Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Photos (Album I)

Photos Taken in Manhattan During Hurricane Sandy 

With the Canon EOS 7D and 24-70mm f/2.8L, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II,  and 17-35mm f/2.8L lenses.

Additional photos taken with the Canon PowerShot S95.

(Aftermath photos to follow in Album II)

Hurricane Sandy Photos from the West Village, Manhattan.
Early in the storm (at approx. 5:30 p.m.), the Hudson begins to breach the paths of Hudson River Park.  Quite a few people were walking along the path only minutes before this shot was taken.  By 8 p.m., the water was well above the railing.  Canon 7D, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, 1/60 sec at f/3.5, ISO 640.

Hurricane Sandy Photos from the West Village, Manhattan.
The water continued to rise quickly, with waves cresting the wall. Canon 7D, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L, 1/40 sec at f/5.0, ISO 640.
Hurricane Sandy Photos from the West Village, Manhattan.
Benches along the Hudson in Hudson River Park taking on water. Canon 7D, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, 1/60 sec at f/5.0, ISO 1000.
Hurricane Sandy Photos from the West Village, Manhattan.
The high water had already moved some objects around, including this trash can. Pier 45 at Christopher Street was completely submerged only 3 hours later.  Canon 7D, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, 1/100 sec at f/5.0, ISO 1000.
Hurricane Sandy Photos from the West Village, Manhattan.
Despite the rising waters (and warnings) and no doubt because of the novelty of the scene, many flocked to the Hudson River piers to take photos.  By the time these people headed back to the Hudson River Park, they had to wade through six inches to a foot of water. Canon 7D, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, 1/125 sec at f/5.0, ISO 1000, EV -2/3.
Hurricane Sandy Photos from the West Village, Manhattan.
By 6 p.m., the water was close to a foot deep along the railings of the Hudson River Park walkway.   People continued to walk by and generally gave up on trying to keep dry.  Canon 7D, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, 1/40 sec at f/3.5, ISO 2500, EV -2/3.
The new World Trade Center building rises above lower Manhattan as someone walks along the Hudson River Park sidewalk.  Two hours later the water was well above the railing.  Canon 7D, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, 1/40 sec at f/3.5, ISO 2500.
Horatio Street at Washington during Sandy.
A limb came down just in front of an SUV on Horatio Street in the West Village at around 7:15 p.m. The water rose close to Washington Street, about 200 yards in from the Hudson. The parking garage just behind the SUV in the photo was completely flooded, with several very expensive cars submerged; photos of that to follow. Canon S95, 1/8 sec. at f/2.0, ISO 1600.
Jane Street at Washington during Sandy.
The flooding reaches the corner of Jane and Washington Streets at 7:00 p.m., when we still had power. Note the lights on in the car at the far end of the street--this apparently happens as cars get flooded. At one point I saw a car floating by...  Canon S95, 1/10 sec. at f/2.0, ISO 1600.
The Hudson floods up to Washington Street.
A few blocks south of Jane Street, the water continues to rise. Canon S95, 1/8 sec. at f/2.0, ISO 1600.
The typically bustling until-all-hours Meatpacking District without power at 10 p.m. Emergency lighting lights a few hallways and exit signs; north of 25th Street was apparently unaffected.  Canon 7D and Canon 17-35mm 2.8L, 1.6 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800, EV -2. — at Meatpacking District.
The Meatpacking District without power at 10 p.m. Canon 7D and Canon 17-35mm 2.8L, 2 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800, EV -2 2/3.
If you have any questions regarding the camera gear used or how the shots were taken, please let us know.  

Thank you for looking.

-Dan at H and B Digital.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 24mm to 1200mm - Hands-on Review

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MegaPixel Hands-on Review

A sunny October Monday in New York City presented the perfect opportunity to take Canon’s new PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 Megapixel “super-zoom” (or “bridge camera”) out near H and B Digital's Midtown store for a quick hands-on test.  This relatively compact, all-in-one camera is flat out amazing, with a first-ever 50 times optical zoom range, from a wide angle 24mm to a super-zoom of 1200mm (35mm equivalent).   

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

To put that range in perspective, I took a wide angle shot of all the people near a fountain in Bryant Park—at least 30 of them—and of the fountain and the trees and the first 15 floors of the building across the street; then I zoomed in on the sneakers of someone you can barely see in the first shot.  The resulting image, shown and discussed further below, is more than just adequate, it’s very impressive.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, 1/160 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, at 125mm.

The SX50 produces good images all around, has quick, responsive autofocus, and is feature rich—feature loaded is more like it—with options for fully-automated shooting or a broad range of user controls.  In short, the SX50 is a great all-around camera, a perfect lightweight alternative to a DSLR for traveling or general purpose shooting.  

