Sunday, November 25, 2012

GUEST BLOG: My Favorite Photography Holiday Gift Ideas by Ernie Atkins

One of my blog readers, Erine Atkins, has been kind enough to fill in for me while I am busy on a photography assignment. In this article, he shares some of his favorite holiday gift ideas for the photographer in your household. I hope you enjoy it!

Ron

Camera bodies

I’d like to give you some guidance on camera body options.

Canon PowerShot Elph 110 HS

Everyone is familiar with point & shoot cameras. They are ubiquitous for a few reasons. They are compact & easy to carry, the lowest price and the easiest to use - just point & shoot!

However they do have some drawbacks that we're sure you've experienced. They are too slow when trying to capture action or candid photos. Shutter lag is the time between pushing the shutter and capturing the photo. With P&S cameras you often "miss the moment" while the camera focuses. This shutter lag is especially noticeable in low light situations. While the camera "hunts" for focus you've lost that candid moment or million dollar smile/expression.

Rest assured, P&S images have improved tremendously and can be stunning in the right light/situation. But P&S cameras are rapidly losing market share due to the explosion of camera phones. There are high end P&S alternatives (Canon G-series, Fuji X100, etc) that offer better control and image quality than today's camera phone. You'll pay a premium .... and get what you pay for - a better, more capable camera.

Sony NEX-5N

Micro four-thirds cameras offer a very significant step up from P&S cameras.  These mirrorless cameras are more compact than their big brother - the digital single lens reflex (DSLR). What does mirrorless mean? Nothing more than they don’t allow a direct look through the lens (TTL). On the other hand, they do accommodate interchangeable lenses - the hallmark of DSLR cameras. Micro 4/3 sensors are much larger than those found in P&S cameras - that's a very good thing - but not quite as large as DSLRs. Those of you that have followed our blog may recall that we bought a micro 4/3 camera from Sony - the NEX-5N - to use as our walk around camera. We love it and have raved about its image quality. However, there are many DSLR "features" that we miss when we use it.

That said, we still consider micro 4/3's a terrific option for the budding enthusiast on a budget. Olympus and Sony are key players in this market. Canon and Nikon have also begun to offer micro 4/3's cameras. Your options are growing. It may very well be the correct choice for your loved one - that post will help you decide.

Canon 5D Mark III

DSLRs are the top of the line camera choice in the consumer marketplace. The big players, Canon & Nikon, are sure to have a DSLR that fits within in your budget and your loved one's needs. Entry-level prices start at ~$500 for camera and "camera kit" lens. Pro level cameras begin at $3,500 - without a lens. There are multiple price/performance levels in between. The best news is this - you won't go wrong buying a DSLR. With so many options the question to answer is - "How do you decide on which to buy?". We'll address that in detail in next week's post so if you're considering a DSLR (as a gift giver or gift recipient) be sure to check back. We'll pose some questions that will help you decide which DSLR will meet your needs within your budget.

Of course, a camera body is only one potential gift category for your photo enthusiast. If you bought them a camera last XMAS they need accessories this year. What are your options? Don't fret - there's no end to useful and relatively inexpensive accessories.

For more info, check out Ron’s Which camera should I buy? article.

Lens Considerations

Click to read Ron's Which Lens Should I Buy Article

If your loved one has a DSLR or micro 4/3 camera then the most obvious accessory is a new lens. I mentioned "kit" lenses earlier. An upgrade from a kit lens to a pro-quality piece of glass (photo lingo for lens - use it at the store and note the reaction) will improve the image quality more than any other accessory. Colors will be more accurate and vibrant, image contrast will be improved. Your loved one will see the difference immediately. I exclusively use pro-level lenses. Size matters in photography - fast glass is much larger in diameter. However, fast glass will cost much more. Don't fret - there may be no need to buy that expensive f/2.8 lens.

For more info, check out Ron’s Which lens should I buy? article.

Tripods

Gitzo GT3530LS, Silk 700DX, Gitzo GT2531EX & GT1541 Tripods

OK  so let's explore a few more ideas.

