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Archive for November, 2017

Throwback Thursday: the ups and downs of running DCResource

24 Nov

My friends would (hopefully) say that I’m not one to toot my own horn, but since this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of my foray into the world of digital photography websites, I’m taking the liberty. Over Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 I founded the Digital Camera Resource Page, aka DCResource. The site is no longer updated (that probably wouldn’t go over well with my current employer), so it remains as a sort of time capsule to days past.

In this Throwback Thursday I’m going to share my story of how I stumbled into the world of digital photography and the rollercoaster ride that followed.

I’m fortunate to have been an early adopter of many technologies. Prior to my first year of college I spent a summer working in a research lab at UC San Francisco, where we had a computer connected to this Internet thing. On it were copies of NCSA Mosaic 0.86, TurboGopher and Eudora (for e-mail). When I started college at UC San Diego in Fall of 1994 I was selected to test out a “cable modem,” which back then was larger than a VCR and had a five figure price tag. Goodbye 28.8kbps dial-up, hello sort-of-high-speed Internet.

The combination of three different thing resulted in the creation of DCResource. First and foremost, thanks to my job at the UCSD Bookstore, I was able to get my hands on early consumer cameras from Kodak, Apple and Casio that were up for sale. Second, I had already dipped my feet into running my own website, in the form of PowerWatch, which covered Mac ‘clones’ made by Power Computing, which (after the return of Steve Jobs) eventually closed down. Using the successful model of PowerWatch and noticing the lack of any sites covering digital cameras, in November 1997, in my college dorm, the Digital Camera Resource Page was born.

The original site design by Delane Barrus, who was involved in the website for the first few years.

The goal of DCResource wasn’t to be the most technical site out there (Imaging Resource and DPReview would arrive a year later to handle that), but to be the most accessible to the average person. Even now, I still get feedback from folks who thought that the site succeeded at doing that.

The early years of DCResource were pretty busy, with more and more companies entering the market with their plasticky, VGA-resolution cameras. In addition to the big names, companies such as Agfa, Sanyo, Sharp and Toshiba were all in the market at the time. If you ever owned any of those, consider yourself old. At the time, your camera either used SmartMedia (ugh), CompactFlash or floppy disk. I wrote about new ‘4X’ speed CF cards and troubles getting the FlashPath SmartMedia-to-floppy adapter to work on Macs.

Back then there was no content management system to hold reviews, so everything sat in static HTML files. Users e-mailed their camera reviews to me, which were often cross-posted on rec.photo.digital on Usenet.

In the first couple of years it felt like the site just wasn’t taking off. I considered closing it down, but kept it going, working on it in my spare time in and after college. As people started to gravitate away from film and toward digital, I realized that I was just a little early.

The purple version of DCResource launched in 2000. I made a mobile version of the site around then, designed for Palm VII PDAs. I still think that’s pretty awesome.

When it came to camera reviews, I quickly established a standard that lasted for the entire life of the site. Besides being accessible, I wanted to be as consistent as possible. The layout was always the same: intro, what’s in the box, software, look & feel, how many photos fit on a memory card, menu options, photo tests and conclusion. (I always use the term ‘tests’ loosely, since there was never any DPReview-level science involved.)

In every sample gallery I included the same set of photos taken in SF’s Chinatown as well as at Stanford University about 40 minutes to the south. I’d take out groups of cameras at a time (my record was 10 at once) since the weather in SF is so unpredictable. I’d do my best to arrive at the same time on each visit.

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Around 2001, I realized that keeping my site open was a good idea. Digital cameras were selling, and traffic was going up. I finally had good access to cameras to review, and back then, you could have a full review published on launch day. In the early days, it felt like the cameras manufacturers needed websites like mine (and others) a lot more than they do now. I quit my day job and started to run DCResource full-time.

The year 2004 was the beginning of what I (and probably many of my peers) called the glory days. Technology moved so quickly that some photographers were upgrading cameras every year, and that’s in addition to first-time buyers. Business was booming.

You know what they say about ‘all good things,’ right?

Unique visitors over time, minus the actual data. Traffic peaked during the 2006 holidays.

On June 29th, 2007, consumer digital photography changed forever. That’s when the original iPhone was announced, and for most of us in the publishing world, it was all downhill from there, though I didn’t know it at the time. Manufacturers didn’t either, because in January 2008 they collectively released 80 cameras at CES, again, most of them being compacts, with little to differentiate them. They still hadn’t gotten the memo a year later, with 75 cameras announced.

While DCResource’s traffic was slowly slipping, it didn’t really hit home until after the 2009 holiday season, when I saw that my unique visitors were 60% of what they had been two years prior. It wasn’t panic time yet – I kept going without worrying too much about it, because as long as I was still making a good living, everything would be fine…

The ‘orange’ version of the DCRP website launched in 2004. I still think it looks great today.

2011 was panic time. The time to sell the site for anything except peanuts had long since passed (DPReview was acquired by Amazon four years earlier), and regret set in. I remember thinking “if only I had hired a salesperson while times were good,” – not that it would’ve made a difference at that point. While I still took most of my photos with my DSLRs, I was reaching for my smartphone more and more often.

