Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29

August 29 is a memorable date. On this day forty years ago, Jean and I were married; we've had a wonderful life.

On this day five years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Jean and I were in Chicago on a business trip that was extended to an anniversary vacation until Katrina entered the Gulf. As Katrina changed course, we realized that if we did not beat the storm to our home in Baton Rouge, then we might not be able to return for several days. We were able to get a flight to Houston and rent a car. On the road to Baton Rouge from Houston, we had the eastbound lane mostly to ourselves. The westbound lane was packed from Houston to Baton Rouge with cars moving about 30 or 40 mph. That was a long and strange trip.

Our own house had little damage from Katrina although we were without electrical power for several days. Our families and friends on the Mississippi Gulf Coast did not fare very well at all.

This panoramic photo of the damaged Ocean Springs harbor was stitched from photos taken with my Canon G3.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Just noticed that the last visitor to this little blog was the 4000th one!

Monday, August 23, 2010

NiZn in the Canon 580EX II Flash

After a few other tests, I finally felt brave (or foolish) enough to try the NiZn batteries in my Canon 580EX II flash. Before trying the NiZn batteries, I checked the performance of standard 2700mah PowerEX NiMh in the 580EX II at full power. With the flash mounted on my 7D and both flash and camera in full manual mode, I photographed the XNTimer on my computer screen. My procedure was to get off a shot as soon as the ready light of the flash came back on. Five shots took 15.7 seconds.

Next, the NiZn batteries were installed. Five shots took 8.1 seconds.

From this and a few other tests, my conclusion is that the recycle time with NiZn batteries is roughly half the recycle time of NiMh batteries.

I intend to further test these NiZn batteries in normal use and will report the experience.

Again, a warning: Be patient and don't fire off many shots in a short time because the flash may overheat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

S95 -> G12?

Is Canon’s recent announcement of the PowerShot S95 also a virtual announcement of the PowerShot G12? It certainly appears so. In fact, Canon Rumors  points to an announcement on CNet that included the G12. That G12 announcement was quickly removed. Why? PowerShot enthusiasts want to know.

Because the PowerShot S90 and G11 were so closed linked, it was only natural to assume the same relationship would exist between the rumored S95 and G12. I made this assumption in my own prediction about the G12. Perhaps because of my long association with G-series cameras, my interests and emphasis was on the G12; I considered the S95 to be a subset of the G12. It never occurred to me that the announcements would be separated and certainly not that the S95 would be announced before the G12.

Will there even be a G12? I think so. I’d even predicted that the G12 would be a slightly evolved G11. The Canon Rumors article and picture from CNET are probably correct. If so, I was right about HD video but wrong about “full HD” and a CMOS sensor. Perhaps the G12 will be announced in September and I’ll get a few more points for guessing the announcement date.

I’m sure that the S95 and G12 will be quite capable cameras but am trying to sort out how I feel about the G12. Does the G12 in fact include some feature set or innovation that warrants a separate announcement? Judging by the CNET (through Canon Rumors) image, the lens focal length is the same as the G11; therefore the sensor is probably the same size as the G11 (and S90/95). The sensor could still be CMOS but is probably the same CCD sensor as is used in the S95 although a different one than was used in the S90 and G11 (because it can generate HD video). It appears that the G12 announcement is likely to be anticlimactic and to have a ho-hum reception.

Will the G12 be the last of the G series? If so, it makes sense to shift emphasis to the S95 and its successors now. In that case, what will replace the G series? Are we about to see the introduction of the long-awaited large sensor PowerShot?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The cryptic title for this post will be very readable to a few die-hards (pun intended) and perhaps become increasingly recognizable in the future. This post is about the rechargeable nickel-zinc size AA batteries that I just could not resist.

The great thing about NiZn batteries is that each battery has a nominal voltage of 1.6V. In comparison, the old zinc-carbon and alkaline batteries are 1.5V; nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) are 1.2V. Although there is a lot more to batteries than voltage, higher voltage can mean better (usually meaning faster or longer) performance in some devices.

The bad thing about NiZn batteries is that each battery has a nominal voltage of 1.V. This higher voltage can damage some devices.

Cowardly Disclaimer: These NiZn batteries can damage your equipment. Don't blame me! 

My interest in NiZn was initialized months ago by a now-forgotten discussion thread somewhere on the Internet claiming that recycle time on battery powered external flashes could be halved or better by using NiZn batteries. The unfortunate side effect – quickly pointed out – was that NiZn batteries recharged the flash so quickly that there was no time to cool and the flash “burned out” or went into a thermal overload lockout. The possibility of losing a flash for the sake of a few seconds kept me from buying NiZn at the time but the temptation did not go away. Finally, I conceded and placed my order.

I just received a set of four PowerGenix NiZn AA batteries with their own special quick charger. It is not recommended to charge NiZn batteries in NiCd or NiMh chargers or to charge other battery types in the NiZn charger. Each battery is marked 1.6V; 2500mWh. Note that 2500mWh is not exactly the same thing as the more standard 2500mAh listed on some NiMh batteries because the NiZn voltage is higher. The NiZn batteries are green in color because (I suppose) they are 100% recyclable and also non-toxic (according to the packaging).

As the batteries came inserted in the charger and I was anxious to get them charged, I immediately plugged it in. To my dismay, the LED lights blinked and then went off. Nothing. Tried again, again nothing. Then I noticed and removed the small strip of plastic preventing the batteries from making contact. The red LED came on. After about an hour the green LED came on to indicate that the batteries were 80% charged. This is the “quick” portion of the charging cycle. The charger, said to be “intelligent”, then changes to a slower “trickle” charge. Charging is complete after four hours. The batteries did not feel hot during charging (but I did not keep my hand on them).

According to my handy little multimeter, the freshly charged NiZn batteries were all 1.87V whereas my usual PowerEx NiMh batteries are 1.36V (open circuit voltage). But would the NiZn flash and destroy?

Taking a deep breath, I picked up my Canon 580EX II flash – no, wait a minute; how about that old Nikon SB-24?  I set the SB-24 on manual and full power. With one finger on the SB-24 trigger and another on a stop watch, I got 3 flashes in about 10 seconds with PowerEx NiMh batteries. The NiZn batteries could trigger 3 flashes in about 5 seconds – noticeably faster. They work!  No smoke!

For more information, check out the Wikipedia article on NiZn batteries.  Meanwhile, I'll do a few more tests without attempting to set the world record for flashes per minute.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

7D Review

Kirk Tuck reviews my 7D (well, his 7D).

I enjoy his blog and check in almost every day as it is updated frequently.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


In the previous post, I noted upgrading to Photoshop CS5 and have been tinkering with some of the new tools.  Not even counting the 7D picture styles, the near infinite number of variations in post processing are reason enough to have the final result "pre-visualized" (as Ansel Adams supposedly said) before pushing the shutter button and certainly before beginning to post process.  I'm not so good at following this advice.  Here are a few variations on an image.

When I saw the scene above, I immediately thought about making a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.  I set my 7D to ISO 400, Av mode, f8 and high speed bracketing with +/- 3 stops exposure.  Above is the in-camera JPEG ("Faithful" picture style), the first of those exposures, taken at 1/250 second.  If I'd taken only one shot and used the in-camera JPEG, this would have been the result.

Using Adobe Camera Raw to convert the RAW file and Photoshop to post process to my taste (of that day and time), I came up with the picture above.  It's OK but not what I hoped to get.

This one (above) was made from those 3 bracketed shots using CS5's new HDR processing.  I was not too pleased with it (lots to learn) but thought "What about a B/W version?".  A more more steps and clicks yielded the variation below.

A bit overdone, I'd say, but sort of interesting.  Next, I tried the Photomatix HDR software on the same files.  In Photomatix, I usually prefer the "Compressor" variations, one of which is below.

Sometimes I prefer the "Enhanced" variation from Photomatix and usually generate both variations while I'm at it.  This one (below) didn't work out (default settings).

Finally, I thought about making a B/W using only the first RAW file so I started all over again and came up with the variation below.  This is the only variation that I printed.

What does all this mean?  For starters, I still have difficulty in selecting scenes suitable for HDR images.  I also prefer converting from RAW to get the "best" image.  Fortunately, digital post processing allows me to change my mind (OK, several times!).