Sunday, December 26, 2010

Panasonic 14-45mm Micro Four Thirds Lens

I received the Panasonic 14-45mm m4/3's lens for Christmas. It's a great lens to buy since it's silly cheap (less than $300) and has since been discontinued by Panny in favor of a 14-42mm lens that blows chunks in comparison.

I'm already a huge fan. It's very small and, as far as kit zooms go, the best I have ever used. Autofocus is fast and accurate, contrast and color are excellent, even the build quality is a cut above the rest.

Sharpness is shockingly even across the frame, and oddly, is at it's best in the center at 14mm, and at the corners at 45mm. My only wish would have been more speed. Again, as far as kit zooms go, F3.5 is about as fast as you're going to get, so it's hard to knock the lens too much. The only kit-ish lens that I can think of (it's frequently packed in with the EOS 7D) that is definitely better is the Canon EF-S 15-85mm... which costs well over twice as much. AND is still a max-ap of 3.5.

If you're in with the m4/3's format, trust me, pick this lens up. It's better than Olympus' current offerings, is cheap as all get-out, and won't be widely available for much longer.

This is a sample photo taken at 45mm. The lettuce is super-sharp, and even the bokeh is quite good.

UPDATE: Importantly, this lens is very sharp wide open, but it sharpens up appreciably put down a stop or two. It is sharpest in the middle of the range. It's amazingly sharp at 30-40mm.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Electronic Viewfinders Are Great!

I just had something of a revelation. Perhaps it's because I've become used to using my cameras with glasses on, but I never noticed how great electronic viewfinders are. The vast majority of people with sight problems are near-sighted, meaning they can see stuff that's up in their grill piece, but out on the horizon is a giant blur. Since optical viewfinders are precisely that, optical, the light going in is of the same distribution as that coming out of the viewfinder. So if the object is far away, you either use the diopter in the viewfinder or deal with using glasses.

Electornic VF's remove that need entirely. You can use glasses, not use glasses, it doesn't matter. The image is taken in by the camera and then reproduced less than an inch from your eye. The EVF's diopter is only necessary for those who are far-sighted. I love my EVF!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DPReview Reviews the Nikon D7000

DPReview, the absolute bestest digital camera website on the interpipes, has reviewed the Nikon D7000 and given us a complete understanding, only hinted at with other reviews, of the camera's advantages over others.

We had some early tests showing it do very well in comparison to Canon, we had the DxOMark review that had it completely trouncing the Canon, and finally this. A full, blow-by-blow analysis. It's as we should have expected. The Nikon does outperform the Canon in almost every way, but where it does this is fantastic. The Nikon has a dynamic range of 9.2 EV, with all of the extra range going into the shadows.

You might prefer extra range in the highlights, since it's easier and cleaner to bring out blown highlights than it is to try and illuminate shadows. I go the other way. Shadows define the drama of a shot for me. I want a super-smooth transition to black and pure black when I get there. I don't want to have to punch up the blacks and contrast in post to fix that problem. I expose for the highlights and then work with the curve in post.

That extra shadow range results in noise-free shadows. On page 17, the reviewers compare a dark shot from the Nikon to one from the Canon and apply a +3.0 exposure to clearly reveal shadow noise. The Nikon? Almost none. Brilliant.

That being said, Canon's image pipeline is still better at extracting detail. But while this criticism might have been of importance in earlier models, I think that in these days of 18Mp cameras, the better detail is almost inconsequential. Moreover, to see the differences in detail will require lenses that almost no one will buy. I'd imagine that most people in this segment of the market will buy the camera and either use the kit lens (which undoubtedly sucks) or buy a $500-$800 zoom lens which won't come close to exceeding the sensor's ability.

It's taking awhile, but the megapixel wars seem to be waning. Color reproduction and noise levels are much more important, and it's here that the Nikon handily beats the Canon. Bravo Nikon.

Nikon D7000 Review (DPReview)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Camera Labs Posts 60D/D7000 comparison.