The next year, manufacturers announced 55 cameras at CES. The problem was, nobody was buying them, and since DCResource leaned toward the consumer end of the spectrum, it was starting to hurt. I starting tapping into my savings (gotta pay the mortgage) so it became obvious that it was time to get back into the workforce and resume running my website on the side. While Silicon Valley had tons of tech companies to choose from, running a digital camera website for almost 15 years was an unusual thing to have on your resume.

The sheer ridiculousness of the number of point-and-shoot cameras on the market inspired me to make a family tree of Canon’s ELPH ultra-compacts.

Around that time I was in touch with none other than Simon Joinson, who, along with Phil Askey, I’d known for several years as friendly competitors. Simon had expressed an interest in adding me to the DPReview team for a while, which was both a good opportunity for me and an excuse to move to Seattle, one of my favorite cities. Later that year, I accepted a position at DPReview, took a 3+ week trip to South America and Antarctica, and then drove myself and two partially sedated cats to Seattle. Since then, my brain has been stuffed with technical details (thanks Rishi and Richard), and my photography has improved as well (my old ‘work’ now makes me cringe).

Naturally, I feel very fortunate for the opportunity that I had to leave the corporate world behind and build one of the original, and for a time one of the biggest photography websites from the ground up, almost entirely on my own. Sure, in retrospect I would’ve done a few things differently, but it was a good ride while it lasted.

As 2017 comes to an end, I’m concerned that smartphones are following the same path as compact digital cameras, since they’re so good now that there’s less need to upgrade every year. That said, there is still a lot of innovation in this space, and smartphone photography is a lot more advanced than it was just a few years ago. While I don’t know (yet) whether computational photography is the next big thing, I’m strapped in – ready for another ride.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

How to Use the Background to Create More Storytelling Images

24 Nov

Sometimes you’re so focused on capturing the moment that you forget to pay attention to what’s in the background of your photo. When you look at your photos later, you realize that there are all sorts of distractions in the background. One way to overcome these distractions is to use the background to help with storytelling in your photo.

Even though “the moment” is likely the most important part of your photo, good moments always happen in a place. Use the background to show where your moment or story takes place.

Think of People as Characters

The first thing I recommend is thinking of the people in your photo as characters. When you’re going to take a picture of somebody ask, “Who is this character and what are they doing?” When you answer these questions you’ll be able to choose a good background to help tell that story.

Storytelling background 15

This is a photo of my son. I wasn’t thinking of him merely as my son, but rather as a “hiker.” Thinking of him as a hiker helped me choose a background that portrayed the story of a hiker.

Two Ways to Choose a Background

There are two ways to choose a background for your photo.

  1. You can begin with your character and then choose the right background for them.
  2. Or, you can begin with a good background and then look for a character to put into the scene.

Finding a Background that Matches Your Character

Keep in mind the two questions to ask yourself; “Who is this character and what are they doing?”

In this photo, the character is my infant son and he is sleeping in a carrier on my wife’s back. It’s a cute picture, but there is no way to tell from the background where we were when this took place.

Storytelling background 01

This is a nice photo, but the background doesn’t add to the story.

We were on a camping trip and I knew I wanted a collection of photos that would show that. So I repositioned myself to find a better perspective and show the camp trailer in the background. This added a sense of place to the photo.

Storytelling background 02

The camp trailer in the background adds context to the photo of the sleeping infant.

Later on that summer it came time to chop wood for the winter. My little guy wanted to help daddy!

Naturally, I wanted a photo of him trying to chop wood. Depending on the perspective I chose there could have been trees, water, or a wood pile in the background. Since this is a photo about chopping wood, I chose to have the woodpile in the background.

There is even some wood in the foreground, reminding me of what a big job we had that summer!

Storytelling background 03

The huge pile of wood is a natural background for the little wood chopper. Plus it emphasizes how small he is comparatively.

Next time you’re about to snap a photo of somebody, stop and consider your background. Can you move around in order to get a good background to help with storytelling?

Finding a Character to Fit the Background

There may be times when you want to photograph an interesting scene but feel that there is something missing. Perhaps it is the character that is missing. When you come across an interesting scene, go ahead and photograph it. But also wait and allow that scene to become a background for some interesting characters.

When we visited Halls Harbour in Nova Scotia, the rugged shoreline was an obvious feature to photograph. I experimented with different angles and perspectives, but I knew I needed some good characters in the scene. Finally, a couple with their dog came walking down the shoreline. When the man began skipping stones out into the water I knew that these were the characters I was awaiting.

Storytelling background 04

These people and their dog were the perfect additions to the rugged shoreline.

Instead of just a photo of a beautiful landscape, this has become a story about a family on an adventure. To me, skipping stones into the water is a nostalgic sort of moment, so I decided this story looked best in black and white.

Make a story

When the tide was low we could walk out into the harbor amongst the ships that were now resting on the ground. Again, this was an interesting scene that just seemed to be missing a character. Then my son came tip-toeing through the mud and became the perfect character to fit the scene.

Storytelling background 05

When I let my imagination carry me away, I pretend that my son has pulled the plug in the harbor and all the water has drained out. He better sneak away before he gets caught!

Using framing

On a trip to Niagara Falls, we ducked into a building to get some relief from the cold wind and mist from the falls. Through the windows, we could see the falls and a rainbow that was produced through the mist. I wanted to take a photo but waited until my kids went and stood in the window. This allows the falls and rainbow to make up the background while my kids are the characters in the scene.

