Sunday, August 28, 2011

No More Dust on MY Sensor!


I found some dust on my camera's sensor so I decided to clean it. I got my bottle of Eclipse fluid, some Pec pads, and a flashlight. I diligently made sure I had a fully charged battery, used the shutter lock up function in my camera to get the shutter out of the way, and commenced cleaning.

I squirted a little Eclipse fluid on my pec pad and noticed that it smelled kind of nice. I sniffed it for a minute or two and felt a little dizzy. I remembered that I was cleaning my sensor so I rubbed the pad back and forth on my camera's exposed sensor. Once I felt that it was clean, I went outside and took a picture of the sky. Back inside and—still some spots on the sensor. In fact, now there were more spots.

More Pec pads, more Eclipse fluid, and more pad sniffing. I woke up screaming in the front yard, with my camera lying on its back in a puddle of water, a still-running water hose in my hand, and my wife standing over me with a concerned look on her face. "Have you been cleaning your sensor, again?", she asked.

To make a long story short, it was difficult, but after a while I got the sensor clean enough. The water hose helped a lot!

I have come to understand one thing clearly: Dust is watching us!

After cleaning my camera's sensor, I decided to eradicate dust from my house. I started seeking dust, and found it. I crawled down behind the toilet, and found some dust collecting back there. I blasted it with an air can and it fled. I then sprayed the area liberally with Lysol to kill the nasty dust. I don't want it to breed.

Next I looked above my bathroom cabinet and found some dust lurking on top of one of the light bulbs. I unscrewed the bulb and put it in a ziplock baggy for later washing in the yard with my water hose. I sprayed the air to make sure that dust wasn't trying to follow me out of the bathroom.

As I went downstairs, I saw it. Some dust was on my left arm! It tried to blend in, but I could see it hiding behind the hairs. I whipped out a moist towelette, eradicated the dust, and from excessive pressure the hairs too. I hope it doesn't scar. But, it was worth it, 'cause there's no more dust on my arm.

When I sat down at my computer, I noticed that my monitor had some dust on the bottom lip of the screen. I squirted a bottle of sensor-cleaning Eclipse fluid on the screen, and it ran down on the dust, effectively killing it and washing it away ... right into my keyboard.

After I replaced my keyboard, I noticed that my monitor was changing colors. Stupid cheap Samsung SyncMaster! I've been wanting to get a better monitor anyways.

I've figured it out! These little dust creatures are entirely evil and mean. They do anything they can to get to camera sensors. I think they must eat sensor surfaces, or breed on them, or else why would they go to such lengths to get on the sensors? I think I saw a dust crop circle on my sensor earlier today. They are clearly signalling their brethren.

As I sit here looking around the room, I realize that dust is everywhere around me. This is much worse than I thought. I'm going to go boil one of those allergy masks in Eclipse fluid, so that I can safely wear it. I don't want to be breathing this dust into my delicate lungs, especially after all that screaming I did at the sensor dust while spraying it with my water hose this morning.

Hmmm, my chest is still sore from screaming ... or is it? Could it be that dust is ALREADY in my lungs, and THAT's why they are sore? OMG, I think dust has gotten to me. It's killing me. I am going to go eat some moist towelettes soaked in Eclipse fluid. Hopefully that will help!

If you don't hear from me for a few days, it could be because of these guys in white coats that Brenda called. They just told me that they were going to take me to a special room to wait while they clean all the dust out of my house. Whew ... I just love my dear Digital Brenda.

Well, I gotta go. The guys brought me a special dust repellant coat with arm coverings and cool buckles for safety. I am gonna wear it for a few days to protect me while they remove the dust. I guess this will help my arm heal too!

Talk to you guys soon. Watch out for dust bunnies!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What is White Balance?


The human eye and brain can adjust to virtually any lighting situation.

Let's say you're reading a book with an old fashioned incandescent light bulb in your lamp. You probably won't notice that the normally white pages of your book have a warm orange tint. Your brain adjusts your color perception so that the pages of the book look white to your eye.  If you take your book outside and sit under a tree in the shade, the color of the light is now a cool bluish.  Yet, your eye keeps right on perceiving the book's page as white.

Every light source has a different color.  If you're taking pictures in direct sunlight, and suddenly a cloud's shadow covers your subject, there is a difference in the color of the light.  It's called the "color temperature" of the light.  Your brain adjusts automatically to different color temperatures and you see everything with normal colors, no matter what the light source.

Unfortunately, a camera does not have the power of your brain. A Nikon DSLR has an Auto White Balance setting that does its best to adjust to the current lighting color temperature.  It does a good job most of the time.  However, sometimes it needs a little help, especially when you want very consistent results from image to image.

It will benefit your photography significantly to understand how the White Balance (WB) features of your camera operate.

How does White Balance Work?

Normally, the WB settings are used to adjust the camera so that whites are truly white and other colors are accurate under whatever light source you are shooting. You can also use the White Balance controls to deliberately introduce color casts into your image for interesting special effects.

Camera WB color temperatures are exactly backwards from the Kelvin scale we learned in school for star temperatures. Remember that a red giant star is “cool,” while a blue/white star is “hot.”  The WB color temperatures are backwards because the camera's WB system is adding color to make up for a deficit of color in the original light of the subject. For instance, under a fluorescent light, there is a deficit of blue, which makes the image appear greenish-yellow. By adding blue, the image is balanced to a more normal appearance.

Another example might be shooting on a cloudy overcast day. The ambient light could cause the image to look bluish if left unadjusted.  The auto WB control in your camera sees the "cool" color temperature and adds some red to "warm" the colors a bit.  Normal camera WB on a cloudy overcast day might be about 6000K.

Just remember that we use the real Kelvin temperature range in reverse and that warm colors are considered reddish while blue colors are cool. Even though this is backwards from what we were taught in school, it fits our situation better. Blue seems cool while red seems warm to photographers! Just don’t let your astronomer friends convince you otherwise.

Main point: Understanding WB in a simplified way is simply realizing that light has a range of colors that go from cool to warm. We can adjust our cameras to use the available light in an accurate, neutral, “balanced” way that matches the actual light source, or allow a color cast to enter the image by unbalancing the settings.

Color Temperature 

The WB range, as allowed by the camera, can vary from a very cool 2500K to a very warm 10000K in most Nikon® DSLRs (may vary). In Figure 1 is the same picture adjusted in Photoshop® to three WB settings manually; 2500K, 5000K, and 10000K.

Figure 1 – Same image with different WB settings

Notice how the 2500K image is much bluer or cooler than the 10000K image. The 5000K image is about right for the picture’s actual daylight. The 10000K image is much too warm.

In the "good old" film days, many of us used daylight balanced film and an 81A filter to warm up our subjects. Or we might add a filter to put some blue in on a foggy day to make the image feel cold and foreboding. You can get the same results with the hard coded white balance settings built-in to the camera.

To achieve the same effect as daylight film and a warming filter, simply select the “Cloudy” white balance setting while shooting in normal daylight. This sets the camera to balance at about 6000K and make nice warm-looking images. If you want to really warm the image up, set the controls to “Shade” which sets the camera to 8000K.

On the other hand, if you want to make the image appear cool or bluish, try using the Fluorescent (4200K) or Incandescent (3000K) settings in normal daylight.

Remember, the color temperature shifts from “cool” values to “warm” values. The camera can record your images with any color temperature from 2500K (very cool or bluish) to 10000K (very warm or reddish) and any major value in between. There's no need to carry different film emulsions or filters to deal with light color range.  The camera has very easy to use color temperature controls, and a full range of color temperatures available.

Should I Worry About White Balance if I Shoot in RAW Mode?

The quick answer is no, but maybe not the best answer. When you take a picture using RAW mode (creating .NEF files) the sensor image data has no WB, sharpening, or color saturation information applied. Instead, the information about your camera settings is stored as “markers” along with the raw black & white sensor data. Color information is only applied permanently to the image when you post-process and save the image in another format, like JPG, TIF, or EPS.

When you open the image in Nikon Capture NX 2, or another raw conversion program, the camera settings are applied to the sensor data in a temporary way so that you can view the image on your computer screen. If you don’t like the color balance or any other setting you used in-camera, you simply change it in the conversion software, and the image looks as if you used the new settings originally when you took the picture.

