Saturday, March 24, 2007

Canon Wins 5-2 in Trains Magazine Contest

Canon beat Nikon 5-2 in Trains magazine’s annual photo contest, with winner’s published in the April issue.

Reader Robert Jordan took the grand prize for his winter scene of workers clearing snow off the front of a locomotive, keeping with the contest’s “Against the Elements” theme. The winning photo was made with a Nikon N-80 and an unspecified 28-200 zoom on Fuji Provia 100F.

As Grand Prize winner, Jordan will receive a six-day rail excursion for two plus a Canon EOS 30D with 24-85mm lens.

First-prize winner Mike Schaller made his image of a locomotive plowing through the snow with a Canon 20D and EF 35-350mm zoom. He will receive a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi with 18-55mm lens. Second prize of $300 went to Ken Fitzgerald for a summer photo of a railroad worker drinking from a bottle of water under a hot sun, shot with a Canon 5D and 20mm lens. The five runners up included one Nikon shot, three by Canon and one with a classic Pentax K1000. Runners up received a Canon gadget bag.

The contest was open for photos taken between November 1, 2005, and October 31, 2006. Judging was based on “intriguing composition, effective use of light, and inspiring and creative images.”

Trains isn’t a photography magazine, but is a very photographer-friendly publication for photographers who like to shoot trains and related railroad scenes. The magazine publishes dozens of photos in each issue, most if not all from freelancers, and welcomes submissions from readers. Unlike some hobby magazines, photographers are paid for their work. In fact, publisher Kalmbach Publishing Co. has recently launched a new submissions page at to encourage writers and photographers to submit their work for Trains and other railroad-related magazines own by the company.

Click here for contest details.

Copyright 2007

Nikon Upgrades D40 to 10.2 Megapixels

It’s only been four months since Nikon brought out the D40, but Nikon is already taking a step beyond the entry-level consumer digital SLR with the D40x, a new model that overcomes the original’s biggest shortcoming by jumping from 6.1 megapixels to 10.2 megapixels.

Nikon says the D40x maintains the same compact size, portability and ease-of-use as its already successful sister camera, the D40, and adds features like higher 10.2 megapixel resolution, faster continuous shooting capability and wider ISO sensitivity.

Nikon says the $800 D40x will be available in April but gave no indication that the $600 original D40 will be discontinued, apparently hoping to appeal to customers at two price points.

“The D40 has become a runaway success for Nikon because it effectively addresses so many of the concerns shared by those who take pictures to preserve family memories and for all-around fun,” Nikon Inc. General Manager for SLR System Products Marketing Edward Fasano said. “The D40 and the new D40x eliminate common annoyances such as shutter lag and inaccurate viewfinders while answering our customers’ needs for superb image quality, fast handling, compactness and, most important of all, simplicity. Now with the D40x, anyone has the choice of higher resolution so they can do even more with their pictures.”

“Whether people want to make poster-sized prints or make special enlargements from a smaller area of a picture, the D40x can produce images that have superb clarity, outstanding detail and vibrant colors,” Fasano said. “Even regular 4x6 inch prints and pictures reduced in size for e-mailing are visibly better when captured with a more capable camera.”

The D40x powers-up in 0.18 second and can shoot up to 3 fps for up to 100 shots, recording to an SD memory card. That compares with 2.5 fps on the D40. The ISO range is 100-1600, plus HI-1 (actually 3200, but we’re not sure why Nikon doesn’t call it that), compared with 200-1600 plus HI-1 for the D40. The D40x features 3D Color Matrix Metering II and an improved image processing engine. Battery life is improved to 520 images per charge.

The back of the D40x is dominated by a 2.5-inch color LCD screen that displays everything from menu options, pictures in playback mode and Nikon’s new visually-intuitive information display system that presents camera and shooting information in a user-friendly, graphically represented way. The camera also features a built-in help menu that can be accessed at the touch of a button and new Assist Images that help users select appropriate settings for many camera features by displaying a sample image typical of that setting.

The D40x’s automated, scene-optimized Digital Vari-Program modes allow amateurs to capture nearly any type of scene without needing to understand the fine points of photography. The D40x includes eight preset modes, including a new Flash Off mode that shuts off the camera’s flash and boosts its ISO so users can easily take pictures in places where flash photography is not allowed, inappropriate or when they prefer the look of naturally lit pictures. Once beginners gain experience – or for experienced photographers picking up the camera – the D40x offers standard Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority modes.

The D40x’s Retouch menu offers exclusive in-camera image editing features that add to the D40x’s “fun factor” by providing greater creativity without the need for a computer. Included in the Retouch menu is Nikon’s D-Lighting, which brightens dark pictures and Red-eye correction that automatically detects and corrects red eye. Image Trim allows for cropping of an image and creates smaller files for easy e-mailing. Other features include Image Overlay, Small Picture, Monochrome (Black-and-white, Sepia, and Cyanotype) and Filter Effects (Skylight, Warm filter, Color balance).

The D40x comes packaged with the same 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens as the original D40. The D40x is also compatible with all of Nikon’s AF-S and AF-I Nikkor lenses but still suffers from the original D40’s other major shortcoming – lack of autofocus compatibility with older AF lenses. Autofocus is supported only with AF-S and AF-I CPU lenses, which are equipped with built-in motors. As with all Nikon SLRs since the original Nikon F, virtually any Nikon F-mount lens ever made can be used if you don’t mind giving up autofocus and metering features.

The D40x will be available throughout the United States beginning in April for an estimated street price of $729.95 for body only or $799.95 packaged with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor. That compares with $599.95 for the original D40 with the same lens.

The Nikon press release is available by clicking here. A brochure and other details are available by clicking here.

Copyright 2007

Canon Announces Speedlite 580EX II Flash

Canon’s popular Speedlite 580EX Flash is being replaced by the new Speedlite 580EX II Flash, which features a host of improvements including a metal hot shoe with an improved locking mechanism, an external metering sensor for non-TTL automatic flash exposure control and a PC socket for use with non-dedicated slave triggers.

The new unit offers E-TTL operation with all EOS digital SLRs, the PowerShot G2, G3, G5, G6, and Pro1, and the following EOS film cameras: EOS-1v, EOS-3, Elan 7N series, Elan 7 series, Elan II series, Rebel T2, Ti, K2, GII, G. TTL operation is available for all other 35mm EOS SLRs and the Canon T90.

The new strobe features 20 percent faster recycling and a maximum ISO 100 guide number of 190 at the 105mm setting (standard 50mm setting not specified). Lens zoom settings and white balance are automatically communicated between flash and camera on compatible digital cameras. The head swivels 180 degrees, and an AF-assist beam is compatible with all autofocus points in EOS SLRs, covering a distance range of two to 32.8 feet at center and two to 16.4 feet at periphery.

Recycling time is 0.1 to six seconds with fresh AA alkalines, with 100-700 flashes on a set of four. Alkaline, lithium or rechargeable Ni-MH batteries can be used. Fourteen Speedlite custom functions are built in and set on the LCD panel. The flash is 3x5.3x4.5 inches and weighs 13.2 ounces without batteries, or 16.7 ounces with batteries. The flash is gasketed for dust and moisture resistance, making it more reliable in dusty or wet environments.

For details from the Canon web site, click here.

Copyright 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Canon Introduces New 16-35 f/2.8L

Canon has introduced a new EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens to replace the previous EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM Lens as a high-performance L-series wide-angle zoom lens.

Canon says the new lens is specifically designed for improved peripheral image quality. Compatible with all EOS SLRs past and present – film, digital and full-frame digital – it uses three high-precision aspherical lens elements and two Ultra Low Dispersion lens elements to minimize lateral chromatic aberration and to produce “superb” image quality with “excellent” resolution and contrast. New coatings minimize ghosting and flare.

The lens features an internal focus design, so the front element does not rotate during focusing and zooming, a convenience when using polarizers or grads. Other features include a ring-type USM (Ultra Sonic Monitor), and new AF algorithms for fast and quiet autofocusing. The lens is also fully gasketed and sealed for dust and moisture resistance, and features an electronic diaphragm with circular blades for natural-looking background blur effects.

The 16 elements in 12 groups provide an angle of view ranging from 63 degrees to 108 degrees and focus down to 11 inches. The lens measures 3.5x4.4 inches and takes 82mm filters.

For MTF curves and other details from the Canon web site, click here.
Canon did not announce a price, but the current 16-35 sells for just under $1,400 street.

Copyright 2007

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nikon Beats Canon 7-4 in March Photo Mag Contests

Nikon beat Canon 7-4 in March’s reader photo contests in the two largest U.S. photography magazines, maintaining its lead in year-to-date results and blocking Canon from a win for the fifth month in a row.

Nikon was the overwhelming winner in Shutterbug’s “Picture This!” monthly contest, scoring five winning photos compared with Canon’s one. But Canon accounted for three winners in Popular Photography and Imaging’s “Your Best Shot” feature compared with Nikon’s two. Other brands got four shots into Shutterbug but none into Pop.

That adds up to a 7-4 win for Nikon for the month, bringing Nikon’s lead for the year so far to 22-15, while eight photos were shot with other brands. That leaves Nikon/Canon photos outnumbering all other brands combined 4.6 to one.

Nikon has been the winner four out of the past five months (February was a tie), leaving Canon without a winning month since a three-month streak that ended last October.

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 tracks the winners as a means of keeping score in the perennial argument among photographers of which brand is better.

The analysis by 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