TechWire

Category - Photography

The Memory Card in your camera

Most of us take this lightly but it is the store where the photos you take are stored temporarily until you download it to your computer.

There are many kinds of cards Compact Flash (CF), Sony Memory stick (MS), Multimedia Card.  Thankfully most manufacturers of digital camera a have now standardized on Secure Digital (SD) Cards.

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SD card is small about 24mm x 21mm and about 1 mm thick.  Weight is about 2 gms.  It comes in different storage capacities starting from 64MB to 128 GB.  Most photographers including wedding and event photographers use either 8GB or 16GB cards.

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These cards are relatively inexpensive starting from less than Rs 1,000 for a 2 GB card.  The card is monitored by SD Association www.sdcard.org and comes in many speeds and forms.

Micro SD cards used in cell and smart phones measeure which are used in most cell phones and smartphones, measure 15mm by 11mm by 1 mm (HWD) and weighing only half a gram.

There are three kinds of SD cards SD, SDHC and SDXC.  These are for cards as well as for devices.  Older digital cameras can take only SD cards and many cannot support SDXC.

There is also the speed class ranging from Class 2 to Class 10.  Most compact cameras will work very well with Class 4 but for serious work go for Class 10 which is recommended for DSLRs. Class 4 cards offer write speeds up to 15 MB per second, Class 6 20 MB per second and class 10 40MB per second.  Then there is UHS-1 cards offering higher speeds but are meant for specialist work.

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Manufacturers  offer different write speeds for their special cards.

Micro SD cards could be used in cameras using an adapters.  I have had an experience with these cards malfunctioning during shooting and I would not recommend these for any photography using a DSLR although they are great for your smartphone.

In conclusion I like to refer you to WIFI and FlashAir cards which creates a Local Area Network.  When you use your camera you can immediately see the photo in your Smartphone iPad, Laptop or PC which is really fun and productive.

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Compact system cameras

In a few years, the compact system cameras or CSC cameras as they are popularly known, will probably replace even the top of the range DSLRs.  CSC refers to compact camera which is mirrorless but have the advantage of interchangeable lenses.  The most important factor is the weight of the camera is substantially less than a compatible DSLR.  It gives the versatility of a DSLR in a body typically half the weight of a similar DSLR.  One of the trailblazing cameras in this category is the Olympus OMD-EM1 which is currently the flagship of the Olympus range of cameras.  Olympus is offering dozens of interchangeable lenses for this camera.  Between the lens and the sensor there is no mirror.  This is a four third camera with a crop factor of X2.  Typically these cameras come with electronic viewfinders.

Until recently most CSC cameras offered either the four third or APS-C sensor.  The size of the sensor was recently upgraded to full size by Sony offering the full frame sensor.  The quality as well as the features rival that of top of the range Canon 1D or Nikon D4S.

canon_EOS-M_with_70-200mm

The ability to shoot continuously faster than a DSLR is another plus.  Samsung NX1 can shoot 15 frames per second which is faster than any professional DSLR.  The top of the range Canon EOS 1D X has only 14 frames per second.  The top of the range Nikon gives 11 frames per second.

Samsung NX1 has a 28 MP APS-C sensor compared with 18.1MP for Canon 1D X and 16MP Nikon D4 full frame FX sensor. With less high cost moving parts CSC cameras are offered at a much lower price than the comparable top of the range Nikons or Canons.

Thoughts on buying a camera

“What camera should I buy?” is a question I get asked a lot. The problem here is, most people ask expecting an answer including an SLR. If I catered to that, I should be answering “The most expensive one you can afford”.

But I don’t do that. I just try to help people. So the first question I ask is, what do you want to do with it? This question is usually met with an array of blank looks. Or maybe a “To take pictures, duh!” kind of response.

Of course, the main reason is, people think the SLR is a camera. This is a technical misconception. The SLR is designed to be a System.

A step above we find Medium Format cameras, which is even more so. Let me simplify. The pure SLR buy is a body only. You can’t do anything with that. Its like a car without tires. You need to accessorise. First and foremost, a lens. Just like a car’s tires, this comes in many, many configurations. Do you need road tires, off-road tires, snow tires, studs or chains, what width, what tire profile, wet weather optimised or dry weather optimised, racing slicks, semi grooved racing tires? With a lens, zoom or prime, zoom range, aperture, macro capability, tilt shift ability, focus motor, weather sealing? General purpose do-it-all or specialized? And this is just the first accessory of the System! This is why it is so important to get the “what do you want to do with it” question right.

