31 March 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Michael Humpherson

I feel a bit like a pretender, writing on a blog inhabited by professionals, written by professionals and exhibiting professional work. Me? I am an amateur with a dream – a dream to one day achieve a standard where I feel comfortable to say I could be a professional photographer. It is a long journey, one that started 5 years ago in earnest.

3 years of it was chasing technical perfection in the hope that it would produce the confidence to attain professional mindset – it didn’t. My results were pin-sharp, my exposures spot on, but something was missing for me and from my results – the artistic.

I found the artistic in 2007 at Le Mans, France, around 3 am in the morning whilst watching those violent Le Mans racers churning away the hours. 3 am is witching hour at Le Mans - the sun has well gone, and morning sun is far enough away to not merit a mention. The crowds have dissipated either having slinked back to their tents or collapsed on the banking for a drunken snooze. But I was still up, tracking and panning and shooting, but not very successfully. I sat down on the dew soaked grass and thought long and hard about what I was doing wrong. The technique was there, but the emotiveness wasn’t. But then in the darkest hour, both photographically and physically, I had an epiphany…I understood motorsport (huge passion of mine for years), I understood what the cars were doing and I understood what an evocative subject they were. So why wasn’t I searching for the photo that told the excitement, the passion as I saw it…why wasn’t I conveying that understanding through my images? So the next time I put the camera to my face I did just that, searched for the story, the understanding, and I found it…right there at 3 am, deep in the French countryside.

The journey continues – I want to anchor that passion into the other types of photography I enjoy, people, landscapes, architecture, and wildlife. The journey continues on 1st June in earnest, where I take a 6 month sabbatical from my day job and go off travelling around the world with my wife, photographing, experiencing and taking our time…something every photographer should do in my humble opinion.

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?
Back when I was a teenager one of my friend’s dad bought a brand new gleaming Ferrari 328…painted bright canary yellow…with a few years to go before I got behind the wheel legally, this was possibly the most amazing thing to happen in my car related world. Imagine it, I had sat in Volvos, Rovers and Fords, the generic metal of the family saloon in the 80s and now here in the flesh was a car that had adorned my wall for years. I was a gangly teenager standing around this yellow Italian beauty, hyperventilating with excitement. My first ride in a true thoroughbred…a yellow Ferrari thoroughbred was launching me into boy racer heaven…the roar of the V8 sending shivers down my spine, the leather passenger seats enveloped me as the yellow beast accelerated from zero to sixty in under 4 seconds…this yellow Ferrari was a childhood dream come true.

So what colour would I have my Ferrari? Yellow?

Are you kidding me….get real, you can only ever have a red Ferrari…yellow, for goodness sake, what was he thinking!!!

BLAB: What would your dream photo opportunity be?
In my dreams I have a golden pass hanging around my neck one that reads FIA Official Formula One Photographer…one that allows me to travel with world following the Grand Prix circus…one that grants me trackside access and allows me to immerse myself in the pinnacle of motorsport…that would be the dream assignment.

Come on, you aren’t exactly surprised are you???? I mean, motorsport, travelling and photography all rolled into one job!! “To dream the impossible dream” (line from the Honda F1 advert if anyone remembers).

BLAB: Which photographer's work do you most admire and why?
I tend to see all photographers as admirable, professionals and amateurs alike. But if I was to choose a few that have been a huge influence, it would have to be Darren Heath and Ansel Adams.

Darren Heath, in my opinion, is one of the best formula one photographers of all time. His ability to capture movement of an already fast subject matter and create such form and texture is second to none. When I started to pay attention to my photography and practice, I wanted to mimic the style of Darren. So I slowed my shutter speed right down, constantly shooting below the accepted rule of shutter speed equal to focal length. At the circuit, it is not unusually to see me firing away with a shutter speed of 1/60th, and below. Yep, I get a lot of misses, a lot of blurries and a lot of just pain bad. But when it works, I can see evidence of Darren’s influence. I don’t suppose Darren misses as many as I do, but I can aspire and admire, can’t I??? If you get a chance, check out Darren’s site (www.darrenheath.com) to see the sublime ability to pan at extremely slow speeds and capture a scene which evokes such emotion...

The second photographer is a bit of a cliché. Ask in the street for the name of an iconic photographer and you will invariably hear Ansel Adams’ name mentioned. But to think of Ansel as a master of black and white landscapes is missing the point for me. What attracted me to his work was not just his understanding of light and complex shapes, but his immersion into the art. He spent most of his adult life living in Yosemite- every day he took shots recognising that it takes time to find the perfect moment. That is a commitment that many of us could learn form, certainly me. I seem to want to capture the perfect shot in 10 minutes, the touristy thing if you like. In my heart of hearts, I know it takes so much longer. So I aspire to be as patient as Ansel and maybe just maybe I will find those moments in the frame that come close to perfection. This inspiration and approach is one I aim to mimic over the next 6 months when I go travelling around the world.

BLAB: Which of your images means the most to you and why?
 This is it, the shot that marks the epiphany, the one that I took at a god forsaken hour of the night in Le Mans. Not technically that hard to capture, slow shutter speed and lots of panning action. The brake disc glows red, the headlight bursts out of the front of the car, illuminating the track for the weary driver, the rear quarter hinting at a pursuing competitor …he is 12 hours into the race…the night nearly done…he still has another 12 hours before the race finishes…he is ticking off the laps…braking at the same point every lap…holding the chasing competitor at bay. That is exactly what gives Le Mans such significance - machine and man working in perfect harmony

The second shot is one that continues my artistic approach – a lot of people may argue that I missed the back of the car, but for me, this again reinforces the new approach I was taking – I wasn’t afraid to create the image I wanted, to capture the moment as closely as I could in frame. The gee forces that an F1 car experiences even at this slow chicane are huge – around 3g in this corner alone – so to show the car intruding from the edge of the frame, I feel, captures the violence and angular nature of the sport.

Leaning out from the front seats of the main grandstand at Le Mans, I can just about see the cars – I push myself further asking my friend to hold onto my legs – The rail is cutting into my side, but I want this shot – the car skids to a halt in it’s pit box, but the crew are nowhere to be seen – this poor driver has been racing for nearly 17 hours and all he wants is fuel and tyres – he tilts his head to the right – I just love that you can visualise the appeal for help in his eyes even though you can’t see them – classic!! Oh and the blue tones are working for me as well.

It is not all about cars, sometimes I can turn my eye to a plane shot or 2…I can do Landscapes and people, but I am not ready to consider that work of a suitable level to represent my ability and aspirations. So one evening at Heathrow, the sun having set, the sky exploded into the most magical colours I have ever seen in the UK – cue the camera moment, cue the police giving a few more seconds to capture the shot, cue the delight when I saw the results – Boeing’s massive metal on finals for Heathrow…perfect.

BLAB: Michael, thanks for taking the time to be our featured photographer this week. I'm sure the BLAB readers will agree with me, that if this is the quality of the work you regularly produce, especially the racing shots, then you're further down that photographic path than you realise. We wish you well for your 6 months of travelling (not without a little envy I might add!) and hope that you find some of those 'perfect moments' to capture. Once you're back we'd love to see what you got up to and how it all panned out. 

To see more of Michael's images, take a look at his website: www.pumaknight.co.uk


30 March 2009

Speedlite masters and slaves

For some photographers, the concept and details of wireless Speedlite flashes is simple and they just get on with it. However for a large number it's a minefield designed to trap the unwary, and make photography with flash absolute hell.

