Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Winner of the Lowepro Photo Hatchback AW

is @TurboPix, aka Kevin Miller, with this entry:

"@turbopix #PhotoHatchbackAW Love lowePro but can you imagine running around town with this on your shoulder?"

Once again, special thanks go to Derrick Story, Yvonne Petro and Suzanne Knowlton of Lowepro for providing the bag and for letting me host the contest on my blog.

And to Kevin, enjoy your new bag! :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Canon G15 Review - Part 2 - Image and Video Quality and Real World Use

(Part One of my review, Hardware and Features, can be found here.)

Ok, I'll put the obvious out right away: I love this camera and the photos made by it are gorgeous...

Now to justify that statement...

I said that one of the reason why I chose this camera is the large maximum aperture on either the wide end or at the telephoto end. With this large opening, bokeh is creamier and use of high ISO is not always required.

As you can see in these doughnut photos, the large aperture makes subject-to-background separation easier. Macro photography benefits well from having a large aperture.

At low ISO values, the photos are very clean.

However, even at high ISO values, noise is kept to a minimum. Photos are useable up to ISO3200 but noise becomes really noticeable at ISO6400 and, in my opinion, unacceptable at ISO12800. However, if you are just going to post photos online, like in Facebook, then you can use photos at such extreme values. Don't worry, you will not be the first to post a very noisy photo in Facebook... Or instagram...

In the photo below, the base photo has an ISO value of 12800 and the photos with different ISO values are marked accordingly.

And speaking of high ISO, when you are at either of the advanced P-, Av- and Tv-mode, you can set the camera to set the ISO used for each shot. The auto ISO value ranges from ISO80 to 1600. When you are at full manual, you set the ISO explicitly.

The G15 can shoot RAW photos but when you do so, some of the features become unavailable. An example of such a feature is the ability to substitute one color to another.

And with the ability to shoot RAW, I loved the G15 more. However, I love the photos that come out of the camera that I am thinking of shooting purely JPEG photos with the G15... (Shivers with the thought...) The reason I'm shooting JPEGs right now is because Adobe hasn't put out an updated Camera RAW software that can read proprietary photos from the G15.

There is an optical viewfinder but, as I've said in Part 1 of this review, it is essentially useless because of parallax in what you see through the viewfinder and the photo made by the camera. Just look at the photo below: it is supposed to be centered when I looked at the ref magnet in the viewfinder; the photo made by the camera has the magnet away from the center. Oh, and those other magnets? I did not see these in the optical viewfinder...

The parallax gets worse when you shoot macro: again, the refrigerator magnet is at the center, in full view, when I looked at the viewfinder - exactly at the center; the photo produced...

The only time I find the optical viewfinder really useful is when I use it for continuous shooting mode. With the optical viewfinder, you can continuously track your subject, something that's very important if your subject is moving relatively fast. I show this feature in the animated GIF below.

Follow Focus

Oh, speaking of tracking, the camera locks to the subject for as long as you hold the shutter down (and until the buffer fills) - even if other things enter the picture, the subject is still the one in focus. I show this in this animated GIF.

Focus Lock

With the high-speed burst, you can even photograph people jumping!


Now, the animated GIFs here are made using one of my now favorite feature: the High-Speed Continuous Shooting. In this mode, the camera takes ten full resolution JPEG photos in one second. This feature, take note, is not available in RAW. Well, I don't think the camera has the processing power to make ten RAW photos in one second...

My other favorite feature is the HDR mode. In this mode, the camera takes 3 photos of different exposure values and merge it to one. The thing is, the individual files are not saved and only JPEG photos are made.

Make sure though that you use a tripod, or something to stabilize the camera, or else your HDR photo will be blurred, which you can see from the shot below.

The G15 can of course shoot videos and it can shoot up to Full HD at 24fps. (Side note, the lady pointed at me in the video. I wasn't paying any attention to them at the start so they called me out before their performance. And during... hehe.)

Some of the special effects, like miniature, nostalgic, monochrome, and color accent can be applied to the video in-camera. I wish I could shoot videos in fisheye effect though... That would've been fun.

When you're shooting video, the camera has a mind of its own for you cannot change the exposure values while shooting. So, as I've said in the clip, if you have a predominantly white photo, the camera will underexpose the scene making it more grey. Your only solution is to lock the exposure before you shoot the video. That's it. Oh, and you can now zoom while filming, something the G12 could not do.

Image stabilization of the camera is very good: I have keeper shots with shutter speeds as slow as 0.4s. However, the number of useable shots greatly decline for shutter speeds longer than this.

