Arguments against the Megapixel Race

Canon Rebel XSi - 450DCanon Rebel XSi - 450DEvery year the photo industry whose aim is to make money just as the rest of us, is trying to seduce us into buying new gear and discarding the same equipment that was so hot just a year or two ago. Pumping out Megapixel monsters with features that rival those of pro cameras, they tell us that we have to have these wonderful new items. I admit, I am a sucker myself. Every time I open up a magazine and see the latest Megapixel monster staring back at me from glossy pages my heart beats faster. Of course, I read the testimonials from the "pros" (probably endorsed by the industry) who rave about the new technology. Looking at their fantastic images, we might think that we can only succeed with these tools. I am even thinking about upgrading my truly wonderful Canon. I am waiting for the 50D to hit the shelves and I might just buy the Rebel XSi in the meantime to have something new to play with, because I need toys to be happy.
On a more rational note, it is unnecessary to buy new equipment. Already the sensors of the last generation of digital cameras are pushing the limits of diffraction. The Rebel XSi will have a greater pixel density than any other camera with APS-C sensor size. This means that the maximum tolerable circle of confusion for this camera becomes smaller.

This means that we become more and more restricted to the minimum size of our aperture (largest f-stop). In order to boost Depth of Field, a small aperture is necessary.

What is the significance of this?

For once, the higher resolution is not going to make things worse. At the best case, we will get a picture that is 2 times better when the resolution of the sensor is 2 times higher, but in most practical situations, the lens or the optical resolution will limit us somewhat. I think at some point we will get to a point of diminishing returns in terms of resolution, but the camera industry will still taunt us with megapixel numbers for quite some time.

Another way to grow resolution is by growing sensor size (full frame). However, those are extremely expensive to manufacture are much more demanding on the lenses, since they require a larger image circle with the same perfection.

In the future, the industry should probably focus on more pressing issues like increasing the dynamic range of their sensors. If resolution is really all that counts, we can always resort to stitching.

P.S.: Don't worry if this discussion was a bit too technical to understand. I will soon elaborate these things in greater depth.

Entry Level Cameras rivaling pro models - a preview

Just a few years ago, I was following the online debate between advocates of the Digital SLR revolution and followers of film. At this time, I had already made up my mind with the purchase of my first Digital SLR, the newly released Canon 300D. A true marvel and ahead of its time, it was said to rival the quality of 35mm film cameras. Back then, the Canon 1Ds used to be the nonplus ultra of Digital Imaging technology. At 11 Megapixels and equipped with the world’s first full frame CMOS sensor it was the dream of many wannabe photographers (including yours truly) and a must for pros. Many agencies just started to accept digital pictures and required “at least” 11 Megapixels. At the time of its introduction, the 1Ds did cost around $8,000.

Canon Rebel XSi - 450DCanon Rebel XSi - 450D Soon, Canons new entry level SLR, the Rebel XSi will debut at around $800. It will offer 12 Megapixels. Granted the Camera does not offer the weather seals and Full Frame Sensor of the “old” 1Ds, but crop sensors have many advantages. The new features like liveview really make the XSi stand out. With the smaller image circle of a crop sensor, lens design becomes easier making lenses cheaper and lighter. Regardless of feature counting, pixel peeping and rich playboy coolness factor, the XSi is the best camera available to amateur photographers with features exceeding those of previous professional models. Its lightweight design, quiet and inconspicuous shutter operation, and general tourist appeal is a real advantage during street photography sessions. The loud clonk of my 20D’s shutter resulted in stinkeye on more than just one occasion.

Winter Photography – 11 Tips for better Photos

Golden Winter LightLearn what it takes to take perfect photos in winter.

Extreme weather conditions are challenging to photograph. High contrast scenes and bright snow throw off your auto exposure. Cold weather and condensation can damage your equipment and batteries drain faster.
Whether you are trying to capture the beauty of icy winter landscapes or your children’s fun on the slopes, the challenges of winter photography require preparation. In this short essay, I am going to give you advice to help you coping with those situations.

