Wednesday, November 30, 2011

REVIEW: Canon PowerShot s100


Canon PowerShot s100

Thanks for joining me from my article entitled COMPARISON: Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95)! In this article I’ll review the Canon PowerShot s100 on its own merits using the methodology described in the intro article. I reviewed the s95 in the past and came pretty close to buying it when I decided to go with the G12 instead. On paper all of the improvements to the s100 made it seem so good that I thought I might be giving up my G12 to get one, but after extensive use I didn’t find it to live up to my expectations based on its specs.

Please note that excluding the two s100 product shots (courtesy of Canon USA), all of the photos in this article are unedited in-camera JPEG’s).

What’s New

  • Longer lens range (equivalent to 24-120mm) at a range of f/2.0 to f/5.9
  • 12.1 megapixel 1/1.7" Canon sensor (CMOS)
  • ISO 80-6400
  • DIGIC V image processor
  • 2.3 fps continuous shooting (and up to 8 frames in High-Speed burst scene mode – JPEG Full Auto only)
  • Full HD 1080p video recording with support for both  H.264 compression and the MOV file format
  • Optical zoom in movie mode
  • Super slow motion movie recording (640 x 480 @ 120fps, 320 x 240 @ 240 fps)
  • Direct movie record button
  • Built-in GPS unit with image tagging and logger functions

Living with the s100

Canon has packed the s100 full of great features like built-in GPS tracking, a huge LCD on the rear for its size, amazingly good high ISO performance up to 6400, and an innovative ring selector on the front that is programmable so you can have your favorite feature readily accessible without going into menus. Its slender size and these are the things that made me excited about this camera.

Now that I’ve said what I like, it’s time to be blunt. I’ve been very unimpressed with the build quality and reliability of both the s95 and s100 I’ve tested. The s95 quickly developed a dead row of pixels on the sensor and this s100 suffers from obscenely short battery life (sometimes as little as 30 minutes of normal use (i.e., not video or continuous on), despite coming off a full charge. I also find that despite how great it seems in the tech specs when you compare it to the G12, the reality is that when you are out shooting kids in the real world it just can’t keep up as well as the G12 can (in Av/Tv/P modes).

Despite its faster Digic V processor and its f/2 lens, The s100 seems to have a longer delay from the time you push the shutter release until it actually takes the shot, which for kids means you’ve missed the shot. While you can use the High-Speed Burst HQ scene mode to get a fast burst of 8 shots, or the “Kids & Pets” mode, RAW is not supported and frequently the subject is out of focus.

Mouse over to see the typical blurry result, and mouse out to see the best I could get in "real world" conditions
f/5.9 for 1/125 sec at ISO 6400 (26mm)
Aperture Priority / Tungsten White Balance
Unedited from In-Camera JPEG
Mouse Out for In-Focus (
original) and
Hover for Typical Out of Focus (
original)

I also found myself getting a large number of out of focus shots in real world indoor shooting. In the shot above I was in my studio under reasonably decent Solux lights with my model on a bright white studio paper background. I also put a reflector under face, so she’s the best indoor lighting situation you are going to find. While I could have shot this at f/2, the reality is that when I’m shooting a person and want to create a flattering shot I’ll typically back off and zoom in to make the body features appear a bit slimmer. This model has a wider face, so shooting at f/2 or f/2.2 would get me down to ISO 500 (this creating a sharper image) at the expense of distortion and a more full body framing (unless I got obnoxiously close when shooting) as shown here: 

Click to see the original
f/2.2 for 1/60 sec at ISO 500
Shooting wide open isn’t always desirable
when indoors due to distortion and working distance
Unedited from In-Camera JPEG

I really want to love this camera because its form factor is brilliant. I love the size and weight – especially when it is closed up. It seems to be significantly better than the s95 based on my unscientific analysis of everyday real world shots I was able to get from the s95 vs the s100. The s100 images appear to have more dynamic range and the high ISO performance, even in RAW, is excellent (much better than the G12 in fact). That said, it’s not even close to the quality found in the x10, but its about half the price and size so that’s forgivable.


f/2 for 1/30 sec (handheld) at ISO 250 (5.2mm) Macro Mode
Full Auto HDR Creative Filters Mode
Lens was about 1 inch from the flower
Unedited from In-Camera JPEG

I was very happy with the macro mode on this camera as the minimum focus distance when you are in macro mode is quite good. I was able to get within an inch at min zoom and about 6 inches at max zoom (in macro mode) and acquire clear focus to get the shot. This makes it a great tool for the amateur macro photographer and teens.

Built-In Intelligence is Very Good

The Auto mode as well as the Special Scene (SCN) and Creative Filters modes are technology marvels. While some modes are downright cheesy (Super Vivid) or useless (Color Swap), many are brilliant for the amateur photographer that doesn’t own a DSLR or Photoshop. As I mentioned in my G12 review, modes like Miniature Effect, Fisheye and HDR will are very fun to play with and the results are respectable. There’s a brilliant Smart Shutter mode that will wait for the subject to smile and then automatically take 3 photos (including raising the flash automatically if required). It works well under the right conditions, and nearly always gets a clear shot (even if the shot looks like crap due to direct flash or poor lighting conditions that are beyond the camera’s control).

I was very happy with the built-in image stabilization – it really works quite well on static subjects. Naturally no image stabilization will help you when your subject moves – that’s still a shutter speed issue – so indoors you still need to find the light or God forbid use the flash to avoid the typical point and shoot motion blur.

The built-in stitching mode for panoramas hasn’t changed, and in my mind is the most useless and unfriendly design on the market. I rarely get a usable result, but if you’ve used it and mastered it then this may not be an issue for me. I do wish Canon would see what Fujifilm has done for their panorama modes on the x100 and x10 – it’s the most brilliant and idiot proof design that just works flawlessly 90% of the time (on static subjects).

