Newsletter of E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer and www.EJPhoto.com
All contents ©2004 E.J. Peiker
(Vol 2 , Issue 4)
Photokina - Many Exciting New Digital Products
Wow, a lot has happened in the world of digital photography since the last newsletter just three months ago. Many new and exciting products have been announced at Photokina or in the weeks leading up to it while manufacturer's try to out duel each other. Here are a few interesting and exciting developments. Canon led off the season with the announcement of the much anticipated replacement for the excellent EOS 10D. The new EOS 20D offers 8 Megapixels in a lightweight compact near-pro DSLR. Image quality from this camera is superb and in some ways out paces the professional EOS 1D Mark II that I wrote about in the last newsletter. Some of the key improvements besides resolution over the 10D include a much improved autofocus system, much faster overall handling with near instantaneous start-up and 5 frames per second. Early adopters are experiencing some lock-up issues when changing lenses, especially if using the optional vertical grip. Hopefully Canon will issue a firmware release to correct this problem in the very near future. Along with the 10D, Canon also released several consumer grade EF-S lenses. Note that EFS lenses can not be mounted on any camera other than the 300D and 20D. If you missed it, my mini-review of the 20D can be found here: http://www.naturescapes.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=22320
Nikon upped the anti in the resolution wars between the big two manufacturers and had the lead on paper for a whole week with their newly announce D2x. This camera is a 12 megapixel model using the Nikon standard 1.5x crop factor at 5 frames per second. An innovative feature allows the camera to be switched to a 2x crop factor at 8 megapixels and 8 frames per second. This feature will likely be popular with Nikon nature photographers. The long awaited 300mm AF-S lens was also announced. The D2x will ship in January.
Just a few days after Nikon's announcement of the D2x, Canon announced the EOS 1Ds Mark II full frame sensor DSLR at 16 megapixels. The camera is an update of the original EOS 1Ds and incorporates some of the improvements that were introduced with the 1D Mark II including much faster start-up and write times - the bane of the original 1Ds. The 1Ds will start shipping in October.
Konica Minolta is finally nearing release of its delayed Maxum (Dynax) 7D which has a 6 megapixel sensor and 1.5x crop factor. The innovation in this camera body is that image stabilization is built into the camera. The sensor actually moves in reaction to camera movement to keep things stable. This instantly converts every lens for that system to the equivalent of an IS or VR lens.
Fuji is also finally going to ship its S3 camera based on the Nikon N80. Its innovation is that it has 12 million photosites to make up 6 megapixels and then upsample it back to 12 megapixels. The dual photo site per pixel allows much better dynamic range than what is possible with the single site cameras. The dynamic range will make it much closer to the human eye.
In the digital medium format arena, the big news is the introduction of the Mamiya ZD - a 22 megapixel DSLR with a 48x36 sensor that is compatible with the Mamiya 645 lenses including their AF lenses and manual lenses. While targeted primarily for studio work, on paper this promises to be the ultimate landscape DSLR with large photosites, lots of resolution and excellent dynamic range. The price undercuts the existing medium format cameras with add on digital backs substantially. Currently an equivalent 22 megapixel system costs in the neighborhood of $30,000. This body is expected to sell for about $13,000. Still a huge investment but if the camera delivers, you won't be able to make better digital images at any price.
Other developments include ever higher density and faster flash media. By far the biggest rate limiter these days of getting data from the sensor to the flash card is the camera's electronics. If you are using one of the newer high speed cards from SanDisk or Lexar (the only two brands I recommend), the flash card can accept data much faster than the camera can write it. Camera manufacturers are starting to copy the PC industry by increasing the bandwidth and using faster internal pathways and components to keep the cameras ready to shoot at all times.
One thing that is still lacking is a full featured affordable RAW converter that extracts the maximum detail out of all images. The premium solution today is Capture One and it has the best interface and workflow and RAW processing tools but it leaves some detail on the table and I am not a fan of its color rendering. Adobe Raw, built into Photoshop CS is the most convenient and is very powerful but is vastly inferior in image quality, especially in shadow areas. Breeze Browser is affordable and probably extracts the most shadow detail out of an image but its processing tools are limited and it is shackled with the notoriously slow Canon RAW conversion engine. Digital Photo Pro, bundled with Canon cameras leaves a little bit of detail on the table but has a great workflow and powerful tools but conspicuously leaves out sharpening tools - Canon shooters still need a better mousetrap in this arena. Nikon seems to have this area better understood a their Capture program is excellent, powerful and leaves nothing on the table from an image quality standpoint but I find it odd that they don't bundle it with their multi-thousand dollar cameras and make Nikon customers shell out an additional $100 to get the most out of the camera.
Canon EOS 1D Mark II - not my cup of tea!
As a follow-up to my summary of EOS 1D Mark 2 performance during my summer travels where I found that the white detail is lacking and autofocus lock-ups were prevalent, I sent the camera to Canon's factory service center in Irvine, CA. The AF issue was fixed and the camera autofocuses better than any other camera on the planet bar none. The white detail and to a large extent other colors was not resolved to my satisfaction. I have since looked at many images from many Mark 2's and they all exhibit the same lack of detail in whites and a general pastiness to anything with very fine detail. Very aggressive sharpening and tricks like converting in linear mode helps to some degree but there is just some fine detail that is not recorded. I believe this to be due to a very aggressive anti aliasing filter built into the camera. I maintain that the EOS 1D Mark 2 is the very best sports and action camera in the world but if you are trying to record the fine white feather detail of a Snowy Egret under cloud cover, you will just get a pasty white. For this reason, I have separated ways with the EOS 1D Mark II in favor of the EOS 20D which records fine white feather detail better. If the EOS 1Ds Mark II has the same problem, I may part ways with it quickly as well and consider the Mamiya system for my landscape work.
Many New Articles
I have published a number of new articles in the last few months. You can always visit my Articles page at www.ejphoto.com/articles_page.htm to see the latest. New additions include a one year follow up to last year's Wish List for DSLR's, a quick reference on how to safely and effectively recover lost images from overwritten, reformatted, or damaged flash cards, and two articles written in plain English on what all those custom and personal functions on the EOS 1D series of cameras really do. Planning on a vacation with a helicopter flight seeing tour? There is an article on how to get the most out of an aerial photography adventure.
DuckShop 2005 Full
It looks like the DuckShop series of photo workshops will be sold out for a third year in a row. I want to express my appreciation for all of those that continue to support these workshops. I will not be adding a California workshop this year due to some extensive work at the Bolsa Chica Ecological reserve that has the potential of reducing the photographic possibilities there.
© 2004 - E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer.
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