Storytelling background 06

The characters in the foreground allow the viewer’s attention to be drawn to the falls and rainbow in the background.

Plan ahead

In these next two examples, I used our house as a background for the photo. We were getting ready to move in the spring and I knew we needed a few more photos, by which to remember this old house. So I was determined to use our house as a setting and photograph more scenes with it in the background.

That winter, we built a snow hill nearly as tall as the house itself. That was a perfect opportunity to photograph an exciting event with our home in the background.

Storytelling background 07

A low angle helped to capture this epic moment right in our front yard. The snow hill towers in front of the house in the background.

Storytelling background 08

Our kids will always remember their first childhood home (and the fun they had there) when they look back on these photos.

Next time you come across a nice scene, go ahead and photograph the scene by itself. Once you have done this, you can look for a character to add to the scene, allowing it to become a background for their story. This is a perfect approach for both landscape and street photography. Choose the background and then wait for the character to come along.

Symbolic Backgrounds

So far, all of the backgrounds in these photos have been literal scenes. But you can use a background to give your story some symbolic meaning as well. You do this by finding a background that makes you think deeper than the literal object itself. For example, a sunset in the background isn’t just about the sun, perhaps it’s about “romance” or “a happy ending.”

In this example, my wife is tying up vines in a vineyard. This is a job that needs to be done in the spring before any green actually appears on the vines. There really wasn’t anything nice near her to use as a background, except golden light from the setting sun.

To me, vineyards are about long days of outdoor work, and the romance of shared wine. The warm setting sun was the perfect symbolic background to express these feelings.

Storytelling background 09

The golden sun in the background of this photo is symbolic of the day’s end, and the romance of wine and vineyards.

When you’re photographing a character doing something interesting, ask yourself if there is anything in the background that adds symbolic meaning to what they’re doing.

I have lots of photos of my kids reading books. The following photo is an example of a very boring background that does not help to tell a story.

Storytelling background 10

This background is distracting. The bed leg is growing out of their shoulders and pulls our attention away from what the kids are doing.

You can come up with some great backgrounds for people reading books. A library or a coffee shop would be two good choices for your background. But these are obvious choices and perhaps you could choose a symbolic background instead. Think about the nature of reading and how a person grows as they learn.

Storytelling background 11

This is exactly the sort of place that many people would sit and read a book. There is something about old leather chairs that invite you to nestle in and read. Behind the chair is a wood grain wall. Wood is something that grows. Wood is symbolic of the “growth” that happens when a child learns and reads.

Keep your eye open for backgrounds that are symbolic of the story you want to tell.

Using the Background to Tell a Story in Multiple Photos

When you find a good background, go ahead and use it in different ways to expand on your story.

The following photos are all from Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick. Every tourist who has ever been there, walks away with the same photos from the same perspectives, so I challenged myself to come away with something different. I wanted photos of the rocks, so I used them as the background for the scene and then waited for interesting characters to come along.

The first thing I noticed was lots of tourists rushing around snapping pictures of the rocks. They were always getting in the way of the photo I was taking, so I gave up and took pictures of them instead.

Storytelling background 12

I like how this tourist blends into the rocks. As they reached out their arms to take a photo, their arms mimicked the circle shapes in the rocks.

Two-year-olds are notoriously difficult to photograph. I wanted to take a photo of my daughter with the rocks in the background. But all she wanted to do was chew on saltwater stones. She had been doing this on our entire trip. We were constantly telling her to get the rocks out of her mouth.

Storytelling background 13

If you’re going to photograph a two-year-old, you might just as well photograph her doing what she loves. And what better background for her photo than the massive rocks?

The tide was rising quickly and would soon cover the massive rock formations. In our last moments there something spectacular happened. A park ranger made his own rock formation by balancing several odd shaped rocks on each other.

Storytelling background 14

What a contrast between the massive Hopewell Rocks and the man-made formation. The force of the tide eroded one set of rocks over a long period of time and will quickly topple the rocks that have been so carefully balanced by the ranger.

When you stick with a scene long enough wonderful things happen and your mind will find symbolic meaning that you otherwise might have missed.

You’ll Enjoy Your Photos More When Your Background Adds to the Story

Don’t let your backgrounds be a disappointing afterthought. Instead, consider how the background in your photo can add storytelling elements to your character.

Remember the steps:

  • When you’re going to take a picture of somebody, first ask yourself, “Who is this character and what are they doing?” When you answer these questions you’ll be able to choose a good background for storytelling.
  • You can choose a background for your character, or find a good background and wait for the perfect character to come along.
  • Try using backgrounds to give symbolic meaning to your photos.
  • Use the background in different ways over several photos.

When you pay attention to the background your photos will become less sloppy and more meaningful. Please share some of your images with storytelling backgrounds in the comments below.

The post How to Use the Background to Create More Storytelling Images by Mat Coker appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Digital Photography School

 
 

Why Lightroom Keywords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

23 Nov

Lightroom has long been the “go-to” program for organizing images and has come into its own as an editing powerhouse as well. If you haven’t been using Lightroom for organizing your images, you are missing a big part of the digital photography pie. The secret to your organization success in Lightroom is using keywords and star ratings effectively.

