Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning in earnest

So I can finally announce our special for March:
Spring Cleaning!
We have some fantastic deals on getting your memories sorted out and taken care of. First off, if you've got any film hanging around, it's time to get it handled. Latent images on exposed but not developed film will degrade over time, so the longer it languishes in a drawer, the fewer decent pictures you're going to get out of it. The time to develop it all is NOW.
So we're offering a really good set of prices on 35mm C-41 process (color) film. Bring in a minimum of three rolls (no maximum!) and get:
* $1 for develop only (you get a set of negatives: good way to find out what's on that mystery roll!) (regularly $2.99)
* $3 for developing and putting it onto CD-- you get digital pictures! (regularly $6.99)
* $5 for development and one set of prints (regularly $7.99)

For the record, even though it's not included in the special, we can also process C-41 or black-and-white 120 film, black-and-white 35mm film (we're the only area processor still handling true B&W process, I believe), and we can even still do E-6 slide film, though it takes us a little longer. We can process APS film. We can also process C-41 process 110 film, but usually it's so old that by now there are no images remaining. We'll give it a shot, though. Whatever you've got, bring to us.

So-- what about prints?
Do you have all your precious family memories stored in shoeboxes? Agonizing over splitting up your childhood photos among your siblings? There's a better way than fighting. Get them digitized! Then everyone can have a copy, and it's all in one place, and you can share them over email, or make a family website, or add them to your genealogical pages. When your mom gets Facebook, like everyone's does (hi, Mom!), she can use her high school yearbook photo as her profile pic.
Bring us a box of photos, up to 1200 prints-- and each print can be up to 8x10-- and we'll digitize it for you. Everything goes onto a data CD, and you get your originals back with no worries.
For the month of March, we're offering this service for only $99.99 (regular price $149.99).

So don't put it off any longer! There's no time like the present to get your irreplaceable memories sorted out. Once the snow finally melts, you're gonna have other stuff to do!

D7000 video: focusing noise comparison

Video's pretty tough for me. Some of my coworkers are talented at it, but I always absent-mindedly swivel the camera vertical, or say something, or God forbid, laugh, which always sounds terrible right in the microphone.
But. All other matters aside, video is obviously the way of the future in DSLRs, and is one of the features most earnestly reviewed when a new one comes out.
The D7000 shoots video, and it has full-time autofocus while in video mode. Having watched a lot of videos I know that this is not something you want to use often. It's going to look unprofessional, and it's going to be noisy. And the camera's definitely going to be slower to autofocus when it's in live view or video mode, since it has to use a different and less-efficient method while the shutter's open than it does when in the normal mode. But it's good that it has the possibility-- if you're just trying to document something, you don't have time to manually focus. And you can always edit out the part where the camera's hunting for focus later.
All that aside, though, how loud is it? I know that you can get an external mike for the D7000, so all of this is irrelevant if you're serious about being professional. But it's worth comparing, so you can take it into account while you're learning how to use the thing.
What am I comparing? I'm comparing an AF lens, with no motor, to an AF-S lens, which has its own motor. The difference is the camera's in-body focus motor. Guess what? It's a big difference.

Here is a brooch of my grandmother's, a little gold rosebud. I took a pretty picture of it first, playing with a Sigma macro lens (it's their 50mm f/2.8, which is a wonderfully-affordable little number). This lens does not have a built-in motor, but is AF.
Still shot:

Then I switched to manual focus, cranked the focus way out, put it back in auto, turned the video on, and recorded while pressing the shutter button down to focus. I was doing this in a room with other people; when I played the video back on the camera, everyone turned around to ask what that awful noise was. It's way louder on playback than it was while the camera was operating. Why? Because the focus motor is right there, and the microphone right there. So it chatters and clunks and generally sounds astoundingly loud.

Then I switched back to the D7000's kit lens, which is the Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6. This is an AF-S lens, meaning it has its own motor built in. It has a characteristic squeaking sound while it focuses. Turns out that's way less offensive in video. I did the same thing-- switched to manual, cranked the focus way out, put it back in auto, started recording and pressed the button down to focus.