Does that mean you shouldn't be concerned about WB settings if you shoot RAW most of the time? No. As mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the human brain can quickly adjust to an image’s colors and perceive them as normal, even when they are not? That's one of the dangers of not using correct WB. Since an unbalanced image on-screen is not compared to another correctly balanced image side-by-side, there is a danger that your brain may accept the slightly incorrect camera settings as normal, and your image will be saved with a color cast.

Use your WB correctly at all times and you’ll make better images for it. You’ll do less post camera work if the WB is correct in the first place. As RAW shooters, we already have a lot of post-processing work to do on our images. Why add WB corrections to the work flow?

Additionally, you might decide to switch to JPEG mode in the middle of a shoot, and if you are not accustomed to using your WB controls, you will be in trouble. When you shoot JPEGs, your camera will apply the WB information directly to the image, and save it on your card...permanently. Be safe…always use good WB technique!

Setting White Balance in the Shooting Menu

This method let's you manually select the WB color temperature by using the shooting Menu screens. You can open up White balance on the Shooting Menu and set the color temperature by selecting from a list of preset values or by setting it to Auto (default) for camera selected white balance values.

Figure 2 – Manual white balance with Shooting Menu screens

Here are the screens and steps used to select a White balance setting:

  1. Select White balance from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (see figure 2, image 1).
  2. Select one of the preset values, such as Flash or Cloudy, and scroll to the right (see figure 2, image 2).
  3. Press the OK button immediately, without moving the little square from its center position—unless you want to fine tune the white balance setting (see figure 2, image 3).

Normally you’ll use only the first two screens in figure 2 to select one of the preset WB values, such as Cloudy, Shade, or Direct sunlight. Then you’ll just press the OK button on the final screen, without changing anything. Or, you can use the third screen in figure 2 to manually fine tune the white balance. Unless you are a really finicky person you probably should just press the OK button in the second screen of figure 2 and bypass the fine tuning process.


If you choose to fine-tune any of the color temperature settings after you have selected one of the preset WB values, the color box in the last screen of figure 2 allows you to do so by mired clicks. Each press of the Multi Selector in a given direction is equal to 5 mired in that direction—up is green (G), down is magenta (M), left is blue (B), right is amber (A).

If you aren’t familiar with adjusting the preset’s default color temperature, or don’t want to change it (most won’t), then simply press the OK button without moving the little square from the center. If you’ve accidentally moved it, simply move it back with the Multi Selector until it’s in the middle again, then press the OK button. That will select the preset WB value without modifying its default value (see Method 1 for a list of the preset WB default values).


Note: The Fluorescent selection allows you to choose one of seven different light sources, covering a wide spectrum. It has an additional screen, as shown in figure 3.

Figure 3 – Fluorescent’s seven selections
You'll need to experiment and see which fluorescent source matches yours. It may be best to do an ambient "PRE" reading using a gray card. My Mastering the Nikon DSLR books explain how in the chapter dedicated to White Balance. In fact, the most accurate form of white balance is using a white or gray card to do a WB reading in the ambient light bathing your subject. Let's consider a few tips and tricks for ambient light readings.

White Balance Tips and Tricks

Tips for using a white/gray card: When measuring WB with a gray or white card keep in mind that your camera does not need to focus on the card. In PRE mode, it will not focus anyway, since it is only trying to read light values, not take a picture. The important thing is to put your lens close enough to the card to prevent it from seeing anything other than the card. Three or four inches (about 100mm) away from the card is about right for most lenses.

Also, be careful that the source light is not casting a shadow from the lens onto the card in a way that lets your lens see some of the shadow. This will make the measurement less accurate. Also, be sure that your source light does not make a glare on the card. That is a little harder to do since the card has a matte surface, but it still can be done. You may want to hold the card at a slight angle to the source light if it is particularly bright and might cause glare.

Finally, when the light is dim, use the white side of the card since it has more reflectivity. This may prevent a bad reading in low light. The gray card may be more accurate for color balancing, but might be a little dark for a good measurement in dim light. If you are shooting in normal light the gray card is best for balancing. I doubt it makes a lot of difference, however; you might want to experiment in normal light with your camera and see which you prefer.

Learn to use your White Balance controls for complete and consistent color control in your most important images.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Friday, August 26, 2011

Auto Image Rotation vs. Rotate Tall


There are a couple of functions in Nikon cameras that sound somewhat similar and subsequently confuses many Nikon users. They are Auto Image Rotation and Rotate Tall. To make it clearer how these functions work, are related to each other, yet are different from each other; let's consider them both.

Auto Image Rotation

Auto image rotation is concerned with how vertical images are displayed on your camera’s Monitor and later on your computer. Horizontal images are not affected by this setting. The camera has a direction-sensing device, so it knows how the camera was oriented when a picture was taken.

Depending on how you have Auto image rotation set, how the Playback Menu > Rotate tall setting is set, and the direction you hold your camera’s hand grip, the camera will display a vertical image either as an upright portrait image, with the top of the image at the top of the Monitor, or lying on its side in a horizontal direction, with the top of the image to the left or right of the Monitor. The two selections are as follows:

  • On – With Auto image rotation turned On, the camera stores orientation information within each image, primarily so the image will display correctly in computer software, such as Nikon Capture NX 2 and ViewNX 2. In other words, the camera records, as part of the image metadata, whether you were holding your camera horizontally or vertically (hand grip down) or even upside-down vertically (hand grip up). The image will display in the correct orientation on your camera’s Monitor only if you have Playback Menu > Rotate tall set to On. Auto image rotation lets the image speak for itself as to orientation, while Rotate tall lets the camera listen to the image and display it in the proper orientation.
  • Off – If Auto image rotation is turned Off, the vertical image will be displayed as a horizontal image lying on its side in your computer software. The top of the image will be on the left or right according to how you held the hand grip—up or down—when you took the picture. The camera does not record orientation information in the image metadata. It will display images horizontally, even if you have the Playback Menu > Rotate tall function set to On.


Figure 1 – Auto image rotation settings

Use the following steps to set the Auto image rotation function:

  1. Select Auto image rotation from the Setup Menu and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 1).
  2. Choose On or Off from the menu (figure 1, image 2).
  3. Press the OK button to lock in your selection.

If you’re shooting in one of the Continuous-servo release modes (CL or CH), the position in which you hold your camera for the first shot sets the direction the images are displayed.

My Recommendation: If you want your images to be displayed correctly on your camera’s Monitor and in your computer, you’ll need to be sure that Auto image rotation is set to On. I always keep mine set that way.


Rotate Tall

When you shoot a portrait-oriented (vertical) image, with the camera turned sideways, the image can later be viewed as a horizontal image lying on its side or as a smaller, upright (tall) image on the camera’s horizontal (wide) Monitor.

If you view the image immediately after taking it, the camera’s software assumes that you are still holding the camera in the rotated position, and the image will be displayed correctly for that angle. Later, if you are reviewing the image with the camera’s playback functionality and have Rotate tall set to On, the image will be displayed as an upright, vertical image that is smaller so it will fit on the horizontal Monitor. You can zoom in to see sharpness detail, if needed.

If you would rather have the camera leave the image lying on its side in a horizontal view, forcing you to turn the camera 90 degrees to view it, you’ll need to choose Off.

The following two settings are available on the Rotate tall menu (figure 2):

  • On – When you take a vertical image, the camera will rotate it so you don’t have to turn your camera to view it naturally during playback. This resizes the view of the image so that a vertical image fits in the horizontal frame of the Monitor. The image will be a bit smaller than normal. When you first view the image after taking it, the camera does not rotate it, since it assumes you are still holding the camera in a vertical orientation. It also senses which end of the camera is up—if the Shutter-release button is up or down—and displays the image accordingly.
  • Off – Vertical images are left in a horizontal direction, lying on their side; you’ll need to turn the camera to view the images in the same orientation as when they were taken. This provides a slightly larger view of a portrait-oriented image.


Figure 2 – Playback Menu – Rotate tall

Here are the three steps to choose a Rotate tall setting:

  1. Choose Rotate tall from the Playback Menu and scroll to the right (figure 2, image 1).
  2. Select On or Off from the Rotate tall screen (figure 2, image 2).
  3. Press the OK button to finish.

My Recommendation: I leave Rotate tall set to On. That way I can view a portrait-oriented image in its natural, vertical orientation without turning my camera. Be sure you understand the relationship between this function and Auto image rotation, which stores orientation data with the picture. I always set Rotate tall and Setup Menu > Auto image rotation to On. That lets me view images in the correct orientation on my camera’s Monitor and my computer screen.

In Summation

Basically, Rotate tall and Auto image rotation work together to display your image in the correct orientation. Rotate tall gives you the choice of how the image is viewed based on the orientation information it finds in the image’s metadata. Setup Menu > Auto image rotation causes the camera to store how the image was taken so it will know whether the image has a vertical or horizontal composition. It can then report this information to the Playback Menu > Rotate tall function.

Hopefully, by comparing these two functions side by side, you will learn to use them both to effectively support your style of photography.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Understanding What Focus and Release Priorities Do During Autofocus


Many new users of Nikon DSLRs have a peculiar difficulty when trying to use the AF-C (Continuous-servo autofocus) setting on their cameras. AF-C allows you to hold down the Shutter-release button and shoot bursts of many images in rapid succession. Unless you understand the differences between Focus priority and Release Priority when using AF-C, some of your images will simply be out of focus. If your camera is set incorrectly for your style of shooting, you can even have focus problems when using AF-S (Single-servo autofocus), where you only take one picture for each press of the Shutter-release button.

Note: Focus priority means that the camera will take a picture only when it can focus on your subject. Release priority means that the camera will take a picture even when it can't get good autofocus. Why would a camera even have a Release priority if it can cause out of focus images? We'll see.

Let's examine two specific Custom Settings—a1 and a2—in your Nikon. You'll find the settings when you press the Menu button and find the Custom Setting Menu, which is the third menu down, under the Playback and Shooting Menus. You'll find a1 and a2 under the Custom Setting Menu heading called a Autofocus. These two Custom Settings allow you to choose Focus priority (Focus) or Release priority (Release) for AF-C and AF-S modes.

First, we'll examine what the settings do and then see how to adjust them. Why not get your Nikon before you read on and be prepared to adjust these settings as you better understand them.



Using Custom Settings a1 and a2

Two of the more important Custom Settings are a1 AF-C priority selection and a2 AF-S priority selection. This special section will help you understand why you must pay very close attention to these two settings.

Again, Focus priority simply means that your camera will refuse to take a picture until it can reasonably focus on something. Release priority means that the camera will take a picture when you decide to take it, whether anything is in focus or not!

Now, you might ask yourself why there is such a setting as Release priority. Many professional photographers shoot high-speed events at high frame rates—taking hundreds of images—and use depth of field (or experience and luck) to compensate for less than accurate focus. They are in complete control of their camera’s systems since they have a huge amount of practice in getting the focus right where they want it to be. There are valid reasons for these photographers not to use Focus priority.

You need to ask yourself, "What type of photographer am I?" If you are a pro shooting hundreds of pictures of fast race cars, Focus priority may not be for you. However, for average photographers taking pictures of their kids running around the yard, deer jumping a fence, beautiful landscapes, flying birds, or a bride tossing a bouquet, Focus priority is usually the best choice. For most of us, it’s better to have the camera refuse to take the picture unless it’s able to focus on our subject.

When you’re shooting at a high frame rate, Focus priority may cause your camera to skip a series of out-of-focus images. It will slow your camera’s frame rate so that it will not reach the maximum number of frames per second, in some cases. But, I have to ask, what is the point of several out-of-focus images among the in-focus pictures? Why waste the card space and then have to weed through the slightly out-of-focus images?

Pay special attention to these two settings. You will need to decide—based on your style of shooting—whether you want your camera to refuse to take an out-of-focus image. If you set a1 and a2 to Focus priority and you try to take an out-of-focus image, the Shutter-release button will simply not release the shutter. The little green focus indicator in the Viewfinder will have to be on before the shutter will release.

Let's see how to adjust these two Custom Settings next:




Custom Setting a1 – AF-C Priority Selection

The a1 AF-C priority selection setting is designed to let you choose how your autofocus works when using Continuous-servo autofocus mode (AF-C). If you configure this setting incorrectly for your style of shooting, it’s entirely possible that a number of your pictures will be out of focus. Notice in the upcoming figure 1, image 3, that there are two specific selections, as follows:

Release Priority for AF-C 

If the image must be taken no matter what, then you will need to set AF-C priority selection to Release. This allows the shutter to fire every time you press the Shutter-release button, even if the image is not in focus. Releasing the shutter has priority over autofocus. If you are well aware of the consequences of shooting without a focus guarantee, then use this setting to make your camera take a picture every time you press the Shutter-release button. Your camera will shoot at its maximum frames per second (fps) rate since it is not hampered by the time it takes to validate that each picture is in correct focus. You’ll need to decide whether taking the image is more important than having it in focus.

Focus Priority for AF-C

This setting is designed to prevent your camera from taking a picture when the Focus indicator in the Viewfinder is off. In other words, if the picture is not in focus, the shutter will not release. It does not mean that the camera will always focus on the correct subject. It simply means that your camera must focus on something before it will allow the shutter to release. Nikon cameras do a very good job with autofocus, so you can usually depend on the AF module to perform well. The Focus setting will drastically increase the chances that your image is in correct focus.

Figure 1 – Setting Focus or Release priority for a1 AF-C priority selection


Use the following steps to select a Shutter-release priority when using a1 AF-C priority selection:

  1. Select a Autofocus from the Custom Setting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 1).
  2. Highlight a1 AF-C priority selection and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 2).
  3. Choose Release or Focus from the menu (figure 1, image 3), with full understanding of what may happen if you don’t choose Focus (out-of-focus pictures).
  4. Press the OK button to select your Shutter-release priority.

My Recommendation: Since I’m not a sports or action shooter, I choose Focus. Even if I were an action shooter, I would choose Focus. If I were a professional action shooter with many years of experience I may choose Release because I understand how to get good focus without autofocus in fast moving events.



Custom Setting a2 – AF-S Priority Selection

The a2 AF-S priority selection setting is very similar to a1 AF-C priority selection. It also allows you to choose whether the camera will take a picture with something out of focus. With this setting, you set the shutter-release priority for Single-servo autofocus mode (AF-S). It you set it incorrectly for your style of shooting, many of your pictures may be out of focus. There are two modes to choose from, as follows:

Release Priority for AF-S

A photo can be taken at any time. This can lead to images that are out of focus unless you manually focus each time you take a picture. The camera’s priority is releasing the shutter when you press the Shutter-release button, and it will do so even if nothing is in focus.

Focus Priority for AF-S

The image must be in focus or the shutter will not release. This means that the shutter won’t release unless the Focus indicator in the Viewfinder is on. This is the closest thing to a guarantee that your image will be in focus when you press the Shutter-release button. However, if you are focused on the wrong part of your subject, the camera will still fire.




Figure 2 – Setting Focus or Release priority for a2 AF-S priority selection


Use the following steps to select a Shutter-release priority when using a2 AF-S priority selection:

  1. Select a Autofocus from the Custom Setting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 2, image 1).
  2. Highlight a2 AF-S priority selection and scroll to the right (figure 2, image 2).
  3. Choose one of the two settings from the menu, with full understanding of what may happen if you don’t choose Focus (figure 2, image 3).
  4. Press the OK button to select your shutter-release priority.

My Recommendation: I choose Focus priority when using AF-S. I love pictures that are in focus, don’t you? When I want to manually control focus, I’ll just flip the switch to manual on the camera or lens and focus where I want. 

With the information above you may have a better understanding of Focus and Release priority. Please experiment with these settings and determine how you want to set them. The camera comes from the factory with Custom Setting a1 – AF-C set to Release priority. Custom Setting a2 – AF-S set to Focus priority. Of course, if you purchased a pre-owned camera, or have been fiddling with the settings previously, they may be set to either of the two choices. Learn to use these settings for more professional performance.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nikon Releases Six New Coolpix Cameras, But No DSLR or ILC/EVIL Models



August 24, 2011 at 12:01 a.m. EDT - Nikon releases six new Coolpix cameras. Many were surprised since eight Coolpix cameras were released merely six months ago, in February of this year.

Nikon DSLR fans everywhere are sighing today over the lack of new DSLR releases last night. Rumors have been flying hot and heavy across the web, with dreams of a D300S and D700 replacement, an ILC/EVIL model (Interchangeable Lens Camera or Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens Camera), and even a D4 for the pros. All the the consumer and enthusiast-level Nikons have been upgraded, with the earlier release of the D3100, D5100, and D7000.

Does this mean that we will see no new DSLRs or the promised ILC/EVIL model, until spring of 2012?  Time will tell! Barring additional and unexpected announcements by Nikon in 2011, we may have to wait until spring. The earthquake in Japan may have become a factor in not releasing new DSLRs, due to the destruction of inventory and factory facilities.

Your D300, D300S, D700, D3, D3S, and D3X cameras are still hot performers. Remember how excited you were when you first got them? Well, hang on to that excitement for a few more months. Nikon sometimes releases DSLRs later than we would like, but when they do, lookout! They invariably set standards that other manufacturers scramble to meet, eventually.

Keep your confidence high in our favorite camera company. When we get our new DSLRs we will have in our hands a very mature, robust, and significantly more powerful line of cameras. When the new ILC/EVIL camera is released, we may even have something that makes the 4/3rd users green with envy. Who knows, maybe Nikon will surprise us with another announcement this year!

Upcoming are several abbreviated press release segments concerning the new Coolpix camera releases, along with pictures. At the end of each segment is a link to Nikon's website for detailed information on each model.


Nikon CoolPix P7100

MELVILLE, N.Y. (August 24, 2011) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the new COOLPIX P7100, the digital camera that packs stellar image quality, swift performance and a variety of creative manual controls into a compact, lightweight camera body. The 10.1-megapixel COOLPIX P7100 is the ideal camera that advanced photographers will seek as a companion to their D-SLR camera when both portability and superior image quality are a necessity.

p7100_FRT_BCK_600.jpg
Coolpix P7100 front and back views

The new COOLPIX P7100 easily assumes the role as the new COOLPIX flagship by delivering amazing image quality, stunning High Definition (HD) movies and high speed performance to create an appealing package for professionals and enthusiasts alike. With an overall emphasis on image quality, consumers can expect rapid response in all aspects of camera operation, which also encompasses a new enhanced AF system for tack-sharp images in a variety of lighting conditions. Whether shooting landscapes or action, users have full creative control with the new 3.0-inch tilting vari-angle LCD screen, full manual features and new Special Effects that add a new dimension to images. With the aid of Nikon core technologies and distinctive new features and controls, the COOLPIX P7100 digital camera shifts image quality and performance into overdrive.

“The new COOLPIX P7100 is an enthusiast compact camera that provides stellar image quality, superior mobility and operability, as well as quick response and performance during even the most challenging shooting situations,” said Lisa Osorio, General Manager of Marketing at Nikon Inc. “The COOLPIX P7100 will allow users to explore their creative freedom, yet delivers the amazing results that they have become accustomed to with their Nikon cameras.”

Link to more information on the P7100:
Digital Compact Camera Nikon COOLPIX P7100


Nikon Coolpix AW100 and AW100s

MELVILLE, N.Y. (August 24, 2011) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the new COOLPIX AW100, a camera that can stand up to the rigorous expectations of those with an appetite for adventure who demand incredible image quality within a strong, durable body. The waterproof, freeze proof and shockproof COOLPIX AW100 is forged with features for adventure seekers who need amazing image quality and Full High Definition (HD) movie recording to keep pace with their active lifestyle.


Coolpix_AW_clrs_600.jpg
Coolpix AW series cameras in red, white, camo, black, and blue

The COOLPIX AW100’s newly designed rugged chassis is built to withstand harsh environments, yet is compact and lightweight enough to pack for a weekend on the trail. Ready to conquer the rocks, the ice and the waves, the AW100 hosts a myriad of Nikon core technologies aimed at providing stunning images and Full HD 1080p movie recording as well as new GPS technologies for outdoor enthusiasts.

“With detailed engineering and advanced technology, the COOLPIX AW100 is the rugged compact camera for the adventure enthusiast who never slows down and needs a camera that delivers amazing images and stunning Full HD movies without a second thought,” said Lisa Osorio, General Manager of Marketing at Nikon Inc. “The AW100 is as tough as the user that needs it, and it offers a sturdy exterior and advanced technology that enables users to capture life’s triumphant moments.”

Link to more information on the AW100 and AW100s:
Digital Compact Camera Nikon COOLPIX AW100/AW100s


Nikon Coolpix S1200pj, S8200, S6200, and S100

MELVILLE, N.Y. (August 24, 2011) – Today, Nikon Inc. introduced four new digital cameras to the COOLPIX S-Series lineup to address the unique lifestyle and needs of the social user who cares about the quality of the images they take and share. The new COOLPIX S-Series puts the “fun” in functionality by delivering enhanced zoom ranges and new ways to share photos and High Definition (HD) video, while being backed by Nikon core technologies like Vibration Reduction (VR) and EXPEED C2™ digital image processing.

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Expanding on the ultra compact superzoom category, the new COOLPIX S8200 and COOLPIX S6200 deliver high performance zoom with quality NIKKOR optics, while the new COOLPIX S1200pj offers a unique way to share content with a 20-lumen built-in projector and compatibility with the iPhone®, iPad® or iPod touch®. With an enhanced organic LED (OLED) touch screen and chic design, the trendy COOLPIX S100 is the fun to use, stylish camera to see and be seen with.

“The new COOLPIX S-Series cameras combine Nikon’s renowned image quality and superior technology in slim, stylish bodies for connected users who love to share their memories with others,” said Lisa Osorio, General Manager of Marketing at Nikon Inc. “With easy-to-use features and fun capabilities, these cameras inspire consumers to shoot, record and share, while reflecting their personal style.”

Links to more information on the new S series Coolpix cameras:
Coolpix S8200: Digital Compact Camera Nikon COOLPIX S8200
Coolpix S6200: Digital Compact Camera Nikon COOLPIX S6200
Coolpix S100: Digital Compact Camera Nikon COOLPIX S100
Coolpix S1200pj: Digital Compact Camera Nikon COOLPIX S1200pj


Other Nikon News

In other news provided during Nikon's early morning press release: the Nikon D7000 won an EISA Award, winners were announced in the Nikon Photo Contest International 2010–2011, and Nikon released corporate data and forecasts:

Links to additional Nikon information:
Nikon D7000 Digital-SLR Camera Recipient of EISA Award
Nikon Photo Contest International 2010-2011 Announcement of Winners
First Quarter of the Year ending March 2012 Financial Results/Financial and Business Data
Announcement on Financial Forecast and Dividend Forecast Revision For the Year Ending March 31, 2012


Hang In There!

If you were eagerly awaiting a new D400, D800, D4, or some new lenses—hang in there. Nikon will deliver, probably this spring. Remember that only a few months ago they were devastated by one of the largest earthquakes in the recorded history of the world. It is amazing that they are doing any kind of production after such a short period of time.

New Coolpix cameras are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce; and sell. It will help Nikon build up some cash to make our new DSLRs for the spring. I can appreciate their current difficulties and have a lot of empathy for them.

One nice thing to look forward to: if you will take the time to examine some of the cool new features in these new Coolpix cameras, you'll see things that will later appear in the DSLR line. Looking back, technology often appears in the Coolpix line before the DSLRs get the same. We do have exciting times ahead!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Monday, August 22, 2011

Which Camera Style Should I Choose, DSLR or ILC?

With all the changes in the photography world, photographer's have more camera-style choices than ever before. For many years the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera has ruled the roost. Recently, however, a new (old) style of camera has made an appearance. The ILC (interchangeable-lens camera) provides the imaging sensor size of the DSLR, with a much smaller body.

An entry-level DSLR, The Nikon D3100

In the good old film days there were SLR cameras and various styles of point-and-shoots with good lens quality. If a person wasn't in the mood to carry a big SLR around, the better-quality point and shoot could provide an alternative, with some limitations on lenses.

