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July 2008 Archives

July 1, 2008

Nikon Announces D700 FX-Format DSLR

Also introducing Nikon SB-900 Speedlight with expansive zoom and user-applied firmware updates and new PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D ED and PC-E Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8 lenses

Press Release—Nikon, Inc. has introduced the new D700 digital SLR camera featuring a 12.1-effective megapixel Nikon FX-format sensor (Nikon's full-frame) that measures 23.9 x 36mm, which is nearly identical to the size of 35mm film.  

The D700 incorporates Nikon's EXPEED Image Processing System, Nikon’s renowned 51-point auto focus system with 3D Focus Tracking and two Live View shooting modes that allow photographers to frame a shot using the camera's three-inch high-resolution LCD monitor.  The D700 also features Nikon’s sophisticated Scene Recognition System and a new active dust reduction system.

D700 Synopsis

Compiled by Ellis Vener

A 12.1 effective mp FX format (AKA Full Frame) DSLR capable of up to 8 fps when using the optional MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack.

Pricing and availability (USA): The FX-format Nikon D700 D-SLR camera will be available late July 2008, and will have an estimated selling price of $2,999.95* (body only).

Imaging pipeline: A 12.1 (effective – meaning image making) megapixel 23.9x36mm Nikon FX-format CMOS using 8.45 micrometer (micron) pixel pitch cells with a low signal-to-noise ratio and wide dynamic range (about 12 stops in the D3). A 12-channel readout for faster information transfer allows for a 5 to 8 full size, full resolution FPS rate (see more details below).

ISO range: nominally 200-6400 + down to ISO 100 (Lo-1) and up to ISO 25,600 (Hi-2).

Viewfinder: a bright .72x magnification eyelevel viewfinder utilizing a high refractive index pentaprism  (I assume made of glass elements) wit ha 95% frame coverage. A framing grid can be super imposed on the finder screen per a photographer’s preferences of format size.

Shutter:  Shutter curtains are formed of a Kevlar and carbon fiber composite hybrid material. This shutter has already been tested on full y assembled cameras through at least 150,000 cycles. Shutter unit has a self-diagnostic unit, which constantly monitors shutter performance to maintain precision.

Body Construction:  The camera body, rear body and mirror box are made from a high-strength magnesium alloy. Connection points in the body are weather sealed with precision O-rings to keep out dust and moisture.

Start up, shutter lag times, buffer size and write speed: Start up from off is accomplished in .12 seconds. Shutter lag response time is 0.40 milliseconds. Nikon claims these makes the D700 currently the fastest in its class.

Full Resolution JPEGS: up to 5 frames per second (FPS) or up to 8 FPS with the optional MB-10D for up to 100 frames.

NEFs 17 14 bit per channel lossless compressed NEFS.

With the new high speed UDMA CompactFlash cards camera to media write speed is up to 35 megabytes per second.  

Auto-focus: The D700 uses Nikon’s Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module with 15 cross-type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors that can be used individually or in groups. In Single Area or Dynamic AF modes, users can select groups of 9, 21, or all 51 focus points. The system also utilizes 3D Focus tracking with automatic focus point switching using all 51 points in conjunction wit h the metering systems 1,005 pixel RGB sensor to accurately track moving objects using color content and light information.

Continue reading "Nikon Announces D700 FX-Format DSLR" »

Pro Selection: Professional Digital SLR Camera Image Samples

In the July issue of Professional Photographer magazine, Ron Eggers assessed the current top models of pro DSLR cameras. Here you can see sample images from those cameras along with a 1:1 pixel selection (click for full view). Images were saved in Photoshop for Web viewing as JPEGs at Quality: 85 in sRGB.

All images ©Ron Eggers unless otherwise noted. Eggers was not given access to a review unit of the Leica Digilux 3 to create independent sample images.

Canon EOS 40D: 1/250 second at f/11 (+.67), ISO 200

Continue reading "Pro Selection: Professional Digital SLR Camera Image Samples" »

Software: Silkypix Developer Studio 3.0

By Mark Levesque, CPP

Silkypix Developer Studio 3.0 is the latest release of raw converter software from Shortcut Software. Like competing raw image processing solutions, Silkypix can also process jpeg or tiff images, but it is really intended to be a raw processor.

Raw capture retains all of the image sensor data and allows the photographer to take advantage of the maximum tonality and detail when making adjustments to an image, which is particularly important if your artistic vision requires significant alteration. All of the decisions the camera makes to render an image are at your discretion with no loss of quality. Harnessing the control afforded by raw capture is what raw processing software is all about.