Is your loved one a landscape or macro photography enthusiast? If so then you should definitely consider a tripod. Maybe you worked a deal for a free tripod when you bought the new DSLR. Buyer beware - you get what you pay for. A new, moderately priced tripod is a great gift idea for any landscape, low-light or macro photographer.  It is a gift that will keep giving and will enable her/him to take their photography "to the next level".

There are several options available; as we mentioned before you get what you pay for. We use Manfrotto tripods and are very happy with them. Gitzo makes terrific, high-end (pricey) tripods while Induro has a great line of moderately priced, light weight tripods for those photographers that get around. You won't go wrong with any of these suppliers.

For more information, check out Ron’s What tripod Should I Buy? (includes heads & monopods) article.

Click here to check out Ron's 600EX-RT Article

External Flash

If you bought a DSLR last year you may want to consider buying a supplemental flash (Speedlite) for the camera. The built in flash that is part of consumer DSLRs do not work that great. They create "deer in the headlight" photos with "red eye" thrown in to boot. Consider an external flash unit.

Canon’s 430EX II  is a great place to start and is a great place to start if you can’t afford the steep price of the 600EX-RT. The lower priced flashes like 270 EX II) aren't intended for DSLR’s, but they can be useful for Canon point and shoots with a hot shoe like the G15.  For Nikon users, the SB700 is similar to the Canon 430 EX II. Nikon's best of breed is the SB-910  but as with the Canon 580 EX II, the SB910 may be more than many can afford. As a result, the SB-700 may be a better choice for the budget conscious.

Filters

A good filter like a circular polarizer or neutral density filter is always a good idea. The inexpensive filter that is typically included with DSLR bundles should be trashed or replaced. It makes no sense to use a protective filter for our $2,000+ lenses. Our equipment insurance covers us and does not create the image artifacts (flare, loss of contrast) that an inexpensive UV/protection filter does. I do use a professional-grade polarizing filter for landscape photos. If your loved one enjoys landscape photography then this is the one filter we would recommend. Expect to pay ~$100+ for a good polarizer (depending on the lens size).

Ron Recommends Think Tank Photo Bags over LowePro and Tarmac

Camera Bags

One last idea - a good camera bag is invaluable. I know because like most photographers, I have several. Look for something that will carry all of the equipment and leave room for other "odds & ends". Comfort is a big factor as well. This is one gift that really needs to be "tried on" to ensure it "fits" the user. There are shoulder bags, backpacks, sling bags, waist packs, rolling cases .... the list goes on and on and I have one or more of each. Lowepro and Tamrac are name brands with multiple styles and options. Think Tank Photo offers pro quality bags and holsters that Ron highly recommends. If you live in a rainy climate be sure to check the weather proofing options.

Purchasing camera gear is never a simple task, but hopefully some of Ron’s articles and the articles on my site (Tuesday Photo Tips) will help you make a choice that is right for you. Better yet – be updated automatically when we post Photo Excursions, Road Trips, Family Happenings or Photo Tips by “friending” our Facebook site.

Disclosure

This article was provided by a guest blogger and modified by Ron for appropriateness for this blog. If you make a purchase using links in this article, I may make a commission.

The opinions of this article, it’s author, and it’s related site do not reflect the views of Ron Martinsen or ronmartblog.com.

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.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Photoshop Elements 11 Book for Digital Photographers

Have you got a copy of Photoshop Elements 11 (as little as $54.95 at B&H) instead of Photoshop and have been wishing there were some great books on how to use it? I’ve got my Which books should I read? article for photography and What Photoshop books should I read? for Photoshop, but nowhere do I ever mention anything about books for elements. Now that’s changed because my favorite photography book author, Scott Kelby, has brought his successful formula for writing books that people actually understand to Photoshop Elements. Well, truth be told he’s been doing it for a while but I never saw any of his past books and when I got this one from the publisher I thought – sweet, this is actually pretty good!

