Adobe Releases Lightroom 3 Beta

Adobe has released for imediate download, Lightroom 3 public beta. It is expected that the version update will ship in April of 2010, but this beta will give users a taste of what’s to come. According to reports, Adobe is reworking the RAW conversion engine, which is good news for Lightroom users. Image Quality of RAW conversions is probably the single most frequent complaint of Lightroom… well, maybe second to the lack of softproofing. Adobe has tweaked the print tools in this beta version 3, so it is hoped that Adobe will surprise users with softproofing capabilities in the shipping version next spring. Alas, the beta doesn’t have a softproofing feature. “State-of-the-art noise reduction” is listed as one of the updated features, which should help to wrangle those high ISO images if one doesn’t wish to use a third-party noise reduction tool such as NIK Dfine or Noise Ninja.

You can download the Lightroom 3 beta here. It’s a free download. There’s a “First Look” preview of the beta at The Luminous Landscape, in which Michael Reichmann sheds some light on the upcoming version features.

I’m not a Lightroom user, but I’m happy to see this version upgrade coming for those who are. Users of the beta can provide feedback to Adobe via the Lightroom forums.

Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009 in News • (0) Comments

It’s a Small World: Nikon Photomicroscopy Competition

Nikon has sponsored a photomicroscopy competition each year for the past 35 years. The entries are judged on both scientific and artistic qualities. This year’s winners can be viewed here.

Photomicroscopy is photography of microscopic subjects using cameras attached to microscopes or similar devices. Nikon is one of the preferred brands of microscopes for such photography because of the quality optics and the rigidity of certain models. Other quality brands include Leica Microsystems and Olympus. Isolation from vibrations is of paramount concern for this type of photography. I have two Leica MZ12 stereo microscopes and lots of fiber optic lighting equipment. I need to dust off my camera adapters (they’re not really dusty, just in storage) and try this subject again. I have never gotten the quality of the results shown by most of the samples in the Nikon competition. I’ve not been able to isolate my microscopes from vibration in their current locations. Maybe this winter I’ll give it another try.

Some of the images in the winning and finalist sets are amazing. Take a look.

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 in Ramblings • (0) Comments

Canon Unveils New Series One Camera: EOS-1D Mark IV

imageFor some time now there have been rumors of the new model 1D Mark IV and its sibling, the 1Ds Mark IV, but today Canon have officially announced the new EOS-1D Mark IV digital camera body. With impressive specs, this APS-H sensor body (1.3x crop factor over full-frame 35mm) boasts approximately 10 frames per second; 45 auto-focus points with 39 cross-type, and any one of them can be selected manually; Digic 4 processor; full-HD movie capability; and a huge ISO range. Check out the specs on Canon’s site for the whole skinny.

The Imaging Resource has posted some details which explain some of the features as well. And the Canon press release is available here.

This adds interest to the anticipated update of the EOS-1Ds Mark IV, Canon’s flagship model. The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV goes on sale from late December, 2009.

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 in News • (0) Comments

Inventors of the CCD Image Sensor Awarded Nobel Prize

It was announced today that the co-inventors of the CCD image sensor technology were awarded a share in the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics. Williard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, of Bell Labratories, U.S.A., are the inventors of the technology that has contributed to so many fields including medicine, research, photography and even the success of on-line social networks by giving us a way to capture images digitally. The announcement, as published on DPreview, includes a photo of the inventors with their early camera.

Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2009 in News • (0) Comments

The South Fork of the Yuba River


Last week I needed a break from the drudgery of office work, computer coding, file sorting and the like. The weather was beautiful, but not what I would call “photography weather”, still, anything would be better than what I was doing. So, at around 3:30 p.m. or so we (my wife, Chris and I) went for a drive “up the hill” for a change of scenery and to stretch our legs, clear my head, and exercise the Mamiya camera a bit. These shots were taken on the south fork of the Yuba River, about 45 miles (72 km) from my home, so it’s a pretty easy drive. I waited for the light to soften as evening approached even though the light was rather flat, but the distraction from work back home was really enjoyable. We poked around the area until it was too dark to shoot, including a few exposures lasting around 15 seconds. Regardless of photographic outcome, I need to make more of these impromptu outings.


Posted on Monday, October 5, 2009 in Ramblings • (0) Comments

Normandy 1944: Then and Now

This is a wonderful series of 204 images, depicting scenes alternating between 1944 wartime conditions and present day. The contrast is fascinating, as well as humbling.

It’s surprising to me how little things had changed in the 65 years. Most streets and buildings remained more or less the same and were refurbished, rather than being removed and redeveloped multiple times over that period.

