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Friday, March 5, 2010

Kodak Kodachrome Motion Picture Test

This is some of the earliest color motion footage that you will ever see.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Beware of Counterfeit Battery Packs!

As more and more cameras are using rechargeable batteries the market for knock-off batteries has exploded.

It has come to my attention that counterfeiting of battery packs has become a serious problem for both manufacturers and consumers. A knock-off battery pack may save you money but, at the very least, may not carry a charge or last as long as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) pack.  Worse yet, it could catch fire!

Here is a guide from the Camera Imaging and Products Association that will help you identify counterfeit battery packs.

Use the links below for information from specific camera manufacturers:


Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Lose Your Camera But Find Your Photos

Loss is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with. According to the psychology of loss, the pain of losing $100 hurts a lot more than the pleasure of finding, earning, or winning $100.

The emotional pain of losing your photos hurts a lot more than losing a hundred bucks. Photos can’t be replaced. You can’t re-stage a wedding, you can’t repeat those wonderful moments on vacation and you certainly can’t dig up your deceased relatives for a photo op. (Well maybe you could…but you’re asking for trouble.)

Disaster experts suggest that you keep your photos in one box that you can grab in an emergency. But what do you do if you’re just as dumb as I was and leave your camera somewhere and walk away?

My wife and I were leaving Las Vegas after a week of fun for her and work for me. I was there to cover a convention and she was tagging along on my frequent flier miles.

As we loaded our luggage into the taxi I kept the bag with my still cameras, video gear and exposed MiniDV tapes next to me since it was the most valuable piece of luggage I had.

The cab driver was a great guy and the three of us enjoyed animated conversation. My wife and I learned that he was an Iranian expatriate who came to the United States for a better life. He was profoundly saddened by the changes in his country and admitted that he rarely told his passengers that he was from Iran. At the airport I tipped him adequately and he gave me a blank receipt.

Curbside I did a quick count of my bags. One was missing. A recount verified it. I asked my wife to count again. Of course, the camera bag with the videotapes from the shoot and my most expensive camera gear was missing. And the taxi was nowhere in sight. I fought my instinct to panic.

My wife checked our remaining luggage while I went to the taxi dispatcher. I couldn’t identify the cab because he was an independent. And the receipt he gave me was generic. No one in authority at the airport could offer help or suggestions. I cursed myself for losing the bag. I envisioned the cabbie selling my photo gear. I worried about how would I explain it to my client? My heart was beating faster. I started to panic.

The truth is that despite expecting the worst from our fellow humans most people will try to return a lost item of value to its rightful owner. But in order for it to be returned the finder needs to know whom it belongs.

I read a story in a London newspaper on just that topic. Some British scientists did a study of lost wallets. They left wallets around London to see how many would be returned and an interesting statistic arose. Wallets that had baby photos in them were returned at a higher rate than those without.

What does this have to do with losing your camera?

Its difficult to write your name and address on your camera and hang tags can be lost easily but the truth is that you’re probably ready to chalk the camera up as a loss but you’d sure like to get your photos back.

This is what you do:
1) Get a piece of poster board and a marker.
2) Make a sign with your email address on it and maybe your other contact information.
3) On the first frame of every memory card take a photo of your children (or as I did, someone else’s children) holding that card.

After you download your memory card and erase the images you can shoot another photo or if you use a card reader just upload the same picture to your card.

Some cameras allow you to choose the image to use on the start up screen. Choose the image with your information.

Whoever finds your camera will undoubtedly look through your photos and hopefully contact you.

What happened to the lost bag from my Vegas trip? As I nervously paced the loading zone at the airport I saw my bag coming toward me in the distance, above everyone’s head. It was the Iranian car driver running toward me holding my bag high in the air.

He told me that we were his last ride of the day and when he got home he noticed my bag tucked between the seat and the sliding door of his minivan cab so he immediately drove back to the airport to find me.

As I said, most people will try to return a lost item of value to its rightful owner.

For a humorous take on this same topic you might want to visit photographer Andrew McDonalds blog.

If you've already lost your camera you might want to look at the Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures site.

