Major Update to the Sigma SD9 Review!
Just in time for Thanksgiving (almost). In an unbelievable fit of too-busy-to-pay-attention-to-what-I'm-doing, it turns out that I did the complete analysis of my test shots with the production SD9 camera over 10 days ago, in a mad flurry before I jetted off to the Comdex show ... then completely forgot to post them! (Yeesh, do I need the time off this this weekend, or what?)
Finally recognizing my lapse, I've now posted all my test photos, and also written a very lengthy, detailed analysis and digest of what I've found in testing the camera. In particular, I've taken some pains to clear up the misconceptions that seem to be floating around out there about aliasing, and also conducted a direct test of the SD9's "exposure headroom" in its RAW files. The latter of which confirmed my casual observations that there's relatively little headroom to be found, just a quarter-stop or less. My exposure headroom findings in particular are likely to be controversial, so I've provided cropped samples of the TIFF files I extracted with PhotoPro, so everyone could see what I did, and decide for themselves how much headroom is there. (I don't think there's much chance of disagreement, unfortunately.) To read all the details, visit the SD9 Test Photos page, or the Test Results section of the review. (Where you'll find the exposure headroom test information.)
The bottom line of all this isn't very favorable for the SD9, I'm afraid. I
found a number of serious limitations, including a severe (if only occasional)
autofocus problem that none of the other reviewers seem to have uncovered yet.
I've no doubt that the SD9 will find many happy homes, given that it is less
expensive than its competitors, and that it does produce images with a distinctive
"look" to them that many people will like. - Just be aware of its
capabilities, and make sure that it fits your needs, typical subjects, and shooting
Nikon Coolpix 4300 review updated to full production status!
Another one that was a long while coming, but at least this one wasn't my fault. Nikon finally got me a production model of their Coolpix 4300 just before I left town for Comdex the week before last. I've now shot and analyzed all my standard test photos with it, with excellent results. This camera looks like a real winner: Attractive, compact, plenty of features, and it takes nice pictures. Great color, loads of resolution. A few "bonus" features too, like great low light shooting (although no AF assist light or numeric distance scale in manual focus), and super macro capability. All in all, a nice, easy to use camera with a few "hidden" manual capabilities (manual exposure, manual focus) for the enthusiast. Check it out!
Full review posted for Olympus C-50 Zoom!
I guess this is "Olympus week" at IR! This second camera is a really attractive little subcompact model, sporting a full five megapixels (!) of resolution. I find myself with a somewhat odd reaction to this camera, as I've really fallen in love with it, all the while recognizing that it just slightly misses the mark in several areas. While it generally has vibrant, well-saturated color, I found a slight yellowish cast to its images in most situations. And while it has a plethora of "enthusiast" features, I sorely missed a manual (aka "custom") white balance function. Likewise, it does *great* at low light shooting, but doesn't have an autofocus assist lamp, nor does it offer dark-frame noise-reduction processing. If Olympus had just managed to add one or two of these "missing" features, I'd be completely over the top with it. As it is, I merely love it. ;-) If you're looking for a nice, fully capable, very compact digicam that's great for novices and advanced users alike, you should definitely take a look at the C-50 Zoom: Minor shortcomings aside, it's one of the nicer compact models out there, and one of the very few with a full five megapixel sensor in such a compact body. Check it out!
Full review posted for Olympus C-730 UltraZoom!
Well, Olympus doesn't call it an "UltraZoom" for nothing. - This baby has a full 10x zoom on it, ranging from moderate wide angles to a pretty impressive telephoto. This isn't a one-trick pony though: Beyond it's long zoom ratio, the C730 is really a pretty full-blown "enthusiast" camera. (But is also plenty easy for novices to use, in full auto mode, or one of its "scene" modes.) The 730 is very similar to the 720 that I reviewed previously, but the lens has been stretched from 8x to 10x, and the 730 also includes an external flash sync connector (hooray), letting you connect it to external flash units or studio strobes. (It's a proprietary connector, but you can get an adapter to a standard PC-style sync connector from Olympus.) As is usually the case, some tradeoffs in distortion and corner sharpness come along with the long zoom ratio, but if you have any interest in shooting distant subjects with a digicam, the C-730 deserves very serious consideration. (For *really* long shots, the C730 also has body threads for a lens adapter that will let you attach Olympus' excellent auxiliary telephoto adapters to it.) All in all, a very nice camera for people looking for a lot of telephoto reach in a digicam. Check it out!