Silkypix allows you to open a single image or a folder of images in several preview layout options, including thumbnail, preview, and a split-screen that offers a little of both (Figure 1). You can delete, copy, move, batch process or color code the thumbnails. You can also add a comment that will be stored in the image’s EXIF data. For users accustomed to Adobe Lightroom’s intuitive and flexible interface, the Silkypix  image annotation options will seem relatively primitive and awkward, but at least there are options.

Figure 1

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Review: Olympus E-420

By Joe Farace

The Olympus E-420 claims to be “the world's smallest digital SLR with all the features you need to take great pictures … .”  With the rapidfire pace of DSLR introductions, that last caveat may be there so Big Oly can say, “Yours may be smaller, but is it as wonderful as ours?” So let’s get this out of the way first, the doggone thing is small and makes an ideal second camera for an Olympus-shooting pro or as an SLR for an assistant catching ceremony and candid shots during a wedding.

The E-420 has the Olympus Live View function that lets you use the large 2.7-inch LCD as a viewfinder to get color-balanced ceremony shots in church or synagogue, but there’s no image stabilization, so be sure to use a tripod. The camera’s Shadow Adjustment Technology and Face Detection make reception shots easy, ensuring that you can deliver sharper images to your clients.

How small is it? Measuring 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 inches and weighing just 13.4 ounces, the E-420 is small enough to fit into a purse or a jacket pocket and light enough to carry around and shoot comfortably all day. Face Detection is candid-photography friendly, distinguishes between people’s faces and the background, and will track up to eight faces within the image area while automatically focusing and optimizing exposure for portraits.

Dark sanctuaries? No problem. Shooting scenes with shadows can be tricky because of the extreme contrast between dark and bright areas but the E-420’s Shadow Adjustment Technology compensates for extreme contrast when shadow areas are underexposed and lack visible detail.

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Review: Backpack Camera Cases

By Ron Eggers

Camera case designs range from compact belt packs that are just big enough for one body and one lens to massive hard cases that are big and sturdy enough to ship an entire camera system around the world.

With advantages in capacity, comfort and portability, backpack-style camera bags are currently dominating the market. A backpack is easier and more comfortable to carry than a shoulder or sling bag with similar capacities. It's relatively easy to carry a backpack with a couple of camera bodies, a selection of lenses and whatever other gear might be required for a shoot.

The weight is distributed evenly and, with the right backpack and proper adjustment, the bag frame fits comfortably without straining your back. With the design technology that allows backpackers to carry 60 to 80 pounds of gear for weeks and months at a time, a photographer can go all day with a camera bag backpack without getting unnecessarily tired. Shoulder and sling bags put the load on one shoulder, and an equivalent amount of weight in gear will tire the carrier much more quickly than a backpack. 

Many photographers now carry laptops along when they're shooting in the field, and most of the new backpack cases have a laptop compartment with appropriate protective padding. There are a few shoulder bags available that are large enough to carry a laptop, but they're the exception.


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July 17, 2008

Roundup: Entry-level DSLR Cameras

By Ron Eggers

It’s difficult to get a clear picture of what's available in entry-level digital SLR cameras before another generation comes along. There are still considerable differences in feature sets, performance and potential image quality between entry-level models and professional DSLRs, but the resolution gap gets smaller and smaller all the time. All but the least expensive entry-level models have 10-megapixel or larger sensors. Some have resolutions topping 14 megapixels. But resolution doesn’t equal image quality.

The technological advances of the high-end models trickle down to entry-level DSLRs over time, bringing better responsiveness and less shutter lag to the current generation. Focusing is still slower on lower-end models, but again, the performance of the least expensive models is getting closer to that of the mid-range pro cameras.

Entry-level DSLR features such as scene modes, which aren't all that important to professionals, help less experienced shooters get better shots by allowing the photographer to set the type of picture to be taken (e.g. night shot, portrait, action) and having the camera makes all the technical decisions, like aperture size and shutter speed.
Photographers can increase image quality with entry-level models by upgrading the glass. Low-end models frequently come with inexpensive kit lenses. For their price, they're quite good, but no one claims that they match the quality of professional lenses. Sometimes just upgrading a lens can make a noticeable difference in image quality.

Continue reading "Roundup: Entry-level DSLR Cameras" »

Review: "The Creative Digital Darkroom" by Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan

By Ron Eggers

So many new digital photography books reach the market that it's sometimes difficult to tell one from another. Every once in a while, though, a new title comes along that distinguishes itself, either by the author’s slant or how the subject matter is covered. Katrin Eismann and Seán Duggan's new book, “The Creative Digital Darkroom” (O’Reilly, $49.99) is one of those books. It’s a comprehensive how-to and reference guide that can help even experienced photographers work more effectively with digital images.