So there you have it. If you've got to rely on the autofocus during video shooting, be advised that AF-S lenses will still make noise, but it's significantly less noise than AF lenses will, particularly non-Nikkor ones.

Winter's Last Gasp / EP-L2 Experimentation

It's a snowy day out in Buffalo, the last gasp of our very long thorough winter before our slow glorious spring begins, so we're passing the time with camera testing. I took the EP-L2 home the other night because I wanted to see how the video worked. You can be taking a video and take a still picture in the middle, then resume video recording. I wanted to see how long a pause there was to take the picture.
Unfortunately there's nothing particularly exciting going on in my house after 10pm, so you all get treated to some rather boring video of my cat. (I assure you, the cat herself is not boring, merely uninterested in being a film star even though she's named for one. Alas I do not have the next feline Internet sensation on my hands.)
So, I present to you the lovely Chita Rivera, under the unattractive lights of my kitchen.
First video:

Then I pressed the shutter button to interrupt the video with a picture:
And then the video resumed:

I chose this sequence because she was bored with me and was lashing her tail, so you could see the motion. The pause wasn't long; I estimated it at about a second and a half to maybe three seconds. So, for a reasonably static subject, you'd notice nothing; for sports or fast motion it would probably be annoying. You'd have to use this feature strategically. But it is appreciably faster than stopping recording manually to take a photo, and then putting it back into video mode and resuming.

Notice everything's kind of an unattractive orange. I didn't post-process anything, for journalistic integrity's, and laziness's, sake. Later I experimented with the EP-L2's white balance a bit, so scroll down if you want to see less hideous pictures. I normally shoot with a Nikon D300, in raw, precisely because I'm terrible at picking an appropriate automatic white balance; Olympus's user-friendly terms like "express motion" and "blur background," while not hard to figure out, are definitely aimed more squarely at the upcoming-from-point-and-shoot market than at the coming-down-from-enormous-DSLR crowd. But they're right in that you have to woo the former a little more aggressively. I was captivated enough by how damn nifty it was to have a camera so tiny that I was willing to put up with the slightly-cutesy controls. Hey-- it has an aperture priority. And it fits into my little purse. (I carry my D300 in a purse, too, but I won't lie, it's an enormous purse.)
For the record, white balance on the Olympus PEN cameras is called "change color image", and is a user-friendly slider between blue and yellow.
I also played a little bit with the art filters. I'd definitely use them more if I were somewhere with, you know, interesting objects or colors. As it is, a small gray cat on a yellow linoleum floor isn't particularly striking when photographed in Pop Art or Dramatic Tones. But here she is in the Black And White filter:
I would probably overuse the heck out of that one. I always tell customers not to shoot in black and white, shoot in color and then post-process, because if you change your mind you can't go back and add color. But I know people don't really want to do that. For the vast majority of people who don't live their lives tethered to Lightroom, having really fun easy-to-use in-camera editing is actually a pretty great feature, and having easy-to-use, obvious-how-to-get-out-of-them-afterward filters you can shoot with is definitely a lot more likely to get your average point-and-shoot graduate shooting more adventurously than the nebulous promise of "post-processing".

I expect to have a series of much more attractive sample shots from a PEN when our district manager gets back from his vacation. He promised he'd use his shiny new camera, and more interestingly, let his clever 8-year-old daughter use it. I'm very interested to see how an intelligent small girl does with a camera like that-- will she puzzle through the features, or shoot in auto?
Mostly I'd just like to see pictures of something besides snow and my kitchen, I confess. (He's in Arizona with his family. I hear it's pretty there this time of year. Don't get me wrong. I like winter, that's why I live in Buffalo. But it's almost March and I miss the sun, just a little bit.)
Here, as a parting shot, is a video of pouring water. It seemed like that might give a decent idea of the framerate of the video. I like how you can see me decide that it's only water and that counter could use a wipedown anyway.