Software Review: SilverFast Ai by LaserSoft Imaging
LaserSoft Imaging is a German firm whose CEO and president is Karl-Heniz Zahorsky. "The original motive for the 'invention' -- meaning the conception, development and additional development of SiverFast Ai -- was to be able to produce one's 'own' image successfully, without requiring extensive training in reproduction techniques," he said. Indeed, the product packs a lot of intelligence into itself. And while it is primarily a high-end tool equally at ease in either RGB or CMYK color modes, it does provide a sort of automatic mode for beginners called the ScanPilot. SilverFast 6, the Swiss Army knife of scanning software, impresses an old lithographer with how easy it makes it get great results -- even for novices. Check it out!
Full set of test shots posted from a production model of the Canon EOS-1Ds!
(There go my bandwidth bills... Again. ;-)
Canon has finally let me share a full set of standard test photos from the EOS-1Ds with you, and the results are *very* impressive! Given its 11 megapixel sensor, it's no suprise that the 1Ds blows every other camera that I've tested previously clean out of the water in the resolution department. What I wasn't expecting though, was the incredible dynamic range it shows, and how clean its photos are, particularly those shot at high ISO settings. Overall, this is easily the most impressive digicam I've seen this year. - It seems that Canon had to accept no tradeoffs in any significant operating parameter to achieve the high resolution: The 1Ds is a stellar performer in every aspect. I've posted a full set of my standard test photos, and updated the test results and conclusions of my earlier "First Look" review of the 1Ds. (I've left the gallery of more creative shots, snapped by resident pro Gibbs Frazeur with the prototype camera up as well though, to provide some more "normal" subjects for everyone to look at.) If you're a Canon shooter looking for the resolution for no-excuses double-truck spreads, or want to shoot true wide angle digitally, there's *no* reason to hold back any longer. The EOS-1Ds is a true technological tour de force, with stellar performance in every aspect! Check it out!
"Dave's Picks" revived and updated!
Boy, has this one been a long time coming! I started the original "Dave's Picks" section over a year ago, in response to the hundreds of emails I get from readers asking which camera they should buy. I don't remotely have time to answer all those queries, so put together a list of what I think are the best cameras on the market, and divided them into various categories, based on different types of people and photographic applications.
The original Dave's Picks had more elaborate descriptions of the various cameras, and a lot of HTML layout around it, both of which made it hard to keep updated. The result was it got sorely out of date. Rather than just updating it though, we've completely revamped how we have it implemented, thanks to a little database legerdemain by Yazmin, our Web Guru. The new Dave's Picks has more categories and more cameras in it, and is driven directly from our features database so keeping it updated in the future will be a snap. (That said though, there are a couple of worthy cameras that I've just finished reviewing, that need to be added already. We'll have it fully populated by the first of the week.)
So... Whether you're shopping for that special someone, or just for yourself,
get on over to the Dave's Picks section and browse
the best of the best!
The Great Digital SLR Shootout, Reader Cropped Images!
Reader Geir Rune Ladehaug took the time to make some detailed crops
from one of our images, showing side by side comparisons between the
four cameras. He kindly gave us permission to share those images
here. - Thanks, Geir! So check out Geir's images or the First Edition of the Great Digital SLR Shootout!
Full Short-Form Review posted for Canon PowerShot S230!
Canon's Digital ELPH cameras have been among the most popular subcompact digicams for quite a while now. So far though, they've been limited to two-megapixels of resolution, a level that's been perceived by many consumers as a limitation. Now however, the new PowerShot S230 moves the line up to a full three-megapixel sensor, while retaining the excellent build quality and image rendition of earlier models. Given the amount of email I've received asking when this review would be posted, I can predict that this is going to be a *very* popular digicam this holiday season. Super build quality, good optics, excellent image quality, and now three megapixels of resolution. If you're shopping for a subcompact camera, you really owe it to yourself to give the S230 a good look!
