|Volume 11, Number 26||18 December 2009|
Welcome to the 269th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Shawn discusses the hits and misses of the season's hottest digicam, the Canon S90. Then we provide a little emergency holiday card help before presenting our annual holiday gift to you. Season's Greetings!
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By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS90/PS90A.HTM on the Web site.)
When Canon announced the G11 and S90, I chose to focus on the Canon S90 because I was sure it would be the more popular camera, meeting the needs of more enthusiasts overall. Its smaller size means greater portability than the more bulky G11 and the full-stop advantage it has makes it particularly attractive; besides, the S90 is a new design and the G-series has been evolving for a long time.
So I guess it's not a surprise that I was more disappointed with the S90's shortcomings when we received both, because my expectations were higher. The S90 also has fewer controls, so while I struggled with three out of 17 controls on the G11, I struggled with four out of 13 controls on the S90, which is a higher struggle-to-control ratio.
I keep wondering why Canon, a company with tons of experience designing great cameras, would put EV compensation on a loose Control dial on the back. These guys know how to design a great Control dial, evidenced by the Control dial that has graced the back of the company's mid-range to high-end SLRs since the beginning of EOS SLRs, dating back more than 20 years to the film days. These have always had good firm detents, making setting changes sure and deliberate. Even the G11's Control dial clicks as it goes around. Why this loosie-goosie thing has persisted in Canon's recent pocket cameras is a mystery.
By default, this rear Control dial adjusts exposure compensation in Program mode and it's so loose it does so all the time, whether you want it to or not. It's a major liability when shooting with the S90, because you have to check your settings all the time. If you assign the front ring -- which has wonderfully stiff detents -- to EV compensation, the rear ring then controls the ISO setting. It's more innocuous, but you still run the risk of accidentally changing the ISO, which I did frequently.
Deepening the mystery is why they would have put an EV adjustment symbol on the ring when it's always active when shooting in Program mode. Sure, in Manual mode this button switches between Shutter and Aperture control, but it would make more sense in Program mode if this button actually activated the EV Compensation function, rather than having it active all the time. So you always have to be attentive to the Control dial, except when shooting in Full Auto mode. With the Mode dial set to Portrait Scene, the Control dial automatically changes the Scene mode, often accidentally. Here, at least, it works as I'd prefer: requiring me to press the EV Compensation button to start compensating.
A firmware upgrade could fix this, so here's hoping Canon at least adds a Menu option to set the function of the Command dial by mode. Naturally, you want this dial to adjust shutter speed and aperture when in Tv and Av modes, but again, you have to carefully watch your thumb because the Control dial has no detents, instead spinning freely.
The front ring is indeed charming and works reasonably well with most settings, but it can be assigned to too many tasks. I'm not talking about the Ring Function button's options. I'm fine with that customizability, but by default the Control ring's uses change with the exposure mode as well. If I set the front ring to STD when shooting in Program mode it controls the ISO. If I then switch to Shutter priority mode, the function of the ring changes to adjusting the shutter speed. Now how do I adjust the ISO? The Function menu, of course.
Switch to Aperture priority and now the front dial controls the aperture setting. OK, makes sense: the key adjustment you can make to exposure in Program mode is ISO, so the Front dial controls exposure by default. I'd have liked having Program shift as an option on the front Control ring, but that's handled by the rear Control dial, after you half-press the shutter, then the EV button, a convoluted process.
You can lock the front dial into ISO mode, but the S90 sometimes forgot I'd made that setting and started adjusting the shutter speed or aperture when I turned the dial.
You can also use the Control ring to set Manual focus. Unlike the Canon G11, Manual focus works well enough when objects are close, like your desk, but not very well beyond that. You'll also find there's a lot of clicking back and forth with that charming dial, making quite a racket. It's a big problem when in Shutter priority mode, too, I forgot to mention, as there are so many settings along that scale.
It gets really cool -- and dangerous -- when you set the Front ring to control White Balance. You can either just move between Blue and Amber or hit the DISP button and switch to the full Cartesian coordinate XY axis display and add Green and Magenta to the mix. The Control ring adjusts the X axis and the Control dial controls the Y axis.
Zooming with the Control ring is just silly. It moves in zones, but the camera doesn't change settings immediately and sometimes I'll click through two settings -- even slowly -- before it realizes I wanted to zoom.
