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Three-Pack Tuesday featuring Parkour

September 17th, 2013 No Comments

Our weekly three-pack takes in a specialist mini-gallery, a mirrorless compact, and a how-to.

Gallery

This (very) specialized mini-gallery on the Nikon Blog is about an emergent urban ‘x-sport’ that originated in Palestine from whence it gradually spread to Europe: Parkour.

 Claudiu Voicu is “a former parkour athlete” and “professional street sports photographer” so he brings the sensitivity of the athlete to his photography.

This sport, generally associated with marginalized social classes on the fringes, somehow suggests a post-civilizational, even dystopic, view in its imagery.  After all, where is the sports field?  The competitor(s)?  The spectators?  All we see are massive monoliths of concrete and someone who looks like a ‘street tough.’

These facts combine to offer a photographer a very different, and much more artistic, challenge than traditional sports does.  Look at the images and see if you agree.

If they inspire you to try your hand at photographing Parkour, take in Voicu’s tips: compose for the “colourful clothing” in the settting of “the urban landscape.”

Gear

The new Fujifilm X-M1 has just been reviewed by Jeff Keller and Andy Westlake on DPReview.

This is a high performance camera that is low maintenance.  In other words, novices who have no desire to creep up to amateur status but do want to take the finest possible photographs may find that the X-M1 is tailor-made for them.

Consider what Keller and Westlake have to say about the sensor: “We’ve been impressed with this 16 megapixel X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor in our reviews of cameras like the X-E1 and X100S, with JPEG quality so high that you rarely need to use Raw.”

Coupled with that, this camera has different AE modes, filters, and all the electronic and wireless features one could want.  It also stands out from the crowd on a few criteria, such as excellent fill-in flash.

In the tradition of its predecessors, the image quality is more than just a good value for money; it is “exceptional.”

How-To

Shutterbug’s fascinating how-to is low on words and high on the pictures.  They teach and explain by illustration as to just how and when to make use of Shallow Depth of Field.

The usages range from creating “painterly effects” to setting off pin-sharp silhouettes to leading and holding the eye on a particular subject.

This tutorial, if nothing else, is a treat on the eyes.

New Gear and Gadget Roundup

September 11th, 2013 No Comments
Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

New iPhone

As you may know by now, more photos taken with an iPhone are uploaded to photo-sharing sites than those taken with any other camera or smartphone.(!)  As such, it’s only reasonable for a photography blog to take note when a new iPhone hits the shelves – and that happened yesterday with the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S.

The Telegraph, of all publications, has a very complete breakdown of specs and features plus some links that Apple fanboys may like.  For a tabular comparison, check out Tech Wrench.  Both iPhones have 8 MP cameras but the specs indicate that the 5S’s camera pips that of the 5C.  A textual comparison on Geek confirms this suspicion.

Finally and most importantly, check out Amateur Photographer’s take on the new iPhones for a camera-centric evaluation and a photographer’s point of view.

Both iPhones’ cameras also (of course) shoot video and here too the 5S is slightly better.

New Contraption

If you’ve ever tried to photograph lightning or fireworks, only to go ‘aargh!’, now you can make your family and friends go ‘wow!’   Hours back Shutterbug heralded the arrival of ‘The Lightning Bug.’  

This ‘bug’ is one smart contraption; in essence it is a shutter trigger with a sensor and automation to take the luck (and skill and anticipation) out of shooting lightning and fireworks!  Get the lowdown on the ‘bug’s website.

New (and Cheap) Everything!

To close out our Gear post, here’s Dan Richards on Popular Photography.  Minutes back they published The Best Photography Bargains of 2013.

This article is divided into three parts: Travel / Adventure, Everyday Shooting, and Studio Photography.  The typical reader of this blog will be most interested in the middle category, 

If you’re in for a DSLR, it’s Canon’s very-not-new EOS 60D that comes up trumps!  You see, Richards explains that after the announcement of the 70D, the 60D got steeply discounted to the extent that you can get “a larcenously good deal” for one of the best DSLRs out there.

You’ll also find some nifty little I-didn’t-know-thats, like the SpinLight 360 system, in this article.

 

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Most Photogenic Religion and Other Curiosities

September 10th, 2013 No Comments

Our semi-weekly tri-pack takes in a camera, a gallery, and an interesting news post.

Brand New from Olympus

Photography sites are abuzz today with Olympus’s new offering: a 16.1 MP Four-Thirds.  That’s the OM-D E-M1.  The big selling point is super-fast AF, named ‘Dual Fast AF.’  In addition, as long as you have a ‘Regular’ or Micro Four-Thirds lens mounted, the camera can focus on any one of 37 phase-detection focus points or focus by 81 contrast-detection target areas.

