Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photoshop Elements 9 vs. Photoshop CS2

After using both PS CS2 and PSE 6/9 for a few years I have found that the only things that I miss a bit in that are in PS CS2 but not in PSE 9 are:

1. The shadows/highlights function in PS CS2 has an advanced mode that allows fine tuning a bit more and I use that sometimes. The one in PSE 9 is the same as the basic mode in PS CS2. Most of the time when using shadows/highlights the default settings of the advanced controls in PS CS2 are all that I use so being stuck with those default settings in PSE 9 is not much of a problem, but occasionally I wish I could tweak them a bit. For me this is minor.

2. The PSE 9 curves function is more basic than the one in PS CS2. Again, most of the time it is sufficient, but occasionally I would like a bit more control. To tell you the truth though, years ago before I had shadows/highlights I often used curves to try to do that, but with shadows/highlights I find that I rarely use curves for that purpose now anyway. For me this is minor.

3. Many functions in PSE 9 work with 16-bit files, but some don't. Since these days I mostly work on photos for the web this isn't a problem for me though. For me this is minor.

4. Color management is more basic in PSE 9 than PS CS2. It is sufficient for my needs, but if you publish your photos in magazines, etc. then you probably want what is in PS. If you make lots of prints at home then you may also need some of the additional color management functionality in PS. For me this is minor.

Maybe later I will post about some of the things that are in PSE 9 but are not in PS CS2 that I like.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Photoshop Elements 9

A few years ago I got Photoshop Elements 6 and have been mostly using it since the ACR with it can open my A700 raw files, whereas my Photoshop CS2 cannot. I generally like it a lot, but it has many very annoying and frankly hard to believe GUI bugs that even the simplest freeware programs don't have. The bugs exist when run on WinXP, Vista, and Win7 64. I would have updated to PSE 7 or a later version if I thought those bugs were fixed. I asked about that a couple of years ago somewhere, I think on the Adobe forum, and was told the problems in a later version still existed and someone else reported that the Mac version was also very buggy.

Now that I have the Canon 60D the ACR 5.6 that works with PSE 6 can't open the 60D raw files so last night I decided to download the trial version of the new PSE 9/ACR 6.2 that was released fairly recently. Good news! It seems like all the GUI bugs have been fixed! I used it last night and then some more today and so far I haven't found any problems. I just use the editor and don't use the organizer so I can't comment on that. I see that everything looks about the same as PSE 6, but there are some new tools and functions that I will have to investigate.

Since I use it to prepare files for the web it isn't that important to me that some of the Photoshop stuff isn't in Photoshop Elements. It does work with my Neat Image and PTLens plugins though and that is important to me. If I was routinely making big prints or publishing photos in print then probably full Photoshop would be better.

I ordered PSE 9 from Amazon a few minutes ago. Good price, $66 for DVD, free shipping and no tax. Also, right now there is an additional $20 rebate so price is $46.

My thoughts going from Sony A700 to Canon 60D

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Canon 60D and here are some of my thoughts comparing it to the Sony A700 that I have been using for almost 3 years.

Keep in mind that I don't care one bit about brand so I will try not to be partisan, but I do concentrate on features and performance in the areas that are important to me. For example, I never shoot in continuous advance mode so I don't care if a camera is 3fps, 5fps, 7fps, or 10fps. I suppose 1fps (or even 0.5fps) would be good enough for me. :) Therefore, I don't pay much attention to this spec. I do like the camera to be quick and responsive though so that is probably related to whether the camera can handle high fps. I also shoot raw so don't care about jpeg processing options.

The 60D is almost exactly the same size as the A700, but it is a bit lighter:

60D: 755g, 145 x 106 x 79mm
A700: 768g, 142 x 105 x 80mm

Here are a few things about the 60D I really like compared to my A700 (that I have discovered so far):

- AF works well at wide angles! Hooray!
- Sleep mode works properly! Hooray!
- Fill-flash works well! Hooray!
- 3:2 LCD that displays photos using all the available space since photos are also 3:2
- Silent mode -- the quietest FSLR or DSLR I have ever owned
- Full-time ISO displayed in vf and it shows the actual ISO when using Auto ISO
- Quick LV and tilt/swivel LCD
- ISO 12,800
- Auto ISO to 6400 (can set maximum ISO)
- 60D gives 1,100 shots vs. A700 gives 650 shots with battery (according to Imaging Resource)

I have noticed also that the well-known red channel noise problem with the A700 that shows up as very noisy, mottled skies hasn't reared its ugly head with the 60D (or 30D and 300D before that). With my A700 the problem can be really terrible, especially when converting to B&W.

