Photography and Art

Monday, April 14, 2008

Photog Discovery of the Week

This week, I'm recommending a photographer from Italy called Antonio Manno.

A Hand on Music (c) Antonio Manno

Even though Antonio has a web site, it is written in flash and is fairly difficult to navigate. I find his Pbase galleries easier to view and that's where the above link points.

Antonio specializes in digital black and white photography and I particularly like his images of jazz musicians. His command of lighting is superb and he has a knack for bringing out the raw emotion in the subject matter. It is obvious from these images that Antonio is passionate about jazz and jazz musicians.

It isn't easy photographing jazz musicians. Usually light levels are low and they have this annoying habit of moving to the music during their solos. I know, I've tried with mixed success. Every photo in this gallery has wonderful lighting - I wish I knew how he does it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sigma DP1

There hasn't been a lot of buzz about exciting new cameras since the introduction of the Nikon D3, so it was nice to see that the Sigma DP1 was shipping and reviews were popping up all over the web.

For the uninitiated, there has been a quest among camera bloggers for a small camera that combines the photo quality of a DSLR with the portability of a point and shoot. Up until the introduction of the DP1, we've had some promising contenders (e.g. the Canon G9, Ricoh R8), but they have all used small sensors and suffered from horrendous noise levels at ISO 400 and up. Just as they used to say "there's no substitute for cubic inches" in the car game, there is no substitute for pixel size in the camera game. The larger the pixels, the higher the signal to noise ratio. Jim, ya canna break the laws of physics, laws of physics.

Along comes the Sigma DP1, a very exciting camera that offers a large (APS-C) sensor in a very small body. It also has a wide-angle lens, can shoot raw and offers manual control over all aspects of photography. It was introduced 18 months ago and only started shipping in quantity this month, so the wait was long. Was it worth it? Here are some of the early reviews:

After reading the reviews, I'm very tempted to buy one, but probably won't. Here are the pros and cons:

  • Pros
    • large APS-C sensor
    • Foveon sensor
    • high image quality/low noise
    • Good lens quality
    • Produces raw images
    • Simple user interface with good manual control
  • Cons
    • Auto focus delay
    • No zoom lens
    • Not yet supported by Adobe raw processing
    • Expensive
    • Poor quality built-in flash
    • Viewfinder is an extra cost add-on

To be a good walk-around portable camera and be able to capture the moment, a zoom lens and fast autofocus are really important. Ideally, I'd like a DP1 with a 3x zoom (preferably with a manual zoom ring), a built-in viewfinder and the auto-focus performance of a DSLR.

I think the DP1 falls into the "close, but no cigar" category. The reviews all praise Sigma for its pioneering spirit, but I'd be very surprised if this camera becomes a hit with the prosumer market.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Versions of Kodak Plug-ins

It's nice that the hot news of the week is all about useful stuff, like new software, not the usual news about stuffing more pixels onto a tiny point and shoot sensor.

Kodak has announced upgrades to its suite of Photoshop plug-ins. There are four plug-ins:

  • Gem Pro - for noise and grain reduction. I've used Gem in the past and it was quite inferior to Noise Ninja, but I'm game to download a free trial and look at it again.
  • Gem Airbrush - a tool for portait photographers aimed at smoothing skin imperfections.
  • ROC -- for restoring colour balance in old photos or slides where fading has occured. I sure wish I'd had this when I'd worked on some 50 year-old slides of Kenya for a friend last month.
  • SHO - a contrast and exposure tool that claims to reveal details in highlights and shadows.

I'm going to download the free trials this week and give 'em a test drive.

New Version of Lightroom and Aperture

Competition is a wonderful thing. Apple just announced version 2.1 of Aperture with a new plug-in feature and back comes Adobe with the announcement of the Lightroom 2.0 beta program.

Ian Lyons has already created a very good tutorial to the new Lightroom 2.0 beta here. Here are my early thoughts on the beta:
  • Lightroom 2.0 will support 64 bit operating systems. This is great news - we no longer have to be memory constrained. Now I can look forward to the joy of upgrading to Vista 64 bit, buying more memory and wrestling with all my drivers again.
  • The new beta is very buggy and not recommended for production use. There is no compatibility yet with 1.3.1 catalogs.
  • There are lots of general UI tweaks that will be nice for long-time users. The improvements to collections and filters are very nice.
  • I'm very happy about the improvement in interoperability between Lightroom and Photoshop. You can now open a Lightroom image as an object in Photoshop without having to convert it to a TIFF file.
  • The exciting part of the Aperture announcement was the availability of a plug-in architecture along with commitments from folks like Noise Ninja to make their products available inside Aperture. Apple announced the first Aperture plug-in, a dodge and burn module.
  • Sadly, Adobe missed the point of the Aperture announcement. They did announce the inclusion of a very powerful dodge and burn module within Lightroom 2.0, but there was no announcement of a plug-in architecture, so sadly there won't be any plug-ins for Lightroom 2.0 in the near future.

I think there will be enough in this release to justify the inevitable upgrade cost, but the lack of a plug-in architecture will really have a lot of people, especially Mac users, scratching their heads and wondering if Lightroom was the right horse to back. I know if Aperture was available on Vista, I'd be downloading the trial version as we speak.