DPReview.Com & Digital Camera HQ

Before ever buying your first (or not) camera, it is highly advisable to do some research and make comparisons first before coming to a decision. This way, you get to know what camera has the qualities you’re looking for. And this is where quality review sites come in handy.

If you’re someone who knows basically what specifications you’re looking for in a camera, and would want to compare two (or more) of your camera choices, one site I highly recommend is DPReview.com. (snapshot below)

This site features all the latest digital camera reviews and digital imaging news and updates related to digital camera’s and photography. Lively discussion forums are also available for support and interaction between fellow enthusiasts, and it caters the largest database of digital camera specifications in the internet. And of course, some photo galleries.

One thing enthusiasts will love about this site is it’s capability to compare their camera choices side-by-side with each camera’s specifications shown. And this includes logically unbiased and detailed reviews (with ratings) for each camera too. The total camera database site.

But here’s the thing, if at first you really don’t know what camera and which specifications you want, and all you really know is the price range of your budget, you might find this site a bit less that a good siet to start with.

But don’t worry, I’ve got this perfect site just for you (if that’s the case). It’s called Digital Camera HQ. (snapshot below)

This site is a lot less complicated, and is a lot more user friendly specially with beginners, if you ask me. And yes, if you only have your range of price budget to start with, this is perfectly the site for you. This site also features comparisons of digital cameras based on reviews from real users, prices and deals from multiple stores, and price range menu (left side of the site) which allows you to see which camera’s are possible choices in your given budget. You can also base your choice on the number of megapixels (6, 7, etc..) you want your camera to have, or which type of camera (Ultra compact, Point and Shoot, Advanced, Extended Zoom, or SLR/Professional). User friendly right?

So here are the sites I highly recommend, and I hope it will help you choose your cameras… without regrets.

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“My Studio” – The Making

My “mini” home-made studio has been working well with my passion for photography and (just like any studio), it gave me a lot of control and room for experimentations… and this is something WE (beginners or plain enthusiasts) need to pretty much understand more about lights and photography.

So, do you wanna know how my home made mini studio is made? Just read along.

Things you need: (note: some may be replaced with other things… depending on preference)

The Base

Things Needed:

  • Table (preferably long to give a more convenient range and height for taking shots)
  • Shirt (shirt color & cloth may depend upon your preference, preferably unwrinkled)

    i. ii. iii.

Steps:

  1. Look for a good FLAT table (i). A longer table would be better specially when you want close up photos because it will give you a better range when you’re talking photos.(No need to duck that much).
  2. With your desired color shirt (ii), cover the top of the table. It should look like (iii)

The Background

Things Needed:

  • A Hard Cardboard (any material may be used as long as it’s hard and flat… in this case, I used a Kenny Rogers menu board)
  • Shirt (shirt color & cloth may depend upon your preference…. preferably unwrinkled)
    i. ii.

iii. iv.

Steps:

  1. Simply insert the cardboard (ii) inside the shirt (i)… see image (iii).
  2. Cleanly fold the rest of the shirt to make it look like (iv). this will be your background. (note: you may change the color of the background from time to time)

Light & Stage

Things Needed:

  • Any table lamp would do. (I suggest using smaller table lamps for easy handling)
  • Any Box (size and shape may differ depending on preference)

i. ii. iii.

Options:

  1. With you small lamp (i), you can freely position the light according to your preferred angle per shot.
  2. Your box (ii) can be used as a stage for your photo subjects (see iii), or some thing to be used to hide reflections when mirrors are used.


The Studio

Now that you’ve made all the basic objects needed in a “mini” studio, all that’s left to do is to assemble them according to your desired position.

Steps:

  1. Simply position the covered table (i) near the wall (for more stability, and make sure it’s near the electric outlet for your lamp).
  2. Gently place the self-made background on top of the table (ii)
  3. Place the stage on your desired position (iii)
  4. Place the lamp facing the background. (position may be changed depending on your desired shot)
  5. It’s done.

i. ii.

iii. iv.

Now don’t just wait for the proper light and background color to come your way, try shooting in your own “mini” studio at home and experiment. It all starts with small beginnings right?

Take Professional Looking Photos with Your Digital Camera

FACT: Even with your entry-level or semi-pro digital cameras, you are still capable of taking professional looking photos.

And here are some tips that may help you….

  • Use the vertical

The handheld camera has traditionally been a horizontal or landscape instrument. It is the way cameras are designed to be held, one of the reasons being that it is easier to hold them steady that way. But it is not the only way to take a photograph. Regular snapshots are often plagued with a boring consistency of being in the landscape format and sometimes it pays to think differently.

Landscape vs portrait format photographs

If you think the shot doesn’t look quite right, try turning your camera on its side and you will be surprised at how much of the difference it can make to your pictures. The camera might be designed in a landscape format, but unfortunately the world isn’t always suitably wide to fit into the frame. In fact, if you think about it, you probably spend most of your time behind your camera taking pictures of people, and the last time I checked people are most certainly not built in a landscape format. Make this simple change and you might be able to stand taller the next time you are sharing your holiday photos with friends.

  • Switch off that flash

One of the best developments in modern photography for the lay person has been automatic cameras. With auto-focus, auto-exposure, and auto-flash, you can safely take photos without a thought. Unfortunately to take good photos a bit of thinking can sometimes help, and the cameras can’t do it for you. They can only calculate. A camera doesn’t decide to turn on the flash because it thinks the picture needs more light, it just turns it on because a mathematical calculation shows that it needs more light. That mathematical calculation is not always right, and right or wrong the flash almost always ruins the final result.

Flash on vs off in photographs

Dead white faces, blue tinged scenes and people who look like they were caught in front of the blazing headlights of an oncoming truck. These are all symptoms of the photographs that relied too much on the camera’s judgement on flash usage. Try second guessing your machine, and rely on the miracle of natural light on some occasions. You might need to take a little extra care in holding the camera steady for longer exposure times, but you will marvel at the results.

  • Get close to your subject

Distant vs close-ups photographs

An instant way to recognize the clueless photographer is that they stand too far away from their subject. This is fine when you need to take a wide angle shot of the grand canyon with your friends dwarfed before it for effect, but most of the time it’s not. The majority of the photos you take will be about the people, and even if you want to include some of the cool background for posterity, you will find that you need less of the background than you think.

Use the miraculous zoom lens you have on your camera. Better yet, take a few steps towards those wonderful people holding maniacal grins on their faces just for you. Don’t worry, they wont bite. And what you’ll get will be photos that are much more dramatic, much more personal, and much more beautiful than those shots you’ve been getting of whole famous buildings where you need to convince people that that tiny speck at the bottom is indeed you.

  • Use the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds used in a photograph

All good images come down to good composition. Artists and designers can spend years understanding and practising the nuances of what makes a good visual composition. But since you don’t have years to take that shot as your wife/girlfriend/miscellaneous family member balances precariously on some ledge, you need a quick fix and this is one of the easier ones. The rule of thirds isn’t so much of a rule as it is a guide line. The idea is that if you drawing lines over your image to divide it into three equal horizontal rows and three equal vertical columns, you are most likely to get an attractive result if you place your major points of interest at the intersection points of the lines or along the lines.

We don’t need to analyse why this works, but know that it does in the majority of the situations. If you’re used to putting everything smack dab in the middle of the farme and turning up some very boring shots, try this out. It can be a good rule of thumb to decide on a shot, and it rarely makes things worse. Like all rules though, once you truly learn and master it, you will have a lot of fun breaking it in creative ways.

  • Save face with telephoto

By default, most cameras have a wide-angle lens. This basically means your camera can look at a very wide view of the world around. Our own eyes are not as wide-angled and a bit more “zoomed-in”. These zoomed-in views are possible in a camera using a telephoto lens. The problem occurs when you try to take close up shots of people with a wide-angle lens. Their faces end up looking funny because this is not how you can see them with your eyes. Heads become distorted, faces seem to bulge, and arms and shoulders that are closer to the camera begin to look too large in proportion.

Wide angle vs telephoto photographs

The way to solve this problem is to use your zoom lens and step back a little from the person when taking a portrait shot. This way you get a close up of the face without all the wide-angle distortion. Now you won’t have to hear all those complaints about you always ruining people’s faces in your photographs. Another relationship saved by the power of good photography!

Hope you enjoyed these quick tips. What are your secret formulas for taking good shots? Please share them by leaving a comment here. I would love to hear what you do to dazzle your friends with your photographic prowess. Keep on clicking.

Source: Samirbharadwaj.com

Lumix DMC-G1 by: Panasonic

Meet Lumix DMC-G1 by Panasonic. (smallest and lightest D-SLR camera yet)

The Lumix DMC-G1 camera is based on a new Micro Four Thirds System standard, which completely removes the need for an internal mirror structure like most D-SLR cameras do. This new system standard reduces the camera’s size by half, which means less weight too (385 grams only).

It’s a 12.1 megapixel camera that has several other features including Intelligent Exposure, AF Tracking, Face Detection, Intelligent Scene Selector, Mega O.I.S., Live MOS, My Color Mode, and a HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) output. (I told you it’s a D-SLR camera)

(available in black, red, and blue)

Along it’s features comes available unique lens accessories too (Lumix G Vario 14-45mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH/MEGA O.I.S. and the new Lumix G Vario 45-200mm/F4-5.6/MEGA O.I.S.). Panasonic has stated that the G1 will come with interchangeable lens in other colors (besides black) to compliment it’s body’s color, and it’s really-cool-gadget qualities.

Panasonic’s DMC-G1 will be available in November 2008, and the company will announce the price in October.

DSLR or Point and Shoot Digital Camera? – What to Buy

DSLR or Point & Shoot?

What should you buy? (not an easy question huh)

“I’m using a compact point and shoot digital camera and I would like to ask it is worth it to upgrade to a DSLR camera? or How huge a difference do DSLR cameras make compared to compact point and shoot digital camera? or Which is better?”

This is something we usually ask ourselves whenever we plan to buy a digital camera. But before making a decision, we should also ask some questions that would help us understand more. Questions like:

Are Megapixels Everything That Matters?

Before going to the Pros and Cons of DSLRs & Point and Shoot digital cameras I want to give attention to a common misconception that I always hear among digital camera owners – that a cameras megapixel rating is the main thing to consider when determining a camera’s quality.

The fact is that megapixels are NOT everything. Let me repeat, NOT everything. Despite point and shoot cameras now coming with up to 10 megapixels (Casio released one last month) their quality level is not necessarily has good as a DSLR with only 8 or so.

The main reason for this (and there are many as we’ll see below) is that the image sensor used in point and shoot digital cameras is generally much smaller than the image sensor used in a DSLR (the difference is often as much as 25 times). This means that the pixels on a point and shoot camera have to be much smaller and (without getting too technical) collect fewer photons (ok I lied about the technicalities). The long and short of it is that because of this point and shoot cameras need to work at slower ISO levels which means that they produce ‘noisier’ (or more grainy) shots.

A lot more could be said on sensor size – but trust me, smaller sensors significantly reduce the quality of an image. I’d much rather have a camera with less megapixels and a larger image sensor than the other way around.

This is one factor that needs to be considered when choosing between a DSLR and point and shoot – but let me run through some more:

DSLRs

A quick definition – unfortunately some camera manufacturers in recent months have released cameras with the DSLR label that technically are not. For the purposes of this article I’ll define DSLR’s as cameras that have removable lenses, that have a reflex mirror which allows live optical viewing through the lens taking the image. ie DSLR’s use a mirror that allows you to see the image you’re about to shoot through the view finder – when you take the shot the mirror flips up allowing the image sensor to capture the image.

Some cameras these days are being touted as DSLRs because you have ‘through lens viewing’ but they are not true DSLR’s – (Digital, Single, Lens, Reflex). This does not necessarily make them a bad camera – but in my opinion it there is a distinction between them.

DSLR Strengths

  • Image Quality – I’ve already covered this above in my discussion on megapixels and image sensors – but due to the larger size of image sensors in DSLRs which allows for larger pixel sizes – DSLRs are generally able to be used at a faster ISO which will lead to faster shutter speeds and less grain.
  • Adaptability – DSLR’s ability to change lenses opens up a world of possibilities for photographers. While my point and shoot has a nice little 3x Optical Zoom (and many these days have longer ones) my DSLR can be fitted with many high quality lenses ranging from wide angle to super long focal lengths depending upon what I’m photographing (and of course my budget). Add to this a large range of other accessories (flashes, filters etc) and a DSLR can be adapted to many different situations. It should be noted that when it comes to lenses that the diversity in quality of lenses is great. Image quality is impacted greatly by the quality of the lens you use.
  • Speed – DSLR’s are generally pretty fast pieces of machinery when it comes to things like start up, focussing and shutter lag.
  • Optical Viewfinder – due to the reflex mirror DSLR’s are very much a what you see is what you get operation.
  • large ISO range – this varies between cameras but generally DSLRs offer a wide array of ISO settings which lends itself to their flexibility in shooting in different conditions.
  • Manual Controls – while many point and shoots come with the ability to shoot in manual mode, a DSLR is designed in such a way that it is assumed that the photographer using it will want to control their own settings. While they do come with good auto modes the manual controls are generally built in in such a way that they are at the photographers finger tips as they are shooting.
  • Hold it’s value – some argue that a DSLR will hold it’s value longer than a point and shoot. There is probably some truth in this. DSLR models do not get updated quite as often as point and shoot models (which can be updated twice a year at times). The other factor in favor of DSLRs is that the lenses you buy for them are compatible with other camera bodies if you do choose to upgrade later on (as long as you stay with your brand). This means your investment in lenses is not a waste over the years.
  • Depth of Field – one of the things I love about my DSLR is the versatility that it gives me in many areas, especially depth of field. I guess this is really an extension of it’s manual controls and ability to use a variety of lenses but a DSLR can give you depth of field that puts everything from forground to background in focus through to nice blurry backgrounds.
  • Quality Optics – I hesitate to add this point as there is a large degree of difference in quality between DSLR lenses (and point and shoot cameras are always improving) but in general the lenses that you’ll find on a DSLR are superior to a point and shoot camera. DSLR lenses are larger (more glass can add to the quality) and many of them have many hours of time put into their manufacture (especially when you get into higher end lenses). I strongly advise DSLR buyers to buy the best quality lenses that they can afford. It it’s the difference between a high end lens on a medium range camera or a medium range lens on a high end camera I’d go for quality lenses every time as they add so much to photos.

DSLR Weaknesses

  • Price – while they are coming down in price (especially at the lower end) DSLR’s are generally more expensive than point and shoot digital cameras. Also consider that you might want to upgrade your lens (as kit lenses are generally not of a super high quality) or you may wish to add more lenses later and that this adds to the cost of a DSLR.
  • Size and Weight – the only reason I take my point and shoot out with me is on those occasions when I don’t want to lug my DSLR (and it’s lenses) around with me. DSLRs are heavy and sizable and when you add a lens or two to your kit bag you can end up with quite the load!
  • Maintenance – a factor well worth considering if you’re going to use a DSLR with more than one lens is that every time you change lenses you run the risk of letting dust into your camera. Dust on an image sensor is a real annoyance as it will leave your images looking blotchy. Cleaning your image sensor is not a job for the faint hearted and most recommend that you get it done professionally (which of course costs). This is a problem that is being rectified in many new DSLRs which are being released with self cleaning sensors.
  • Noise – DSLRs are generally more noisy to use than point and shoots. This will vary depending upon the lens you use but while point and shoots can be almost silent when taking a shot a DSLR will generally have a ‘clunk’ as the mechanisms inside it do their thing. I personally quite like this sound – but it’s something that is a factor for some.
  • Complexity – while DSLRs are designed for manual use this of course means you need to know how to use the tools that they give you. Some friends that have bought DSLRs in the past few months have told me that they were a little overwhelmed at first by the array of settings and features. The learning curve can be quite steep. Having said this – all DSLRs have fully Automatic mode and many have the normal array of semi-auto modes that point and shoot digital cameras have.
  • No live LCD – in many DSLRs the only way to frame your shot is via the optical viewfinder. Some photographers prefer to use a camera’s LCD for this task. This is another thing that is changing with more and more new DSLRs having a ‘Live View’ LCD which enables you to frame your shots without looking through the view finder (update: please note that Live View isn’t perfect.

(see the Top 20 DSLRs for choice reference)

Point and Shoots

While some people write off all non DSLR’s as inferior I think they’ve got a lot going for them and would highly recommend them depending upon the level of photography that you engage in, your budget, the things that you’ll want to do with your photos and the subject matter that you will be shooting. You’ll also notice below that I note that the Point and Shoot market options available are improving. Some of the weaknesses I note are being improved by manufacturers lately on some of their models. Here’s some Pros and Cons of point and shoot digital cameras.:

Point and Shoot Digital Camera Strengths

  • Size and Weight – to be able to slip a camera in a pocket as you dash out the door to a party is a wonderful thing. These days point and shoot cameras can be slim and light – to the point of not even knowing you’ve got them with you. This is great for parties, travel and all manner of situations. Of course some point and shoots can be quite bulky too (especially some of the super zoom models on the market).
  • Quiet Operation – this was the thing I noticed about my new point and shoot the most. Not only didn’t my subjects not notice I’d taken shots of them at times, once or twice it was so quiet that even I didn’t notice I’d taken a shot.
  • Auto Mode – the quality of images produced in point and shoots varies greatly, but in general they shoot quite well in auto mode. I guess manufacturers presume that this style of camera will be used in auto mode (or one of the other preset modes) mostly and as a result they generally come pretty well optimized for this type of shooting (as do many DSLRs these days).
  • Price – in general point and shoot digital cameras are cheaper. Of course you can go to the top of the range and spend as much as you would on a cheaper DSLR, but most are in a much more affordable price bracket.
  • LCD Framing – as I mentioned above, many digital camera users prefer to frame their shots using LCDs. Point and Shoots always come with this ability and some even come with ‘flip out’ screens that enable their users to take shots from different angles and still see what they’re shooting.

Point and Shoot Digital Camera Strengths

  • Image Quality – point and shoots generally have small image sensors which means that the quality that they produce is generally lower. This is slowly changing in some point and shoots but in comparison to DSLRs they still have a way to go. It’s worth saying however – that if you’re not planning on using your images for major enlargements or in professional applications that the quality of point and shoot cameras can be more than enough for the average user. Manufacturers are making improvements all the time in their technology and even in the last year or two I’ve noticed significant image quality improvements.
  • Smaller ISO range – once again this is changing slowly (my point and shoot has the ability to shoot to 1600 ISO) but in general ISO ranges are more limited in point and shoot cameras – this limits them in different shooting conditions.
  • Speed – point and shoot digital cameras were always notorious for their slowness, particularly their ’shutter lag’ (the time between pressing the shutter and when the image is taken. This is constantly being improved but the instantaneous feel of many DSLRs is still not there with point and shoots when it comes to shutter lag, start up and even focusing time.
  • Reliance upon LCD – most point and shoot digital camera rely almost completely upon their LCD for framing. While some enjoy this others like to use a viewfinder. Most point and shoot cameras have view finders but they are generally so small that they are almost useless. Some models don’t have viewfinders at all (increasingly a trend).
  • Manual Controls Limited – many point and shoot cameras do have the ability to play with a full array of manual settings and controls (or at least make it difficult to do so). They often come with ‘aperture priority’ and ’shutter priority’ modes which are great – but quite often the manual controls are hidden in menu systems and are not as accessible as on a DSLR (if they are there at all).
  • Less Adaptable – while they are highly portable point and shoot cameras are generally not very adaptable. What you buy when you first get them is what you are stuck with using for years. Some do have lens adapters to give you wider angles or longer zooms but generally most people don’t go for these accessories.

(see the Top 10 Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for choice reference)

So Should You Buy a DSLR or a Point and Shoot Digital Camera?

This is something you need to decide for yourself. If you have the budget, have both. But if you’re a beginner and won’t really prefer spending that much, then I prefer you start with a decent point and shoot camera (but make sure it has manual features), so you can practice and understand what makes a good photo (specially balancing the aperture, shutter speed, and IOS features). This will prepare you for a DSLR someday.

Besides, if you’re really into photography, you will still need your point and shoot camera even when you have your own DSLR camera, cause it’s smaller, handy, and a lot quicker to use.

I hope this helps you with your decision.

Source: Digital Photography School

6 Steps To Finding a Good Photography Mentor

Every good photographer has his/her own photography mentor and I personally believe that there’s a lot of things these mentors can teach us that’s not written in any tutorial websites or publications.

So how do we choose the best mentor?

Here are 6 steps:

  1. Know Your Favorite Subject Matter – It is very essential to start with YOU. What topics are you interested in? What kind of photography? Are you into Nature? Wedding? Sports? Emotions?. Most of us really don’t settle for just one topic so it will only be practical to make a list of the ff. topics that we love, and after listing out a couple of your favorite topics, narrow the list down to your top two. Ask yourself, “If I could only study two types of photography, what would it be?” questions. This will help you identify which areas you will need to ficus to.
  2. Find The Like – Chances are you already have some names rolling around in your head. Favorite photographers you’ve picked up along the way. Write these names down first as they are the easy ones. Then start doing some searching. Looking online is a good start since you’re already at a computer. But also check out your local photography scene. Check your nearby college. Visits all the art galleries in your area until you find a good match for your topics and style.
  3. Know What You Want From The Relationship – This is a very important step in the process. Without it, both you and your mentor may be left floundering or spending a lot of time on tasks that should have been done before you got in touch. Are you simply looking for regular critiques? Do you want hands on help with equipment? Maybe you wish to shadow the person for a day, a week, on a shoot. Or just need someone to help you with a new direction in photography. Whatever the case, list out how long, why, when and what. Be specific or vague as you wish, but make sure it would be clear to the other person what you are asking of them.
  4. Get In Touch – Now for the part that stops most people in their tracks; getting up the nerve to contact possible mentors. For some, this part is easy and if that’s you, I’m sure you already know what to do. For the rest of us (myself included) this step might seem a bit daunting. I mean, you are actually going to let someone else know that you are not perfect and would like some help. EEeek!! Now get over it. Right now. Gather up some courage (”Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain) and contact the people on your list. You may have to write or call the person, or maybe start with email. It all matters on the contact information you have gathered. No matter than manner, write out a little script first and practice/proofread it so you know what you want to say clearly. The step before should have made this easy to fill in.And don’t let your brain tell you, “Oh, that person would be too busy or important to mentor you.” If you never ask the person, the answer is always no. Don’t ask ’should I contact this person’, just do it! The worst they can do is say no and they just might say yes! If it’s ‘no, thanks’, you may be referred to other mentors who would be willing to help. Just ask and let the chips fall where they may.
  5. Take Notes – Let’s say you have contacted someone and they agree to help mentor your in your art. GREAT!! Now make sure you take plenty of notes. And not just notes on the subject at hand. Here I’m talking about notes on your relationship. This first mentor is not necessarily your be-all, end-all mentor. You may go through many in your life. It’s important to know what works for you and what doesn’t. What kind of communication style, how much, in what form, etc… These notes will be important in continuing your relationship or in choosing the next mentor.
  6. Keep An Open Mind – The actual process of picking a mentor may put images in your mind of just exactly how the relationship will work. While it’s fine to visualize an intended goal, don’t get too hung up on it. Think of Daniel in the movie The Karate Kid. Miyagi, his mentor, had him painting fences and doing all sorts of other things he thought had no relation to his goal, which was to learn karate and beat up some bullies. But Miyagi’s methods, while odd to Daniel, were simply a different path toward his goal than Daniel had imagined. So keep an open mind and take a few chances if your mentor is asking you to stretch or try something new. Just keep in mind that no matter how good you think you are, the fact is, you still don’t know everything and there still is a LOT of things you can learn.

Source: Digital Photography School