Something that is of no interest to most people, but is important to me is that Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus (the last time I checked) have multiple languages for the menu in Japan and everywhere in the world English is one of the choices. The Sony cameras sold in Japan have firmware that does not allow the language to be changed from Japanese. That means when I am in Japan, sometimes for extended periods, Sony is not really a purchase choice -- even if my camera dies or is lost. I had a long thread about this on dpreview in 2007 when the A700 came out and it is a mystery why Sony does it, but other DSLR makers don't.

It is interesting that at the moment Canon seems to have returned to the FSLR days in one way. In film days the sensor quality (film) and the lens determined the IQ so you were free to choose which level of SLR based on features, speed, robustness, and price. With the 550D, 60D, and 7D all having essentially the same 18mp sensor with the same IQ we are back to that. You can have any of these and have one of the others as a backup and the IQ will be the same.

Here are things that I have found that are different from the A700 and are not as good on the 60D, IMO:

- Can't zoom to maximum image magnification with one button press

This one is a bit annoying. Sometimes if I think a photo might not be sharp (not sure I got focus right, low shutter speed so not sure if there is camera or subject blur, etc.) then I like to be able to quickly zoom all the way in to check sharpness. With the 60D (same as 30D) you have to either press the zoom button over and over to get to maximum zoom or just hold it down and it will zoom in. It isn't as fast as the one button press on the A700.

- Focal length not shown on image info display

When you review an image with the option of displaying all the info (histogram, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc.) it doesn't include the focal length. The A700 does. This isn't a big deal to me, but I did like that it was there on the A700. With the A700 you must press the C button to get that expanded info. Who would guess that? :) The 60D uses the INFO button.

- ISO settings don't wraparound

As you scroll through the ISO values it stops when you get to the highest ISO (or lowest ISO). Then you must go in the opposite direction to get to the other end. For example, if you are at ISO 12,800 and want to go to ISO 100 you can't just turn the wheel one more click. You must go backwards all the way through the list. The A700 wraps around. This one isn't a real big deal for me either since it is rare I want to quickly go from the high end to the low end or vice versa, but still it is a nice A700 feature.

- 1 memory setting

The A700 has three memory settings, but the 60D has only one. I never used the memory on the A700 so this is not important to me.

I find the 60D to be a nice upgrade from the 50D. I considered the 50D last year, but it was even bigger and heavier than the 30D and I didn't really want that for travel. Also, it had a reputation for not being so good at high ISO. Before buying the 60D the one issue that I was disappointed about it was that Canon removed MFA that was in the 50D. But, it seems like Canon may have done something to the 60D because there have been very few posts about FF and BF like are usually seen everytime a new body is released. There is lots of speculation as to what may have changed. Some think it may be that Canon has just tightened up manufacturing and testing tolerances or even that the firmware has been changed and somehow is often able to self-correct focus errors. Anyway, here is a long thread discussing it:


I can say that with the 5 lenses I have tried on the 60D I haven't had any problems with AF.

Also, from these diagrams it looks like the 60D is weathersealed about the same as the 7D:


Plastic lenses and camera bodies

I like the light, plastic lenses so much more than the old, heavy metal ones. The plastic ones just seem so much tougher and don't get scratched and scuffed up and the lighter weight is great. For my type of travel light weight is important too!

When it comes to plastic there are many types and qualities, but I am reminded that they are also used for motorcycle helmets, military helmets, football helmets, tennis rackets, skis, etc. instead of metal. Also, most military and hunting rifles now have plastic stocks.

Many years ago the thought of plastic camera bodies and plastic lens tubes seemed to not be such a good idea to me either, but since 1988 or so my opinion has gradually changed. These days I more or less prefer it. My new 60D has a plastic shell over a metal frame, but it is nothing like the 550D or A100 (and other low to mid range Sony bodies that I have held). It is really well done and if you don't know it is plastic you might think it is magnesium. I had a magnesium 30D before and still have my A700. The 60D looks and feels good. I take care of my stuff too so don't drop gear but, of course, none of us knows when an accident will happen.

The only camera I have ever had that had visible, but slight, damage was my Minolta XK bought in 1976. It was a heavy, metal camera. I had not used it much, but one time I dropped it about 2 feet onto a carpeted floor and it landed on the big finder. I don't know how it happened, but it got a small dent in it. It still worked, but it made me feel a bit sick for a few minutes. :) Over the next few years one corner got some brassing where the black enamel had worn off. I sold it on ebay in 2000 to a collector in Japan along with the box, manuals, everything. I took several close-up photos of the camera also showing the 2 places where it was slightly damaged so anyone bidding on it would know exactly what the condition was. My 7000i, 7xi, and 707si are still in good shape with just the shiny plastic a bit dull from rubbing on clothing and also just age. The 60D does not have shiny plastic.

In normal use occasionally the camera or lens might get small bumps on the edge of a table, chair, railing, corner of a building, etc.. Enough to sometimes dent, scratch, or scuff a metal lens, but I have never had any cosmetic damage to a plastic lens or body. The lighter weight is also very welcome to me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hawaii Five-O shooting in Waikiki

All day yesterday the new Hawaii Five-O TV show was shooting in Waikiki. I didn't know they would be here, but in the morning about 8:00 AM I was down at the beach and they were getting all set up. I hung around and took a few photos as they were doing some takes with the show's stars and lots of extras. Then late in the afternoon I was at the beach again and assumed they would be long gone, but they were still there shooting. The photos are in my Hawaii gallery:


Monday, November 15, 2010

My Canon, Tamron, Sigma superzoom comparison report

Last week I bought a 60D and the following superzooms (I also have other lenses):

Sigma 18-250mm 79 x 101mm 630g $479
Tamron 18-270mm 80 x 101mm 560g $629
Canon 18-200mm 79 x 102mm 600g $589

I like having a superzoom for walking around and for travel. You can see my photos here:


I will only keep one. I think I like the Canon and Tamron lenses the best so have pretty much eliminated the Sigma. The reviews of the Sigma are a bit worse and it is the heaviest also so that is another strike against it. I think the build quality of all 3 is fine for a lens of this type and price range. For a walkaround lens I do not want a big, heavy, metal lens. Actually, I wish they were all smaller and lighter! There was no lens creep for any lens when pointed down. Of course, when a lens gets older it sometimes loosens up a bit, but all 3 have lens locks. My 7 year old Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 still doesn't have lens creep though.

The Sigma has micro-HSM (fake HSM), but AF seems to not be any faster than the Canon which doesn't have USM. The Tamron AF is a half-step slower than the Canon, but still seems okay. I don't typically use servo AF mode, but a couple of days ago I shot some bodyboarders using servo mode using the Tamron. It was able to keep up and it was interesting to see it constantly keeping the subjects in focus as they got closer. My A700 and 18-250mm could not do that with servo mode. I would always use single-shot mode with the A700 and got most in focus. I also tried focusing on something very close and then something at infinity to see how long it took with each lens. I did it several times. Also, focusing in a more typical situation of subjects at distances that didn't vary so much. All seemed acceptable to me for things I typically photograph. Both the Canon and Tamron AF was pretty quiet. The Sigma didn't seem any quieter. For me, AF noise is a non-issue for all 3 lenses. Focus accuracy was fine with all of them. I have been using the Tamron and Canon the most after I decided I probably wouldn't choose the Sigma. Both the Tamron and Canon focus accurately and without hesitation or hunting in most conditions. Even indoors they both worked well -- except when I tried focusing on my toes in an almost dark room (200mm, ISO 6400, 1/6 second, f5.6) and both could not focus. I didn't really expect them to, but I just wanted to see if one would and the other wouldn't. :-) My A700 + 18-250mm also could not focus.

Tamron advantages: lighter, includes lens hood, photozone.de and dpreview.com rate IQ slightly better, 6 year warranty, 70mm longer focal length, better lens cap (don't need to remove lens hood to put on and off), slightly higher macro magnification

Canon advantages: Canon lens (no worries about future compatibility), AF a bit faster, at 200mm lens length about 23mm shorter than Tamron at 200mm

Note, photozone.de tested the Tamron and Canon on the same 50D body (15mp, 1.6x) so, I think, the results are better for legitimate comparison purposes. The dpreview.com test of the Canon used a 50D, I think, but the Tamron was tested on a Nikon D300 and D90 (12mp, 1.5x bodies).

Note, my Tamron 28-75mm that I bought in 2003 works fine on the 60D, 30D, and 300D. I think compatibility problems are rare with Tamron. I don't know if it is true, but I have heard that Sigma reverse engineers the protocol/interface, but Tamron licenses it.