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 in Ramblings • (0) Comments

Phase One Announces New Medium Format Camera Body

Phase One has announced a new camera body, the 645DF, which accepts their medium format digital backs and Mamiya-mount lenses. The development of this camera body has been rumored, and then leaked, but timing of an official announcement and it’s ship dates have been unknown. I’m anxious to see what improvements over the predecessor, the Phase One/Mamiya AFD III, are designed into this new body.

During the same press release, Phase One has also announced a cooperative collaboration arrangement with Schneider Kreuznach (of “Schneider Optics” fame) and Mamiya Digital Imaging, Ltd. Phase One is said to be a majority stakeholder in Mamiya since late last year. This collaboration is expected to contribute to the development of more quality optics for the Phase One/Mamiya cameras.

Of special interest to pros shooting with strobes is the additional announcement of the long-awaited leaf shutter lenses for the Phase One/Mamiya system – a result of the above mentioned collaboration. These new lenses with the new body will provide a sync speed of 1/1600th of a second – the highest in the industry. Focal lengths are 55mm, 80mm and 110mm. The new lenses are expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year and can be ordered now.

Posted on Monday, September 28, 2009 in News • (0) Comments

Elliot Erwitt

Elliot Erwitt is in Austin, Texas this week, at the Austin Center for Photography, participating in the “Icons of Photography” lectures. You can visit his website to view his work, and puruse his collection on Magnum here. An amazing and humbling body of work.

At 81 years of age, Elliot Erwitt is still very active, traveling around the world sharing his passion for photography.

Posted on Friday, September 25, 2009 in Ramblings • (0) Comments

ColorChecker Passport

imageX-Rite has released a new product called the ColorChecker Passport. It’s slightly larger than the X-Rite Mini ColorChecker and includes several other patches, plus a cool new enclosure so that the pricey tool doesn’t get mangled in your gear bag. Watch the video available on the right side of the linked page for an explanation of its use and the integration with Lightroom as described by Seth Resnick. Lightroom isn’t required, but X-Rite supplies a plugin for Lightroom users.

I use the X-Rite Mini ColorChecker for certain work, which is sold for around $58, but this new offering at around $99 seems like a better choice with the additional patches and protective case.

*ColorChecker Passport image ©X-Rite

Posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 in Gear • (0) Comments

Are Open-Source Cameras the Wave of the Future?

A team of computational photography researchers at Stanford University are working on an open-source camera which allows the user to control how the camera records a scene. Some of these controls can (in theory) even be applied after the image is captured – referring to controls not currently provided by shooting RAW images. Watch the video for the description in a nutshell.

Stanford photo scientists are out to reinvent digital photography with the introduction of an “open-source” digital camera…”

I love open-source projects (at least in principle), but I have somewhat mixed feelings about the paths traveled by photography and technology as the two advance. I appreciate the technology side, but hope that photography doesn’t simply evolve (or is that “devolve”) into “digital manipulation”. There are several ways to appreciate and interpret all of this I think. Check it out here. What do you think?

Posted on Sunday, September 13, 2009 in Gear • (2) Comments

The Much Anticipated Leica Anouncement: “9/9/09”

Leica M9Today Leica has announced the M9 rangefinder digital camera body. This has been a much anticipated release, with many Leica users—pro and enthusiast—waiting to see what this 9/9/09 announcement encompasses. As of now, the official announcement has yet to come to light—this will occur later today, but dealers are apparently allowed to leak the information starting at 9:00 a.m. on the 9th. A couple jumped the gun, and hence we learned the price and specs a few hours ahead of schedule.

The Leica M9 is a full-frame-sensor replacement for the cropped-sensor predecessor, the m8/m8.2. It has an 18 mega pixel CCD sensor with 24x36mm coverage — same as 35mm film. The M9 will be available in black or silver, as in previous models. Lowest advertised price is to be $6,995 U.S. and comes with a two year warranty.

The Leica M8 had its problems, but filled a special niche that was once the bastion of the film rangefinder. The problems were eventually addressed (mostly), and a “new and improved” model was released last year in the M8.2. Leica enthusiasts have been clamoring for a full-frame digital version of the renowned Leica range finder, and in fact there were many photographers shooting Leica film cameras who hesitated in buying the M8 because of the reduced imaging surface size, as well as functioning issues. I think that most enthusiasts who wanted to shoot digitally with their Leica kit eventually accepted the cropped-sensor offering of the M8, but that didn’t stop the pining for the anticipated M9.

