|Volume 9, Number 25||7 December 2007|
Welcome to the 216th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. A quiet revolution in AA battery technology gets our trumpet call before we report on the Canon G9. Then Andrew spills the beans on Canon's new $200 18-55mm IS zoom, with significantly improved performance over the common non-IS kit lens. Three big reports that still leave room for a little news and your letters.
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/ENE/LOOP.HTM on the Web site.)
We're about 10 years into the digital photography revolution (depending on what birthday you count) and the NiMH rechargeable AA battery is still going strong. It's still found in some entry-level cameras as well as long zoom digicams where its capacity and convenience are still admired.
More compact but proprietary lithium-ion cells have managed to pack enough power for 150 to 300 shots, but they're not as easy to find as a set of AAs. And they aren't inexpensive either, so buying a spare and keeping it charged is less common than having a spare set of AAs.
But lithium ion cells have had one big advantage over AA battery technology. You can charge them and let them sit a while before you use them without the charge draining away. With NiMH AA batteries, you have to top them off before use because they lose much of their charge sitting around. And that can be a nuisance.
That's one reason we've always recommended investing in a set of non-rechargeable lithium AAs. They aren't cheap, but they can be relied on in an emergency, holding their charge for up to 10 years. They're also a great solution for cameras you use just a few times a year.
A NEW AA
But in the last year, several companies have designed NiMH rechargeables that retain a surprisingly large percentage of their charge. And just to prove it, they are selling them at retail outlets as "pre-charged and ready to use."
Our fleet of 1250, 1400 and 1600 NiMH AAs are aging, requiring more frequent recharging of their diminishing capacity. Some of the newer digicams expect a bit more juice than they can provide, so even a freshly charged set doesn't provide enough juice to power the camera up.
When we read Theano Nikitas' review of the Canon PowerShot S5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S5IS/S5ISA.HTM), we noticed she had the same problem. "Our older NiMH batteries didn't work for more than a few seconds with the Canon S5, so make sure you get a fresh set. We switched to Sanyo's new Eneloop batteries, which promise a longer shelf life, and had no trouble."
We hiked down to the local camera store and picked up a set of four for $11.88 packed in a blister pack that doubles as a storage box. They're also available in a set of two with a charger, but any NiMH charger will work (and we already have a, um, battery of them). But a good charger makes a world of difference (delivering up to twice the charge of a lousy charger).
The GE/Sanyo Eneloop AA rechargeable has some interesting advantages over regular NiMH AA batteries:
You can use it right away because it holds its charge while sitting on the shelf. So there's no need to pop it in the charger for an hour or so to top it off.
- You can use it right away
- It packs 2000 mAh
- It loses very little charge sitting on the shelf
- It's inexpensive
And because it retains "up to 85 percent" of its charge for a year, according to Sanyo, you don't have to keep it in the charger, either. That's accomplished by a new super lattice alloy which increases the electrical capacity of the battery, reduces the internal resistance and allows higher discharge currents -- all good stuff in a digicam.
They cost a bit less than a set of normal NiMHs and since you can recharge them 1,000 times, they'll outlast your equipment. If you charge them once a week (we do not), you'll be using them for over 19 years.
The 2000 mAh capacity is not state of the art (with 2600 cells available and 2500 cells common), but it is robust enough for anything out there and exceeds the more common 1800 capacity cells.
What's the difference, practically speaking? A 2300 cell may deliver about 140 minutes of power while a 2000 cell may deliver about 120 minutes of power. And 1800 cell may go 115 minutes. A 1600 about 100 minutes.
But mAh is just the only number on the label. Watt-hours tell you what the cell can really do, especially in a digicam which gobbles power in big gulps. For that kind of information, you want Dave's Battery Shootout results (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/BATTS/BATTS.HTM).
It turns out, Dave's been testing the new technology for his Battery Shootout. He hasn't had a chance to update that seminal work yet, but we caught him at the virtual water cooler.
"The Eneloops are indeed a real innovation, and a lot of other companies have come out with cells using similar technology," he told us.
"I've tested several brands now, and they all seem to lose 12 to 15 percent of their charge in the first month after having been charged. Still, that's pretty good.
