San Francisco

I haven’t had a chance to do much blogging since I got to San Francisco, but I took lots of pictures yesterday. You can see the full gallery here.

Here’s a D-movie I took of the cable car turnaround at Powell & Market Streets.

I spent today with a realtor looking at homes & condos in the east bay. I saw one that I really liked in the San Leandro / Oakland area. I’ll be meeting her again Wednesday to look at homes in the San Mateo area.

A point & shoot camera for DSLR photographers

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 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.


I posted more pictures here.

Photographing the moon

When I attempt to take a photo of the moon, it usually comes out as a featureless white blob, due to being overexposed. Thanks to a tip on Flickr, I discovered that the secret to taking a photo of the moon that doesn’t suck is to use spot metering rather than matrix.

With matrix metering, the camera will use both the dark sky and the bright moon to determine the exposure, which usually ends up overexposing the moon to avoid underexposing everything else. Spot metering lets you use only the moon to determine the exposure, which avoids the usual blown out appearance.

Moon & Star

For this shot, I used my Sigma 70-300mm lens with shutter priority. Since I wasn’t using a tripod and this lens doesn’t have VR, I used a shutter speed of 1/250 with ISO 3200.

Follow-up on the Sigma 70-300mm lens

After using the lens for a few days, I’m very happy with it. For the price, it’s a great lens and a good addition for anyone who wants a higher zoom and macro capabilities. It does take some getting used to, but it’s possible to get some excellent results from it. In macro mode, you can get very sharp images with good bokeh.

Since the lens lacks vibration reduction, if you’re not using a tripod, you’ll have to use a very fast shutter speed, around 1/focal length, to avoid camera shake. I find I get the best results using shutter priority and raising the ISO if necessary. For this shot, I used a shutter speed of 1/320 and ISO 1600 at the maximum aperture, which is 5.6 at 300mm.

Little Orchids

The focus can be very slow, so in many cases you’ll probably want to use manual focus. The macro switch can be a bit tricky – it can only be engaged at a focal length of 200mm or greater, and you can’t switch it off with the second extension (used for focus) extended. In most cases, that means you’ll have to switch to manual focus to rotate the focus ring.

Despite those limitations, there probably isn’t another lens that offers the same capabilities for under $200.

Sigma 70-300mm AF Macro Lens

I received my Sigma 70-300mm AF Macro lens today. It was $147 from For the price, it’s a good choice if you need a macro lens or an extremely long zoom. I got the non-motorized model, so AF won’t work on low-end cameras like the D40 or D60. The motorized version sells for about $30 more.

The major drawback of this lens is the extremely slow and noisy auto focus. It often seeks through the entire zoom range to focus. The lens has a macro switch providing 2x magnification, which can only be used above 200mm focal length. The lens doesn’t have an auto/manual focus switch, so you’ll have to use the M/AF switch on the camera body.

New Sigma 70-300mm lens

The lens feels very hefty and seems rugged with a rubberized surface. Mounting it on the camera can be a bit difficult, since it’s hard to grab it in an area that doesn’t rotate for focus or zoom.

Trying the Sigma 70-300mm lens

The macro mode gives a very narrow depth of field with good bokeh.

Midnight (Macro)

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