The camera has a few other upgrades from the previous model; these include an improved grip and improved EVF.  Philip Ryan has a comprehensive overview in Popular Photography which covers such improvements while Chris Cheesman’s summary in Amateur Photographer touches on the high points, coupled with an insight and a conjecture.

The OM-D E-M1 has a wonderful mix of necessary and customary pro functions plus enthusiast features, such as ‘Art Filters.’

World Photographic Cup

FIFA and ICC, watch out: football and cricket ain’t the only sports in town boasting a World Cup.  Another ‘Federation’ has announced another ‘World Cup’, this one for photogsZoltan Arva-Toth has the scoop on Photography Blog.

The sports model extends to the fact that competition will be by way of national teams!   (Coloured jerseys mandatory? Arva-Toth omits this key information.)  The call for entries has already been met by nineteen countries.  Oz is going to send a team.  (Our insider reports say that Shane Warne is arguing with the AIPP that he should be captain.)

We’ll know whether or not this is a real World Cup on finals day simply by observing the winning team’s behaviour: will they take victory laps and squirt champagne all over the place? 

Most Photogenic Religion

Some religious denominations are just more photogenic than others and the drama of Pentecostalism makes it a strong contender for ‘Most Photogenic Religion.’  Damaso Reyes’s photo-story on Pentecostalism on the Leica Blog is proof of this assertion.  Trances, shakes and wailing are in evidence.  

This gallery is brilliant photojournalism that brings a good few ‘decisive moments.’  Don’t neglect to notice some astute use of light (there’s a photo of a woman and a boy, each in religious fervour, but light is treated or employed very differently in these photographs such that each ‘light’ somehow suits the singular fervour of the subject).  

There’s a funny parallel at work in this photo-story: Reyes explains, “Pentecostals believe in the primacy of the direct relationship between god and the believer.”  Well, his photos get the viewer ‘inside the skin’ of his subjects, thus he creates something of a “primacy of the direct relationship” between his subjects and the viewer.

 

Gear Special: Flash! Flash! Flash!

August 30th, 2013 No Comments

We have the most unusual of gear posts today; we take in three posts about three flash kits.  The makers are Lowel, Nissin and Pentax, and we make stops on pdn online, Shutterbug, and Digital SLR Photo.

Okay, the Lowel unit is not a flash per se; it’s an LED spotlight.  Jesse Will on pdn online has the goods on the Lowel GL-1.

This unit has enormous selling points.  It is lightweight, hand-held and battery-operated.  Add to that a focussing ring to adjust the coverage angle and a dimmer to control the intensity, and one has an extremely powerful lighting solution for many outdoor needs.

You can use it as a spot, fill, or deploy it with an umberella.  Apart from its versatility, other positives, according to Will, are ergonomic design and long battery life.

Next up is the Nissin MF18.  And – uh-oh – this one isn’t a proper flashlight either!  As Jack Neubart explains on Shutterbug, it is a specialized unit: a ringlight for macro work.  This unit is meant for Canon and Nikon’s TTL systems.

Neubart explains the technical construction and function of this ringlight, going into details about its LEDs, flash tubes, etc.  The specs that are most interesting are that several adapter rings are included and that in TTL mode, output intensity is adjustable from 1:8 through 1:1 to 8:1 (the ringlight has independently-controlled halves).  This point is illustrated with close-ups of a miniature rose.

This ringlight has other strong points which Neubart enthuses about, for instance, its display is highly “readable” and overall operability is “simple and straightforward.”

Finally, we get to an honest-to-goodness flash unit – two of them!

Ricoh’s new Pentax AF540FGZ II and AF360FGZ II boast a host of enviable features from what may be seen on the full press release on Digital SLR Photo.  As reflected in the model numbers, these units’ guide numbers at ISO 100 are 54 and 36 respectively.

These speedlites’ main claim to fame is ruggedness – ‘neither rain nor snow.’  Their 28-point sealing ensures that they are highly weather-resistant.

They possess a handy-dandy up-to-date feature: a fixed-light LED.  This combines with the now-ubiquitous Video Mode on cameras to give an assist in low-light situations.  On top of that this LED also has a few other uses.

These speedlites have customizable presets and four kinds of flash controls from TTL to manual.  Add to that adjustable coverage angles, vertical and horizontal bounce flash, and more, and the sum amounts to superlative products from Pentax.

