Monday, December 31, 2012

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 Review

In the weeks leading up to the launch of the Nikon D600, I described it as "a camera that needed no review" because of it's combination of known qualities (essentially D7000 technology and construction) with the addition of an improved sensor. By those virtues, the mere fact that it was a well-regarded camera with a larger sensor pretty much guaranteed that it would be a good camera, with the only thing that could ruin the equation being if Nikon couldn't deliver on the expected "affordable" price point. If you factor in the 2012 year-end bundling with the 24-85VR, everything about the camera pretty much sells itself.

A couple that I know are expecting their first child and are shopping for a camera. I knew the RX100 was big when I started seeing all of the non-camera friends on Facebook recommending this camera because of its "dSLR-like quality." You can only roll your eyes at that. It's good, but it's not that good. But the hype around this camera... yes, there's been that much hype. So they were interested, until the inevitable topic of price came around...

It's been a while since the Sony DSC-RX100 has been out, which was launched just around the same time. Similar situation, on paper, stuffing a 1/1" sized sensor into a small compact body ought to make the it clear that the RX100 would out-perform every other camera in this class, and it certainly does... but is being the best in class an "automatic marketing" virtue? That depends, as the equation isn't so simple. The D600 (and now the Canon 6D) are by virtue, value-oriented products, as every other full-frame alternative is much more expensive, but the RX100 runs into the problem of being more expensive than even some dSLR's. Does that matter? It likely depends on the buyer's situation.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AF-D Review: Just Another Classic 35mm Shot

"Raincouver"  earned its reputation this week, so for smiles I decided to revisit a sunny summer afternoon. This is a greatly expanded review of the Nikon 24mm f/2.8AF-D. Count the number of photographic "rules" being broken in this picture...

  • "Portrait" taken with wide angle lens
  • Subject not placed far enough away from busy background
  • Subject isn't in optimal focus.
  • "Burnt" highlights

Yet, this picture is still a favourite of mine...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nikon AF 35-70 f3.3-4.5 Review: A Tripod Makes Any Lens Sharp

Getting closer to another New Year, now. This is an expanded re-post of an old article, but to me, there's something appropriate about ringing in the new by honouring the years gone by at the same time.

Steveston Harbour, Richmond, B.C., Canada

This picture was taken with an old Nikon AF 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 lens... the kind of kit lens that came on the consumer F-401 way back in the days of film. These lenses earned a reputation for producing a 'dreamy' picture rendition, which is a nice way of saying that they were not very sharp. This reputation is not unearned, but was made worse by the high probability that the camera store clerk upsold you a UV filter to "protect" the lens, which further degraded the image quality. Nonetheless, this was the first lens that I ever used on my old D80. Not the greatest choice, but this particular image is fairly sharp despite being shot at "only" f/4.5. Even though I probably should have gone to f/8, it was windy out there and I wanted to keep the exposure time down as the boats were rocking gently in the wind.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Clear-Coat Scratch Protection Review for iPhone 4s

I've gone through a number of screen protectors over the past two years (see here and here). Though I think that some are better than others, my advice remains pretty much the same: if you like using protectors instead of cases, buy the cheapest one that you can, because these aren't permanent solutions. The various companies out there offer replacement programs, but truth be told, they're counting on you not bothering to mail in your used protectors in much the same way that rebates anticipate that a certain proportion of the customers never redeem them.

Just as a caveat, though: don't buy the no-name stickers that come in a slim pouch without an applicator kit. These wear out quickly, don't have the same spring-back properties as the big name varieties and aren't as clear. On top of it all, they are terrible to install if you try to apply them in one-go instead of using the wet method.

The most recent product that I've been using with my iPhone has been the Clear-Coat, which I can say has also been the least expense brand that I've come across so far. For roughly $20 CDN, you get a full body kit, whereas larger brands give you only front and back for that price. My first one wore out (more about that later), and my local retailer replaced it with a brand new set for $3. The second set has gone almost half a year and is in good shape.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Robson Square, Vancouver, Canada

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. May you have many wonderful memories and pictures this season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Buying Broken Equipment on Craigslist

Seen today on my local Craigslist. Price got my attention, until I read further:

Nikon 18-200mm VR1 - $320

"Nikon 18-200 VR1 lens. The VR doesn't work anymore, but the lens performs perfect otherwise. Photos are very sharp, focuses fast and accurate, zoom smoothly. No scratch on the glass element. "

