Posts Tagged lenses

Canon SX200 IS

canon_sx200_isI had been looking at the Canon SX200 IS ever since it was announced. Had this camera been announced sooner, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the 18-200 IS lens for my DSLR. When I was deciding whether or not to purchase that lens, one of the factors was whether I would be happier with a compact camera since the primary purpose of the lens was for traveling. At the time, I decided that there weren’t any compact cameras available that met my needs.

Just over a month later, the SX200 IS was announced. I immediately wanted it, but was hesitant due to the fact that I already had the 18-200 IS lens for basically the same purpose. I mentioned in the write-up of our March cruise that there were a couple of issues with that lens that definitely had me thinking more seriously about the SX200 IS. However, I wanted to try it out first hand to see how I felt about the shutter lag and other hands-on issues. Soon, I saw that Costco was carrying it for a decent price, but when I went by the store, they didn’t actually have it yet. Being uncertain still, I was patient.

Then it happened. On the day Wayne and I were leaving for Santa Fe, I decided to stop by Costco again. I suddenly decided that it would be very convenient to have a compact camera for the trip, though I was still taking my DSLR and all its gear. Therefore, when Costco had the SX200 in stock, I only had to play with it for a minute or two before I decided to purchase it. Honestly, I probably would have bought it even if I hadn’t been able to try it out first, as by this time I’d been looking for it long enough that I wasn’t completely rational about it any more. Plus, Poppy got one.

That was just over two weeks ago, and since then I’ve definitely grown to love this camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love my 40D more, and I even like my 18-200 IS lens, despite its short-comings. But this SX200 IS is great. I like the HD video (720p). I like that it has custom modes for controlling shutter speed, aperture or both. I also like the Scene modes, like Sunset (image at left) and Stitch Assist (which shows a portion of the previous shot to let you line up the next one for panorama shots). I love that it has 28mm wide angle and 336mm telephoto. And I love that it fits in my pocket.

That’s not to say that it’s perfect. The multi-shot is too slow (about 1 shot per second). The flash takes too long to recharge (not sure, but I’d guess 3-4 seconds). Neither of those issues bother me very much as I can use my DSLR in situations where those things really matter. The one issue I’ve had that has bugged me is a real difficulty using Macro mode with flowers. I’m not entirely sure what the issue is. Sometimes I think it is just an issue with the focus range of the various modes, but then I seem to be able to take good Macro shots of things like bottle caps (image at right). Other times I think it is just that the camera isn’t very good at focusing on the generally low  contrast of a flower, but then I try manual focus and still can’t seem to get it right. Oh well, the close-up flower shots should really be taken with my amazing 24-70mm Canon lens on my DSLR, anyway.

One unexpected use case I’ve found is carrying both my 40D with the 18-200IS lens and my SX200 IS in HD Movie mode. Then I can take stills with the superior frame rate and other advantages of my DSLR, and then just pull the SX200 out of my pocket to take some short video.

Ever since my Olympus 2100UZ back in the early part of the decade, I’ve been addicted to ultra-zooms. I switched to DSLR several years ago, selling the Uzi shortly thereafter. I did by one non-zooming Sony compact a few years ago, but that was a mistake. Now, finally, there’s a pocketable ultra-zoom that I like. I’m glad to have it as an addition to my arsenal so that I can have a much more ever-present camera and can take it places where my 40D is simply too much trouble to carry. I’m glad that I took my DSLR to amusement parks and such when my kids were younger, but now that there in their pre-teens (or close), the SX200 will certainly be sufficient for capturing future memories.

I highly recommend the Canon SX200 IS for anyone that wants a serious zoom that fits in your pocket.


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Cruise Highlights

Friends and coworkers keep asking how our cruise was, and my answer is generally along the lines of “meh”. However, the more I think about it the more I realize that that answer really isn’t fair. The vacation itself was actually very nice and relaxing and I had a wonderful time. The ambivalent feeling I have is really because I wanted the cruise to be something special. Instead, I came away thinking that I would have enjoyed a resort more.

As always, the devil is in the details. First, there’s the money. For an “all-inclusive” deal, Carnival sure spent a whole lot of energy trying to nickel-and-dime their guests. From the “Soda Card” I bought to the photo prints they offered for sale to the threat of fees if you lost any towels to the very over-priced bar drinks, it was difficult to not spend additional money.

Next, there’s the issue of time in ports. There simply not enough of it. The truth is, I’m sure there are many people who really enjoy the ship-board activities: drinking, hanging out by the pool, gambling at what passes for a casino and, well, eating. But I’m not really one of them. Well, except for the eating part. Then, when we finally get to a port and can leave the ship, we have to be back in time for the ship to leave port by 3 or 4 PM. I’d much rather leave at around sunset. I think those extra three hours in port would be very handy.

There are other things, like the food selections available at certain times of the day or even the specific foods unavailable during regular meals in the dining room, but I think that’s enough negativity. After all, I really did enjoy my vacation. My favorite parts were driving a 6-speed Jeep Wrangler around Cozumel and watching flying fish jump out of the wake from the ship and re-enter the ocean tens of yards away. (Look closely at the last shot below and you can see one of them.)

