Leica M9 Digital Camera Review: Field Test Report

Jack Neubart takes a step back in time to test this century’s classic manual-focusing, full-frame 18 MP CCD interchangeable-lens camera for the ages (along with the Summilux-M 21 mm f/1.4 ASPH).

Leica M9 (front). A ruggedly built, Euro-styled digital rangefinder in which quality, performance, and price go hand in hand. Photo courtesy Leica.

Leica M9 (front). A ruggedly built, Euro-styled digital rangefinder in which quality, performance, and price go hand in hand. Photo courtesy Leica.



It has been a very long time since I last worked with a rangefinder camera. And likely just as long since I last had the distinct pleasure of working with a Leica, although, as I recall, that was an SLR. The one thing that did stand out in my mind was how crisp the images were that came out of the Leica lenses I used.

Given that digital is, in a sense, a more complex image-forming process involving any number of variables mediating from the moment of capture on an imaging sensor and in-camera processing until the final image springs to life, I’m not sure that we’ll ever see quite the same quality, regardless of the lens or camera, or sensor. And yet we as photographers still manage to evolve our art with the technology and find ways to take that technology to new levels of creativity and bring new heights of awareness to every moment and scene we capture with our cameras.

The Leica M9 brings to mind my very first camera, the one that my dad bought me when I was a wee lad, and which he wouldn’t let me use for some years, afraid I’d break it (okay, I eventually did-but it wasn’t my fault, dad, I swear). So I bided my time and when the New York World’s Fair of 1964/65 rolled round, I finally got the chance to take the camera out on my own.

I loved that 35mm camera-a Neoca (Japanese top to bottom). It was no Leica by any stretch of the imagination. Didn’t even have a light meter inside. But it was a rangefinder. And what I remember about that rangefinder is that I was never entirely comfortable using it-I just didn’t feel it gave me the speed I needed or the certainty. And that’s still how I feel about rangefinder focusing. (However, I’m certain that many of you may feel just the opposite and would take a rangefinder over autofocusing or any other type of focusing any day of the week.)

And that brings us full circle to the M9, a full-frame, 18MP CCD digital camera featuring coincident-image rangefinder focusing-with the added benefit of interchangeable Leica lenses. [Read more…]

Phase One Capture One 5 Pro Review

Peter Burian reviews this workflow software with a vast range of advanced tools for enhancing RAW photos

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Better known for its medium format cameras and digital backs, Phase One -based in Copenhagen, Denmark with offices in New York – is also a software developer. The company’s powerful Capture One program has been available for several years, and was recently upgraded to version 5 with additional tools for even greater versatility. Capture One is described as a workflow package since it offers a full suite of options: control over a tethered camera, image importing, editing and final output. Because it would be impossible to review all aspects in less than 5000 words, I decided to test my own favorite feature of Capture One Pro 5: its RAW file enhancing and conversion capabilities.

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Do note that there are two versions of the Phase One 5, Standard and Pro. (For full specifics about the differences, see http://www.phaseone.com/comparison  .) Since 5 Pro offers far more editing tools – including some that are unique – I decided to try this more impressive program. Although I worked only on RAW files produced by an EOS 7D and Nikon D700, Capture One supports the RAW formats of all brands of cameras. Also, some of the software’s editing tools can be applied to JPEG and TIFF files if desired, for making non-destructive adjustments. (In the latter respect, Capture One is similar to software such as Lightroom and Aperture.) [Read more…]

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Review: Field Test Report

With its HD movie mode, articulating LCD and ultra high resolution viewfinder, the GH1 may be the most desirable Micro Four-Thirds camera

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The first manufacturer to develop a Micro Four Thirds camera, Panasonic now markets three distinct models. These include the original DMC-G1, the pocket-size DMC-GF1, and the DMC-GH1 which benefits from the best features of the other models. These 12 megapixel cameras are all smaller/slimmer than DSLRs because they’re not equipped with a reflex mirror or a pentaprism. They also accept smaller lenses but employ a much larger sensor than most digicams with built-in lenses. That allows for much larger pixels for “cleaner” images – with a less “grainy” effect – at ISO 400 and above. [Read more…]

Nikon D300S Digital SLR Camera Review: Field Test Report

Egad and gadzooks! It’s time for Jack Neubart’s Halloween review, where he ponders life, the universe, and, most importantly, whether the added features (notably, movies & dual flash cards) mean it’s time to upgrade from the D300 to the D300S.