Santa Vision - Going Wide for Christmas

Boats and Coronado Island BridgeBoats photographed with the Tokina wide-angle lens

For quite some time I have been thinking about getting a wide-angle lens. I decided to start my Christmas season early by buying aTokina 12mm - 24mm f/4 PRO DX Autofocus Zoom Lens. The lens is suitable for Cameras with crop factor like the Canon Rebel and xxD series (e.g. 40D) and almost all Nikon Digital SLR.

Using a wide-angle glass on my camera brings many new possibilities to be creative. I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving, so I can put my new lens through its paces. I have already shot some pictures with it and feel comfortable enough to recommend the lens to my readers.  The picture of the beach and the boat picture demonstrate the impressive field of view that this lens offers.  Even more amazing than that is the low distortion. At 12mm, I had expected a lot of it, when there is hardly any. I did not correct the pictures with PTLens, so what you see here is pretty much what came out of my camera. I only ran a couple of scripts for color saturation and did not do anything else on these images.

The sharpness of this lens is just as impressive. It is comparable with other Canon Lenses I own and easily satisfies the needs of today’s Digital SLR lineup. The images are crisp and the color rendition is superb. I wish I had gotten this lens a bit earlier instead of missing the creative choices it offers me.

I did discover some vignetting on one of my shots but I believe it is due to the Tiffen Circular Polarizer Filter that I bought with the lens. I shot the photograph with an aperture of 7.1. I have shot other pictures with similar settings using the polarizing filter without seeing any vignetting. The effect was light enough so that I could fix it in post processing.

Canon S3 IS Review

Canon S3 ISCanon S3 IS I often get asked for recommendations for cameras.  When it comes to anything besides Digital SLR, I think that it doesn't really matter what you buy, as certain cameras in the same price range are always comparable. Recently I was looking for something smaller then my SLR but a bit more useful then my Point and Shoot, when I came across the Canon S3IS (IS=image stabilized) that I found for slightly below $300 on Amazon. What makes this camera so great is that it really sticks out from its competitors in that it offers some features the others don't.

I am not going to pixel peep or show you graphs of noise levels. I think its enough to say that the camera offers enough resolution (6 megapixels) for decent prints. Although it is not comparable in terms of noise to a more expensive SLR, having a small sensor has its perks. It makes it possible to have a 12x optical zoom (36mm - 432mm equivalent) in a small and cheap package that you would have to pay an arm and a leg for to get on a SLR (and forget about traveling with that gear).

YawningPerson Yawning - Canon S3 IS Mostly I was intrigued by the swivel screen, that lets me shoot from the hip and by the completely silent operation (after you turn off all sound effects), which lets me shoot in places I would usually not dare pulling out the SLR (airports, public transport).
I recently talked about my new found passion of candid photography . I usually prefer to be upfront and use my SLR (Canon 20D), but in some situations you need a little bit more stealth. The photo to the right was shot in the San Diego Trolley and wouldn't have been possible with a SLR. The guy was sitting 2 feet away from me and didn't even realize it when I took his shot.

The S3 has a bunch of features that you wouldn't expect from a camera in this price range (it was more expensive when it was introduced).
Among those are image stabilization (this is a must for a camera of this size with a reach of 432mm). The image stabilization should give you at least two stops to play with, but I have managed to get decent photographs at the far end of the zoom with exposure times as long as 1/60s.
The S3 has easy access to Flash Exposure Compensation (something that I had to teach my 300D a long time ago via a firmware hack).

