Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kata bag challenge

Haven't found a photo bag perfect for your needs?
Design your own :-) >>> Kata Bag Challenge

Monday, November 02, 2009

Zhang Jingna's excellent work

A must-see, here: Zhang Jingna's works on DeviantArt :-)

Not to mention profile visits (more than 5,000,000 in seven years), every single photo is just soooo good masterpiece. Original ideas, excellent composition and concepts, photo shoots most probably accompanied a pro team - stylists, make up pros, lighting specialists - all this later on gone through digital darkroom with excellence in after editing photos.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

U2 Live from the Rose Bowl

Official channel of U2 at YouTube has finally managed to put together the video of the Great Event - as they say, Greatest Band at Largest Stage with about 100,000 listeners. All this - U2's 360C 2009 concert - took place on Sunday evening in Los Angeles, Pasadena, at Rose Bowl Arena. It was also the first rock concert to be broadcasted live worldwide via YouTube. If you look at the video from start to the end you see other cool elements used - for example fragments of the songs here and there (like the words from actual Space Ship) that were also represented live (not recorded before).

As with the stage itself, there's probably no one other one at the horizon, performing so well in terms of light, colors, variety, show and you-name-it. Just so much above the rest, just so unique, powerful and stunning - like another world :-)

As with the phenomenon of U2, this is as amazing as their live shows have always been (also, you might like to check out ZooTV live from Sydney (1993) concert - still a very good show, even now if you look at it sixteen years later, especially, I'd recommend checking out the intro for "where the streets have no name"). But why are the band still so popular? Is it because they always introduce new songs, is it because of their well know ageless conservative style, is it their power, message or something else?.. Well I don't know the answer, but I think people around the world do know it, as most of the 2010 tour tickets are sold out AND selling the tickets, once they become available, is a matter of minutes and hours.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the latest concert video.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Word Cloud

What a fancy thing :-) useful, yet funny :-) (Visit to create your own). The Word Cloud seems to tell more than a thousand words :P

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canon 40D Challenge

Shortly after the lovely mini-Olympus was sold (I still miss it :-) ), there was a chance to try the legendary XXD series semi-pro body by Canon - a 40D this time (Many thanks for Helen for making it possible :-) ). The first Canon from this line was probably Canon D30, a nice 3megapixel DSLR, first "small" sensor DSLR by Canon. The evolution after that was 10D (6mp), 20D (8mp), 30D (8mp, but lots of improvements for body), 40D (10mp), and finally 50D (15mp). A couple of weeks ago, Canon 7D was also announced. It is still arguable whether the 7D is the successor of 50D or has Canon launched entirely new line for high end half-frame cameras.

Well, one of the first things that makes Canon different from the "rest", is the size of their sensor. When Nikon, Pentax and Sony have the crop factor of 1.5 (the sensor size is approximately 23*15mm), the crop factor of Canon's cameras is 1.6, with the sensor size being around 22*14mm. So theoretically, the image quality might be a tiny bit worse, however in real life Canon has always built superior sensor, being one of the first using CMOS technology instead of CCD (as with the big competitor Nikon, the first CMOS sensors were available at 2008 (Nikon D90, D300), while the famous 10D released back in spring 2003. CMOS outperform CCD-s mainly in two areas: first, they consume less power; second, they produce less noise. The capability of the sensor was also one of the main reasons I wanted to try something from Canon as well - I hadn't had any Canon in my hands for a longer period of time so far :-)

One of the issues people often like to argue about, is "where" the XXD line of canon really stands, compared to the Nikon's cameras at the same class? It is more or less agreed that the entry level DSLR-s used to share the same, "beginner" class - So Canon's 300D, 350D, 400D, 450D and 500D were considered be direct competitors for Nikon's D50, D40, D40x and D60. The qualities characteristic for this class was all plastic body, penta-mirror viewfinder and battery lasting not so good as in their big brothers. At the time 40D was released, it was more expensive than the Nikon D80, and not as expensive as the Nikon D300. At the same time it had faster focus, faster continuous shooting, metal body and CF card over the Nikon D80, but its build quality was not up to Nikon D300 level. So to summarize this paragraph, the XXD Canons had so far being class of it's own, more or less. At the time this post is being written, 2009, the market is much more sophisticated, so we can not even narrow down the classes, as we could, so far.