"Their most important difference though, is that the Eneloops appear to have much lower internal resistance, which means that their output voltage doesn't drop nearly as much when they're hit with a sudden current load. This in turn makes them much better at running 'finicky' cameras that give only very short run times on conventional NiMHs.
"In a non-finicky camera, conventional 2500-2700 mAh cells will power them a lot longer than Eneloops will, as the Eneloops are only rated at 2000 mAh."
WHAT WE LIKE
Being able to use them right away would matter to us if we found ourselves suddenly short of power and needed to buy some cells. Normally, we'd be miffed. If we bought reusable NiMH cells, they wouldn't have any charge. If we bought alkalines, they'd be short lived. If we had to fork up some lunch money for AA lithiums, we'd at least have them a while, but they aren't cheap. So we'd go for the Eneloops because we can use them right away and recharge them later.
The 2000 mAh capacity and lower internal resistance matters, too, because they'll outlast our older batteries and spark the newer cameras. We're not using a lower capacity cell to get the other advantages.
And unlike some higher capacity AAs, the Eneloops are not significantly fatter or longer than standard AAs. They fit without straining a normal AA battery compartment's lid.
But the real thing we like about our Eneloops after a month of use is that we don't have to continually charge them to have a fully charged set. We can just leave them in the camera between shoots. We don't get a low battery warning the next time we need the camera. It still registers as a full charge a month later. Nice.
The next time you need AAs, look for the white Eneloop NiMH rechargeables. They've got enough juice to power a digicam, don't have to be charged to be used and hold their charge between uses, making them the most convenient AA rechargeable you can buy. That also makes them a pretty nice gift for anyone who uses AAs. And who doesn't?
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G9/G9A.HTM on the Web site.)
Raw returns to the Canon G-Series with the G9, which also adds a 3.0-inch LCD, a 12-megapixel sensor and wireless flash capability to the controversial G7 it replaces. The Canon PowerShot G9 doesn't have the articulated LCD of the G6 but no one is going to confuse it with an A-Series model.
Despite the weight and bulk, the Canon G9 was fun to pal around with. It's very responsive, very well built and is a delight to fiddle with, thanks to its full manual exposure modes. If you want more than Auto exposure variants of Canon's ELPHs but don't want the entourage that comes with a dSLR, the G9 is the ticket. It's made for people who like to build their fires with wood, even if it burns as easily as a Presto log.
We like the G9's design, but we have to admit it's an uninspired design. You might be tempted to call it retro and mention a rangefinder, but that's a stretch. It's not as sleek as any rangefinder we remember and no more interesting than any other black box, despite its soft curves. It's even less flashy than the G7 since the adapter ring on the G9 has just a subtle chrome accent instead of the entirely chrome one on the G7. It isn't unattractive, but it lacks style. We don't particularly mind that, but if you feel flagship models should wave in the breeze, don't salute the G9.
While it isn't really accurate to call it heavy or large, it isn't comfortable to carry in a shirt pocket and barely manages to make it into a coat pocket. We used it with a spare wrist strap but Canon only supplies a shoulder strap. We preferred transporting it in a carrying case, although our sports coat has large inside pockets that served for more formal occasions.
Still it's heavier than most cameras in its class. If it's in a pocket, you lean to that side. Heft in a small camera can be a stabilizing influence, but this is just a bit too much heft. Use the strap or find a case for it.
That nearly cancels out one of the compelling reasons to choose a camera like this over a dSLR (which does not fit in a pocket either). But the G9 is flat and is slightly easier to carry along than even a compact dSLR. Just to put things in perspective.
The controls were easy to find and use, although there were a few mysteries (like the asterisk button). They are all on either the top panel or the back panel, easy to reach, with a good feel to almost all of them.
While the lens is not as fast as the beloved G-Series cameras before the G7, it is image-stabilized and a quick f2.8 at wide-angle and f4.5 at telephoto. The 6x range from 35-210mm (35mm equivalent) is a relief from the constrictions of a 3x zoom. While 35mm isn't very wide, it's wide enough to work inside most rooms and that 210mm range is very handy. Add the 4x digital zoom, which isn't bad and you get a 24x range right out of the box (let us be grateful a second time for the image stabilization).
