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Posts Tagged ‘DSLR

Sony Joins the Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera Party

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Sony recently introduced two new Alpha compact digitals that join in the non-DLSR, interchangeable lens category that Olympus, and Panasonic are already part of, with their micro four-thirds systems. The cameras were first announced at PMA earlier this year.

Sony's Alpha NEX-5

The Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-3 provide the quality of a DSLR in a compact body. Because this type of cameras don’t utilize a mirror prism, their physical size can be much smaller than the ordinary DSLR.

Both Sony models utilize a newly developed 14.2 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor. The sensor is 60% larger than the micro four-thirds camera sensors.

What makes the new Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras so cool is that the APS-C sensor continually adjusts focus and exposure while recording video—the first of its kind. The NEX-5 offers Full HD movie capture at (1080i AVCHD and 720p MP4) with Full HD 60i recording. The NEX-3 shoots 720p HD video, saving them as MP4 files.

Features of the cameras include built-in stereo microphones, Sony’s BIONZ processor, and high speed burst of full-res images at up to 7 frames per second. The cameras are also the first to incorporate the Sweep Panorama feature that allows your images to show up to 226° horizontal or 151° vertical field of view. With a firmware update available mid-summer, the cameras will also be able to shoot 3D Sweep Panorama images with a single lens.

Sony Alpha NEX-3

Both camera models feature a 3-inch LCD, that tilt up or down for added flexibility.

Three new E-mount lenses are being introduced with the NEX-5 and NEX-3: the 16mm f/2.8 prime lens, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS standard zoom and an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS zoom.

The cameras come with a super-compact clip-on flash. They also feature dual media card compatibility, accepting both Memory Stick PRO Duo (and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo) and SD cards, (including SDHC and SDXC formats).

An optional mount adapter—LA-EA1—makes  all 30 of the Alpha family lenses usable on the camera bodies, as well as older legacy A-mount lenses (manually focusing only). Other optional accessories include an ultra wide converter that gives a 12mm view and a Fisheye converter; an optical viewfinder, and stereo microphone. The flash, optical viewfinder and mic all connect to the cameras by the accessory shoe at the top of the camera body.

Sony is shipping the NEX-5A digital in silver and black and NEX-3A digital in silver, black and red as a kit with the 16mm lens (MSRP $650 and $550 respectively); and as a kit with the 18-55mm lens (MSRP $700 and $600 respectively). The camera bodies, accessories and 16mm and 18-55mm lenses will be available in July. The 18-200mm lens will be available in the fall.

(l. to r.) NEX-3 in red, silver NEX-3 with accessory stereo mic, the rear tilting LCD is a feature of both models, the NEX-5 and NEX-3.

For more information, go to www.sony.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld

Canon Expands Rebel line with new DSLR

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Canon U.S.A., today introduced its new flagship model for the company’s popular Rebel DSLR line: the Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR. The camera is ideal for the photo enthusiast looking for a camera they can grow into as well as a backup camera for the Canon shooting pro. The Rebel T2i offers 18-megapixels resolution for still images and can also capture full HD video at 1080p.

The Rebel T2i offers a wide range of impressive features including an ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800), a 63-zone Dual Layer Metering System, and Canon’s proprietary DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor. For the Rebel T2i, Canon developed a new 18MP CMOS sensor. The camera also offers 3.7 fps continuous shooting for stills, an expanded ± 5 EV exposure compensation range as well as a number of user-selectable Canon image processing features, including tagging of RAW files, and in-camera optimization of JPG files.

Other features include: Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer to enhance shadow detail and add contrast to “flat” scenes, Highlight Tone Priority adding up to one stop of detail in bright highlight areas, Peripheral Illumination Correction for automatic correction of vignetting, High ISO Noise Reduction with four user-selectable settings, and Long Exposure Noise Reduction applied to exposures one second or longer.

The camera has a 3-inch LCD. The EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR camera is the first EOS model to support SDXC memory cards. The camera also incorporates such features that photographers are used to seeing in a Rebel: Live View, a built-in pop-up flash, and the EOS integrated cleaning system, as well as compatibility with Canon EX-series Speedlites and Canon EF and EF-S lenses. The EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR camera is also compatible with Canon’s new BG-E8 battery grip and new RC-6 wireless remote control for both still images and video capture.

The video capture in the Rebel T2i allows for manual exposure control, selectable frame rates and an external mic input, for added flexibility. Photographers can also capture video in standard definition with the camera. Adding a new pro-level feature for EOS cameras, the Rebel T2i includes an Auto ISO function that works in all Creative Zone exposure modes including Manual where users can set a limit to the highest ISO the camera will use, enabling them to retain the lighting and look they desire for a scene. By setting an Auto ISO range, videographers can retain dark shadow areas and avoid blowing out highlight areas in a scene while still retaining the benefit of automatic ISO adjustments. The Rebel T2i DSLR captures video in both NTSC (US system) and PAL (European system) standards at selectable frame rates.

