Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Canon Announces 10.1 Megapixel, 10 FPS DSLR

Canon has announced a new EOS digital SLR with a 10 fps shooting rate the company says is the fastest of any digital SLR on the market, and a “live-view” the option of using the LCD screen as a viewfinder like on point-and-shoot cameras or for remote shooting.

At 10 fps, the EOS-1D Mark III will be able to fire “motor-driven” bursts of 110 Large JPEGs or 30 RAW files thanks to a new Dual DIGIC III image processor engine that Canon says provides enough computational horsepower to do parallel processing at a rate unmatched by any other digital SLR.

The all-new 10.1 megapixel, APS-H size CMOS sensor designed and manufactured by Canon is the most light-sensitive sensor Canon has developed to date. With a 1.3 lens magnification factor, it features a new microlens array and a more efficient pixel structure for “ultra-low” noise resulting in “exceptional” image quality and an ISO range of 100 to 3200 with extensions to ISO 50 and a “highly usable” ISO 6400. The ISO 6400 speed would be the first in a digital SLR, beating Nikon’s top 3200 ISO by a factor of two.

Canon says the new camera will ship in spring and sell for about the same as the current EOS-1D Mark II N, which streets for about $3,400. Canon will display and demonstrate the Mark III March 8 - 11 at the Photo Marketing Association trade show in Las Vegas.

"The new EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR is an essential tool for professional sports photographers and photojournalists because of its exceptional speed and durability and it will attract a broad range of other professional and advanced amateur photographers because of its superior image quality and improved low-light performance," said Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager of the Consumer Imaging Group at Canon USA Inc. "In designing the EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR, Canon responded to the requests of its many professional customers by adding new features that cater to their demanding needs. But at the same time, we have once again raised the bar for digital SLR cameras by introducing new technologies that only Canon can offer with the legendary EOS System."

Live View LCD
One of the most unusual functions of the EOS-1D Mark III is the introduction of a Live View shooting mode. Photographers who use point-and-shoot digital cameras are familiar with looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera to compose their images. Normally, a single lens reflex cannot do this because the mirror is in the way.

The Live View function has several options in addition to the conventional SLR through-the-lens optical viewfinder. If the camera is going to be close at hand, the new mode lets the user focus and compose on the built-in three-inch LCD screen and magnify the image 5x or 10x to achieve the optimal focus. If a user is going to be a few feet from the camera – in the studio, for example – the camera can be connected to a computer with a USB 2.0 cable, and the real-time image viewed on the computer monitor using the including EOS Utility 2.0 software, lets you view what the camera is seeing in real time and control its operation.

If the photographer is going to be far away from the camera, say, on the other side of a racetrack or stadium, or if the camera is hidden or buried someplace inaccessible, the EOS-1D Mark III can be operated wirelessly with the assistance of the new WFT- E2A Wireless File Transmitter. This allows users to view images directly off the camera's sensor in virtually real time with the ability to adjust many camera settings on the fly.

As a side benefit, Live View shooting mode helps to reduce vibration by lifting the reflex mirror out of the optical path well in advance of the exposure, improving image quality at slow shutter speeds.

Integrated Cleaning System
The camera is the first to feature the new EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The new CMOS image sensor is designed with a lightweight infrared absorption glass cover that vibrates for 3.5 seconds when the camera is turned on or off. (The delay can be cancelled immediately upon startup by pressing the shutter button, or turned off completely in the custom function menu.)

The sensor is also sealed around its edges to help keep dust out. The shutter, newly upgraded to 300,000 cycle durability, generates less dust, and fires three times during the process so dust is shaken off the shutter curtains as well. The second part of the anti-dust system is software that records the location of any spots on the sensor as Dust Delete Data and appends the information to the image file. The spots can then be erased automatically in the included Digital Photo Professional 3.0 software.

Advanced Autofocus
The Mark III also has a new autofocus system. Like previous EOS 1 Canon cameras, the Mark III has 45 AF points, but unlike its predecessors, 19 of them, rather than seven, are of the high-precision cross-type configuration. In addition to the center point, the new array allows the other points to be divided into groups of nine inner and nine outer focusing points plus a center point, which makes picking an individual focusing point much faster and easier than going through all 45, as in the past. During manual AF point selection, the AF point area is expandable.

At the request of sports and wildlife photographers, a new micro-adjustment feature allows for very fine changes in the AF point of focus for each lens type in use, along with the addition of adjustable focus-tracking sensitivity as another new AF feature. In addition to the AF sensor itself, other new components in the AF system include a reconfigured concave submirror and the secondary image formation lens. Also, the low-light sensitivity of the new AF sensor has been doubled to EV-1 for superior performance compared to earlier EOS digital SLRs.

Dual Image Processors
To cope with the voluminous signal processing required by the EOS-1D Mark III's 10.1 megapixel resolution and top continuous shooting speed of 10 fps, dual DIGIC III imaging engines are incorporated for parallel signal processing. The DIGIC III image processor replaces the DIGIC II and assists in rendering very fine image detail and natural color reproduction with 50 percent less shadow noise than previous EOS digital SLRs.

The CMOS sensor reads out to the dual DIGIC III processors simultaneously in eight channels. By having two processors handle the workload, image processing is approximately 1.5x faster than before, Compact Flash access speed is 1.3x faster and SD card access is 2x faster. The camera is compatible with the new high-capacity SDHC format memory card. The extra power of dual DIGIC III processors has also allowed analog-to-digital conversion to improve from 12 to 14 bits per channel, meaning that tonal gradation for RAW images is now divided into 16,384 separate levels per channel rather than 4,096. The difference also means freedom from defects such as moirés, Canon says.

Proprietary CMOS Sensor
The all-new 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor is designed and manufactured by Canon using semiconductor manufacturing equipment that is designed and manufactured by Canon. The sensor is APS-H size, 28.1 by 18.7mm, significantly larger than the much more commonly found APS-C, usually about 23.5 by 15.5mm. The lens magnification factor is 1.3x, rather than 1.5x or 1.6x.

The increased sensor size means that each pixel can be larger for a given resolution. The pixels of the EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR are 7.2 microns square. A sensor with 10 megapixels in APS-C size would have pixels less than 6 microns square, smaller and therefore receiving less light, requiring more amplification and producing more noise. Canon has also increased the proportion of each pixel that is sensitive to light, called the fill factor, so the pixels are not only bigger but more receptive to light. Another improvement comes from the revised microlens array that collects light for the sensor. The new unit has smaller gaps between the tiny lenses, meaning more light is gathered and less is lost. Canon says the changes will lead to “sensational” low-light performance and “terrific” quality at ISO 3200 and 6400.

Other Features
Canon says the camera has several new features that make it “much more reassuring and confidence inspiring.” Highlight tone priority extends the dynamic range of highlights by about one stop and improves gradation within highlight areas. Safety shift lets the camera automatically change the shutter speed, the aperture or even the ISO speed, according to the photographer's choice, even if the light level changes out of the range that the settings on the camera can normally handle. In-camera noise reduction for high ISO images is provided, along with a “silent drive” mode for situations where camera noise needs to be minimized (such as in a courtroom or on a movie set).

Canon says controls on the Mark III are new and easy to use. The camera uses a Main Dial, a Quick Control Dial, a Multi-controller, a SET button and several other buttons to select and set various functions. In addition, the ISO speed button, AF Start (AF-ON) button, Picture Style button, and Memory selection/Image size/White balance function button have been newly added to make camera operation faster and easier than previous models.

Answering the requests of many current EOS system users, information displays have also been improved. For example, both the ISO speed and the metering pattern in use are now visible at all times, not only on the top LCD data panel, but in the viewfinder as well.

New Battery
The Mark III uses a new LC-E4 Lithium-ion battery pack instead of the previous NP-E3 Nickel-Metal Hydride type. As a result, the weight with the battery and memory cards installed is approximately 8 ounces lighter than the EOS-1D Mark II N, and estimated shooting capacity has significantly improved from 1200 shots to approximately 2200. Charge levels are displayed in 1 percent increments.

The Custom Functions and Personal Functions of previous EOS models have been merged to create an easier set of 57 Custom Functions arranged in four groups according to categories such as exposure and autofocus. Up to six frequently used menu options and Custom Functions can be registered in a new user-friendly feature, called "My Menu." Up to 10 sets of camera settings can now be saved to one recording medium and moved from one camera to another. Up to five personal white balance settings and five custom white balance data items can now be registered.

sRAW Option
In addition to the RAW and JPEG options found in previous EOS Digital SLRs, the Mark III offers the "sRAW" recording format. "sRAW" has all the flexibility of standard RAW data recording, but at one quarter the resolution and approximately half the file size of conventional RAW images.

The Mark II can also record to external USB storage devices connected to the camera via the optional WFT-E2A Wireless Transmitter. Another new option is automatic switching of recording media; when the current recording medium becomes full, the camera switches to another automatically and continues recording without interruption. With separate recording, a captured image can be recorded in varying sizes on different media. Each recording medium can be set to record a specific image size (L, M1, M2, S, RAW, sRAW) for each shot. With recording of identical images, the same image is recorded to all recording media. This is also possible with RAW+JPEG and sRAW+JPEG. Any image stored in a memory card or external media can be copied to another installed or connected recording medium. If the card slot cover is opened during the writing operation, an alarm sounds and a warning message appears on the screen to indicate that writing is in progress, but writing continues even if the slot cover is opened. Also, if the power switch is set to "off" position during the card writing process, a message appears on the screen to indicate that writing is in progress. After the writing is completed, the power turns off.

Improved Software
The Mark III will be supplied with the latest versions of Canon software, including Digital Photo Professional 3.0 and EOS Utility 2.0, which now support the camera's Remote Live View and Dust Delete Data functions, as well as incorporating a broad range of additional improvements designed to improve image quality and speed up workflow. Also included are new versions of ZoomBrowser EX and ImageBrowser for easy browsing, viewing, printing and archiving with compatible computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows XP, as well as Mac OS X.

Nikon Releases Updated Version of Nikon Capture

The updated version of Nikon Capture NX software offered in beta form in January has now been officially released as Capture NX 1.1, and has added Windows Vista features in addition to working with Intel-based Macs. (Intel Mac compatibility was the headline feature of the beta.)

Nikon says the new version boasts several new improvements including increased performance, full support for Intel-based Mac OS X computers, and optimization for Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system.

In addition to these advancements, Nikon has made several usability updates based on software testing and customer feedback. Capture NX 1.1 now sports a simpler user interface that has added improvements such as resizable palettes for histograms along with curves and levels adjustments.

Capture NX 1.1 provides a “unique and user-friendly” interface featuring tools that serve photographers needs, “without the complexity and clutter of other image editing applications,” Nikon says. The software can be used with JPEG and TIFF format images from any source, and its patented “U Point” technology offers photographers a simplified way to edit pictures by enabling them to enhance specific areas of a picture selectively, without the use of masks, selections, or layers. Capture NX 1.1 also works with Nikon’s RAW (NEF) format images, and inherits Nikon’s RAW processing capabilities for the highest quality results from NEF files.

Capture NX 1.1 is available for download immediately and can be purchased for an estimated selling price of $149.95 as a full boxed version or downloadable key. A 30-day trial version is available for new users, and can be downloaded at www.nikonusa.com, in the Software Download section. Current users of Capture NX will be also able to download an update to version 1.1 at no additional cost. A special limited-time upgrade price of $89.95 will be offered to current owners of Nikon Capture 4 software in the U.S. market. This upgrade will only be available online at www.nikonmall.com/captureupgrade and is limited to registered owners.

A detailed online demonstration of how Capture NX works is available at www.capturenx.com.

Copyright 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pop Photo Praises Nikon D40

Popular Photography and Imaging has completed its test of the Nikon D40, and Nikon’s newest entry into the digital SLR field has received high marks.

“The D40’s features and overall performance clearly raise the bar on the ‘entry-level’ DSLR class,” Pop Photo said in its March issue. “The Nikon D40 isn’t for everyone, but it will certainly appeal to first-time DSLR buyers who want an excellent camera with controls and features that they can grow into and eventually master.”

Popular praised the D40 for its low price ($560 street with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens), high image quality, low noise at most ISOs, user-friendly menus and on-screen tutorials. It received lower marks for its limited (compared to other Nikon digital SLRs) three-zone autofocus system and ability to autofocus only with Nikkor AF-S lenses.

Test results found image quality “extremely high” from ISO 200-800 and still “very high” at 1600. Resolution was “extremely high” while color accuracy “excellent” and digital noise – which usually gets worse at higher ISO settings – was “extremely low” regardless of ISO. Highlight/shadow detail was “high” and contrast “normal.” Autofocus speed ranged from an “extremely fast” 0.49 seconds to 1.25 seconds depending on light level.

Reviewers said the D40 is a good choice for first-time digital SLR buyers but that photographers seeking to upgrade from an existing digital SLR would probably prefer a 10 megapixel body. Those switching from 35mm film would probably avoid the D40 because its autofocus doesn’t support older lenses, even older autofocus lenses.

With its decades of experience, Popular Photography is still the gold standard for lab testing of photo equipment. Most other publications – both print and on-line – do hands-on testing and some do a few measurements. But few if any can match Pop’s extensive scientific measurements.

Click here to see the full Popular Photography and Imaging test results and review.

In another important review, the D40 was “highly recommended” by Digital Photography Review (DPR). On a scale of 1-10, the D40 received an average 8.5 for build, ergonomics, features, image quality, speed and value. DPR lamented the lack of autofocus capability with older lenses but liked the overall performance enough to praise the “instant connection between the photographer and the camera,” calling the D40 one of Nikon’s “most important” digital SLR models. Much in the school of Popular Photography’s lab tests and those done years ago by Modern Photography, DPR offers extensive scientific testing and side-by-side comparisons with other cameras, and is one of the most authoritative camera review sites on the web.

Click here to see the DPR review.

The 6.1 megapixel D40 was announced by Nikon in November, billed as the smallest and easiest to use in Nikon’s lineup of digital SLRs and aimed at consumers seeking a low-cost entry into the digital SLR field. Click here to read the Nikon press release.

Copyright 2007

Canon Announces Winner in Football Photography Contest

Canon has announced that Diana Porter of Houston, Texas, has been chosen as the Grand Prize winner in Canon’s second annual “Why Do You Love Football?” photo contest.

Porter won with a photo of two youth football players. One young boy is shown running with the ball while the other is captured stretched out horizontally in mid-air attempting a tackle. The photo is captioned “Superman! I love it when football players imitate superheroes.”

Porter’s prizes included a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi camera, a PIXMA iP6220D printer, trips for four to the 2007 Super Bowl and 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, and a $500 gift certificate to the Hall of Fame Museum store.

Click here to see the winning photo and for more links to information about the game and tips on how to shoot football.

Canon said earlier that it would name a Grand Prize winner along with two First Prize winners, one each in Action and Feature categories. The company web site, however, only shows the Grand Prize winner with no mention of First Prize winners.

Co-sponsored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, judges for the nationwide amateurs-only contest included Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller, Associated Press photographer Mark Duncan, U.S. Presswire photographer Craig Melvin, Cleveland Browns team photographer John Reid III, freelancer Tony Tomsic and former NFL quarterback Archie Manning.

Copyright 2007

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nikon, Canon Tied 6-6 in February Photo Mag Contests

Nikon and Canon tied 6-6 in February’s reader photo contests in the two largest U.S. photography magazines, but Nikon maintained its lead over Canon in early year-to-date results.

Nikon was the winner in Popular Photography and Imaging’s “Your Best Shot” monthly contest, scoring three winning photos compared with Canon’s one.

But Canon accounted for five winning photos in Shutterbug’s “Picture This!” feature, leaving Nikon with three, while two were taken with other brands.

That adds up to a 6-6 tie for the month, but Nikon leads 15-11 for the year so far, while four photos were shot with other brands. That leaves Nikon/Canon photos outnumbering all other brands combined six-to-one, though the ratio usually averages out to four-to-one over the year.

Popular Photography and Imaging and Shutterbug run photo contests for readers each month. The majority of winning photos are shot with either Nikon or Canon cameras, and http://www.nikonvscanon.com/ tracks the winners as a means of keeping score in the perennial argument among photographers of which brand is better.

The analysis by http://www.nikonvscanon.com/ is not intended to take sides or to indicate that either magazine favors either camera brand. In fact, the winning brand fluctuates frequently from month to month in both magazines.

Copyright 2007