IE6

Wow, I just noticed how terrible this site looks on IE6. I mean, it’s really, really bad. I thought I had checked it, but I guess not. When I get a chance I’ll fix all that white crud padding those divs, but if you are viewing this site via IE, do yourself a favor, go get firefox.

Photographing Like a Filmmaker

If you carry a camera almost everywhere like I do, you might be interested in this post on Alec Soth’s blog in which he details how he photographs like a filmmaker. Soth doesn’t carry a camera everday, but rather plans his projects from concept, funding, shooting, and publication. I’m not actually a huge fan of Soth’s photography, but I can appreciate how well he thinks out and executes his ideas.

I’ve been thinking about this topic off and on for a while now. Carrying a camera everyday has become something of a crutch for me. I get some cool shots of random things, but its one of the things preventing me from taking on bigger projects. Processing all those random shots takes up time and just enough of them are good enough that I can get those warm fuzzy feeling for a job well done. This is a pale subsitute for a coherent portfolio, a published book, fortune, and fame beyond my wildest imagination. Perhaps I should stop carrying a camera everyday.

Confused

I’m a little confused by the luke warm response to the new Fuji S5. For those that hadn’t heard the news, here’s the skinny:

  • D200 body, AF and metering
  • Same extended range sensor as the S3 Pro with improvements to the low pass filter

As depreview already noted in their S3 Pro review, the extendended dynamic range function of Fuji’s sensor really works. Furthermore, the S3 Pro had “Good resolution, better than the average six megapixel”. The S5 promises all that and the improved AF, metering, ergonomics and durability of the D200. What’s not to like?

Noise; A Train of Thought in 3 Parts

  1. A certain amount of noise can improve the performance of non-linear systems. This sounds like nonsense, but it’s not when you stop to think about it. For example, B&W photographers have long known that a grainier image can often look sharper than a grainless one. If you are interested in the science behind it, this guy has written some articles about noise that are entirely over my head. His book, which was discussed on Science Friday recently, sounds like its more my speed. He also has some challenging thoughts on the diminishing importance of the comma.
  2. Although a lot photographers seem to be pursuing noiselessness, noiseless photos fail to satisfy me on some deeper level. I can appreciate the technical mastery, or least the amount of money, involved in creating a noiseless image, but I don’t find them particularly interesting. I’m not the only one, but I’d argue that as a group, photographers don’t know nearly enough about the roll noise plays in the success or failure of a photograph. For example, can you to a certain extent hide blown highlights by adding the right amount and kind of noise?
  3. I’m pretty happy with the noise qualities of the D80. You can check out a whole bunch of test shots and comparisons over at Dpreview. I haven’t used the D80 at 1600 all that often yet, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

ISO 1600


Crop of ISO 1600 image

As a side note, this is the first DSLR I’ve owned whose AF system functioned well enough in low light that it could actually take some advantage of the available high ISOs.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 Mini Review

I plan on writing a more complete review of the Sigma 30mm F1.4 with examples and what not sometime over the next couple of weeks, but I thought I post a couple of thoughts on it now.

Pros

  • Right focal length; depending on your DSLR 30mm works out ot 45mm or 48mm.
  • Big max aperture; you can’t argue with 1.4.
  • Good performance wide open; it’s not a Sumilux, but it’s also not $3000.
  • Right price; $400 for a fast standard is not all that far off what Nikon an Canon charge for their 50 F1.4s.
  • Fast, quiet AF motor; especially nice since neither Canon nor Nikon’s similarly priced 35’s offer an AF motor.
  • Pleasant OOF rendering.
  • Contrasty and pretty neutral color cast.

Cons

  • Size; it’s pretty big. 62mm is a big front element. With the hood it’s down right huge.
  • Flare; yeah, you really do need that big hood fairly frequently.
  • Barrel distortion; add $15 for a copy of PTLens to the purchase price.
  • AF errors reported by some users; mine is fine, but Sigma continues to be dogged by a reputation for sample variation. Of course Nikon and Canon have also had problems with sample variation on some of their lenses.

In my mind the Sigma competes against Canon’s 28 F1.8, Canon’s 35 F2, Canon’s 35 F1.4, Nikon’s 35 F2, Nikon’s 28 F1.4. Both the other F1.4 lenses are pricey to say the least, and Nikon’s is also currently out of production. I’ve used the Canon 28 1.8 and the Nikon 35 F2. Both are fine options and available slightly cheaper than the Sigma. Neither is quite as fast, and in my experience, neither produces images that have quite the same snap as the Sigma particularly when wide open.

Conclusion

The Sigma 30mm F1.4 is on paper superior to similarly priced offerings from the camera manufacturers. Unlike a lot of 3rd party lenses, the on paper specs actually translate into good perfromance. AF is snappy and sure. Sharpness is good wide open. Images show a lot contrast and snap without particularly nasty rendering of OOF areas. It’s a little big for standard lens, but it’s much smaller than Nikon or Canon’s F1.4 offerings in this focal range. I’d like to see Sigma produce something like a 24mm F1.4 with similar performance.