September 16th, 1410

JTG sends in an image from her new camera phone to share with the readership.  Those of you who completed workshops with me in the last few years have probably met JTG.  She'd regularly volunteer to work as my assistant so she could listen in on the lessons and learn more about photography.  I'm always happy when she sends in samples of her work showing it was time well spent!  A natural talent.  With JTG it doesn't matter if she's behind my most expensive DSLR or using her latest Blackberry camera phone, she shows that it's the photographer and not  the equipment.  What a way to start the day!


Blackberry 9930


September 16th, 1050

There have been close to 150 new cameras announced in the last 60 days and I haven't talked about a single one.  Most of these have been point and shoot compacts and I just don't see enough difference between models (in the bigger picture) to get excited over.  Features fit individual users, but image quality, low light performance, and speed is so consistently the same that I don't see promoting one over the other.  If a person wants a point and shoot compact they simply match features to price and make a choice.  Occasionally a camera is either exceptional, or it's uniquely suited to travel in South East Asia (SEA), and then I'll mention it here in the What's New section.

The Canon SX40 HS  is such a camera.  Several things make it unique for the Thailand traveler.  First, it's a fairly rugged camera for it's type, and second it's of the "superzoom" variety with a 35x 24-840mm (35mm equiv) telephoto range which is an amazing feat.  From wide angle to super-tele, all in one relatively small package and without carrying any extra lenses or lens adapters.  You'll get point and shoot image quality, but in a package with an exceptional zoom range.  

The problem with superzooms is they're very difficult to hold steady enough to get a clear picture from >100mm.  The higher in range you go, the more difficult to get a clearly focused picture.  At 840mm it would normally take a DSLR shooter (besides $15,000 worth of lens), about $2500 in tripod and head assemblies along with years of experience and training to get a clearly focused picture.  Clearly you must expect less with a $429.00 (retail price of the new Canon SX40 HS) superzoom which will mostly be used hand held.  Yet, I can't tell you the number of times a reader has sent in absolutely terribly focused images from a superzoom claiming it's the best they can get.  It's not good for the consumer, and it's not good for the camera company.

As a result camera companies continue to improve camera systems such as image stabilization and automatic programming to take advantage of higher ISO's and adequate shutter speeds to help ensure the clearest image possible.  This years superzooms do produce better focused pictures than superzooms of 3-4 years ago, but the gains are often offset with even longer telephoto ranges as the major companies spar with each others marketing.  An uneducated consumer looks at telephoto range and how many megapixels are offered, and uses these specifications to guide their purchase.  I could spend hours explaining the flaws with this method of selecting a camera.  But what else is a consumer to do?  They'll read user reviews and experiences, but there are so many variables that what you end up with is consumers without experience, guiding other consumers without experience.  Their intent is well motivated, but the results aren't helpful in most cases.

With all of the above in mind, allow me to tell you what I see about the Canon SX40 HS which makes it a small cut above the rest.  Canon has been in the superzoom business for 7-8 years now so they have experience and have made steady progress and improvements.  They were one of the first to incorporate actual electronic image stabilization like we use with DSLR's.  The SX40 HS also adds a backlit CMOS 12.1mp sensor which allows better image quality at higher ISO's.  Both the improved IS and higher ISO's are good.  Now they add a "zoom framing assist button" which helps the user steady the camera of a moving subject.  Finally, Canon adds "Smart Auto" settings which automatically activates the IS, zoom framing, high ISO's, and faster shutter speeds depending on the shooting situation. 

When you combine these technologies and properly manage them, I think we can expect to see significant but marginal improvements.  I hope to get my hands on one to test soon.  If you're looking for a single camera to cover all your Thailand travels and $429 is within your budget, give the Canon SX40 HS a look.  I'll post reviews here as they become available.



September 16th, 0810

Do you need tons of really fast external storage for as little as 4 cents a terabyte?  Would you like this storage to be physically small, attractive, and sturdy?  Would you like it to take advantage of the newer USB 3.0 standard, AND be backwards compatible to USB 2.0?  Sure you would.   Me too!  This is why I'll be ordering a bunch of these 3tb USB 3.0 Seagate external drives from Amazon's current special for $119.00 each!  And how about this for a useful tip:  Open up the external enclosure and remove the internal SATA III 3tb hard drive, and you now have an internal 3tb SATA III hard drive for less money than you can buy one in normal internal drive packaging.  Oh, and free shipping inside the USA.  If you want Amazon to ship it to Thailand it's a small and light box, so it won't be outrageous for shipping.



