24 April 2012

Nikon updates Capture NX2 and NEF Codec to support the D3200

The latest updates to Nikon Capture NX2 (v2.3.2) and the NEF codec (v1.14.0) now have support for the new D3200 camera.

Version 2.3.2 of Capture NX2 also contains the following fixes:
  • (Windows version): when images captured with the camera’s Auto distortion control function enabled were opened or edited, Capture NX 2 sometimes quit unexpectedly. This issue has been resolved.
  • (Mac version): when NEF files edited using the unsharp mask function and then saved were later opened, or copied and opened, the images sometimes appeared corrupted. This issue has been resolved. 

You can download version 2.3.2 of Capture NX2 from your local support site, e.g., Europe, US.

The NEF Codec enables Windows Explorer and certain applications to view NEFs captured with a range of Nikon cameras and can be downloaded from this page.
Note: the latest version of the NEF codec still does not support the D800 or D800E camera (the D4 is supported though)

19 April 2012

New Nikon D3200 camera and 28mm f/1.8 lens

Nikon today announced their new entry level D3200 DSLR camera. The D3200 is the successor to the popular D3100 camera and now includes a super high resolution 24.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor. Full HD (1080p) video recording with full time autofocus (AF) is supported, and for capturing action, a 4 frames per second high-speed continuous shooting mode is available.

Like the new D4, Nikon is also taking the D3200 “wireless.” With the new optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter, you can wirelessly send images to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, preview an image before shooting and control the camera remotely.

The Nikon D3200 will be available in both black and red and will be available April/May depending on your country. Price will be around $699.95 for a kit with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens. The optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter will be available at a price of around $59.95.

Together with the announcement of the new D3200, Nikon also announced a new wide-angle fixed focal length lens with a large maximum aperture. The AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G is a 28mm wide-angle full frame lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. It uses Nikon's exclusive Nano Crystal Coat to prevent ghosting and flare. With it's ability to resolve high resolution images with amazing sharpness and clarity, the 28 f/1.8G is an ideal companion for the company's new 36MP Nikon D800 and D800E DSLRs.

The AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G lens will be available at the end of May for the suggested retail price of $699.95.

18 April 2012

Zeiss introduces 70-200mm T2.9 and three T1.5 primes for cinematography

For all you quality conscious cinematographers filming with a DSLR, it is great to know you now have a couple of nice new options from Zeiss. Together with the introduction of their first zoom lens for this segment, they further extended their range of lenses specially catered for DSLR video shooters with three more fixed focal lenses.

The CZ.2 70-200mm T2.9 zoom is a manual focus lens with a diaphragm of 18 (!) blades, guarantee for very smooth out of focus rendering. Quality doesn't come cheap though: with an estimated price of €14,900 it is on the expensive side. Availability: end of this year.

Apart from the 70-200 zoom, Zeiss also introduces new 35mm (±€3,700), 50mm (±€3,300), and 85mm (±€3,300) T1.5 CP.2 Super Speed lenses. Availability: August this year.

To compensate a bit for the hefty price of these lenses, all four lenses have a replaceable mount, allowing for mounting on PL (Cinematography), EF (Canon), F (Nikon), or MFT (Micro Four Thirds) cameras.

Note: As is common for cinematography lenses, apertures for these lenses are given in T-stops instead of F-stops (T-stops take into account the loss of light inside the optics of the lens).

16 April 2012

TIPA Awards 2012

The Technical Image Press Association (TIPA) just announced the winners of their annual awards. Each year TIPA chooses the best products of the last twelve months in 40 photography related categories.

This year Canon is the big winner with 6 awards: Best Professional DSLR (Canon EOS-1D X), Best Video SLR (Canon EOS 5D Mark III), Best Professional Videocamera (Canon EOS C300), Best Expert Compact Camera (Powershot G1 X), Best Professional DSLR Lens (Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM fish-eye), and Best Multi-functional Photo Printer (Canon Pixma MG8250).

Nikon and Fujifilm both won three Awards. Nikon for Best Expert DSLR (Nikon D800), Best Entry Level DSLR (Nikon D5100), and Best Professional Flash System (Nikon SB-910). Fujifilm won the awards for Best Professional Compact System Camera (Fujifilm X-Pro 1), Best Superzoom Camera (Fujifilm X-S1), and Best Photo Service (Fujifilm Fotoservice Pro).

For a complete list of this years winners, please see the TIPA website.

12 April 2012

Canon delays shipment of EOS-1D X and new 24-70 lens

With all the exciting new product announcements by Canon, it is quite disappointing to learn that there will (again) be delays in delivery of these new goodies. Shipping delays are more prevalent these days and it looks like the recent disasters in Japan and Thailand still have not been overcome completely. But while all companies seem to have problems with timely delivery, Canon seems to suffer more, perhaps also because they announce their products quite early on.

This time it is the delivery of the new EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM lens, which was announced in February, that is delayed by a month (delivery date now in July instead of June). The new flagship camera EOS-1D X will be delayed even more and instead of hitting the shelves this month, is now planned for mid June.

Canon announces EOS-1D C and C500 with 4K video capabilities

Today Canon announced two new cameras designed for filming in (the new standard?) 4K resolution.

The Canon EOS-1D C will be built using the same housing and specs of the EOS-1D X, but now supports filming in 4K (4096x2160) resolution. For 4K filming, a pixel-for-pixel APS-H crop will be used with 4:2:2 colour sampling and output in 8-bit MPEG compressed 24p. Full HD (1920x1080) filming is supported up to 60p (!). The Canon EOS-1D C can be used with all current Canon EF mount lenses.

The also newly announced Canon EOS C500 is an upgrade to Canon's current top of the line C300 video camera. The EOS C500 supports 4K video and will be available both with a PL and an EF mount, allowing you to choose which type of lenses to uses on it.

On top of these two new 4K video cameras, Canon also announced they will be developing some new lenses designed specifically with filming in mind: The CN-E 15.5-47mm T2.8 L S(P) (EF/PL-mount), and the CN-E 30-105mm T2.8 L S(P) (EF/PL-mount).

Prices for these cameras will be pretty high; the EOS-1D C is announced to be around $15,000 when it becomes available (planned: October of this year).

3 April 2012

Canon announces EOS 60Da DSLR for astrophotography

Canon today announced the EOS 60Da, a variant of it's upper entry level EOS 60D. The EOS 60Da is the long-awaited successor of the, in 2005 released, EOS 20Da and is designed specifically for astrophotography. It is built around the same image sensor as the 60D, but has a reworked filter for enhanced transmission of a specific wavelength of red light – 656 nanometers – allowing astronomers and hobbyists to better capture the beauty of the night sky and its “red hydrogen emission” nebulae and other cosmic phenomena.

The Canon EOS 60Da is planned to ship by the end of April at an expected price of $1499 . Sample photos and a comparison with the standard EOS 60D can be found at the Canon Japan website.

To keep the camera powered during long exposures, Canon includes the ACK-E6 AC Adaptor, allowing you to hook up the camera to an AC wall outlet. The optional Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 can be used to program interval and (long) exposure times without having to touch the camera.

What is the best memory card for you?

While at first this may seem like a silly question (just get the cheapest and fastest card available), choosing the card that's best for you is in fact not a straightforward thing…

Size and number of cards

First there's size to consider. Bigger is better, right? Well, not particularly.

The problem with a bigger card is that if something goes wrong (e.g., the card breaks, you accidentally format the card, etc.) with the card, you potentially lose more pictures. Recovery will be harder (and definitely take longer) as well.

So smaller is better then? Well, again, not particularly. Chances of one or more cards failing out of a number of cards is much higher than the chance of an individual card breaking (in fact even more than the number of cards times higher). Luckily chances of a card actually breaking are pretty minute (as long as you stick with the major, reputed, brands).

So the answer is probably something in between. My advise would be to have enough space on one card to allow you to shoot one “session” without having to switch cards during the shoot. For instance when I'm out shooting wildlife I usually shoot up to about 16GB worth of images on a day. So I'd choose a 16GB card for storage. However, as my D3, has two card slots, I actually use 2x8GB cards. This decision was also based on economics: at the time I bought the cards, 16GB was not readily available and more than twice the price of 8GB. These days though, I see no reason not to go for 16GB any longer and given the same decision I'd opt for one or two 16 GB cards instead. Note that when I don't expect to take a lot of images and shoot “slower” (e.g., architecture/interior), I usually use one of my older, lower capacity, cards (e.g., 2GB). That way they still get some usage…

The size of your average session will of course vary and depends heavily on number of shots, resolution (mega pixels) of camera, whether or not you shoot JPG or raw, etc. If you shoot video (frequently), be sure to take this fact into account when deciding on card size as well!

So now you know the size of the card that would be “ideal” for you, should you buy one, two, or ten? Well, this depends; I always bring some sort of storage device with me (two in fact, one for backup) and offload the images each day. The cards are then formatted (in camera) and ready for use the next day. This means I only need one session worth of storage capacity (plus some additional spare space for if the session suddenly gets bigger). If you don't have the means to offload your images, you'll need to buy more cards, at least enough to last you until you can offload them again. You'll also need to buy multiple cards if you do offload them, but want to keep the card as extra backup (e.g., until you can properly back them up at home).

So in short: get a memory card the size of your expected shooting session, and get as many as you need to last until you can safely offload them. Use older/smaller sized cards as emergency storage for when you run out anyway.

Note instead of getting multiple cards, you could of course also buy a single larger card, but remember the risk involved with choosing this way. Economics may drive this decision too; larger cards may or may not be more expensive than multiple smaller cards.

Card brand/type

So now you've decided the size of your card, what brand and type to use? For the brand, I'd really advice you to stick with the reputable brands (e.g., Lexar, Sandisk) and never ever buy cheap, counterfeited, “brand” cards. As with everything on the internet: if it looks to good to be true, it probably isn't true. So stay away from those cheap eBay deals, promising you a brand card for half the normal price…

Sticking with the reputable brands the deciding factor really comes down to speed, and what you're prepared to pay for it (faster usually is more expensive). Card speed is basically important for two things:
  • How quickly your camera can write to the card – This determines how quickly you can shoot bursts of images consecutively, and for how long. Each camera has an internal buffer that fills up at the maximum frame rate of your camera, but once that buffer is full frame rate drops to the speed at which your camera can write the images to the card. So if you frequently shoot burst of images (e.g., with sports, action, and wildlife), a faster card may be an advantage to you. If on the other hand you shoot “slow” (e.g., landscape, architecture), a faster card doesn't really hold any benefit for you here.
  • How quickly you can download the images to your computer – The faster the card, the faster you can offload the images to your computer and the shorter it takes. If you shoot a lot, a fast card may literally save you hours…

So you frequently shoot high frame rate bursts and/or you don't like waiting for your images to offload to your computer, you should be getting the fastest spec'd card, right? Well, maybe not…

The problem is, a faster spec'd card may not necessarily be faster in your situation at all. Actual speed depends on the particular combination of card technology (XQD, CF, SD), card type, card size, camera, and card reader. For instance, taking a SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB card, my D3 is capable of writing at a rate of 24.4MB/s to it. The new Canon 5D III on the other hand is capable of writing at the much faster rate of 34.2MB/s. A card that is the fastest for one type of card reader may not be the fastest for another, etc.

Generally speaking, Compact Flash (CF) cards are faster than Secure Digital (SD) cards. The new XQD cards, introduced with the Nikon D4, are faster again, beating even the fastest CF card by a margin. Deciding on card technology therefore can be important if your camera supports two types of cards.

For card readers, the interface connection to the computer is important; USB3 is faster than Firewire-800 which is again faster than USB2. But here also speed comes at a price…

To help you decide which card or reader to get, have a look at the XQD/CF/SD Performance Database as maintained by Rob Galbraith. It contains data for many popular Canon and Nikon cameras.
Please note that Rob Galbraith is no longer maintaining the database. Even though, it still provides valuable input for the card selection process.