherwise spend their time idle. A couple of months before the coronavirus became known, I had already installed BOINC, perhaps the oldest and best-known grid-computing system. As the scale of the Covid-19 problem became more apparent, I discovered the Rosetta@Home project which has been working to predict structure of proteins involved in the disease.

For mobile devices, there is Vodafone’s DreamLab project which similarly uses one’s iphone/ipad/tablet’s downtime to perform computations hopefully to identify drugs to fight Covid-19.

Third, art.

This took a bit of thought, but recently RedBubble who I use for selling my photography added the option of selling masks alongside the usual prints, mugs, etc.

I wasn’t at all sure what to make of it. The idea of profiting off others’ health and necessity jarred with the idea of art being a luxury item. However, a friend pointed out that if face-masks are to become normalized in society, having interesting art designs on could make them more approachable. There’s also the bit where Redbubble match each mask bought with a donation to an appropriate charity. So, a net good thing then.

Inspiration struck and I spent much of the weekend designing an image to represent the coronavirus (using a fragment of its gene sequence as a background, naturally) and even rendering a little video from it, both using Povray, my favoured ray-tracing software from the late 1990s(!). Naturally I made the scene description and other sources available as open-source: the-lurgy (on github).

The “lurgy” design and a selection of other landscape images are available on redbubble as face-masks with a profit margin set to 0.

And of course work continues, producing more photos to go on my website, ShinyPhoto

First Munro

I’ve been over 3000′ twice before now – but for one I stopped short of the summit, and for the other we took the ski-lift up, so neither really counts as Munro-bagging.

In the Christmas/New-Year holiday week, friends and I spent a happy day climbing Schiehallion – a mountain we’ve known and photographed for a long time, but actually climbing it was a first, at least for some of us.

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions: fresh but basically dry, all the way up with mist blowing around the summit.

The top third is a tricky scramble over large boulders, but the view was totally worth it – my first Munro, my first glory and Brocken Spectre all in one.

Glory and Brocken Spectre, Schiehallion. Awesome!

On the way down we paused to admire the surroundings – an interplay of light, mist, undulating lochs and landscape and more mountains.


Bring on the mountains – I have climbing to be doing ūüôā

Caithness Holiday Day 5: Badbea Clearance Village

An unusual choice of place to visit on the last day of one’s holidays, but an important monument to Highland/Caithness history nonetheless, and one ideally suited to a bleak cold foggy day, too.

Forced off the land as part of the Highland Clearances, people from the surrounding areas (Ousdale, Auchencraig) sought refuge at Badbea. Not the most hospitable area to try and make home, situated right on perilous cliff-tops in a location so windy the cattle and even children had to be tied down to stop them being blown away.

The bleakness certainly suits black and white.

Caithness Holiday Day 4: when a forest is not a wood

Sometimes I have to tell it like it is. Dunnet Forest is one of the least pleasant collections of trees I’ve ever had the displeasure of walking through. From start to finish, a total misuse of the land.

Within 50yd of the carpark are multiple signs warning owners to pick up after their dogs and to use the bin, even with the emotional manipulation that excrement left around could blind a child.

The woodland itself is awful – monoculture spruce with barren lack of undergrowth.

The only burn I saw was a stretch of ~70yd of stagnant scum-covered sludge, vibrant orange with industrial pollution.

There is a reek of unjust hypocrisy about the whole affair: one cannot help but think, even if there is some credibility in the idea of a small kid putting something off the forest floor in their eye, by surface area and decay-rate alone, they would be far more likely to encounter danger in the polluted stream than from anything left behind by a dog – which would, if anything, go some way to re-fertilizing the abused ground beneath the trees.

Toward the end of the ill-defined loop route are several sculptures carved out of the remains of some of the tree trunks. You’ll have had yer entertainment then – but not your walk in nature.

I could not escape fast enough.

