BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘equipment

Panasonic Announces Pricing for Lumix GH1

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

Panasonic recently announced pricing for the highly-anticipated LUMIX DMC-GH1, the new Micro Four Thirds digital camera with Full-High Definition (HD) video recording ability, which will be available in early June for a suggested retail price of $1499.95. The LUMIX DMC-GH1 includes the LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm/F4.0-5.8 ASPH/MEGA O.I.S. lens as part of the kit. The new lens, designed to support HD movie recording, features a silent motor and continuous auto focusing (AF) capability – a differentiator from traditional DSLRs.

In the U.S., the LUMIX GH1 will be available in black and has advanced photography features, such as the ability to record AVCHD 1080p/24p High Definition video, yet is easy enough for entry-level users to understand and take beautiful photos and videos. With Panasonic’s iA (Intelligent Auto) mode – a user-friendly setting made popular in the LUMIX line of digital point-and-shoot camera products, both entry-level and more experienced DSLR users can enjoy a complete suite of technologies that allow beautiful photo-taking and engage automatically – no setting adjustments needed.

For those looking for more creative control in their digital camera, the LUMIX GH1 can adjust shutter speed during motion recording, giving the videos a special look, particularly suitable for shooting fast-moving subjects. Also, the LUMIX GH1 allows users to control the aperture, which is convenient when there are several subjects at varying distances.  By adjusting the aperture, the user can focus on the foreground and blur the background – or vice versa – even during video recording.

“Since redefining the traditional DSLR category last year with the LUMIX G1 – which eliminated the internal mirror and thus dramatically reduced size of the camera body and lenses – Panasonic has been working to expand its award-winning LUMIX G Micro Four Thirds System line.  Panasonic wants to offer increasingly innovative products and features that make photography fun and easy,” said David Briganti, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “The introduction of the LUMIX GH1, allows photographers of all levels to take superior quality photos and shoot HD video with a more compact, easy-to-use camera that provides increased creative capabilities.”

The LUMIX GH1 provides cutting-edge video recording features, including the ability to record high-resolution full HD (1920 x1080) video at 24 fps or smooth HD video (1280 x 720) at 60 fps using an AVCHD format (MPEG-4/H.264), which provides the important benefit of doubling the HD quality recording time compared with Motion JPEG. The LUMIX GH1 features a dedicated video record button on the back of the camera which lets users instantly start recording videos, even while shooting still photos – removing the fear of potentially missing a must-see video moment.
For more information about the Panasonic LUMIX G Micro Four Thirds System, including the award-winning LUMIX G1, and to place a pre-order for the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH1, please visit www.panasonic.com/lumix.

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Photo Gear: Tripods

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manfrottohead

The Manfrotto geared head model 405.

Tripods are too often an overlooked accessory in photography. Most hobbyists, if they even own a tripod, too often settle for a model that is cheaply made and doesn’t offer the range of benefits a good tripod can offer. Plus, if you’re going to put your $1000+ gear on something, shouldn’t it be the best?

First, let’s discuss the basics: a tripod is composed of two parts, the legs and the head. The legs are, as you may already guess, the base of the tripod. It’s important, then, to get the best support possible.

I think the heavier the legs, the better. My favorite manufacturer in Manfrotto because I think this company offers the best product at the best price. I particularly like model 161MK2B (kinda boring name) AKA the “Super Pro Tripod Mark 2 Black (kinda long and still boring name). Despite the rather boring name, this tripod is fantastic. It’s very sturdy and has a high load capacity. This is a great base in which to begin.

As for tripod heads, I prefer what’s called “geared heads” because they are highly precise and easy to operate. In the Manfrotto line, I like the model 405 (now I think Manfrotto REALLY needs to working on product names) because its gearing system is needle-sharp. It allows for 360-degree panning and front and lateral tilt. This is very important for macro photography and landscape work.

I’ll warn you: This whole setup isn’t cheap. The tripod itself will set you back almost $500 and the head is about $400. Yeah, I know. Most hobbyists don’t want to set back nearly $900 for a tripod but, unlike most other photography gear, tripods don’t really go out of style. A good tripod now will last you probably your entire photographic career.