<strong>Nikon D300S--front of camera.</strong> The Nikon D300S is a solidly built 12.3 MP CMOS DSLR that exhibits solid performance. It's not revolutionary, but is definitely a step up the ladder, compared to the original D300. <strong><i>Photo courtesy Nikon.</strong></i>

Nikon D300S--front of camera. The Nikon D300S is a solidly built 12.3 MP CMOS DSLR that exhibits solid performance. It's not revolutionary, but is definitely a step up the ladder, compared to the original D300. Photo courtesy Nikon.



I’ve been very happy with my Nikon D300. I’m certainly glad I didn’t wait for the next iteration to come out because I’ve made good use of this camera on two continents. Three, if you count Brooklyn, NY (we like to think of ourselves as more than simply a borough of New York City). Anyway, I approached a review of the next-gen D300, the D300S, with some degree of trepidation. I’m obviously not going to hate the camera, unless they somehow managed to mess up a good thing. And if I love it, then I have to consider buying it to replace a body that still has that fresh camera smell, and for which I paid good money (is money ever bad?).

Before continuing, I should note that you’ve no doubt read my friend and colleague’s report on the D300-Peter Burian was quite thorough. (If you haven’t, check it out here.) But this is where I give you my take on the camera, and go into specific differences between new and old.

One thing I noticed is that the manual for the D300 is actually 18 pages longer than that for the new D300S. As a D300 owner, I gloated. Then I also noted that the D300S Quick Guide has nearly twice as many pages-now I’m starting to feel cheated. What could explain these odd discrepancies? Well, I wasn’t about to dig through each booklet page by page, so let’s just see what pops up as we continue to explore, compare and contrast.

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Sony Alpha A850 Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

The World’s Most Affordable Full-Frame DSLR

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Boasting the highest resolution available in a 35mm size DSLR, the latest Sony camera is also the most affordable full-frame model on the market. Priced to sell at about $700 less than the Sony A900, the Nikon D700 and the Canon EOS 5D Mk II, the A850 is a downright bargain (from Amazon Sony Alpha DSLRA850 24.6MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only); from B&H Photo).

In spite of the moderate price, it’s identical to the A900 in most aspects, including the 24x36mm CMOS sensor with 24.6 million effective pixels. Each light-sensitive dot is quite large: 5.9 microns squared. In addition to excellent light gathering ability, analog-to-digital conversion and noise reduction processing- right on the sensor-combine to provide optimal image quality.

Because the A850 employs a sensor that's the same size as a 35mm film frame, there's no field of view crop. Hence, even a 24mm focal length includes a very wide portion of any scene. The 24.6 MP CMOS chip provides superlative resolution at commonly used ISO's, making this camera an ideal choice when huge prints are required. (Carl Zeiss 24-70mm zoom at 24mm)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

Because the A850 employs a sensor that's the same size as a 35mm film frame, there's no field of view crop. Hence, even a 24mm focal length includes a very wide portion of any scene. The 24.6 MP CMOS chip provides superlative resolution at commonly used ISO's, making this camera an ideal choice when huge prints are required. (Carl Zeiss 24-70mm zoom at 24mm) ©2009 Peter K. Burian

[Read more…]

Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

Peter Burian tests this affordable 12.3 MP DSLR with variable-angle LCD, D-Movie mode and sophisticated Nikon technology

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Nikon’s most affordable enthusiast-level DSLR-the 12.3 megapixel D5000-is positioned between the D3000 and the D90 and offers the best of both worlds. The D5000 is as easy to use as the entry-level camera and provides even more Scene modes but it employs powerful technology and advanced features developed for the larger prosumer-grade model.That includes D-Movie mode in Live View, although the LCD screen is slightly smaller and provides lower resolution when compared to the D90. [Read more…]

Perfect Photo…

From your iPhone?   Well maybe not perfect, but certainly better than what you’re able to do with the stock camera.   Last week I reviewed the Best Camera app and one of my complaints about the preset filters was the fact that the user can not edit those filters. The Perfect Photo app does allow more fine tuned control over the image.

Like most camera based apps you can either shoot a new picture right from the app or load one from your saved images. From there you’ve got the ability to edit several aspects of the image.

You can…

  • rotate/flip
  • crop
  • adjust alignment (i.e. fix crooked images)
  • adjust brightness/contrast
  • adjust gamma
  • adjust exposure
  • increase shadow detail
  • increase highlight detail
  • adjust levels
  • adjust hue, saturation and lightness
  • adjust color balance
  • adjust color temperature
  • sharpen
  • remove noise

There are also several preset effects: [Read more…]

Sony A500 and A550 Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

Peter Burian tests this affordable prosumer-grade duo with some digicam-style features for novices



A very prolific manufacturer, Sony markets more DSLR models than any other company. The new A500 (Amazon: Sony Alpha DSLRA500 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body only); B&H: Sony A500) and A550 (Amazon: Sony Alpha DSLR-A550 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only); B&H: Sony A550) target photo enthusiasts and they’re identical except for a few aspects. The A550 boasts a 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and an ultra-high resolution LCD while the more affordable A500 is a 12.3 megapixel camera with a more typical LCD. While they will satisfy experienced photographers, with their digicam-style features these cameras should be equally attractive to novices.

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These DSLRs retain the best of the earlier A350 including live view with remarkably fast autofocus. Their most notable new benefits include much faster continuous drive speed, face detection plus Smile Shutter technology-plus a second, new live view mode. [Read more…]

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Review: Field Test Report

Still the EOS to beat.


Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - front. This is a rugged camera, with everything needed to deliver top quality images from day one. Granted, the heavy-duty battery gives it a large footprint and considerable heft, but still this is one camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - front. This is a rugged camera, with everything needed to deliver top quality images from day one. Granted, the heavy-duty battery gives it a large footprint and considerable heft, but still this is one camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

I’ve been working with Canon EOS single-lens-reflex cameras since they burst upon the scene. Well, actually, since shortly before, when I and other members of the photo press were introduced to the very first one-the EOS 1-on a top secret junket in Bar Harbor, Maine, many, many moons ago. Back then the photo press consisted entirely of print publications and cameras were analog, or as we simply liked to call them, cameras.

Fast forward to the digital age-and the full-frame EOS 1Ds DSLR. The 1-series continues to be the ranking member in the EOS lineup, designed for every imaginable professional application, with durability, functionality, reliability, and consistency at the forefront. And you’ve no doubt heard of the EOS 1Ds Mark III (MkIII, for short), the current flagship. While not the newest EOS on the block, like the 5D Mark II, it shares a 21.1 megapixel CMOS sensor.

But more to the point, it maintains the longstanding tradition established by its progenitors. And since Photocrati is a new site, we thought we’d take this camera out for a spin and round out our experiences with the EOS, with newer cameras to come under our scrutiny when available. In the meantime, here goes. Oh, and at the outset, at roughly $7,000, we should also point out that this is not the cheapest camera out there. But you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck and a camera that will probably outlast you in the field. [Read more…]

Lumiquest Softbox III: Review

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You know how this story goes: I’m working alone on an engagement shoot with a second speedlight on a tripod when suddenly a gust of wind catches the umbrella and everything comes crashing to the ground. This is how I found myself in need of a new umbrella.

One of the hardest things about working without an assistant is managing your off-camera lighting (plus, you have to get your own coffee, massage your own feet, change your own flat-tire, etc.). I go back-and-forth on  it whenever I am about to do a shoot where I think I will be moving around a lot. Do I carry more equipment and sacrifice portability?

[Read more…]