Night Shooting & HDR Mode

Using a Gitzo GT1541 tripod (with no head for extra stability), and the 2 second timer mode (to reduce interference from hand induced camera shake), I experimented with taking a shot using the full auto mode, the HDR Creative Filter mode (which takes 4 shots and merges), and the Handheld Night Scene mode. It was after midnight and it was raining lightly, but no wind. There was ambient light from the porches of two houses, but cloud cover made it a pretty dark night. Here’s what I ended up getting in these three modes (visit the gallery here for full-size originals):


HDR Creative Filter Mode on a Tripod with 2 second Timer
Great dynamic range, but disappointingly blurry
(note: default IS mode was used – not tripod IS mode)


Handheld NightScene Mode
f/2 for 1/15 sec at ISO 3200 (auto best of 4)
Impressive, but a touch dark and blurry


Full Auto Mode – Night Scene Detected  (Tripod with 2 second timer)
Very sharp and clear, but less dynamic range than HDR
f/2 for 1 second @ ISO 400
(note: default IS mode was used – not tripod IS mode)

Personally I like the last one best which proves that the old tried and true method of using a tripod for a long exposure isn’t a bad way to go even in these days with technical gadgetry. It’s cool that all three modes are offered though, and at the end of the day there may be times where the auto modes could make the difference between getting the shot and not. After all, how many people will really have tripods (or natural support in the exact right space) when your out with your point and shoot?

Color Accent Mode

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
With solid colors in isolation, the Sin City look is instantly possible in-camera

Even though this feature has been around for a while, I haven’t discussed it on my blog before. The way this works is you turn the mode dial to Creative Filters mode, and isolate a color via the LCD and the control dial. The color you choose remains in color and everything else goes to black and white. As shown above you get the typical “Sin City” look, but it works best on solid colors. When trying to apply it to flowers it doesn’t work as well (although the LCD view will fool you into thinking its perfect):

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
It’s a bit of a fail when there’s more than one tone though

Image Quality

For a point and shoot camera, the image quality of this camera is actually quite good. When using in-camera JPEG’s, images up to ISO 6400 are usable even if they are a tad soft. Using noise reduction software on the RAW’s can leave you with an outstanding result for a sensor this small. Part of the improvement comes from a new sensor and in-camera processing that does a much better job of reducing the noise at the RAW level before creating the in-camera JPEG. The net result is that more detail is preserved over the s95 when those JPEG’s are created.


Click to view the original to see that detail in the shadows and bright areas is respectable
f/2 for 1/30 sec (handheld) at ISO 500 (5.2mm) Full Auto Mode

The dynamic range appears to have been improved in this over the s95 or even the G12, but the images seem to be lacking something that is hard to quantify in scientific terms. They just frequently fail to please me – especially when viewing them in Lightroom. DPP does a great job of making the images look their best (both RAW and JPEG) and printing direct from DPP to a professional Canon printer (like the Canon ipf6300) from a RAW image can often create astonishingly good results with no photo editing at all (go to any Canon trade show event to see this in action to see what I mean).

Overall this camera has the typically good in-camera color that Canon is known for, but when pushed the reality of its small sensor become apparent (2nd shot below).


Under the right conditions, the color rendition was excellent


When pushed, the limited dynamic range became apparent

Features

The s100 offers the standard modes of Program (P), Shutter Speed Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av) , Manual, Custom (user-defined variant of the previously mentioned), and full auto (JPEG) only. There’s also a movie mode which can now be accessed directly via the new record button shown above.

Two of the most useful point and shoot modes (JPEG only) are Creative Filters and Special Scene (SCN) modes because that’s where all of the engineering intelligence in this camera lives. I’ve discussed some of the features already, but these modes are great for times when you don’t want to think – you just want to take pictures. You give the camera a little more input about what you want to do (i.e., beach, underwater, sunset, kids & pets, etc…) and it uses all its power to give you the best result for that scenario. Using these modes I got significantly more in-focus and usable shots than I did when I tried to use Aperture Priority (Av) or even Program (P) mode. You don’t get an option to save RAW images when you do this, so what you get is pretty much what you get, but the camera does everything in its power to give you a sharp shot with a balanced histogram. As a result these images are typically salvageable for post-processing and in-focus.

The controls of this camera are excellent, and the addition of the record button and better focusing options have made this iteration more friendly in daily real world use over its predecessor. I found myself programming the ring dial in the front to exposure compensation really helps a lot, and the auto ISO seems to do a good job of making the right tradeoffs of ISO versus the appropriate shutter speed.

The built-in GPS support was useless indoors as it would never acquire a satellite signal, but if you went outdoors and had a clear signal then it would pick up after a few minutes. This is typical GPS behavior for devices that can’t do triangulation so don’t expect the GPS to record all the places you’ve been on your trip if you’ll be shooting a lot indoors. You can leave GPS logging on to help with that scenario, but bring about 30 batteries because you’ll need it.

Beware – you need LOTS of batteries

Speaking of batteries, the biggest gripe I have about this camera is its battery. While it is nice and compact, it seems that all of the technical hoo ha of this camera drains the battery very quickly. It’s pointless to disable all of those features, so you’ll need multiple spare batteries with this camera. The best performance I got on a battery was about 3 hours of usage (at a car show), and the camera was only turned on when needed. I didn’t have GPS turned on (especially logging which would get you down to about 30 minutes), so the rest was in what I’d call normal out of the box settings.

Factor this into your cost as the batteries were $43.95 EACH at the time this article was written, so you may not be saving much over more expensive cameras when you add the batteries required to get an equivalent shooting time.

For a full feature list, visit Canon USA.

s95 & G12 Owners – Upgrade Advice

If you own a s95 and love it, I think this camera is worth the upgrade based on image quality and performance alone. The 1080p video is a big plus as well. The GPS feature is a battery sucking vampire on a camera that already drains the battery faster than a frat house keg on graduation night, so consider that issue (and cost) when upgrading.

If you own a G12, this camera does offer some nice new features and performance (especially in the dynamic range and higher ISO’s), but fundamentally the G12 is the better camera for those who won’t be shooting in the full auto – jpeg only modes. It also lacks the durability, reliability and pivoting LCD of the G12 so I’d advise against replacing a G12 with a s100.

Sample Photos

To see a gallery of test images (including original in-camera JPEG download), click here. Here’s a few medium size samples that show off what this camera can do:

Sample Video

Click here to see my video comparison article. Here's a funny one to enjoy that shows off the super slow motion movie mode which does 240 fps at a very low resolution:

Conclusion

All of the technical wizardy of this camera is impressive and is sure to please the average consumer who doesn’t have a DSLR. If you don’t care about RAW images and just want to capture memento photos, the special scene and creative filter modes will help you get the shot that is suitable for posting on your favorite social networking sites.

If you are a DSLR owner looking for a pocketable alternative to the beast, I suspect you’ll be disappointed with this camera. While the images aren’t bad, the dynamic range just isn’t there and is sure to dissapoint. While the price might suggest that its is good enough, when you’ve seen other alternatives like the more expensive Fujifilm X10, you realize that small doesn’t have to mean poor quality.

This isn’t a bad camera and the form factor is excellent, but it’s just not one that I think my average reader is really going to be happy with. Do you want your trip to Disney, or that birthday celebration to have shots that are blurry and bleached out looking? I don’t, so I’d rather see Canon do something like Fujifilm’s EXR mode to useless megapixels, but create a significantly better image (in terms of quality and dynamic range). Few people will be printing massive posters using images from their point and shoot, and even a 4 megapixel image is sufficient for a nice letter size print these days (or greater, depending on viewing distance).

I also hated the fact that the battery just doesn’t last very long so you’ll need a bunch of them. I’d seriously have about 4 of them pre-charged if I were going out to Disney all day, so that adds nearly $200 to the cost of this camera. For that price you can get the superior Fujifilm X10 which offers significantly better image quality and performance.

I’d rather have a 3 megapixel version of this camera that had much better dynamic range and faster performance. Despite its great stats on paper, a car analogy is in order – it’s much like comparing a Ford Mustang GT to a Porsche Cayman S. While the Mustang might fare well on paper, and looks are subjective, when you actually use both you realize there is no comparison.

My wife liked the s95 when she compared it to the G12, but we ultimately went with the G12, Now that she’s a seasoned G12 owner, she lasted 10 minutes with this camera before she handed it back to me in disgust and resumed using the G12. She said she still loved the compact size, but we made the right decision getting the G12.

I couldn’t agree more.

See what I think about other cameras in my article entitled COMPARISON: Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95).

Where to Buy

Click here to buy a s100 at B&H. If it is out of stock, you can also consider Adorama or Amazon, but I prefer B&H when possible.

Disclosure

While most popular blogs have mechanisms for generating revenue, few disclose it. I believe in transparency so I will disclose that B&H has given me an extended return period to review these cameras, but I will return them when I am done.

If you make a purchase using links found on this blog I may get a commission. I thank you for your support of more articles like this by your using my links when you are ready to make a purchase. If you are unable or unwilling to use my links, then a donation is appreciated for countless hours I spend while you sleep so that I may bring articles like this to you.

On behalf of my family, we thank you for your generous support!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Killer Deals (UPDATED: 11/28/11 at 6:42 PM)

Once You Know, You Newegg
UPDATE: NewEgg has announced their Cyber Monday deals and they are some sweet deals. I’m off to go take advantage of a few myself (click the logo above to see them)– later! :-)

I won’t flood you with holiday specials, but I’ll try to update my “Stuff on Sale” tab at the top right of the blue bar on this blog as I get deals you should know about. I’m also going to do this one article for the ones that I’d consider using or I’d tell my close friends about:

Best Deals

  1. (UPDATED) Topaz Adjust - Click here and use the coupon code CYBERTOPAZ (or RONMART it it doesn’t work) to save up to 30% off. Coupon code RONMART works for 15% off all other products.
  2. Nik Software 20% Off Holiday Sale–11/23 to 11/28/11 (Includes UPGRADES) when you use the coupon code RMARTINSEN (Click here for a fix for the double-coupon code problem)
  3. Think Tank Photo - Offering up to 11 camera pouches and memory card holders worth almost $300 that you can have added for free to your purchases. Every time you place an order with Think Tank, when you check out you will be asked which one of the items listed below you wish you receive for free. There is no limit on the number of orders you can place. You receive free gear with every order. CLICK HERE to qualify!
  4. B&H Cyber Monday Specials – Too many to list, but click her for the Canon rebate program (NEW)! Click here to go to the category of your choice to see all of the deals! It also includes these great deals:
  5. Best Deals on the Web for Eizo products when you put RONMARTBLOG in the comments portion of the shopping cart (you’ll get the guaranteed lowest price charged to your card – you can call them and mention my blog as well). Click here and go to the ORDERING section to see more details.

Other Great Deals

More Deals and Where To Find Updates

See my discount coupon code page for more special offers (several of which are exclusive to this blog). Also visit my “Stuff on Sale” tab at the top right of the blue bar on this blog for more special offer as I learn about them.

Disclosure

I may get a commission if you use these links. Thank you so much for supporting this blog by using my links – you save, and I make a little pocket change.

All deals are subject to change or expire without notice. I provide the links but I have no control over the actual content of the pages behind the links so price or availability may change!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

REVIEW: onOne Perfect Photo Suite 6.0.1 – Say Goodbye To Photoshop?


Integration Done Right!

People joke that it takes Microsoft three versions to get things right, and there’s probably some truth in that. In the case of suite bundles from onOne Software I’m going to say that they’ve been doing things right for a while, but the sixth time is certainly a charm.

Integration Done Right

When I had my first look at Perfect Layers, I knew that good things were in store for onOne Software’s future. While the first version was lacking some critical features, they had opened Pandora’s box by offering something sorely missing from Lightroom – layers. It was a good start, but it left me wanting for more.

Since I first started reviewing plug-ins in 2007, I’ve been complaining to onOne Software and Nik Software that its ridiculous that they have separate user-interfaces for all of their products. I wanted to see the products integrated where each product was merely a module, and they could all work together. I’m happy to say that onOne Software has become the first to answer the call in Perfect Photo Suite 6.

There’s tons of new features in this bundle, but nothing outshines the most important one – integration. You can now launch a stand-alone executable (which can also be launched from Lightroom’s Plug-in Extras menu) that will start in Perfect Layers, but it allows you to use all of the products in the bundle to create a single file.

