If you've been wondering about the lack of updates to the site, the answer's simple – It’s that dreaded thing called work. Business is good, and, after two long periods of heavy snow and cancellations over the last year, plus flight problems with the volcanic ash cloud, I have a real need for speed right now. That doesn't mean I haven't been testing everything I can get my hands on though. I made it down to this year's Focus on Imaging in Birmingham, even though Canon cancelled their stand at the last minute. Why Canon? Don't you care about us Brits?? As always there were lots of new cameras and lenses to try – highlights this year included testing out the Pentax 645 medium format digital and the translucent mirror Sony A55. Neither of them persuaded me that I need to leave Canon right now but both are signs of what's to come. Of more immediate interest to me was a chance to shoot a side beside test between my Canon 7D and the new Nikon D7000. Very close from the results I've looked at so far. The Nikon D7000 is a really nice camera so if you're a Nikon user, go for it. Results are way better than from my Nikon D300.
Pentax claim that the 645 digital is selling very well – in medium format terms £ 10,000 is “affordable” and they were offering a two lens outfit at that price which was a really good deal. The camera felt good and results were what you'd expect with 40mp. The level of detail captured is just plain better than my 21mp Canon 5D Mk2, but to really get the advantage you need to stick to 400 ISO or lower. While shooting the test my Pentax guide kept telling me off for setting the camera's 1600 max ISO. “No, no, no... 400. Set 400 ISO” he kept insisting. Sure enough Pentax do have something to hide, results at 1600 were fairly noisy – perfectly useable though with Lightroom 3’s wonderful noise reduction at 60 on the luminance slider - twice the number it would be with any of my Canons at that ISO. The shot on the right is a crop from a Pentax 645 full length shot at 1600 ISO.
The reviews I've read of the Sony SLT A55 have all had one thing in common. Every one of them says “try one before you buy”. I'd like to add my voice to that. Although the technology is impressive, and there are huge benefits, especially with video, the user experience is just plain weird. Looking through an SLR viewfinder you have an instant real world handle on what's going on in front of you. The Sony A55's electronic SLT viewfinder always seems to be just a little behind and it's a really strange experience. Results were good – Sony have made real progress with their camera's high ISO performance, but would I buy a Sony A55? Emphatically no.
What did I buy at the show? Yet another contraption to try and make my Canon 5D Mk2 a useable video camera, but I suspect that the answer to shooting serious video is still a video camera, rather than the Canon 5D Mk2 or the Sony A55. For a while anyway. The future may well be a Pentax 645 Mk4 with a digital viewfinder and full HD video – but not yet.
I’ve made some new additions to the Free Photo Software section after an interesting afternoon with some of my camera club friends. Did you know that you can get Windows to display thumbnails of all your RAW images? Apparently not many people do. To find out about RAW file Codecs click here.