A brief flirtation with electric vehicles

The world of EV ownership is fraught with systemic problems, chief among which being range anxiety. Actually – it’s calling it range-anxiety that’s the problem; concerns about range are very legitimate. Some of the biggest sources of friction between EV enthusiasts and skeptics are the assumptions that an average commute distance is a meaningful quantity; that people should be prepared to plan their driving around charging points; for longer trips to less over-populated areas where the distance between chargers is an appreciable proportion of the battery’s range, either ignore the risk of being stranded or swap to diesel (an admission that EVs aren’t up to the job yet).

If that’s all I said, I’d just be trolling. But I put my money where my heart was.

40kWh => 150 WLTP miles was the barest minimum range I could consider for my driving (mostly photo-hunting expeditions). Christmas and New Year were spent oogling pictures of shiny interiors online. Caught the bug.

She was called Aoife. Aoife the Leafy. Aoife the brand-spanking-new Leaf 2018-model Tekna-with-extra-bells-on spec shiny green Leafy for which I fairly emptied the personal piggy-bank back in February (when they’d only been G/A for a week) and gained keys-in-grubby-paw at the end of March.

Three days later we’re back. Would help if they connected both ends of the brake light cable. Would also help if they’d enabled the SIM card.

There followed 4 weeks of blissful silent driving. 7kW charger installed in the garage. Solar panels providing free miles. We went places: Argyll and back (scary when the weather changed and the battery got low); Kingussie and Alvie; Livingston and Tillicoultry; twice-weekly trips to nearest town and back – the closest I have to a mythical “commute”.

On May 4 we set sail for a round trip of down-south-shire‚ĄĘ, got as far as Abington, tried to use an Ecotricity charger, bang, whole EV system dead.
Much of that day was spent walking Dog in a field behind Abington services whilst organising RAC, Nissan and RAC car hire on the phone.
Needed flat-bed all the way back to the dealer – Dog in Aoife’s boot with the windows dropped as we travelled north on a sunny day while I panicked about him all the way from the front cab. Second set-off was 6.5hr later than intended but we made it to Sussex with 3mins to spare before midnight. Vauxhall Ashtrays really do suck – that one was named the Chemical Toilet for the stench of Domestos. We did 1079mi that weekend in it, though.

Relay in the battery gone bing.

Over the subsequent 3 weeks the dealer decided their own screwdrivers were insufficient so it was taken to Edinburgh for major works; on the way there or back the haulage company dented the wheel-arch trim with the webbed rope, which took another week for the dealer to fix.
On May 25, in time for the second bank-holiday weekend, I collected Aoife from the dealer, got not even 30mins up the road before the ProPilot went bing as well.
Back to the dealer, this time with Dad in tow to lend a little clout.
My end-May holiday week in Caithness was spent, not gliding around serenly from planned charger to planned charger, but polluting the planet a petrol auto Juke, being the only thing the dealer had to offer at short notice.

On return from the wilds up North, the dealership were understanding; the sales manager suggested redoing the whole order from the top, create a new Aoife, try again and do it right this time. Either that or refund the whole lot. Those were my top two options as well.
Then the lead-time exploded from “6-7wk” to “Oct/Nov”.
At this point, rumours abound of next year’s Leaf including a 60kWh model which is far more attractive.

I negotiated with Nissan HQ directly concerning a “soft Breggsit” that would see me slide from Aoife to next year’s Leaf ASAP but the best package they could offer had no certainty – would require 4 dice to land 6s for satisfaction, including it not going bing again in the meantime; they wouldn’t be drawn whether it would come in a 60kWh version or not. In short, nothing I couldn’t do better by stepping away and approach whole market fairly afresh next year.

So that fell through, and a couple of days ago (after 6wk in the bad Joke, and more importantly after only having driven Aoife for 4 out of 14 weeks “ownership”) I finally signed the paperwork for a buy-back.¬†(That’s what they call a refund where they tell you they’re retaining half your original deposit as the cost of ownership for the two “months” that you’ve “had” the car.)

That’s the story. My first ever brand-new car. My first EV. My first time of rejecting¬†a car for being both unreliable and not really adequate after all. All in one. What would normally be a 3- to 4-year ownership cycle speeded-up 12x in so many months.