Lightroom users should rejoice as this may be enough for some to avoid owning Photoshop. While advanced users won’t be ready to give up Photoshop, they will appreciate the ability to do some advanced edits using the suite where going to Photoshop becomes optional. There’s so much in this bundle with the massive enhancements with Perfect Effects (formerly PhotoTools) and the addition of Perfect Portrait that I’ve been finding myself doing all that I need for some of my photos without going elsewhere.

Perfect Photo Suite 6 is integration done right, and I love it!

What’s New

Perfect Photo Suite 6 - Stand-Alone Version
I love the new stand-alone user-interface

For the sake users of the previous generation of onOne Software products, I’m going to be quite frank – this is the first version that I really find myself using extensively. In the past I liked what was offered, but either bugs, quirkiness, or slow performance just kept me from really using their products. I knew there was some things that I wanted to use, but in reality I found myself only using Perfect Resize and PhotoFrame regularly.

Perfect Effects is nearly perfect and a much better tool

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Having fun adding a little color and snow to the hot air balloon event with Perfect Effects

PhotoTools offered some great plug-ins, but its lack of preview and painfully slow performance made me avoid it like the plague. That’s unfortunate as there were some really good filters in it, but I just couldn’t stand not having real-time previews and fast performance. I’m thrilled to say that my prayers have been answered, and now PhotoTools has been renamed to Perfect Effects to become the product I always hoped it would be. There’s live thumbnails with large hover previews that show me exactly what will happen to my photo if I select a given filter (like Lightroom’s Navigator window in the Develop tab. Applying the filters is fast, and like before they are stackable. While UI features like search and favorites are sorely missing, I find myself able to quickly find what I’m looking for. I’m also feeling that less is more, so the lack of clutter makes this version SO much more approachable.

Perfect Portrait doesn’t suck

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Mouse in and out to see the before and after of this fast Perfect Portrait edit

I’m a huge fan of Portraiture – I use it on every photo of a person that I am editing, so when I heard about the addition of Perfect Portrait I was skeptical. I was fearful that it would just be a disappointment like Portrait Professional that left my people looking totally fake (or lacking a believable probability), but instead I was very pleasantly surprised at what I got for a v1.0 product. This product will not only will it automatically detect the skin, eyes, and teeth but it also does a pretty darn good job with its default processing. Fortunately the folks at onOne realized that “auto” anything usually sucks, so they let you refine the areas they detect simply by brushing and you can dial in the enhancements to suit your taste. There’s even the ability to adjust the opacity, skin tone and add grain so that final result looks like you did hours of facial editing. I’m very, very happy with the direction this product is going! While I still prefer Portraiture for my needs, this is going to be my go-to product for non-commercial work. It’s just too fast and easy not to use it!

Everything Else

I’ve already talked in-depth about the enhancement to Perfect Layers that makes this product compelling, so I’ll talk a bit about the other products in the bundle. Simply put, Perfect Resize, Focal Point and PhotoFrame don’t get any significant enhancements and feel pretty much the same. The biggest difference is that they are integrated nicely in to the Perfect Suite host app and play nicely with Perfect Layers for what feels like a nicely integrated experience.

This leaves MaskPro – the product that got me excited about onOne Software from day one, but I’ve never been able to master. This appears to be a new version that is nicely integrated into the suite, but functionality-wise seems identical to its predecessor. If you are a fan of this product, you’ll be very happy with the great performance and integration, but if you’ve been frustrated by it then there’s not much here to help you with that this time around. I want to love this product, but right now ReMask is just easier for me to wrap my brain around and use effectively.

Video Demos

I couldn’t possibly do this product justice without a couple videos that show it in action. These videos are a bit on the long side (about 15 minutes each), but they also act as basic tutorials to help you get started. I recommend turning your speakers way up and clicking the HD link to view it full screen at 1080p:


Play in HD

Here’s another video where I try to give some hot air balloons a little extra oomph and have fun by changing the weather conditions:


Play in HD

While I know my videos won’t be getting any academy awards, hopefully you learned a few things so you understand the potential of this suite.

Coupon Code Details

Using Coupon Code RMART20, you can get all this for as little as $134.96 (or $269.96 for first time buyers)! This has to be one of the best deals going right now, especially considering everything you get.

Discount subject to change, so consult my discount coupon code page for the latest details.

Here’s a screenshot that shows you where to enter your code:

onOne Software Discount Coupon Code

Conclusion

onOne Software has impressed me with each release because it’s been clear that they are listening to customers feedback. They have made huge strides in improving performance, reliability, usability and integration to create their best release yet. 6.0.0 had a couple bugs, but 6.0.1 has been rock solid in my testing.

I highly recommend this product for those looking to go beyond what Lightroom offers, but who aren’t interested investing in Photoshop (both financially and the time investment). For many, I think it will be the one stop shop that completes their photo editing experience.

For Photoshop diehards like myself, I think you’ll find that this suite is useful for your quick edits as well as several of its products in your normal Photoshop workflow. If you haven’t invested in Portraiture, then you’ll probably be satisfied enough with Perfect Layers to get the job done.

I don’t really consider this suite as a replacement for Nik Software’s suite (currently 20% off) as Nik’s suite has very different products included. I’d still consider Color Efex 4 over Perfect Effects, but there’s little overlap in the filters offered by both so they can co-exist together very well. If you can afford both, I’d go that route as both will make your images look world class. If you can only afford one, then the choice becomes more difficult. If you don’t own Photoshop (regular or elements), then this is probably the right product for you to invest in. If you do, then I’d still have to say go with the Nik Software Suite, but this is a close second (and the price is right). Given my love for the Nik Software suite, that’s a significant endorsement for this package!

Disclosure

I was provided with a copy of this product to review prior to it being released to the public. I was also given a private demo of how to use it in New York City. If you make a purchase using links in this article, I may make a commission.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nik Software 20% Off Holiday Sale–11/23 to 11/28/11

RMARTINSEN coupon code saves 20% off Nik Software from 11/23/11 at 9:00 am PST to 11/28/11 12:00 am PST.

