Photography Equipment

  • Landscape Newsletter From f-stop

    f-stop is a company that makes camera packs and bags for active outdoor photographers. I am a member of their professional photographer Brigade Team, along with the rest of the Photo Cascadia crew, but I don't get paid to use their gear. I use their stuff because, better than any other camera bags I have tried, they fit my requirements for durability, comfort, features, innovation and versatility.

    As one of their team of photographers they recently showcased my photography in their newsletter. I don't have design skills to create such a visually captivating newsletter layout so I decided I would take advantage of the nice work they did and share their newsletter here on my blog. If you are looking for a camera bag I would certainly give them a look. I have extensively used their Guru, Loka and Tilopa packs with several different size ICUs so I'm glad to do my best to answer any questions about their products you might have.

  • New Article On PhotoCascadia: Canon 5D Mark II ISO Noise

    I have a new article on the Photo Cascadia blog detailing testing I did on ISO noise performance in the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Out of all the technological advances in digital cameras in recent years I feel that lower image noise at higher ISO settings has had the largest positive impact on my photography. It is amazing to be able to shoot hand held at small apertures or in low light and also to capture night sky images without star trails and produce images that are not destroyed by noise.

    It turns out that there is more to the ISO/image noise story than I suspected. Even as cameras improved I assumed that regardless of how good the ISO performance was that lower ISO settings would always produce lower levels of image noise. Noise tests with the Canon EOS 7D that were posted on the web by Tony Loentzen changed that logic. His tests showed that the 7D actually produced cleaner images at some higher ISO settings. For example, he found that ISO 640 produced almost as little noise as ISO 100!

    Curious to find out if the Canon 5D Mark II behaved in a similar way I decided to conduct my own test. To see my test images and find out what I discovered you can read my article on PhotoCascadia.com. I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback.

  • New Horizons In Photography With Better High ISO Performance

    Several months back I upgraded cameras from my trusty Canon EOS 5D to the newer model, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The Mark II boasted a range of new features that made it a worthwhile investment, including a larger and clearer LCD screen, a stronger and more weather proof build, easier to navigate menus, customizable settings, HD video, a sensor dust cleaning function as well as greater resolution (21 MP), updated processors and firmware and reportedly better image quality. Over time I have found that, really, just one feature of the newer camera has fundamentally changed the way I can take photos. That feature is the greatly improved performance at higher ISO settings.

    Hand held at 1/40 second, f/9, ISO 500

    ISO is the standard by which the sensitivity of film or a digital sensor is measured. Better sensitivity, lower noise and improved in-camera noise reduction at higher ISO settings are hallmarks of the latest generation of digital SLR cameras, and high ISO performance will surely continue to improve in the near future. I have always used Canon digital cameras by choice, but the most current high end digital SLRs from Nikon, Sony, Minolta and others all have much better high ISO performance than their predecessors.

    Hand held at 1/100 second, f/8, ISO 320

    I haven't done quantitative tests to compare the high ISO performance of older DSLRs and current ones, but the improvements are so dramatic to be readily apparent with a simple inspection of the image files at 100%. There are plenty of independent testers out there who have done careful scientific comparisons if you want the raw data. My goal in this article is simply to share some images I have taken recently that either would have previously been impossible or would have required more equipment and more labor intensive techniques. Of course, you would need to see high resolution image files to get a complete understanding of the image quality, but for the purpose of this article I think these screen size images give you the main idea. I should also point out that in addition to improvements in ISO performance, improved noise reduction algorithms in software like Adobe Lightroom and Camera RAW, as well as improved image stabilization technology in lenses take some of the credit.

    Hand held at 1/13 second, f/4.5, ISO 3200

    How does better high ISO performance allow for new opportunities in photography? As the sensor becomes more sensitive to light as the ISO setting is increased, the camera is able to maintain faster shutter speeds in lower light conditions and still get a proper exposure. Essentially it means you can shoot in lower light situations or with smaller aperture settings without the need for a tripod. However, with past cameras the increased sensitivity to light at higher ISO settings came with an unacceptable trade off; increased image noise or digital grain. Until I acquired the Canon 5D Mark II, the higher ISO settings were generally useless to me. My images need to be very clean and sharp, so I would always shoot at the lowest ISO setting (ISO 100) to ensure adequate image quality. This almost always meant the need for a tripod to get a sharp image.

    Hand held at 1/15 second, f/5.6, ISO 3200

    Experimenting with the ISO capabilities of the 5D Mark II during my travels in Mexico this month have left me impressed and excited about the possibilities. I still use my tripod most of the time, but I find that in situations where a tripod is impractical, time prohibitive or creatively limiting I can often raise the ISO to between 200 and 500 to allow for fast enough shutter speeds for hand held shooting with a very slight loss in overall image quality. Images at these ISO settings are certainly good enough for publishing and even fine art printing. There are times when having the ability to photograph without a tripod is extremely freeing and allows for flexibility, mobility, spontaneity and creativity that wasn't possible before.

