January and February 2007 Updates
New Baby Ryan Rockwell. Cute photos with tech data.
28 February 2007, Wednesday
Added more examples from tonight's sunset to Critical Camera Adjustments.
Official rumors are confirming a 1.1x sensor for next week's D3X, which stinks since it's still not full frame; it's only 90% of full frame.
Mustard, Rancho Santa Fe, California.
Wow! Spring is hitting San Diego. I snapped this out shooting with the Canon 50mm f/1.2L.
Added a link to Jim Reed who does the awesome weather photography we've often seen without credit.
27 February 2007, Tuesday
Today was the one day a year it rained a little in San Diego, so I got to write for a change. I'm trying to get a few things written up before all the new cameras get announced next week.
New: Canon A460 Review. This is a perfectly good $140 camera.
New: Canon A550 Review. This is a great new $199 camera.
I just added a few more sections to Critical Camera Adjustments.
New: Critical Camera Adjustments. This is the most important technical thing to know about your camera, but no one ever tell you this. This is the untold secret to technically better photos, far more important than buying a new camera or lens. Sorry if the examples aren't that mind-blowing, but you'll get the idea.
25 February 2007, Sunday
Added illustrations to Digital Killed My Tripod.
24 February 2007, Saturday
New: Death Valley Photos with Explicit Details. I've listed everything I did to make these shots. I hope you can learn from them.
22 February 2007, Thursday
I changed my Route 66 gallery backgrounds from dark gray to black.
I'm back from another photo trip to Death Valley, which is why there was nothing new here this past week. I ran my laptop all weekend, never turned it off, never plugged it in and came home with 50% of the battery charge left, another reason pros use Mac.
I made 853 shots on my Canon 5D (3GB) which all fit on one 4GB card. I downloaded them to my Mac Quad G5 in only 104 seconds via Firewire 800 with my Sandisk Extreme IV card and reader. I pity those who still have to wait for things to download! I also borrowed a $199 Canon A550 which downloads fast directly from the camera: 300 MB/300 photos downloaded in a minute via USB.
Peter Repenting in Beatty, Nevada. (Canon A550)
In addition to maybe putting up these photos (you've got a freebie above), I have five Canon lenses for which I've shot all my tests and need to write up reviews (24-105mmm f/4L IS, 85mm f/1.8 USM, 50mm f/1.2L, 15mm f/2.8 fisheye and Canon 14mm f/2.8L) and two point-and-shoots (A460, A550) with which I've shot and about which I need to write. These aren't magazine reviews; these are my usual real reviews for which I've made hundreds of shots with the point and shots and thousands with the other lenses.
Nikon brethren fear not; I've been doing all the Canon reviews because Canon shooters ask, and I've already owned, used and reviewed just about everything Nikon makes. Nikon hasn't introduced anything new since last year.
Curious guy I am, there's a whole catalog of Canon I want to use and review since people ask. I'm as curious as all of us about which does what and works best. Since all the Canon is new to me, of course I'm talking about it a lot lately. I've been talking about Nikon here since the 1990s.
I want to complete these current reviews in the next week or two before the big trade show at which I hope the Nikon D3X (full frame?) and Canon 40D and 7D will be announced. I want to get all these reviews written before the show, because I'll be swamped writing about the new stuff afterwards.
I also owe you all a page of my wild speculations.
Seeing the technical image quality of my Canon 5D and the insane wide angle lenses I love, and can't get for my digital Nikons, I'm hoping Nikon finally goes with a larger sensor for the D3X. With resolution levels today it's the only intelligent way to go up unless Nikon gives us ISO 25 and ISO 12 in a 20 MP DX camera. The D2X is strained for noise with as many pixels as it has today in the DX size. Even the D200/D80 have such high resolutions that their image quality is usually limited by my lenses, not by the camera. It's not 2005 anymore when 6MP was perfect in DX size.
15 February 2007, Thursday
New: The Wall of Shame. I refer to this wall so often in lens reviews I decided to define it.
The good guys at wrote about the long-standing weirdness that Mac monitors default to an obsolete gamma of 1.8. As I wrote in Why Pros Use Mac, we've all been calibrating our Macs to gamma (contrast) 2.2 since the 1990s, so it's not a problem.
The problem is for the innocents who leave their Macs at their silly default of gamma 1.8, which comes from Mac's historic use in publishing long before the commercialization of the internet and consumerization of digital photography, all of which use gamma 2.2.
Macs shipping at gamma 1.8 don't bother the seasoned, since resetting the gamma is only a few easy clicks (Top Left Blue Apple > System Prefs > Displays > Color > Calibrate (choose 2.2 gamma when asked)). Try that on Windows!
Actually all the seasoned use today's cheap and excellent calibrators, like the Colorvision Spyder I use, and calibrate to 2.2 gamma.