Today we collected Smith – back to a Hyundai diesel i30, which works – named for the agent who takes 3 movies to fleetingly escape the Matrix. Next year I shall reassess the market; Nissan can just compete alongside everyone else.

A little more on the systemic side. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1) People expect to be able to load up a car with range-reducing 8l of water, food, spare windscreen squirter juice, range-reducing weighty cameras and throw the range-reducing dog in the boot and go away exploring for a few days. Doing our own thing, where we like, when we like, not refuelling too often nor too long. Not subjecting the dog to undue stress in the process. Best not to try and persuade people they want otherwise.

2) Someone needs to consider the privacy aspect of these remote control apps. By tracking its location, I now know which panel-beater company was used and where a technician lives.

3) The specifics of each adventure pale into insignificance compared to a whole ownership experience. The good old-fashioned qualities of customer service and reliability are invaluable.

3b) All the humans involved have been pleasant and helpful and well-meaning, making the right decisions to keep me rolling one way or another Рbut somewhere along the line there is institutional inefficiency with things taking way too long to process.

4) There are features and there is marketing. ProPilot is something and nothing – together it’s a new marketing word for Level 2 autonomy but in reality it’s nothing more than adaptive cruise-con with lane-departure warnings and nudges, only good for motorways, and when it goes wrong you’re just as scuppered as when anything else goes awry. More notably, the electric seats missing from the Leaf’s specs table are the exact same electric seats you could’ve had in an ICE vehicle 10yr ago or more; ditto the sunglasses holder in the ceiling that isn’t there but has been standard for a while. Likewise the adaptive cruise-con is nothing new. These things are all worth 1 tick in the box on the spec-sheet, no more. Beware the marketing kool-aid; shop with a very level head.

 

Spittal of Glenshee

I don’t remember much about the hotel in Spittal of Glenshee – I suspect I saw it a few times when passing by up the glen, but that’s about it. I didn’t have recourse or time to visit the area for a few years, during which time it burned down in 2014 – quite a transformation, leaving the land just fenced-off to decay.

Nice setting:

As an aside, a friend and I were recently nattering about the saturation slider and how there’s always a temptation to overdo it. I mentioned that some images seem to “resonate” at multiple spots across the saturation axis – maybe fully saturated like slide film of old, maybe flatter like colour neg film of old, maybe artistically desaturated, maybe full-on black&white. The above image seems to work at 3 degrees.

Funky ruins:

Around Bangour

Situated outside Livingston, the psychiatric hospital at Bangour Village was founded in 1906 as Edinburgh District Asylum – one of the first in Scotland to be modelled on a village. In 1918 it housed up to 3000 patients. During the second World War, patients were transferred temporarily to Hartwoodhill Hospital. Around 1924-1930 it gained a multi-denominational church in the centre of the village.

These days the site consists of several listed buildings, most in increasing states of decay – ideal territory for urban exploration.

A few views from ground level:

And a handful of photos made with the drone:

Also see an aerial 360¬ļ drone panorama of Bangour I made using Hangar360.

 

The final ward closed in 2004 – worryingly one of those “in my lifetime” things…

Above the Highland Boundary Fault

About 3-4 years ago, I first visited Birnam Hill. Made it around Duncan’s Hill to the south and through the woods… As I walked a path between old and new forestry, I wondered why there was a sharp drop down almost a metre to the level of the new trees.

Over subsequent visits I took a few photos, came back and took geotagged photos, all around the same area, went to the BGS, imported bedrock data via KML into Google Earth, correlated with the photos… After a couple of years I’m confident that the dip in the landscape is evidence of the Highland Boundary Fault – a line that runs all the way from Arran and Comrie to the south-west, through Stare Dam and Rohallion Loch and lodge, up along this dip between the trees and away to the east before heading off north-east to near Stonehaven. From a suitable angle it looks like someone’s taken a bicycle tyre and run it over the landscape, causing an impression relative to the surrounding hills and mountains.

Apart from that, the scene from Stair Bridge Viewpoint is highly photogenic and while I’ve made several photos of the view south and east since, I’ve always wanted to fly a drone along the line of the fault.