    Hand held at 1/20 sec, f/4, ISO 3200

    What's more, I have found that I can also hand hold my camera in minimal light situations, such as indoors or for night time city scenes, by increasing the ISO dramatically. I have increased the ISO to as much as 3200 and still been able to capture very usable images. A slight degree of noise in these images is acceptable to me for the fact that they would have been almost impossible to get otherwise. While I still return to the tripod if image quality is essential, it is exciting to be able to photograph people and other moving objects in low light conditions and not have them be blurred. Most of my night city photography does not include people because of the blurring of objects in motion with slow shutter speeds.  Being able to hand hold the camera and get sharp images of moving subjects indoors and at night opens a whole new world of possibilities.

    Hand held at 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 3200

    I'm sure the technology in ISO performance will continue to improve for some time. Within a couple of years there will be cameras that allow us to photograph in almost complete darkness with fast shutter speeds and produce noise free images. Until then it is exciting to know how good the ISO performance is right now, and that photographers have the ability to take photographs that were previously impossible or impractical.

    Hand held at 1/15 second, f/7.1, ISO 500

    If you found this article helpful, informative or otherwise useful, feel free to share it on the social media network of your choice using the handy links below. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks!

    Hand held at 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 3200

    New Photography Possibilities with high ISO Performance

    Several months back I upgraded cameras from my trusty Canon EOS 5D to the newer model, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The Mark II boasted a range of new features that made it a worthwhile investment, including a larger and clearer LCD screen, a stronger and more weather proof build, easier to navigate menus, customizable settings, HD video, a sensor dust cleaning function as well as greater resolution (21 MP), updated processors and firmware and reportedly better image quality. Over time I have found that one specific attribute of the newer camera has had a bigger impact on the way I can take photographs than any other. That feature is the greatly improved performance at higher ISO settings.

    I haven't run any objective tests to make quantitative comparisons between older DSLRs and current ones, but there are plenty of independent testers out there who have if you want the raw data. My goal in this article is to share some images I have taken recently that either would have been previously impossible or would have required more equipment and more labor intensive techniques.

    Better sensitivity, lower noise and improved in-camera noise reduction at higher ISO settings are hallmarks of the latest generation of digital SLR cameras, and high ISO performance will surely continue to improve in the near future. ISO is the standard by which the sensitivity of film or a digital sensor is measured. I have always used Canon digital cameras by choice, but the most current high end digital SLRs from Nikon, Sony, Minolta and others all have much better high ISO performance than their predecessors.

    How does better high ISO performance allow for new opportunities in photography? As the sensor becomes more sensitive to light with increased ISO settings the camera is able to maintain faster shutter speeds in lower light conditions and still get a proper exposure. Essentially it means you can shoot in lower light situations or with smaller aperture settings, without a tripod, than at lower ISO settings. However, with past cameras the increased sensitivity to light at higher ISO settings came with an unacceptable trade off; increased image noise or digital grain. Until I acquired the Canon 5D Mark II, the higher ISO settings were generally useless to me. My images need to be very clean and sharp, so I would always shoot at the lowest ISO setting (ISO 100) to ensure adequate image quality. This almost always meant using a tripod.

    Experimenting with the ISO capabilities of the 5D Mark II during my travels in Mexico this month have left me impressed and excited about the possibilities. I still use my tripod most of the time, but I find that in situations where a tripod is impractical, time prohibitive or creatively limiting I can often bump up the ISO to between 200 and 500 to allow for fast enough shutter speeds for hand held shooting with a very slight loss in overall image quality. Images at these ISO settings are certainly good enough for publishing and even fine art printing. In some situations the ability to photograph without a tripod can be very freeing and allow for creativity and camera positions that weren't possible before.

    What's more, I have found that I can also hand hold my camera in very low light situations, such as indoors or with night time city scenes, by increasing the ISO dramatically. I have increased the ISO to as much as 3200 and still been able to capture very usable images. The value of these images in greatly enhanced by the fact that they would have been almost impossible to get otherwise. While I still return to the tripod if image quality is essential, it is exciting to be able to photograph people and other moving objects in low light conditions and not have them be blurred. Most of my night city photography does not include people because of the blurring of objects in motion. Being able to hand hold the camera and get sharp images of moving subjects in low light opens a whole new world of possibilities.

    I'm sure the technology in ISO performance will continue to improve for some time. Within a couple of years there will be cameras that allow us to photograph by moonlight without a tripod and produce noise free images. Until then it is exciting to know that ISO performance is at a level right now that allows for types of shooting that were previously impossible or impractical.

