Tuesday, December 30, 2008

G9: Aperture variations with zoom

The aperture in a camera’s lens is simply the opening through which light passes to strike the sensor or film. Instead of quantifying aperture size directly, for example, speaking of an 8mm opening, we usually speak of the “f-number” or “f-stop”. The f-stop is the relative aperture in comparison to the focal length of the lens; that is, the f-stop is the focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of the aperture. For example, if the focal length is 100mm and the aperture is 25mm diameter then the f-stop is 100 / 25 = 4. Since most people use aperture and f-stop interchangeably, we’d probably say that the aperture was “f4” in that example. For more details, check Wikipedia.

What about f-stops for zoom lenses? If the physical opening remains constant but the focal length changes, then the f-stop changes with the zoom setting. This is the situation with the Canon G9 and most digital cameras having built-in zoom lenses. By tinkering with my G9, I found the zoom points for which the maximum aperture (f-stop) changes and constructed the table below.

The table shows, for example, that the maximum aperture for the wide angle (7.4mm focal length) is f2.8 but near mid-zoom, say 25mm focal length, the maximum aperture is f4. At maximum zoom (44.4mm focal length) the maximum aperture is f4.8.

Notice that, contrary to the simple definition, the maximum f-stop for the G9 is not exactly proportional to the focal length. This apparent contradiction is an indication that the available physical aperture is also changing. If this were not the case, then the f-stop at 44.4mm focal length would be f16.8 instead of f4.8 !

Try this little experiment. Put the G9 (probably any camera) at maximum wide angle, Aperture priority (Av mode) at f8. Oh – you might want to turn off the focus assist light! Point the camera towards yourself and look deep into the lens. Push the shutter button halfway (you don’t have to actually take a picture) and watch carefully for a little bit of movement deep in the assembly. You’ll see a small circular opening become even smaller. Now change the f-stop to f2.8 and try again. You’ll see that the small opening doesn’t change. Now zoom to about mid-telephoto and repeat the tests. Notice that the initial size of the circular opening (the physical aperture) is somewhat larger at mid-telephoto. Zoom all the way in and repeat. Although it becomes more difficult to see deep into the lens, the initial opening becomes even larger at maximum telephoto settings and it changes from a large opening to a smaller one at f8.

Finally, remember that, counter-intuitively, a larger f-number (f-stop) actually means a physically smaller opening (aperture) that lets in less light.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow Day


Snow does not often come to south Louisiana but today we had about three inches of snow at my house. Our roads and systems aren’t built for snow and the disruption was considerable. Our local news featured “Snow Day” and even the national news mentioned snow in Louisiana.

Before the snow melted (yes, it’s all gone now), I grabbed a few shots to record the occasion. I especially liked the shot above. It was taken with my G9 in raw mode at ISO 400, 1/80 sec, f4.8. The sky was still overcast and the colors a bit drab so I punched up the saturation during processing.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flash Links

On this blog, some of the more frequently visited postings are about using flash. In particular, one of the most viewed posts is about flash compatibility with the G9. Here are some links to posts on flash at Light Description:

General info on flash for the G9
LCD display in flash mode

Canon external flash
Canon multiple flash

Flash compatibility
Flash sync speed

Wireless flash triggers
Self portrait with external flash and wireless trigger

Attachments and more attachments

There are other posts on flash as well. The easiest way to access specific postings is to use the list of labels on the left hand side of the blog.

Monday, December 1, 2008

More Flash Gadgets


Flash photography can be difficult and photographers seem to be always seeking magical gadgets to solve flash problems. I’m at least as guilty as anyone (see previous posting on Flash with Gadgets) and recently acquired a few new gadgets. Above L-R front are Lumiquest Mini-Softbox, Lumiquest Snoot, a Sto-Fen diffuser on top of a red gel and a Lumiquest Softbox III. Across the back row are a Lumiquest Pocket Bouncer fixed to a Nikon SB-28 with Cactus wireless trigger, the Cactus transmitter and a Honl Grid. Surely one of these gadgets will help me!

I decided on a simple setup to get a feeling for the relative effects of these gadgets: a model in front of a plain backdrop (white wall) in a large studio (garage) using each gadget individually. I’m not saying that I used each gadget optimally or even as recommended; I just wanted to practice and see what would happen with each one.

Instead of my previous models, I selected Hannah this time even though she is known to be independent and undisciplined. (Hannah has been put in “time out” by my granddaughter on several occasions.) Fortunately, except for needing help from duct tape (which I understand is not exactly unfamiliar to models), Hannah did well. She was patient and quiet – unlike Elmo who tends to speak out.

Hannah was placed six feet in front of a white wall and the camera another six feet in front of Hannah. The flash stand was placed six feet from Hannah and roughly two feet to the right of the camera. The flash (Vivitar 285HV with ¼ CTO gel) was about a foot above Hannah’s eyes and, initially, pointed right at Hannah. The camera, my G9 fitted with Cactus transmitter and tripod mounted, was roughly the same height as Hannah’s eyes – perhaps half a foot higher. The studio lighting was dimmed (closed the garage door) so that the effects of flash and gadgets would not be masked by the ambient light.

I dialed in the estimated (taking a guess) exposure in manual mode: 1/250 sec, f4.5, ISO 80, Vivitar at ¼ power, focused using the small Flexizone frame and switched to manual focus so that all photos would be the same. Setting Custom Mode 1 assured that those settings would be easily recovered if necessary. Time for the test shots.

Of course, that first shot was way over exposed. I fiddled with the aperture and tried a few more shots before settling on f6.3. I then reset Custom Mode 1 and, apparently, “adjusted” the manual focus setting such that nearly every shot taken is slightly out of focus. Experience is remembering that you’ve made the same mistake previously!

The images above offer a relative comparison of direct flash and the various gadgets. The idea was to place the gadgets on the Vivitar and take shots without any adjustment. But of course, exposure had to be adjusted in each case. The Vivitar had to be cranked to full power and the aperture opened to f4.5 for the softboxes. The snoot and grid shots were taken at ¼ power and f5.6.

The two softboxes seemed to change the color a bit but the effect was pleasing – in my view anyway. All the same, next time I won’t add a ¼ CTO gel for the “warming” effect. The snoot is a bit hotter than I thought it would be. The grid produces a harsher shadow than I expected. I liked the large Softbox III but the Mini-Softbox produces nearly the same effect and fits into my kit (well, just barely now – I need a larger bag!).

Everyone knows – or should know – about using bounce flash. The above three shots were taken with variations of bounce flash. The first shot was made by simply pointing the Vivitar 285 nearly straight up at the 12 foot ceiling height; however, the flash power had to be increased from ¼ to full power, the ISO changed to 200 instead of 80 and the aperture opened to f5.6 instead of f6.3. With the change to bounce flash, the harsh shadow of direct flash has completely disappeared; however, Hannah’s face needs a bit more light. For the middle picture, I held a white box behind the flash to reflect light forward; notice that a small shadow also appears. The Pocket Bouncer causes an even more distinct shadow and requires about the same amount of flash power and aperture.

Although my G9 was set for RAW + JPEG, I couldn’t resist tweaking the selected shots from RAW. All were processed in Adobe Camera RAW 5.2 using “Flash” as the white balance and auto exposure adjustments. Yes, some of my exposures were off a bit.

My conclusions? Well, I’ll tinker a bit more and report. The soft boxes, snoot and grid aren’t really meant for main, direct light. I’d already concluded to only use the Pocket Bouncer outside or with very high ceilings. I just needed to play -- ah, practice .

(The individual portrait of Hanna was made using a red gel inside a Stofen diffuser fitted to a flash pointed at the wall. The main flash was bounced at ½ power and the large softbox was placed on a flash at 1/16 power about two feet from Hanna. She seems to like it -- hasn’t complained anyway.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recent G10 Reviews and Articles

The Canon G10 has been getting a lot of press lately. Here’s a reading list.

My own “review” – well, I only handled a G10 in a retail store – seems like a good camera to me.

The latest G10 review is at Digital Photography Review. This is a somewhat controversial review for many G10 owners and would-be owners because the G10 received “only” a Recommended rating.

DxO Labs has established a database of digital sensor quality measurements. The Canon G9 and G10 sensors are included in their database. This is a very technical presentation and discussion of digital sensor performance.

Another controversial report is posted at the Luminous Landscape by Michael Reichmann wherein he compares prints from the G10 to a $40,000 Hasselblad system. The G10 came out very well! Previously, Michael had compared a G10 to the Nikon P6000 with some references to the Panasonic LX-3.

Thom Hogan also compared the G10, P6000 and LX-3. Thom uses and writes about Nikon equipment but liked the G10.

Ken Tanaka changed his mind about the G10 and decided to get one after all.

Edward Taylor’s first impressions of the G10 was one of the early reviews.

Amin posted his own comparisons of the G10 and LX-3 at high ISO.

Adobe has updated Camera Raw to support the G10 raw format; however, the updated Camera Raw (Version 5.2) works only with the latest release of Photoshop (CS4).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last Powershot SDK Released

On November 12, Canon released the last Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Powershot cameras. This release has been expected for some time. As noted previously, Canon is ending SDK support for the Powershot cameras. Canon's announcement included the same wording as the previous announcements.

Friday, November 7, 2008

High Dynamic Pumpkin


I like High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography although I must admit that my results are still unpredictable. A new book, “Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography” by Ferrell McCollough, is helping me to become more consistent in my HDR processing.

This HDR image was made using four shots from my Canon G9. The G9 was in Av mode, ISO 400, manual focus. ISO 400 helped to avoid some very long exposures and also to dodge the Av “bug” that limits shutter speeds to 1 second. The four shots were combined in Photomatix and also tone mapped in Photomatix before final touchups, including noise reduction with Noiseware, in Photoshop CS4.

As an 12x18 inch on canvas, I like it a lot. A screen sized version is in my G9 gallery on SmugMug.

Why Av mode? A neat trick is to use Av mode and also set auto exposure bracketing. This produces three shots. Next, dial in some negative exposure compensation and fire again to get three more shots. Finally, dial in some positive exposure compensation and get three more shots. Depending on the settings for exposure bracketing and exposure compensation, some of the shots may be at the same exposure but you’ll only touch the camera twice during the process.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

G10 Review at Luminous Landscape

At the Luminous Landscape, Michael Reichmann has posted his hands own review of both the Canon G10 and the Nikon P6000 - he even throws in a few comparisons and comments about the Panasonic LX3. This is a review well worth reading; in fact, Luminous Landscape is one of the sites that I check every day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last Powershot SDK

In April, I received an email from Canon noting that the next Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Powershot series would be the last one. I checked and Canon said that this information could be released so I posted it in my blog.

Since the Canon email said that a new G series camera would be available in the fall, I posted that information as well. It was interesting to observe that this disclosure was largely ignored in the various online discussion forums. Sometimes it is just more fun to speculate.

In late July, I made my own predictions about the upcoming “G10” and, luckily, did not miss the mark very much. OK, so I thought the G10 would come out a bit sooner than it did, thought it would have HD video and completely missed the wide angle, shorter zoom. Oh, well…

Yesterday I received another SDK announcement from Canon. Basically, this new announcement was the same as the previous ones except that the G10 and SX110 IS were mentioned by name. The last Powershot SDK will be issued near the end of 2008. It will support the G10 and SX110IS but will not be Vista compatible. Also noted, Canon expects the G10 and SX110IS to be sold at least through mid-2009 but this could change without notice. Not really anything new but nothing different either.

I still wonder: Is this the end of the “Powershot” series or simply the end of the SDK program? The Canon email would be true if a “Powershot G11” came out in the fall of 2009 but without an SDK. The email would also be true if Canon released a “StrongCam C-1” (with CMOS?) with its own, new SDK in the spring of 2009 and then ended the Powershot series. Now, there’s a rumor for you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Year with the Canon G9

Just over a year ago, I ordered a Canon G9 and made my first post about it. Since then, I’ve posted at least 80 articles about my experiences with the G9 along with an occasional bit of news or other link. (See the labels on the left hand side of the blog for an index.) In the past year, the G9 has been by my side (well, in the bag over my shoulder) almost every day.

Even though I’ve done a lot with the G9, yesterday was the first trip to the zoo for my G9 and also for my granddaughter. Another first – as simple as it seems – was that I used the on-camera flash for fill. The day was bright and clear but the zoo was full of shadows and I was not always able to get the best angle to the sun. As usual, I shot in raw, Av mode but this time turned on the flash with flash compensation reduced by 1/3. This worked out well.

Thinking back over the past year with my G9, I began by talking about my trusty G3. The G3 still works as well as ever but is rarely used. During Hurricane Gustav, I did use the intervalometer of the G3 but fortunately recorded nothing of serious consequence.

Noise at high ISO was an early concern for G9 images and I’ve worked with noise reduction techniques quite a bit ever since. In fact, noise reduction and comparisons is my latest on-going project. I’ll summarize my conclusions about G9 noise by saying that the results at ISO 400 are usually OK for me if I get the exposure right and use raw mode. In a pinch, I do use ISO 800 rather than miss a picture entirely.

I’ve used the G9 almost every day since getting it and have taken 8599 pictures with the G9. True, many of those were learning or experimental shots but most were taken with at least some hope of getting a ‘keeper’. My keepers include 22 photos posted in a public G9 gallery and roughly twice that number of more personal shots in private galleries. By my count, I’ve printed 11 keepers at 12x18 inches in addition to test shots; several dozen keepers at 8x10 (OK, mostly of my granddaughter) and hundreds of snapshots. Some of my G9 shots were entered into the monthly competition sponsored by my local camera club and occasionally get some sort of recognition. Like many photographers these days, most of my work lives only in computer memory and is shown only on a computer screen.

Friday, I held a G10 in my hot little hands. Having used the G9 so much, the G10 felt very familiar and almost intuitive to use. The G10 is a nice camera and I wouldn’t hesitate to get one except that I already have a G9.

For the foreseeable future, the G9 will remain my everyday work horse of a camera. I recently bought a few new flash gadgets as well as Photoshop CS4 and will be writing about those as soon as I finish my self imposed study on G9 noise reduction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

G10: First Impressions

No, not mine. There's a nice first impressions write-up about the G10 by Edward Taylor at the Online Photographer site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

G9: Sky at ISO 800


In a previous post, I noted that I was placing some large images in a Smugmug gallery for purposes of comparison. Those first images were taken at ISO 100, 400 and 800. Both the in-camera JPEG and a raw image file were posted. A subtle difference for those first six shots of the sky is that all were slightly underexposed. The last two shots (#7 and #8) were made “just right” by increasing the exposure by +2/3 stop as compared to the evaluative metering mode of the G9. Now to examine an ISO 800 “just right” image and compare the noise to the slightly underexposed variation.

The image above is the ISO 800 in-camera JPEG that was underexposed by 1 stop in the bracketing process. This means it was actually underexposed by 1-2/3 stops in comparison to the "correct" exposure.

The images to be compared are the new Smugmug images #9, 10, 11, 12. These are the bracketed versions (+/- 1 stop) of images #5 and 6. Image #9 and 10 are the in-camera JPEGs and images #11 and 12 are the processed raw versions of #9 and 10 respectively. In particular, notice that image #12 has much less noise that image #11 and even less noise than image #6. The apparent reduction in noise is actually because much less noise is generated when the exposure is correct. In fact, this was the entire purpose of this little exercise: Minimize noise by avoiding underexposure.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

G9: Large, comparative samples

There are many and fierce debates about the relative merits and faults of cameras and processing. Although the debate rages on, I've almost given up because the basis of the debates is so subjective. On the other hand, there is a real difficulty in making comparisons. What is the final output of the "photograph"? A snapshot sized print? An enlargement -- 8x10? Larger? Will the photo only be seen from a computer screen? How large is that screen? Is the screen calibrated for proper color, brightness and contrast? No wonder so many people have such diverging views -- not to mention justification of their expense in obtaining that camera!

For the G9 and many other small sensor digicams, one of the major issues is noise at high ISO. The G9 applies its own noise reduction algorithm to its in-camera JPEG but other noise reduction software is readily available. In particular, some G9'ers, myself included, usually shoot in raw mode and apply noise reduction afterward. Which method is best? Does it matter? Can a G9 high ISO be saved?

To systematically investigate the various high ISO and processing options, I thought to post some full size images for comparison. These will be posted on a special SmugMug gallery. The first set of images is a simple set of shots at the sky. These images were taken at ISO 100, 400 and 800. The G9 was set for raw+jpeg so the images are in pairs. When the G9 is set for raw+jpeg, the jpeg is full size but a little more compression is used. I know this confuses the issue somewhat but I made additional comparisons (unposted) and the differences between the G9 "fine" and "superfine" images are small. As it is, this set of comparisons includes eight images and there's no real point to adding more.

My intent was to simply point the G9 at the sky and fire away on Av mode. Then I decided to throw in exposure bracketing so I added a polarizing filter to keep exposures within range. Even so, the G9 neutral density filter was necessary for the ISO 400 and 800 shots. So the first two shots (ISO 100) are without the ND filter, the ISO 400 and 800 are with the ND filter. All of these shots are slightly underexposed.

The exposure was increased by +2/3 stop for a final set of shots. Of course, I forgot to remove the ND filter for these so the exposure is much longer than expected.

The in-camera jpegs were all done at "normal" settings. The raw files were converted in ACR and followed with noise reduction using Noiseware. Noiseware was used at its default settings. The raw files were all done semi-automatically using the ACR auto toning (exposure) and a Photoshop Action.

In comparing these samples, the general idea is not so much which exposure, contrast, saturation, etc is preferable to you personally as it is to see that there are, or can be, differences. Don't even bother to tell me that you can process the in-camera jpeg to have the same saturation and contrast as the processed raw image. Also, don't bother to tell me that the in-camera settings can be adjusted for more or less saturation, sharpness and contrast. But do notice that the first three conversions from raw have quite different look from the first three jpegs. This difference is largely due to the initial underexposure. These are comparisons of the in-camera auto processing of underexposure to the ACR auto processing of underexposure.

In the last two images, the G9 exposure setting was 'corrected' by adding 2/3 stop compensation. The in-camera jpeg and the auto process raw are much more similar.

Examine the files, pixel peek, print your own, order from SmugMug -- whatever you prefer. There's something or other to be learned here and it is different for all of us.

Friday, September 26, 2008

G9 and ISO 400

Much is made of the fact that the G9 is a bit noisy and that noise increases at high ISO settings. In general, I agree. But I disagree with the oft-stated wisdom that the G9 is horrible or, at the very least, unusable above ISO 200. Although I’ll grant that the condemnation or acceptance of noise is largely a matter of taste, I find the G9 to be very usable at ISO 400 – especially if shot in raw mode, properly exposed and processed with noise reduction software. This shot of balloons is from the G9 in raw mode, ISO 400, 1/60 second, f5 using bounce flash. It was converted in Adobe Camera Raw, slightly cropped and tweaked in Photoshop CS3. Noise reduction was accomplished with Noiseware immediately after conversion from raw mode. The Noiseware setting was simply the default.

In my opinion, the G9 produces reasonable 8x10 prints at ISO 400 when shot in raw mode, converted in ACR and treated with Noiseware. In this digital age, many people do not print their photos and, if printed, most photos are printed as snapshots. I’ve posted a 1024x768 pixel version (full screen for many) of the balloons on my Smugmug gallery.

Of course, your mileage – and tastes -- may vary and I have no idea of the noise characteristics of the new G10. But if you have a G9, don’t be afraid to use ISO 400. At the very least, try ISO 400; you may be pleasantly surprised. (In fact, sometimes I use ISO 800 but that's another story ...)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Few More Seconds

Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer is one of the sites that I check daily. Mike has another site, Photoborg, which is currently featuring old cameras and family snapshots. Photoborg articles have a short story or description along with the picture.

Yesterday’s Photoborg feature, my granddaughter Wesleigh, gives me a few more seconds towards my allocated fifteen minutes of fame.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

G10 Announced


Today Canon announced the Powershot G10 as the replacement for their G9. The G10 had been anticipated for months although there was much debate about the name and features. My own predictions – not perfect, but not too bad – were made in late July.

There are good summaries and preliminary reviews at Imaging Resource and DPReview . I’m sure those same sites will soon have more complete hands-on reports and sample pictures. Full size sample pictures from Canon have been posted although all are at ISO 80.

As for my own predictions, my biggest surprise is that the G10 has a new, wider angle zoom lens: 28 – 140 mm (using 35mm equivalent). I appreciate the wider angle even though some photographers wanted an even longer telephoto than the 210 mm of the G9. It was good to see Canon responding to the need for a wider angle zoom.

I probably will not be getting a G10. Although I’m sure that the G10 will be a good camera and it has some nice features – especially that wider angle lens -- the G10 is not really a major upgrade to the G9 for those who already have a G9.

This Light Description blog is sometimes said to be specific to the G9 but it really isn’t. My intention for Light Description has always been to create a platform for presenting my photographic thoughts, experiences and results as well as simply learning how to write a blog. In getting the G9 last year, I noted that equipment was not the limiting factor in my photographic efforts. Of course, since then I’ve bought more equipment – including the G9! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning to use the G9, pushing it to the max for performance, and blogging about the experience. In fact, I’m still learning to use my G9.

I use my G9 in some way nearly every day and have taken nearly eight thousand pictures with it. But I’ve used video only a few times, the voice recorder only once, and haven’t used the special scene settings at all. I have plans to test and write about the various exposure modes, light metering modes, more about noise reduction and high ISO, more about HDR , raw processing, software, etc., etc. I’m very interested in learning to use off-camera flash. Much of these thoughts and experiences will also apply to other cameras, especially the G7 and, I assume, the G10.

So Light Description will go on. Everyday several hundred readers check in; most readers have been particularly interested in the G9. Those G9’ers will see the emphasis continue on the G9 for a while and then gradually shift to general techniques even though the camera being used will probably be the G9.

But I really do like cameras …


Saturday, September 13, 2008

G9 File Size

The image produced by the G9 is 4000 pixels x 3000 pixels for a total of 12 million pixels. We say that the G9 is a 12 megapixel camera; I usually write this as 12 MP. So a G9 image file would be 12 megabytes (MB), right? Well, not necessarily and probably never exactly.

The in-camera JPEG file produced by the G9 is roughly 5 MB in size for the “Large, Superfine” description. Page 261 of the G9 manual gives estimated file sizes for the various JPEG and RAW settings but these are only estimates. The file sizes are smaller than might be expected because, as noted previously, JPEG files are not only compressed but also are lossy; that is, some data is discarded during the compression process. The results of the mathematical algorithm for lossy compression vary with the content of the image file. In other words, file size varies with the picture so you never know the file size until after the picture has been taken.

To see for myself how the file size varies, I put my G9 on a tripod and photographed a mundane scene of my messy bookcase – which you will not get to see. I set the G9 on Large, Superfine JPEG, wide angle, manual exposure at 1/10 second, f2.8, auto white balance and took 22 pictures. Why 22 pictures? Well, I varied the contrast, sharpening and saturation for every picture. File sizes ranged from 4561 KB to 5741 KB. Remember: the scene and lighting was identical for each picture.

Using My Colors, I varied the Custom Color setting for contrast, sharpening and saturation. For those settings, considering the mid-point (“Normal”) as being zero (0), I took pictures at the low extreme, the Normal and the high extreme; I think of these settings as being -2, 0, +2. Here are some examples of files size:

Cont Sharp Sat Size, KB
0 0 0 5142
-2 -2 -2 4596
-2 -2 0 4561
-2 0 0 5070
0 +2 0 5532
0 0 +2 5265
+2 +2 +2 5565
-2 +2 +2 5741

In comparison, a RAW file was 13,600 KB and the accompanying JPEG at Large+Fine (not Superfine) was 3089 KB when the settings were 0, 0, 0.

A quick linear regression analysis shows that the amount of sharpening has the most significant effect on file size, followed by saturation. Contrast has the least effect on file size. (Note: The linear regression does not provide an exact match. It predicts the smallest file size at -2, -2, -2 and the largest at +2, +2, +2; however, the correlation is pretty good.)

My explanation? Sharpening tends to increase apparent detail and those details – whether real or not – are not as compressible. I was a little surprised by the effect of saturation and contrast. I actually thought that reduced saturation and contrast might increase the file size but this was not the case. Finally, there is a cross correlation between these three variables but it is not very significant with regard to file size.

My conclusion? I still shoot mostly in RAW mode. When I do shoot in JPEG, I usually leave the contrast, sharpening and saturation at “Normal” but this is more of a convenience than a strong preference.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Watching the Storm

Here’s my favorite photo from Hurricane Gustav. My granddaughter wasn’t really watching the hurricane but the wind and rain continued for a while.

This shot was taken with my G9 in raw mode, ISO 400, max zoom, f4.8, 1/60 second. The small Flexizone frame was used to focus. My granddaughter is quite active and quick but was captivated by the scene and stayed at the door long enough for me to check exposure in Av mode, see that the histogram wasn’t right, shift to manual exposure and get a good histogram. One shot and she was gone!

Processing in ACR from the raw file, I decided to let the back of her head and dress go a bit dark. At ISO 400, noise begins to be noticeable with the G9, especially for enlargements, so I used Noiseware at about half strength to reduce the noise.

The final 8x10 print was cropped only slightly from the original capture. I like it.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gustav – Day Seven

This morning in church, by a show of hands, roughly a third of the congregation was without electric power at their house. The newspaper report is that, by the end of the day, power will have been restored to half of Baton Rouge.

Some traffic signals are operating; others are not. People are driving very carefully.

This evening, my son noticed that our cable service, including Internet, had come back to life.

I took a few pictures, but not very many, during Gustav and will post some during the next few days. With no power and a heavy overcast sky, I used higher ISO than normal with my G9. Although many gripe about G9 noise at high ISO, it is actually very useable at ISO 400 and even 800 with a little post processing. My judgment was that available dim light and high ISO was more representative of the situation than if flash had been used.

We now resume our normal programming …

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gustav – Day Six

Electric power and air conditioning are still working fine. We take these conveniences for granted until they are no longer available.

In the general Baton Rouge area, the overall situation is considerably improved. More and more houses have electric power although many – perhaps even most -- are still without power. More gasoline stations are open and waiting lines are virtually non-existent.

Now we have Hurricane Ike to worry about. My wife and I decided to restock today in anticipation of Ike. We bought groceries and general supplies. I bought $85 worth of gasoline for the generator. $85! How times have changed! I was happy to get the gasoline.

Although many stores and businesses are closed, I did a bit of shopping. Wal-Mart, Sam’s, Lowes and Home Depot are open and doing a brisk business. All have generators. Roughly $800 for a 5500 watt generator – somewhat the same as my own. Interestingly, no stores have large gasoline cans. I saw several people buying a generator and a “bubble pack” of six two gallon gas cans.

The general operating procedure with a generator is to power a refrigerator, a small window unit air conditioner, several fans, a few lights and a radio. If you also have a freezer or two window air conditions then you alternate between those units. Gasoline consumption is roughly six to eight gallons per 24 hours of operation.

I finished the day by doing more yard work but some of this was routine. I’m ready for routine.

Gustav – Day Five

We slept late and awoke to a house somewhat warmer than expected. The air conditioning system was not working! We had electric power but there was an obvious problem with the air conditioning. A quick check of controls and circuit breakers confirmed that there was a problem I could not personally resolve. Expecting no answer, I telephoned the company that had installed the system. To my surprise, the call was answered and a technician was in the neighborhood within an hour. A large capacitor had failed but the technician had a replacement in his truck. The part was in warrantee and I gladly paid a service charge. The entire episode is still unbelievable to me but we again have a cool house.

I’ve continued to write but have been unable to post to this blog. Today, with my own Internet service inoperable, I’ve made several postings by connecting to a neighbor’s wireless system. My own system is through a cable modem but my neighbor has a DSL system. Thanks to my neighbor, I spent the day “at work”.

TV, radio and newspaper continue with dire predictions about two to three weeks without electric power but it seems to me that the overall picture is somewhat better than is being presented.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gustav – Day Four

Our fourth day of recovery from Gustav was spent in our car – but at least we had air conditioning! We drove to Jackson, Mississippi to transfer my mother-in-law to my sister-in-law for a few months. All along the way, we saw damage from Gustav but the degree of damage decreased as we went east and north from Baton Rouge. Near McComb, Mississippi we began to see signs of available electric power and short lines at gasoline stations. There was a lot of southbound traffic that we assumed to be New Orleans evacuees. In addition, we saw a number of utility trucks from northern electric companies that were heading south. It took us four hours to get to Jackson but almost six hours to return as we mixed in with that traffic.

While in Jackson, we replenished our supply of gasoline for the generator. We were down to our last five gallons – about a day’s supply. On the return trip through McComb, we topped off the tank for the car because very few stations were open in Baton Rouge and the lines were extremely long. In fact, the police department was overseeing traffic into the gasoline stations.

About an hour from our house, our son-in-law called to say that the official timetable for restoring power to our area was two weeks! We were not expecting such a long outage. On arriving, we were shocked (no pun intended) -- estatic is probably a better description -- to see that electric power had been restored to our neighborhood. What a homecoming present! Apparently our loss of power was due to a single broken overhead line. Naturally the electric company was looking for simple fixes to restore power to groups of homes and we were among the lucky early ones.

Before leaving the house, we had turned off all the electric appliances, air conditioning, etc. What a pleasure to walk around turning things ON!

Gustav – Day Three

In many ways, today was more of the same: generator, recharge batteries, yard work, constantly changing a power cord from the refrigerator to the freezer. The yard work today was mostly moving things from the garage back to the yard and patio areas.

It was a hotter day today and I spent more time indoors and watching my little Sony Watchman TV. This is an old B/W personal TV. It has poor reception, a bad picture and weak audio but I always drag it out during power failures. I suppose it will not survive the digital changeover. But I know a bit more about the overall situation in our area.

The reports now are that this is the worse storm damage that the Baton Rouge area has seen. Power outages are expected to extend for up to two weeks.

My cell phone (Blackjack II) has been working fine today as an Internet (3G) browser and retrieving business and personal email; however, the normal cellular voice service has been out. Late this afternoon, the AT&T cellular service suddenly became available again.

My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter have left Baton Rouge for his mother’s home in Gulfport, Mississippi. The lure of electricity is overpowering!

In fact, tomorrow my wife and I will take my mother-in-law halfway to Tennessee. We will meet my wife’s sister somewhere near Jackson, Mississippi and my mother-in-law will spend a few months in Tennessee. On the return trip (also tomorrow), we will replenish our gasoline supply for the generator.

We’ve decided to run the generator all night tonight as the refrigerator, freezer and house are slowly but surely warming up.

Gustav – Day Two (afternoon)

We spent the afternoon cleaning our yard, straightening the fallen trees and drinking lots of cool water while working in the upper 80s temperature. I was glad for the cloud cover that kept temperatures below the typical mid-90s. Strangely, we had little rain. We are just south of Baton Rouge and apparently north Baton Rouge received a lot of rain.

The little window air conditioner plus a couple of fans works wonders for keeping a reasonably cool room downstairs.

Stating the obvious, duck tape sure is handy. Fortunately I can rarely walk past the display without buying duck tape.

My nephew lives in Baton Rouge near LSU and found, to his delight, that his apartment has electricity! My daughter and son-in-law visited their house, about five miles away, and found it undamaged but without electricity. The local TV news reported that 221,000 homes in the greater Baton Rouge area were without electricity; this is probably more than half of the homes in the area.

Cell phone service is somewhat iffy. I’m getting emails and text messages but sometimes have difficulty sending. I can log onto the Internet but the connection is usually lost within a few minutes.

Time to shut down the generator and call it a night.


Gustav – Day Two (morning)

Continuing with personal reporting on Hurricane Gustav from Baton Rouge, Louisiana...

Up early this morning and already the drone of the neighborhood generators filled the air and the ears. My own generator soon joined the choir. Although it made me feel a little guilty, I plugged in the coffee maker first. After the coffee was ready, the coffee maker was unplugged and the generator connected to the freezer. The other major power drain on the generator is the little window unit air conditioner. Otherwise, the generator is running fans and lights.

We set up a little table next to the generator as a recharging station for all flashlights, cell phones, etc. This table had the fourth and shortest extension cord from the generator. All day we swapped our rechargeables in and out – including this computer.

Except for Gustav, this would have been a regular work day for me and I had already scheduled two lengthy telephone conferences. Since our land line was functional, I was able to participate in those telecons albeit somewhat abbreviated. Of course, everyone wanted to know the local situation but all I could say was that we were OK although without electrical power.

After my morning telecons, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found most neighbors were in about the same fortunate situation; no power, some landscape and tree damage, somewhat relatively minor and random house damage – mostly to trim. Most of our neighbors have generators and were using them. Some people had left the area in anticipation of Gustav but most had remained.

From my neighbors, nephew and son-in-law, I learned that our general area and most of Baton Rouge is in quite a mess. Almost all of Baton Rouge is without power. Most businesses are closed, government workers told to stay home, etc. Without power there are no traffic signals and our already crowded roads now have the New Orleans evacuees as well. Very few gasoline stations are open and everyone seems to be lining up to buy gasoline. It was easy to conclude that there was no need to leave my house.

Gustav – Day 1 (Afternoon)

Of course, right after eating our nice meal, we lost power while loading the dishwasher. So we had a stack of dishes to do the old fashioned way. I was surprised to lose power so early in the storm. We still have water and gas. The gas stove won’t light automatically but we have a separate lighter for it.

Wind and rain increased steadily and peaked about 2 to 3 o’clock. We watched as three new trees in the back yard and one in the front were slowly but surely pushed over by the wind. These trees were part of the landscaping for our new house and had only those four years to establish a root system. I’m hoping that we can “un-lean” them and hold them in place with ropes and stakes.

In addition to the trees, a downcomer from the gutters blew off. That seems to be the extent of our damage. We are very fortunate. A quick look up and down our street indicates that most of our neighbors fared about the same.

My mother and sister as well as my son-in-law’s family – all on the Mississippi Gulf Coast -- came through Gustav without damage and with electric power.

I cranked up the generator about 5 o’clock and it has been running ever since. A light drizzle rain was still falling but the generator is sort of protected from it. First we connected the generator to our freezer and a small window air conditioner as well as several lights and fans. After a few hours, I switched the power from the freezer to the refrigerator. The generator will be turned off during the night.

The TV cable system is down. We’ve watched a bit of the news on portable TVs and listened to the news on the radio. It seems that Baton Rouge had more damage than I expected – especially loss of power. There is a curfew on driving until tomorrow morning.

Our old fashioned landline telephone still works but the wireless units do not. I could connect the wireless base unit to the generator but there is no real need to do so. Our cell phones work fine and I’m even receiving email via my BlackJack.

My son did a neat little trick. We had about a dozen solar powered yard lights scattered around the landscaping. He took those little lights, recharged all the batteries before the storm and now has them scattered around inside the house. Just that little bit of light really helps in getting around and they will stay on for hours.

Tomorrow I’ll get up early and crank up the generator again – kind of like going out for firewood and building the breakfast fire, I suppose. Of course, you’re supposed to gather the firewood the day before and my gasoline cans are indeed full.

I’m typing this blog entry by the light of a small flashlight and the glow of my notebook computer knowing that it can’t be posted for a while but also wanting to get these thoughts down while in the mood.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gustav – Day 1 (Morning)

Yesterday I switched my emphasis from photography to personal reporting on Gustav. Here’s my report on the morning of the first day near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Last night, I mentioned the concern about tornadoes. Sure enough, just after posting that entry, a tornado warning popped up on the television and radio. The announcement even indicated that the tornado was heading towards my house and would arrive in about 15 minutes. Fortunately, that tornado passed several miles to the south and probably did not touch down.

This morning, we awoke to a stormy day knowing that the weather would continually get worse. Actually, except for knowing that a hurricane was approaching, the early morning weather wasn’t too bad. On the other hand, it was that kind of gusty wind and sheets of rain that precedes a hurricane.

My daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and nephew have temporarily moved in so we have a houseful of folks. While helping with that move, I was on the road a little while early this morning. The roads were almost empty. I was surprised to see a few trees down and several limbs broken. A few power lines were down.

We still have electricity but are seeing reports of power outages already; kind of surprising. We’ve turned down the temperature in anticipation of losing power. My wife is cooking a big meal. People usually eat very well under these circumstances. Knowing that a power outage is coming, it seems reasonable to take food from the freezer and cook it instead of losing it to the hurricane. OK, maybe we just like to eat!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

With Hurricane Gustav rapidly approaching the Louisiana coast, it seems appropriate to shift my emphasis from photography to local reporting. By local reporting, I really mean personal reporting. I hope that I don't get any interesting photographs.

We live in a relatively new house, only four years old, and are located about 10 miles south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Depending on how the distance is measured, we are some 50 to 100 miles from the Gulf or open water. We were in this house during Hurricane Katrina and had essentially no damage. We’re hoping for a similar result from Hurricane Gustav.

My wife and I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and endured several hurricanes and tropical storms there. We know, or should know, how to prepare for a hurricane. As a side effect of various hobbies and interests, especially camping, we are somewhat equipped. Of course, each storm is different.