 

A Special Gadget Wrap

August 19th, 2013 No Comments

Camera

Panasonic just keeps impressing and impressing either with sheer quality or with breakthroughs, and where the new Lumix DMC-FZ72 is concerned, it’s the latter.  You see, it has a 20-1200mm (35mm equivalent) zoom!  At 60x, Photography Blog says it’s “currently the longest in the industry.” With this kind of focal-length range, its aperture of F2.8 – 8.0 (W), F5.9 – 8.0 (T) shouldn’t be too surprising.

This bridge camera is a tad bigger than most and though the reviewer, Matt Grayson, says “it looks quite futuristic,” it’s not like anything out The Jetsons or Minority Report; however, it is “chunkier” than the norm with a really protruding grip.

The proof of the pudding is in the images and here the DMC-FZ72 more than holds its own.  Images at sub-400 ISOs are excellent and those between ISO 400-800 are perfectly good for online viewing.

Not a great value for money, this camera claims near-top ratings in ‘Features’ and ‘Ease-of-Use.’  A good choice, perhaps, for a bird watcher who’s new to photography?

Lenses

Sometime back this month Shutterbug published quite a long article on lenes – over a dozen of them.  Actually this article is a preview of new lenses that have just made or will make their debut this year.  Jack Neubart covers all the major brands and every possible focal length from a 180-degree fisheye from Yasuhara Madoka to specialized lenses for astrophotography from Celestron, taking in exotica like a Rokinon Tilt-Shift lens along the way.

Most photogs will be interested in (relatively) prosaic offerings from Canon, Nikon, Tokina, and the usual suspects.

One of the highlights is Nikon’s “longest fixed focal length, FX-format AF-S lens,” an 800mm (F 5.6) monster with a teleconverter that brings the focal length up to 1000mm.  The price tag is a monster that matches the lens!  ‘Just folks’ photogs may be more interested in the Tamron and Sigma lenses with ‘just folks’ focal lengths and prices to match.

Gadget

iPhone camera-lovers may have a MasterCard in their wallets but what they really want is another type of charge card: the punningly-named ‘ChargeCard.’

PhotoJojo explains, with the aid of a GIF, that this is actually a USB mobile-phone-charging cable that has the size and dimensions of a charge card.  The engagingly-written product page provides more details about this clever product which will ensure that you’re never stranded for juice if you’re near any USB outlet.

 

Gear Day on the BPrints Blog, and Beginner’s Day at Nikon

August 6th, 2013 No Comments

The past 24 hours have seen a far-higher-than-normal number of gear announcements.  So much so that all we can do is take in some highlights!  What’s more, it’s an all-Nikon post today.

Only a few hours back (among other announcements), Nikon announced two new Coolpix cameras, both meant for beginners.  Softpedia carried a brief announcement of both items; DPReview focussed on one of them, the S6600, while Popular Photography aimed its sights on the other, the L620.

The latter camera, the L620, is set up to be a super-zoom at a super price: you get 25 to 350mm of range for only around $250.  As almost always with this class of camera, the drawback – also qualified with an ‘only’ – is the aperture range of F3.3-5.9.  Another drawback is the lack of manual modes but newbies should be pleased with not only the scene modes but the 18.1 megapixels on a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor.  Nikon is marketing this kit to soccer moms: with this camera it’s “easy to capture amazing memories from a baby’s first steps to a big hit at a little league baseball game.”

The calling card of the S6600 is ‘connectivity,’ so this one’s probably targetted to the iPad- and smartphone-equipped Instagram crowd.  Another clue as to the targeted demographics is that, with a fully-articulated LCD, this kit is ‘selfie friendly.’  A little more expensive than the other Coolpix, it has 16 megapixels on its CMOS sensor and a similar small downer in the aperture range of F3.3-6.3; however, the two Coolpix entries are so different that they don’t eat each other’s lunch.  Above all, this kit has builtin WiFi and even gesture control so as to appeal even further to the ‘Connected Crowd.’    

Petapixel writes that earlier today, Nikon announced three pieces of gear, a Coolpix, a speedlight, and a zoom.  All three easy-to-use and inexpensive-to-buy items are targeted to novices and beginners.  The Coolpix is the L620 mentioned above.

The zoom is a 18-140mm F3.5-5.6 for APS-C cameras, with improved stabilization and autofocussing.  

Which makes for a perfect transition to a story titled The Rise of the F/4 Zoom Lens.  Peter Kolonia on Popular Photography identifies the increasingly ‘popular’ F4.0 zoom which he calls a “happy median” between function and utility, and price, and also a few more criteria that he lists.

The “just right” mix of constant aperture, weight, optics and price of an F4.0 zoom just can’t be beat according to the “handful of pros” Kolonia spoke with.  Do you have one of them?  Your neighbourhood Wedding Pro probably does.