Most people are surprised when they ask me and I tell them to get a point and shoot. My reasoning is quite simple. If your photography is at a simple curious clicking stage and you haven’t figured out what you want to do, a point and shoot is where you can figure that out without making a very expensive mistake. A P&S is an all round package, vs a specialist system. I’ve said it before, in ideal conditions, a good high end P&S can outperform a basic DSLR with a base level lens. I know it, as I have lived it, when I upgraded to my DSLR, I used to use both my P&S and DSLR at the same time, and the results can be astonishing. The DSLR starts coming into its own when the conditions start getting difficult, and the more expensive DSLRs start proving their worth as things get even more difficult, but for what most people want, memories to share on Facebook and Instagram, its really not worth it.
Want to see the proof? These are three of my favourite pictures, all taken with a P&S –
Blue-Tailed Bee Eater
The Sentinel
Reflections

The issue, as I see it, is that most people want a camera as a status symbol, more of way to show people your wealth than anything actually to do with taking pictures. In that case, yes, please, buy the most expensive system you can find, and help fund the R&D cost for the developing line and help bring down the cost for the rest of us.

And besides, it can be generalised that most people want cameras mostly for taking pics of far off wildlife during trips, or to take pictures of people at weddings. That whole market of people who want a camera to take pictures of themselves in the mirror have pretty much moved to camera phones. Both of these options can be very expensive. When it comes to wildlife, there is no getting around the fact that a decent zoom lens to capture far away creatures will be costly. Weddings, even a normal lens will do, with even entry DSLRs able to shoot high ISOs that even pro photographers from just 20 years ago would be just jealous of. But naturally, the more image quality becomes important, the more expensive it gets.

My advice is, unless you want to get into the subject at least a little seriously, by which I mean be willing to learn enough that you don’t buy and SLR and use it only in auto mode, its better to chose a P&S. My general recommendations are to either pick one of the Superzooms (some people refer to it as bridge cameras, or SLR-like, because of the shape), or a toughened P&S, the waterproof, dustproof, shockproof ranges, which will let you take pictures underwater. Reasoning in simple. You will get shots that your friends with more money than sense who bought an SLR purely to show off will not be able to get, at least not without spending a great deal of money. To match the superzoom P&S range, you need to spend well over $10,000. The Canon SX50 can reach 1200mm in SLR terms. The Canon EF 1200mm SLR lens alone costs around $100,000 and is only made to order, and while the exact number made is not know, its supposed to be about 10. And that is stuck on one length, you can only take pictures of people about a mile away, while the SX50 will happily zoom out to take a picture of 25 people trying to pose for a group picture at a wedding.

Taking your very expensive SLR underwater requires a waterproof casing that will cost at least $2000, while a smarter person will happily click away underwater with a ~$300 P&S. And THE most important thing, the best shots you take are taken with the camera that is with you. You can buy a very expensive DSLR setup, but when it reaches the point that you need to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime to carry it around for more than ½ an hour, you simply leave it at home, and miss all the wonderful opportunities that people are happily clicking away with their $100-$400 P&Ss. One of my friends, a full time professional photographer recently picked up a waterproof point and shoot to take with him when going on casual trips like to Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa, where he can drop it, get it wet, get sloshed and party in peace without worrying about having to take care of his expensive SLR gear. And I think the time is not far off when I will do the same.“What camera should I buy?” is a question I get asked a lot. The problem here is, most people ask expecting an answer including an SLR. If I catered to that, I should be answering “The most expensive one you can afford”.

But I don’t do that. I just try to help people. So the first question I ask is, what do you want to do with it? This question is usually met with an array of blank looks. Or maybe a “To take pictures, duh!” kind of response.

Of course, the main reason is, people think the SLR is a camera. This is a technical misconception. The SLR is designed to be a System. A step above we find Medium Format cameras, which is even more so. Let me simplify. The pure SLR buy is a body only. You can’t do anything with that. Its like a car without tires. You need to accessorise. First and foremost, a lens. Just like a car’s tires, this comes in many, many configurations. Do you need road tires, off-road tires, snow tires, studs or chains, what width, what tire profile, wet weather optimised or dry weather optimised, racing slicks, semi grooved racing tires? With a lens, zoom or prime, zoom range, aperture, macro capability, tilt shift ability, focus motor, weather sealing? General purpose do-it-all or specialized? And this is just the first accessory of the System! This is why it is so important to get the “what do you want to do with it” question right.