Another chaos has always been with the names of the two "Big" boys. 300D, D300, 40D, D40, 60D, D60. Can you tell, which are Canon's models, which are Nikon's? Probably not if you have not been fanatic camera geek over the last couple of years. The holy web is giving several answers to us here as well, with one of the dominant reasons being the marketing departure of each company - when the model names are similar, the users get confused, so not the Canon nor the Nikon has no certain advantage of sales, when it comes down to model names.

What is really excellent with 40D, is it's high speed continuous shooting - 6,5fps (it's like a sewing-machine :-)), which makes it excellent 2nd camera for any pro shooting anything that moves fast, whether it is sports, nature or anything else. The build quality of the 40D was not as good as I'd expect for a semi-pro body, in fact the more "amateurish" Nikon D80 even felt better. The battery lasts around 1000 shots, the viewfinder is excellent, the auto-focus is fast. What else can you ask? :-) The body itself is pretty large, compared with its smaller brothers, or Nikons 70-80-90D line. Though both Nikon and Canon come from Japan, there are fundamental differences in logic - starting from in which direction the exposure compensation wheel turns, to a small little details through both the physical and electronic user interface. Take Canon 40 (50)D and Nikon 80D (90D) and use them side by side, and you learn it in seconds - so different units, yet both ate very usable.. One thing that you instantly notice about 40D, is its relatively loud shutter noise. According to the forums, the new 50D has VERY silent shutter, so hopefully this will be a a tradition - to produce silent shutters - from this point on :-)

The bottom line - it seems the Canons are not built for me :-) Is it that I have used Nikons too much, is it the physical size of XXD bodies or is it something else - I just find Nikons to be more to my taste. Should I be able to use any additional Canon's pro body in the future, I'll definitely post some comments and pictures here as well - never say never :-) .. All the pictures seen here are shot with 50mm F1.8 prime or 17-40mm F4 L.

Olympus E-410 + 14-42mm challenge :)

:-) I guess summer trends are not so sitting-in-front-of-computer with blogging-tweeting-crawling through the internet in Northern Countries :-) The Fall sounds much better :-) Lazy afternoons, short days, endless nights with favorite music - why not to write an article or two time by time when there's even not light enough to do something outside? :-)

(Click to the images for bigger size, they're mainly 800-900 pixels wide/high, so you can see some more details).

Short after the D700 test I found myself thinking about the "new toy" for summer - I never had tried any Oly(mpus) for a longer period, so this time the roads crossed with a tiny (okay, todays small "micro" 4/3-s are smaller) olympus E-410. How did it feel, in a word? Good! For its price :P I picked up one used paying approximately $200 for it (14-42 was included).

First emotion having the small oly in my (small) hands - it's not big at all! Compared with the (relatively) big D700, both in therms of size, weight and price :P (I think the price difference is about 10 times, whether it is new or used unit.. the weight difference is perhaps not so giant, perhaps Nikon D700 weighting approximately tow E410-s).

Besides tons of other differences between these units, one of the most obvious difference is the sensor size - this is also probably the main reason I wanted to try the 4/3 system - I wanted to know HOW good/bad the sensor actually is, in different (light) conditions. Just for reference, E-410 was released somewhere at spring 2007 - this is more than 2 years ago: today the latest 4/3 cameras (E-30, Panasonic GF/GH-s) have far better sensors than the one used at 410). Olympus is widely known for its high quality optics as well, so whenever someone has been loyal to Olympus brand in the previous decades, the bunch of lens collected at the photo shelf might be well worth considering continuing the adventure with having a nice olympus body in addition to the old traditional film one.

The build quality is relatively good. No plastic nigs-nags, the small body feels solid and thick. The lack of solid handgrip can at a glance be considered as disadvantage, however this is something one can get used to, relatively quickly. The whole E-410 concept can definitely be considered as something very compact - add the new "pancake" (some newer 420-s ship with 25mm pancake lens) lens here, and there it may fit some pockets! :-) Not a shirt-pocket, though.