  • Photographing the Columbia River Gorge in Spring

    Wildflowers at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Wildflowers at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    The Columbia River Gorge and corresponding scenic areas and monuments is one of the most varied and visually compelling natural locations in North America and it is an icon of the Pacific Northwest. Photographically, a visit to the "Gorge" is worth it any time of the year, although summer weekends can become notoriously overcrowded. As with so many locations, the height of spring and fall color are often the best for photography.

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    Bike racers descend the Rowena Curves during the Cherry Blossum Stage Race.

    This spring I had the fortune to visit the Columbia Gorge two times and photograph some of the waterfalls found along the Oregon side as well as some of the best wildflower locations found further east near Mosier and The Dalles. This entry in my blog features several of my favorite images from my two spring visits this year. These photographs are new enough that they have not been added to my site yet, but they are available upon request. I hope you enjoy!

    Mt. Adams from near the town of Trout Lake

    Mt. Adams from near the town of Trout Lake

    Metlako Falls

    Metlako Falls

    Punchbowl Falls

    Punchbowl Falls

    Hiking along Eagle Creek

    Hiking along Eagle Creek

    Elowah Falls

    Elowah Falls

    Upper Horsetail Falls

    Upper Horsetail Falls

    Rowena Hills Sunset, Tom McCall Preserve

    Rowena Hills Sunset, Tom McCall Preserve

    Mosier Cherry Orchards

    Mosier Cherry Orchards

    Small wildflower with an even smaller spider

    Small wildflower with an even smaller spider

    Sunrise at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Sunrise at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Out to pasture at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Out to pasture at Dalles Mountain Ranch

    Earthbound Sun, balsamroot and lupine

    Earthbound Sun, balsamroot and lupine

  • Actual Canon EOS 5D Mark II Specs and Features?

    For the past two years I have been shooting landscapes almost exclusively with the Canon EOS 5D. Like many outdoor photographers, it has been just about the perfect camera for the purpose with its compact body, 12.7 megapixel resolution, full frame sensor and great color and clarity. However, in the past several months, watching Canon bring great new technology to the 1D Mark III, 1Ds Mark III and the 40D, I have been anticipating the next generation 5D. I even wrote an article a while back in which I listed the features I hoped to see in the successor to the 5D. Rumors of a 5D Mark II began circulating on the web as far back as last October. Now someone has posted information on the DP Review forums with specs, release dates and pricing for the 5D Mark II and the news is spreading to other sources. While the information sounds legit, the author wasn't willing to reveal his source, so the report might be entirely false. According to the post, Canon will announce the new camera on April 22, so we'll find out the truth soon enough.

    Here are some of the details for the 5D successor according to the DP Review post:
    - 15.3 MP full frame CMOS sensor
    - Weather sealing to the same standard as 1Ds Mark III
    - Dual Digic III and much improved noise reduction software
    - ISO 12800 with comparable noise to ISO 3200 in the 5D
    - 29 point AF system
    - Shutter rated to 300,000 cycles
    - 6.0 frames per second
    - Sensor Cleaning System
    - Live view LCD
    - 14 bit color
    If the rumors are true, this camera will include pretty much every upgrade I put on my wish list back in August and will make it just about the perfect camera for demanding, lightweight outdoor photography.
  • Inkjet Printer vs. Print Lab

    I recently went through a significant change in the way I have my photos printed. For about 7 years I produced all my own prints using ink jet printers. First a Canon and then an Epson Stylus PRO 7600 with Ultrachrome ink. I loved that I could be in control of the entire process, print on demand and easily print test proofs. I also thought it was the most cost effective way of printing and that the quality was on par with any print lab.

    Within the last year I have had a change of perspective and have now switched over to using a professional print lab to produce all my prints. Two factors contributed to my switch. First, as my 7600 got a couple of years under its belt, combined with the fact that I sometimes go for a couple weeks without printing anything, it began to have issues with ink nozzles clogging, creating banding in my prints. I would then need to spend as much as two hours running the cleaning cycle to clear the nozzles. The time lost, as well as the cost in wasted paper and ink, became a source of stress and frustration. Admittedly, I have many photographer friends who properly maintain their printers and don't suffer similar issues.

