Commentary Links Photo Samples

Nikon D80 Stunning Gallery

Nikon Stunning Gallery

Just how good is the Nikon D80? Nikon handed 16 different passionate shooters the new Nikon D80, and in return they gave back stunning photos. This is the premise on Nikon’s new site called “Nikon Stunning Gallery,” a very effective marketing move that highlights the strengths of their products.

The Nikon D80 has been an excellent camera especially when compared to other digital SLRs in its price range. Robust performance paired with good photo quality has made it a viable option, to the point where several local shooters have now switched from Canon to Nikon mostly because of the Nikon D80 and the even more capable Nikon D200.

I wouldn’t mind switching to the Nikon D80 if they’d give me the Nikon equivalent of all my lenses, body, and other equipment. Why? Because I believe that right after Canon came out with the Canon EOS 20D, Nikon has dominated the market from almost all levels. The Canon EOS 5D is the only thing that puts Canon in a position of technical advantage.

Now back to the Nikon Stunning Gallery site, have a visit and be amazed at the talent of the crop of photographers that made the Nikon D80 truly their own.

Commentary Lenses Links Photo Samples

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM sample photos

Sample [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Just how good is the recently announced Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM? Filipino photographer Randy Tamayo was lucky enough to play with the Canon EOS 400D with the new Canon 50mm wonder lens attached during the consumer body’s Philippine launch two days ago. He comments how the new lens manages to take a backlit photo in low light and produce a good image without flare, as shown above. Looking at how hot those lights are behind the subject, I guess the lens was designed very well, reducing lens flare to a minimum. Contrast is still very good, something I don’t think the nifty–fifty (50mm f/1.8) can produce in the same lighting situation. We were able to get permission to share resized versions of his shots, and we have them below, linked to 500 X 700 pixels images.

Sample #1 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #2 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #3 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #4 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

He describes how he was able to play with the new lens and body in this pipho thread:

I was at the EOS400D launch earlier tonight and somehow I managed to wrangle an EOS 400D off someones hand. It so happens that the lens attached to it was an EF 50mm F1.2L.

So I took off the guys 580EX flash from the camera, as well as his CF card and replaced it with mine. I then ran off to the models ( him running after me, realizing I just took off with his baby :))

I managed to fire some shots. All available light. 50mm F1.2 full open. ISO200 (the ISO100 images were on his CF now I realize :(

From these samples, I think the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM is one nice piece of glass. Expectedly so, because it is designated as an L, Canon’s label for its pro lenses with excellent build and quality. Unfortunately though, we cannot comment on the expected popularity based on a few sample images, but I personally believe this will be a good seller especially if it sells for a street price lower than 1000 USD.

Thanks for the sample photos Randy!

Commentary Links News

Flickr Top 10

A big chunk of the digital photography market is composed of today’s typical geeks, the ones that take their photography online almost instantly. Flickr has been one of the better photo–sharing sites for several months now, so any marketing trends related to this service is valuable information to digicam makers and consumers alike. If we were to take their data as an authority, which camera should you buy? Yahoo’s shopping blog answers this for us:

  1. Nikon D50
  2. Nikon D70
  3. Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT
  4. Canon EOS 20D
  5. Canon EOS 350D Digital
  6. Nikon D70s
  7. Cybershot
  8. Canon PowerShot S2 IS
  9. Canon EOS Digital Rebel
  10. Nikon D200

Look at the trend: The list is 80% DSLR! Digital SLR photography is definitely the way to go now, with prices falling sharply as newer products are introduced. Notice the Canon EOS 350D/Rebel XT making it on the list twice, suggesting how strong its sale must be worldwide. The Nikon D50 takes first place for being a good value–for–money camera, one that makes the film to digital transition affordable and simple. Also worth noting is the Canon Powershot S2 IS, which at number 8 is the first among non–DSLR cameras. Cybershot at number 7 probably refers to several Sony models being counted as one, maybe because they produce inadequate EXIF tags making them difficult to count individually. A significant conclusion from this data is that entry–level DSLR photography is a huge market. This explains why Sony is now joining the fun, and Canon just released an equally interesting response in the Canon EOS 400D/XTi.

For a continuously updated tally of the top cameras on Flickr, this list can be very helpful.

Commentary Links Techniques Tips

How to take good photos with a flash

Flash photography has been looked down by some proclaimed “experts” as a lower form of photography. In fact, these same people instruct beginners to always shoot without the flash, if possible.

In the case of point–and–shoot compact digitals, shooting without the flash can give you better results, but not all the time. Backlit scenes are almost always better shot with a flash. For indoor shooting, it boils down to choosing between blurred no–flash photos, or bad flash photos. Using a flash can make or break a photo.

SLR shooters on the other hand have the luxury of using hotshoe flashes for creative lighting. However, you really have to understand your flash system to make the most out of it. Canon users would benefit much from this article on the EOS flash system.

After learning the technical aspects of flash photography, improve on your skills by learning its practical applications, including the technique involved. To get an idea how certain lighting effects are achieved through the use of a flash, dg28’s technique page should get you running. For more on flash photography and creative lighting, the Strobist blog is a worthwhile regular read.