One thing that you might instantly notice, after downloading the files to your computer and reviewing them after that, is that the images are pretty much "cube" like - this is due to the 4:3 aspect ration, which is a step closer to a "cube" than traditional 3:2 aspect ratio image. I guess coming from 4:3 the traditional 3:2 may look like a panorama? ..

I'd say the capability of the sensor was exactly near to what I was expecting. Almost as good in terms of sensitivity, as the bigger old CCD sensors at Nikon D70/D80, but not having as much dynamic range, which is also very logical because of the small size of the 4/3 sensor. So the quality is better than the best compact in the market, but far from the quality of latest entry-level DSLRs (Nikon D5000, Canon 500D, etc). To get the most out of the camera, of course it is a good idea to shoot RAW - you just get more color data this way, so less blown highlights and burned blacks.

Any downsides as well? Yes. The LCD screen is not the best out there. Even the old 2.5" 230,000 dots (Canon 5D, Nikon D80) screens are better. I'm not sure about the resolution with 410, but the viewing angles are bad, and the screen contrast is very, very bad. In it's class (2,5 low resolution LCD-s), one of the best LCD screens I've seen is at Pentax K10D (I guess samsung has developed it - it really outperforms the competitors screens - good viewing angles, good colors and contrast, also very sharp, though has the same 230k dots). If you have seen the new 3,0+ 920k screens, this 410-s screen is definitely not something you'd like to dream about.. The speed of the camera was not great as well. Relatively slow autofocus, file recording time and speed of use in general. But again, when you look at the price, the whole unit is very very good.

Using the camera more than 2 months I learned what I always learn with almost any camera - it really does not matter if you have the latest pro body or the cheapest entry level body - when you need to do a picture, you get it with your current camera, IF you know what to do - so understand the capabilities of the camera, conditions of light, shooting object, desired result, etc :-) Maybe still ONE thing I never got used to - it is the same lack of handgrip, which made the camera somewhat uncomfortable to use..

All the photos seen here were shot with the "kit" lens, Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 :-) Obviously, the DOF and other image parameters is not near where it should be with some of the (portrait) photos, but overall - the kit lens performed pretty well :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nikon D700 + 50mm F1.4G challenge

First of all, many thanks and kudos to
Nikon Estonia for providing the D700 for testing purposes.

I've been with digital cameras since 2004, with DSLR since 2005, but so far strictly with amateur cameras only, so I think it is time to move on to (semi-) pro body, and Nikon D700 is definitely something you'd like to consider being in a situation like that.

As with me, decision to go with pro body is directly related with the chance to try D700 - I was actually considering to try D90 first, but as this model was unavailable for testing, I got the D700.. and I'm more or less sure most of us would like D700 over the D90 for several reasons, starting with the blow away sensor and excellent build quality.

So I took a couple of days off for some serious D700 shooting at different locations and conditions and I'd like to share a couple of thoughts (and pictures) with you. It is just my personal opinion and thoughts about using the camera, if you are looking for charts, comparisons and several test shots, you should consider visiting or similar site.

I came from Nikon D80, so the fist impression was the camera is really big and heavy. Well, there's still room to Canon 1D or Nikon D3 and this actually fine by me as I do not have the largest hands on earth. Choosing between comfortable vertical shooting with 7+ fps together with heavier camera and 5fps with no battery grip at the other side I really prefer the second option, and here I'm in a party still hooraying for the D700 coming to the market after sooooo successful Canon 5D (a full frame (FX) camera with relatively small body).

The 50mm prime (best 50mm currently available form nikon, the silent internal focusing (AF-S) F1.4G) is with no doubt one of the best options to test the camera with non-zooming lens giving work to your legs and creativity and razor sharp glass taking care of the image quality covering the whole FX sensor area from center to corner.

Another nice combination here is the F1.4 at high ISO values giving you the most flexible combination currently on the market - almost usable to take pictures at any light (dark) condition till your eye can differentiate the subjects you shoot. This means you can shoot at very poor light conditions with not being forced to use flash. The combination of using ISO 12,800 + F1.4 as an aperture is in fact so good, that even in dim light you see the shutter speeds going 1/100 or faster. So the superb sensor is definitely one of  the major USPs (unique selling points) for the D700, and considering its build quality and almost endless possibilities to set up the camera in the way you like, it is hard to say no to the package as sweet as that.

There are currently only a couple of FX cameras on the market able to compete against the ISO performance of the D700 - it's big brother D3, Canon 5D Mk2 and Canon 1Ds Mk3 (Sony A900 is full frame (FX) as well, but the sensor is not quite up to the level of D700 / 5DMk2).


Now about the things I'd like to be improved a bit with regarding to using and customizing the using of the camera.

There's one major issue I'd like to point out with D700 and this is probably the most annoying thing I found about this camera. It's about how I'd like the exposure compensation button to work and about that I was not able to achieve the desired result. While I'm about ninety percent sure I went through every menu corner to find a solution, I wouldn't burn the bridge to learn how to really do it. Also, the solution could be fixed with simple firmware update. Now, down to the problem.

By default, in P mode, the exposure compensation is made using the first control dial (located just below the shutter release button) and if you turn it left, it overcompensates and if you turn it to right direction, it undercompensates the exposure. At the same time, the front control dial just offers you different combination of exposure and aperture values if you are not happy with the default ones offered by camera (the P comes to P* when you do it).

First of all, I'd like the dials to be switched for the following reason. If I have my finger on the shutter release button and I have a quick moving object I'd like to capture quickly with compensating the default exposure, I will not be able to do that because I need to move the finger away from the shutter release button, compensate the exposure accordingly, move the finger back, half press for the focus and exposure and then full press to get the picture.

While I understand the P mode is not the mode the camera might be aimed to shoot in, I still think a way like this is way too slow. Fortunately, Nikon has included the "switch the control dials" at the menu, so the solution is there - I can half press the shutter release button and compensate the exposure comfortably. Now the other half of the issue - I'd like the default direction to be changed. Again, this can be done, without switching the roles of the dials first - you can easily use the front wheel to compensate from left to right (from - to +) as opposed to right to left (from - to +) which is how Nikon engineers seem to think.

What I could NOT change, was both to switch the roles and have the directions right. You can do one or the other thing, but not both. This is what I'd like to be able to do, and before I go with D700 (or D300, basically the same body and functions/logic), I'll consult about it with some pro Nikon user.

And, another issue with the direction of how any of the control button works, is the way it handles aperture in A mode. It is logical that you move from left to right having left side as smallest aperture (16 with 1.4G) and to the right direction as the widest possible aperture (F1.4 with 50mm F1.4G). But it works vice versa. So if you think you made some success with switching the direction, it is not true about everything.

The bottom line with this issue - it is nice to be able to configure the control dials - but there's lots of room for this area of the customization. Every dial should be customizable for its function and direction in any more, including independently being able to fix the aperture direction and exposure compensation direction.

I was not able to test the dials in S mode, but the direction should be customizable here as well - while I find the directions mentioned above very logic, many of you may find this not logical direction at all - this is why it ALL has to be VERY customizable.

One more minor notice about giving custom functions to buttons. The AE lock can not be addressed a custom function. It would be nice to be able to do it, as it is the closest button to thumb, and the default function (basically AF in MF mode) is not what I'd like to use too often.


As with the choice which semi-pro DSLR to choose, it is not that easy to decide about it here, in Estonia. Nikon Estonia was the only company providing the camera for testing and how can I buy one without previously testing one? Overall (official reseller of Canon) kindly allows to try the camera at their office OR to rent the pro body for several days with refunding you both the rental money and guaranty money. It is basically the same with Pentax (though pentax does not currently produce any (semi-)pro body). I'm still waiting for the reply from Olympus (contacted them more than a week ago already). So it seems most of the resellers are eager to sell what they have, but they're not doing it in the most flexible way they could.

So again, thanks for Nikon Estonia, I think being able to try the pro body for some days is a serious plus to consider buying their camera :-)