Most people are surprised when they ask me and I tell them to get a point and shoot. My reasoning is quite simple. If your photography is at a simple curious clicking stage and you haven’t figured out what you want to do, a point and shoot is where you can figure that out without making a very expensive mistake. A P&S is an all round package, vs a specialist system. I’ve said it before, in ideal conditions, a good high end P&S can outperform a basic DSLR with a base level lens. I know it, as I have lived it, when I upgraded to my DSLR, I used to use both my P&S and DSLR at the same time, and the results can be astonishing. The DSLR starts coming into its own when the conditions start getting difficult, and the more expensive DSLRs start proving their worth as things get even more difficult, but for what most people want, memories to share on Facebook and Instagram, its really not worth it.
Want to see the proof? These are three of my favourite pictures, all taken with a P&S –
Blue-Tailed Bee Eater
The Sentinel
Reflections

The issue, as I see it, is that most people want a camera as a status symbol, more of way to show people your wealth than anything actually to do with taking pictures. In that case, yes, please, buy the most expensive system you can find, and help fund the R&D cost for the developing line and help bring down the cost for the rest of us.

And besides, it can be generalised that most people want cameras mostly for taking pics of far off wildlife during trips, or to take pictures of people at weddings. That whole market of people who want a camera to take pictures of themselves in the mirror have pretty much moved to camera phones. Both of these options can be very expensive. When it comes to wildlife, there is no getting around the fact that a decent zoom lens to capture far away creatures will be costly. Weddings, even a normal lens will do, with even entry DSLRs able to shoot high ISOs that even pro photographers from just 20 years ago would be just jealous of. But naturally, the more image quality becomes important, the more expensive it gets.

My advice is, unless you want to get into the subject at least a little seriously, by which I mean be willing to learn enough that you don’t buy and SLR and use it only in auto mode, its better to chose a P&S. My general recommendations are to either pick one of the Superzooms (some people refer to it as bridge cameras, or SLR-like, because of the shape), or a toughened P&S, the waterproof, dustproof, shockproof ranges, which will let you take pictures underwater. Reasoning in simple. You will get shots that your friends with more money than sense who bought an SLR purely to show off will not be able to get, at least not without spending a great deal of money. To match the superzoom P&S range, you need to spend well over $10,000. The Canon SX50 can reach 1200mm in SLR terms. The Canon EF 1200mm SLR lens alone costs around $100,000 and is only made to order, and while the exact number made is not know, its supposed to be about 10. And that is stuck on one length, you can only take pictures of people about a mile away, while the SX50 will happily zoom out to take a picture of 25 people trying to pose for a group picture at a wedding.

Taking your very expensive SLR underwater requires a waterproof casing that will cost at least $2000, while a smarter person will happily click away underwater with a ~$300 P&S. And THE most important thing, the best shots you take are taken with the camera that is with you. You can buy a very expensive DSLR setup, but when it reaches the point that you need to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime to carry it around for more than ½ an hour, you simply leave it at home, and miss all the wonderful opportunities that people are happily clicking away with their $100-$400 P&Ss. One of my friends, a full time professional photographer recently picked up a waterproof point and shoot to take with him when going on casual trips like to Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa, where he can drop it, get it wet, get sloshed and party in peace without worrying about having to take care of his expensive SLR gear. And I think the time is not far off when I will do the same.

Samsung Galaxy Camera in focus

The Samsung Galaxy Camera is an interesting product. It’s not a particularly revolutionary device, by which I mean, its not going to claim first to market on its head line features. It is not the first Android powered pure camera (Nikon holds that title) and its also not the first pure camera with wifi/wireless data connectivity. Even Samsung has several models in its stable with wifi connectivity. It is probably the first camera to feature 3G/4G connectivity on board, but phone cameras have been doing that for years. There are also plenty of cameras on the market with GPS sensors onboard.

What the Galaxy Camera does have is a compelling mix of features. Android as an Operating System has a pretty powerful set of applications for image editing, such as Photoshop Touch. Samsung already has experience in this arena, Photoshop Touch is one of the pre-loaded apps on the Galaxy Note 10, which is a pretty formidable mobile editing platform with its 10 inch screen and S-Pen, which has Wacom technology.

Galaxy Camera Editing

The device on the Hardware side is pretty much equivalent to the Galaxy SIII, using the same screens, CPUs and graphics processors. What this means in real world terms, is that any software development on the SIII (currently Samsung’s flagship, so commanding the maximum support from Samsung’s development resources) will technically be portable to the Camera with little effort. So it should be in line for updates right at the top of the tree. It beats the Nikon S800C Android camera in having Android 4 on board as shipped, compared to the Nikon’s 2.3 Gingerbread flavour.

