After my last trip to San Francisco, when I was sore from carrying around the D90, I started looking around for a compact alternative. I did a lot of research and decided on the Canon G12. It’s bigger than the average point & shoot camera, but still a lot smaller & lighter than the D90. Although the picture quality isn’t quite as good as the D90, it’s still excellent. This one is definitely coming on my next trip (WWDC) instead of the D90.
The G12 is in a class of high-end point & shoot cameras that include manual controls, has good high ISO quality, and can shoot raw. It features a movable screen and a hot shoe for external flashes.
Here are the two cameras next to each other:
I took this shot of a gardenia flower with the G12:
Here’s the same shot, taken with the D90:
Although the D90 is definitely crisper, the G12 still looks excellent for a point & shoot camera.
Here are details of the G12 version:
And the D90 version:
You can help support this blog by clicking here to buy your G12 from Amazon.
I have been using Eye-Fi cards since they released the original version, although when I switched to a DSLR I had stopped using them due to their limited capacity. That changed with the Eye-Fi Pro card, which doubled the capacity to 4GB, which made it usable with my D90.
The 4GB capacity of the original Eye-Fi Pro card still seemed tight when shooting a lot of raw images & video, and it’s slower than most standard SD cards, which limited the number of shots you can take in burst mode. I found that limitation very frustrating when I was trying to shoot dance & martial arts demos at Youth Day when it stopped letting me shoot in burst mode for several seconds while it finished writing.
The new Eye-Fi Pro x2 solves both limitations by doubling the capacity again to 8GB and increasing the write speed to match Class 6 SDHC cards. It also adds 802.11n support and an “Endless Memory” feature which automatically deletes older photos that have been successfully transferred, so you never have to manually delete anything.
Like all Eye-Fi cards, setup is quick & easy. As soon as you insert the card, it will launch Eye-Fi Center and step you through the initial steps of adding a network and setting the upload destinations.
The Eye-Fi Pro X2 card is a perfect match for the D90. The 8GB capacity lets you shoot in raw mode and capture video without running out of space, and the enhanced speed lets you shoot in burst mode without overrunning it.
For a long time I avoided the Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens after reading a few less than glowing reviews, but after Michael Mistretta told me he was happy with it and I saw several people using them at the last photo walk, I decided to get one. I find the quality to be very similar to the D90’s 18-105mm kit lens, which is an excellent general purpose lens.
In the past, I’ve missed several photo opportunities when I had the wrong lens on my camera and rushed to change it, only to find the subject was gone. With this lens, it should happen a lot less often.
The first thing I noticed when I got this lens is that it’s only slightly larger than the 18-105mm, although it’s quite noticeably heavier. Fully extended, it’s only a little less than an inch longer than the 18-105mm
This lens feels very solid & well made. Zoom action is very smooth with no slippage. Rather than the Auto & Manual focus modes of the 18-105mm, it has a M/A mode (auto focus with manual override), which lets you use auto focus and fine tune it using the focus ring.
As an example of the image quality, this shot was taken at 18mm.
This shot was taken from the same spot, zoomed in to 200mm on the purple flowers.
The 18-200mm VR seems to be a perfect lens for traveling or photo walks when you don’t want to carry extra lenses.
A common problem with many Nikon cameras, including the D90, is the tendency to over-expose and blow out reds. It’s especially obvious when shooting brightly colored flowers, like these.
Thanks to some good advice in Flickr’s Nikon D90 Club, I’ve been able to improve it a bit. Here I set it for spot metering using a red area and set it to underexpose -2.0EV. I would probably get even better results if I shot RAW.
If you look at the RGB histogram of the first image, you’ll see that the red channel is clipped.
I received my production model Eye-Fi Pro card today, after beta testing it for a few months.
Unlike earlier Eye-Fi cards, the Eye-Fi Pro supports RAW files as well as JPEGs and movies, which is great for anyone using a DSLR who likes to shoot RAW. Since it’ a 4GB card, it will hold 256 RAW files from my Nikon D90 or 1000 JPEGs. The Eye-Fi Pro also lets you set up an ad-hoc network with your computer for peer-to-peer connections without a router or access point when you lack a WiFi network.
As a bonus, it also geotags your images, avoiding the need for a GPS attachment for your camera.
The Nikon D90 is one of the camera models with built-in Eye-Fi support. It recognizes an Eye-Fi card and sets its power management accordingly, to avoid shutting off while an upload is in progress. It also adds an item to the setup menu which allows you to enable or disable Eye-Fi wireless uploading.
Using this card has changed my photography workflow. Instead of shooting pictures, then removing the card and using a card reader to import them into Aperture, I just let it send the pictures wirelessly to a folder on my MacBook Pro, where I can then import them into Aperture.
When I import the photos into Aperture, I prefer to keep them in their original location, rather than copy them into the Aperture library, which saves some disk space by avoiding redundant copies. iPhoto also offers the same option when importing from local files rather than a camera or memory card.
If you have a DSLR, you can easily spend more on lenses than the camera itself cost. Luckily there are a few great lenses you can buy for under $200. I will highlight two of my favorites here.
Everyone should own Nikon’s wonderful 50mm f/1.8D AF, which sells for under $140. This is one of the best lenses you can buy because it’s extremely sharp and the large aperture lets you shoot in low light and blur the background nicely. It’s my favorite lens for those reasons.
Note that this lens lacks an internal AF motor, so if you have a D40 or D60 you can only use manual focus with it. If you have one of those cameras and you really need auto focus, Nikon also sells a 50mm f/1.4G AF-S, which costs around $480.
If you need a long zoom, Sigma’s 70-300mm f/4.5-6 DG Macro is a good choice for around $150. This is one of the longest lenses available at an affordable price, as most similar lenses only go up to 200mm. It has a macro mode available from 200-300mm which lets you focus much closer and gives a 1:2 close-up magnification. Since it lacks vibration reduction, you’ll either have to use a tripod or shoot at a very fast shutter speed, since the long focal length amplifies any camera shake. On the plus side, the image quality is excellent with less distortion than Nikon’s 18-200mm.
I really love the D90, but sometimes it’s just too big to carry. For those times it’s nice to have a compact point & shoot camera that will fit in my pocket. As much as I love Nikon DSLRs, I don’t care much for their Coolpix point & shoot cameras, since the image quality isn’t that great and they’re very slow.
I decided on the Canon A2000 IS based on its image quality. I’ve always liked their A-series, since they use standard AA batteries. I noticed some really great pictures taken with the A1000 IS & A2000 IS, but I chose the A2000 IS because of its larger & brighter 3″ display and longer 6x optical zoom. It’s also a lot smaller & thinner than older A-series cameras. It normally sells for just over $200, but I found it for $150 at buy.com last month.
The A2000 IS doesn’t provide any manual controls and the battery life isn’t great, but the image quality is excellent. It also takes great videos. I started getting a battery warning after shooting 80 pictures & 2 videos with a set of fresh AA alkaline batteries at the Polynesian Festival today.
Earlier this week, Nikon introduced the D5000, which shares several features of the D90, but in a smaller & lighter camera that costs several hundred dollars less. It adds several compelling new features, most notably a 180-degree tilt/swivel screen and several new scene modes.
The D5000 uses the same sensor as the D90, so the image quality should be very similar to the D90 and D300, making it a worthwhile step up from the D40 or D60. However, the D5000 has a few very significant drawbacks: it lacks the D90’s internal focus motor, which means it can’t auto-focus with non AF-S lenses, such as Nikon’s wonderful 50mm f/1.8 AF. The D5000’s LCD screen is only 2.7″ with a resolution of 240×320 vs. the D90’s beautiful 640×480 3″ screen. The D5000 also lacks a subcommand dial, so most likely it will be necessary to use the menu for many settings, where they could be changed with one button on the D90. If you use an external flash such as the SB800 or SB900, the D5000’s built-in flash can’t be used as a remote trigger, unlike the D90.
I’d like to see a swivel screen in other future models, but I wouldn’t give up the D90’s features for it.
Today I got my first wide angle lens, a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of Sigma lenses since I got the 70-300mm and this lens didn’t disappoint me. The 10-20mm is very sharp and the auto focus is extremely fast and quiet.
Since most of my lenses are longer zooms, this one gives me a new perspective. It should be great for landscape photography.
Both of these shots were taken from the same spot at 20mm and 10mm.