Thursday, October 21, 2010

Canon G12 - Initial Impressions

I upgraded from my Canon G11 to a Canon G12 earlier this week.  I've really enjoyed shooting with the G11 for the short time that I've had it.  Although my time with the G11 was relatively short, I did take it all over the place with me... Las Vegas, India, etc.  I had ample time to get acquainted with the little Canon.

But soon after picking up my G11 Canon announced the G12.  I immediately checked out the specs of the G12 and decided it really wasn't a big enough upgrade in terms of features and capabilities to make the jump.  I planned on staying with my G11.

That was until my buddy decided he wanted to buy my G11 for his wife.  Ok, I'll do it now... why not?

Some of the key new features of the G12 that differentiate it from the G11 are:
  • New front wheel for making adjustments to either the aperture or shutter settings.
  • New 720p resolution video with stereo audio
  • New HDR mode (High Dynamic Range)
  • New ability to set ISO in 1/3rd stops
  • New auto-level that helps you keep your images perfectly horizontal
  • New image size modes:  3:2, 4:3, 1:1, 16:9 and 4:5 modes
  • New support for Eye-Fi wireless cards
My Thoughs:
First off, I'll say the G12 is almost identical to the G11 it replaces.  The image quality for still images is identical.  It uses the same DIGIC 4 processor and 10mp sensor as its predecessor.  The size and weight is identical although there have been some minor cosmetic changes.  I've noticed the texture of the G12 is more "rough" textured whereas the G11 is more "slick".  The G12 has slightly more rounded edges on the case as well.  The G12 also has a new thumb rest for your shooting hand which, believe it or not, is really nice.

I've only used the video a couple of times but honestly, I'm not impressed.  Unlike the new Nikon CoolPix P7000 the G12 lacks the ability to focus in real-time while shooting video.  You must compose the scene, half depress the shutter button to achieve focus, then record.  If the subject moves or you move to another subject, the video goes out of focus.  You can zoom in now while shooting, but again, you lose focus.  If you want the G12 for video,  consider buying the Nikon P7000 instead.

The new scroll wheel on the front of the camera is a nice addition.  This alone makes me prefer the G12 over the G11.  It's a minor thing to some, but for me, being a DSLR shooter it's quite comforting having it there.

I've have noticed an odd problem with the G12 that doesn't exist on the G11.  Any non-Canon accessory you attach to the hotshoe mount causes the screen to go black when you attempt to focus the camera.  Things like Pocket Wizards, CyberSyncs, eBay triggers, etc. cause this issue to occur.  I've shot short video that showcases this issue.

video 

I will admit, this issue is a bit annoying and I hope Canon addresses it in a future firmware update.  Aside from this annoyance, the G12 is still one amazing little camera.  It is small enough to go everywhere with you and powerful enough to not leave you yearning for your DSLR.  The image quality is ample for family photos and capturing those key moments while out and about.  The ability to control your manual settings quickly and easily really make this camera shine over the competition.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Canon 60D is Announced

Yesterday afternoon Canon announced the new 60D camera, the replacement for the 50D.  The suggested retail price is $1,099 without a kit lens and $1,399 with the 18-55mm kit lens.  The features include:

Along with the 60D Canon announced a new 70-300 f4-5.6L lens and a new  8-15mm f/4L fisheye lens.  Prices have not been mentioned for these new lenses as of this writing.

The specs on the new 60D seem a bit strange to me.  It is more Rebel like than xxD like.  First, they've done away with the CF cards and gone to SD cards.  This will prevent existing 50D owners from upgrading (if you can call it that).  They've also gone from a metal framed body to a Rebel like plastic body.  I'll have to wait for a few full reviews before passing judgment, but right now I can't say I'm all that excited about this new body.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pushing the limits

Yesterday Canon announced that it had developed the worlds first 120 megapixel camera.  That's right, I didn't mistakenly add a zero to that figure, I said 120 megapixel.

The new sensor is 13,280 x 9,184 pixels and is 7.5 times larger than the previous king of APS-H sensors which checked in at 16.1 million pixels.

Canon claims that this new technology can write out 9.5 frames per second easily keeping pace with the 7D's 8fps and almost keeping pace with the 1D4's 10fps.

The new sensor can also shoot full HD video at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels but the press release doesn't mention at what frame rate.  One must assume given the claimed speed of the sensor that a full 30fps is likely possible.

