Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Low end shooter

If you have read a few, or more, of the posts here, you know that I am a huge user of Canon cameras. I have had a Canon point and shoot and a Canon DSLR for almost 10 years now, with frequent upgrades and changes. Lately I have shopped around on craigslist in my area and have a SLR setup of:

Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera
Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro

Not a bad setup if you ask me. I do not really feel a _need_ to upgrade to T2i or even the new 60D. Sure the video would be a nice addition and of course the speed and high ISO would be better, but from a pure image quality, it really do not add much. But... I wish that Canon updated their lenses more. Like the 50mm lens. It is so old and cheap feeling, not to even get started on the noisy and somewhat inaccurate auto focus. Sure, it can take real good photos, but still, why not update it?

Anyway, then while going over ad after ad on craigslist I found a cheap Nikon D60 kit with both the 18-55mm VR and 55-200mm VRlenses for a steal. A broken SD card slot cover was there, but otherwise it had only been used for some 1500 shots. I could not stop from also testing a new 35mm f/1.8G lens, as I favor prime lenses because of the higher quality. And, now I am not so sure I want to be a Canon shooter. I do think the XSi  is a nicer camera than the D60, but with the announced Nikon D3100 the playing field could be different. I could sell the D60 and my canon gear and have money left when done. I guess I have a few more days to think it over before the new Nikon is released. The D3100 seems to have nice features, and a nice decrease in noise at high ISOs. 

Friday, September 03, 2010

This is the time... to go streaming

Amazon just lowered their prices on the Roku box. I did a quick review back here. Since then they have updated the SW to have a super nice browsing and search interface for Netflix. You can get YouTube and many other "channels" on the Roku. This is so nice for a super small box that has built in WiFi. On the plus is also that there is no FAN, i.e. no noise, and it consumes something like less than ~7.5W worst case. Instant on also...

I like it so much that I got a second one for our other TV. There are three versions, the SD (Standard Definition, no HDTV support), HD and HD-XR. I think the only difference between the last two is improved WiFi on the XR. I have two of the HD and am happy with that :) If you do not want to order from Amazon, click here to order directly from Roku.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Canon MT 24EX macro flash

I have had the pleasure to get hold of a dedicated macro flash, the Canon MT-24EX. It looks like this on a Canon XSi with a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens:

It makes macro photography a breeze. With some simple snaps and twists and presses of buttons you can do stuff that would take multiple lights or remote controlled flashes to do without it. I think if you have a Canon SLR with a macro lens, this is an item you want. If you do some sort of (small) product photography, this is a neat thing to have. I have posted a quick video that kind of shows how it looks and how it can be adjusted.

I prefer to take macro photos with it in manual ("M") mode where I adjust the aperture to get the depth-of-field I want, the shutter speed to both reflect if I am hand-holding (like 1/200s) or if I have tripod mount (slower), and ISO fixed to 100 or 200 for best quality. Then the E-TTL of the flash system simply adjust the flash strength to make the exposure right. It is a breeze. Only drawback is that it is expensive and somewhat bulky.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

iPhone 4 as only camera?

I have been using an Sony Ericsson W810i for many years as my cell phone and been happy with it. On and off I have glanced, a bit jealous, at my friends and co-workers with their smart phones. But now when iPhone-4 was announced I decided it was time to test it out.

I am quite impressed with the camera and video functions on this camera, for everyday social photos. On a trip to Legoland here in California, I decided to only have the phone as an experiment. I tell you, it worked just fine. Sure, there were moments where no (real) zoom felt like a miss, and no zoom in video on top of that. But I tell you, some photos can be made really nice. How about these two? Edited in camera....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New even lower price on Kindle

This is getting interesting. The Kindle with new competition from readers as Nook and the new iPad has gotten yet another price reduction. I cannot speak to the Nook, but for use as a book reader alone, I do not really think the Kindle has much competition from iPad at the current pricing. With the Kindle you get "free" 3G download of books and so, and the most important factor (except price) is probably that the Kindle is really lightweight. The new standard price on Kindle is $189, but if you click through the link, you can see that sometimes it is sold even lower. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Spare SD cards - on sale at Amazon

Not sure how long it will last (this posted June 2nd) but Amazon has Kingston 2 GB SD card for less than $4 shipped (free with prime, or super saver with more than $25 in the cart). I know, 2 GB and not fast, but for photo frames and as spare cards for point-and-shoot cameras, it good to have around.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What happened?

