Friday, October 10, 2008

Canon 50D review

This weekend, I had an opportunity to test a production version Canon 50D. Having had experience with the previous model, the 40D, I was curious to see what changes Canon had built into its successor (for technical details, you can check out Luminous Landscape or dpreview for the specifics).

The first thing I noticed is that the basic camera and layout of the functions has not changed significantly. So for those who are upgrading, the transition should be effortless.

What I noticed immediately after shooting a couple of images, though, is that there is a huge difference in the LCD display on the back of the camera. Shooting the two models side by side, the LCD of the 50D had significant increase in color fidelity, saturation, contrast and detail. It was really astonishing. I felt like I was looking at a small thumbnail in Photoshop on a computer monitor compared to the quasi-facsimile that you'd see on the older camera.

The nice part is that when you compared the files shot with both cameras side by side on a desktop monitor, the increase in file size and the new processing engine make for much better images as well.

Take a look at these two images shot in beautiful Park City, Utah. Notice the added detail coming from the larger file, and the smoother transitions between values.

For those looking for a great prosumer camera, this is certainly worth careful consideration. And for those with a 40D, Is it worth upgrading from the previous version? I think that may be personal preference. But in my mind, if I had to choose, I'd certainly make the jump.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XRDi LD Aspherical IF Macro lens

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to test the Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XRDi LD Aspherical IF Macro lens. I used it in a variety of situations, and was very pleasantly surprised.

This lens has some interesting attributes. First, the focal length range of 10.7 is a real selling point, especially for a location photographer like myself. Couple this lens with a short zoom, and you have a very light pack when you hike off into the wilderness.

Second, the lens has an image stabilizaton system that Tamron calls “VC” for vibration control. It not only compensates for vertical and horizontal movement, but also for diagonal shake. That means less need to set up a tripod when the light levels are low, but you want to shoot at the lowest ISO possible.

Finally, it has the closest focusing of any of the superzooms out there, a great benefit for both macro and people photography.

The proof is in the pudding, though, and my experience was quite favorable. The lens is light and compact, (19.4 oz, and roughly 3 inchs wide x 4 inches long at 28mm) so I never felt like I had a lot of weight pulling me down. And with such a long range of focal lengths, it meant I was instantly ready to bring the camera up to my eye and shoot almost anything I was interested in. Less fussing around, more spontaneous images-a real plus. I found the controls to be well marked, and fell under the hand quite nicely.

The image stabilization system worked very well, and the macro shot posted here was exposed at 1/50 of a second with the lens at 300mm is a fine example of this. With a fixed focal length lens, the rule of thumb is a shutter speed equal to 1 divided by the focal length of the lens to insure a motion-free image. In this case, then, I should have been shooting at 1/300 or above, so I gained 2.5 stops, meaning I could still shoot at IS) 100 vs. ISO 250. That translates into less noise in the file and a better image.

And speaking of the macro shot, I was able to focus just 6 inches away from my subject. Truly astounding at 300mm, and again a great timesaver because I didn’t have to put on a diopter on the front of the lens to get that close.

Shooting in a variety of situations, I thought the color and contrast of the lens was very good. Sharpness was excellent at the wide focal lengths, and diminished as extended to the longer lengths. The tight photograph of the rocks with the snow covered mountains in the backgrund, shot at 300mm was a bit soft, but could be cleaned up pretty well in post production.

My one issue with the lens was that when I carried the camera over my shoulder, the lens would extend out to the full 300mm length. This was a bit annoying because I continually had to reset the focal length when I brought the camera back up to my eye. This may have been specific to the sample lens I got for the review, but I would be sure to check the lens you get, before buying if possible.

Overall, I was very impressed by this lens. As with any equipment purchase, you have to ask yourself what the application is. If you are a professional looking for the sharpest image that can be enlarged to a significant level for exhibition, you are probably best served to stick with a series fixed focal length lens. But if you are a photo enthusiast who will not be making big enlargements, and want a great general purpose zoom that you can count on coming through in a large variety of situations, this is a lens certainly worth considering, especially at this price point.

Friday, November 23, 2007

There are lots of review sites that can give you great technical information about photo equipment, as well as computer software and hardware. Two of my favorites are dpreview and LuminousLandscape.

But photography is not just about number crunching. It's also about how a camera fits in your hands, how intuitive a software program is to work with, and how faithful printers can reproduce your visiwon. My goal here is to take a more personal approach to the reviews, giving more of subjective evaluation based on working in this business for as long as I have. I hope they will be of benefit, alongside the more technical reviews from other sites, in helping to make decisions of what to have in your toolkit.