FOLLOW NEOCAMERA
RSS Twitter YouTube
TRANSLATE INTO

Archive for 2008

2008.12.13

Suddenly, it really feels like Christmas, BH Photo has the Hitachi DZ-BD7HA video camera for $499 USD including shipping within the continental USA. This is not a still camera as we normally review at Neocamera but a true digital video camera which can record full 1080p video, the maximum HDTV resolution available. Video features of these cameras are more advanced and more complete than any digital still camera’s video mode.

What is special about this video camera is that it can record up to 4 hours of 1080p video into its internal 30GB hard-drive by using MPEG4 H.264 efficient video encoding. It can also record directly to Blu-Ray disk with its integrated Blu-Ray burner which supports BD-RE, BD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD-R disks. For those who prefer to record first to HDD before making the take permanent, the Hitachi DZ-BD7HA can also copy from its hard-disk to the Blu-Ray burner. There is also a 5 megapixels photo mode which conveniently stores images onto an SD card.

Such a high-quality HD video camera for this incredibly low price should allow those who thought they could only afford an advanced DSLR or an HD video camera to reconsider and buy the best digital camera for their needs without considering video features.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

2008.12.13

Neocamera just posted its full-review of the Nikon Coolpix S610, a slim 10 megapixels digital camera with a 4X wide-angle optical zoom. This is a point-and-shoot ultra-compact with most of the usual features for its class, including stabilization (called Vibration Reduction), VGA movie mode, face-detection and a slew of scene modes.

[eminimall]

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

2008.12.02

Nikon just announced its 24 megapixels professional DSLR, the D3X. This high resolution DSLR boasts twice the resolution of their current flagship full-frame camera, the Nikon D3. Featuring a nearly identical body to the D3, the D3X is to be a sister model to the D3. The compromise being that the D3 is four times more sensitive to light with a maximum ISO of 25,600, compared to the D3X’s maximum ISO of 6400. Having twice as many pixels to move, the D3X also shoots twice slower than the D3, which is still a respectable 5 FPS.

The Nikon D3X retains the D3’s outstanding ergonomics, ruggedness and fantastic feature set, including 100% coverage viewfinder, digital horizon, 51-point autofocus system, 3″ LCD with 920K pixels, dual Ultra-DMA Compact Flash slots and compatibility of all Nikon lenses and accessories. The D3X has a weather-sealed body with an integrated vertical grip, just like the D3. The D3X should be available this month for a suggested price of $8000 USD.

While the 24 megapixels resolution was expected for quite some time, the price tag has caused some controversy, including Luminous Landscape‘s Micheal Reichmann apparently canceling his order. While Canon’s 1Ds Mark III used to sell for a similar price, it is now available from Amazon for under $6700 USD, so about 300 less for a 21 megapixels professional full-frame DSLR which shoots at 5 FPS and also has a 100% coverage viewfinder. Not only this makes the D3X the most expensive DSLR, but the similar D3 sells for $4200. The concerning aspect of this is that the D3X is not absolutely better, it represents a compromise from the D3: more resolution in exchange for lower light-sensitivity and slower continuous drive. There are certainly photographers for which the D3X is better, mostly landscape photographers making huge prints and shooting from a tripod at relatively low ISO settings. There are probably even more photographers and photojournalists for which the D3 is a better camera due to either of its advantages.

To make matters worst, while the D3 still has no competitors due to its unique ultra-high-ISO capability, the D3X already has 3 cheaper competitors: the 25 megapixels Sony Alpha A900, the 21 megapixels Canon 1Ds Mark III and, to a lesser extent, the 21 megapixels Canon 5D Mark II. All these shoot continuously at about 5 FPS. The closest and most serious competitor is the $3000 USD Sony Alpha A900. At less than half the price, it has the same resolution, same frame rate, same ISO range plus a larger 100% coverage viewfinder and builtin image stabilization in a smaller body. Many photographers will consider the A900’s specification is superior to the D3X’s. The Canon 5D Mark II, which also sells for around $3000, is actually lacking a 100% coverage viewfinder, most probably not to cannibalize 1Ds Mark III sales. However, the 5D Mark II packs two aces: one more stop of light-sensitivity and 1080p high-definition movie-recording with audio. The existence of these two cameras, particularly the Sony, is pressing the feeling that the D3X is over-priced.