I don't know Seán Duggan, but for the sake of full disclosure, I've known Katrin for a number of years, and I’m always impressed with the quality of her writing. “Real World Digital Photography,” which she wrote with Duggan and Tim Grey, became a must-have guide for photographers.

The 400-some pages of “Creative Digital Darkroom” are loaded with useful information, creative techniques and interesting projects. To get the most out of a book like this requires a considerable investment of time. It's not something you read once and go on to the next section. The 10-chapter book includes a foreword by Stephen Johnson, the photographer, author and educator. He says of the edition, "It is a workbook for today's photographer, providing needed detail to process the image and the reasoning behind the procedure." You have to go over the techniques carefully and actually try the suggested approaches, on either the images featured in the book, which are available for download, or your images.

Continue reading "Review: "The Creative Digital Darkroom" by Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan" »

July 18, 2008

Video Review: OnOne Software FocalPoint

By Joan Sherwood, Senior Editor

OnOne Software recently released FocalPoint, a new  plug-in for Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements that makes it quick and easy to add selective focus and vignetting effects to your images.

OnOne has done an outstanding job of giving new users plenty of help in understanding how to use their plug-ins. There are pages of video software tutorials, including an in-depth introduction to FocalPoint, and a page with a video demo of each Focal Point feature.

Launch includes a simple step-by-step how-to that walks you through the basic functions. You can turn that off when you don't need it any more. 

This is a great plug-in if you want to incorporate selective focus and vignetting effects. It's priced at $159.95, and you can try it out first with a free 30-day trial version.

Here I've created a QuickTime movie demonstration for you just to show FocalPoint in action and demonstrate how easy it is to use. I'm using a photo I took of my niece and her new husband last Thanksgiving. 

Click on the image below to play. (QuickTime, 02:57)


July 22, 2008

So happy together? 3 tips for working side-by-side with your spouse

By Julia Woods

Is it possible to make living and working together a happy affair? “How do you do it?” It’s a question my husband, Jeff Woods, and I get asked on a regular basis.

Being side-by-side 24/7 is definitely not for the weak at heart.

Jeff and I got married seventeen years ago this month and stumbled into photography a few years later. Our greatest desire was to work together side-by-side while doing something we both enjoyed. Photography seemed to be the perfect solution. “Perfect” was not going to be achieved easily. Trying to be happily married and come together with similar visions in the work place has proven much harder than we could have imagined.

We have experienced a lot of emotional, mental, and physical strain while trying to find a sense of peace. I’ll touch briefly on our key solutions:

1. Making time for us. Two people fall in love while investing their time and energy into each other’s lives. If every night during our courtship Jeff had sat at one end of the sofa with his work while I sat on the other with my work, wedding bells would not have followed. However, once we got married and started our business, we could not understand why that same type of behavior did not create wedded bliss. After some counseling, we realized that “falling in love” is a fundamental quality that has to be sought after throughout an entire marriage if happiness is the goal. Ten years after it’s start, date night still remains on our calendar every other Thursday evening. The babysitter is set and investing in each other and our relationship is the goal. Most of the time, it is just a movie or dinner, but the results are astounding.

2. Making our business work for us. This was one of the hardest solutions to figure out. Our business controlled our lives. We worked non-stop and our family was suffering because of it. With some help in business education from Ann Monteith, PPA’s Studio Management Services, and a lot of hard work, we learned how to properly price and attract a higher level of clientele. This allowed us to work less but make more money. We now work four days a week at the office and about twenty Saturdays a year at weddings. Some workdays are very long, but play days are revitalizing for our relationship and our young family of four children.

3. Allowing each other to be authentic. As individuals, we have the tendency to assume our thoughts and passions are the right ones. However, when you choose to partner with your spouse, the art of blending your thoughts and passions is necessary. Jeff and I face this challenge both in art and business because we choose to photograph everything together. Within the business, we have come to respect each other’s gifts and give each other ownership in our respective roles.

However, about 25 percent of the business is left to joint efforts. Intermingling our creative vision and opinions has gotten easier over time, but it continues to be a work in progress.

The application of these solutions has been extremely helpful. We know that surrounding ourselves with other couples in similar life situations is vital to gain new ideas and fresh perspectives for continued happiness.

Jeff and Julia Woods have launched a marriage workshop called ”One” to help address the struggles married couples face while working together. The first workshop will be held September 15-17, in Washington, Ill. For more information, go to www.sidebyside247.com or call 309-444-8514.

About July 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in July 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2008 is the previous archive.

August 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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