Grant McWilliams

Photography Blog

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Watching the compact high quality camera market is like watching a boxing match. It used to be Canon and Nikon in the ring until Nikon tucked it's tail in and ran. Panasonic promised to take the crown but after releasing the Lumix LX1 and Lumix LX2 people almost stoppCanon PowerShot S90ed listening to them because the photo quality was so poor. They came back with a knockout with the LX3 and turned out a camera with absolutely wonderful photos and low light performance in addition to it being very compact (more so than the Canon G10). A bit of history is probably in order. Canon had the G series which slotted nicely between the point and shoots and the DSLRs with full manual control, articulated screens and a bunch of other goodies. They also had a camera that slotted between the G-series and the point and shoots again - the S series. The S series had the G series' large sensor, a wide angle lens, manual controls and came in a much smaller body. It wasn't as nice to hold or use because it was compact but the quality of the photos were great. Canon cancelled the S series when the G7 came out thinking that the market was getting pretty crowded and Nikon had been K.O.ed in the 5th round anyway. The one thing I like about competition is it makes companies get off their collective arses and do something. The Panasonic LX3 takes photos as nice as the G10, has all the controls of the G10, has a faster lens (but less zoom) and is about half the size of the G10. Smaller is better in my book since I like to keep my camera in my pocket so Canon as turned the way-back machine to 2003 and reintroduced the S series and at the same time the G11 is a bit bigger and has the articulated screen again. The S90 will duke it out with the LX3 and the G11 will be for a different customer, one that wants more physical controls, an articulated screen and more zoom.

 

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About the time I've decided on Panasonics GH1 micro four-thirds camera Canon pulls a rabbit out of it's hat. As I've written before the GH1 is a DSLR like camera (no mirror so technically not a DSLR) that shoots equal stills to a DSLR but also shoots HD video which is a first for an under $1000 camera in this form factor.The next best thing was to spend a couple grand on a Canon 5d Mk II but that's outside my budget and commitment level. Now Canon introduces the T1i which has the 50d's 15 MP sensor and can shoot HD video like the 5d Mk II! Thanks Canon for giving me yet another thing to have to consider. I think the only thing the Panasonic has over it is size.

The press release

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From a company that has for a long time believed in photographs having that certain Impressionist look to them they've been pulling off some amazing things. First they come out with the DMC-LX3 which outside of not having much of a zoom is THE perfect small camera then they come out with the micro four-thirds format which allows you to have everything a DSLR has in a much smaller body because it doesn't have a mirror (thus it's not a DSLR). The lenses can be smaller, the body can be smaller and theoretically (although not yet realized) they can be cheaper than DSLRs. The Panasonic DMC-G1 at this juncture is a great camera but has no advantage over the competitions DSLRs, can't be bought without a lens and isn't cheaper so even though I think it's a monumental first step I won't be standing in line. I've been considering a Canon SX-1 superzoom to go with my Panasonic LX-3 (which I don't yet own) because it does awesome video, has decent stills and a monster zoom. Problem is the price is somewhere in the $600 range which is a lot for a Point and Shoot even if it is awesome. The Panasonic G1 is closer to a grand with a decent zoom lens and doesn't do video. Up until today I've decided to sit on my money (that I don't have) and wait. Today I think I made up my mind though... Introducing the HD version of the Panasonic G1...

 

I'm not sure the name is written in stone but for now they're calling it the GH1 and for all practical purposes it's a G1 with HD video. The cool thing is that it can maintain focus while recording video and it records stereo audio with built in speakers as well as a mic jack. The second feature is missing on just about every point and shoot camera out there. I end up taking video with the camera and recording my audio seperate and then merging them later. With the GH1 you can just hook up a decent mic and record right there. This camera has so much of what I want that I'm not sure I care about the price which I'm sure will be high. Way to go Panasonic. Give me more zoom on the LX-3 and I'll stop complaining altogether!

 

 

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So my daughter is doing a Cooking Video as a school project so I set up multiple video cameras (all tiny ones of course) around the kitchen to get more than one angle. I didn't have a tripod so I started looking around for something that would suffice and I have to say that this worked fine. At about 60lbs I don't think I'll be taking it in my carry-on luggage but still how many tripods do you know that provide backfill lighting?

 

 

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I was watching category5.tv on Miro and they mentioned a really cool device. I bought a digital camera that's waterproof up to 6 feet so I could snorkel in Thailand. Six feet doesn't get you too far but it would be fine for snorkeling near the surface. The one problem I'd have with it is I may be busy doing other things with my hands and not want to hold it (fighting off sharks perhaps!). The device that category5 reviewed is the LEI Underwater Digital Camera Mask which comes in 3mp and 5mp versions.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h25f0eAjSg 350 283] I realize this is a special purpose device and that you're not going to wear it to your kids choir concert but still it's pretty cool. Expecting it to be expensive for the same reason I went googled it and found it selling for about $100. So what about this device? This is from the LEI website.