  • 20% off individual Nik Software products (excludes Snapseed)
  • $100 off Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture
  • $200 of Complete Collection Ultimate Edition

See my reviews of the Nik Software products using the links below:

  • Color Efex 4 – I use this with EVERY photo I edit
  • Silver Efex Pro 2 – Made me love Black & White after hating it for years
  • Viveza 2 – I use this on 90% of the photos I edit and it saves me hours
  • Sharpener Pro – Forget Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen – this makes sharpening nearly fool proof (especially for printing)
  • Dfine – Say good by to high ISO noise with this bad boy
  • HDR Efex Pro – The alternative to Photomatix that has everybody talking

You may also enjoy my What Plug-ins Should I Buy? article to see where the Nik Suite stack ranks against the myriad of photo editing products.

Here’s where you you enter the code in the shopping cart (15% discount shown below, but this code will be 20% beginning Wednesday November 23rd at 9:00 AM):

Nik Software 20% off Discount Coupon Code Special Offer

If you’ve followed my blog and Nik Software sales in the past, you know that this is usually a once a year deal. If you’ve been holding out, now is the time to get the biggest savings of the year.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Holiday Gift Guide for Canon Macro Photographers by Joseph Calev

Today I’m happy to have blog reader Joseph Calev share with you his thoughts on what you might want to add to your holiday wish list to get great macro shots. Joe shoots exclusively with Canon, so my apologies for the lack of Nikon coverage. However, Nikon has equivalent lenses to several mentioned below so in most cases the same recommendations would still apply.

Introduction

Macro photography can be both difficult and rewarding. For me, it grew out of a lack of time to take a day off to photograph. With two young kids at home that simply isn’t an option. However, it is quite easy to go outside or to a nearby park to take a few photographs. With macro photography you rarely need to go very far.

Unlike many other types of photography, macro photography does require specialized gear. It also requires significantly different technique from ‘normal’ photography. As this is a holiday gift guide, I will not discuss the technique at all here. I will also not cover macro gear in general, but instead will discuss specifically what I use on a day to do basis to take macro photographs.

Cameras

The truth is almost any SLR will work for macro photography. The lenses are what make the difference. It is true that many point and shoot cameras work very well for macro photography as they allow very close focus. For example, cameras like the G12 and X10 claim to do macro, but I haven’t experimented with that yet. As a result, I will only focus discuss Canon DSLR’s in this article as that is what I use..

I use two different cameras on a day to day basis – a 5D Mark II and a 7D. The 7D has a few advantages – such as a 1.6 crop and supposedly it works better with the image stabilization in the 100mm f/2.8L Hybrid IS Macro, but I almost never use it for macro. Instead I typically use my 5D Mark II. Why? There are two main reasons.

  • The 5D Mark II provides much better low light performance. I shoot many of my macro photographs hand held and high ISO definitely helps there. With the 5D Mark II I can receive fairly good quality up to ISO 3200. With the 7D I do not feel comfortable going past ISO 400.
  • Due to the pixel pitch of the 5D Mark II, it has much lower diffraction than the 7D. For those not familiar with diffraction, it is an optical phenomenon that causes pictures to lose clarity as one increases magnification and pixel pitch. This results in quite poor quality at higher magnifications on my 7D than with my 5D Mark II.
  • If you are looking for a DSLR camera specifically for macro, low light performance and larger pixels are what you should consider. For this reason I already have a 1D-X on preorder that will eventually replace both cameras.

    Lenses

    Most people are not aware that “macro” photographs may be taken with many different types of lenses. The easiest way to get into macro is to buy either a Canon 500D Close-up Lens (called a diopter) or Kenko Extension Tubes. Canon also makes extension tubes, but unless you are putting them on a large telephoto such as a 400mm the Kenko ones will work just fine. Typically you use a diopter on a telephoto lens (particularly the 100-400mm) and extension tubes on shorter lenses. I will not go further into the details on the difference here – other than to say I have owned both of them and sold the diopter long ago while I still own and use the extension tubes often.

    I will first discuss the lenses I use for macro purposes that are not true macro lenses. Note that I am using a fairly loose definition of “macro”. True macro is 1:1 or 1x – meaning on a 35mm sensor a 35mm subject takes the entire frame. However, when I say macro in this article I just mean “close”.

    Canon 70-200mm & 2x Extender Combo

    One of my favorite lenses for macros is my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. Below is a shot taken with it.

    Nature's Pumpkin by Joseph Calev (jcalev)) on 500px.com Nature's Pumpkin by Joseph Calev

    The 70-200 2.8 II has a respectable magnification of .21x.  It is also an extremely versatile lens - usable for many other purposes than just macro.  When combined with the 2x III Extender, the magnification doubles and provides even better macro abilities - though it does reduce the sharpness. 

    The photograph below was also taken with this combo:. 

    The Trap by Joseph Calev (jcalev)) on 500px.com
    The Trap by Joseph Calev

    My 70-200 2.8 II and combined with the 2x III Extender work great for macro, but that is not the only use for this configuration. I also use it for many different purposes - from photographing my kids to travel photography. I also use this combo most often for wildlife photography, so this is a case where an investment in this combo can serve many needs.

    Canon 300mm f/4L IS

    Another lens with strong macro capabilities is the 300L F4 IS.  In fact, this is the main purpose I purchased the lens.  This makes a great lens for photographing dragonflies and butterflies.  Dragonflies in particular can be skittish so it is extremely useful there.  The shot below was taken with this lens:

    IMG_5298-Edit.jpg

    As is the case with my 70-200 2.8 II, macro is not the main thing I use this lens for. I also use it for sports, so once again you don’t have to limit yourself to specialty “macro” lenses to get great results.

    Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift Manual Focus Lens

    Wide angle lenses can also make nice macro lenses.  They offer a different perspective than the traditional "telephoto" macro and are very useful for taking a close up shot combined with its environment.  Not all wide angle lenses work well for macro, but my favorite one is the TS-E 24 II.  As with my 70-200 2.8 II and 300/4 IS macro is not the main purpose for this lens either.  I use it primarily for architecture but it does a decent job with macro as well.  The photo below was taken with it.

    The Country by Joseph Calev (jcalev)) on 500px.com
    The Country by Joseph Calev

    As you can see with the above three lenses, they are excellent lenses that have macro capabilities, but they are not typically thought of as specialized “macro” lenses.

    While we are on the subject of tilt-shift lenses, it is worth mentioning that I also use the TS-E 90.  I use this lens occasionally for portraits and non-macro reasons, but I primarily use it for macro - often with an extension tube.  With a native magnification of .29x and the abilities to shift and tilt, this is my preferred lens when photographing flowers. 

