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Of Pelicans and Pixels; Pots and Pans

July 11th, 2013 No Comments

Pelican: The Shape of Things to Come?

If you’re up-to-date on camera technology you’ll have heard of the Lytro, a camera which captures reflected rays from different angles of incidence to construct an image whose focus-point can be controlled and adjusted after the fact.

Now Pelican is barging in on Lytro (which has been featured on our sister blog) territory and going one better: you can choose multiple focus-points which can be at different planes in the image.  As Leo Kelion describes it in Computational photography on BBC, “a photographer in New York could choose to make the details of her husband’s face and the Statue of Liberty behind him sharp but everything else – including the objects in between them – blurred.”

Kelion’s interesting article is not solely about Pelican but is about the shape of things to come in ‘computational photography.’  With this in mind, Pelican’s technology too is not a mature, market-ready product.

Another leg-up that Pelican has over Lytro is that it is a technology that is small enough to be housed in a mobile phone.  No wonder, then, that Nokia has invested in it.

Nokia’s Gazillion-Pixel Play

Image representing Nokia as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Talking about Nokia, let’s talk about Nokia.  Their spanking new Lumia 1020 has 41 megapixels!  We stay with Kelion on BBC for this roundup.  

Though sheer number of megapixels is not the main driving force when consumers choose a mobile phone, this statistic will draw attention to Nokia, which should have a spillover effect to its other products – that’s the idea behind this handset with the ‘Are you kidding?’ stat.

All those megapixels aren’t only a ploy, mind you: where image quality is concerned Kelion says that analysts are nearly unanimous that the Lumia 1020 is on top of the mobile phone pile.  The camera – oops, mobile phone! – also offers Full HD video and an optical image stabilizer.

Kelion writes that this handset carries “a premium price” and perhaps it does, but where else can you get all that high-high-res plus a few optical-camera goodies thrown in and a bona fide smartphone at that price?  Over to you, Apple.

Last Word

You may have heard this one before but last word to neilwinch: “A photographer went to a dinner party where he showed many of his photographs. The lady of the house said, ‘Those are very nice pictures, you must have a great camera.’ He said nothing, but when leaving for home offered the following compliment to the lady of the house: ‘The meal was very nice, you must have great pots and pans.'”

 

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A Nice Pairing: FinePix S8400W and jAlbum 11

July 8th, 2013 No Comments

Fujifilm’s FinePix S8400W has got the once-over by Daniel Bell on ePHOTOzine.  

This is classed as a ‘bridge camera’ – or should it be called a ‘hybrid camera’?  As far as appearance goes, it certainly looks like something cobbled together.   For a camera so light and small, the DSLR-style pronounced, protruding grip stands out as does the flash housing on the plate.

Bell’s review is nothing if not honest; you don’t often read sentences like this one: “At ISO 6400 and 12800 image quality is dreadful, these two settings are best avoided.”  At the same time, because it’s so strikingly honest, we can take him at his word when he says, “The EVF is very bright and makes shooting easier in low light, in bright light when outdoors and when using the zoom” and “Good value for money.” 

The lens goes from 24mm up to 1056mm (35mm equivalent), but what’s especially eye-catching is this spec: f/2.9 to f/6.5.  This f-stop range compares favourably with other superzooms and other inexpensive cameras.

The best thing about this 16.2 MP camera is that it’s chock-full of features, all available at a wallet-friendly price.  Importantly, it also has WiFi plus USB and HDMI slots.  The whole package is just right for that young ’un who wants to get a ‘real camera’.  

Bell says about the FinePix S8400W that “image quality isn’t the best, but it’s not bad, particularly if you tend to share on the web.”  How about sharing using jAlbum 11, then?

Image representing Jalbum as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

jAlbum is an album/gallery app that’s been around for a while.  It’s free but comes with a ‘Pro’ option.  The highlight feature of Version 11, just out, is seen by Softpedia as “converts over 160 video formats suitable for the web (mp4).”

Photographers, however, would be interested in the app’s utility for pictures and here it doesn’t disappoint.  Novice or amateur photographers who’re interested in a fast, inexpensive, no-fuss way of creating albums/galleries may want to take a look at this app.

The just-issued press release, available on Shutterbug, explains that all you need do is drag-drop your entire folder (or any selection of images) and jAlbum will do the rest.  Feel free to add skins (themes) and customize as you go along!

It also has some features that would be attractive to aspiring pros: batch watermarking and integration with downstream service providers.

In an age when your sole rights to your own images seem to be questioned and infringed at every digital stop, perhaps jAlbum 11’s biggest selling point is its declaration: “jAlbum does not claim any rights to your images, and never will.”

