Canon vs. Nikon – who cares?

06/12/2014
Green or Blue?

Green or Blue?

It’s that age old argument. Back in the 80s it was Z80 vs. 6502, Sinclair vs. Amstrad. There’s also iPhone vs. Android, PC vs. Mac.

So often I have heard at our camera club, “Great picture, obviously because the photographer uses Nikon”, or “obviously a good photographer, he uses Canon”. Maybe in jest, but with some meaning behind the snipe.

Really, there isn’t such a thing as a really bad camera thee days. Even phones (Android OR iPhone!) take great images. I bought a cheap SLR (<£300) earlier this year, and honestly, are the images any sharper, clearer or better than my £1000 camera or my pro cameras? Answer: No.

It’s about the quality of the lenses and what you do with them, plain and simple.

When someone asks me what I use and they discount me because of the answer, I in turn discount them because of their childish opinion. They have not learned to respect the art and don’t understand that it’s the photographer, not the camera.

I chose my brand of camera years ago, switching because of a whim would not be very efficient. Not just the cash to swap but I would have new UIs to learn making my shooting slower and less reactive. That’s the only difference between the cheap SLR and the Pro cameras really. The controls are quicker to use to change settings and the build is more robust. OK, full-frame vs. a crop sensor makes a difference to images, but that’s it. Once the light gets through the lens, it hits a sensor. Sensors are very similar. Given ANY camera I could, once I have got used to the controls take just as good (or bad) pictures. In fact, I have said in jest that all my pro cameras allow me to do is take more high resolution, bad pictures quickly in worse conditions to fill up my storage systems.

Same thing with a choice of computer and phone. Some gadget fans say you are mad if you use a particular brand of computer. Again, it’s what you are used to and what it does for you. If you get through your tasks without having to worry about the computer tech. (unless you actually like that sort of thing), then it’s good for you. If you can do your work on Linux, why not?

If your phone syncs your contacts, calendars and so on, again, it’s good for you. Oh, and making phone calls is important, I suppose.

So, stop sniping because of what others shoot and use, and get on with your own thing. If it’s not working for you, then you probably just need more practice, not a different brand.


Photography Essentials

23/10/2014

photo_s4pro2_500I’m surprised how many so called “photographers” don’t calibrate their screens. Calibration ensures that your screen displays colours to a conformed set of ‘standards’. A hardware device (such as the Datacolor Spyder) measures colours from your screen and creates a profile which the display and operating system can use to correct colours and brightness. The screen is calibrated at regular intervals to keep the colours true.

One of the big benefits is that if you use a calibrated print service (like ProAm or have your own printer calibrated), the prints you get have accurate colours. Hold the print next to the screen and the colours will be true. Get another print month later, and they’ll be the same. Try it if you’re currently uncalibrated.

Apart from all that, the calibrator seems to give monitors a new lease of life. Calibrate your screens and projectors and all of a sudden, they seem to come to life, obviously because colours are truer.

While we are on a small rant, lots of people don’t understand the meaning of “backup”. They think that putting files onto an external drive is a backup, when it’s still the only copy of those files. Simply ask yourself, “how would I feel if I lost my hard drive/computer etc.” If you would worry, you need a backup, which is a second copy. Preferably a third copy. One of my cats knocked one of my drives onto the floor recently, the drive was rendered useless. I had a backup, so thankfully, nothing was lost apart from a few pounds and a bit of annoyance at the cat…


Easter Photography Shopping Ideas

29/03/2013

I just composed this little email for our local camera club, but thought it worth sharing, some of my favourite things for photography. So, if you’re thinking of Easter presents for yourself, here are some ideas :

The ‘Nifty Fifty’

The 50mm f1.8 lenses, gives really good results from – and visibly so much better than the 18-55 kit lenses.

The 50mm will give an effective focal length of 80mm on Canon cameras, and 75mm on Nikons (unless you have a full-frame camera, when it’s obviously 50mm) – ideal focal lengths for portraits. The maximum aperture of f1.8 gives you the control to easily drop backgrounds out of focus – getting a lens with this sort of aperture is not possible on most other lenses for less than £500. They are easily the best value lenses in the Canon and Nikon ranges.

Amazon’s prices are good – Canon lens here – Nikon lens here

Anyone with an SLR should have one of these lenses in their kit.

gecko___D6E8868-Edit-2
Software Filters

I use Topaz labs filters with Photoshop and Lightroom, but Nik Effects are more popular – available at  and now a lot cheaper since they were bought by Google. There’s a discount code DZISER that if you use at the checkout, brings the price down to $126. The Topaz labs bundle is arguably more ‘funky’, but more than double the price at $299. Both are great for adding contrast,black and white and many other effects to your pictures to give them more ‘wow’ factor. My Gecko image depended on Topaz labs for that!

Cambridge In Colour

Something for free – The Cambridge In Colour forum is great. Looks like it can be a good place to sanity check images before entering for competition, as well as there being a community of photographers there for chat and questions. I used to use a similar forum a few years ago, they are very useful.

Camera Slinger

The unfortunately named “R-Strap” (say it out loud)  is a great alternative to the neck strap. I find neckstraps a complete pain, they always get in the way, and the R-strap allows the camera to hang by your side, out of the way and raising it up when you want to use it. Way more comfortable, and less obtrusive too. Works with small cameras all the way through to heavy combinations. I use them a lot. Lets you use your camera like a gunslinger.

Lensbaby Creative Lens

Lastly, the Lensbaby. For Nikon or Canon – these allow for some great creative effects, a bit like a poor man’s tilt-shift lens (well, tilt, anyway) with a soft focus edge. For the creative (or brave) photographer. See the main Lensbaby website http://lensbaby.com for ideas. I have one of these, and don’t use it enough!

Happy Easter, hope I haven’t cost you too much money, but have fun!


My Pictures, My Property, My Copyright…

11/03/2013

I today received a request to remove pictures from the web because they “were published without people’s permission”. The people concerned were in fact part of a demonstration – in fact a process that involves exhibiting yourself in public, and the photos were taken in a public place.

I have no idea who the two guys in red are, but I can publish this as I wish.Taken on 9th March, 2013 in Petersfield.

I have no idea who the two guys in red are, but I can publish this as I wish.
Taken on 9th March, 2013 in Petersfield.

This is a request I have had a few times over the years, notably once from a track day when I was asked to remove a picture of a car because the numberplate was showing – and I was told by the driver that the picture was “my copyright”.

Well, no, the truth is that pictures taken by anyone are the copyright of the photographer, not the subject. If you are asked to delete them in the street – whoever by, don’t. If you had actually done something wrong, then you are actually destroying evidence, a criminal offence in itself.

Pictures taken from a public place are without restriction as long as they are not deemed ‘intrusive’ – for me, the recent pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing were clearly intrusive. Poking a camera through a window is intrusive, but taking a picture of the front of the house from a road is not.

Another thing often cited is the inclusion of children in a photograph, as if that being included in that picture puts them at risk somehow. Again odd. Like the car, you display your children in the street, if they turn up in a picture in a public place, what’s the problem or damage? In fact, children have no special rights with respect to photography (apart from pornographic images of course).

As long as I don’t misrepresent people by saying they are somewhere they were not, endorsing something that they don’t or at a time they were not there, then it’s all fine. I can use or sell the images as I see fit. If you were somewhere you should not have been and get caught out – that’s your problem, not mine!

There’s a useful PDF here that explains photographer’s rights in more detail.

So no, I have not removed my pictures.

As for the driver of that car on the trackday? It actually turned out he was taking his company car on a track day, had not covered up his numberplate and was frightened of getting caught out!


A New Wireless Camera Controller

16/07/2012

Update 18th July – the second prototype

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been working on a new camera controller.

Like many photographers, I often use a cable release to activate the camera. This has a number of advantages in allowing the camera to remain steady on a tripod, or simply to allow me to look over the camera while shooting. More recently, I’ve been using a radio remote controller which has the same simple shutter release control, but is wireless.

I’ve been involved in Bluetooth technology for some years now, and a new development is Bluetooth SMART – also known as Bluetooth Low Energy and included in the Bluetooth 4.0 standard that is appearing in mobile phones, tablets and computers now.

Bluetooth SMART is a very low power protocol, designed for low-data throughput devices such as temperature sensors, switches etc., and it lends itself quite well to the camera controller function I mentioned. Devices will run from a
coin cell for years – unusual for a wireless device.

So, I set about developing such a device, but rather than just have simple shutter control, I have added timer functionality.

You can trigger the device and take a single shot, just like a normal radio remote, but you can also set parameters that allow you to start a timer running which will wait for a period of time, then take a number of shots at a programmed interval. Once the parameters are set and the timer started it will run autonomously. Range is about 100 metres, so it’s a very useful remote trigger too.

All of this can be triggered and controlled from any Bluetooth 4.0 capable device, such as the iPhone 4S, iPad 3, most new Mac computers and newer PCs. Most new devices include Bluetooth 4.0, so expect to see many more in the coming months.

The prototype is all working, with a program in the device to give this functionality. The next steps are to produce a PCB (printed circuit board) to allow these to be made in higher volume – and neater – rather than like the hand-built prototype above. I also need to develop iOS and Android apps that will allow the device to be controlled from smartphones. This can be done at the moment, but via a rather clumsy generic Bluetooth application on these phones.

Bluetooth SMART Controller Prototype

I reckon the device could be made available in the retail market at £50, with the iOS app being a free download. Different versions to connect to Canon, Nikon, Sony cameras would be available (a different connector is needed for each manufacturer) and the controller is your phone – which you have with you, rather than a second box for the trigger.

So how to do the next steps? Design the PCB myself, design the iOS app? both of these are new to me, but I know people who could do this. Maybe use Kickstarter to finance the project? Not sure.

Watch a demonstration of the controller here:

But, I am looking to move this forward – if you have any bright ideas, let me know!

23rd July – added datasheet – Phooto iSMART Datasheet

27th July – new video with the second prototype controller –

2nd August – If you would like to make one of these, let me know, I can provide the circuit diagram and object code to load into the Bluegiga BLE112 used here. You will need to source the module and components. I would be interested to get feedback on the device – you might even be interested in developing iOS software for it?

Blexplr iOS program used to control the timer


6th August – Dr Michael Kroll’s ‘Blexplr‘ program has been invaluable in developing this application – and has now been updated with the UUIDs to support the device. (see picture).

19th August – First Nikon D90 version made.


Delkin Devices Wingman HD DV camera – mini review

08/01/2012

I had the opportunity to have a brief play with the new Delkin “WingmanHD” camera the other day. Being used to my SLR cameras, pro lenses and only occasionally using compact cameras, or the iPhone for record pictures, I wasn’t expecting too much from this little camera.

However, when you consider what this camera is intended for, it’s pretty amazing. If you want decent quality images, get something like a Canon IXUS or even use the iPhone 4S, but – if you want to stick a camera to the front of your car, skateboard, windsurfer, on your crash helmet and leap out of a plane – or even when snorkelling, then this is for you.

The camera is supplied with a waterproof housing, rated to 30 metres. This sort of add-on to a ‘normal’ compact camera would cost over £100 in addition to the camera itself, but this little camera comes complete with that, various mounts and straps for £199. Another nice touch is that Delkin – who are in the memory business after all, include a decent sized 8GB micro SD card so you can get going with the camera straight away.

The included battery will last for 2.5 hours according to Delkin, but I don’t know if that’s continuous video (doubt that would fit on the card anyway), or normal still mode. The package strangely had a US adaptor and an EU one in the package, maybe future UK supplies will include a UK adaptor. The camera will charge from the mains adaptors, but as it charges via a USB lead, also from your computer (as I did), or an included car power adaptor. Not something I can do with my Canon cameras without spending lots of money!

As for image quality, I wouldn’t say that this would ever be your only camera – in the time I had the camera, I didn’t get to find any zoom controls – I assumed it was a fixed lens – so the images I had were very wide and showed some barrel distortion, even fish-eye effects. But, if you were to use this as an action camera, you probably won’t be using it in a viewfinder mode, so a wide angle will be very forgiving. I could correct the distortion to some extent quite easily in Lightroom anyway. The gallery below shows an original image and a corrected version.

One very nice feature for the extreme camera enthusiast is the camera’s ‘Continuous Shooting’ mode. When I first saw this, I thought it was like my cameras – hold down the shutter button, and the camera keeps shooting while the button is depressed. This one operates differently, in the menus you set the interval with a minimum of 2 seconds and (I think) maximum of 60, press the shutter button, and the camera will keep shooting at that interval until you stop it. So, start the camera running, attach it to your cycle helmet with the included brackets and off you go! Low light performance seems OK, but I only took a couple of shots under a desk, not very scientific!

Then, there’s the video mode. This camera records full HD video. A very nice touch is that there is a separate button on the top of the camera for activating video recording. So, when you have gloves on, you don’t have to fiddle with menu settings or rotating knobs to choose between video or stills. Just press the appropriate button, and away you go. In fact, these are the only two controls on the waterproof housing, that could be taken as a pro or a con, I suppose.

Delkin irritatingly don’t include a manual on their web site (a printed one IS included in the box), so now I don’t have the camera to hand, I can’t refer back, but I did use the camera without the manual. I like to keep PDF copies of my manuals in my iPhone, so I always have them to hand for obscure settings. Relying on carrying a paper manual is not very handy!

I’m hoping to get another loan of the camera for an extended period, I’d like to try some parallel shooting when shooting rugby games (using a secondary bracket on my monopod) – and, as the camera is pretty light (about 90 grammes), I’ll tie wrap it to a kite and see what I get. I can also then do some better optical performance experiments, but as I said, this is a camera for a different purpose, not to compare with optical products from Canon, Nikon and the like. I’m sure there’s also lots of features I’ve missed above – like zoom, ISO settings etc. I’ll also then be able to let you have some decent test images and videos to look at.

Delkin’s own web page is at http://delkin.com/i-7579051-wingmanhd-3oz-waterproof-action-camera.html .

It would find a place in my camera collection for sure.


How Do People Get Away With This?

14/09/2011

Last week, I received an email for a “48cm x 35cm canvas print for £9 instead of £30” from Money Supermarket.

Being interested in this sort of stuff, I clicked the link and found the Canvas Buddy website. (Screenshot shown here, click to see it full size) The picture is very interesting, stop for a minute and consider the sizes. How big is that sofa? How high the ceiling? If that print is 19″ x 14″, then roughly scaled up, that makes the ceiling at about 2′ 4″, so about big enough for your average action man (the doll, not Sly Stallone) to live in.

I enquired why they were using such a misleading image, and got the reply from someone called Yogi – “it has size on it not trying to mislead any1 u can call me on [number removed] thanks yogi”. He also said I could refer to a couple of other websites he has. I won’t.

I suspect many of the thousand or so people who took up the offer from the Money Supermarket will feel slightly conned by this. I have of course referred the link to the ASA, BBC Watchdog etc.

This is what a 19" x 14" picture would look like in a normal sized room.