Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Nikon D5000 Full Review

Over the past two months we’ve been exploring various aspects of what to look for in purchasing your very first digital SLR camera. With so many models on the market aimed squarely at the budding enthusiast, I thought it best to review one of these for the publication.

To this end I contacted Nikon, who were kind enough to send me the D5000 – an upper entry level camera which when paired with the higher-end kit lens (the 18-105mm f/3.5-4.5 they additionally included), retails at approximately $1139.99 CAD.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Buying Your First DSLR Part II

Last month we began our exploration of the DSLR world by outlining some basic facts required to make an informed decision regarding your first camera purchase. We discovered megapixel count isn’t particularly important, RAW format availability on your camera is, and discussed various desirable lens attributes – noting that generally the unit offered as part of a camera kit possesses few of these.
This time around, we’ll continue our examination with an in-depth assessment of key elements to look for when making a selection from among the often dizzying array of available models.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Adobe Releases Photoshop Elements & Premiere Elements 8 Today

Now that the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) has been lifted, I can share with you some of the interesting features that Adobe's consumer level image and video editing applications have to offer this time around. On Sept.17, I attended a press conference in which Senior Solutions Architect, Colin Smith took us on a tour of the apps, and I have to say, despite the fact that I generally use their pro-level software, there was a lot to be impressed with.

The new image cataloging  functionality in Photoshop Elements 8 featured facial recognition, enabling users to easily add meta-data to their images. Once the application knows a face, it searches for all other occurrences of it within your catalog and tentatively tags it as such. E.g.: If you identify an image as containing Sally's face, the application will go through every other image in your collection looking for similar features and ask you "Is this Sally?" to confirm additional images that it thinks depict the same person. This is a HUGE time saver for those of us who don't have all of our images properly tagged with who's in them (i.e. most of us).

Other cool features Photoshop Elements 8 is debuting include Photomerge Exposure, which allows you to take a variety of exposures of the same scene and combine them in a high dynamic range composite — but in an intuitive and easy-to-use manner that'll be no problem for your grandmother to accomplish.

Recompose allows a user to take elements out of photos, reposition items in them etc., all so quickly and easily you'll wonder why you ever learned to use the clone stamp! Well, that's a little bit of an overstatement, but it certainly does a great job for basic edits. Again, the target audience will be very pleased with this new ability.

Elements 8 also features what they're calling Quick Fix Previews which enable the user to see a variety of variations of the same image using different levels of the tool they are currently employing. For example, people don't have to understand what saturation is when they are using that tool, instead, they'll see which version looks better from the choices available and simply select that.

For Premiere Elements 8, they've added some equally impressive features, including some very cool motion-tracking functionality, Smart Trim, Smart Fix and even Instant Movie which generates an entire movie on the fly from a selection of your clips — even applying theme music, transitions and effects. Very cool indeed.

I'll be providing a complete review in an upcoming issue of TechKnow magazine; however, I figured I'd post my first impressions here. Stay tuned for the full scoop!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Photographing a Two Year Old

Well, yesterday I had the pleasure of chasing an almost two year old boy around his grandmother's house trying to get some decent images for her to give to her granddaughter as a present. Quarters were quite cramped and I didn't have the space to set up proper backdrops as there was no place to put the stands. Perhaps I'll bring some gaffer tape with me next time and just try to tape it to the ceiling — live and learn.

As a poor substitute, we set up a chair against a neutral-toned  wall, a soft-box as the key light, an umbrella and reflector as a fill and a Nikon SB-800 filling in shadows from below. Then we tried to get Christopher to sit and smile for the camera so we could dial in the lighting... he thought it a better idea to throw trucks at the camera man!

Ultimately we ended up going outside and watching Chis trashing his Nana's, and her neighbor's respective gardens, tromping through them in pursuit of his soccer ball.

Every time I went to capture an image, wee Christopher would run up to me, grab my finger and haul me to wherever he felt I should rather be. This of course made photography a little difficult. When I wasn't being led around, Chris thought it a good idea to charge directly at the camera.

Finally, we went back inside and I set up a collapsible green screen chroma key background from Botero
and figured I'd be able to just drop any background behind Chris after extracting him using the Primatte filter in Photoshop. Well, unfortunately the space constraints again came into play as we had to deal with significant green spill on the subject. As a result, I had to spend several hours cleaning up each image.

The finished products turned out great, but with significantly more effort required than I would normally spend on a project. Moral of the story? Be prepared. Know where you're going and what the constraints are before you get there. Having a portable studio is great, but sometimes it's just time to whip out the SB-800s and capture what you can. Often it's better to just have clients come to your own space where you know what you're dealing with and can have everything dialed-in before they arrive. Next time I think I'm just going to have folks come down to the studio.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nikon D5000 First Impressions

Well, the new Nikon D5000 arrived today after having been dispatched me by their Canadian PR firm, in order that I might review it in my capacity as digital imaging columnist for the upcoming issue of TechKnow magazine.

Having owned Nikon camera models from the 1970s through today's, I'd characterize this unit as definitely mid-entry level. Of the four Nikons I use these days (the D3, D200, D50 and FM) its most similar to the D50 in terms of feel and function. It's a solid little camera body which I would suspect fits nicely in a woman's hand, but is a little small for mine... or perhaps I am just used to using the D3 :)

The first thing I noticed was the complete and glaring absence of a top LCD display, and the inclusion of a tilt and pivoting 2.7" rear LCD monitor which has the annoying habit (I'm certain there's a setting to correct this but this seems the default behaviour) of illuminating when I am trying to take a photo. This is of course less than ideal, as the light spill into your eyes is distracting and interferes with the image visible in your viewfinder. The LCD itself is however a bright and crisp 230,000 dot  TFT device which compensates for the viewfinder's limited 95% coverage by providing 100% frame display.

This camera seems clearly aimed at the point-and-shoot crowd who are used to framing images with the LCD display while holding the camera at arms length — just about the worst method one could employ for getting sharp images. The default settings are definitely geared for the non-photographer and designed to get the uninitiated up and running as quickly as possible while still acheiving reasonable results.

The shutter has a soft, yet pleasing sound and the response of the camera seems fairly snappy (pun intended) for its class. The initial photos I've shot with the accompanying 18-105mm ƒ3.5-5.6 VR lens are a little warm and there seems to be some back focus issues (focus point was on the label and actual focus seems more to be on the spout) that I'll have to check out.

I suppose you'll have to pick up the October issue of TechKnow magazine if you want the rest of the story!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Buying Your First DSLR

Well, you’ve decided; you’re tired of the out-of-focus, motion-blurred, grainy snapshots you’ve been taking with your point-and-shoot, and are about to take the plunge – investing in a digital single lens reflex camera, or DSLR for short. The problem is, with such a dizzying array of options available, what should you be looking for? What’s important versus simply nice-to-have... and what really doesn’t matter at all?

Our New Blog

Welcome to our new photography blog! Here you'll find our latest images, along with photographic tips, tricks and techniques that will hopefully assist you in taking better pictures. Let us know what you think and what you'd like to see and we'll be certain to respond.