So, if you are one of the many who already know about these then this is just an update that he’s got a new version out and it seems great. If you haven’t heard of it, and own elements then this is definitely a book you’ll want to pick up. Scott’s famous for showing you how to get results right away, and that’s the case in this book.

Click here to buy it now on Amazon.

Hate reading and prefer videos? Then check out my review of Kelby Training and use the special discount coupon code that I have to save on the best online training on the planet.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. I was provided an unsolicited copy of this book from the publisher and thumbed through it before publishing this announcement. This is not a review, but I do like what I see and have read enough Kelby books to feel comfortable to recommend it.

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 23, 2012

Think Tank is offering free FedEx shipping

thinktank-336x280

Here’s a word from my favorite camera bag maker:

In appreciation of your continued support, Think Tank Photo is offering free FedEx Ground shipping to all U.S. destinations from November 21st through December 31st 2012.  If you have any questions, email them at customerservice@thinktankphoto.com or phone them at (866)558-4465 ext 1 and they'll be happy to help you find the right gear for the job. Their Customer Service team are all experienced photographers with a vast knowledge of camera support solutions and they don't work on commission. Let them find identify the right gear camera bags and accessories for your equipment and how you like to shoot, and ship it to you free!

City Walker Series - NEW
City Walker Series Rocks!

While you are on the site, check out the new City Walker Series – it’s like the Urban Disguise series but lighter and some really cool improvements. I’ll be reviewing them, but from what I see right now I think they are pretty cool

Click here to see all of my Think Tank Photo reviews and special offer. You can also scan the right hand column to see review links as well.

Disclaimer

If you make a purchase using links found on this blog, 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.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

B&H Hot Black Friday Deals–$500 off the Nikon D7000 and other screaming deals!!!!

WARNING: Most Deals End Saturday 11:59pm EASTERN TIME, but some continue through Cyber Monday – see each item for offer expiration details

Nikon D7000 DSLR Camera Kit with Nikon 18-105mm DX VR Lens

$500 Off! Was $1,499.95 Now $996.95 + Receive 2% Rewards

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Canon G12
Currently $429 Dropping to $299!

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Panasonic G3
Currently $399 Dropping to $299!

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Sony NEX5R
Currently $748 Dropping to $648!

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Lowepro  Pro Roller  Attache X50 Case

Originally $269.95 Instant Savings $190.00 Dropping to $79

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Lumix  DMC-LX7
Currently $429 Dropping to $299!

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera Black &  Silver

Currently $999 Dropping  to $949

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OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-50mm Lens

Currently $1299 Dropping to $1199

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Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Camera
Currently $499 Dropping to $399

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Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN Lens for Sony E Mount Cameras
Currently $199 Dropping to $149

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Memory Cards on Sale

CLICK HERE for some of the best memory card deals of the year

Other Goodies on Sale

Photography Gear, Scanners, Computers, Home Electronics, Pro Audio and more. Click the links on this page to learn more.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found on this blog, I may make a commission. Please help support this blog by using my links when you purchase – it doesn’t cost you any extra and it really helps me to get a priority on cool products to review in the future!

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 20, 2012

Topaz Labs 30% Off, Pro Insights & Webinar Info


Welcome Webinar & Pro Insights Visitors!


Topaz Labs Pro Insights with Ron Martinsen

On November 15th, I did a Pro Insights article for Topaz Labs that readers here might enjoy. Click the link above or the photo to see that article.

I also just finished my Topaz Labs Webinar to 758 people and they are offering a special 30% discount valid through 11/22/12 if you use the special coupon code:

ronweb1

Click here to see the products and use the code!

If you were in the market for some Topaz software anyway, here’s your chance to save a bit more!

My webinar will be archived soon on http://www.topazlabs.com/webinars/ if you want to watch the recording.

Here’s some of my Topaz Labs software reviews:

Here’s some other articles you might also enjoy:

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links or coupon codes found on this blog, 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.