    The second factor was my discovery that when printing on coated, non-absorbent papers (referred to as RC papers), such as glossy or semi-gloss, solvents in the inks are not absorbed by the paper and instead evaporate over time. When such a print is framed, the evaporating solvent condenses on the inside of the glass leaving a visible foggy residue. The issue is widely commented on in web forums and the offered solutions include waiting several weeks to frame prints, or to layer newsprint between prints and stack books on them for 48 hours to draw out the solvent. I didn't have any luck with the newsprint approach, and some other prints that I let cure for a month and a half still fogged the glass when framed. To read an article specifically about the fogging problem click HERE. Much more can be found with a quick Internet search.
    The combination of the two problems drove me crazy enough that I began having West Coast Imaging produce all my prints. They aren't cheap, but the quality is amazing and they deal with maintaining the equipment and stocking paper and ink. Since the evaporation issue isn't a problem with canvas and fine art papers, I have them print these with their Epson ink jet printer. For all my glossy and semi-gloss prints, I have them use their Chromira printer, which uses traditional chemistry based "wet" printing. In the end, I think that wet printing on glossy paper give superior results in color and contrast and it eliminates the strange reflections created by different ink densities when viewing ink jet prints at an angle. In addition, I like the selection of papers, such as Fuji Crystal Archive and FujiFlex super gloss, that are available with Chromira prints. Most importantly, the prints can be framed right away and don't leave any residue on glass.

    I still think that ink jet printers offer great color and quality and a lot of control and convenience for amateur and professional photographers alike, as long as one has the time and patience to maintain them and the evaporating solvent issue isn't a concern. If you know anyone who wants to buy a 7600, mine is available for a really good price. I'll probably get a 13" ink jet for test prints and printing cards and small prints on matte papers.

  • Canon Announces its new 21.1-MEGAPIXEL, FULL-FRAME EOS-1Ds MARK III DIGITAL SLR

    Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

    Here is the latest news just released from Canon USA regarding the release its latest ground-breaking camera in the professional 1D line.

    LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., August 20, 2007 – The new 21.1-megapixel, full-frame Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR* camera brings the power of Canon U.S.A., Inc.'s professional imaging excellence and innovation into sharper focus than ever before. While Canon's EOS-1D series has dominated the 35mm-based professional Digital SLR market for the past six years, the new EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR takes Canon's pro-digital prowess into and the realm of high-fashion and commercial photo studios where bulkier, medium-format cameras previously reigned.

    The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III's compact, lighter-weight magnesium alloy body is rugged and versatile enough to take out of the studio and into the field. The camera's fast, five-frame-per-second (fps) shooting rate for bursts of up to 56 Large/Fine (21-megapixel) JPEGS or 12 RAW images is unmatched in its class, making it the ideal instrument for capturing the fluid motion and free-flowing lines of location-based fashion photography as well as a wide range of other professional photographic applications.

    The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III professional digital single lens reflex camera is scheduled to begin shipping in November and will have an estimated selling price of $7,999†(the same price as its predecessor, the 16.7 megapixel EOS-1Ds Mark II).

    "The EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR camera is a prime example of the EOS philosophy and Canon's ongoing commitment to providing photo professionals with the tools they need to create the finest quality images," stated Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. "To continue our legacy, we must provide not only the right professional tools, but also the finest photo tools for the job and do so consistently, whether we are presenting this exemplary EOS-1Ds Mark III SLR camera, or any one of the many fine specialty lenses, flashes and accessories that populate the EOS professional photo system."

    Revolutionary Resolution
    Developed and manufactured by Canon specifically for the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR, the camera's new full-size 36 x 24 mm CMOS image sensor offers the highest resolution in its class, and is comprised of approximately 21.1 million effective pixels (5632 x 3750) set at a pitch of 6.4 microns. The user can select any one of six recording formats ranging from 21.0 megapixels in Large JPEG or RAW format, 16.6 or 11.0 megapixels in the two medium JPEG sizes, or 5.2 megapixels in the small JPEG or "sRAW" formats. In any JPEG format, the user can set one of ten compression rates for each image size. In sRAW mode, the number of pixels is reduced to one-fourth that of a standard RAW image and the file size is cut in half, while retaining all of the flexibility and creative possibilities associated with full-size, traditional RAW images.

    Dual "DIGIC III" Image Processors
    Fulfilling the ultra-low noise, ultra-high image quality promise of the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR camera requires handling the enormous signal processing requirements of the camera's 21-megapixel resolution and top continuous shooting speed of five fps. To accomplish this, Canon has incorporated two identical DIGIC III imaging engines into the camera for parallel (and hence, faster) signal processing. The CMOS sensor reads out to the dual "DIGIC III" processors simultaneously in eight channels. DIGIC III is the next generation of Canon's proprietary image processing engine. This technology ensures the fine details and natural colors of images are optimally recorded and, as an added bonus, is responsible for the EOS-1Ds Mark III SLR's high-speed performance, faster signal processing and more efficient energy consumption.