There are less expensive alternatives that are good but don’t offer the same quality as this gear. Be sure to look for these qualities when purchasing your next tripod:

  • Heavy-Duty Design: The heavier the legs the more stable the tripod. Try to pick gear that “feels” like it’s well made. If in doubt, move on.
  • Head Interchangeability: Can you change the head? If not, this probably isn’t the best tripod for your money.
  • Well-Known Names: Sometimes I’m not a fan of “brand names” because there’s some gear that may not be well known, but are great pieces of equipment. In tripods, I say go with the names you know. Manfrotto, Bogen, Slik – but only the “pro” rated gear and Swarovski Optik.

Nikon Receives NAPET Manufacturer Service Support Award 8 Years in a Row

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

For the eighth consecutive year, the National Association of Photo Equipment Technicians (NAPET) awarded Nikon Inc. the Martin Strauss Memorial Manufacturer Service Support Award. This award recognizes Nikon’s continued commitment to quality and the efficiency of its National Service Department, Service Relations Department, and Parts Department.

“Being recognized by the photo industry as the leading provider of excellent service in our Service Department, Service Relations Department, and Parts Department is an accomplishment to be proud of,” says Arnold H. Kamen, Vice President of Operations & Customer Services. “Being recognized eight years in a row goes beyond our expectations and demonstrates our commitment and dedication to our customers.”

The efficiency of the Service, Service Relations and Parts Departments is integral to the success of Nikon’s retail partners, as it provides their customers with a valuable resource and deters product returns.

The Nikon Service Relations Department is available for active support to retail partners, authorized repair stations, and consumers seven days a week, 18 hours a day.

Trip Through the Canon Store: Wide-Angle Lenses

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A lens is a tool. Most people forget that for some reason but simply enough, a lens is a tool that we use to make an image. Like all tools, at the risk of overextending the analogy, the better the tool, the better the finished project.

In our last installment, we discussed the basic facts related to lenses and then looked at Canon’s ultra-wide zoom lenses. If you didn’t read that article, you really should because it explains the basic mechanics of how a lens works.

Today, we’re going to look at the company’s fixed focal length, wide-angle lenses. I have always been a fan of prime lenses. Prime lenses are defined as lenses with a fixed focal length versus zoom lenses which have a range of focal lengths. I like prime lenses because they are generally very well made and typically cost less than zoom lenses. I also like prime lenses because they typically have a larger maximum aperture than zooms and often weigh less than zoom lenses.

There are, however, advantages to using zoom lenses. Zooms obviously cover a broader focal range, thus eliminating the need to carry multiple lenses. If you purchase a zoom, I highly suggest buying one that has a fixed maximum aperture throughout the entire zoom range. Although more costly, they are worth the investment.

Canon’s Wide-Angle Lens Selection
Canon currently manufactures nine prime wide-angle lenses. Of the nine, one lens is a fisheye and three of the lenses are L-series.

EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM: This pro-series lens has an amazing 114-degree angle of view and is a perfect lens for architectural applications. The lens also features better optical elements that reduce problems in edge-to-edge sharpness. It is dust- and moisture-proof and the ultrasonic motor (that’s the USM designation) means you’ll get faster and more responsive autofocus. This lens isn’t cheap, though. Expect to pay between $2000-$2200 US for this pro-series lens.

EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM: This pro-series lens has an amazing 114-degree angle of view and is a perfect lens for architectural applications. The lens also features better optical elements that reduce problems in edge-to-edge sharpness. It is dust- and moisture-proof and the ultrasonic motor (that’s the USM designation) means you’ll get faster and more responsive autofocus. This lens isn’t cheap, though. Expect to pay between $2000-$2200 US for this pro-series lens.

Canon's EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens: If you’ve never seen images made with a fisheye lens, you’ve missed out. The fisheye lens has a 180-degree angle of view and barrel distortion giving the image a curved look. With its f/2.8 maximum aperture, this lens works well for photographing fast-action subjects and with its 8 inch minimum focus distance, you can get really close and really wide. This is a specialized lens and you probably won’t use it everyday. But when you need to give your images a different look, this is a go-to lens to have in your camera bag. The lens isn’t priced too bad, either. You can expect to find this lens for about $625-$725 US.