The focusing range in Macro mode can get as close as 0.39 inch for some remarkable close-ups, like our standard dollar bill shot. And the aperture range from f2.8 to f8.0 does make Aperture Priority feasible if not particularly meaningful.
There's some virtual whining out there about the f2.8 lens. But frankly, we'd take the G9's lens over the G6's f2.0 lens simply because it's optically image stabilized. That helps in low light at wide-angle focal lengths and in any light with telephoto focal lengths, making the G9 a far more useful tool. That advantage extends to any auxiliary lens you mount, too. And anyway, who would be happy with an f2.0 that wasn't image stabilized? Nobody at 210mm.
The usual Canon PowerShot hierarchical menu system is employed here, relying on the Menu button for the tabbed panels and the Function Set button to access the more immediate options.
But the G9 goes a lot further than other PowerShots in providing buttons and dials. Every one of those additions is a blessing in our book, although a couple are mixed blessings. The EV button (which also handles image rotation in Playback mode) is just the most obvious. No trips to the LCD menus for that indispensable option now.
Like the G7, the G9 has an outer ring on its four-way navigator that functions much like a command dial on a dSLR. We really liked that. And the display that pops up on the LCD when you press that weird asterisk button is quite charming, too, showing you analog-like controls of the f-stop and aperture. It also appears when you spin the outer dial to change a setting in one of the manual modes.
In the mixed blessing category, both the Power button and the Playback button are small chrome rectangles. We had no trouble remembering where the Power button was, but finding the Playback button, which sits above the LCD, was never quite as easy. It's something of an alternative, powering the camera up for image review without extending the lens and a second press toggles the power back off. If you press the shutter button instead, the lens extends and puts the camera into Record mode.
The ISO dial on the top panel was also a little troublesome. At first, we loved it. Just twist it to set the ISO, no need to hunt down ISO in the menu system. But then we began to find it somewhat aloof and disengaged. As a mechanical setting, you can't include it in any custom camera setup. If you want to create a natural light setup, ISO won't be part of it. That's a bit of a drawback.
The reason you buy a camera like the G9 is because it lets you make the exposure decisions. The problem with all compact cameras, however, is that they don't have much range (not many f-stops) and the controls are usually once-removed from reality on some LCD menu and thus awkward to use.
But the G9 has modes that take some of the work off your hands. The full list includes: Full Manual mode, Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), Programmed Auto, Auto, two Custom settings, Movie mode, Stitch Assist mode and, yes, Scene mode.
Scene mode on the G9 includes a limited but healthy selection of options. They are: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Sports, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, Indoor, ISO 3200, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Color Accent and Color Swap. One of these days we'll get an Aquarium mode shot worthy of the effort, but it's not a snap.
In addition to the Scene modes, there are several photo effects you can apply. Those include Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone and Custom.
But the fun is in making your own decisions. And Manual mode is, by that standard, the most fun.
Manual mode really is manual, not the Programmed Auto of PowerShot ELPHs. Press that asterisk button and you can see the aperture scale and the shutter speed scale below it in a small window. If you don't press the asterisk button, the active scale appears when you rotate the dial. The current settings are displayed in big text at the bottom edge of the LCD with green arrows to indicate which setting you can adjust in which direction. Press the EV button to toggle between them.
That's pretty simple, but also delightful. You play the same game in Programmed Auto except EV really does change the exposure. Instead, you simply use the outer dial to scroll through your aperture/shutter speed options. The Priority modes work the same way, displaying the appropriate scale as you rotate the dial.
The Custom settings (there are two) intrigued us, but the inability to save an ISO setting really ruined it for us. Particularly since that has the most dramatic effect on image quality. We like to set up the camera for indoor natural light photography with a custom setting. Programmed Auto is great for sunlight (no custom needed there) but it never quite adapts to room light. But cranking up the ISO, setting a handholding shutter speed and turning off the flash is a big help when working in room light. But not on the PowerShot G9.