    Adding to the improved virtuosity of the images captured by the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR camera is the camera's 14-bit Analog-to-Digital (A/D) conversion process. Able to recognize 16,384 colors per channel (four times the number of colors recognized by the EOS-1Ds Mark II Digital SLR camera's 12-bit conversion capability), this line-leading model is able to produce images with finer and more accurate gradations of tones and colors. Additionally, given the significantly larger image file sizes created by the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR camera, Canon has provided compatibility with the new Ultra Direct Memory Access (UDMA) compact flash memory card specification, which enables ultra-high-speed data transfer to the card. Utilizing a UDMA compliant card doubles the data transfer speed compared to a conventional memory card, putting the new EOS-1Ds Mark III on par with the 10.1-megapixel EOS-1D Mark III camera, even though the pixel count of this new model is more than twice as large.

    Advanced Autofocus Technology
    The EOS-1Ds Mark III autofocus system - first introduced earlier this year on the EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR - has 45 AF points including 19 high-precision cross-type points and 26 Assist AF points. This new array allows the 19 cross-type points to be divided into groups of nine inner and nine outer focusing points plus a center point, which makes picking an individual focusing point much faster and easier than going through all 45. During manual AF point selection, the AF point area is expandable in two stages via Custom Function control.

    At the request of sports and wildlife photographers, a new micro-adjustment feature allows for very fine changes in the AF point of focus for each lens type in use, along with the addition of adjustable focus-tracking sensitivity as another sophisticated new AF feature. Other new components in the AF system include the reconfigured concave submirror and the secondary image formation lens, both products of Canon's vast expertise in optical engineering. Finally, the low-light sensitivity of the new AF sensor has been doubled to EV-1 for superior performance, compared with earlier EOS digital SLRs.

    Live View
    One of the dynamic innovations incorporated into new EOS Digital SLRs - and optimized for professional shooters on the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR - is Canon's Live View shooting mode which provides photographers with an expanded and exceedingly convenient set of shooting options beyond the conventional SLR through-the-lens viewing. Framing and shooting subjects using the camera's LCD screen affords the shooter the same 100 percent field of view provided by the optical viewfinder - this is a full-frame digital SLR after all - but Live View has the added advantage of allowing the image to be more easily composed on the camera's bright and brilliant 230,000-pixel, three-inch LED screen. Additionally, the LCD-viewed image can be magnified by five or ten times in order to ensure that the shot is optimally focused.

    Live View is at its best during tripod shooting, particularly for close-up photography where precise focusing is imperative. As a side benefit, the Live View shooting mode helps to reduce vibration by lifting the reflex mirror out of the optical path well in advance of the exposure, improving image quality at slow shutter speeds. Additionally, as the release time lag is miniscule, even instantaneous movements like a bird taking flight can be readily captured. The shutter charge sound can be delayed and made quieter than normal in Live View mode to avoid spooking wildlife or disturbing people nearby with unwanted camera sounds.

    If a user is going to be several feet away from the camera, such as in some studio settings, the EOS-1Ds Mark III can be connected by cable to a computer via its USB 2.0 High-Speed interface. The camera can also be operated remotely at distances up to 492 feet with the assistance of the optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E2A which allows users to view images directly off the camera's sensor in virtually real-time, with the ability to adjust many camera settings quickly and easily.

    Viewing Display
    Easy to read, even in outdoor conditions such as bright sunlight, the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR camera features a three-inch, 230,000-pixel wide angle LCD display screen. The TFT color liquid-crystal monitor features seven user-settable brightness levels and a wide, 140-degree viewing angle, both horizontally and vertically. An added advantage of the large, three-inch display size is the ability to utilize a larger font size for text, making it easier to read setting and menu options on the screen.

    Canon extends its "ease-of-reading" policy to the EOS-1Ds Mark III's viewfinder as well. Bright and clear with zero distortion and a 100 percent picture coverage and a magnification factor of .75x, it is the finest viewfinder ever placed in an EOS camera.

    EOS Integrated Cleaning System
    Another first for a professional digital SLR of this caliber is Canon's complete dust management solution, called the EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The new CMOS image sensor is designed with a lightweight infrared absorption glass cover that vibrates for 3.5 seconds when the camera is turned on or off. This brief delay can be cancelled immediately upon start-up by pressing the shutter button half way. Dust that has been shaken or blown loose of the sensor is trapped by adhesive surfaces surrounding the sensor unit housing, preventing the problematic particles from reattaching themselves to the filter when the camera moves.

    Like its sibling, the EOS-1D Mark III, the shutter of the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR camera carries a durability rating of 300,000 cycles and, though it generates less dust, it still charges itself three times during the manual cleaning process so that dust is shaken off the shutter curtains as well. This cleaning system uses very little battery power and can be turned off in the custom function menu.