[UPDATE September 24, 2013: Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures website is no longer active. If anyone knows of a similar site please contact me.]

Thanks to my models who shall go nameless at the request of their mommy and thanks to Barry Koch for the wonderful artwork on the placard!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Leica D-Lux 4 Anti-Shake Ad

You just have to love how this ad for the anti-shake feature in the Leica D-Lux 4 makes the point!

Canon Announces Redesign of Most Popular 70-200mm f/2.8


Canon's New EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Incorporates Advanced Lens Elements and Enhanced Durability for High-Speed Autofocus and High-Performance Optical Image Stabilization

Lake Success, N.Y., January 5, 2010 – Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging, introduces the new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Arguably the most popular focal range in Canon's telephoto arsenal and a staple lens for any professional photographer, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens provides the focal length, maximum aperture and zoom power for capturing everything from fast-action sports to studio portraits. Built for the professional, the body structure of the new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens has been enhanced to provide better durability and strength without a significant increase in weight. Canon has improved optical performance on the new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens by redesigning the internal elements, incorporating a fluorite element and a fifth UD element. The use of the fluorite element and five UD elements helps to minimize secondary chromatic aberrations and produce better image quality with improved contrast and resolution through the entire zoom range; the end result is an optically precise lens worthy of becoming the leader of Canon's L-series lenses.

Along with its redesigned optical elements, the new lens design features improved AF speed due to a new focusing algorithm and has reduced the minimum focusing distance to 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) through the entire zoom range, allowing photographers to capture tighter portraiture shots in a small studio space. The previous lens model's minimum focusing distance was 4.6 feet (1.4 meters), whereas now photographers can stand nearly 8 inches closer to their subject and achieve sharp focus and tight crops. Canon has also enhanced the Image Stabilization allowing it to compensate for shutter speeds up to four steps slower than 1/focal length, a one step improvement over the previous lens model.

"Canon's core has always been our optics, and we are constantly challenging ourselves to produce better and more advanced optical systems for our customers. The new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens incorporates the best advancements in Canon lens technology from the past few years and packages it into what we believe will be the most popular lens for professionals and advanced photographers," stated Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A.

The enhanced magnesium alloy barrel design of the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens features added strength with a minimal 20-gram increase in weight compared with the previous model (1490g vs. 1470g) and retains Canon's protective seals and fittings providing dust and water resistance for those photographers working in adverse conditions. A new bayonet mount on the front of the lens includes a locking mechanism to ensure the supplied lens hood remains securely in place. Other noticeable improvements include a wider focusing ring, and sleeker design by reducing the thickness of any protruding elements such as the switch panel. The new lens is also compatible with Canon's existing EF1.4X II and EF2X II Extenders as well as EF Extension Tubes and the 77mm Close-Up Lens 500D.

Pricing and Availability

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens is supplied with a detachable tripod collar, a reversible bayonet mount lens hood and a lens pouch. The new lens is scheduled to be delivered to U.S. dealers in April, price to be determined.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I call the blog "Mark Focus"

My favorite movie from the 60s is Putney Swope, its a dark satire about an ad agency that is taken over by the one black guy on the executive board. This is one of my favorite scenes, and why I named the blog Mark Focus. (Also and excellent illustration as to why you should NEVER work for free!)

Live From New York It's...

The line that distinguishes still from video cameras is blurring.

Since the digital age subverted film, the real difference between a video camera and a still camera was merely the external shape of the camera. Now even that has changed, or been rendered moot.

Internally digital still and video cameras accomplish the same mission. Light travels through a lens and hits a sensor, which converts the information into electrons, and then a computer processes that information and records it onto a memory device.

Most point and shoot digital still cameras have afforded the option of making short video clips for many years but the ability to make serious hi-definition video with sound has eluded the manufactures. That is, until now.

The advent of high-speed large capacity memory cards and multi-megapixel sensors has opened the door for camera designers to create still cameras that can record video with phenomenal quality.

This was proven recently as the new season of NBC's Saturday Night Live debuted not only with an a new cast, but with a new look for the opening title sequence shot using Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the new Canon EOS 7D digital SLR cameras.

According to the Canon press release: The creative concept behind the opening sequence was "portraiture". The director and crew looked to capture "living" portraits of the City, illuminating the cast and the unique characters that make up the New York City nightlife.

SNL Crew Shooting outdoors at night
SNL Crew shooting outdoors at night.

The crew wanted to capture the city nightlife in as natural a look and setting as possible. This meant minimal additional lighting, and making those on-camera feel comfortable to act naturally. Their solution was to use the video capabilities of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR cameras.

SNL Crew shooting in a bar
The SNL Crew shooting in a NYC bar.

Both machines offer amazing low-light performance, small form factor, extensive choice of lenses, some providing superb depth-of-field. A combination that enabled the crew to shoot in predominantly ambient light thus avoiding big lighting gear and the additional manpower needed to operate and power it. Another added benefit; the crew also found it easy to covertly shoot around the city without drawing a crowd.

Filming at night, the new stars of the hit TV show were shot in various New York City hotspots by a small crew discretely capturing the cast as they participated in select New York happenings. The entire segment was captured and edited in a week's time, incorporating 30p footage from Canon's 5D Mark II as well as 60p footage used for slow-motion segments shot with Canon's EOS 7D Digital SLR camera.

SNL Crew
The SNL crew viewing a take.

The end result was that the cast and crew were able to shoot in any location - from the Brooklyn Bridge, which has limited ambient light, to a dimly lit street corner, to a more controlled bar interior - using only an on-camera Litepanels MiniPlus for most of the exterior shots and two Kino Flo lights for an interior shot that required some illumination enhancement.

Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. stated, "We have seen a shift in HD video capture toward a simpler and easier HDSLR workflow, and now with the EOS 7D shooting in standard NTSC and PAL frame rates, customers are realizing an even easier HD video workflow, using some of the largest HD video image sensors on the market at a fraction of the cost of competitive equipment,"

The Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II empower cinematographers with a high-quality HD video solution featuring full manual exposure control and more than 50 Canon EF lenses to chose from, shooting on two of the industry's largest HD video sensors. The EOS 7D also features selectable cinematic frame rates. The EOS 7D features Dual DIGIC 4 Imaging Processors and a large APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, while the EOS 5D Mark II features a single DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor and larger Full Frame CMOS sensor, helping to render stunning color reproduction, amazing depth of field and fine high-definition detail.

The Canon EOS 7D records video in one of three modes - Full HD and HD in a 16:9 aspect ratio and Standard Definition (SD) in a 4:3 aspect ratio, all at selectable frame rates: Full HD at 1920 x 1080 pixels in selectable frame rates of 24p (23.976), 25p, or 30p (29.97); 720p HD recording at 50p or 60p (59.94) and SD video at frame rates of 50p or 60p (59.94). The EOS 5D Mark II features 16:9 Full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 fps as well as 4:3 standard TV quality(SD) video capture at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 fps. The EOS 5D Mark II features 16:9 Full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 fps as well as 4:3 standard TV quality (SD) video capture at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 fps.

Both cameras record video up to 4GB clip length, depending on the level of detail in the scene, a 4GB clip can record approximately 12 minutes of video at full HD resolution or approximately 24 minutes in standard definition. For both the Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II, sound is recorded either through an external stereo microphone or a built-in monaural microphone.

Since Saturday Night Live has taken the leap I'm sure other filmmakers will follow suit. And as this is only the first generation of these hybrid machines one can only imagine what we're in store for in the future.

I'd like to add that while it is news that NBC's Saturday Night Live has chosen Canon to shoot their new intro, the first person to produce a short film with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was photojournalist Vince Laforet. Watch it below.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The New York Times Agrees with Me!

In a previous post I called the Samsung DualView on of the innovations of the year. It seems that I'm not alone. the venerable David Pogue, New York Times tech guru and author of The Missing Manual series of how-to books is of the same opinion. You can read it here on NYTimes.com. While I disagree with him on his assertion that the picture quality is lacking, its still nice to have my opinions affirmed.

Dual View camera