Jonathan Fleming's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘compact

Small Camera, Huge Sensor

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Logged more time with Sony’s powerhouse of a compact camera this weekend. This thing is a serious imaging machine!

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Do I love it? Yes. The image quality is absolutely stunning, as expected, and the camera’s build quality is top notch. But I only borrowed this thing to keep me occupied while I waited for my rangefinder to come out of repair. Once I get my M3 back, I doubt I’ll miss the RX1. =)

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All Images: Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1

Written by Jonathan

December 9, 2012 at 10:30 pm

She & Him at the Fox Theater

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I’ve had a major crush on Zooey Deschanel since first seeing her in the movie Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, and that’s when I thought that all she did was act. After discovering her musical talent, I flat out fell in love with her. Her style, her voice, her everything! So I was thrilled to be able to snag tickets to her concert at the Fox Theater in Oakland over the weekend.

We arrived early enough to get a spot up front, although off to the side of the stage. I brought my DSLR along, but I found out upon arriving at the venue that no cameras were allowed during the performance. I was so disappointed! Convinced that it would be the ultimate tragedy to not be able to photograph dear Zooey my first time seeing her in the flesh, I smuggled my little Canon S90 in and used it during the performance. Certainly not the most ideal equipment for the job, but its performance was impressive for a compact.

Shot between ISO800 and 1600 all night. Noise was definitely apparent in the photos, but it was a more pleasing grain than any compact I’ve had prior to the S90. Of course, running the images through Lightroom 3 Beta 2’s amazing noise reduction tools was a big help. Since I was further from Zooey than I expected to be, I appreciated the extra 45mm of reach the S90 gives me over my Panasonic LX3 as well.

Taking photos of the concert was a real challenge, however, as I had to spot meter (easier to do on the LX3), time my shots when lighting and subject placement were both ideal, AND keep an eye over my shoulder for Fox Theater staff. A few less careful photographers around me were scolded by security and forced to put their cameras away. I somehow never got noticed. Whew!

Once thing I really wish is that Zooey moved around the stage a little more. She sort of stayed in the same spot the whole time. Oh well. Maybe she’ll loosen up a little bit on She and Him’s next tour!

Ok enough of my babbling. Here are a few more images from the night (below). Enjoy!

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Canon Powershot S90

Top Image: S90 at 22.5mm f/6.3 ISO1600 1/60 Second

The “Desktop Image” – Shooting RAW with the Canon S90

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The Canon S90 has exceeded my expectations as a great compact camera for landscape photography. Due to its small size, it’s incredibly easy to slip into a pocket carry with you at all times, just in case. Take this image you see above, for instance. Driving down a freeway back to my office in San Francisco after visiting some of my company’s customers on the east side of the San Francisco bay, I spotted these beautiful clouds hovering over lush green hills.

As the exit ramp off the freeway quickly approached, I debated with myself as to whether or not I should take a few minutes and try to capture an image of this beautiful scene. With only seconds to decide, I chose to not let this opportunity pass me by. I was so glad I had the S90 with me!

Getting the shot

After posting this image on flickr, I got quite a few questions about how I got the image to look this way, and if there was a lot of post-processing involved, so I thought I’d write a little “how I did it” on the image. The short answer is that there isn’t very much to the post processing here. The entire strategy for achieving the look I wanted, however, started at the camera and ended in Lightroom 3 beta.

I typically record JPEGs with the S90 since it’s more of a casual-use camera for me (I always shoot RAW with my DSLR). This was actually the first time since I starting using the S90 that I chose to record in RAW and post process the image myself. Shooting RAW allowed me to plan ahead in achieving the look I wanted in my editing software.

In this scene, the sky was brighter than the hill, not by a huge amount (the entire scene is front-lit), but enough to make it very difficult to get a nice even exposure across the frame. With no filters at my disposal, I had to improvise.

This is what the image looked like coming off the camera into Lightroom. Notice that the sky is over-exposed. Not to worry! I intentionally over-exposed the scene to get a good exposure on the foreground, while being careful not to blow out any highlights. In digital photography, this technique is often referred to as “exposing to the right [of your histogram].” The idea is that to get the most out of the dynamic range of a RAW file, it’s OK to over-expose the image and bring the exposure back down later, as long as you don’t over-expose so much that you clip highlights and lose detail.

In this case, my intention was to overexpose the entire scene at the camera and then selectively darken certain areas of the frame in post. The S90’s live histogram made this really easy. I simply added +EV at the camera until my histogram indicated that I was about to start clipping highlights, and then took the picture. I ended up adding +2/3EV at the camera.

Now, all that’s left to do is darken that sky in Lightroom to even the exposure out:

Here’s the final image. Darkened the sky with Lightroom’s adjustment brush and graduated filter. Notice how much detail was retained in the clouds despite the over-exposure at capture. Removed a couple distracting elements, added some contrast, and there you have it!

It’s important to keep in mind that in order for this method to work, you have to stay within the limits of your camera’s dynamic range. If this scene was back-lit and/or had a dynamic range that was higher than the camera could record without losing detail, achieving a balanced exposure might require exposure blending, HDR, or the use of a graduated neutral density filter over the lens.

Ok, so multiple people have told me that this image reminds them of a default desktop on Windows 9x/xp. I suppose it does…but hey, why use it on Windows???

That’s more like it!

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Shot Specs: Canon Powershot S90 at 9.64mm f/5.6 ISO80 1/400 Second

Thoughts on the Canon Powershot S90

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I realized, after posting the photo above to Flickr, that it’s very likely that Bridget was the one who actually took it! I was using my D300s with the Tokina 11-16 fitted when we arrived at this scene in the Maruyama area of Kyoto. She had the Canon S90 on her, and while I did ask her to hand it over a few times to get some shots in this area myself, I can’t remember for sure if I actually took this one. Oh well! This image was processed in-camera using the S90’s “Film” color mode, and I added a touch of vignette in Lightroom 3 beta. So Bridge, if you took this, good job!

Speaking of which, Bridget did take a lot of fantastic photos with the S90 during our trip. She really took to the camera because it’s such a joy to use. I would set up a white balance appropriate for the scene for her, set the camera to Program Auto (usually), and program the control ring around the S90’s barrel to adjust exposure compensation. Then I simply told her:

“If it’s too bright, twist the dial this way. If it’s too dark, twist it that way.”

That’s it!

With that awesome control ring allowing easy access to exposure comp adjustment, she was able to focus on composing, and the camera stayed out of her way (the control ring is that black bezel you see around the lens in the image above, and is the S90’s coolest feature). I often used the camera in the exact same way myself. The S90 tends to expose a little hotter than I prefer, so I’m usually dialing in at least -1/3 EV when I’m shooting with it (the above shot has a -4/3EV dialed in by either me or Bridget, can’t remember!). I also found that it was a lot of fun to use the S90 in full manual. The control ring around the lens would set aperture, and the control wheel on the back would set shutter speed. Wow! I felt like I was using a film camera again! The combination of seeing the live view preview, a live histogram, and a live EV read-out on the LCD while composing made it dead simple to nail the exposure I wanted every time. No compact camera has ever given me a control experience like this one!

Here are a couple sample photos that show how great the JPEGs produced straight from the camera look from the Canon S90 (neither of these were adjusted in post):

I finally feel like I have a true compact camera with the control and feature set that can be utilized and appreciated by both a beginner and a more advanced photographer. Good job Canon!

So anyway, we were heading up to this huge temple in Maruyama-cho. To get to it, you had to scale these ridiculously steep stairs. The first image was the view from the bottom. Here’s what it looks like from the top:

I’m not sure this image really tells you just how steep these stairs were, but they were STEEP. Worth the climb, however. =)

Top Image: Canon S90
Second Image: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC
Third and Forth Image: Canon S90
Fifth Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8