Camera Labs has posted a rather definitive post about the EOS 60D and the Nikon D7000. The Nikon beat out the Canon by 14 points in DxOMark sensor ratings, and the Pentax K-5 hammered it be 16 points. The studio scene at DPReview hinted that the Nikon and Pentax were better, but Camera Labs really drives home how extensively the Nikon beats the Canon. Differences below ISO 3200 are small but visible, but above that, the Nikon is over a stop better. It's very impressive. This, combined with Nikon developing lenses much faster than Canon, makes me feel that if you haven't bought into a system yet, go for Nikon.

Nikon D7000 High ISO JPEG Noise preview

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Luminous Landscape Get's Me Feeling All Self-Righteous

Luminous Landscape, one of the web's premier sources of camera geekery, has posted an "open letter" to camera manufacturers about lenses and sensor designs. I'm pissed and this helps to explain a few issues that I've had with cameras in low-light situations that I've simply explained as sensor noise.

Basically, large aperture lenses are great because they let in more light, but also let in more light from oblique angles. The light coming at the sensor from these more extreme angles is one of the reasons that large apertures gives you that shallow depth of field for buttery portraits.

This worked perfectly for film since the light-sensing aspect of film were tiny crystals in a substrate on the surface of the film, thus they were sensitive to light coming in from many angles. Digital cameras, on the other hand, are a sensor which points straight ahead. If the light is not coming from directly above, the sensor doesn't seem the image. This is the reason why the 4/3's format from Olympus and Co. was called the first fully digital camera system, because it took into account all of the unique aspects of digital photography.

All of the camera companies are trying to come up with ways to make their sensors better, including greater sensitivity, small lenses above each sensor site, etc. If this article from LL is to be believed, it's not enough and the camera companies have switched to cheating us.

Luminous Landscape, in association with DxOMark, have found that light loss at high apertures can get downright extreme. And to combat this, when using paired lenses, the camera will boost ISO WITHOUT YOU KNOWING. WTF?!

This is unacceptable. I buy pro-level tools to have manual control, not to give it up without my knowledge. The end results are all good, certainly, but I buy expensive stuff to get good photos in extreme light and movement conditions; the very places where these issues actually matter.

An Open Letter To The Major Camera Manufacturers

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nikon D7000 Review

Photography Blog has posted a review of the Nikon D7000 and the ISO performance is fantastic. It has a multi-stop advantage over the Canon EOS 60D and appears to outperform the 7D by a full stop as well. Incredible performance.

That being said, it still doesn't reach quite as high as some full-frame cameras. In their sample images folder, they have an excellent test of dynamic range, resolution, and ISO in the form of a mall with a large skylight covering the walkway. There is a large difference between the D7000 and the D3x or Leica M9. Yes, there is a huge price difference between those cameras, but I mention it only to remind everyone that all of the technical wizardry in the world hasn't made up for the physical reality of a smaller sensor.

I'm only somewhat invested in the Canon universe and Nikon's stellar work in the past two years has made me consider selling my Canon gear in favor of Nikon. My only reason for not making any moves is that, I think, either company could, at any point, surprise the world by releasing a whole bevy of updated lenses. As it stands, both Nikon and Canon have been rather lax in releasing new lens designs, and after seeing the shockingly good results that can be had with completely new lenses like Olympus' digital Zuiko, better lenses, especially prime, is way more important than updated bodies.

This is especially so, today. The Nikon D7000 provides pro-level results, but only with good lenses. Without great lenses, the difference between this camera and older cameras will be nearly non-existent, if not entirely so. This means that, as bodies get better and cheaper, it will be ever-more required of users to invest in lenses to see benefits, which locks them ever-tighter to a particular system.

This is why all of my money is going into Micro 4/3's. It's a system being built from the ground up that costs so little that if I decide to abandon it, after selling the equipment, I'm out a comparatively small amount. The Zuiko lenses are stellar, stellar, and the Panasonic GH2 matches most of the APS-C cameras on the market. Panasonic and Olympus have shown an absolute dedication to bringing new lenses, bodies, and accessories to market.

I'm playing the waiting game. I'm curious to see who pushes first. I'm pretty confident that it won't be Canon or Nikon. I think that it will likely be Pentax or Sony. They're the underdogs who have a lot to gain. Pentax has already blown the medium format world wide open with their $10,000 645D, so why not do something wild in the 35mm market? Sony has Zeiss lenses and a lot of technical know-how, if only they could bring that together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Olympus E-5 Information

I did it with the Pentax 645D, so I figured I'd do it with another camera that greatly interests me, the Olympus E-5. I'm hoping that the E-5 is good, even though I have my doubts that it will be worth its startlingly high price tag.