    The second part of the dust management system is a software solution that maps the location of any spots that may remain on the sensor. The mapped information is saved as Dust Delete Data and attached to the image file. Subsequently, the offending dust information is subtracted from the final image during post processing, using the supplied Digital Photo Professional software.

    Rock Solid Reliability
    The entire body of the EOS-1Ds Mark III, including its internal chassis and mirror box, is made of an advanced magnesium alloy for exceptional strength and rigidity. Comprehensive weatherproofing at 76 locations on the camera body ensures superior reliability, even when shooting in harsh environments. Together with the 300,000-cycle shutter durability rating, these features result in a camera that, even though it is six ounces lighter than the EOS-1Ds Mark II, can truly withstand even the most severe shooting conditions.

    Improved Software
    Among the most valuable features of the EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR is its compatibility with Canon's new Picture Style Editor 1.0 software. With PSE, photographers can personalize the look of their photographs by inputting their own preferred image processing parameters, including custom tone curves. The EOS-1Ds Mark III Digital SLR also ships with the latest versions of Canon's powerful software applications, including Digital Photo Professional 3.2 and EOS Utility 2.2, which support the camera's Remote Live View and Dust Delete Data functions, as well as incorporating a broad range of additional improvements designed to improve image quality and speed up workflow. Particularly noteworthy in DPP 3.2 is a new Lens Aberration Correction Function that corrects various image defects such as chromatic aberration, color blur, vignetting and distortion. Initially, the Lens Aberration Correction Function will support images captured by the EOS-1Ds Mark III and 11 other EOS Digital SLRs using any of 29 individual EF and EF-S lenses. Also included are ZoomBrowser EX 6.0 and ImageBrowser 6.0 for easy browsing, viewing, printing and archiving with compatible computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows XP, as well as Mac OS X.

  • Canon EOS 1D Mark III Is Sweet, But How About A Canon EOS 5D Mark II?

    Canon EOS 1D Mark III

    The Canon EOS 1D Mark III vs. the Canon EOS 5D

    While teaching a private digital photography lesson I was able to get my hands on and familiarize myself with the recently released and industry rocking new Canon EOS 1D Mark III. I haven't had enough time to get to know all the finer details and nuances of this camera, but at first look I would have to say that it does live up to the hype it has received and certainly sets a new level of function and performance in the high-end DSLR world. However, the most important question on my mind is, "as a landscape, architecture and travel photographer does the Canon EOS 1D Mark III have what it takes to get me to pony up $4000 and switch over from my current much loved Canon EOS 5D, 12.7 megapixel, full frame camera?"
    1D Mark III Basic Specifications
    Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
    Kit Lens: n/a
    Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
    LCD Size: 3.0 inch
    ISO: 50-6400
    Shutter: 30-1/8000
    Max Aperture: n/a
    Mem Type: CF1 / CF2 / SDHC / SD
    Battery: Custom LiIon
    Dimensions: 6.1x6.2x3.1in
    (156x157x80mm)
    Weight: 40.4 oz
    (1,155 g)
    MSRP: $4,000
    Availability: On The market
    About a year and a half ago I purchased my 5D and have been very pleased with it ever since. The small size and weight, superior resolution, ease of use, price and full frame sensor form a pretty solid base of features important to the types of photography that I do. The $8000 price tag of the respected full frame EOS 1Ds Mark II along with its notoriously complex operation and large, heavy body all made it impractical for hauling into the wilderness, shooting in the dark and operating it in abusive conditions. The 1D Mark II N was geared more towards sports and journalistic photography and didn't have the resolution I wanted, not to mention that the smaller APS sized sensor cut into my wide angle capability. Upon first reading about the 1D Mark III I thought that it might just have the right combination of advanced technology and features to persuade me to make the jump.As stated by Dave Etchells and Shawn Barnett on image-resource.com, "the big story with the Canon EOS 1D Mark III is that it's a better, more universally appealing professional camera for more types of professional photographers. A lot of intermediate photographers may want to make the jump as well, given its more friendly interface and astonishing high ISO performance. And, the Canon EOS 1D Mark III isn't just for sports anymore. It's a more universal camera for the vast majority of pro photographers. With the multiple improvements in the new camera, photographers will no longer need to trade off resolution, image quality, and speed against each other. The 1D Mark III now has enough of all three to satisfy a huge slice of the market in a single camera body."
    While the 1D Mark III's 10 frames per second burst rate, the fastest in the world, is impressive it really isn't an important consideration for photographers who photograph low motion subjects like landscapes. Below I have listed the features of the 1D Mark III that really caught my eye as a landscape and architecture photographer that might challenge my preference for the 5D.

