Nikon’s latest camera…yes I’ll accept donations

Recently Nikon annouced it’s newest product, the Nikon D3S. This is a camera for professional photographers and those who have money to spend on camera equipment. The D3S does something that the D3X and other D3 models have never done, shoot video at 720p at 24 fps. While that is not the 1080p at 30 fps that we’ve come to love in our video, it is a marked stepped up from nothing.

Now the D3S is more of a minor upgrade than a new model. Nikon has beefed up some things and refined others.

For instance, the new key part of this camera is its ability to manipulate the ISO settings. For the amateur, the ISO setting determines how long the shutter stays open and how much light is allowed to come into the auto-focus sensor. In this case, it can use a short 100 ISO or a lengthy and an amazing 102,400 ISO. Yes…you read right. I’d love to see how grainy those shots come out looking. And unless you are using still life, shots at that speed will blur dramatically. Even the light movement of a flower from an overhead ceiling fan will make an image almost unuseable.

Now this camera can shoot up to 11 frames per second , although Nikon’s data indicates it will only shoot 9FPS, with a buffer that will allow you to shoot a hundred shots or more continuously and store them on its spacious dual Compact Flash card slots. The cards can be setup for overflow, copying, or you can shoot RAW on one card and JPEG on another. So long as you don’t confuse which card has what when you are post-processing I’ll assume the headaches would be minimal from this.

This camera does autofocus by color tracking or you can fine tune it. One of the things about a camera of this magnitude is the control the photographer has over it. You can pretty much adjust anything to your liking or to fit your shooting situation.

So if you are interested in plunking down your debit card for this little bad boy, be prepared to shell out close to $5,200 and that’s for the body only. It uses Nikon AF-S lenses so if you are upgrading from another Nikon camera, the lens support should be smooth.

Nikon says on their site that these cameras will be available in November so it gives you time to stop paying your bills in order to come up with the cash you’ll need for this.

And yes…you can mail me donations and I’lll put them to good use in buying the older D3X. Why? Because it should come down in price now that  the newer version is out.

Online Photo Storage solutions–use them or else

 jackrabbits-5
I had this talk with the students both in my hardware and in my networking classes this week and feel it’s an important enough thing to warrant its own post. I have a student, who had an issue with his hard drive, for those technically saavy amongst you, his hard drive lost its partition table and hence all of the contents of that drive. For the uninitiated let me explain; the partition table is like a giant database that gives the operating system a map of where things are. So when the system loses this map, it loses everything and all you can do is reinstall Windows, Linux, or whatever operating system that you use and start all over.

You can see how easy it is to lose everything…all those special moments and all those memories…gone.

So let’s talk about backups…the hard part is choosing a service. There are many free services available to help you store your images online. What you are looking for is a service that is reliable, does not change your image sizes (and there are many that do), provides you plenty of free space online and makes it easy for you to upload and access your content.

For simplicity’s sake, I will put these in a list for you:

Windows Live SkyDrive–This is probably the largest online storage site that you can find for free. If you use Windows and Internet Explorer (and that’s most of you), this is real simple. You simply sign up and begin using this. You get 25GB of storage on their servers to use as you see fit.

Windows Live Photo is another free service from Microsoft. The Skydrive is designed for your documents and photos while Photos Live is a cross between social networking and photo storage.  You get the same 25GB that is in your SkyDrive account. This is simply branded under a different name.

Flickr is a free service from Yahoo. Your access is limited and you need to check their site as the terms may change. http://www.flickr.com/help/limits/#28 will explain the details. (Please note–I have an upgraded account with Flickr and it works well for my purposes).

Photobucket is pretty much a mirror image of Flickr. They allow you to store up to 5,000 images on their site for free.

Imageshack is another free service that I am not that familiar with. I know they provide you with URL’s to your images much like Flickr and Photobucket so that you can embed them in webpages, emails, or online posts. They also have some limitations.

Photoshop.com is the site I reviewed in my last post. In addition to giving you editting tools, it also provides you with 2GB of free space and 20 GB will cost you $20/year. Now most sites give you access to some sort of photo editting software. Flickr provides you with access to online editor Picnik and  Microsoft’s Live tools give you access to a Microsoft’s Live Photo Gallery.

