Archive for October, 2009

MICRO FOUR-THIRDS - A NEW STANDARD ?

MICRO FOUR-THIRDS - A NEW STANDARD ?

It of course could be construed as either :

‘Fallen for It ?’ … head-over-heels with these new, high quality cameras (& lenses) that offer SLR quality in miniature Or : 

‘Fallen for It ?’ … the Penny/Doris marketing (wrong !) of a system solution to a non-existent problem

There are certainly at least two schools of thought on the arrival of m43, now that both Olympus & Panasonic have truly small bodies, along with a few m43lenses. I definitely lean towards the former, although, in my last post, I indicated that I already have several compacts & DSLRs …but, so far, no Micro Four-Thirds camera (or lenses) …and here’s why :

1/ There’s so far a distinct shortage of available lenses in the m43 format …although there are several potentially useful 43 lenses  eg one that caught my eye today, the Olympus 12-60  ie 24-120mm equivalent – but it’s a fairly large lens, relative to m43 body size, and it pretty well negates the point of a useful, truly miniaturised system.

2/ The end of October sees a likely New Product announcement from Olympus – and the general concensus is that this will be something along the lines of ‘E-P2’ …probably with the inclusion of an in-built viewfinder, and possibly on-board flash.

3/ I learned today that following at least one major Ricoh Japan/Ricoh UK staff meeting last year, Ricoh will definitely be in the ‘small body/interchangeable lenses’ game …and some product is likely fairly soon

4/ Nikon are apparently developing a ‘2.5x’ small system …so, for example, a 10mm lens will be equivalent to 25mm (in 35mm terms) …and surely so must Canon and, by implication, Sony ?

5/ Fujifilm are known also to have taken great interest in the early succes of m43, and are rumoured to have products of a ‘similar’ nature in development.

6/ Samsung NX models are likely soon …not m43 standard, but a miniatuised system along the same lines

7/ Additional to the existing E-P1, I also have reliable confirmation that Olympus will launch a total of three new m43 bodies, planned to see the light of day over the next six months … although my source expects that this may more likely stretch over 9/12 months …but that’s still an ambitious output, and Olympus are ‘very seriously comitted’ to m43.

8/ Based on that last statement, we should see the introduction of several new m43 lenses …hopefully sooner rather than later.

Given that m43 is really just in its infancy, and already seems to offer superb performance …albeit with a few fixable deficiencies so far …this is, from what was expected to be niche, fast becoming a type of product range seen by the major (& smaller) players as critical to their ongoing survival – let alone their ongoing success and increased market share & profitability. 

Extrapolate accordingly, and if the consumer-led, and pro-led, revolution really gets under way, we’ll really be spoilt for choice. That has to be a great situation for all of us absolute enthusiasts, and marks a truly interesting era in digital imaging. I’m observing all of this in some detail, and will step in when I feel the time’s right…and that doesn’t necessarily mean waiting for too long – but there really is so much on its way AND SOON.

In the meantime, if you’re already using, or considering a DSLR, you may find some interesting reading at http://nikonpro.wordpress.com

For more, see also http://1001noisycameras.com

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SMALL SENSOR QUALITY : 2009

SMALL SENSOR QUALITY : 2009

Following my ‘AR’-style post of a few days ago, this is in response to a few requests for the ‘saturated’ version of the image, without the posterisation effect from the DxO FilmPack Polachrome simulation.

One great advantage of small-sensor cameras – whether LX3, F200EXR, CX1 or a swathe of others – is that they always exhibit great depth-of-field, even at their largest aperture :

LX3 : f2 at 24mm equivalent

F200EXR  : f3.3 at 28mm equivalent

CX1 : f3.3 at 28mm equivalent

This makes small-sensor cameras absolutely ideal for shooting subjects like architecture & landscapes, or for maintaining decent depth-of-field in night & low-light shots, where the camera’s maximum aperture is needed to let the light in.

Add to this the huge benefit these days of in-built image stabilisation – whether sensor-shift or optical IS – and the result is a very useful photographic tool that supplements an SLR very well. On some occasions, it’s definitely my preference – usually no need for a tripod – and in 2009, the results can be very impressive.

Certainly a far cry from my first Fuji 0.95 Mp (!) digital clunker that was pretty well only able to produce thumbnails through to 6×4 at a push !

The market is maturing well, and 2009 has seen some excellent & innovative compacts, SLRs that are more highly-specced with better high-ISO capabilities than ever before, and more recently, the new ‘Hybrids’ …Micro Four-Thirds cameras such as Panasonic G1/GH1/GF-1, and of course the Olympus E-P1.

So far, I own several compacts and SLRs ….But why no hybrid (yet)?  

See my next post for why I’m holding off (for now!)

Many small- (and large!-)sensor camera images at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com  and much more information for the camera-inquisitive at http://1001noisycameras.com

COMPACT IMAGE QUALITY

COMPACT IMAGE QUALITY

Despite all of the interesting stuff on the ‘net, I still enjoy reading a magazine – especially one that’s been really well printed onto high-quality paper …and when I say ‘reading’, I suppose I mean looking at and appreciating the photographs. Most people – around 80% of the population – respond much more to an image than to text …so we’re not alone !

When a magazine image is so well-printed that you can almost appreciate the quality of the equipment used to make the image, as well as the photographer’s clear ability, some individuals can be convinced that it’s the gear that made the difference, and invest in new kit accordingly. Known well to the musical fraternity – and also being a musician myself – there’s a syndrome that has many ‘sufferers’ …G.A.S.  That’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

It’s as applicable to cameras & associated gear as much as it is new musical instruments, amps etc, and it’s all too easy to be drawn in. And it’s not as if I’m immune, it has to be said.

But that’s sometimes what can make things really interesting. If you read the previous post, re Hasselblad H3D/Leaf, Sinar & PhaseOne backs etc, and their place in the commercial photography world, you’ll know that I see it as a challenge. Yes, I have a D3 – one of the finest cameras on the planet – that’s usually to be seen connected to a Nikon ED24-70 f2.8 lens – one of the finest lenses on the planet ….but as a combo, not always the most convenient to cart around. And they’re in for lens repair and calibration at the moment.

My F200EXR is these days pretty well always with me. There’s no RAW file capability, no off-camera flash facility (although it could be ‘slaved’) …it’s little more than ‘point & shoot’. But the quality levels being achieved these days in compact cameras mean that its uses go way beyond taking ‘snaps’. 

Careful setup & usage – and image processing – can result in some great image quality that would have been strictly SLR material in the not-too-distant past. But that’s all changed. I’ll be going into some detail in future posts about achieving ultimate quality from a compact – some readers (of the 82,000 so far) have asked for an e-book, which I may well consider if there’s enough demand. Let me know if that might be useful to you.

The image above is another of my ‘personal challenges’ – visualising what I’d aim for if I had the D3/24-70/tripod with me, and all the time in the World for careful set-up, composition, processing etc ….all the things that happen at the start of the process in the commercial photography domain – and how I could achieve not dissimilar results from one of the very best compacts around – could be with the LX3, or in this case, the Fujifilm F200EXR ‘pocket rocket’.

Job done.

Much more on Fujifilm’s F200EXR (and F100fd/F30), Panasonic LX3, Ricoh CX1, Nikon D3 & D200 at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com.

F200EXR DOES 'AR' STYLE

F200EXR DOES 'AR' STYLE

It’s a well-known fact that images appearing in The Architectural Review – the must-read UK mag for architects – are often captured on absolutely the highest-quality imaging devices known to man : Hasselblad H3D (soon H4D), H prime lenses, Sinar, Leaf and PhaseOne digital backs of 30Mp and upwards, Nikon D3X, Canon 1Ds III ….the best available. This is of course the norm for much commercial work these days, and art directors & image editors insist on a certain level of quality.

Why ? Especially when they’re not going to be printed at poster-size ? Well, the consideration is that the capture of the finest detail is paramount, alongside excellent colour rendition and overall white balance, use of  specialist  ’tilt&shift’  (ie PC-) lenses etc.

I challenged myself to see what I could achieve with the F200EXR, in particular aiming to replicate fairly high-res (ok, not 40/50Mp !) files, with a definite ‘AR’ look. I’m happy with the results, one of which is above.

How did I get it to look this way ? 

1/ Normal file processing in Capture NX ….levels, sharpening, saturation – the usual

2/ Correction in Photoshop to lose the converging verticals …didn’t have a crane handy when I made the image

3/ DxO Labs FilmPack …Polaroid Polachrome Colour Positive setting, with a few tweaks

High-end Medium Format Digital back & lenses/pro retouching etc etc  £40K …. versus F200EXR  : £249

Don’t get me wrong here – the Hasselblad H3D  that I’ve experienced is capable of capturing absolutely unbelievable detail – sometimes too much !  Hardly the same, but I think the F200EXR rose to the challenge on this occasion.

As usual, much more at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

And here’s the colour version – shot on the F200EXR’s ‘Standard’ (Provia) film mode – that I’m pleased with, especially considering that I’ve not yet updated the firmware ….which apparently lends some warmth to the Auto White Balance rendering.

Much more at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com ….images from F200EXR/LX3/CX1/D200/D3 …you get the idea

LONDON - AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

LONDON - AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

Back to the F200EXR….

If you’ve read any of my previous comments on this model, you may have detected a little ‘uncertainty’ on my part. It’s a camera that certainly needs – and deserves – a little more care than some other compacts, if one is to extract the best from it.

That could be down to its design fundamentals, which certainly separate it from all others. It’s that EXR sensor. Just works differently, and you have to control it as you see fit, to get the results you’re after. Have to admit a little frustration early on, not least of which was directed towards its very cool – make that ‘blue’ – auto white balance.

Some of you will know that I’m really fussy about colour rendition – it’s the make or break of an image, as far as I’m concerned. Whether the intention is to record as accurately as possible what the eye sees, or perhaps to display an enhanced version of that – or a ‘diminished’ (colour-wise) version – I believe it needs to be somewhere pretty near to start with, if I’m to be at all satisfied with using a given camera on an ongoing basis.

Yes, you can mess around setting a custom white balance – becomes painful after a while, especially if you want to be quick. The awb needs to work well, and the F200’s basically doesn’t…with the original firmware. So – what to do ?

Having just revisited this Fuji compact,  deciding that it was really only this white balance aspect that I found irritating, I’ve started to experiment with other settings – I’ll be posting results here regularly, to hopefully help those others that have found this critical aspect of a camera’s performance a little wide of the mark on the F200EXR.

So far, I’ve had really good results using the ‘Fluorescent 1’ setting for outdoors use on a cloudy/grey day, and I know of another user that has achieved great results on the ‘Underwater’ setting in the Scene modes ..’Go figure’, in US-speak.

The image above has nothing to do with a white balance setting, you may think …but it started well in colour, before I converted to BW in DxO Labs FilmPack software – this one using the Fuji Neopan 1600 setting.

As usual, more in my again-growing F200EXR  gallery at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com …colour version is in there as well !