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New Sony DSLR announcements

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sony announced A200, a replacement of their first foray into the DSLR market, the A100, in CES. A lot of people were surprised that it is not a very big improvement over the A100. Well, Sony waited til the PMA (photo marketing association), to announce 2 more entry level DSLRs, A300 and the A350. You can read more about them here.

These are very interesting announcements, price wise, they are fairly competitive, which is good for the consumers. There are some key features I like, and a lot of people have been happy with their Sony Alphas. I found this Minolta/Alpha mount forum, http://www.dyxum.com/index.asp, check it out, I found a lot of camaraderie amongst members, a very nice community, not a lot of hostilities.

One thing I am wondering about all of these recent camera announcements, is that with a recession going on, who's buying them, where's the money coming from? It really looks like some of the hot cameras (Nikon D3/D300) are flying off the shelves; are people using their tax refunds to purchase these new toys?

Right now, I think the best DSLR deal is the Pentax K10D. With a $100 rebate (sorry for the late notice, it ends 1/31/2008), you can get it for $509 after rebate (body only)! That's INSANE! Too bad I don't have the money now, :), doing a kitchen remodeling......

Sigma DP1

Availability for this camera is now set for "Spring". See DPReview for more info. This can be a significant camera due to its use of DSLR sized sensor.

Nikon D60 Announcement

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go over to DPReview, Nikon has officially released D60, which is a D40x replacement, along with a host of digicams, and a couple of lenses:
PC-E 24mm
AF-S 60mm Micro
AF-S DX 16-85mm VR

D60 (isn't that a Canon?) is a consumer oriented DSLR with some high end features borrowed from D3/D300. Looks like the direction is that Nikon has decided to keep built-in motor out of the body, auto-focus is only supported with AF-S, AF-I lenses.

I have tried out a D40, and I like the big bright view finder, and the big LCD (compared to 1.8 inch on the D70). The only reason that would keep me from buying a d40, d40x, or d60 is that they do not support older AF lens. My AF 50mm f1.8, and AF 80-200mm f2.8 will not autofocus on these bodies. The other thing is the sensor based shake reduction system. I don't think Nikon or Canon will go that direction.

Update - Letsgodigital actually has a fairly comprehensive review of the D60, click here.

Delicate yet determined.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Took these pictures last October, inside Wupatki National Monument, by a cinder hill. It is dry, and rocky, I don't know how they sustain themselves.

To quote Dr. Malcolm - "No, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way."
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New (old) toy

With all the hoopla of new camera announcements, I decided to get an oldie but goodie.

Fresh Ebay purchase - Canon G2, only 4 megapixel, flip-out LCD and optical view finder, hot-shoe (works with my remote flash trigger!), raw support, 34-102mm f2.0 - f2.5 lens (sweet!). Only missing the remote control and USB cable, oh, the manual is in Spanish, but downloaded the manual right off Canon web site, no problemo, :). Well, for 50 bucks, not bad.

Flip-out LCD, nice feature to have in certain situations.

Battery and charger seemed to work well. Checked online (Ritz camera actually), I can get a replacement battery for about $15.
The camera is actually kind of heavy, but I like the way it looks, a lot like a rangefinder camera.

With the hype of megapixel race from camera makers, it's nice to get back to the basics. Can't wait for better weather condition to test this camera out. This being the second generation of the G series from Canon (G9 is the current model, and it is highly rated), it has been around for some time now - released around August 2001. In digital camera terms, this camera is ancient! My purchase seems to be in fairly good shape, small amount of scratches here and there, but overall in very nice condition. Pop a CF card in, and took a few in-door shots, flash worked without problem, and pictures are nice quality as far as I can see. Focus is slow, and of course, shutter lag is there, what the heck, it's from 2001, :)!

Hmmm, I am wondering what other older digital camera people are still using?
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It's official!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It must be January 24th some where in the world, :).

Announcement of the Pentax K20d and the K200d - click here.

SDHC Memory Card Alert

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday's BestBuy ad had a great price on a PNY 4GB SDHC memory card at $29.99. I checked my camera, a simple firmware upgrade can get my Pentax DL handle the SDHC memory cards. The upgrade was easy, and off I went to buy the memory card.

Plugged it in the camera, a quick format, not a problem. Switched to raw (JPEG mode only shows 999, no higher), it went from 94 (1 gb card) to 376 pictures! Hey, I like it.

I took some test shots, and then plugged it into my memory card reader. Hmmm, what happened to my removable drives? They will not open up, rebooted the PC (that should fix everything, right?), still no go.

Quick on-line search showed my card reader (SanDisk ImageMate 12-in-1), with part # of 20-90-00136, does not support, and firmware upgrade to support SDHC is not available for this particular model! Bummer! I forgot to check if memory card reader has to be SDHC aware or not. Darn.

Now, if you have SanDisk's multi-card reader, the following model and part #'s will work:
SanDisk ImageMate 12-in-1 (SDDR-89)
Part #: Firmware Version:
20-90-00136 SOL
20-90-00163 SOL
20-90-03066 9339 -> 9346
20-90-03103 9339 -> 9346

and their ImageMate 5-in-1 (SDDR-99)
Part #: Firmware Version:
20-90-00135 SOL
20-90-00162 9312 -> 9347
20-90-03028 9321 -> 9347
20-90-03067 9335 -> 9347
20-90-03105 9335 -> 9347

I am keeping the card, since I can hook up my camera to my PC, but eventually, I'll get a new card reader.

So be careful about this gotcha!

West Fork

Sunday, January 20, 2008

West Fork is between Flagstaff and Sedona. A nice little 4 mile hike, with numerous creek crossings. On a icy day like this, the trail can be hazardous with icy hills, and slippery creek crossing can be intimidating. This is definitely some place I'd like to visit when it gets warmer. The canyons here are really neat, surrounded by tall trees and even higher cliffs, is really surreal.

One of the crossings.

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Cactus Wireless Flash Trigger

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

They have arrived! I ordered the Cactus triggering system (also known as Ebay Trigger) from MidWest Photo Exchange, just seach for Cactus, and you will find it on their site. Since the price for a single receiver is 2/3 of the price of trigger/receiver kit, I went ahead and ordered 2 sets of them, for spare.

Here's what comes with it - Receiver, Battery for the receiver, trigger, and a PC cable.

Here's the receiver with Battery installed. I can see the cold shoe bracket can be a weak spot.

And the receiver attached to flash.

Trigger attached to my Pentax DL. For the money, the trigger really doesn't look too cheesy.
I tried the trigger on my DL and D70, and tested receivers with my Minolta 2800 and Nikon SB-20 flashes. All worked right out of the box, I am pleasantly surprised.
Next, I tested highest sync speed with both cameras - Read about flash sync speed here. Pentax is rated at 1/180 of a second, above that, flash didn't even trigger. D70 can go 1/500 of a second, it triggered the flash, and took a picture. Above 1/500, the flash will trigger, but black screen. One problem, at 1/500 of a second, I noticed moire pattern! At the next speed, 1/400, no moire pattern. I have read interference issue, and produces lines on your images, this I have not read about - A quick search on Google didn't reveal anything, will keep searching.
I also did a quick distance test, I was able to trigger the unit that's 30 feet away, but in line of sight. I ran a few tests behind the walls, seems to work with 1 wall, up to 30 feet, but not too well if it is behind 2 walls, 1 wall + 1 door, etc.
For the price, this is not too bad. My next available option is go with Elinchrom Skyport Universal, cost around $185 for a trigger and a receiver. I figure I can start learning now.
A few things that I have learned so far-
  1. Know your camera's flash sync speed. I always wondered why it is so important for some people, faster the sync speed, the better it will allow you to "freeze" the moment. For indoor, portraits, this is not so bad, but if you want to shoot action shots, such as exteme sport events (skating, roller blading, skate boarding, etc), that may be an issue (if I am wrong about this, let me know!).
  2. A good flash, this has been discussed over and over again on the net - check Strobist and Flickr Strobist discuss forum - see below for some features to look for:
  • The flash that I am using- Nikon SB-20 is rated at Guide Number of 100 (GN), Minolta 2800 is rated at GN98. Most people on the net is looking for something GN120 or above, I believe higher GN means farther coverage, so that is important where you can place the flash close to the subject.
  • Manual power adjustment- SB-20 has manual adjustment that will let me go from Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16 of power. This is a really nice feature to have, since the wireless system I have is pure triggering mechanism, so I have little control over the amount of light from the camera.
  • Bounce and swivel- I see I use the bounce option more frequently. I can set up the flash to bounce off of the ceiling while it sits straight on the stand. If your flash does not have bounce feature, this can be compensated by an tilting the flash bracket on a stand, but I am not sure how strong the shoe mount of the flash, and better yet, the bracket on the wireless receiver is, since a loaded flash can get pretty heavy (batteries), and a higher chance of breaking something.
  • Battery type- most flashes are setup to use AA batteries. Some even allow for external battery connection (usually more power), to allow for faster recycle time. There is one model by Nikon, SB-50dx, uses CR123 lithium batteries. I am not sure if they are easy to find, but I like AA batteries, since I can use rechargeble NiMH ones, cheaper in the long run, and good for the environment.

One thing I have noticed on-line is people complain about misfiring, or none firing. I am not sure if this has to do with flash's recycle time. If I am using full power on the SB-20, it takes 6 seconds to recycle (ready for next flash). If I lower the manual power, the recycle time adjusts accordingly (shorter time). Most flash has some type of READY light, look out for that.

Gotta stop typing, and playing with the new toys..... :)
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Cut Short.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Image from yesterday. A ponderosa pine seedling that didn't make it to maturity.
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Neat Pentaxian video

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Found this video while browsing through Pentax Gallery. This is a featured photographer who uses Pentax gear - Kerrick James. Check out the video - it was actually near Flagstaff (although I have no idea where they did the rock climbing). They didn't emphasize it, but I believe part of the video was filmed at Verde Valley (the train). I am curious where the lake scene was shot.

While there, check out other featured Pentaxians, especially Julie Quarry, really great work and inspirational.

Bald Eagle

We've heard reports that bald eagles have been spotted in the Mormon Lake, and Lake Mary area, so we took a drive out there to check it out. I have never seen bald eagle in the wild before, so it will be a treat. Here are some information about them. Last year there were no water in Mormon Lake, but this year, we had more rain, so it looked much better. But the lake itself was frozen except a few spots.

We looked for dead pine trees around the lake, the first close encounter was a red tail hawk. Nice one. Kept an eye on me the whole time.

A view of the peaks from Mormon Lake.

We didn't see any Bald eagles at the lake, but upon returning home, I thought we can check out the little man made lake by our neighborhood. Guess what! We saw one! What a treat! I wish I could get closer, but the place was a little muddy, so I didn't get out of the car. I guess we didn't have to put 150 miles on the car today. This was 3 minutes from our house, :).
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Mike's done it again!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Another great satirical post by Mike, this time about online forums/discussion group.

Can't stop laughing!

More new camera rumors -

Friday, January 11, 2008

From my earlier link to the Pentax K20D rumor, now there's more information surfacing about the Samsung model, the GX-20 rumor. Even Letsgodigital has a post on this camera.

Quick spec - 14.6 Megapixel CMOS sensor (goodbye Sony?), up to 3200 ISO. 2.7" LCD, and the same weather sealing as K10d or GX-10.

Looks like Pentax will make the official announcement on January 24th.
Along the way, K100d replacement K200d will be announce on the same day.

Lens Testing

After reviewing a few articles about lens sharpness, I thought I'd conduct my own little test.
But as I was setting up the test subject (card board box and paint swatch), I started to wonder: So is there a basic rule we need to follow on sharpness testing?

I have seen pictures of brick wall, news paper article, fertilizer box, etc. Is there a distance limit? Light condition? Should a standard scene be utilized? Just curious.

The test was performed with my favorite manual portrait lens, a Ricoh 55mm f1.4. I started with f1.4, and went up to f11. The smallest aperture is f16, I didn't go to that one because amount of light I have at time of testing. Camera is my Pentax DL.

The camera was mounted on a tripod, subject was 6 feet away from camera. No flash, just available light.

This is full size picture. The letter K (SINK) is near center.
At f1.4

At f2.0

At f2.8

At f4

At f5.6

At f8

At f11

I manually cropped each shot from Picasa, so the crop size varies from each sample.
I think the results are very interesting. Letter K being my center point, it is actually pretty sharp through out the aperture range. The corner (barcode and #31.5) of the lens are very soft from f1.4 to f2.8, then at f4, it started to get better.
I was expecting the image to be very sharp at f5.6. But f5.6 is still a little soft, but I am suspecting camera movement, since letter K shows a slight fuzziness.
Conclusion, well, nothing much than what I already suspected. For my portrait shots, most important point is the center of the shot, so corner softness is not so bad, the softness also add to the bokeh most people are after. I am more curious at what test methodology should utilize. Maybe there's a standard testing method that us poor home users can use.

Using Tele at Grand Canyon

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Another trip to Grand Canyon, but this time, I only used my 80-200mm lens.

I usually use wide angle, but just can't capture the "GRAND" of the canyon. So I thought I'd try something different this time.

I think I like the way some of them turned out. We stayed til after sunset (for the first time), the light was nice. Everything was hand held, it was a little tough because it was very cold and windy. Things I do for a few shots, :) It was well worth it. Snow on the cliffs adds a nice touch. I really like some type of image stablization assistance. Hoping Nikon will make it an in-body feature, but I don't think that's the direction they are going with recent introduction of their VR lenses. Do I have to go with Pentax, Sony, or Olympus? I know, I should've take my tripod on every photo trip....

Shot right before sunset; it's funny, the snow behind the boulder is still hanging in there.

Shot after sunset, manual setting, f2.8, I think I shot it at 1/50th of a second. From Moran Point. I wish I had brought my tripod.

Silhouette - After sunset.

From Desert view, 2 hours before sunset. This is the shaded side, so snow is still abundant.

Oh, and Happy New Year!
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