 

‘White Out’ and Black Infra

June 26th, 2013 No Comments

Olympus PEN E-P5

Feature-packed, technology-packed, and tradition-packed.  That about sums up Olympus’s new PEN E-P5

On the 50th Anniversary of the PEN F, Olympus is launching ” a digital update of [that] classic film camera.”

Although the story on Shutterbug is actually just a press release from Olympus, it’s worth a look because of the blend of features, tech and tradition in this 16 MP interchangeable-lens compact.   For instance, the camera has built-in WiFi, a top speed of 1/8000, traditional dials and knobs, assignable functions, optional viewfinder, interval shooting, time-lapse movie, and a ‘photo story’ mode.

For a preliminary review head over to DPReview which says that it is “a serious camera, but one that has real charisma too.  Overall the E-P5 takes a significant step forward from the E-P3, and is perhaps best seen as an E-M5 in a slimmed-down body. Yet it adds useful extra features of its own . . . .”

Unfortunately, for all that it is, it seems that Olympus have overpriced the PEN E-P5.

White Out

Photographer Eirik Johnson’s “meditation on the passage of time” gives a whole different meaning to the term ‘white out’.

Johnson has taken ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’ photographs in Barrows, Alaska of exactly the same cabin from exactly the same spot, reports D.L. Cade on PetaPixel.

Though strictly documentary, these photographs have a startling quality about them due to the intense shift in seasonal landscape.  What are sunny splotches of colour in scenes you may come across most anywhere in the world turn into stark white and shades thereof in the paired photograph.

Black Infra

From whites to intense, lustrous blacks, which is the usual result when shooting infra-red.

David English has an unusually technical article on the Leica Blog in which he explains how he used a B+W #092 filter to mimic IR film and the complications of using it with a Summilux-M 24mm.  These include issues like autofocus being affected and the exposure meter being fooled.

If the techicalities of IR don’t interest you, do check out the gallery for some arresting takes on everyday scenes that seem to be out of the Twilight Zone and feature some velvety blacks.

 

Of Prettiness and Pictures

June 18th, 2013 No Comments

Make your Pictures Prettier

If Photoshop and Lightroom are a bit too complicated for you but you’d like to have pro-level image correction, here’s Athentech Imaging’s Perfectly Clear to the rescue.  Steve Bedell’s review in Shutterbug is aptly subtitled “A Quick Fix For Your Photos.”  

Perfectly Clear can batch-process hundreds of files in one fell swoop or it can attack the imperfections in a photo one image at a time.

Even if you take it photo by photo, where portraits are concerned “the stand-alone version of Perfectly Clear is doing in one step what previously took two or more in other programs, plus some Photoshop work,” says Bodell.

This ability is the result of advanced smarts and builtin presets that makes Perfectly Clear “very easy to use.”  The article has lots of impressive before and after images.  The clarity, texture, and ‘pop’ that this app introduces is self-evident.

As Pretty as a Picture

The Olympus E-P5 is in reviewers’ hands and Roger Slavens at Imaging Resource appears to be pleased with it, as was Mike Tomkins when he gave it a first look.

This classy, good looking camera is a 16 MP four-thirds mirrorless that follows on the heels of the E-P3, to which it is the successor.  It also incorporates some features from the OM-D E-M5 to which is added “a generous sprinkling of features unique to the new camera.”  Thus, perhaps the PEN standard (and perhaps the mirrorless standard) is reset to a new level?

This camera is loaded with external controls, has a top shutter speed of 1/8000 and a top ISO of 25600.  Add to that five-axis stabilization and WiFi and one has a high tech camera at an inexpensive price.  At the same time the E-P5 maintains the Olympus heritage as it is reminiscent of 1960s PEN cameras in appearance.

Its build quality is solid yet it is as pretty as a picture.  The first look includes much more than you may expect; it covers creative modes, flash, and LCD display.

 

Lenses – Seven, Hundred, Millions!

June 17th, 2013 No Comments

The past few days have seen a spate of news reports and articles about lenses.  Let’s make lenses today’s post’s theme; lenses by number and by major camera brand!

Seven Lenses with Pentax

The term ‘box set’ usually brings to mind CDs – at least of CDs during their heyday, as in ‘Bear Family box set’.  One does not associate photographic equipment with that term.  Pentax, however, wants to change that.  

Photo Rumors reports that the company has announced a limited edition box set that contains the Q7 mirrorless, a couple of filters, and seven ‘kit’ lenses, all neatly packaged in a box that’s a bit different than the standard camera packaging.  The edition is limited to 1000. 

The Photo Rumors page also includes some eye-popping news of a commercial lens-less camera and a Nokia smartphone with a 41 MP camera!