And how good is this camera? Well, with a tripod, you can actually shoot fireworks with this. All you need is a sturdy tripod and a place to stand. Oh, as I've said in part 1, the shutter speed maxes out at 15 seconds, so take note of that. And if the shutter speed is more than 1 second, the camera defaults to ISO100. I think this is a good idea on Canon's part - a low ISO will make long exposure photographs much cleaner.

Take note, though, that the focus could hunt back-and-forth when you're aiming at nothing, IE before the fireworks explode. So you should set the camera to manual focus, something that I should have done (and something that I actually do when I shoot fireworks with a DSLR). Also, as with any long-exposure photography, a remote is a must so that you do not touch the camera when you take the picture. Well, I didn't have a remote then, something that I also use when I shoot fireworks with a DSLR -- lessons learned...

And remember that feature that lets you shoot up to ten high-resolution shots in one second?

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Fireworks

The main difference with the animated GIF and fireworks photos above is the length of the trail left by the fireworks. The longer the exposure time, the longer the trail would be. Just don't overdo it or your photo will be overexposed.

Lastly, I was greatly impressed by the battery life in this camera. I shot about 300 shots, about 10 2-minute videos and the battery still hasn't shown any signs of declined capacity. I hope the battery will last like this for a long time...

The camera is not perfect. There is no such thing. But for me, the things that I do like far outweigh the things that i do not. So, I will still give this camera a Highly Recommended rating!

So get yours here and do not let this CyberMonday go to waste; I'm sure you'll enjoy this camera very much:

Gear used to make this post:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Win a Lowepro Bag!

Here’s your chance to win a Lowepro Photo Hatchback AW!

It's the new bag from Lowepro that's perfect for traversing the urban jungle or hiking your favorite nature get-away. There's a padded camera compartment that can fit your DSLR with lens attached, an extra lens and a speedlite. The roomy upper compartment can house your wind breaker, a book, and whatever small accessories you need with you when you walk around. And there's an all-weather cover just in case you run across some inclement weather.

The camera is accessed from a body-side opening - no prying hands, other than yours, will be able to get to your precious gear.

And if you need just a regular backpack, you can remove the camera compartment and you can fit in more of your personal stuff inside.

And there's even room for an iPad!!!


The rules to enter are simple. And you have three different ways to participate. (And yes, you can choose just one way, or do all three.)

First Way!

  • Send me a tweet at @garybc telling me why you'd love to have this bag.
  • Don't forget to use the hashtag #PhotoHatchbackAW in the same tweet.

Second Way!

  • Not on Twitter? No problem.
  • Share a photo of your current camera bag on Instagram and tell me why you need the Lowepro Photo Hatchback.
  • Again, don't forget to use the hashtag #PhotoHatchbackAW in your Instagram post.

Third Way!

  • Not on Twitter or Instagram? Just add a comment to this blog about how you’d use the bag if you won.


We’ll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, November 27. The winning comment will be posted here on twitter and on my Facebook page.

This contest is open internationally, but void where prohibited. One winner will be chosen randomly. Good luck!

Special thanks to Derrick Story, Yvonne Petro, and Suzanne Knowlton of Lowepro for sponsoring the bag and for choosing my blog to hold this contest.

Gear used to make this post:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This may not be a real turkey...

And these may not be turkey stuffing, green bean casserole, apple cider nor a pumpkin pie...

But it's the thought that counts!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Gear used to make this post:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fireworks at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Spent a not-so-cold evening on East Wacker Drive: it was the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. Instead of jockeying for position against kids who, I assumed correctly, will be screaming and kicking at the arrival of the floats, I decided to step back and just let the kids be themselves. I was there, anyway, for the fireworks.

Now, there are a lot of things to love this city, and I do love this city, but one of the things I love the most, as a photographer, is that, despite the millions of people who attended the event, there is always plenty of elbow room for me! Just check out my photos in one of my favorite summer activities: the Chicago Air and Water Show.

And for the Lights Festival, I even had room for a tripod! This made photographing the fireworks extravaganza a lot easier.

Without the tripod, I wouldn't have been able to keep the camera steady to take these sequence of shots - combined to make an animated GIF. I just wish I had a remote though. It would have helped a lot timing the fireworks explosions.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Fireworks

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Fireworks

I'm really happy I was able to photograph the fireworks with just a Powershot, albeit an advanced Powershot at that. Just wish the wife was available to enjoy the spectacle herself. Well, she'll have to wait another year... ☺

Gear used to make this post:


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