Lots of Black Friday / Cyber Monday Deals

Pay attention to the right side of my blog for the latest updates in all of the crazy pre-Black Friday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals coming out from Adorama & B&H.

It seems every few minutes I’m getting something from them, so I’ll be updating those areas each day with the latest deals.

COMING SOON
Coming Soon!!!!

Come back on Friday for my special Holiday Shoppers Guide and latest hot deals!

Ron

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: Rogue Flash Gels - Color Correction Kit

Rogue Flash Gels - Color Correction Kit

The makers of the awesome Rogue Grid and Rogue Flashbenders have heard feedback from people like me who loved their Rogue Gels, but wished they had more of the gels we care about (color correcting) and less of the dazzling colors (which are fun, but not what you use everyday). The product is the ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Gels Color Correction Kit which contains 18 gels in 3 Sets of 6 Gels. Here’s the six LEE Filters UK gels that are included:

3x - 1/2 CTB (3200K to 4300K)
1/2 CTB

3x - Full CTO (6500K to 3200K)
Full CTO

3x - 1/2 CTO (6500K to 3800K)
1/2 CTO

3x - 1/4 CTO (6500K to 4600K)
1/4 CTO

3x - Plus Green (cc30 Green)
Plus Green

3x - Full White Diffusion (1 Stop)
Heavy Frost Diffusion

Why you should care about gels…

Many of my readers probably aren’t familiar with gels, so I’ll say up front that this isn’t a tutorial (although I hope to do one in the future). I will say that the reason why you use filters (also called gels) is primarily for correction so that you can do things like balance the color of the flash (using a CTO gel) with the tungsten lights in a room to create a consistent color that is easily white balanced across the image instead of a mixed color scenario (subject hit with the flash is one color, and the ambient background light is another color – which is near impossible to correct with white balance alone). Here’s an example:

Notice how the white of the text seems nice and white yet the background lights are very orange. This is an in-camera jpeg without any corrections (beyond cropping) to illustrate what you would get if you just fired your flash with no gel. Now, let’s see what happens when we use Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s White Balance tool and click on the text to get a white balance with the RAW file:

At first glance to the untrained eye you might think – wow, that’s much better – the orange cast is gone and all looks well. However, you should take note that the light under the cabinet in the background still has a strong orange tint to it.

Now let’s shoot the same shot with a full cut CTO gel (orange gel):

What you’ll notice now is that the background is really orange, but when we set the white balance on the raw by clicking the eyedropper on the white text look what happens:

Notice how the light in the background no longer has an orange tint anymore? Now mouse in and out of the image below to see the white balanced versions of the shots with and without the CTO gel to see what a difference this makes:

Mouse over to see CTO gel correction, mouse out to see Bare Flash
Mouse Over to see with CTO correction
Mouse Out to see Bare Flash

Notice how much better the CTO gel corrected version looks? This is even more noticeable when you use people as subjects in a large room with tungsten lights.

Here’s what you get…

At the heart of the Rogue Lighting Filters for flashes is this new Rogue Gel-Band which also comes in threes (which especially handy if you are using three flashes at one time that need color correction). It’s special an elastic band that is designed to hold the specially cut gels onto any size flash head as shown at the top of the article. Here’s picture of the kit with the three gel bands:

Conclusion

I take my Rogue Gel kit with me everywhere, but I’ve feared losing a gel since I don’t have duplicates. The nice pouch and dividers make it easy for me to keep track of them, but the stress of not having backups has bothered me. That issue has been resolved as the only ones I really use 99% of the time are the color correcting gels. I can now leave my creative gels in my bag for when they are needed, but my color correction kit will be front and center for my jobs.

I know some argue that with a sheet of gels that you cut yourself and a rubber band you can do the same thing, but look at the comments on my Rogue Gel review. A pro photographer who poo poo’d this product quickly became an evangelist for the product after taking my advice to try them out.

As photographers we typically have a lot of stuff to keep track of and few of us are super organized, so being able to find your gels quickly and have a place to put them when your done really does help. These are high quality LEE filters and any pro photographer will easily pay for them in the first 10 minutes of any job they where they are used. Times are tough, but these things are definitely worth the money and this new color correction kit gives you exactly what you need – nothing more.

Oh, and send this link to your spouse as these and other Rogue products make excellent stocking stuffers!

Special Offer

ExpoImaging Store - Redeem Discount Coupon
NOTE: You MUST provide your credit card info before the Redeem button will work!

My blog already has a discount coupon code in place for existing ExpoImaging products like the Rogue Flashbenders, Rogue Grid, ExpoDisc, and RayFlash, but I’m pleased to announce now that you can also save 15% when you use the coupon code ronmart09 to order your gels.

Codes change so check the discount coupon code page for the latest code if this code doesn’t work.

You can also purchase Rogue products from B&H, Adorama, and Amazon.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy

Disclaimer

I was provided a copy of the Rogue Filters to test at no obligation from ExpoImaging. I may get a commission if you purchase this product via Rogue or my other partners.

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 19, 2012

Nik Software Purchases Now Eligible for 15% Discount Worldwide

This article has moved. Please go here:

Nik Complete Collection by Google
now only $149 ($126.65 with coupon code)

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.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Honest New Yorkers–iPhone returned 19 days after being lost at Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds New York City - Ron Martinsen and George Clooney
Madame Tussauds New York City - Ron Martinsen and George Clooney

As some of you may have noticed either here, on Twitter or Facebook, I was in a panic on October 25th when I lost my iPhone 4s on my trip to PhotoPlus Expo’s after party at Madame Tussauds in New York. Just before the above shot was taken of me with George Clooney I had done something incredibly stupid and put my phone on top of a friends jacket so I could get my picture taken. You can barely see it here in one of my friends photos:

Kids, don't do something this stupid
iPhone on jacket – never do something this stupid!

Everyone’s best guess is that that when the jacket was picked up my phone fell into the planter unbeknownst to all of us. About 5 minutes later I realized my phone was missing, but I had no idea where it had gone. I thought maybe I had left it with George, but these photo prove that wasn’t the case. Sadly, despite an impressive effort by the security team at Madame Tussauds to ask everyone if they had seen my phone and putting all guards on alert, my phone never turned up.

Yes, I tried calling and texting the phone but it only answered one time and there was no response. Yes, I used Find My iPhone on a friends phone and saw that the phone so I sent it a message asking someone to turn it into security. I was still in the building – for a while – but we didn’t know where in the building (it’s not that granular). Eventually we saw the phone leave the building so I sent it a message via Find My iPhone again letting the person with my phone know that we see it is leaving the building and asked them once again if they could return it – sadly the phone went dead a few blocks later either due to a battery that was about to die anyway or it was forcibly turned off.

I was sick to my stomach, and with tons of meetings for the next few days I was lost without my iPhone! Sadly it never turned up so before I left New York I issued the dreaded wipe command and wrote my iPhone off for good. I hopped on a plane in bad weather and flew back to Seattle (20 minutes later JFK would close for Superstorm Sandy that would hit the city shortly thereafter).

To Make Matters Worse

As if I wasn’t sick enough about losing my phone, I get this lovely email from a reader who took great joy in the loss of my phone:

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I was stunned by this email from Robert because I had taken the time in the past to send 7 emails to for his offline request for assistance. I couldn’t help but ask why he was so angry with me and taking such pleasure in my loss! It turned out he was this mad because because I neglected to answer two emails he sent me during a family crisis where I was grief stricken (nobody got email responses from me during those days). It seems that trying to be helpful, but not offering an immediate response makes me a pompous a—hole – hum.

At any rate, his email made a bad situation even worse. Thanks Robert – I really needed that salt in the wound!

14 days later, I get a call…

Stay at the New Yorker Hotel - Honest people work there!
Stay at the New Yorker Hotel - Honest people work there!

While sleeping one morning I get a call from a security guard at the New Yorker Hotel who asks me if I lost something. I’m half asleep and wondering WTF this guy is talking about – I’ve never been to the New Yorker Hotel!!! Long story short, he had been given my phone that day by a guest who was checking out of the hotel who told him that my phone had been found at Madame Tussauds. The guard asked, why didn’t it get returned to Madame Tussauds and the guest left without a word. He put the phone on a charger, turned it on and saw my lock screen that I had created with an app that no longer exists called If Found + by Polka Software. It had my email and phone number, and they had used that to contact me and my story about where I lost it and the description of the phone checked out so they said they’d return my phone.

Madame Tussauds (A) to New Yorker Hotel (B)
Madame Tussauds (A) to New Yorker Hotel (B)

HOLY COW!!!! 14 days after losing my phone in the biggest city in the United States it gets found 8 blocks away to a place I’ve never been to – after one of the biggest storms to ever hit the city!!! You’ve gotta be kidding me!

A few days later Gabriel Zamora of the New Yorker Hotel returned my phone to me via FedEx and I now have it back. All of the data was in tact and images I thought I had lost were recovered! I wish I knew the names of the other two security guards at the hotel who helped me as well, but sadly I don’t remember their names.

Wait, I thought you said you wiped the phone???

Yes, I did! However, when you deactivate your phone with AT&T it can no longer receive a wipe command via cellular service. This means WiFi was the only way it would get the command, and for a reason I can’t remember I had turned off my WiFi service (or perhaps the person who found my phone had done that). Without being able to hit the Internet, the phone couldn’t get the wipe command.

I had told the security guard to turn off the phone immediately because I knew if it hit WiFi I was doomed. When my phone was due to arrive I unplugged my cable modem so I could back up my iPhone with iTunes. Once it was safely backed up, I plugged in the cable modem and it promptly wiped itself. I got an email notifying me it was wiped too.

I restored my backup copy and my iPhone was as good as new. If circumstances at work had been different, I would have returned my overpriced and lame iPhone 5 and kept my iPhone 4s as my primary phone. However, that didn’t work out that day and the next day it was past the 14 day return period.

Lessons Learned

  1. iCloud doesn’t back up your phone unless you are connected to a WiFi network while your phone is inactive (locked in my case). Since I was in a hotel with WiFi that required a passcode, I wasn’t using WiFi so my weeks worth of photos were not restored to my iPad I had purchased to substitute for my phone while I was in New York (because 32-bit iPhone 4s and iPhone 5’s were unavailable).
  2. Jorge Enrique Rivas at the Apple Store in Grand Central Station is the nicest guy on the planet. He patiently did everything he could for me to get me online again with an iPad cellar (after trying hard to find a 32GB iPhone 4s or iPhone 5 for me). If you are ever in New York and have a phone crisis – he’s your man!
  3. When drinking at a party and having fun getting your photo taken with wax figures, make damn sure you keep your phone in your pocket. Don’t be a dumb ass and put your phone on your friends jacket for just a minute. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb!!!!
  4. Stay at the New Yorker Hotel when in New York – they have a super honest security staff that you can trust! Madame Tussauds security staff is pretty awesome too!
  5. New Yorkers are much more honest and nice than I think they get credit for!

And of course, the biggest lesson learned? Robert was right – what goes around comes around. I had done a nice thing for him – multiple times, so several people did a nice thing for me and returned my iPhone. He’s also right about the fact that there is a God, and God has a way of sorting things out.

Donate to the Red Cross to help friendly New Yorkers

My prayers go out to the people of New York who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. If you haven’t already, please making a donation to the American Red Cross or the charity of your choice to help the people of New York recover from this horrible tragedy.

God bless the people of New York and know that you are in my prayers!!

Disclosure

This article does not contain any commissioned links. This is a true story.

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.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Guest Bloggers Wanted

Do you have experience using a product that you’d enjoy writing about?

I’m looking for guest bloggers in a wide variety of areas, so if you are interested in sharing your story with 60,000+ visitors per month around the world, then shoot me an email via my contact page.

Thanks,
Ron

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 16, 2012

REVIEW: The Digital Negative by Jeff Schewe

A few months back I wrote an article called What’s Hot in Photography & Photo Editing Books – Part II where I first mentioned The Digital Negative: Raw Image Processing in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop by Jeff Schewe (a fellow NEC featured photographer). I had said

… when I first saw it I thought “oh crap, not another lame book on using RAW. After all, using Lightroom’s develop module or Adobe Camera RAW isn’t rocket science, so it’s hardly worth an entire book of its own. However, Jeff does a great job of diving deeper than any resource I’ve seen. In fact, he dives so deep I’d go so far as to say that this book is NOT for photographers, but rather computer geeks (especially programmers & engineers) who want more detail behind the "what & why” behind a lot of Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom features.

In the end I really liked what I saw in this book, so I will be taking the time to read it from cover to cover. I give this a easy Highly Recommended for Geeks ONLY. Warning: Non-Geeks are likely to have their heads explode if they try reading this, so don’t say you haven’t been warned!

After re-reading the book again on a flight yesterday I changed my opinion a bit. I actually think that the beginning of the book is very geek oriented, but as it progresses it becomes more generally approachable for the type of people who hate Scott Kelby books. The reason why I say that is because Kelby is great at showing you how to do something that you can reproduce and get good results. He doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining things – he just shows you and if you do like him you’ll get similar results. I like that – quick and to the point. However, there are some people who send me flame mail about how much they hate Scott Kelby books because they don’t like how he explains the why behind what he does. I don’t really need the why – I just want results that make me happy.

This book is a why book though and it’s a why behind a lot of the features in Lightroom (as well as Bridge & Camera Raw). While I’m not a why guy, I found it fascinating to get this level of depth on a lot of these topics. Now, I’m sure that there’s probably even more detail in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers, as much as I want to read that book (written by a close friend of Jeff’s) – I just don’t have the time. Schewe’s book goes into detail, but it cuts to the chase and moves on. It doesn’t belabor the point or go painfully deep (outside the first chapter). As a result, this book – which reads like a Lightroom history book – ends up entertaining and providing some very useful information about the why behind a lot of things in Lightroom.

While I don’t have time to do a detailed chapter by chapter walkthrough of this book at this time, I can say that the first chapter is very geeky and the second chapter is going to send you to the kitchen for a coffee. However, chapters three and four are where this book comes to live and why you should buy it. The depth and details of what the hell Lightroom is doing, why the process versions changed, and more are all both fascinating but also practically helpful. I was less impressed with the last two chapters of the book, but they are still worth reading.

Conclusion

I like this book and felt it was so good that It should probably be added to my What Photoshop Books should I read?  list, except it’s not a Photoshop book (time for a new list I guess). It is a good guide for the Lightroom user who wants more depth and info, but who doesn’t have time for a 704 page book. I’m sure Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers is great and I hope to read it cover to cover one day, but I just don’t have time for something that exhaustive in my busy schedule. I suspect much of the key information is contained in Schewe’s book, so that’s good enough for me to highly recommend it for those who want more depth yet still want the author to get to the point and move on.

I still wouldn’t advise this book for the novice, but I think intermediate to advanced users are a going to get a lot out of it. It makes a good stocking stuffer too, so plant your hints to your loved ones now!

Click here to order your copy of The Digital Negative: Raw Image Processing in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop by Jeff Schewe today in paperback or on Kindle.

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Kelby Training also has some great video lessons on Lightroom 4 here, and don’t forget that you can get a discount for Kelby Training here.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. I was also provided an unsolicited copy of this book from the published.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PowerShot Comparison: Canon G12 vs G15 vs s110–Part II

Canon PowerShot s110, G15 and G12 Front View
Canon PowerShot s110, G15 and G12

In my previous article, I began my observations of the difference between the new G15 over the G12 and G1X as well as the s110. In this article I just focus a bit on image quality using my well-known bookshelf test and a couple portrait photos taken by both the s110 and G15.

Portraits

I only had a short time to shoot a small set of portraits with this camera this weekend, but the following were done in natural light on a very gloomy and rainy day in Seattle. The images chosen were the sharpest (not necessarily the best photos) of the handheld images taken. Honestly, even under these decent conditions I really struggled to get a sharp shot. Both cameras ended up going to ISO 800 (both set to Auto ISO and Av to the minimum f/stop number for the focal length shown).

Both images are untouched in-camera JPEG originals with camera default settings shot in Aperture Priority at the minimum aperture for the zoom level chosen. Blurry shots are omitted.


s110 f4, 1/25 sec ISO 800 at 11.934mm focal length, Auto White Balance (AWB)
Click for Full-Size Original In-Camera Image

The s110 has a wider angle lens and it quickly felt like I was getting in the models personal bubble when I tried to shoot at f/2, so I settled on f/4 and the 12mm focal length. Of all my handheld test shots, this was the sharpest but I was a bit disappointed with the indoor performance.


G15, f/2.8, 1/40 sec ISO 800 at 30.5mm focal length, AWB
Click for Full-Size Original In-Camera Image

The G15 isn’t as wide as the s11, but it’s aperture range is more helpful indoors. The brighter lens of the G15 allowed me to zoom in more and use faster shutter speeds to get the shot. Overall the G15 was definitely easier to use indoors under these conditions (which are a dream for a DSLR shooter).

While I still had my share of blurry shots from the G15, I was still pleased with what this camera had to offer under these tough conditions when photographing people. Neither of these shots are going to win awards, but the image quality was decent for a point and shoot.

For those who are wondering, my subjective opinion of the much heavier G1X is that definitely does a better job at shots like this (especially at ISO 800), but I’d still prefer my X10 in conditions like this over all the Canon models.

Bookshelf Test

Click for 100% Zoom Image
Close examination of the text “Her Family” showed that the G15 had a pretty clear advantage at detail preservation at higher ISO’s over the s110

You can see more images and pixel peep to your heart content at the following galleries:

My high level subjective observations were as follows:

  • The s110 lens outperforms the G15 when wide open (f/2 and f/1.8 respectively), but at f/4 the G12 appears to be sharper than the s110.
  • ISO performance has improved over the G12 for both the G15 and s110, but the G15 as a slight edge at higher ISO’s.
  • Both the G15 and the s110 outperform the G12 at higher ISO’s, but it’s also clear that they use a more aggressive noise reduction algorithm that doesn’t seem as good at preserving detail as what you’d find in Noiseware or Dfine. As a result, I’d probably not exceed ISO 1600 on the new cameras (which is equivalent to ISO 800 on the G12).
  • The dynamic range of the s110 seems to be the best, even though I expected them to be identical.
  • Overall none of the Canon point and shoots are high ISO top performers, so don’t count on these cameras for your low light shooting needs.

Conclusion

There was less image quality progress made on this generation of camera updates than I expected. That’s a shame too because Canon used to be a trusted name for compact cameras, but there’s so many competitors like Fuji and Nikon that are really trying to up their game. As a result I’d give them a mediocre image quality rating, but the s110 has such great portability that it might make it worth while to sacrifice some image quality.

If a friend asked me on the street what point and shoot they should get, I’d still say the Fujifilm X10. If they said, what Canon should they get I’d say I’ve switched camp from the G series that I loved in the past and now favor the smaller s110.

s series camera owners have a lot of reasons to justify an upgrade, but G series owners should stay put. I wouldn’t tell them to rush out and buy a G1X either as I think that camera is just too big and bulky without the benefit of significantly better image quality.

Where to Buy

B&H loaned me the gear for this article, so I suggest you show them your appreciation by placing your order for a s110 or G15 with them. Click here to order the s110 or click here to order the G15.

Adorama has a kit version of the G15 and a kit version of the black s110 as well as a kit of the white s110.

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Disclosure

B&H loaned me the new gear for this article but the G12 was my personal camera that I paid full price for myself. If you make a purchase using links found 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.