    When photographers hear the word "tilt-shift", they often think of those cute little miniature-like shots, but the truth is they have far more practical uses.  One particular use is to selectively blur parts of the background.  The shot below was taken with it.

    Orchid Dance by Joseph Calev (jcalev)) on 500px.com
    Orchid Dance by Joseph Calev

    What about dedicated macro lenses?

    Thus far I’ve showed you how you don’t have to use specialized macro lenses to get great macro photos. However, I do actually use some dedicated macro lenses as well. I’ll now describe which ones I use and why.

    100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro

    The most useful macro lens in a general case is the 100mm 2.8 IS Macro.  This lens is very similar to the much cheaper 100mm 2.8 Macro that lacks the image stabilization. However, I think the image stabilization is well worth it based on my experience with both lenses.

    This lens is my second most used macro lens overall and the only true macro lens I take on vacations.  With the image stabilization, I am able to take many shots hand held that simply would not be possible without it.  My main targets for it are nature and small objects in stores.  The image quality is outstanding and given the price this is one of the biggest bangs you can get for the buck Canon lens-wise.  The shot below was taken with it:

    Flowers by Joseph Calev (jcalev)) on 500px.com
    Flowers by Joseph Calev

    Canon 180mm L Macro

    Another lens that I have owned in the past is the 180L Macro.  My copy this lens was a disappointment as it was nowhere near as sharp as my other macro lenses, so I never really enjoyed using it. Personally I’d recommend the other lenses I’ve suggested thus far over this one as a better use of your money.  Ron didn’t care for it much either when he borrowed my copy and wrote this article.

    Canon Macro Photo MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Manual Focus

    My most used macro overall is the MP-E 65.  This lens is significantly different than all others mentioned so far because it can only take macro photographs.  This lens compensates for this limitation by offering a native magnification between 1x to an astonishing 5x. 

    While I love this lens, beginners should not start with this lens.  It is an extremely challenging lens to use and requires either a very good tripod or a macro flash to be usable at all.  At higher magnifications the depth of field becomes extremely shallow and diffraction becomes an issue. In fact, at this magnification even breathing can violently shakes the camera and ruin a shot. 

    Another challenge when using this lens is that the viewfinder can be extremely dark making focusing difficult (and this is a manual focus only lens), so a camera with Live View is a must. 

    I typically use this lens with an MT-24 EX Flash along with the CP-E4 battery back.  I also use some specialized sto-fen diffusers and a special hood to both soften the light and prevent some of it from reflecting back into the lens.  While this lens is a challenge to use, the results can be extraordinary.  The following photos were taken with this combo:

    IMG_0501-Edit.jpg IMG_7430-Edit.jpg Hangin' Around

    Lighting

    Lighting is a huge concern in macro.  As you move in close to subjects, shadows may become more visible.  Also, higher apertures are typically required for macro shots - which reduces the light available to the camera.  As I previously mentioned, I do shoot many of my photographs hand held - often with just ambient light.  Most of the time, however, I need to either use a tripod or artificial lighting.  I will discuss artificial lighting first.

    There are a number of lighting solutions out there.

  • Canon 580EX II and other variants.  This typically works poorly for macro because the subject is often too close to the lens - resulting in a shadow.  I have seen adaptations using tin foil and other things to provide lighting, but I prefer the flexibility I have with a good macro light.
  • Canon MR-14EXI do not own this flash, but it is the cheapest macro flash available from Canon.  I find the light from it to be a bit flat and it is far less flexible than the MT-24EX.
  • Canon MT-24EX.  This is the main flash I use for macro. In fact,  I use it so often that I bought a CP-E4 battery pack for it to extend the battery life between recharges and to reduce the recycle time.  The flash is extremely flexible and allows me to change the position of the flashes, their angle, their power, and the balance between them.  It is almost always on my camera whenever my MP-E 65 is there.  I also own an adapter to use it on my 100mm 2.8 IS Macro, though I rarely use it there and typically use ambient light when photographing with that lens.
  • Generally I attach the heads of my MT-24EX to the specialty hood made for the MP-E 65.  Occasionally this doesn't provide the angle I need - particularly in highly reflective drops from ice.  In this case I have a pair of Wimberley Flash Brackets that I attach to the RRS lens plate attached to the lens.  These arms allow me to move the flash further away from the subject or even put the flashes slightly behind the lens.  In cases where I need to change the angle of light in order to prevent it from bouncing back into the lens this is critical.  When I used to own the 180L macro I used these brackets all the time.  Now I only use them for the most reflective of surfaces.

    Support

    Insects typically require a flash at the minimum as a fill light.  This is necessary due to their quick movements and to ensure all of the details and facets of their eyes are visible.  For flowers and other subjects, however, flash tends to not look very good.  The is particularly the case for flowers - where ambient light is generally the preferred way to go.  While I do take many of these shots hand held, there are times when a tripod is a necessity.  Macro tripods tend to be pricy because they must be extremely strong and capable of holding your gear in very strange positions.

    I own a tripod specifically for macro.  For the tripod body I use the Gitzo 2540EX, which is a discontinued 4 leg version of the GT2531EX that Ron featured in his tripod recommendations article. 

    If you read Ron’s Gitzo Primer, then you know this is one of the Explorer type tripods with the extendible arm.  In retrospect, I wish I would have ordered the version that has the geared arm instead - though so far I have been able to get around it.  Precision is hugely important in macro - as a single millimeter is often the difference between in focus and not or even having your subject in the viewfinder, so the gear can be super helpful. 

    Attached to my tripod, I have the Acratech GP ball head like Ron featured in his tripod head comparison.  I bought this ball head specifically because it is very flexible and I can move the camera to a 90 degree angle.  It is also quite strong.

    Attached to the ball head I have two Really Right Stuff Macro Rails.  These macro rails allow me to change focus with precision in the x and y dimensions.  I used to own the Kirk Macro Rail which unlike the Really Right Stuff versions can be switched between holding camera plates and lens plates.  While the Kirk rail may be moved quicker, the Really Right Stuff version is much stronger and more precise.  If you want to use only a single macro rail for both camera plates and lens plates you need a special adapter.  This adapter is not necessary if you use two rails.