 

Three-Pack: News, Gear, and How-To

July 31st, 2013 No Comments

We’ll close the week with one nibble each from three of our usual categories: interesting news, tutorials and how-tos, and gear and gadgets.  

News

If you’re an amateur you’re probably not a member of the AIPP.  Why not see how ‘the other half lives’?  Earlier today the AIPP reported on their just-finished Epson-Sponsored State Awards 2013 which ended after Victoria’s winners were announced.  A “total of 3383 prints [were] entered by 620 entrants” with only seven – one from each state – winning the overall ‘Professional Photographer of the Year” title.

Check out the winners on AIPP Epson Photographer of the Year Awards.  All the honoured photos, i.e. the best photographs of each category-winning photographer, are viewable but this may not be immediately evident.  Just click the state name in the top bar, e.g. here’s the page for NSW.  A mini-gallery of dozens of gorgeous photos, dimmed, will be displayed.  Hover/mouse-over on each to remove the dimming or click on a photo to view it in high-res.

Gear

You may have read about Socialmatic’s Polaroid-branded camera for the Instagram crowd.  It is so ‘Instagramy’ that the camera too is square!  The Polaroid name makes perfect sense because this camera will spit out printed photos.  Unlike those old Polaroids, this is a bona fide digital camera which will store your prints on a card, thus you get the best of both worlds.

Make it the best of three worlds: as a ‘connected’ camera, with WiFi and Bluetooth, you can instantly upload and share photographs too.

Several days back Photography Blog and and Digital Spy published details about this early 2014 release’s impressive features and specs and its price – and if the quality is any good, at that price this baby is gonna be a smash hit.

Tutorial

Earlier today Shutterbug published a highly-specific how-to by Clay Blackmore: Mastering the 3/4 Couples Pose.

Blackmore provides four tips that include a rather counter-intuitive launch-pad and a ‘couple shooting’ fundamental for the second step, ‘Lean In,’ though that is “never about pushing them together all at once,” he advises.  Other good advice includes shooting ‘classic’ before you get ‘creative’.

Check out the article for the rest of the tips in this brief how-to that is adorned with one or two couple photos whose subjects you may recognize.

The format of today’s post is mirrored on our sister site so if you like the topics but not the exact contents, head over to the other blog where something may strike your fancy.

 

Akvis, Fujifilm, Canon: Apps, Lenses, Allegations!

July 22nd, 2013 No Comments

A Revised App

Akvis have just released AirBrush v. 2.0.  If you’re a photographer, it allows you to play at being Cezanne or Gauguin.  

Available either as a standalone app or a plugin for Photoshop, AirBrush converts your plain jane photograph into an airbrushed painting with one click – choose one of the 55 presets and that’s it.  Or mess around with the effect settings.

The sample image on Photography Blog’s write-up indeed resembles a restrained expressionistic landscape.  You can also achieve a fine illustration effect, among others.

Photography Blog says that a “full-featured free evaluation download of AKVIS AirBrush v.2.0 is available at the Product Page.”

A New Lens

Fujifilm, capitalizing on its growing perception of being a big league camera-system maker, has been making lenses for a while.  The latest one is a prime pancake lens, the XF 27mm F2.8 (41mm equivalent).  This lens has just been reviewed by Mark Goldstein on Photography Blog.

Its design is based around five elements, including one aspheric, in four groups.  

Performance-wise it does extremely well where distortion and chromatic aberrations are concerned with edge sharpness being the only fly in the ointment.  An interesting quirk of this lens is that the aperture at which you can get the sharpest images is not two or three stops from wide open, but, all the way down at f/11.

Getting top marks in size and weight, Fujifilm’s XF 27mm F2.8 garners four out of five stars from Goldstein and Photography Blog.

A Fresh Allegation

In case you’ve been away from the rumour grapevine, Canon has lately been up to some mischief.  Rik Henderson on Pocket-lint puts it thus: “Canon allegedly testing 75-megapixel Pro DSLR camera.”  

Such a leap in resolution technology would put Canon squarely in competition with large format and digital back makers and separate itself from Nikon.

The piece also mentions giant advances in the rear LCD’s resolution and the frame rate.

The news of the monster MP number has been churning up the blogosphere for the past several hours; however, the sole source for all the hubbub seems to be one rumour published on Photography Bay by Eric Reagan.

That said, bookmakers are offering even odds that before 2014 closes, Canon will indeed announce such a camera.

