GPS Unleashed Has Arrived :)

Posted by Stuart Herbert on June 20th, 2008 in Equipment, News.

After recently breaking the cable that connects my Garmin eTrex to my Nikon D200, I decided it was time to go wireless. Nikon have no product of their own (why, ffs?), so I ordered a GPS Unleashed adapter from foolography of DP Review Forum fame.

And it arrived today 🙂 Full review to follow after sunny skies (well, okay, I’ll settle for it to stop raining) and some field testing …

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Apple released Aperture 2.0 last week. Touted as a major upgrade, with over 100 new features, it’s available here in the UK for 129, or 65 if upgrading from Aperture 1.x. Folks who recently purchased Aperture 1.5 can upgrade for less than 10.

I couldn’t resist upgrading as quickly as possible. But was I right to do so, and should you wait before doing the same? Read on to find out what I think.

(more…)

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Earlier this week, I bought a Mobile Broadband modem from Vodafone. It’s a neat little device that plugs into the USB port of my Macbook Pro and allows me to access the Internet pretty much wherever I am. Perfect for those all-too-common mornings before work when I’m sat in Starbucks and their T-Mobile hotspot is on the blink. Speeds are good (a bit less than 2mbit/sec), and it’s really nice to be online when I want to be. (I’m on a train to Southampton right now as I write this post, for example).

I’m feeling a little less enthusiastic after attempting to check my Flickr account for any new comments and messages overnight.

Instead of seeing Flickr open up in my browser, instead I was greeted with this Vodafone page:

Vodafone Content Control

Naturally, the “About Content control” link completely fails to mention how to remove this restriction (isn’t this always the way with these sort of pages?) Presumably, a simple phone call to Vodafone will sort this out (although that’s going to be interesting … I don’t own a Vodafone mobile phone, something their online systems aren’t geared up to coping with).

I’m just amused that

  • … this restriction (which is documented in their ‘personal’ or consumer section of their website) is in place on a product that’s sold as a business product (which is how they get away with their practice of advertising prices that are exclusive of VAT). C’mon, make your mind up – it’s either a consumer product (in which case, I want the price you advertised, not the price I’m having to pay), or it’s a business product (and therefore it doesn’t need parental controls enabled by default).
  • … there was no mention of this restriction when I bought the device. It’s a good job that I’m not a professional photographer, losing money because I can’t access Flickr. Vodafone already know that I’m over 18 years old, as I had to provide my age when I bought the device. It’s flattering to think that I still look as good as I did half a lifetime ago, but I’m pretty sure you’d have to be registered blind to get away with that (I think the grey hair might just give the game away 🙂 )
  • … Flickr is considered an 18-rated service, but YouTube isn’t. (I haven’t tried more overtly 18+ sites yet. Maybe when I get to the hotel this evening …) There’s a lot more smut on YouTube than on Flickr. Who decides these things? Some irate nimby numpty from the English home counties phoning customer services to complain that their kids have seen something inappropriate on their phone?

Needless to say, there’s a lot of mileage in this one. But the bottom line is that I can’t access Flickr on this mobile broadband device until someone from Vodafone decides otherwise.

It’s great to live in a free country, isn’t it?

PS: It looks like their gateway also attempts to reduce the size of images being downloaded. So maybe access to Flickr will prove to be the least of my worries!

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(This is the last of three articles looking at whether there s any real benefit in replacing that old 4 or 5 megapixel compact camera from yesterday with one of today s many ultra-modern high-megapixel cameras. Part one looks at what matters in a camera, and part two scores each generation of camera in a head-to-head battle.)

To help me answer the question of whether it’s worth upgrading from an older 4 megapixel digital compact camera to one of the latest high-megapixel cameras, I took both my Canon Digital IXUS 400 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 out to the National Botanical Gardens of Wales for a day’s photography. Every shot was attempted twice – once with each camera – and I’ve spent the last week sorting through the images to decide which ones I prefer, and why.

Looking At The Numbers

When you try to ‘score’ each camera as objectively as you can, it’s a close-run thing. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 does come out ahead of the older Canon Digital IXUS 400, but only by a whisker (7 points to 5). But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

I’m comparing the DMC-FX33 against the flagship camera of its time from the leading compact camera manufacturer of the time. Despite its age, the Canon Digital IXUS 400 is still a camera that produces amazing photographs, and it’s extremely difficult to compete against this camera. Still, I believe that it’s a very reasonable test, because a lot of folks are looking to upgrade from a Digital IXUS (it was an insanely popular camera over here in the UK).

Out of the 54 photos that I decided to upload to Flickr, only seven of those photos were taken by the IXUS. Every single one of the IXUS’ photos was chosen either because the Panasonic had focused on the centre when I didn’t want it to, or because the IXUS’ superior dynamic range made for a better photo.

The other 47 were taken by the DMC-FX33. And that’s the number that ultimately counts. I actually prefer the colours from the DMC-FX33 (which I’m still surprised at!), I love the 16:9 aspect ratio, and the extra megapixels do result in images that appear sharper and more like you are there.

Is It Worth Upgrading Your Compact Camera?

Yes, unequivocally.

  • Features like optical image stabilising allow you to take shots that simply aren’t possible with older cameras.
  • Larger screens make it easier to compose your shots.
  • Modern cameras are lighter, making it easier to carry them with you all the time.

If you’re switching brands, beware of any differences in functionality – especially multi-point focus and dynamic range.

The Photographs

Enough of me whittering on 🙂 Here are my choice of photos from the day’s shoot. All the photos have been processed in Aperture. I’ve adjusted sharpness on all the shots, and contrast on a small number, but I’ve left the colours alone in all the shots.

Deep Red The Flowers By The Stones Up Close Outside The Biodome Purple Greenhouse Sunflowers In The School Garden Mr Sunflower Scarecrow Shocking Pink An Explosion of Lines Looking Down At The Roof 2007092912-51-12_IXUS Looking Up At The Roof Feiry Flower! Textured Leaves Orange and Red Macro Joy The Greenhouse Green Grass Shooting Against The Sky The Bench In The Garden Towards The Cafe Red Is The Colour Are You Ready For Your Close-Up? The Apples Are Behind You Lost In The Wild Giant Twisted Stick Biodome Roof Artwork Inside The Biodome Flame From The Green More Biodome Roof Inside The Biodome A Hairy Moment Hidden Detail A Tale Of Two Screens Just Perfect At The Edge Of The Biodome The Colour Purple The Deeper Shade of Purple A Tricky Subject A Feiry Plant Beneath The Biodome Is This Weird Or What? Heading Off Into The Jungle It's A Little Chile In Here A Moment Of Peace Beside The Zen Garden Waterfall Art Rich Colour In The Water The Colour In The Water Three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Nine Flowing Down To The Xen Garden The Spiral Fountain And Biodome

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(This is the second of three articles looking at whether there s any real benefit in replacing that old 4 or 5 megapixel compact camera from yesterday with one of today s many ultra-modern high megapixel cameras. Part one looks at what matters in a camera. Part three draws some conclusions, and includes my choice of photos from the day’s shoot.)

To decide for myself whether or not it’s worth upgrading from an older four megapixel digital compact camera to a modern day high-megapixel replacement, I decided to pit two such cameras head to head for a day out at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. The premise is simple: one day, two cameras, and every shot taken with each camera in turn. It’s the venerable Canon Digital IXUS 400 versus the only-just-released Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33. Which photos would end up being uploaded to Flickr … and why?

The National Botanical Gardens of Wales are a hidden treasure out in the south west of the country. Featuring the world’s largest single-span biodome, this former millennium project stands on the site of the former Middleton estate. The first national botanical garden created in Britain in 200 years, and one of the very few not built in a city centre, the Gardens are dedicated to the research and conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable utilisation. As the UK’s millennium projects go, this has to be one of better ideas, and one that our children will truly be glad that our generation did.

The Opportunity To Take Photos

Shooting in low light. The day started off dull and overcast, making it difficult to shoot at all both indoors and outdoors. Like most modern compacts, the DMC-FX33 has built in optical stabilisation and an F/2.8 lens, and together they made this no contest at all. I lost track of the number of shots where the older IXUS (which doesn’t have optical stabilisation, but it does have the F/2.8 lens) simply didn’t take a clear picture because it was too dark for the older camera’s ability.

Battery life. Switching between the two cameras on each and every shot, not only must I have looked quite mad to everyone else wandering the gardens, but the constant switching on and off of the cameras put more strain on each battery than usual. Both cameras coped just fine over a five-hour day, which is good enough for me. I’ll call this one a dead heat 🙂

Screen quality. The screens on the two cameras are worlds apart. Although a great screen in its day, the Digital IXUS 400’s screen is tiny by comparison to modern cameras, and it’s harder to use in harsh light and odd angles. Throughout the day, I found myself using the DMC-FX33’s screen to compose each shot first, and then using the IXUS second. The modern camera was definitely the more enjoyable to use.

Score so far: older camera 1; modern camera 3. Overall, both the superior low-light capabilities and the improved screen are compelling reasons to upgrade from an older camera. Although modern cameras appear to have shorter times between battery recharges, battery life wasn’t a problem at all for a single day’s photography, which is all that I need.

Enjoying Using Each Camera

This was as much a tale of two brands as it was a tale of two generations of camera.

Handling. That large screen on the DMC-FX33 brings one problem with it … there isn’t really anywhere on the back of the camera to hold it. I constantly found myself swearing at the camera because I’d caught one of the controls whilst trying to take a shot, especially when trying to shoot portrait, and when holding the camera high up and low down. Because the back of the Digital IXUS 400 is mostly casing rather than screen, Canon was able to tuck the controls away where it’s much more difficult to catch them accidentally.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Panasonic have put a lot of work into the way that the mode wheel on the DMC-FX33 works, and it shows. Macro mode, “normal” mode, and full-auto mode are all next to each other on the wheel. Moving from shooting a plant up close and personal to shooting the biodome was as effortless as I could imagine it. With the older IXUS, by contrast, you have to remember to switch on macro mode or landscape mode, and it’s easy to forget to do so. This round is a dead heat.

Seeing The Shot. It’s not just that the more modern Panasonic Lumix has the larger, brighter, sharper screen (although all of those things help a great deal), it’s that the DMC-FX33 offers both a wide-angle lens and a widescreen option. These are modern features that suit me personally, and are as much to do with what’s important to the brand as they are to do with the generational gap. Panasonic are proud that they offer the wide-angle lens across their entire camera range, and I can see why. It’s a bit harsh on the older IXUS, maybe, but this round goes to the newer camera.

Getting In The Way. I’ve already mentioned my problems with constantly caching the controls on the back of the DMC-FX33. The Panasonic also got in the way with its focal point system. I personally like placing my photograph’s subject off centre – something the IXUS sometimes (but not all the time!) spots. Try as I might, throughout the day I struggled to get the Panasonic to focus on anything that wasn’t dead centre frame. More of a brand thing than a generational thing, but the older camera comes out on top here.

Scores so far: older camera 3, modern camera 5. Modern cameras are an improvement on older cameras in this area, but it’s also an area where the relative values of each brand also makes a difference.

Image Quality

This is where the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 faces its hardest challenge. My wife describes my Canon Digital IXUS 400 as the very best camera we’ve ever owned when it comes to image quality. She tells me that I produce better colour shots with the IXUS than I ever did with my Nikon D100, and its replacement the Nikon D200. The strength of Canon’s entire digital range has always been the DIGIC processor line at the heart of each camera. Even a much more modern camera like the DMC-FX33 has its work cut out to try and match the excellence of the DIGIC processor.

Colour. Well, I was shocked. The whole reason why I decided to do this test was because, after my earlier test shots with the DMC-FX33, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with its colour handling. Not any more! On nearly every shot, the DMC-FX33 produced the same richness of colour that we love from the IXUS 400. I say nearly, because when it came to the really rich colour shots where I’d have backed the IXUS to win, the DMC-FX33 actually came out on top. This wasn’t what I expected, and I’m delighted to award this round to the newer camera.

Highlights and Shadows. The Panasonic has two handicaps here. First of all, it has a tendency to do whatever it can to avoid shadows, which results in more highlights than perhaps there should be. Unfortunately, that’s combined with what appears to be a smaller dynamic range than the older IXUS enjoys, which made it difficult for me to photograph some of the outdoor areas as the sun came out mid-afternoon. (I bet, though, that the DMC-FX33 is fantastic in pubs and at parties, which is where a lot of folks use their compact cameras). These are the real issues behind my concern about the colour handling, and its as much a brand thing as a generational thing. This round firmly goes to the older camera.

What’s In Focus. I’ve already mentioned the Panasonic’s preference for the subject to be centre frame, no matter what focusing mode is selected from the menu (although I have to say the face recognition mode is excellent; it’s just not a feature that’s really useful in a botanical garden!). The other frustration with the DMC-FX33 is that it seems to have a preference for larger apertures, even when setting the camera explicitly in landscape mode. This results in a shallower depth of field, throwing more of the photo out of focus. Although I don’t like it (in fact, I’d love to see a firmware update that tunes the Panasonic to tend away from F/2.8 more), it didn’t actually spoil the images enough for the IXUS to win on this. This one is a dead heat.

Scores so far: older camera 5, modern camera 7. Image quality is Canon’s turf, and it’s difficult for other brands to wrestle this away from them. But this is the ground that Panasonic really wants to dominate in the minds of the paying public. Trying to build better sensors than Canon is a tall order; they have been the clear leader in this field for many years now (and I’m a hardened Nikon fan saying this). There’s a lot more to overall image quality than just the sensors. This is where Nikon succeeds in taking on Canon, and it’s where I think Panasonic must focus their efforts if they’re to do the same.

Should You Upgrade?

Head to head, the scores suggest that it’s a close-run thing. But numbers in a review never tell the full picture. In Part 3, we look at the actual images from the shoot, and at just how many shots the more modern Panasonic DMC-FX33 handled better than the older Canon Digital IXUS 400, plus my personal conclusion on whether or not it’s worth upgrading from an older camera.

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(This is the first of three articles looking at whether there’s any real benefit in replacing that old 4 or 5 megapixel compact camera from yesterday with one of today’s many ultra-modern high megapixel cameras. Part two looks in detail at the practical differences between the two generations of camera. Part three will be published later this week.)

If you’re anything like me, a couple of years ago you went out and bought a digital compact camera for those days when you didn’t have your digital SLR with you. Time, technology (and probably your digital SLR) has moved on, but your compact camera probably hasn’t – yet.

Unlike digital SLRs, where more megapixels does mean a much improved image, the megapixel arms race between compact camera manufacturers has often served to produce inferior images. Because of the very compactness that allows you to slip such a camera into your pocket, more megapixels fighting over such a small amount of light making it through the lens has translated into more problems with noise and fringing.

But there’s more to taking a photo you can enjoy again and again than such a simple measure of quality. First of all, you need to have the opportunity to take the photo at all. That translates to issues such as battery life, screen quality, low light handling, macro lenses, and lens focal length ranges. Then, you have to enjoy using the camera. You have to want to use it to take shots. The camera has to feel good in the hand, it has to have controls that are easy to reach and operate, it has to allow you to see the shot the way you see it in your head, and it can’t afford to get in your way.

Only after does image quality really enter the equation. How well are the colours captured? Are the images always in focus? What happens when the scene has both bright and dark areas? Does the detail in the distance disappear? Do you look at the image, and regret what the camera didn’t capture? Has the camera earned your trust or not?

A better camera doesn’t make any of us a better photographer, but it can make photography more enjoyable and (in the digital world) help us capture images that stand up better to technical scrutiny. But if, like me, you already have a perfectly adequate, if older, compact digital camera, is there any point at all in replacing it with a later model?

That’s the question I wanted to answer for myself.

To do so, I took both my venerable Canon Digital IXUS 400 and my brand-spanking new Panasonic DMC-FX33 out to the National Botanical Gardens of Wales for a day. Shooting both indoors and out, I put both cameras head to head not just to compare final images, but to get a feel for what I enjoyed about each of these cameras and why.

Find out how I got on in part two

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Panasonic DMC-FX33

I have a new point-and-shoot camera to replace my venerable Canon Digital IXUS 400. Panasonic UK have kindly given me a brand-new DMC-FX33 compact camera (mmm, a black one too 🙂 ), one of only 30 in the country at the moment, and I must say that I’ve been having great fun with it since I got it.

A First Look At The DMC-FX33

As much as I love my Nikon D200, I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to compose a shot through a viewfinder. I find it easier to really “see” what I’m photographing by seeing it on a view screen, and I’ve become a big fan of the screen on the back of the DMC-FX33. It’s bright, it’s clear, it’s sharp, and most importantly it’s usable outdoors on a sunny day. It also has that surprisingly-rare quality of being pretty accurate. I’ve only put a couple of hundred shots through the FX33 in the week that I’ve had it, but so far all the photos have looked pretty much the same on the camera as they have on my MacBook Pro.

The other feature of the DMC-FX33 that I’m really enjoying is shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio. This mode turns the camera into a 6 megapixel model (down from 8 megapixels in 4:3 aspect ratio), but don’t let that put you off! Combined with the wide-angle 28mm lens that the camera’s equipped with, it gives you an interesting alternative to a DSLR for composing shots.

I almost forgot to mention the face recognition. This feature automatically detects the face of a person in the shot, and ensures that the face is in focus. It seemed to work very well indeed when I terrorised my wife with the camera one lunch time, and I’m looking forward to trying it out properly at work’s Christmas Party later in the year!

But what’s really handy is that the DMC-FX33 is about the same size and weight as my mobile phone, which means that it easily slips into a pocket without being a burden. I love having a camera with me at all times, in case something catches my eye, and the DMC-FX33 is perfect for that.

Battery life is a lot shorter than my old Canon Digital IXUS (larger screens and more megapixels all add up to consuming more power per-shot with each new generation of kit; my D200’s battery life is also a lot less than the D100’s that it replaced).

Shots Taken With The DMC-FX33

Saucer On A Table
View all of the test shots taken with the DMC-FX33 on Flickr.

The majority of the shots I’ve taken with the DMC-FX33 so far have been on the “intelligent auto mode”. This is the camera’s fully automatic mode, where the camera becomes a true point-and-shoot model.

Rebuilding Cardiff Rebuilding Cardiff - Reflected Rebuilding Cardiff - Standing Tall Rebuilding Cardiff - Standing Tall Rebuilding Cardiff - Standing Tall

The camera also features a “normal mode” (where you can override some of the automatic settings if you choose), plus plenty of scene modes – all accessible from a mode wheel on the back of the camera body.

Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park Bute Park

Looking at the histograms, the DMC-FX33 sets the exposure to avoid any dark areas being completely black; this results in too many blown highlights on sunny days and in challenging scenes. To work around this, I’ve setup the ‘normal’ mode on the camera to deliberately under-expose shots by two stops, and otherwise to be identical to full automatic mode. These two modes sit right next to each other on the mode wheel on the back of the camera; switching between the two to suit the scene is no trouble at all.

Saucer On A Table Bute Park Bute Park Cardiff Central

The DMC-FX33 also has a barely-perceptible blue hint to all the colour shots I’ve taken so far. It gives a nice effect to black and white shots in particular, as well as landscapes featuring blue skies. I need to take more shots with little-to-no blue in the scene to make up my mind how much it detracts from other types of shots.

Building A Xen Image Building A Xen Image Building A Xen Image

The camera also features a macro lens, which is always a plus 🙂 I haven’t done much with the macro mode yet, but these closeups of my computer monitor appear crisp and clean enough.

The one downside (and it’s reportedly common to all 8 megapixel compact cameras) is that photos taken with the DMC-FX33 show much more fringing than photos taken with my older Canon Digital IXUS 400. For the target audience of this camera, that’s not a problem, but if you’re absolutely religious about the quality of your photos, I’d recommend looking around for one of Panasonic’s 6 megapixel cameras instead.

Added To My Kit Bag

… and my pocket! Although I’m going to miss my Canon Digital IXUS 400 (it has taken some great shots over the years!), the DMC-FX33 has replaced it for now. It’s much smaller and lighter, which means I really can have it with me all the time, and I’m really sold on both the 16:9 widescreen mode and the wider angle 28mm lens in particular.

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My Merthyr Road photography project can see me walk 6 or 7 miles a day on weekends, travelling parts of the route between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales taking a closer look at the many interesting things that are easily missed when you go whizzing by in a car. Lugging a camera bag full of different lenses has quickly become a drag, as has stopping to change lenses.

For most of March, I tried going about with just the one lens – my trusty Sigma 15-30mm. It’s a great lens (so long as the sun is behind me!), and in the four years or so that I’ve owned it, I’ve taken many pictures with it that I’ve been very happy with. I bought the lens whilst on holiday in Snowdonia with my Nikon D100 back in 2003. It was the first time I’d been on holiday with a digital SLR, and I learned the hard way that none of my existing lenses gave me anything approaching a “wide” image, because of the 1.5x focal length multiplying effect. I dragged my poor wife around North Wales, looking for a camera shop, just so that I could take this shot of Dolbadarn Castle in the Llanberis Pass at the foot of Mt. Snowdon.

Whilst 15mm has been handy to have, I’ve found that only having 30mm on the zoom end is very restrictive when I’ve been carrying only the one lens. So, fed up with the situation, I decided to trawl through the Nikon SLR Lens Talk forum on Digital Photography Review, as well as the reviews on SLRGear.com, to find myself a single walkabout lens.

I’ve settled on Nikon’s 18-135mm DX lens, which is the standard kit lens for the Nikon D80 SLR. When attached to a digital SLR such as my Nikon D200, it’s the equivalent of a 27-200mm lens on a full-frame 35mm SLR. It doesn’t have the advertised reach of the Nikon 18-200mm lens, nor the built-in VR-II image stabilisation technology, but unlike the 18-200mm lens at least you can buy one today.
There are plenty of folks online who report that both the 18-135mm DX lens and the 18-70mm DX lens (the kit lens from the Nikon D70) produce images with exceptional sharpness – much better than the 18-200mm lens. Some folks prefer the 18-70mm lens because it has a slightly faster aperture at the zoom end, or because it has a metal lens mount ring (the 18-135mm DX lens has a plastic mount ring), or because it has a rubber weather seal (which I must admit appeals to me!). Folks who prefer the 18-135mm DX lens online all seem to focus on the extra convenience of having that extra reach on the zoom – which is exactly what I wanted from my next lens.

I’ve used this lens on three shoots so far, including half of the images from my shoot at Melingriffith (the other two shoots will be published later in the year). Despite a concern about the build quality, which I’ll come onto in a moment, overall I’m very happy with the new lens, and it certainly fits my need of having a single lens I can use for walkabouts. I’m extremely pleased with the sharpness, colour and contrast of the images I’ve taken so far – three areas where I had no complaints about the Sigma 15-30mm lens that this replaces.

The only problem I’ve had with the lens has been with the focus ring. This year I’ve started shooting nearly all my shots using manual focus instead of relying on the D200’s excellent automatic focus system. The majority of my lenses are made my Sigma, and if there’s one thing that Sigma have consistently gotten right on their lenses, it’s the working of the manual focus ring. On Sigma lenses, the focus ring is always nice and tight, and as you get towards the infinity end of the focus range, it certainly feels like it takes more movement of the focus ring to adjust the focus – giving me the feeling of a very precise control. Unfortunately, the focus ring on my new Nikon lens is very loose. All I have to do is touch it and the focus shifts substantially, and I’ve found that I’d often knock the focus off just by catching the focus ring against my hand when raising the camera to my eye. I’ve gotten used to it, but I don’t like it, and I’m debating giving Nikon a call to see whether they will adjust the tightness of the focus ring for free or not.

There are plenty of other lenses in this range that would also make good walkabout lenses. As well as Nikon’s impossible-to-find 18-200mm lens, Sigma has lauched an 18-200mm lens with built-in optical stabilisation, and both Sigma and Tamron sell lenses in the 18-70mm range too. I chose the Nikon lens because of the exceptional rating for image quality – and so far it’s proving to be a good choice for me.

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And My Money Goes To …

Posted by Stuart Herbert on February 7th, 2007 in Equipment.

With my Aperture trial having run out this evening, it’s time to decide who gets my hard-earned cash – Apple, or Adobe?

Both packages have a lot to commend them.

Aperture is the master of organising thousands of photos. In particular, the smart albums and light tables are a real boon when sorting through a couple hundred photos at the end of the day. It’s ability to stack different versions of the same photo really opens up your creativity. The support for a “disconnected” photo library allows me to keep my masters on Moby (my paranoid fileserver at home), but still have high quality previews on the laptop when I’m out and about.
Lightroom is already shaping up to be the master of adjusting your photos. It is lightning quick at this (Aperture is anything but quick, even on a top-of-the-range MacBook Pro), and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a booming third-party market in adjustment plugins.

If I was making this choice twelve months or so in the future, I suspect Lightroom would be the winner. I fancy that the community that Adobe will build up around Lightroom will add an overwhelming versatility that I doubt will be matched by Aperture. Apple, by contrast, have started opening Aperture with an API for export plugins, but it feels like too little to stem the coming storm.

But … I’m buying today, not next year. And I’ve really come to appreciate the way Aperture manages photos. The Lightroom betas have been really weak in this area, and the final Lightroom 1.0 (due within a fortnight) will feature a major overhaul in an attempt to provide a more realistic challenge to Aperture. Given time, I’m sure Lightroom will catch Aperture up.

Until then, at least, Apple gets a little bit more of my hard-earned cash.

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Taking A Look At Aperture

Posted by Stuart Herbert on January 12th, 2007 in Equipment.

When considering whether to go with Lightroom or Aperture, there are currently two major points in my mind against Lightroom. Silly as it may sound, Lightroom hasn’t actually been released yet. It’s still a work in progress (although it should appear by the end of February, when the current beta expires), and as such isn’t complete. The beta’s a cracking piece of software, and a real joy to use – I’m sure I’m not the only one eagerly anticipating the version 1 release – but I think that it’s just too early in Lightroom’s evolution to commit to it, and I’m really looking to pick a package that I’ll be committed to for several years to come.
The second thing I keep coming back to is project management. I’m very much the amateur photographer, but my photography does have a definite purpose to it (if not definite results 🙂 ). I have my photos organised on disk by import date, but that scheme doesn’t scale too well. I think it stopped working for me at about 5,000 photos, and I think it stopped working for Kristi a good deal sooner than that 🙂 Although Lightroom will surely improve in this area, today this isn’t the product’s strongpoint by any means.

My initial impression of Lightroom was fantastic (using it to process Kristi’s photos from the National Museum of Wales in the museum’s coffee shop the same morning), and if it had been onsale via electronic download, I would probably have parted with my cash there and then. But, the more I think about what I need to help improve my enjoyment of photography, there’s just a little bit of doubt in my mind over Lightroom right now. When Colin suggested I take a look at Apple’s Aperture, the 30-day trial eventually found its way onto my MBP.

I’m still getting used to Aperture (I don’t find it as instantly accessible as Lightroom), but this article listing the top ten features of Aperture on O’Reilly’s Digital Media site covers the features of Aperture that I’m focusing on before the 30 day trial runs out. I’m also hoping to play with some of the Automator scripts available off the web; if the weather clears up on Sunday I hope to take the MBP out for some tethered shooting.

I’ll post more thoughts on my impressions of Aperture before the trial runs out in February.

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