Sunday, March 25, 2007

Luminous Landscape: Lightroom Video Tutorial Finished

I talked about the Luminous Landscape Lightroom video tutorial in a previous post. This weekend, the last of the video tutorials has been released. That brings the grand total to eight. If you are interested in using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, this is a great way to get started. You can purchase the Lightroom Video Tutorials and take a look for yourself.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Moving the Office

I have not posted anything in the last week or so because I have been extremely busy with moving my office. The new office is quite a bit bigger and should allow for more space for photography as well as for my other projects.

I will post some updates on photography in the next few days. I got in some of the new Pentax Optio cameras. They include the E30, M30, W30, and A30. I got a chance to go over the E30 and I am extremely impressed. I will post some thoughts on it soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

PMA 2007 Roundup

I have been very busy the last few days but I have kept track of what has been happening at PMA 2007. Now that it is over, it is time to summarize. I have already mentioned the Pentax DA* 16-50/2.8 and DA* 50-135/2.8 lenses. The Pentax Optio A30, W30, T30, M30, and E30 compact digital cameras made their appearance. Some other new Pentax products are on the horizon but are not released yet. What else happened?

The usual list of new compact digital cameras from a number of companies came up again. Canon once again increased the complexity of their lineup and others followed suit. Digital Photography Review has a PMA 2007 Show Report that gives the exhaustive list.

On the digital SLR front, we saw the Canon EOS 1D Mark III. This 10 megapixel, 10 frames per second photojournalist shotgun is another big Canon 1-series digital body that sounds something like an automatic weapon. The Nikon D40X made its appearance as a bargain-level 10 megapixel digital SLR in the shoes of the 6 megapixel D40. Not to be left out, Olympus announced the EVOLT E-510 and EVOLT E-410 digital SLRs. Noticeably absent was the rumored Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III digital SLR. It is supposed to be a 22 megapixel flagship model to replace the 16 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark II.

There were some lens announcements besides the Pentax offerings. These include a Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens released in the four thirds mount. This lens has an equivalent field of view to a 50mm lens on a 35mm film camera. Also of interest is a new Panasonic Leica 14-150mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Several things are interesting about this lens. First off, it has an equivalent field of view to a 28-300mm lens on 35mm film. This is interesting because it is the first time in a long time that a primary camera manufacturer has made a lens of this 10.7x range. Sigma and Tamron have made lenses like this but the big five have not. On the third party lens manufacturer front, Sigma has released a huge lens. This is the Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG lens. This will be a monster. No specifications have been released as of yet such as weight. Canon also updated their EF 16-35/2.8L lens with the EF 16-35/2.8L II lens.

On the storage front, we have both Lexar and Sandisk leading the way with high speed 4 GB SDHC cards. Lexar's flagship SDHC card is the 133x Pro 4 GB SDHC card and Sandisk also announced their Extreme III 4 GB SDHC card. Also interesting is a Sandisk Ultra II 8 GB SDHC card. A few other items were announced on the compact flash front as well but these are less interesting to me.

What camera was most interesting to me this year? Of course, you already know about the Pentax 645 Digital but that camera is not a reality just yet. At least on paper, the Sigma DP1 digital camera looks fascinating. It uses the interesting Foveon X3 CMOS sensor to give an effective 14 megapixels. The idea behind the Foveon X3 sensor is to give three layers of photoreceptors. These correspond to red, green, and blue and this three layer approach gives the 14 effective megapixels. The thing that is attractive is the large size of the Foveon sensor. It is considered an APS sized sensor although I think it is just slightly smaller than most APS-C sized sensors. It also has another interesting characteristic and that is its 16.6mm f/4.0 fixed lens. This is equivalent to a 28mm lens on 35mm film. This camera reminds me somewhat of a Leica M-series rangefinder. Also essential to my shooting is RAW support which this camera includes. All in all this could be an exciting camera. I am looking forward to more information on release date and especially price.

I guess that wraps it up. Obviously, more announcements were made but these are the ones that seemed most interesting to me. Take a look at the Digital Photography Review PMA 2007 Show Report for all the details.

Mac OS X 10.4.9 Update

Great news for Pentax K10D, K100D, and K110D users: Mac OS X 10.4.9 update has been released. It adds support for a number of different cameras. This link gives the details related to Aperture and RAW support.

The cameras that now have RAW support in Mac OS X are the Leaf Aptus 17, Leaf Aptus 22, Leaf Aptus 65, Leaf Aptus 75, Leaf Valeo 11, Leaf Valeo 17, Leaf Valeo 22, Leica Digilux 3, Nikon D40, Pentax K10D, Pentax K100D, Pentax K110D, Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1, Samsung GX-1L. It is also good to see Apple branching out to support medium format digital backs. I would like to see Apple start supporting the Phase One digital backs as well. Hopefully we will see this support materialize in future releases of Mac OS X.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The 10 Megapixel Digital SLR War

Apparently, everyone is getting on the 10 megapixel digital SLR bandwagon. We had Nikon with the D200 a while back. Then came the D80 and now the newly announced D40X. Pentax is there with the K10D. Olympus has been on there for a few months with the E-400 (which was not available in the U.S.). Now Olympus has jumped on with the E-410 and E-510 cameras.

Sidenote: By the way Olympus, when are you going to make sense with your lineup? The E-1 is or was your flagship model. Then the E-300 and E-330 following. The E-330 was supposed to be better than the E-500 but now the E-400 is better than both. Then comes the E-410 and E-510 while the E-510 is a better model than the E-410. This sequence is a mess. The E-410 should be the better model. Confusion abounds once again. It really is better to follow the typical 1 is better than 3 which is better than 4 which is better than 5 which is better than 10 or 100 or 1000 or whatever. It makes so much more sense.

Of course Canon recently joined with the Digital Rebel XTi. We must also mention Sony and the DSLR-A100 which descends from the Konica Minolta family tree. That gives us all five of the major digital SLR manufacturers making 10 megapixel digital SLRs at a competitive price point. This is a very interesting market all of a sudden. The good thing about all of this is increased competition. That is good for the consumer. Another sidenote: I am really not sure whether to include Sony in the big four (or five). I am not very impressed with the Alpha and its image quality. Sony does have big marketing money and brand name recognition but their product is not there yet in my opinion. They really are not a camera company of long standing recognition.

Canon has a nice camera line and the Digital Rebel XTi is no exception although ergonomics and configuration are a nuisance. The whole Digital Rebel line has been plagued by cheapness and it shows. Image quality seems to be very good and high ISO performance is good as well. Nikon does a nice job although I am concerned about their noise reduction. It has a negative effect on picture quality in my opinion. Of course, the D40X is very attractive to me because of its small size. We will have to wait for the reviews to make more informed opinions regarding image quality. Its downside, once again, is that it only works with AF-I and AF-S lenses. This pretty much eliminates all regular prime lenses. The exceptions are the super telephoto lenses.

Olympus is still out and about with the Four Thirds system. I like the system from the standpoint of small lenses and compact bodies but high ISO performance has been less than acceptable for me. This is automatically difficult for Olympus because of the small sensor size. Live view is a nice feature but not that useful for me. As sensor technology improves, Olympus will benefit significantly but it might be too little, too late compared to the other players in the market.

Sony has some interesting lenses but I do not like their camera body. I have not had very much experience with the Alpha and I have not had any experience with the Konica Minolta cameras that came before. Like I said earlier, Sony is really not a camera company. They make a little bit of everything and they are not doing well right now. Major competition is hurting them from Samsung and others. Their vision seems to be fading and they are not innovating like they did in years past.

Pentax competes well because of great ergonomics and features in its K10D. Weather sealing is a big plus that only Nikon provides at the 10 megapixel level but at a significant price premium. Pentax has very good brand recognition with people who used to shoot film in the old manual days. I think they will continue to grow and do better in the digital market.

The other interesting development is that Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony all have in-lens focusing motors either available or on the horizon. Canon has been using USM for quite a long time now and Nikon has been using its AF-I and AF-S focusing motors for a long time now as well. Pentax is just getting into this with its announced DA* SDM lenses. Now Olympus has jumped on with three new SWD lenses just announced. Although I am not aware of the timeframe, Sony also has their SSM lenses. It is nice to see that all five major camera manufacturers are going this way.

The whole shake reduction, vibration reduction, and image stabilization issue has also developed some interesting twists. The biggest two digital SLR companies, Canon and Nikon, both use in-lens image stabilization (Canon) or vibration reduction (Nikon). Olympus, Pentax, and Sony have all gone the in-body shake reduction or anti shake route. I personally prefer the in-body option because all your old lenses, in the case of Pentax at least and Sony to some extent, automatically become stabilized. I do not like to pay for it in every lens. This is also a big deal with prime lenses. I really like shooting with good prime lenses but Canon does not make any wide angle to short telephoto prime lenses that to my knowledge have image stabilization. With my Pentax system, all of my prime lenses are stabilized. It is good to see that everyone is going this general direction.

Even though it is not a digital SLR, another recent 10 megapixel camera is the Leica M8. We should also mention the Leica Digital Modul-R which is also a 10 megapixel body but a few years older. I am particularly interested in seeing how Panasonic and Leica work with Olympus on new Four Thirds options. I have been intrigued by the Panasonic DMC-L1 since it was announced but I have not been intrigued enough to seriously consider buying one. I do hope to buy a Leica M8 (or M8 successor) at some point but it really does not make sense for me right now. I think if Olympus, Panasonic, and Leica can get high ISO noise under control for the Four Thirds system they will have a compelling product line. They still do have an uphill battle to fight. Myself, I am staying with Pentax. I like having so many lens choices over so many years.

Photo Business News & Forum: Storage, Storage, Storage

Another blog I frequent, Photo Business News & Forum, has a post about storage. It makes some excellent points about hard drive as well as online storage for pictures. Because I deal with multimedia frequently, often in the form of raw digital video, I end up needing lots of space. His points regarding online sites are specifically for still photos but make a lot of good sense. Go take a look at the post.

Luminous Landscape: Antarctica 2007

Over at The Luminous Landscape, Michael Reichmann has just put up a new article about how the different camera gear faired over the Antarctica 2007 photography workshop he just returned from. It is a very interesting read. Go take a look.

I was glad to see that one member of the 50 member workshop shot with the Pentax K10D. In the next few years, I hope to go on one of these workshops and hopefully I will have the Pentax 645 Digital as well as the K10D or K10D successor.

The most surprising part for me was that six Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II cameras had major problems after some rain. Three died completely and the other three came back to life. This is odd considering the Canon EOS 1D and 1Ds series is supposed to be known for its weather sealing. Three Canon EOS 5D cameras also had problems that same day and only one came back to life. Very interesting. I also noted that the Nikon users did not have any troubles and the Pentax user did fine as well. Of course, there were five Nikon users and one Pentax user which does make a difference. I do think that Pentax and Nikon have probably gone the extra mile with weather sealing because they have to from a competitive standpoint. Canon may have been a little sloppy with the quality control on weather sealing. It certainly is very possible.

I have yet to try my Pentax K10D out in the rain but I may just try it once I get the DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 and DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 lenses. These two lenses will be the first Pentax weather sealed lenses. As I understand it, all DA* lenses will be weather sealed. Pentax users have much to look forward to. I, for one, am especially looking forward to the 645 Digital.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Few Snapshots from a Walk

This past week has been extremely busy. Today was a welcome reprieve. I took a walk around the neighborhood and took a few pictures with the Pentax K100D camera and the SMC Pentax-DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited lens. Here they are.

1/800s @ f/8.0; ISO 400; SR On

1/1600s @ f/4.0; ISO 400; SR On

1/640s @ f/8.0; ISO 400; SR On

1/2000s @ f/4.0; ISO 400; SR On

1/500s @ f/8.0; ISO 400; SR On

1/125s @ f/8.0; ISO 400; SR On

These photos are also available at my Flickr page.