Persona

An engaging photo series of people and their daily items, by Jason Travis.

Fuji S5 Pro Review

I know I’m a bit late to the game here, but I bought a Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro a few months ago and it has really paid off. So why would I buy a three-year-old previous generation camera, when there are so many more modern alternatives around?

I think the picture quality of the S5 Pro speaks for itself.

Thirsty Flamingo

Fuji have taken a completely different philosophy with their sensors. Instead of building ultra-high megapixel sensors, they focus on the aspects of a photograph that really matter. And it works.

The colours it produces have a subtle vibrancy that is both saturated but neutral. It looks like film, it looks like how you want real life to look like. No other camera manages it; Canon colours have a slightly unrealistic look to them, and Nikon colours are professional but dull.

It’s difficult to describe the quality of the colours the Fuji S5 Pro produces, especially if I don’t want to exhaust my supply of dreamy adjectives. They have to be seen to be believed.

The Best is Yet to Come

When I had my Nikon D80, the biggest problem I had with it was it’s overexposing meter. When it overexposed, bright areas of the photo would burn out, leaving washed out skies. Digital sensors have always had a small dynamic range (the amount of detail it can capture between pure black and pure white).

The Fuji, with it’s SR sensors, manages to capture a huge amount of dynamic range. This is because the photocells aren’t arranged in a standard checkerboard pattern, but diagonally grid instead, and also they have more than one photocell at each site, the larger ‘S’ cell that captures the main images information, and the smaller ‘R’ cell that captures only the dynamic range.

This large dynamic range lets you recover overexposed photographs back to something that’s doesn’t resemble a piece of white paper. This means that, unlike with any other DSLR, I tend to overexpose the S5 Pro, rather than underexposing. This means shadow areas are well exposed and low on noise, and the bright areas can be brought back in post-processing.

The downside to this dynamic range is that you have to deal with the huge raw files the S5 produces. If you have the ‘R’ cell active, then each raw file is 25MB in size, for only 6MP of real photographic data. On my 8GB compact flash card, this means I can only get around 230 RAW + JPEG photographs on there. The average day shooting will yield close to 8GB of data! So make sure you have enough storage afterwards to keep up with this camera.

The other downside is a side effect of the RAW file size, the camera is fairly slow at processing all this data. Three frames-per-second is the best you can expect, when shooting RAW with the ‘R’ cells inactive. Shooting full RAW + JPEG with the extra dynamic range, you’ll be lucky to get one frame-per-second. So not a camera for the speed freaks.

Building It Up

But once you use the S5 and see the photographs it’s capable of producing, you’ll get over all it’s shortcomings. It’s based on one of the best DX camera bodies around, the Nikon D200. Handling wise, it’s the best camera I’ve ever used. Fuji have crippled it slightly by fitting their inferior UI to the menu system (the Nikon D200 one is considerably better), but again you’ll get over this.

You’ll especially get over all of these issues once you look at how much you paid for it. £485 is the average you’ll pay, down to £385 when the Fujifilm refurb store has their seasonal discount vouchers.

So, if you have £500 to spend on a DSLR this christmas, and you’re wondering on what to spend it on, forget the Nikon D60, or the Canon 450D, or even the alternatives from Sony, or Olympus. The S5 Pro will give you something truly unique to spend your money on.

Nikon D3X

Nikon announced it’s worst kept secret today, the D3X, with a whopping MSRP of £5,499.

Nikon is effectively charging £3,000 for a sensor with 12 million more pixels that costs no more to make than the standard D3 sensor.

They have this completely wrong.

The market doesn’t want another professional level DSLR with a price tag to match, what’s needed now is something like Canon’s 5D Mark II, which with 21 megapixels and costing under £1,750, seems like a comparative bargain.

Even if Nikon did make a D700X with this new sensor, would it have the same £3000 price premium over the D700, as the new parts would be the same as the D3x.

It seems Nikon have priced itself out of contention.

Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene

Very interesting research into using still photographs to enhance a video of the same scene by increasing the resolution, enhance the dynamic range and exposure, and even object touch-up and removal.

The Big Picture: Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony

Some spectacular photographs from the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Big Picture blog never fails to deliver.

Lightroom 2

Lightroom 2.0 is now out of beta with a massive list of new features. It costs $299 in the US, and $99 for 1.0 users to upgrade.

The highlights for me is the new Profile Editor which allows you to create your own custom profiles for the rendering of RAW files, letting you choose how you want them to look. Hopefully this means I can create a profile that renders my Fuji S5 Pro’s raw files like the straigh out of camera JPEGs.

Another long standing bug is that the vignette effect filter only applied to the corners of the whole image, irregardless of whether you cropped the photograph or not. Now you can choose whether to apply it to the whole photograph or just the cropped area.

Union Station Photo Flap

As a Fox news reporter interviews an Amtrak spokesman about not having any photography restrictions in Union Station, Washington DC, they are told to stop recording by a security guard.

Are Photographers Really a Threat?

Bruce Schneier on the increasing paranoia of photographers being terrorists.

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM

Of most interest to Nikon D3 owners, Sigma announces a fast standard prime lens with a HSM motor, filling a gap that Nikon has left wide open for years.

If it’s as good as Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 lens for DX crop cameras, then this should be a big winner. I know I’d get one if I was buying a D3.

Make Your Own Pinhole Cameras

Make your own stylish pinhole cameras that work with 35mm film. My favourite is the Peyote.

My Year, 2007

My Year in Photographs

Blade Runner, Tokyo

My most memorable photograph was this cityscape taken in Tokyo. The smog and buildings, especially the tall chimneys, reminds me of the opening shots of Blade Runner.

Temple, Nikko

Following on with the Japan theme, this is a photograph of a temple in the historic town of Nikko, which we visited on a day trip from Tokyo. See more Japan photographs.

Tree, Lake District

My favourite photograph from my visit to the Lake District this year, there is something I really like about the calm created by this. See more photographs from my travels around the UK this year.

Tree, Lake District

2007 was also the year that I started shooting film again, and I’ve now amassed quite a collection of film cameras. Here’s one of my favourite film photographs taken this year, with a £1 Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim.

My Year in Cities

This is a list of cities I visited and stayed at least one night in for 2007:

  • Nottingham, UK *
  • London, UK *
  • Tokyo, Japan *
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Nikko, Japan
  • Dublin, Ireland

Cities marked with * were visited more than once on non-consecutive days. For once, I didn’t go to Aberdeen, Scotland at all this year.

My Year in Travel

The most enjoyable trip this year has to be the one to Japan with my old school buddy Stephen. We visited the sights in Tokyo and Kyoto, getting lost while wondering the streets on more than one occasion. Japan is truly a wonderful place. And it’s a strange place.

My other trip abroad was to Dublin with my ex-fiancee Kirsten. I loved it, Dublin has great food, great people and great music. The best part is that its big enough to accommodate a long weekend of snooping, but small enough that you don’t feel like you’ve missed out by just spending two full days there.

I also visited a lot of places in England this year, mainly around the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Nothing beats driving in the Yorkshire Dales; hardly any traffic, winding roads, spectacular views, and a sense of wilderness really gets the blood running.

My Year in Technology

This has to be the year of the iPhone, the device that has revolutionised smartphones. It’s also the year in which I’ve moved to using a Mac full time, and a MacBook none-the-less1 from my old Dell computer with Vista installed.

The Nikon D3, which arrived quite late in the year, also deserves a mention as it has single handily brought Nikon back into the DSLR race with Canon. An honourable mention should also go to Fuji for bringing out the S5 Pro, a fantastic camera with a huge dynamic range and great high ISO performance, and also to Pentax and Olympus for bringing more competition to the usual Nikon and Canon dominated market.

And finally Asus, for bringing out the computer that no-one else wants to make, the Eee PC. No-one else wanted to gamble on a barebones laptop sold for just a couple hundred dollars, but Asus did and managed to turn out a fantastic product at the same time.

But for a whole year, I can only pick out three outstanding new consumer products (ignoring the fact that the D3 is, in fact, a professional camera). It has been a year of disappointments: Sony PlayStation 3, Blu-ray, and HD-DVD have all failed to kick off. Let’s hope next year starts off with another bang at MacWorld 2008.

The best of the stuff I bought this year must be the Dell 24″ 2407WFP-HC widescreen monitor–with it’s fantastic image quality and huge 1920×1200 resolution, the Epson Perfection 4990 scanner, and the concisely named Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF], the optical bargain of the year.

My Year in Sports

In January I started a new fitness regime, and managed to loose 10KGs by June. I’ve also gone from someone who couldn’t run at all to now attempting to run 10KM in under 45 minutes (just need to shave another minute off my current pace) and starting to prepare for a half-marathon next year. So it’s looking very good.

I also started playing squash regularly in November, and along with running it’s become my major source of exercise ever since I left the gym.


  1. Albeit tethered to a 24″ monitor with a separate mouse and keyboard most of the time.

Photographs of Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination

Spectacular photographs captured by Getty photographer John Moore of the final moments of Benazir Bhutto’s life, and the aftermath of her assassination.