    • Three inch LCD monitor with live view capability for on screen compositions - handy for creative and difficult compositions.
    • Dual DIGIC III Image Processors for fine detail, natural color reproduction and high-speed performance - I'm all about better color reproduction and fine detail. High speed is an added bonus.
    • Professional EOS Integrated Cleaning System with Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit - dust spots on the sensor may be my single biggest gripe with digital SLRs.
    • Dust Delete Data acquisition - for those times when the self-cleaning sensor misses some specks.
    • More intuitive menus and controls similar to the 5D - my 5D fits like a glove and is almost as easy to use.
    • Expanded ISO range with less noise in images shot at a higher ISO - I often shoot on a tripod, but expanding my handheld shooting ability while still producing low noise images is very tempting.
    • 14-bit A/D conversion for fine color/tonal gradation - again, any technology that allows for better, more accurate color reproduction is high on my list of priorities.
    • New 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, improved microlens array and pixel fill factor plus optimized photodiode structure to increase light-reception efficiency - the improved sensor design and resolution along with the other image quality enhancements would most likely give me plenty of detail for 20 x 30 art prints or larger (as with my 5D), but I'm not excited about the smaller than full frame sensor size. I really need to be able to access the entire wide angle view of my 16 mm lens.
    • Increased shutter durability of approximately 300,000 cycles - it just keeps going and going.
    • 50% less shadow noise for all images - shadow noise is something that I'm constantly trying to avoid in my landscape photography.
    • High-capacity, lightweight and compact lithium-ion battery with estimated battery life display - lithium-ion is the way to go and I like that Canon has finally figured out a way to let you know how much more time you have left on your battery.
    • Strong magnesium alloy body construction sealed to resist dust and water - I take my gear to some pretty harsh environments. The fact that the 5D is not as well sealed as the 1D series cameras is one of its serious drawbacks for abusive professional photographers.

    Based on the image comparisons I have been able to make between the 1D Mark III and the 5D, along with viewing many sample images taken by independent reviewers on the web, I would have to say that the Mark III certainly does produce remarkably detailed high resolution images with extremely accurate colors. When used with a sharp lens, the 1D Mark III can produce images with a vast amount of fine detail. I would say that the image quality and resolution at low ISO settings rivals that of the 12 megapixel 5D. In some situations, such as along high contrast edges, in shadow detail and in tricky lighting, I would say that the Mark III even outperforms the 5D.
    However, this camera really shows its stuff with its low noise levels when shooting at higher ISO settings. Even at its highest setting of ISO 6,400, the images are cleaner than those shot at ISO 1600 and perhaps even 800 on the 5D. There is digital noise, but there's still an amazing amount of shadow detail and finer detail for such a sensitive ISO setting. At lower sensitivities, images are extremely clean, and noise doesn't even begin to show up significantly on monitors until you reach ISO 800.

    The 1D Mark III certainly sets new standards on many fronts. The ease of use, sensor cleaning technology, color accuracy, detailed resolution and low noise are features that really excite me, and there are many more that are pretty cool, although not essential, to the landscape photographer. Impressive as it is, would it tempt me away from my 5D? It is close, but the answer is, Nope.

    The main factor that would keep me away is the APS-H sized sensor which applies a magnification factor of 1.3x to the focal length of the lens. Being able to get full use out my wide-angle lenses with the 5D is just too important to give up. To a lesser degree I am also deterred by the size and weight of the camera.

    So what would the camera that would get me to hand over the keys to my 5D look like? We'll my guess is it would be called the EOS 5D Mark II and it would have the follwing features:

    • A compact, lightweight body like the current 5D
    • Magnesium alloy body construction sealed against dust and moisture to the same standards as the EOS 1D cameras
    • The same dual DIGIC III processors, firmware and sensor improvements found in the 1D Mark III
    • The same high sensitivity/low noise ability of the 1D Mark III
    • 14 bit color
    • Live view LCD screen
    • Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit
    • The same intuitive menu and control system found on the 5D and 1D Mark III
    • Battery life display
    • Shutter rated to 300,000 shots
    • And most importantly...a FULL FRAME sensor in the 13-16 megapixel range

    What is the chance that such a camera is on the horizon? The consensus among the big dogs seems to be that Canon will put this technology to use at the top end first by coming out with a 1Ds Mark III. It would include all the improvements made to the 1D but it is anticipated that the new 1Ds will feature a 22 megapixel full frame sensor as well. This is sure to be an amazing camera, but the body size and likely $7000 to $9000 price tag will not place it high on my wish list. Hopefully, soon after that, a new 5D will hit the market. I'm holding out for that day.

  • Digital Projectors for Photographers

    Finding the right projector for presenting digital images can be tricky. There is a lot to discuss. The March 2007 issue of Outdoor Photographer Magazine just ran a several page article on digital projectors for photographers. I would recommend seeing if you can find a copy.