The camera also features Canon’s new Movie Crop mode, whereby you can get an additional 7x magnification when shooting SD video; this is done by the camera cropping the image directly from the CMOS sensor.

Canon expects to ship the EOS Rebel T2i to dealers in early March. Estimated retail price for the camera, body only is $799.99; and MSRP of $899.99 for the kit version that includes the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens. For more information about Canon, check the website at www.cusa.canon.com.

Product Review: ExpoImaging’s Ray Flash Ring Flash Adapter

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By Diane Berkenfeld

The Ray Flash is an adapter that fits over the head of your DSLR’s accessory flash and turns your flash into a ring flash. The Ray Flash uses the power of your flash—redirected through the adapter’s body—onto your subject. The Ray Flash has a center diameter of 4 1/8-inches and can accommodate most professional 35mm interchangeable lenses.

A range of models are available so you’ll want to check the ExpoImaging website for your DSLR/flash combination to see which one will work for you. The reason behind this is that there are differences in the height of different models of flashes sitting on various camera bodies. Originally the Ray Flash was designed to work with Canon Speedlites (580EX and 580EX II) and Nikon Speedlights (SB800 and SB900) but they will work with a range of other camera/flash combinations including cameras/flashes from Olympus and Sony; as well as flashes from Metz and Sigma.

The question is, when so many camera manufacturers and some lighting equipment makers make dedicated ring flashes, why would you go with an adapter instead? Price. The price ranges start at around $225 to $400 or so for dedicated ring flashes from camera makers and companies including Sunpak and Sigma; and upwards of $1,000 to $1,800 for ring flash heads from companies like Lumedyne, DynaLite, Comet, and Elinchrom. The ring flash heads average 3,000 watt seconds (w/s) of power. And if you own a lighting system that isn’t compatible, you’re out of luck—unless you’re willing to go out and spend thousands of dollars more for a full system of lights.

But when you’re looking for portability, a smaller unit is necessary. Street price for the Ray Flash is $199. which is a less than the cost if you were going to go out and buy a dedicated ring flash. And, by design, you’re getting more versatility out of your equipment, since you can most likely use a flash you already own.

Using the Ray Flash

(l. to r.) Installing the Ray Flash on a flash is quick and easy. Just slip it on, and turn the locking mechanism (on the top of the Ray Flash) to secure the adapter to the flash.

(l.) Final image; (r.) Close-up in Adobe Lightroom. Note the distinctive Ring Light highlights in the eyes. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

You will lose one stop of light from your flash by using the Ray Flash adapter. Because of the design, you can still use TTL modes with the Ray Flash adapter. Depending upon your shooting situation, though, you may want to use the flash on manual instead of TTL, to compensate for the light loss. A locking mechanism secures the adapter to your flash head, so it won’t slip off. And there is no change in color temperature.

Another example of the soft lighting from the Ray Flash. Photo taken with the Ray Flash on a Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash, Nikon D300s. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

The lighting from a ring flash is distinctive—virtually shadowless lighting on the front of the subject with a soft halo of shadow around the edges. The further away your subject is from the background, the harsher the shadow behind the subject will be. With other lighting methods, it is usually the opposite, in that you’ll get softer shadows the further your subject is from the background.

The Ray Flash, or any ring flash for that matter is ideal for Macro photography, however you can use the Ray Flash for wider compositions such as portraits too.

I tested out the Ray Flash (model #RAC 175-2) with a Nikon D300s body, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 G lens and Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash. I also decided to try it out with the Lensbaby Composer and Fisheye optic on the D300s and the Sigma flash.

Using the Ray Flash adapter is very easy, it just slips over the head of the flash. I had no problems using it, in fact, when using the Nikkor lens, I held the D300s body with my right hand, and zoomed the lens with my left. When I tried taking photographs with the Lensbaby, which was much shorter than the Nikkor, I found it a little more difficult to shoot, but not impossible. Because I was using the Fisheye optic, I could see the back of the Ray Flash adapter in the viewfinder. For the image of Mardi Gras beads (below) that I shot with the Fisheye Lensbaby, I actually liked the circular crop that I ended up with.

(l.) This image was captured with the Lensbaby Composer on a Nikon D300s, using the Fisheye optic. The black ring is the back of the Ray Flash - visible because of the Lensbaby's shallow physical size and Fisheye's wide field of view; (r.) Final cropped image, exposure adjusted slightly, bringing out the blacks. The outline around the circle was created in Photoshop. If you look really closely you can see the reflection of the Ray Flash in the highlights. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

If you’re looking for an economical ring flash lighting solution the Ray Flash adapter might be right for you.

