Full review posted for Fuji FinePix S20 Pro!
Fuji's "SR" sensor technology has generated controversy in the marketplace, as there's been some dispute by reviewers as to whether it actually delivers on its promises of increased dynamic range. It turns out that much of the apparent problem can be traced to a lack of understanding of just how the SR technology works, and most particularly what scene characteristics trigger its application. In my review of the FinePix S20 Pro, I look in some detail at the SR technology in action, and compare results from one of my deliberate "torture test" scenes from the S20 Pro and a camera with a conventional CCD. The results are pretty unequivocal, there's clearly more highlight detail preserved by the SR sensor in the S20 Pro. Along with the S20 Pro, Fuji has also released an updated version of their RAW file processing application, enabling users to choose for themselves how much of the "R" pixel data is incorporated into the final image. While this addresses some criticisms of the camera raised by others, I do still think that there's another level that Fuji could go to, to make the SR technology even more useful to photographers. I also address the issue of how many "megapixels" the S20 Pro's sensor has, hopefully clearing up some of the confusion between the "official" definition of megapixel by the JCIA trade group and how the sensors behave in actual practice.
... Oh right, the camera! - The S20 Pro has good color, and (obviously) good dynamic range, but its high minimum ISO rating of 200 means that even images shot under bright lighting will have high levels of noise. (It must be noted that the S20 Pro's noise level at ISO 200 is fairly comparable to that of other cameras in its class when operating at that ISO. It's just that all the competing models also allow you do drop down to ISO 100, 64, or even 50 to achieve lower noise levels, and the S20 Pro lacks that option.) I also suspect that, while the S20 Pro's dynamic range capabilities are impressive, many potential users may be unwilling to accept the tradeoff in resolution that the technology demands. (Perhaps when we get to the point that there's are SR sensors available with a true 6 megapixel array, that tradeoff will seem less severe. - So I guess, stay tuned for Fuji's S3 Pro SLR whenever it hits the marekt.) One bright point - The S20 Pro does offer excellent camera control via its FireWire interface, so it should be attractive to people doing event photography or possible mass portraits, where close integration with a controlling computer would be a distinct advantage.
Overall, an interesting camera, read the review for all the details!
Minolta DiMAGE Xg Review Posted!
I've been a fan of Minolta's "X" line of subcompact cameras since the original version was first introduced nearly three years ago. Ultra-compact digicams often seem to involve a lot of compromises and tradeoffs, but the DiMAGE Xg takes very nice photos under a wide range of conditions, offers a decent range of exposure control (exposure compensation and white balance adjustments), and has surprisingly long battery life for a subcompact model. You do give up a little resolution relative to the best full-sized three megapixel cameras, and I'd really like to see a more accurate viewfinder, but there's plenty of resolution here to make sharp 8x10 prints. (And Minolta seems to have significantly improved the edge sharpness of its lens with this generation, a welcome improvement.) Its compact size, solid feature set, and rugged all-metal case make the DiMAGE Xg a great "take anywhere" camera, appealing to non-techies as well as enthusiasts. For the novice user, it's very easy to use and takes nice pictures. For more advanced users (taking myself as an example), it makes a great "second camera", something that you'd just toss in your pocket without thinking. Another personal confession: As much as I rant about "cameras in drawers not taking pictures", that's exactly where my digicams live much of the time. With a camera like the DiMAGE Xg though, I at least have a fighting chance of having the camera along with me wherever I go. Bottom line, it's not going to be the ultimate camera for Ansel Adams types, but if you want to have no excuse for not having your camera long with you, the DiMAGE X makes a great companion. -- The DiMAGE Xt easily qualifies as a "Dave's Pick." Check it out!