Today we'll kick off with a short list of Canon flashes that can be used in a wireless Speedlite flash system. All kinds of wireless flash systems need a single leader to tell the rest of the flashes what to do, in Canon terminology this is the master. Following the obvious all the subservient flashes employed in the wireless flash setup are known as slave flashes.

All the following models can act as masters, controlling the slaves;
  • Speedlite 580EX II
  • Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX
  • Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX
  • Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2
  • Speedlite 580EX
  • Speedlite 550EX

All of the following models can act as a slave flash
  • Speedlite 580EX II
  • Speedlite 430EX II
  • Speedlite 580EX
  • Speedlite 430EX
  • Speedlite 420EX
  • Speedlite 550EX

Seems mostly typical that the current models of flash that are masters outnumber the slaves.

One question that some people ask is how many slaves can you control from one master. Generally Canon suggests the limit is seven slaves for each of the three groups that some of the masters can control. However in practice more than this is possible, and blabpictures have successfully managed to trigger 11 slave speedlites from a single master. Typically the limits are practical rather than system specific, think how much space you need to put up 21 lights and aim them at the photo subject and then add in the range of the pulsed light transmission and you can see that for most practical purposes the system will suffice.

You should also check out the previous post about using the MR-14EX and MT-24EX as a master with custom function 5 on blabpictures.

To set the master / slave function the older flashes have a nice easy to find switch, the latest generation 580EX II and 430EX II make it really tough and use a scheme where you press and hold the Zoom button for about five seconds - Canon please can we have the switch back?


28 March 2009

Summer is nearly here, change your clocks

Tomorrow at the crazy hour of 2am British Summer Time starts. What this means for EOS digital SLR camera owners is time to change your camera clock.

Some photographers simply never change the clock, but I like to have mine following the local time and often will change it when packing my bag for an overseas trip to a different timezone.

You can change it from the camera menu directly, or if you connect the camera to your computer then EOS utility will let you synchronise the camera with the computer.

I'm sure we lose an hour's sleep in this change...


27 March 2009

ICS - the dust system

I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked if the Integrated Cleaning System of Canon cameras works or not. The reality is, in our experience, yes it does. But we're just a few people. The wider world is a big place and while most people we talk to are happy with it, we want to know what you think. Do the shaking filters in front of the sensor really help to keep dust away? Is the extra space between the filters and the sensor effective in making what dust is there less obtrusive? How often do you do a manual clean? Have you use the Dust Delete Data function? If so, how did you find it? Has it reduced the frequency with which you have to manually clean the sensor? And for those Nikon users that have defected from Canon (yes, I know there are some of you reading this!) do you miss the cleaning system? Is it one of those things you now need to spend time on again? 

Yes, questions! And yes, we want answers! 

And now for a tip - The shaking filters works by dislodging dust from filters which then drops onto sticky tape below. Think about it like industrial double-sided tape. If you want to maximise the chance of the dust hitting that tape and staying there, you need to make sure gravity is on your side. So, when it comes time to do the automatic sensor cleaning (in other words any time you turn the camera on or off) make sure you try and keep the camera pointing forwards - i.e. with the lens pointing away from you. That way the dust will fall onto the tape. 


26 March 2009

EOS-1D Mark II - AF recall preparation

1DMkIIIBack at the beginning of March we wrote about Canon's latest plan for further improving the AF performance of it's EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds Mark III cameras. Now and for the second time the blabpictures EOS-1D Mark III is going back for rework on it's AF. Previously it's had the mirror box fix, though not that it seems to have needed the work, it's always been able to nail focus on the subjects it's been given. There has been some feedback on dpreview, fredmiranda and many other forums that this latest AF fix makes the camera pretty much what most users expected from the start. As the camera we have is one of those from the first few months of production it's wise to send it in and see if they can make it even better for free. Would be important to have proof of the fix if you were ever to sell it.

After reading a few other forum posts on the topics we created a short checklist of things to do before sending a camera in for rework, though it's also a good idea to do this before any service.
  • Write down your camera body serial number - make sure you get your camera back
  • Back-up the camera to a memory card
  • Remove all the other accessories the service team don't need and can lose; strap, eyecup, battery etc.
  • Make sure the body cap is securely fitting to prevent the ingress of dust and stuff in the shipping process
These items may seem like sense, but how do you backup the camera? Canon EOS-1D Mark III models have function to store a snapshot of your camera configuration on a memory card. You can put up to 10 different named files on a card, and the snapshots take up very little space. With this backup of the camera if service need to fully reset your camera then when it comes back you simply load in the backup and your camera is set-up just as it was when you entrusted it to service. Most people think this only backs up the custom functions, but in fact just about everything is saved, the power off time, the owners name, the display preferences pretty much everything except the time and date! 

Backup EOS-1D Mark III / EOS-1Ds Mark III
Hit menu and move the to the third yellow tools menu and the first item is Save/load settings on media. Press the SET button and then Save and Load are displayed, hit SET again with Save selected.  You are prompted for a filename or can choose the cameras own choice "CAMSET01.CSD". I select my own filenames, but they must have eight characters. I chose "BLAB_1D3.CSD" and then saved the file. Now don't format the card while the camera is away and when it comes back go through the process and Load the settings back in to the camera.

One tip here is to use a small old SD card for saving your camera configuration on. Then copy the card to your computer, maybe upload your settings to somewhere online, and put the little memory card in your camera bag. Now if you have the misfortune to get a breakdown any loan camera you pick up can be set-up just how you like it in a matter of seconds and you won't need an instruction manual to do it!

AF Microadjustment C.Fn III-7
One thing that many people are reporting is that their AF micro adjustments t are reset to zero as part of the service work. Your back up will keep your old settings. Many people are now saying the AF micro adjustment of their camera is zero for all their lenses so you might need to reset these to zero after loading your back up; just set C.Fn III-7 to 0:Disable.

Any readers with experience of the recall and some comments about their camera performance post recall please post in the comments.


25 March 2009

The Danes were right!

Well, we had the rumours from Denmark a couple of weeks ago, then it all went quiet. It seems though, they were right. 
Canon today have announced four new products - two of them are the two new printers we told you about the other week that had been launched in America and Hong Kong - the other two, are a new camera - The EOS 500D - and a new flashgun - the Speedlite 270EX.

It seems that Full HD i s making a march on the EOS range. The new EOS 500D features a 15.1 Megapixel APS-C sensor and the ability to shoot full HD Movie clips. But that's not all - the movie mode has seen some changes from the EOS 5D Mark II. Now you have the option for 1080p, 720p for longer recording or VGA. 

The ISO range has had a tweak from the EOS 450D as well - it's now 100-3200 with expansion settings for 12,800! It's also featuring the lovely 920,000dot screen that has been featuring on all other new EOS models recently too. 

No word on availability yet, but as soon as we find out, we'll let you know. Price, though seems to be around the £869.99 mark based on a quick look at various retailers. 

The other new product is the Speedlite 270EX. This is an update to the 220EX, the pocket flash for light in small spaces. It takes the 200EX and improves on it by including a zoom and bounce head. It's aimed at PowerShot and entry-level SLR users looking to move up from the built-in flash without getting into the bigger, bulkier 430EX II or 580EX II. Powered from 2xAA batteries, it keeps the weight down too. 