Custom is, however, easy to use. Set the camera however you like, then press the Menu button. Use the Up arrow to find the Save Settings option, which lets you specify whether to save the current camera settings to C1 or C2. When you dial the Mode dial to C1 or C2, you'll restore those settings.
We're no fan of Canon's menu system and the G9 reinforced that dislike. We appreciate it, we do. We understand the hierarchy of the Menu button for big stuff and the Function Set button for the little things with buttons to help out for the most transient settings.
But there's always some quirk (often more than just one) that makes it impossible to find just the thing you need when you want it.
For example, it took us a long time to find the 1024 option in Movie mode. You'd think it would be in the last shooting menu option displayed on the screen when you press the Function Set button. But no, that only showed us the 640 options and a 320 option. It turns out that you have to spin the outer dial to see it (where you'll also find the 160 option). That's how you select Scene modes, too, but not how you work with any other Mode dial option, where the outer dial functions quite differently depending on the mode.
Sure, as the owner of a Canon G9, you'd get used to those quirks. But it's odd.
Odd, too, is Canon's choice of a 1024x768 Movie mode. That's the same 4:3 aspect ratio as 640x480, rather than the 16:9 aspect ratio of an HDTV, which would have been far more useful.
Not so odd, however, is the new twist on checking your image provided by the Image Inspection Tool in Playback mode. Let's say you used face detection as your autofocus method and the G9 identified three faces in the image. Press Display in Playback until you see a thumbnail of your image in the top left corner with boxes over the three faces and a magnification of what's in the active box in the lower right corner. Press the Set button to switch between the boxes (or faces) and use the Zoom lever to magnify the inset. You can also scroll around the inset with the arrow keys. That really helps evaluate an image on the spot, so you can do something about any problems right away.
Our usual performance criteria changes when we evaluate a flagship digicam. It jumps from the lowest set of an entry-level camera to the prosumer criteria. The red bulls eye gets smaller, the black rings narrower. Still, we were surprised to see the Canon G9 score Above Average marks on nearly everything we look at.
The exceptions were:
But download speed, LCD size, Startup and Shutdown times, Autofocus lag, pre-focus lag and Cycle time all ranked Above Average.
- An average amount of distortion for both wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths on the 6x zoom lens (which itself ranked average in this category, if unusual among entry-level cameras).
- The average but somewhat misleading flash recycle time, which at 5.4 seconds may seem a bit long until you consider that a powerful flash takes longer to recharge.
- Weight was heavy enough to score average (closer to Below than Above Average, frankly).
The lab reported that the camera operated much more slowly at ISO settings above 200. Our hunch is that's noise reduction overhead, which you should be able to avoid by shooting Raw.
That's getting the horse before the cart, where it should be. And it should give you a clue to our shooting experience.
Build quality is something you really appreciate when you use a camera, but something you don't always pick up on at the store. It took us a few times around the block with the G9 to appreciate its quick startup (that big image stabilized lens comes out like it owns the world) and the snappy shutter.
Ever since we read Julieanne Kost's Window Seat (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/KOST/KOST.HTM), we seem to have gotten window seats on every flight we've taken. So we get out whatever camera we have with us and take pictures through the window. It's a lot of fun and certainly a distraction from turbulence, tight seating and airplane food.
We had the Canon G9 out when we took a turbo prop from Rochester to Philadelphia recently. We flew about 30 feet off the ground and the G9 got some lovely shots of the Finger Lakes and the leaves turning color. To cut through the atmosphere without using a filter, we fooled around with the Vivid photo effect. But even with that, these shots are really too flat to be gallery shots. They do, however, lend themselves spectacularly to the kind of manipulations Julieanne discusses in her book. Here's one of Pennsylvania that started life as a Raw file.
We're fond of 16:9 shooting and did take a few with the G9, but primarily we stuck to a 4:3 aspect ratio. Why? Because we were enamored of the 3.0-inch LCD, simple as that and wanted to see as much picture as possible.
We didn't take many movies, but when we did, we were stuck with 4:3. The Canon G9 can shoot 1024x768 movies at 15 frames per second (which is a good enough frame rate). And you can tap into the 4x digital zoom, too. But, as we griped about above, that's not going to fill an HDTV's 16:9 aspect ratio.
