Thursday, July 26, 2007

Backyard Beauty!

I took some photos in my friends', the Pattersons, backyard this week. The yard is beautifully created to be a haven for birds and butterflies, and the plantings are especially attractive to hummingbirds, which appear in the hundreds during migration in early September. I hope you enjoy the beauty of nature found here: http://southern-exposures.net/Patterson_gallery/index.html and here: http://imageevent.com/jhowle/backyardbeauties and
http://imageevent.com/jhowle/hummingbirds

I also went out to look for birds and wildlife at the Lock and Dam in Columbus, MS this week and I lucked up bigtime! I spotted a doe with twin fawns nursing! I snapped about 5 or 6 photos with her looking at me and no doubt hearing the loud shutter of my 20D and then after letting them nurse a minute longer, she turned and went into the bushes away from my prying camera.
http://imageevent.com/jhowle/deerwithfawns

Enjoy!

New superzoom cameras coming soon!

A new Fujifilm camera due out in Sept. could be a winner if the image quality lives up to some of their previous models with an impressive 8 megapixels and 18X stabilized zoom! Check out the press release for the FinePix S8000fd

Unfortunately the Sony and Olympus superzoom models did not live up to the hype with some serious image problems so I have not recommended them to nature photographers. The new Canon S5 IS, while not perfect either, is probably a better choice and the review just out at dpreview.com states that it would be his pick of the current crop of superzooms. And there is nothing wrong with the previous S3 IS, which I own, now available for considerablly discounted prices. Another top contender is the Panasonic FZ8 which received a Highly Recommended rating. You can read the reviews of the superzoom models at dpreview.com, steves-digicams.com and imaging-resource.com and decide for yourself.


For those who are not interested in superzoom models, check out the other new Fine Pix models just announced. Some of them will have true image stabilization, face recognition, and should take better low light photos using high ISO without a lot of grain, if they are as good as the previous highly-rated models like the F31. Here's the new FinePix F50fd.

Panasonic is also coming out with a new model DMC-FZ18 8.1 megapixel
sporting 18X stabilized zoom, but I'd have to see a review before getting excited about it since the current models still have problems with noise even at the lowest ISO setting.

I'll try to keep current on new camera introductions as they appear and as reviews come out.

Judy

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Should you buy a digital SLR?

In the past 3 years or so, since digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras began to come down in price so that the photo enthusiast who had been buying advanced digicams could afford them, more photographers have been making the jump to SLR models. Digital SLR cameras offer the top image quality for serious photographers. Those who are more advanced shooters or who have deeper pockets are interested in such models as the Canon 30D or 5D and the Nikon D80 or other mid-range models. There are also several good lower-priced models to choose from made by Sony, Olympus and Pentax, among others, and most models can be purchased with a kit lens.

Digital SLRs have the following advantages:

1. You are actually seeing through the lens so basically, what you see is what you get. The viewfinders are larger and brighter so you can really see what you are shooting.

2. Faster startup and shot-to-shot times, shooting up to 5 frames per second in high-speed mode.

3. Low noise, resulting in cleaner images in low-light situations where it is necessary to use higher ISO values.

4. High-quality interchangeable lenses from wide-angle to telephoto to suit your shooting needs.

5. External flash units are available for better photos. They can be mounted on the camera’s hot shoe and can be bounced off the ceiling or walls to avoid washing out your subjects and harsh shadows created by on-board flashes.

6. Most have a large number of buttons and dials that allow very fast adjustments of settings including Exposure Compensation, Metering modes, White Balance, Aperture and Shutter speed, ISO, Flash settings, and other functions without using menus, which makes it much faster and easier to change settings to suit the shooting conditions.

7. Digital SLRs focus and shoot extremely fast under most conditions so you won't miss the shot and many have a special focus mode for moving subjects.

Considerations:

Digital SLR cameras are larger and heavier than compact digicams. If you like to keep a camera in your pocket or purse, then an SLR may seem overly large, but you can always have a 2nd inexpensive "take-anywhere" pocket camera. The size is actually easy to get used to after a short time and any inconvenience is more than made up for by the superior image quality. This is especially true if you are shooting with a longer zoom lens which generally produces a better image than shooting distant subjects with a compact digital camera, sharper and much more detailed images are the rule.