Here are some of the highlights from the pictures I took. (More can be found on my photo album site.)

Oh, and about the Canon 18-200 mm IS lens for which this trip was the real test? The results are mixed. I love the versatility of the lens and had no trouble with focus accuracy or speed. However, there was quite a bit of vignetting and pincushioning in a lot of the images. It was the only lens I took on this trip, so all of the images above were shot with it. The question I have yet to fully answer for myself is whether I am happier with this lens than I would have been with a compact super-zoom camera like the upcoming Canon 200SX IS. I think the answer is yes, but I’m just not certain. Without these two issues, the answer would be a definitive yes. Now, I think I’ll have to take another look at that camera when it comes out, along with its competitors.

The other result of this lens test is that I am that much more interested in the Canon 70-200 f/2.8.

PS: If you haven’t stopped by my photo blog in a while, please do so. Thanks!

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Trip to the Zoo

img_0230As I mentioned last week, the girls and I went to the San Antonio Zoo this last Sunday, along with my brother-in-law and his family. It’s been a couple of years since we were last there, but we have been a number of times.

img_0238I really enjoy this zoo, to the point that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is my least favorite of the Disney World parks. That being said, I found the first phase of the new Africa Live! exhibit to be somewhat disappointing. I was hoping it would be more comparable to the Kilamanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom, but it simply isn’t. I suppose it lets you get a bit closer to the Hippos and Crocodiles, albeit separated by glass.img_0245 I will admit that it’s basically what I had expected from the plans I had seen on our previous visit.

I don’t think my kids enjoyed the animals as much on this visit. Instead, they really just wanted to run around. I’m thinking they probably haven’t been getting enough physical activity with the shorter winter days. img_0259 I think the part they appreciated most was climbing trees in the park outside the zoo before we even went in. C’est la vie.

I, on the other hand, was having a grand ol’ time with my new lens. While I still long for a high-end lens, several of which I saw people using at the zoo, I am very satisfied with the versatility and results of this lens.img_0304 I’ve included a handful of the shots here, plus I’ve selected a week’s worth for Glass Renagerie, my photo blog. The first of those is Smirk, which I am linking as a convenience for the future when they are not the most recent photos on the blog.

If the technical details of photography are not your thing, you’ll probably want to stop reading here. Unless you have insomnia….
img_0373I also used the lens at my nephew’s birthday party the day before. Typically, I would’ve used my 24-70 f/2.8, which is certainly a higher quality lens, but I wanted to use the new 18-200 IS instead. Looking at the keepers, 15% where taken at less than 24mm and nearly another 10% where taken at greater than 70mm. In other words, about a quarter of the shots were taken beyond the range of the better lens. Of course, had I been using the 24-70, I most likely could have moved my feet to capture most of the same shots, except perhaps some of the widest of them.

I have no hesitation regarding using this new lens as a travel lens, which is exactly why I bought it. Things like trips to Six Flags, riding a Mardi Gras float and snow skiing are perfect opportunities for this lens, and I look forward to using it in those situations.

Indoor events, on the other hand, are less clear. The additional wide-angle range from 18-24, along with the image stabilization, can really come in handy. However, I often end up using a bounced flash, mitigating the IS benefit, and the 24-70 has faster focus and a brighter view. Plus, the 24-70 *should* produce better quality images. The complete overlap of the focal lengths of these two lenses was one of my main concerns when I was deciding whether or not to get this lens. I expect it will work itself out in time, and there are still several situations where the 24-70 is the obvious choice (portraits, weddings, most indoor sports, etc.).

Next up on the wish list — lighting kit supplies.

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The lens I ordered last week (Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) arrived yesterday, but I came home too late to really give it a workout. I did take this shot of our dog, Hershey, as a test of the lens’ stabilization.


Handheld, no flash, .3" f/5.6 200mm ISO 1600

As noted in the caption, this was as 3/10 second exposure at focal length of 200mm (on a 1.6x crop factor camera). This image is the jpeg generated from the RAW in Aperture with no color correction or other explicit modifications, though it is resized down for the web and I’m sure Aperture probably applies some sharpening for that.

hershey_stabilized_example_cropHere is a 100% crop of Hershey’s eye. You can see here that the image is not pixel-level sharp, but a significant portion of that can also be attributed to the ISO 1600 that I had to use — obviously, there wasn’t much light to work with.

Still, I am very impressed. On my crop camera, the rule of thumb is that I would need a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second to account for the effective focal length to take such a shot handheld. At 3/10 of a second, this shot was 96 times longer (about 6 1/2 stops). Even though it isn’t perfectly sharp, I think that’s pretty amazing. Of course, this was a single shot rather than a battery of shots, so I could have just gotten lucky.

The girls and I are going to the San Antonio Zoo tomorrow, so I’ll give this lens a real workout then. And it’ll get some interior exercise today at my nephew’s birthday party, though I may be using the flash for most of those shots.

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New Lens

Yesterday, I finally made a decision and ordered a new lens for my Canon SLR camera. It was a surprisingly difficult decision due to a number of factors. The rest of this post is probably not particularly interesting if you’re not into SLR photography, so it’s after the break (click the post title).

Read the rest of this entry »

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