Nikon 18-55mm VR lens

Nikon has performed a veritable U-turn and announced its newest standard range zoom lens will have VR image stabilisation. The precisely name AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR is the first lens announced after their new AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, which doesn’t have VR as Nikon believed that VR wasn’t required on short zooms.

However, the success of in-body sensor stabilisation from the likes of Pentax, Sony and Olympus, and the new, cheap kit lens from Canon with IS probably forced Nikon’s hand to compete with a cheap VR zoom. This new lens combined with the 55-200mm VR lens would make a good stabilised zoom kit on a budget.

Lightroom 1.3

Lightroom 1.3 update includes support for new cameras including the as yet unreleased D3 and D300, and also fixes printing issues in Leopard. The biggest news is the release of a preview SDK for exporting images, so hopefully plugins that will let you upload to sites like Flickr within Lightroom will start to appear.

A History of Photographic Tampering

Examples of photographic tampering from 1860 with before and after photos.

Photographs: Wounded

Having my arm in a sling for a short period of time some years ago opened my eyes to others around me in similar situations. It was then I began to consider the possibility of producing a series of photographs of people on the street in similar situations. […] Photographically it became a challenge to turn interesting looking injuries into interesting photographs. These are not photographs you can set out to take. Sitting outside a hospital would be cheating.

Jesse Marlow has a book out documenting how people cope with their injuries on the street called Wounded. He’s put some photographs on his website from the book.

Preview of DxO Version 5

A preview of the new features in DxO Version 5 coming out in late October for Windows and November for Macs. Free upgrades for anyone who ordered after August 1st, 2007.

Photographer Killed in Burma

Kenji Nagai was gunned down by soldiers as they opened fire on anti-government troops in Burma. His dying moments were captured and shows him continuing to film as he lay dying with a soldier pointing a gun at his chest.

Update: There is a video of the Nagai being shot, a loud crack can be heard when he is pushed to the ground which contradicts the Burmese government’s statement that he was shot by a stray bullet.

Nikon D3 and D300

Amidst a lot of fanfare Nikon launches their new flagship camera, the D3 — its replacement for the venerable D2xs, and the D300 — the replacement for the incredibly popular D200.

A couple days ago, Canon upped the ante with their new EOS 40D, fixing the major complaints with the 30D and then one-upping the D200 on image quality as well. However Nikon kept smug about their plans, they didn’t rush any press releases about a mythical forthcoming camera to try to up-stage the Canon announcement like Sony did, and after all this time we knew they had something big in store.

D3

The D3 is the first Nikon DSLR to have a full-frame sensor (or FX as Nikon calls it). Its a 12.1 megapixel sensor, which on the face of it might not be much competition for the likes of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III’s 21.1 megapixel sensor, but the lower pixel density should produce less noise at the higher ISO ranges, especially as the D3 offers a ISO25600 boost range.

Nikon D3

Noteworthy points:

  • 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor.
  • ISO6400 native, and upto ISO25600 boost.
  • 9 frames-per-second — faster than the old D2hs with a 4 megapixel sensor.
  • New auto-focus system — CAM3500 with 51 focus points, 15 cross-hatched.
  • 14-bit A/D converter — should give better tonality.
  • 3 inch LCD with Live Preview — has very high VGA resolution which should make Live Preview quite useful.

D300

The D300 is the replacement for the D200, a camera that sold far better than Nikon ever hoped for. This isn’t without reason, the D200 is a fantastic camera, it beat off the competition — mainly from the Canon 30D — with ease, only loosing out with noise levels at high ISOs, but the build quality and design of the D200 were second to none. The D300 has big shoes to fill, made even bigger by the new Canon 40D which made the D200 less competitive. But my, if Nikon have finally managed to solve the high ISO issue, it should beat the competition out of the water.

Nikon D300

Noteworthy points:

  • 12.1 megapixel DX sensor.
  • ISO 3200 now native, and ISO 6400 with boost.
  • 14-bit A/D converter.
  • Blisteringly fast 8 frames-per-second with the grip, or 6 frames-per-second grip-less.
  • Same 3 inch LCD with Live Preview as the D3 — nice.
  • Same auto-focus system as the D3 — very nice, the auto-focus of the D200 was often found lacking.

Competition

Nikon have finally made a professional DSLR body that can compete with Canon, if purely down to the fact that its full frame. The D2 series had issues with high ISO noise, something which Canon were always good at. Hopefully with a new image processor, and now noise reduction being applied at the sensor level instead of in post-processing, we should see Nikon catch up to Canon in that respect.

I’ll reserve final judgement until we have sample images, but I’m very hopeful that Nikon have got it right this time.

Canon Confirms 1Ds Mark III and 40D

Canon confirms what Amazon have already leaked, which are the specifications for the new 1Ds Mark III and 40D

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