X10 Inbound

Fujifilm X10 I pulled the trigger and ordered the Fujifilm X10. I’m really looking forward to getting it. Unfortunately, it probably won’t get here before the weekend.

I find it very interesting that several of the well-known photographers I follow are relying more and more on various compact system cameras and less on their big DSLR kits. Many of them seem to be gravitating to the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 or maybe the X-E1. I find them both to be very intriguing, given my current desire to simplify as much as possible without sacrificing quality. Unfortunately, my budget does not allow purchasing any of the APS-C X-series camera bodies any time soon.

Another sticking  point for me is my lenses. I really don't want to lose the use of the few Minolta lenses I have acquired. Obviously, I can keep my Sony SLT-A35 body and continue to hold on to that kit -- which I'm certain I will for some time. There are some adapters available to use A-Mount lenses on the Fuji bodies, but they do so with no automation what-so-ever. Without aperture rings on the lenses, I have no idea if the operation would be acceptable.

As I re-read what I've just written, I see that I'm echoing the comments of several other photographers who are making, or have made, transitions to "digital rangefinders."


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Choosing a Travel Camera

Taken somewhere in North Dakota with a Canon SX110is. So, here's the scenerio: You're going on a trip and you want to take a digital camera. But, you have very limited space - certainly not enough for a DSLR and lenses - and equally limited access to electrical power. So what do you do?


A few years ago, I was presented with exactly that scenario. We were going by train, 2/3 of the way across the country, to Montana, and I wanted to carry as little as possible. I also had a budget. So, I started researching compact cameras. What follows is a little food for thought on choosing a traveling photo companion.

My criteria was "simple". The camera needed to be:

  • something smallish and light
  • a large LCD screen
  • manual exposure control
  • quality lens
  • decent optical zoom range
  • image stabilization
  • excellent image quality

Since I knew that access to power for recharging batteries might be sketchy, I also decided that the camera should use commonly available batteries.

At the time, I selected a Canon SX110is.


The little Canon has proven to be an excellent traveling companion, and I've taken so many pictures with it that I've completely lost track of how many. I've purchased at least one other point-and-shoot since, but I still use the Canon a lot.

Most digital cameras these days can produce excellent images, so finding a good camera is pretty easy. What is difficult is finding one that you can take anywhere in the world and be assured that you're going to be able to power it, especially when you need or want to travel light.

One power source that's available pretty much everywhere in the world is the AA battery (it's referred to as a Mignon battery or LR6 battery in other parts of the world), so I think that choosing a camera that can be run on AA batteries is an important choice for a travel camera.

A search of the B&H web site reveals about a half-dozen point-and-shoot or advanced compact cameras that meet all the criteria, and two DLSR models (both from Pentax in a wide variety of colors). While my personal criteria calls for something in the point-and-shoot category, coupled with a super-zoom lens like the Tamron 18-270mm or Sigma 18-250, a DSLR like the Pentax K-30 could be considered as a good on-the-go camera when travelling light.

All images on this post made with a Canon Powershot SX110is.

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Sony's New SLT-A58 Could be a Step Backwards

A couple of days back, I wrote that Sony had announced their replacement for the SLT-A57. Called the SLT-A58, it initially looked as if the camera was made just for me! But, as official specs come forward, it appears that the camera could be a bit of a disappointment, as compared to the current model. While the SLT-A58 gains the OLED EVF found on the higher-end SLT-A65, SLT-A77 and SLT-A99 models, and gets a resolution boost and slightly improved autofocus system, Sony have chosen to reduce specs in other areas.

Most notably, the rear LCD screen has been reduced from a 3", 921,600 pixel display to a 2.7", 460,000 pixel screen. Even my entry-level SLT-A35 has the better 3" "XtraFine Tru-Black" display.

The screen isn't the only downgrade, either. Here are a few other highlights -- or rather, lowlights:

  • The new camera forgoes Sony's traditional metal lens mount in favor of composite plastic.
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing is reduced from +/- 3 stops to +/- 2.
  • Continuous frame rate is reduced to 5fps at full resolution.
  • While the Sweep Panorama mode is retained, there is no mention of the Dynamic Range Optimization and in-camera HDR functions.

Based on pre-order pricing at B&H Photo and Adorama, it looks as if the price will be very similar to the SLT-A57. This for a camera that is, in some ways, a step backwards even from the previous entry-level models. This is not to say that there are not some very nice improvements to the camera. Sony's new continuous autofocus enhancements are exciting, and the OLED viewfinder is a really big deal.


Sony is making the SLT-A57 body available at a stupid-low price, and I'm thinking that I may want to find a way to pick one up before they're gone, or be prepared to either be disappointed or buy the much more expensive SLT-A65.

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A Revolution at Sigma

Sigma have really decided to step up their game. According to an article today on photoclubalpha.com, Sigma will be streamlining their product line by bringing all lenses to their former "EX" standard. Additionally, they have made significant changes to their QC and standards testing. Graham Armitage of Sigma, UK, made the announcement at Photokina.

“Our greatest breakthrough is in MTF testing. We no longer use the Zeiss MTF equipment we have used in the past. It was too limited in resolution and could not provide data to match today’s sensors. Each test used to take at least half an hour, so we would pull a lens from the production run at random, and test that. We have always tested actual production lenses but only one in every so many.

“Now we have built our own MTF testing system, based on the 46 megapixel Foveon Merrill sensor used in the latest cameras. This allows a much better MTF test and we can put a lens through in just five minutes. As a result, we have started testing all the lenses produced, not just a sample. In future any Sigma lens you buy will have been MTF tested and certified.”

Another very interesting item concerns "re-chipping" of lenses. All future lenses will be compatible with a special USB dock, and will allow firmware upgrading in the field.

“It does more than just upgrade the chip”, he continued. “With a PC program, you will be able to change the focusing speed of the lens. All AF systems are a compromise, a balance between speed and accuracy. You will be able to set the lens to suit your working style, increasing the focus speed if you shoot action or improving accuracy if you take subjects like landscapes and portraits.

“All DSLRs have problems with front and back focus. Some cameras offer AF calibration, but not all allow you to have different corrections for each focal length of the zoom lens and for different focusing distances. Using our program, you will be able to calibrate new Sigma lenses for the full range of settings so you don’t get front or back focus at any distance or focal length.

“Not only that, with new telephoto and macro lenses you will also be able to change the distance ranges used by focus limiter switches.”

When queried about the price of the USB dock, the estimate was in the $45 range. This is huge! Being able to fully tweak a lens to mate with your camera and your style of shooting is really exciting and a huge benefit. It further solidifies my decision that any new lens I buy will be a Sigma -- unless it's an old Minolta...

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