Category: Reviews

Canon SL1 ISO Test

I’ve taken some shots comparing the ISO performance of Canon’s newest DSLR, the Rebel SL1 / 100D, and the older, but formidable, 60D. A lot of speculation has been circling around the SL1’s “new” sensor.  This is mainly because they share a pixel count, a pixel count that hasn’t seemed to change much over the past several years. While the SL1 does indeed have 18MP, there are some visible differences in the performance of this sensor. Continue reading “Canon SL1 ISO Test”

“Layers” for iPhone

I started off using “Brushes” for iPhone, a very capable app. But coming from a photoshop background, I was still missing a few features that would make painting on an iPhone an easier transition for me. “Layers” brings some of those features to the platform at long last.

The first feature of course, is the use of layers. The is the first step towards non-destructive painting that the app offers to artists. Up to five layers can be utilized, re-arranged, painted on, filled, and deleted. Import pictures to layers and you can do some simple photo compositing too. You can even undo your steps (up to 30) using the counter-clockwise arrow and watch your changes backtrack on their respective layers in layer view. And then redo them as well. Pretty neat to watch.

The next tool is the eraser tool. Erase on any layer, with full access to the different brushes and sizes and a transparency adjustment slider. Finally! Like I said, I come from a photoshop background where I can erase something or even better, mask it out. But with “Brushes”, I was not able to do any erasing only additive corrections meaning if you went outside the lines so-to-speak, you’d have to re-paint what you screwed up with a similar/identical color. Seemingly “adding” paint strokes on top of paint strokes. Since you’re currently limited to five layers, there is still the possibility that you might need to re-paint or paint over something on one of those layers. Regardless the eraser tool is a very welcome addition.

Much of the same tools and utilities from “Brushes” have been used in “Layers” as well. Color sampling by holding your finger down on the color you want. Also an eyedropper tool that can sample all layers or your current one. Pinch to zoom, and also double-tap to zoom to a specific area (at 200%), and 1000% max zoom (over “Brushes” 800%) allowing for pixel specific painting.

Export settings include email as flattened JPEG, PSD (yes, a photoshop document) with layers, send to your photo album on your device, or save as duplicate. So you can take you’re layered painting and edit it right into Photoshop.

While this app won’t make you magically have talent (as I was hoping for), it will give you a greater tool set in which to create your next mobile masterpiece. Add a Pogo Stylus and you’re good to go.

Lowepro Classified 160 AW Review

First off, there are a lot of great reviews of this particular bag out there on the interwebz. So I’m going to go over some of the same stuff and also some things that I haven’t seen mentioned.

The Classified Series from Lowepro is their attempt to create a more discrete bag for the photojournalists/travelers around the world. Features like the discrete Lowepro logo and more traditional bag shape and colors help to achieve this goal, but it’s not a miracle bag. It’s real potential lies in how easy it is to access your camera in a hurry and also return it to the bag covertly.

It’s available in 5 different bag sizes now ranging from the brand new Classified 100 AW Kit (basically a travel size pouch for a notebook and some other things and also two new attachable pouches “35” and “30”), 140 AW, 160 AW, 200 AW, and 250 AW (the largest bag, which also can hold a 15″ notebook computer).

Let’s talk about the bag size first. The 160 AW dimensions are listed by Lowepro as 13.4W X 8.9D X 14H in. In actuality the bag (fully loaded) is more like 11.5W X 9D X 12H in. The height is from the top of the bag not the top of the carry handle and the width is with the “bull horns” tucked away. So this is a relatively small bag, especially when sitting next to the much larger 200 and even bigger 250.

As with all Lowepro products, the quality is impeccable. Quality metal d-rings, swivel clasps, webbing, and stitching. The only drawback I could find on this topic is on the all weather cover. The actual seams where the waterproof fabric is sewn together, are not taped shut. Though unlikely, in a heavy down pour, water could get through. But it would also have to find its way through the rest of the bag to get to the camera/equipment. But on a good note, the small slits on the side of the AW cover where the shoulder strap d-rings poke through, are taped to prevent tearing of the fabric.

Pockets. The bag has 3 external pockets. The two front pockets are underneath the main flap.

The outermost is covered by a velcro flap. The flap has a nice see-through vinyl window to keep business cards or ID visible when needed. Lift the flap and you’ll find a very versatile pocket with pen holder loops and another small sewn in drop pocket for coins, headphones or other small items.

Next is the larger drop pocket. Inside is a nice tether and clip for keys etc. and also the included memory card wallet.

There’s also a little pocket that is accessible on the front even with the main flap buckled closed.

The last pocket is a zippered pocket on the back of the bag, meant for relatively thin/flat items you need to carry. I suggest this only because it’s the side of the bag that will be resting on you. No need to be poked every time the bag swings into you or across you.
There are 3 slip lock loops on the bag, one on the front (is the leather loop the Lowepro logo is pressed into) and two on the sides just below the d-rings where the shoulder strap attaches.

Inside the main compartment are a few dividers that are customizable with the standard Lowepro velcro system. Two of the dividers are topped with a nice protective leather accent. And they’re also shaped to allow room for the bulky bottoms of larger cameras like the D3, Canon 1Ds, or cameras with a vertical battery grip.

They also threw in a handy micro-fiber cloth to clean a lens with and also lay across LCD screens to protect them. The cloth is stowed away in a nice mesh velcro pouch until it’s needed.

*The cloth is kind of short. So if you attach it to a divider on the right of the camera it probably won’t be able to cover the whole LCD screen. You’re better off velcro’ing the mesh pouch on the left side of the camera. Unlike what I did.

I was able to fit my ultrapod, SB-600 Flash, Tokina 11-16mm, 18-105mm, and D90 with 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted, into the main compartment the other weekend. This was in part, thanks to the expandable bellows that allow more storage space inside. There’s a large zipper just behind the two front pockets that allows for the expansion.

Here’s everything that I carry in the bag most of the time:

My complaints with the bag are minuscule. The shoulder pad on the strap, as others have mentioned in their reviews, doesn’t slide. It’s stitched to the webbing and doesn’t allow the bag to be swung back and forth to gain access to your gear. Between that and the lack of taped seams on the AW cover, this bag is hard to complain about. It works great in the field, great for travel or around town and is built like a tank.

I picked mine up off eBay for around $110 at the time this is being written.
Update: Got a real chance to use this bag during the Memorial Day weekend. This thing is great. It rained a lot and had to use the rain cover on a few occasions with fantastic results. Getting to gear and changing lens was really easy as was concealing it quickly. And in my Fiance’s opinion looks good wearing it around.
Also at work here, a co-worker saw my bag and proceeded to make fun of it, calling it a man purse…chuckle chuckle. I then told her it was my camera bag, to which she replied, “That doesn’t look like any camera bag I’ve ever seen.” That pretty much sells the thing in my opinion, very discreet indeed.

BlackRapid FastenR-2 Review

I just received my FastenR-2 from Blackrapid. It’s of simple construction, a threaded bolt, stainless steel puck with a hole drilled in each side and a d-ring that pivots within the holes.

Upon inspecting the piece, I was slightly concerned, wondering if this d-ring was really going to be any stronger than the one on the Bogen quick release.
Well it definitely appeared to be, and more so, I’ve tried to pull the thing apart with my leatherman pliers and the d-ring won’t budge. Very nice. I’m not sure how far the ends of the d-ring go into the steel puck, but regardless it’s pretty stout.
My second concern was with the length of the threads. The new fastenR-2 appears to have a shorter bolt than the older version. Removing the rubber washer and installing the FR-2 onto my D90 displayed that BlackRapid engineered this new design quite well. It left just enough space to squeeze the rubber washer good and tight after the bolt bottomed out in the tripod socket.
I had to really tighten the FasternR-2 down to feel confident that it wouldn’t start backing out. It’s a different feeling than the old version, where when you loosened the bolt it kind of just broke loose all of a sudden. You have to realize how far the bolt can go in and know that the rubber can be compressed that much. Once it’s tight enough, the rubber washer actually keeps the bolt from loosening. Here are some comparison shots of the new with the old FastenR.

The new unit, as you can see, is much more compact. Allowing for much more dexterity when handling your camera, setting it down, or packing it in a bag.

I have yet to actually use the new version on while shooting, but so far it seems to be a great redesign.

BlackRapid RS-4 Review

So I was reading though my huge list of blog subscriptions last week and I came upon a review on CrunchGear of this new BlackRapid camera strap. After reading the review I started doing some more research on it and after a few days of deliberation, decided to buy.

The idea behind BlackRapids bandolier style of strap is to make it easier to do what all photographers want to do…SHOOT PHOTOS! All BlackRapid straps employ the same design principle that allows the camera to be quickly slid from the resting (waist) position up to the shooting position.

After opening the mesh bag the strap comes in, I began to take a closer look at the strap itself. The build quality looks amazing…not a loose thread or unkempt webbing cut. This particular model, the RS-4, is similar to the original R-Strap (RS-1). It has a similar slim profile but also has a nice slim zipper pocket for storing memory cards, ID, cash, etc.

The RS-4 I received still has the old style FastenR bracket that has been the main topic of debate in others’ reviews. This L shaped bracket screws into the tripod socket on the bottom of either your camera body or the tripod mount of your lens.

*The newer FastenR-2 is an aluminum puck with the screw on one side and a d-ring on the other. You can view the manufacturing schematic for it here.

When I first attached the bracket to my D90, I looked to see how easily this might come loose. But once tightened, it’s not going anywhere. Sure, this is not the same concept as a typical camera strap, and there is the “potential” for it to come unscrewed, but give it a chance. When you actually get your own strap and see for yourself, you’ll have confidence in it too. Plus, as often as we change settings on our cameras, adding a little double check for tightness isn’t too much to do if you’re still unsure.

*You may also use a tripod mount quick release like the this Bogen RC2 unit. I plan on testing this as well. Update: After researching some, I found a user on a Canon forum that had dissected his bogen RC2 tripod plate. He found that the D-ring does not go completely through the thumbscrew and with some effort (albeit quite a bit) the D-ring can be pried loose. And after I tried the plate on my D90, the way the camera was hanging on only one end of the D-ring, it would just be a matter of time before a good jolt pulled it out of its socket.

The strap is attached to the FastenR bracket via the swivel clip shown above. BlackRapids now includes a small piece of clear tubing that slips over the clasp and keeps it from opening unintentionally (which was apparently an issue). The spring tension on the clasp is actually pretty substantial and in my opinion it would be difficult for it accidentally bump open but better to be safe than sorry.

*The above clasp is also being replaced by BlackRapid with a carabiner style clasp with a spin lock.

One of the key reasons I wanted a new strap is due to the pain that the factory Nikon strap caused, especially when paired with some accidental sunburn. Well that problem is solved in two ways, first, the BlackRapid’s strap sits on your shoulder vs. around your neck. Second, the strap actually has some padding and a nice breathable mesh over that. To say the least, this strap is extremely comfortable.

I had a chance to go out this past Sunday during the sunset and shoot a little. It’s hard to believe such a minor improvement on strap design would turn out to be so incredibly innovative. It simply makes an enjoyable task more enjoyable. The camera is easier to work with while moving around, looking at angles, setting up remote flashes, etc… and it’s right there at your side when you’re ready to shoot. This is definitely a must buy!

Enjoy some images captured with the assistance of the RS-4.

Update 4/19/09: Well I’ve gone on several weekend trips with the RS-4 lately, and also a 2 hr hike. My only complaints with the strap are…The way the lens on my 18-105mm kit lens sits against my hip as I walk, the autofocus and VR switches tend to get flipped off from time to time. Not sure how this might affect other lens on other camera systems but if the switches are there it might. Also the shoulder pad does tend to slip to the back of my shoulder as I bring the camera up. But that’s about it. You gotta think though, it’s not a perfect thing. But it is far superior to a regular camera strap…and no still no unscrewing of the mount yet!
Update 5/5/09: Just ordered the new FastenR-2. With any luck, it will arrive in time to shoot Formula D Atlanta this weekend.  5/12/09: Just arrived, read my review.
Update 5/12/09: This weekend I was able test using the RS-4 along side my new Lowepro Classified 160AW.  Having the two straps on the same shoulder is kind of a pain, so I opted to do a cross shoulder setup.  The main reason was I was using a rental 70-200mm f/2.8 and it was kind of big and just wouldn’t work having them both on the same side of me.
On a positive note, the RS-4 and D90/70-200mm combo was fantastically balanced when the FastenR was mounted to the lens, and was as easy to swing up and shoot as with smaller lenses.  But I still had the same problem of the various switches being flipped when the camera rubbed against my hip or leg.  Big nuisance…especially with VR being cruicial on that lens.
Check out my some of my shots from this weekend, Formula D Atlanta 2009.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 Pro DX Lens Unboxing

I just received delivery of my new Tokina 11-16mm wide angle xoom lens for the D90. Usually the lens that are recommended for a camera are those manufactured by the same company, in this case Nikon. Rather than sticking to what rules would dictate, this lens made by Tokina is supposed to out perform even Nikon’s own 12-24mm and 14-24mm wide zooms as reviewed here by Ken Rockwell, and others. So here it is… (shot with the kit 18-105mm)

Here are some initial shots with the Tokina 11-16mm…


This one is at 11mm and about 8in from my iMac’s screen…

I’ll post up more images from this lens at some point. I’m planning on heading up to the North Georgia mountains to shoot the new year’s sunrise early tomorrow morning. We’ll see how they turn out.