Thursday, November 30, 2006

Canon Powershot G7 - A Brief Critique

BLACK is back for the much hyped compact Canon G7, a brick of a camera which exudes quality. Unlike the previous model in this range the horrible plasticky G6. 10 Mega Pixels, 6 X optical zoom and a solid metal body, just like digital compacts four years ago.
But at the high street price of about £400 it is just £99 less than an EOS 400D. The G7's 35-210mm f2.8-4.8 lens is far better than the 400D's 18-55mm, but that can be taken off and replaced with a prime L series. It loses out to the G7 for sheer portability. Are any G7 users really going to take advantage of the hotshoe? The built in Neutral Density filter looks useful though. The Iso dial on the top plate is (I think) a first for any digital compact and will really aid creative photography.
Manual mode is a delight with speeds displayed on the screen in a linear window like mph on the old Vauxhall Astra GTE LCD speedo. Apertures are shown in similar fashion. The other innovative feature, which first appeared on a Nikon Coolpix, is the ipod like scroll wheel which really aids quick selection when hunting through the menu.
Even if I were not a Nikon user, would I buy it?
Perhaps at £175 which was the price I paid for my first Nikon FM2N which felt similarly solid.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

RIP on a Windswept Hill

Imagine being buried beside a Scottish loch on a wild windswept hillside. It seems unlikely to be restful after a shepherd's hard life.
St Mary's Kirkyard is about 1/4 mile, 900ft above sea-level up a steep grassy slope off the A708. It is not visible from the road, so does not attract "snappers" unprepared to leave creature comforts.
One of my students used it as a location for her fill-flash picture in the final week of my beginner's course. This inspired me to spend my first free Wednesday, since the 10-week course ended, motoring out the twenty-five miles or so for a visit.
I was just sorting out the set-up when an RAF jet screamed overhead, grabbing the camera off the tripod I squeezed off a quick shot. Moments later I was not so lucky when two more weaved past in a practice dogfight - the camera snagged on the tripod! This time I even caught a glimpse of the pilot.
My student Mary Veitch was lucky enough to have snow on the distant hills two weeks ago. Today my trainers squelched through mud and bog. Descending back to the car, ever hopeful of another jet passing overhead, I traversed the slope in long diagonals to avoid a wet bum.
My aerial shot is not quite sharp as the grab shot was made at 1/125th f16 the setting for the scene at that time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Peebles War Memorial - A Vertical Panorama


Adobe Photoshop Elements' photomerge was my course topic for the final lecture. Most students tried to capture a subject (mostly landscapes) in three parts. During the lecture they would use Elements on the college computers to stitch the pictures together.

This picture of Peebles war memorial was taken in three parts. Without a very tall tripod the camera has to be tilted hence the converging verticals. Photomerge stitched the bottom parts very successfully but failed with the top part including the cross. As the top was more slender than the bottom it seems to have been unable to join the pieces.

Exposures:
Top third 1/16th f2.8 Iso 50 4 Megapixel compact
Middle Third 1/6th f2.8 Iso 58
Bottom Third 1/5th f2.8 Iso 53

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ricoh Caplio R5

Google Mail - Technopolis (Saturday 25/11/06)

Mark Davey
to letters.editor@ft.com

From: Mark Davey,

Dear Sir,

"The Ricoh Caplio R5 (digital camera) is also especially party-friendly because you can take consecutive flash shots without having to wait for the flash to recharge. "

Jonathan Margolis must have had a pre-production model. I went to the cabinet at work (camera shop) grabbed the camera, turned on - pretty quick for a digital - took a picture and immediately tried to take another, NO DICE. Two seconds later it fired. This was either due to the camera struggling to save my first 7.1mega pixel shot or some sort of processor delay.
I didn't even bother to check his claim that the camera will allow "...at least a couple of hundred flash shots in succession... " due to its "...relatively huge battery life..." as my Nikon has double the electrical capacity in milliamp/hours and only takes about 70 flash shots before I need to change batteries.
Like many current cameras the Ricoh does have Iso 800 which would speed things up as the flash would need less power. But instant recharge like my 30-year-old Vivitar flashgun does not happen.
Finally he states it is available from web vendors, it has also been on the high street in our Jessops branch in Edinburgh for at least a fortnight. We might even do you a deal or recommend another less brick like model.

Yours faithfully

Mark Davey

Friday, November 24, 2006

Canon EOS 350D + Sigma 105 Close-up Lens

A sample image from a 1-2-1 class in Edinburgh on Friday evening. My client is starting to use manual mode for subjects such as the one above. My current charge for this sort of lesson is £12.50ph, which is good value for money. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Digital Camera Instruction Books

COMPLICATED compact cameras are redefined by current digital models. Initial instruction manuals are printed but the advanced guide is on a CD. Olympus' FE170 selling at £99 is one such model. What about the happy snapper without a computer?

During the 1970s fully featured pocket cameras with sharp, fast fixed lenses and semi-automatic exposure appeared on the market. The ultimate for size and user control being models like the Rollei 35s. This was the equivalent of many of today's digitals all it was missing was auto-focus and a zoom lens.

Autofocus appeared the next decade and manufacturers such as Minolta made simple models such pocket models as the AFE. User control seemed to disappear overnight. Ignoring the various dodo such as disc, 110 and APS perhaps the ultimate simple compact was Olympus' MJU II with a tack sharp 35mm/2.8 lens and a range of six flash choices.

Up till two years ago I was able to persuade customers that it was a viable alternative to a similar digital model. Its price was down to about £60 and it is simple to use straight out of the box. Even a cheap digital was about double the money. £60 bought a fair bit of processing with prints and a CD offering the best of both worlds. Whether to enter the 21st century was a decision delayed.

Unless you are young, a quick learner and buy a camera phone, it would be foolish to expect great results with today's £99 pocket cameras unless you are prepared to fiddle and play with it or buy a computer to read CD instructions.

Almost all sub-£100 cameras have a 3 x Optical zoom lens, non-rechargeable AA batteries and without salesman instruction are a complicated minefield. Often the supplied batteries run out before the user has had a chance to really get the device going. A person who has not been told to use rechargeables with a minimum of 1800 Milliamp/hours (Mah) may put in cheapies from the supermarket to have them fail even quicker. Canon still use AAs in the excellent Powershot A710IS so the system must be good! Canon's smaller devices use Li-ion 730 mah phone type batteries but that's to keep the size down.

The instruction book, if at all, usually covers batteries in the final chapter. This is all before you discover that it will produce wonderful party pics with no red-eyes.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Photomerge and panoramic possibilities

A panoramic project best tackled with a standard lens setting that conforms to about the equivalent of 50mm on a 35mm film camera. So halfway along the scale from wide-ange to tele-
photo if using a 3x Optical Zoom digital camera. The project also requires the use of Adobe Photoshop Elements Software. In next week's class we will put it together with good old Elements 2.0! If you have 3.0, 4.0, 0r 5.0, try it out.
The camera will need to be supported on a firm base ideally a tripod.
Try taking three or four photos, on the same settings and rotating the camera between shots so that there is a bit of overlap on each image.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Get them in lads!

Shot near the Beltring Oast Houses, Kent in 1996. Silhouetted thanks to a suggestion by Alex Watson of Sevenoaks' Chronicle. For a good beer from Kent try Shepherd Neame of Faversham. Posted by Picasa

Action Sports Photography

 Posted by Picasa