Wednesday, 19 March, 2008

The sixties' camera makes a comeback

It's cheap, plasticky, uses old-school film and takes truly terrible photos – but that's exactly why thousands of new fans love it. Simon Usborne snaps up the 1960s camera that's found a second life on the web.

The Holga is, by all accounts, a terrible camera. Shake it and it rattles as if something has broken inside. Its laughably retro design looks like the work of a child let loose with a crayon. You almost expect it to squirt water when the shutter is pressed.

The toy-like camera, which is more than twice the size of a digital compact (but less than half the weight), takes poor pictures. Often blurred and streaked with patches of red, they look like the end-of-the-reel snaps you would throw away in the days before digital. But in spite of all this, a pack of snappers – amateur and professional – are racing to get their hands on the plastic oddity (even the lens, which has been described as an "imitation of a cataract", is fashioned from plastic rather than glass).

The Holga, barely more sophisticated than a pinhole camera, takes rolls of medium-format film which, when developed, produces square pictures. It features just two aperture settings ("sunny" or "cloudy"), four focus positions from "portrait" to "landscape", and a basic flash powered by AA batteries. A spring connects a clunky lever beside the lens to the shutter, which has just one speed (one-hundredth of a second – or thereabouts).

Despite its Luddite convictions, the cult of the Holga is being propelled by technology. Holga-mania is sweeping the internet as fans use blogs and photo-sharing sites such as Flickr to extol the virtues of their deficient cameras, and to scan in and share their dodgy snaps.

Hundreds more pages are devoted to guides to "hacking" Holgas, or modifying them by taking them apart and adding bits to improve them. And hack they may, because while most of us shell out hundreds of pounds for a sleek slab of brushed aluminum and inches of expensive LCD screen, Holga converts fork out as little as £15 for a camera on auction sites such as eBay, where hundreds of Holgas are listed, or from specialist shops. At that price, a slip of the screwdriver is hardly going to be disastrous.

On the photo-sharing website Flickr, where as many as five million snaps are uploaded every day, a search for "Holga" yields more than 260,000 photos taken by users with names like "eyetwist" and "kimprobable". Most are American, but in the UK, one man can stake a claim as the Holga's chief online ambassador.

Squarefrog (real name Paul Williamson) is an IT technician at an art college in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. A keen amateur, he got his first camera, a standard digital compact, four years ago. "I was besotted with it," he says. "I took it everywhere and photographed anything that caught my eye."

Williamson, 25, soon grew tired of what he calls the "sterility" of digital. In the age of the booming digital camera industry, with its spiraling megapixel counts and camera menus that would flummox a fighter pilot, converts to the cult of Holga celebrate the camera as an antidote to high technology. "Everything seemed so pristine in my photos," Williamson says. "They were almost optically perfect."

Williamson used to spend hours on his computer, using Photoshop to age his images, making them look like the faded travel snaps you might find collecting dust in your dad's attic. He discovered websites devoted to "Lomography", or online communities of photographers espousing low-fidelity images – the name was inspired by another "toy" camera, the slightly more sophisticated Russian-made Lomo LC-A. It was here that he first clapped eyes on the Holga.

"My first pictures were disappointing," he says. "But then I learnt things like focusing distances and how important it is to get close to your subject – the Holga's wide-angle lens forces you to. We're spoilt with zoom lenses on digital cameras."

Soon, Williamson was getting better results. He was so taken with his new piece of kit that he decided to share his enthusiasm with the world through his own website, Subtitled "Life Through a Plastic Lens", the site features galleries of his pictures and hints on how to make the most of the camera.

Members of Williamson's Flickr group, called Squarefrography, have one thing in common: a perverse love of the Holga's many flaws. "You really don't know what to expect when you take a picture," Williamson says.

One of the camera's worst features (or best, Holgarists would contend) is what's known in photography as vignetting, where the middle of the photo is well exposed but insufficient light reaches the edges, causing a circular darkening of the picture, especially at the corners. Most camera-makers have spent fortunes eradicating the effect, but vignetting is a big reason for the Holga's charm, allowing photographers to draw interest to the centre of their images.