On the Camera side, the sensor used is larger than a standard phone camera sensor, the lens is pretty decent with a f2.8 aperture at its widest, and covering a zoom range that covers the 35mm equivalent of 23mm to well over 400mm. This is a lot more than what was classed as superzoom compacts just a few short years ago. (Not currently, Canon’s current superzoom is a 50x zoom, 24-1200mm equivalent). The camera controls offer a decent amount of manual control. It has some innovative smart modes which will makes things easier for photo enthusiasts who want a certain effect, but don’t know manual controls get that effect manually.

Along with the good, there is a couple of bad. First up, lag. Rather than a snappy response, the camera app is reported to be a bit on the slow side. Now, this might be no worse than many of the current crop of point and shoot cameras, but this is what we have from the reviews. The other issue is the small battery. The battery is a rather small 1650mAh unit, quite a bit smaller than the battery on the Galaxy SIII phone. The battery is rated for 350 shots. Not too impressive by DSLR standards, but 300-400 shots is pretty normal for point and shoots. However, this camera also uses GPS, has a data transmission capability that, as experience with camera phones has shown, can kill a battery pretty quickly. Also, that big touchscreen can be used for things other than just as a viewfinder for taking pictures. It can be used for editing the pictures that have just been taken, and image manipulation is a rather processor intensive task, which in turn, drains battery.

But this is not just a picture and video tool, but a fully fledged Android device. Using Google Maps to find your way to what you are shooting, checking in with Latitude /Foursquare/Facebook, and then killing some time with Angry Birds, or watching a movie or listening to some music, there are many ways this camera can drain this small battery very y quickly.

Samsung Galaxy Sharing

On the pure camera front. the Galaxy Camera is equipped with a 16mp sensor. All well and good, but don’t expect this to be replacing a DSLR any time soon. As is typical from a high megapixel, tiny sensor camera, viewing images at 100% is pretty dismal. However,checking things out on the LCD, things look good, and for smaller images and just sharing online, it seems great.

And this really is the whole point of this device. Its not a professional’s tool, its a social tool. Why choose it over a regular smartphone? Well, the zoom range and pop up flash is much, much better than any smartphone. And with that comes the opportunity to get more done than with a smartphone. It is a trade off between the money you spend and the money you can earn. There are people that do live blogging and live video streams using iPhones, and this device can aim right at that market segment. As a bonus, you don’t use up your phone battery, so you can still keep in contact with people.

But do what, exactly? These things don’t come cheap. Costing over $600, it comes in at about the same price point as a base level SLR. So the trade off for losing the image quality is the ability to post instagrammed pictures on facebook immediately? Not to mention the system is pretty much stuck in a WYSIWYG mode. There aren’t any more extensions like you would have with an SLR, no external flashes, no filter systems, nothing like that. Like I said, this is not a professional’s tool, although it can be used to provide some services in certain situations.

In my last article, I looked into the CameraMator system. On the surface, it does seem to offer similar functionality, but it means adding a $300 price tag on top of the cost of a DSLR and accessories. However, its not just about sharing pictures on FB when looking at business opportunities. With something like the Galaxy Camera, simple social media is where it stops. With a DSLR, you can add a immediate high quality printing service. Follow up prints, blown up pictures. RAW control. External lights. Professional tools simply allow you to do more, and do it faster.

So in summary, the big question is, why should you get one? Why indeed? The thing is, it depends as much on your personality as it does on your requirements. As it currently stands, I would have bought one, since it does suit my requirements, but, not at this price point. For me, its too much money for what I am getting, so this generation, I’ll give it a pass. However, it is a segment that I would keep a close eye on for future developments.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihez2MKwphE

Introducing Fujifilm SL1000

In early January Fujifilm announced its groundbreaking SL1000 SLR type Bridge Camera. It has everything to look for in a camera and more. Might just be your dream camera.

It is a lightweight super zoom which zooms from 24mm to 1200 mm in 35mm jargon. It is 50x and is the longest on offer to the best of our knowledge. It is suitable for group photography like weddings, portraits as well as nature photography where a long lens is needed.

Fujifilm SL1000

Priced at an affordable $399 one should be able to purchase one in Sri Lanka for under Rs 60,000. It comes in metallic red as well as the more sober black. It has a 920.000 dot electronic view finder which is bright. Its 3 inches in size and has the ability to tilt.

For a dedicated RAW photographers, it offers RAW, JPEG as well as RAW+JPEG. The CMOS sensor is a respectable 16 megapixels. It also offers superb HD videos up to 1080/60fps

The camera has a built in pop of flash as well as a hot shoe for an external flash. It boasts battery life of 350 shots per charge. The ISO range is super : 64 to 12,800 with auto.