You might wonder what happened to this blog, and there is not a good answer. I guess it just got busy. But there are new items on the way in the shape of a Logitech Harmony One remote. I have an old version, the Harmony 680 but I felt that it was time to test the new ones out. When I initially got the remote, I actually did not like it at all and it went into some electronic "junk" box. But after a year or so, it surfaced and maybe because we had more A/V equipment, it seemed to work out much better. Anyway, now, the only remote we need and use is a Harmony remote. I will write more on this in a few days, or a week.

Also an TV update, the 42" VIZIO XVT HDTV is no longer in our house. I am not sure it was just my TV, but I had serious lip-sync problems with some sources, like our now quite old Tivo Series 1 and even though there was a specific menu for audio sync delay, it seemed like it would come and go and the adjusted setting was suddenly not ok anymore. That, and the seemingly vary long start time, drove me to return the TV. But once you get the taste of a "large" HDTV, there is no turning back. So now I am enjoying a LG 42PJ350 42-Inch 720p Plasma HDTV . Sure, it is "only" 42" and "only" 720p, but to tell the truth, from where we sit, there is no difference. And for a plasma TV, it is not like the old days, the TV is quite energy efficient (not like LED though), and it is both slim and has a really narrow bezel. And, best of all? No audio sync issue and slow start :) I got it for about half the price of the Vizio TV also... $475 shipped, quite incredible I think.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sony HX5V - HHT

Thank God for HHT (Hand Held Twilight mode)... Kind of, at least. The new Sony DSC-HX5V that I am using has one mode called this (HHT). This mode take 6 shot really quickly, less than 1 second if the shutter speed allows it, and then combines the shots to reduce noise and improve detail. It is explained more in this review. What can I say, it really does work. This weekend I took my kids to Golden State Model Railroad Museum so they could check out all the trains. I tried the HHT mode here, indoors, with not so much light. Using the zoom also makes the lens quite slow and long shutter speeds, or high ISO is the result. But check these photos out and I can only say that HHT really seems to be working. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sony HX5V vs Casio FH100?

No, not another camera, but I stumbled on this picasa web album comparing "identical" shots from Sony DSC-HX5V and Casio EX-FH100. Take a look if you were comparing these two cameras. The casio lacks GPS and other features, but has a 24mm-240mm lens, High-speed video (up to 1000FPS, low resolution) and 30FPS 9Mpixel bursts.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sony HX5V - barrel distortion at 25mm??

I read somewhere that people had experienced (extreme) barrel distortion at the wide end of the HX5V camera. I have honestly not seen much or thought about it, so I did a test... Seems like this photo (not video) of some boring bricks is ok by me (at 25mm).

Link to original here.

But then this is the "same" scene in AVCHD video, 1920x1080 format, a frame grab:
Link to original here. And the "video" is here.

So... it seems to me that the Sony DSC-HX5V is doing some fancy image processing to correct the barrel distortion when taking photos. That's not that uncommon, the Canon S90 does the same.... Just FYI...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

HX5V - XSi

From a walk today, two shots, first with Sony DSC-HX5V and second with Canon XSi (with 50mm f/1.8 II)

Not quite the same focal length and not from the same place, but still. I like the XSi color and sharpness better, but I would not really complain. It is not a D-SLR, but it has a lot going for it. Here is another from HX5v:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SD1300 - final thoughts

So, I have had the Canon SD1200IS and SD1300IS for a while, and I must say that I think both are really similar. The 4x zoom lens starting at 28mm is making the long end about the same as the SD1200 "only" has a 3x zoom. The 28mm is nice to have, for me indoors is where you see the difference, but it is slight. And the lack of the "LP" (long play) lower bit rate 640x480 video and the digital macro are both features I used on the SD1200, although one can certainly be without them. You can find the SD1200 on sale sometimes for a really good deal, making the SD1300 about $50 to $75 more expensive.

All in all, I would recommend both, but if you do not think you care much about the 28mm lens, save the money. The SD1200 is a good performer, and I like the slightly longer lens (at f/2.8) when I take "portrait" style snapshots of the kids. Either way, it is a good _basic_ point and shoot camera. Here are some SD1300 photos.