Good used copies of this lens will still go for above $500 CDN... however, I am also starting to see more listing below that for wear and tear issues... dropped lenses, focus motor issues, etc. This is a high quality lens compared to a kit lens. It's well built, but it's also mechanically complex. So would I buy it? No. The price discount is about right, as the broken VR system essentially renders this lens the same as an older 18-200 non-VR type lens, but with better optics. A big downside is that used copies on eBay list for around $350 already (shipping extra), so while the discount is fair, it might not be enough to compensate for the loss of functionality. Remember that Nikon warranties are not transferable. However, just pricing in the cost of the lost functionality isn't the complete story. If you are willing to make this calculation, there is no guarantee that a future buyer would be willing to do so if you yourself decide to re-sell the lens later. If you have your heart set on buying something that is damaged, be prepared to keep it forever; if you can re-sell it, consider it icing on the cake.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Emulating Different Nikon Cameras with Picture Control

Starting with the D3/D3x generation, newer Nikon cameras moved to a unified picture control menu, which makes adjusting camera output consistent across different types of cameras. However, from time to time you hear of people wishing for the JPEG output of older cameras, particularly the famed D2X Mode I that is a favourite of portrait photographers. Picture Control gives you something to approximate that. However, since image output is a culmination of many things hardware and software, you won't be able to exactly replicate different cameras. Here are Nikon's suggestions on how to emulate the D200 and older cameras:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Is it Safe to Clean Your Lenses by Breathing on Them?

A mild bit of controversy over the weekend in the Nikon world with a December 7 blurb about cleaning your lenses on Nikon USA's support page.  The original text went like this:

"How do I clean the camera lens?

The best way to clean a lens is to use a piece of lint free lens cleaning tissue and a small amount of Lens Cleaning solution. Do not use anything containing abrasives or  solvents, only use Lens Cleaning Solution. First we recommend taking a small blower brush to blow off or brush away loose dust or debris.
Next, place a drop or two of cleaner on the tissue (never directly onto the lens) and then wipe the lens in a circular motion, beginning in the center and working your way outward, removing any marks or smear. If the above supplies are not available a clean, dry, soft, lint free cloth can be used to clean the lens.
Do not breathe on the lens to fog it for cleaning. There are harmful acids in breath that can damage lens coatings. Just use the blower bulb, then brush, and wipe the lens in a circular spiral from the center outward. The same method can be used to clean the viewfinder eyepiece of Nikon cameras."

The is posting was updated on December 10, 2012, with the underlined text removed, but not before it made the rounds with Nikon Rumors and PetaPixel.... and drawing the predictable ire of the comments sections on both websites. The more suspicious out there tended to see this as a ploy to scare people into buying lens fluid, whereas your breath is ostensibly free. Darn those evil corporations!

Depending on how you react to the printed word, your first reaction might have been to resolve to duly hold the camera away from your mouth at all times henceforth, or it may have been to immediately scoff at the poor soul who put this wording up on Nikon USA's site. Since they eventually modified it, I'll let you figure out which reaction would have been the appropriate one to take... Still, this raises two questions for the curious: is your breath acidic and would it in any way be harmful to the coatings on your lenses?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nikon D7000 Review

This is a long overdue review. Obviously, it is not a review about the newest and greatest D7000; it's a review about the D7000 as a great value near the end of its model lifecycle. Originally, I had thought that I was not going to write a review, since my thoughts about the D7000 have trickled out here and there throughout other blog posts this year. However, this seems as good a time as any to sum them up because of a number of factors, not the least of which is that the price as of  the end of 2012 is at an all-time low for the amount of performance the D7000 is capable of. You also have the 24mp DX era ever so slowly dawning on us, with the D3200 and D5200 having come, and the presumed D400 announcement around the corner.

That said, Nikon's mid-level cameras have always been stalwart performers. Users of the D70, D80 and D90 tend to hold onto their cameras for a long time simply because they are well made photographic tools. So in that sense, we are nearing the end of one part of the D7000 story, where the first time users have already fallen in love with it (and occasionally fallen out of love with it), and are now just entering the time when the secondary market is going to hunting for it as well. Regardless of what comes next, it's important to keep a little perspective; this is a lot of photographic horsepower in an affordable body, which means that the D7000 will have a place in the Nikon photographic world even after the introduction of it's eventual successor.

Update: For a look at the so-called "ISO-lessness" of the D7000, read here.