2010, Photography

Okay, in my previous post I mentioned that the spring finally arrived and I immediately took the opportunity to take my GRDI for a spin. I didn’t really noticed it at first, but sometimes the focus was way off. A day later, things were even worse and the GRD only seemed to work properly when I set it to macro. The AF becomes a lot slower than, but is also much more accurate. I’ve already had contact with Ricoh and the prospect looks promising.

The last few days I took the Sigma DP1 and I am again reminded how ought this camera is to use, but how gorgeous the photographs are. The feeling of depth, the tonality, and hightlight and shadow handling. Therefore it remains a truly special camera, even though not everyone will like it.

This week seemed to be an Adobe week with their press release that CS5 will be unveiled on April 12. Saw a sneak peek of Photoshop CS5 recently and Scott Kelby demoed the content-aware fill option (see a video of it here). It is pretty impressive technology, but I don’t know how much this has to do with photography anymore. And this technology seems to make watermarks pretty obsolete too. Dunno. Hope it recognizes typo and stops working.

Adobe labs released a new beta version of Lightroom 3. The 64 bit version works really fast and smooth. The developers added some great new features to the beta of Lightroom 3 like a new version of Adobe RAW, a more enhanced importer, improved noise reduction, better vignetting options, and the effect to actually add grain to your photographs. But for me the improved tone curve is the real bonus of Lightroom 3. It is now fully adjustable and a joy to use. I am still surprised about all the open spaces in the graphic user interface, and the lack of no full screen mode (and soft proofing?). I still think it looks quite elegant though.

For those interested in the HD video capabilities of the latest breed of dSLR’s, you might want to check this vid at Zacuto. They compared a 35mm film camera with Kodak and Fuji film stock against the Canon 5D mark II, 7D, 1D mark IV, Nikon D3S, and Panasonic DMC-GH1. Pretty impressive stuff and in particular the 5D does an amazing job. Many (amateur) photographers think it is a gimmick or a bonus, but these cameras are really shaking up the film industry.

And finally back to Ricoh. There are new plans for another Ricoh meet-up either end of April or in May. Possible locations for a meet-up are London, Düsseldorf (home of Ricoh Europe), and Amsterdam. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet some of the people you regularly chat with at either one of the many photography forums? Head over here and sign up.

Happy weekend to you all and good light.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Compact camera limitations

2008, Photography

There is a distinctive demand among serious photographers for a high quality compact camera. Small sized, fast, and easy handling camera with raw capability, good optics, and good image quality. Many serious compact cameras do bring some of these features, but no camera comes with everything.

My camera for instance, the Ricoh GX200, has probably the best camera handling in the business together with the GR Digital 2. Excellent raw capability, is fast, and has a very good lens. The image quality is really good at base ISO (64) and ISO 100. It can be good at ISO 200, but don’t underexpose, and becomes less usable at ISO 400 and higher with more noise and considerable loss of detail. Now, the GX200 is not the only camera suffering from the limitations of the sensor. It becomes apparent that the Canon PowerShot G10 has the same caveat. It makes fun to photograph with a great handling camera, but in the end it is still the photograph that matters to me.

Image quality wise the Sigma DP1 is in a different competition. It is yet the only compact camera packed with an APS-C sized sensor, but at the cost of speed and handling. The lens starts at f4 and raw writing times takes longer then on the recently released serious compacts. Nevertheless the lens is very sharp, and the DP1 is also the only compact camera were you can play with shallow depth of field without the macro mode.

Although I personally don’t think Panasonic made the most intuitive user interface, their Lumix DMC-LX3 is probably the best current serious compact camera on the market. Instead of adding more pixels on a sensor, they didn’t increase the numbers. They improved the software engine of the camera that results in some of the finest jpegs from any small sensor camera, especially at higher ISO’s. But at what price? A limited choice of raw processors, more barrel and CA distortion (though cleverly handled by the in-camera software and Silkypix raw processor). But talking about price, it is probably also the cheapest high quality compact camera too in most parts of the world. Unless the Ricoh GX200 is well available in your country.

But what too expect from the near future? I think it is harder to predict future plans since the financial crisis. Many had hoped that more camera manufacturers would follow Sigma developing a compact camera with a larger sensor. This however would result in very high costs in the research and development, and that seems less likely today. At photokina, Ricoh stated to me that they want to improve the image quality of their GR Digital and GX cameras. I am not sure how, but I think the Panasonic method seems most likely. Less pixels, faster lens and better software engine. Sigma introduced the DP2 with a 40mm lens and faster processing at photokina, but with an uncertain release date for 2009.

Less compact, but still more compact then a dSLR is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1. Together with the kit lens it is not quite compact, but together with a M-mount wide angle lens it sure is (see it with a C-V 15mm here). And what about the expected Olympus m4/3 camera? The G1 is not at all cheap, and you can get better dSLR cameras for less. The Olympus camera will probably be in the same price range too.

Many, including me, had high expectations about the introductions of many serious compact cameras this year. In the end it was still much of the same though. We might still have to deal with many of the current limitations in the next few years. But these cameras will probably produce increasingly better jpegs with better denoising and dynamic range. But the raw files will make their flaws more noticeable too.

It is still good to know that a manufacturer tries to listen to its customers. Upcoming Sunday there will be a Ricoh meet up in London and some of the Ricoh Europe folks will be there too. See more information here at Ricoh Forum.

Now, the above will be fine when it still fits your style, capabilities, and creativity. In my opinion you shouldn’t buy a camera, because it will make better pictures. Finally, the camera is still just a box capturing light in a fashion you want it too. Make sure you master your camera and the photographs. And live with the thought that you know what you can do with your camera, instead of thinking what you can’t do with it. Take or make photographs, whatever, as long as you have fun.