Canon S90 P&S Camera

Ohhh, the joy of carrying around a camera, the size of my palm and gaining instant satisfaction from a great photograph. That's what I experienced when I took my brand new Canon S90 P&S camera along with me to visit my Brother on his birthday. I have plenty of shots from his home that I've taken in the past, and none of them were as pleasing as the ones I'm about to share with you.

Here are some outside shots all shot entirely in a low light setting. The only available light were the tea candles, some tiki torches...mostly fire light. Was around 9-11pm when I took them. Awesome weather this weekend for drinking outside :)

All shots were jpeg at f/2 (one of them was at f/2.2), ISO800 and with a -.3 to -.7 exposure step. All hand held (of course!). For the camera's size and on the fly ring settings, I really couldn't ask for more in such a small, pocket-able package.

I'll be putting together a little review with some comparisons and more samples. So far, it's a winner. There some nasty compression after uploading to imageshack, but here they are. All the metadata should be there as well.










The new GRD III announced - features and preview

I'm extremely excited about the announcement of the new GRD III. I've been waiting for Ricoh to upgrade the GRD line of camera's for a while and it looks like they have delivered!!

See the below write-up from ricohforum.com!!

(taken from http://ricohforum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=53&t=2875 )

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This is an introduction to GRDIII key features and improvements. I'm waiting for a test sample, but I already got a chance to see and discuss the GRDIII features. So here you can find a detailed explanation of most GRDIII key features and improvements.

ImageImage
Let's start with short description of what's new:
- Brighter GR lens 28mm F1.9
- New design of lens group in Macro mode (decreased barrel distortion, even shorter Macro distance)
- High-sensitivity CCD 10MP 1/1.72
- 3" LCD with 920.000 pixels
- GR Engine III with new Noise Reduction circuit and processing (more precise and selective color noise suppression based of color saturation)
- Added Shutter speed priority
- Added Dynamic Range Double Shot (CX1-like)
- New Full Press Snap AF mode
- New Multi-pattern WB for scenes with mixed light (like fluorescent and sun light)
- New FN button at a position of self-timer (self timer is default function for this new FN button, but you can change it)
- New My3 position on mode dial
- New GH-2 hood and adapter and GW-2 (21mm) conversion lens (sadly, there is no info about GT1 update)
- New GF-1 Ricoh dedicated TTL flash (available in October)
- New DB-65 battery (DB-60 and AAA accus are still usable)

What's improved?
- Significantly faster AF with new Full press Snap mode and Pre-AF mode (usable even in bad lightning conditions)
- Selectable Snap Focus distance
- Improved base dynamic range (+ new CX-like dual shot DR mode)
- Improved RAW writing speed (2.6secs per RAW or even faster – depends of card)
- Up to 5 RAW + JPEG images in continuous mode
- Improved AWB accuracy
- Even more customization options (there is no other compact camera with such level of customization)
- Added new HUE/Saturation controls for individual image colors (in 5 levels)
- Digital/analog chip redesigned for better performance and less color noise (GRDIII ISO200 should be at the same or better level than GRDII ISO100)
- It's now again possible to use ANY aperture with ANY shutter speed! (e.g. F1.9 with 1/2000)
- Front wheel/Adj. lever functionality can be swapped in Manual and playback mode (It's now possible to assign Aperture value change to Adj. lever and Shutter speed change to front wheel. It's much faster to scroll over 42 shutter speeds with wheel than with lever. So this one is really great workflow saver.)
- GRDIII buttons are now again matte! (GRDIII now looks like a high class professional tool and not like a shiny toy camera;))
- Many other small improvements

And here is detailed explanation of some key GRDIII features.

GRDIII bring us what a lot of us called for - even brighter lens starting at f1.9. Although some of us may be disappointed by the lack of "larger" sensor, the good news is that GRDIII pixel count remained at 10MP and the size of sensor is tiny bit larger (1.72 instead of 1/1.75). Surprisingly, the sensor used in GRDIII is not CMOS (as I predicted after CX1 release)m but traditional CCD. But Ricoh is mentioning that the dynamic range and ISO performance should be visibly better with this new sensor. We will have to wait for some real-world tests, but if you remember the difference between GRDI and GRDII ISO performance (about one stop improvement in terms of noise), I guess we may expect some very good news.

According of Ricoh, GRDIII should be faster in all key areas. This includes camera start, RAW writing speed and speed of autofocus. GRDIII adopted some of the CX1 AF technologies so the speed of AF should be at least as fast as CX1 (if not faster). And this is very good news for all GRDI passive AF lovers, because CX1 is fast like a hell (in compact camera class and even some entry level DSLRs). See this AF test I did with CX1, GRDI, GRDII and GX200. I'm planing to repeat this test also with GRDIII.

But aside the CX1-like AF routines, there are implemented some new AF tricks to make the shutter response faster than ever. The major new AF mode is Full Press Snap mode. This mode is designed for all candid and action photographers. Even though the GRDIII AF speed is probably the fastest AF you can see in any compact camera (or even some DSLRs), there may be situations when you need instant shutter response without the half press or manual switching of AF to Snap/Manual mode. This is where this new Full Press Snap mode comes handy.

Available options:
Off
On
On (Auto- Hi ISO)

If enabled, and you full press the shutter without the half-press stage, the camera takes photo with predefined Snap mode distance (see the below described Snap Focus Distance). The camera will focus normally (with Spot or Mutli AF) if you do the half press and then full press. The last option On (Auto- Hi ISO) is like ON except that the ISO sensitivity is set to Auto-Hi. This can be useful in cases of difficult lightning conditions and while photographing in a move.

I would probably use this last option. Usually, I will probably use the half-press stage with normal focusing. But in cases of fast actions/candid photos i want instant response and long enough shutter speed to be able to capture an evanescent moment. So On (Auto- Hi ISO) looks like perfect solution of both problems.

As mentioned above, with GRDIII you can now define the Snap Focus Distance. Just select the distance at which the camera focuses when Snap is selected (both "normal" Snap or Full Press Snap).

Available distances:
1 m (3.3 ft.)
2.5 m (8.2 ft.)
5 m (16.4 ft.)
∞ (infinity).

But that's not all in AF department! There is also new Pre-AF mode!
If On (for Multi AF or Spot AF), the camera will continue to focus even when the shutter release button is not half pressed. The focus range is a bit narrower and it drains the battery, but shutter response may be improved. It's good option if you don't wish to use Full Press Snap mode or if you consider the normal half-press AF to be a bit slow.

As you probably understood, there is no way back for passive AF. But if the GRDIII is really as fast as CX1 and with all these new AF modes, there is no need of it.

Shutter Priority mode
This is another long awaited and frequently asked feature. It's now possible to fix the Shutter Speed and leave the camera to choose the best aperture for actual lightning conditions and shutter speed. I guess that thanks to this feature we can now again use any available shutter speed with any available aperture. Something that was impossible with GRDII and GX200!

Now let's speak about Noise Reduction ;)
This option enables/disables GRDIII Noise Reduction algorithms. You can now select from three available levels:
OFF
Weak
Strong

The above settings indicate that it's now possible to turn the NR completely OFF. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but no, it's not possible to disable the NR completely. I was told that there is still done certain amount of NR during the JPEG conversion process. Ricoh is apparently afraid to give the casual JPEG shooters an option to "break" the image with noise. It's yet to be seen how much or bad is the base GRDIII NR. It's too soon to cry about it without seeing some real world samples (other than these official low ISO samples at Ricoh site). Just hold you breath and wait few more days for arrival of my test sample. This will be tested as one of the first things!

Color Settings
Infrequently used Hard/Soft color settings were removed from the menu and Normal mode is now called Standard. There is a new option called Vivid (vivid colors with height contrast and sharpness).
In Settings1/2 you can set photo Vividness (before Saturation), Contrast and Sharpness and newly also HUE/Vividness for individual colors (Orange, Greens, Blues, Reds, Magenta)
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Multi-P AUTO WB
The same as CX1, GRDIII now have a new Multi-P AUTO WB mode. The camera adjusts white balance to account for differences in lighting in separate areas of the frame (in continuous mode, this option is equivalent to Auto).

I'm personally blown away by the level of customization of GRDIII. There are tons of new functions in the camera menu and none of them is useless. When I meet the Ricoh folks at Photokina, I personally complained about the lever and how painful is to use it if one needs to chance the shutter speed and how great would be an option to swap the front wheel/rear lever functionality. Now we got this option!

Playback Mode Dial Options/M Mode Dial Options
It’s now possible to customize/swap the functionality of ADJ lever/front wheel in playback and M photo mode. Especially the M mode wheel/lever customization is very highly useful. After replacing rear wheel with lever (in GRDII), it was a real pain to scroll over the 42 shutter speeds with lever. So this handy option allows swap the ADJ/front wheel functionality. It’s definitely easier to change 42 shutter speeds with "wheel" than with "lever" ;) Scrolling over 11 apertures with lever is no that big pain, especially if usable range of GRD Apertures is between f1.9-f6.3.
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Here are the options you can select for lever/wheel:
Playback Mode
Settings1 (default)
ADJ lever: Next/previous frame
Front Wheel: Zoom in/out

Settings2
ADJ lever: Scroll left/right
Front Wheel: Scroll up/down

M Mode
Settings1 (default)
ADJ lever: Shutter speed
Front Wheel: Aperture

Settings2
ADJ lever: Aperture
Front Wheel: Shutter speed

My Settings customization
It's now possible to save, name and load up to 6 My Settings positions.
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They can be recalled with Mode dial (using My1, 2 or 3). What I miss there is an option to save the My Settings to SD card and backup them on a PC. One can lose these custom settings, for example due to camera repair or reset. So it would be great to have an option to backup them or for example swap favorite settings with other GRD users!

There is also a number of small but handy functionality improvements...

My Settings for Fn Settings and WB Comp.
Once enabled, Fn Settings and WB Compensation is included in My Settings. If disabled, Fn layout and WB compensation remains unchanged after loading My Settings.

Fn Button Display
Enables displaying the options currently assigned to the Fn button (when shooting mode is selected).
Fn1: AF/MF
Fn2: Self-timer

Show My Setting Name
Enables displaying the name of My Settings assigned to actual My1,2 or 3 dial position. It just show the name (description) of setting on display.

Shooting Info. Display Frame
Enables displaying shooting settings (shutter speed, aperture, mode, WB, etc.) in a black frame sorrounding the record view. If turned OFF, all shooting details obscure the record view. So they can make the framing harder. Status info in black frame make the record view a bit smaller, but definitely easier to frame the scene.

Store Menu Cursor Position
If enabled, the last accessed menu item will be highighted when you return back to Menu.

One Press Zoom Ratio
Select the magnification at which pictures are displayed when zoomed in using the Menu/OK button or ADJ. lever. Choose from 5.7 ×, 9.8 ×, and 16 ×.

Grid Guide Display Options
It's now possible to select form three types of guide grids.
Default “Rules of thirds” grid (general type of grid)
Four-by-four grid with diagonal lines (good for architectural photography)
and two-by-two grid with empty center (good for tracking subjects in motion)
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Now some (few) negatives:
- Still no true NR OFF in JPEG (!)
- BKT exposure range is still useless +/- 0.5EV (+/- 1EV is pretty common in today's compact cameras and high-end compacts like G10 can do even +/-2 EV)
- Interval mode with shorter interval (2secs) would be highly appreciated by all timelapse freaks
- No update for GT-1 in a near future (if ever)

Random Shots with the Ricoh GRD


I truly enjoy shooting with my Ricoh GRD. It suprises me again and again with it's very natural BW shots. There's a very nice 'noise' on the BW jpeg shots that translates to a believable grainy film look. This is only common on the Ricoh GRD I and is not present in the GRD II.


Ricoh GRD, f2.4 1/125 sec, ISO800, -1 step


Ricoh GRD, f2.4 1/125 sec, ISO800, +.7 step


Ricoh GRD, f2.4 1/40 sec, ISO800, +.7 step



Post processing is done in virtualStudio. It has tons of BW specific editing tools (much better than Photoshop) AND ITS FREE!! Can't beat free. You can pick it up here! .



Family Pics





A few shots of the famfam. Because I'm still moonlighting with my new favorite P&S, these were shot with my DP2...again :)

After saving these from my flickr page (converted from tif to jpeg), then uploaded to blogr, it seems that there's quite a few more artifacts than I'd like, unfortunately.

Eagle Pass trip

This weekend my Dad, Stepmom and myself took a road trip to Eagle Pass, Texas for my cousins wedding. Having a population of only 22k and being extremely dry and hot, it's no wonder the city was 'behind the times'. Here's some shots I took with the DP2 during the trip. My poor Ricoh GRD didn't get any game time...I guess I'm still moonlighting with the Sigma.

All shots were at iso400.


The Oakridge Smokehouse - Sigma Dp2, f10, 1/640 sec


As far back as I can remember, when my family would take road trips down to Asherton, Texas (near Eagle Pass), we would stop by the Oakridge Smokehouse. It's a mom and pop convenient store that's been there forever. They sell the best homemade beef jerky I've ever had. They have quite a few other homemade goodies as well.


One of many dusty road stations - Sigma Dp2, f11, 1/1000 sec

Lucky Eagle Casino - Sigma Dp2, f6, 1/250 sec

We spent quite a few hours here at the Lucky Eagle. Pretty good payouts. Not for me though. Oh yeah, it's the only real casino left in Texas.

Dad - Sigma Dp2, f4, 1/125 sec


Dave and Akane - Sigma Dp2, f5, 1/125 sec

Wedding shot - Sigma Dp2, f2.8, 1/50 sec

Lala and Dad - Sigma Dp2, f2.8, 1/140 sec

Wedding Shot


The DP2 stepped up to the plate and performed better than I thought it would during my cousins wedding. I'm pretty pleased with the results considering I didn't have to use my old SLR. Here's a shot I took of the bride and groom...it was quickly snapped right before I walked up to them to wish them well. This was edited in Adobe Raw.

The green thing!

So the DP2 displays some green tinge in the shady areas. Especially when using available light in the shots. Here's a good example. The top right corner as well as the left shady area shows a small amount of green. I'm unable to remove the green from the SPP software, but the Adobe RAW plugin Camera RAW 5.4 (beta) allows me to suck the living green out of anything...of course it alters the color of the image as well.


I can live with this though...in the end, the IQ is ridiculously outstanding for such a small P&S. Click on the photo to see it at 50% of it's original size...it's amazing how usable the image is, even at 100%.

DP2 Manual zoom...not so good

I've tried to zoom on the fly while shooting subjects are more than 3 or 4 feet away...it's pretty hard. The bokeh is less on the DP2 than the DP1 and makes it a bit more challenging to see what's in focus on the LCD screen.


Focusing on objects within a few feet it much easier though. Here's a shot of some fake fruit...

SPP (Sigma Photo Pro) color correction

Using SPP for post processing is a pretty simple affair. Although you don't have too much control with the limited settings, the sparse built in tools somehow end up being enough to allow me to correct the picture as I see fit.

Here's a before and after shot of one of my co-workers (standing in front of my project board...no, I'm not a school teacher but I just happen to love chalk boards).



Image was saved as a tif and resized in Photoshop CS4. All color correction and balances were tweaked using SPP. The lighting is pretty dim in my office and the chocolate colored walls add to the darkness. This shot was handheld...so low light performance is pretty darn good with the DP2. Shot at IS400, -.3 exposure.

Sigma Photo Pro 3...pretty darn good RAW editing

I'm using the included Sigma Photo Pro 3 software to handle the editing of RAW images from my Sigma DP2 Camera. It's actually pretty easy to use and the editing options are straight forward.

My only complaint is that it crashes every time I close it. I'm on Vista Ultimate 32bit and you would think that it's a common operating system to use the software with. I'll probably just reinstall it later on and see if that fixes the problem.

I purposely snapped a picture in a dim hallway here at work to see if I could save the picture with some post editing...I think I did a fair job :)

Here's a before and after shot of my buddy Lauren.


I'm also using Photoshop CS4 (with the new RAW pack plugin...can't remember the name, but I'll post more on it later).

A 'test roll' shot from my new P&S mighty cam, the Sigma DP2!

Well, I bit the bullet and bought the Sigma DP2. It's the most expensive non-SLR camera I've purchased, but it's essentially my SLR replacement camera. It has the biggest sensor of any P&S on the market and the image quality beats anything out there that can be stowed away in a pocket..well, a large pocket :)

Here's a sample shot I took while visiting my Brother. This is a friend of ours I took a quick snap of that night.




It's really amazing how crappy the picture looks on the DP2's little LCD screen...I really had no clue how amazing the image quality would be after I saw it as a RAW file on my PC. So much data was packed into this RAW image you can adjust anything you need (I only shoot in raw...except for my Ricoh GRD).

I could have never edited this photo as you see it, had it been shot as a jpeg.

What's in my bag?

Well, I love film. I love Digital. I love excessiveness...:)

Here is my P&S bag I usually grab on my way out and throw in the car. Everything I need is here to snap away an any situation.




Contents:


-Spec-Ops butt pack with add-on pouch
-Kata bag to hold the film cameras
-Acer AspireOne mini 8.9" mini laptop
-Maxor USB hard drive, 160GB with neoprene sleeve
-Zing neoprene pouch
-Olympus XA
-Olympus XA2
-Pentax UC-1 (espio mini)
-Blackberry curve with earphones...love me some Pandora and Slacker radio!
-Sigma DP2
-Ricoh GRD (for shooting in B&W)
-Moleskin, Rhodia and an all weather note pad
-Micron markers, Copic

Pocket Shooter

This blog is to share my love for P&S cameras, the pictures I shoot with them and the stories behind them :)