I've been proselytizing here to set your gamma to 2.2 since the 1990s. I figured I'd bring it up again since Smugmug brought it up again. Presuming you use a calibrator, like the Colorvision Spyder I use, you'll be calibrating to gamma 2.2 anyway.
14 February 2007, Wednesday
Whoops! I forgot to put links all over my reviews and index pages for my comparison of the Nikon D200, D80, D70, D50, D40, Canon 5D and XTi.
New: Canon 70-300mm IS Review. This is a great ultralight lens.
A new unit defined: cm/octave. I used this unit in my Canon 70-300mm IS review, so I figured I'd better define it.
13 February 2007, Tuesday
Surprise: Tokina 10-17mm Dry-Lab Review. You all ask, so here's the critical need-to-know stuff until I get one in my hot little hands.
Whoo Hoo! I just deleted all the 1,347 emails that piled up these past weeks. Now I can get to work today. I'm hoping to get a Canon 70-300 IS and 85mm f/1.2L II review done by Thursday.
Some Nikon hobbyists were worried that I was going over to the Light Side. Not to worry - I'm still here - heck, didn't you notice all the D40/D80/D200 user guides I just completed?
It's easy for someone with my background to stay expert in using both these camera lines. Using cameras, for me at least, is trivially simple. I've been working on the engineering side of this stuff forever, and with my engineering degree I was helping other engineers design digital imaging systems all day long ever since the 1980s.
It's much, much easier to use cameras than it is to design them.
I make this stuff simple because I understand intimately the intricate workings going on inside. Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony, Casio, Spooginar, Sigma, whatever - no problem.
Understanding the stuff that make all these things tick on the inside, like convolutional kernels, resampling algorithms, Viterbi coders, discreet cosine transforms and quantization truncation matrices, makes pushing the buttons on the outside trivial. Those are just some of the basics. You don't even want to ask about the hard stuff.
If anything, reviewing cameras lacks the intellectual stimulation of designing them. Don't worry that I'll be overwhelmed trying to review two brands instead of one. If anything, I'm trying to keep my brain from falling asleep.
12 February 2007, Monday
Do I shoot Nikon or Canon? I'm amused that anyone cares, since your camera doesn't matter. Worse is that some people think you're only allowed one brand, as if they were your religion.
I shoot both, just like the wife and I have several brands of cars and bicycles in our garage. I use different ones for different things. People have been asking me to review Canon gear, and since it's all reasonably new to me, I talk more about it lately.
Nikon SLRs work better and have far superior LCD monitors and dynamically programmable automation, while my full-frame 5D can swallow much wider lenses and has more resolution if I need a 6-foot-wide (2m) print.
My year-old D200 has 30,000 shots on it, my six-month-old SD700 has 7,700 shots on it, my three-month-old 5D has 12,000 shots on it, and my two-month-old D40 has 5,500 shots on it. The only way you learn anything about anything is by shooting, not by reading about it on the Internet.
Digital cameras are disposable. They are not a commitment. Use them as long as they are relevant, usually 9-18 months, then pitch them like a used diaper. 2007 isn't 1997 anymore. Lenses are worth keeping, digital cameras aren't, although I keep my oldies around for comparison's sake.
I'm not on anyone's promotional take and I buy my stuff myself just like you do. Maybe it's just that I'm more curious than normal people - I've been doing this since I was five years old and my childhood levels of dangerously high curiosity are undiminished!
11 February 2007, Sunday
NEW: Route 66 Workshop Photos! Yay! I also included explicit technical details behind making all of them.
This is what I've been doing these past weeks. I also have been to, and am heading back to, Death Valley. I'm working on those shots for you, as well as quite a few Canon lens reviews, too.
I also borrowed the new Canon A550 ($199 MSRP) and A460 ($149 MSRP) point-and-shoots, which I'll be reviewing.
06 February 2007, Tuesday
I just got back from two weeks of travel and workshops in Death Valley and along Rt 66. I'll try to post some snaps, and then get to deleting all my unread email from the past few weeks.
30 January 2007, Tuesday
Yay! It's my birthday today.
I'm getting back from the Route 66 workshop, and if I can dig out, I'll put the reviews I'm doing on hold and post some photos. I've got about a half-dozen lenses I've been out shooting. The results are coming.
One preview: the dinky little Canon 70-300 IS I borrowed seems like a big winner. At first it seems like a joke, having a loose zoom, no focus scale and needing a switch to get to and from manual focus mode, however, AF is fast, the images look excellent and it weighs nothing. IS works great: it locks down the image for sharp shots without a tripod. Slow shutter panning is easy, and I didn't even use the correct IS mode.
23 January 2007, Tuesday
20 January 2007, Saturday
Woman Gives Birth to 300 lb. Baby! (No Photoshop!)
Rumor has it that AP, in response to Reuters yesterday, has outlawed the use of wide angle lenses because they give rise to "unnatural perspective." (This snap was made with my Canon 14mm f/2.8 on my 5D.) AP supposedly is going to limit all photographers to just one 50mm lens, or its equivalent.
UPI, not to be outdone, is supposedly requiring all submissions be shot with Canon's verification software and a 50mm lens at ISO 100, and photographers will not be allowed to look through the viewfinder lest they attempt to alter the composition.
19 January 2007, Friday
Some guy at Reuters, a business that sells news photos for profit (NASDAQ: RTRSY), published A Guide to Making Boring Newspaper Photos because Reuters got busted when they sold a phony photo back in August 2006.
The Reuters guy published this memo to make it look like Reuters would never get skunked again. I love a good hoax, and hoaxes will always be with us, regardless of what interoffice memos say.
This reminds me of the days when I had boring office jobs and people published memos telling people what to do. Do photographers in the field really buy this? They may as well go work an office job.
Follow these "let someone else think for you" guidelines if you want to remain a low-paid newspaper hack or mindless slave. Run the other way if you think for yourself and want to express your imagination as great art.
People new to photography, which includes the vast majority of non-photographers and non-artists who read newspapers, have the grave misunderstanding that photographs represent reality. They can't: reality is 3D, photos only 2D. Photos are rectangles, reality is 360 degrees. Reality has sound, taste, smell and motion, photos have nothing. Reality has shadows and highlights - photos only have one or the other before adding an artist's touch. Photos are always what the photographer wants to show. I've worked in newspapers, and you'd be astounded by how much we can alter what's said merely by which frame we select from a burst.
Reuters has to publish these creative shackles not for itself, but to satiate its readers in an attempt to keep its market share so it can be more profitable for its shareholders against APF, UPI, AP and etc. That memo is a business and PR issue, it's not about photography.
Photography has never been a duplication of reality, but the people who try to sell you news photos for profit would like you to think that. Art is defined as the expression of imagination, not the duplication of reality. These businessmen don't want art. They'd never have hired Weegee, who like most photographers of his day, would move murder victims' bodies around to make photographs that told the story better.
The Reuters piece is funny. You can tell it's written as PR, and not for photographers, when you see they went so far as to prohibit in-camera sharpening, which every camera does and can't be turned off except on a few cameras. Sharpening is a required part of the algorithm for sin x/x correction after the anti-alias filter and Bayer interpolation. If you could turn it off, you'd have mush.
A great basis for a photo contest is to have a contest where we see who can break the most of these rules. Party on!
18 January 2007, Thursday
NEW: Printable PDF Version of my plain-English Canon 30D User's Guide. Many thanks to Jamie Gaffney for converting it. It's OK to make one print for yourself, but get permission before doing anything else with it.
NEW: Printable PDF Version of my plain-English Nikon D200 User's Guide. Many thanks to Paul Deakin in Hong Kong for converting it. It's OK to make one print for yourself, but get permission before doing anything else with it. Many thanks also to Mike Stevenson-Smith of the UK, Mladen Radman of England and Jeff Carpenter who send other versions. When I got to culling my email, I posted the version with the smallest file size, critical for internet use. Many thanks to all; you've all helped all of the photography world. I'm always astonished at everyone's generosity for helping others.
Enough! I need to edit my Where and How to Buy page, but please stop asking me if the deals you see at Expresscameras.com and CCI Camera City are for real. They aren't. Please read my Where and How to Buy page for details.
NEW: DxO Optics Pro Correction Software. Too much fun, especially if you have a fisheye!
Coming soon: I have full reviews of the Canon 14mm L, 15mm Fisheye, 24-105mm f/4 IS L, 85mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.2L, 70-300mm IS and DxO lens correction software underway. I've been lucky enough to buy (God bless rebates) or borrow all this and shoot with it. Right now I need to get the time to write it all up.
15 January 2007, Monday
NEW: Printable PDF version of my plain-English D80 User's Guide. (Many thanks to JAMIE GAFFNEY for converting it. It's OK to make one print for yourself, but get permission before doing anything else with it.)
My mom-in-law just contributed her 10-year-old Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 to my musuem. Its NP-F530 battery isn't accepting a charge (only accepting 165 uA at 8V). Does anyone have any of these batteries collecting dust to contribute to the cause? Let me know - thanks!
NEW: Printable PDF version of my plain-English D40 User's Guide. (Many thanks to Sándor Nagy for converting it. It's OK to make one print for yourself, but get permission before doing anything else with it.)
Added a cheater Canon 5D users guide. Since the 5D is actually a 30D with a bigger sensor, I gave a link to the 30D user's guide until I write the 5D version.
Added a second trick from Italy to getting the zoom guide image off the D80 screen: tap the FUNC button.