    There are three main technologies used in digital projection LCD, DLP and LCOS. LCD projectors use transmitted light while DLP and LCOS projectors reflect light off of an array of thousands of microscopic mirrors. LCD projectors tend to have very good color saturation and image sharpness, but the image is broken into small visible squares or pixels. DLP projectors have a very seamless image with no apparent pixels. Both projectors have improved dramatically in recent years and either can offer a great image for projecting photos. LCOS projectors offer the best of both worlds with great color and sharpness and no square grid pattern. The trade off here is cost and larger, heavier equipment.
    I have a Canon Realis. They have the highest resolution and best color on the market due to their LCOS projection system but they are also quite expensive ($3000 - $5000). There are many good LCD and DLP models out there for much less. When comparing projectors there are some key characteristics to consider. Contrast ratio is important. Look for 400:1 or 500:1 for an LCD projector (higher is better). For DLP projectors a contrast ratio of 2000:1 is good. How many lumens you need is another consideration. If you plan to use it in a completely dark room then fewer lumens (1000 to 1500) is OK. If you want to show during the day or in lighted rooms then you need more lumens (2000 or more). For good photo sharpness you want as much resolution as you can afford. Stay away from VGA (640x480 pixels) and SVGA (800x600 pixels). If you can afford XGA (1024x768 pixels) or SXGA (1280x1024 pixels) you will get a much sharper picture.

    As a starting point you might want to Google the Canon LV-X6, Epson PowerLite 76c, ViewSonic PJ400 and the Sony VPL-EX3. The best way to decide on a projector is to go somewhere you can actually see and compare the projected images. However, most electronics stores like Best Buy or Circuit City tend to carry mostly home theater projectors or business presentation projectores. The former generally use wide screen format and are optimized for showing video and not still images with crisp detail. The latter are often lower resolution and best for showing large graphics, clip art and limited colors.

    I almost always project images and multil media shows directly from my computer's hard drive. If you want to play from DVD you have a few options. You can play from your desktop computer's DVD player if you will alway be projecting at home. If you need to be portable, you can project from a laptop computer or you can use a dedicated DVD player to project images on DVD. If you are planning on creating slide shows with music, fades and titles then you will need some sort of editing software that can create the show. Microsoft Windows Movie Maker works pretty well for basics and comes with the system software in new PCs. Adobe Premier or Apple's Final Cut Pro are top of the line. You will also need some sort of sound system as well. If you plan on only projecting from your home then everything is much easier. You can set up a permanent home theater with good sound and the size and weight of the equipment isn't so crucial. If you want to take it on the road, then a laptop, small sound system and portable screen are essential.

  • Winter Photo Visit To Crater Lake National Park

    I always find it difficult to get out and photograph during the winter. The days are short and cold. The sky is often an unappealing gray and the weather is hard to predict. However, I find that when I do go out I'm usually pleased with what I find.

    Recently I loaded up my VW Eurovan camper and headed to Crater Lake National Park which is about 80 miles from my home. Crater Lake always makes for a great outdoor experience, but in the winter it is especially stunning and sees very few visitors. Sometimes I like to make a full backcountry adventure and ski or snowshoe around the rim of the lake. On two occasions I have attempted to complete the entire 35-mile circumnavigation. The first time ended up being a seven-day epic in a multi-day blizzard. The second time I took a different approach and skied the entire distance in a single day in good weather. On this most recent and less ambitious trip I planned to camp overnight in my van and photograph the sunset and sunrise and do a little snowshoeing not far from the parking area.

    Snowshoeing

    The rim of Crater Lake is over 7,000 feet in elevation in the Cascade mountain range and is subject to severe winter conditions. Driving can be hazardous and the roads are often closed by snow. It is not unusual for there to be a snow pack of 10 or 15 feet. During stormy weather the lake is often hidden in a cap of clouds. There are also many good weather days each winter, so it is worth trying to time a visit with a clear spell.

    I like to shoot at dusk and dawn. Even during good weather the temperatures at these times are usually below freezing and there is often a stiff breeze. I wear normal winter layers, warm boots and a hat. My three most critical layers are my gaiters, down jacket and Windstopper gloves. The gaiters keep snow out of my boots while wandering around in the snow. My down jacket provides good insulation for my core even while I stand still behind my tripod for long stretches. My windstopper gloves are made of thin fleece and have enough dexterity to operate my camera. The Windstopper layer blocks the wind and makes the gloves very warm for how thin they are. I also bring my snowshoes so I can venture off a bit into the untracked snow.

    Crater Lake

    During this visit I was treated to a fantastic sunset and interesting ice patterns on the partially frozen surface of the lake. Before dawn I hiked out to a point overlooking Wizard Island and Lao Rock and photographed the changing light as the sun came up. To view some images from this trip click HERE.

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