8 Great Tips to Get More Out of Your Camera Batteries

Olympus's Micro 4/3rd's camera

Wouldn’t it be an absolute nightmare to have your batteries die in the middle of an important shoot? Granted, we’re all responsible people that take great care to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen when we’re out on the job. However, after shooting with different systems one can easily see that the battery life of cameras from different companies can vary. Being in the tech industry, I’ve learned tips for conserving battery power and extending overall life. At the beginning of the year, I’ve started applying those tips to cameras: with amazingly positive results. Here are 8 pointers to keep in mind no matter what type of camera you shoot with. [Read more...]

Tips For Shooting Wildlife

Moth on a Flower

No matter how excited we get, there are certain things we need to remember when photographing wildlife. This is especially true when you are looking for animals that are notoriously hard to capture on camera. Whatever you do though, you need to keep in mind that practice makes perfect and that perseverance will eventually get you that shot. Here are a couple of reminders for your reference. [Read more...]

Turn Off Autofocus – Do it Yourself!

Light and Beer

Recently, I’ve been shooting all my shots without autofocusing and only relying on the manual focus wheel on my Olympus E-510. What I’ve discovered is that it’s making me think more about my shots, framing, and forcing me to concentrate more on achieving the perfect photo that I have set in my mind already.

In contrast, the world of commercial and event shooting has called for the “spray and pray” method of shooting. On top of this, your camera’s autofocusing may not always be up to par with your expectations and standards; especially in low light as is the case with the above photo. It was achieved with manual focus. [Read more...]

Using High ISO and Image Noise to Your Advantage

The Poor Homeless Man

Like many of you, I’m for getting the cleanest image possible while shooting. Raising that ISO up to levels where you see lots of banding and image noise isn’t really worth it for selling your shots considering how much post-process noise reduction you have to do. Therefore, anything less is totally unacceptable, right? Well, not all the time. If you look at old film photos you’ll see that this isn’t always true. Additionally, there’s lot more you can do besides making the image smaller to hide the flaws. Here’s how to use Image Noise to your advantage: [Read more...]

How To Shoot Fireworks

The 4th of July is coming: that means BBQ’s, fireworks, and lots of picture taking. You’re not the average person that just likes taking snapshots of everything and gets mediocre photos to share with their friends. You’re the type that will take lots of pictures, pick the best of the bunch and publish them. You may even sell them. Here’s how to ensure that your images of the fireworks this 4th of July stand out from other people’s. [Read more...]

Shooting Big Cities at Night While Traveling Light

Serenity

You’re in a big, dreamy city at night. Mesmerized by the bright lights contrasting with the beautiful, deep blackness of the night sky, you want to take pictures and capture the stunning gorgeousness before you. However, if you don’t have a Full-Frame DSLR like a Canon 5D MK II or Nikon D700, then chances are that you will have a harder time capturing cleaner images as the smaller sensors don’t have the pixel density or algorithms programmed in to them to deliver the shots that you want. Here’s a couple of things to remember when you go out shooting at night and to get the image almost perfect the first time around with little post-process development.

The following article has been written after many trials with a Canon XSi and Olympus E-510. The former has an APS-C sized sensor while the latter is a 4/3rds camera. Each has their own limitations and differences that can be overcome while traveling with a small kit. I never shoot on Auto: it’s either Manual, Aperture, or Program for me. [Read more...]

Olympus: There is Lots More to Come to M4/3rds

Olympus E-P1

The Olympus EP-1 has received tremendous amounts of press since its release as the camera is truly the digital rangefinder that many people have been looking for. However, according to the British Journal of Photography via Photo Rumors there is both a pro Pen camera  and a lower grade Pen camera in development.

Olympus's Micro 4/3rd's camera

I shot the above photo at last year’s PhotoPlus Expo. It was the prototype of the EP-1, or at least it was supposed to be. Olympus said that it was the prototype of their Micro 4/3rds camera. However, they never said which one it was a prototype for. Could it possibly be the one that will be aimed more towards consumers? [Read more...]

Magic Lantern Firmware Update for Canon 5D MK II

Magic Lantern firmware introduction from Trammell Hudson on Vimeo.

If you’re a Canon user, the camera that you probably dream about is the Canon 5D MK II. Despite the fact that B&H and Adorama never have units because it moves so fast, the camera does have its flaws. Adding onto the recent manual control firmware update by Canon (blogged about earlier by Eric), users and potential buyers of the 5D MK II may want to consider the Magic Lantern Firmware update.

