Tag Archives: camera

Sony Sweep Panorama Photo Contest

Not long ago, I Sony sent me their new DSC-WX1 to review. If you recall, I am very happy with this camera, and am having a great time using it. I even took it to Paris with me last week! This camera does something that I would have never thought I’d see: the Sweep Panorama function. Using this makes taking amazing panoramic shots a snap. Choose the option, click the shutter, and slowly move your camera in the direction of the arrow. The Sony DSC-WX1 will stitch the shots together into a perfect panoramic photo FOR you! There’s no software or guessing game involved!

As I mentioned back when I posted the review, this was sent to me in conjunction with a contest that Sony now has running. I am lucky to be a part of it, and had a great time coming up with my panoramic shots to enter! The Sweep Panorama contest isn’t just an ordinary contest, though. The prize doesn’t go to the actual winners. Instead, it goes to school children.

To choose a winner from among the entries, just visit the photos posted and vote for your favorite. On December 18th – only three days from now – the winner will be chosen by a simple majority of votes. The winner will then choose a school to have Sony donate ten of these cameras to in their honor. How cool is that? There will be some very happy kids in whatever school is on the receiving end of this great contest prize!

I cannot tell you which photos are mine. That would be cheating. All I will say is that you should go and cast your vote for whichever picture you like the best. No matter who wins this contest… the real winners will be the school and its kids.

Thanks again to Sony for sending me this great camera to use and review, and for sponsoring this awesome contest.

Sony DSC-WX1 Review

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Sony recently sent me their new DSC-WX1 to play with and review in conjunction with an upcoming Sweep Panorama photo contest. I can tell you that I’m excited about this camera. I’m by no means a professional photographer, but I do enjoy snapping shots whenever I can. This camera has some amazing settings options, as well as extremely clean and clear pictures. Even with all of the various modes and settings, it’s not one that is difficult to figure out and operate, unlike other cameras I’ve tried in the past. Even without a flash or tripod, this camera does an amazing job of capturing excellent quality shots indoors. Now that is impressive.

I have to tell you about the most amazing part of this camera prior to the other things. I am so stunned by the Sweep Panorama option. You know how you take a series of shots to make a panorama? Then you have to use software to stitch them together. Well, with the Sweep Panorama option on this camera, you don’t have to do all of that. Choose this option, click the shutter, and slowly move your camera in the direction of the arrow. The camera will stitch the shots together FOR you. That, to me, is worth double the money one of these babies cost!

The DSC-WX features a 10.2 megapixel “Exmor R” CMOS sensor to give you amazing performance in low light settings. The camera also features 10 frames per second burst shooting – which is handy as heck when you’re trying to capture action moments.

The 10.2 mega-pixel WX1 camera has a 2.7-inch LCD display. It’s barely over three quarters of an inch thick. This is an excellent choice for those of you photographers who want to carry a compact digital camera that packs a heck of a lot of power and performance.

The more I use it, the more I love this camera. Thanks to Sony for sending this to me to review. Keep your eyes here for details of the Sweep Panorama contest that will be coming soon.

[awsbullet:sony dsc-wx1]

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Kodak Zi8 Review

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You might remember my review of the Kodak Zi6 awhile back. The folks at Kodak recently sent me the new Zi8 to review – and I’m very thankful they have. I really like what they have done with it!

For one thing, this video was recorded using the Zi8, and no tripod. I wanted to show off the amazing Digital Image Stabilization on this little machine. Pretty awesome, isn’t it? The Zi8 also allows me to hook up an external microphone, to allow for better sound quality. That, my friends, makes this gadget priceless in my book. The frame-rate is perfect in low-light situations!

I recorded in 720p at 60fps! That may not be apparent if you’re watching on YouTube, but it will be if you use the download link below. Kodak also kept with the macro feature. You can see while looking at my Bamboo tree, the tree comes into focus and fades away the background. You can easily switch between focal points with just the flick of a button.

There is, of course, a built-in USB port, allowing you to connect to your computer and upload direct to YouTube and other sites if you wish. The Zi8 has a slot for additional storage of up to 32GB. That will hold more pictures and videos than you will likely ever take.

I highly recommend the Zi8. It’s a great recorder, with excellent quality video output. At less than $200.00, it’s an excellent buy, as well.

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What’s the Best Video Recorder to Buy?

I received this email from Kieran “Zer0” Hill the other day, and thought it was worth sharing with the rest of the community – since I seem to be asked this question every day…

We have never spoken before, so I hope that you don’t have a problem with assisting me. The general impression that I got from your youtube video on the comparison between the Flip Mino HD, Kodak Vi6, and Creative Vado HD, left me thinking that you would not mind being asked for assistance on the matter. You seem to be a very knowledgable person on the majority of genres, which you do reviews the products of, so I feel that it would be very appropriate for me to as you my question that I have on this matter.