DPReview Posts studio images: Link

DPReview has posted studio images of the Olympus E-5 which can be compared to other cameras. It does a very good job at extracting detail, but the noise level at all ISO levels, and especially the revealing RAW comparison, have the E-5's sensor being completely whomped by the competition. By ISO 3200, there is no comparison. I have reached my conclusion. The Olympus E-5 is not worth the price that they are asking. Not by a long shot.

DxOMark Rating: Link
DxOMark has finally rated the E-5, and it performed more poorly than I expected, garnering a piddly 56, but it also illustrates the limitations of Dx0Mark's review process. The E-5 actually performs slightly worse than the old E-3, but all image tests show the E-5 out-performing the old boy by a significant margin. Same goes for the Panasonic GH1/GH2 comparison. Regardless of anything, it's by far the most expensive 4/3's camera on the market and doesn't perform any better. It's Hundreds more than the Nikon D7000, Canon EOS 60D, or Pentax K5 and is soundly thrashed by all of them. And finally, the new price of the Sony Alpha A850 puts a 24Mp full-format camera only $100 above the Oly. I think that we can start coming to the conclusion that only a fool would buy this camera.

ePhotozine Review: Link
ePhotozine liked the E-5 a great deal, but only made fleeting mention of the camera's high price. They liked everything about the design of the camera and perhaps this is what made them sort of gloss over noise and image issues. Considering that the cost is body only, the E-5 doesn't make much of a case for itself against cheaper Olympus cameras and the Panasonic GH1/GH2 cameras which offer superior image quality.

Olympus Product Page: Link
Olympus doesn't provide any full-resolution images. Very disappointing.

FotoMagazin Review: Link (Via Google Translate)
I find this review preposterous. Third best camera ever? Really? You don't have to go far to see the difference between the E-5 and one of the more expensive cameras that it supposedly beat. Like here...

DPReview Forum Member's Comparison of the E-5, E-620, and Canon EOS 5D MkII:

This really drives home that the EOS 5D is in a different league to the E-5. I'd be very interested in seeing direct comparisons between the E-5 and the Eos 7D and Nikon D7000. Still, though, Olympus was stupid to not undercut its rivals.

Pixiq Preview: Link
Not much good to say about the camera, here. Basically, he thinks that the small sensor is a real impediment to image quality at this price point.

FotoDigital Review: Link
Also not too hopeful. He likes the camera and what it offers, but it's too heavy, to pricey, and feels that it's obviously the end of a product cycle/era. There will be no more 4/3's cameras after this, only Micro 4/3's, and that unless you're already invested, it's pointless to buy in, now.

FotoHits test data: Link
Some test data that succeeds in being comprehensive yet totally useless. No wonder no one reads photography magazines anymore.

Olympus E-5 Nabs Stellar Review

FotoMagazin, a German website, linked with Google Translate, has just awarded the Olympus E-5 an utterly stellar review. Like, so stellar I'm skeptical. Especially considering that their review completely flies in the face of reviews from DxOMark and DPReview.

In the totality of their reviews, the E-5 lands in third place. Third?! Even stranger is the standing of other cameras. The Canon EOS 1D (Mark IV AND III) has a greater image quality rating than the juggernaut-like Nikon D3x. All of which, including the APS-C EOS 7D, are above the EOS 1Ds Mark III. I like Olympus, and 4/3's, and I certainly hope that E-5 is good, but I'm eating a bowl-full of salt with these results. It is simply impossible that a sensor that is 1/4 the size of a full-frame camera will match it for image quality. The resolution just isn't there.

FotoMagazin Leaderboard

Fire Hydrant Wallpaper

4:3 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

Trees And Water Wallpaper

4:3 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

DP Review Posts Images of Nikon 7000 and Pentax K-5

Sample images of the Nikon D7000 and Pentax K-5 have been posted over at DP Review. I've spent the past ten minutes or so at various ISO levels trying to analyze sharpness levels and color to explain the HUGE difference on DxO Mark (14 points for the Nikon, 16 for the Pentax) with the Canon's score of 66. I can't notice a significant difference at any ISO. If pressed, I'd say that the Nikon appears to be outperforming the Canon at lower ISO, but the Canon appears to win at ISO 12,800.