24mm to 1200mm Equivalent !?! (expandable to 2400mm!)

Again, the Canon SX50 boasts an astounding 24-1200mm optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent) that is expandable to a 2400mm digital lens, a zoom multiple of 50 times optically and 100 times digitally, enough to nearly instantly zoom in on the torso of someone sitting more than 100 feet away.  The lens is fortunately equipped with Canon’s Image Stabilizer, and you can use the viewfinder to keep the camera steady and generally trust the autofocus to hit the mark. 

To help keep track of your subjects at such extreme zoom lengths, Canon includes the very helpful and easy to use Zoom Framing Assist button, which quickly zooms the lens back out, allowing you to follow your subject, then zooms back in with the release of the button.  There’s also an auto tracking feature.  

Image Quality:  Very Good and Amazing at the Extremes

How are the resulting images?  Very good, and given the preposterously broad zoom range in such a compact camera, honestly quite amazing.  One cannot compare this camera to a DSLR—indeed, no SLR zoom lens that we're aware of offers anything near such range (the Tamron 28-300mm comes closest, and weighs and costs almost as much as the SX50; the optically superior Canon 28-300mm L costs $2,600 and weighs 3.7 pounds). 

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, 1/400 sec at f/5.0, ISO 250, at 70mm, cropped approximately 25%.

But at the wide and mid ranges, the SX50 produces typical Canon color quality, with appropriate saturation, consistent contrast, and relatively sharp edges, although I would not expect to crop much into a wide angle shot for, say, a large print.  Skin tones are natural and bright colors pop.  Metering is also typical Canon, consistent and reliable.  I can see landscapes coming out quite well.  

The below shot is presented for comparison purposes, shot at 24mm, and technically is not one of the better shots taken.  Still, the colors are fairly accurate.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS in Bryant Park; 1/500 sec at f/5.0, ISO 250, 24mm.

Are the SX50’s images tack sharp at 1200mm?  Maybe not, but compared to what?!?  I’d say they’re really pretty amazing.  

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, 1/1000 sec at f/6.5, ISO 250, at 1200mm.

Above is the uncropped shot of the sneakers of someone approximately 50 feet away that you can barely see in the previous shot.  The colors are great and the canvas and sole of the sneakers on the front shoe are pretty darn sharp.  Yes, there is some loss of detail on the eyelets, but I’m frankly very, very impressed with the results.

Pixel-peepers will no doubt bemoan the general flatness of the image (depth of field is hard to come by at this range) or the blue hazing on the rear shoes’ eyelets.  But perhaps they’ll be happier lugging around Canon’s $13,000 600mm f/4L IS II.  But for less than the price of Canon’s fantastic EF 2x III Extender that they’d have to attach the 600mm to in order to get the SX50's range, they could walk around with the SX50.  I’m in the latter camp.
Since I was out around noon, I didn’t really have occasion to test the higher ISO’s.

Hands On
Finally, as with most Bridge Cameras, the SX50 is relatively compact, much smaller than a DSLR.  External controls are very straightforward and not overwhelming, with the mode selector dial well-placed on top of the camera and Canon’s set of menu controls easily accessible on the back of the camera.  Exposure compensation, ISO, self-timer and focus modes (including manual focus override) are all easily controlled with the thumb dial.

I like the variable articulated screen, but love that the SX50 has a decent electronic viewfinder (EVF).  A DSLR shooter typically, I simply like holding the camera to my face.

The SX50 shoots in RAW image format and 1080p HD video with stereo sound, and has various face and subject-tracking modes, special effects and HDR options.

My one complaint is mostly a user-error issue:  minimal focusing distance is approximately 4 feet at zoom factors beyond 100mm.  Macro shooting is available from 0 inches, however, and I do a lot of macro shooting; I’m tempted to use the zoom in macro situations but end up zooming too far in for the camera to focus.  In short, the zoom is SO POWERFUL that it is difficult to keep yourself from zooming too far in…  Again, user error.

CONCLUSION:  The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is an amazing mid-sized camera.  It is perfect for those looking for a small, all-in-one walk-around camera or a DSLR alternative.  The SX50 would be a dream for traveling.  Image quality does not quite approach that of DSLR’s, but for most uses is more than adequate.  The camera is feature-rich but, as is typical of Canons, not overly complicated—it is simple to use right out of the box.  I highly recommend the SX50.