Today the ILC is similar to the older point-and-shoot cameras, except they have interchangeable lenses like the DSLR. What should we do?  Should we abandon the DSLR paradigm and pursue an ILC instead? Nikon claims that they will come out with an ILC/EVIL camera this year. In fact, I expect an announcement from Nikon this week on new camera releases (stay tuned). Will an ILC be included? We'll see!

The most enthusiastic enthusiasts generally use DSLR cameras. However, ILC cameras are increasing in power and capability with each new generation. ILCs used to be considered less powerful cameras, having a better imaging sensor but not much better otherwise than point and shoot models. However, now the line is blurred between the two types. Some ILCs are very basic—similar to a point-and-shoot—while others are more like DSLRs.

When should you choose a DSLR over an ILC camera? If you are going to do commercial work (even eventually), you may want to consider using a DSLR. If you want to make the best possible images you can make, a DSLR system may still provide an edge over an ILC camera, due to more rapid and precise viewing of the subject through the viewfinder.

This is a touchy subject for some; however, it is generally recognized that the DSLR is the professional’s camera of choice, mainly because of the support system in place from the longer existance of SLR-type cameras. As time goes by and ILCs grow in power, this may change. For now, if you see yourself specializing in things like action or sports photography, portrait work, or event shooting, you may want to choose a DSLR over an ILC.

A Panasonic Lumix G2 Interchangeable Lens (ILC) or EVIL camera

The primary limitations of an ILC come from the slowness of an electronic viewfinder, in comparison to the mirror/prism system of the DSLR. The autofocus system (automatic camera focusing) can also be significantly slower on an ILC due to the fact that most use a type of autofocus called contrast detection. This type of autofocus is very precise but much slower than the type used by DSLR type cameras—called phase detection. That’s why you see all those sports photographers with their DSLRs and huge, long lenses at sporting events. They must have very fast response times in order to capture fast moving subjects. DSLRs excel for that type of photography.

When you are shooting action, it can be harder for an ILC to keep up with the movement, due to slower autofocus and electronic viewfinder response. However, newer ILCs are increasing the speed of their autofocus and electronic viewfinders, so it may be that you’ll do just fine with an ILC instead of a DSLR.
If you are primarily doing things like street photography, landscapes and scenics, and family pictures, an ILC is up to the task. Any type of slower, contemplative photography can be done equally well with a DSLR or ILC. Once again, it all boils down to your own preferences and style. Which camera type do you like best?  That’s the one to use!

Better yet, get both. Use the DSLR when you are out doing serious commercial-type work, and the ILC when you just want to enjoy photography. Many photographers take that route. They use a DSLR when they don’t mind the extra size and weight of the camera and an ILC when they are interested using a smaller camera, such as for travel photography.

As long as you are using a camera with a large imaging sensor for quality, interchangeable lenses, and normal camera controls, you can use either a DSLR or ILC to be an accomplished photographer.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Second Step to Digital Image Excellence

So, you've bought that Nikon® digital camera you've wanted for a while. The first step is complete! What is step number two? Get a printer? Nope! Step two is to buy a monitor calibration system. Especially if you shoot RAW (NEF) images!

Why is that the second step to digital excellence? Well, it all boils down to a capability our human brain has that can hinder our ability to process accurate color images in our computers, after the fact. "What is that capability," you might ask? Our brains are selective and adaptive. Our cameras are not nearly so powerful. What I am talking about is simply this—when you walk into a room from outside and see a family member reading a book under a tungsten lamp, what color are the book's pages to you? White, right? "Yes," you may say, "but, so what?" Well, if you took a picture of the book under the lamp light, those "white" pages would have a strong orange color from the tungsten light. Your brain sees white, even though the light is truly not white. Your incredible brain has automatic white balancing! That's a real problem for photographers.

Following is a sample night-time image that I took recently. It has about four types of lighting in the image. I was doing time exposures while waiting for a nice lightning strike. It was storming while I stood on the front porch with my Nikon on a tripod. When I looked at the scene, I saw nice white lights, and finally a small lightning strike in the background. However, when I pulled the image up on my computer later, I was amazed to find weird light sources and color casts.

A night-time image with "colorful" lighting

The light on the left is yellow, the middle one is white, the right one is green, and the sky is bluish. But, my brain only saw white lights. Had I really taken the time to look, I'm sure I would have noticed the color casts, but the point is, I would have had to force myself to think about it carefully and turn off my brain's automatic white balance before I would see the different colors. My brain, and yours, automatically balances light sources in a way that no camera ever will. That, my friend, is a problem!


As you sit down with your monitor that you see everyday, you don't notice any color casts, do you? Your brain has grown accustomed to the colors of your screen. But, unless your monitor has been calibrated, it is likely not accurate and viewing your carefully created images on it will not show them correctly. You might feel that an image you took is too warm, or has too much red, when in fact, it is balanced correctly. When you open an image and start looking for color casts, you've turned off your brain's automatic system for a few minutes, without thinking about it. But, since you've grown accustomed to the standard colors your monitor displays, you may be seeing a color cast in your images that are not really there.


Basically, it boils down to this question: Can I trust my camera's white balance in all instances? No, you can't! It can only create consistent color if you are shooting in one light type that never varies, or constantly adjusting the white balance to the light in which you are shooting the pictures. If you aren't doing that, you may be introducing color casts during post-processing and your monitor will not tell you the truth when it shows them to you.


Are you really sure the green cast you removed from that last image was really there? How do you know? What if the picture was accurate and you removed green? Your image will show a blue or red color cast on other people’s more balanced monitors, while on your unbalanced monitor it may look perfectly correct. If you are really concerned about the quality of your images, shouldn't you think seriously about calibrating your monitor?


I calibrate my monitor every two weeks. Some do it weekly or even daily. Why? Unless you've been calibrating monitors regularly you would be surprised how far off the color balance can get in only a few days. Your monitor displays color in three channels called RGB for red, green, and blue. Each of these channels are individually balanced to input a certain set value of that color. The combination of different levels of RGB make up all the colors your monitor can produce. But, what if the individually adjustable red channel is too high, or the blue, or green? Your brain will adjust in a short time to the unbalance and see everything as just right. Then when you open an image and are looking for color casts, your brain may be fooled into seeing something that's not really there. In only a few days after calibration, your monitor's RGB color channels will drift slightly and introduce a slight color cast into your images. I didn't realize this until I started regularly calibrating. Now, I calibrate faithfully.


The solution is to buy a low-cost monitor calibration system. My favorite is the Datacolor® Spyder 3 Pro color meter and software. It runs about US$110 for a complete hardware/software package that will keep your monitor in top calibration, with all the RGB channels in exact balance, and brightness under control. Only then will you have an accurate display of your excellent images.


Besides Datacolor, there are several other monitor calibration vendors that offer reasonable or even lower prices. Considering the low cost, there is little excuse for not having a calibrated and profiled monitor to accurately show your images. Think about how much you've paid for your highly-calibrated Nikon DSLR and its excellent lenses. Why spend all that money on premium camera hardware, shoot great images, and then post-process your RAW images on an non-calibrated monitor.


When it comes time to print, you'll find it much easier to get good results if your monitor is calibrated. When I first started trying to print digital images with my inkjet printer, I was coming up with some very funny looking colors. I spent considerable time and money trying to understand why my images printed too green, or too red, when they looked fine on my monitor. I almost gave up and went back to the commercial labs; however, I started doing some research instead and read up on the problems that result from an unbalanced monitor. When I bought my Spyder 3 Pro system, I was simply amazed at how far off my expensive 20 inch flat screen display was. After I calibrated the monitor, and created a profile, I found it was much easier to print nice color-balanced pictures.


This information applies to any type of monitor, especially older CRT types. Even LCD (TFT) displays need to be balanced. Any time you are working with color spaces and converting between different devices like cameras, monitors, and printers, it is always best to have color profiles that help keep the colors close to what you expect. It isn't perfect, but it sure beats making 12 prints to get one with good color balance!


For about US$100 (or less) you can own a monitor calibration and profiling system that complements your expensive Nikon camera. Why take chances with your monitor's color balance? Get yourself some color insurance. Go buy or borrow a monitor calibration system and profile your monitor. You'll then see what you've been missing all along. If you are like me, you won't believe it until you see it. But, once you do, you'll never go back to the old way.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Friday, August 19, 2011

Most Photographers Aren't Terrorists, but Some Terrorists are Photographers

I've been reading a lot of information on forums and webpages of recent action against photographers taking pictures in public places.  It seems that many security guards and police departments feel obligated to stop and even search people taking photographs in certain areas or of innocent things, like tourist attractions. Evidently, the situation is worsening. There are now websites devoted to fighting against "harassment" of innocent people taking pictures.  Some, when taking pictures, are wearing T-shirts stating things like, "I'm a photographer, not a terrorist."

As I read these various sources of information, I, too, feel a bit of aggravation toward people in power that abuse it. However, I'm trying to remain logical and reasonable about this issue. There are two sides to every story.

So far, I've only been stopped once while taking a picture from a public location.  It was by a security guard at a major chemical company.  I had stopped my car on the side of the road just outside a fence surrounding their factory. I was within a few feet of the main entrance of the factory, but blocking no one, nor causing any road hazard. The sun was setting and I wanted to take some generic pictures of back-lit smoke ascending from one of their smokestacks.  It had a cool-looking purple glow that I thought was unusual and very photogenic.

About the time I started taking pictures, a pickup truck drove up, slid to a stop, and a security guard jumped out. With a frown on his face, he asked me why I was photographing the factory.  Being that I was on a public road and taking pictures from a non-private place, I was clearly breaking no laws.  I could have simply told him to go jump in the lake and kept snapping pictures. However, I tried to put myself in his shoes. I thought to myself, "If I were a security guard, and some guy had a zoom lens taking pictures of a factory I was assigned to guard, how would I feel about it?"  This is not a religious blog, but I also remembered a bible principle that states, "An answer when mild turns away rage."  I think that applied pretty well, in this instance.

I decided to answer mildly, and said something to the effect, "I'm a professional photographer taking pictures of the sunset shining through the smoke from the stack over there."  I then showed him a couple of pictures on the camera's LCD monitor.  "Who do you represent," he asked?  I told him I work for myself as a freelance photographer, and showed him a business card.  He visibly relaxed, and told me that he was charged with protecting other people and his employer's property and took his job seriously. He wanted to make sure I wasn't someone with bad intentions. He told me to be careful not to get run over, got in his truck, and left.

Now, thinking back on that situation, I have gone over in my mind various other ways I could have handled things.  I could have reacted like some do and refused to give him any information. I could have even taunted him or questioned his authority, like some of these websites seem to recommend. Most likely, the results would have been bad.  He might have been a hot-head and punched me in the face or broken my camera. He might have called the police, telling them that there was a suspicious man taking surveillance pictures of his employer's chemical factory, with the resulting mad rush of multiple police cars and a take-down of my innocent bodies, camera and flesh.

This whole issue is a very inflammatory one. However, where there is no fuel, the fire goes out. Most of the time, people in real or imagined positions of authority will respond with kindness when treated with kindness.  There are surely proper times to "stand up for our rights" and push issues to the extreme.  However, while photographing a picture of a tourist attraction or purple smoke is fun, and could even be profitable, it certainly isn't worth a punch in the face, broken camera, or police record. I'm not saying that we shouldn't stand up for our rights as photographers.  I'm merely opining that there are better ways to handle it than challenging the authority of another person simply doing his job.  Many people don't react well to direct challenges, as evidenced by some of the photographers I read about.

In 99.9% of the cases mentioned in the links I provided above, all the photographer needed to do was answer the simple question of why he/she is taking pictures.  Is that such a big deal?  Does a question like that require a photographer to go sullen and refuse to treat another person with respect.  I think not!  There are always special cases and circumstances where this may not apply.  However, in the majority of cases, allowing the security guard or officer to "feel important" by responding to them in a reasonable way, is quite disarming.  No one wins an argument!

I'm not saying that we should let angry people walk all over us, take our personal property, or force us to delete perfectly legal pictures.  I'm merely saying that there are better ways to handle the majority of these confrontations than getting into a fruitless argument with the authority figure.  Simply stating your reason for being there, displaying a few pictures, and showing a business card or press pass will usually completely disarm the tension.  In most cases, you'll be able to go right on taking pictures after assuring the person that you are not a pervert or terrorist.  In other cases, maybe the confrontation is simply not worth it, and one could move on, coming back at a different time for the pictures.  We, as photographers, can make phone calls to authorities if our rights are being violated, and usually will get support from them.

In a world so full of violence, terrorism, and anger we must realize that the government, police, and even security guards are under a lot of pressure, just like we are. So, the next time a person feels threatened by your perfectly legal photograph making, simply be kind, and most of the time kindness will be returned.  Acting like a jerk merely causes the authority figure to reciprocate.  Remember the title of this article, "Most Photographers Aren't Terrorists, but Some Terrorists are Photographers." This is a real fact in today's world! Sullenly refusing to answer perfectly reasonable questions is awfully suspicious. How would you react if one of your kids or spouse did that?

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Thursday, August 18, 2011

May I send YOU a picture?


Back in 1979 I bought a great slide projector and a screen of my own. I had a few boxes of Kodachromes lying around, so I thought I'd invite all my friends and family over for a nice slide viewing.

Things went well up to about the fortieth slide. Then, boredom started setting in. Not MY boredom mind you, but that of my friends and family. I could tell it was over when my best friend accidentally knocked over the screen on the way to the bathroom and everyone cheered.

The dinner afterward was nice, but I doubted I'd ever do a slide show again. I learned something that day. My images mean a lot to me, but to others, not quite so much.

Later on, after filling up a lot of albums with prints, I would invite friends over for dinner and "let" them see more of my images. I was quite amazed to find that the average friend's tolerance for images was about 36 or so. After that, the eyes begin to glaze and strange groaning utterances would proceed from slack, drooling lips.

For years afterward, I would only show images to friends with big DSLR cameras. Of course, in exchange, I had to sit through thousands of boring pictures produced by them. I don't even fully remember some of those sessions since I clearly entered a state of photo induced stupor.

It was hard for me to imagine that MY images could be boring to others. "No way!" I would say. "Way," said they!

Well, time passed and with it wisdom grew on my part. When I felt the need to display my exceedingly wonderful images, I would show them to my wife. When I noticed her eye start twitching, I would stop there and count the images. From that, I learned that a wife could handle up to twice as many images as the standard friend could. Finally, I could get away with image presentation for a limited time. My record is now up to about 40 images for friends and around 86 with the wife. My sweet mom has been known to sit for as many as 100 images without drooling.

In July 2002 things changed. I bought a digital camera and stopped making prints or slides. I discovered that I could load up an e-mail with maybe six digital images and send it to dozens of people at once. With great satisfaction I calculated that if 30 people viewed six of my images, it would equal a single friend viewing 180 of them. On top of that, I found that many people with brains dulled by endless e-mail SPAM would actually take as many as three e-mails per day without complaint. Can you imagine my happiness when I realized that the equivalent would be a single friend looking at 540 of my incredible images?

Happiness is upon me! Who needs slide shows or albums full of prints, when with a single click I can send my images off into the ethernet for viewing by many. When I imagine that some of those friends might be forwarding the images on to their friends and family, I get downright giddy. Thousands upon thousands of people out there appreciatively viewing my astounding images.

I must stop writing now since I just bought one of those e-mail lists with about 30-million e-mail addresses. I am putting together 10 completely unbelievable images for a mass mailing. When I think of the great joy I have brought to all my friends and family—and their friends and family—with my hourly e-mails, I know this is the right thing to do.

So, if you get one of my photos in your e-mail, be happy. I am!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Musing About the Old Film Days


Recently, I have been musing about film. Is it worth picking up an older Nikon film body and playing with film again. Maybe even an old FM or FE from the early 1980s. It might be fun to re-experience the beginnings of my Nikon photography days. I've still got many of my older AI-Nikkor lenses like the 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, and 105mm f/2.5. They just sit there not being used. Shouldn't I use them again? I still have lots of film frozen in my freezer, sadly including some Kodachrome which can no longer be processed.

Is film dead? No! In many countries film has a much bigger following than here in the USA. I think part of that is the fact that many do not have the emphasis on computer technology that we have here. How can you shoot digital in a country where electricity is not a given, for instance? Third world photographers definitely would have a problem shooting digitally.

Shooting digitally is a commitment to using computer technology as much as the camera technology itself. The up front costs are significantly higher due to that fact.

I can see where film still has a very valid place in this world. Most of the film companies still put out film, although a few have gone bankrupt. The fact that film is still here means that many people are still shooting it. Should I shoot some again?

A Nikon FM with an AI-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 manual focus lens

I agree that slides are a delightful thing. I have thousands and thousands of them, and I gaze longingly at them frequently, wishing that they were already scanned. I have found that, even with Nikon's most expensive scanner—the Coolscan 9000—it takes forever to scan an image correctly. And then the results are not up to the quality of my Nikon DSLR, which approaches medium format film, in my experience.

Don't feel that I am a hater of film, because I'm not. I'm just a realist. I decided to take advantage of the new technologies and teach myself the excruciating detail required to really do digital well. Some days I miss film usage and crave a new film body. I'll even get a frozen roll of B&W film out of the freezer and put it in my old Nikon N80. But, then I get aggravated when I shoot a film image and cannot see the results until I pay someone to process the image for me. I want complete control of the imaging process, and want no outsiders messing with my images. I hate only having 36 images maximum before I have to take time to change the film. Some say that makes each image count more since you know you are about to run out of shots. It just aggravates me though! I'm used to my 32 gig memory card and the luxury of shooting thousands of images any time I want.

One of the reasons I decided to go digital back in 2002 was a very important roll of film I sent in to a professional lab. It was from my Mamiya RB67 ProSD in 120 format. When I got the roll back, it had a note attached that said, "We are sorry Mr. Young, but we seem to have ripped the roll of film in half during processing  (ripped longways). Here's a free roll of film for your trouble." Add that to the other local labs scratching my slides, fingerprinting them, and in general treating them like they had no importance, and I got disgusted. Then, one day, I opened a box of slides that I hadn't looked at in a couple of years, and found some little bugs eating my slides. There were big holes in them. That was it. I wanted relief, and so I started reading those aggravating digital articles in photo magazines (summer 2002).

At that point I bought a Nikon D100 and gradually stopped using my lovely F5. I now shoot digital images, transfer them to three hard drives, burn them to two DVDs, and send one DVD to a family member away from my home. My images are now in multiple places at the same time. Try that with film!

A slide scanned with my Nikon Coolscan LS-9000 scanner

But, I still have the film call from time to time. Sometimes I'll take my N80 and shoot a few critical frames on film, mostly Fuji Provia F, along with digital. There is still a place for film and it is quite large yet. Only about 80% of photographers have switched to digital. Almost all American consumers have since the little digital P&S cameras are pretty cheap. But, many pros have not switched fully to digital and are still shooting both.

I, too, craved an F6 when it first came out, but then looked affectionately at my F5, and bought a D2X instead. I don't like the small bodied cameras, and the F6 is too small for me. The F5 is juuuust right! So is the D2X.

Right now, we can make a choice to shoot:

  •     Film Only
  •     Digital Only
  •     Film and Digital

How long that will last, only time will tell. It will get harder to find consumer labs to process film. Maybe pro labs will last longer, but they will fade also. It is only a matter of time, to the chagrin of dedicated film users. But, when the masses switch to a new technology, the old gradually dies. The masses have now switched big time! Film will probably always be around during our lifetimes, but it will get increasingly hard to find a processer for it and it'll be much more expensive when we do. Since it seems that no new film cameras are planned, it is only a matter of time before there are no film camera left to shoot.

Life can be sad when old things we love go away. But, it can also be happy when the new things are fun and even more productive. If your old beloved dog dies, mourn for a while, then get a new puppy.

There are many benefits to digital, compared to film, and they should not be discounted. If you've been shooting mostly film but are thinking of "going digital," now's a very good time. Digital Nikons are mature, full featured, and fun; and the digital process makes better images than film ever did.

However, it certainly won't hurt to remember film and even go back and shoot some for old times sake. Many have been doing that recently. Will you?

Keep on capturing time...
Digital Darrell

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mastering the Nikon D7000 – New from NikoniansPress and Rocky Nook


Mastering the Nikon D7000
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: NikoniansPress/Rocky Nook; 1st edition
Date: August 15, 2011
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1933952806
ISBN-13: 978-1933952802

Mastering the Nikon D7000 is a 496 page book covering every dial, switch, button, and menu item on or in the Nikon D7000 camera. It is written in an easy to understand manner, which allows the user to master their chosen camera without feeling overwhelmed in the process.

Each configuration option for the camera is discussed in complete detail, with why, how, and when to use the feature—far surpassing the user's manual. All settings are fully discussed with lots of color graphics and recommendations on how the author sets his own D7000.

Mastering the Nikon D7000 is written from the viewpoint of an experienced photographer discovering, using, and enjoying one of Nikon's most mature and powerful enthusiast cameras—and then explaining what he finds.



About the Author

Darrell Young has been an avid Nikon photographer since the early 1980s when he acquired his first Nikon, an FM. Since that time he has owned and used virtually every Nikon body, both film and digital. When a new Nikon is released, Darrell is first in line to get the new camera body. He has one of the worst cases of Nikon Acquisition Syndrome (N.A.S.) ever diagnosed—and it leads him to not only take pictures, but also write books and articles.

Darrell has been an author for Nikonians.org since 2000 and is often seen in the Nikonians.org forum and other forums around the Internet. As a technical writer Darrell's specialty is explaining complex things in everyday language. Before he writes about a camera he first fully reads the user's manual, testing each setting and noting any improvements or differences from previous Nikon cameras. He then takes the camera out into the real world, shooting nature scenics, portraits, events, and action to discover how the camera performs for each style of photography. Next, he tests the camera with various lenses, flash units, and Nikon accessories. Only then does he start writing the book about the camera. His books are based on real-world experience and knowledge.


Note to Darrell's Blog Readers

The book is available at the following links with discounted pricing:

Print edition: http://amzn.to/ie8gfV
Kindle edition: http://amzn.to/nmwCcQ
ePub, Mobi, and PDF versions: http://oreilly.com/catalog​/9781933952802/

Mastering the Nikon D7000 is in stock at Amazon.com, as of 08-14-2011. All eBook editions are already available at the links above (Kindle, ePub, Mobi, and PDF).

What Readers are Saying

James says:
 
"'Digital Darrell' Young has done it again. This author excels at taking complex subjects, and explaining them in a manner that makes them very easy to understand. In explaining the countless and complex features of this camera, I find the information to be short, sweet, and to the point.

I have been using my D7000 for 8 months preceeding the publication of this book, yet on every page I am finding important facts that I was not at all aware of prior to reading this book. The insight of the day so far? -- The minimum ISO setting on a Nikon D7000. Sure, Auto ISO lets you set a max ISO, but it wasn't until reading this book that I was aware of a minimum ISO as well! Brilliant material in this book for sure."

Cherokee Ham says:

"Darrell has stepped up to the challenge of writing a master reference on what is probably the most complex (and feature rich) camera that Nikon has produced to date. His analysis of all the options and settings of the D7000 is comprehensive, understandable, and very welcome.

I ordered the Kindle version and have read it cover to cover. It works great on both the portable Kindle and the PC Kindle. My initial reading was on the PC, where color in the menus, illustrations and photos is displayed. I plan to keep the monochrome version on my Kindle (along with the D7000 manual PDF) for handy reference when out shooting.

Darrell supplements this comprehensive reference with online information for digital SLR beginners. He does not include the basics of digital photography and digital SLRs in Mastering the D7000, because that would be another complete book. Highly recommended. in this book for sure."

B. Minor says:

"You will not be disappointed with Darrell Young's thorough coverage of the Nikon D7000. Not only does he give advice based on his excellent working knowledge of the camera's features, but also he provides his recommendations about them--how HE uses each feature.

As an extensive Nikon shooter with a collection of Nikon cameras and lenses to drool over, Darrell is the perfect expert to consult.

Also, the book is lengthy, and having the ebook version handy while learning the ins and outs of this new camera and/or going deeper into unexplored features is easier than carrying around the book. That said...I am still looking forward to owning the hard copy too! Ok, so I'm a fan...but with merit. I used Darrell's "Mastering the D90" until it was dog-eared (and still refer to it when using that camera body).

Whether you are an experienced of new photographer, this book is a must-have for the Nikon D7000."

Nikon Lady says:

"Darrell Young has done it again. Delivered a book, Mastering the D7000, with a WOW factor. I've owned my D7000 for nine or ten months, and have been using it with only rudimentary understanding of this complex, wonderful camera.

I've never been much for camera manuals. I try to find how to do something and I am referred to multiple pages, which end up just confusing me.

Mastering the D7000 explains the functions of the D7000 in language even I can understand. This book is like a blessing delivered to me. Buy it, and it will bless you."

And finally, Darrell says:

"I want to personally thank each of you that purchases Mastering the Nikon D7000. I have spent a great deal of time--along with the NikoniansPress/Rocky Nook publishing team--to give you a quality reading experience that will help you master your chosen Nikon. Inside each book is a link to my personal website and email contact address. I encourage you to contact me when you have deep questions that you would like to investigate. Often, I have had the same question and may have an answer already prepared. If not, and your question is one that others may have, I am quite willing to research and find an reliable answer. Maybe your question will contribute to the next book I write? I hope you enjoy your new camera and the book that will help you master it. Let's keep learning together!"

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Photography Basics - Understanding Your Nikon's Imaging Sensor


This article is a short excerpt from a book I am writing called, Moving Beyond Point-and-Shoot Photography: The Next Step – Learning to Use a DSLR or Interchangeable Lens Camera, due for release by Rocky Nook in the spring of 2012 in print and most eBook formats.

What is an Imaging Sensor?

In the old days of photography people used various light-sensitive chemical coatings on some sort of base material to make an image. The first real photograph was made in 1826 by a man in France named Joseph Ni├ępce. He set up a box with a lens—called a camera obscura—in an upper-story window of his estate and put a polished pewter plate coated with an petroleum-based substance called "bitumen of Judea" inside the box. He uncapped his lens and let the light from the sunny day outside shine on his coated plate for eight hours. The sun shining though the lens exposed and hardened the sun-exposed parts of the bitumen, while areas that were darker on the image were not hardened. He then took the plate and used a solvent to remove the softer bitumen. What was left was the world’s first geniune photograph made with a camera box and lens. You can read more about this historic event and view the first image at the following web address:

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/wfp/

By the 1850s photography had caught on as something enthusiasts of the time could accomplish. It was a lot of work since there was no place to buy pre-made photography supplies. The photographer had to coat his or her own base material with a light-sensitive substance and then process it later into a photograph.

As time went by photography became more and more popular. Companies stepped up and provided pre-made cameras and film to take pictures.  Now, any enthusiastic person could be a photographer. For many years the medium of photography was carried by film, either as a negative or a transparency.

In 1888 a man named George Eastman created “The Kodak Camera.” His motto was “You press the button, we do the rest.” Within a year, it became a well-known saying and photography exploded in popularity. The point-and-shoot camera was born! Following is a link to Kodak’s website where you can read about the early development of photography and film-based cameras:

http://www.kodak.com/global/en/corp/historyOfKodak/historyIntro.jhtml

Enthusiasts of the time went beyond Kodak’s method of you press the button and we do the rest. Many had what is called a darkroom, where toxic chemicals were used to “develop” the film for use and the film was placed in an enlarger for printing paper-based prints. Those were the prints of yesteryear. Enthusiasts had to work harder than photographers satisfied with the point-and-shoot method.

Around the year 1999 photography changed in a major way. Companies, such as Nikon, introduced professional digital SLR cameras. Instead of using film, the image was captured with an electronic “chip” inside called an imaging sensor. At first, the images captured did not have the resolution of film and most people didn’t take digital cameras seriously. However, by the year 2002, Nikon and Canon were releasing more consumer oriented and affordable enthusiast DSLR cameras, along with less costly point-and-shoot models. The rest is history.

The camera you now have or desire is based on digital technology. Instead of using film, chemicals in a darkroom, and an enlarger to make prints; the digital camera uses an imaging sensor to capture the image, a memory card to store the images, and an inkjet printer for prints. The whole process is more flexible, faster, yet in some ways, more complex.

How Does an Imaging Sensor  Work?

The imaging sensor size in your DSLR or ILC provides potential image quality unobtainable by even the best of the point-and-shoot cameras. Many do not realize why a large-sensored camera can make such high-quality images in comparison. Let me explain.

A CMOS chip imaging sensor found in a Nikon D7000 camera

What is a Megapixel?

All digital cameras have an imaging sensor that uses very tiny light-gathering points called pixels—an abbreviation of “picture-elements” (pix-els).  There are millions of these tiny light-gathering pixels on the imaging sensor. Each pixel captures a tiny part of the image of your subject. All the pixels working together capture the full image.

You have heard the word megapixel if you have been doing digital photography for very long. Camera companies use the megapixel rating of their cameras as a major sales point. Most people think that the more megapixels, the better the image; however, that may not be true.

The word megapixel simply means million of pixels. The size of the imaging sensor and the number of megapixels on it determine the maximum resolution (size) of the images you can create with the camera. However, there is a tradeoff in quality when too many pixels are added to a sensor. The problem with a point-and-shoot camera is that the sensor is very small and the millions of pixels are very, very tiny. That can cause some problems, as discussed in the next section.

What about Imaging Sensor Size?

To make a comparison, a point-and-shoot camera has an imaging sensor about the size of your little fingernail. Imagine cramming millions of pixels into a space the size of your little fingernail. Those pixels are so small that they’re not very light sensitive. For a point-and-shoot camera to make a good picture, especially in lower light levels, the power must be turned up on the pixels. That degrades the image by introducing stray spots or graininess in the image, called noise.

You know how static sounds when you turn up a radio to hear a station that is slightly out of range. The static is noisy sound that degrades your radio-listening experience.

Digital image noise is similar to static on a radio, except it is visual. Noise is random specks of grainy-looking dark or light colors that were not in the scene you photographed. Noise is one of the reasons people realize they need better cameras and move into the DSRLor ILC world.

You may remember what noise looks like in images you’ve taken with your old point-and-shoot camera in darker ambient light conditions. The grainy look of the images was not pleasant, was it? A point-and-shoot camera has a much harder time making high quality images because there are too many pixels crammed into too small an imaging sensor size. If you have a point-and shoot camera with 14 megapixels, that means the camera manufacturer packed 14 million pixels onto a tiny little imaging sensor. Noisy images are the result!

On the other hand, a DSLR or ILC has an imaging sensor nearer the size of a big postage stamp. That’s quite a difference! The same number of pixels put into a larger sensor area means the pixels can be much larger and can gather light much more efficiently. The images from your DSLR can be  sharper; and have better color, contrast, and dynamic range ( how much light range from dark to light its sensor can capture).
  
The DSLR/ILC’s photos can be enlarged more efficiently and with higher quality. You’ll be amazed at the difference and so will your friends and family.

If you already have a camera, check its user’s manual to see what size imaging sensor it uses. The larger the sensor, the bigger the pixels can be, and the higher the potential quality of the image it captures. Point-and-shoot cameras have tiny pixels and lower image quality, DSLR/ILC cameras have bigger pixels and better image quality.Pixel size is a strong determining factor in image clarity and lack of noise. As discussed previously, the larger the pixel, the better it can gather light. Sometimes more megapixels is not the best thing for your photography. If a camera manufacturer comes out with a new model with “even more megapixels” and they haven’t increased the size of the imaging sensor—beware!

When there are millions of extra pixels jam-packed into even a larger DSLR/ILC sensor, the pixels must be smaller in order to fit the available space on the sensor. When the pixel size approachs the size of a point-and-shoot camera’s pixels, image degradation can result.

Thankfully, camera manufacturers are usually balanced about this and don’t push the pixel sizes down too far. They know noise will result and people will be unhappy. There was one major camera manufacturer who recently reduced the number of pixels in one of its cameras because people were complaining about noise.

Just don’t be fooled by the hype in advertising. The number of pixels is an important factor in maximum image size, and the size of the pixels is an important factor in maximum image quality.  Just be aware of the trade off between the size of the sensor and the number of pixels. More megapixels can sometimes make for a lesser quality image. Interesting, huh?

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young