For inland locations such as Baton Rouge, our major concerns and considerations are strong and gusty winds, localized heavy flooding and loss of electricity for an extended time. We know these things will happen. The worse situation – and entirely unpredictable – is tornadoes. Hurricanes spawn many, many tornadoes.

Like many of our friends and neighbors, we have a gasoline engine powered generator for emergency power. After Katrina, we used our generator for about three days. Ours is a medium sized generator, 6KW, and it was sufficient to power many lights, a refrigerator, a freezer, a small window unit air conditioner, the television and many fans. At this time of the year, it is still very hot in south Louisiana and that little air conditioner was a blessing. Unfortunately our generator cannot power all those devices at the same time. We leave the little air conditioner turned on all the time but alternate power between the refrigerator and freezer. Our power distribution system is three long extension cords. One of the first steps in preparing for a hurricane is to get gasoline and oil for the generator and make certain that it works!

While getting gasoline for the generator, we fill the gas tanks for our cars.

When the electricity fails, the water supply becomes limited. We buy bottled water but also fill every container we can find with water – even the bathtubs.

In addition to water, we replenish our pantry because stores may be closed for several days. Canned goods are the main purchase because refrigeration might be limited. Medical prescriptions refilled, check.

Our stove is natural gas fired and the supply of natural gas in our area is usually not affected after a hurricane. Just in case, we have propane stoves in our camping supplies.

We spent yesterday and today preparing the house and yard for Gustav. All loose objects are moved from the yard to the garage – which means re-organizing the garage! Some small trees were braced. Some of our windows have shutters; these were closed and braced with a wooden board. Other windows don’t lend themselves very well to being boarded in. Looking up and down our street, a few houses are completely boarded in but most are spotty – like ours.

All batteries are charged. Because of my interest in flash photography, I have a handful of AA batteries and these are all fully charged. My camera batteries and spares are also fully charged. Cell phones charged. I also have battery powered handtools with matching flashlights.

After Katrina, we spent a lot of time trying to get in touch and keep in touch. Strangely enough, we found that text messaging worked but cell phones and land lines usually did not. Of course, the television cable service was out for a long time and we had to revert to an old set of “rabbit ears”. Wonder how those will work in our digital future?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blurb Book Contest: People's Choice

In a previous post, I asked for your help
in a book making contest at Blurb. This is one more request for help.

The Blurb contest has drawn in over 2000 contestants from around the world. Apparently Blurb thought there would be several hundred instead of several thousand entries. Blurb has decided to add a "People's Choice" category and allow registered Blurbarians to vote for their favorite. All the contest entries are at this link; my own entry is here.

You can only vote once and must be registered at Blurb to vote. Registration is relatively simple and if you are inclined to make your own book I can recommend Blurb having done three personal books there with a fourth in progress.

Voting ends on September 10 and the winners will be announced September 19.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Self Portrait

Self Portraiture can be quite a learning experience. In the past two years, I’ve experimented with making self portraits several times. I don’t particularly need the pictures of myself – just need a model and want the learning experience. In these situations, I find that I’m quite patient, understanding and willing to sign a model release for a very reasonable fee.

To get this photo, I followed some tips from the Strobist. It seems that almost any exposure is “right” for a sunset. I began this shoot with exposures of 1/500 at f5.6 and ended with exposures of 1/160 and f5.

The equipment was my G9 mounted on a tripod, a Nikon SB-28 and a Nikon SB-24 each fitted with a ¼ CTO gen and Stofen diffuser, one light stand and one Canon EOS Elan 7. Both flashes were triggered with a Cactus wireless trigger with the transmitter mounted on the G9. The Elan 7 was turned off; it was used only as a prop to hold the SB-28.

In this particular picture, the G9 was set for 1/250 and f5 at ISO 80. The SB-24 backlight was set for 1/16 power and the SB-28 was set for 1/4 power (I think – forgot to write it down!). These settings probably seem a little higher than suggested at the Strobist site but remember that the G9 was set for ISO 80 and a diffuser eats light. On top of all this, diffusers aren’t normally used outdoors because there’s nothing to bounce the light. Actually, I wanted a diffuser on the main light simply because it would be in the photo. For the first several shots, I had the diffuser pointed upward as though indoors. In the diffuser up position, the SB-28 was set for ½ power (I think).

With the G9 set for a 10 second delay and camera bag on the ground to mark my modeling spot, I made – well, quite a few -- trips back and forth. Elan 7 and flash high, low, wide, front, etc. Take a picture, chimp, critique myself, increase exposure as the sun set, repeat – you get the idea.

This was a fun shoot; try a self portrait.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post Processing Variations

There are many variations of post processing – including none – a digital image file. This slideshow compares 22 variations of post processing a raw image file. The image was made with a Canon G9 in raw mode, ISO 80, f5.6 and 1/400 second exposure. All the variations were done in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) with additional processing in Photoshop CS3 for some images. ACR agreed with this exposure setting, i.e., no exposure adjustment required. No noise reduction was applied to any variation. Each slide is numbered on the lower left hand side. Notice that some slides are repeated. The key for the variation is as follows:

1 White balance (WB) As Shot; auto tone in ACR, clarity = 0, saturation and vibrance = 0, linear contrast curve, no sharpening.
2 Same as #1 except Auto WB in ACR
3 Same as #1 except Daylight WB in ACR
4 Same as #1 except Cloudy WB in ACR
5 Same as #1 except Shade WB in ACR
6 Same as #3 except add Clarity = 30; Vibrance and Saturation = +10
7 Same as #3 except add Clarity = 30; Vibrance and Saturation = -10
8 Same as #3 except add Clarity = 30; Vibrance and Saturation = 5; medium contrast curve
9 Same as #8 except strong contrast curve
10 Same as #8 except add sharpening at 50, 0.8, 30,0
11 Same as #8 except add sharpening at 100, 0.8, 30,0
12 Same as #8 except add sharpening at 150, 0.8, 30,0
13 Same as #8 except add sharpening at 100, 0.8, 100,0

All the above slides were processed using only ACR. All the following slides had additional processing in Photoshop CS3.

14 Same as #11 except Auto Levels in CS3
15 Same as #11 except Shadow/Highlights in CS3 = 20 (all settings)
16 This is a blend using Fred Miranda’s DRI plug-in to CS3. Slide #13 was underexposed in ACR by -1 stop; a second file was overexposed by +1 stop. These two files were then blended.
17 This is a blend done manually in CS3 from Slide #13. One layer (for the sky) was at +1/2 stop and another at -1/2 stop for the foreground. The blend was done with a simple gradient mask.
18 Same as #13 except that exposure in ACR was increased by ½ stop; Recovery was manually set to 40 and Fill to 10.
19 Same as #18 except that Fred Miranda’s Velvia Vison (set at 40) was used to simulate Velvia film.
20 Same as #18 except that Pixel Genius PhotoKit Color was used to simulate Kodachrome film.
21 Same as #20 except that Pixel Genius gray balancer was used.
22 Same as #18 except that Pixel Genius PhotoKit output sharpening (medium) was applied.

The most obvious effects are from white balance, exposure, saturation and contrast. Interestingly, quite a few variations that would be visible in prints or full screen views simply don’t show up in the slide show. This is a reminder that there are many details that just don’t matter for small screen shots with high jpeg compression ratios.

I’m not saying that any of these variations are better than the others. Of course there are many, many other ways of processing this image. I even did an over-the-top High Dynamic Range with Tone Mapping based on three separate in-camera exposures. That variation is posted it in my SmugMug G9 gallery.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Philmont 50th SAK

In 1989, my son and I spent two weeks hiking in the mountains of the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with his Boy Scout troop. We had a wonderful time; in fact, this hike was one of the better experiences of my life. We returned twice and my son then worked at Philmont for four summers. I wanted to buy the Philmont 50th Anniversary Swiss Army Knife but all had been sold. Just recently, I was fortunate to find one in mint condition and add it to my collection of knives and photos.

Monday, August 11, 2008

G9: Focus Conclusions

It’s time to force myself to document my conclusions about focusing the G9. When the G10 is announced, I’ll get caught up in all the hoopla. So here’s what I’ve learned and concluded as well as my current focusing practices for the G9.

First a summary of the G9 focus posts:
Introduction to G9 focusing
Focusing outdoors
Focusing indoors
Face detection
G9 use of hyperfocal focus
G9 hyperfocal chart
Problems focusing on low contrast subjects
Beeps when focused

After all this, I still prefer to use the small Flexizone frame, recompose and shoot when I have the time to do so. Yes, I know this can be slow and methodical, but that’s me as well. For repetitive shots, I often get small Flexizone frame focus, switch to manual and continue shooting. I focus this way for macros when the G9 is tripod mounted.

For landscape shots, I often use manual focus set to infinity. It's easy and certain but be sure to switch back to auto focus!

When wild and crazy and partying, it’s just better to set the G9 on face detection focusing – especially if the camera is passed around a bit. Usually, but not always, face detection works well.

OK, the focusing post is done, where’s the G10?

Friday, August 8, 2008

More G9 Pictures

While walking on the beach one recent morning, I managed to get a few nice shots with my G9 and have added them to my G9 gallery on SmugMug. All were shot at ISO 80, handheld, no polarizing filter (because it was early morning), raw mode with raw conversion in Adobe Camera Raw followed by a touchup in Photoshop CS3. No noise reduction was applied in ACR or with other software; this is my normal practice for G9 ISO 80 files. The image of the reeds was at near full zoom and 1/25 second - I was impressed!

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll be quick to admit to more than one shot of each of these scenes. In fact, I'm bad about photographing a scene over and over with slight variations of exposure and composition. This habit really paid for the photo of the shell on the sand. While waiting for a wave to come up and in, the sun suddenly poked through the early morning cloud cover and the resulting shadows changed the picture completely.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another for the SAK Gallery

This little fella poised inside a diffusion zone made from a 2’ x 4’ translucent light panel bent into a U shape and lit from the outside with a Nikon SB-24 triggered by Cactus wireless units from my Canon G9. I liked it well enough to include in my collection of Swiss Army Knife photos at SmugMug.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Perfect 10?

Canon will almost certainly announce a new Powershot G camera in the next month or two. Since the G9 is not a perfect camera, wishes and speculations about its successor have been raging almost since the G9 was released. Especially recently, on DPreview , it’s a slow day if a new “When is the G10 coming out?” thread is not started. Those threads quickly become a variation of wishes and specifications followed by technical debates. The wish list typically includes wider angle, longer telephoto, add an articulated LCD – no, make the camera smaller, faster lens, etc., etc. The wishing and debating always includes a discussion of noise at high ISO. It’s enough to make you feel sorry for the Canon marketing department; no wonder Canon makes so many near-similar digicams!

There is even a website specializing in rumors about Canon that includes a set of “specifications” for the next Powershot G.

Against my better judgment, I can't resist making my own prediction about the upcoming addition to the Powershot G series. Fair Warning: As Yogi said, “I’m not so good at predicting – especially the future” and I have absolutely no proprietary information from Canon or anyone else. My prediction will almost certainly be incomplete and perhaps even entirely wrong. I just feel like making a prediction, seeing where it falls and later discussing how and why it was wrong.

Although some call the next Powershot G the “G11”, I’ll refer to the next Powershot G as the “G10” and even predict that G10 is the name. The “G4” and “G8” product names were skipped because, supposedly, those would have been unlucky names in some parts of the world.

I predict that the G10 will essentially be a G9 with few more megapixels, specifically 14MP. Apparently, Canon uses Sony CCD sensors in the Powershot series and this is the sensor that is available. Will this 14MP sensor have more noise than the current 12MP sensor? At this point, only the Canon and Sony engineers know for certain but, based on simplistic physics, more noise seems likely. On the other hand, one can always hope that design and manufacturing improvements will actually reduce noise.

What about the CMOS sensors that Canon was to produce for their digicams? I can’t find any new information about this manufacturing plant and it seems unlikely that Canon would not publicize it. Therefore, I assume that these sensors are not ready for the 2008/9 Powershot series of cameras.

In fact, I suspect that the G10 is the last of the G series of Powershot cameras. For that reason, I don’t expect any hardware changes: no new lens, little change in body style, etc. I do expect some software tweaks, including HD video. The G10 will be the camera for those photographers who wanted a G9 but didn’t get it and would still like one. Nothing wrong that that – the G10 will probably be a nice camera.

I’d sure love to be wrong about the G10, especially the CMOS sensor. But I do expect Canon to drop the “G” series after the G10. Although I expect a completely new product name, for now, I’ll call the G10 replacement the “G11”.

The G11 will use a CMOS sensor that might be a little larger than the current CCD sensor. The G11 will be Canon’s opportunity to reduce pixel density (they can brag about the ‘new’ CMOS technology in the marketing campaign) and really improve the noise at high ISO. Perhaps we’ll see 8 or 10MP in the G11 but you can bet that the pixel count will jump again with the “G12”!

So that’s my prediction: The G10 will be more similar than different from the G9. There will be little reason for G9’ers to upgrade to the G10. Sure hope I’m wrong.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

100th Post!

I just realized that the previous post was number 100!

LightDescription usually has about 350 hits per day and, every now and then, about twice that many. Thanks to those of you who've made compliments and suggestions. I've certainly learned a lot about photography in general and the Canon G9 in particular while writing this blog. Thanks also to those of you who've previewed my Blurb book.

I'll soon have a few more comments about face detection and outdoor flash at a family reunion before shifting into an update on my approach to noise reduction for the G9.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shameless Plug

In keeping with the saying "He that tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted." – usually attributed to John L. Lewis – please take a preview of my book, “My Best and My Favorites” over at Blurb.

Blurb.com is a print-on-demand service that my wife and I have used several times to make a few copies of personal photography books. The basic procedure is to download the Blurb software and then, working offline, assemble a book using the Blurb templates. The completed book is then uploaded (takes a while). The software is fairly simple to use although a bit quirky sometimes (especially with text). We think that the Blurb quality is good. The price is, well, expensive at first thought but actually not too bad.

Anyway, Blurb is having a contest and I’ve entered it – along with about 1500 other photographers. The judging is by a panel of experts but it seems that Blurb does track the number of previews so please preview my book and give it a boost in the ratings!

And if you have entered the Blurb contest, well … OK, fair is fair. You look at mine and I’ll look at yours – just leave the link in a comment here and we’ll all take a look.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

G9: Face Detection Focusing

In previous posts, the various ways of focusing the G9 along with the concept of hyperfocal distance were presented. Along with the various ways of focusing the G9, I discovered a few perculiarities – to me anyway – both indoors and outdoors.

Up to this time, I’ve only briefly mentioned face detection focusing and pointed out that the G9 switches to AiAf focus mode if no faces are detected. It’s time to delve into face detection in more detail.

Like more than a few photographers, when I first heard about face detection, I laughed. How could it be effective? Who would need it? Well, it turns out that face detection has evolved rapidly, is quite effective and most people benefit from face detection focusing. For example, in my family, like most families, we take a lot of snapshots. We set a snapshot camera on full auto, pass it around and tell young and old to take a few shots. The G9 can do all this and does it well -- especially in face detection mode.

In the past several months, I’ve been a snapshooter at several parties and family get-togethers. I tried face detection focusing in desperation and, to my surprise, it worked. In fact, I’ve switched our snapshot camera, a Canon SD800, to face detection.

I don’t know how face detection focusing works. A computer program uses pattern recognition algorithms based on the shape of typical faces, eye spacing, color, hair, etc. to select a subject and then set focus on that subject. The Canon G9 is sometimes said to detect up to nine faces but the instruction manual says that up to three frames display where the G9 detects faces. When the G9 is in face detection mode, the LCD display shows the detection frames lock onto a face. Fascinating.

Natually, I attempted to trick the face detection algorithm and set up this award winning composition. Hey, aren’t these faces? However, the G9 said that no faces were detected (Elmo and friends were insulted) until the portrait was included. The G9 immediately locked onto the portrait as a “face” onless the portrait was placed near an edge of the composition. Interesting. This picture was taken in manual exposure mode without flash at f3.2, 1/30 second and ISO 800 in face detection mode.

Face detection focusing is said to include enhancements to improve exposure, especially when using flash. I hope this is true but I didn’t notice any differences during the tests of this scene. I also tried a few self portraits using the 10 second delay but, again, did not notice any difference in flash exposure with or without face detection. In my other uses of face detection, I don’t have comparative images.

I don’t doubt that face detection improves flash exposure but I don’t have proof at this point. I’m late coming to face detection but expect to be using it more frequently in the future. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, try face detection.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

G9 as a Polaroid?

Here's an interesting post by the Strobist about large format film photographers using the G9 instead of Polaroid film to plan and check lighting layouts.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Canon Releases New SDK

Today I received an email from Canon announcing the release of their new Software Development Kit for EOS Digital cameras, EDSDK 2.4. Note that this SDK is for the big guns and not for the G9, etc.

The same email included the previous notice to Powershot software developers that the Powershot SDK was coming to an end. No additional information was provided regarding the design or features of the "G10" or whatever it will be called.

But the fall of '08 is closer every day so we'll soon know more.

Friday, June 27, 2008

G9: Focusing Indoors

As previously noted, although the G9 has five automatic focusing modes, I almost always choose the small Flexizone frame centered in the LCD. I place the focus frame on the subject of interest, push the shutter button halfway, think “focus”, check for the frame to turn green, recompose the scene and finish pressing the shutter. To get additional shots from the same vantage point, I then switch to manual focus and keep the previous focus distance. This method almost always works well even if it is a bit slow and methodical.

Without recomposing, the small Flexizone frame may not detect enough contrast to obtain focus. Also, without recomposing, the small Flexizone frame may focus on the wrong object. This is particularly a problem when photographing indoors. To illustrate this problem, I set up my G9 on a tripod and tried the various focusing methods indoors.

In this scene, the G9 was set for the widest angle, 7.4mm; the aperture was f4.5 (the “Sweet Aperture”) . The image shown was downsized from the in-camera JPEG. The focus distance, as determined by the small Flexizone frame was 15 feet but the large Flexizone frame determined the focus to be 8 feet! This discrepancy occurred because the small frame fell on a photo on the opposite wall but the large frame included a chair. The focus distance, as determined by the small AiAF matrix was 12 feet. The large AiAF matrix also determined the focus to be 12 feet. Interestingly, the large AiAF matrix did not always lock onto the same object even though the G9 was on a tripod. I had suspected that the different focus methods would lock onto different objects and I was correct.

Using manual focus, I dialed in 5 feet and took another shot. Later, to my surprise, all the pictures look essentially the same. Why? Of course, the explanation is hyperfocal distance. For the 7.4mm zoom focal length and f4.5 aperture, everything from about 4 feet to infinity is in acceptable focus. In setting up my test, I’d forgotten about the hyperfocal distance. Chalk one up for the G9.

Since this humbling experience, I’ve toyed with the various focus modes quite a bit. My basic hypothesis was correct: With any focus mode other than the small Flexizone frame, I cannot be certain of getting the exact focus point that I want. Fortunately, often it just doesn’t matter.

But sometimes it does .... (more later)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

G9: Focusing with a Polarizing Filter

The title of this post is somewhat misleading. When the G9 is fitted with a polarizing filter, the focusing process does not change. Also, either linear or circular polarizing filters can be used on the G9. In fact, this is the entire point of this post.

Although filters were extensively used in film based photography, digital editing has significantly reduced the need and use of filters. Even so, a polarizing filter can be a great asset. This filter can pump up the colors, make the sky more blue, knock out the glare, etc. Many believe that a polarizing filter provides the only effect that cannot be simulated in the digital editing process. In a previous postings, the effects of a polarizing filter, graduated neutral density filter and various post processing effects, including HDR, were compared.

A polarizing filter was the second filter I ever bought (the first one was a clear, protective filter). Although I didn’t know it at the time, that polarizing filter was a linear type. Years later, my auto focusing (film) SLR required a circular polarizer. That was the first I’d heard of a circular polarizer. For a long time, I thought all auto focusing cameras needed a circular polarizer. A few years ago, I bought a circular polarizer for my Canon G3. For my G9, I still use that circular polarizer but I’ve since learned that a linear polarizer also works on the G9.

Once again, Wikipedia to the rescue for the details about polarization but be sure to scroll towards the end of the highly technical article. Also, that article does not really cover linear vs circular for photography.

It turns out that DSLR cameras and digicams like the G9 use different focusing systems. As mentioned previously, the G9 (and, I think, most digicams) use contrast detection as the basis for focusing whereas DSLRs use phase detection. As a result, the G9 can use a linear polarizer but DSLRs require a circular polarizer. This differentiation is often confused. The linear polarizer is less expensive but if you have, or intend to buy, a DSLR, the circular polarizer is more versatile.

To fit any filter to the G9, an adapter is needed (well, you can actually just hold the filter in front of the lens). In addition to selling the adapter, Lensmate sells polarizing filters and notes that either linear or circular types will work with the G9.

As final proof, I compared my 40 year old linear polarizing filter to my newer circular polarizing filter and found no obvious differences. The G9 worked fine with either. Nothing like a simple test to prove something to yourself!

Friday, June 6, 2008

G9: Can’t Focus

Sometimes the G9 can’t focus. When the G9 has acquired focus, it beeps twice (very quickly) and the AF frame on the LCD turns green. If the G9 is confused about the focus, it only beeps once and the AF frame turns yellow. That (yellow frame) was the case for this uncropped image. For this composition – as attractive as it is – the small AF frame did not include any details and the G9 could not focus. I pressed the shutter button anyway and got an out-of-focus picture.

Switching to manual focus immediately after the shot, I found that the G9 decided to focus at infinity instead of the true distance of about nine feet. Had I selected the nine large frame AiAF focus method, the G9 would have focused correctly because some of the frames would have included the plaques (tested and proven).

As noted previously, I almost always use the small Flexizone frame for focusing. I even leave the frame centered; that is, I focus, recompose and shoot. But sometimes, especially when in a hurry, this is not the best method and it definitely is not the best method without recomposing.

The G9 focuses by means of contrast detection and tends to select the closest object. When using the small AF frame to focus, make certain that the focus frame includes an edge, some sort of pattern, different colors, different lighting, etc. In fact, when using the large frame or the multiple AiAF frames, keep in mind that the focus point will be selected on the basis of proximity and contrast.

And watch for that frame to turn green!