Picasa  is the free image hosting service from Google. Picasa lets you store up to 1GB of web albums on their servers. Now this is the smallest I’ve seen however, if you use Firefox and have a Gmail account, you can download a plugin which will allow you to use the 8GB of email space Google has given you for file storage. There are some limited editting tools which will suffice for most purposes.

Now the one thing to remember is that if you are uploading very large files (the Canon Mark V raw file is about 77MB in size) these sites may alter them and convert them to JPG or it may simply shrink them in size. Flickr’s free service restricts the image size that you or your users can download and others may do the same. Your mileage may vary.

But remember that even if you lost you original version of that special pic, any sized backup is better than nothing. I am writing this in the hopes of encouraging you to save your history and to save artifacts for those who will follow us; our children, grandchildren, great-great-great grandchildren plus who knows which descendant of ours will be famous one day and a cousin can point to an old photo and say “See? we are too related!”

Next time…we’ll talk about pay image hosting sites.

Using Adobe Photoshop online

Sunflower in my backyard editted in Adobe Photoshop.com

With some mild fear I decided to try out Adobe’s online image editting solution, Photoshop.com. Now this is a nicely crafted site. It has many of the features that sites like Piknik and Picasa offer with something that are decidedly Adobe.

The first thing you should know is that the basic account is free. It’ll cost you an email account but that email account that I used to sign up with has yet to see one single piece of spam from Adobe or Photoshop.com. The basic account will let you hold up to 2GB worth of images. That sounds like a lot and it is for most point and shoot camera users.
If you are using a high end Canon Mark V with the default 77MB file sizes, then you know what your limits are and you probably are not looking for free online storage solutions for your photos.
Now let’s talk about free solutions for a minute. It is important that you do not store precious and rare photographs only on your home PC. Heaven forbid that a catastrophe strike, you will lose those memories. It is okay to do backups of your home pc files, pictures, and video on to DVD’s or some other onsite storage solution however, you should also make use of Flickr, Picasa, Photoshop.com, Photobucket, SmugMug or the plethora of online storage offerings.
So now that we have established that it is wise to move your photos off of your home PC and on to a storage site where backups are done routinely, let me add that you should have a copy at home too.
Now Photoshop.com gives you many tools for editting, cropping, and in many other ways manipulating your images. It does not give you all of the tools that you would get with Photoshop CS4, CS3, or any other Adobe Photoshop boxed software offering. It does however give you just enough tools to take a plain image and spice it up a little or maybe get rid of those demon eyes your puppy gets from the flash bulb.
It also lets you integrate your images with Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook and possibly more coming soon. You can choose to share photos on Photoshop.com with friends or ban outsiders from viewing your work.
Adobe also makes available paid versions of this site which offer you more storage. You should check the site for pricing as it may change from the time I write this and the time you read this.
I really cannot applaud this product properly. You will have to try it for yourself.

Deciding on a new camera

I have a nice Nikon D40 DSLR camera that I have had now for almost two years. While I certainly am not ready for a D700 or D300s, I would like to get input from you as to what kind of camera I should get next.

I am leaning towards the D90 or maybe a used D300 if I can get the price right.

Since I shoot a lot of sports and nature stuff, I would like it to have a fast shutter speed for continuous shooting, >4 frames per second in burst mode but I’ll be practical about it and can hang with this one a little longer under someone knows of a better camera down the pipeline.

A lot happens in a month

For starters while perusing through the thousands of photos I have taken I stumbled upon this choice shot taken of Alcatraz prison from my balcony aboard the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas.

Spooky photo of Alcatraz with no effects

Spooky photo of Alcatraz with no effects

I have more shots but nothing this dramatic.

Macro Photography at its best

While Tamron makes a really good lens, I am increasingly unsatisfied with the performance on my 70-300mm with macro. Then again..you get what you pay for.

Either way…this is a remarkable macro taken with a Tamron lens.

Enjoy– http://tamrontechstips.typepad.com/tamron_blog/2009/08/flowery-dew-drops.html

Nikon’s newest big toy

Okay…so I have sent off to Nikon asking them to test drive their new D300S DSLR camera. This thing is a huge step up over my current D40. For starters the new D300S takes up to 8 pictures per second and it gives the user more control over the camera than my D40 does.

It shoots with 12.3 megapixels of clarity in your images plus it also offers 51 autofocus points which is substantially more than my D40.

The camera is a professional grade camera. It has a remarkable movie feature but my understanding has been that it can only shoot about 5 minutes worth of moving video. That’s apparently the most a 4GB memory card can hold but surprise! This model features both a compact flash and an SD card slot.