120 Lenses with Canon

Kevin Carter on DxOMark has been comparing lenses as to how they’ll function on an EOS 700D in Best lenses for you (sic) Canon EOS 700D: more than 120 lenses tested! with part 2 looking at more/other lenses

Numerous lenses have been tested as to how they perform on different Canon models and the resultant detailed report on a per-lens basis (such as Sigma 35mm F1.4) has been published.  Choose another model from the choicelist to see how the lens performs with that camera model.

More handily DxOMark has published a chart of tested lenses in order of score thus providing a ranking of sorts.  These charts are available by type of lens – prime, zoom, moderate telephoto.

One fact that pops out is the consistently high ranking and score that Sigma lenses have received coupled with their equally consistently affordable prices.  As Carter writes for one set of lenses, “For the value choice, look no further than the new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM A.”

70 Million Lenses with Nikon

Congratulations are due to Nikon – and if current production and demand are anything to go by, BIG CONGRATULATIONS will be in order in about August 2015.

Mike Tomkins on Imaging Resource reports that it’s been only about a year since Nikon made its 70 millionth Nikkor lens but the company has already passed the landmark of 80 million lenses.  Ten million lenses in just over a year – that’s huge production and massive demand.

Tomkins closes out his report with a sprinkling of spice: “Nikon’s announcement comes hot on the heels of one from arch-rival Canon, which recently turned out its 90 millionth EF-mount lens.”

If he’s alluding to a race to the 100-million mark, the odds are surely with Canon. . . .

Cameras, *Cameras*, CAMERAS!

June 4th, 2013 No Comments

It’s a ‘fast news’ day (a fast f/1.4 day) on the camera front with three new cameras reviewed in the past 24 hours as Sony makes the right kind of ‘noise’ with the world’s teeny-est APS-C mirrorless – with a matching teeny-weeny price.

Cutting Edge from Pentax

First up, though, is Pentax’s double play from a few months back, the K-5 II and K-5 IIS, successors to the K-5.  These get a detailed examination by Shawn Barnett in DPReview.  (The two cameras are only marginally different.)

These DSLRs set themselves apart from the crowd with their weather-resistance, 100-percent coverage optical viewfinder, and shake-reduction image stabilzation.  Having an APS-C CMOS sensor, these are not full-frame DSLRs but compete with the big boys.

The K-5 II (and its sibling) has a number of cutting-edge features, perhaps none more so than Composition Adjustment.  This “allows you to actually move the sensor around in the camera to adjust your framing instead of tediously moving the camera on a tripod, show Pentax’s prowess at using digital technology for all it’s worth.”   

DPReview’s write-up has paging that may not be immediately evident so be sure to click on the arrow link or use the choice-list to read the entire review (or whichever sections interest you).

A Big Rig from Fuji

The Fujifilm HS50EXR gets the once over from George Schaub in Shutterbug.  This bridge camera’s standout feature is its 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range – a 42x ratio.

Other noteworthy features include customizable settings, multi-swivel LCD screen, and USB and HDMI slots.  

This camera’s image quality is rather uneven.  On the one hand it records very good colour and is excellent at skintones; on the other, noise is manifest even at ISO 200.

This is a chunky camera and so it would suit a photographer with big hands.

A Bargain from Sony

 The Sony NEX-3N is reviewed by Joshua Waller in ePHOTOzine.  And this one’s standout feature is that it probably packs more features per square millimetre than any other camera!

To begin with, this teeny thing (110 x 62 x 34.5 mm) would fit into a child’s pants pocket yet it has, among other things, an APS-C CMOS sensor, 16 megapixels, white balance settings, video mode, and HDMI and USB.  

It also has HDR mode, Panorama mode, and more.  Some specs, such as shutter response and shutter speed range, are right ‘up there’.  What is ‘down there’, however, is this kit’s price, making it one of the best value-for-money propositions around.

 

Unusual Gear and Gadgets

April 23rd, 2013 No Comments
English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We usually have a weekly post on unusual and the bizarre news from the World of Photography on this blog while on our Professional site’s blog we have a weekly feature on gear and gadgets.  Today we’ll do a twofer: here’s a roundup of unusual gear and gadgets.

The Camera Brand that Refuses to Die

“Rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain once said.  That could just as well apply to Kodak as a maker of cameras: PhotoRumors reported yesterday that Kodak displayed a “new Pixpro mirrorless (interchangeable lens?) camera” sporting a 28-112mm zoom at the P&E Show in China.  A Kodak Camera!  And we all thought that Kodak cameras were dead!