But interval recording at one or two second intervals does make sense and it's nice to see it included on the G9.
Our biggest problem shooting with the G9 was the Up arrow key. Our thumb kept slipping down low enough to accidentally activate it, which pops up the Manual Focus option. That could explain why some of our shots are soft, but so could the FlexiZone focusing, which we left on the center of the image. We weren't always using the focusing system we thought we had chosen.
Playback options allow you to magnify the image up to 10x, a great way to check focus. You can also display a histogram to check exposure. And Canon's nine-thumbnail index display with Jump control is also available.
The Canon G9 uses a 1/1.7-inch type CCD sensor. And it packs 12.1 megapixels onto that small real estate, exhibiting the kind of problems any high resolution sensor has with noise at high ISO. Nevertheless, we were still able to print credible letter-size, borderless prints from a Kodak 5500 (with just three pigments) after running those ISO 1600 images through Noiseware Pro.
What's credible? You don't see the noise at normal viewing distances. You do see good color and detail, however. What's a normal viewing distance? For a letter-sized print, it's arm's length (framed and hung on the wall).
If you can print a credible 8x10 with ISO 1600 you're doing something no color film emulsion could ever do.
With the High ISO Scene mode, the camera combines adjacent pixels to render a smaller file size with less noise, a venerable approach calling pixel binning. These 1600x1200 images have good color but noticeably less detail than the 4000x3000 large JPEGs the G9 produces. Compare the full resolution images of our ISO 80 and ISO 3200 Still Life shots on the Test Images page to see the difference (just click on the thumbnails reproduced to the left).
Shots taken in overcast conditions really looked nice, but sunlit shots struck us as oversaturated with bright highlights. We were surprised, however, to have to tone down even some of our overcast portraits about 15 units less saturation to get green grass to stop fluorescing.
You can see the problem in our pumpkin picture. That image was taken on a rainy day and the orange just glows unnaturally. If you look at the full resolution image you can see the orange blooming into the background at the top left.
If we'd been aware of it while we were shooting, we could have slipped into the Custom Color option and toned down the Saturation, although the controls are rather crude and this really should be in the main Menu list.
There was also some chromatic aberration at wide-angle, as our Test Image crop shows. Corner sharpness was better than usual, though, with the Canon G9 producing very sharp shots.
To put the Canon G9's image quality in context, though, it ranks among the best digicams we've used. We wouldn't trade the 6x optical zoom to a 3x zoom to get less chromatic aberration or less optical distortion. And saturation can be dealt with by shooting Raw or using a Custom Color setting. These issues represent design tradeoffs, not defects. To see a more detailed analysis on the Canon G9's image quality, visit the Optics and Exposure tabs above or below.
The return of Raw format to the G-Series by itself makes the G9 a far more interesting option than its immediate predecessor. The large LCD just seals the deal. Fans of earlier G-Series cameras will have to content themselves with the knowledge that, while the LCD isn't articulating, it does have a wide angle of view. And while the f/2.8 lens isn't as fast as the f/2.0 lens, it does include image stabilization. But anyone (not just G-Series fans) looking for a compact camera with real manual control will find a lot to like about the G9. It's as automatic a camera as any digicam but it also lets you take complete control.
By ANDREW ALEXANDER(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1114/cat/11 on the Web site.)
Canon dropped an early Christmas present with the announcement of the EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS consumer-level lens. As an upgrade from the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 USM EF-S lens bundled as the standard kit lens with many Canon dSLR cameras, many Canon photographers may be looking to Santa longingly. And Santa's budget may not be pushed too far, with an announced price point of $199.
The real news here is the inclusion of Canon's image stabilization, typically seen only in higher-end glass. With a touted performance of four extra stops, it should make a real difference in the photography of the average user.
Canon dSLR cameras with sub-frame sensors have a "crop factor" of 1.6x. Thus, for this particular lens, it will exhibit an effective focal length of 29-88mm on Canon's 1.6 factor dSLRs like the XTi. The lens takes 58mm filters and a lens hood is indicated as an optional accessory.