UPDATE: I was just looking over the images and have found a few places where both the Nikon and the Pentax handily beat the Canon at high-ISO. Still, there are a few other places where the Canon, especially the old 7D, seem to win. I'd call it a complete toss-up.

Canon EOS 60D Studio scene comparison (DPReview)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nikon D7000 Dukes It Out With Pentax K-5

Holy crap! The Nikon D7000 has been ranked near the tippy-top of APS-C sized SLR cameras! With an overall score of 80, that puts it with or above all of Sony and Canon's full frame cameras. Excellent work, Nikon!

The D7000 is fighting with Pentax's K-5, which even more shockingly mustered an 82, which matches the Nikon D3s. If these numbers are to be believed, sensor development in the APS-C arena has kicked into turbo. I'll wait for further information, but this is making me reconsider my previous ideas about Micro Four-Thirds.

I still say that m4/3's is the best system to buy into for someone wanting a family shooter. It's compact, fantastic lenses cost very little and weigh even less, and Panasonic has proven a complete dedication to the format. You can buy a m4/3's camera and lens for less than $800, buy two more lenses for $500 to $1000 a piece, and you'll have a complete kit that fits into a small camera bag and will do for any situation an average person could imagine. Perfect.

But I used to also argue for the four-thirds format over APS-C because the increased sensor size didn't seem to net much benefit. Going up to full-frame resulted in a significant difference, but notsomuch APS-C. The smaller sensor's 2X crop factor meant that zoom lenses positively sung, with greater length and deeper depth of field. Colors were somewhat better on the larger sensor, as was dynamic range, but I felt that if that was a serious concern, you should save up for a full-frame camera. APS-C just didn't provide enough of a quality boost to warrant the increased size and cost.

These results change that perspective. The best 4/3's sensor on the market is the Panasonic GH1/2, which has a best score of 64 on DxO Mark. That plopped it smack in the middle of most modern APS-C cameras, truly, trailing the EOS 7D supercamera by only two points. But trailing the leading APS-C camera by 18 points cannot be ignored.

As I said, I'll wait to pass judgment, but if these early results hold up, anyone with enthusiast or semi-pro aspirations cannot consider the 4/3's format any more. APS-C has just walked away.

Tests and reviews for the camera Nikon D7000 (DxO Mark)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pentax 645D Information

Pentax is releasing what will be, as far as I know, far and away the cheapest medium format digital camera on the market. It's a complete camera, meaning no separate back and body assembly, so pop on a lens and you're good to go. At $10,000, it's half the price of the next cheapest medium format cameras from Phase One and Mamiya, which ring in at $20k. While this prevents you from swapping out backs, when the whole camera only costs this much, who cares?

I'm surprised to see SD cards being used for storage. When photo files can easily hit 100MB, where's the CompactFlash?! Other than that, all of the limitations and advantages common to medium format apply. This is very exciting for someone looking to either expand their studio or an enthusiast who wants to take their art to the next level. The price is still quite high, and buying this over a Nikon D3x or Canon EOS 1Ds/5D is something that's going to have to be mulled over. But if you like portrait photography and/or, as Pentax discusses in the interview, landscapes, this camera is just drool-inducing.

My skills are still nowhere near maxing my EOS 5D, but if yours are, what the hell. Go for it.

DPReview posts sample images!: Link

DPReview, the bestest camera site on the net, has posted sample pictures of the new 645 and even in their studio setting, the detail capture by it in comparison to every other camera they have is amazing. In a studio, it's pixel-peeping. The big differences will be revealed in complex nature and landscape shots, but even here, the difference is significant. For example, look at the small globe.

Obviously, noise levels are still far behind the DSLR's from Cankontaxony, but at only ten grand, and the Sony Alpha A850 now below $2,000, the new flagships from the likes of Canon and Nikon will have to stump up some serious performance to justify their likely-to-be over $7,000 prices.