Why Lightroom KeyWords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

That doesn’t mean that you need to keyword every last image you import into Lightroom. But you can label batches of images and then eventually cull down the keywords to easily find your best images. With over 30,000 images in my Lightroom catalog, I’m pretty happy about being able to find an image in a matter of seconds with the use of this simple system. It’s well-suited for beginners and combines keywords and star ratings.

Set up a consistent naming system for your folders and images

For example, a file name could be; “Iceland_2015_03”.

Many people name their folders by date or location. I prefer location, then date, as it’s much easier for me to remember that way. Whatever naming system you use, just be sure that it’s consistent, and makes sense to you. If you decide “Location_Year_Month” is the best way for you to set it up, make sure that every folder is done the same way.

For example, these folder titles could fall into the Iceland_2015_03 category. Don’t make the mistake of creating random titles like this: Winter 2015, Iceland 2015, Iceland March 2015, Reykjavik 03_2015.

When you first import your images into Lightroom, you can rename the whole set of images, or rename them after import. It is much faster and easier to rename them upon import. Follow the import prompts and enter as much information as you can when you first are bringing images into Lightroom. It will save you loads of time later on.

keywords upon Lightroom Import - Why Lightroom Keywords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

I usually keep the original file number of the image assigned in-camera and then add the location or another identifying label to the front end of the name. You can batch rename and keyword a series of images in the import module. You don’t have to keyword each image individually, but keyword in batches to make it easier.

My other secret tool is the star rating tool. When the images are first imported, I cull through the images quickly and add a one-star rating to the images that I would like to come back and edit. At this point, I don’t try and add any more stars than just a simple one-star.

Use the Paint Can Tool in Develop

Another easy way to add ratings to an image after import is to use the “Paint Can tool”. With this tool, you can set a parameter (like a star rating, keyword, or set of keywords) to “spray” on to an image or a collection of images. If you would like to “spray” a star to your favorite images, this is a fast way to do it.

The Paint Can tool is located on the bottom left of the grid view and it looks like a spray can. Click on it and you will see a selective panel, choose “rating”. After you select “rating”, on the right side of that panel is a series of dots. Click on one of those dots, and it will turn into a star.

Why Lightroom KeyWords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

Paint Can Tool

Then you can quickly go through your images in the grid view and “spray” a one-star rating on all of the images that you like. At this point, don’t apply any more than a rating.

If something really merits a better star rating, go back and review the images again. Once you do your second pass of the images, set the spray can to a 2-star rating. Then repeat the same method for those images that you might like to go in and apply Lightroom adjustments.

Paint-Tool-Label

You can also use it to paint in a color label, flat, metadata or any of these things.

Reserve the 3-star ratings for those images that you might use for an article or blog post and the 4-star ratings are only reserved for the best of the best which you would put in your portfolio. Keep your star ratings consistent, so you know that if an image has a 4-star rating, that it reflects your best work.

Now that you have set up the keywords and star ratings to your images, you have the ability to search or filter images in your catalog. In the Filter Bar in the Grid View, choose the Text option and the drop down box to select keywords, and start entering specific keywords.

Using the Spray Can tool to add metadata

The Spray Can tool can be used for a variety of options to add information to your images. You can “spray” not only star ratings but keywords, metadata information, labels, presets, or assign target collection images.

The next option is to add a series of keywords to your images. We already know that the files you are importing will be from Iceland. Use that as the keyword that applies to all of these images. Then consider where you were on your trip to Iceland. Are your images from the North Coast or the South Coast? Do you have pictures from Reykjavik? Do you have images from Vik? Who is in the images?

The idea here is to start out broad and then narrow your focus. Perhaps your whole shoot is from Iceland. Perhaps another broad category would be winter, ice, or arctic.

Select the Spray Can tool and go to the drop-down menu to the right of the icon. Select “keyword” and enter the word or words you would like to apply. “Spray” your series of images that are from the North Coast and apply that keyword. Change your keyword, and then spray your series of images that are from the South Coast. Continue to narrow down your focus. Then spray just those images from the South Coast that were taken in Vik and so on.

What Keywords Should You Use?

The keywords you should apply will depend on what you would like to use your images for in the future. Are you submitting to a stock agency? Are these images for personal use only? When will you use the images?

The best plan for creating keywords would be to apply basic information that will remind you about the subject, in order to help with locating images later. Start your keywording upon import and use the broadest subject that will apply to all of the images, and then narrow down your keyword focus.

Once you have started to create keywords, Lightroom will suggest keywords that might work with the current set of images in the Keywording panel. The suggested keywords help you to create cohesive words that can be used on multiple sets of images.

Notice at the bottom of the Keywording panel, there is an area with keyword sets. Lightroom automatically gives you some presets to use in this module. Click on the keyword set for “outdoor photography” and see the keywords that are suggested. If there are keywords you would rather use, right-click on the down arrow of the keyword set and you will see the option to “edit set” where you can add and remove words from that set.

The list of keywords from the preset will come up and you can add or subtract those keywords that apply to your images. Then, when you are keywording a certain genre of photography, you can select your keyword set of “outdoor photography” or “portrait photography” and rapidly choose from those sets of keywords. This will also prevent you from creating multiple keywords that mean the same thing. This is useful when you are using specific keywords to search for an image.

Use the Filter Bar to find images

Why Lightroom KeyWords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

Then you will see Lightroom begin to sort images based on the keywords you entered. You can then add another dimension to the search, and a star rating.

This is when you can go back into your Lightroom catalog of 30,000 pictures to find the 4-star rated image in “Iceland” that has a keyword “Eagle Rock”, and find it in a second. Then you’ll see how great this system works. You can also limit your search to specific folders or collections when those are selected in the left-hand column of the Library Module.

Have you tried to organize your images in Lightroom? What kind of naming system works for you? What kind of challenges are you experiencing? Feel free to share your comments below.

The post Why Lightroom Keywords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow by Holly Higbee-Jansen appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Top 10 sample galleries of the year #2: the Sony Alpha a9

23 Nov

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As 2017 winds down, we’re counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of the year. In the #2 position we have another staff favorite in the Sony Alpha a9. Images in this gallery have been viewed nearly 2 million times, so it seems our readers are as fascinated by this camera as we are.

In fact, we’ve probably written more about the Sony a9 then any other product this year, simply because there was a lot to say (and test)! It got a gold award in our review and we’ve used it to shoot everything from parkour to the Presidents Cup. So peep our gallery and see what this top tier sports camera is capable of. Our parkour gallery is below:

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Top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017:

#10: Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art
#9: Fujifilm GFX 50S
#8: Nikon D7500
#7: Olympus Tough TG-5
#6: Sigma 85mm F1.4
#5: Fujifilm X-T20
#4: Leica M10
#3: Fujifilm X100F
#2: Sony Alpha a9
#1: To be revealed on 11/24

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers

23 Nov

Earlier in the week we revealed the DSLRs that were best selling among our readers over the last few months. While DSLRs are still the most popular type of readers among our readers this last quarter has seen a big rise in the number of you using compact system/mirrorless cameras.

popular compact system cameras

In fact if we combined the two lists we’d now see compact system cameras in the top 20 cameras bought by our readers with the Sony Alpha a6000 and the Sony Alpha a7II both making that list.

Also an indication of the growth of sales in the compact system camera class of camera is that today we’re listing 19 of them while last time we created this list we only saw enough sales to justify making it a list of 9 cameras.

Here are the most popular compact system cameras among our readers!

Note: we’ve included cameras with interchangeable lenses and fixed lenses in this list.

This post was last updated 23 November 2017

1. Sony Alpha a6000

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2. Panasonic LUMIX G7

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3. Sony Alpha a6500

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4. Sony a7R III

Note: this camera made the list based purely upon pre-orders – it’s one of the most anticipated mirrorless cameras ever.

sony a7r III

5. Sony a5100

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6. Sony Alpha a6300

91SK7Lmn0GL SL1500

7. Fujifilm X-T20

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8. Sony Alpha a7II

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9. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G85

81Y920s19 L SL1500

10. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

81Y920s19 L SL1500

That’s our top 10 – here are the next 9 most popular compact camera systems.

  1. Sony a7
  2. Panasonic Lumix GH5
  3. Panasonic Lumix GH4
  4. Sony a7R II
  5. Sony Alpha a7S II
  6. Canon EOS M100
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro2
  8. Fujifilm X-E3
  9. Samsung NX500

*Note: this list was compiled from reports supplied to us from Amazon.com where we are affiliates. One of the ways dPS is able to cover its costs and be a sustainable business is that we earn a small commission when readers make a purchase from Amazon after clicking on our links (including those above). While no personal details are passed on we do get an overall report from Amazon about what was bought and are able to create this list.

The post The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Top 10 sample galleries of the year #4: the Leica M10

23 Nov

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We’re counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. Images in these galleries have been viewed over a million times by you, our readers. In fact, our #4 gallery received a total of 1.4 million views – and it belongs to the Leica M10.

Pricey as it is, this camera is both capable of excellent image quality and really enjoyable to shoot with – read our first impressions review. We think it’s the best digital Leica ever made and one heck of a travel companion. Barney brought it along with him to explore Japan and came back with many of the images shown above.


Top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017

#10: Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art
#9: Fujifilm GFX 50S
#8: Nikon D7500
#7: Olympus Tough TG-5
#6: Sigma 85mm F1.4
#5: Fujifilm X-T20
#4: Leica M10
#3: Fujifilm X100F
#2: To be revealed on 11/23
#1: To be revealed on 11/24

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

The Leica CL is (almost) what the TL should have been

23 Nov

Hands-on with Leica CL

‘What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.’

If you know your Bible (which I must admit I don’t – I had to look this phrase up to get the exact wording) you’ll know that this oft-quoted proverb comes from Ecclesiastes 1:9. In a year that saw the commercial release of new versions of the Summaron 28mm F5.6 and Thambar 90mm F2.2, it may appear that that Leica’s product planners have been a bit stuck on this passage of late.

With the release of the CL, a casual observer with a decently long memory might assume that the company’s retro obsession has struck again, but not so fast…

Hands-on with Leica CL

While it shares a name with one of Leica’s most popular and affordable cameras of the 1970s, the new CL is separated from its namesake by more than just years. It’s digital for starters, and shares a lot of its core specification with the 24MP TL2, while offering a more conventional handling experience and a built-in viewfinder, in a body similar in size to the X2 (or depending on your era and preferred frames of reference, the IIIG).

