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ACDSee 8.1

ACDSee 8 Photo Manager & ACDSee Pro

ACDSystems has just announced an update to their two famous products, now upped to version 8.1, both for ACDSee 8 Photo Manager and ACDSee Pro Photo Manager. Several feature improvements are included in this update, along with increased performance and improved RAW support.

ACDSee 8 Photo Manager is a very good organization tool for your photo library, and ACDSee Pro is an advanced version with even more capabilities. If you haven’t tried them, they could just be the photo library management tool you’ve been looking for.

Lenses Links Photo Samples

Flower shooting with the Sigma 17-70


Our search for more sample photos taken with the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro has led us to a great gallery of the Minter Gardens by PBase user Alex Tsung. He notes that this lens has much faster and quieter AF than the Tamron 28-75 f2.8, suggesting that Sigma has somehow improved on their typically noisy AF system. Another observation he noticed was the lens closer macro performance compared to the Tamron, just as we have expected.

Photozone also has a review of the Sigma 17-70, predicting that this lens will be a hot seller. I’m a few samples away from buying this one for my D60 as well. ;)

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.

Lenses Links Photo Samples Reviews

Photozone on the Canon EF-S 17-55

Photozone has finally released their review of the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM. Their one of the very first to provide a technical review of Canon’s latest gem, in fact the first true review of the lens I’ve seen on the web.

It seems that most negative speculations about the lens were false, as Photozone has found the lens excellent in image quality, especially among APS-C lenses. Vignetting is one of this lens weaknesses, and the expected 1100 USD selling price raises questions about its build and other monetary considerations. Still, if I had that amount of money to spend on a lens, I’d definitely get this.

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.

Lenses Links Photo Samples

More Sigma 17-70 samples

The Sigma 17-70 is now slowly making its way from the retail stores to the very first happy owners of the lens. PBase already has a few users shooting with the said lens, and most of the samples have shown the its capabilities and more importantly, value for money.

We have two galleries from another user, and these two are worth looking at: San Juan, Puerto Rico and Paradise Revisited. Head on to see what this new lens from Sigma could do.

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.

Lenses Links Photo Samples

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

In the battle of the normal zooms, it looks like the expected leader is already here, as the first few samples from the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM are already here. This lens is expected to set the standards for this range and lead against the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro, the upcoming Tamron SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF, and the still in the works Tokina 16-50 f2.8.

Note that as of writing, Google Pages is reporting a “bandwidth message” for the said site and images, probably a result of the sudden surge of photography enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the first real world samples from this lens.

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.

Lenses Links

Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC

Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC

The Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC is one of the earliest F2.8 lens in the 18-50mm range, and has been very popular since it was released several months ago. At its current street price in the 400-500 USD range, it can very well compete with the upcoming Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM and the Tamron SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF which are both expected in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, these two new lenses will come at a premium price, putting the Sigma 18-50 in a very competitive price advantage.

Real–world samples of photos taken with this lens has shown excellent quality, and the range is very usable as it translates to 28-75mm lens for APS–sized sensors in DSLRs.

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.

Lenses Links Photo Samples

Sigma 17-70mm samples

I mentioned the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro not too long ago, eagerly awaiting the first batch of real–world samples from early buyers of the lens. Now they’re here!

PBase user smallufo took photos of his brand new Canon EOS 30D, using his 300D and a Sigma 17-70. This clearly shows the lens’s excellent macro performance, with focus and exposure spot–on in good lighting. He has some portraits using the lens, and based on them I think this lens is a capable performer considering its value.

Also from PBase is Bela Pecsek’s Sydney gallery, with several photos taken with the Sigma 17-70. By far, this is the best outdoor samples I’ve seen for this lens.

Nicky Thurgar is another shooter with this lens, and he she has some photos that shows the lens’s fine qualities.

From these early consumer samples, the lens should be a good seller considering its quality–value balance. There is no doubt that its macro capabilities is superb. Resolution is okay, along with color, saturation, and contrast. Let’s hope that it doesn’t have focusing issues like those reported concerning recent Sigma lenses. In a few more weeks we should get decisive feedback from others on the overall performance and values, along with its weaknesses. Until then, keep shooting!

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!

Lenses Product Announcements

Tamron SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF

Tamron SP AF17-50MM F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF

This fast zoom from Tamron promises to be a good alternative to the popular Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, which has proven to be an affordable walkaround lens for 1.6x crop crowd. However, the list price of almost US $800 is much higher than the Sigma which retails in the street around the US $400 dollar range. It is much closer to the upcoming Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, expected at the US $1200 price point. However, the Canon has image stabilization which puts it a technical advantage.

This Tamron is expected to perform very well as it is based on their top–selling SP AF28-75MM /2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical IF, but for it to sell well, it should be much closer to the 500 dollar range, in the vicinity of the Sigma.

Currently, sample photos are not yet available online and we are eagerly awaiting the first ones from this new lens.

Lenses Reviews

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro

The newly announced Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro provides a relatively fast yet cheap walkaround lens that can take a spot in the amateur DSLR shooter’s arsenal. Translating to approximately 28-105mm for APS-C DSLRs, this lens also boasts strong macro shooting capabilities, with a maximum magnification of 1:2.3 that’s uncommon for zoom lenses.

Here are two links detailing the lens’s performance compared to two good lenses: against the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC and against the Canon 17-85 f4-5.6 IS USM.

I know I want this one!

Photoshop Tips Tutorials

Align with horizon

This is a common mistake many of us do: great landscape photos slightly tilted to one side. This simple tutorial should be very helpful in fixing such a problem.

But next time, always try to get your horizon horizontal! Using a tripod helps a lot, especially those with leveling mechanisms.

Site News

Digital Photographer

Digital Photographer is a new weblog dedicated to the digital shooter, with information on equipment, technique, business, and everything else that comes with this passion. Keep yourself tuned!