The Great Digital SLR Shootout, Round One!
There's more still to come (weather permitting), but we've posted the first round of photos from our first "Digital SLR Shootout," with images by Gibbs Frazeur, our "resident Pro." As anyone with even a passing acquaintance with this site will know, I'm a big believer in carefully-shot comparison photos. From day one of this site, I've had a standard set of shots I take with every camera I test, intended as something of a "camera torture test." Those shots were set up to be revealing of possible problems in the cameras, rather than to be visually appealing subjects. Recognizing that photographers like to look at pictures that are pleasant to look at, I've been tapping the skills of my Pro Photographer friend Gibbs Frazeur recently, to snap more attractive photos than my poor skills would permit. The only problem with random "pretty pictures" though, is that they give no basis whatsoever for comparison between cameras.
Now that the Sigma SD9 has finally shipped, it occurred to me to attempt a "shootout" of all four of the digital SLRs that sell in that general price range. - The Canon D60, the Fuji S2 Pro, the Nikon D100, and the Sigma SD9. This proved to be a huge undertaking, as you can read about in my opening comments of the Digital SLR Shootout article we've just posted. It's not over yet, Gibbs is still shooting, looking to get a few more daytime shots with the D100's sharpening set properly (grr, grr), some night shots, and one or two samples from the studio.
Let me know via the discussion forum I've set up for the article how you like this piece. It represents an enormous amount of both money and time, but if the response is positive enough, we may try it again, perhaps with some high end point & shoots, like the Canon G3, Nikon 5700, etc. - And again later, when the next round of D-SLRs comes along.
In the meantime, check out the First
Edition of the Great Digital SLR Shootout!
Full (preliminary) review posted for Sigma SD9!
Few cameras have stirred up as much interest in the photo community this year than Sigma's new SD9 digital SLR. - And with good reason, since the SD9 uses the new "X3" full-color pixel sensor technology from Foveon, to deliver nearly the same resolution from its 3.43 megapixel sensor as other cameraas manage from conventional 6 megapixel CCDs. I've had a production model of the SD9 for almost a week now, and have put together a pretty comprehensive review of its functionality and performance specs. An unrelenting series of gray days here in the Atlanta area put me far behind on my test shooting with the SD9, with the result that I still have only a couple of basic test images (resolution target and Davebox) posted for it. The weather finally broke over the weekend though, so I should have a full set of test images up in the next few days. - Not to mention a nice "surprise" for everyone, perhaps a little before that... Check it out!
Short-form review posted for Kodak EasyShare LS443!
I've been a fan of Kodak's "EasyShare" line of cameras for some time now, as they're not only easy to use, but produce very appealing pictures. Kodak's latest addition to the line is the higher-end LS443, a four megapixel model with a 3x zoom lens and metal-clad body design. The 443 has all the features that make the rest of the EasyShare line so well-suited to novice users, but with the metal-body style of the LS series, and four megapixels of resolution. In my testing, I found that the 443 really didn't produce the level of resolution I'd expect from a four megapixel design, but felt that the point was somewhat moot, at least for the users it's intended for. - It's more than capable of producing sharp 8x10 prints, which is all that most consumers will need anyway. (Of course, the argument remains that many people will likely buy it over a less-expensive model simply because it says "four megapixels," regrettable in that they'll only be getting a level of resolution that could be found in a less expensive model.) Its roughly three-megapixel resolution aside, the 443 takes great-looking photos, with the bright, saturated "Kodak color" that's proven so popular with consumers. While the 443 has the ease of use of the EasyShare line, it also has a range of more advanced features (such as long shutter times) that extend its capabilities and give users something to grow into. All in all, this is a camera that I'd have no qualms about recommending to novice-level friends looking for a solid camera that doesn't take a degree in photography to use. Check it out!
1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate
2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate
3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate