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Bodies Lenses Links Reviews

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1

Several months ago, Panasonic announced the Lumix DMC-L1, their first interchangeable-lens digital SLR camera. This camera is a direct product of its partnership with Olympus and its Four Thirds System. The DMC-L1 is a unique digital SLR with an interesting feature set; it is the the first with a dedicated shutter speed dial and aperture ring. These makes it closer to the hearts of analog shooters from decades ago.

Michael Reichmann reviewed the Lumix DMC-L1 last August and somehow liked the camera. However, he criticizes it in some aspects considering Panasonic should’ve learned its lessons from the cameras it released before it, the Panasonic LX-1 and the Leica Digilux 2/Panasonic LC1. Of importance is the DMC-L1’s value as compared to Nikon’s D80 and Canon’s EOS 400D/Rebel XTi, making it somehow lacking in many respects. No matter what unique features Panasonic may serve, it is still the market that will decide. Unfortunately for them, it will likely lean towards the D80, 400D/Rebel XTi, or Sony’s Alpha A-100.

For a comprehensive rundown on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1, read the Luminous Landscape review as well as its feature page on DPReview and its own site.

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Lenses Links Reviews

Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM reviewed

Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Several weeks ago, Canon announced the release Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, the IS version of the excellent 70-200mm f/4L. Eagerly awaited by Canon shooters as an alternative to the expensive 2.8L series, the first review of this lens is now online at The-Digital-Picture.com.

Feedback on the first lucky users of this lens is very impressive, reporting consistent sharpness as good as the original f/4L. Now with image stabilization to boot, this should be the better walkaround telephoto. Read the full review for the complete details on this excellent piece of glass.

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Flashes Links Tips

Can you use your old flash with your DSLR?

A good number of first time DSLR buyers used to own film SLRs with a dedicated hotshoe flash. Most flash guns built during the film SLR days cannot take advantage of the various advancements in flash photography like Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) and Canon’s ETTL (Evaluative Through-The-Lens) and ETTL-II. However, a more important (and potentially dangerous) note is that most old flashes have extremely high trigger voltages. The electronics in digital SLRs like the Canon EOS 400D/Rebel XTi can be destroyed by old flash guns with these high trigger voltages. This article explains this issue quite well:

Why Are Newer Cameras in Danger, but not Old Ones?

Once upon a time, all camera shutters were triggered mechanically. The flash switches were mechanical switches, made of metal. Cameras from the 1950’s-70’s even have two different flash settings, each with minutely different timings: “X” for strobes, and “M” for flashbulbs (which needed an extra 1/250th of a second or so to ignite).

Modern electronically-controlled cameras use a thyristor capacitor, a solid-state device that switches according to voltage potentials. It switches on and off much more quickly than mechanical switches, making it excellent for electronic control, especially of short durations. But it’s also susceptible to problems that weren’t present in the previous generations of cameras.

So how do you prevent yourself from ruining your 800 dollar camera? This comprehensive listing of flash trigger voltages over at botzilla.com (from the same source as the previous link) will help you identify problem strobes and flashes. Just identify the flash you’re using and check its details in the table provided; it also contains specific notes from fellow users with first–hand experience with specific models of flashes.

This information can be very helpful for people experimenting with flash photography, especially now that it’s on the rise and greatly inspired by the strobist blog.

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Links Techniques Tips

A Better Bounce Card

If you’ve been shooting with a lot with a hot shoe flash, you’ve probably encountered light diffusion gadgets like the Stofen OmniBounce, the Flip-it, or the magical Lightsphere. These attachments were designed to provide good light using flash guns and avoid direct flash at all cost. However, these items don’t come cheap.

A solution for budding amateurs often involves little bounce cards that work in certain situations, though not as versatile as those mentioned above. Enter Peter Gregg’s “A Better Bounce Card” which is meant to be a DIY project. This is something you can do on your own, at home, with just a few dollars worth of materials you’d typically find in art shops. Watch his tutorial video and try this one yourself, I think it holds its own against the popular (and expensive) alternatives.

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Links News Software

Apple Aperture 1.5 released

Just a quick note for our Mac–based readers: if you’ve been doing your workflow with Apple Aperture, version 5 was just released. As reported by our favorite DPReview:

Apple has announced the latest release of its Aperture photographic workflow application. Major improvements include a much improved RAW conversion engine, better performance and compatibility, image manipulation and adjustment, improved IPTC metadata handling as well as scripting either as AppleScript or Automator.

Link: Apple Aperture 1.5 @ DPReview

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Links News Reviews Tips

Canon EOS 400D Reviewed @ pipho

Canon EOS 400D Reviewed at pinoyphotography.org

Remember the first few photo samples and initial impressions we posted a few weeks ago on the Canon EOS 400D/XTi? Regie Fernando now has his complete review of the new Canon body on the pipho forums. It was actually published several days ago, and it seems several enthusiasts are now shooting with this camera.

If you’re a fellow Filipino shooter lurking in the pipho forums, you might want to take advantage of this wonderful offer provided by Henry’s Camera: Canon EOS 400D for 46,000 pesos, with a two–year warranty, an extra battery, and several other freebies. This is a good deal and seems a bit cheaper compared to other Hidalgo shops. Some are reportedly selling the 400D body only, for 42,500 pesos — a very tempting deal. Once prices drop below the 40k range, the temptation would be too hard for me to resist. ;)

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Lenses Links Photo Samples Reviews

User Review: Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Red Lady

Peter FranzĂ©n is a regular reader of this weblog who discovered it by chance as he was searching for details regarding Canon’s EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM. He is in Sweden with his website at qps.se. After shooting with the crappy 18-55mm kit lens, he upgraded to the new EF-S favorite and uses it regularly for his automative shoots.

Red Lady

He wrote us an email to strongly recommend the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM and help potential buyers make a solid decision. The photo shown below is a good demonstration of the lens’s image stabilization advantage, with the photo taken handheld at a shutter speed around 1/20 at ISO 200.

C70

Posted below is another one of the cars he shoots regularly and I can’t help but drool at the wealth of photo oppotunities he gets with these wonderful machines.

Ford Mustang

Lastly, here’s a comparison of the Canon 18-55mm kit lens against the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM:

Canon 18-55 compared to Canon 17-55

Same as before, I think this lens is an excellent performer though priced steeply. At the same price, you can get the workhorse 24-70 f/2.8L though without IS. If you have the money, I have no reservations recommending this lens if you’re an EF-S shooter intending to stay in the 1.6x APS-C format. If you’re going full–frame soon, you might want to pass on this one for now.

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Bodies Links News Product Announcements

Sigma SD14

Sigma SD14

Ever heard of Sigma’s new DSLR? They’re building up the anticipation until the actual launch on the 26th of September in Cologne, Germany. The Sigma SD14 is expected to use a new iteration of the Foveon sensor that touts better color capture capabilities. However, is this a case of too little, too late? With Canon, Sony, and Nikon fiercely battling it out in the consumer level, this new body better be catered to a more pro–inclined market. Sadly, this market is also Canon’s and Nikon’s turf. But with their supposedly revolutionary advantages, we should know in a few more months if they manage to get a good part of the digital photography pie. And if all else fails, they can always still sell value third–part lenses that are favorites of bargain shooters like me. :)

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Links Tips

Most Popular Digital Cameras of August 2006

Ever wondered what cameras are selling like hotcakes these days? Digital Camera Review has compiled the most popular cameras for August 2006. If you’re buying one anytime soon, you should consider this list. However, be aware of cameras that were just made available this month, like the Canon EOS 400D/XTi.

Some quick tips for camera buying: be sure to hold one for size and ergonomics! If you’re spending several hundred dollars on a piece of gadget, or anything for that matter, be sure you can actually use it. Some cameras are notoriously small, or simply too hard to use. Another tip: avoid buying last season’s models unless you know your stuff. Believe me on this, get the most out of your money by doing online research and finding the camera for your needs that’s within your budget.

Happy shopping!

Categories
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!

Categories
Links Tips

Hongkong photo gear prices

Most of the time, we look for the best deals on photography equipment. This is typically the lowest price possible without sacrificing quality. For us shooters here in Manila, when Hidalgo can’t get us what we need, we resort to buying it outside of the country, or have someone buy it for us. Hong Kong immediately comes to mind as it can give the cheapest price in the region.

Now to get an idea on the price of photo gears in Hong Kong, YG Billy’s World of Photography is one great resource. He lists several well–sought lenses and bodies for most SLR systems, including most popular accessories. Even included is the name of the shop he got the lowest price quote on! Next time you’re Hong Kong shopping, you know you’ll be getting a good price.

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Links News

Improved grip on the 400D

350D (XT) grip compared to 400D (XTi) grip.

Did you know that the 400D has an improved hand grip? We are referring to the much maligned grip on the 350D which has always been the complaint of shooters with larger hands. The addition of the BG–E3 vertical battery grip somehow makes things bearable, but the standard grip used to be just a bit too small. On the Canon EOS 400D, the camera specification shows that the change has been minimal, equivalent only to 1mm. Yes, 1 millimeter.

400D rear and grip area compared to 350D.

Looking closely on the photos though, you would notice that despite the almost negligible adjustment in dimension, the grip appears larger than it was before. The rear part has been made thicker by extending the CF card cover, and the front part has a small bulge in the middle but tapers at the bottom. Our observations should be correct, as early reviewers have reported better handling with the new body, as reported on Imaging Resource as well as Tekgik’s insights. Will this help in making the camera appeal more to a larger audience? What do you think?

Categories
Links News Photo Samples Reviews

Canon EOS 400D Hands On

Canon EOS 400D

As Canon’s update to its entry level digital SLR slowly makes its way to the worldwide market, we now see a surge of opinions and reviews on the new camera. The Canon EOS 400D/Digital Rebel XTi is still very much like the previous models, though packs a few surprises and still keeps photography enthusiasts very excited.

Just as we have posted links to sample photos from this camera, the camera is now officially here in the Philippines and sent for review to media people as well as prominent Canon users. One lucky guy is pinoyphotography.org’s Regie Fernando who has just posted sample photos and his initial insights on the camera in this thread and on his weblog.

The sample photos appear to be very inspiring, though it is worth noting that he used the Canon 17-40 f/4L USM and not the included kit lens. We (yes, including me!) are eagerly waiting for his in–depth review to know if the 400D is really worth the money, as I might just get one as soon as prices stabilize.

Categories
Links Photo Samples

Canon EOS 400D/XTi Samples

If you’ve been following the news on the Canon EOS 400D/XTi and other new Canon products, I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting the first stream of sample photos online. Being a regular reader (lurker?) of the Canon boards on the fredmiranda.com forums, we were able to snag a link to a member gallery trying his brand new XTi. Another photo sample on the forum was shot at ISO 1600 and was just as good as the 350D/XT and 20D/30D. Rumors of a noisier sensor may not be exactly true, and if indeed there is added senor noise, I’m sure it is negligible to most users.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi has reportedly been seen in Best Buy branches across the US, and us Canon enthusiasts here in the Philippines are restlessly waiting for our stocks.

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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.

Categories
Links News Reviews

HardwareZone Review: Nikon D80

HardwareZone scoops all photography sites by posting the first online review of the recently announced Nikon D80. DPReview.com has a preview of Nikon’s latest DSLR, but contains no sample images. In contrast, HWC’s review has complete details, though their review format/methodology is catered towards prosumers, not typical DSLR shooters or advanced amateurs.

For in–depth technical details on the Nikon D80, go with DPReview.com’s preview of the Nikon body, but get your review fix from HWC’s review. Expectedly, since the new Nikon D80 is almost a Nikon D200, their conclusion is right on the spot.

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Bodies Links News Product Announcements

Nikon D2Xs

Nikon D2Xs

Nikon’s flagship digital SLR, the D2X, has been updated and now named the D2Xs. The new camera uses the 12.21 megapixel sensor from the previous model, delivering 5 frames per second of continuous shooting. New for this model is the “viewfinder masking” when shooting in Hi–Speed Crop mode, allowing the shooter to easily distinguish the smaller frame captured.

Rob Galbraith has an article covering the new camera which will surely be talk of the Nikon world in the coming months. Though some would contend that this will spark new rounds Nikon versus Canon debates, I refuse to agree. But I sure do hope that Canon picks a few innovations from the Nikon camp and makes it available to their loyal users. Certainly, advancements no matter how small or significant continue to enhance the state of digital photography for everyone concerned.

Categories
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 photonotes.org 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.

Categories
Links News Photo Samples Product Announcements

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100

 Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 (Photo courtesy of DPReview.com)
Photo courtesy of DPReview.com

I’m sure you’ve heard about the latest newcomer in the digital SLR market: Sony. Yes, the Japanese consumer electronics giant is entering the digital SLR market via its partnership with Konica–Minolta. We reported on this news before and now it’s finally here, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100.

The camera was previewed by popular photography site DP Review almost a month ago and they even have sample photos from the promising newcomer.

Categories
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.