For more information, go to the website www.expoimaging.com.

Lark publishes new Magic Lantern Guides book for the Olympus E-P1

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LarkOlympus E-P1Lark Books has published Magic Lantern Guides – E-P1. The new book is authored by Frank Gallaugher, who has years of experience shooting with Olympus cameras. The book (ISBN: 1-60059-671-1) costs $14.95 and will be available November 3, 2009.

Magic Lantern books help new digital photographers take the trial and error out of using and shooting with their new cameras. No matter if you’re a beginner or more experienced photographer, Magic Lantern Guides offer practical information and smart advice, while explaining all the features of a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera, and are written in an easy to read style. The Magic Lantern Guides are easier to understand than many of the manuals that come with these types of cameras.

You can check out the website at www.larkbooks.com to find out more about this book or see the other titles that Lark Books publishes.

— Diane Berkenfeld

[Editor’s Note: Read the PictureSoup review of the Olympus E-P1 on this website.]

Camera Review: Olympus E-P1

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Text & Photos By Diane BerkenfeldOlympusEP1frontweb

Last fall, at the photokina trade fair, the bi-annual photography event held in Cologne, Germany, I had a chance to view what was at that time a non-working concept camera that Olympus had developed. Reminiscent of a Leica Rangefinder camera, the body was small yet elegant in its design. Fast-forward to the Spring of 2009 and the debut of Olympus Imaging America’s E-P1. Olympus touts the camera not as a P&S, not as an SLR, but a PEN.

The first-generation Olympus Pen camera appeared in 1959. The concepts embodied in the Pen Series eventually led to the creation of the legendary Pen F Series half-frame single lens reflex system. Check out the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympus_Pen to get a thorough look at the history of the Olympus Pen series cameras.

Its retro-chic look turns heads, from tech aficionados and camera buffs to the fashion-conscious and everyday point-and-shooter.

The E-P1 is a 12.3 megapixel interchangeable lens system digital. The camera offers the quality and flexibility of a DSLR in a compact (stainless-steel) body. The camera can be described as retro-chic and is available in two versions, silver with black accent or white with tan accent. The E-P1 is the first Olympus camera in the Micro Four Thirds system format. Two lenses were introduced with the camera—the M Zuiko Digital Micro Four Thirds 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (28-84mm equivalent) and 17mm f/2.8 (34mm equivalent).

OlympusEP1backwebThe camera does not feature a viewfinder—optical or EVF—and that’s the one feature that I truly miss. A 3-inch LCD allows for the composition of images and video as well as playback. For the 17mm lens, an optional accessory viewfinder slips into the camera’s hot shoe. Consumers accustomed to composing and focusing using a P&S camera’s LCD won’t miss the lack of a viewfinder. The camera’s Live Control function allows menu icons to appear on the LCD—over the image you’re composing, for more seamless shooting.

You can shoot Jpeg, Raw, or Jpeg + Raw, which is how I normally shoot. The reason I like the combination of both Raw plus Jpeg is that it offers me the ability to shoot Raw and have access to all that great data, but also Jpegs so I can quickly edit through images. I also like that most cameras that offer Raw + Jpeg recording let you shoot B&W or in the case of the E-P1 by using various Art Filters but if you want to, you can always go back to the Raw file and reprocess the image without the filters or monochrome look. The way I see it, Raw + Jpeg lets you have your cake and eat it too. Images are recorded onto SD/SDHC media cards.

The E-P1 offers four aspect ratios that serve as masks to frame images: the standard 4:3, 16:9, which displays perfectly on a widescreen TV, 3:2 and 6:6.

The camera is fully manual as well as fully automatic, and practically everything in between; offering 19 scene modes, as well as Olympus’ intelligent Auto, program, aperture- and shutter speed-priority modes. One of the more interesting is the ePortrait Mode which enables you to smooth your subject’s face—in-camera and before capture. Additionally, edits can be made post-capture using the ePortrait Fix mode.

I have to hand it to Olympus—the scene modes of the E-P1 were right on the money. When I found myself shooting in tricky lighting situations, I found the scene modes did a better job than the camera set on Program, and faster than if I was shooting completely manual. Considering that this camera was designed for the P&S user that wants to step up to the next level in photography, it makes sense that the scene modes will most likely be used a lot.

The E-P1 offers Face Detection, of up to eight subject’s faces, tracking them within the image area. The Face Detection works well, in fact, I found myself relying on it during portrait shoots, especially with multiple people in the frame.

Images from the E-P1 are as sharp as those of any DSLR I’ve used.

Cropped view - actual pixels, from image on left. Flower is tack sharp.

Cropped view - actual pixels, from image on left. Flower is tack sharp.

Full image, macro shot.

Full image, macro shot.

Instant Gratification

One of the coolest aspects of this camera is the inclusion of the art filters, first introduced in the Olympus E-30 DSLR. The art filters are accessed through the mode dial. Each of the six filters—Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole—can be previewed live on the LCD as you’re shooting. For imaging purists who want to shoot without filters, and apply the filters to images inside the camera later, or just edit images back at their computers, the E-P1 provides these options. The art filters can also be used while shooting HD video.

Examples of the Art Filters: (top row l. to r.) Pin Hole, Pop Art, Soft Focus; (bottom row l. to r.) Light Tone & Color, Pale Color, Grainy. Photos by Diane Berkenfeld.

Examples of the Art Filters: (top row l. to r.) Pin Hole, Pop Art, Soft Focus; (bottom row l. to r.) Light Tone & Color, Pale Color, Grainy Film.

In addition to being able to view the Art Filters on the scene while you’re composing, other settings are also WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get). These include white balance and exposure changes.

One feature that is slowly making its way into higher-end digital cameras is the Multiple Exposure mode. The E-P1 allows users to create multiple exposures in camera, in real time, or by capturing both shots separately and combining them in the camera later. This is yet another creative option that photographers using the E-P1 have at their disposal while shooting—which for many folks using digital is ideal, as they don’t want to have to use software to alter images, but create photographs in the camera that can be easily printed out.

E-P1 – Packed with Features

The E-P1 is the first Micro Four Thirds camera introduced by Olympus, however the camera uses the same size Live MOS image sensor as the E-30 and E-620 DSLR models. The camera also utilizes the new TruePic V image processor. Some of the other features of the camera include in-body image stabilization; Olympus’ patented Supersonic Wave Filter for dust reduction; ISO range of 100 to 6400; an internal Digital Level Sensor that detects the camera’s pitch and roll; manual and automatic focusing; as well as a MF Assist Function and magnification display that lets you magnify the image on the LCD by up to 10x. Metering modes include spot, center-weighted and the 18×18, 324-division ESP metering.

The camera includes Olympus Master 2 software, for the Mac and PC. The software allows users to organize images and process Raw files. The software is also used for updating camera and lens firmware. The software is easy to navigate and offers more detailed EXIF data on the image files than does Photoshop or Lightroom.

In addition to video, the camera also has a built-in stereo microphone and can record audio narration. The E-P1 comes with five built-in background music options so users can mix stills and video in-camera to create multimedia slideshows, which can then be viewed on any HDTV via an HDMI cable.

As I mentioned earlier, I had to get used to composing via an LCD instead of a viewfinder, so a photographer who normally only shoots with a DSLR may feel the same way I did when they first pick up the E-P1, but you quickly get used to composing on the LCD.

The beginner or intermediate photographer will have no problem picking up the E-P1 and getting started. This type of user most likely has owned or used a digital P&S camera in the past and will be used to composing on an LCD, as well as using program and scene modes. The manual modes are in the camera so they can step up to the features as they learn how to use them.

For the enthusiast or professional photographer who has used Rangefinder cameras in the past, and want a more compact camera to take with them on vacations [i.e. when not working], the E-P1 would be a great choice.

And if this type of photographer already shoots with Olympus’ E-series digital SLRs, they can utilize their Four Thirds lenses with the E-P1 using the MMF-1 Four Thirds System Lens Adapter. This adapter also allows Four Thirds System lenses from Sigma, Panasonic, and Leica to attach to the E-P1. For photographers who go back further still, and were Olympus film SLR shooters, their OM lenses will work on the E-P1 with the MF-2 OM Lens Adapter.

The other feature that I miss on this camera is a built-in flash. Most compact digital cameras, super zoom digital Point & Shoots and even many DSLRs offer a built-in pop-up flash. The E-P1 does not. The camera does have a hot shoe so you can add the optional FL-14 accessory flash. Without the flash, you may be limited in low-light use.

As I did not have enough time to truly test out the video and audio features of the camera, this review only includes my views on the still capture features.

Overall, I enjoyed using the E-P1. It’s a great little camera. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more Micro Four Thirds format digital cameras from Olympus in the future. Oh, and the E-P1 does turn heads, so be prepared for the attention it will bring you!

Estimated street prices for the E-P1 body only: $749.99; E-P1 body with the ED 14-42mm f/3.5/5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens: $799.99; and E-P1 Body with ED 17mm f/2.8 lens with the optical viewfinder: $899.99.

For more information about the E-P1, check out the website at www.olympusamerica.com.

[Editor’s Note: Read about the new Lark Books Magic Lantern Guide about the Olympus E-P1  on this website.]