Backing Up Is Hard to Do
We've tried a number of ways to backup both our operating system and our data, usually resorting to separate processes. While our external drive and CD data backup method is efficient, it still takes a long time and isn't inexpensive enough to recommend to everyone. But last summer we stumbled across a really clever solution to the problem for Mac OS X users. It's DV Backup by Tim Hewett at Coolatoola.com. It uses a digital camcorder and inexpensive tapes to do the job. Read our report.
Full (!) review posted for Nikon D70 SLR, SB-800 flash unit
This was one of those reviews I thought I'd never get done with, not helped any by my main office/studio server going flaky for a solid week in the middle of it. The server's back though, and the review is finally finished, and there's a lot of info there for anyone shopping in the "affordable d-SLR" market. I'll save you the suspense though, and say right up front that I *really* liked this camera. Nikon really got just about everything right, offering a lot more features and capability than the Digital Rebel, at only a slight premium in price. And the lens that ships as part of the kit is a bargain too, at an incremental cost of $300 for a very nice piece of optics. Relative to the earlier D100, Nikon has lightened the body, tweaked the color, and used a much less aggressive anti-aliasing filter. The latter results in significantly better sharpness, at the cost of some tendency to produce moire in images with repeating patterns. One of the biggest features of the D70 is its incredible buffer capacity and continuous-shooting capability. This is one camera that *really* takes advantage of fast CF cards, and it's actually possible when shooting in large/normal quality mode to shoot continuously at 3 frames/second until the card is completely filled. Image noise is also very good - Not as low numerically as some of the competition, but less objectionable to the eye, thanks to a very fine-grained pattern. One of the neatest things about the camera though (IMHO), is its direct support for Nikon's new Advanced Wireless Lighting System. Coupled with an SB-800 or SB-600 speedlight (or multiple speedlights), the D70 can deliver true TTL (Through The Lens) flash metering with multiple remote strobes, right out of the box. (No need for a separate wireless flash controller, and the metering is truly TTL, for maximum accuracy.) If you do much flash photography, it's hard to overstate the benefit of this system - It's really deserving of a review in its own right, but I did include a page of its own in the D70 review, with some sample shots, and a number of screen shots of its user interface. Like I said, there was a lot to talk about. Here's some of what you'll find in my review that I don't think has been reported on elsewhere yet:
- A very detailed feature comparison between the D70, D100, Digital Rebel, and EOS-10D.
- Detailed shutter lag timing results, accurate to the millisecond, including the impact on shutter lag of the wireless lighting system.
- Comparison of startup time, shutter lag, cycle time, and buffer depth between the D70, Digital Rebel, D100, and EOS-10D.
- A detailed discussion of the flash system and how the D70 and remote strobes work together.
- More detail on Nikon's new PictureProject software (I liked it more than some reviewers did, but it's clearly not intended for pro or even advanced amateur use).
- More screen shots of the camera's user interface, including essentially all Custom Settings Menu screens, and correcting at least one error in others' reporting of CSM functions.
Check it out, but you'd better have
your credit card handy, you're going to want to buy one!
HiTi 730PS -- The 4:3 Revolution
If you're going to start a revolution, there's no sense straightening your tie. We've reviewed two dye sub printers from Hi-Touch Imaging Technologies already because we were impressed with their revolutionary approach. Not only are they high-quality dye subs rather than finicky inkjets -- but they don't need no stinkin' computer neither. But with the 730PS, Hi-Touch has revolutionized paper size, too. The standard 4x6, 5x7 and 8x10 sizes were as tired as double Windsor knots to them. So they built the 730PS to make 6x8 prints. It kind of reminds us of the days when all the labs were printing 3.5x5-inch prints and some wise guy thought of making Jumbo 4x6 prints. They were a lot easier on the eyes and pretty soon everybody was buying double Jumbos. The 6x8 format has a number of advantages. For one thing, the 4:3 aspect ratio is more common among digicams than the standard 3:2 of the 35mm world. And it matches the aspect ratio of standard monitors, where most of the viewing gets done. But most important of all, we really liked the larger prints, as our full review reveals.
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420