Point and Shoot Cameras are for story telling

Santa Monica PierSanta Monica Pier, Photographed with a Sony DSC-P200 Point and Shoot Digital Camera In the comments to a recent article on Photographic Mistakes and in many emails I received, people have always asked me about Cameras, specifically point and shoot (P&S) cameras.
Although I am a big fan of Canon's Digital SLR Cameras, I bought a Sony DSC-P200 last year for "experimentation" (camera toss anyone?) and so that I could have a small carry-around camera.
I often find myself on a trail somewhere, with the gear tucked away in my photo backpack, headed for a place I wish to photograph. When I get home, I often got the pictures I wanted, but I didn't have any pictures of the trail or sights I encountered on the way that I didn't pull the camera out of the bag for.
Having a small Point and Shoot Camera with me in my pocket doesn't add much weight, but would have allowed me to capture all those things and tell a complete story.
I travel quite a bit and sometimes I write about it on this Travel Portal. Having all these pictures taken, would give me the opportunity to tell a much better story about the hardships of the trail, the steepness of a climb or whatever a traveler might find interesting.
A point and shoot camera is a small camera that doesn't require a lot of adjustments. You point and shoot and you can trust that the automatic will work reasonably well. Although most of these cameras also have options for manual settings, they are usually cumbersome (menus) to set.
The simplicity of these cameras makes them a favorite for people to "snap" pictures quickly without bothering about camera settings. Birthday parties, group shots, vacation stills to collect some memories without having to carry around a big and heavy camera is what Point and Shoots are designed for.

Can you take quality photos with a Point and Shoot Camera?

This is probably one of the most asked questions.
Let me be perfectly straight. I have probably taken no more then a couple hundred photos with that camera while I didn't have the SLR, so the examples shown might not be the most artistic, but it is always the Photographer who makes the pictures in the first place, while the camera is just the tool he/she uses to get the job done.
A SLR has certain advantages (shorter shutter lag, less noise, more manual control, mirror lockup, interchangeable lenses) but many situations don't require those and you can study composition with just about any camera.

Canon USA sucks - Bogen - Manfrotto Suction Cups

This article received too much attention from the search engines.
On this page I outlined a dispute I had with Canon USA about a service charge.

If you found this page looking for a way to suck your Camera to a slippery surface, consider the Bogen - Manfrotto Suction Cups. They will make your tripod stick to slippery surfaces. If you were looking for a place to rant about the number one Camera Manufacturer, please find some other venue to vent steam. Canon is a great company and does not suck. I guess sometimes one has to admit defeat and just suck it up.

I am also going to turn comments off for this node.

Canon Digital SLR comparison

Rebel XTi - Digital SLR Camera w/EF-S 18-55mm II Lens, Black

Many people ask for my advice on Digital Camera hardware. In this review I will check out the latest lineup of Consumer and Prosumer Canon Digital Cameras. This review is intended to guide you through some of the choices for Canon SLR cameras by giving you a quick comparison of various Canon Cameras.

Generally I believe that Canon and Nikon are the world leaders in Digital SLR technology with Canon having an edge over Nikon. Canon was the first Camera maker to introduce an affordable Digital SLR (the famous 300D) in 2003. This was my first Digital SLR and it is still in use as a backup body. Canon was also the first company to introduce a full frame Digital SLR (the 1Ds Mark 2) in 2004. With an unparalleled resolution of 16.7 Mega pixels, the 1Ds Mark 2 is still the single best Digital SLR on the market today (after more than 2 years). In 2005 Canon introduced the 5D, another wonder of technology. With a full frame sensor and 12.7 MP it is priced well below the 1Ds Mark 2 making it an excellent choice for the Semi Professional and for the Professional Markets. Recently Canon has introduced the 30D and the Rebel XTi (400D) a 10.1 Mega pixel Consumer SLR.

In this Review I will compare some of the Canon Cameras and give you my personal opinion on them. Hopefully this will be useful for those of you looking into buying a Canon Digital SLR. Nikon has a fantastic lineup too, but I am a Canon guy and I know Canon Cameras better. I also believe that Canon has a technology edge.

I currently own a Canon 20D, so my comparisons will be based on my experience with that camera. I have had this Camera for a long time and I am extremely satisfied with it.