A few days ago, the dream came true: a perfect clear dry bright sunny winter’s day, snow lying on the ground, low sun illuminating the ground, all quiet and calm.

A clear winter’s day:

You have to be standing all-but on the HBF to take this:

A selfie, of sorts: straight down landing on Stair Bridge:

I managed a couple of runs from near Rohallion Lodge up toward the A9 with the drone, spliced them together into a fly-by to give an impression of the topology.

And a still photo (I still shoot them! – but mostly HDR panoramas…) looking east from above the cusp of the saddle landform between old and new forests:


To wrap up the afternoon, there was some lovely light on an avenue of beech trees, walking back to the main road:

Bucket-list Item: CHECKED!

Morvern 3/4: In Search of Purity

Time to explain the motivation for this excursion to the Morvern peninsula.

A few months ago, I was exploring what Google Earth had to show for the West coast of Scotland. A lot of photographers gravitate toward the north-west, around Sutherland, and rightly so – the geography up there is impressive. However, coming a little south past Ardnamurchan, there is also epic geology – evidence of volcanoes, beautiful mountains, the works. And so I stumbled across this glen past Loch Arienas and Loch Doire nam Mart, thinking there might be a view to enjoy part-way along the glen up one of the mountains to the left, perhaps.

On a little research, I saw the OS map of the area showed Aoineadh Mor, a former township dissolved in the Highland Clearances. Interesting history. So I drove – about 4.5 hours from Perthshire out through Fort William around Loch Eil and down at some length on wiggly single-lane 60-limit roads – and arrived at the small roadside carpark about 4.30pm.

The walk through the woods was beautiful: birches and oak trees catching the low sunlight.

Now it gets real. On emerging from the woods, the first evidence of habitation one sees is this broken dry-stone wall:

The Perimeter is Breached

which shouts the beginning of the story loud and clear: a township left to ruin, increasingly taken over by nature.

From what I gather, up to the 18th Century, Aoineadh Mor [approximately pronounced, and sometimes spelled, Inniemore, although the Gaelic ao vowel sound is inimitable in English] was a thriving crofting community on the slopes of Sithean na Raplaich where the burn (Allt Aoineadh Mor) flows down to the lochs.

It is a wonderfully beautiful setting – the Allt Aoineadh Mor burn burbling down the hillside, through the former township of the same name.

In 1824, Christina Stewart, newly owner of the Glenmorvern estate, forcibly ejected the crofters in order to farm sheep on the land for supposed greater profit, as happened in many places during the Highland Clearances.

The names of two of the last crofters to leave, James and Mary, have been given to two paths through the surrounding forestry.

By 1930 the sheep were also no longer profitable and the area was planted with trees as the cash-crop of the time. After 60 years, in 1994, the Forestry Commission uncovered the township.

And so my history intersects with the place in 2017.
It is both quieting and disquieting simultaneously: quiet in that there is an open space, there are trees, light, water, all the elements of landscape we photographers like; yet disquieting in that the area is not really pure – on scratching beneath the surface, there seems to be a greater innocence in the subsistence existence of crofting, with subsequent industries of sheep farming and forestry tainted by crass desire for profit to varying extent. And so the hillside is not really wild but barren; the land not just beautiful but exploited.

Dust kicked-up by a passing logging lorry travelling a path through Forestry Commission conifer woods, taken from the former township of Aoineadh Mor.
http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/activities/heritage/historic-townships/aoineadh-mor-inniemore/marys-story

These conflicting forces of land, money and habitation are summarized in this photo, where we have nature’s pine tree felled in the foreground, a generation of mankind’s ruined croft superseded by the unnatural choice of conifers blown in as seed on the wind, leading to blue skies beyond.

This used to be the township of Aoineadh Mor, a scattering of stone crofts on the braes beside a beautiful river surrounded by forest. 
Now the Forestry Commission has taken over, with several monoculture forests on the surrounding mountains, even wild-seeding into the former township.

