Archive for Photography

Canon G9

I picked one up this weekend after frantically calling over 12 different vendors. Nobody had a new one in stock. It was an interesting adventure because I was actually on the way to pick up a demo unit for full price when I opened up the paper to a Fry’s ad. Now why didn’t I think there was a Fry’s in Austin? Called them up and they had a new one in the box waiting for me.

First impression out of the box is that the paint looks just like the black L lens’ paint. Light texture and black. Fancy. Has a nice weight in the hands and it’s not too small to hold. Might be kinda banana in the pocket though. It’s nice to have cross compatible features between the cameras I own. The G9 uses the same battery as the XT so I just popped in a spare. First thing I did was bring the optical viewfinder up to my eye. Damn, it sucks. The specs say only 80% frame coverage. Coming from an SLR, it’s painful to look through. It makes the anemic viewfinder of the XT look like a full frame old school film SLR. And a bunch of distortion to boot. The LCD is better, but not dense enough to make images look crisp. I still like the look of the 1.8″ LCD on the back of the XT. I hope the newer Nikon cameras encourage Canon to increase the back LCD quality and density. The thumb wheel the back is nice though. I think I’ll rather enjoy using a 40D or 5D in the future which have a similar wheel.

Taking a look at the different ISO outputs, you can see that anything above 400 is either lacking color detail and/or just super noisy. Will any manufacturer step up and make a low pixel count larger sensor for the P&S category? (One that is actually available, unlike the vaporware Sigma DP-1.) The benefits of RAW capture are still there but the small sensor and high pixel count bring their detractions to the table. I did some ISO 80 shots with a hotshoe flash bounced and they look pretty clean. But you can’t go shooting at ISO 80 for everything. I do appreciate RAW though and the hotshoe is also a big plus.

AF is just gonna plain suck in a P&S until they find some newer technology or somehow integrate phase-detection AF into a non-reflex camera. Fortunately the manual focus mode is quite usable and includes a magnified portion to assist you. You’re not gonna be able to take sports or fast action photos with this thing, but you might be able to get away for a couple by pre-focusing and using MF mode. Shutter lag (not to be confused with the AF lag) is then acceptable.

Most of the controls are available through the quick access buttons without having to access the menu system. There is one customizable button (I assign WB to it) which is nice and 2 custom shooting modes which you can assign different shooting settings and have them memorized. It’s nice to have one assigned without the AF assist light or with/without the red-eye reduction light. Some niceties include adjustable flash output/FE compensation and adjustable timer duration.

The included 3x ND filter is nice feature that might come in handy for those time you need slower shutter speed to blur things out since the smallest aperture available is f/8.0. (Anything above that for a P&S sized sensor would result in serious diffraction.) Or cause the scene is just too bright for even the lowest ISO and min aperture. (say a solar eclipse…)

I’m still trying to get used to the increase in depth of field and to be honest I’m struggling a bit to figure out how to make a good capture with it. (I know, I know…it’s the photographer and not the tool, stupid.) I’d be very happy with a 45-50mm equiv field of view lens and a larger sensor, I think. Right now the 28mm (equiv. to 45mm FOV on a full frame) is nearly always on the XT.

One thing that caught my attention was the movie mode. It has the typical 640×480 30FPS mode but in addition, the mic is able to capture nearly the full spectrum of audible sound and also has user adjustable input levels, and an electronic windscreen feature (though I haven’t had a chance to test that out yet). The lens zoom and focus motor is not ultrasonic, so it’d be too noisy to use while capturing a clip, but the camera does have a digital zoom that you can activate while recording which I’m assuming would be more feasible since the VGA resolution (0.3MP) of the capture is much much(~40x) smaller than the 12MP resolution of the sensor. The compression of the file is decent enough to get at least 80+min from an 8GB card, which the camera does support (up to 32GB thanks to SDHC).

So far I’m fairly please with my purchase. It ain’t ever gonna replace my main SLR, but it’ll supplement it nicely for those times there are restriction on cameras or when it just ain’t feasible to bring the larger one. I’m looking forward to more testing with the hotshoe and off-camera flash. Oh, and the X-sync restriction is gone, yay! I can flash sync all the way up the max shutter speed, thanks to an electronic shutter :)

Here’s a short summary of why this one was enough of a compromise:

  • RAW capture
  • full manual controls
  • hotshoe (yay for hotshoe and wireless slaves!!!)
  • no lens cap (it just became very annoying on the LX-1)
  • optically stabilized lens
  • low noise base ISO (much better than the previous LX-1)
  • ergonomic controls (stay away from menu navigation)
  • very acceptable lowest shutter speed (15s)
  • responsive enough when working in RAW mode (no noticible delay after a shot)

A couple of cool features:

  • 44.1KHz sampling (as stated above) audio recorder (up to several hours)
  • Focus zoom for playback review (zooms in at the focus point to check focus)
  • Focus bracketing
  • Time-lapse mode
  • Battery meter (rare on a Canon P&S)
  • Live histogram

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Minor site update

I’ve added a lightbox view for photos now. I’ve back-updated several entries as well. You can now click on the images and get a neat effect. This makes viewing images more neutral than on the current background, especially for the contrast — highlights and shadows are perceived better by the eye. It’s like the best of both worlds. I get to keep the easier to read dark text on light background and also have a dark background for viewing photos.

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Portrait Archive

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Picture Archive

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Sunday Ride

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Canon 400D/XTi

An upgrade to my body has been announced:

Canon XTi Rear

New additions:

  • 10MP sensor, with same sensitivity due to smaller microlens gap
  • Integrated sensor dust cleaner and mapping routing for more stubborn dirt
  • 9pt higher precision AF from 30D
  • 2.5″ screen and removal of old monochrome status LCD
  • larger burst buffer — 27 frames JPG, 10 frames RAW, 8 frames RAW+JPG
  • High Speed Sync using built-in flash (according to RG.com)
  • RGB Histogram in addition to Luminescence

I think the new AF will be nice, along with the burst and HSS. Don’t know about the removal of the status LCD. In either case, I’m still bummed Pixmantec stopped supporting my RawShooter software. Adobe still isn’t ready with Lightroom so I don’t know what I’d use if I upgraded right now.

Two new lenses were also announced:

Canon 70-200mm f/4L ISCanon 50mm f/1.2L

The 70-200 f/4 IS and the 50mm f/1.2. Both should be pretty sweet. The 70-200 has the same dimensions as the non-IS but weighs about 50grams more. It also has a slightly better MTF score.

The 50mm will be real nice when I get a full-frame camera, e.g. the 5D. Unfortunately both are quite pricey, with the 70-200 asking $1200 and the 50 asking $1500. Not any time soon :-(.

edit: I just found out both are weather sealed. Sweet! I’ll be more comfortable shooting at the track and autocrosses when it’s raining now. Last time I had to shoot and then dry off my lens between sessions.

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