Commentary Links News

The Jill Greenberg-Thomas Hawk Controversy

Most of us photography enthusiasts prefer to take photos rather than partake in gossip, but this just one I just had to write about. This is about Jill Greenberg’s work featuring children in a state of distress, emotionally provoked to tears.

Thomas Hawk took offense, criticizing her work and method to achieve such photos, no matter what the true objective is. Going through his weblog entry entitled ” Jill Greenberg is a Sick Woman Who Should Be Arrested and Charged With Child Abuse”, I can feel that Thomas was very disturbed by Jill’s work. In many ways, he had every right to. Any person wouldn’t be comfortable knowing how the photos were staged and captured — they handed lollipops to the children then took them away, intentionally provoking them to cry or be angry. All in the name of art, or is this a sick mind using art as an excuse?

Emotions were very high for those involved and even Jill’s husband stepped in. An online fight like this wouldn’t be uncommon, but Jill took matters to a different level when she responded through the magazine “American Photo” without much regard for Thomas’s statements, twisting them to her benefit and not addressing the issues in question. To make matters worse, the popular national publication did not bother to give fair coverage, much less ask for Thomas’s side.

What makes this even more intriguing is Jill Greenberg’s recent actions, as told by Thomas Hawk. According to the entry, Jill pressured Thomas’s employer and even called his boss to get them to intervene in these matters. Threats of legal action were also made by the controversial photographer.

Scrutinizing these events, I feel that Thomas Hawk may have offended Jill Greenberg for writing about his opinions and strong objection regarding the work mentioned above. However, being upset does not give her the right to skirt the issues and attack the other party personally. Threats of legal action shouldn’t have been made. Thomas’s opinion were protected by his constitutionally guaranteed rights, no matter how different it may be as Jill would’ve preferred. In fact, other people have also written on their disapproval of Ms. Greenberg’s work. Personally, I take strong offense as well.

Now what would happen to the parties involved in the coming days? I sure will be following this one. And I just hope Jill Greenberg learns to respect the opinion of other people, especially considering her stature and position, being a well–known artist at that. Before it’s too late to make amends.

Commentary Lenses News Product Announcements

Tokina 16-50/2.8 DX

Tokina 16-50/2.8 DX

The Tokina 16-50/2.8 DX is an APS-C lens for designed for DSLRs with a 1.5x/1.6x sensor crop like the Canon EOS 30D and the Nikon D70s. The zoom translates to a 28-80mm range for traditional film cameras, a range widely used in almost all types of photography.

This lens from Tokina is expected to compete against the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, the Tamron SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF, and the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC.

It would be a long shot to expect this lens to be better than the Canon and Tamron offerings; comparably this should be at par with the popular Sigma zoom. But let’s hope Tokina proves us otherwise.

Commentary Links

Photo contests

Most of us who love photography do it for the fun, while a lucky few get to do it for a living. But regardless of our photo–snapping motivations, we all strive to improve our craft.

Photo contests can be very helpful in broadening our photographic vision, exposing us to other people’s photographic style and techniques. And though it can make us feel so “average” in the presence of great photographer’s, continuous exposure to varied works improves our skills in the long run. Photojojo lists the best photo contests to join today. Join the fun.

Commentary Techniques Tips

Do not Focus-Recompose!


The focus–recompose technique is one of the most shared techniques in modern photography, especially with the adoption of point–and–shoot compact digital cameras that use very small sensors producing extremely deep depth of field. Since most compact digitals have mediocre to average autofocus performance, the need for locking onto a high contrast subject of the same distance has been a necessity especially when shooting in low light situations.

However, this method no longer applies to DSLRs both film and digital, since these cameras have significantly larger sensors and lenses that do not focus along a flat plane. This article explains the phenomenon more, and teaches us how to maximize the use of our AF systems and produce tack–sharp focused images.

Commentary Links News Product Announcements

Sony Alpha DSLR

Sony has just announced their own DSLR system, curiously dubbed as “Alpha.” The system is actually the same as the Maxxum mount from Konica–Minolta, suggesting more collaborative work from the said companies in the future. For sure, this group aims to take a chunk of the pie that Canon and Nikon are currently enjoying.

Do they have what it takes? This is something for us to see in the next few years, though judging based on Sony’s involvement in digital photography technology, they should be able to capture the mainstream market, notably those who equate the Sony name with quality consumer appliances without knowing the history of the big names in traditional photography like Nikon, Canon, and Pentax. Of importance is Sony’s part in Nikon’s consumers DSLRs, as they supply the company with the CCD sensors used in the entry–level D–series bodies. In addition, Pentax also uses the same CCD sensors for its *ist digital bodies. Will this lessen their relationship with Nikon and Pentax?

Using the Konica–Minolta system as their starting point, Sony now has a good system to build upon, and provide products for their market. Personally, their success in the DSLR market would be greatly dependent on business/market moves they make, and most likely not based on technical advantages.

Commentary Lenses

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

You would’ve noticed that I’ve been writing a lot about the better lenses in the 17-50 range, which translates to 28-105, probably the most used range in the 35mm format. After Nikon’s 17-55 f/2.8 AF-S, Sigma was the first to produce a similar lens, at a remarkable value. The Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC has basically captured that market, considering none of the other camera makers rushed to produce an excellent f/2.8 lens in the given range.

This year, the battle in this range will be getting fiercier as Tamron has announced the SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF based on their best–selling SP AF28-75MM F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) which has managed to capture those who have long been dreaming of Canon and Nikon’s 24/28-70 f/2.8 lenses.

Canon’s EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM is a welcome addition in this battle of walkaround zooms, a lens expected to take a significant chunk of the market. Unfortunately, the addition of IS has pushed this lens in the 1,100 USD range, more than twice the Sigma and the Tamron. Everyone is expecting top–notch quality and performance, but at this price, the cost may be unreachable to many first–time DSLR shooters.

My verdict: a very good lens though at a steep price. There are cheaper alternatives that may provide better value and just as capable of delivering excellent photos. Before you buy, make sure you also consider the Tamron SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF, the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, and even the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro which I’m still eagerly waiting for.

Commentary Links

Canon EOS 20D, 30D, 5D, or Nikon D200?


Bob Atkins compares the 20D, 30D, 5D, and D200 against each other, evaluating the current crop of mainstream DSLRs. I share his opinion that neither Canon nor Nikon shooters will be jumping to the other side based on these bodies, at least not yet. The decision on which camera to choose will be limited by the current equipment they have.

It is likely a different scenario for first–time DSLR buyers though, and some may base their decision on what provides them better value. If I were to make such a decision, Canon has an advantage in the field of product development, as they have shown these past years. Nikon continues to improve, though noticeably much slower than Canon’s phase.

Taking the Canon camp as a first–timer, it is basically a question of how much you can afford. If you have $3000 USD, then the 5D is a no–brainer. If you’ve got less, the 30D should serve you well, and if you’re still on a tight leash, the last stocks of the 20D will still be a very good camera.

Commentary Tips

JPEG Facts

Michael Furtman shares his thoughts on using JPEG compared to raw for digital photography. As you all know, there are digital shooters who shoot RAW 100% of the time, insisting on its latitude in post–processing. On the other hand, there are those who prefer JPEG to maximize storage, and increase the camera’s shooting performance. Shooting in JPEG clears the buffer much faster for many digital SLRs allowing for more shots and bursts.

The great majority of photo enthusiasts would rather choose the format that best fits a certain situation. If you’re going to take action photos, JPEG would allow your camera to be a lot more snappy. For landscapes and tricky lighting, the wealth of adjustments you can do to a RAW file would allow you to take a “shoot now, worry later” approach.

In relation to the article, I suggest using the format best suited for your needs. And please don’t forget that JPEGs do not lose quality when you reopen them, unless you’re actually rewriting the original file, then you’re in deep trouble. When editing a JPEG, save the revisions to a new file in your editor’s native format, better with all the adjustment layers intact.


20D vs Digital Rebel XT

20D vs. Digital Rebel XT

Now that the Canon EOS 30D has been announced and slowly making it to the hands of early buyers, the EOS 20D should be much cheaper than it was a few months ago. For sure, the price of used 20D bodies will go down as well as more first–time owners succumb to the latest in the Canon DSLR line.

This situation will surely lead this matchup: 20D vs Digital Rebel XT. First time SLR buyers taking the EOS path will find it even harder to choose between an XT, a cheap used 20D, or a cheaper–than–it–used–to–be brand new 20D. And that’s not considering the latest 30D.

Bob Atkins has compared these models several months ago and outlined each models pros and cons. Here are some points that I find really worth considering:

  • The 20D has a rear control dial. Though this has nothing to do with image quality, it has everything to do with usability and ease of use. For professionals, the rear control dial is a necessity.
  • The XT is much smaller and lighter. Depending on the size of your hands, this can either be an advantage or a disadvantage. The size allows it to be easily packed in a small bag for anywhere, anyday use. On the other hand, the small grip introduces some handling problems, and the reduced weight results in awkward balance when used with heavy lenses.
  • The 20D can shoot more frames in less time. 24 frames at 5 frames per second is much faster than 3 frames per second up to 14 frames. For sports shooting, the 20D definitely has more chances of capturing the action.
  • The 20D goes up to ISO 3200, while the XT maxes out at ISO 1600.
  • The 20D has a larger viewfinder.
  • The 20D was designed for increased reliability. It has shutter rated for 100,000 cycles while the XT is designed for 50,000 cycles only.

If I were to make the choice now, I’d lean towards a brand new 20D, or even a 30D. Coming from a D60, I know I wouldn’t be able to survive without the rear control dial, and added shutter life is definitely worth the money. But always remember, both cameras are capable of capturing great images. You’ll have much more fun shooting with either of them than wondering which one you’d rather have. Go out and get shooting!