Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Future for Nikon, Canon


The Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D4x are hot topics in the rumor mill. 


There's been a lot of hot news for Nikon shooters, namely the 1-2 punch that were the announcements for the D4 flagship model and 36Mp D800/D800E full frame dSLRs. For Canon shooters, there has officially been nothing in response, but there are some very intriguing rumors floating around the web, namely the imminent announcement of a 5D Mark III (could it be true?), which could come as early as tomorrow.


So, with all of these announcements and rumors floating around, let's have a little fun and imagine what the complete dSLR lineups for Nikon and Canon could look like by the time this product cycle runs its course.

Regular font: currently out
Underlined font: announced, not in stores yet
Bold font: predicted

Nikon lineup:

D4x
48-54Mp FF sensor
Better than 1080p video
5+ fps continuous drive
1:1, 3:2, 16:9, 4:3 aspect ratios
DX and CX crop modes
Simultaneous video and still shooting

D4
Official website

D800/D800E
Official website

D400
16Mp FF sensor
6 fps (8 with battery grip)
95% viewfinder coverage
Single CF slot
Only a 3:2 aspect ratio
LCD: 3.2” non-brightness adjust
Less movie clip time as compared to D4



D7000
Official website


D5100

Official website



D3100


Official website



Now, onto the Canon side of things, which is a lot murkier . . .

1Ds Mark IV
32-45Mp
Dual card slots
100% viewfinder
5fps
Weather-sealed
1Dx's AF system
Better than 1080p video
Simultaneous still and video


1Dx

Official website


5Dx (or will it be a 3D?)
32-45Mp
Dual card slots
100% viewfinder
3.5 fps
No weather sealing
7D's AF system
Better than 1080p video


5D Mark III

22Mp
Dual memory card slots
100% viewfinder
6.9fps
Weather-sealing
1080p video



7D

Official website


60D
Official website



Rebel T3i
Official website



Rebel T3
Official website


The real question in the Canon lineup is over the 5DIII and whether Canon will split this into a low and high-res version or not. Personally, I think that there will be a 5DIII and a 5Dx (if that's even what it will be called) simply because of the fact that Nikon has the D800. Another point of note: the 1.3x crop APS-H line saw its last member with the 1D Mark IV.





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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Canonrumors Claims to have 5D Mark III Specifications

The 5DIII could be right around the corner.


Nikon has been very busy rejuvenating its top-tier lineup in the past month with the D4 and D800/D800E. Canon? Well, it's all quiet, except for the photographers using Canon gear screaming for new cameras to replace their aging 5DIIs and 1DsIIIs, both around 4 years old, dinosaurs in the digital age.

Well, if one is to believe Canonrumors.com, the 5DIII is just around the corner, set for release on February 27 or 28. Oh, yes, the camera looks quite interesting, too, much more akin to a Nikon D700 than a Canon 5DII. In fact, the 5DIII could be the long-rumored 3D that would effectively blend characteristics of the 5D and 1D lines.

Well, in a couple of days, we may know if all the gossip is true, so stay tuned!


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Moon, Planets at Dusk Tonight, Next Several, too (Maps)

The Moon and 3 planets are going to be putting on quite a show for the next several evenings. If you came here via my Examiner page, these are just the maps you're looking for as to get a good picture of the next evenings' planetary pair-ups.
Tonight

Thursday


Friday

Saturday





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Monday, February 20, 2012

Today is the 50th Anniversary of John Glenn's Friendship 7 flight

John Glenn in 1962.


It has been 50 years since John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in his
Friendship 7 space capsule. In making his nearly 5-hour flight, and history, in the process, Glenn showed the world that the United States was indeed on-par with the Soviet Union, which had already launched 2 orbital flights as compared to 2 non-orbital launches for the United States.

In the late 1950s, the whole goal was to see if a human could merely survive in space, a quest that was undertaken by both the United States and Soviet Union, two superpowers locked in a “Cold War” as well as a blooming space race. The implication: whichever country could launch a vehicle into space thus had better missiles, and thus a strategic edge in the event of war. The Soviets won the first leg of the race in 1957 by launching Sputnik into orbit.

After
Sputnik, the next milestone was launching a human into orbit. In the years following Sputnik
, both the USA and USSR launched animals into orbit, thus proving that it was possible to survive in space with the proper life support systems. The race to launch a man into space was now in high gear.

Unfortunately, the Russians would win this leg, too, launching Yuri Gagarin into orbit on April 12, 1961. At the time, NASA was prepping Alan Shepard for flight, but safety concerns over the rocket spurred NASA to do further testing (better safe than sorry, which new evidence suggests was not the motto for the Russians at the time). In his flight, Gagarin completed one orbit before parachuting to Earth on the return. For anyone wanting to split hairs, this was not a complete flight as Gagarin did not land in his vehicle.

A month after Gagarin, NASA finally launched Alan Shepard into space. Unlike Gagarin's orbital flight, Shepard never made obit, launching in a high parabola instead, spending about 15 minutes in space. Yes, Americans were now in space, but Shepard's flight paled to Gagarin's in technical accomplishment. After Shepard, the Russians would put another cosmonaut into orbit while NASA's second attempt at getting into orbit nearly ended in disaster when the door on astronaut Gus Grissom's space capsule came off in the ocean. Only quick thinking under intense pressure saved Grissom from a watery grave.

John Glenn enters Friendship 7.  

Come February, 1962, it was time for NASA to try again. 

John Glenn makes history. The morning dawned clear at Cape Canaveral, boding well for a launch. The mission had originally been scheduled to fly in mid January, but technical and weather issues delayed the launch a month. Even as Glen sat in the rocket, there was another delay as one of the bolts holding the door top the space capsule was found to be broken. Finally, at 2:47pm, Glenn launched into space on what would become, at that time, the longest-duration spaceflight, lasting for nearly 5 hours. Upon splashdown, Glenn was a national hero as America had now shown that it was on equal footing with the Russians.

 

John Glenn: American hero.
Being an American hero after his legendary flight, NASA refused to let Glenn fly again for risk of losing someone of such immense stature. After leaving NASA in 1964 during the Mercury-Gemini transition, Glenn first went into business and then politics, serving in the Senate for a quarter of a century, a position from which he continued to support America's space programs. In 1998, age 77, Glenn again made history by becoming the oldest astronaut when he flew aboard shuttle Discovery on the STS-95 mission.

John Glenn just prior to his return to space in 1998 (above) and STS-95's launch (below)

Now, 50 years later as America's space program languishes, Glenn is pushing for another ambitious, long-term goal: a manned Mars mission

Speaking on what he believes to be the future for America in space, Glenn said that "I think we'll do more exploration, whether it's asteroid, Mars or wherever . . . I think it'll go on beyond Mars sometime — probably not in our lifetime, but sometime."

However, while expressing hope for the future, Glenn has also been critical of the way America has approached space exploration. In recent years, Glenn has reasserted himself as a voice for America's future in space, lamenting the
retiring of the shuttle fleet without an immediate replacement (Glenn, along with many other astronauts from NASA's glory years, obviously see the sad irony of having to hitchhike a ride with the Russians) and as a supporter for the development of a new heavy-lift rocket, much akin to the Saturn V of the Apollo years. This second concern has been addressed in the announcement of the SLS rocket, destined for its first flight in 2017.
Hopefully, as America and NASA celebrates the 50
th anniversary of John Glenn's historic flight, the future will allow for more celebrations based of current triumph, not just past laurels.
Click on the picture for a nearly 1-hour NASA documentary!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day, Planet George, and why You Can't Name a Star for Your Sweetheart



William Herschel: it's his fault you can't name a star for your sweetie.

Today is Valentine's Day, the traditional day for people in love to celebrate each other's company with gifts like flowers, candy, and other things that have no place on a family-friendly website! In recent years, though, one new phenomenon has come about: pay some money and you can get a star named just for your special someone. While it may seem like a cosmically-cool way to say “I love you,” it is nothing more than a scam of astronomical proportions as no body other than the International Astronomical Union (IAU) can name existing heavenly bodies (find an asteroid and you can name it anything you want!).

The whole reason behind this: it all started with the Planet George fiasco in 1781.

As a result of the Wild West of sorts in the sky, regulations about who could name heavenly bodies started to be tightened shortly thereafter, continuing to the formation of the IAU, which has the final say on any heavenly body's name. What does this mean for you would-be star namers? Hate to say it, but your “certificate” isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

As a final message, here are some final Valentine's Day thoughts:
Box of chocolate: $10
A dozen roses: $20
Fancy dinner: $50
Not being an idiot by “naming” a star: priceless



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Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Huge Week for Photography


This past week brought the CP+ photo show, which took place in Japan and served as an ideal launching point where various camera makers could show off their latest products. Well, the manufacturers didn't disappoint, either.

So, here's a list of the noteworthy announcements:

Canon
24-70 f2.8L II
D20 waterproof P&S

Cosina:
17mm f0.95 lens for Micro For Thirds

Kodak:
They're stopping the production of cameras

Nikon
D800/D800E dSLRs. This was the big one and has been the subject of intense coverage on my Examiner column. Se the below to learn all about this great camera:
D800: the first full-res samples
D800 vs. D3x
D800 vs. D4
D800 vs. D700, 5DII, A900
Buy a D800 or wait for 16Mp FF D400?
D800: 36Mp of stupidity


Pentax-Ricoh
Lenses for K, Q, and 645 mounts
WG-2 waterproof compact

Olympus:
OM-D pro-grade M4/3 camera
12-50 weather sealed lens
60 f2.8 Macro weather-sealed lens
75 f1.8
TG-820 waterproof P&S

Sigma:
DP1M and DP2M large sensor P&S models
Sigma also lowered the price on the SD1 to $2300, thus confirming that they've been screwing us over with the initial $10,000 price tag.

Sony
500f4 Telephoto lens
A900 successor conformed
15 E-mount lenses by end of 2013

Tamron:
24-70 f2.8 VC USD (oh, yes, this shoots the 24-70L II in the butt)

Tokina:
70-200 f4 with stabilization, sonic-drive AF
300 f6.3 mirror lens for M4/3

Needless to say, this list excludes all the dime a dozen pocket P&S models announced at te show.



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Friday, February 10, 2012

Comparison: Nikon D800 vs. D700 vs. Canon 5DII vs. Sony A900

The Nikon D800 kills the competition! 
I just did a detailed comparison of these four $3000ish, FF digital cameras. Needless to say, the results show just how good the D800 is compared to everything else. Oh, yes, don't forget my detailed D800 vs. D4 comparison, too. Aside from the stupid 36Mp, the D800 is the greatest thing to hit the photographic world in a long, long time, especially considering its rather modest price.


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Should I buy a D800 or Wait for the 16Mp, FF D400?



A couple of days ago, Nikon made major waves in the photographic world by announcing its 36Mp D800 and D800 E dSLRs, priced at $2999 and $3299, respectively. Unfortunately, the move seemed kind of stupid in that Nikon was abandoning its affordable, good at high ISO camera, the D700, by instead trying to horn into medium format territory.

That is, unless Nikon has a trick up its sleeve.

With the D800, Nikon has essentially replaced its entire dSLR lineup in the last year and a half, except for the D3x (too expensive for almost anyone, so who cares?) and the D300/D300s, the top-tier, sub-frame model priced at around $1,800 at introduction.

So, could the D400 be FF with a D4 sensor? Quite possibly, as two trends have proven true in the past.

First of all, Nikon has been very generous in letting features trickle down from its top-tier cameras into lower-priced models, albeit after the new kings of the hill have been out awhile. Example: the D700 was 95% of the D3 but at half the cost. This, combined with the market void of not having an affordable, high ISO camera in its current lineup, bodes well for people hoping for a FF D400.

Another reason for hope: pricing. Ever since Nikon split its pro D# camera lineup into low and high resolution models, the high-res camera always cost about 35% more than the low-res one. Example: Nikon's D3 sold for just under $5,000 at release. Upon announcement, the D3x (identical to the D3 except for its double resolution sensor) was priced at $8,000. Now, looking at the high-res D800 that sits at the $3,000 mark, it would make perfect sense for Nikon to cram the 16Mp, FF sensor of the D4 into a D300 body, call it the D400, and sell it for $2,000. In doing this, Nikon would be both filling the market gap it created and, at the same time, making its customers happy, a win-win for everyone involved. Oh, yes, past pricing trends make this a very real possibility, too.

In the end, though, only time will tell if the the D400 will be a FF camera using the D4's sensor. In the meantime, if you want a D800, pre-order yours now as the waiting lists are sure to soon stretch half way to the Moon and as no one knows exactly what the D400 will bring, that is, if Nikon even bothers to make one.

Still, I think that a 16Mp, FF D400 could be just over the horizon.

For more analysis:
D800 vs. D4


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Nikon D800 and why Small Pixels Make Bad Pictures

The Nikon D800: is the pixel count too high?
Yesterday, Nikon announced its D800/D800E dSLRs. 36Mp monsters that out-resolve every other dSLR on the market by at least 12Mp in resolution. In the wake of the modest, 16Mp D4 announced last month (and also in light of the $8,000, 24Mp D3x, the somewhat baffling (of not stupid) move came as a bit shocking to some, myself included as it seemed, thanks to the high Mp count, Nikon was effectively abandoning its claim to having the best high ISO performance on the market, leaving people looking for a $3,000 price range camera for low light completely out of luck.
So, why could this be a bad thing?
Megapixels are a good thing, but only to a point. While camera manufacturers often emphasize pixel counts as a selling point, a high pixel count does not always equate to a good image. More than anything else, it is the size of the pixel, not the size of the pixel count, that makes good images.




The general rule is that bigger pixels perform better. As seen in the picture above, if each of the sensor formats were to have, for example, 16 megapixels on the sensor, it it easy to realize that the 1/2.5” point and shoot sensor will have pixels that are much smaller than those on the full frame SLR sensor. This relationship between sensor size and pixels contained (number of pixels divided by sensor area) is referred to as pixel density, which basically states how many pixels are crammed into a given area. In 2012, many digital SLRs have pixel densities around 5MP per square centimeter while many point and shoots will have a density of around 50MP per sq. cm. This, more than anything else, shows why digital SLRs perform so much better than point and shoots in high ISO/low light situations. Want proof? Go here for an in-depth comparison.
The reason for this greatly differing performance is what is called the signal to noise ratio. Really, it is not a numerical ratio, but a relationship between the amount of noise and the amount of signal (light) the pixel captures. All electronic sensors, including camera sensors, inherently produce noise. The problem with the small pixel is the amount of signal (light) they are able to capture. Small pixels of point and shoots have a small surface area and are able to capture far less signal than a large pixel of a digital SLR. Since the large pixel can capture a lot more signal than a small one, that signal can effectively drown out the noise, which is something small pixels cannot do nearly as well because of their small size.
To quantify, let's say that both a point and shoot's and SLR's pixels have an inherent noise level of 5 units. However, the point and shoot captures only 20 units of light while the SLR captures 100. In the end, the signal/noise relationship for the SLR is 100/5 while the point and shoot is 20/5. The 100 units of light will be far better than 20 units for overcoming 5 units of noise.
A further complicating factor is the camera's sensitivity (ISO) setting. Higher ISOs are more sensitive than lower ones. While the higher ISO will boost the camera's sensitivity to light, it will also amplify the noise that is inherent in the sensor. The end result is that at high ISO, the same amount of light will be captured (although more quickly) but the amount of background noise will increase. For example, say a pixel captures 100 units of light with 5 units of noise at ISO 100. That sensor will capture the same 100 units of light (although more quickly) but 50 units of noise at ISO 3200. The closer the amounts of signal and noise, the less the noise can be drowned out by the signal.
Before anyone goes shopping for old, low megapixel count cameras, it should be noted that all the news is not bad. Advances in technology produce sensors with inherently lower and lower noise. So just because a newer camera has smaller pixels than an old one, the chances are that the newer camera will perform just as well or better than the older model, but this can only go on for so long. Eventually, the point will be reached where image quality will start going down because of noise issues created by small pixels. This was the trend for crop-frame dSLRs for about 3 years, starting in 2007 and winding down in 2010 as many manufacturers held their pixel counts steady during this time, only increasing pixel counts again in late 2010 after technology improved sufficiently to prevent drops in image quality.
As for the D800s themselves, who knows what its pictures will look like? Going by the stats alone, the D800 has about the same pixel density as the current generation of crop-frame Nikon dSLRs. Interestingly enough, those cameras, while mopping the floor with the previous generation of 12Mp sensors, still couldn't equal (or let alone better) the D700. Want to see for yourself? Check out: the Comparometer at Imaging Resource, pull up the D7000 and D700 test images and take a look.

Obviously, my hope is that Nikon tweaked sensor enough to at least equal D700 performance at high ISOs, one of the main reasons that people were drawn to the camera in the first place.


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nikon Announces 36Mp “HD Multimedia” D800, D800E dSLRs With Prices, Availabilities


The Nikon D800: a new kind of dSLR.

Nikon has just announced the long-awaited successor to the D700 model: the D800 and D800E, which Nikon claims to be a true multi-media camera thanks to its greatly enhanced video capabilities. In digital camera terms, the D700 was getting quite old for a dSLR. Launched in 2008 with essentially 2007 technology, the D700 revolutionized photography by offering pro features at half the price of a pro camera: the D3.

Building on the success of the D700, Nikon has offered improvements in many categories that are sure to make many current Nikonians consider an update and some non-Nikonians consider jumping ship.
In the following couple of days, expect some commentary, especially in light of the D4. For now, if you want some in-depth analysis, go here.


Key specs:Body: magnesium alloy, weather seals
Sensor: 36Mp FX
Aspect ratios: 3:2, 5:4
Formats: NEF (RAW), TIFF, JPEG
ISO: 50-25,800
AF Modes: 8
AF Points: 51
Viewfinder: 100% coverage. 0.7x magnification
LCD: 3.2” 920k dot live view
Built-in flash: yes
Shutter Speed: 1/8000-30 seconds, bulb
Flash Sync: 1/250th second
Continuous rive: 4 fps (FX), 6fps (DX)
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5 stops
AE Bracketing: 2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3, ½, 2/3, 1 stops
WB settings: 12, 5 more user-defined
WB Bracketing: 2-9 frames in steps of 1, 2, 3
Video: 1080p full HD
Movie Formats: MPEG, H.264
Microphone: mono
Speaker: mono
HDMI: Yes
Wireless: no
GPS: optional
Storage: Compactflash, SD
Weight: 1.98lbs (with battery)
Size: 5.75” x 4.84” x 3.23”
Price: $2999.95 or $3299.99 (D800E)



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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Captured: Comet Garradd and M92


Comet Garradd, which has been up in the sky for quite some time now, just made a close pass by the M92 globular cluster in Hercules two nights ago. Fortunately, for once, the sky over my backyard was clear! Below is a quick hack edit of a single frame, ISO 800 for 30 seconds on my Nikon D700. In addition to this, I shot about 60 others, which means that, after a trip through Deep Sky Stacker, things ought to be looking a lot better!





Oh, yes, if you're not familiar with the night sky and want to find the comet, the above picture should be of some assistance.


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Friday, February 3, 2012

Pentax Announces K-01 Interchangeable Lens, Mirrorless Camera


Pentax has just gotten into the ever-growing mirrorless, interchangeable lens market by launching its K-01, which uses the current Pentax K-mount, and thus all Pentax glass dating back to 1977. For a detailed examination of the new Pentax, go here.

Now, here are some key specs for consideration:

Sensor: 16Mp CMOS
Lenses: Pentax K-mount
Orientation sensor: Yes
Aspect ratios: 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9
Formats: RAW, JPEG
ISO: 100-25,600
Modes: P, A, S, M, 19 scenes
AF: Contrast detect
AF assist lamp: Yes
Viewfinder: LCD
LCD: 3” 920k dot live view
Shutter Speed: 1/4000
th-30 seconds
Continuous drive: 6fps
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3 stops
WB Bracketing: No
AE Bracketing: 3 frames
Built-in flash: Yes
Video: 1080p full HD
Microphone: mono
Movie Formats: MPEG, H.264
Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
HDMI: Yes
GPS: No
Wireless: No
Weight: 19.79ozs. (with battery)
Size: 4.8” x 3.1” x 2.2”
Price: $749.99 (body only)
Availability: Mar. 2012

Needless to say, this looks like quite a camera so, if you want one, preorder as soon as you can before the “line” gets too long!



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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Canon G1X High ISO Samples Online at Imaging Resource


The first full resolution, high ISO sample pictures from the Fuji X-Pro1 have been posted online ay Imaging Resource. The best part about this test: it's a production camera. Read all about it!
 


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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First Fuji X-Pro1 High Resolution, High ISO Samples Online


The first full resolution, high ISO sample pictures from the Fuji X-Pro1 have been posted online and they look good, really good. Read all about it!



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