Or perhaps they are?  For PhotoRumors does mention that a “few months ago JK Imaging got the rights to use the Kodak brand name” so is it really a Kodak?  Or are people in Developing Countries who may view Kodak as a major brand name seen as naive consumers for what is no more than a licensing-rights product?  

A legendary ‘good name’ is being sold off in bits and pieces by a once-dominant company as it gently, gently sinks into oblivion.

Reversed ND Filters

84.5mm’s ‘Reversed ND Filters’ are probably in that class of products one would call “Why didn’t anyone else think of it before?”

Not exactly “reversed”, these filters are graduated from the middle to the top and seem to have a harder transition at the other end.  

PhotographyBlog reports that they’re meant for using while shooting landscapes during the Golden Hour when your composition includes the sun so that you don’t get exposure imbalances and can maximize dynamic range.

Nice idea, and it should work . . . let’s see what reports from the field have to say.

Funky and Funkier

It’s all happening for the iPhone and iPad with one new novelty, er, ‘development’ each.  

FocusTwist is an iPhone app that synthesizes the Lytro effect.  Key word, ‘synethesizes’, for FocusTwist shoots a series of images with different focus points, unlike Lytro technology.  From there on, it’s easy to see how you can dynamically choose a different plane of focus for a photograph.

The iPad development is less of a novelty though it’s funkier: you get a zoom lens hanging off your tablet computer to complement its wee-wee 5 MP camera!  We couldn’t say it any better than Lauren Crabbe on DPReview: “There is something about seeing a tablet take photos that just brings on the giggles. Pair that with a telephoto lens and you’ve got a one-way ticket to lol-ville.”  

This one’s for iPad diehards only!

 

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A ‘Tank’ of a Camera: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FT5

April 12th, 2013 No Comments
Image representing Panasonic as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

It’s always the same: no sooner has a new champion been crowned than a gaggle of young pretenders are challenging him for his title, whatever it may be.  A scant month back we had blogged about TIPA crowning Pentax’s Optio WG-2 ‘The Best Rugged Camera’.  The latest contender who wants to lance the WG-2 off its saddle is Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FT5.

In his review on Pocket-lint, Mike Lowe refers to it as “the tank of compact cameras” which is “tough enough to flatten most traditional compact cameras’ specifications.”  Or maybe tough enough to flatten most traditional compact cameras, full-stop?

Let’s begin, however, by examining the DMC-FT5 qua camera (rather than qua tank).  It boasts 16 megapixels and that’s a big plus straight off the bat because “[e]very major manufacturer has its tough and waterproof compact camera range these days but . . . many models . . . tend to consider the key camera component as an aside to the tough concept.”  Not so this Lumix which also has an able zoom with an attractive range of 28 to 128mm (36×24 equivalent).

On-board are a variety of autofocus modes and several exposure modes including a programme mode and full manual yet straightforward shutter-priority and aperture-priority have rather oddly gone M.I.A.  On the positive side its performance and specs in burst mode and in shooting video are clearly a cut above other cameras in this class.

Though it is a chunky beast, the DMC-FT5 is also quite ergonomic according to Pocket-lint.  It certainly looks that way with the well-labelled buttons being perfectly positioned for the right thumb to control.

So far, so good.

This Lumix’s freeze-proof and dust-proof qualities mean that you can lug it from K-2 to the Kalahari where its GPS, NFC and WiFi could prove very useful.  And, if Lowe is to be believed, you can perhaps use this shock-proof kit in lieu of a tennis ball as well: “we’ve lobbed it around a fair bit without worry and every ground and surface the camera’s met hasn’t made a single dent or scratch.”

Read the full review to find out whether or not this tough-compact is your cup of tea but the gist is that its image quality is “as good as any other tough compact camera out there, which does put the FT5 in the mix as a tough cam favourite” because it has the edge in toughness and technical features.

 

Do we have a new champion?  Let’s see what TIPA has to say about the DMC-FT5 next year. . . .

 

 

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A Fujifilm ‘Bridge’ and a Nikon ‘Superzoom’

March 28th, 2013 No Comments

Fujifilm X20

If you’re looking for a compact camera to carry around 24×7 whose looks won’t make you feel sheepish and which takes more than serviceable photos, Fujifilm’s new X20 could be for you.

In a review posted earlier today, PhotographyBlog raves about its chic design and solid build quality.  It ticks all the boxes for the expected core features and adds a few to the mix.  

Though a spec of 12 megapixels doesn’t exactly stand out, the aperture of f/2.0 at 28mm and f/2.8 at 112mm does.  The 12 MP resolution goes with a 2/3-type X-Trans CMOS II sensor which identifies the X20 as a ‘bridge camera’ rather than, strictly, a compact.