Moving on, my name is Kieran Hill (online gamer tag [EVGA]A.Zer0pWnZ) and I recently qualified for the grand finals of the Command and Conquer: Red alert 3 Ladder Season Finals in Cologne, Germany. On this trip, I will be an exclusive member to the alfa testing team on the next game, and will therefore be partaking in the CnC4 community summit. My point – I want to buy an HD video camera to document the entire trip, and to use footage on the show, which I am the lead producer of, Red3TV (the main RA3 web show on the internet, and a product of gamereplays.org.) I will be using the camera mostly indoors; in lowly-lit rooms, with a large amount of monitors present. I will need to have good audio quality for my video, so that any developer interviews, which I conduct, will be flawless, and good enough quality to be included in the August episode of Red3tv, (which is displayed in a 720p HD flash player.)

After the LAN tournament, I will be using which ever camera I purchase, in order to record the news coverage segment of the show, ( which we greenscreen.) My question, is in your opinion, which HD video camera should I buy? I am only 17, and therefore naturally want to spend as least possible on the product; however, I am not saying that price is an issue, rather that it is important that I am not spending an extra $300 for a few extra features, which I will not need.

The main things, which I am looking for in the camera that I purchase will be: (in order from most important to least)

  • Video quality in low-lighting areas
  • Audio quality
  • Compact design (I will be bringing this wherever I go during the grand finals and community summit)
  • Accessories functions available (I have a very expensive USB M-Audio microphone, which I wouldn’t mind connecting, along with an optical wide lense, which I could attach if needed.)

I would really appreciate it if you can give me any feedback possible on this matter. I also saw your Kodak Zx1 unveiling, so if you would like to expand on your thoughs about that, then please do.

Honestly? My choice is still the Creative Vado HD. It’s not perfect (sound is a bit tinny, no external audio solution, etc.), but it certainly leads its class in terms of overall quality. I have high hopes for the next iteration of the Vado, and have given the Creative team direct feedback on what they need to improve upon. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but my opinion stands: the Vado HD rules. And remember, I purchased the Vado HD with my own money.

Camera Glow Stick Trick

Camera Glow Stick Trick

The last time I did something like this, I had a far less powerful camera (and was still living in San Francisco). I thought it was about time I made a new version.

I used the Panasonic Lumix G1 to snap this photo – and the quality is astounding. If you haven’t done so already, click through and view the original size of this photo.

As I outlined in an earlier post, you need a digital camera that allows you to set a shutter priority. The rest is fairly simple. I’m not going to rehash the instructions as they’re already here.

Video Camera Comparison Test: Mino, Zi6, Vado!

I kept the camera(s) as steady as possible as I panned across the landscape from the vantage point of my bedroom window this evening. Watch the full HD version on YouTube, or scroll down to watch the high-quality embedded version.

Each series of clips were taken back-to-back – the first series, earlier when the sunset was striking the clouds in a dramatic fashion; the second series, when it was a bit more overcast (and there were both pink and blue hues on the horizon).

In each set, the cameras were used in this order: Flip Mino HD, Kodak Zi6, Creative Vado HD. You’ll see annotations lead off each scene (then quickly disappear).

I removed the audio from this video to alleviate volume level discrepancies, as well as to provide further concentration on the video quality at hand. Obviously, viewing in HD is required for fairest judgment.

Processing was NOT done to any of these videos; these recordings were sewn together in a seamless fashion and uploaded to YouTube in their near-original condition.

  • The Flip Mino HD pretty much washed out the sky’s vibrant colors in the first set, and effectively made a drab mountain view appear even more drab in the second set.
  • The Kodak Zi6 did a good job with the colors, but couldn’t strike a good balance between the bright sky and the dark landscape in either set.
  • My verdict still favors the Creative Vado HD – not only with its wide-angle lens capability, but its truer-to-life colors and exposure balance (between dark and light in the same shot).

Are All Camera Tripods Built Alike?

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You’d think that all tripods are the same. They all have three legs, right? But saying that is tantamount to saying that all cars are the same, because they have four wheels. A few weeks ago, I broke yet another tripod. I’ve owned several, and they just never last. So now that I had no more tripod, I asked some friends what they recommended. One good friend, Usrbingeek, recommended the Manfrotto Pro 055XPROB.