 

Story-Review-Gallery Combo

July 16th, 2013 No Comments

Story

Thank heavens we’re not ‘fanboys’ and thank heavens we don’t do reviews anyway!  DPReview has a short story about bogus online reviews that ‘dis’ one or another product.  These fake reviews are attributed to fanboys gone bad.  This news story is actually based on a bona fide academic study, Deceptive Reviews: The Influential Tail (40 pages) by Eric Anderson and Duncan Simester.  

It’s an open secret that some small-time brands and sellers purchase review writers’ ‘services.’  Anderson and Simester have uncovered a dual reverse phenomenon: some self-appointed reviewers post negative reviews . . . gratis! 

Briefly, the authors began with a set of reviews that were known to be genuine and another set that was known to be fake.  They used syntactic and linguistic analysis over these different sets to determine whether any patterns could be found, and voila!  These findings allow one to infer which review has a good chance of being a fake.

Electoral candidates well know the value of negative advertising during elections.  Clearly, some ‘fanboys’ are learning well from them.

Review

Having written what we have above, we’d better not sound negative about the Samsung Galaxy S4.  Fortunately, all we’re doing is concisely presenting what Daniel Bell has to say on ePHOTOzine about this android gadget.

This 13 MP smartphone camera has Full HD video and goodies like Panorama and HDR modes.  Notably, it has an AMOLED display – a Samsung-LG innovation from last year.

Image quality in all its facets is not something to get too excited about; then again, there’s nothing particularly poor about it.  Bell politely uses the word ‘good’ throughout this part of his review.

It edges the iPhone 5 on one score: high-res panoramas but in portraits it’s “not ideal” – they “aren’t great.”  Bell awards the Galaxy S4 two 3-1/2 stars and two 4 stars in ePHOTOzine’s four essential review criteria. 

Gallery

Masters of Vision is a British biennale that is due to open next month to “showcase the work of legendary master landscape photographer Joe Cornish and eight other inspirational UK landscape photographers,” reports Photography Blog.

Judging from the images on the website’s main page this exhibition is much about Ethereal Nature.

In truth this gallery is deserving of a full-length post, comprising as it does of some of the finest work of some of the country’s finest photographic artists

Take, for instance, Joe Cornish’s incredibly captured ‘God Beams’ bathing a hilly Northern landscape, making for an image that is quite transfixing.  Or David Baker’s minimalistic study of sky, waves and spume, radiating both beauty and menace.

Come to think of it, with the amazing variety and sheer number of gorgeous photographs in this gallery, why not dedicate a post exclusively to it . . . .

If this Story-Review-Gallery combo doesn’t do it for you, head over to today’s equivalent on our sister blog!

 

Oh, The Rugged Sea Life!

July 12th, 2013 No Comments

Today’s three-part post focusses on stories from the past day or two that have to do with being rugged, on ‘sea life’, and both

Rugged

The Pentax K-30 is not an out-and-out competitor in the ‘tough camera’ category; rather, it is a small DSLR that is rugged and designed for extreme weather usage.  As it happens, Pentax’s very own Optio WG-2 is considered to be the best tough camera.

 Joe Farace has reviewed the K-30 on Shutterbug and found lots to enthuse about in this 16 MP APS-C camera.  For example, the autofocus is superfast, the image stabilization is first-rate, and it will work through a mountain rainstorm, thanks to its 81 seals and cold-resistant characteristics.

The K-30 is a DSLR that is not only hardy but is also inviting to novices: besides good old auto-exposure it has ‘Auto Picture Mode,’ turning it into a point-and-shoot, no matter the situation.  The newbie can rest assured that the camera will pick the right scene mode.

Read Farace’s review for the full lowdown on the camera that “has the persona of an entry-level digital SLR [but] is clearly much more than that.”

SeaLife

SeaLife, as one may infer from the name, makes cameras especially for the rigours and special circumstances of underwater photography and deep-sea diving.

A press release on Shutterbug states that their ReefMaster is a 9MP camera that is waterproof to a depth of 200 feet.  It has built-in colour correction for underwater shooting.

There is a dearth of professional independent reviews on the ReefMaster.  It seems to have a wart or two, such as an optional lens obscuring a part of the flash, but at its price-point it seems to be more than adequate for underwater snapshot photography.

Rugged And ‘SeaLife’

We’ll close by bringing together ruggedness and ‘sea life’ in a single story.

After three months at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, an Olympus Tough camera lived up to its name: it yielded a memory card with about 500 holiday photos.  That’s tough!

The brief story on ePHOTOzine relates that two Finnish divers who lost it were traced through Facebook after a German diver retrieved the camera.  It also has two photos of the Olympus Tough caked with sea-salt all round!  

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