This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the minimum and maximum aperture increases.
The minimum aperture, for example, changes from f3.5 at 18mm to f4 at 24mm to f4.5 at 35mm to f5.6 at 55m. The maximum aperture, on the other hand, changes from f22 at 18mm to f25 at 24mm to f29 at 35mm to f36 at 55mm.
Of course, the terms "minimum" and "maximum" can be confusing when it comes to discussing aperture, so in this case the intention is that "minimum" refers to smallest f-stop number, while "maximum" refers to largest f-stop number.
The blur graph shows a remarkable improvement from the non-IS 18-5mm f3.5-5.6 lens. It's interesting to note the only real change (according to the specifications) between the two lenses is the addition of an aspherical lens to deal with the effects of chromatic aberration.
However they've done it, the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS shows excellent sharpness at 18mm wide-open at f3.5, a focal length/aperture combination which typically shows off the weakness of most consumer-grade lenses. Image sharpness is essentially even across the frame and doesn't exceed 2 units on our scale of 1 to 12. For a lens of this price point, this is amazing performance.
The sharpness performance improves at f3.5 as you zoom out the focal range and stop down, achieving its optimum sharpness at 35mm and f5.6. Diffraction starts to set in around f16, but you don't really start to see mediocre performance until the aperture is stopped down to rarely-used f-stop numbers such as f29. At that point, the image is quite soft, but at least the softness is uniform at between 4 and 5 units. All in all, excellent performance.
Chromatic aberration was a problem on the predecessor to this lens, but the inclusion of the aspherical lens appears to address the issue the lens widest focal length (18mm). When the aperture is set to between f3.5 and f5.6, you have radically improved resistance to CA, showing only around 6 to 7 hundreds of a percent of CA, compared to between 10 and 12 hundreths of percent with the previous model. At all other focal lengths and apertures, the CA performance is about the same, which is to say that it is significant until about 35mm, where it becomes tolerable at between 4 and 7 hundreths of a percent.
So, chromatic aberration is not completely eliminated (that would require a more expensive lens design) but for the aperture and focal length that this lens will typically be used at, it is remarkably reduced.
We're not talking huge differences here, but the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS actually has a (very) slightly worse profile when it comes to shading in the corners. You really see it on either lens when zoomed out to wide-angle (18mm) where you're looking at a half-stop of light lost. As you approach 35mm this effect is reduced and you see no more than one-quarter of a stop being lost; above 35mm, the effect is negligible.
Distortion is typical for a wide-angle zoom lens: lots of barrel distortion when zoomed to wide (18mm), approaches no distortion in the middle and gets a bit of pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. At its worst, distortion is almost one percent. With the 18-55mm IS, the distortion is fairly linear and meets at the zero-distortion level at around 40mm. You can turn your curves back into straight lines easily with most image processing software.
Comparing this to the previous 18-55mm model, the distortion was less linear; there isn't a point where the barrel distortion aligns neatly with the pincushion distortion (they overlap closest at around 28mm).
Autofocus performance is fast and quiet, with the whole lens racking through its focus in just under one second. While focus performance is going to depend a lot on the body the lens is mounted to, on the digital Rebel XTi I sampled the lens with, I didn't have a single problem with focus and focusing between points was lightning quick.
With a close-focusing distance of just under 9.8 inches from the image sensor, the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS focuses on objects literally millimeters away from the end of the lens. The 18-55 f3.5-5.6 IS isn't classed as a macro lens, as its 1:2.9 magnification rating (0.34x) suggests.
BUILD QUALITY AND HANDLING
To look at the non-IS version of the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens, there isn't much difference between them; they're both very light lenses, constructed of plastic. The IS version has changed the zoom dial grip texture; arguably, the non-IS version was just fine, but with the new grip there's no confusing the two. Both lenses have a gasket seal by the lens mount, but it's plastic all the way -- however, this probably accounts for the low price of the lens. The IS version of the lens is perhaps 2mm longer, to accommodate the new aspherical lens and moving lens element used for image stabilization.