Early Preview/Review with sample photos

Japanese site Digital Camera Watch has posted a review of the 645D along with multiple full-resolution sample photos. Dynamic range is .5 stops lower than most other medium format cameras at 11.5, but the images are still great. Without a direct comparison, I see no difference between these sample photos and samples available from Mamiya, Phase One, and Hasselblad.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

As with many (all?) medium format cameras, the Pentax has no low-pass filter. On such large, high-res sensors this rarely results in moire, and even the complex city scene I was only able to spot the smallest amounts. I did find one of their photos with a noticeable degree, and that was on some rough wood. I've posted the crop below.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Interview and Photos

Luminous Landscape has an interview with a Pentax rep and a few photos. As with all Luminous Landscape posts, he doesn't provide anything at full resolution, thus rendering all of his photos useless. I don't get this. It's a behavior common along many photo websites. Fuck you. Give me the files.

DxO Mark Releases Test Results

DxO Mark, whose test methodology befuddles me, has released sensor information on the 645D. It's not at the top of its class, but it it definitely earns magna. It's beaten out by two Phase One backs and the Nikon D3X, but that's it! The Nikon is half the resolution but brings many other benefits to the table, it also costs a few grand less, and the two Phase One backs cost well over twice as much as the Pentax. Go Pentax!

Ken Rockwell Hates the 645D

As any good critic, it's not their job to explain why something is good or bad, but to say whether they liked something or not and to effectively explain why. Ken Rockwell does an excellent job with this.

Basically, he's arguing that Pentax is retarded for making a medium format camera aimed at the hobbyists who buy point-'n-shoots. Pentax has loaded the camera up with useless features that, if anything, get in the way of the pro shooter. He's also upset that this is not a true medium format camera. The sensor is too small. This criticism is truly damning since the value proposition of the Pentax is predicated on being a direct competitor to more expensive medium format cameras while being only slightly more expensive than Canon and Nikon's top-pro cameras.

I appreciate all of his criticisms, and understand them quite well, I'm still leaning towards liking the camera. Its sensor is larger than Canon and Nikon, has 40MP regardless of sensor size, good dynamic range, and is an excellent introduction to the 645 world. And for only $10k, I'd learn to work around its faults.

Luminous Landscape Full Review:

They like it! They really like it! If anyone was going to kvetch about the 654D it was the Luminous Landscape guys, and they like it enough to call it a "defining camera." Obviously, the price is amazing, but also the ergonomics of the camera were called "stellar."

Luminous Landscape Comparison:

After their review, they've posted a comparison of the 645D and the PhaseOne P40+, they also threw in a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and a Leica M9 for good measure. The Canon Performs very poorly, but I think that is a combination of both the lens and the camera. They suspect something might have been wrong. The Pentax performs almost identically to the P40+, even outperforming it at times, but is beaten in the dynamic range competition, but not by much. This means that Pentax was actually telling the complete truth when they said that their dynamic range would slightly trail its competitors.

They're very impressed by the Leica M9's resolution, which was undoubtedly helped by its total lack of a low-pass filter, but admit that for larger prints, you want to move up to the medium format camera. This was an epic comparison and a frank analysis that I'm not used to seeing on photography websites.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Terry Richardson Makes Glee a Bit More Gleeful

Noted five-alarm pervert Terry Richardson got a ahold of a few members of the cast of Glee and promptly performed his standard pervert-o-conversion on them in photography. As should be entirely unsurprising to all of us, one of the cast members has since come out to say that they regret it and it's "not me."

First, you're retarded, second, what?! Not you? Please. You got into it. You could have left at any time. Terry Richardson isn't some unknown guerrilla photographer who surprised you with the style of his photography, nor are you some young model who thinks that they need to make some famous photog happy to further your career. What he does is well-known, and the instant the bra and panty shots started being staged, I think that you should have figured out what was going down.

Now that I've got that out of my system, Richardson is also famous, famous for coaxing people, especially those of the fairer sex, into photography that borders on pr0n, and sometimes trying to bed them as well. He's a nasty old man and he's not even old. He uses his position as a powerful photographer to manipulate young girls into things. The only reason why I'm not standing by the Glee cast is that they are not unknowns. They could have walked out and suffered no damage to their career. If they did something, it's likely because they wanted to.

