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Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Canon posts firmware update to correct 5D Mark II issues. You can download it directly from Canon here.

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II

The point of this article is not to discuss the image quality of the 5D Mark II in depth, but I will make clear right up front that the image quality is quite amazing. What this article is about, specifically, is a general observation as to how the camera handles while shooting in the field with it as opposed to in studio, and corrections that I feel Canon failed to make in the design of their update to the 5D. Remember – image quality alone should not be the reason for purchasing a particular camera.

First, I’d like to make a comment about the firmware upgrade issues: (more…)

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Panasonic LX-3 (aka Leica D-Lux 4)

Panasonic LX-3 (aka Leica D-Lux 4)

Over New Year’s Eve I had the opportunity to take a Panasonic Lumix LX-3 out and about with us for a night on the town. The particular details of the evening would be a bit verbose for our purposes here, so we’ll just cut to the chase and start talking about my experience with this camera. There were a couple of features that attracted me to the Panasonic LX-3. First, it has a an extrermely wide angle lens for a camera of its class. Most point and shoot digitals have a 38mm wide lens, some have a 28mm, but very, very few have anything wider than that. The LX-3 has a 24mm wide angle lens, with a 2.5x zoom which brings it focal length out to roughly 60mm. Second, the f/stop on the lens is quite remarkable for a camera of its type, opening up to a maximum of f/2.0 when at its widest angle. Third, the LX-3 offers a pop-up flash which is far more effective for red-eye reduction than any flash built directly into the body. I also fashioned a custom diffusion dome for this flash which can be seen further below in this review. Last, and certainly not least, the LX-3 offers the RAW file format as one of the options for image recording format. This provides distinct advantages to point & shoots that do not offer this, as white balancing, noise reduction, and sharpening can become very problematic if left to the automated image processing systems within the cameras. Read the full story below. (more…)

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The holiday season is here again, and for many of you that means considering the gift of a camera and/or equipment.  It is unfortunate that the landscape of this industry has changed quite significantly, and not necessarily for the better for retailer or consumer!  The advantages of shopping at a local store are masked as camera manufacturers allow big-box chain stores to break minimum advertised price (MAP) assignments on products.  Additionally, many camera manufacturers seem to have taken a step back as the newer models are built to cheaper specifications, they design products so they are ‘replaceable’, and are entrenched in a never-ending resolution race!  In light of all of this, I have picked out for you the best photo purchases available for the 2008 Holiday Season.  Here are my suggestions for the best photo equipment in four different price categories:

Less than $100

Card reader – the absolute essential for image transfer to the computer. Don’t fuss with the USB cable that comes in the camera box. This is the FASTEST & SAFEST way to transfer your images.

Media Tube – a device exclusively from Promaster that allows one to insert a memory card into the unit and playback images on your HD television in stunning high-definition quality.  Accepts all types of memory cards and allows for slideshow setup with audio capability.

Promaster Media Tube

Promaster Media Tube


Digital Picture Frame
– a great idea especially for relatives who may not be too computer savvy to retrieve photos from e-mail.  Buy them a digital picture frame, load images onto a memory card and set it up for them.  Screens comes in various sizes. Make sure to get one that takes a memory card and doesn’t rely on built-in memory as they operate much faster.  The best brands are Sunpak, eMotion and Digital Foci.

Filters - Every lens should have a UV filter.  You will hear people say having a cheap piece of glass in front of your nice lens cuts down on image quality.  As a working pro, I admit this – it does!  However, I am willing to live with the slight loss in image quality in order to protect the number of $1000+ lenses I own.  Just make sure you purchase a filter that is designed for digital.  They cut down on the glare, and have much better light transmission for a digital sensor than a filter that was designed for film.  Additionally, circular polarizing filters are nice for travel and landscape photography.  Once again, make sure you purchase one for use on a digital camera.   There really is a difference!

Extra Battery – kind of a no-brainer in most situations.  Sure, your camera battery might be rechargeable, but what if your battery dies while you are out for the day.  This way you’ll have a spare one in your bag.

Remote release cable – essential for tripod work when you are shooting landscapes or macro.  Prevents you from having to physically touch the camera to take a picture.  You’d be surprised how much movement your lightest touch can add to the camera!

Less than $500

Panasonic TZ-5 – 9.1mp, 10x optical zoom, 28mm wide angle, image stabilizer, 3″ screen, Leica lens, small package. ’nuff said.  The predecessor to this camera, the TZ-3 was hands down the #1 seller Holiday 2007.  A gorgeous unit.  It does however begin to fail in indoor and lower light situations.  Purse-sized. Buy it here for $225 after Instant Rebate

Panasonic TZ-5

Panasonic TZ-5

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It was a big weekend for the photo industry in New York at the Photo Plus Expo where vendors show their goods to the area’s photographic community.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t too much in the way of big news to report.  Nikon showed nothing new, and no rumors were leaked about the upcoming D3x and their MX format probably set to be announced first quarter 2009.  There are only five pre-production Canon 5D II bodies in existence and it appeared a couple were on hand at the Canon booth.  Epson probably had the neatest showing of new product with their new HDR printer technology.  We were able to get a print signed by Jay Maisel of an image printed using the Epson HDR ink technology from the soon to be released Epson 9900 large format printer.  The colors are quite vibrant!

Our prime purpose for attending the conference this year was two-fold.  First, we met with a custom website development company, Livebooks, to begin the re-design of our website, www.kazarts.com, from the ground up to be able to better promote our photography business.  They will work with us to design the site to our specifications and their programmers will optimize the site so that it will appear better in internet search queries.  Part of the problem we noticed with our current website is that we are not visible unless someone types in my name (Eric Kazmirek), or Kaz Arts.  How is this useful if someone does not know our name?  Well, it isn’t useful at all.

The second reason for attending the Photo Expo was to meet up with friends of ours from Italy who we will begin working closely with in order to offer photography workshops in a country Kerry & I love very much. (Check back for details on these workshops over the next couple months). Italy, with its distinctly different regions, is a photographer’s dream.  The idea behind our workshops will be not to just drag people around to the famous & touristy spots in the country, but to be immersed in the culture and discover the very many secrets Italy has to offer.  A glimpse of this will be available in a near-future gallery posting by me, and a soon-to-be published book of a collection of my Italy work last time I was there to visit our friends. 

Saturday evening after the conference, we took our friends to an authentic Sardinian restaurant on the lower east side of Manhattan named Cannonau.  We have eaten there many times before and our Italian friends had a wonderful time speaking in Italian to the owners of the establishment.  For dinner I had wild boar and Kerry enjoyed suckling pig, both fine Italian specialties.

Too bad it down poured on our way back to our friend’s apartment where we were spending the night.  A soggy end to a great day.

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The Spyder3 Colorimeter

The Spyder3 Colorimeter

B&H has this item in-stock for $225.  Using this link to purchase yours will help support our photography forum.

When I am talking to people about printing digital images, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “Is that the way your photo looked on your computer screen?”  My answer is always Yes, of course, which then follows with another question from them, “How come I can’t get my prints to match my screen.”  My answer?  Well, the answer has two parts – only one of which this article will address:  having a properly calibrated & profiled computer monitor.

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For those of you who are wondering if I magically obtained a test unit of the Canon 5D replacement model the answer is, sadly – no.  My hands-on field report for the original Canon 5D does admittedly come three years too late, but we can use this as an opportunity to review and reflect upon the ‘old 5D’ and look forward to hopefully all of the wonderful things the new camera model will be loaded with.  Please consider any faults outlined below about the 5D a guide for hopes of what they will fix in the new model.  My sample images scattered throughout this article have only gone through basic RAW processing.  None have been manipulated in Photoshop. (more…)

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Nikon SB-900 Flash Unit

Nikon SB-900 Flash Unit

Purchase yours here, and help support our photography forum.

With Nikon’s announcement of their new D700 last month (which is now available in stores) they also released an updated flash model which looks like it will eventually replace the SB-800.  I say eventually because Nikon always follows a similar pattern.  They announce that a new product with slightly different specifications will run along in the product line-up side-by-side a similar product – not replace it.  However, what they really mean to say is “the other item is out of production, but we still have a bunch, so until we run out of them in the warehouse, it is yet to be replaced.” (more…)

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A Truly Legendary Lens

A Truly Legendary Lens

The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 lens is a piece of glass I have obsessed over for many, many years. I still do not own one; however for my travels to Germany this past June, I did have the opportunity to rent one. My conclusions (both positive and negative) on this legendary, expensive, and remarkable pieces of glass are outlined in this article along with sample photos to demonstrate the lens’ virtues.

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My D3 with the Nikon 85mm F1.4

B&H has the D3 in-stock.  Get yours here, and it will help support our photography forum.

Nikon announced their current flagship digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) exactly one year ago today. However, Nikon has a long history of announcing products, and then taking forever to come to market with them. This is not so much of a problem though, as the products are usually well worth the wait. The Nikon D3 was no different in this regard. A week or so prior to its announcement in August 2007, there were many rumors and partial leaks as to what was going to happen. Nikon announces their products in predictable cycle patterns, and the last week of August is always when something major is announced, so we all knew to expect something grand. However, few expected something on the epic scale with which we were delighted.

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