Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to Print a 4x6 sheet of prints with the Canon Print Plug-In (UPDATED: 1/1/2012)


How to Print a 4x6 sheet of prints with the Canon Print Plug-In
Start by Exporting an Image Strip from Lightroom (or
QImage)

WARNING: In this example I’m using a 24” wide roll of paper, but if you are using a different size (i.e., 17” or 44”) then you should replace every occurrence of 24 with the width your paper roll.

  1. In Lightroom (I’m using 3.6), you need to create a new Single Image/Contact Sheet layout style with rotate to fit. For the layout section all the margins and cell spacing must be zero, the rows should be 1 (but it can be more if you want) and the columns should be 6. The cell size should be 6.00 in height by 4.00 in width. See the photo above for my settings.
  2. In Lightroom you won’t print to the printer but instead you’ll choose Print To: JPEG File and set the file resolution to 300, the JPEG quality to 100 and the custom file dimension to 24.00 in x 6.00 in. Since I’m printing to JPEG I just choose sRGB for the profile and Relative for the rendering intent. Some will argue with my settings, but honestly for 4x6 prints this is fine as I don’t consider 4x6 to be fine art. :)
  3. You can now open this JPEG up in Photoshop (required – both CS4 and CS5 work for me). DPP should work but doesn’t because it has a 6000x6000 pixel size minimum requirement for some stupid reason.
  4. In Photoshop you have to choose File | Export and in my case I’ll choose iPF6300 Print Plug-In…
  5. Go to the Page Setup tab and choose Borderless Printing (Input Image Size should say Width 24.00in x Height 6.00in – if it doesn’t, go create your JPEG again in Lightroom). Orientation must say Portrait and Paper Source must be Roll Paper. The Roll Paper Options must say Automatic Cutting Available and the checkbox for No Spaces at Top or Bottom (Conserve Paper) MUST BE CHECKED!

  6. For the Main tab choose your settings as usual. Again, for something like this I’d usually use the Canon Premium RC Photo Luster paper with the Print Mode set to Highest and Output Profile to Auto (Color) (because it’s a Canon Paper) and Matching Method set to Perceptual (People, Dark Areas) (only available with the Auto (Color) option). You can set this page to anything you like as only the Page Setup is important here.


Here’s how I configure my Main tab


Here’s how I configure my Page Setup tab

Conclusion

I hope this helps people. Use the comments below if you have any questions. I’ve only tried it out on a iPF6300, but it should work on anything that uses this plug-in. The key thing to remember is that I’m using a 24” wide roll of paper. If you are using a different size (i.e., 17” or 44”) then you should replace every occurrence of 24 with the width your paper roll.

If you enjoyed this article please consider making a donation. You may also enjoy my Printing 101 eBook and my printing series articles.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using the links in this article I may get 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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Monopod Comparison – Gitzo, Manfrotto & Slik

Gitzo GM3551, Gitzo GM5541, Manfrotto 681B, & Slik 350
Gitzo GM3551, Gitzo GM5541, Manfrotto 681B, & Slik 350

When I did my tripod recommendations article, I had no idea it would be so popular. It seems that many of you were just as confused as I was about the dizzying array of choices and were just as eager as me for someone to narrow the selection down to a few reasonable choices. So I’ve decided to do the same as I’ve done with my tripods and tripod head comparisons and compare some of  most common monopods sold today according to my friends at B&H.

My current monopod is a Manfrotto 3245 Automatic Monopod similar to this, and honestly I didn’t realize how bad it sucked until I tested the monopods for this article. ANY of them are better than the automatic monopod design. The reason why is that the automatic monopod design tends to wear out over time which causes the lens to drop when shooting intense action.

Testing Methodology

I tested these monopods doing activities such as shooting a professional football game, Christmas lights at night, and general photography usage. My conclusions are based on the performance and usability of these models that I tested. Naturally there are bunch of models that I didn’t test, but I feel I have a good representation of what people are buying today based on a variety of needs.

Why Should I Buy A Monopod?

I realize a lot of my readers are new to photography so you may be wondering what a monopod is and why you need one – especially if you already have a tripod. The reasons for owning a monopod are simple:

  • It’s more compact and lighter than a tripod which makes it ideal for hiking and travel;
  • it can usually be used at places where tripods are forbidden or require expensive permits (tripods are often considered a safety hazard at crowded locations);
  • it allows for fast mobility (great for sporting events where you may be dodging athletes;
  • it provides more support than hand-held, yet offers nearly the same amount of freedom;
  • it is great for panning;
  • and they are much more economical (no expensive head is required)

With this said, YOU STILL NEED A TRIPOD. Tripods are required for long exposures and that is something that a monopod is still not suited to do (but works better than handheld in a pinch). Tripods are also superior for times when your shutter speed needs to drop below the minimum speed required by your lens (i.e., 1 / (<focal length> * <camera crop factor>) – e.g., 1/200*1.6 or 1/320 sec for a 70-200mm lens at 200mm on a 1.6x crop camera like a 7D or 60D).