Canon's EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens: If you’ve never seen images made with a fisheye lens, you’ve missed out. The fisheye lens has a 180-degree angle of view and barrel distortion giving the image a curved look. With its f/2.8 maximum aperture, this lens works well for photographing fast-action subjects and with its 8 inch minimum focus distance, you can get really close and really wide. This is a specialized lens and you probably won’t use it everyday. But when you need to give your images a different look, this is a go-to lens to have in your camera bag. The lens isn’t priced too bad, either. You can expect to find this lens for about $625-$725 US.

EF 20mm f/2.8 USM: This is a nice lens to have if you need to get wide and maintain a big maximum aperture. Plus, this lens is fairly well priced. You can expect to pick one up for about $450 US.

EF 20mm f/2.8 USM: This is a nice lens to have if you need to get wide and maintain a big maximum aperture. Plus, this lens is fairly well priced. You can expect to pick one up for about $450 US.

EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: This is one of my favorite wide-angle lenses. First of all, it produces needle-sharp images from corner-to-corner. Second, its ultra-fast f/1.4 maximum aperture is ideal for photojournalists who may be shooting in tight spaces with less-than-ideal lighting. Also, this lens offers extremely pleasing bokeh (the out-of-focus, soft blur when using a shallow depth of field). The ultrasonic motor allows for highly responsive and quiet autofocus. Again, being a pro-series lens, the EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM isn’t cheap. Expect to pay between $1700-$1800 US.

EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: This is one of my favorite wide-angle lenses. First of all, it produces needle-sharp images from corner-to-corner. Second, its ultra-fast f/1.4 maximum aperture is ideal for photojournalists who may be shooting in tight spaces with less-than-ideal lighting. Also, this lens offers extremely pleasing bokeh (the out-of-focus, soft blur when using a shallow depth of field). The ultrasonic motor allows for highly responsive and quiet autofocus. Again, being a pro-series lens, the EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM isn’t cheap. Expect to pay between $1700-$1800 US.

EF 24mm f/2.8: This lens is really ideal for students interested in photography but not ready - or able - to make a huge financial investment. The lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 and a great focal length to get into wide-angle photography. It has a minimum focus distance of 10 inches, which lets you get fairly close to your subject. You can pick this lens up for about $310 US.

EF 24mm f/2.8: This lens is really ideal for students interested in photography but not ready - or able - to make a huge financial investment. The lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 and a great focal length to get into wide-angle photography. It has a minimum focus distance of 10 inches, which lets you get fairly close to your subject. You can pick this lens up for about $310 US.

EF 28mm f/2.8: This lens is considered a good standard wide-angle lens. It’s a nice walk around lens because its both lightweight (185g) and offers a nice focal length for general photographic work. Again, this isn’t an expensive lens. You can find one for about $200 US.

EF 28mm f/2.8: This lens is considered a good standard wide-angle lens. It’s a nice walk around lens because its both lightweight (185g) and offers a nice focal length for general photographic work. Again, this isn’t an expensive lens. You can find one for about $200 US.

EF 35mm f/1.4L USM: This is another great lens I enjoy using. It has a super fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 and is a really well-made lens. For those of you who don’t own a full frame camera, which many Canon digital cameras have a 1.6x magnification ratio, this lens is a really nice portrait lens because it gives you an actual focal length of 56mm. The bokeh effect of this lens is also aesthetically pleasing. Like most pro, L-series lenses, this one isn’t too cheap. Expect to part with $1200-$1400 US for this lens.

EF 35mm f/1.4L USM: This is another great lens I enjoy using. It has a super fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 and is a really well-made lens. For those of you who don’t own a full frame camera, which many Canon digital cameras have a 1.6x magnification ratio, this lens is a really nice portrait lens because it gives you an actual focal length of 56mm. The bokeh effect of this lens is also aesthetically pleasing. Like most pro, L-series lenses, this one isn’t too cheap. Expect to part with $1200-$1400 US for this lens.

EF 35mm f/2: This is a less-priced lens that still offers the 35mm focal length and a fast aperture. Although it’s not as solidly built as the EF 35 f/1.4L USM lens, it still offers the photographer a compact, lightweight and relatively low-cost lens. You can purchase this lens for about $300 US.

EF 35mm f/2: This is a less-priced lens that still offers the 35mm focal length and a fast aperture. Although it’s not as solidly built as the EF 35 f/1.4L USM lens, it still offers the photographer a compact, lightweight and relatively low-cost lens. You can purchase this lens for about $300 US.