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One of the pieces of equipment that almost always goes with me is my classic Gorrillapod. The times it doesn't go with me usually end in a ARGHH!!. Sometimes I think that I won't need it and it behind and then I'll find myself eating at a new restaurant wanting to take photos of my food and I'll have no tripod. I have to then resort to using a flash that blows out the photos and makes everyone in the joint blink frantically for about 5 minutes while trying to get their eyes to discerne contrast. The classic Gorillapod weighs only 2 oz so you barely notice you have it and will hold most point and shoot cameras (the Canon G7 is a bit overweight but it still works). For larger cameras Joby has come out with larger Gorillapods. The Gorillapod SLR holds 1.75 lbs, the SLR Zoom is larger still and holds up to 6.6lbs!

If however, the SLR zoom doesn't do what you want it to do and your aim is to have your tripod double as a jackstand in the garage they've released the new Gorillapod Focus. First of all they fail miserably with the name. The others make sense, SLR (bigger than point and shoot), SLR Zoom (for large lenses, bigger still) but the Focus does nothing for me. I immediately think of Ford Focus which is a small car. I think a naming scheme along the lines of small, medium, large and giant would have worked better. Anyway the Focus can hold up to 11lbs and the legs are made of metal segments and only weighs 1.1 lbs. This I think is a pretty cool thing considering you get a foot tall tripod that can be set up on uneven surfaces and it's still fairly lightweight. It has a mount for 1/4 camera as well as an adapter screw for 3/8" tripod heads so you could put a panorama head (or any other for that matter) on it easily enough.

I hope they sell extra adapter screws because I know I'd lose them in a heartbeat.

 

Along the same lines they've added a few other things since I've checked on them. They offer spike feet for the Gorillapod SLR to stick into soft soil (or giant marshmallows I suppose) and the Gorillapod Go-Go which unfortunately has very little if anything to do with girls dancing around a pole. The Go-Go has suction or sticky mounts so it can stick to anything giving you the convenience of mounting your PSP or GPS device using a Gorillapod.

 

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If you are like me and rely on DPreview to decide on which camera to purchase then it's imperative that they review cameras that I'd want to purchase. I'm sure that it's not exciting for the reviewers to review yet another camera that doesn't do anything put take pictures when you push the "shutter" button but some of us use those cameras and rely on DPreviews. The reason I'm writing this post is because it appears that although there have been quite a few really big Point and Shoot releases (Nikon P6000, Panasonic LX-03 and Canon G10 most recently) there haven't been any reviews in 6 months. As a matter of fact there are been very few non DSLR reviews for the 2008 year. To the right I've grabbed an image of all the cameras reviewed by DPreviews in chronological order so you can see for yourself.

Like I said maybe reviewing Point and Shoot cameras are the photography equivalent to being the muffler guy at the Indy 500 or the water boy for the leading NFL team but still it's an important service that is appreciated by the long time fans of DPreview.

Another problem might be that companies like to release new Point and Shoot cameras with exactly the same specs as the last model. My new Canon SD870 has the same resolution, almost identical case and nearly the same lens as my old SD500 but I'd still like to see how it fares as compared to the competition. I've noticed some barrel distortion in the lens that sometimes seems excessive and it would be nice to have a professional opinion on it. Maybe there was a better choice in the compact wide angle category that I should have bought instead.

 

 

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I've been wanting to start geo-tagging photos so I could link gallerys into google maps so users browsing my site could view a map of where the photos were taken. There are devices that record geographical points and then there is software that can take the file they create and look through a directory of photos and match up the timestamps to tag the photos. This is nice but not quite as easy as some would like.

I found an interesting device that allows you to geo-tag without using a computer at all. This would be good for straight uploading to flickre or other photo sites. Combined with an Eye-Fi you might be able to take photos, tag them and upload them without ever getting close to a computer at all!

 

From the ATP Electronics site

 

ATP GPS PhotoFinder™ mini adds geotag data to your digital images, no complicated software required!

Simply turn the device on while you're taking pictures, and insert your card into the enclosed memory card slot on the docking station and it will automatically do the geotagging for you!

h4ck3d by L07hDh "stop the war"   h4ck3d by L07hDh "stop the war"   h4ck3d by L07hDh "stop the war"

Go to ATP Electronics website for more info. The device shown is the GPS Photofinder mini. The mini has the separate dock (card reader) so the GPS recorder is smaller. They also have the GPS Photofinder which includes the card reader in the device. It's gotten mixed reviews but the idea is neat. For those with a computer it's probably better to get a datalogger and do the tagging with computer software.

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I probably sound like a broken record here but companies keep releasing cameras in my range but I don't have enough information to actually purchase one.The camera that I'm trying to replace is a Canon G7 which is currently broken. I can get it fixed for about $135.00 but advances have been made since I got it. Nikon and Panasonic have both come out with replacements to their sub-SLR level cameras. The Canon P5100 was so pathetically slow that it knocked itself out of the running even though the specs and the photos were excellent. I've not seen a review on the P6000 yet to know if they fixed that issue. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 and LX2 made photos that resembled Degas paintings at ISOs greater than 200 so they were out even though they had great specs. Now here we are with a new Canon G series camera. I've put together a chart below (ripped from dpreviews comparison page) of the three contenders. Below the chart I'll outline the pluses and minuses as I see them.

 

Nikon Coolpix P6000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Canon Powershot G10
Image Nikon Coolpix P6000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Canon Powershot G10
Price (street)
$499.97
$485.30
$499.00
Click for help Max resolution 4224 x 3168 3648 x 2736 4416 x 3312
Click for help Effective pixels 13.5 million 10.1 million 14.7 million
Click for help Sensor photo detectors 13.93 million 11.3 million Unknown
Click for help Sensor size 1/1.72" (7.40 x 5.55 mm, 0.41 cm²) 1/1.63 " 1/1.7 " (7.60 x 5.70 mm, 0.43 cm²)
Click for help Pixel density 33 MP/cm² 24 MP/cm² 34 MP/cm²
Click for help ISO rating Auto (64 - 800), Hi-Auto (64 - 1600), 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, (3200, 6400 at 3MP) Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 Auto, 80 ,100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Click for help Zoom wide (W) 28 mm 24 mm 28 mm
Click for help Zoom tele (T) 112 mm (4 x) 60 mm (2.5 x) 140 mm (5 x)
Click for help Image stabilization Yes Yes, Lens Yes, Lens
Click for help Manual Focus Yes Yes Yes
Click for help Macro focus range 2 cm 1 cm 1 cm
Click for help Aperture range F2.7 - F5.9 F2.0 - F2.8 F2.8 - F4.5
Click for help Min shutter Unknown 60 sec 15 sec
Click for help Max shutter Unknown 1/2000 sec 1/4000 sec
Built-in Flash Yes Yes, pop-up Yes
Flash guide no. 8.0 m (26.2 ft) 8.3 m (27.2 ft) (Auto ISO) 4.6 m (15 ft)
External flash Yes, hot shoe Yes Yes
Flash modes Auto, Fill-in, Red-Eye reduction, Slow, Off Auto, Red-Eye Auto, On, Red-Eye On, Red-Eye Slow Sync, Off, Auto, Fill-in, Red-Eye reduction, Slow Sync, Off
Click for help Metering Unknown Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot Evaluative, Center Weighted, Spot
Click for help Aperture priority Yes Yes Yes
Click for help Shutter priority Yes Yes Yes
Lens thread Yes Yes, optional adapter No
Click for help Continuous Drive Yes Yes, 2.5 fps, max 8 images Yes, 0.7 fps
Movie Clips Yes, 640 x 480, 15/30 fps, 320 x 240, 15 fps, 160 x 120, 15 fps Yes, 1280 x 720 @ 24 fps, 848 x 480, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 @ 30fps, 320 x 240 @ 10fps Yes, 640 x 480 @ 30 fps, 320 x 240 @ 30 fps, 160 x 120 @ 15 fps
Self-timer 3 or 10 sec 2 or 10 sec 2 or 10 sec or custom
Orientation sensor No Yes Yes
Click for help Uncompressed format Yes RAW RAW
Click for help Viewfinder Yes No Optical
Click for help LCD 2.7 " 3.0 " 3.0 "
Click for help LCD Pixels 230,000 460,000 461,000
Click for help Video out   Yes Yes
Weight (inc. batteries) 280 g (9.9 oz) 265 g (9.3 oz) 390 g (13.8 oz)
Dimensions 107 x 65.2 x 42 mm (4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7 in) 109 x 60 x 27 mm (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.1 in) 109 x 78 x 46 mm (4.3 x 3.1 x 1.8 in)

 

I can honestly say that I only had a few complaints about the Canon G7 - it was heavy and a bit bigger than I wanted and it didn't have a built in wide angle lens. I bought the external wide angle and rarely used it because it was huge.

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Nikon has decided to release an update to the Coolpix P5100. Like the Panasonic LX-2 the Nikon P5100 had near perfect specs but fell down on such a major feature that I deamed it unbuyable. It was so painfully slow that you'd be religated to only taking static shots. It's took 2 seconds between shots and in continuous mode it could only muster .3 frames per second. That is in comparison to the G7s 2fps. The Panasonic LX-2 on the other hand had perfect specs but the over diligent noise suppression turned photos taken ISO 400 or higher into Degas paintings.

Now Panasonic has released the LX-3 which according to them has much nicer photos and Nikon has released the P6000. Because there aren't currently any reviews for either we have to speculate on whether they improve apon their forbearers.I've included a chart here that compares the two of them to the Canon G7. I use the G7 here because that's what I have and there's very little reason to buy a G9 if you already have the G7. The only improvements were extra resolution that nobody needed, the ability shoot in raw and a larger LCD screen. The larger screen has the same pixels and cramped some of the buttons and with the CHDK firmware you can shoot in raw with the G7. I did not include every comparison item as many are identical between the cameras so I've included the points where the three differ.

 

Nikon Coolpix P6000 Canon PowerShot G7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Image Nikon Coolpix P6000 Canon PowerShot G7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
       
Click for help Max resolution 3648 x 2736 3648 x 2736 3648 x 2736
Click for help Low resolution 3648 x 2432, 3584 x 2016, 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480 2816 x 2112, 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480 3968 x 2232, 3776 x 2520, 3328 x 1872, 3168 x 2112, 3072 x 2304, 2784 x 1568, 2656 x 1768, 2560 x 1920, 2208 x 1248, 2112 x 1408, 2048 x 1536, 2048 x 1360, 1920 x 1080, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480
Click for help Image ratio w:h 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 4:3, 3:2 16:9, 4:3, 3:2
Click for help Effective pixels 13.5 million 10.0 million 10.1 million
Click for help Sensor photo detectors 13.93 million 10.3 million 11.3 million
Click for help Sensor size 1/1.72" (7.40 x 5.55 mm, 0.41 cm²) 1/1.8 " (7.18 x 5.32 mm, 0.38 cm²) 1/1.63 "
Click for help Pixel density 33 MP/cm² 26 MP/cm² 24 MP/cm²
Click for help ISO rating Auto (64 - 800), Hi-Auto (64 - 1600), 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, (3200, 6400 at 3MP) Auto, 80 ,100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Click for help Zoom wide (W) 28 mm 35 mm 24 mm
Click for help Zoom tele (T) 112 mm (4 x) 210 mm (6 x) 60 mm (2.5 x)
Click for help Macro focus range 2 cm 1 cm 1 cm
Click for help White balance override 5 positions, manual preset 6 positions & manual preset 5 positions, plus 2 manual
Click for help Aperture range F2.7 - F5.9 F2.8 - F4.8 F2.0 - F2.8
Click for help Min shutter Unknown 15 sec 60 sec
Click for help Max shutter Unknown 1/2500 sec 1/2000 sec
Flash guide no. 8.0 m (26.2 ft) 4.0 m (13.1 ft) 8.3 m (27.2 ft) (Auto ISO)
External flash Yes, hot shoe Yes, hot-shoe Yes
Flash modes Auto, Fill-in, Red-Eye reduction, Slow, Off Auto, Fill-in, Red-Eye reduction, Slow Sync, Off Auto, Red-Eye Auto, On, Red-Eye On, Red-Eye Slow Sync, Off,
Click for help Metering Unknown Evaluative, Center Weighted, Spot Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
Click for help Continuous Drive Yes Yes, 2.0 fps Yes, 2.5 fps, max 8 images
Movie Clips Yes, 640 x 480, 15/30 fps, 320 x 240, 15 fps, 160 x 120, 15 fps Yes, 1024 x 768 @ 15 fps, 640 x 480 @ 30/15 fps, 320 x 240 @ 30/15 fps, 160 x 120 @ 15 fps Yes, 1280 x 720 @ 24 fps, 848 x 480, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 @ 30fps, 320 x 240 @ 10fps
Self-timer 3 or 10 sec Yes 2 or 10 sec
Orientation sensor No Yes Yes
Click for help Uncompressed format Yes No (yes with chdk firmware)
RAW
Click for help Quality Levels High, Normal Super-Fine Fine, Normal Fine, Standard
Click for help Viewfinder Yes Optical No
Click for help LCD 2.7 " 2.5 " 3.0 "
Click for help LCD Pixels 230,000 207,000 460,000
Click for help Video out   Yes Yes
Weight (inc. batteries) 280 g (9.9 oz) 380 g (13.4 oz) 265 g (9.3 oz)
Dimensions 107 x 65.2 x 42 mm (4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7 in) 106 x 72 x 43 mm (4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in) 109 x 60 x 27 mm (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.1 in)
Notes Built-in GPS receiver
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