Ideal Focus

May 24, 2013
by Derek

Galleries From The Web 50

With no fanfare whatsoever, here are the best photos on the web this week.

The Atlantic saddles up for the Harley Davidson National Rally In China.

The BBC rides India’s Fading Trams.

CNN goes through A Window Into The Past In Norway.

LIFE magazine is experiencing a Buzz Thrill at a bee market in the Netherlands.

National Geographic takes a look at the culture of Aboriginal Australians.

Reuters goes for the offbeat with some Weird Homes.

 

Have a great weekend!

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

May 21, 2013
by Derek

A New Flagship PEN From Olympus

Right, I’m now back and ready to blog after finishing the site infrastructure improvements last week. (Why is it that it’s always the printer that causes the most stress?)

Anyway let’s get straight to Olympus’ new flagship model for their PEN series of cameras: The E-P5.

It’s very easy to summarise what the E-P5 is, in that it’s essentially the OM-D E-M5 sans the viewfinder and weather sealing.

That means you gain the 5-axis image stabilisation and the 16MP sensor from the OM-D. (The E-P3 was 2 axis and 12MP.)

There are also some performance improvements. You’ll notice faster start up times and better burst rates. The rear LCD panel also has improved resolution, as well as now being articulated. On top of this there are now front & rear control dials for changing exposure settings. All of which adds up to a substantial upgrade.

Onto pricing then, always the controversial point with new releases.

The E-P3 cost £800 with lens when it was first released in the UK.

The E-P5 will start its life at £999 with lens.

Yikes! Although the E-P5 is a strong improvement (on paper at least) from the E-P3, a 25% price hike seems a bit steep.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 currently sells at the same price with a better (and weather sealed) lens. That means that Olympus are basically giving you, at a given price point, the choice between weather sealing and a viewfinder, or a little more compactness.

 

A word of warning: If you’re thinking of getting an OM-D E-M5, but maybe waiting for the replacement model (E-M6?), expect it to be more expensive than the E-M5 was when it was released.

 

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

May 13, 2013
by Derek

Some Site News

This week I’m going to be doing some technical upgrades which will affect my ability to write and post articles. Hopefully, when they’re done I’ll be able to work a lot more efficiently, which should improve your experience with the site.

So anyone waiting for my first impressions on the new Olympus E-P5 will have to wait a little bit! Workshop booking, and related services, should be as normal.

 

Thanks for your understanding.

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

May 10, 2013
by Derek

Galleries From The Web 49

Here are the best photos from the web this week.

The Atlantic are getting creative with some Chinese DIY Inventions.

The Boston Globe are travelling By Rail.

CNN look back at Polaroid: The Pioneering Art.

LIFE rides The Romance Of The Rails.

TIME remembers when Punk Was Young And Dangerous. It’s then time for a more artistic set in Luigi Ghirri’s Kodachromes Revisited.

 

Have a great weekend!

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

May 9, 2013
by Derek

Storm Clouds Ahead For Adobe

On Monday, Adobe caused the biggest photographer furore I can remember by announcing that Photoshop would no longer be available to buy. Users will instead have to pay for access on a monthly basis. Adobe has touted the benefit of this being that your Photoshop (PS) will always be the latest and greatest, but photographers have reacted angrily to the news. This article will explain why, and give advice to photographers about their software options.

NB: This article will not discuss the Web Designer’s perspective, i.e. the full CC Suite option, as it doesn’t fall within this site’s remit.

First up, the pricing.

  • The last traditional Photoshop (CS6) sold for £630.
  • The new version, Photoshop  CC (Creative Cloud) will cost £17.58 per month.
  • Existing Photoshop users (CS3 and later) will pay £8.78 per month for the first 12 months.
  • That’s £105.36 for the first year, and £210.96 thereafter, for existing customers (£210,96 from the get go for new users).

We can see pretty quickly that Adobe’s looking at a 3 year period to be equivalent to one traditional purchase. Recent editions of PS have been released at a rate of between 18 months and 2 years. Give Adobe the benefit of the doubt, and we can see the new pricing is analogous to upgrading the traditional PS on every other edition.

For those who upgrade every edition the story is a little different. It currently costs £188.19 to upgrade from PS CS5 to CS6. For them there is a slight (about £30) increase.

On the face of that, there doesn’t seem to be anything too contentious. Every other version is a typical upgrade rate for most software. Although some users may stick with a version longer, Adobe obviously won’t want to provide for people who have very long upgrade cycles, as it won’t make them much money.

 

Pricing is not the whole of the story though. Let’s dig into the details and implications of the Creative Cloud.