I got the white balance a little better for these shots.

EDITED TO ADD: You guys I didn't know! There's a $50 instant savings on this camera through the end of February! Awesome!

Friday, February 11, 2011

cleaning out the closet

A lot of people clean out closets this time of year, it seems. Or maybe it's just when they bring their old pictures in. And I admit, people's really old photos are probably my favorite thing about this job. I know we're a camera store, but I'm not just interested in the latest thing. I was raised by historians (here's a bit of trivia: my mother and Stephen's mother attended the same graduate program to study museum curation), and so there's nothing I love more than delving into history. Books are nice and all, but as students of history will know, they are secondary source material, collected and edited together. People's old photos? Those are primary source material. First-hand records of history as it was lived.

Last year a man brought in a box of uncut rolls of 35mm film, black and white, to be scanned into digital format. I wasn't eager to tackle the project until I unrolled the first one, peered at it, and realized... these were someone's hand-loaded, home-developed family photos from the USSR in the 1960s. I know nothing about that place at that time. There were no notes I could read, no context, but most of the photos were of a beautiful young woman and a little boy, who began as an infant and grew into childhood. There were family trips to parks, ice cream cones, strollers, enormous family gatherings at holiday tables. It was fascinating. (I think the little boy must have been the man who brought them in, and the young woman his mother, who would be quite elderly now. She really was a beauty, in those early pictures.)
Last month a man brought in a large photograph of a graduating class at an Indian university in the 1930s. We had to re-type the caption, as it was too blurred to scan. We had two employees double-check the spelling on the totally foreign (to us) names of the students.
Last week an elderly African-American woman brought in a handful of medium-format negatives. They were mostly photos of herself, as a young woman, posing in a fashionable 60s sheath dress, posing by a prize rosebush, posing proudly in a nursing uniform with a certificate next to a beaming older woman-- almost certainly her mother. There were children in home-made pinafores with rick-rack trim and crinoline skirts, posing on probably their first day of school, on the porch of a modest house. A crowd, a family most likely, around a table bearing what looked like a birthday cake. It was a mute narrative of what life was like in our city for African-Americans around the time of the Civil Rights movement.
Yesterday a woman brought in a wedding album that was her mother's; the bridesmaids' hats dated the photos pretty conclusively to just after World War II. Look at the men's suits; the bride's dress with lace sleeves and a satin sweetheart bodice-- how happy the guests looked in the receiving line-- and the hats, oh, the hats.

These are worlds I'd never have any access to otherwise, not in such an immediate way; I wasn't born until the end of the 70s, and my family is white and from New York City. I spend way longer on these orders than I should, looking at the details of the costume, of the wallpaper, what they're eating, how they lived. This is history. It's priceless.

Do you have any of these treasures locked away in a box somewhere? Get them digitized! Share them with your relatives! And preserve them, for our own history is the richer, the more primary sources, firsthand accounts, are preserved and shared with the world. We can digitize slides, negatives, prints, daguerreotypes, tintypes, you name it, whatever size. And once they're digitized, they can be reprinted. (Give all your cousins a copy of Grandma's wedding photo!)
We can even transfer 8mm film to DVDs. (And, for more recent history, VHS tapes too!)
Look through your closets. Find those old boxes. Don't let them get moldy, scratched, dusty; don't let them disintegrate until there's not enough left to tell what the picture was. It's your history, your heritage. Everyone is a little richer for seeing it, for learning from it-- especially you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bring A Friend For Free!

For the month of February, we're offering a special on classes-- buy one admission, get one for free. That means you can bring a friend along, at no extra charge! (You also could buy two classes in a series, for yourself, if you're less socially-inclined, but BOGO wasn't as fun a tagline as Bring A Friend For Free.)

This is good at any of our Buffalo locations!
So come on down and bring a friend!
Class schedules, sorted by location, are listed on the website, along with more information about the classes we offer.