For more info visit the Fujifilm site here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=82MG_cEoXcc#!

Wireless Technology in Photography

Wireless tech is steadily invading all facets of life, from the office, to the home, and now even onto non-traditional applications. Anywhere Digital Data needs to be transmitted, people are finding new and innovative ways to use wireless tech. The scope keeps increasing as data speeds becomes faster and more reliable.

Digital data transfer has a long history in photography. Starting with things like unhooking the studio lights and flashes from long trailing cords, todays sophisticated systems transmit even information like distance and colour temperature between cameras and flash units. Pro photogs benefited by using what was referred as tethering, where pictures taken on the camera was instantly transmitted to a computer with a high quality display, meaning parties involved with shoots, such as clients or models can immediately see the images being produced and provide feedback if it is meeting expectations. Early systems were cumbersome and expensive, and more importantly, wired, which created lots of clutter. Early wireless adapters provided by camera makers were expensive, and functionality was limited to transferring the image files only.

Last year, Canon released the EOS 6D, aimed at providing a “cheap” way for new users to enter the Full Frame market. I say “cheap”, as the camera still costs US$2000. However, the 6D represents a very important step in Digital Photography. It is the first, and at the time of writing, the only camera to provide onboard GPS and Wifi. And the capabilities provided are more than just transferring the files back to a server, it provides mobile apps that allow the photographer to use a tablet or smartphone to connect directly to the camera (using WiFi Direct, no need for a WiFi Router), and control functionality on the camera. This means not just viewing the results, but the full functionality of changing focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and many other functions will be controlled by the app, and the photographer will have a live view of the image that the camera is seeing even when physically away from the camera.

But again, as exciting as these capabilities are, the startup cost is quite large. Even in this country, with its ridiculous price structures, one can buy a functioning car for that kind of money. So what kind of options exist that are less severe on the wallet? At the low end of the range, a photographer can buy something like an Eye-Fi card. This will allow image backup from any camera that can use a SD card to a computer, and the computer software will allow the image to be viewed immediately. Limited, but something, and the price point can range between $40 and $100. Some cameras have adapters that will allow the same functionality, Canon’s latest offerings even coming in the form of a grip with additional shutter buttons and some remote functionality, but costing $700 or thereabouts. Also, they tend to limited to certain camera models only.

This brings us to the device I want to focus on. Its called the CameraMator. The website can be found at http://www.cameramator.com and the kickstarter page from which they raised the funding which has a pretty full description of its capabilities are right here – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/urashid/cameramator-wireless-tethered-photography

Camera Mator Unit

Camera Mator Unit

 

I’ll just summarize the highlights here. The main functionality is the ability control aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance remotely, and instant photo review. In addition, it will allow a self timer, an Intervalometer and HDR Bracketing capabilities. It works with a wide range of cameras, a distinct point in its favour. And so is the price, at a mere $300, it costs less than ½ of what a unit produced by the camera manufacturers will cost. Its certainly running very close to providing the WiFi functionality in the $2000 Canon 6D.

Earlier, I pointed out why photographers shoot tethered. Instant feedback on larger, better quality screens than those on the backs of DSLRs, client feedback, model interaction, the ability to show what is happening over what you want without moving the camera.  The remote capability could be useful for wildlife, leaving the camera covering a remote scene and shooting from far so as not to spook the animals. It would allow the photographer to minimize risk to himself by keeping the camera somewhere risky why shooting it from a safe distance, like keeping the camera right near the track at a motor racing event. However this kind of work is typically the province of professionals who get paid big bucks to shoot. The ability to get the camera into all kinds of angles and still compose the images accurately. Hold the tripod over your head for a shot looking down from 10 feet, shoot at ground level without having to lie on the ground to look through the viewfinder. Shoot from the next room, if that suits your fancy.

Why would an average DSLR user want to buy something like this? With this kind of capability, lets see what we can add. Self portraits, accurate framing, and accurate timing for the picture. Its a lot more cost effective for experiments than hiring a professional model. No more guessing if there is enough space once you put the timer on and run to be included in a group shot. Much better image quality for live blogging. no need for blurry grainy photos from a Mobile, use the high ISO and wide apertures available and upload directly to the web. Have a team of photographers sending pictures straight to a laptop for instant review and upload to the net. Share pictures instantly with attendees at parties, sending pictures direct to their smartphones. This kind of technology certainly increases the business potential of your DSLR. The possibilities seem limited only by imagination.

(Images courtesy of www.cameramator.com)