Creative Cloud is a bit of a misnomer in that it isn’t really about the Cloud. (You do get 20GB of free storage, but PS and your files still reside on your hard disk). The critical difference in approach is actually ownership.

  • With the traditional model, you own the software. You pay an upfront cost, and for that you can use the program in perpetuity.
  • With the Creative Cloud, you rent the software. If you stop paying the monthly fee, you lose access to the software.

In other words, the CC model leaves you trapped with a recurring fee that for any number of reasons you might not want at some point. While your original files cannot be taken away, your means of opening your edits will be gone.

And it’s this key issue that has caused all the anger from photographers. The fact that CC effectively locks users into paying every month, without an escape route.

You can’t even look at the pricing and decide that you think it’s reasonable. There’s no guarantee that Adobe won’t amass users at the current prices, before hiking the fees.

I’m sure everyone is familiar with this sort of set-up. Think about your internet service provider or utility companies.

The thing is, the friction of switching from PS is likely to be much greater than switching utility provider!

The reason for the friction is that all the adjustments you made to your files are all in PS files. You can output versions using your changes but essentially, anyone wanting to switch away from Adobe who has a lot of files, will need a difficult overlapping period to migrate.

 

Okay, by now you should understand the fundamental issue at play. Let’s move on to recommendations. I’m going to split these up between existing PS users, existing Lightroom & PS Elements users, and people looking to choose their first image editing software. (Remember I’m just talking about photographer uses here.)

 

Photoshop Users

Look for alternatives that might work for you. Work out what you actually need PS for. If you’re not using a photo management tool such as Lightroom (see next section), Aperture, Capture One, or DXO Optics, you may find out they would be more appropriate  for your needs, and cheaper.

Consider using plugins with those options for things like HDR, focus stacking, and panoramas.

If, and only if, you have something you can’t achieve outside of PS you’ll need to look at the price and decide whether it’s worth paying (don’t forget Photoshop Elements, discussed in the next section).

My own opinion is, as a photographer, I’d find it very hard to justify the cost of PS for the little that can’t be achieved elsewhere.

 

Lightroom & PS Elements Users

These are also Adobe products, but Adobe’s current line is that they will remain as traditional products, separate from the Creative Cloud.

This has already been muddied though, Adobe have already said that the CC version of Lightroom will have features that the traditional version won’t.

I find it very hard to believe that Adobe would make the switch to the Creative Cloud for some of its products with no intention of moving the rest there eventually.

In many ways lightroom (LR) users are more vulnerable than PS users to the frictions I talked about earlier. Over a few years, it’s likely that a user would have tens of thousands of images sorted in LR. Moving those images to a new program is not straightforward. (Believe me I know! I moved my images form one program into another a few years ago.)

I advise any Lightroom user who would be uncomfortable with Adobe’s CC model to consider the alternatives (of which there are several).

  • Aperture (mac)
  • Capture One Pro
  • Corel Paintshop Pro (windows)
  • DXO Optics

If you decide you’d move if LR went to the CC model, I strongly advise you to begin the process of switching as soon as you reach a convenient point for you (financially, time-wise, etc.). If you wait for Adobe to make its move, then you may find yourself backed into making the move at the wrong moment for you (or worse still, being unable to move).

Free trials are available for all of these options, so work out which you are most comfortable with.

PS Elements users find themselves in probably the best position of those using an Adobe product. Elements is a deliberately low-end version of PS, so it makes more sense for it to continue in its present form. That said, there must still be uncertainty. Elements users are the one Adobe group who I would tell to hold their position for now.

 

Considering First Paid-For Software

This is the group of people who are probably just beginning to take photography seriously. They have heard that post-processing can improve their photos, and want to learn more.

This is where Adobe’s policy may have the most benefit!

Unfortunately, due in part to its name, Photoshop has been used synonymously with doing any kind of digital post-processing. Photoshop is actually a graphic editor, more useful to designers than photographers.

In fact, for most people, PS is entirely unnecessary for editing photos. Photoshop is really only needed for heavy manipulation in photos. For most image enhancement needs, Lightroom and the alternatives listed in the previous section are cheaper and more appropriate.

Whichever program you use there will be a learning curve. Providing you spend a little time getting to know the software, you will get familiar with the tools quickly enough.

For the reasons I gave in the previous section. I do not recommend Lightroom anymore. It’s a perfectly good program and is currently the most widely used, but the uncertainty of its future is very serious.

So, for anyone looking to move beyond the software supplied by your camera manufacturer, it’s that list of options again.

  • Aperture (mac)
  • Capture One Pro
  • Corel Paintshop Pro (windows)
  • DXO Optics

As usual, if you have any questions, then get in touch using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

May 1, 2013
by Derek

New Panasonic Cameras For April 2013

Last week, Panasonic announced 2 new cameras that may be of interest to readers of this site.

 

The first of these is the latest iteration of Panasonic’s Compact System Camera G range: The G6.

The G6 is a G5 with upgraded body, including more external controls, a better rear screen & viewfinder, as well as a new processor.

What’s most noticeable about the G6 is that it’s grown. Unlike previous G cameras, the G6 is firmly in the same size camp as entry level DSLRs like the Canon 100D and Nikon D3200. Whether you see that as a big ergonomic improvement, or as a negation of the potential benefits of a smaller sensor will be a matter of personal opinion.

Panasonic are saying the G6 is not a replacement for the G5. Take that to mean they’ve got a lot of G5 cameras that they still need to shift. Expect some great bargains for anyone interested in the G5 over the coming months.

Otherwise, the G6 has better battery life and improved shot-to-shot performance over its predecessor.

The G6 will cost £629 at launch with the kit 14-42mm lens. For those interested, the G5 is still available with the 14-42mm lens for £450. The G5 is, of course, the value option.

 

Onwards, to camera number 2!

Panasonic have gone a step beyond the typical Compact Superzoom with their new Panasonic LF1.

While the lens specification is decent, and the body well designed with good control points, the real party piece of the LF1 is that it has an integral Electronic Viewfinder (EVF).

While some Advanced Compact Cameras struggle along with small and inaccurate Optical Viewfinders, the LF1 features a small but accurate EVF.

The EVF on the LF1 isn’t going to compete with the very high spec ones on Compact System Cameras, but for a small sensor Superzoom it is a big step in the right direction.

Anyone who has struggled trying to view their camera’s rear LCD in bright light will welcome the option of an EVF.

The only fly in the ointment with the LF1 is that it is a Superzoom. If it were an Advanced Compact like their LX7, I feel the addition of the EVF would be welcomed much more warmly. Lots of people who are into cameras enough to want a viewfinder will be put off by the optical compromises of the long zoom on the LF1.

The LF1 will go on sale at £379 which is a fair bit more than similarly specified cameras which don’t have an EVF, so the question is: How much is that viewfinder worth to you?

As with so many innovative cameras recently, the Panasonic LF1 is a welcome addition to its genre.

 

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

April 29, 2013
by Derek

The X Factor Goes Telephoto

In July last year, I published an article outlining the Fujifilm Lens Roadmap for the X series. At that time there was only one X Compact System Camera and three lenses.

With the recent announcement that the 55-200mm f/2.8-4 telephoto zoom lens is almost ready to go, it seems a good moment to take another look at the X system and see how far it has come.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues I raised back in July.

  • Fuji needs to catch up in the autofocus (AF) department
  • They need a cheaper (and preferably smaller) camera model without compromised handling
  • More positive clicks on lens aperture rings
  • Proper lens hoods/caps

Point 1, has largely been addressed. Firmware updates (as they did with the x100) have made the X cameras competent in terms of AF performance.

We do now have a second, cheaper, body. Even though it’s not much smaller than the X Pro-1, the X E-1 has proved very popular and expanded the appeal of the system.

I haven’t come across any complaints about aperture rings on newer lenses, which may indicate an improvement in this area.

For the most part, lens hoods for the newer Fuji lenses are more traditional, and can be reversed for transportation.

So far so good…

There is an extra point to consider about the Fuji X system.

RAW support for the X-Trans sensor that is in the Fujifilm X cameras had been lacking. Now we’ve got to the point where there are decent mainstream options in Aperture and Lightroom, as well as the more specialist Capture One.

Full marks Fuji!

When Fuji first declared the intention to make a 55-200mm, the slow AF of the system would have made the use of telephoto lenses very difficult (for their usual applications of sports and wildlife etc). Now the X system has decent AF performance it’s easy to see how the lens could be useful.

I do still feel that most X shooters are more interested in fast prime lenses than zooms, but with the introduction of the X E-1 and its high quality kit zoom, that may not be overwhelmingly the case as before.

All in all, a good solid addition to Fuji’s X system.

 

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

April 26, 2013
by Derek

Galleries From The Web 48

All the best photos on the net this week.

The Atlantic launches this week’s collection with images from Around The Solar System.

The BBC enters the world of sport by taking a look at Senegal’s Female Wrestlers.

CNN is featuring royalty in The Queen Of Swords.

The theme continues over at LIFE, as they show off The Queen Of Jazz & Other Legends. Things get more stately  when joining Winston Churchill At Leisure.

Reuters takes to the tracks with a gallery of India’s Railways.

 

Have a great weekend!

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

April 25, 2013
by Derek

The Fastest Zoom On The Planet?

For many years one of the major distinctions between Prime & Zoom lenses has been the maximum aperture (speed) of the lens.

Typically, prime lenses (those of a single focal length) had maximum apertures of f/1.8, and in some cases even f/1.4.

By contrast, zoom lenses usually have maximum apertures of around f/3.5 at their widest focal length, and about f/5.6 at their longest focal lengths. More expensive lenses would have constant f/4 apertures throughout their ranges. The top pro-grade lenses would have constant f/2.8 maximum apertures.

Let’s add some prices to this background information, using.

  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8  £150
  • Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 £205
  • Nikon 24-120mm f/4 £795
  • Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 £1,245

What we’ve got here, is a typical consumer prime and zoom for not too much money, followed by a a big jump in price to get the f/4 lens, and a final big jump to get to the f/2.8 pro level lens.

As I’m sure you’re all wondering where I’m going on this little ramble , I’ll get to the point.

 

Sigma have announced a new lens for Consumer DSLRs: The Sigma 18-35 f/1.8.

This changes the speed vs. convenience equation for Consumer DSLR users trying to decide if they will use prime lenses or zooms.

When compared to the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8, prime users no longer have advantages in light gathering, or Depth Of Field control.

As such, many users will be attracted to the convenience of the Sigma lens.

 

Are there any drawbacks?

The first is size.

The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 has a diameter of 78mm and a length of 121mm.

It weighs in at a hefty 810g

Compare that to the Nikon 35mm f/1.8, which has dimensions of 70x53mm, and only weighs 210g.

So anyone who wants to use the Sigma, needs to be prepared to carry a hefty weight around to take advantage of its convenience. (As a point of reference, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 weighs nearly 300g more than similarly sized popular consumer telephoto; the Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6.)

 

The second is price.

What follows is some blatant supposition, as Sigma have not yet announced pricing and availability for the 18-35mm f/1.8.

This lens is aimed at the high-end of Consumer DSLR users: The serious enthusiast or semi-pro. We have to expect a price tag to match that ambition.

My expectation is that the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 will cost around £1,000 when launched. That would be a fair price, albeit one that should make most of us think twice (or thrice) about paying.

It probably doesn’t matter what Sigma charge for this lens, as I expect demand to far outstrip supply for a long period.

 

For most of us, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is probably not the best value option. It’s one for those people who aren’t price conscious, have no problem carrying a big heavy lens, and don’t like changing lenses.

However, it’s great that Sigma are bringing this choice to Consumer DSLR users.

 

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.

April 22, 2013
by Derek

Ricoh GR Challenges Coolpix A

Last month I reported on the new Nikon Coolpix A. The Coolpix A was unique, with a 28mm eq. lens and a Consumer DSLR (APS-C) sensor in an almost shirt-pocket sized body.

For more information on the Coolpix A, I suggest clicking the first link. Indeed for more information on the Ricoh GR you may as well click that too, as the GR and the Coolpix A are in a lot of ways very similar.

The Ricoh GR shares the same focal length as the Coolpix A, same speed lens (f/2.8), the same resolution (in all likelihood the same sensor), and both cameras have removed the AA filter for greater resolution.

However, the Ricoh GR has some crucial advantages over the Coolpix A.

  • Faster autofocus
  • Longer battery life (290 shots vs. 230)
  • Smaller & Lighter (Ricoh GR is thinner & shorter, as well as 18% lighter)
  • Cheaper (£599 vs. £999)

Note the magnitude of that price difference. That’s a serious tempter for anyone who likes the 28mm field of view.

 

So are there any reasons to buy the Coolpix A over the GR?

Interface: If you are a Nikon DSLR shooter, then the Coolpix A will be attractive because of its familiarity in use. Also Nikon and Ricoh have employed 2 quite different philosophies for controls, so even those who aren’t Nikon users will find they prefer one to the other.

I would advise reading the Digital Photography Review previews of both cameras to get more of an idea of which interface is best for you.

Early testers of the cameras have reported that the Coolpix A has better performance towards the centre of the frame, whereas the GR has better extreme corner performance. On balance the Coolpix A may have a slight edge for most applications.

Note that differences in image quality aren’t going to show up very significantly in most real-world situations.

 

Ricoh GR Or Nikon Coolpix A?

If price is a concern, then the choice is easy. In fact, for anyone who doesn’t have a strong preference for the Coolpix A’s interface, it’s difficult to make the case for the Nikon camera. Ricoh appear to have done so many things right, at such a good price, that for most people it is likely to be the better option.

 

Get in touch with your questions, comments, and blog ideas using  derek@idealfocus.co.uk or using the contact form. You can also join our community on our Facebook Page or our Google+ Page, as well as by following me on Twitter using @DerekIdealFocus.