Scott's Thoughts

The New American Photo

I’ve been a long-time reader of American Photo magazine; I’ve read every issue since its inception. It’s in for a long-overdue makeover. I can’t tell from the cover if I love it yet, but change is welcome and I’m looking forward to the first new issue.

Trans-Americas Airstream Road Trip

These folks did months traveling in an Airstream, and their blog is great. Six weeks is the longest we’ve spent in ours, and it was a great trip (I need to write about that sometime). I haven’t had the chance to read every entry, but the ones I have read have been good. Some of those destinations are amazing, and I’ll definitely check the site out for ideas the next time we’re looking to make a trip in the trailer.

“Just Me And My D700”

Christopher Lane is in a similar situation, equipment-wise, that I am. I love, love, love my D700, but it’s just not practical to carry around. As anyone who reads this knows, I supplemented my Nikon with a Panasonic Lumix GF-1.

I completely understand Lane’s worry about the EVF; there’s no doubt that it is indeed “soulless”. However, in my opinion, it’s the best camera of its kind out there, and it’s one that I’m having fun carrying and shooting with. The lens really does make wonderful pics, and soulless or not, the EVF makes it feel like I’m shooting with a “real” camera instead of a P&S toy.

Amazon.com Introduces Same-Day Delivery

I’m a long-time Amazon.com customer, and order almost everything I buy there, largely because of Amazon Prime, where one can pay $79 per year and get free 2-day shipping or next-day shipping for $3.99 per item. Now they’re introducing same-day delivery in certain cities—not mine right now, unfortunately—for $6 per item. I think that’s awesome. I don’t know how many times I’d use it, but it’s certainly nice to know it’ll be available sometime.

IntelliJ IDEA Open Sourced

Great news! IDEA has always been my favorite IDE for Java development, and I’ve always been willing to pay to have it in my toolbox. Now hopefully this open source edition will get it in front of folks for whom the price was too high. I’ll still continue to purchase my licenses, since I want the full monty, but this is a nice development.

The Online Photographer’s Panasonic GF1 Field Report

Good article from TOP. From his conclusion:

Even though I have owned it for only a few weeks, I am serious when I say that as an all-around picture taker, this Panasonic GF1 may be my favorite digital camera ever.

That’s high praise from TOP. Johnston coined the DMD term (Decisive Moment Digital), and says that this is pretty much it, which is what I was hoping when I ordered it. His list of wishes are nice, but my main wish is less noise at high-ISO. If we could improve the quality of the GF1 by one stop, up to the 1600 point, I’d be super happy.

As an aside, I shot a bit with the viewfinder yesterday, and while it has its drawbacks, I like it a lot. It was way too expensive for what it is, but it really enhances the feel of the camera for me, so it’s a keeper. I had Ainsley asleep on my chest last night while I was watching some TV and she had a sweet look on her face, and the GF1 was on the end table near me. I got it, but she was so close to my face that I couldn’t compose and see the LCD. I used the pivot of the EVF to get a 90 degree angle from it and could get it to my eye and shoot sideways and get her face. Hard to describe, but the pivot is already proving useful.

As another somewhat random observation about the GF1, the battery needed recharging last night, which means that it lasted a week of moderate use. That’s pretty good, although nothing compared the G9’s incredible constitution. The G9 often went so long between charges that I’d often lost track of its small battery charger in the meantime. A second battery might be wise for vacations and extended use, but at just over $50, I’ll wait and find a 3rd party battery that’s certified for use on the GF1 (I’ve read reports of some 3rd party batteries that work in other Panasonic cameras not working on the GF1).

Clik Elite Compact Sport and Small Rangefinder Chestpack

I previously mentioned that I wanted to try out both the Clik Elite Compact Sport Backpack and the Small Rangefinder Chestpack. I got both from Amazon today.