Other loved flaws include an almost insuperable blur, caused by the Holga's low-quality plastic lens. The same goes for light leaks; light often seeps in through the gaps around the back cover, which is held in place by flimsy metal clips, and through the exposure number window at the back of the camera. This leaves some photographs overexposed, or scarred with a random array of pinky blotches or streaks.

Many Holga owners overcome this by taping up the gaps, or even spray painting the camera's shiny interior matt black to minimise internal reflection – a process called "flocking". Others incorporate the light leaks into their work.

The internet has given the Holga a new lease of life in recent months, but the camera is anything but new. It was designed in China in the 1960s as a mass-market "people's camera"; "Holga" is derived from the Cantonese "ho gwong", meaning "very bright". The camera used 60mm-square film, the only format widely available in China at the time it was designed. It launched a generation of Chinese amateur photographers before appearing in Hong Kong in 1982.

The Holga's antediluvian charm soon seduced many photographers in the West. It ousted the Diana, another camera produced in Hong Kong from the 1960s on, as the "toy camera" of choice for professional snappers looking for something different.

David Burnett, the award-winning American magazine journalist and co-founder of the Contact Press Images photo agency in New York, added a Holga to his arsenal of more than 50 cameras in the early 1990s. "I had a Diana before, but I had lousy luck with it," he says, "so I got a Holga and fell in love with the dreamy look it gave to photographs."

Burnett, 61, soon started taking his new toy on assignments to separate him from the pack. "You can stand next to 10 photographers taking the same picture, and know yours will be different," he says. "Hopefully better and different, but at least different." His approach reaped rewards; at the White House "Eyes of History" photography awards in 2001, Burnett's Holga snap of Al Gore on the campaign trail won top prize.

Enthusiasts are catching up. There are whole magazines dedicated to the camera. Michael Barnes, an amateur snapper in Ottawa, picked up a Holga and fell in love with the "timeless" feel of its images. "The dreamy quality of Holga photos somehow represents memories better than sharper images can," he says. Realising that he wasn't alone in developing a Holga habit, Barnes launched a magazine for enthusiasts. Light Leaks has a global readership that increased from 150 to more than 1,000 in just eight issues.

In the UK, Holgarists can pick up Light Leaks at the Photographers' Gallery bookshop in London. The shop, run by John Buckle, claims to stock the biggest range of Holgas and accessories to be found outside Asia. Sales have rocketed: "We sold more than 200 over Christmas, and often sell out before we can get more in from the factory in Hong Kong," Buckle says.

The Holga has even developed a celebrity following. Jack White, half of the American rock duo The White Stripes, was so fond of the camera that the Austria-based company Lomography, which produces hundreds of "toy" cameras a year as a licensed manufacturer, recently released a limited-edition Holga bearing White's name, in the band's signature red and white colours.

Williamson's website offers instructions on how to make the camera even more low-tech. Holga hackers can cut a square from a drink can, drill a hole in it with a sewing needle, unscrew the camera's shutter mechanism, insert the aluminum square in place of the lens, add a cable release to allow steady shooting, and voilĂ  – you have a pinhole camera, christened, inevitably, the PinHolga.

Or how about a Holgaroid? By bolting a Polaroid back to a Holga, you can expose photos on Polaroid film for instant results. Or the Holgarama: "People are creating wide cameras, where they cut two Holgas in half and separate them, with a sealed box in between, so they can get a 12cm by 6cm panoramic photos rather than the standard 6cm by 6cm," Williamson says.

But perhaps the hack that gives the most striking results is modifying the Holga to take 35mm film by wedging a standard roll into the camera with folded cardboard and rubber bands. Because the Holga is designed to take bigger film, light hits every part of a 35mm reel. As a result, the developed image includes the film's perforated edges and numbers. "It's a really cool way to make pictures stand out," Williamson says.

Sales of digital and mobile-phone cameras show no sign of slowing, but with sites such as Squarefrog springing up all the time, it seems that the cult of Holga will only spread as more of us swap our technically superior cameras for quirky lumps of plastic that look like badly made toys.

"Until film becomes obsolete, nothing will drag me back to digital," Williamson says. "It just doesn't do it for me any more."


Thursday, 13 March, 2008

Tips on taking product shots

Product shots are really important when it comes to selling an item over the Internet. This is especially so because many online retailers sell the same products. However, the problem is that many of them choose to use stock photos. But, when stock photos are used it does not give the consumer a good idea of the detail of the item for sale. As a result, product shots are really important and they may very well be the difference of selling an item and losing a customer.

Product shots are not that difficult to achieve, even if you have never taken any. You just need to understand the basics of a great product shot and you will be able to take them.

Using a digital camera to take product shots is important. However, you will need to use the highest resolution settings the camera has. You want to use a camera with high megapixels but with a minimum of three megapixels to ensure quality. So, you don’t need a top of the line digital camera. An average camera will do.

You want to ensure your original photo is as good as possible so editing will make it better. If the photo has poor lighting or is overexposed then there is no saving it.  A plain background with front lighting that is natural is usually the best way to get a good product shot. Choose a contrasting background to the product you are selling. The contrasting color will make the product sot pop.

Use a plain background. The reason why plain backgrounds are important is because they are not distracting. You want the product shots to focus entirely on the product, not something in the background. When only the product is in the photo then buyers will only see that and focus on it, rather than something else. This is exactly what you want.

Many times individuals choose to purchase an item in a brick and mortar store, even if it is more expensive, simply because they can see the product in detail. So, when it comes to product shots you will want to show as many details as possible. Close up bubbles are very helpful in this situation and will allow customers to check out the details without having to load multiple photos.

Use Photoshop after you have your photo so you can enhance colors and make the photo pop. Focus on using real colors and just making them more vibrant rather than completely changing colors simply because you can.

Finishing Touches
You can really enhance your photos, especially if you are an amateur, with toolbars like brightness and contrast and auto levels. This makes the photos look better, which is what you are going for.

These are just some suggestions to help you take better product shots with a digital camera. If you use detailed product shots then you will see that you will have more customers and make more sales. Go ahead and give it a shot and you will see that it is not that difficult.

Realty about digital zoom

Digital Cameras can come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. There are so many features it could make your head spin. When you are looking into your next purchase for a digital camera one of the most important things to look into is the camera’s zoom options. Today’s cameras are marketed with optical and digital zoom options. It is very important to know the difference between the two.

Optical Zoom

Quite simply the optical zoom feature uses the actual lens optics to bring your subject closer to you. This is your truest option, and it will leave you with the most information when it comes time for editing and printing.

Digital Zoom

The digital zoom feature uses software built inside the camera to enlarge or “crop-in” the subject to appear closer to you. This option loses digital pixels inside your image and can make pictures appear “fuzzy” or “pixely”.

Is one better than the other?

Absolutely! My recommendation is to only use the optical zoom. The digital zoom robs you of important digital information that could mean the difference between handing grandma a crisp 8×10 of the kids or a smaller 5×7 (She wants the 8×10, I promise). I live in Texas and we grew up with the mentality that “everything is bigger in Texas”. That’s a good thing in photography, especially when you start thinking of things like pixel count and digital clarity. Besides, you can use your standard image editing software to “zoom” in later. You’ll get better results using software on your computer than on your digital camera.

Just turn it off!

Most digital cameras allow you the option of turning off your camera’s digital zoom feature. I highly recommend that you do this. As always, all digital camera menus and functions are different with each make and model so consult your manual. If you can’t turn it off, set your digital camera to notify you when the zoom switches from optical to digital.

Professional Photographer’s Big Secret!!!!!

Use your feet to get closer to your subject. That’s it. Keep shooting and have fun.


Wednesday, 12 March, 2008

Pentax Optio S10: 10 MP Camera

Most people, even professional photographers, are in need of a good ultra-compact digital camera. The Pentax Optio S10 is definitely small enough to be considered an ultra-compact - it just happens to be one of the smallest 10 megapixel cameras in the world. So as far as size goes, the Pentax Optio S10 can be considered an ideal pocket camera that is capable of taking very high resolution shots. Keep reading to find out more.

The Optio S10 is part of the popular S-series from Pentax, which has been around since about 2003. This line of cameras has been successful traditionally as ultra-compact cameras with affordable price tags. The S10 is no different, as this camera carries an MSRP of $249, but it can be found online for even less than that.

Pentax has become a leader in digital imaging with their innovative lens design, which has improved over the past 4-5 years. The Pentax Optio S10 is a great example of what a good lens can do for image quality. This camera produces very good quality photos. It is capable of shooting extreme close-ups as well as wide-angled shots. The super multi-coated (SMC) 3x optical zoom Pentax lens is very versatile.

The Pentax Optio S10 is part of a very competitive digital camera market that consists of powerhouse ultra-compacts like the Canon SD1000 and the Sony DSC-T2. The S10 can hold its own against these more popular models in terms of image quality and performance, but it lacks many of the features that these other cameras offer. This isn't to say that the S10 doesn't have any kind of functionality, but you're not going to find Bluetooth, optical image stabilization, touch-screen interface, or other advanced features in the S10. The S10 has just enough features to get by as a quality, budget shooter.

Images of Camera

In the Box

·         Pentax Optio S10 camera

·         USB cable

·         AV cable

·         rechargeable battery pack with charger

·         AC plug cord

·         camera strap

·         software


The Optio S10 features an all aluminum body design that is available in either a silver/gray combination or a blue/silver outfit that is exclusive to Wal-Mart. Overall, the S10 has a "high quality" look to it. It also has just enough weight to feel sturdy and durable. The overall dimensions of the S10 are 2.1 x 3.4 x 0.8 inches, and it weighs a mere 4.6 ounces. Although the S10 is a budget shooter, this camera is anything but "cheap."

The front of the S10 sports the heart and soul of this little guy with an f2.8-5.4 38mm-114mm equivalent 3x optical zoom SMC lens. This lens is really high quality and has a good range. The only major gripe with the lens on the S10 is that it produces a small amount of barrel distortion in images when shooting wide-angled shots. In the S10's defense, this is actually quite common in a camera of this size.

Looking at the back of the camera, the first thing that you notice is the 2.5 inch LCD display with 232,000 pixel resolution. The screen is a pretty good size for being such a small camera. The S10 does not have an optical viewfinder, but it seems that many compact digital cameras are doing away with this feature nowadays.

Alongside the display, you will find the majority of the buttons and controls on the S10. The control configuration is pretty basic. And it's very similar to many other digital cameras, so it should be easy to learn the location and function of the buttons. The buttons on the back of the camera consist of the zoom controls, play button (reviews photos), a menu button, trash (green button), and a 4-way D-pad with center "o.k." button.

The only flaw with the design of the S10 was putting the USB connection inside the battery/SD card compartment. It would have been much more convenient if it were placed somewhere on the exterior of the camera instead of inside it.

One of the most useful dedicated buttons on the S10 is the "green button." When this button is pressed, the S10 will go into fully automatic mode. This mode will automatically adjust white balance, focus, aperture, and other attributes to get the best photo possible. This auto feature works quite well at getting the ideal settings for each individual photo.


DIVx Movie Mode

The Optio S10 is a very capable video recorder that will take either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolution video. The S10 offers three quality settings for both resolution levels. The higher the quality, the more memory you'll need to record the video. The S10 saves video in a compressed DIVx format, which helps keep the file sizes relatively small.

The S10 records video at 30 fps, which is DVD speed. The video feature includes sound, but reviews have shown that the microphone is a little weak at picking up sound. This camera will record video until the memory runs out, so you can get a lot of quality video from this little shooter.

ISO Correction

The S10 is capable of high ISO levels, but for the most part, using the high ISO settings will make the pictures extremely noisy. For people not experienced with ISO levels, Pentax has added the ISO correction feature to help them out. This feature will allow the user to preset the maximum allowable ISO setting (I recommend ISO 400), and then when the camera is put into auto-ISO mode, the camera will not go any higher than the level that you preset. This will ensure that each photo is as sharp as possible.

Shooting Modes

There are a variety of shooting modes available in the Optio S10. First of all, there are 11 scene modes including pet, food, kids, natural skin tone, and others. There is a built-in face recognition mode that will automatically adjust focus and aperture on the subject's face. The S10 can shoot images from within 0.2-0.49 feet with its super macro setting.

Digital Shake Reduction (SR)

Unfortunately, the Pentax S10 does not have an optical image stabilization system as many of its competitors do. The answer to this problem is Pentax's digital SR feature, which works to reduce camera shake and blurring of images. This feature works by basically raising the ISO level, which in turn speeds up the shutter speed. While this feature works all right, it does not replace a good optical stabilization system like the ones in most Canon and Sony cameras.

Performance and Image Quality

For the most part, the performance and image quality of the S10 are its greatest assets. That's a good thing, because those attributes are probably the two most important things to look for when buying a digital camera. Here is what some of the experts had to say about the Pentax Optio S10's performance and image quality.

TrustedReviews really liked the improved performance of the S10 over its predecessors. They say that "the S10's performance is as good as anything in its class." That's saying a lot when you consider the great cameras in this class, including the Canon SD1000, FujiFilm F50fd, and the Sony Cybershot DSC-T2.

They also liked the way that Pentax has improved the AF system in the S10. They said this regarding the AF system in the S10: "I would now rate as one of the best in a compact camera in terms of both focusing speed and accuracy, and in low light ability."

In terms of image quality, they liked the overall picture quality, thanks to the nice SMC Pentax lens. They went on to say that the lens produced "excellent edge-to-edge sharpness and minimal barrel distortion at wide angle." They thought that the S10 produced "consistently good results, especially in low light."

They also pointed out two negative aspects of the S10's image quality, including the relatively weak flash, and the image noise problem with photos taken at ISO levels above 100.

CNet Reviews

CNet pretty much agreed with TrustedReview's comments. They liked the performance of the S10 when compared to the competition. Their test numbers for the S10 were quite good, as the Optio S10 was able to reach shot-to-shot times of 1.3 seconds in good lighting and 2.5 seconds when using the flash. These numbers are quicker than both the Canon SD1000 and the Sony DSC-T2.

They agree that the image quality is also quite good. They said that "Pentax strikes the right balance between noise suppression and sharpness in the S10." The only gripe that they had with the S10's image quality was a "slightly worse-than-usual barrel distortion at its widest end."

Steve's Digicams

Steve's Digicams also agrees that the performance of the S10 is good when compared to the competition. They recorded a shutter lag time of just one-tenth of a second in good lighting. They also were able to get shot-to-shot times of 1.5 seconds, which is very close to CNet's numbers. These tests were conducted while using a 4 GB SDHC card.

They agreed with CNet in regards to a slight barrel distortion at wide angles, but went on to say that this is quite common for a camera in the S10's class. They liked the image quality of the S10 very much and said this about outdoor shots: "the colors were very vivid and had excellent saturation and exposure." They noticed some edge softness in photos when viewed at 100% and also some image noise when going above ISO 200.


Sources: CNet, Steve's Digicams, InventorSpot, TrustedReviews

Article Courtesy:

Breakthrough In Digital Photography

There's been a milestone in digital photography and it's one you'll want to hear if you're in the market for a new camera.

TODAY’S TMJ4 Technology Guru Scott Steele found a breakthrough that gives you more for less.

It's common to see prices on electronics come down as technology improves, but one company has crossed an incredible barrier. DXG - the digital camera company has developed a 10 mega pixel product for less than $200.

Ten mega pixels for less than $200 seems impossible, especially since they claim that price is achieved without sacrificing qualities and features.

To check that out, Scott Steele had one of the nation's finest photographers put the unit through its paces.

"I've had a very diverse career over the last 25 years of photographing. I've ranged from fashion and advertising in Chicago to…I worked in Hollywood,” Dan Zaitz said.

Dan Zaitz has been hired by the likes of Barbara Streisand, Jerry Seinfeld and the producers of Baywatch.

"I was the photographer for the number one show in the country and the number one show in the world at the same time,” Zaitz said.

While his fine art hangs in high end galleries, his cameras and accessories consume several large cases and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"Well, like I said, this camera here, the body of it alone starts at about $4,500, so it's about $4,300 more than your little camera that you're talking about,” Zaitz said.

Zaitz took the DXG 110 out along side his high-end SLR to shoot some of the same subject matter side by side.

TODAY’S TMJ4’s Scott Steele: "So this is a fair way to compare the two?"

"It's a relatively fair way to compare the two cameras. I mean, part of it is that you're trying to compare apples and oranges,” Zaitz said.

One of the first things that surprised him was the extensive professional feature set that includes AutoFocus tracking and face detection along with proprietary technology like Advance Flash controls and Automatic Contrast management.

"As you can see, the exposure, light level, contrast is very similar. The main difference is in the focus, in the saturation of the two,” Zaitz said.

When it came time to comparing the photos from both cameras, Zaitz, a man whose vocabulary never included point and shoot found himself impressed.

Scott Steele: "You think the average person would be pleased or not?"

"They would be absolutely pleased. I know I would be pleased to use a little camera like this. Ten mega pixels affords me the opportunity to make larger prints. The fact that you can get a ten mega pixel camera for under $200, you can't go wrong. You absolutely cannot go wrong,” Zaitz said.

The camera will also record video and audio clips.

You can find it at most big box stores or online.


Tuesday, 11 March, 2008

World's Slimmest Digital SLR Camera from Olympus

Olympus has unveiled what it claims is the world’s thinnest, smallest digital SLR – the E-420.

Due in May, the 10 megapixel E-420 weighs 380 grams for the body and is only 53mm in depth. Width is 129.5 mm, while height is 91 mm.

The E-420 comes with a live view sensor, 2.7-inch screen and can take photos up to ISO1600. It also features ‘shadow adjust’ technology to deal with high contrast situations, face detection and also has buttons coloured to be visible to colour blind people.

Retail price has yet to be confirmed.

Despite the lack of an industry-wide trend to shrink their DSLR’s, Olympus Imaging Australia professional photography manager Lucas Tan said the company had taken the decision to slim down their consumer-focused models after conducting market research.

“We had a good look at the market some years ago, as to where the consumer digital market would go, and we realised that a lot of consumer digital camera users were actually upgrading into digital SLR-type cameras. And we’ve also … discovered that a lot of these users were not exactly very thrilled that single lens reflex cameras tend to be a little bit on the thick and chunky side,” said Tan

Tan also confirmed the size-reduction regime would also continue with new E-400 series cameras in the future, but would not flow on to higher-end models.

“For Olympus, we feel the initial single lens market is very clearly segmented into a category where the E-400 series sits, where the consumers demand the smallest and lightest cameras. But I think as you go into the other categories, like the enthusiasts and professional categories, users will be more likely inclined the buy cameras that are a little bit larger.”

In addition to the E-420, Olympus has also launched the Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm f2.8 lens. A lightweight single-focus standard focal-length snapshot lens, 25mm lens is fully compliant with the company’s Four Thirds System DSLR design standard. It is due for local release in May, for RRP $349. 

View the camera by clicking here


Article Courtesy: Current