We’ve been using Leica’s newest mirrorless interchangeable lens camera for a little while now – click through for our first impressions and a deeper look at the CL’s feature set.

Control Interface

The T/L and TL2 are beautiful cameras, but their touchscreen-focused user interfaces take some getting used to, and to be completely honest I never got used to them. The CL offers a more conventional handling experience which after extended use, I’d describe as being a hybrid of the TL2 and the Leica M10.

The twin control dials on the top of the camera serve as the main controls for exposure adjustment, and each has a switch at its center, which enables the dial function to be modified. Whether or not you get on with these dials is probably down to personal preference, but I really wish that one of them was on the front of the camera, for operation with my index finger (rather than my thumb).

Top LCD screen

Nestled between the twin control dials is the tiniest LCD I’ve seen since the Ricoh GR1. At 128 x 58px it serves as a basic status display for current exposure settings, and it automatically illuminates in low light (very handy).

Electronic viewfinder

Another very welcome addition to the CL compared to the T-series is a built-in viewfinder. Adding an accessory finder to the TL/2 is entirely possible, and makes the cameras more versatile, but it also makes them a lot bulkier. Plus the black Visoflex finder isn’t a good aesthetic match for the brushed aluminum cameras, and Leica owners care about that sort of thing.

Electronic viewfinder

The CL’s viewfinder isn’t completely flush with the top of the camera, but the slight bump (rather reminiscent of the Olympus PEN-F) doesn’t add much bulk, and the high resolution (2.36MP) and good magnification (0.74X equiv.) provide a crisp, clear view. Eye-relief is a sunglasses-friendly 20mm and a poppable-lockable +/-4 diopter is on hand for wearers of prescription eyeglasses.

Rear touch screen

The CL’s 3″, 1.04 million-dot rear LCD is fixed, and touch-sensitive. Unlike the TL2 however, the CL’s conventional button and dial interface means that the touchscreen is by and large an optional, rather than integral part of the handling experience.

I say ‘by and large’ because I have had cause to curse the CL’s touchscreen on several occasions since I’ve been using the camera. In touch AF mode, the CL works as you’d expect it to. You hold the camera out in front of you and touch the screen, and the AF point is positioned at the spot you just touched. But if you then raise the camera to your eye, especially if you’re shooting vertically, it is more or less guaranteed that your nose will reposition the AF point to the very top of the image. This is the kind of operational quirk that I associate with earlier, more primitive touch implementations, and it is hugely annoying.

While it is easy to steer clear of touch-AF and touch-shutter modes through the AF mode menu settings, there is unfortunately no way to disable swipe gestures and image review scrolling and zooming touch features. More than a few times I have found myself accidentally ‘swiping’ (read: lightly brushing) the screen from the right which switches the CL into movie mode.

Swipe gestures

The trouble is that once you’re in movie standby mode: a) you might not actually realize at first, which is confusing and b), assuming you got there accidentally, it is far from obvious how to get back to normal stills mode. The first couple of times I encountered this issue (bear in mind that I didn’t have access to a user manual) I actually gave up and did a hard reset to factory settings just to get back to the business of taking pictures.

When I raised the issue with our contact at Leica, he informed me that a long touch followed by a swipe on the left of the screen switches back to stills mode. He also reminded me that the button in the center of the leftmost control dial can be used to switch between exposure modes (including movie).

This is all well and good, but I really wish it was possible to disable the swipe gestures altogether.

24MP sensor

The CL’s sensor is a 24MP APS-C Bayer-type, without an AA filter. Leica claims 14 stops of dynamic range, which seems about right given the ~40MB Raw files (bearing in mind that we’re not allowed to lab test this early production sample). JPEG image quality is exactly what I’d expect after using the TL2, and compares well to competitive 24MP APS-C cameras.

Alongside Ricoh (and Samsung, RIP) Leica is one of the few companies to offer Raw shooting in the .DNG format, which is always good to see – and makes shooting pre-production sample galleries for DPReview much easier. Perhaps as an indication of its enthusiast/semi-pro pretensions, when you reset the CL to factory settings (which as previously noted I have done, more than once) it defaults to RAW + JPEG capture.

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly at this point, the CL offers neither in-camera stabilization nor automatic sensor cleaning. Since like many mirrorless cameras the CL’s sensor is fully exposed when the lens is removed from the camera, dust can (and in my experience does) get into your pictures unless you’re very careful.

Mechanical + E-shutter

The CL’s shutter is a hybrid mechanical/electronic type. It is fully mechanical to 1/8000sec, and fully electronic up to an equivalent shutter duration of 1/25,000sec. A full-time ‘silent’ E-shutter mode is also available, but interestingly, electronic first-curtain shutter is not an option. I haven’t seen any evidence of noticeable shutter-shock during my shooting so far, but we’ll be sure to test this in the lab once we receive a reviewable camera.

The CL’s maximum shooting rate is a respectable 10fps, with focus locked. Leica claims that this performance is thanks to the new shutter, in combination with the CL’s Maestro II image processor – the same generation processor (though not necessarily the same chip) that we’ve seen used in the TL2 and M10.