14 January 2007, Sunday
A friend loaned me his Canon 24-105mm f/4L, so look for a full review in the next few days. Thanks Lynn!
12 January 2007, Friday
I just learned a secret D80 trick from sunny México: even though the D80 has no center OK button as part of the Up - Down - Left - Right button, punch the center after zooming to make the small guide image disappear immediately!
Yay! Canon extended their USA rebates here. I'm having so much fun with my Canon 15mm fisheye and 5D I got on rebate I haven't gotten to writing it up, and the rebates previously were expected to expire around today and I was flipping out that I needed to get reviews up. Hint: the Canon 17-40mm and Canon 15mm Fisheye are excellent and inexpensive - get them if you got a 5D. Look who's helping me today:
11 January 2007, Thursday
Who needs color management? Leave everything alone, shoot, and don't worry. Here's my baby Ryan looking at an automated 17-cent print from Price Club (Costco), made with no calibration and no nothing. Why is the print a little more saturated? Because I have the colors jacked up deliberately in my D40. Colors aren't even supposed to match from cameras; they are creative devices, not copy machines, but they do. Don't worry; shoot default sRGB and be happy. See Color Management is for Wimps.
Casio just announced it's sold one billion electronic calculators since their first electronic calculator – the model 001, went on sale in 1965. Criminy! I wonder how many watches they've sold?
Updated my D80 page, since I prefer my D40. I prefer the way my D40 feels in my hand and operates over my D80. I grab my D200 for serious stuff and grab my D40 for family snapshots and light weight, so my D80 rarely gets used. Everything changes fast in digital, and 2007 will be even faster. My D80 is a swell camera, just that I prefer my D40 for half the price, and with recent price drops the superior, but heavier, D200 doesn't cost much more than a D80 which is still selling for close to its intro price from last year. In the USA, the D200 runs $1390 ish at Adorama and Amazon and the D80 runs $924. For 50% more you get 100% more camera in the D200, and that's before any D200 rebates.
35% more for 100% more camera.
I'm skunking a review of the crazy-good DxO software. Also, the more I use my Canon 15mm Fisheye on my Canon 5D with this DxO stuff, the more I'm glad I got it under Canon's rebates which expire around Friday. Here's a taste:
15mm fisheye on 5D. Roll mouse over to see after DxO conversion. (grab-shot while wife was carpet shopping.)
Added a link to Kodak's new commercial. Remember, I told you all that Advantix was a waste of time back in 1999.
06 January 2007, Saturday
NEW: Nikon D200 vs. Canon 5D, with examples. With the rebates, should you get a 5D? Yes, if you get a Canon Fisheye while you're at it.
04 January 2007, Thursday
Now that's you've all got your D40 and D80 User's Guides, I can go play with my own crazy fringe experiments.
Holy Cow! I just received the Canon 14mm f/2.8L and 15mm fisheye I bought today, and also got DxO Optics Pro correction software. To make a long upcoming story short, if you've been considering the fisheye because of the rebate, yes, the fisheye and DxO make the combo about the same as the 14mm, which costs over twice as much. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages, but the two methods produce about the same results!
The DXO-corrected fisheye is wider than the real 14mm. Overall, with just my initial try out, I think the DxO-corrected fisheye is better and more consistent than the quirky 14mm!
A $500 lens and $300 of software works about as well as an $1,800 lens. DxO also works wonders on the 14mm, making it much sharper and eliminating all the distortion, too. DxO rules! DxO fixes the distortion, color fringes and falloff that I waste all my time testing for you people, and it works automatically!
My Canon fisheye is much better than my Nikon 10.5mm fisheye, presuming you're shooting this Canon glass on a full-frame Canon 5D (also on rebate). The Canon has none of the color-fringe issues of the Nikon. The Canon also outdoes the Russian fisheye, because the Canon is sharp at every aperture, not just f/16.
Shoot the 14mm at f/2.8, run it through DxO, and voila, no more vignetting, and perfect for patio furniture and walls of shame.
02 January 2007, Tuesday
Updated What Makes a Great Camera to resolve the apparent contradiction between my love of my D40 and the fact that, at first glance, the D40 seems to lack direct controls. In fact, my D40 is so well thought out that I have direct controls for what I actually use. My D40 just gets out of my way and lets great shots jump directly from my imagination into real photos, which is what camera greatness is all about.
NEW: Nikon D40 User's Guide. Plain-English guide to how I use my Nikon D40.
NEW: Nikon D80 User's Guide. Plain-English guide to how I use my Nikon D80. I know you've all been very good this year, so here's my present to you.
Older "What's New" Listings and Photos:
2006: October - November: Trip to NY
Caveat: The ads below come from a third party and I don't see or approve them. They are sent to your screen directly from a third party. They don't come from me or my site. See more at my Buying Advice page. Personally I get my goodies at Ritz, Amazon and Adorama.