Category: Gear

Leaf Announces 80 Megapixel Digital Back

Leaf has announced a new medium format digital back with 80 megapixel sensor. The CCD measures 53.7x40.3mm, which is essentially the same as the Phase One P65+ (53.9x40.4mm), but with a 20 megapixel boost in resolution. (Leaf Imaging was recently acquired by Phase One.)

The Phase One P65+ 60MP back, widely regarded as the pinnacle of medium format digital capture, is known to put high demands on lens optical quality. So this new 80MP back should be an interesting challenge for lens makers. We, as photographers, must wrestle the balance between sensor resolution and our lenses’ abilities to resolve detail. Whether we’re upgrading from a Canon 5D or a Phase One P25+ (large pixel sensors), once we move to a higher resolution sensor (with smaller sensels or pixel sizes) we must consider whether our current selection of lenses can deliver the additional resolution. In other words, we need to know which is the limiting factor: the sensor or the lens. An obvious destination for this new back is use with a technical camera (or view camera), with digital view camera lenses from Rodendstock and Schneider.

View the specs of the Leaf back here: Leaf Aptus-II 12 80MP Back. And here at DPreview.

Posted on Monday, September 20, 2010 in Gear • (0) Comments

The Lens is Soft

Roger Cicala of has posted an interesting article about lens copy variation and the effects of ever-increasing resolution of digital sensors used in today’s digital SLRs. The article links to some other good outside resources as well, such as, etc.

It’s an unfortunate element of assembling a good camera kit these days, but I think that in some cases users are too quick to blame image weakness on camera gear (see almost any photography forum). Sure the gear plays a huge role in image quality, but not more than user skills during capture, post-processing and printing. Of course we don’t want our gear to be the weak link. Roger’s article highlights some good points to consider when buying gear.

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 in Gear • (4) 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

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

Is Canon Rethinking the Megapixel Race?

imageDigital Photography Review has posted details of a press release in which the specs for the new Canon G11 are offered. The G11 is the latest in the series of upper-end compacts cameras. The previous model (the G10) was a bit of a disappointment to many people who wanted this type of camera as a compact addition to their DSLR kit because Canon had opted to cram 15 megapixels on to its tiny sensor. While the high pixel counts can be effective for marketing, it’s widely known among enthusiasts and pros alike, that the megapixel race has been a detriment to image quality in certain situations – especially those requiring high ISO due to low-light conditions. I’m pleased to see that Canon is fitting this model with a 10 megapixel sensor, and hope that this is an indication of a new trend to concentrate on output quality and not marketing hype (I’m not holding my breath). 

I have sort of fluctuating interest in compacts, and in fact still have an ancient (and very rarely used) G3 model from this series. It will be interesting to see how the images look from the new model. The new Power Shot S90 looks like it could be a fun pocket camera too.

[via Richard Wanderman]

Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 in Gear • (0) Comments

Sometimes a Point & Shoot Camera is Enough


I’ll be the first to admit that I love camera gear, including high-end glass, the newest digital backs that I can’t afford, and all the high-end goodies. But sometimes a point-and-shoot pocket camera can be the best tool. For one thing, the big gear with their intimidating lens hoods and heavy-duty gadgets can startle some subjects – and not just children. One will often find people in remote parts of the world (and not so remote) who are quite camera shy when it comes to big DSLRs and the like.  And of course there’s the matter of having the opportunity to grab the shot before the scene changes. Some of my most treasured images were captured with a pocket camera, and while I won’t be making large prints from the files, I do enjoy the images every time I look at them.

The image above was taken in Burma (now Myanmar) in a restricted area, several hours by vehicle from Mandalay. These young girls were sitting at their father’s road-side fruit stand while he was working inside their house. I bought some tasty oranges from them once their father came out to greet us. The camera used was a compact Canon Digital Elph S300, which is only a 3 megapixel camera. Still enough for an enlarged print of 8x10” (A4) or so. Many of the wonderful people in Burma were shy to the camera and a compact camera really helped to put them at ease. After seeing their image on the LCD many became more comfortable, adults included, and seemed to enjoy having their photos captured and shared.

One drawback (among others) is that the small sensors used in P&S cameras render a very deep depth of field. This can make it very difficult (if not impossible) to blur the background (to isolate the subject) in most shots. Still, scaring young or shy subjects with high-end gear suitable for controlling depth of field will not likely get the results either. 

Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 in Gear • (6) Comments