In practice, the image stabilization really works. We haven't hit upon a scientific method for quantifying image stabilization, but I wouldn't be surprised if the lens lives up to Canon's claims of up to four extra stops of performance. This extra speed is useful in situations where you'd rather use image stabilization instead of a higher ISO. I have to admit I'm surprised to see image stabilization on a lens of this focal range; typically you see IS on zoom lenses, as the effect of camera shake is more pronounced on a telephoto lens.
Manual focusing with the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS isn't great, as the small focus dial at the front of the lens goes through the entire focus range in only a quarter-turn, so there's little room for high fidelity. Not that you will probably need to do much manual focusing with this lens, anyway.
Canon is notoriously stingy with its lens products: a lens hood and pouch are sold separately. The lens hood is a bowl-style hood that reverses for easy storage.
- Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 USM. This is the most obvious comparison and it's a fairly easy one. The IS version beats the non-IS version handily, especially in sharpness, but notably in distortion and resistance to chromatic aberration. Adding image stabilization makes it very much worth the extra pennies. ~$145
- Sigma 18-50mm f3.5-5.6 DC. Coming in as the low-cost leader, we haven't tested the Sigma option in this category. User reports on this lens are mixed, suggesting a slow autofocus speed and mediocre image quality. ~$100
- Tamron 19-35mm f3.5-4.5 AF. We haven't tested the Tamron offering and there isn't a lot of data from our user reviews, but from the sounds of it, there isn't much of a reason to go for this lens when the regular Canon 18-55mm costs about the same. ~$150
- Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM. Zooming out a little wider and farther, the 17-85mm is also an image-stabilized lens, perhaps a little more versatile, but only slightly improved in the aspect of sharpness; resistance to chromatic aberration is tolerable (noticed most at wide-angle), but distortion and vignetting leave something to be desired. This increased capability and versatility is reflected in its significantly higher price. ~$500
- Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM. On the other side of the price spectrum, the 17-55mm goes a hair wider, but also features image stabilization. That's where the similarities end; with a constant f2.8 aperture and a lens profile that's head-and-shoulders above the 18-55mm, it's a lot more expensive, but there's no question you get what you pay for with this lens. ~$950
The Canon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS EF-S lens is a remarkable upgrade to the standard kit-style lens. Even if you're not interested in the image stabilization that's been added, the addition of the aspherical lens element (and whatever other fine-tuning the lens wizards have been up to in the lab) shows off improved sharpness and resistance to chromatic aberration. Definitely worth the upgrade.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Sample Shots: EOS-1Ds Mark III (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E1DSMK3/E1DSMK3A.HTM)
- Sample Shots: Nikon D3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3/D3A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/S8000/S8000A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Olympus SP-560 UltraZoom (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP560/SP560A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Pentax Optio T30 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OT30/OT30A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot G9 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G9/G9A.HTM)
- Test Images: Nikon D300 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300/D300A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Eneloop AA Batteries (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/ENE/LOOP.HTM)
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a
Visit the Kodak Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f77d
Jennifer asks about taking photos of the moon at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea6eb9/0
Martin asks for advice about choosing a dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea7003/0
Visit the Beginners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2b2
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You can email us at email@example.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
RE: Epson V700 Scanner
Thank you for a well written review of the V700. It has been most helpful in making a buying decision.
I am shooting a 645 format and the one piece of information I could not find in your review and would appreciate an answer for is the following. Can I batch scan 6x4.5 negatives that are cut four negatives to a strip or do I have to cut each frame apart and then place in the negative holder?
-- Bob Haines(Thanks for the kinds words, Bob! If our memory can be trusted, the included holder only holds three frames. You can use the glass if you aren't doing too many, as an alternative. Better yet, the V-series film holders sold by betterscanning (http://www.betterscanning.com/scanning/vseries.html) can hold film strips up to 240mm in length (scanning 213mm max). -- Editor)
RE: Waiting It Out
Do you think that Panasonic will be upgrading its DMC-FZ50 and if so when?
