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Three-Pack Tuesday featuring Parkour

September 17th, 2013 No Comments

Our weekly three-pack takes in a specialist mini-gallery, a mirrorless compact, and a how-to.


This (very) specialized mini-gallery on the Nikon Blog is about an emergent urban ‘x-sport’ that originated in Palestine from whence it gradually spread to Europe: Parkour.

 Claudiu Voicu is “a former parkour athlete” and “professional street sports photographer” so he brings the sensitivity of the athlete to his photography.

This sport, generally associated with marginalized social classes on the fringes, somehow suggests a post-civilizational, even dystopic, view in its imagery.  After all, where is the sports field?  The competitor(s)?  The spectators?  All we see are massive monoliths of concrete and someone who looks like a ‘street tough.’

These facts combine to offer a photographer a very different, and much more artistic, challenge than traditional sports does.  Look at the images and see if you agree.

If they inspire you to try your hand at photographing Parkour, take in Voicu’s tips: compose for the “colourful clothing” in the settting of “the urban landscape.”


The new Fujifilm X-M1 has just been reviewed by Jeff Keller and Andy Westlake on DPReview.

This is a high performance camera that is low maintenance.  In other words, novices who have no desire to creep up to amateur status but do want to take the finest possible photographs may find that the X-M1 is tailor-made for them.

Consider what Keller and Westlake have to say about the sensor: “We’ve been impressed with this 16 megapixel X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor in our reviews of cameras like the X-E1 and X100S, with JPEG quality so high that you rarely need to use Raw.”

Coupled with that, this camera has different AE modes, filters, and all the electronic and wireless features one could want.  It also stands out from the crowd on a few criteria, such as excellent fill-in flash.

In the tradition of its predecessors, the image quality is more than just a good value for money; it is “exceptional.”


Shutterbug’s fascinating how-to is low on words and high on the pictures.  They teach and explain by illustration as to just how and when to make use of Shallow Depth of Field.

The usages range from creating “painterly effects” to setting off pin-sharp silhouettes to leading and holding the eye on a particular subject.

This tutorial, if nothing else, is a treat on the eyes.

Akvis, Fujifilm, Canon: Apps, Lenses, Allegations!

July 22nd, 2013 No Comments

A Revised App

Akvis have just released AirBrush v. 2.0.  If you’re a photographer, it allows you to play at being Cezanne or Gauguin.  

Available either as a standalone app or a plugin for Photoshop, AirBrush converts your plain jane photograph into an airbrushed painting with one click – choose one of the 55 presets and that’s it.  Or mess around with the effect settings.

The sample image on Photography Blog’s write-up indeed resembles a restrained expressionistic landscape.  You can also achieve a fine illustration effect, among others.

Photography Blog says that a “full-featured free evaluation download of AKVIS AirBrush v.2.0 is available at the Product Page.”

A New Lens

Fujifilm, capitalizing on its growing perception of being a big league camera-system maker, has been making lenses for a while.  The latest one is a prime pancake lens, the XF 27mm F2.8 (41mm equivalent).  This lens has just been reviewed by Mark Goldstein on Photography Blog.

Its design is based around five elements, including one aspheric, in four groups.  

Performance-wise it does extremely well where distortion and chromatic aberrations are concerned with edge sharpness being the only fly in the ointment.  An interesting quirk of this lens is that the aperture at which you can get the sharpest images is not two or three stops from wide open, but, all the way down at f/11.

Getting top marks in size and weight, Fujifilm’s XF 27mm F2.8 garners four out of five stars from Goldstein and Photography Blog.

A Fresh Allegation

In case you’ve been away from the rumour grapevine, Canon has lately been up to some mischief.  Rik Henderson on Pocket-lint puts it thus: “Canon allegedly testing 75-megapixel Pro DSLR camera.”  

Such a leap in resolution technology would put Canon squarely in competition with large format and digital back makers and separate itself from Nikon.

The piece also mentions giant advances in the rear LCD’s resolution and the frame rate.

The news of the monster MP number has been churning up the blogosphere for the past several hours; however, the sole source for all the hubbub seems to be one rumour published on Photography Bay by Eric Reagan.

That said, bookmakers are offering even odds that before 2014 closes, Canon will indeed announce such a camera.


A Nice Pairing: FinePix S8400W and jAlbum 11

July 8th, 2013 No Comments

Fujifilm’s FinePix S8400W has got the once-over by Daniel Bell on ePHOTOzine.  