Ultimately I decided to lock the Control ring into serving as the ISO control and used the Rear dial to adjust exposure. When you want to adjust exposure, whether in Program or the two semi-auto modes, the Control dial works very well and gets to the setting much faster than the Control ring. The Control ring's excellent detents do tend to shake the view quite a bit as you turn it, so for me it's better left to less frequent operations, like ISO.
In full-auto mode it performs quite well. It selects among a few Scene modes as needed and just gets the shot. Were it not for that, I'd steer most users to other cameras. The Control ring changes to zoom and the Control dial on the rear is completely deactivated in Auto mode. It's the enthusiasts who are going to be miffed with the controls while using the creative settings, as well as those who want to rely on a single Scene mode (again, because the Control dial seems to select among Scene modes at random, thanks to its looseness).
The Mode dial is nice and firm, just the way it should be, reminding me of the dials on the Canon G11.
Now to tackle the last of the S90's rings. The zoom ring, which surrounds the shutter button, is very slow to respond. I saw this on the Canon G11 as well, but other Canon point-and-shoots at my disposal respond faster than these two high-end models. It's pretty annoying, making it much harder to frame your images. I also ran into an error I've not personally seen on any Canon camera (though I know such errors do occur).
While trying to make small adjustments to the zoom level by quickly flicking the zoom toggle first one direction then the other, the camera suddenly stopped responding altogether, reporting, "Lens error, restart camera." This required I remove the battery and replace it, as everything on the S90 was otherwise unresponsive, including the power button. It happened twice in two minutes while shooting, then again while adjusting the Control dial in Auto mode.
Speaking of the lens, it has remarkably little barrel distortion at wide-angle, which drove our curiosity to see whether Canon had used the same trick that Panasonic did with the LX3 and several other cameras, correcting the distortion before saving the file. We opened a Raw file with dcraw, a program that doesn't apply distortion correction and saw some dramatic distortion at wide-angle. There's very little distortion at telephoto. Distortion correction is becoming significantly more common, though -- and it's hard to argue with the excellent results.
The lens has moderate chromatic aberration at wide-angle, at least in JPEGs. The camera's processing does a pretty good job of reducing the intensity. Telephoto, however, has some chromatic aberration that appears in the center and corners, which can reduce contrast and cause some image softness in very bright areas.
I've seen the S90 described as a G11 in a smaller package, but that's not quite so. Many features are missing and the one I miss most is the G11's Flexizone AF, which allows you to move the AF box around the screen. With the S90, you have a choice of choosing Face AiAF, which will either detect a face or choose from among nine AF points across 80 percent of the screen or Center AF. An enthusiast camera should have the ability to choose an AF point. What the S90 does have that's important is a choice between a smaller and larger AF box, something I've enjoyed on several Panasonic cameras, including the GF1.
As I said of the G11, the S90 is sometimes slow to focus and often fails, but much of that impression was formed by the first unit we received, with serial number 0004. This camera had trouble focusing on the center point in our INB indoor test shot, preferring instead the back wall. We spent a lot of time looking at this, enlarging the focus target to get this camera to stop looking at the back wall, to no avail. But the second unit we received didn't have this trouble, focusing more like other PowerShot cameras. Sometimes it balks on subjects where I'd expect it to do better, but a side-by-side comparison with my SD1000 didn't show much difference.
Full AF shutter lag is an area where the S90 has an advantage over the Panasonic LX3, coming in at 0.43 and 0.49 second at wide-angle and telephoto respectively, while the LX3 turns in times of 0.77 and 0.76 second.
Where the S90 has placed its emphasis is on low light performance. Before I started shooting low light images, I sat down and grabbed an image from an older camera, the Canon A640, whose 10-megapixel ISO 800 quality we respected in its day and tried to use Photoshop to tweak its image noise into something similar to the S90's. I didn't even get close. I could manage removing most of the chroma noise, but the luminance noise so pock-marked the dark areas of the image that the S90's far cleaner result was untouchable.
At full resolution, the S90 has a few tools at its disposal for better low-light photography. First is the slightly larger sensor with a lower resolution than its predecessor, second is the f2.0-4.9 lens, then the ISO range from 80 to 3200 and finally the DIGIC 4 processor, which does quite a job on the Raw file before saving it as a JPEG.
As ISO hits 800, though, Canon has defaulted to a very soft JPEG interpretation of the scene, which is the polar opposite of what the S90's competition has done: the Panasonic LX3 sharpens the heck out of the image. According to my printed tests, Panasonic's approach works better for printing straight from the camera, but Canon's approach leaves the photographer more options.
So though it's not something we normally do, I checked to see what would happen if I aggressively sharpened these high ISO images in Photoshop. I managed to enhance the luminance noise, but the chroma noise was so light I got essentially the same result as the LX3: crisp images with a nice grain pattern to them. I did the same modification to the Canon G11's images and came up with the same result. It's likely Canon has chosen to let its target enthusiast photographers do sharpening in post, a strategy they've pursued since at least back to the EOS 20D.
LOW LIGHT MODE
The S90 is capable of capturing images at up to ISO 12,800, but only at reduced resolution and only in a special Low Light Scene mode where you have essentially no control. Resolution is 2.5 megapixels and your only options are Drive modes, Compression levels, Flash modes, Self-timer and Macro mode.
We didn't test it in the lab, but I did snap a couple dozen shots to see how it worked handheld. Unfortunately you can't adjust the ISO setting in Low Light mode, so I had to use my mini-blind to control the light in my darkened room on a rainy day. I was surprised by the S90's unwillingness to change shutter speed as I reached ISO 6,400 and proceeded through 8,000, 10,000 and 12,800; instead it stayed at 1/15 second at f2.0. ISO 3200 was captured at 1/25 second and f2 and ISO 6,400 at 1/20 second and f2.
Throughout this range, the image I saw on the camera's screen was brighter than the scene, so the S90 is doing some impressive work here and there's not a lot of noise on the LCD as it gains up to show you what it can do.
Rarely does this pixel-binning method produce a usable image at 4x6 let alone anything larger, so I'm impressed it works as well as it does. But you can stop being too impressed at the 12,800 number. Those images are a little too rough to be called usable. The pity is that you can't set the ISO level to limit the noise; the camera controls that. You also won't be shooting in complete darkness, but a dark office with the blinds closed on a rainy day is pretty darn dark.
RESULTS QUITE GOOD
Overall, my experience with the S90 was better after capture than during. The relatively small percentage of images I thought good enough for printing were really quite good. Too many of the other images were results of errors on the camera's part or else my frustration with a given mode and too often due to the unruly rear Control dial.
I had a heck of a time trying to keep the S90 from blowing highlights on a bright, but cloudy day. Adjusting the EV setting didn't make enough of a difference. Though Imatest reports the S90 has over eight stops of dynamic range, I found the highlights were too often blown. Shooting Raw does leave some latitude, sometimes allowing recovery of highlights, but not always.
But the S90 does make some stunning images when you manage to get everything right. One of my favorites is of my son at a party with lizards painted on his face. He was pretty proud and wanted to see what they looked like. I'd just taken a half dozen blurry shots of his brother in slightly less light before I gave up and switched to Auto, then his artwork was finally complete. The window light was perfect, the S90 set ISO 800, f4 and 1/100 second. Stunning.
As I walked around shooting with the S90 at an all-day family event, I kept remarking, "Man, this thing is frustrating." Some of that would disappear with more use, but I'm not sure I'd fully master that rear Control dial. Fix that and speed up the zoom control and the S90 would be easier to use.
That beautiful LCD also sometimes tricked me, showing more vibrant color than I would ultimately see later onscreen. With the Canon G11, I used some fall leaves as an example, shot just moments after I shot the same scene with the image in the Gallery, but I found it even more troublesome when shooting some Christmas display lights. I dialed back one-third stop on the exposure after I saw the LCD's interpretation of the scene, which was vibrant and bright, way too bright. But I think I could have gone the other way when I look at the onscreen image.
Ultimately I should have bracketed this shot just to be sure, as the histogram wouldn't have told me much. The second shot is a little better, taken at f2.0 thanks to the wider setting, but you can also see some of the glow I was trying to avoid by reducing the exposure. A quick levels adjustment in Photoshop would bring either image up to snuff, though.
Another nice feature is the S90's offer of a choice when deleting an image captured in Raw+JPEG: You can choose to delete both or just the Raw or just the JPEG.
Canon gets extremely close to the ideal pocket camera with the PowerShot S90, close enough that a great majority of users will be extremely happy with it. These fall into two groups: those content to shoot primarily in Auto mode, as we're all pretty used to doing with pocket cameras and those willing and able to take their time with the very capable Canon S90.
There's a temptation to be disappointed with the S90, mainly because our expectations are too high. We want SLR quality in a pocket package and that's not quite going to happen, at least not now. But the S90's lens and sensor combination do some amazing stuff in low light, so much so that it's a Dave's Pick for that reason alone. Unfortunately it's not a complete coup thanks to the wayward rear Control dial and the slow zoom control.
Regardless, too many of the S90's features are too good to dismiss. Printed quality is very good, in some ways exceeding the abilities of the Canon G11, despite the greater apparent noise suppression in the S90. And the gift of an f2 lens in a pocket camera is hard to overlook. In-camera processing fixes most lens anomalies, making a pretty amazing and useful wide-angle to telephoto range. And when everything's working right, the S90 can make some astonishingly good images. So with some warnings about the controls, the Canon S90 earns a Dave's Pick.
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:
- Reviewed: New Printer Landing Pages (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1261074241.html)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SD980 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD980IS/SD980ISA.HTM)
- Test Shots: Olympus E-P2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EP2/EP2A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SD970 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD970IS/SD970ISA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot SX120 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX120IS/SX120ISA.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot S90 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS90/PS90A.HTM)
It does our heart good to see all the photo cards our relatives send us this time of year. We think of all the online photofinishers making hay in the middle of winter and think things must be picking up.
Not that it's cheaper or easier, but making your own cards can be, well, fun. While we realize nobody has time for fun any more, there are some emergencies that can be solved just by being able to make your own cards. Like when you run out of the ones you had made and forgot to copy the last one on your all-in-one printer.
Which could happen in the next day or two. And if it does, here are a few ways to gracefully recover.
We're long-time devotees of Strathmore's Photo Mount cards (http://www.strathmoreartist.com/creativeArt_photogreetcards.php). The heavy sheets have an embossed frame that makes aligning a 4x6 photo child's play (in fact, "Children! Come here!"). And they always include extra tabs of the double-sided tape you use to attach your photo to the card. We keep packs of these cards with our earthquake emergency supplies, picking up a box at the frame store whenever we can.
We found a nice alternative to the Strathmores at a new card shop the other day. Made by Crane & Co., the 10 hand-engraved photo cards aren't cheap at $30 but they are elegant (http://www.crane.com/social/holiday/photomountcards.aspx). We'll probably send them to our own address, we're so loathe to part with them.
The lady running the store with her husband (hunched over a couple of computers in the back to print menus for some local restaurants) confided that she tried photo cards once but it drove her nuts trying to get the photos on straight.
We have a solution for that. Don't try.
The oddly askew print works fine most of the time, particularly if the image itself is oddly askew.
This is especially handy advice if you are down to your leftover non-photo cards from years past. Sounds a bit Dickens-like, but it works nicely. The trick to refreshing them is to print a current picture of yourself or your family. We like to size the print narrower than the card and not nearly as tall, oriented the same way as the card. Because it's smaller than the card's dimensions, you can angle it goofily on the blank inside cover facing the message. What a lovely surprise to open the card and see your smiling face there!
In a real emergency when you just have a blank piece of lettersize paper, you can print the image on a corner of the paper and fold it into a card. We'll leave the origami to you but it isn't hard to do.
Or you can be like our dear old friend who sends her one-page annual report about this time of year with a little picture of the family in the top right corner. She just letterfolds the thing and puts it in a No. 10 envelope. Nothing fancy but we always brighten up when we see it in the mail.
If all else fails (these things do need stamps, after all), you'll be glad to know Mom was just delighted to get email greetings from some friends this year. "Why doesn't everybody do that?" she wanted to know.
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 about various Canon cameras at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6f773
Chris asks about the best low-light waterproof camera at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeaf1d9/0
Josh asks about the best Pentax telephoto lens at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeaa6c8/0
Read ongoing comments about Canon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=4
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee718ec
Each year at this time, we try to come up with some special treat to express our appreciation for your subscription. You can still enjoy all of our previous specials by visiting the Archive (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). Here's the list:
They all still work, especially the Gift Certificate, perfect for anyone on your list getting into digital photography. A PDF with a nice shot of the Golden Gate, you can download it (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) and print as many copies on your inkjet as you need. Then just remember to send an email to [email protected] with the subject "Gift Subscription" and the email address of the new subscriber in the body of the message.
- 2008: Two Paper Bookmarks (Dec. 19)
- 2007: "My Favorite Brunette" (Dec. 21)
- 2006: Card Size Calculator (Dec. 22)
- 2005: RSS Feed Generator (Dec. 23)
- 2004: dSLR Focal Length Converter (Dec. 10)
- 2003: Lens Calculator (Dec. 12)
- 2002: A Gift Certificate (Dec. 13)
- 2001: Mike's Holiday Recipe (Dec. 14)
- 2000: Aspect Ratio Calculator (Dec. 1)
- 1999: Resolution Calculator (Dec. 17
And this year?
Well, we were inspired by a recent visit of two dear friends. They just happened to be very big on walking every day. "Walking" isn't quite the word for it. It was more like "hiking." They did ten thousand steps before putting on their shoes.
To survive this grueling visit, we resorted to a little trick we always resort to on hikes of any length. We brought a camera.
You can't walk when you are composing a lovely scenic shot. And it slows your companions down too when you ask them to pose.
We had such fun walking around San Francisco taking pictures of each other and everything we saw that we thought what a great idea it would be to invite you along next time.
This great idea occurred to us late at night, of course, when we wouldn't have known better.
But the other day it resolved itself into a better notion. We could, we thought, script a virtual photo walk of some of our favorite San Francisco spots for you. Most of them are near well-known landmarks (which makes it easy to get visitors to go to them). But they're just those few steps to the side you wouldn't know to take that offer a special shot.
Getting Around. Let's start with a little advice on getting around. San Francisco is small. Even if you aren't in the habit, walking is an adventure you'll enjoy and public transportation often beats any stage show in Las Vegas.
Get a transfer on the bus and use it to come home. The shuttle in the Presidio is free. The ferries on the Bay are also great ways to travel. Take one from the Ferry Building to Sausalito for lunch and shoot some shots of the city on the way.
And if you're near Market St. or the Embarcadero, hop on one of the historic F cars. These streetcars from all over the world have been perfectly restored to make the trip from the Castro to Fisherman's Wharf. And those cable cars are not to be missed either. The California line isn't quite as well-known but it has a tremendous view from Nob Hill and passes some photogenic landmarks on the way down to Market St.
Presidio. The Presidio (http://www.presidio.gov) is now a National Historic Landmark District after serving as a military base since the Spanish (who wore a path to the Mission called Lover's Lane).
The Arguello Gate leads to Inspiration Point where you can get a great view of Alcatraz and the Palace of Fine Arts (http://www.exploratorium.edu/history/palace). A recent tree trimming has dramatically improved the view for your long zoom.
We're also fond of the new Immigrant Point Overlook on the west side of the Presidio for its sweeping view of the Pacific (with the Golden Gate Bridge safely out of sight). Great spot for Panorama mode. That lighthouse you see in the Marin headlands is Point Bonita.
The Golden Gate Promenade borders the north side of Crissy Marsh, where the more exotic birds gather. But look the other way through the trees for a soft, sandy beach from which you can get great shots of wind surfers.
Keep walking west and you'll come upon Fort Winfield Scott, a Civil War era installation, under the Golden Gate Bridge. There are some ghostly, natural light interiors to shoot there but outside you'll often catch surfers riding the waves that break alongside the fort. And if you look down at the rocks, you'll find an assortment of sea life.
Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge (http://www.goldengatebridge.org) runs right into the Presidio. Most people happily pose near the parking area by the toll plaza with the Bridge in the background but if you follow the bike trail (for peds too) you'll find yourself under the bridge itself, an awesome experience and not a bad shot, either. Keep walking west to find the dirt trail on the top of the cliffs with gorgeous views of the ocean.
Fort Mason. To the east of the Presidio is the Marina where a shot of the Palace of Fine Arts, surrounded by a lagoon, is an automatic postcard. At the east end of the Marina is Fort Mason (http://www.fortmason.org) where we like to walk out to the end of the covered piers (don't be shy) to shoot sail boats and get the best close-up of Alcatraz you'll find from shore.
There's a long walk up a staircase into the trees behind Fort Mason that gives you a great view of the Marina and the Golden Gate Bridge before descending into Aquatic Park, Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf. Talk about street shooting!
That's where Pier 39 is, too. If you wander to the north side of it, you'll see a community of sea lions barking as they sun themselves on the piers. Actually, you'll hear them first. Long zoom and movie mode here.
Telegraph Hill. From there, Telegraph Hill isn't far. Take either the Filbert or Greenwich steps (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4186241) up to Coit Tower. Turn around frequently as you ascend. There are all sorts of lovely views. But don't miss the quiet little shots of the gardens and homes just off the stairs along the way.
Also not to be missed are the wild parrots. You'll hear them first, too. And then they'll fly by in a flock. They can be hard to spot, but they perch in the trees on Telegraph Hill. Sports Scene mode.
North Beach. So you're in North Beach now. Walk up Columbus with your camera in sleep mode in case you see anything on the sidewalk worth a snapshot. You will. Maybe just an antique Ferrari. Or an amphibious tour bus. You never know.
You'll pass Lombard Street. The crooked block is just up the hill. Continue on to the Vallejo St. Garage (above the police station) and park on the roof. Great views again. It's also one of the more reasonable parking rates in town, as are all the city-owned garages.
Chinatown. Columbus crosses Grant, which is the main thoroughfare in Chinatown (http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com). You brought extra memory cards, didn't you? Follow Grant (well, don't lose sight of it as you wander through Chinatown) all the way downtown. You're just a few entertaining blocks from Union Square.
The St. Francis. Tony Bennett painted the big heart in the northwest corner of Union Square and the stores surrounding it are fun to visit but not to stay. When we go there, we can't resist the glass elevator in the St. Francis Hotel (http://www.westinstfrancis.com). It's a wild ride with a bird's eye view of Union Square. Movie mode.
The Sheraton Palace. You're only a few blocks from the Sheraton Palace Hotel (http://www.sfpalace.com) on New Montgomery and Market where the elegant Garden Court's glass ceiling is worth a few shots. It was originally the carriage entrance to the hotel until the 1906 earthquake rearranged things.
Don't leave without at least a peek at the Maxfield Parish's Pied Piper of Hamelin in the bar of the same name near the Market St. door. That piper has silently sounded a cautionary tone over many a business deal there.
Ferry Building. On Market St. look east and you'll see the Ferry Building (http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com) at the end of the street. It recently reopened with restaurants and artisan shops featuring cheeses, meats, wines and more that may give you ideas for further Bay Area excursions. Don't miss the mosaics between each shop or the exotic mushrooms at the south end of the building.
Just a few steps south of the Ferry Building (past the brick Port of San Francisco building) is a new attraction, Pier 14. Walk out to the end for a spectacular view of the skyscrapers behind you and the Bay Bridge to your right. It's like being on a boat without the ups and downs.
Similarly, there's the municipal pier on the north side of the Ferry Building, Pier 7, but the view back to the city isn't quite as appealing as the view out.
There is, however, a public promenade by Hornblower Yachts there that takes you behind the piers for a while. Between the brass plates of poetry and hanging flower pots you can get some great shots of the Bay. A real secret.
The Heights. If you've seen our gallery zoom shots you know we bike up Twin Peaks for that view of the city. We're constrained to do that around noon but we recommend arriving in the afternoon, when the sun has moved into a more favorable position. If your bus takes you there in the morning, use fill flash for your posed shots.
Mount Davidson is actually the tallest peak in the city. And it is easily recognized by the huge (world's hugest, we are told) concrete cross on top. We dare you to stand under that cross and not zoom back to full wide angle for the shot. There are also interesting panoramas from there (and it's much less crowded than Twin Peaks).
The Depths. When we wind down the hills, we seem to end up in Golden Gate Park. There is a lot going on in this verdant sand dune. There are the buffalo, the model yachts, the Japanese tea garden (we still crack up remembering how we finally relented, letting Little Brother try our 1998 Sony digicam only to find himself immediately surrounded by Japanese tourists who wanted to know all about the camera that didn't use film), the botanical garden, the windmill(s) and their gardens.
But if you're around in September (not a bad time to be here) and happen to picnic at Opera in the Park (which will exercise your 300mm telephoto lens), stop by the dahlia garden near the Conservatory. They'll all be in bloom. And if it isn't September, visit the Conservatory anyway, where the glass building provides a beautifully diffuse light for some exotic flora.
Sunset. Wait, don't go. The sun hasn't set yet. Go to the west end of the park and follow the Great Highway up the hill past the Cliff House (you can come back later for a drink) to Land's End (http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html). As part of the Golden Gate National Park, a lot of grooming has taken place here lately and you can easily walk along the northwestern corner of the city enjoying terrific views of the Gate from a comfortable elevation and the remains of Sutro baths at sea level.
But that's not quite our destination. No, we scoot along the wide promenade, skipping the views of shipwrecks and the labyrinth with the great view of the Golden Gate Bridge to get to the pirate cove only we (and a few select nephews) know about.
It's just before the Painted Rock, that's all we'll say. You descend through verdant flora to a secluded rocky beach and pledge your lives one for all and all for one before the sun sets beyond the Farallones and you have to walk back.
We could go on and on (especially since we're sitting down) but we'd still be missing something: you! So make some plans. Meanwhile, thanks for joining us and season's greetings!
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RE: Pentax K-7
In issue #24 you appeared to recommend the K-7, listing it in the Subframe dSLR Division with the statement: "A very high-quality dSLR, offering a lot for a relatively low price. This is a camera you can learn and love, one that might spoil you forever from using another brand because its special features are so well thought out. We knew when we first held it and took our first pictures with it."
Now this is a camera I really wanted to like, but the comments on image quality in your review and others turned me off. Still seems to be a great camera with some terrific features and I've been hoping for a firmware update that might improve image quality vs. say, the D90. Should I get this camera for Christmas? <g>
-- Clayton Curtis(If you're referring to the detail in the reds of the Medium noise reduction shot, we wouldn't be too concerned. What you're seeing is the effect of the K-7's medium noise reduction in the JPEG. To see how the camera saw the image, take a look at the Raw DNG file. When we did this a minute ago, we saw plenty of detail in the red cloth, although we saw plenty of noise, too. Using Adobe Camera Raw, we could adjust this to our preference for that shot, a nice workaround when you need it. -- Editor)
RE: Solving the Epson V600 Scanner Problem
I just received my V600 scanner. I have been scanning old 620 color negatives. After about the first dozen scans, I started seeing a problem with the scans.
About halfway across the scan, there's a distinct shift in the color tone so that the right side appears darker and maybe greener than the left. I have tried reinstalling the drivers, but it didn't make any difference. I have been scanning 1200 res, unsharp, dust removal and color restore. I tried not using these features but didn't see any difference. The shift appears in the previews as well.
Can you tell me how to get the scans to be uniform again?
-- Bill(After we failed to duplicate the problem (which was also mentioned in last issue's Letters column) with our prelaunch V600, we asked Epson about it and were told they had just released a new driver to address the issue. "This error has to do with the in-box version of the Epson Scan software," Epson told us. The rather long link to the new driver is in our updated review (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/V600.HTM#dri). -- Editor)
Gerard Van der Leun discovered photos of Los Angeles by Ansel Adams (http://www.flickr.com/photos/1000photosofnewyorkcity/sets/72057594083888984/) taken in 1940 using a small format camera.
ITEM: Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Lightroom 2.6 [MW], Photoshop Camera Raw 5.6 and DNG Converter 5.6 with Raw file support for 20 new cameras.
Apple (http://www.apple.com) has released Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 2.7 for Aperture 2, iPhoto '08 and iPhoto '09, adding Raw support for the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EOS 7D and PowerShot G11, plus the Nikon D3s, Nikon D300s and Nikon D3000.
HDRsoft (http://www.hdrsoft.com) has released its $79 Photomatix for Aperture 1.1 with multi-threading support, new built-in presets (Natural, Smooth Skies, Painterly and Grunge), improved alignment and Details Enhancer improvements.
Akvis (http://akvis.com) has released its $69 Enhancer 11.0 [MW] with Snow Leopard compatibility, a new interface design, Smart Filter support in the Photoshop plug-in version, 64-bit support, compatibility with Photoshop Elements 8 and other changes.
Lemkesoft (http://www.lemkesoft.com) has released its $34.95 GraphicConverter 6.6 [M] with two-window alpha editing, an option to apply brightness/contrast to all frames of an animation, import/export of lossless JPEGs, import of 12/16-bit medical JPEGs, conversion of MacRoman IPTC to ITF8, updated PhotoRaw import and more.
DxO Labs (http://www.DxOMark.com) has published detailed Raw-based image quality data and DxOMark sensor rankings for new Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony cameras.
The company also released DxO Optics Pro v6.1 for Windows, adding Raw support for the Nikon D3000, the Canon EOS 7D and PowerShot G11, a v6.1.1 with support of the Canon S90.
Rocky Nook (http://www.rockynook.com) has just published several titles discounted via our Amazon affiliate program:
- Loe Beerens' $24.95 Three Songs, No Flash! on concert photography available at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952482/?tag=theimagingres-20).
- Glenn Rand and Tim Meyer's $34.95 The Portrait, a definitive resource on portrait photography available at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952466/?tag=theimagingres-20).
- Brian Matsumoto's $69.95 Practical Digital Photomicrography, an introduction to digital photography through the microscope available at a 37 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952075/?tag=theimagingres-20).
- Darrell Young's $34.95 Mastering the Nikon D5000 available at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952520/?tag=theimagingres-20).
GM Books (http://www.gmbooks.com) has published Peter iNova's $34.95 HdSLR: The Billion Things You Need To Know To Make Your Camera Shoot Movies, an eBook devoted to the special requirements, techniques, options, limitations and work-arounds involved in making movies with a dSLR. See Dave's Deals for subscriber savings.
Nikon has released an online Lens Line-up Tool (http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/lens/positioningmap/index.htm) and a Lens Simulator (http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/lens/simulator/index.htm).
The company has also produced a video podcast (http://press.nikonusa.com/2009/12/nikon_podcast_29_judges_rainn.php) of actor Rainn Wilson and iJustine talking about their experiences creating dSLR videos and the role the Web plays for emerging artists.
Mobile Action Technology (http://global.mobileaction.com) has released its GT-600 GPS travel logger with a built-in motion sensor to extend battery life.
GiiNii (http://www.giinii.com) has introduced two new digital picture frames. The $129.99 10.4-Inch Artforme frame (800x600, 512-MB, 6-in-1 card reader, mini-USB connector, auto-rotate, National Treasures Photo Library Volume One) is available at Staples. And the $59.99 7-Inch Artforme frame (480x234, widescreen, 128-MB, USB 1.0 port, auto-rotate, National Treasures Photo Library Volume One) is available at Target.
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released RAW Developer 1.8.7 [M] featuring support for the latest new camera models and several other improvements. New cameras supported include the Nikon D3s, the Olympus E-P2 and E-600, the Pentax K-x, the Leica S2 and X1, the Leaf Aptus-II 5 and the Ricoh GXR.
Canto (http://www.canto.com) has released Cumulus 8.1 [LMW] with Cumulus Cross Client (a standalone version of Cumulus Native Client), direct emailing of reports from Cumulus, new report types, asset comparison with a visual representation of differences and more.
Google (http://picasa.google.com) has released its free Picasa for Mac 3.6 with support for collaborative albums, better name tag recommendations, geotagging with integrated Google Maps, better bulk tagging, an option to exclude folders from being scanned for faces, custom crop sizes and optional automatic save of imports by date taken, today's date or a custom folder name.
Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 4.0 [M] with Snow Leopard compatibility, support for Destination directory paths relative to the Raw directory, filtering by Destination in the History search field and more.
JetPhoto (http://www.jetphotosoft.com) has released its free JetPhoto Studio 4.7 [MW] with storage of Raw files with automatic JPEG creation, geotagging Raw files, optional drop-down navigation lists for Google Map galleries, reverse geocoding, keyword import/export, a Geotagging Assistant and more.
We note the passing of California photographer Larry Sultan (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/arts/14sultan.html?_r=1) who explored photography as "more than just the modernist practice of fine-tuning your style and way of seeing."
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