-Dan at H and B Digital

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Canon PowerShot G15 12.1 MP Digital Camera - Hands on Review

Canon PowerShot G15 12.1 MP Digital - Hands on Review

Excellent Image Quality and Outstanding Build

By Dan at H and B Digital


I took Canon’s PowerShot G15 12.1 Megapixel camera out yesterday for some quick street shots and to get a feel for the camera.  The G15's image quality is excellent and it improves on its G series predecessors both in build and functionality, most notably with its fast and quick-focusing f/1.8 lens.  I love the G15 as a step-up from a point-and-shoot or a traveling alternative to a digital SLR (dSLR).

Right out of the box, the G15 has a solid, comfortable feel; the textured finish, balance, and weight exude quality and holding the camera literally makes one smile.  It’s slimmer than the G12 and about 10% lighter, but loses the articulating screen that was, to me, one of the draws of the G line--although in reality that was a feature I rarely relied on.  I prefer the smaller and lighter design and happily trade that for the articulating screen.

NYC Pretzels.

The familiar Canon layout makes using the G15 easy from the second you turn it on.  Most of the controls are similar if not the same as prior G's, with the big improvement moving the Exposure Compensation (EV) dial to the “user” (right) side of the camera, which allows for quick(er) EV changes on the fly.  I’d prefer an EOS-like EV wheel on the rear of the camera; the rear wheel on the G15 can be configured to control things like zoom and aspect ratio (?!?) but cannot override the EV wheel, which is unfortunate.  The ISO wheel was removed from the top of the camera, but this not only clears up some clutter but makes spinning through settings easier with the G15's rear wheel, particularly for anyone familiar with the S90 to S110 series.  I also wish the front trigger wheel that controls aperture or speed was a little bulkier, but I quickly got used to it.  (The front wheel is also programmable, but again not for ISO or EV.)

The real story with the G15, of course, is the ease with which it takes pictures and the beautiful results.  Autofocus is outstanding--fast, accurate and programmable, I couldn’t ask for much more in a camera of this size.  The new, faster lens focuses very quickly in lower light conditions, and doesn’t seem to track in and out, besting many dSLRs I’ve tested in this regard.  There is still a fair amount of shutter lag as compared to dSLRs, something to keep in mind for those thinking they’ll take lots of action shots (e.g., photos of kids, pets or sports).

Gentleman in Bryant Park.
Regarding images, I’ll preface my opinion by saying that I am not a pixel-peeper and will not get into super-technical analysis.  Also, as a longtime Canon shooter, I will not attempt to hide my Canon bias (in addition to consistently excellent image quality, I believe that Canons have the easiest user interfaces).

Taking the G15 out on an overcast October afternoon in New York City, I knew that whatever colors I could find weren’t going to really pop and that I wouldn’t have much time to edit the pics I took, so I shot in JPEG.  As with any camera that allows for user control over white balance, saturation and contrast, etc., the user can improve images before they come out of the camera, but you can also shoot in RAW and work on your photos later. 

The G15 takes crisp, detailed photos that are optically beautiful, with great color representation and very good contrast.  Results clearly lie somewhere between the Canon S series and Canon dSLRs with top of the line lenses, which is to say far above point-and-shoot quality. I love my S95 for convenience, and demand the best results from my high end EOS dSLRs, and the G15 hits the middle ground perfectly.  I’m really impressed with the results.  

Food Cart Colors.

The fast f/1.8 lens is great, although you can only really shoot at that speed at the widest angle of 28mm (when, arguably, it has the least impact).  But that also means that as you zoom out, you’ll be able to shoot faster than previously (e.g., f/2.2 at 50mm, f/2.5 at 85mm), and the sweet spot of the lens (f/2.8 to 4) can be used across the entire zoom range.
Two things to keep in mind:  

First, like their point-and-shoot brethren, shutter lag is still an issue.  While the G15 is faster than predecessors, it still suffers from some lag.  For example, trying to take pictures of a ping pong game in Bryant Park, I couldn't seem to time the photos exactly where I would have wanted as I might with a dSLR.  So while the G15 is fantastic for street shooting and as a lighter alternative to a dSLR, it won't replace a dSLR if you're trying to take pictures of kids running around.  I was able to take great portraits, and believe that landscapes, low light shots and travel pics would come out really well.

Taking a break near Bryant Park.

Second, the viewfinder is, well, a G series viewfinder, which is to say that it is unimpressive at best.  Embrace the fact that it actually is a viewfinder--as opposed to none--and you’ll be a lot happier with the camera.  It may be useful in low light conditions where you might otherwise have to hold the camera at arms length (holding a camera steady to you face reduces shake), but I don’t envision using it much otherwise.

CONCLUSION:  The G15 is a great camera for anyone, and perfectly suited for (1) those who are looking for more control than a point-and-shoot can offer but who do not want to commit to a larger dSLR system or even a bulky "bridge" camera, or (2) those with a dSLR who are looking for a smaller walk-around or travel camera without sacrificing image quality and control.