What's to be seen is how this new sensor stacks up against more modestly sized sensors in terms of dynamic range and high ISO performance.  The press release doesn't mention any new advancements in these areas.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sneak Peek: Nikon D3100


Recently reviewers were given the opportunity to handle the new Nikon D3100. It features some slick new functionality including 1080 video that, get this, has continuous autofocus! It's about time!

While Canon has had 1080 HD video for a while now, my primary complaint about the 1D4, 7D and 5D2 has been that lacking continuous autofocus makes the devices mostly useless for me to capture video. I've never mastered the manual auto focusing while shooting video trick.

The new Nikon will shoot only 24fps in 1080 mode, but this isn't surprising for an entry level camera.  It will shoot 30fps in 720 mode.

I can't wait to see this new camera in action if for no other reason than the new AF system for shooting video.

The new camera boasts new ergonomics that are reportedly superior to the previous D3000 and even the D5000. While the body is still small, those who have handled them say the feel of the camera is much improved.

Other good news is that the D3100 will get Live View.  This is a totally new feature to the 3xxx series, one which will likely be welcomed by the masses.

The D3100 also features a new switch located by the enlarged dial that allows the user to quickly toggle between various shooting modes.

A new Live View trigger and video recording button are now on the body making accessing these features super simple.

The price is rumored to be around $699 which most likely includes the 18-55mm kit lens.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Canon 7DSV Camera

This week Canon announced the new 7DSV (Studio Version) which gives professional photographers new functionality.  The camera's announcement took the community by surprise.  We weren't inundated with speculative posts on sites such as Canonrumors.com, it just appeared.

The camera will allow up to 4 different levels of "locking".  This allows administrators to disable or enable certain features and protect them with a password.  The camera can then be used by the appropriate person on staff without concern that unnecessary features might be used.

It also has a new system allowing photographers to track images through their workflow by using a new "Barcode" technology.  Relevant client data will be embedded in the EXIF data and can be populated or accessed by scanning a barcode.

While not a major release in my opinion, it's a noteworthy release in that it puts Canon in a unique market position over its rival Nikon.  It will be interesting to see if this concept catches on and Nikon releases a similar system.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Impossible Project

Well, it looks like the Impossible Project was scheduled to start shipping their color film for those old Polaroids on August 2nd.  It's not going to be cheap, it's $44 for a starter pack of 3 packs, which hold 8 shots each.  That's a $1.80 a shot... but hey, don't we all have a Polaroid sitting in a closet somewhere that we would love to get running again?

Get your orders in now, I suspect there might be a run on this film for a while.

Canon 60D appears on DxO

The soon to be announced (we hope) Canon 60D has appeared in the DxO roadmap as you can see from the attached screen shot.  Does this mean DxO is in possession of a pre-production model for their testing?  We can only speculate.

Of course this mishap was quickly caught by the folks at DxO and all references to the new camera have been removed from their website.

According to various rumors we should see an official announcement from Canon in the next month or two.  Rumors mention an August/Sept time frame.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Combat Photographer

Every once in a while a new contraption comes along that makes you go "hummm".  When I stumbled upon this little gem that's exactly what I thought.

Are you a Xbox junkie?  Perhaps a Gulf War vet that got used to having an Aimpoint or Eotech red-dot sight on your service rifle?  Well, wait no more - you can now mount a red-dot optic on your DSLR presumably for shooting birds in flight.

Just plop this baby on your hotshoe mount and start blasting tangos... I mean birds at 8fps with your favorite shooter.

Unfortunately this little gem isn't commercially available (at this time) and it's DIY.  But the sight can be had for a mere $29 on Amazon.com and the rest looks fairly easy to make yourself... assuming you're so inclined.  For me?  I'll stick to my viewfinder.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Season Musings

This year is off to a great start.  Since I live in Indiana, the winters tend to be a bit tough and honestly, it wears on my creativity and inspiration.  I don't do a lot of shooting in the winter, and when I do it's mostly in studio.

I'm a people shooter.  I really enjoy shooting people vs. shooting nature.  I'll get the bug every once in a while to shoot a flower here, a bug there or something without a pulse occasionally.  But what really gets my shutter clicking is a person in front of my lens, preferably doing something interesting.

I have an interest in events such as WWII reenactments, Civil War reenactments and Ren Festivals.  Why?  Well, because there is a seemingly endless number of willing subjects to pose for me and they almost always have an intriguing costume or are doing something fun that makes for great imagery.