I also checked to see how the aperture changes as you zoom:

18mm f3.5
28mm f4
40mm f4.5
60mm f5
100 f5.6
220mm f6.3

18mm f3.5
24mm f4
40mm f4.5
50mm f5
80mm f5.6

18mm f3.5
22mm f4
35mm f4.5
50mm f5
75mm f5.6
135mm f6.3

I am not a pixel peeper or measurebator so I have just been taking photos with the 3 lenses on the 60D and looking at them on the computer. No big surprises. They all are okay. I have read several reviews of the lenses and they are good to get the nitty-gritty about optical performance. Of course, we all want the optical performance to be good and when choosing between 3 very similar lenses we want the best of the 3, if possible. As we all know a superzoom is a compromise, but the Tamron and Canon both are acceptible.

By the way, I said that I quickly decided I like the Tamron and Canon lenses a bit better than the Sigma. One reason was because the Sigma was the heaviest, but the main reason is because in reviews on dpreview the Sigma was rated the lowest optically.

For example, dpreview said this about the Sigma sharpness compared to the Tamron:

In a fashion that's almost stereotypical between the two brands, the Tamron certainly appears to be consistently sharper, and has a rather more effective stabilisation system.

Also, dpreview rated the Sigma, Tamron, and Canon like this:

S 7.5, T 7.5, C 7.5 Build quality
S 8.0, T 8.0, C 8.0 Ergonomics & handling
S 9.0, T 9.0, C 8.5 Features
S 7.0, T 7.5, C 7.0 Image quality
S 7.0, T 7.0, C 7.0 Value

The Tamron was rated higher than the Canon and Sigma for Image quality.

Plus, the Sigma does not have HSM, it has micro-HSM (fake HSM). You can read about the difference between USM/HSM and micro-USM/HSM here:


I shoot raw. Lightroom 3 and DxO have lens profiles for the lenses that will automatically correct/improve the optical quality. I don't have either software now, but may get one of them.

I haven't made a decision yet because I want to use them a bit longer, but I am leaning to keeping the Tamron at the moment. Yes, I would like the best points of each of the 3 lenses all in one, but that never happens. So, one is left trying to decide which trade-offs one can live with the best. Now that Tamron has released their new 70-300mm with USD (USM motor) they will probably at some point update the 18-270mm with it, but no one knows when. It will almost certainly be heavier too.

After I bought the 3 lenses I discovered, coincidentally, that Tamron has a $150 rebate on the lens. Cool! With the Tamron rebate the price is $110 less than the Canon and since Canon needs a separate lens hood the price is actually about $150 less. If I decide to go with the Tamron then this is icing on the cake.

By the way, I used to have a 30D and 300D and still have a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 and Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 in Canon mount. For the last 3 years I have been using a Sony A700, but Sony didn't have any new bodies that I am interested in so I decided to get a Canon this time. I will keep my Sony lenses though in case Sony has something interesting in the future. :-) Even if they do have something I like 2-3 years down the road I will keep my Canon mount lenses too. I have no brand loyalty. Nikon and Pentax have interesting stuff too and if I had some of their lenses already then I would consider them. As it is I only have Sony/Minolta mount lenses and Canon mount lenses though and don't really want to get any other mounts. :-)

Speaking just for myself, I have so rarely seen any of my photos that optical quality was the only thing keeping the image from being fantastic. Actually, I love this sort of lens because without it many photos I take would not even be taken. I know because I have used other lenses over the years and I get many more photos that I want to take and keep now than I used to because rather than having the wrong lens on the camera (or wrong film inside the camera) I can shoot at wide angle in one shot and seconds later shoot at a long focal length or anything in between.

Update: I decided to keep the Tamron 18-270mm and sent the Canon 18-200mm and Sigma 18-250mm back.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Canon 60D

I have been using a Sony A700 for the last 33 months, but I bought a Canon 60D a few days ago. I used to have a Canon 30D and 300D so this is not my first time to use Canon. I also have a few Canon mount lenses. At the moment none of the current Sony DSLRs are interesting to me, but I will keep my Sony mount lenses in case in the future they have something.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vietnam trip photos online

I have updated my website with new Vietnam photos from my recent trip there. They are in the Vietnam gallery (surprise!). There are also some photos from my previous trip there in 2000. The photos can be seen here: