|Volume 14, Number 4||24 February 2012|
Welcome to the 326th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Finally, a Leica gets reviewed! Then Andrew takes a long look at a Canon classic telephoto prime. We discuss tethered shooting in Lightroom before awarding that Missing Oscar. Dig in!
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By SHAWN BARNETT with MIKE TOMKINS, DAVE ETCHELLS and LUKE SMITH(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/M9/M9A.HTM on the Web site.)
The Leica M9-P is a camera hand-built in Germany with a manual rangefinder focusing system and a digital sensor. Its predecessors have inspired several generations of camera makers around the globe and the M9 continues to do so even now. Focus is manual. Exposure is either manual or Aperture-priority. It is expensive. It is heavy. It is primitive in a no-nonsense way that is also beautiful. The Leica M9-P uses an 18-megapixel Kodak sensor with an ISO range of 80-2,500. It has a 2.5-inch LCD and accepts M-mount lenses.
The Leica M9-P is not your grandfather's Leica. It is not clinging to the past for no good reason (though it is tempting to think so). It seems repetitive to echo the items in the above paragraph, but it's important for emphasis: It does not autofocus. There is no Program, Shutter Priority or Green Zone mode -- and there are no Scene modes. It is not cheap, lightweight or flashy. It is not great for snapshots of children. The M9-P version we reviewed avoids ostentation by omitting the bright red dot on the front and all other pretense, primarily to make the camera appear less expensive to thieves, though in reality it costs $1,000 more than the M9.
Ultimately the Leica M9-P is a difficult camera to use, despite its simplicity. Sometimes downright frustrating. But with practice, you can reap benefits that you wouldn't get with any other camera.
Weighing more than a pound, the $4,000 Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 Aspherical lens provides a "normal" view on the M9's full-frame sensor. Because there is no Live View and you never look through the lens, when you change the aperture, the blades move inside the lens and stay in position until you move them again. Just looking into the lens is astonishing. Rather than multiple size optics as we see in most zooms, it's just a big open expanse of glass all the way through. Hence the weight. Its all metal barrel is part of the equation as well and all parts fit to extremely tight tolerances. Focus is smooth and aperture adjustments crisp. It feels like a $4,000 lens. For a full-frame lens, it's also very compact.
A black finger grip protrudes from the bottom of the lens. At first it seemed a bit of a nuisance, but I quickly found it helped tell me in just a moment whether the lens was focused near or far. Built into the lens is a lens hood that slides forward and locks open with a turn to the right.
The Leica M9 accepts most Leica M lenses and, thanks to the full-frame sensor, all of these lenses offer the same field of view they would on a traditional 35mm film camera body.
We noticed several different lenses with the same 50mm description on various retail sites on the Web. In addition to our version having an external lens hood rather than one that nests internally, there's a little number engraved just right of the meter notation on the focusing ring. Ours said 14, but other lenses had 13 and 16. Turns out the lenses aren't 50mm. Instead they're 51mm plus a fraction. The little number indicates which fraction. Just put a decimal in the middle and add 50 to the number and the number 14 indicates that our lens is 51.4mm long. The others are 51.3 and 51.6mm, respectively.
Using a Kodak KAF-18500 CCD image sensor with approximately the same dimensions as a frame of 35mm film, the Leica M9 takes over the crown as the smallest full-frame digital camera announced as of early September 2009. To accommodate the larger sensor area while minimizing issues with vignetting using wide-angle lenses, Kodak has used an offset microlens design. Thanks to its larger surface area, the Kodak KAF-18500 sensor offers the same 6.8 microns pixel pitch as its M8 predecessor, but with an increased effective resolution of 18 megapixels, up from 10 megapixels in the previous cameras. Noise performance is said to have been improved since the previous generation cameras and the Leica M9 includes a thicker and more effective IR cut filter that negates the need for extra IR filtering on the lens.
Leica has opted not to include a low-pass filter in the design of the M9, allowing for maximum resolution from attached lenses, but necessitating processing of images to automatically detect and remove moire patterns.
Like the M8.2 before it, the Leica M9 uses a metal blade shutter design capable of offering shutter speeds ranging from 1/4000 to 32 seconds, plus a bulb mode up to 240 seconds. ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 2,500 equivalents, exposure modes include Aperture-priority or Manual and exposure metering is center-weighted. As well as its rangefinder, the Leica M9 includes a 2.5-inch LCD with 230,000 dots of resolution.
The Leica M9 stores its images on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC types. Images are stored in either .DNG Raw or JPEG file formats and the M9 now offers both uncompressed and compressed DNG format options. Power comes courtesy of a 3.7V, 1,900 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The Leica M9 includes only USB 2.0 Hi-Speed data connectivity, with no video output included on the camera body. You have to remove the bottom plate to change the SD card or battery.
I abandoned manual focus 20 years ago thanks to difficulty with my vision and I haven't looked back. But I always thought rangefinders like my Olympus XA were a little easier to focus than split prism cameras. Despite its precision, the Leica M9-P gave me the most trouble when trying to focus indoors. Luke and Rob also had plenty of trouble in the lab. They came to the conclusion that the rangefinder image was offset from the viewfinder image by a small fraction vertically, which made it difficult to see when focus was achieved horizontally. Rob brought in one of his old Yashica rangefinders and found focus confirmation considerably better. My Olympus XA is also easier.
Focus becomes critical when shooting the Summilux-M at f1.4 because the depth of field is extremely shallow at large apertures. While taking snapshots of the family around a restaurant table, I thought I was getting at least a few shots in focus, but it turned out nothing was tack sharp. The slightest motion of photographer or subject toward or away assured an out-of focus shot. I'd think I had it in focus, then one of us would move the tiniest bit and I could see it was out of focus. Focusing on an eye was very difficult, more so than the classic straight lines. It might have been due to the slight offset the guys in the lab saw, but I wasn't sure I ever saw this offset.
I ended up with some beautiful shots that are out of focus. The characteristics of the lens leave some beautiful bokeh and the black and white mode is tuned for nice contrast.
Using the Leica, I was reminded of the classic scene where the family gets impatient because Dad is taking so long with the camera. I was that Dad. Wait, I have to focus. Wait, the exposure's too dark. Wait, you moved, it's out of focus again. I'll confess, that still happens on occasion with other cameras, as I explore new features or just get used to a new interface. My poor family. But it happened a lot more with the Leica M9-P.
Still, as a person who loves cameras, I enjoyed shooting with such a simple, high-quality camera. Having to think a little before taking a shot is quite good. But it does lend itself to a certain kind of photography. Until you get very comfortable with the camera, you're not going to just raise the Leica M9 to your eye and fire off the perfect shot. You really do have to focus. And if you were set just right for a contemplative shot of a white car against a gray building, your exposure isn't going to be quite right for the shot of the man in the black suit stepping brusquely past the child curled up next to the city dumpster.
These are the shots I think of when I consider the Leica M9, probably because so many great street photographers used and still use Leicas. I even think of myself in a T-shirt and jeans with a notebook, a pen and a cigarette when I grab the M9. It reminds me of simpler times when we took time to do things like focus, enjoy a smoke, ride a motorcycle or other, less fumy pastimes. The Leica M9 needs you to start thinking like that, so it doesn't go well with our ever-faster-paced society. Unless you're wealthy enough to take some time. In which case, you should.
The other major problem I had with the Leica M9 also had to do with the rangefinder system. I kept covering the rangefinder window with my finger. I did it mostly in vertical mode. Because there's no grip, I usually turned the camera to the right, leaving my left fingers to work the focus. It's then that my grip shifted, placing my index fingers over the rangefinder window. It's not a flaw in the camera, really, it's just a fact that you'll quickly discover when you find you can't focus. You have to hold it differently.
The Leica M9 is known for its quiet shutter, but the shutter's cocking mechanism is anything but quiet. Press the shutter release and the shutter clicks, then you hear a sound much like a motorized drive advancing film. There are three options to deal with this sound, one supposedly dampens the sound (though I noticed no difference), the second defers the sound until you release the shutter button and the third both dampens the sound and defers the cocking until you release the button. As one who appreciated the shutterless exposure system of the Nikon J1 for discreet photography, I can't help wondering why they haven't made this mechanism quieter.
I normally shoot multiple images of a subject. That practice paid off with the Leica M9-P. As I mentioned, focus was difficult, but so was exposure. Rather spoiled after years of matrix metering, I had to adjust back to Center-weighted metering and its usual pitfalls. That was where EV adjustment came in handy when I shot in Aperture priority, but I eventually just shot in Manual mode for better control.
I also often reshot the image to recompose. I'd be so concentrated on focusing accurately that I forgot composition, so I had to make another shot just to get a shot without the subject in the center. I normally recompose on the fly, but the M9 required more of my attention. And that big silver lens very often interfered in my efforts to include important details in the lower right quadrant of the view. Yes, it sticks quite prominently into the viewfinder frame and the closer you focus, more of that lens slides into the frame.
So as I said, it was a bit of a hassle learning to shoot with a nearly manual digital camera, but I enjoyed the journey and the results most of the time. Several gorgeous shots just aren't sharp when blown up 100 percent onscreen, but they still make decent prints. Can't complain there.
Lacking a physical low-pass filter, the Leica M9 can leave behind some moire patterns, particularly in the Raw images, where demosaicing errors as well as color artifacts are a little more pronounced. As a result, JPEGs are a little softer than we like, thanks to the software anti-aliasing filter.
Despite the software anti-aliasing, some demosaicing errors are noticeable. It shows up in hair, a little more prominently than we're used to seeing.
JPEGs are darker, with lower dynamic range partially to get that dramatic contrast we expect from a Leica, while the Raw images have significantly greater dynamic range. As a result, shooting both Raw and JPEG is a good idea, as sometimes you'll want that unique contrast and sometimes you'll want to rescue some of that shadow detail.
Overall, Luke, our lab technician, thought the M9 had a very good lens, but its rangefinder system was difficult to focus. He didn't like the low-ISO sensor and thought the value of the quiet shutter was spoiled by the noisy cocking motor. Unlike me, he didn't like the "soap-bar ergonomics," nor its heavy weight. He thought the user interface was a little quirky, but noted that it was easily ignored due to the camera's overall simplicity.
A few other thoughts:
- After each shot, a low-res image is displayed for nine seconds, then the high-res appears, while most cameras take a fraction of a second.
- The Meter cell reads light reflected off the shutter blades. Centerweighting is accomplished by making the center blades lighter, fading to black on the outer blades. There is no other option for metering.
- The M9's Self-timer is triggered by a light half-press of the Shutter button, so camera motion is minimized. That sounds good, but it makes other functions unusable. The only way to turn on the meter is with a half-press, but in Self-timer mode, this just takes another shot.
- The viewfinder is big and bright, but there is no diopter adjustment. The eyepoint is low, so it doesn't work well with glasses, especially bifocals. View, frame and RF image are blurry without glasses. You need the optional diopter lenses to compensate, at $100 each.
- Framing lines shift for parallax, but don't change size. Framing is correct only at one preset distance (one meter).
- ISO can be set in 1/3 stops, while shutter and aperture can only be set in 1/2 stops.
Leica set out to reproduce not just the shooting experience of their famous rangefinders, but the total picture-taking experience as well, extending even to the look of the final images. Rather than adopting a purely by-the-numbers approach to digital imaging, they created a camera whose pictures looked like they could have come from any of their film-based M-series models. They succeeded quite well. The Leica M9's pictures have a luscious, vibrant, three-dimensional quality that we've really not seen from any other camera.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/M9/M9A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/M9/M9GALLERY.HTM.
(Apertures in our Galleries are reported as approximate (~f5.0 for example) because the M9 does not write a value to the usual Exif Aperture and FNumber tags. Instead, Leica uses a MakerNotes tag it calls ApproximateFNumber. We asked Leica for an explanation and the company said, "There is no electronic communication between the camera body and lens on the Leica M-Mounts. As such, a six-bit coding read with LEDs not only identifies the lens being used but also gives approximate focal length data in the M9's Exif." -- Editor)
Overall, we thought the Leica M9 lived up to its reputation. It's just a very different kind of camera, which makes comparisons to other cameras irrelevant. Bottom line, if you're looking for a digital camera that works like a Leica, the Leica M9 is for you. If you're looking for a simple snapshot camera to get pictures of family and friends, the Leica M9 will make you work harder than you probably want to. However, if you want to learn more about the art of photography by using a manual focus and manual exposure camera, the Leica M9 is a great way to go. Not only are the manual controls easy to use, the Leica M9 has something film Leicas don't: an LCD on the back to help you confirm and adjust exposure and focus after capture, better ensuring you got the image. Though the IR Lab begs to differ (they had a worse experience than I did, a valid data point if that's the kind of shooting you do), I found the Leica M9-P worked very well and captured fine images that I really enjoyed, so it qualifies for a Dave's Pick.
By ANDREW ALEXANDER(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1369/cat/10/date/1129608778 on the Web site.)
In August 2010, Canon announced the next iteration in its super telephoto primes: the 300mm and 400mm f2.8 II lenses. These optics appeal to nature, wildlife and sports photographers and the new lenses feature updated technology with these users in mind.
The 300mm f2.8 lens was designed to fit on the EF (35mm) frame and is therefore compatible with all of Canon's recent film and digital bodies. On a camera equipped with an APS-C sensor, the lens will offer an equivalent field of view of 480mm.
The lens accepts 52mm drop-in filters and ships with the ET-120(WII) lens hood. The lens is available now for around $7,000.
With the price tag of this lens, you would expect top-tier results -- and pleasantly, there's no surprise here. On either the sub-frame Canon 7D or the full-frame Canon 1Ds mkIII, we noted excellent results for sharpness from f2.8 all the way to f8. At f11 diffraction limiting starts to set in, but even then there's no practical impact on sharpness until f16, where there is a very slight reduction in overall sharpness. Things are slightly soft at f22 and while the lens will stop down to f32, we note quite soft results at this aperture.
Again, results for tolerance to chromatic aberration are excellent, with extremely low testing results. Looking at our sample images, I'm hard-pressed to see any form of color fringing in high-contrast areas.
On the sub-frame 7D, there is no corner shading to speak of at all with the 300mm f2.8 II mounted. On the full-frame 1Ds mkIII, there is a slight amount of corner shading with the lens set to f2.8. In this case, the extreme corners are a half-stop darker than the center.
Canon has clearly spent a lot of time on the design of this lens. On either a sub-frame or full-frame body, there is absolutely no distortion present in images shot with this lens.
The 300mm f2.8 II focuses extremely fast and also very quietly. As a USM lens, you can override focus results at any time by just turning the focus ring. The lens is also equipped with a focus preset system, which allows the lens to "memorize" a given focus distance and return to that focus distance when the dedicated present ring is tapped.
The lens also is equipped with a focus limiter switch, enabling the focus performance to be improved by limiting the range of distance being focused upon. Focus limiting options are 2m to 6m, 6m to infinity and 2m to infinity (this represents an improvement of half a meter for the close-focusing distance over the previous version of the lens).
If that's not enough, the new lens now includes a PF "power focus" mode, which is designed for use with video shooting. The mode is designed for constant speed focus pulling and there are two speeds available in this mode.
Out of the box, the 300mm f2.8 isn't very useful for macro style shooting, offering just 0.18x magnification and a minimum focusing distance of around six feet. However, with extension tubes the lens could be used reasonably well in this capacity.
BUILD QUALITY & HANDLING
Rather than just cut and paste from the previous review of the Canon 300mm f2.8 IS USM, I will focus on the changes made in the new version II lens, as the new version incorporates all of the design features of the old lens and adds some new things, too.
But first, the obligatory gush about Canon's build quality on its L-glass lenses. It's as good as it gets and for the price you've paid, you should expect nothing less. The 300mm is dust- and weather-resistant, built with great attention to detail. The lens ships in a hard case with a protective interior. There's no front cap for this lens. Rather, there is a leather-like lens hood to protect the whole front half of the lens.
Canon has redesigned the lens, with a practical implication that it's a bit smaller (OK, not a huge amount, 4mm shorter) and weighs a bit less: 5.3 pounds instead of 5.6 pounds. One of the changes that accomplishes this weight savings is the removal of one lens element. While the old formula was 17 elements in 13 groups, including 1 flourite and 2 UD elements, the new lens uses 16 elements in 12 groups, including 2 fluorite elements. The new lens uses nine rounded blades to form the aperture, instead of eight standard blades, so we should be seeing some nicer results for out of focus elements.
Sticking to the exterior of the lens, it offers a recessed and windowed distance scale marked in feet and inches, but unlike the previous version of the lens, there is no depth-of-field scale (nor is there an infrared index, but there wasn't one on the previous version, either).
Canon's made an important design change worth highlighting: they've separated some of the operation switches into a second group and moved it into a new location, closer to the mount of the lens. Specifically, the focus mode selection (AF/MF/PF) and the focus limiter selection have been moved, leaving the focus preset and image stabilization selection switches in the previous location. I think this change alone will make the lens much easier to get up to speed with, as the user will not have to check the side of the lens as often to make a quick change.
Canon's added a new mode in its image stabilization control: Mode 3, which is designed for shooting "irregularly moving subjects." The practical implication for this mode is that the image stabilization system is only active during the time the exposure is made. Normally when using image stabilization there is a very brief moment where the system starts up; in theory, using Mode 3 would mean that the user won't even see the effect in use, because of mirror blackout. We'll be doing some testing specifically on image stabilization in the near future, including this new mode.
The focus ring has been redesigned as well -- it's a bit larger (1.75 inches wide instead of the original 1.25 inches) but still uses the easy-to-grip raised rubber ribs. The turning radius is the same (around 180 degrees) and still ends in soft stops on the close-focus and infinity ends. The lens will focus past infinity. As a USM lens, you can override autofocus results by turning the lens at anytime. The lens uses 52mm drop-in filters, so front element rotation isn't an issue (nor would you want to use front-mounted filters; it's a huge element) and a glass filter that can accept gels is included: others, including a polarizing filter, are available separately.
The tripod ring has also been redesigned. It's no longer removable, but now features click-stops at ninety degree positions. As well, the lens has a security slot under a flap on the tripod locking knob to allow you to use a wire type lock (laptop style) to secure the lens to something immovable.
Canon EF 300mm f2.8L IS USM. The former version of the 300mm f2.8 has now been discontinued, so the only place you're likely to find one is the used market. Make sure you're getting a good deal on one of these if you can't afford the version II, as the new version of the lens features improvements in every category: it's sharper, less susceptible to chromatic aberration and corner shading, and has absolutely no distortion. But the old 300mm f2.8 was no slouch and we loved it just as much when we reviewed it, too.
Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX DG HSM APO. At less than half the price of the Canon, the Sigma 300mm f2.8 presents a very attractive option for shooters on a budget. However, there is an indication of what the extra price gets you: the Canon is better than the Sigma in almost every category except distortion, where the Sigma matches it. Where the lens really falls short is in the control options, where the Canon lens offers focus presets, image stabilization and focus limiters. ~$3,200
Tamron 300mm f2.8 LD IF SP AF. Tamron and Tokina used to produce a 300mm f2.8 as well, but it's been discontinued by both manufacturers.
Where the original Canon 300mm f2.8 IS USM was very good, Canon's refinements have made it even better. If you're looking to buy, it doesn't get any better than this, but then, you probably already guessed that.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/new-on-ir you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Leica M9 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/M9/M9A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 VR (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1469/cat/13)
- Reviewed: Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/lensbaby-edge80/)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot S100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS100/PS100A.HTM)
We'd planned a long article on tethered shooting with all the trimmings. We'd collected the requisite Canon and Nikon utilities and a few other options, considered the USB vs. wireless approach and generally got so tangled in the subject we couldn't move.
All along, though, we continued to shoot some things tethered in our own simple way.
The reason we did is simply that it is more efficient for studio work. Rather than try to evaluate an exposure on the 16-bit color display on the back of our camera, we had the full-blown 24-bit display of our monitor.
Color isn't the only thing that looks better. Focus, too. How often have you looked at your camera's LCD and thought you had a nice sharp image only to find out later when you looked at it again on your computer monitor that it was very soft.
That's particularly an issue when you're trying to judge depth of field. It can be very hard to detect on a small camera screen.
Our requirements are pretty basic.
First, we want to change settings on the camera, not the computer. We're working with the camera after all. That's where our hands are. So if we think we need f8 for one kind of subject and f11 for another, we don't want to have to put the camera down to make that simple change.
But that's not a general rule. If you're shooting birds at your bird bath, you want to be at the computer, as far from the camera as possible so you don't give it away.
Second, we want to be able to move our setup. Sometimes we're shooting small stuff and sometimes large stuff, so we don't want to be stuck within range of our main system. Our 13-inch laptop comes in handy here. It isn't much bigger than a tablet and is about as portable.
Of course there are ways to tether a tablet too. But that would have meant we couldn't use the software we wanted.
So with a small device, we could roam. But we also wouldn't need a wireless connection. We could use the USB cable the camera came with.
Third, we wanted to see our shot in an application where we could quickly evaluate it by eye and see the histogram. And because we use a number of different cameras for this stuff, we wanted one application that worked with cameras from different vendors. We choose Lightroom for that.
So those are the pieces to our puzzle. Yours may be quite different, of course. But here's how to put it together.
Step One is to make the computer to camera connection. Every camera seems to have a different USB port, although there really aren't that many variations. The trick here is to use what came with the camera. Lacking that, find a cable to that fits. They're standard.
Step Two is to fire up that software that knows about tethering. You don't have to buy Lightroom if you own a Canon because EOS Viewer, which is on your install CD, does the trick. Nikon owners aren't so lucky. Nikon's Camera Control Pro 2 isn't cheap. If you already own Lightroom, problem solved.
Step Three is to tell Lightroom you're shooting tethered from the File menu where you'll find the Tethered Capture option. That brings up a dialog box that prompts you for the Session Name, file naming conventions, the destination folder for the camera originals and metadata/keyword information. Make sure you're in the Library module, too.
Step Four is to shoot. Lightroom will recognize your camera, tell you what it is, report the settings and offer a big Shutter button you can ignore. All that's on a camera control bar you can move out of the way so you can see your shot.
That's when you're ready to take a calibration shot.
We're usually shooting with a monobloc or strobe or some such artificial light. So we drop a white balance card like Michael Tapes' WhiBal (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LAII/LAII.HTM) into the shot, set the exposure, power on the lights and take a shot.
With a known value in the image, you can switch to the Develop module and use the White Balance tool to measure the value of the neutral white balance card to balance the image.
But wait. The cool thing is you can use that adjustment on your subsequent shots by visiting the camera control bar's Develop Settings option and selecting Same as Previous so the white balance is corrected as you shoot.
Oh yeah, one more point. When you shoot tethered, the data is redirected out your camera's USB port. It doesn't get stored on the camera's memory card. So make sure you back it up from your computer.
That's this poor man's method. A richer fellow might have a nice 30-inch monitor attached to his laptop or a wireless transmitter on his dSLR. And an assistant to confer with.
As it is, a quick peek at the histogram in the Library module display and a bracketed exposure or two and we avoid any surprises later in evaluating our work.
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 Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980
Read about the Nikon Coolpix S9100 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.eeb4fc6
Read about Tamron lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=7
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec
Charlie Young hit the nail on the head when he complained, "You didn't make things easy this year. There are a slew of great photo blogs out there."
That didn't prevent him from nominating one, fortunately, but it did put the problem in perspective. They are so many excellent photo blogs that you could have an Academy of Photographic Blogging all to itself. It might not have 50,000 members like our estimable and ersatz Academy of Sliding Picture Arts and Sciences but it would give the 6,000 members of that other Academy a run for its money.
There'd certainly be enough categories to keep voters busy, too:
We could use a commercial interruption about now. Or a musical performance (Best Background Music on a Blog?). The categories could go on and on.
- In Strobe Lighting, for example, the Oscar might go to David Hobby (http://strobist.blogspot.com) for the Strobist.
- In Photo Editing, the Oscar could go to Rob Haggart (http://www.aphotoeditor.com) for APhotoEditor.
- In Compact System Cameras, it might go to Thom Hogan (http://www.sansmirror.com) for Sans Mirror.
- In the Intriguing Daily Post category, Derrick Story (http://www.thedigitalstory.com) might take it home for The Digital Story.
- In the Photoshop-related category (how could we not have a Photoshop category), Scott Kelby (http://scottkelby.com) would surprise no one as the winner with his Photoshop Insider.
- In the Photographer category (a pretty broad one, no question), Kirk Tuck (http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com) might squeeze out a win for The Visual Science Lab.
- And in the Aesthetics of Photography category (where a sort of a philosophical twist predominates), Mike Johnston (http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/) would take Oscar home for The Online Photographer.
- For Tutorials, we'd join Charlie in awarding the Oscar to Mark S. Johnson (http://www.msjphotography.com) for his untitled blog. As Charlie put it, "His series of workbench projects are utterly fantastic. His books are well written and informative. His teaching style is easy to listen to and very effective."
- In Lenses, Roger Cicala (http://www.lensrentals.com/blog) would be up there thanking his entire family for letting him do the LensRentals blog.
- In the Nuns Were Wrong About Him category, it would be Joe McNally (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog) for his otherwise uncategorizable blog.
A few we wouldn't include, though, are news, rumors and blogs that, as Wikipedia defines photoblog, primarily post photos. If, that is, we happened to be Czar of the Academy of Photographic Blogging and counting our days.
That leaves us with the problem of awarding this year's Missing Oscar from our own Ersatz Academy. The envelope please....
The winner, we'd like to think, would merit the Lifetime Achievement Award of our imaginary Academy of Photographic Blogging. But unlike the individual winners we proposed above, it isn't a one-man band.
It calls itself Lens (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com) and explains it's "the photography blog of The New York Times, presenting the finest and most interesting visual and multimedia reporting -- photographs, videos and slide shows."
We've often cited them in our Notes section on the passing of an industry luminary. But that's only one of 22 categories on the site. One of which, fittingly given the subject, is Uncategorized.
But whichever category is featured, Lens advances the art and our understanding of it with full screen images and well-written text. First class stuff, really. And why would you waste your time on anything that wasn't?
So without further ado or the necessity to listen to an acceptable speech from a mere blog, we award this year's Missing Oscar for Photo Blog to Lens of the New York Times.
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RE: Nikon D800 Resolution
I always enjoy your articles! The recent discussion of the Nikon D800 is an example.
In this instance I would like to explore a techno-semantic issue. You refer to the upgrade of pixel count by a factor of three (12 to 36 megapixels) as an increase of resolution by that factor. I don't agree.
My point of view is that resolution is best related to the square root of the pixel count. Ultimately, this reduces to a matter of visual perception.
Traditionally, resolution is described by referring to a single axis or dimension. Examples are HDTV, as in 1080 elements of vertical resolution and optics, as in line pairs per millimeter.
Perception is difficult to relate mathematically, but it seems to me that, for example, a TV screen of 36 inches next to one of 18 inches would be perceived as twice as large, according to diagonal measure, but not four times as large, as might be claimed according to area measure.
Similarly, I suggest that an increase of pixel count from 12 to 36 is really only a 73 percent increase in resolution. It tends to make the endless pursuit of pixel count a matter of diminishing returns. (Not that it should stop, especially for high-end cameras, although its continuation transfers more stress into lens performance and related minute issues, such as described in your highly esoteric discussion of Low-Pass Filters.) For this same reason, as a mere hobbyist, I am happy with the results I get from cameras of as little as 3.0 megapixels. I don't need or desire a camera of 36 megapixels, although that would represent an increase of resolution by a factor of 3.5 or an additional 250 percent!
If there is a standard definition of resolution that takes area into account, I would like to know about it. For now, I consider Resolution a single-axis metric.
Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.
-- Gene Widenhofer(We sent your email to Shawn and Dave for comment and the boys have weighed in, Gene. Shawn's changed the text to read, "While it's still full frame, the new SLR is endowed with three times the pixels of its predecessor..." And Dave has added, "Thanks for the note. You're 100 percent right of course. We fell prey to the common habit of using pixels as a synonym for resolution, which they're clearly not. I beg fatigue and overload. It's been a wild ride getting stories and previews up for all the new models we've been hit with lately, so we appreciate our valued readers serving as highly expert proofreaders. I'm glad you continue to find the site helpful. With the help of readers like yourself, it'll hopefully continue to be for years to come." -- Editor)
RE: Sensor Upgrades?
My Pentax K10d has more features than I can use but I would like more pixels. Is changing to a larger sensor doable? Are any manufactures considering this kind of upgrading as a feature of future camera designs?
-- Rich Roberts(The sensor is just one aspect to the ecosystem that makes a digital camera. So the short answer, Rich, is no. It's just not an interchangeable part. With more photo sites on the sensor, you have more data to push to the image processor (and more data lines to do it) and even perhaps more processors. And all those processors have to know what they're getting from the sensor to be able to work with it. About as close as anyone's come to this is the Ricoh GXR (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/GXR/GXRA.HTM). It features interchangeable modules that include both a lens and sensor which attach to the body with its LCD. The image processor is, apparently, part of the module. -- Editor)(In my view, you're somewhat worse off with the GXR system because you end up paying for the sensor each time you buy a lens. And if you like a particular lens, there's no way to "upgrade" with a different body to get more resolution because again, the sensor is part of the lens itself. -- Dave)
RE: Scanning 101
Thank-you so much for being available. I have over 1,000 slides of my own and an equal number from my deceased father. Is it possible to get a slide scanner for about $350 that is somewhat user friendly and not too slow? I notice that some are stand alone and some require a PC hook up. I have read about Digital ICE technology and other stuff to help out.
My wife says it can take a lot of time to scan a single slide. I don't think I need super high resolution but we will be enlarging some of the pictures. They really are a lifetime of treasures so I need to get started.
-- Dan Wirak(Your wife is right, Dan. Figure about an hour to scan every roll of film. Double that if you indulge in tricks like multiple exposure or defect removal. It's true that some all-in-one devices can scan film, too. And those that do (particularly from Canon) do so very well. As for Digital ICE (or defect removal), it won't work with black and white film or Kodachrome slides. It takes a good deal longer to scan an image using it (an infrared scan finds the physical abnormalities on the emulsion and software retouches them away) but can save you the manual effort of retouching scans. For special scans, though, we always avoid it because it can also soften an image. -- Editor)
I've been looking over your reviews on 35mm scanners and looking towards one of the Canons because my photography equipment is all Canon and I love my cameras and the multiple lenses. I am taking the time to scan all my 35mm negatives to put them on CDs. Wondering if you might direct me in the right direction? We are looking at some negs that are over 40 years old and I want to preserve what is left.
-- Wendy Grezenski(If you didn't already run across it, take a look at our Short Course on Scanning (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/V600.HTM) to start with. We have indeed scattered lots of advice over several reviews. Maybe we should collect everything, dust it off and make an ebook out of it. Just for folks like you who have a collection of images to scan and need a little help getting started. -- Editor)
No more Ouija board to divine Canon error messages. The company has published Canon EOS Error Messages: An Explanation and Understanding (http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2012/eos_error_msgs.shtml) revealing all.
DxO (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro 7.2.1 [MW] with support for the Canon G1 X, Nikon J1/V1, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus E-P2. Optics modules for 26 lenses on Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, and Sony bodies are also included.
Lensbaby (http://www.lensbaby.com) has announced its $300 Edge 80 optic with an internal aperture, providing an 80mm flat-field lens that can tilt on Composer housings to provide a slice of focus through an image.
LPA Design (http://plusiii.pocketwizard.com) has announced its $139 PocketWizard Plus III for remote flash and camera triggering with numerous improvements beyond the previous model will be available in March.
Rocky Nook has published its $29.95 Mastering the Fuji X100 by Michael Diechtierow. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 35 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952989/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Adobe has released Revel Importer in the Android Marketplace (http://market.android.com) to import the photos stored on Androids phone into your Adobe Revel account.
Leica (http://www.leicaakademie.com) has announced a new free lecture series titled Moments of the Human Condition featuring photojournalist Peter Turnley's recollections from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Egyptian revolution. The lecture will travel to Austin, Tex. on April 18, Washington, D.C. in May and New York in October.
Booq (http://booqbags.com) has unveiled its Python camera bag collection. Juggling iPads, ultra-compact laptops and cameras of various sizes, photographers now have four new bag designs to consider.
Bloomberg Business has published The Story Behind the Olympus Scandal (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/the-story-behind-the-olympus-scandal-02162012.html).
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