The Compact Sport misses the mark for me. I misunderstood the water situation of this pack. Rather than having a reservoir area that spans the length of the pack, it’s only in the upper half or so, really limiting what you can carry. In addition to this, it barely fits my Nikon D700 and 24-70 f/2.8. (I did write Clik Elite ahead of ordering to see if they knew if it would fit prior to ordering. They indicated that they thought it would, but didn’t know for sure. Well, yes, but barely. I really wanted to use it for that camera, and when not carrying the SLR, I wanted to use it in conjunction with the chestpack to carry the smaller camera. The water situation really killed that though.

I’m ordering the next size up—the Medium Nature—but I’m really afraid it’s going to be bigger than I want. Sadly, I think that I really want a slightly larger Compact Sport; I just want this pack with a full-length bladder and I’d be happy. We’ll see.

The chestpack is unfortunately heading back too. First, it’s just a little bigger and more awkward than I thought it would be. The GF1 is the camera I want to carry in it, and it’s just more pack than I need. Not only that, but since I’m not able to use the backpack with it because of the water, it just doesn’t fit in. I’m going to have to look for a smaller pack I can attach to my existing CamelBak instead.

It’s too bad. The packs are well-built and well-thought out, but just don’t fit my intended use. They’re the closest thing yet, but just not quite there.

A couple more notes:

  • These are expensive backpacks. While well-made, there’s no reservoir included, which I think is kind of silly for the price.
  • I hope they get in more retail places. It sucks that I have to order online and return them at my expense to get a look at them.

GF1 Viewfinder is Here

DMW-LVF1 Electronic Viewfinder in Box

It arrived about 30 minutes ago. First Impressions:

  • It is smaller on the camera than I expected, and the size of the view in the finder is also smaller than I expected.
  • The resolution, while kind of low as was widely reported, seems fine to me. The zooming in effect while manually focusing works well in this context—perhaps I even like it better in the finder than on the camera back.
  • The diopter adjustment is great—dialed it in and the finder is tack sharp.
  • Having all of the shooting info that’s normally on the back (histogram, exposure controls, etc.) in the finder is nice.
  • The finder can tilt upwards up to 90 degrees, which is handy.
  • I wish that I could set the finder to have no post-exposure review, but still have it sent to the rear LCD, like a DSLR does.

More soon.

DPReview.com’s DMC-GF1 Review

DPReview.com has their review of the GF1 up, and it’s as detailed as usual. It did well:

Overall though – and I guess you probably already know this – I really loved the GF1, and will find it very hard to return it when this review is finished, meaning that I may have to wipe the dust and cobwebs off my wallet and actually hand over my own hard earned cash for one. The Olympus E-P1 now has some very, very strong competition in the form of possibly the most engaging and enjoyable camera on the market today. A compromise, for sure, but a surprisingly happy one.

Nice.

The New Nikon 70-200mm f2.8G ED VRII

Holy crap! Check out the pics with this lens at night! I had a version of this lens, several generations back, and it was a great lens. And that was without VRII (2nd gen Vibration Reduction, IS in Canon lingo) or the Nano-Crystal coating that’s all the rage on Nikon’s new lenses. I have the Nano-Crystal coating on two of my lenses (the sublime 24-70 f/2.8 and the 60mm Micro-Nikkor) and despite the hideous marketing name, it’s a nice addition. Four stops of VR is just to die for, especially on top of the already fast f/2.8 spec.

And can you imagine this lens, with all its VR and wide aperture on the new D3S, topping out at those crazy ISOs? The mind boggles.

The lens I had was big and heavy, and this version is no exception. Of course, with a street prices well north of $2k, your lighter wallet will somewhat make up for that. But look at those pics! Beautiful piece of kit.

Nikon D3S is officially official

Well, the D3S is official, and the rumor sites had it nailed cold as far as the stats go. What caught my eye was at the bottom of the press release:

…including the recently announced new AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR lens…

Say what now!? You release a camera like this and its companion lens is a DX lens? With an f/3.5 maximum aperture!? (Making a DX-specific Micro Nikkor is nice for the DX set, but why at the time of release of this camera?) ARGH!