-- Lynn Sumerson(Oh, they all get upgraded and sooner rather than later <g>. They just don't tell us until it actually happens! The consolation prize is all the pictures you take between now and then. They would be the ones you missed if you waited. -- Editor)
RE: Nikon's 18-200mm VR II Lens
I'm back from a two week trip to Cuba with my "old" D2xs (no D3 yet). To avoid dirtying the sensor when changing lenses I brought only a Nikon 18-200mm VR II lens!
Could have used better light a couple of times but otherwise a very competent lens and the VR works beautifully, even from the bus window in "active" mode (the lens not the window) riding through Matanzaz on the way to Havana. And in the Havana sunshine and in the narrow alleys or in bars and restaurants....
Yes, Juan, (I saw your recent question) you can go for the 18-200mm and you'll need no more lenses.
A problem though if you go to Cuba or some other Caribbean or similar place: sand and salt. Salt is even in the air. Rolando in the Club House at Varadero Turquesa resort showed me the metal buttons in his shirt and some other thin metal things that normally would last a lifetime. Salt had made it completely filigranic.
And now I have to send the lens and the D2xs to the service people for cleaning. The fact is that the surface of the camera feels greasy and the lens screams when I zoom or when the camera tries to focus -- and the lens was brand new when I left Sweden Nov. 18.
-- Lars Jansson(Thanks for the report, Lars. Strange about the salt. Sure, we see the effects here in San Francisco (the iron on Alcatraz is lace now), but there are all those antique American cars in Cuba, no? We share your admiration for the 18-200mm VR II lens. You can get as close as nine inches to your subject, too. -- Editor)
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released an update to Camera Raw and DNG Converter to address two issues with version 4.3: compressed Raw files from the Nikon D100 were read incorrectly in Camera Raw 4.3 and a possible artifact in Camera Raw 4.3 raw file support for the Olympus E-3 has been corrected. Lightroom 1.3.1 was released earlier today with additional fixes.
Nikon (http://support.nikontech.com) has updated ViewNX, its free image browser, to support video captured by Nikon digicams.
The company has also updated Capture NX, its image editing software that features U Point technology, to version 1.3.0 [MW] and released a trial version.
You can instantly save up to $125 on Canon EF Lenses through Jan. 13, 2008 (http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=PromotionsAct).
Kodak (http://www.kodak.com) has a released a free plug-in to upload photos from your iPhoto collection to your Kodak Gallery account using the Export option in iPhoto. The universal binary requires Mac OS X 10.3 or higher and iPhoto version 2 or higher.
MemoryMiner for Windows (http://www.memoryminer.com/windows) has been released at an introductory price of $30 (regularly $45), bringing digital storytelling to the Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 2000 platforms. MemoryMiner enables you to intuitively explore your digital media library, enhance it with annotation and linking and then publish stories on the Web.
Rocky Nook has published The Nikon D80 Dbook, a 620-page PDF covering all aspects of the image creation process: digital photography basics, taking pictures, image optimization, lenses, accessories and much more. The title is available at a discount from the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952156/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released Raw Developer 1.7.1 [M], with several bug fixes and support for 17 new cameras.
To prove the effectiveness of PortraitProfessional 6, its portrait retouching software, Anthropics Technology (http://www.portraitprofessional.com) recently ran comparative tests using expert Photoshop users with many hundreds of hours of touch up experience and Portrait Professional users with less than 10 hours of experience. In face touch up, the non-expert Portrait Professional users consistently outperformed the Photoshop experts, according to ratings by a blind panel judging the quality of the results. People using Portrait Professional also took a small fraction of the time required by the PhotoShop experts to achieve a similar result. The company announced a Mac version is in development for release early next year.
AKVIS (http://akvis.com) has released LightShop 2.0 [MW], a standalone application and Photoshop plug-in to add lighting effects to existing images.
Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $34.95 GraphicConverter 6.0.2 [M], adding Unicode support for IPTC metadata, iPhoto database export, ArtRage import, a red-eye tool, unskew for grayscale images and more.
App4mac (http://www.app4mac.com) has released its free RapidoMap 1.0 [M], a geotagging application that includes browsing with street-level maps or detailed lists, built-in media viewers, fly-by slide shows, an iLife Media Browser with drag-and-drop support, Flickr uploads and more.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher