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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Canon EOS 50D DSLR

We've heard rumours for weeks, but the official announcement has finally been made by Canon. The new Canon EOS 50D features an APS-C sized 15.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, a new DIGIC 4 Image Processor, and improved ISO capabilities up to 12800.

Also new is "a refined 3.0-inch Clear View LCD (920,000 dots) monitor, supercharged Live View Function with Face Detection Live mode, plus a number of new automatic Image Correction settings and HDMI output for viewing images on an HDTV."

There's also new sRAW settings, a new set-up for the sensor's micro-lenses, and Canon says the 50D has better environmental sealing than it's predecessor, the 40D.

I'm thinking what is more important may be in what is not emphasized by Canon. The 50D has pretty much the same AF system as the 40D. That leaves Canon's AF complaints unanswered, and certainly doesn't offer any competition for the Nikon D300's excellent AF system.

The 50D also doesn't appear to have wireless speedlite control, a valuable function that Nikon has had on most of it's cameras for some time now.

All in all, the 50D appears to be a fairly minor up-grade from the 40D. Sure it's got more mega-pixels, but do we really need them? Most pro's (including myself) will tell you that we don't need any more mega-pixels. Ten or twelve is more than enough already. Much more important would be for Canon to fix it's AF and QC issues.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A New 70-200mm f2.8 VR Nikkor?

Rumours abound that there is a new version of Nikon's venerable 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens in the works. An up-date to the latest version of Nikon's "Vibration Reduction" technology, "VR II" would be welcome.

There are also reports of problems when the existing version of the lens is used with the full frame D3 and D700. Nikon guru, Bjorn Rorslett, comments on the issues with the current version of the lens when used with the D3 and D700 on his site.

I can't see Nikon not addressing the issue as the 70-200mm f2.8 VR is one of their top lenses. As yet however, there is no official word from Nikon, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Many people ask me about the Sigma 30mm f1.4 prime lens. I've owned it both in a Canon and a Nikon mount, and I can say both of mine were fantastic. Prime lenses aren't for everybody, but if you're a prime shooter or are just interested in adding more flexibility to your lens line-up, I'd highly recommend you try the Sigma 30mm f1.4.

At f1.4, you'll have to watch your distances and make sure what you want to be in focus will be, but it's a look you're not going to get from a slower lens. I'm talking about that creamy, out of focus background. You just can't get that at f8, or even at f2.8 for that matter.

There have been reports that some samples of this lens aren't sharp. While this may be the case, I can tell you that both of mine were extremely sharp. Bear in mind too, that you're just as likely to get a new Canon lens that isn't sharp (MORE likely with some Canon lenses), as you are with the Sigma 30mm f1.4, so don't let that stop you. Shop at a store that will let you try it out first, and you shouldn't have any problems. I can also tell you that customer service for Sigma is fantastic. I spoke with them at length about another Sigma lens I was considering buying 2nd hand, and they were very helpful.

Did I mention my Sigma 30mm's were sharp...

Sigma 30mm @ f1.4

Saturday, February 16, 2008

RadioPopper - the new standard for wireless flash?

RadioPopper is just about ready to start taking orders for their new radio based wireless flash system. For those of you that haven't been following the on-going news of their development, RadioPoppers will be a radio based alternative to wireless flash systems like Pocket Wizards, Nikon's CLS system, and Canon's Wireless Flash system. The big news and HUGE advantage with RadioPoppers is that they are not ine-of-sight systems like the ones I just mentioned.

"RadioPopper addresses the key issue of reliability of the “line of sight” infrared system by essentially “bridging” the infrared light signal over a radio link. This translates to a beautifully simple solution to a very complex problem." (from the RadioPopper website).

I can't wait to try these puppies out! The existing systems, including Pocket Wizards, have serious limitations. A lot of us have learned to work within these limitations, but that doesn't mean we liked it! With the introduction of the RadioPoppers, things will change. If they work as claimed, I think they'll be the new standard for wireless flash.

Bear in mind my small caveat though... "if they work as claimed". These are an entirely new product, not just another version of something that already exists. I'm hoping they work beautifully, but that does remain to be seen. As with any new product, there may be a few bugs to iron out once they hit the mainstream, but that's fine so long as things are handled properly. Suffice to say, I have high hopes for these little beauties.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Backing Up... Hard Drive, DVD, CD ???

Backing up data, specifically photos in our case, is an on-going chore. It's even more complicated depending on what you choose to back up to, and how you do your back-ups. Indeed, what you back up to can be half the head-ache these days with all the information out there about what's more reliable and how long each media will last.

I use a combination of hard drives and DVD's. I download to my working drive, and then use a great little program called Allways Sync to make sure everything from my working drive gets replicated on a duplicate back-up drive. If it's a paid job, or something else that's of high importance, I also then burn a set of DVD's.

Perhaps a little bit of over-kill, but it lets me sleep at night, and that is the key. What will let you sleep at night? Or, in other words, what are you comfortable with? How much or how little redundancy in your back-up plan is enough to give you peace of mind?

I have photographer friends who have eliminated DVD's from their back-up plans altogether. I also have photographer friends who are entirely DVD based in their back-ups.

The facts seem to indicate that DVD's do not have a great life expectancy and are certainly not an archival storage media. This, of course, depends on a few factors such as the brand of DVD, whether you get a good burn (i.e. is your burner still doing it's job 100%), and how you store the DVD's you've burned. All of these factor into how long you can expect your burnt DVD's to be readable.

Of course, some make the argument that with the speed at which technology is moving, the likelihood that DVD's will at least last until the next new media format (i.e. Blu-Ray)is good. I'd have to mostly agree with that, bearing in mind that I hedge my bets and use hard drives too. :) In any event, it's pretty well agreed upon that DVD's are not what you want to be counting on for long-term archival storage.

So, a mix of both hard drives and DVD's, just hard drives, or maybe just DVD's with several copies and a plan to up-date them to the next new media... take your pick. What will let you sleep at night?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Canon EOS 450D Rebel XSi

Canon announced it's new Canon EOS 450D Rebel XSi just prior to PMA 2008. When you consider what it offers for such a low price, it's an impressive camera, to say the least.

Featuring a new "Canon 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, DIGIC III Image Processor, 14-bit conversion for smooth tone, gradations, extensive noise reduction technology, and new Auto Optimization for superior highlight-shadow control," the XSi is likely to make a lot of 40D owners a little envious (if not upset).

It's is interesting that Canon would introduce a lower model like the XSi, that trumps it's more expensive, higher-end brother, the 40D, in so many ways. The 40D is fairly new in Canon's line-up, and while a very capable camera, the XSi trumps it in quite a few areas (not the least of which is the sensor) for almost half the price. Indeed, with all the features the XSi offers (not the least of which is the what looks to be the same great AF system that the 40D has), I'd be hard pressed to recommend the 40D over the XSi.

Without pixel-peeping any images, I'm content to say that the XSi will be more than capable of producing top-quality images, likely better than what the 40D is capable of, considering the XSi's new sensor. This leads me back to my earlier comment that a lot of 40D owners might not be too happy upon reading the XSi press release. I don't know why Canon released the 40D so under-spec'd in comparison to the XSi when they obviously knew it was coming, but as a consumer, it doesn't leave me to happy about having spent a lot more money on my 40D's only to have the XSi announced at almost half the price.

Anyway, enough about the 40D. The XSi looks to be a truly amazing camera for the money. The price of DSLR's just keeps dropping, and it amazes me that you can get a camera as fully featured as the XSi for only $899.99 USD.

One of the changes the XSi brings is the move away from Compact Flash to SD cards. While this may be annoying to some (likely pro's who want to use the XSi as a back-up), I doubt the XSi's target market will mind at all. Most consumers are used to SD cards, having used them in their point and shoot cameras, cellphones, GPS units, and other electronic gizmos. The fact that the XSi uses SD will be a plus to them, as they likely already own an SD card or two and are probably more familiar with SD than CF. And for the pros missing the Compact Flash, SD cards are so cheap these days, it's really not a big deal. Buy a couple of 8GB SD cards and be done with it!

The XSi also uses a new "high capacity" Lithium-Ion 1080 mAh battery called an LP-E5. I don't really see the point in this, but then I suppose Canon wants to make money on all the extra batteries it will sell as XSi owners have to buy extras because their XT and XTi batteries don't fit. I'm all for sticking to a limited amount of batteries in a product line. Canon has to be commended for doing this with their 20D, 30D, 40D, and 5D lines. They all use the same BP511 battery which is great! So why did they change up the battery in the XSi? I'm sure they'll quote advantages of longer battery life and such, but my XTi batteries last plenty long. My guess is money. Shake up the battery line and add a new revenue stream.

Due in stores by April of this year, I'm looking forward to getting mine. I love new toys, and this little guy looks like it packs a heck of a punch in a small package!