During the first week of May each year they hold a WWII reenactment in Lowell Indiana at a park named Buckley Homestead.  This year I headed down again to shoot the massive WWII event which includes tanks, airplanes, soldiers, guns and even food.

Inevitably when I get home to my studio, I want to edit the images so that they have a historic look.  I want to fool the viewer into thinking perhaps these images weren't taken in 2010 but in 1942 instead. 

I find this somewhat challenging.  I mean, the 40's were an interesting era in photography because you had a mixture of both color and B&W images.  You even had B&W images that were later colored by airbrush which have a very unique quality all their own.  So for me, trying to capture the essence of the era and the feeling of warfare proves to be very difficult.  I also like to mix things up a bit and not repeat the same editing technique over and over.


This years event was great and I feel as though I've done what I set out to do with my captures and edits.  I've shared a few images here and hope that you enjoy them.  If you have any questions about how I achieve a particular look, please post in the comments section and perhaps I'll make a post dedicated to my editing techniques.

Coming up this month I have a Civil War reenactment in Naperville on the 15th (next weekend).  I'm really looking forward to this event and the challenges my edits will present yet again.  Trying to reproduce the look of Civil War era photography is especially challenging for me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Doing Fashion Right

The guys a King Street Studios really know how to rock the fashion house with killer photography and video.  Watch this HD video of a recent fashion show they completely setup and shot.  It's amazing work, I especially like the single light system they used to shoot models heading out to the runway.  The image quality and lighting simply rock.


Fstoppers Original: King Street Studios Shoots Charleston Fashion Week from FStoppers on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hells Angels: Studio Shoot

Last night a buddy and I finished up a big event, it was a studio shoot with 7 models, 5 motorcycles, and about 20 photographers.  We organize the events through Meet-Up.com and the group has been active for about a year now.

We found an auto shop that was willing to host the event, which they absolutely loved and invited us back again next year.  They want to make this shoot an annual event, of course they get the rights to use some of the images for marketing purposes. 

Here's a video I put together of the event.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NatGeo and the 7D

This video was shot with a Canon 7D.  It's quite impressive how good the video looks.  Double click on the embedded video below to view in full screen mode.  It's much more interesting at full resolution.



NG Earth Explorer Desert Adventure from Johnnie Behiri on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Camera Phones to Replace DSLR's?

Nokia's CEO Anssi Vanjoki has gone on the record as saying "there will be no need to carry around those heavy lenses" while talking about the progress being made in cell phone camera technologies in Helsinki yesterday (4/20/10).  He's of the opinion that camera phones will one day soon replace our heavy DSLR's.

He also predicts that HD video will be coming to cell phones within the next 12 months.

I mean honestly, does this man think a cell phone with a sensor the size of a pencil eraser will really challenge a full frame sensor of say a D3s or 1Ds?  Does he really think Hasselblad will fold in the face of the fierce competition fielded by Nokia and their latest cell phone?  I'm guessing he's more than a little off base here.

But the comment about the lenses is really troublesome.  The lens, as we all know, is the most critical piece of hardware for a camera, especially a professional grade camera.  How in the world does he plan on fitting a lens with a f/1.2 aperture that delivers a razor thin depth of field and creamy bokeh on a camera phone?  Obviously the man doesn't understand what a DSLR is or how it works... or why it works.

But then this is the same guy that predicted the N-Gage was going to revolutionize gaming.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

House Season Finale Shot Using 5D Mark II

An article has surfaced that claims the final episode of this seasons House MD has been shot using a Canon 5D Mark II.

You can read more here.

According to the director of the show Greg Yaitanes he was quite impressed with the video quality of the 5D Mark II and claimed in a Twitter interview that he "loved it [5D Mark II] and feel it's the future.".

They used "all of the Canon prime" lenses in filming and also used the 24-70 and 70-200 zooms.  It's interesting to note they used Canon lenses for their super shallow depth of field.


The show has been traditionally filmed using 35mm film, so this is a big step forward for the House crew and for cinematography in general. 

Being a big House MD fan, I can't wait until May 17th to see this episode!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Polaroid goes on sale this week

It looks like the new Polaroid film (the Impossible Project) is slated to go on sale this week in the UK.

I'm looking forward to it. I have an old 1970's era Polaroid camera I'm looking forward to breaking out this year.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Problem with new 5D Mark II firmware

It seems that Canon has made an announcement that the new 2.0.3 has a bug.  We can assume that a new version will be coming shortly to address this issue.

This release added new video features to the camera.  The problem is that the new audio doesn't work if a manual record volume is set in one of the 3 custom modes (C1/C2/C3).  You can read more about this issue at this LINK.

There's a reason I don't install new firmware updates the day they're released.  It's also a good idea to download and archive old firmware updates so you can roll back should you find a problem with a new firmware release.  You must do this before a new release is posted as Canon removes old firmware releases from their website upon issuing an update and they won't give it to you no matter how much you beg and plead.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Model Release for iPhone

I just found yet another reason to love my iPhone.

There is a new application for getting professional model releases signed and emailed to you in PDF format right from your iPhone.  That's right, how cool is that?  I don't know how many times I've forgotten to bring a release form in my camera bag, but my iPhone is always with me.

The application is named "Easy Release".

You can even insert a picture into the model release, store them on your phone and sort by name, shoot name, etc.  It's also handy in that it does property releases as well. 

How much?  Well, it's $9.99.  I'll let you guys know how it works as I've already downloaded my copy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pentax Releases New Medium Format Camera

It's been in the making for 5 years now.  Often times spoken about as "vaporware" by the online community due to so many perceived false starts, Pentax has formally announced the launch of the new medium format 40MP 645D camera.

It appears to be an impressive camera.  It touts a Kodak made CCD sensor that's claimed to be "high performance" with an effective resolution of 40 megapixels.

It shoots to two SD/SDHC cards and has a new 11 point AF system that is claimed to give good coverage of the view finder area.

It does only sport a 98% coverage view finder though, which shouldn't be too much of an issue for most users.

It also sports a new HDR function that takes 3 different exposures and automatically merges them into a single high dynamic range image.

So far we don't have a firm price.  I'm hoping it comes in below $10k as that would really change the market landscape and potentially push Canon and Nikon to offer competitive products.  We can only hope!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nikon: Canon G11 will have competition

It's not every day that you hear a big-wig inside a major camera manufacturer saying the competition has a camera that is the "benchmark by which other compact digital cameras are measured".  But that's exactly what Kevin Egan, the UK's Senior Product Manager for Nikon, said regarding the G11 recently in an interview with Amateur Photographer magazine.

Egan went on to tell the magazine that there is a new Cool Pix camera planned to take on the G11 toe to toe in the not to distant future.  Egan didn't elaborate on a launch date, but eluded to the fact it was in the works.

So far nothing credible has surfaced on the typical Nikon rumor websites.  But rest assured, there's something brewing at Nikon, perhaps it's related to my previous blog post about some marketing shenanigans going on in France.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

1D Mark IV Sensor Test Results

Clarkvision.com is a great reference site to get down to earth scientific data about any given sensor from the major manufacturers.  Unlike some testing sites, Clarkvision explains to you the nuts and bolts of their testing methodology.

They recently tested the Canon 1D Mark IV and concluded the following:
The Canon 1D Mark IV sensor sets new performance standards, including higher sensitivity per pixel (a combination of filter transmittance times effective fill factor times quantum efficiency), lower read noise, and lower fixed pattern noise. Hopefully the new technology that went into this sensor will makes its way into other cameras as well. That will enable a new era in performance, especially for high ISO / low light photography.
In essence, the Canon 1D Mark IV is the most advanced, lowest read noise, highest per pixel sensitivity cameras they've ever tested.  That's an amazing conclusion and one that is quite exciting for 1D Mark IV owners.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New "Scientific" Auto Focus Test

A new auto focus test that's touted as being "scientific" has been posted online.

On the surface it looks like the 1D Mark IV wins this competition handily, easily besting the D3 and the new D3S.  The new Mark IV also tops the 1Ds Mark III and 1D Mark III in this test.

Actually, the news that the 1D Mark IV tops the 1Ds Mark III and 1D Mark III is about the only useful information I can pull from this test as the testing methodology is seriously flawed.  The D3 and D3S are not given a fare shake in this test, and honestly, its this factor that completely invalidates this test IMHO.

The test parameters are listed on the site and this sentence in particular is what concerns me most about the validity of this test:

These tests are all done using the default camera settings and default custom function settings.
It certainly sounds fair that all cameras are tested with default settings, but in the case of the D3 and D3S by default they give priority to shutter release over auto focus.  That means, by default, the camera will fire at its max continues shutter release speed without giving any consideration to whether the camera actually has focus or not.

Conversely, the 1D4 by default gives priority to AF lock over shooting speed.  This means it will slow the frame rate down if necessary as it won't fire until it thinks it has AF lock.  So in essence you have one camera (D3/D3S) firing wildly as fast as it can with no consideration to AF lock and you have another camera firing only when it has AF lock and likely at a slower frame rate.

If they wanted to make a truly representative test, they would set "a1 AF-C priority selection" on the D3's to "release + focus" allowing the camera to behave in the same manner as the 1D Mark IV and redo the tests. Withing correcting this oversight in their testing methodology, I don't see any validity to the test results.

EDIT (3/4/10):

I posted my concerns about the testing methodology to the blog and the author amended his blog post with additional information.  Check out the total number of frames fired by both cameras.

Canon 1D MKIV Results
Trial 1
45 in focus out of 50= 90% in focus
Trial 2
56 in focus out of 60= 93% in focus
Trial 3
48 in focus out of 55= 87% in focus
Trial 4
49 in focus out of 55= 89% in focus
Trial 5
52 in focus out of 58= 90% in focus

Canon 1D MKIV Overall= 89.4% in focus

Nikon D3s Results
Trial 1
29 in focus out of 46= 63% in focus
Trial 2
37 in focus out of 47= 79% in focus
Trial 3
46 in focus out of 53= 87% in focus
Trial 4
40 in focus out of 52= 77% in focus
Trial 5
38 in focus out of 47= 81% in focus

Nikon D3s Overall= 77.4% in focus

I find these numbers to be quite interesting.  It would appear that the D3S doesn't shoot 9fps as claimed by Nikon even under ideal circumstances and with the camera set to ignore focus priority and to fire as quickly as it can.  It continuously posted fewer frames than the 1D4.  It stands to reason that if the camera had been set to focus priority the number of frames fired would have gone down even further.

That means the 1D4 can shoot much more quickly than the D3S which might be a very important feature to sports or action shooters.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Something is Brewing with Nikon!

Nikon is circulating odd cards that give out very little info (see image to right - click to enlarge).  Well, the assumption is that the mailers are coming from Nikon, we don't really know for sure since they aren't marked by any company.  They are high quality direct marketing pieces and appear to be a count down starting with the number 8.  A number 7 appeared now too.

The colors suggest it's from Nikon and the fact that the people receiving them are Nikon owners.  These are appearing in France.

It's speculated that they are the precursor to the rumored EVIL cameras the Nikon rumor forums have been chatting about.  This would be a huge development, and quite exciting.

Of course perhaps it's the lead-up to the much anticipated D800.  Who knows, but I'm excited regardless.  New stuff is always exciting, don't you think? 

Monday, March 1, 2010

5D Mark II Firmware Update

Canon has announced their latest firmware update to the 5D Mark II.  Version 2.0.3 promises improved manual control over video by adding 24 frames per second and scaling back their previous 30 fps to 29.97 fps for TV production standards.

This is welcomed new for those that use their 5D MkII's for video.  Personally, I couldn't care less about this upgrade.  I've used video on my 5D MkII less than 10 times.  I'm simply not impressed with it.  Sure, the quality is amazing but the focusing is a nightmare and I don't care to invest in additional Panavision lenses and external mics to get quality video out of the body.  I'm strictly a still image kind of guy.

So, what does firmware update 2.0.3 offer us 5D MarkII shooters that use their DSLR's for that good old fashioned still image stuff?  Nothing that I can tell from the rumor sites and press release (pictured - click to enlarge).

Canon doesn't usually offer new features with their firmware updates to bodies.  They usually reserve that for new body releases.  This marks a historic first for Canon.  Maybe they'll give us a usable AUTO ISO function in the next firmware update for the 5D MkII.  You know, something us traditionalists that actually use DSLR's for picture taking might be able to sink our teeth into.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nikon GM: Future cameras will balance resolution with high ISO performance

Nikon General Manager of Marketing Nobuaki Sasagaki said recently that in the future Nikon would better balance resolution with high ISO performance.
Future Nikon models will provide a better balance between resolution and high ISO image quality than in the recently launched D3S, according to Nobuaki Sasagaki, General Manager of the Marketing Department of Nikons Imaging Division.
 There have been rumblings on the internet by Nikonians since the launch of the 1D4 that the D3S doesn't cut it at only 12 megapixels.  They want high ISO and higher resolution, but don't we all?  Apparently Nikon has heard these complaints and has now said something publicly about their future plans.

Personally, I like the fact that Nikon didn't go from 12MP to 24MP for the D3S and did something different... they gave us incredibly high ISO.  It makes me want one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

DPReview: Canon 1D Mark IV

The much anticipated DPReview article on the Canon 1D Mark IV was posted today.

The article is relatively innocuous yet I would say it paints the 1D Mark IV in a pretty positive light.  They do some simple comparisons to the 7D and D3S, which is really interesting.

It's also interesting to note that the article mentions that the 1D4 does quite well in their autofocus tests.  They shot some sports in bright light and not so bright light, and said that they had a high keeper rate.  This is encouraging to see given the Rob Galbraith article where he all but condemns the 1D4 and claims it's completely unreliable.

It seems that this most recent review suggests that perhaps Rob G was in fact a bit off his nut when he published his findings from his weekend of shooting the 1D Mark IV.

One interesting note is that DPReview claims that the 1D4 RAW files have 12 EV of dynamic range.  Wow, 12 stops, really?  That's quite impressive and means you can really push the 1D's RAW files around in post with minimal loss of detail.

Overall I would say this is a very positive review of the 1D Mark IV.  Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sony: New Alpha Ultra Compact

The big photography party known as PMA kicked off on Feb 20th (this weekend).  Many manufacturers announce new products during this show, and Sony certainly got my attention with this sneak peak.

The Alpha Ultra-Compact camera (pictured) will feature interchangeable lenses, but the big question is:  will they be Alpha mount lenses (or MFT?) which are used by their larger DSLR counterparts?  It looks as though they might in fact share the same mount.

Olympus and Panasonic are really promoting the Micro 4/3rds format and the new Sony certainly looks as though it's in the same class of cameras.  What would be unique is if it used full size DSLR lenses, or at least had the option to mount them.

The camera on display at the Sony booth was locked up so the media wasn't able to play with it.  The Sony reps were pretty tight lipped about the features of the new camera.  There was a sign hanging next to the camera that said "Exmor APS HD CMOS".  This sensor is actually larger than the Micro 4/3rds sensor which could mean even better image quality and/or high ISO performance. 

This looks like a pretty exciting year for small cameras!

Einstein: More Delays

The new Paul C. Buff Einstein moonlights are once against delayed according to a recent announcement on the PBC website.


The annoucement reads:

Update From Paul:

We regret to inform customers that our Chief Engineer, Dr. Michael Morgan suffered a totally unexpected grand mal seizure Tuesday, while doing final pre-production testing on Einstein. Fortunately we have a First Responder trained staff member who saved his life and we got him to the hospital in time. Mike is home resting now and begging to finish up his work at home despite a pea size brain mass that is thought to be the cause, and which is yet to be fully diagnosed. For those interested, Mike has been my friend and Chief Engineer in two companies, dating back to the 1970s.

We are reluctant to subject him to any excess at this point in time, so much of this work is going to fall on me and on other members of our staff. This is certain to add a couple of weeks to the Einstein release. We anticipate having our production vendor produce about a dozen Einsteins in, hopefully, full final production form, next week. Following successful evaluation of these units we should be ready to go into production.

My own work schedule is already about 14 hours - 7 days a week. We have been scouring employment agencies for additional highly capable engineering help for a year now. Seems our requirements are higher than the available work force. Fortunately we hired one very capable engineer about three weeks ago, but getting up to speed on this stuff takes time.

With the Einstein pre-order list now over 2500 units, believe me getting this product right and shipping is our number one priority. I have been testing and using a pre production Einstein for about a month now and can safely report that, at least in my opinion, it is a joy in every regard. I hope our customers will bear with us on this.

This isn't the first time the release has been delayed.  The story of the Einsteins goes back several years to another product called the ABMax.  The ABMax had most of the same features as the new Einstein lights as you can see from the picture to the right.

Preorders were taken in June of 2009 with the promise the new lights would ship shortly.  After a couple of months, Paul announced that a supplier couldn't produce the promised digital power system as promised (quality control issue) so they were forced to scrap the entire project and start over.

The ABMax reemerged as the "Einstein" system and was announced earlier this year.

The Einstein has meet with further delays, this most recent one due to an illness with Paul's chief engineer.

I trust that the new light will eventually make it to market, but delays in new products seem to be a way of life with PCB.  He often times over estimates how quickly he can get something to market.  The same thing recently happened with the now for sale CyberCommander.

Regardless, I am on the waiting list for the new Einstein lights.  Once I get my hands on one, you can look forward to a detailed review here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

CyberCommander

I shoot with Alien Bee's in my home studio.  For me, they work perfectly.  I've learned to work with their limitations, and honestly, I really like them.  I could afford more expensive lights, but my Bee's have been so good to me I don't give buying different lights a second thought.

With that being said, for Christmas my wife picked up a CyberCommander for me.  This was a great gift, she's such a wonderful companion.

This unit gives you the ability to remotely control your lights wirelessly.  It includes a light meter which also measures light temperature, a flash trigger, and is fully configurable for all the lights offered by Paul C. Buff

The unit runs on two AAA batteries and I've found that the Lithium Ion's typically give better service life.  I get about a month out of a set of batteries with steady use.

The display is bright and of surprisingly good visual quality.  The system is complex and the manual is fairly well written, although I found I had to read things a couple of times before it really sunk in.

The CyberCommander comes with a micro SD card for saving your light configurations.  You can configure each light on the system by telling it which type of light it is then it allows you to set the modeling light ratio so that it matches the power output of the light.

When you're shooting with the system you can, in real-time, make adjustments quickly and easily to each light in the system either individually or as a group.  You may also trigger each light individually and meter it, or you can meter the entire group.

I found that after playing with the CyberCommander for a few days the controls become quick and easy to use.  But I do see a few areas for improvement.

The Cons:
 The unit is made of moderate quality plastic.  It only costs $179 so it's not made of exotic alloys unfortunately.  The LCD display is also protected by plastic, which is pretty easy to scratch.

The neck of the unit where it mounts to the hotshoe seems very flimsy and would appear to be easily broken.  It snaps into different positions from being vertical to angling back at about a 45 degree angle .  It's too frail for my liking and a good jolt would likely cause it to break.

The unit does not lock into the hotshoe mount.  It just slides in and honestly, it isn't all that secure.  I spoke with their technical support staff and they recommend that you actually not use the CyberCommander as the trigger for the lights and keep it in your pocket vs. mounting it to the hotshoe.  This means you would have to use CyberSync CST to trigger your lights.  This is the method I'm currently using.

Finally, there's no on-off switch.  The unit simply goes to sleep after a couple of seconds of inactivity.  If you keep this in your camera back it's easy for movement to keep waking the CyberCommander up.  In no time you'll find the batteries are dead and in need of replacement.

All things considered I really do like the CyberCommander and would buy it again.  I do look forward to future improvements which correct some of the shortcomings of the current system.  I would gladly pay $300 for an improved model made of higher quality materials.   But as it stands the system is extremely useful and honestly, I can't imagine studio life without it now.

Friday, February 19, 2010

1D4 + High ISO = Love

I've had my 1D Mark IV going on almost a month how.  I've had plenty of time to wring the new body out and to get an idea of how it's going to work for me until the Mark V hits the streets in 2-3 years.

One of the first things I wanted to find out was how well it handled high ISO.  I shoot in low light fairly often and as I get more into event/wedding photography being able to hit ISO 6400 safely is becoming more and more important to me.

My 5D Mark II can easily venture into this realm without concern, and that's one of the reasons I really enjoy shooting that body.  But how does the 1D4 stack up?

I set up a scene in my studio with a colorful toy donated by my son, a tripod and my 24-70L lens.  I did use the same lens on both bodies for this test.  I let the camera meter the scene and I used auto white balance.  Here's how the images turned out.


5D Mark II

ISO 6400:
















ISO 12800:















1D Mark IV:


ISO 6400:
ISO 12800:

You may click on the images to see larger versions.

First you'll notice the 5D Mark II tends to under expose by about 1/2 stop.  This has been an ongoing complaint of mine since first getting my 5D2.  At this point I don't believe Canon intends to address the issue with a firmware update.  We'll see.

But upon close inspection, I would say that the 1D4 actually produces slightly cleaner images than the 5D2.  Unfortunately what I think I see doesn't appear to be supported by DXO Labs tests.

According to DXO Labs, the 5D2 edges out the 1D4 in high ISO performance.  But in looking closely at the images from my own testing, the 1D4 appears to have less chroma noise than the 5D2 images.  As such, I'm willing to call it a draw.  It's close enough that even on the DXO rating scale it's a mere fraction of a stop difference between the two.

When compared to the 1D Mark III the new 1D Mark IV shows a noted improvement in low light performance on the DXO Labs test report, but again in reality it's only a fraction of a stop improvement.  The real benefit is the fact the 1D4 can now be set all the way up to 102,400 ISO if you so choose, although anything past 12800 is completely useless in my experience.

Just for grins, I putter around the house armed with my trusty 1D4 and snap pics of various things at different settings just to see how the new body performs.  My cat is the most frequent subject of these informal testing sessions.  Here are a couple of high ISO shots for you to consider as well.

1D4 ISO 3200:















1D4 ISO 6400:















1D4 ISO 12800:















Again, click on the images for a larger picture.

In the end I'm very impressed with the performance in the high ISO department of the 1D4.  I don't think I'll have many complaints about it's performance going forward given what I've seen thus far.

The 800lbs Gorilla in the Room

I'm sure many of you have already read Rob Galbraith's article which condemns the 1D Mark IV's AF system.  It's seems the Nikonians are having a great time with this article, flaunting it as though perhaps it's the definitive judgment of the 1D Mark IV's performance.

Rob was around back when the 1D Mark III was released and he was, to his credit, one of the first people to notice the AF problems found with that body.  It elevated him to something of a photography icon as he wrote extensively about the problems.  Canon even contacted him and had him help them diagnose the issue, an issue Canon originally denied existed.  Unfortunately Rob has removed this article from his website.

Rob's most recent excursion into Canon AF performance reviews doesn't seem to be as well received as his original 1D3 condemnation.  First, we have reports coming in from Sports Illustrated photographers saying the 1D4 is nothing short of amazing.  People like Peter Miller, Brad Mangin and David Bergman are saying the exact opposite of what Rob is saying.  These guys live and die by the images their bodies produce, and they have complete confidence in the 1D4's abilities.  Not only that, they're saying it's an improvement over the 1D3 it replaces.

Even a respected peer of Robs, and fellow Nikon shooter, Scott Bourne seems to think Rob is off his nut with some of his more tersely worded comments about the 1D4's performance.  Scott seems to think that the 1D4 is not only reliable, something Rob claims it's not, but he thinks of it highly enough to invest $25k of his own money into buying 1D4's for his business.  He's still a D3s shooter, but he uses the 1D4 mostly for video production, an area where the 1D4 has a clear advantage over the D3s.


I think Rob probably had a bad day or week.  As Scott said, he apparently has a burr in his butt over Canon.  His review, on its face, is flawed in that he was using firmware 1.0.4 for over half of his testing before upgrading to version 1.0.6.  The new firmware addressed known issues with the 1D4 tracking a subject moving at relatively slow speed towards the camera.  Also conspicuously missing are his custom function settings in his review.  These are critical to any sports photography regardless if it's Canon or Nikon.  Since the 1D4 is completely different than the 1D3 it replaced, I suspect Rob didn't have his custom functions properly configured.  Why do I say this?  Because other sports photogs have gotten exceptional results with their 1D4's.

I think Rob's post was a grab at the spotlight and to drive traffic to his website more than it was an objective review of the 1D4's capabilities.  It's also highly suspect that Rob's review is splattered with Nikon ads.  This doesn't lend itself well to credibility in the eye's of many, especially when peers are finding your review to be a bit off base.

On a final note, lets take a look at some 1D Mark IV images from the 2010 Winter Olympics. All I can say is "WOW!"  Those are stunning.  My thanks go out to the Denver Post for providing us with those amazing shots, and to Canon for providing us with such an amazing camera.

Edit:  The 1D4 has some favorable reviews coming in from the field.  Check out the comments made by several top sports photographers that shot the Super Bowl.

Also this review from the Olympics is quite interesting.

Welcome to Digital Diffraction

This is a digital photography blog where I will share with you my musings regarding all things related to digital photography, both the technology and the art.

Right now I'm a Canon shooter, but this could change at any time.  I've had an interest in Nikon bodies for some time, mostly the D700 and D3s.  I keep telling myself I could buy some great new Canon lenses for what I would spend buying a Nikon kit to go with my Canon gear (I can't sell it, I love it!).  But we'll see how things play out.

Meanwhile, this isn't a blog dedicated to any one particular brand or camera type.  I'll talk about DSLRs, EVIL's, Pen's, etc.  While most of my experience is obviously with Canon gear and my posts will likely reflect that, I'll also discuss things of interest to me regarding other brands.

Thanks for stopping by and checking my blog out.  I look forward to this little adventure!