EF 28mm f/1.8 USM: A nice all-around lens, this model offers a super fast maximum aperture and sharp edge-to-edge images across the aperture range. A good student lens, you can purchase this model for about $450 US.

EF 28mm f/1.8 USM: A nice all-around lens, this model offers a super fast maximum aperture and sharp edge-to-edge images across the aperture range. A good student lens, you can purchase this model for about $450 US.

Sample image from the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens. (Photo Credit: Image from Canon)

Sample image from the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens. (Photo Credit: Image from Canon)

For our next installment, we’ll discuss Canon’s standard and medium telephoto prime lenses. Good luck and keep shooting!

Sample image from the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens. (Photo Credit: Image from Canon)

Sample image from the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens. (Photo Credit: Image from Canon)

Sample image from the Canon's EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. (Photo Credit: Image from Canon)

Sample image from the Canon's EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. (Photo Credit: Image from Canon)

Hasselblad Wins Third Award in Three Months

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

Hasselblad has won the Technical Image Press Association’s TIPA award – one of the photo industry’s most prestigious awards worldwide – for “Best Medium-Format D-System in 2009,” making it the third honor bestowed on the company this year. In January, the H3DII-50 won Professional Photographer’s coveted Hot One Award. Earlier this month, the camera was named Product of the Year at Russia’s Photoforum 2009.
tipa-award302
As announced on TIPA’s Website,  on April 17, editors of 25 renowned photography magazines from 11 European countries honored the Hasselblad H3D system, when they convened this week in Budapest, Hungary, to select the industry’s top European imaging products from the past 12 months.

In making its choice, the TIPA jury said, “Hasselblad’s H3DII-50 is the first camera to feature Kodak’s 50 megapixel sensor, measuring 36x48mm and twice the physical size of the largest 35mm DSLR sensors. The H3DII-50 provides full 48mm coverage and has been designed to provide an ideal solution for any photographer who demands both creative flexibility and ultimate image quality and resolution.”

In a secret vote for the best photographic and imaging products introduced in Europe during the past year, TIPA editors took into account innovation, the use of leading-edge technology, the design and ergonomics of the products, and their ease of use and price/performance ratio.

Christian Poulsen, CEO of Hasselblad, commented: “Hasselblad is again proud to accept this prestigious award. This honor demonstrates Hasselblad’s vision of providing the world’s best photographers with the most advanced camera system, enabling them to create the world’s best images. With H3DII-50, new components including the HCD 35-90mm zoom lens, HTS 1.5 Tilt & Shift Adaptor, and Phocus software, Hasselblad is helping photographers break creative barriers and achieve image quality that was not possible even six months ago.”

Trip Through the Canon Store: Ultra-Wide Zoom Lenses

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A lens is a tool. Most people forget that for some reason but simply enough, a lens is a tool that we use to make an image. Like all tools, at the risk of overextending the analogy, the better the tool, the better the finished project. I hear from people asking about lenses and I spend some time trying to explain them. I will go into great detail about lenses in future posts but for the sake of time, let’s make a few things clear:

  • Lenses are Measured in Focal Length: The focal length is the definition of how strongly an optic system focuses (converges) or diffuses (diverges) light. The focal length is measured, as a rule, in millimeters and it is the measurement from the optical center of the lens to the focal point on the image sensor (or film).
  • Focal Lengths Based on 35mm Film Standards: With the popularity of 35mm cameras, the focal length is based on that measurement. IF you have a camera that has a image sensor smaller than a 35mm camera’s film surface, which most digital camera image sensors ARE smaller than film, there is a multiplier you must use. For instance, the image sensor on a Canon EOS Rebel XS is 22.2mm x 14.8mm. The dimensions of 35mm film is 35mm wide (actually, it’s 36mm wide but you have to take in consideration spacing between the frames and room for the perforations). So, the EOS Rebel XS in our scenario has a magnification rate of about 1.6x.
  • Do the Math: So if you purchase a 20mm lens, it would be at 20mm on a film camera or 20mm x 1.6 or 32mm – in case you don’t want to do the math – on a digital camera.
  • This is Photography, Not Math. Why is it Important?: Well, simply put, if your camera has a magnification ratio, then you’re not getting as wide of an angle as you want. Let’s say you really want a 14mm lens because you’re shooting wide landscapes or large groups. OK, but your camera has a 1.5x magnification factor. So, you’re really getting a 21mm lens.
  • What are the Alternatives: Camera and lens manufacturers have settled the problem for the most part. They have made “full-frame” sensors that are close enough to the size of 35mm film that the magnification ratio has little impact. Secondly, these companies have also made “digital specific” lenses that already calculate the magnification ratio into the millimeter measurement. For instance, the Canon 5D Mark II is full frame, so if you buy a lens, you’re going to get the focal length as measured for film. Also, Nikon makes full-frame cameras (called FX format), which includes the D3 and D700 plus they make DX format (digital specific) lenses, which already account for the magnification.