It has its quirky failings, such as exposure problems at certain shutter-speed/f-stop combinations, but also its quirky bonuses: how about a 1cm focussing distance and a top shutter-speed of 1/4000 in full manual?

In keeping with its classic styling the X20 has a viewfinder – and it even displays current settings and other information (like viewfinders used to in the good old days).  

Are its images any good, you ask?  Click here to find out.

Nikon P520

This camera too is one of those that falls outside the established classes of cameras, for it’s a ‘superzoom’, the successor to Nikon’s P510.  Its focal length ranges from 24mm to 1000mm for a crazy multiple of 42.

The Nikon P520 debuted earlier this month and Pocket-lint was at hand to check it out while ePHOTOzine provides specs and sample images.

The main upgrades are that this newer model is wireless ready, needing an adaptor, and boasts an 18 MP resolution.  Pocket-lint is on the fence about the enhanced resolution, though, as packing more pixels may not ‘sit well’ on the relatively smaller sensor size. 

Indeed, the reviewers seem to be on the fence about the camera as a whole but they fail to ask the burning question:– Does one needs a single lens that goes from 24mm to 1000mm at very modest f-stops of f/3 to f/5.9, and with all the attendant optical and image quality shortcomings that are a natural consequence thereof?

In an age when technological advancements mean that so many combinations of specifications dreamt up in the design studios can actually be implemented while others are out of reach, it may make sense to ask whether or not a particular combination of specifications that is attainable is also useful and valuable.

Weekly News: Photography is for the Astute and the Imbeciles!

March 23rd, 2013 No Comments
sipa

sipa (Photo credit: isriya)

Today, our weekly three-pack of Photography News is not quirky or wacky but curious – and very interesting and equally diverse.  We look at news from the past 24 hours about an alternative energy-source camera, a resurrected photo agency, and a celebrated French portrait photographer.

Sun and Cloud Camera

If you’re going to be in the desert for a month consider taking Superheadz’s Sun and Cloud camera with you.  You don’t have to worry about running out of juice because this kit makes its own juice from the sun’s rays or from (your) elbow grease.  It has a solar-power panel and a crank which you turn to charge the camera.  Who needs batteries or electricity?!

Unfortunately the specs are distinctly underwhelming, as reported by ImagingResource.  ISO of 100 or 800.  640×480 video.  A resolution of 3 MP.  This is either a novelty camera for science labs or that precious fallback you want to keep in your bunker if you’re one of those who wants to be ready for Doomsday.  With no batteries and no electricity, you’ll be one of the few to take photos of Humankind’s last few days if you have the Sun and Cloud Camera (or a good old Nikon F3).

Sipa Resurrected

And then there were four: Black Star, Magnum, Gamma, and Sigma were the survivors after one of the ‘Big Five’ Photo Agencies, Sipa, bit the dust in November . . . but only until yesterday: for that’s when a court approved a buyout offer made by Rex Features for 50 percent of Sipa with Isopix of Belgium shelling out for a minority stake. 

Sipa will now be known as Société Nouvelle Sipa or ‘SNS’, reports the BJP.

Miguel Ferro, CEO of Rex, says that photo agencies for the most part need to be remodelled: “Selling images accounts for just five percent of [Rex’s] revenues. Today, an agency cannot simply sell photographs, it has to offer different services to its clients. . . . we’ll have to change people’s mindsets.”

Sipa or SNS still has to navigate some treacherous shoals: retrenchment, pending lawsuits, claims on archival material.  Still, it’s good to know that one of the original old ‘Big Five’ photo agencies is still alive and kicking, and may make it to its Golden Anniversary ten years hence.

The Photographer of French High Society

Balloonist, Political Cartoonist, Intellectual, Whatnot – if one examines all facts of the man Imaging Resource calls ‘The Incomparable Nadar’ we’d need a multi-part article!  Among many other things Nadar was a pioneering photographer who took advantage of then-new collodion plate negatives.

Like a painter, Nadar instinctively understood the importance of the play of light.  Like a portraitist, he tried to tease out and present the essential character of his subjects.  His intention was not to ‘bring out their best side’ let alone glamourize his subjects, as exemplified by the portraits that accompany Imaging Resource’s article.

He became the photographer for the rich and famous of his day, his clientele reading like a Who’s Who of Nineteenth Century French High Society.  He counted among his close friends Futurist Jules Verne.  In a way he can be said to have been the Gallic predecessor of, or the ‘model’ for, Cecil Beaton.

Last word to Nadar: “Photography is an art that excites the most astute minds – and one that can be practiced by any imbecile.”

 

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