2008.11.28

While there are many ways to select keepers after a photo shoot, and an equally large number of software to it with, here is workflow which I found to be the most efficient for my style of shooting. The software I use is PMView Pro which is available for Windows, eComstation and OS/2 for only $50 USD. Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with PMView Pro, it is simply an excellent image viewer with great usability features. Those will be described below as part of the workflow. If someone would know a software for Linux with the same usability features, please let everyone know by commenting on this post.

Every workflow is based on assumption and personal choices. The workflow below satisfies my requirements for selecting keepers:

  1. Delete is my friend. Typically, I delete forever 90% of my shots. While storage itself is cheap, managing storage is not. This is one incentive to delete a high percentage of images. Doing so also creates a more poignant collection of images.
  2. All shots come in as JPEG. There are almost no modifications to any of my images. Rotation: landscape to portrait occurs a fair bit and slight horizon adjustment occurs less than 0.1% of the time. Cropping, panoramic stitching and HDR merging: less than 1% of the time. The implication is that other than for panoramas, it is easy to see whether an image can be a keeper.
  3. Photography is my art, not image editing. Therefore, I try to get the best images I can in the camera. If it is not a great image in the camera, it gets discarded.
  4. With the exception of lossless landscape-to-portrait rotation, the original files never get modified.

And now for the workflow. After copying all images from a memory card into a temporary directory, the first image is opened in PMView Pro. It normally takes two passes over all images to get the set of keepers. While I strive to not shoot when I know it will not work, a number of lesser images always show up. The first pass is used to get rid of all bad images. A good image needs no context, if it is good when not measured against any other images, then it is good. The second pass is to get rid of redundent lesser images. At this point it is important to have seen all the images during the first pass, as a relative judgement must be made. The process is therefore as follows:

  1. Open the first image and view it in full-screen fit-to-screen mode. In PMView Pro this is done using the F3 function key. If it is not configured to fit-to-screen (it should) then CTRL-0 will do it.
  2. If the image has the wrong orientation (nearly always a portrait image shown in landscape), apply a lossless JPEG rotation to correct the problem. It helps here to setup PMView Pro such that CTRL-Left applies a clockwise lossless JPEG transformation and CTRL-Right applies it counter-clockwise. Otherwise just use the context menu. It is extremely clever that PMView Pro does not alter the file date when applying a lossless JPEG transformation, otherwise all portrait images would sort out-of-order.
  3. If the image shows poor composition, an uninteresting subject or a major default such as excessive blurring or being out-of-focus, delete it. Pressing the DEL key followed by the ENTER key does that and moves to the next image.
  4. If the image has not been deleted, go to 100% view using CTRL-1. Use the arrow keys to pan around. Here I look for smaller defects such as softness from vibration or excessive image noise. Delete the image if any unacceptable defect is found. Here again it is very efficient to directly have hotkeys to go to 100% and fit-to-screen modes directly, instead of zoom-in/out which require multiple key presses.
  5. Go to next image by pressing PgDn (Page Down). This should bring up the next image in fit-to-screen mode. Here, PMView Pro’s hotkey makes particular sense as it keeps the panning keys separate from the keys used to navigate between images. In other software like Irfanview, you get trapped as soon as your zoom level is such that panning becomes necesary.
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 for each image. When the last image has been seen, PMView Pro automatically returns to the first image.
  7. Now that all images have been seen, the images are compared with very similar images to choose the best image for each main angle of each subject. Start at the first image again. If not at the first, pressing HOME brings you back there.
  8. If the current image is unique with respect to subject or major perspective, then it is now becomes part of the set of keepers. By major perspective, I mean that no other images exists which shows the same subject with a similar point-of-view. Press PgDn to move on.
  9. If the image is not unique as per step 8, then it must be compared with similar images. The most common case is that the most similar images are before and after the current image. In this case, use PgUp and PgDn to peek at those images, using CTRL-0 to zoom at 100% when differences are minor. If you know that there is further a similar image, then use CTRL-o to get the file-open dialog and choose the Open-in-new-window option to view the similar image. Use ATL-TAB to alternate between the two. Delete the current image using the DEL key if one of the similar ones is better. PMView Pro never gets confused when deleting images from within itself.
  10. If the image is part of a panorama or HDR bracket, then move it to a new and separate directory. Those will be dealt with later.
  11. Note the file name of any image which requires cropping or lossy rotation. Do not, under any circumstances, perform a lossy operation here. Note that cropping a JPEG is almost always lossy.
  12. Once all images have been seen in the second pass, move them to their final destination. The organization of such final destination is reserved for a future Blog post.
  13. For each set of images to merge, either by panoramic stitching ot HDR blending, perform the merge in your favorite appropriate software. In the case of panoramas, consider the ultra-simple, super-accurate and free Autostitch.
  14. If a resulting merge is satisfactory, move the output to a directory for merged images and keep the individual images in the directory of un-merged images.
  15. If the resulting merge is not any good, then delete it and all images which were used to form it. At this point you may be in another program then PMView Pro but do not worry, PMView Pro will skip over any images which have been externally deleted.
  16. For each image which required a modification, perform the modification in your favorite image manipulation software such as Photoshop Elements and “Save a copy as” or simply use “Save as” in PMView Pro. Be careful not to ovewrite your originals and place the saved copy into a directory which is clearly identified as being for manipulated images. It can be extremely important to know which images have been tampered with.

OK, so with 16-steps it may seem like a long process but it is not thanks to PMView Pro. The way most actions can be performed with a single hot-key means that most of these steps take a fraction of a second per image. There are other cool features in PMView Pro too such as batch conversion, caching of variable size thumbnails and file management designed for images. One such example is the file-replace dialog which shows the images side-by-side along with metadata to help decide wether the override should be accepted or not.

[eminimall]

PMView Pro also supports an independent window to show EXIF data which is great for analyzing sample photos for camera reviews or to learn about how camera settings affect the photograph. Using CTRL-I, a floating always-on-top window with EXIF information is displayed. The great thing about this window is that, unlike a Properties dialog, PMView Pro’s navigation features can be used while the window is displayed. This means that you can move between images while keeping an eye on the EXIF information and pan-and-zoom around too.

2008.11.26

Black Friday means shopping madnes in the US, with lots of discounts and combos starting as early as midnight. Amazon is joining the fun with its Black Friday no-madness shopping experience. Just browse and buy. For those who like the Black Friday experience as much as the deals, there is the Amazon Customers Vote feature. Basically, users vote on which item they want a deal on and Amazon randomly selects users to buy the item at a ridiculously (their word) low price.

Now, before you all jump on these shopping opportunities, lets review the rules of deal shopping:

  1. The total cost of the deal, including applicable taxes and shipping, must actually be lower than the total cost at other reputable stores.
  2. A deal is only a good deal if you actually get the goods. Lookup seller ratings to check if a store is reputable. Read the fine print, items on special may be used, demos or refurbished.
  3. A deal is only a deal if it is on something you actually need or want (possibly as a gift ;) )
  4. Do not downgrade your expectations because a lower-end model is on special. Also, be careful of upgrades which require much more expensive accessories.
  5. See if you can make your own deals by using a store’s policy to beat competitor’s advertised price. With all the Black Friday ads around, this should be easier. Remember, price match policies usually only apply for in-stock items.
  6. Once you got your deal item, make sure the accessories are well-priced too. Often stores give good prices on cameras but get you on memory, batteries and cables. Shop around for every piece.
Have fun shopping and happy Thanksgiving!

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

BLOG SEARCH

Blogroll

Log in