Saturday, December 19, 2015

How Do JPEG's Work?

It's something that we take for granted, but if you are interested in how your camera works, a fairly easy to understand series of videos from Computerphile.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Canon PowerShot G5 X Review

One of the expectations of consumer electronics is that over time, you will get more power for less price. That is certainly true for computers, but there isn't a "Moore's Law" for cameras. If you want a better sensor, then you have to pay more money.

The problem is that people don't necessarily want a better sensor camera, but if they want a camera, it has to be better than their cell phones, which have also been getting better nonetheless. And so, the 1/1" sensor format, which was once considered "large" and premium, is now pretty much the mainstream standard for compact cameras. The 1/1.7" format, which was once the largest format for premium compacts, is now defunct, and so is the premium positioning for cameras built around this format. To that end, the venerable Canon S120 and G16 are now gone, replaced by the G9X and G5X respectively. Of the two, the G5X is the more appealing to enthusiasts. Whereas the G7X is obviously derivative of the Sony RX100 cameras, the G5X is a more unique design... at least for Canon. The overall design could easily have come from Nikon's V3 team, and the pronounced flash/hotshoe/EVF hump is reminiscent of Fujifilm bridge cameras of years past.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Leica SL (Type 601) Review: With Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8-4 ASPH

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me..."
                                                              - F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rich Boy

It is difficult to enter any discussion regarding Leica without at least once visiting the reality of the prices that they charge. That has never been more true with the SL (Type 601), which commands one of the starkest prices of any Leica south of the medium format S series. For the purposes of this writing, it will remain the elephant in the room.... these days, one merely has a Leica or one does not. It's not rational to justify it. If you come across somebody and this is their camera, then there will probably be some truth to the fact that they will be "different from you and me".

The SL is like the Leica Q in that it is a surprise. The Q is a harbinger of a more automated and user-friendly form of the M-series rangefinder format... the surprise was how willing Leica was to go in this direction given it's history. Likewise, the SL is ostensibly another dive into uncharted waters for the company; the Leica T was one experiment, and the SL feels like another. For a "conservative" company, the SL shows a surprisingly willingness to be modern. That said, even if the concept of the SL feels like a grand experiment, it's form and operation are already evident in the S-series medium format cameras: the SL is that in miniature. This is a camera with a much heft as a Nikon D810 or Canon 5Ds, and it's "kit" lens is just as imposing. As cliché as it is, this is a camera that would not be out of place in a fashion shoot out on the streets of Monaco.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How Does Light Travel Through Glass?

This will be a bit of a diversion post. Photographer's these days are concerned with many technical things... how many megapixels their cameras are, how much dynamic range they can fit in an image, how many stops of aperture they can manage. On a deeper and more edifying level, there is a lot of science behind how modern cameras work, but perhaps the most elemental is the fact that glass is transparent. "It just is" you may say, but the physics of why some things like camera lenses let light through, and why other things don't, is explained in this link to Brady Haran's excellent Sixty Symbols channel on YouTube. Professor Phil Moriarty explains:

But camera lenses don't just pass light through unimpeded.If if the photons do make it through the glass, they will travel through the glass 40% slower than they would in a vacuum. This is where the concept of diffraction comes in, the basis of how camera lenses work....

Monday, October 19, 2015

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Review

Even though photography is a "classic" pursuit,,,timeless and discovered by each new generation... the commercial market for photographic equipment is driven by novelty. We, as photographers, tell each other that the smart money is in lenses... that lenses will be useful long after bodies have become obsolete. If that were true - and it mostly is - then the camera manufactures would have a tough time selling anything. The truth is that lenses don't become obsolete, but they are getting better as time goes by.

Unfortunately, "better" also means more expensive. Working with precision optics isn't like working with electronics... there isn't a "Moore's Law" of camera lenses. If you want a better camera lens, i8t will almost invariably be more expensive. Today's lenses are sharper and better corrected than their predecessors, but the average selling price has gone up accordingly. Which brings us to the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM. Not a red-ring lens. Not a new lens. No fancy coatings. No aspherical elements. Not sexy like the Sony Batis 85mm f/1.8, yet this is almost a no-brainer as far as portrait lenses go for Canon users.