[Update: Here’s the DPReview hands-on.]

GF1 Viewfinder Shipping!

I just got a surprise shipping confirmation that the DMW-LVF1 electronic viewfinder for the Panasonic GF1 has shipped from Amazon! I say “surprise” because they never even changed the page to reflect when they expected to ship it, and I never got an update via email.

I can’t wait to get it—I love the camera, and really am looking forward to being able to hold it up to my eye like a proper camera.

The Setup

When I get a chance, I enjoy watching how someone else works on their computer. It’s great to pick up tips and tricks that the user in question might not even consciously recognize they’re using because they are so ingrained in their muscle memory. I also really enjoy finding out what software they use (particularly for Mac OS X or, to a much lesser extent, iPhone) because I always like to try new tools and hopefully find something that works better for me. Oh, and gadgets. Mmm, I love gadgets.

The Setup is a site dedicated to asking people about their setups: hardware, software, gadgets they carry, etc. I thought it was a fun “bunch of nerdy interviews” (as they call them). Recommended.

Nikon D3s

nikon_d3s

Holy moly. Not only does the new Nikon D3s shoot at incredibly high ISOs (according to rumor, anyway) like ISO 102,400, but it can apparently also shoot 720p video at that ISO. While people are largely bitching about it not doing 1080p, I think they’re missing this point. The video coming out of the camera at this ISO is going to be quite a bit better than natural eyesight would have seen the scene in person. Amazing.

Personally, I don’t really care about video in my SLRs, so I’m not lusting after this camera because of that feature, although I can totally understand why video pros do. Sooner or later this video/photo convergence is probably going to have to revolutionize the actual shape of the camera. While I find the SLR form factor to be the most satisfying for shooting stills, I don’t particularly like it for shooting video.

Still, pretty exciting stuff. I’m looking forward to the official announcement and really hoping that some new lenses, particularly fast primes, are announced with the D3s. When the D3 was originally announced, it was accompanied by the 24-70 f/2.8 remake that I bought and love. Come on 35 f/1.4 for FX!

Maurice Sendak tells parents to go to hell

So freaking awesome!

Reporter: “What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?” Sendak: “I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.” Reporter: “Because kids can handle it?” Sendak: “If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it’s not a question that can be answered.”

(Via Daring Fireball.)

“No Tweaking, No Cropping”

While I understand the sentiment in this post, I can’t get 100% behind the anti-Photoshop part.

He can’t believe the addiction to computers. He told us to go out and shoot. Don’t go near the computers, just pick up a camera and go shoot. He told us he had wired the machines so they would give us an electric shock if we touched them. No PhotoShop….no tweaking, no cropping.

I think that’s a great idea to get someone super-focused on shooting more—something I should really do, BTW—but it’s not realistic. Most of us today shoot in RAW, which is just that: too raw for actual use. Sure, you can look at the captures to see how your technique is, and if that’s the whole exercise, then sure, ignore Photoshop and friends.

But every RAW file needs tweaking: color balance from the camera might be off and they all need some capture sharpening. I think de-emphasizing the computer is fine, but statements like this go too far. That said, I’m not there, and perhaps there’s context I’m not privy to. After all, they’re in a photo workshop, not a Photoshop workshop, so maybe that’s just the rule of the day to get them focused on the camera.

Ainsley Turns One

We started out wondering if we should bother having a party for Ainsley’s first birthday. After all, she’s just one, and it’s not like she’ll remember it. And she certainly doesn’t need (nor can our house really hold) a bunch of presents. But we couldn’t pass up the chance to get folks together and show off our little one.

Ainsley and Mom

But we have a really small house. We decided to just invite folks with kids (sparing those without kids any possibility of guilt over not coming to a kid’s party). Nice and simple. Then we got a lot of RSVPs of people coming. Man, it’s great that we’re all getting together, but remember the small house thing?

We ended up moving the Airstream from its perch in the backyard and setting up rented tables and chairs and really hoping for a nice day. Well, we were in luck; it turned out to be a nice day with blue skies. And it really was great to see everyone. Thanks to everyone who made it!

Happy Birthday, Ainsley!

On another note, holy cow, I can’t believe it’s been a year! Val counted 12 teeth in Ainsley’s mouth today, and she’s showing off new skills daily. Unbelievable. Val keeps lamenting that we now have a toddler instead of a newborn. Everyone tells you how it flies by, and they’re 100% right—it really does.

Photos on Flickr.

“Editing Images” Not The Plural of “Editing An Image”

A somewhat overloaded and often confusing term when talking about photography is “editing”.

Editing a set of images is the act of reducing that set to those photos that you plan on working with further. These images are often referred to as “picks” or “selects”. A final edit is the reduction to just the images that are the final result of a shoot or larger photo project.

Editing an image is the task of doing some post-production task on an image that changes it’s presentation in some way. For instance, cropping, rotating and changing the color balance is editing an image.

The question, “What program do you use to edit your images?” is vague and something like it usually starts this conversation.

Helmet Cam Footage of Skier in Avalanche

Amazing footage of a skier getting caught in an avalanche and rescued:

Avalanche Skier POV Helmet Cam Burial & Rescue in Haines, Alaska from Chappy on Vimeo.

(via Laughing Squid.)

More GF1 Impressions

I’ve ridden with the camera twice now, and have also gotten to walk around with it a bit, so I’ve got some more impressions. Certainly, I’m still forming opinions and finding things as I work with the camera, so here are those thoughts that have occurred to me over the last few days using the GF1.

  • It seems to tend to underexpose. Not in all circumstances, so I’m still trying to figure it out. When it does, it’s noticeable—say 2/3-1 stop under. Exposure compensation is easy to use on this camera, so it’s easy enough to dial out when it happens. One theory is that the camera is trying to protect the highlights from blowing. I’m shooting in raw, so I’m less concerned about being fanatical about that since I can recover a slight overexposure in Lightroom.
  • It has fairly noisy shadows, starting at ISO 800. Combined with the first point, this means that if I don’t get more data on the right of the histogram and rely on post to fix an underexposure, I’m going to have to be more heavy-handed on the noise reduction.
  • The noise is uglier than the Canon G9’s that I’m accustomed to. Don’t get me wrong—the quality of the pics is generally higher than the G9’s, but the noise I tended to see had a structure that I found more pleasing. The GF1 seems to have at least 1 stop more headroom before the noise gets objectionable though.
  • It’s nice to have more choice in aperture. The G9 maxed out at f/8 while the GF1 with the 20mm f/1.7 goes to f/16 in 1/3-stop increments, so there is more flexibility. I was shooting in some landscapes bright sun and it helped tame the bright light as well as the DOF benefits.
  • The 20mm f/1.7 is a gem compared to the lens on the G9. Fast and sharp while shooting wide open.
  • The camera in Program and Aperture Priority modes tends to favor opening very wide with this lens, sometimes even to the point of taking the shutter speed uncomfortably low. It’s easy enough for me to shift the shutter speed up, but I expected a camera that’s ostensibly a P&S to play it safer on the shutter speeds.
  • The RAW files tend to need more work than I’m used to, but they have a lot of data, and really pop once you put that little bit into them.
  • So far, I love the handling. It really feels solid in the hand, and the controls are easy enough to use, even with bike gloves on.
  • AF performance is great. The G9 doesn’t even come close.
  • I got to shoot for a couple of minutes with a buddy’s G10 at the same time I was using the GF1. I’d say the G10 wins points for having exposure compensation as a nice dial on the top deck and the live histogram on the LCD is nicer on that camera. The G10’s controls were very intuitive, but coming from a G9, that makes sense. The GF1 felt as solid and more responsive in general. The LCD on the GF1 is way nicer.

That’s it for now. My Flickr photostream has some pics from the GF1. More to come.