Even though an SLR may have fewer or the same number of megapixels as a compact point-and-shoot digicam, the actual resolution is much higher because they have larger sensors. For example, a 6 megapixel SLR will produce a more detailed image than an 8 megapixel compact digicam, and will allow you to print larger images that look great. Due to the larger sensors, SLRs have less “noise” at high ISO settings than compact digital cameras with the same number of megapixels. And keep in mind that reviewers have noticed little difference in prints up to 11 x 14" from models with 8 and 10 megapixels. That is not necessarily true with compact digital cameras where higher megapixels often causes much higher noise levels OR the deterioration of the images due to high in-camera noise suppression. The camera manufacturers keep adding more megapixels to the same small sized sensors and few if any of these high megapixel cameras produce better image quality than the preceding models with fewer megapixels.

Camera and Lens System

When you purchase your digital SLR, keep in mind that you are purchasing a system which will include not only the camera, but lenses and external flash units and other accessories that you might be interested in later on. Therefore you should do research on the whole system including any lenses that you might be interested in purchasing later. Often quality lenses cost more than the camera especially if they are stabilized or professional quality. You might start out with the kit lens which is generally a shorter focal length of less than 100 mm and soon find that you need more reach for distant subjects such as wildlife or scenery. Or you may want to add a wide-angle lens for shooting buildings and landscapes. You should, therefore, be aware of which lenses are available and what the prices are in the various systems from different manufacturers.

For example, I met one gal who had purchased the inexpensive Olympus SLR with 2 lenses and she decided she needed a longer lens but the longer lenses for that camera were really expensive unless she went with a 3rd party model.

Canon has a large assortment of lenses available and many are moderately priced, such as the 70 - 300 mm stabilized lens and several in the wide-angle range. I am not familiar with the pricing on other brands as I haven't looked at them in 3 yrs. since I decided to go with a Canon 20D.

Image stabilized lenses should be considered if you don’t want to use a tripod most of the time to avoid blurring from camera shake at longer focal lengths. (Some cameras such as the Sony Alpha now offer anti-shake technology in the camera, making any lens stabilized, although this is a little less effective than stabilization in the lens itself.)

So keep in mind, when shopping for a digital SLR, to consider not only the camera body, but look at the whole system of lenses and accessories. Look for a manufacturer that offers a wide range of lenses at prices you can afford, flash units, and other accessories you might be interested in later on. If you decided to upgrade your camera body in the future, you will be able to use the same lenses and flash from major manufacturers. You can also purchase 3rd party lenses and accessories from vendors such as Sigma, Tamron, etc. for Canon and other brand camerals.

Digital SLR manufacturers

Digital SLR models are manufactured by several companies. Currently, Canon is leading the market, with Nikon in 2nd place. Others include Sony, Pentax, Sigma, Samsung, Olympus and Fuji.

My Recommendation:

It depends on what your needs are, but generally I recommend the Canon Rebel XTi as it has outstanding image quality, low noise, 10 megapixels, and you have a large assortment of quality Canon lenses to choose from. But you should make you own decision and let your budget be your guide. If you have a larger budget, look at the Canon 30D (or wait till late summer and see if a new model will be announced to replace the 30D), or the Nikon D80. If you have a smaller budget, look at the Sony, Pentax and Olympus models. The Olympus can be purchased in a kit with 2 lenses for a very reasonable price.

For the latest and best camera models, check my Digital Camera Store.

.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Photography News


On the home front, I got a new lens for my 20D, a Canon 17 - 55 mm f2.8 IS. I needed a good wide-angle lens and this one is superb! Check out my first photos of an old church and some flowers and plants.

The new Sony H7 and H9 superzoom cameras are available now. No reviews have been posted yet so the verdict is still out. There have been some image quality issues reported by a few users but, all in all, it's a fairly good camera featuring 15X zoom. Most issues wouldn't be bothersome sized for the web or in small prints. However, as some users have pointed out, the older H5 possibly has better image quality and it has 12X zoom and is no doubt cheap now that the new models have come out. As always, read professional reviews before purchasing. Meantime, here is a user's mini-review at the Sony Talk forum at dpreview.com. And another one. Apparently several users have returned their H9 models and there may be some quality control issues. Definitely wait for more infomation before purchasing, and consider the newly announced Canon, read on:

Another NEW superzoom camera just announced, the Canon S5 IS, has 8 megapixels, 12X stabilized zoom, and will replace the S3 IS. Available in July. Read up on the specs here. I have an S3 IS for a take-anywhere camera and like it very much. It just may have better image quality than the Sony models. It's supposed to sell for around $500 but will be less online especially after a month or two. Also conisder this: the 6 mp, 12X zoom Canon S3 IS is selling very cheap now. They were on sale for $279 at Office Depot last month and a friend got one.

Happy shooting!