And while we're on the subject of pervs, why do they all look so damned similar. For example, Dov Charney (founder of American Apparel) is another five-alarm perv and it's as though the two of them go to the same fucking barber. WTF, people?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tree Hollow Wallpaper

4:3 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

Moss And Leaves Wallpaper

4:3 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

Nokia N8 Camera Comparison

I've been a fan of Nokia for about a decade. I had the venerable "Brick" (a title which encompassed a number of nearly indestructible phones), and jumped on the N-Series bandwagon from the very beginning. I was a huge Nokia fanboy. Still, Nokia has been dragging its feet recently and the new N8 does little to make me think that things are going to change.

Regardless, this is a photography blog, and the camera in the N8 is a beast. GSMArena has a comparison between the current camera king, the Samsung Pixon12, and a compact camera. The large, 1/1.6" sensor in the N8 schools the lot of them. The detail is amazing and the low-light capability is excellent for a phone. Sadly, as we saw in the Engadget photo test, the software fails to live up to the hardware. Using the physical shutter button causes horrid shutter delay and ultimately blurry photos. Using the touch screen, which anyone who's used an iPhone knows is kind of a pain, is the only thing that works.

It's really unfortunate. I'd love to have a cell phone with such a kick-ass camera, but, goddamn, can Nokia get anything else right?

Compact Cameras

I'm of the mind that compact cameras are hitting a ceiling. They've hit a ceiling as far as resolution goes, with most of them, even the expensive ones, not going very far above 12MP. And all of the technological advancement in the world isn't going to overcome the limitations of a 1/1.6" sensor. I doubt that we'll see 4/3's sensors popping up in compact bodies, even though I think that would be ideal, but it seems a fait accompli that new generations of compact cameras will have to bump up the sensor size.

I raise this issue because of the clash between the two top compact cameras, the Canon S95 and Panasonic Lumix LX5. Both are rocking 1/1.6"(ish) sensors, both are around $500, and both produce near-identical images. Camera Labs has a comparison between the two and the Canon SD4000IS, which has a significantly smaller 1/2.3" sensor, and yet performs admirably against both of the more expensive cameras. It leaves one with the question, why even bother buying the more expensive compact cameras?

You could go to the top-tier 1/1.6" cameras, like the Canon G12 or Nikon P7000, but again, really? They're bulky and don't give you much of an image boost over the compacts with similar sensors. They've got slightly more pro-ish ergonomics, but who cares? I'm a huge advocate of Micro 4/3's and it's because of these issues that, except for the cheaper compacts, M4/3's has completely obviated the high-end compact market.

Obviously, the compact market will have its place. Even the smallest lens on the smallest m4/3's camera isn't completely pocketable, but if quality is at all important, the ceiling has been hit. Curiously, it's at this time that the compact, integrated lens market is seeing its biggest explosion at the high end. Nikon has just released the P7000, Canon has its upcoming G12, Panasonic has its excellent LX5, Olympus is even jumping in with a new entry. I don't get it! There are only so many people out there who want to spend $400 or more on a pocket camera.

I think that Fuji's (fucking gorgeous!) upcoming camera is likely the vanguard of the new compact camera high-end. Surprisingly, they've leapfrogged smaller sensors entirely and gone to a full, APS-C sensor, installed it inside one of the most gorgeous cases I've ever seen, and are, unsurprisingly, charging a vanguard price for it ($1000). I suspect that if it's successful, other companies won't be too far behind with their own options.

I'm disappointed in Olympus. Considering the amount of development that they've put into the 4/3's sensor, one would think that they'd be itching to slap that puppy into any form factor that they can think up. As for me, if you only want to take snapshots, buy a cheap P&S. The value equation just stops making sense when you move up to what's, essentially, the high-end of the low-end. What's the point?


I forgot to mention, and not to put too fine a point on it, but Photography Blog has a review of the Canon SX30 superzoom, which gives you 35mm focal length equivalents of 24mm up to 840mm. The only way they were able to manage that stupid 840mm was to use a miniscule 1/2.3" sensor, and as you would expect, the image quality isn't good. The images are unusably noisy at anything past ISO-400. In the race to sell new cameras every year, companies are going to be forced to increase sensor sizes. The Nokia N8 portends a future where cell phones are using sensors once restricted to point-&-shoots, which will effectively kill the compact camera market as it is.