    Finally, attached to the tripod I have a Wimberley Plamp.  I use my plamp all the time to hold leaves and flowers.  Sometimes I use it to hold back a leaf or flower that is distracting in the shot while at other times I use it to prevent my subject from blowing with the wind.  Very often I have my tripod setup just for the plamp and take the actual shot hand held.  This does tend to be a rather expensive way just to hold a plamp though.

    Conclusion

    As you can see, you don’t have to use specialized macro lenses to get great results – but they are a great tool to have if you are going to do mostly macro photography. I should also point out that Canon is the leader in macro specific products, so this is why I’ve taken a bias to Canon. Simply put, several products mentioned have no counterpart by Nikon or Sony.

    Disclosure

    I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using links in this article. Thanks for supporting my blog by using my links!

    If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

    Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    REVIEW: Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless Digital Tablet–vs– Wacom Intuos 3 (2011 Edition by Ron Martinsen)

    Wacom Intuos4 Wireless Digital Tablet

    In March of 2009, my friend David Pitcher did a guest blog article entitled Wacom Intuos 4 –vs- Wacom Intuos3 and 3DConnexion SpaceExplorer combination that has been a very popular.

    Until recently I was still using my Intuos 3, so I couldn’t comment about the Intuos4, so I had little reason to update it. While I had heard good things about the Intuos4, I had two medium Intuos3 tablets and saw little reason to upgrade.

    Recently I upgraded to the Intuos4 wireless and now I’m kicking myself for waiting for so long!

    Out of Box First Impression

    The first thing I noticed about the Intuos4 over my Intuos3, is that it “just worked”. My Intuos3 would just stop working – a lot, so I’d have to shake my Wacom mouse with the pen tracking it to get it to work again. I also had some apps by Topaz Labs, onOne Software, ColorByte ImagePrint, and more that simply wouldn’t let me click certain objects with my Wacom – I had to use a separate mouse. This left me frustrated, so I only used it for fine detail work in Photoshop

    When working in Photoshop, my Intuos3 worked well most of the time (more so on the Mac than the PC), but when it failed it was frustrating. My Intuos4 hasn’t had any of the aforementioned issues and feels much more precise. As a result, I find myself using it MUCH more. 

    Where’s the Mouse?

    One thing I was very disappointed about with the wireless tablet was the absence of a mouse, as I used the Wacom mouse on my Intuos3 nearly full-time. I find right-clicking with stylus (3 or 4) to be maddening, so I want a mouse. I now have to resort to plugging in a separate mouse presumably because Wacom engineers realized that the 4 is so much better than the 3 that you wouldn’t use the mouse. That's not the case for me, but I do find myself using the Intuos4 pen 90% of the time for “mouse activities”, rather than being “just” a Photoshop brush in the past.

    Some say give up the mouse for a week and you’ll never go back, but I just haven’t had luck with that process. I want my mouse.

    Whew, thank goodness there’s still a wire option

    My primary PC where I do most of my work is getting a bit old. As a result its bluetooth support is sketchy at best, so I find myself just leaving the Intuos4 plugged in all of the time. On my MacBook Pro it works great so I used it wirelessly most of the time and only connect it to charge. I’m really happy for this design (versus just requiring a battery change), as it allows me to use the power source  of my choice.

    Living with the Intuos4

    After I got settled in with 4, I immediately fell in love with the new controls. I never, ever, used the side buttons on the Intuos3 as I could never remember what they did (especially since it could change from product to product). Now I find myself using the hand button a long so I can scroll (which used to be a mouse only thing for me), and the touch ring works beautifully in Photoshop. I also really appreciate the help for more details about how my tablet is currently configured.

    David Pitcher’s guest blog article entitled Wacom Intuos 4 –vs- Wacom Intuos3 and 3DConnexion SpaceExplorer combination did a great job of explaining what all of the controls do, so I won’t repeat that here. I will say that in practice I mostly just use the touch ring, the hand button, and the help most often.

    Smaller size isn’t a problem

    One of my concerns about reviewing this unit is that I was coming from a medium Intuos3 which had a much larger work surface area. The surface of the Intuos4 wireless is 5x8” (12.7 x 20.3cm) versus 6.25" x 10.67" (158.8 x 271.0mm) for my Intuos3, so I expected to really feel boxed in. However, for photo editing this hasn’t been an issue as the improved edge to edge support (even in my complex dual screen setup with landscape and portrait orientation displays) has worked flawlessly. I don’t find myself picking up my pen and re-centering it as I did with the Intuos3, so it’s been easier for me to hit my targets on the first try. It just subconsciously feels much better.

    People doing freehand drawing might prefer the larger surface or the Cintiq, but for photography this size hasn’t been a problem at all. With that said, for my dual display configuration, I wouldn’t want to go smaller than this size.

    Wireless vs Wired

    Personally I’ve found that I prefer to keep the tablet on my desk instead of my lap for photography editing. I’m not twisting my tablet around like someone who would be drawing would do, so I don’t think wireless is necessary for me. Bluetooth was so buggy on my older Windows system that I just gave up, and on the Mac I still found myself keeping it in one spot with it wired up.

    The beauty here is that if you can afford the wireless version you can have the best of both worlds, which is why I decided to go for this design. If I ever have a need or desire to go wireless, I can. If I don’t, I can just stay wired. If you want to save a little money though, you can consider getting the medium wired version.

    Other Benefits

    Lefties will rejoice at the new design and lap users will appreciate the lighter weight in addition to the lack of wires. These improvements along with the great controls and precision make it a real pleasure to use.

    Conclusion

    Now that I’m used to my Intuos4, I’m struggling to use my 3 at my second office. I’m going to have to get another 4 as I can’t live without its reliability, precision, and wonderful side controls. These suckers are expensive, but they are totally worth it once you add it to your photography editing workflow.

    If you have an Intuos3, I give my highest recommendation on upgrading to the Intuos4 – it’s totally worth it! Wireless or not and size are personal preferences, but a medium wireless is a safe bet for most.