The programmers state that, “Within some limitations, we can fix many of the Canon firmware problems and plan to write widgets to address the requirements of the film users of this amazing camera.”

The Magic Lantern update is similar to the Canon Hacking Development Kit, known as the CHDK to photographers.¬† As such, it is not officially recognized by Canon as an official update to the camera’s software (and users know that it isn’t perfect either.) The features that are added are common to what may be found on professional camcorders and could prove very valuable to photojournalists, indie filmmakers, and others that really appreciate the ability to capture beautiful video from the large sensor. A truly useful add-on is the on-screen audio meters for monitoring sound recording levels–which is instrumental because there 5D MK II doesn’t have a headphone jack. Additionally there are zebra stripes to help compose a more balanced image (which is a bit laggy as seen in the video), on-screen crop marks for different aspect ratios (16:9, 2.35:1 and 4:3) and the ability to switch off the Auto Gain Control and control video gain manually. That means that image noise/grain will be reduced and less work will be done in post to get rid of it.

Like the CHDK though, it’s not all perfect for everyone. Users will need to reload the firmware after the camera is switched off, goes to sleep or you remove the CF card, and you should remove the battery after each use lest the hacked processes continue to run in the background and kill the battery. However, keep in mind that the update s in it’s beta stages. Like the CHDK, the firmware will constantly be tweaked and initial issues will be resolved until the recording capabilities and usage issues meet the needs of the users. Another plus is the fact that it’s free, possibly stemming from the fact that it is a homebrew solution to the problems encountered while using the camera.

I’ve used the CHDK before on a Canon S5 IS superzoom, and was very pleased with the results–especially the RAW image capture capabilities. Granted, the 5D MK II has all that, but supercharging your camera is always an awesome alternative that can help you out without the need for extra equipment that you (and me) may not be able to afford. Additionally, you won’t be burdened down by external monitors, beachtek adapters, etc. In my tests with the Canon 5D MK II when it was first shown off at PhotoPlus Expo 08, I found it to pair very nicely with a Rode Shotgun mic for my needs–which are photojournalistic. Monitoring audio levels and singling out the exact sounds that you want/need is sometimes a problem with this camera. Perhaps the Magic Lantern update may push Canon to release another firmware update since bodies continue to move off the shelves.

Can the iPhone 3G S change how cameras are made?

The recently announced iPhone 3G S finally assessed the issues that the phone’s previous cameras–that they were very limited in capability. However, Apple isn’t even a photography company but they have pushed a feature that may change how compacts are made and the way they take images: tap-to-focus.

A search on Flickr can show users many different videos and photos taken with the new iPhone 3G S. After looking through the pages, a user can see just how capable that little sensor is. Because a user can tap an area to focus on it precisely, users have the ability to have a shallower depth of field that mimics the images one sees come out of a DSLR. Additionally, add in the fact that most people find that using their cameraphone to be, “good enough” for everyday usage and you have yourself a compact camera changer. This is all fine for most people despite the fact that the iPhone 3G S doesn’t have a flash or optical zoom (although external lenses can be had.)

saichart062309-flickr-cameras

For example, any smartphone (meaning even a Blackberry, G1, or Palm Pre) can shoot a picture and then immediately text it, email it, or upload it to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter etc. They do all this through use of a 2G, 3G or WiFi network. How many compact cameras have those capabilities? Not very many, instead they sync up with your printer so that you can print your shots; but people print less and less these days. And one that can do all those tasks isn’t guaranteed to have such amazing battery life. Additionally, memory cards fill up because of the fact that camera manufacturers keep pushing more and more megapixels onto those tiny sensors. With a cameraphone being about 3MP, one can store lots of photos on their 2GB MicroSD cards and still use that beautiful 3 inch LCD screen on their phone to show off all those pictures to friends, family, etc.

These cameras are actually even changing the way that we receive our news. When an airplane crashed into the Hudson River where I live in New York City the first and most iconic images of the event were taken with an iPhone and sent to Twitter.

As a guy that recently graduated from journalism school, I can tell you firsthand that many programs are teaching their students to make better use out of their smartphones–the reasons listed above are part of it all. If a DSLR had all the connectivity capabilities that a smartphone has then not only would the system be super expensive but it could mean that pros (like us) could be out in the field all day and night working non-stop to get those shots that we need to please our clients. Let alone if mobile versions of WordPress, Moveable Type, or Blogger were available then the capabilities of pros vs. everyday cameraphone users would be more balanced.

With all this in mind, perhaps if the iPhone OSx or Android were modified to run on a DSLR then the capabilities would be greatly increased.