This is classed as a ‘bridge camera’ – or should it be called a ‘hybrid camera’?  As far as appearance goes, it certainly looks like something cobbled together.   For a camera so light and small, the DSLR-style pronounced, protruding grip stands out as does the flash housing on the plate.

Bell’s review is nothing if not honest; you don’t often read sentences like this one: “At ISO 6400 and 12800 image quality is dreadful, these two settings are best avoided.”  At the same time, because it’s so strikingly honest, we can take him at his word when he says, “The EVF is very bright and makes shooting easier in low light, in bright light when outdoors and when using the zoom” and “Good value for money.” 

The lens goes from 24mm up to 1056mm (35mm equivalent), but what’s especially eye-catching is this spec: f/2.9 to f/6.5.  This f-stop range compares favourably with other superzooms and other inexpensive cameras.

The best thing about this 16.2 MP camera is that it’s chock-full of features, all available at a wallet-friendly price.  Importantly, it also has WiFi plus USB and HDMI slots.  The whole package is just right for that young ’un who wants to get a ‘real camera’.  

Bell says about the FinePix S8400W that “image quality isn’t the best, but it’s not bad, particularly if you tend to share on the web.”  How about sharing using jAlbum 11, then?

Image representing Jalbum as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

jAlbum is an album/gallery app that’s been around for a while.  It’s free but comes with a ‘Pro’ option.  The highlight feature of Version 11, just out, is seen by Softpedia as “converts over 160 video formats suitable for the web (mp4).”

Photographers, however, would be interested in the app’s utility for pictures and here it doesn’t disappoint.  Novice or amateur photographers who’re interested in a fast, inexpensive, no-fuss way of creating albums/galleries may want to take a look at this app.

The just-issued press release, available on Shutterbug, explains that all you need do is drag-drop your entire folder (or any selection of images) and jAlbum will do the rest.  Feel free to add skins (themes) and customize as you go along!

It also has some features that would be attractive to aspiring pros: batch watermarking and integration with downstream service providers.

In an age when your sole rights to your own images seem to be questioned and infringed at every digital stop, perhaps jAlbum 11’s biggest selling point is its declaration: “jAlbum does not claim any rights to your images, and never will.”


Cameras, *Cameras*, CAMERAS!

June 4th, 2013 No Comments

It’s a ‘fast news’ day (a fast f/1.4 day) on the camera front with three new cameras reviewed in the past 24 hours as Sony makes the right kind of ‘noise’ with the world’s teeny-est APS-C mirrorless – with a matching teeny-weeny price.

Cutting Edge from Pentax

First up, though, is Pentax’s double play from a few months back, the K-5 II and K-5 IIS, successors to the K-5.  These get a detailed examination by Shawn Barnett in DPReview.  (The two cameras are only marginally different.)

These DSLRs set themselves apart from the crowd with their weather-resistance, 100-percent coverage optical viewfinder, and shake-reduction image stabilzation.  Having an APS-C CMOS sensor, these are not full-frame DSLRs but compete with the big boys.

The K-5 II (and its sibling) has a number of cutting-edge features, perhaps none more so than Composition Adjustment.  This “allows you to actually move the sensor around in the camera to adjust your framing instead of tediously moving the camera on a tripod, show Pentax’s prowess at using digital technology for all it’s worth.”   

DPReview’s write-up has paging that may not be immediately evident so be sure to click on the arrow link or use the choice-list to read the entire review (or whichever sections interest you).

A Big Rig from Fuji

The Fujifilm HS50EXR gets the once over from George Schaub in Shutterbug.  This bridge camera’s standout feature is its 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range – a 42x ratio.

Other noteworthy features include customizable settings, multi-swivel LCD screen, and USB and HDMI slots.  

This camera’s image quality is rather uneven.  On the one hand it records very good colour and is excellent at skintones; on the other, noise is manifest even at ISO 200.

This is a chunky camera and so it would suit a photographer with big hands.

A Bargain from Sony

 The Sony NEX-3N is reviewed by Joshua Waller in ePHOTOzine.  And this one’s standout feature is that it probably packs more features per square millimetre than any other camera!

To begin with, this teeny thing (110 x 62 x 34.5 mm) would fit into a child’s pants pocket yet it has, among other things, an APS-C CMOS sensor, 16 megapixels, white balance settings, video mode, and HDMI and USB.  

It also has HDR mode, Panorama mode, and more.  Some specs, such as shutter response and shutter speed range, are right ‘up there’.  What is ‘down there’, however, is this kit’s price, making it one of the best value-for-money propositions around.


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