30 June 2012

Nikon updates lens distortion control file

Since the D90, Nikon DSLR cameras have the ability to correct lens distortions (i.e., barrel and pincushion) in-camera. Nikon has now released an update of the Distortion Control file for its cameras.

So, if you have a camera that supports in-camera distortion correction (e.g., a D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100, D7000, D90, D800, D800E, or D4), you can download the new 1.006 version of the “L” firmware from Nikon: Mac OS X platform, Windows platform. Here you will also find the installation instructions (basically the same as with any firmware update) as well as the complete (long!) list of supported lenses.

Firmware update for Canon 7D adds functionality

Canon has announced a firmware update for its EOS 7D camera adding a couple of very nice features to existing cameras.

The new features include:
  • An increase of the maximum number of burst images taken in the RAW file format from 15 to 25 frames. When shooting in RAW+JPG, the maximum is now 17 and with JPG-only, 125.
  • The ability to process RAW image files directly in the camera. This includes adjustment of exposure compensation, white balance, picture style, noise reduction at high ISO speeds, distortion correction, and other processing parameters. The thus processed RAW files will be saved as a separate JPG file, keeping the original intact.
  • Ability to rate images in-camera.
  • Ability to resize JPG files in-camera.
  • Faster scrolling of zoomed-in images.
  • An option to set a maximum ISO setting in ISO Auto mode.
  • Fine adjustment of the audio level (up to 64 levels) prior to video recording.
  • Support for the new optional GPS Receiver GP-E2.
  • Customisation of the first four characters of the image file name, useful to e.g., store your initials.
The new firmware is to be released in August and can then be obtained from the Canon website.

20 June 2012

Canon updates Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to v3.11.31

Canon has released an update for their Digital Photo Professional (DPP) image editing software.

Version 3.11.31 contains the following enhancements/fixes:
  • Supports images taken with EOS Kiss X6i / EOS REBEL T4i / EOS 650D, EOS 60Da.
  • Supports new lens (EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM).
  • Fixed a phenomenon where the camera's serial number that is displayed in the shooting information of the image is not displayed correctly for some of the EOS 60D.
  • Fixed a phenomenon where the buttons for HDR tool cannot be displayed under specific settings of the display.
  • Fixed a phenomenon where check mark or rating that is set using Quick Check Tool may not be displayed correctly.

Version 3.11.31 can be downloaded from the Canon USA website (as always, choose platform, OS version, and the software category to access the update).

19 June 2012

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Firmware 1.1.3

Canon has released a firmware update for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Firmware v1.1.3 incorporates the following fixes and improvements:
  • Supports the single focal length EF40mm f/2.8 STM lens that is to be released at the end of June, 2012.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which an image may become underexposed when using the Auto Lighting Optimizer for continuous Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) shooting.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which the backlight of the LCD monitor may not turn off depending on the camera settings and timing.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which the camera’s power may not turn on when a super-telephoto lens (1) is mounted to the camera with an extender (2).
    1. EF 300mm F2.8L IS II USM / EF 400mm F2.8L IS II USM
    2. Extender EF 1.4X III / Extender EF 2X III
  • Corrects mistakes in the Dutch, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish menu screens
You can download the new firmware directly from the Canon USA website.

14 June 2012

New Nikon 24-85 and 18-300 zoom

Nikon today officially announced two new zooms in their line-up. The AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5–4.5G ED VR and the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR super zoom.

The new 24–85mm f/3.5-4.5 falls nicely between the 24-70 f/2.8 and 24-120 f/4 and makes for a nice and light alternative for both.

The 24-85 has 16 elements in eleven groups of which three elements are aspherical and one is an ED. Unlike the two other options, the lens does not have the special nano coating, it has VR, however (which the 24-70 doesn't have). It measures only 78x82mm en weighs just 465 gram so a pretty compact design. The lens should be available from the end of this month at a price of €619.

With the new 18-300 f/3.5-5.6, Nikon bests the current super zoom champion Tamron who's super zoom “only” goes from 18 to 270mm. The lens is designed for DX crop bodies only where it's zoom range becomes a whopping 27-450mm!

The 18-300 naturally has VR (VRII), allowing for hand-held shooting even when the light is failing. With the built-in Silent Wave Motor, autofocus response should be quick and accurate and allows the lens to be used on bodies that do not have a mechanical focus (e.g., the D3100, D5100, etc.). Three ED elements keep chromatic aberrations to a minimum. Unzoomed, the lens measures 83x120mm at 830 gram. Like the new 24-85, the 18-300 is expected to be available at the end of the month. It will be priced €999. So not the lightest nor cheapest lens; this much versatility does come with a price…

12 June 2012

Apple updates: Retina display MacBooks and much more

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference is always an event to watch for exciting new product announcements. And this time, again, they have not let us down at all and revealed a number of great product updates.

Amongst others there will be a new MacBook Pro with a super high resolution Retina Display and USB 3.0. They also showed off the upcoming OS X Mountain Lion operating system for Mac as well as the next OS version for iOS devices, iOS6. An update to the Airport Express wireless router was announced too, together with a new iPad Smart Case, one that now covers both the front and back of the iPad.

New: MacBook Pro with Retina Display

This will be the lightest and thinnest MacBook Pro ever produced. It weighs just 2kg and features an ultra-high resolution 2880 by 1800 pixel, 220ppi, 15.4-inch Retina Display. Photographers will appreciate the fact that the screen should be much less reflective than the older models with glossy screens!

For connectivity the new MacBook hosts 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, 2 x Thunderbolt and a headphone port and it supports 802.11n Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.0. Notably absent are an Ethernet and Firewire800 port. If you need those you can use the (new) adapters that connect these interfaces to the MacBook using the Thunderbolt port. An SD/SDHC/SDXC slot on the other hand is still present.

The new model can hold up to 16GB storage with up to a quad-core Intel i7 processor running at up to 2.7GHz. SSD storage option of up to 768GB can be ordered as well.

More information on Apple's website.

Updated: MacBook Pro 13-inch and MacBook Pro 15-inch

The 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros have been refreshed and also include USB 3.0 as well as other improvements. Interestingly, the MacBook Pro 17-inch seems to have been discontinued.

More information on Apple's website.

Updated: MacBook Air 11-inch and MacBook Air 13-inch

The new MacBook Air models also get USB 3.0, and now feature a dual-core Intel i7 processor running at up to 2GHz as well as faster Graphics. Storage options are now up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage.

More information on Apple's website.

New: OS X Mountain Lion

Apple's next major version of the OS X operation system, Mountain Lion, is to ship in July as an App Store download for $19.99 (or the equivalent in your local App Store). New features include voice dictation in any application and better social media and iCloud integration.

More information on Apple's website.

New: iOS 6

Coming fall will see the next major update for Apples operating system for mobile devices. iOS6 will have improvements to Siri voice recognition and dictation, a new Maps app (not using googlemaps any longer), Facebook integration, and much more.

More information on Apple's website.

Updated: Airport Express

The new AirPort Express supports simultaneous dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, transmitting at both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies at the same time. Meaning that no matter which band your wireless devices use, they’ll automatically use the best available band for the fastest possible connection.

More information on Apple's website.

8 June 2012

New Canon Lenses: EF 40mm f/2.8 STM and EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

Together with the new EOS 650D/Rebel T4i camera, Canon today also announced two new lenses. Both incorporate a new STM design.

This STM design, especially when coupled with the new continuous focus tracking of the 650D, allows for a smoother and quieter focus operation during video. This is a boon for videographers as all camera noises get amplified when recording audio with the built-in microphone.

The new Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM is of a pancake design (a first for Canon), making it a really nice and small lens. It weighs just 130g, measures only 22.8mm “long” and has a filter thread of 52mm. Shortest focus distance is 30cm (<1 foot). Being an EF lens, this lens is compatible with both Canon's full frame and crop cameras.

The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM on the other hand is an APS-C (1.6x crop)-only lens incorporating image stabilisation. The EMD (electromagnetic diaphragm) promises super smooth aperture control.

The lenses are to be available at the end of this month and have an estimated retail price of $200 (40mm) and $550 (18-135mm), no € pricing is available yet.

New Camera: Canon EOS 650D/Rebel T4i

Canon today announced a new DSLR camera. The 650D/Rebel T4i is a 17.9 mega pixel follow-up to the EOS 600D/Rebel T3i and adds a touch-screen rear LCD, faster 5fps burst rate, smoother and more accurate autofocus tracking during video capture.

Some of the key specifications

  • Similar build and weight to the 600D/Rebel T3i.
  • New 1.04MP articulating rear LCD with touch-screen capabilities (swiping between pictures, pinching to zoom, pressing to select, etc.)
  • APS-C (22.3 x 14.9mm) sized, 1.6x crop, 17.92 million pixel sensor.
  • Self-cleaning sensor incorporates phase detect AF points to improve autofocus performance during live view and video recording (similar to the solution first introduced by Nikon in the mirrorless J1/V1 cameras).
  • Effective image size is 5184 x 3456 pixels.
  • Compatible with both EF and EF-S lenses.
  • Maximum frame-rate of 5fps with a buffer size of 30 Large/Fine JPEG, 6 RAW, or just 3 RAW+JPEG frames (when used in combination with a fast UHS-1 card).
  • ISO range of 100-12,800 (25,600 in H mode).
  • 9-point AF system. All 9 points are cross-type, the centre point add precision when an f/2.8 or faster lens is used.
  • New pentaprism viewfinder with 95% coverage.
  • Built-in flash that can act as a wireless TTL controller.
  • ±5 stops exposure compensation.
  • New in-camera processing option allows you to blend four high ISO pictures taken of the same scene, reducing final noise considerably.
  • Audio from the built-in stereo microphone or optional external stereo microphone.
  • H.264-encoded .mov files up to 4GB per clip:
    • HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30fps (29.97fps)
    • HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080 pixels at 25fps
    • HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080 pixels at 24fps (23.976fps)
    • HD 720p: 1280 x 720 pixels at 60fps (59.94fps)
    • HD 720p: 1280 x 720 pixels at 50fps
    • SD: 640 x 480 pixels at 30fps (29.97fps)
    • SD: 640 x 480 pixels at 25fps
  • Continuous autofocus during video recording (first Canon DSLR capable of doing this!)
According to Canon, the new 650D/Rebel T4i will begin to ship at the end of the month at a price of ±$850 (€ prices not known yet but are expected to be similar).

7 June 2012

Review: Eckla Beach-Rolly

Photographers, and especially wildlife and sports photographers with their long lenses, have a lot of gear to carry. When you have to carry it a long way, or for a long time, this can become very tiresome. So with a trip to the Bavarian Forest planned (where I really wanted to take both my 200-400mm and 600mm lenses), it was about time I had a look at some of the available carrying options.


I could think of the following options for taking all my gear with me:
  • Limit the amount of gear to take, take only what I really needed.
    Great, but for this trip I was really going need my all long tele lenses, tripods, and bodies.
  • Prevent having to walk far/long with the gear. Take everything in the car and have it close.
    Nice, but this isn't always practical/allowed, and certainly wouldn't work “in the wild.”
  • Ask an assistant, partner, or friend to carry some of the stuff.
    Great option, but I don't always go everywhere with an assistant/partner/friend. Plus, this won't work if he/she is already carrying (heavy) gear of their own.
  • Use a cart to carry the gear.
    Hmm, interesting option, perhaps this would work!
To be any help, to the burdened photographer, a “cart” should be a) lightweight, b) easy to transport to and from location in e.g., a car, c) sturdy and rugged, d) low maintenance, e) suitable for almost any terrain, ranging from paved roads to uneven and difficult terrain like loose sand, forest floors, and mountains, f) able to carry all my gear, g) flexible in use (e.g., easy to access, stow, and use the gear), and, finally, h) not too expensive.

On an earlier photography trip I had already seen a so-called Beach-Rolly in action and that cart with its big wheels really seemed to fit the bill. I googled a bit for alternatives, but in the end found the Eckla Beach-Rolly to be the only one really suitable for my purpose. The fact that it was widely used by other photographers couldn't be for nothing either…

So I went to the websites of my favourite camera stores to see whether or not they had it in stock, and for what price. At ±€100, the Beach-Rolly is actually quite affordable and having looked at the available options, I decided to go for the Blue/Green version without a sunroof (I didn't expect to use this ever and if I really missed it, I could always buy one later). I also ordered the tripod holder and cargo net accessories as I deemed these very handy.

The next day, I received my order (it was in stock) and I immediately put the Rolly together. As it turned out, this was a breeze, with only a couple of things to put together this was a quick and easy thing to do. So now on to using the thing!

Using the Beach-Rolly

Loaded Beach-Rolly
As it was still a while before my actual trip to the Bavarian Forest, I first tested the Beach-Rolly locally. Loaded with my camera backpack, 600mm (I didn't foresee the use of my 200-400), and tripod, I set out to photograph some local wildlife. The Beach-Rolly behaved very well under these relatively easy circumstances with (mostly) paved roads, giving me high hopes for the real test in the Bavarian Forest.

I was not disappointed! Even loaded with two tripods, a full camera backpack, and both the 200-400mm and 600mm lenses, the Beach-Rolly proved a very good companion and had no problems with the sometimes quite uneven terrain. Sure, lugging 20+ kg of gear up a steep hill is still no breeze, but infinitely better to handle than carrying everything by hand/on your back.

In other words: I'm Very happy with the Beach-Rolly!

How good is it really?

The Beach-Rolly really met the requirements I had set:
a) Weight – Weighing only about 4kg, it is indeed a pretty lightweight solution.
b) Transport – For transportation you simply fold the “seat”, flattening the whole thing to ±125x75cm with just the wheels sticking out. If you want it smaller, you can fold the handlebar as well, reducing the size to ±80x75cm. And if that still isn't small enough for you, you can also easily remove the wheels, leaving the two wheels and a flat package of only a couple of centimetres thick. This should allow it to fit into the boot of even a very small car.
Efficient as I always strive to be, I actually simply fold the seat of the Rolly and put it behind the front seats of my (none too big) car. This allows me super quick loading and unloading. So, full score on this requirement!
Super easy to use linchpin for the wheel
c) Quality – The Beach-Rolly is well made, with a built quality we come to expect from Germans. I only found its creaks a bit when you pull it forward. Not a real issue I'd say.
d) Terrain – I had no trouble pulling the cart and keeping it stable on the sometimes quite uneven terrain of the Bavarian Forest. And while I haven't yet tried it on loose sand myself, I've seen it works very well there too. Again full score here.
e) Capacity – As mentioned, the Beach-Rolly easily held my two heavy tele-lenses as well as a full camera backpack.
f) Maintenance – With little moving parts and a simple design, I can't see much requirement for general maintenance, other than keeping it clean. The wheels are sturdy, but even if they wear out a replacement wheel can be obtained and fitted easily.
g) Ease of Use – The Beach-Rolly allowed me to have a camera mounted on the lenses, ready to be used. Excellent!
h) Price – Costing just below €100 in the Netherlands, the Beach-Rolly is not overly cheap, but certainly not very expensive either.

Some other thoughts and remarks

Together with the Beach-Rolly I also ordered the cargo net and tripod holder. Both I can recommend wholeheartedly. The cargo net is very easy to use and keeps your gear safe, and on the cart. It's usefulness (read: necessity) proven already: The one time I forgot to fasten the net over my gear I walked for only a couple of meters before I heard a noise and found my 200-400 + camera lying on the floor. Luckily they didn't fall very hard and suffered no damage. So in my opinion, the cargo net is a must have. Sure you can fasten your gear with other means too, but this is just so easy to use.

Tripod holder in action
At first I didn't really like the tripod holder (officially called the Multi-Holder), but after finding the best way to use it, I can now recommend it too. The trick is that you need to extend the legs of your tripod so that they fully reach the position of the holder on the bar. That way the tripod fits snugly and can be easily secured.

Another thing I didn't like about the holder bar is the fact that you can still turn it round, no matter how fast you tighten the screws on the side. This just didn't feel right and sturdy. Being able to turn the bar, has one advantage though, and that is that when you want to transport the Beach-Rolly, you can turn the bar so it doesn't stick out any longer. So, the flexibility is actually quite useful…

Besides the cargo net and tripod holder, you can also fit the Beach-Rolly with a sunroof, neck rest (you can also use the Beach-Rolly's loading area as a chair), bottle holder, or additional loading bar to extend the loading platform. If this all isn't enough versatility, Eckla also offers the Multi-Rolly, basically a Beach-Rolly without the side skirts, but with an additional chair at the back of the cart.


The Beach-Rolly is a great solution for photographers carrying heavy equipment over difficult terrain. It is no wonder that almost all the photographers with bigger lenses that I met in Bavaria used a Beach-Rolly for transportation!

I give the Beach-Rolly a score of 95 out of 100 and value it a “must have!”

5 June 2012

Security update for Photoshop CS5 & CS5.1

Adobe released a security update for Adobe Photoshop CS5 & CS5.1. The update addresses vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to take control of the affected system when a user opened a malicious TIFF or DAE file in Photoshop CS5.1, Photoshop CS5 (or earlier!). While Adobe is not aware of any attacks exploiting these vulnerabilities, I would suggest you do download and install this update at your earliest convenience!

The update exists for both the Mac and Windows versions of Adobe Photoshop CS5 and CS5.1. If you are running Adobe Photoshop CS6, this issue does not apply and there is no need to for an update.

You can find the update at Adobe's own Photoshop Help website.

  • This update resolves a use-after-free TIFF vulnerability that could lead to code execution (CVE-2012-2027, Bugtraq ID 52634, which references www.securityfocus.com/bid/52634/).
  • This update resolves a buffer overflow vulnerability that could lead to code execution (CVE-2012-2028).
  • This update resolves a stack-based buffer-overflow vulnerability in the Collada .DAE file format that could lead to code execution (CVE-2012-2052, Bugtraq ID 53464, which references: www.securityfocus.com/bid/53464/).
  • This update applies to all languages, except Middle Eastern, North African French, and Greek. 

  • The 12.0.5 and 12.1.1 updates address only this security vulnerability. This issue does not exist in Photoshop CS6.