4K / 30p, 1080/60p

The CL is the second camera in the L-mount lineup (after the TL2) to offer 4K video capture, at 30p. Overall, despite the headline 4K mode the CL’s video feature set is pretty unremarkable. 4K/24p capture is not possible, and with no microphone socket, videographers are limited to in-camera microphones for audio recording. The microphones are visible in this image, just forward of the CL’s hotshoe.

Battery

The CL uses the same Panasonic-manufactured BP-DC12 battery as the Q, and offers an unremarkable CIPA rating of between 220-240 shots per charge. In normal use I’ve found that (unsurprisingly) this rating is conservative, but for people who regularly shoot a lot of video, I’d definitely recommending bringing a spare – especially if you’re planning on being away from a charger for a while.

Part of the reason I say this is that the CL does not feature a USB socket and as such, there’s no option for USB charging, which is a shame.

New 18mm pancake lens

The L-series lens lineup is still relatively small, but it grows slightly with the addition of the Elmarit 18mm F2.8 pancake prime – the lens that was mostly attached to the front of the CL during my time with the camera.

New 18mm pancake lens

The Japanese-manufacturered Elmarit is tiny at only 20.5mm (0.8in) in length and lightweight at only 80g (2.8oz), but makes up for its skinny dimensions with a big fat price-tag. The 18mm F2.8 will be available in black or silver, either on its own for $ 1295 or in a kit with the CL.

M-Adapter L

The Leica CL is also fully compatible with the M-Adapter L, which enables virtually any M-mount (and most Leica thread-mount, via an additional adapter) lenses to be used with a 1.5X crop. Modern M-mount lenses with 6-bit coding can be ‘read’ by the CL, allowing for in-camera profile corrections to be applied.

This is my battered old LTM 5cm F1.5 Summarit, which becomes a battered old 7.5cm equiv., when mounted on the CL.

Final thoughts (for now)

On balance, the Leica CL is a nicely-designed camera that is pleasant to use. It’s not perfect, but compared to the T/L and TL2 that came before it, it’s more practical for everyday photography and easier to get to grips with. The built-in viewfinder is excellent, and I appreciate the more or less conventional button-and-dial interface, and the straightforward, M10-inspired menu. Less convincing is the touchscreen implementation. While the ability to set focus by touch in some AF modes, and scroll through / zoom into images in playback is really handy, the frequent problem of the AF point being repositioned by my nose, and the ‘always on’ swipe functionality did frustrate me.

Image quality from the CL’s 24MP sensor seems excellent, although I’m not wholly convinced by the 18mm lens. During my time with the CL I’ve used it almost exclusively with the new 18mm F2.8 pancake, and I can’t deny that it’s a pretty powerful combination – as well as being truly pocketable. Unfortunately, off-center sharpness isn’t as good as I would hope from a $ 1200+ prime, and the ~F4 equivalent aperture (in 35mm terms) limits its usefulness for low light photography, or anything where you might want a modicum of foreground/background separation.

That said, there are other, very good quality lenses in Leica’s T-mount lineup, and the CL will play very well with all of them, albeit at the expense of some pocketability.

What do you think of the new Leica CL? Let us know in the comments.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Sony a7R Mark III review

23 Nov

Introduction

The Sony a7R Mark III is the company’s latest high-resolution full frame mirrorless camera. Much like Nikon’s recent D850, it’s one that combines this resolution with high speed and fast autofocus capabilities to a degree we’ve not previously seen.

Like its predecessor, the Mark III is built around a 42MP BSI CMOS sensor, but unlike the a7R II, it can shoot at ten frames per second.

Essentially it can be seen as an a7R II that inherits many of the lessons learned from the company’s pro-sports model, the a9. This means faster processing, improved autofocus, improved handling and ergonomics, as well as the adoption of a much larger battery. While some of the individual changes are subtle, they very quickly combine to produce a hugely capable and highly useable camera.

Key Features

  • 42MP BSI CMOS sensor
  • Faster, lower-noise image processing
  • 10 fps shooting with full AF, 8 fps with ‘live’ updates between shots
  • 3.69M dot (1280 x 960 pixel) OLED viewfinder
  • Improved autofocus, including more tenacious Eye AF mode
  • 5-axis image stabilization, rated at 5.5 stops (CIPA) with 50mm lens
  • 4K footage from ‘Super 35’ crop region oversampled from 5K capture
  • Video AF less inclined to refocus to background
  • ‘Picture Profile’ video gamma/gamut modes including S-Log2 and 3
  • Twin SD Card slots (one UHS-I and one UHS-II compatible)
  • Bayer-cancelling multi-shot mode for improved resolution
  • True 14 bit uncompressed Raw, even in continuous drive mode
  • Use of phase detection (including Eye AF) at 3 fps with adapted lenses

Sony says the a7R III is based around the same 42MP back side illuminated CMOS sensor as its immediate predecessor, so doesn’t gain the full speed advantages of the a9’s Stacked CMOS chip (in terms of AF performance, continuous shooting rate or reduced rolling shutter in video and electronic shutter mode). However, the adoption of the processing systems, algorithms and refinements introduced on the a9 all have their benefits.

This means a camera with a touchscreen and dedicated joystick for AF point positioning, a camera with a deeper grip and improved customization, with better laid-out menus and much improved battery life.

Video capabilities

Sony also says the improved processing will benefit video shooting. The oversampled footage taken from a Super 35 (~APS-C) region of the sensor is still expected to look better than the subsampled capture from the full sensor width but both are supposedly improved by the new processing chain. We’ll delve into this later in the review.

To take advantage of the camera’s dynamic range, the Picture Profile system of color and tonal response borrowed from Sony’s professional video line now includes the even flatter S-Log3 gamma curve. That said, there is no 10-bit capture possible; the camera can still only capture 8-bit 4:2:0 footage internally or output 8-bit 4:2:2, which may limit the usefulness of S-Log3 if it makes posterization more likely when the footage is graded.

For users wanting to use the camera’s video dynamic range with a high dynamic range display but without the extra hassle of color grading, the a7R III joins the Panasonic GH5 in offering Hybrid Log Gamma recording: essentially Log capture with tags to tell displays how to correctly render it.

Compared:

The a7R III’s most obvious peer is the D850, since it’s the other high-speed, high resolution full frame camera. We’ll also note the changes relative to its predecessor and its other, less rapid high-res rivals.

Sony
a7R III
Nikon D850 Sony
a7R II
Canon EOS 5DS R Pentax K-1
MSRP
(Body only)
$ 3200 $ 3300 $ 3200 $ 3900 $ 1800
Pixel Count (MP) 42.4 45.7 42.4 50 36
Sensor type BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS CMOS CMOS
ISO Range 100-32,000 64-25,600 100-25,600 100-6,400 100-204,800
Stabilization In-body
(5.5 stops)
Lens-only In-body
(4.5 stops)
Lens-only In-body
(5 stops)
AF working range –3EV (@F2) –4EV –2EV (@F2) –2EV –3EV
Viewfinder magnification & eyepoint 0.78x
23mm
0.75x
17mm
0.78x
23mm
0.71x
21mm
0.70x
21.7mm
Connectivity options Wi-Fi, BT
(+NFC)
Wi-Fi, BT Wi-Fi
(+NFC)
Optional SD Card Wi-Fi
Video 4K/30p
1080/120p
4K/30p 4K/30p
1080/120p
1080/60p 1080/30p
Mic/
Headphone
Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / No Yes / Yes
Flash sync speed 1/250th 1/250th 1/250th 1/200th 1/200th
Flash Sync socket Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Continuous shooting 10fps 7fps* 5fps 5.0fps 4.4fps
Intervalometer No Yes Via app Yes Yes
Memory format SD (UHS-II)
SD (UHS-I)
XQD
SD (UHS-II)
1x SD (UHS-I) CF (UDMA)
SD (UHS-I)
2x SD
(UHS-I)
USB (Connector) 3.1 (C)
2.0 (micro B)
3.0 (micro B) 2.0 (micro B) 3.0 (micro B) 2.0 (micro B)
Battery life (CIPA)
VF/LCD
530/650 1,840/ – 290/340 700/200 760/ –
Weight 657g
(23.2oz)
1005g
(35.5oz)
625g
(22.0oz)
930g
(32.8oz)
1010g
(35.6oz)
*D850 can shoot 9fps when combined with a battery grip and D5-style battery.

As should be apparent, the Sony offers a combination of resolution, speed and video capabilities not easily matched by its peers. And, with the new battery, is able to offer much more similar endurance, if you’re not in a situation in which you can plug the camera in to an external power source.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Canon illuminated buttons patent hints at future prosumer DSLR design

23 Nov

Canon has filed a patent that shows illuminated buttons appearing on the back of a prosumer DSLR camera (7D/5D-like design), hinting that the feature may be added to the maker’s future models. Details are sparse at this time, but an illustration in the patent shows a series of buttons with what appears to be a row of LEDs behind them.

The patent implies that this tech is about lighting up buttons while simultaneously preventing light leaks, explaining that this particular design: “enables a letter or character on the surface of a button to emit light uniformly […] without providing any dedicated separate member for light guiding and light shielding, and can prevent light leakage to the inside and outside of the device.”

As with all patents, we can’t say for sure when (or even if) this feature will make its way into a Canon camera, but it seems like a no-brainer and something that would be simple to implement. Check out the full patent for yourself here (Japan Patent Application 2017-147019).

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Matthews unveils C-stand shoulder and roller bags

23 Nov

Getting your equipment to location shoots can be a difficult logistical task, especially when you’re also hauling lighting equipment in addition to camera gear. Carrying your C-stands could soon be a lot less unpleasant, though, thanks to the new C-stand bags from Matthews Studio Equipment.

You can choose from a shoulder bag and a roller version. The shoulder bag resembles a guitar case and can hold two assembled C-stands. It also comes with am protective internal divider, a grip handle with “easy-catch” magnet and a padded shoulder strap.

The rolling bag is a little larger and can hold three C-Stands with the legs removed. The bag rolls on high density silicon skate wheels and comes with a zippered external compartment, customizable internal dividers for storing light stands or grip accessories and twin side handles, allowing for handling of the bag by two people.

Both bags are available to pre-order now. You’ll have to invest $ 250 in the shoulder bag, while the larger roller case will set you back $ 350.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)