    If you don’t have a tablet, then I strongly urge you to get one if you use Photoshop. It just makes life so much easier when doing masks, healing, cloning, etc…. At the very least you should order it from B&H and try it out. You can always return it if you aren’t sure about it, but odds are you wouldn’t dream of returning it.

    Click here to buy your Intuos4 now and support this blog while you are at it – it doesn’t cost you a penny. You can also click here to learn more on Wacom’s website.

    Further Reading

    David Pitcher’s guest blog article entitled Wacom Intuos 4 –vs- Wacom Intuos3 and 3DConnexion SpaceExplorer combination is a great read as well.

    Disclosure

    Wacom provided me with an evaluation tablet to review, and I may make a commission if you make purchases using  links in this article.

    If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

    Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    REVIEW: Welcome to Oz 2 by Vincent Versace

    Recently I finally got around to reading Vincent Versace’s Welcome to Oz 2.0. It’s a pretty deep book that is very thought provoking. In fact, when I read the first edition I gave it a pretty harsh review because at that time I wasn’t really ready for material this advanced.

    When I read the book this time I “got it”. I really appreciate getting an opportunity to look inside the mind of a photographer whose work I admire, and learn more about why he does some things that are different from my normal workflow.

    Vincent Versace explains his method of controlling the viewers eye so that you don’t simply look at his image, but instead you become entranced with the image. Your eye wants to stay in the image and learn its story. It enjoys coming back to the image to see what else is there. This is what the art side of photography is all about, and Vincent describes with examples exactly how to turn an ordinary image into one that is extraordinary.

    With that said some of the things that I found a bit cumbersome in the first edition remain in this edition. There is a LOT of info that can be great if you want to know every detail on how Vincent does his magic, but ADD types like me tend to drift off with that much detail. I tend to be verbose myself so I know this is like the pot calling the kettle black.

    This book is so thought provoking that ADD types will find their mind racing with new ideas based on his comments. My instant gratification nature prefers my books to be direct and to the point with lots of screen shots (ala  Scott Kelby). This book is chock full of detail which makes it super difficult for me to focus at times, but the detail oriented types will love it.

    Every serious photographer should read this book

    This is a book where you want to follow along with Photoshop so you can physically experience editing a photo in the way that is described in the book – much like Scott Kelby’s 7 Point System. If you read it that way then the most important concepts sink in much better so that they become a part of your workflow. This is critically important as it can change your photo editing workflow permanently. Here’s an example of shot I recently did for a client where I have applied a portion of his workflow:


    Notice how your eyes are draw to the face, then to the foreground boy,
    and finally to the boy in the background before you explore the rest
    of the photo. Visual distractions are also removed.

    Here’s the before version with an image map overlay (hover over to see the before image only):

    Mouse over to hide image map, mouse out to show it

    With the image map technique that Versace encourages, you can see my strategy for adjusting the brightness of this photo. I try to place more control over the viewers eye by first removing distractions (grass, bright spots on the rocks, etc…) and then adjusting the brightness for the order in which I want your eye to travel over regions of the photo. The net result is a believable probability that subjectively might be to everyone’s taste, but it shouldn’t feel heavily photoshopped.

    I came to a major realization while reading this book

    The way Vincent Versace describes how he thinks and modifies his images is exactly what I’d like to do to my images – if I had the time and the talent. The reality is that I don’t have the time to put this much energy into a single photo. Sadly I also don’t always know where to darken part of my image 55% and another part 65% - even with image maps done in advance. This is the art part that you can’t teach – you just have to exercise and build that skill over time. In fact, some might argue it’s really a gift which some have and some don’t.

    Despite my desire for my images to apply this workflow, reality dictates that I’ll only have time to adopt portions of it. What is great about this book though is that I’ll think differently and try to apply some of the concepts both in camera and in post processing. This is the real value in this book for the average person because you will think differently and look at your images differently after reading this book.

    Advanced users can use this book as a tool to get to the next level

    If you are a photographer who has advanced to the point where you are getting a lot of things right in camera, and you are doing a lot with layer masks, blending and opacity then I think this is a must read book for you. If you are still at the phase where you fix it in Photoshop, or do it all in Lightroom or Photoshop with just plug-ins, then this book may frustrate you (as it did with me when I read the first edition) until your skills are where they need to be to understand the content.

    I’d like to thank Vincent Versace for writing this book as I feel this edition is helping me to grow as a photographer and think differently (much like Bryan Peterson’s Learning to See Creatively (class)). It’s super important to have these “ah ha” moments in your photographic journey to pull you up to the next level. In photography it can be rare for someone to go into such detail about the secrets behind their successful imaging. When you are ready for it, reading this book can be significant in getting you to think deeper about your work, so I highly recommend it when you get to that point.

    What’s new for V2

    This version removes two chapters of the book (which are available online at Welcome2Oz.com), and improves the organization/workflow of the four chapters that remain. For some reason I was able to follow it better this time, even if I did struggle at times to stay focused.

    There’s a lot of good content added online along with some enhancements to the other chapters using Nik and onOne Software Products (special editions included free with the book). For some these free editions of the software can easily justify the cost of the book.

    For those wondering if it is worth getting the second edition my answer is definitely yes. Even for those who get this book from the library, you’ll want to re-familiarize yourself with the existing chapters and definitely read Chapter 4 through to the back cover.

    Online the “Oz 2.0 The Why To Of My How” and videos are worth a look as well. In addition, you can get Versace’s Wacom Intuos 4 Presets.

    Conclusion

    My review of the first version of this book was a bit off base simply because I wasn’t ready for this book at that time. Reading this book is much like reading the bible where your eyes may move across some of the content without really grasping the real message. It took me a few reads before I really “go it”, and when I did I found myself constantly pointing colleagues to this book. As a result of that fact alone, I consider it a must read book.

    Take a look at my interview of Vincent Versace and his guest blog article to see more of his images and observe how your eye behaves with his photos. If this is something you want from your own work, then there’s no other resource out there better than this book.

    Click here to order your copy today and show your appreciation to this blog.

    Disclosure

    I was provided a copy of this book by Vincent Versace to get feedback from him about improvements in the second edition. I got the first edition from my local library.

    I may make a commission if you make purchases using links found in this article. Thank you for supporting my blog by using my links.

    If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

    Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.