For what it’s worth, a few more photos all taken around the township:

References:

As I walk along these shores
I am the history within
As I climb the mountainside
Breaking Eden again –
Runrig, Proterra

Lady Mary’s Walk, Crieff

Only catching up on photos taken at the end of April…

Lady Mary’s Walk runs West from Crieff along the side of the River Earn, mostly on the flat until one reaches the foot of Laggan Hill after a mile or so, where it forms a circular route back to MacRosty Park.

At the end of April I went for a stroll to hunt bluebells.

The path was particularly pleasant – quiet, leading on through the woods.

 
 
 

As an aside, I’m sure there never used to be such a profusion of wild garlic on these Perthshire woodland nature trails 10 years ago – I only first encountered the stuff whilst out in Galloway.

I was a bit early for optimum bluebell season, but did find a few areas of good blue ground coverage:

And at the western extremity of the route there is a ruined house – it could be quite eerie given the right lighting.

Chilling with the trees

On the third day of my holiday last year, the weather took a turn for the worse and my chosen route for the day was closed until Spring, so I went for a walk around the Reelig Glen just outside Inverness.

To be more accurate, the first walk around the glen was favourably interrupted by a very friendly wee collie dog, so I did the whole route a second time with the camera…

It was beautifully relaxing, good for the soul. A place of shapes and light and more shapes and green and autumnal orange colour.

About half-way around the route, just round from crossing the bridge, is Dughall Mor – a Douglas Fir tree that at one time was the tallest in Britain. They do not put any signage by it, except for a very tiny mark on the bark, but I know which it is.

One of these trees used to be the tallest in Britain.
(I know which – they don’t advertise it for safety reasons, save for a very small mark.)

About six years ago, on my first visit to the glen, I also met a small dog and attendant human; the conversation has stuck in my mind, partly for the subject-matter but mostly because of its gentle and slightly surreal nature. A person who knows there’s nothing better to do than to sit on a bench watching the old dog play in the burn. At the time, I wrote about the encounter thus:

The Shadows of Importance

As I came nearer, crossed over a small bridge over a burn, I saw an elderly Westie playing, slowly investigating all around… with his also-eldery designated human sitting on this bench.
And we conversed.
About the important things.
Dogs, trees, and somewhere waaayy down the line, people.
We walked through the woods and he showed me a tree that once was tallest in Britain.
The world of bright city lights was gone, a garish cheapness for and of strangers, long forgotten, as though it never was.
And there was complete serenity.
Some days I’d post an admiration of the forest. Today you get the waypoint where Hamish played and Geoff sat.
Or maybe it’s still an admiration of the forest anyway…

Scene of an encounter

This time of making the circuit around the Reelig Glen, there was no sign of Geoff or Hamish – but I remembered them, and was grateful for all the dogs who love me.

[sphere 2998]

The light, when the clouds permitted, was glorious – illuminating the foliage beautifully.

eBay + PayPal: Considered Harmful

I forget exactly when I made my first purchase from eBay, but given how my PayPal account was registered in 2005, my usage of both sites certainly dates back over 10 years.

Most of my transactions were simple purchases – old-fashioned (M42-fit) lenses for various cameras, although there were a few sales (again, mostly old camera gear for which I had no use).

Over that time, as a humble consumer, I accumulated a 100% positive feedback score of 92.

Now this is the part where the story turns sad.

Offending lens

Last year, thinking to experiment with what it might do for my photography, I bought a 25mm f/0.95 lens. It arrived, perfectly functional; it was just that we didn’t really get along. The lens wasn’t particularly sharp – had glowing edge halos wide-open – and not even f/0.95 gives sufficiently narrow DoF to be interesting in the landscape – it just makes the whole thing look soft.

So I put the lens back on eBay. It sold first time, for a significant proportion of the initial cost. Bingo, I thought, wrapped it up and posted it off using eBay’s global shipping programme on its way to Germany.

Nearly a month later, however, the buyer opened a request to return the lens, claiming it was broken.

Well it wasn’t, when it left here, of that I’m certain; I just don’t have a photo to prove it, unfortunately. Either it was broken in transit or the buyer was clumsy with it himself.

Here’s where the problems start. eBay’s website is old and clunky. Every single email they sent with links to “see more details” were links to ebay.de, their German site, requiring me to enter my eBay login details on a page written in German. (“Einloggen!”)¬†Pretty obviously, this was not going to happen – in equal parts, it looks like a phishing scam and I wouldn’t have the German with which to follow through even if I did log in.

Coupled with this, the buyer’s return request did not appear in eBay’s regular messaging system – it’s a semi-related sub-system of its own.

I requested what support I could find on eBay; a lady called me back within a couple of minutes and said it was up to me to try and sort matters directly with the buyer and then I wouldn’t be able to do anything for a fortnight when I could raise a case. I mentioned the language barrier, but subsequent emails persisted in sending me to ebay.de.

I never did get the chance to raise a case; with their language barriers, clunky old-fashioned website and “support” system that goes to extreme lengths to keep users locked in reading FAQs instead of establishing contact with a human, to all intents and purposes eBay denied me any right to reply.

During this time, Paypal adjusted the balance on my account – set it to -¬£286 when it had been at zero previously, citing the ongoing ebay dispute. I emphasize that this was¬†before eBay had stated any resolution on the matter; they simply adjusted the balance out of the blue. During this time the website would not let me make any amendments to the account; given how this happened before resolution on eBay, I limited potential damages by pulling Paypal’s direct-debit mandates with my banks.

The buyer sent me a rude message demanding to know “what was wrong with me” that I would not reply to the return request. He then opened a case himself. Again, I had no right of reply due to the same language barriers.

After a mere 48 hours more, eBay claimed to have “made a final decision” and found in the buyer’s favour. At that point I managed to see the details of the case the buyer had raised; he had included a photo of the lens showing distorted shutter blades and a note from a local shop certifying it was broken. Of course that doesn’t prove anything; it just confirms it was broken and from what I can make out of the serial number, eliminates the chance of it being a scam to replace the lens.

Paypal claim to have “buyer protection” but say nothing about protecting sellers. There was nothing I could do apart from send Paypal a cheque for the outstanding amount and terminate both accounts as soon as possible.

Today I noticed eBay had allowed the buyer to leave me negative feedback – the first and only such event in over 11 years’ dealing with the site – while still denying me the opportunity to respond, only presenting the options to leave him positive feedback or “leave feedback later”.

Having trouble logging in? Not really, any more; no.

Unsurprisingly, I find this all horrendously unjust.

Closing both accounts has resulted in a veritable flurry of emails (19 today alone, at the last count) confirming removal of various bank accounts, credit cards and the termination of ongoing payment arrangements (Skype, two streaming music services, a grocery delivery company, two DNS registrars, Yahoo, Facebook and a few more).

I never made a profit selling goods on eBay – at best swapped objects for a fair consideration and often took a slight hit using better postage than required.

So what’s to be learned from the experience?

First, as a geek by trade, I look back a few years to a time when we were talking about Web-2.0 versus Web-1.0. eBay’s website is clearly a product of the Web-1.0 era, and not just with its layout: it uses whole-page impressions where AJAX would be more appropriate; with sub-systems for “returns” bolted-on to, yet incompatible with, the existing “messaging” system; with no single sign-on and nationality-specific sub-sites.¬†It is an ghastly accident of feature-creep instead of design.

Second, as a human being, I’m deeply concerned by the faceless bureaucracy and lack of control. We get accustomed to “just stick it on eBay”, reliant on there always being someone who wants stuff. Contrarily, there are also local shops with whom one can come to part-exchange arrangements.

eBay and PayPal represent the first and largest and best-known steps towards a digital economy. It is easy to be suckered into thinking it necessary to have accounts with them for ease of shopping and transferring money around the place. However, when I see how unjust the systems are, stacked against honest sellers, I can have no further dealings with either site.

 

And the process of rejecting them both, of realising that my ebay feedback score is not a significant measure of life, is wonderfully liberating.

 

Update 2017-01-18: forgot to say that, on the original auction, I had checked the box saying my policy is “no returns”. Why do eBay allow that if they proceed to completely ignore it based on the buyer’s say-so?