My thoughts on the models tested

Gitzo GM3551, Gitzo GM5541, Manfrotto 681B, & Slik 350 Extended
Gitzo GM3551, Gitzo GM5541, Manfrotto 681B, & Slik 350 Extended

In the following sections I discuss each monopod’s pros and cons as well as offer my recommendation. These findings are my own subjective opinions which may differ from others so I encourage you to purchase from a place with a no hassle return policy and make your own informed decision.

Gitzo GM3551 – Ron’s Recommendation for Non-Big Prime Glass Usage (which is most mere mortals)

Gitzo GM3551
Gitzo GM3551

The GM3551 is a very compelling monopod because it is fairly lightweight at 1.4 lbs (620g), yet it supports 39.6 lbs (18 kg) thanks to its use of carbon fiber. I’m a big fan of Gitzo tripods, so I was immediately drawn to this one.

When collapsed this monopod is 21.3” (54 cm) which actually made it the 2nd shorted collapsed monopod of the bunch. However, it was the tallest of all models tested because extended it reaches an astonishing 75.6” (192 cm). That is taller than my 6’1” body! As a result I felt like I could have done without its fifth leg and gone with a shorter model to save weight and collapsed length. In testing I tried to avoid extending the last leg segment which made it feel like a 4 segment monopod.

I really enjoyed the beefy and seemingly durable foam grip and the thick wrist strap of this model. Both Gtizos really shined with that feature and their trademarked Anti-Rotation Leg (ALR) System made it the fastest to extend, and the most durable to travel with. Really the only other major fault I could find with this monopod was its price, but as the saying goes – you get what you pay for!

Sadly the 4 section GM2541 wasn’t a good alternative to me as it can only support 24.6 lbs (12.0 kg), yet is only 0.3” shorter and 0.3 lbs lighter. While you could save $50 by going with this model, I think it’s smarter to have the sturdier GM3551. I also don’t recommend the GM2561T for anything beyond point and shoot camera use as it simply isn’t suitable for telephoto zooms like the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR/IS lenses that no photographer should be without.

I’d recommend this model for anyone shooting with lenses weighing under 4 lbs (1.815 kg).

NOTE: My personal rule of thumb is that I want my gear to max out at 20% – 25% of the weight capacity of my monopod for maximum stability because I bear down hard on my camera during pans. Some may disagree with this recommendation, but I find in practice that it is a good rule of thumb.

Gitzo GM5541 – The Sports & Bird Photographers Ideal Choice

Gitzo GM5541
Gitzo GM5541

This thing is a beast that can double as a baseball bat or weapon in a back alley street fight! Seriously, it’s so wide at the stop that some smaller shooters may not be able to wrap their hands around it completely. However, if you are going to be shooting with a big 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 lens, then this is the monopod you want. In fact, when I recently shot a professional football game this was the one I immediately reached for as I knew it could handle the load of any lens I’d be using that day.

When collapsed this beast is only 21.7” (55 cm) thanks to its 4 leg section design, yet it still extends to a respectable 63.8” (162 cm). This was virtual identical to the Manfrotto and Slik, and about what I’d call the perfect height for most applications.

With a staggering load capacity of 55 lbs (25 kg), I’d be easily comfortable with putting a pro body and a 600mm lens on this one. Of course this massive load capacity comes at a cost of weight, but at 1.9 lbs (0.9 kg) I found it to be totally manageable to carry around in my hand for a long length of time.

With an identical design to the GM3551, but with one less segment, I’d say this is the perfect sports or bird photographer monopod. If you aren’t going to be shooting with big gun prime lenses then GM3551 makes more practical sense.However, I think this is one of those investments that you’d make and never need to revisit again.

If I had the spare cash to buy a new monopod today, this would be it.

Manfrotto 681B – The Budget Solution for Non-Pro Gear

Manfrotto 681B
Manfrotto 681B

Honestly the best thing I can say about this monopod is that it is inexpensive, but also keep in mind that you get what you pay for. In this case you end up with a 1.7 lb (0.77 kg) monopod that feels just as heavy in your hand as the GM5541, yet it can only handle a measly 26.5 lbs (12 kg). However the part that bugs me the most is that it uses the crappy Manfrotto flip levers that break easily if the goons at the airlines ever handle your gear.

What I disliked the most about this monopod was that it only has 3 sections so its folded length was the longest of all models tested at 26.4” (67 cm), yet its maximum height of 63.8” (162 cm) was the same as the Slik and the GT5541.

I wasn’t a big fan of the hand strap on this one, so my advice is for readers to steer away from this model. If you are really on a tight budget, I’d probably take a look at the Induro CM34 as an option to consider as I’ve found their carbon fiber tripods to be a much solution than a Manfrotto product and the Slik unit in this article.

Slik 350 – The Point & Shoot Photographers Solution

Mouse over to see extended, mouse out to see collapsed
Slik 350

Let me be clear when I say that I do not recommend this for any DSLR shooter. I consider this to be a great choice for point and shoot cameras (including mirrorless and micro four third cameras). While the flip levers drive me nuts due to their fragile design, it’s hard to beat the value of this unit over the carbon fiber twist lock design of the 382 that doesn’t really support any more weight than this one.

Slik 350

This is a simple 4 section design that extends to 63” (160 cm) yet it was the shortest folded unit (20.5”) in this test. It was also the lightest at 0.65 lbs which makes sense given its 11.02 lb (4998 gr) load.

I really enjoyed using it with my point and shoot for shots like this that probably would have totally failed had I tried entirely freehand:


Multiple-Exposure Pano (in-camera stitching) taken with a Fujifilm X10 on a Slik 350 monopod

Click here to learn more about the Slik 350 on B&H’s website.

What about heads?

Simply put, I don’t recommend using a head on a monopod. If you have really big glass you might consider a gimbal head, but honestly I’d rather use that on a tripod. I’ve tried various ball heads and other solutions and I simply didn’t care for them. If I need a different angle I just tilt the monopod to get the angle I need and shoot.

Conclusion

Just like with tripods, Gitzo offers a great selection of products but for a painful price. I know Gitzo is distributed by Manfrotto in the US, but they are entirely different build quality (it’s like comparing a Fiat to a Ferrari).

Monopods are certainly a place where you can cut corners in the never ending photography gear spending. However, I recommend all DSLR photographers consider a wise investment in a monopod that can support at least 30 lbs (13.6 kg) and can extend to 63 inches (160 cm). I also advise a twist lock design and a traditional design over the failure prone automatic gimmick design. This means for those units featured here, my best overall solution has to be the GM3551 unless you’ll be shooting with big heavy primes (5 lbs+) in which case you’d be wise to get the GM5541.

If you are really on a tight budget, I’d probably take a look at the Induro CM34 as an option to consider as I’ve found their carbon fiber tripods to be a much solution than a Manfrotto product and the Slik unit in this article.

Disclosure

I worked closely with B&H for recommendations based on the advice of their monopod experts and sales history. My goal was to have popular monopods with different price points and configurations. If you make a purchase using links in this article, I may get 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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, Canon s100 Real World Video Test


Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, Canon s100 Real World Video Test 1 – Camera Setup

NOTE: This is part of my Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 comparison articles. I highly recommend you enjoy this link before or after reading this article.

How many times have you looked at a video samples online of camera that you were considering buying, only to discover that the quality when you used it sucked? The reason why I think this happens is that reviewers don’t want to embarrass themselves by showing real-world video, but rather they’ll shoot video in ideal conditions and in some cases even post-process their videos to give you the image you want to see – not what you’ll really see. Well I hate those kind of reviews because I always feel so let down when I try the product myself and get crappy results. As a result I decided to sacrifice my perception as a photographer by shooting video in the EXACT conditions I would for real-life family events in my home.

It’s much like my Let the eyes tell the story notebook entry where I show how $12k+ worth of equipment can still give you a muddy looking shot if you don’t take time to process the photo. These videos can probably be cleaned up and of course you can always use manual settings to improve the results, but this is real world out of the box experience stuff here, so I hope you enjoy it!

Methodology

I lined all three cameras up in the same spot and had my wife start them all at roughly the same time so that there would be no advantage to one camera over another. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions based on what you see, but I know which camera I’d trust for my real-world family videos.

Since I didn’t have three tripods (anymore :)), I used my Gary Fong Flip Cage for the s100 and V1. For the X10 I used my tripod simply because the other cameras were already on the flip cages from my previous work. Before conspiracy theorists flip out, all three cameras demonstrated excellent stability during the video so this variable shouldn’t have any impact on the outcome.

In real life I wouldn’t use any support for video as I am no videographer – I’m just a point and record consumer when it comes to video. However, to reduce controversy I set up all cameras on stable support and pointed them to roughly the same spot (all three have different zoom lenses and crop factors, so this is an approximation).

This is not a test of video stability, my cinematography skills, or the level of the camera – this is a ballpark estimation of a real world usage. In fact on Christmas day I shot from both spots featured in these videos, so I consider this to be a real world scenario in my household.

Test 1 – Mixed Lighting in Dark Room


Natural window light from the left, tungsten back light and mixed light on the subject
with a shadow of the tree – it doesn’t get much worse than this

For this my goal was pretty much show the worst real-world scenario I’d likely get in real life to see how each of these cameras performed. I hate shooting anything in this room, but it’s the best place for the Christmas tree so I’m fighting all odds in here all the time. The tall cathedral ceilings don’t help either as little light gets reflected back down on the subjects.

All cameras were at maximum video resolution with factory default settings. Here’s the results in alphabetical order:

Canon s100


Play in HD

The Canon s100 did a reasonable job with the exposure, but it is still a bit on the dark side (although not as much as the Nikon V1).  The white balance feels a bit cold on me, but perfect on the background. The focus and depth of field were rock solid. I’d say that it got the job done reasonably well – especially given its cost compared to the other cameras.

Fujifilm X10


Play in HD

The Fuji X10’s light meter nailed this exposure to produce the best overall result, but the AF system was a bit off. There seems to be more of a shallow depth of a field on this video as well.

Nikon 1 V1 


Play in HD

The Nikon V1 did the best job of autofocusing and the image is pretty good, but the light meter sucks so it is way under exposed. I was also unimpressed with the auto white balance.

For reference, 10-30mm lens was used in this and the next video.

Test 2


Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, Canon s100 Real World Video Test 2 – Camera Setup


Good natural light was available for test 2

For this video I gave the cameras a little more help by facing myself towards a window that allows ample natural light through the window. It was about 4:00 PM in December in Seattle on a typical overcast day, so the light is diffused very evenly. The temperature is a bit cool, but easy for Auto White Balance (AWB) to do its job.

Canon s100


Play in HD

This video shows the lack of dynamic range of the s100 as the dark colors on me and the shades of green on the dinosaur get rather muddied. The white balance is reasonable, the audio is decent, and depth of field is good. I felt like the autofocus was bang on.

Fujifilm X10


Play in HD

The excellent dynamic range of the X10 really shines here. You can see that my shirt is a darker gray and that my jeans are dark blue. The full range of colors on the dinosaur are present and the auto white balance is excellent. I felt the autofocus and depth of field were much better in this video and the sound is acceptable for a point and shoot camera. The reds are rendered very well on the toys in the foreground as well.

Nikon 1 V1


Play in HD

Again the Nikon meter just misses its mark. The image quality and noise level is excellent. I can tell that the dynamic range of the foreground toy is very good, but it’s hard to tell farther back as the underexposure muddies everything.

A word about video editing software

I’d like to point out that all three camera companies have not stepped up to deliver a usable video editing solution for these cameras. Even simple tasks like clipping off a little of the video on the beginning or end is easier done on YouTube than with their bundled software. As a result if you are going to be doing anything serious with video you’ll need to invest in a better solution or rely on software bundled with your operating system. Thus far Adobe Premiere Elements 10 has been the easiest to use product that I’ve used for simple editing, and video is one area where the Mac is clearly the preferred platform for the video editing experience. I’ve been very disappointed with Final Cut Express and the full version of Adobe Premiere, and I have yet to try Vegas.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, I think it is easy for you to reach your own conclusions on this one. This isn’t rocket science – it’s just record, upload to YouTube, and play the results. I should also note that the HD results on YouTube are a fair representation of what I see from the originally captured videos.

NOTE: This is part of my Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 comparison articles. I highly recommend you enjoy this link before or after reading this article.

Disclaimer

I’d like to thank B&H for loaning me the cameras for this review. The Nikon and Canon cameras were returned after this review and I purchased the X10 for my personal use. I may get a commission if you make purchases using the 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.

REVIEW: Nikon 1 V1 with 10mm, 10-30mm, and 10-100mm Lenses (UPDATED: 12/28/11)

Nikon V1 with 10mm, 10-30mm and 10-100mm lenses
Nikon 1 V1 shown with 10mm, 10-30mm and 10-100mm interchangeable lenses

Nikon caused quite a stir at the PhotoPlus Expo in October 2011 with the release of the Nikon 1 Mirrorless camera. It also caused quite a bit of confusion with the J1 and V1 models as consumers weren’t initially sure which model was the right one for them (pun intended). In this article I’ll dive into these topics and more to help you understand my personal opinion of this camera after using it for about 2 months.

J1 vs. V1


The J1 is the version that comes in sexy colors

The J1 model is the dumbed down version of the Nikon 1 cameras. It features sexy colors and a slightly smaller size (including a much lower resolution rear display), but sensor-wise is identical to its V1 sibling.Both cameras use the CX mount so you can mix and match lenses between both the V1 and J1 as you see fit (which can be handy for the his & hers scenarios).

For my review I avoided the dumbed down J1 as I was very unimpressed with it when I first used it at the PhotoPlus Expo in October 2011.

My advice to all readers is that if you are considering a Nikon 1 camera, then go for the V1. It’s build quality, display quality and features all make it a better value than its cheaper sibling (despite the additional cost).

Features

This camera sounds kind a neat on paper. It has a motion snapshot feature where it takes a short video clip with your choice of theme music. In my testing this feature played the audio in-camera, but when playing it back on the computer the audio track was absent.

This camera also has a best shot mode where you press the shutter button once and it will take a burst of shots. In-camera the camera selects the best one, but on the computer (including in Capture NX2) all the images are shown so you must do your image pruning in-camera or this feature is useless.

One nice feature Nikon touts about this camera is that you can take a photo while you are shooting video without interrupting the video. This isn’t something that I normally do so I did not test this feature in-depth.

One very useful feature is the hi-speed electronic shutter. In this mode the camera blasts up to 60fps. Of course this is really just a video that has been broken apart into still images, so most cameras that support video can get the same result simply by extracting single frames from the video. This feature makes this camera sound like a speed demon, but the reality is that this feature is a bit of marketing smoke and mirrors. The real burst mode at full resolution isn’t that impressive at 5fps.

The Nikon 1 V1 has a 2.7x crop factor (versus a 4x for the Fujifilm Finepix X10, and a 1.5x for the Fujifilm Finepix X100). This means that in theory it should have higher resolution image files, but in practice I didn’t find this to be the case.

The Interchangeable Lenses

One advantage of the Nikon 1 V1 over the point and shoots I’ve compared recently is that it offers interchangeable lenses. Here are some photos that show the lenses I tested installed on the Nikon 1 V1 which is attached to a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro:

Nikon V1 10mm f/2.8 CX Format Lens
Nikon V1 10mm f/2.8 CX Format Lens
Shown on a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro

10mm f/2.8 CX Format Lens was a great performer in my testing, but its lack of zoom made it difficult to keep on the camera. However, if you want good images out of this camera this is the lens you should be using. Of course, at this price point the Fujifilm X100 makes a lot more sense. If you are going to be stuck with a 10mm fixed length lens – at least the X100 camera takes amazing quality shots. The x100 also nails the shot once you get a focus lock (which can be tricky indoors sometimes).


Nikon V1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 CX Format Lens
Shown on a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro

If you have this lens in your line up then it will be the one you’ll keep on your camera most often. However, the problem with that is that this lens disappointed me more often than it made me sing its praises. While I wouldn’t call it a horrible lens, I would say that its image quality is below the quality of your average entry level DSLR kit lens. If you can accept that quality, then you are rewarded with a nice compact zoom with a reasonable range for typical daily shooting.

Nikon V1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Lens for CX Format
Nikon V1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Lens for CX Format
Shown on a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro

I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy this lens. Simply put, I think it sucks. The image quality is poor and its freakin huge. Now huge lenses with great image quality like the 70-200 from Nikon are worth the extra weight, but that is not the case here. This beast gives you dull, dark images that look like they were from a really cheap kit lens. Zoom is also done via a motorized zoom on the lens which is slow as molasses (no manual twist zoom is possible).

Living with the Nikon 1 V1

My biggest gripe about this camera is that manual mode is about the only way to get a good sharp shot indoors. It frequently would take images that seemed okay when looking at the wonderful rear LCD, but when evaluating them on the computer most were typically blurry. As a result, of the 24 images I took of my model only the following two were usable:

Click for original
Unprocessed In-Camera JPEG using Nikon
V1 10mm f/2.8 CX Format Lens
Aperture Priority f/5.6 1/25 sec Auto ISO (800)
Lens Distortion and working distance at 10mm was not pleasant

Click for original
Nikon V1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 CX Format Lens
Aperture Priority f/5.6 1/30 sec Auto ISO (640)

These shots were taken under identical conditions and at the same time as those featured in my X10 and s100 reviews.The V1 even had the advantage of having two lenses used during the testing so it had twice the chance to get great results, but it failed. I did not photograph this model with the 10-100mm due to time restraints (I had to do a real shoot afterwards).

Not only were the images darker than the point and shoot counterparts, they were blurry and generally unimpressive. Now I should have shot the 10mm fixed lens at 2.8, but this was the third camera I shot with so at the time I was trying to choose an aperture that would work for a side-by-side comparison on all three cameras I was testing. In retrospect I’d probably do things differently now, but there’s still no escaping the fact that the camera’s auto ISO didn’t choose a value that was sufficient enough to get me the shutter speed needed to photograph this model who I instructed to be perfectly still for each frame.

Of my casual testing where my wife or I used this camera as I would our G12, we had 95% of the shots come out unacceptably blurry. Fortunately for events like Thanksgiving we had multiple cameras so the event wasn’t lost, but if I was a V1 owner I would have returned it to B&H after the Thanksgiving failure. To be fair, I treated this camera like the point and shoots so I stuck with full auto or aperture priority most of the time. What I learned about this camera in my testing is that those modes can’t be trusted and it is really a camera that requires full manual. When you review the shutter speeds and ISO the camera chose it frequently was just way off. Perhaps a firmware update will address this problem, but I’d have to rate this camera as unacceptable for this reason.

When photographing my 2 1/2 year old toddler, this camera failed miserably every time. This was primarily due to the camera always choosing slow shutter speeds and it having a slow burst mode. During my testing I did not get a single shot worth keeping, despite this camera’s seemingly fast auto-focus system. Getting the focus quickly is only useful if you are in manual or if the camera choosing a reasonable shutter speed, but that didn’t happen in real world testing even in good lighting conditions.

The lack of a built-in flash is troublesome, but the problem is compounded by the fact that in most real-world scenarios you need great glass to give you the light you need. In the case of the V1, the lenses appear to be very substandard. However, that’s not all – the auto ISO feature tends to be too low, so even manual shooters will have to rely on manual ISO settings to get the shot.

Beyond a really great rear LCD and cool design of this camera, there was little that I liked about it in real world use. In fact, in every outing I went out with this camera (and in some  cases others for side-by-side comparisons) I was always optimistic that I was getting great shots, but back at the computer most images had a greenish tint (via AWB); were blurry or soft when viewed at 100%; and underexposed by a couple stops. Despite reading the manual and making several trips out to shoot, I was always let down by this camera. In cases where this was the only camera I had, I was always left without a usable shot.

An Alternative To the Nikon Case

Nikon wants $60 for their case, but I found the BlackRapid SnapR 35 to be a brilliant choice with this camera. I’ll be reviewing this case later, but it’s basically a nice case with a built-in mini BlackRapid strap (see my RS-7 review) that is brilliant for point and shoot cameras. You can see above how there is room for this camera with plenty of extra space (although not enough for the beastly 10-100 lens. There’s also nice side-pocket storage as shown below to hold your 10mm lens as well as other goodies:

If you aren’t familiar with this case and its unique strap, then check out this cool short video. You can purchase it at B&H.

A Simple Portable Tripod

While reviewing this camera I got my hands on a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro, so I used it as my tripod when I was out and about. Given the slow shutter speed issues with this camera this accessory became a mandatory companion to get a good sharp shot. I normally wouldn’t discuss another product like this in a review, but given the slow shutter speed issues with this camera I felt compelled to offer a solution to this problem.

Sample Photos

Here are some unprocessed in-camera JPEG images taken with the V1 during my testing:


This is my favorite V1 shot that looks good mostly due to overhead Solux lights

I was so disappointed with my first two sets of photos that I decided to try again on 12/20/11 to just triple check that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I decided to mostly shoot in manual, but I did rely on the camera meter for the correct exposure. When using auto-ISO this resulted in dark photos.

I also decided to shoot more colorful objects and to use my Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro or a stationary object (i.e., railing, table, garbage can, etc…) wherever possible to reduce the influence of camera shake. In fact for all flip cage shots I used a 2 or 5 second timer depending on the stability of the surface (i.e., grass = 5 sec, concrete = 2 sec).


Using Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro


This has perfect lighting conditions, but the shot still left me underwhelmed


Spot Metering Example


ISO 6400

See a large sample of real-world test images (unedited and straight from the in-camera JPEG’s) at http://ronmart.smugmug.com/Blog/PointAndShoot/NikonV1

Video Performance

Click here to see my video comparison article.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that I am a Canon DSLR shooter, I loved the Nikon D7000. I’d love to own a D3s as well, but like many I just can’t afford it. I mention all of this to point out that I’m not a Canon fan boy, but rather that’s just where I invested my money years ago and its too expensive to swap platforms now. With that disclaimer I’m going to buck the trend of photographers gushing over this camera and say that I flat out do not like this camera.

My dislike for this camera starts with simple economics – you can get a nice D3000 with better sensor (1.5x crop vs 2.7x on the V1), features and image quality for about $500, yet the cheapest you are getting one of these is just under $900. What’s worse is that you are committing yourself to the unproven CX Format lens system with much less choices than full DSLR’s from Canon and Nikon.

My second biggest dislike of this camera is the very poor control layout scheme. While it can be manageable after you’ve deciphered it, I really despise having to navigate a web of complex menus to do things like change my camera mode.

Now all of these gripes could be forgiven if this was a great point and shoot camera with interchangeable lenses, but alas it is not. Instead you have a camera with no built-in flash (and an impossible back order for getting an external one). What’s more is that you can’t even have a flash if you want the GPS unit – a feature common in point and shoots these days.

As a result of all of this you end up with a camera that cost more than DSLR yet isn’t as flexible or as good as a much cheaper point and shoot. This begs the question – who is this quirky camera really intended for? It will frustrate the hell out of the DSLR photographer and be utterly useless to the point and shoot photographer, so you end up with an over-priced camera in the middle of both markets that does neither very well.

If Santa gave you one for Christmas then enjoy the cool display and video, but if he also included the gift receipt I’d say send it back. I’ve had more dark, off-color and blurry images with this camera than any I have ever tested. The problems begin with a horrible auto white balance, followed by a terrible auto ISO logic that hurts manual shooters as well. The brightness of the glass plays a big factor too, and these lenses are closer to old Sigma and Tokina lenses than they are Nikon lenses.

There’s a lot more great products to be had for this price point, so it makes even less sense than a Fujifilm X100 in my opinion. I chose the X10 as my camera and my point and shoot of the year for 2011, and after using the Nikon 1 V1, I’m so glad I did! 

If you want a DSLR, check out my Which DSLR Should I Buy? article, and get a proper DSLR. If you want a point and shoot, then check out my article entitled COMPARISON: Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95). However, I have to give this camera a NOT RECOMMENDED rating based primarily on its poor value and limitations at this price point.

Disclaimer

B&H provided me with a loaner camera and lenses for the purpose of writing this review. These items were returned to B&H at the conclusion of my comparison research. I was also provided a SnapR by BlackRapid and a Flip-Cage Pro by Gary Fong, Inc for review.

I may make a commission if you purchase using links found 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!

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REVIEW: Fujifilm X10 – 2011 Point & Shoot of the Year (UPDATED: 12/28/11)


Fujifilm x10 (Actual Size)

When I reviewed the Fujifilm X100, I really loved the image quality and a few of the features. However, the price was obscene, the focus indoors was a joke, and the single fixed lens was ludacris. Despite this reality I was somehow drawn to keep using it as there was something about it that made photography so fun. I hated sending that camera back to B&H, but I had high hopes that the X10 would be more user-friendly and similar in image quality. Now logically I thought that wouldn’t be possible because if the image quality of the X10 was even similar to the X100, then why would anyone buy the X100?

Living with the X10


f/2 for 1/150 sec @ ISO 800 EXR Auto Mode

I haven’t been this excited about using a camera since I got my first DSLR. The great image quality and wonderful EXR, Adv, and SP modes do such a great job that I began to trust them enough to really just point and shoot. I felt confident that the white balance would be close enough to fix even with an in-camera JPEG, that the dynamic range would be excellent, and the noise would be satisfactory even at ISO 3200. As a result, I found myself tinkering around shooting everything in sight – even stupid things just because it was fun to see what the camera would do. However, what really impressed me during all of this was the number of in-focus frames I had! This camera’s AF logic and performance is excellent so I just got clear shot after clear shot which gave me time to experiment more and get drawn further in to the magic of this camera.

No other point and shoot camera has been happier in my hands than the X10, and that even includes the Canon G12, Canon Powershot s100 and the Nikon 1 V1. I just got addicted to this camera and wanted to take it with me whenever I went anywhere. In fact, there were a few times where I probably should have brought out the DSLR but I chose to use the X10 because I knew I could quickly get the shot and move on.


f/2.2 for 1/60 sec at ISO 1600 (11.7mm) – In Camera JPEG – Full Auto
The x10 was a hit at Thanksgiving with my guests
and represented 84% of the keeper shots

I have let several people, including my wife and a novice point and shoot photographer, use the X10, and everyone loves using it. Unlike the X100, it is pretty easy figure out what most of the controls do, and quickly start having success shooting. In fact, I had all four cameras from my point and shoot comparison article on the table for Thanksgiving dinner and 21 of the 25 keeper photos all came from the X10 (with everyone taking turns with all of the cameras).

This camera has a solid feel that makes it feel closer to an X100 than it does a typical point and shoot, which is a bit different than what I experience with the unit I held at the PhotoPlus Expo. Users immediately comment that this must be an expensive camera due to the solid feel. At 12.3 oz (349 g) it isn’t light (it’s 2x the weight of the Canon s100), but it 2 oz (56 g) lighter than a x100. Ironically it is almost identical to the weight of a Canon G12 (12.4 oz / 352 g), so I didn’t really have an issue with the size.

Model Test

Mouse over to 400 ISO, mouse out to 1250 ISO 
f/2.5 for 1/150 sec at ISO 1250 Aperture Priority – In-Camera JPEG AWB
(Hover Over for 2nd image - f/2.5 for 1/50 sec at ISO 400 AWB)

Despite the fact that I shot at the same exact time under ideal studio conditions as the other cameras I’ve tested, the X10 was the easy winner with all of its shots in-focus and sharp. Aperture Priority with Auto ISO worked very well. Hover over the photo above to see a lower ISO shot and mouse out and click it to see a high ISO shot version.

Battery,  Lens Cap, and Camera Strap Disappointments

The battery was one disappointment as I found that I would need an extra battery to be on the safe side for a full day of casual travel shooting, but at $32.95 (on 12/1/11 at B&H)  it wasn’t as expensive as the s100’s batteries. I also hated the fact that there is a separate lens cap. While the quality of the lens cap is outstanding (felt-like interior & metal exterior), the fact that it isn’t integrated like the G12 or at least permanently tethered was a disappointment. While I’m used to lens caps with DSLR’s, their thin size make them easy to slide in my back pocket and keep shooting. The size of the lens cap for this camera made me put it in my front pocket, but because of the felt interior I’d usually set it down somewhere and lose it.

One final gripe I have is about the camera strap. It’s a bit cumbersome to put on and the leather-like material doesn’t feel very comfortable on the neck. I’d rather a traditional point and shoot wrist strap.

Photographing Children


You can get lucky indoors, but kids are still a huge challenge at night

I have a very active 2 1/2 year old son who I let get amped up on birthday cake and run around the house at night while I tried to photograph him. While the burst mode was much better than the s100 and G12, it still struggled to get a clear shot of him in these difficult conditions. Best results required the use of Shutter Priority and 3200 ISO, but the camera’s auto modes seemed to favor being at the ISO 1600 – 2000 range which resulted in shutter speeds of  1/70 sec or less – (far below the minimum 1/250 sec or faster required for my son). It would bang out enough shots where you’d occasionally get lucky though, so the success rate was significantly better than any other point and shoot I’ve used before.


Grandma’s during the day are no problem ;-)

Naturally during the day or even better outdoors on a bright day, kids aren’t an issue – it can keep up quite well.

Viewfinder has great glass, but 85% coverage is a joke

While the X10 only uses an optical viewfinder (with adjustable diopter) compared to the crazy cool hybrid viewfinder found on the X100, the quality is very good – especially for this price point. It’s a little odd in that its location causes you to see the lens barrel from 28mm until 50mm. At 50mm the distraction goes away and its similar to your average entry level DSLR. The problem is that what you see is only 85% (at best) of what your sensor sees, so in practice the actual image taken is not even close to what you saw in the viewfinder. Now some will call this “rangefinder charm”, but I call it crap. Personally I prefer to use the LCD for focusing on any camera of this size, so I didn’t really give a hoot about the viewfinder issue.

The Flash

The built-in flash is near useless like most point and shoots. What’s worse is the fact that flash exposure compensation can only be accessed via a long voyage through the menus makes it even more useless. However, there is a hot shoe for an external flash (EF42 or EF20) which opens up the possibility for a better flash experience. I didn’t have a chance to try the external flash during my testing though.

Image Quality


f/2 for 1/120 sec at ISO 800 Handheld Flower SP Mode

I’m pleased to say that in my subjective testing, I find the image quality of the X10 to be visually similar in real-world applications. Pixel peeping will put the X100 ahead, but not by a significant amount. Given the fact that the X100 was nearly tied with the Canon 1D Mark IV for image quality (click here), I couldn’t believe my eyes that the X10 was nearly as good.

Super Macro Mode

The minimum focus distance of this camera is insane. See the shot above for “super macro mode” where I got the shot of the s100 control dial (which was a crappy shot in poor light), and below shows where the lens was in relation to the subject for this shot.


1D Mark IV shot showing the minimum focus distance
of the X10 in super macro mode

Controls


Most of what you need is on the nicely designed rear panel (Actual Size)

The rear panel design is very nice. The LCD image quality is excellent and plenty large. The buttons included are useful, but I’d rather have the “RAW” button be a programmable button so that I could assign it something more useful like flash exposure compensation. There is a  assignable Fn button on the top of the camera (which I frequently forgot about), but it doesn’t allow flash exposure compensation to be assigned. I felt that was pretty lame, especially since you could assign silly things like intelligent digital zoom (at least in firmware version 1.02).

The controls on the top are nice as well, but the blunder of the year goes to the stupid design that requires you to zoom the lens out to turn the camera on. At first I thought it was kinda neat and cute, but myself and others who I gave the camera to always struggled to remember to rotate the lens to turn it on. Fortunately my blog reader, Joshua Patterson, pointed out that you don’t have to remove the lens cap and rotate the lens just to turn the camera. All you need to do is hold the Play button for a few seconds and the rear LCD will turn on for photo playback.

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after 
Overhead View (Actual Size)
Notice the lame on/off switch on the lens
Extend the lens to turn the camera on, and retract to turn it off

The menu system is a little bit confusing and cumbersome to use, but it’s usable. I’d rather a design closer to what Canon offers, but there’s lots of good user-configurable options that can typically be found reasonably fast. A favorites menu would be handy to have as well.

On the mode dial on the top of the camera are three very useful modes – EXR, Advanced (Adv) and Scene Position (SP). All three are brilliant on this camera and are worth trying. While you do lose some control and there is no RAW support for these modes, the output images are typically good enough to call it a day for personal memento snapshots.

UPDATE: Since this is now my full-time point and shoot camera, I have used it for Thanksgiving, a trip to Hawaii and Christmas (including shooting outdoor Christmas lights). I’ve become so satisfied with the in-camera JPEG results for my snapshots that I’ve spent most of my time using this camera in EXR (Auto) for general purpose, Adv (Pano or Low-Light) for killer panos and tough low-light situations, and SP for fast great results (i.e., beach, sunset, night, etc…). My wife loves this camera and really trusts it to get results, and I’ve been leaving my DSLR at home more for simple family activities. In fact, this Christmas I shot all of my photos with the X10 and never even picked up my DSLR (first time since 2006).

The exposure of this camera is always bang on so I rarely find myself needing anything more than the exposure compensation wheel (rarely) when I’m set to Auto ISO (3200). The face tracking AF has been solid, but I prefer the manual AF point for non-people scenarios. This cameras controls and performance are great enough that it is truly a point and shoot that just gets it right 95% of the time. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to use!

Sample Images

Click here to find more A LOT more sample images along with their originals (when on smugmug click the photo to open the lightbox and choose O to view originals).


In-Camera 120 degree (180, & 360 also avail) pano – unmodified from in-camera result
(must be viewed at original size and use browser horizontal scrollbars)

SP Mode – Sunset Setting – Point and Click (with food in my hands!!!!)


Super Macro Mode Rules!


I wish my Canon cameras had this light meter!


Lights are hard but a monopod and –3ev help!


Fill Flash was good for P&S


I still can’t believe this 180 degree pano came out!!!!


Auto White Balance was better than this Tungsten version,
but the dynamic range is insane!


No, this isn’t HDR, this is EXR in Auto mode – DSLR’s would struggle here!

Sample Video

Click here to see my video comparison article. Here’s a couple more examples:


High Speed Slow Motion Video (Hand Held)
 

1080p Video (Hand Held)

Conclusion

This is the best point and shoot I’ve ever used. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve actually purchased my evaluation unit. I’ve also awarded it my first ever Point and Shoot of the Year (2011) award as this is the pointing and shoot that really does allow you to leave the DSLR at home.

Due to time constraints, I was unable to finish this article at this time. However, I have decided to share what I have in the spirit of holiday shopping.

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).

Click here to order the X10 from B&H, Amazon or  Adorama.

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 this cameras, but I decided to purchase it so they are giving me a discount for this used camera.

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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!

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