The 055XPROB makes the Manfrotto-patented horizontal center column feature even easier to use. By extending the column to its highest vertical position, it can be swung round to horizontal without removing the head or disassembling the column itself, so switching between framing and positioning setups is more convenient than ever. The ergonomics of the leg angle release mechanism and the quick action leg locks themselves have also been greatly improved. 804RC2 Pan Tilt Head With Quick Lock The 804RC2 is a 3-way photo head constructed of an ultra-durable and lightweight technical polymer that easily withstands the daily rigors of the professional photographer. A unique spring feature has been added to the 804RC2 to assist in the tilt motion of the head to compensate for heavier, off-center loads. The ergonomically designed handles fit comfortably in the hands, while the standard quick release plate fits snugly in the low-profile receiver.

I was impressed as soon as I took it out of the box. It’s extremely sturdy. Of course, there are plastic parts to it, but not where it matters most. This particular series has been recommended to me by several photographers. When they saw the box for this sitting on my desktop, they were all impressed. I didn’t realize I would need an adapter, but that’s ok. I’ll get one, and it’s easy to get.

I spent about $150 on this. Before you freak out… keep in mind I’ve spent far more than that in total on ones that subsequently broke. To me, it’s worth it to spend more for a product, in order to know that I’m getting a quality piece of merchandise. My chair, for example, was expensive. However, instead of buying a cheap one that wouldn’t last and wouldn’t be comfortable, I chose to just buy ONE chair. It hasn’t let me down yet. So, I went with my gut and bought the more expensive tripod, as well.

The nice thing about this tripod, is that once I mount the camera, it can turn the camera essentially 90 degrees. The stand itself is capable of holding up to 15 pounds, which is nice.

Don’t buy this without checking with me first. Just like with any product, I can probably save you some money with a coupon.


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Are You an Amateur Photographer?

I love to dabble in photography. I’m not that great at it, and I know my limits. But I always like to get new tips, and learn new things. One of our chatters, DellMan94, sent in the following tips to give all of us an extra bit of a boost when practicing our photography skills.

  • Find the right camera. First, make sure when you buy your camera that you find the one that fits you. The camera should not be too small or too big, the menu should be clean and easy to use, and the camera should be comfortable. Second, when you get your camera, do not be confused about the marketing hype about megapixels. The number of megapixels just determines how big you can print your photos, not image quality. For example, a four-megapixel image will print an 8×10 while a ten-megapixel image would print at 24×36 at that same resolution. Finding the right camera can your photographic experience much more enjoyable and fun.
  • Use the rule of thirds. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid over the photo you are about to take. Place your subject where these lines intersect and your photo will be much more visually interesting. This is because the eye scans around the image. You will notice your images will start to look much better when you apply this rule.
  • Take numerous photos. Do not be afraid to take many photos in just one day. Your odds of getting a great photo will increase if you take more pictures. One person who has 200 images is more likely to have “the shot” than a person with 80 or 100 photos is.
  • Be careful when shooting RAW. If you are taking pictures in RAW format than you have to be careful not to take too many. If you do, you can corrupt your memory card. This is because the camera calculates space available on the card based on average image size, not actual image size. RAW is a photo format that uses no compression on the photos like JPEG does. While the image quality is slightly higher than JPEG, RAW files can be very large (around 9-10 MB for a 10-megapixel image). A JPEG will delete one third or more of the data that is captured when the photo is taken. Not all cameras can take raw images. For the most part the cameras that can take RAW photos are the higher end point-and-shoots and most dSLRs. For the most part this is unnoticeable. For the most part shooting in JPEG is the way to go, unless you plan on heavily modifying your photos in your image editor.
  • Keep the original photos. Keeping the original photos is very important when you edit your images. This way, if you change your mind and decide that you do not like a change you made to a photo, you have not destroyed the original. A good option is to save all your edited photos in one specific folder. Always keeping your original photos will save a lot of time and headaches when it comes to photo editing.
  • Watch the background. Be careful that the background of you photo does not have a telephone pole, wires, etc. This is especially true during outdoor portraits. Nobody wants to see some object appearing to come out of his or her head. Make sure the background is clean, is not distracting, and does not have unwanted objects in it.
  • Take as little gear as possible when traveling. When you are doing travel photography, do not take all of your gear with you. If you do, it will become cumbersome and will only get heavier as the day goes on. This is especially true if you own a dSLR. Point and Shoot cameras are very handy here, as they are small and most can fit in your pocket. Make sure to take the least amount of gear possible when traveling.
  • Have fun! There is no point in taking up photography if it is not fun. Having fun will increase your odds of good photos and will stir up your curiosity and will cause you to learn more. There is nothing like doing something you love to do.

Has a Wrist Strap Ever Saved Your Camera?

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Picture this: you’re out and about and take the picture of a lifetime. Then, you need to transfer that picture to a computer. The problem is, you left your USB cord at home, so there’s no easy way to get that photo off of your camera. You could wait until you get home, or you could use this cool wrist strap. Not only is it a wrist strap, it also is a USB cable that will connect your camera to a computer (or anything else, like a photo printer). The USB Camera Lanyard and Wrist Strap is only $7.99 on Amazon, so why not pick one up?

You’ll always have your USB transfer cable right with your digital camera with this unique wrist strap. The strap has a small sliding compartment that hides compact USB type ‘A’ and USB mini type ‘B’ (5-pin) connectors and the cable is easily long enough to connect to a USB port on your PC. No more searching in your camera bag for a cable or memory card reader. Camera not included.

Make sure that your camera connects via USB, of course, and not some proprietary cable like mine does. For that reason, I’m planning to switch cameras. What point-and-shoot camera (that connects via USB) do you recommend?


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Camcorder Buying Tips

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There are a LOT of choices out there when it comes to buying a new Camcorder. How many MegaPixels do you need… or do they even matter? Here are some excellent tips sent in by a community member, to help you in choosing your next Camcorder.

  • Megapixels do not increase video quality Everywhere you go, you read about Megapixels. However, this is really just marketing from the manufacturers. While the megapixel count has a big impact on the quality of the still photos that your camcorder takes, it has very little impact on the video quality. What impacts the video quality is the size of the chip inside the camcorder (called the CCD). A CCD is simply the chip that recognizes light. It takes the light in as input and breaks it down into the basic Reds, Blues, and Greens. Naturally you want 3 CCD’s to capture anything nice and pretty. Many people rely on the auto features for still video when in reality you want to be able to white balance your picture, as well as set the focus to your face.
  • Figure out where and when you are going to use your camcorder Some camcorders do better indoors, while others do better outdoors. Some camcorders are more compact… while others are easier to handle. Before you start shopping for a camcorder, write down 5 or 10 different situations you see yourself using your camcorder in.
  • Low light performance matters – a lot! You’ll read people talking a lot about the low light performance of a camcorder. Now, when we talk about low light performance, we’re not just talking about a bar or a dark basement. We’re talking about the inside of your typical house! Low light to you and me is much different than low light to a camcorder. Typical room lighting is low light for a camcorder, so you should pay extra careful attention to the low light performance before you buy.
  • There are features, and then there are features that matter A lot of camcorder makers have put features on their models that might seem to be important and helpful, but in reality they are just gimmicks. While we mentioned megapixels, another one to look out for is an on-camera video light. These never have enough power to really improve your video quality. However, the biggest gimmick is digital zooms. Camcorder makers will advertise 500x, 600x or 700x digital zooms. The problem with a digital zoom is that it highly distorts the picture, and you should never use it. When shopping for a camcorder you should totally ignore the digital zoom.
  • Hybrids still and video is not always a good thing While a lot of people like the convenience factor of being able to combine your digital camera and your camcorder in one package, it’s not the most frugal choice. Unless you’re spending upwards of $1,000, you’re not going to get the same still performance out of a camcorder that you would out of a digital camera priced under $200. The best deal is to buy them separately. You will save money and also get better quality.
  • Play before you buy With a camcorder, it is critical that you’re able to hold it steady to shoot good video. While some of you may be thinking, “hey, I have image stabilization so I can shoot while I’m in an earthquake”… image stabilization’s capabilities are limited on all models. It is really important that you’re able to hold the camcorder still and stable and comfortably. Even when buying online, go into a store and play with the models before you click buy.
  • Buy a warranty, bag and tripod Although you might be a bit wary of salespeople’s techniques to up-sell you to buy more, you should always buy a warranty with your new camcorder. Considering that this is a portable device that you’ll be taking outside and on adventures, the likelihood of it breaking is pretty high. As for a bag, it’s important to protect your camcorder from damage and a dedicated bag is the best solution. You might balk at the idea of lugging around a tripod to events you want to shoot, but it’s the best way to ensure that your video isn’t shaky and that people will want to watch it and not get sick!
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is When buying online, remember the old adage “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” If you find a price that is drastically lower than most of the competition, it is very likely that you’ll get a camcorder from a country other than the one you are buying in, a camcorder with it’s accessories missing, or not get your camcorder at all. You also should be careful to make sure you’re buying a NEW product, and not a re manufactured one.
  • All camcorders are not made equal While most of the models on the market will suit your needs, there are huge differences in the different camcorders on the market today. Don’t just buy any old camcorder, research and understand the models before you actually make a decision.
  • Use your camcorder! While this isn’t strictly a buying tip, it’s important nonetheless. Don’t just buy your camcorder, put it in a closet and take it out only for a wedding or graduation. Think of new interesting events and things that you can tape. You may capture some amazing memories.


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