September 15th, 2230

Sandisk announces a new product they call "The Memory Vault."  It's designed to store your images for up to 100 years.  It's available in two sizes, a 8gb for $49.99, and a 16gb for $89.99 and includes a lifetime guaranty.  It connects via a USB 2.0 port.

I have questions not answered in their press release:  First, what makes this any different than an ordinary 8gb or 16gb flash thumb drive for a lot less money?  Why wouldn't they tell us?   Second, they must have a lot of confidence in the longevity of the USB 2.0 interface.  100 years?  Will we even have PC's as we know them by then?  Third, lifetime guaranties are nice, but I'd feel a lot better paying $89.99 for a '100 year vault' if they'd warranty they'll update the interface so we can use it for 100 years.

Folks, if you haven't backed up your images to at least three locations with one of them being outside the location where the other two copies are located, you really should.  With all the new storage technology on the market, there really is no reason a person can't find an affordable and convenient medium to back up their most treasured images.  IMO the best "archival" medium for storing images comes in two forms:  Good old fashioned negatives and quality prints.  Think about it.   A future column will be discussing backup strategies.



September 10th, 0100

I'm not a fan of the ACLU, they really take on some fringe cases and overall I think they're responsible for a lot of negative changes in our society.  So imagine my surprise when I see they've put together a list of Photographers Rights!  If you've kept track here at Bangkok Images you'll know I've complained bitterly about the police and even senior polticians abusing our rights as photographers.  There seemed to be no "rule book" to go by.  Now, the ACLU publishes a list of Photographers Rights which make it clear what they think your rights are, and knowing their track record, they'll defend your rights if you find they've been abused.  I never thought I'd be saying this, but Bravo ACLU!



August 27th, 1150

Today at 1150 six new articles go live.  This week is special because the three main articles are all submitted by readers.  This is what we're going to need as we make the transition to user generated content. 

Unfortunately next week there will be no column/articles because there aren't enough user submissions to make a full column.  I encourage you to submit anything in the way of a special photograph you might want to make Feature Photograph, a small collection (15-30) of photographs you could write a few lines of narrative for to make a Feature Destination, or even just a few pictures as Readers Submissions, and don't forget to email me any questions or future topics you'd like to see.  I really want to keep new content posting each and every week, but I need your help to do it.

This week Tom Tweedel talks about favorite photograph of his titled "The Temple Glow" which is our Feature Photograph.  Frequent contributor Eyal submits a small collection of "Random Cambodia" images as our Feature Destination.  Rickster wrote a nice informational piece titled "Sony NEX-5 LCD Screen Repair Experience" as our learning topic, we have the News For The Week of August 27th, 2011.  There are some interesting news pieces this week including a clueless Congressmen confiscating his voters cameras, and a unique service called GadgetTrak which could help you recover your stolen electronic items.  Our question of the week is titled "A New Workstation Builder" where a reader who read one of our Bangkok Image workstation build reviews decided to build his own system and succeeded.  I love it when that happens!  And finally, Steve's Musings is titled "The Opportunity Cost of Being an Expatriate."   If you're considering becoming an expatriate, or if you've already been here a few years and are contemplating returning home, you'll really want to read this.



August 24th, 0445

Adobe releases Release Candidate  versions of both Lightroom 3.5. RC1, and Adobe Camera Raw 6.5 RC1.  "Release Candidates" are most often used by Adobe when incorporating support for new camera models in existing final release versions.  In this case 12 new cameras are supported including the new Olympus E-P3, E-PL3, and E-PM1, Sony's new NEX-C3, and SLT-A35, Fujifilms F600 EXR, and Panasonics G3 and GF3. 

Release Candidates have been tested, but not to the high level of a final release.  I recommend only upgrading IF you need support for one of the new cameras not currently supported, otherwise wait for the final release which usually is 2-3 weeks behind the release candidate versions.  FYI -  I have personally downloaded and installed both the Lightroom 3.5 RC1 and ACR 6.5 RC1 and installed them on three PC workstationed and tested them overnight with no issues.