Camera Labs has uploaded a review of the Panasonic LX5 and expresses opinions almost identical to mine in their conclusion.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lecia M9: Rich Bastard Edition

As if more evidence was needed to prove that Leica exists to let rich people feel self important, they have, in conjunction with the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, announced the Neiman Marcus edition M9. This beauty can be yours for the low, low price of $17,500. You get a free lesson from some Leica expert (because, being rich, you don't actually know how to do anything).

I've never been a fan of Leica. And as their prices have gone from high to stratospheric in the last ten years, I don't even hear Leica fanboys defending the company as much as they used to. In the late 90's, Leica's most expensive lenses, like the Noctilux, were either on par, or only slightly more expensive than the best lenses from Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, and other optics companies. Now, their top-end Summilux lenses are clearing the $5,000 barrier, with the Noctilux coming in at an eye-watering $10,000. You could buy a Canon 5D MkII and two or three lenses for the same price. Utterly absurd. There is no way that price can be defended...

Unless you treat the Leica as a luxury item. You don't buy this if you care about photography, you buy it if you care about the camera. Because people don't buy luxury clothing because they care about keeping warm, they care about the style and the brand. That's a totally legitimate reason to purchase something! Still, I'm going to make fun of it. In the same way I make fun of men driving Ferraris and Aston Martins through rush hour... while, honestly, at the same time wanting one. I care about the photography and the final product. I've created some of my most beloved photos with plastic lenses, and rarely reach the limits of my six year old Canon EOS 20D.

If I was a top-pro photog, and resolution was really critical, I'd spend my money on medium format. If I was a journalist, I could never stomach the compromises of prime, viewfinder lenses. If I was an amateur, how the hell could I rationalize a camera that costs more than some cars? The only market left for Leica at these prices are rich people who care about the camera at least as much as the photo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flickr Amafessional?

I just read the Flickr community guidelines for the first time. The usual stuff, no hosting images here, don't call other people mean names, don't post your amateur porn, don't facilitate a Neo-Nazi uprising in Washington, you know, stuff that would otherwise happen all the time. There is one thing that stood out as definitely odd and possibly stupid.

Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes.
Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account. Any other commercial use of Flickr, Flickr technologies (including APIs, FlickrMail, etc), or Flickr accounts must be approved by Flickr. For more information on leveraging Flickr APIs, please see our Services page. If you have other open questions about commercial usage of Flickr, please feel free to contact us.

What the hell are they talking about? Only for personal use? Flickr has a paid designation called pro! What the hell do they think pros are? People who just spend lots of money on camera equipment for the hell of it?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Comments on Adobe Lightroom 3

I really like Adobe Lightroom. I like the interface, I like the library management, I also very much like the RAW handling. The program has a fantastic noise reduction system that competes very well with Noise Ninja. And perhaps the most important benefit of Lightroom is that it melds functions that previously required Adobe Bridge and Photoshop. It is definitely my RAW manager of choice.

That being said, there are a few things that annoy the ever-loving crap out of me.

One: there are functions that are only available in "library" or "develop" mode, and no way to access them without switching back and forth.

Two: while the program runs smoothly on a multi-core CPU, it runs like absolute garbage on a single-core system. I'm not talking a slow system, either. 2GB of RAM, 128MB ATI Radeon, and a 3.2Ghz AMD CPU. Yet it takes a whole minute to export an image, and simply moving through the library maxes the CPU at 100%. The program isn't terribly memory efficient, but it's an outright bloated mess in regards to the processor.

Three: And about that memory usage, considering all of the stripped functionality of Photoshop, you'd expect Lightroom to be easier on memory. It's not. You can easily run into the 300MB+ range in active memory just sitting there, and I've hit nearly half a gig with small files. Apparently, the developers at Adobe are clinically incapable of writing memory efficient applications.

Five: The price is a bit high, as with seemingly all Adobe products. Photoshop is $700, even the stripped-down Photoshop Elements is $100. At $300, it's in line with DxO Elite, but double DxO Standard. It's also $100 more than Apple's Aperture and Bibble Pro. The only program that out-prices Adobe is Phase One's Capture One, which is intended for tethered studio photography.