Enough with the math, right? Just remember, unless you’re buying a digital-specific lens or your camera is full frame, the focal length of you lens is multiplied by the magnification factor.

Aperture Settings
Professional grade cameras, for the most part, have a fixed aperture value versus a variable aperture. Fixed aperture lenses have a constant maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. A variable aperture lens changes its maximum aperture in regards to the zoom. For instance, a 28-70mm f/4-f/5.6 lens means at 28mms, the maximum aperture is f/4 whereas at the high-end of the zoom range (70mm) the maximum aperture has reduced to f/5.6.

Variable aperture lenses are not normally as well constructed as the fixed aperture counterparts. The advantages, however, tend to be less weight and lower cost. Remember, the aperture value effects the depth-of-field you can achieve.

Canon’s Ultra-Wide Lenses
Canon makes three ultra-wide lenses: the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM; the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM; and the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

16to35

The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

10to22

The Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

17to40

The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
This pro-level lens (Canon’s professional lenses typically have the “L” designation) is perfect for those who need wide angle capabilities and a big maximum aperture. On any Canon digital that does not have full frame, this lens will give you the focal length equivalent of a 26-56mm lens while still retaining the f/2.8 aperture value. This lens is ideal for photojournalists, landscape photographers and wedding photographers who shoot big groups in often poorly lit churches. It’s a relatively heavy lens (640 grams) mainly because it needs big glass for the fast shutter. The ultrasonic motor (that’s the USM designation) delivers fast and silent autofocusing. This isn’t a cheap lens, either. Expect to pay nearly $1500-$1900 US for this piece of glass. Is it worth it? Depends. If you’re interested in photojournalism or documentary photography or have a goal of becoming a wedding photographer, then yes. This piece of glass will be around to stay.

EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
This consumer-grade lens is designed specifically for Canon digital cameras that LACK full frame sensors, so basically most Canon cameras (You can tell by the EF-S designation that it’s for digital specific cameras). This lens is the equivalent to a 16-35mm zoom lens. This is also a variable aperture lens, meaning the biggest aperture setting is f/3.5 at 10mm and at 22mm it’s f/4.5. It’s a little more than half the weight of the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM (385 grams). This lens will not, however, cost as much. You can find this lens for about $750-$850 US.

EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
The last lens on our ultra-wide zoom lens list is the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM. Think of this lens as the compromise lens between the high-priced EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and the consumer-grade EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. This is still a pro series (L series) lens and still offers a great wide angle zoom range. For cameras that are not full framed, this is the focal length equivalent of a 27-64mm lens while still retaining the fast (but not real fast) f/4 maximum aperture. I like this lens and use it often. I find it to be a high-quality lens for a relatively low price. You can purchase this lens for about $700-$850 US. While not as wide as the 10-22mm lens mentioned above, I’ve never found myself too limited by its focal length. I highly recommend this lens as a good “walking around lens” because its range is going to work for a variety of assignments.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss Canon’s wide angle prime lenses.

Good luck and keep shooting!

The Sigma DP2 featured in the New York Post

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

The Sigma Corporation of America is planning to launch its DP2 at the end of April and it’s already being met with great anticipation.
dp2
The New York Post recently ran an article in its April 12 technology section focusing on the hottest new cameras on the market. The Sigma DP2 was at the forefront of the post, selected for providing users with the “Best Old-School Experience” by combining the beauty of traditional design with innovative technology advancements. Check out the full New York Post article.

Written by jeremyparce

April 15, 2009 at 10:12 am