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Posts from the ‘Cameras’ Category

The Breaking Point: Just How Big Are DSLR’s Going To Get?


Rufus Mangrove

I was in Central Park the other day and I couldn’t count how many people were wearing their Nikon D1s or D3s or their Canon Mark 1Ds or their Sony A900s around their necks. I think this is the pinnacle of how far, or more particularly, how successful, the DSLR ad-machine has been. Back in the day, the only people really carrying these types of cameras were professional journalists, wildlife photographers, or studio photographers. Nowadays, everyone from soccer moms to people simply taking photos of their kids are wearing five pound plus DSLRs around their neck with the same ubiquity as wristwatches.

You really have to hand it to the magazines like Popular Photography and the stores like J&R and B&H who are feeding the public’s believed need for super large full frame tank-like DSLRs. Is it me or is the sight of twenty people within a one hundred square block radius wearing top of the line DSLRs for a simple “afternoon stroll” pretty damn ridiculous? Sure, these cameras take amazing shots. But to actually believe that these types of cameras are for everyone convinces me that the magazines and the photography stores have nothing but pure profit in their mind.

A typical day at J&R or B&H

Customer: I’m looking for a good all around camera where I can take photos of my kids and also when I go out to family events. Something easy to use.

Sales Rep: Hey, you want to take great shots of your kids? Well, the 85mm f/1.8 is going to be good, but if you want really, really great shots of your kids, the only lens you should get is the 85 f/1.4L.

Customer: Okay, will that go well with the camera on sale, I think it’s the Canon Xsi? I have a Canon Powershot now.

Sales Rep: Sure Ms. Jones, you can do well with that Canon Xsi. But if you’re going to go out and take some shots of your kid on the weekend or if you’re going to use your camera for family outings, then to really maximize your lens, you really should just get the Canon Mark 1D.

Customer: Wow. That’s a really big camera.

Sales Rep: Sure, it’s heavy, but look how nice that handles. You can even drop it in the ocean and it will work!

Customer: But I don’t live near the ocean.

Sales Rep: Exactly. That’s just another layer of protection.

Customer: How much does that cost? I can barely lift it.

Sales Rep: Well, it is expensive. All in all, you’ll be paying about 8,000, but it’s cheaper in the long run. When you think about it hard, it’s really a good investment because this camera is all you will ever need, at least until the next technological cycle, which usually last anywhere from three to six months.

Customer: I guess you have a point.

Sales Rep: If war photographers use these types of cameras, shouldn’t you?

Come on. Wake up everyone.

Iphoto ’09


Rufus Mangrove

For many digital photographers, maintaining and editing their images is an important task.  Unlike yesteryear where in a best case situation we kept negatives or color slides in boxes, most everyone in the digital age has some sort of program to organize and edit their work.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to provide a short review on Iphoto ’09.

Let me first start by saying that I have been using previous versions of Iphoto for sometime now.  I liked that you could group things by keywords.  That was my main concern.  I didn’t want to have a whole blob of photos and not know where anything was.  This becomes an issue the moment you start going over 1,000 photos, unless of course you have some super human memory.  So with previous versions of Iphoto, you clicked on a keyword and, voila, the pictures that you had labeled with those keywords popped up.  I have no complaints there.  The problem, though, with prior versions of Iphoto was that it was really slow, particularly if you had 10,000 photos or more.  Anytime you turned on Iphoto, the whole damn library loads.  Yes, there are programs/apps out there where you can divide your library and stuff, but frankly I found it to be a pain in the ass.

I use to run one of those Emacs (discontinued) in 2004-2007 then moved over to a Macbook with 2 gigs of speed on Mac Ox 9.  Even with 2 gigs of speed, the older versions of Iphoto were just running slow. 

So, I tried Aperture 2.0 to see if I could shake things up a bit.  Aperture is an excellent program and there are numerous reviews out there describing its benefits.  Good keyword functionality (in the end, that is my primary concern:  can it organize the photos the way I want them?  And, can I search for my photos easily or do I have to go through the rigmarole?).  It also had good editing and RAW support which the old Iphoto just didn’t have.  But, when you have only 2 gigs of speed (and, at that point, I had upgraded to Leopard), Aperture runs SLOW.  Real slow.  In that regard, Aperture 2.0 becomes unusable.  I’ve seen it run on the Macbook Pros with no problem.  Thus, unless you have a Macbook Pro or a Macbook with the right graphics card and 4 gigs of speed, I do not suggest Aperture because of its speed issues (despite the benefits of the program).

A bit dejected, I picked up Iphoto 9.  I was impressed because the keyword functionality remained the same.  But something more important that it picked up from Aperture 2.0:  separation by projects or events.  In this regard, if you so decide, you don’t have 20,000 photos loading.  Instead, you have only 1,000 events (each event consists of however many photos associated with a particular download or date).  What does that mean for speed?  It means Iphoto runs very, very quick and it doesn’t have those pesky freeze issues it was having before.

As for editing, Iphoto 9 can handle RAW within the program.  Basic RAW editing and other editing stuff.  However, because I normally convert my RAW to black and white, I wanted more control over this process than Iphoto was letting me have (Aperture has quite a bit of control here).  So, I acquired Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac.  In Iphoto 9, you can set Photoshop Elements 6 in preferences as your “external editor.”  When you click on a photo, it gets sent to Elements.  And, the good thing about elements apart from greater creative control is the SPEED.  It’s blazing fast.  Unlike aperture which, with a Macbook with 2 gigs of speed running Leopard takes 30 seconds or more to convert from RAW to JPEG, Elements takes about 5 seconds, even with large compressions. 

That makes workflow run very smoothly, so you can spend more time taking pictures as opposed to finding or editing pictures on your computer.

why most cameras suck


Rufus Mangrove

most cameras suck nowadays.  to be sure, the new “prosumer” dlrs and digital point and shoots have advanced leap and bounds since first being introduced to the market.   and, it’s hard not to like the “convenience” of digital technology, in that you don’t have to process the film.

but with this advancement of technology, you have to wonder whether this advancement has made cameras actually better.  let’s take a step back for a second.

remember the old film SLRs?  They essentially had one knob on the body:  the speed.  You twisted the lens to change the aperture.  When you looked in the viewfinder, you would see a light meter with a line pointing between a “+” or “-” sign if you’re exposure was right.  That was pretty much it.  Find your subject and shoot.  When you’re done with the roll of film, spin the wheel and process it.

now, here’s your typical consume grade digital slr.  it doesn’t have any knobs or dials for aperture or speed. . . those are accessible via a menu. press a button and rotate a wheel to set it.  the knobs do have scene modes and programs modes.  the menus have a dizzying array of options, from infrared assist to noise reduction.

do i need all those dials and buttons and menu options?  absolutely not.   i just want dials, not friggin menus, to change the aperture and the speed.  that’s it.  if i had to add “extras,” i’d have a dedicated knob for “iso” and a dedicated knob for “exposure compensation.”

it seems to me that producing such a camera would be cheaper than adding in all those other bells and whistles.  strangely, i would expect the simpler it is, the more expensive it becomes.

i think there is a market for “simpler” cameras or, perhaps more precisely, cameras dedicated to users who like the layout of their old film slrs.  we are teaching the young now that all these gizmos you see nowadays are gadgets that cameras are supposed to have.

let’s take back the camera for photographers!