Four: And finally, removing chromatic aberrations. You know the kind. The purple or red fringing around highlight areas. Well, Lightroom is retarded when it comes to these. As in, it doesn't do ANYTHING to them. You may as well not even have the feature. Lightroom is SO terrible at it, that if the rest of the program wasn't so good, I would have ditched it.

UPDATE: I forgot to post a good comparison of the major converters from Twin Pixel.

I also wanted to mention that, on that same single-core system I've used Bibble and Capture One. Capture One is better at handling a 150MB, 65Mp RAW file from a Phase One 65+ medium format back than Lightroom is at handling a 15MB RAW from a Panasonic GF1. When working on a particular area of the image, it's very fast.

Capture One maxes my CPU, but it never dominates it. Where Lightroom's interface will freeze when it's doing stuff, Capture One maintains UI integrity. Buttons still operate, I can manipulate the program, I can switch from image to image, etc. Bibble is a similar story. Everything still functions.

And as a final note, it's perhaps not the fact that I'm running a single-core system, but Lightroom itself. I just found this thread at Adobe's message board, with over 1,000 replies, of people complaining that Lightroom 3 is slow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fuji Releases APS-C Compact Rangefinder


That's all I can say about this camera. It's bleedin' gorgeous. The optical viewfinder is fantastic and was a novelty I had kinda' hoped would have made it into Micro 4/3's cameras.

Fuji is explicitly stating that this camera is intended for a high-end market, be it professional or enthusiast. They're not releasing final pricing info, likely because they don't know, but they're shooting for the $1,000(US) range. If the body is as well-made as reports indicate, this will undercut the Leica X1 by FIFTY percent. It won't be competition for the M9, what with the integrated lens, but the X1 has certainly been obviated, and Sigma should certain be concerned for the future of their DP-series of cameras. Afterall, the sensor in those is more an experiment than a final product, and they will only undercut the Fuji by a couple of hundred dollars.

That being said, Fuji hasn't exactly been playing in the high-end market lately. Their most expensive camera is less than $400, and the last pro-level camera they made, as far as I know, is the S3 way back in 2005. And, as this review shows, it was far from a stellar performer. Even the EOS 20d outperformed it. The follow-up S5 was a similar story. It was outperformed by everyone, and was like its predecessor, apparently a Nikon body. At least it had the good graces to be cheaper.

With that in mind, Fuji is obviously not messing around. Even if we assume that Fuji is retarded, the raw materials in the camera speak of quality. A fast, prime lens. A bulletproof metal body. A rangefinder that only a few people in the world care about. And the icing on the cake, the largest sensor that Fuji has worked with in nearly half a decade. Combined, those ingredients all but guarantee images that are at least decent.

So, yeah. Gorgeous.

Sigma Announces SD1

Sigma, makers of the DP1 and DP2, have announced a DSLR-bodied camera centered around a Foveon X3 sensor. The sensor is ostensibly the same thing as the DP1 & 2, but the pixel count is higher, so it must be revised. That was the Foveon's smallest concern, frankly. I would have liked to see an untouched pixel count, indicating a focus on high-ISO performance.

Most people in the photo world were unimpressed with the Sigma. I wasn't. I'm a huge fan of what's called per-pixel accuracy. This means that a sharp line is accurately drawn as a sharp line on a photo, without blurring at the line. That's why, even after all this time, I use my old Canon EOS 20d more than newer cameras.

See in the comparison photo (from the amazing review site DPReview), how sharp and defined the pixels are in the Sigma photo. The Olympus is certainly resolving more detail, but not that much more considering the resolution difference.

The technology is certainly not ready for pro-level work, nor is it the best deal for consumers, but for a certain photographer, it was a tempting offer. The greatest risk for the technology was that Sigma wouldn't continue to develop it, but to many people's surprise, they've continued working, and aggressively so. After continued support for that DP1 and 2, this camera is confirmation that Sigma is all in.

I look forward to seeing what they've managed in the ISO department, and also to seeing what the sensor can do when paired with better glass. I'm glad to see that the digital photography market is starting to differentiate away from the old limitations of the film.

Sigma SD1 has a 15.3MP sensor, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body, and no video mode at all (