In actuality, Nikon unveiled several DSLR’s as well as a number of new cameras in its Coolpix line of cameras. I have one of the lower end Coolpix models and it takes very good photos and it is a great point and shoot camera.

I don’t expect Nikon to say yes but it’s worth a shot.

Picking the right lens for your Nikon DSLR

So if you have a Nikon D40, D40, D60, or similar low end DSLR camera, you will inevitably face the same problem I had finding a lens that will work with it. Sure…you can spend extra and get the Nikkor DX lenses which work great but had a substantially higher price tag. But I am including a list of lenses you can pick up that won’t break the bank and that will help you get that perfect shot.

Any of the Tamron Di-II lenses will work as they have the motor built into them. My experience with this manufacturer is limited to one lens, the 70-300mm f-4.0-6.3 Di-II. It takes great photos and has a built-in macro feature which allows you to get up close and person on some pretty small and detailed objects. I have mostly good things to say about this lens however, its biggest downside has to be its focuser. It is slow and often comes up soft. I frequently find myself kicking the lens out of Autofocus and putting it in manual mode.

Sigma makes a series as well called the DC line. Those are DSLR lenses which are compatible with the Nikon D40’s autofocusing system. While I have not used these, I have read and heard good things about this brand.

In case you don’t know, the thing that makes these lower end digital single lens reflex cameras different (DSLR cameras) is that the motor that drives the autofocuser is not in the body of the camera like it is on the higher end cameras. No…the autofocusing motor for these lies within the lens itself. There is a small opening on the lens mount in front of the camera that allows you to see the drive mechanism that feeds information back to the image processor inside the camera.

Nikon’s Nikkor lenses have a faster response time and focus better in the autofocus mode however…it is my experience that you lose little if you take the time and get used to your Tamron or Sigma lens and allow time for the focuser to kick in. If you are shooting sports or other lightning fast events, you may want to opt to pay a little bit more.

If you are looking to spend aroun $500 on your next lens, allow me to introduce you to the all in one wonder…the Tamron 18-270mm lens. This lens have an incredible amount of coverage and works well with your D40/D40x/D60/ etc….

Here is a series of images that I have taken with my Tamron lens:

alamoflowers-1 jackrabbits-12 DSC_0070

 

 

 

Here are lists from the major manufacturers of the lenses that may work with the Nikon lower end DSLR:

Nikon: http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/lens/af/dx/index.htm

Sigma: http://www.sigmaphoto.com/lenses/lenses_all.asp

Tamron: http://www.tamron.com/lenses/default-photo.asp

Paying to access beauty

Now we all know that as photographers we have to jump through hoops and hurdles to get the right shot. We have to wait numerous cycles for the breeze to unfurl a flag just right or for the child’s eye’s to give that “plugged in and lit up” look.

Sometimes, we have to sign forms stating that we know we’re walking into a dangerous area and that we won’t sue the owner of the facility/property if we get hurt. Well it’s become that time of year in Texas where wildflower shots are readily available.

There are hundreds of free places to get these shots…like IH10 just outside of Seguin on the way to Houston. There are tons of locations around San Antonio too. But the places that I want to hit are the places that are forbidden unless you have the wallet for it.

Take for instance, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. It’s a gorgeous place filled with the beauty of wildflowers year round. They charge you to access the facility if you want to look but if you pack a camera, look out. You can be slapped with an $100/day camera fee.

There is a new canyon at Canyon Lake and it has some awesome views as well. If you want to walk down that trail, you have to hire a guide and you have to also pay a fee. Combined, it can also run you about $100 and that includes LIMITED access to the area.

So please take this warning. If you are going to a favorite location and plan on taking your camera to capture some of the beauty, you better pack your credit card or a lockbox for your camera because cash strapped facilities are looking for new and better ways to generate revenue and our love of nature’s raw beauty and power is going to cost us.

A digital photographer has lots of help today

A podcast is a simple audio or sometimes video file that provides you with any of a long list of items that can be used to teach you different languages, math, science, and even digital photography.

Some of the best guides and tutorials are podcasts. 

Here are some of them that I listen to:

The main advantage of these podcast tutorials is that you can run them on your iPod or media player while you sit at your PC or in the field. 

If you know of any others, please let me know and I can add this to the list.