Price at £149.99 it could be interesting for some users. Available in May. 

EOS 500D Press Release:
The new EOS 500D features a 15.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor – ideal for large detailed prints or enormous cropping possibilities. For shooting in near-dark conditions, the EOS 500D offers a high ISO sensitivity up to 3200 which is expandable to 12800, giving photographers the power to shoot in the dimmest light conditions. Outstanding noise reduction is made possible by Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor.

The EOS 500D heralds a new way for photography enthusiasts to capture their world. It pairs outstanding still image capture with Full HD 1080P video recording. For longer video shoots, users can also choose lower shooting resolutions of 720P or VGA. A built-in HDMI connection allows easy and instant review of images and movie clips on any compatible HDTV.

Every detail revealed
Exacting image preview and review is provided by a 3.0” Clear View LCD screen.The same screen as used on the acclaimed 5D Mark II, it features a 920,000 dot count – for ultra-detailed image review, accurate focus checks, and clear access to the EOS menu system. As well as aiding shooting from awkward angles, Live View mode includes contrast based and Face Detection AF options. Ideal for newcomers to digital SLR photography, these allow compact-camera style auto focus, with a real-time image displayed on the LCD.

Features at a glance:
-15.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
-Full HD movie recording with HDMI connection for viewing and playback on an HDTV
-ISO 100-3200 (expandable to 12800)
-3.4 frames per second continuous shooting
-Max. 170 large JPEG images in a single burst
-3.0” ClearView LCD with Live View mode
-9-point wide area AF with cross type centre point
-High speed DIGIC 4 performance and superb image quality
-EOS Integrated Cleaning System

Speedlite 270EX Press release:
25 March, 2009: Canon announces the launch of the entry level Speedlite 270EX, an enhanced flash designed for EOS and PowerShot users. Replacing the popular Speedlite 220EX, the Speedlite 270EX is aimed at photographers wanting to expand their flash photography beyond the built in flash and those who want a small: pocketable flash unit to complement their EOS-1D or EOS 5D series. The compact Speedlite 270EX builds on the success of its predecessor, with more power than usual for its class and size.

The Speedlite 270EX includes a host of new features not available with a built-in flash that push the boundaries for the entry level flash market. These include the addition of a zoom head, ensuring efficient light distribution and bounce flash head, enabling light from the flash to bounce off a ceiling to produce pictures with more flattering lighting with softer tones and depth. Improved circuitry offers near silent recharging and enables similar recharging times as its predecessor, despite being powered by just 2 AA batteries.

Pricing and availability:
The Speedlite 270EX is available from early May 2009 priced at £149.99 / €169.99 RRP inc. VAT.

Key Features include:
-High power flash with a maximum guide number 27 m
-Fast, silent recycle times
-Manual flash output (settable via camera menus)
-Speedlite controllable with compatible camera's menu
-Zoom head
-Bounce flash head

Hit the comments if either of these interest you. Or even just give us your thoughts! 

EDIT: we've just picked up one odd feature in the new camera - it seems if you choose to shoot in the Full HD setting of 1920x1080, the frame rate is 20fps.... if you go to 1280x720 or 640x480 it's 30fps as it is on the EOS 5D Mark II. We can only imagine that it's processing power that is stopping it shooting 30fps at 1920x1080. One up side of this though, is it shows Canon can change the frame rate in the movie mode....so, does it mean we could see 24/25fps on the EOS 5D Mark II as has been asked for by many? 


24 March 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Keith Hern

Our featured 'tog this Tuesday is Kingston-upon-Thames based shooter Keith Hern. 

Keith is a travel and commercial photographer aiming to do more travel and less commercial...!

KH:: Whilst my focus has been in two areas: travel, because I love it; and commercial, because it pays the bills the current economic situation is resulting in some changes. As well as continuing to promote my photography pro-actively, market existing stock shots I also have some specific projects underway at present – firstly, working on re-building and expanding www.londonphotos.com into a new image library with some 3-4,000 shots of London ( being done in conjunction with another photographer and friend Sam Lloyd). Secondly, I am looking to market my photodiary of throat cancer treatment (teeth extraction, MRI scans, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and operations); thirdly, as a result of my daughter being spotted by talents scouts I am working on developing modelling photography.

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?
KH: Black

BLAB: Which of your images means the most to you and why?
KH: One of my daughter having her portrait drawn in Montmartre – why? I like the composition of the shot (did take quite a lot of shots to get it right, including becoming less than popular with some of the other artists with my photographic wanderings!); still think I’m lucky to have her, as when she was small she very nearly died from meningitis … need I say more…. said shot attached. More generally the ones that mean most are inevitably those that I have got right in the camera, and do not need any manipulation on the computer!

BLAB: What would your dream photo opportunity be?
KH: A travel assignment for Conde Nast – I love travelling, read the magazine every month, have been to over 60 countries and am planning a year out ( this will be in about four years, as I need to reach five years clear from throat cancer which I had in late 2007) to go overland from the top of Canada to the foot of Chile….

BLAB: Which photographer's work do you most admire and why?
KH: Peter Lik – it was a visit to his Port Douglas gallery that gave me the inspiration to career change when I was made redundant (twice!)…I still think his work is absolutely awesome! At Christmas we were in Miami, and had a chance to see some more as he now has a gallery over there as well – it only confirmed my opinion of his work!

Zanzibar – on the beach where we were staying I’d noticed each day many of the women from the local village would wade out and start collecting seaweed for selling (ending up apparently in some pharmaceutical or beauty product). I decided it would be great to wade out and try to get a picture of a few of them – they were wise to this so I did have to part with a few shillings to get the shot, and use some fill-in flash to at least see some of their faces. I ended up selling this shot to a publishers for use in a guide book to Zanzibar.

S.Africa – on safari in Hluhluwe Game park the truck had stopped so we could watch the zebras, photogenic in themselves, but I was looking out for anything that would create a more interesting shot. When these two zebras started interacting I fired off a number of shots, but when I saw this knew it was the best – possibly rather close to home as it reminded me of one of those occasions when You’re late home, haven’t rung ahead, only to be greeted by a healthy ‘and where the hell have you been?’.

New York – at the top of the Empire State building at the wrong time of day, with no clouds in the sky, and crowds of people I was struggling to get any decent shots, so tried again with the fish eye lens. After a couple of attempts a tourists’ arm appeared clutching a camera – initially I was annoyed but changed my mind when I saw the result. It just provided some human element which made the shot as far as I was concerned.

Fall 3e – On a landscape workshop to Dartmoor last December, it was nearing the end of day one and as the light worsened we headed off for a last few ‘movement’ shots at a local waterfall. Was just about to head back to the car when I saw this moss-covered tree trunk, and thought this would work well with the slightly ‘blue’ water (good old auto white balance!) – as well as the colours I like the abstract nature of the result.

Eye view – I was doing some stock work for www.londonphotos.com , and took a gamble that the evening light would be fantastic from the London Eye, and was fortunate there was no queue. I wanted to create a shot that included the evening light, the river, the lit House of Commons, and one of the pods on the Eye. – two elements that were pure chance were the person in the pod, and I wasn’t previously aware of the blue light on the Eye itself which to me gives the bottom left of this shot more impact.

Dining room – I had been commissioned to shoot the interior of a multi-million pound private house in Mayfair by the property developer. This was one of the best shots from the shoot, and was used as the front cover shot for the Central South West edition of London Property News.

BLAB: Thanks for your time Keith. Good luck with turning commercial photography to travel photography. We'll keep our fingers crossed for that Conde Nast commission for you... 

If you'd like to be our featured photographer, drop us a line in the comments and we'll get back to you.


23 March 2009

Eclectic 3.0 Roads Less Travelled - time lapse EOS movie

What do people without an EOS 5D Mark II do to get a movie fix? The answer is simple, time lapse movies. Take a big heap of still frames and then assemble them in to a single movie file, kind of like the guys at Disney drawing out each scene of an animation. There's been some high profile film makers using EOS cameras for time lapse animation. Tim Burton used a selection of EOS-1D Mark II cameras for his Corpse Bride film in 2005. Aardman animation the makers of Wallace and Gromit have also used EOS cameras for stop motion.

40DThis is not a post for EOS-1D owners exclusively though since Los Angeles based Ross Ching has shown that the EOS Digital Rebels (EOS 300D to EOS 450D in Europe) and EOS 40D can also do awesome time lapse.  Ross has just posted his latest time lapse film Eclectic 3.0 shot with his EOS cameras on the Roads Less Travelled in the western USA. This latest film in his Eclectic series shows Ross employing a new technique using a tilt-shift lens for some sections of the time lapse that makes some of the scenes look a little like a model landscape.

Ross' previous Eclectic 2.0 movie was picked as a demonstration movie on the big HD screen in New York's Times Square last year. It is truly stunning stuff with the camera being moved by a tracking telescope head. This is one big download at 360MB for the full 1080p resolution with options for smaller 720p and 480p sizes.

If you are tempted to try and see what the clouds and landscape in your backyard does in a couple of hours then some tips;
  • turn off the power down timer
  • use Av mode and select an appropriate aperture
  • turn of the review after each shot to conserve battery life
  • use manual focus
  • use a big card and shoot JPEGs unless you've got one hell of a lot of time for RAW processing or a big fast new computer
  • use a timer controller TC-80N3
  • charge your camera battery before you start, and use a battery grip with two batteries in if you have one
  • you don't need to shoot full resolution shots, small JPEG will do fine and make the processing easier
  • use Apple Automator (MAC) or FastStone Image Resizer (PC) to batch crop your shots to 1920 x 1080 pixels before assembling in QuickTime Pro.
  • use a tripod
  • don't bother trying to capture the birds on garden feeders - birds are far too fast!
Depending on the speed of movement of your subjects, then start a few trials at 5 second intervals and then maybe go up to 10s or more. The longer time gaps the longer you need to shoot for to get a reasonable length of movie clip.


21 March 2009

High speed sync flash - leave it on all the time?

When you're shooting with a Canon Speedlite you usually get the option for high-speed sync flash. I prefer to leave high speed sync on all the time and here's why.

If you shoot sometimes in the daylight and need to overpower the ambient, then opening up the aperture to get plenty of power from the flash is nice, but you often end up with hitting the sync speed wall. Leaving high speed sync on all the time means you just keep on driving through that wall. The only downside is that the flash power falls off the faster your shutter speed goes.
If your sync speed is 1/250s then at 1/500s your flash is half as powerful and at 1/1000s then a quarter of the power is yours and you don't get warnings to this effect in the camera so you need to keep an eye on the shutter speed.

Don't forget that if you go for manual power control on the flash or second curtain sync then you lose the chance to have high speed sync.


20 March 2009


Free wedding photography, by a real professional photographer. Don't they know there's a recession on and they will likely need every penny.

Well there comes a time for most of us when earnings are important, but there's always a time when living is more important. www.photographers4charity.co.uk was set up by Andrea Lane to offer people who are really struggling with illness or hardship and unable to afford a professional photographer for their wedding. The goal is to get the guests to donate money to Cancer Research UK and the photographer donates their time and efforts to the bride and groom.

The key things to note about this great offer;
  • You need to be getting married in October, November or December 2009 in the UK
  • You need to apply by 30th June 2009 if you'd like a free wedding photographer
  • You can offer your services as a photographer through the site: www.photographers4charity.co.uk
Times are hard but these kind of initiatives are the things that gets us through the tough times.

19 March 2009

Using DPP to make changes to multiple images at the same time

Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) is supplied with each and every EOS camera but many photographers only touch the features on the surface.

Did you know that you can apply adjustments to a group of images in the main window all at once?
DPP main window

DPP tool panelSimply select a group of images in the main window then activate the tool panel using either APPLE-T or CTRL-T. Then all the changes you make in the RAW adjustment tab are applied to the group of selected images. Global white balance changes, Picture Style changes sharpening can all be done quickly and simply this way.

What's more if you set DPP to normally give you AdobeRGB images as outputs then you can also goto Adjustment menu and select Work color space and then you can change a group of images from AdobeRGB to sRGB or one of the other colour spaces listed. This is handy if you usually use AdobeRGB outputs and need to make some quick proof images for a web gallery. Typically sRGB is more readily accepted by internet browsers and so sRGB images are needed, but this quick change makes this simple for a group of images.


18 March 2009

Unseen - BPPA

For anyone remotely interested in photography, and especially photojournalism, this new book from the BPPA is very worth taking a look at. 

Unseen is a collection of pictures that for various reasons have never been published. Day in, day out photographers capture the world around us, but more often than not, their images are not published through lack of space, political side-lining or more 'interesting' news stories. The book showcases some of these images - the ones that the picture editors of the world's press passed by. 

I have a copy of the book and it is a hugely interesting body of work. The layout and design is sympathetic to the cause and really lets the images speak for themselves without words getting in the way - for at this level, the pictures are the most important part - they are what tells the story. In other words photojournalism as it's meant to be. 

I was chatting to friend the other day as he was flicking through my copy of the book. His thoughts were as follows:
"I'm glad to have seen the book as it is full of inspirational, depressing, interesting and motivating images. I'm not sure I'd have bought a copy on spec as some of the images may be a little disturbing but having seen a copy, I will buy one." 

Here's the BBPA's statement on the book...


In 2004 our ground-breaking retrospective book and exhibition Five Thousand Days underlined our commitment to bringing outstanding photography to the public. Since then we have been constantly working on new projects, and new ways to showcase our members’ work. UNSEEN is the culmination of one such project. It highlights one of the Association's every day frustrations: that huge numbers of brilliant pictures never see the light of day through too tight deadlines, design limitations or editorial indifference. The images in UNSEEN were selected by a jury of BPPA members, and offers a glimpse of the variety and extraordinarily high standard of the members work.

After spotting that the author Jilly Cooper had written a letter to The Times in June 2008 highlighting the lack of proper photographers bylines, the Association wrote to her to ask that she write a foreword for Unseen, and was delighted when she accepted. Here is an except:

"Thank goodness for Unseen. "The sweetest songs,” wrote Shelley, "'sing of the saddest thought", and these photographs are so beautiful yet compassionate that, despite their appalling images of death, loss, mutilation and destruction, one feels an overwhelming elation and relief that someone has drawn attention to such suffering. Without photographers invading the worse troublespots, armed only with their cameras, so much tyranny and brutality would go unrecorded."

Unseen - Photographs from The British Press Photographers' Association is published on 25th March by Skateboarding Duck and the project was sponsored by Canon.

It is a cloth bound 170x240mm book with 176 pages and 108 photographs (both colour and duotone) and was designed by Stuart Smith (Five Thousand Days - The BPPA, Personal Best - Elliot Erwitt, Inferno - James Nachtwey) the ISBN is 978-0-9561801-0-0 and has a RRP £19.95

So, go take a look at it, or even click the Amazon link below to place an order for it. 
At some point in the future we hope to get hold of a couple of copies which we'll give away as competition prizes. Stay tuned to find out when.....


17 March 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Andy McDonald

This week's featured 'tog is Andy McDonald, a professional photographer just starting out in the world of professional photography with his wife Erika.

Firstly, a bit about Andy....
My first camera was bought as a present by my parents & was a Russian manual 35mm camera called a Zenith E. My first Canon camera was an Ae1 which I still have in the loft & this really allowed me to work semi automatically Av etc & get prints back from the lab which were of a reasonable quality. Although my last film body was an EOS 1N I really believe that my photography began to improve far quicker when I purchased my first digital body which was a 20d, this allowed me to try things out & understand the impact, I have learnt more in the last 5 years than I did in the previous 20…

Erika and I love photography and “McDonald Photography” is our first step towards creating a successful business which supports our goals to do something we both love for a living. The challenge of creating images that your clients adore up against tight timescales, with what can be, to the un trained I everyday surroundings really keeps me on my toes, but without Erika having a guiding hand in to the styling and final presentation of our work Im sure we’d be less successful than we are today, taking the image is just a part of the process, I know great photographers who cannot “sell” their work at the right price and sustain a business simply because they haven’t got an end game, their images are sat on a HDD rather than providing entertainment.

First up and the only one we ask to everyone:
BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?

Well, it would have to be Nero with cream leather. In fact any other colour than red, I know this is against all the rules, but I don’t know cars just look great in black….

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?

I think that far to much energy is given to have faster newer equipment, is this really what photography was about for you as a youngster? i would guess not. So to answer your question I would have to say

1/ Get a camera that has manual controls and learn how it operates. Understand how iso, shutter speed and aperture work together to create magic.

2/ No matter what lens you have, dont let it restrict your imagination, far to often i hear people saying i need a wide angle lens to take landscapes or you need an 85mm 1.x to take a portrait, i say rubbish. Your eye sees the image. No matter what lens or camera you have go take some pictures and enjoy them, in time you will know the improvements to be gained from specialist lenses and you can then go and buy with confidence.

3/ Find your self a forum, online or face to face where you can talk & mix with other photographers, its a great way to learn and ask questions you also get to benchmark yourself you may well be surprised.

4/ I think one of the hardest things to do not only as a beginner is decide what to shoot, so it’s a good idea to give yourself a brief, for example this could be a colour, a location, like a local landmark & take 10 images all different, this will get you thinking beyond the obvious and will stretch you. Try it its not easy.

5/ Although I use Lightroom and Ps to create a look, I have always tried to get it right in the camera, I think its best practice to do this and enhance with software, not rely on it to save you bacon… well not all the time ;-)

5/ Don’t give up, good luck.

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday
tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?

Ok 10K that sounded a lot, but its not really when you start to think about it. I think I’d really like some broncolor portable lighting. I’d like some tungsten lighting. A 50mm 1.2 and a 35mm 1.4 a new Billingham bag please and a new Mac book pro.

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

Either, I’m happy working with both, I don’t think you can beat the excitement of the start & end of the day, maybe its because you have tight timelines to work too and the light is never the same twice. I’m currently loving working with my speed lights as I can be a creative as I like, Manchester is a great inspiration for me at the moment, the back drops are fabulous, one minute you’re shooting a derelict area the next a fabulous multi story Hilton hotel…so I think that I’ve got the best of both worlds and yes I’m just beginning to understand how fantastic finding that balance could be.

And now for some images:
A straight from camera shot as I always try to get it right in-camera:

The same shot but this time after the only editing that was done. I really try and stay away from Photoshop if possible and currently do all my editing in LightRoom 2.

A shot from a quite recent shoot with a local model

Another recent shot - I thought it best to show recent stuff rather than the selected best!

BLAB: Thanks for taking the time to come in and answer our questions Andy. Since you're quite new to this professional game (although your images and website show quite a talent), if possible we'd like to come back to you in the future and see how you're getting on? It'll be interesting to see how you and your business have progressed especially in these difficult financial times. Best of luck for the future.

If you'd like to be one of our featured 'togs, drop us a line in the comments and we'll be in touch. 


16 March 2009

A simple tip for Monday

Every been to a rugby or football match? Even taken a little compact camera with you to capture the action? If you can answer yes to both of these, then do you remember seeing little flashes going off all around the ground?
Only yesterday I was watching the England-France game on TV and seeing loads of little flashes firing all around the stands. Seriously, do they really think the flash will help?

If you're ever in that situation, make sure you turn the built-in flash off - it'll reach about three meters at most so unless you're pitch side and the action is in front of you, you're wasting your time.

As a reminder for why this may be the case, see the latter part of this post on Speedlite flash - the box with the formula is the bit you want to take note of!


14 March 2009

Free Canon printers on ebay

Do you ever buy stuff on ebay? Would you be in the market for a free printer? If you can answer yes to both these questions then you need to read this.

Canon UK sells some refurbished stock on ebay through it's Canon outlet account. Just recently they have been selling PIXMA MP470 printers for around twenty five pounds with only three pounds shipping cost. So that's a free printer since they put in the box with the printer a new and complete set of ink genuine Canon ink, the PG-40 and CL-41 cartridges. The part that makes the printer free is that these pair of cartridges sell on Amazon for around twenty eight pounds including shipping. So buy your ink from Canon UK and get a free printer for less than Amazon.

Sorry if this makes it a bit more expensive, but don't forget they also sell EOS cameras, EF lenses and all kinds of other Canon equipment too and often for bargain prices. It's worth a look, and to make it easy then include the terms 'canon' and 'outlet' in the search box since they always put them in their item descriptions.


13 March 2009

Back button focus

Exposure lockBack button focus is one of the functions on EOS digital SLR cameras that gives a new layer of control over the picture taking process. In simple terms it places the shutter release, exposure lock and focus lock or activation on up to three separate buttons. If you have only ever used the 'out of the box' configuration with the AF activated with the half press on the shutter and the AE lock occuring with the focus lock in evaluative metering and this is not suiting you then it may be something to experiment with - though it's an acquired skill.

Probably one of the best articles on the topic is actually on the Canon USA website in their digital learning center. The article highlights five often quoted advantages of back button focus;
  1. Easier to lock focus
  2. Easier timing of shots
  3. Less risk of focus errors with moving subjects
  4. Easier over-riding of AF with full-time manual focus
  5. Easier macro and close up focussing
With the latest EOS cameras from the mid-range up providing separate buttons for AF-ON and AE lock '*' then there's also a function to switch round the operation of the two buttons. Great if you plan on using back button focus on an EOS 450D and an EOS 50D, as the EOS 450D doesn't have the separate AF-ON button and then the placement of the buttons may be out of sync with the two cameras.

Some photographers find that the use of back button focus eliminates the need to switch between AI Servo and One-shot AF modes. They simply use AI Servo all the time and switch the AF off when they have the right focus for their picture.

You might also find the previous article on blabpictures about AE lock and the metering pattern valuable further reading.


12 March 2009

You call the shots with ShutterVoice

I was sent the link to the site www.shuttervoice.com by Chris Neill, our featured 'tog on Tuesday. ShutterVoice's author Scott Forman has written a great application that combines the speech recognition function of the Windows Vista and XP operating systems with camera control - yep that means you can tell the camera what to do for real!

What's next camera activated photographer?

The ShutterVoice application would be great for self portraits as you can call out the commands from your position in the scene. According to the website you can even control the AF while in Live View mode on the EOS 50D and EOS 5D Mark II. Maybe this is a cool thing for the flickr self portrait artists to bring to prominence. I'm sure Microsoft would love to have Miss Aniela on their booth telling her camera to take pictures this way.

ShutterVoice is available to download in a 30 day trial edition, if you'd like to try it for yourself. It only costs 30 US dollars to buy a copy.


11 March 2009

RF or RM?

Are you thinking that you'd like to make some money from your photography? (Assuming you don't already of course!) If you're going to put images into a picture library, then think long and hard about which one and what method you'll choose - Royalty Free (RF) or Rights Managed (RM). 
If you want to make some money, then RF can be a good way to go - lots of small sales soon stack up. However, there is a downside. you make that money at the expense of both yourself and other photographers.
1. You sell an image RF which a company buys for $10. You get $5. You have done another photographer out of a sale when previously thee company would have been happy to pay $200.
RF only exists because some photographers valued images published and quantity over quality. They were happy to see their images in print and didn't mind only getting $5 for it. If people properly valued their work, they wouldn't be happy with this. Selling RF is like saying "My photography is only worth X" (where X is a very small number). This has knock-on effects. (More on this in a minute)
2. You sell an image for $10 RF. A company can buy it and use for whatever they want. One year later a company finds your image on your website and wants to use it for advertising with a budget of £10,000 (not unheard of). Sadly thought, you can't see any of it as it has already been sold RF and therefore you can't control the rights on it. The company walk away. Sure you may have sold that image 50 times, but 50 times at $5 a time doesn't get close the money you would have had. Cash flow would be better, but over all income much lower.

Back to the knock-on effects. You're valuing your photography at the low figure of X. A potential client finds out how little you sell your images for after you've put in a quote for a commercial shoot. You're now in a stand-off. They come back to you with the claim (provable) that you sell your images for $10 a time. How can you therefore reasonably expect to charge them $1000 to take some pictures for them, when they could quite possibly get something suitable from the RF library. Clearly if they have specific needs they'll still use you, but if they just need some general pictures, they'll probably think twice about it.

Before RF, clients were happy (maybe happy is a bit strong but you know what I mean) to pay higher rates for images. Now RF has devalued the entire photographic trade as amateur photographers seek a quick few quid and the feel-good factor of their pictures in print. I've made bold the really key points.

I read a report the other week talking about RF and RM. It was quite interesting, but the most telling two lines in the report are these:
"Those who sell only RM tend to be older, more skilled, more established and generate more income per photo.
Those who sell only RF tend to be new to stock photography with limited experience in the business and/or only sell stock photography as a sideline."

Whether it's the real world or not is up for debate. But I personally don't want to be part of killing the stock library market and cheapening the role of the photographer, even if a quick few quid is always welcome! Kit is expensive. It takes only a few good sales to get enough for a new camera when selling RM. It takes a LOT of sales to get the same back from RF.

Hit the comments with your thoughts on the RF/RM debate.


10 March 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Chris Neill

This week is the turn of Chris Neill, who recently turned professional to be our Featured 'tog on Tuesday. We asked Chris about his background and how he became a professional before rolling out some of blabpictures finest questions.

CN: I grew up in a small village in Kent where people either worked on the farms or down the local coal mine. That was not a life I imagined for myself, so at 16 years of age I joined the Army. I first started photography as a hobby during a tour of Northern Ireland in the late 70s. Despite the obvious travel restrictions imposed on me I was inspired to try and capture the natural beauty of the country and not the troubled times it was suffering.

BLAB: It's possible Chris and the last Tuesday 'tog Joe Fox saw similar things in Ireland but maybe from different vantage points; strange these kind of coincidences.

CN: In a career spanning 23 years I travelled to some amazing places with some amazing people. Consequently, taking photographs of where I’d been and who I was with was almost a natural thing to do. Some years I did more photography than others but I was always taking pictures so that I could return from my travels and share images of the life I was leading with my friends and family at home. On ‘retirement’ from the military I moved into General Management, the transition from ‘Army life’ to ‘Civilian life’ also meant that photography took a back seat for a few years, the need to share images with family no longer applied.

Not long after the Millennium my brother in law decided he was going to sponsor a rider in the British Superbike Championship. This introduced a whole new world to my wife and I, we soon became avid fans of the series going to as many races as would could.
Of course I would take my camera and as our interest grew so did my interest in capturing the action. I bought a new ‘digital’ SLR camera an EOS 400D, and an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens. I talked to as many other photographers as I could at the circuits (and still do) trying to learn the secrets of motorsport photography. I’m now a regular at the circuits throughout most of the series and my images have been used by some of the teams, so I must be doing something right. I also found I had a knack for taking pictures of people, starting with simple portraits and progressing to weddings and then commercial style fashion photography. I also found I was competent at taking pictures of ‘things’ so another progression has been product photography.

In June last year I was made redundant and decided that I would have ago at photography full-time. It’s been a tough 8 months and my timing of starting a business just as the economy crashed could have been better. But I’m still here although it is getting tougher each week to find enough work to keep going.

BLAB: Time for the blabpictures questions; What colour would your Ferrari be?

CN: Perhaps the question should be why would you want a Ferrari in any colour but red? If you must have a Ferrari (and it would not be my first choice) then it has to be red!

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?

CN:Assuming the new photographer is a complete novice my advice would be
  1. Read the manual that came with your camera; learn how to change the controls and what each change does to the pictures you are taking.
  2. Take loads of pictures; take pictures when you are out and about with friends or family, when you’re on the bus, nights out, long walks with the dogs, everywhere and anywhere.
  3. Then check the results; notice how the light in your pictures change throughout the day, how different exposure settings affect the picture, how different angles of the same subject can change the picture from a ‘snap’ to an image to be proud of.
  4. When you have a good image try to work out why it’s good so that you can do similar shots another time with a similar result. Conversely try to analyse why some of your shoots did not give you the result you were looking for so that you don’t repeat the mistake.
  5. Don’t expect to become an expert overnight and even having the best equipment money can buy will not make you a great photographer. Like all skills practise makes perfect and I for one am still practising.
BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?

CN: An easy question for me; A new Canon 5D Mark II to replace my 5D Mk I, a Canon 50D, a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM & Extender EF2x II. Not much change from £10k there & if you made it £20K I could go on...

BLAB: You can't have seen the latest list prices for the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS, that'll be most of the 10k gone!

BLAB: What would your dream photo opportunity be?

CN: I’d love to do a portrait of the Queen. I was lucky enough to be awarded an MBE in 1998 and it was presented to me by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She is tiny, but has an aura about her that just makes her special. Now if I could capture that in a portrait... Seriously it would be the ultimate portrait session, the pressure to get it right in the small amount of time that would be allocated for the job would be immense. It is certainly not a job you could afford to get wrong.

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

CN: Without doubt flash, I’m a self confessed control freak and I like to control the light in my images. Purists will argue you cannot get better than natural light but it is difficult to get right and you have to learn to compensate or compromise on the image you wanted.

BLAB: Which photographer's work do you most admire and why?

CN: Another easy question... Paul Sutton of ‘Postscriptphoto’. This guy is a master of landscape photography and he has a real gift for processing, giving his images the right amount of light, colour and toning to provide atmosphere. Landscape photography is a skill I have yet to master to any degree but one day...

BLAB: So how about some photos Chris?

This is my current favourite image of the moment. Taken at the Adrian Pini Studio in West London using a single light, high to the right to simulate a street light. It was taken as part of a series of images to demonstrate the differences in make-up and style through the decades 1950’s to the present.

Canon 5D, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, ISO 100 f/11 1/80s

One of those images that is guaranteed to get an ‘Ahh’. Taken at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Ashford, Kent. My wife had bought me a ‘Big Cats Photography Experience’ run by Peter Davey, it was cold and wet but it did not stop the lions from posing as if it was all they had to do all day. A great day out!

Canon 400D, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, ISO 100 f/5.6 1/100

Canon 5D, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, ISO 100 f/9 1/200s
Taken at Druids Bend Brands Hatch in October 2008, the last round of the British Superbike Championship. ‘Druids’ is one of the most accessible places to take unrestricted photographs at Brands Hatch and is popular with amateur and professional photographers alike. I have developed my own ‘panning’ methodology which means I can get shoots like this on a consistent basis

An example of my ‘things’ photography, in this case a thin slice of apple. The apple slice was placed on a sheet of glass; I placed a light under the glass as well as lighting the subject as normal.
Canon 5D, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, ISO 400 f/5.6 1/60s

Thanks indeed to Chris for some valuable thoughts and pictures on a Tuesday. If you have a need for a photographer do stop by Chris' website www.chris-neill-photography.co.uk.

If you want to be here one Tuesday, and wake up to a whole new set of fame, then leave a note in the comments and we'll be in touch.


9 March 2009

Are your high ISO RAW images soft with DPP

There's been some people saying that Canon RAW images taken at higher ISO settings are too soft straight from Canon's Digital Photo Professional software. In the latest versions of DPP Canon made some changes in the preferences and the noise reduction processing. If you simply downloaded the updaters from Canon's software center at http://software.canon-europe.com then you might benefit a quick check of your DPP preferences.

DPP-NR-slidersFirst, here's an image in DPP and checking the NR/Lens/ALO tab you can see the luminance and chrominance noise reduction sliders are set to 1 and 4 respectively. The reason is that the later versions of DPP automatically set these sliders based on the ISO setting, the camera model and maybe the shutter speed, in-camera noise reduction settings etc.

As the ISO increases, and this image is only ISO 200 on an EOS 50D, then the sliders will be preset automatically to increased values.

However remember that as this is a RAW image, so you can change this setting. If you don't want as much chrominance or luminance noise reduction then move the slider to a lower number.

'there are many ways to skin the noise reduction cat'
The problems seem to come at the extremes of ISO. People with EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 50D shooting at ISO 12,800 and beyond then you often see these sliders move pretty much all the way to the end points and a lot of noise reduction is done. The downside is that it can make the resulting images a bit soft and lacking detail for some tastes.

In Digital Photo Professional the preferences allows you to override all this automatic selection of noise reduction parameters. Choose the 'Set as defaults entry and set your levels, even no noise reduction if that suits.


The key here is the 'Default noise reduction settings' section. If you just have been adding the updaters to older versions of DPP then your stored preferences won't have an entry and so you get the default 'Apply camera settings' and then DPP chooses the settings for you as a starting point. If you like you can choose your own settings to be applied to all your images, and you can still change it in DPP NR/ALO/Lens tab for each image.

If you regularly shoot High ISO, or do so for a specific job and employ a noise reduction workflow in your post production then you may want to set DPP to not apply any noise reduction by default - or only a very little bit.

Any thoughts and comments or even suggested settings would be welcomed in the comments. You can even mention third party software for noise reduction if you like... we dare you!!


6 March 2009

TWO assignment update - Alex Scott

There was a deafening sound of only 1 picture hitting the blabpictures group for the TWO assignment. Thanks indeed to Alex Scott for this great presentation of the TWO assignment.
TrackSo what better than to spend a post talking about the amazing photography that Alex Scott has on flickr. If you need inspiration for your landscape photography then Alex's amazing landscapes from Northumberland, the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye are a testament to his skill and preparedness to wait for all the elements to come together to make outstanding pictures. Just being in a scenic place is not enough. The decisive moment is often thought of as a fleeting moment flying past at high speed, but for landscape work the decisive moment is often something that takes patience since mother nature has a pace all of her own.

Thanks Alex for some great work, and for making me realise that my own attempts at landscape work still has a long way to go.


5 March 2009

How good is the EOS 5D Mark II at video?

Well, we've seen some videos, everyone is raving about it, but just how good is it in real terms? It certainly looks the business and the films that have been produced have been very impressive, but what if there was a way to get a real handle on it? Wouldn't that be good?

Well, how about this? James Velacott, a well known photographer for the Daily Mirror, has been accused of ripping off BBC footage of the recent U2 concert on the roof of the BBC. Suffice to say the material is not ripped off, it was shot by James with an EOS 5D Mark II and now the Mirror's lawyers have pointed this out, the BBC seem to have gone quiet about it. 

So, what do you reckon? Who has one and how good do you really think it is?


4 March 2009

Printers - Pro 9500 II and Pro 9000 II

Canon USA have announced 2 new pro level PIXMA printers to replace the current top of the pile Pro 9000 and Pro 9500. It seems that Hong Kong announced them a little while ago, the USA chose PMA (which is happening at the moment) but there is no sign from Europe yet that there are new products so we'll have to wait and see when they get over here and what prices they'll be. 

The new printers looks very similar to the old models so the changes are obviously confined to inside. Then again, from the USA press release (shown below) it appears they are using the same inks as well. It seems that the main advances will be speed, with the Pro 9000 Mark II claimed to be 3x faster than the older Pro 9000 and the Pro 9500 Mark II claimed to be about 1.5x faster than the Pro 9500.

Of marginally less interest, there is also a new flatbed scanner that uses an LED light source to scan images. It is claimed to be able to scan a single 35mm transparency at an optical resolution of 9600dpi, which should be more than enough to extract as much details as you'd need from a transparency. 

Hit the comments with your thoughts if you have one of the older models and whether these new models would persuade you to upgrade? Do you find the older ones slower? Is faster something you'd put at the top of your list of requirements? 

Canon USA press release follows:

New Canon LiDE700F Color Image Scanner Easily Digitally Renders Large Photos and Documents Using an LED Light Source, for Low Power Consumption

LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., March 2, 2009 – Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging, today introduced two new printers for professional and advanced photographers, the ten-color PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II and the eight-color PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Photo Printers. The PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II printer takes advantage of Canon's professional Lucia brand pigment-based inks for long-lasting, professional-quality prints. The PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer uses the Company's dye-based inks to produce brilliant, gallery-quality prints up to 13 x 19 inches on a variety of fine art papers and glossy media. Canon will debut the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II and PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II photo printers and the LiDE700F Color Image Scanner in its booth (#F131) during the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) exhibit in the Las Vegas Convention Center, South Hall from March 3-5, 2009.

"Canon is known within the professional photographer community for providing the right output tools to manage their photographic creations and the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II Photo Printer continues to deliver on that tradition with its superior quality and archiveability," said Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. "Additionally, with the growing number of enthusiasts capturing professional-quality photographs with digital SLR cameras, it is only natural to want to maintain creative control over their photos by printing the images themselves on products like the new Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Photo Printer. These professional and emerging photographers understand and appreciate the creative control that Canon provides over image quality from capture to output."

PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II Photo Printer
The new PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II Photo Printer features ten pigment-based ink colors - photo black, matte black and gray as well as cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red and green, allowing users the benefit of a wide color gamut for stunning color prints, as well as three levels of black for true black-and-white photographs. Designed for the pro and "pro-sumer" photographers, the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II provides outstanding resolution and droplet control utilizing Canon's double-encoder system to produce high-quality portfolio pieces or gallery-quality prints for the marketplace. The Pro9500 Mark II delivers rich detail, texture and tone plus extraordinary color reproduction in the green, red, yellow and orange color ranges resulting in breathtaking photo-art. Employing the Canon Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) technology along with a sophisticated 7,680 nozzle print-head structure, the Mark II model provides significantly faster production times, delivering approximately one-and-a-half times faster color print speeds on a 13" x 19" bordered print1,2 than the previous model.

The printer's matte black, photo black and gray inks reduce metamerism and provide high-density blacks and truly neutral monochrome prints. Metamerism is an effect in some printed "black-and-white" images where composite gray inks (achieved with combinations of cyan, magenta and yellow ink) make image areas appear a different color hue under different lighting conditions (such as sunlight, fluorescent light and incandescent light). This aberration is due to the differences in spectral reflectance properties of each of the composite colors.

The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II Photo Printer is scheduled to be available in May for an estimated selling price of $849.993.

PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Photo Printer
The eight-color PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Photo Printer – cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, photo black, red, and green – delivers an even glossiness and vivid color experience rivaling that of positive film for photographers. The Pro9000 Mark II's impressive quality and speed are the result of the Canon FINE print head technology coupled with the Company's high-performance, high-density 6,144-nozzle print head which is capable of producing nearly invisible ink droplets of two-picoliters. Thanks in part to an enhanced double encoder system for media control, the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II achieves three times faster print speeds over its predecessor, producing a bordered 13" x 19" size black and white photographic print in approximately 1 minute, 23 seconds2.

The Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Photo Printer is scheduled to be available in May for an estimated selling price of $499.993.

A new Easy-PhotoPrint Pro feature incorporated into the PIXMA Pro models is Canon's Ambient Light Correction technology which helps reduce the perceived color difference caused by different light conditions between printing and viewing or display environments. Compatible with Windows Vista OS, Ambient Light Correction allows users to optimize print color for the lighting conditions where the final print will be shown. Through the software, users can adjust color to various levels of lighting conditions from daylight at 6500K to a warm white fluorescent lamp at 3000K for optimal viewing.

Both the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II and the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Photo Printers come bundled with Canon's proprietary Easy-PhotoPrint Pro software and now with Adobe PhotoShop Elements, an user-friendly photo-editing software tool. Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, which is a software plug-in designed for Adobe applications such as PhotoShop CS, CS2, CS3, or PhotoShop Elements 6 along with Canon Digital Photo Pro (DPP) software, permits one-click image transfer, simple setting controls for color management and allows users to configure printer settings once for images on multiple sheets. A helpful feature, Easy-PhotoPrint Pro facilitates the printing of RAW image files (as a high quality TIFF or JPEG) without having to save directly from applications, like DPP.

Canon LiDE700F Color Image Scanner
The new Canon LiDE700F Color Image Scanner provides consumers with a high-speed scanning solution capable of capturing a letter-sized image – roughly the size of a large wedding photo or school portrait – at 300 dots-per-inch (dpi) in approximately 12 seconds. The scanner can capture one frame of a 35mm filmstrip at a maximum optical resolution of 9600dpi to help digitally archive customer's older photographic film. Powered and connected via a single USB cord, the LiDE700F, includes a LED light source for low power consumption. Canon helps make scanning easier with Auto-Scan Mode, a one-touch solution where the scanner will automatically detect the type of document or image being scanned and adjust the setting accordingly. The scanner's four easy buttons offer simple, single-touch operation for copying, scanning, and creating e-mail attachment/multi-page PDF files. The LiDE700F scanner is expected to ship to retailers in April at an estimated retail price of $129.993.


3 March 2009

Breaking news.... EOS-1D/Ds Mark III AF updates

It's been rumbling along for a while, but as if to prove that Canon will continue developing products in response to user feedback, they have today quietly announced some updates to the EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds Mark III models. You'd expect that two years down the line a company would stop developing and just get on with whatever they're doing next, but Canon do seemingly feel the pain of their photographers, some of whom have been having issues with the cameras. 

I say they've announced them quietly, because they haven't seemingly told anyone about it yet. We just picked it up by chance looking through the support pages of the Canon UK website.

So, if you have an EOS-1D Mark III or EOS-1Ds Mark III, you want to read this.
There are two parts to it and you should read both as they will be of interest. 
First up is a heading entitled "Announcement regarding AF accuracy in EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III cameras". This talks about AF accuracy when any AF point other than the central point is used. Canon are offering free AF accuracy checks and alignment for affected products. To help further they have also produced a web page with some extra information on getting the very best out of the AF systems in the EOS-1D Mark III when shooting in AI Servo focus mode. This gives tips on setting the camera for different situations to ensure you get the very best performance possible. It also includes a section on Canon's AF performance philosophy so you can understand what they are aiming for. 

The second part is about abnormal mirror operation and Err99 on the EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III. Canon are offering free repair to any affected products and have also produced an updated firmware (1.2.5 for EOS-1D Mark III and 1.1.4 for EOS-1Ds Mark III) that gives more information when error codes appear so that better support can be given. 

More info on the firmware updates (applies to both models):

The following improvements have been incorporated.

1. Corrects a phenomenon associated with image display during Live View shooting. Corrects a phenomenon in which a displayed image becomes pitch-black if it is zoomed in during Live View shooting.
2. Improves reliability of USB communication. Corrects a phenomenon in which "busy" may continue to appear on the camera, if the USB cable is disconnected during USB communication.
3. Changes the error indications that are displayed on the camera. In previous firmware, if an error is detected "Err 99" is displayed on the camera in most cases.
Firmware Update Version 1.1.4/1.2.5 further specify the error indications as follows:

10 Malfunctions related to files have been detected.(*1)
20 Malfunctions related to the mechanical have been detected.
30 Malfunctions related to the shutter have been detected.
40 Malfunctions related to the power source have been detected.
50 Malfunctions related to the electric control have been detected.
70 Malfunctions related to images have been detected.
80 Malfunctions related to the electric control or images have been detected.
99 Malfunctions related to the mechanical charge mechanism have been detected.
*1: Err 10 is only displayed on the EOS-1Ds Mark III and other error numbers are shared.

If malfunctions in the camera are detected, "Err XX" will be displayed. A two-digit number that corresponds to the malfunctions detected by the camera will be displayed in the "XX" section of the error number. Other than the error numbers listed above, there are other numbers such as "01". In that case, provide appropriate handling and servicing by following the details displayed on the LCD monitor of the camera.
If an error code appears frequently, the camera is malfunctioning; therefore, note down the error number and contact our service center.
The changes in the display of error indications only apply to the EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III. The above error numbers and details do not apply to models other than the specified models.

Have you got one of these cameras? If so, let us know how it goes and what you think of the new information.