There’s been lots of interesting forward motion in the photo-products space recently. I thought I’d summarize for the fairly-small set of readers who care about cameras and such, but aren’t obsessive enough to follow the daily news themselves. Also, I’ve tossed in some pretty winterdusk studies. Well, darkly pretty.
The pictures are from a last-day-of-November walk around the block with my 2½-year-old daughter; her divagations and peregrinations leave lots of time for shooting. This was about 4:30PM, which at 50ºN latitude in November, means sunset is in progress.
Opening Shots · Want some pure lens porn? Here ya go.
There’s quite a bit of buzz these days about HDR photography, which combines multiple images to produce often-startling results. I mostly hate the HDR shots I’ve seen online, finding them garish and cartoony. But Alex Brown has been fooling around and has come up with some quietly luminous pictures of Cambridge, England. Hmm.
Small Cameras · I have written and spoken on the subject of good small cameras, and the state of the art has moved on since my own most recent acquisition, the lovely but finicky Ricoh GX100 whose efforts often improve these pages.
Of course, there’s Ricoh’s own GX200, which addresses some of those finickiness issues. Then there’s Canon’s G10, whose image quality gets a paean here and low-light performance a heavy snark here. Next, there’s the Panasonic Lumix LX3; I can’t find anybody writing anything but good about it, as some of the usual suspects do here and here.
Finally, the Nikon P6000 which comes with GPS, but, when it originally shipped, had some bizarre apparent lock-in to the Microsoft Windows operating system, but I gather that didn’t last long, Macs can process the pix too. It hasn’t been written up that much, but there is a comparison with the G10.
If I were shopping for a new compact right now, well... I’d enjoy the process.
Big Cameras · For the last little while, the mighty Nikon D3 has been, more or less, the top dog in the world of mainstream SLR cameras; well, to the extent that anything priced around US$5K is mainstream.
Everyone agrees that these are brilliant cameras; in particular that their performance in low-light conditions is frighteningly good. Also, that they are very large cameras. For my style of photography, which is all about walking around with a camera in my hand and hoping I get lucky, they’re just way too big.
Mike Johnson has an absolutely charming illustrated essay on this subject: Nice, Wet, and Blue-Green. I particularly appreciate the side-by-side of the D700 and the Pentax K20D (provider of the pix on this page). Mike says he thinks the Pentax is just the right size, but I still find it a bit unpleasantly large compared to my old *ist D.
Mike also has some consideration of the Nikon/Pentax tradeoffs in The Nikon D700: The New 400.
New Directions · There are a lot of photographers who feel as I do; we want beautiful lenses and effortless low-light coverage and all that stuff in a package that fits into one hand, and costs less than a Leica. In this context, the Micro Four Thirds System has been making big noise. You can read the details lots of places, but goal is to fit a larger (and thus more sensitive) sensor into a smaller body, mostly by removing the SLR’s traditional optical viewfinder.
The first serious commercial product is the Panasonic G1. I’m not 100% sure the G1 is even on the streets yet, but I’ve read one rave review. Dig the teeny telephoto; this is a damn interesting camera.
If you’ve followed any of those links and been thinking about low-light image quality, here’s my Pentax pushed to its low-light max at ISO 1600.
The K20D can do pretty well, particularly when I strap on the big honkin’ Sigma 30mm F1.4, but getting the focus and exposure right when you’re out at the limits is a cruelly difficult task that I’m far from mastering.