I’m a huge fan of Leica optics and I love the “M” line of range finder cameras, but I don’t have a Leica kit. I have considered adding it to my kit many times, but the price as well as the cropped sensor format of the M8 have always given me pause. I truly feel that the Leica M series is the ultimate “street photography” kit. Legendary photographer, Henri Cartier-Brasson, used a Leica rangefinder (mostly with a 50mm lens) for his street photography, as have many who came after. The Leica M cameras (M3 - M7) have also frequently been used by journalists working in all parts of the world, recording war and hardship and joy. But the digital Leica M8 had numerous problems that caused many professionals to reconsider, or abandon, the idea of using Leica digital cameras for serious work. Let’s hope that Leica has learned from past experience and will supply an M9 worthy of the Leica red dot.

It’s expected that the official announcement will also include the rumored X1, as well as updated information regarding the S-2. I’m very curious about the X1. The Leica S-2 was officially announced last summer and is due to ship in October.

Leica X1Follow-up: Leica did, in fact, reveal the X1 today as well. While not cheap (what Leica product is?) at $2,000, it does look like a very nice compact. It’s due to ship in December and I’m anxious to see how it performs. But for less than half the price, and offering interchangeable lenses in the micro four thirds mount, I may be more drawn to the new Panasonic GF-1.

*M9 & X1 images ©Leica Camera AG

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 in Gear • (0) Comments

Fractal Dreams: Roman Loranc’s New Book

Roman Loranc is a Polish-American photographer who emigrated to the U.S. in 1981 and is now living in the Central Valley region of California. I discovered his work some time ago, but was reminded to visit his site again when I heard of the publishing of his new book Fractal Dreams: Photographs from Two Decades. The book is $150, and reports are that it is beautifully published. I have yet to see it, but intend to check it out. A collector’s edition can also be ordered, which includes an autographed copy of the book and an original print.

The book can be ordered via his website or from Photography West. Neither website is ideal to navigate, but the photographic work is inspiring.

Posted on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 in Ramblings • (0) Comments

New Canon 100mm Macro Lens Announced Today

Canon has announced a new EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS Macro lens. This lens carries the “L” moniker as part of Canon’s “Luxury” line or upper-end pro series, and most significantly, the lens is image stabilized (IS). This lens is exactly what many have pined for, in that the IS feature should allow us to get better hand-held close-up shots when a tripod is not available or impractical to use. Canon is billing the lens as a macro and portrait lens, so hopefully it will exhibit buttery “L-style” bokeh when used for portraits. Kudos to Canon for adding this lens to the line-up of EF lenses.

[via Richard Wanderman]

Posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 in Gear • (1) Comments

Canon Announces New Digital SLR: EOS 7D

imageAs promised, Canon have formally announced the new 7D DSLR camera body today. Rumors of a new model called the “7D” have been floating around for a couple of years, with the specs mostly indicating a significant upgrade from Canon’s 5D model. Well, Canon replaced the 5D with the 5D mark II model in late 2008, which left open to speculation the status of a model labeled the 7D for a future release. Surprisingly, at least some online discussions during recent days have been very accurate with regard to the camera specs as released.

This model is equipped with an APS-C sized sensor, which is the “crop sensor” size used in the 10D thru 50D series. To some of us, it seems strange that the model designation of the 7D, which seems more at home in the 5D area of the line, was used for a camera other than a full-frame sensor equipped body. Marketing often defies logic. It’s obvious that Canon wants to position this model above the 50D-type models and below the Series 1 models, placing it into the “mid-level” camp of the 5D/5D mkII. To some, the 7D is designed as a retort to Nikon’s D700 and D300s cameras, so the 7D moniker is thought to offer more thrust. It will be interesting to see what Canon decide to do as the 5D mkII model continues to mature. Will it be called the 6D? Or will it be called the “8D”? Time will tell.

The 7D is an 18 mega pixel camera. I know I’m not alone when I say that I would have preferred the body to be fitted with a sensor of lower pixel density. Many feel (myself included) that the high mega pixel densities on smaller sensors give up something in terms of image quality under certain circumstances, but it’s obvious that marketing wars play a role in design. Sensor size, pixel density, anti-alias filter, and software all play an important role in image quality. We’ll have to wait and see the results to know if Canon have found an appropriate balance in their design.

Significantly, Canon have equipped the 7D with new auto-focus (AF) and metering systems. The newly designed AF system features a 19-point cross-type system which should offer greater accuracy in achieving critical focus. And the new metering system is described as having 63 zones for better metering accuracy. Both are welcome additions if they perform as described.

Specifications are available here, and a hands-on preview is offered here at

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2009 in Gear • (1) Comments

Kseniya Simonova – Amazing Sand Animation

This is an amazing performance by Kseniya Simonova of Ukraine. It's artistic, emotional and fascinating. Wow.

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2009 in Ramblings • (0) Comments