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After reading "This lens is soft" and other myths by Roger Cicala, I decided to bone up on the micro adjustment feature for my Canon 5D Mark II. Essentially, this is designed to correct minor focusing problems. You may have heard the terms "front focusing" or "back focusing." It means that the lens and the camera are not in perfect focusing alignment. According to Cicala, many pro bodies, including the Canon 7D, 1DIII, 1DsIII, 5DII, 50D; Nikon D3, D3x, D300, D700; the Pentax K20D, the Olympus E-30 and E-620 have a microcalibration feature that allows you to better match problem lenses to the camera bodies.

The owner's manual for my Canon 5D Mark II cautions, however, that using micro adjustment should be the exception, not the rule.

"Normally, this adjustment is not required. Do this adjustment only if necessary."

That being said, if you have a camera that provides micro adjustment, and you suspect that a particular lens could use a little correction, you might want to investigate this further.


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The Lowepro D-Wrap is a clever way to protect your camera and never lose its case. And for only about $12, it makes a superb stocking stuffer.

The case itself is made out of durable Neoprene fabric that wraps around the camera and is secured by a Velcro closure. It attaches to the body via a sliding tripod screw that easily loosens via a fold down handle to allow access to the battery and memory card. When you take picture, just open the case and let it hang down out of the way. When finished, it "wraps back up" protecting the camera. I'm currently using the D-Wrap to protect my Canon PowerShot S90.

You can watch an informative movie about how to use the D-Wrap on the Lowepro video page. Keep in mind that it's designed for compacts. My S90 is the largest camera it can accommodate comfortably. The case looks great, and it really protects the camera nicely.

More Gift Ideas for Photographers

If you haven't checked out my Top 10 Gifts for Photographers, be sure to take a look. I have links to all of the items, and there's an audio podcast on that page that describes everything in detail.


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Here's a list of cameras gone wrong. For various reasons these devices should be avoided at all costs. I love articles like this.

Check out The Worst Cameras of 2009 by the folks over at Digital Camera HQ. It includes the Fuji J20, Nikon S220, Pentax W80, Kodak C180, and more.

You've been warned!

Want to make your own holiday greeting card? We have everything you need right here, including a free downloadable image that's cropped to fit perfectly on the cover of a 5"x7" holiday card. If you've never printed your own cards, take a look at this article: Professional Photo Art Notecards Using Aperture and Red River Paper. You can also set up these projects in Photoshop and Lightroom too. One reader even used Microsoft Word.

To get the image of the Christmas Cactus, just go to the TDS Flickr page, click on the All Sizes link above the Christmas Cactus picture, and then click on the Original link. This loads up the master image. Then all you have to do is download it using the link above the image.

These cards are gifts unto themselves. They are perfect for family, friends, your kids' teachers, your hair cutter... anyone that you want to wish "happy holidays" to. So go get that high resolution image, and make something pretty.

If you want to share one of your holiday shots with our virtual camera club, then upload it to the The Digital Story - Digital Photography Public Group and tag it with "Greeting Card". I'm sure others will appreciate the gesture.


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Some shooters will do anything to avoid image noise, even if it means missing the shot all together. Today's cameras have improved their high ISO performance, including many compacts. Yet a lot of photographers insist on keeping the ISO setting low, even in dimly lit environments. Why? Is it that old habits die hard, or is there a real reason to keep the dial turned down? Find out what I think in this week's podcast.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (21 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Embrace is the Dec. 2009 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Dec. 31, 2009.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


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Podcast Sponsors

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Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

Add Magic to Your Slideshows -- FotoMagico presentations are so amazing that your audience will be asking how you did it.


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"Feet" are expressive. And the Oct. 09 Photo Assignment participants created a "soleful" gallery of images that show how beautiful trotters can be.

The December 2009 assignment is "Embrace." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can submit photo assignment pictures up to 600 pixels in the widest direction.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for next month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: December 2009." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Photo by Anthony Zahra. You can read more about how Anthony captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the Oct. 09 Gallery page.

Good luck with your December assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for October. It's a great collection of images.


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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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Olympus placed a sizable bet that four features would carry the new E-P2: the black metallic body, continuous autofocus tracking, EMA-1 microphone adapter, and the VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder. So, today, I'm going take a look through the VF-2 and tell you what I see.

Let's start with the physical aspects. The VF-2 does add height to the camera. Without the viewfinder attached, the E-P2 is 2.75 inches (30mm) tall. When you mount the viewfinder in the hot shoe, the height of the camera increases to 4.25 inches. The VF-2 communicates with the camera through a data port on the back of the hot shoe. Keep in mind that the Olympus E-P1 does not have this data port, so the electronic viewfinder can only be used with the E-P2. It's easy to mount because all you have to do is slide it in the hot shoe and everything lines up nicely. The VF-2 is very light and it comes with a pouch to protect it when not in use.

The viewfinder is mounted with a hinge that enables you to rotate it upward as far as 90 degrees. So if you want to shoot at a lower angle, you can look down into the VF-2 to compose your shot and operate the controls. This feature adds a lot of versatility to the handling of the E-P2.

The electronic viewfinder is very responsive as you zoom through the range of the 14-42mm lens, providing virtual realtime composition. The refresh rate is decent, normal for an electronic viewfinder. If you pan quickly in any direction, there's a slight blurring during the pan, but the image becomes crisp the instant you stop.

Once thing to keep in mind with the VF-2 is that is comes with the camera. When you buy the Olympus E-P2 for $1,099, it's included in the kit with the 14-42mm lens. Now that doesn't mean that you have to use the electronic viewfinder to take pictures. When it's not mounted, the camera behaves as you would expect. The 3-inch, 230,000 dot LCD lights up ready for you to compose your shot.

When you slide the VF-2 into the hot shoe, it remains inactive until you turn it on using the button on the back. This switches the image signal from the LCD to the VF-2. You can't have both on at once. It's one or the other. But the camera does remember which one you used last when you power down. So if you were using the VF-2 when you turned off the E-P2, it would be active when you powered back up. Same goes for the LCD.

Looking through the electronic viewfinder is fun. It's bright and sharp. You can adjust the diopter ring around the eyepiece to fine tune the image for your vision. It has a long eye relief so you can use it while wearing glasses and still see the image corner to corner. When it's bright outside, the VF-2 is a welcome relief compared to trying to discern the image on the LCD. When the lights are low, it brightens up the scene making it easier to compose.

If you're used to judging exposure off the LCD, however, then the VF-2 might throw you for a curve because it does brighten up the composition. I recommend that you switch to the LCD temporarily by pushing the VF-2 button, judge your exposure, then switch back to the viewfinder. Another route to go is to press the Info button on the back of the camera to enable the live histogram. It looks great in the VF-2, and it's a more accurate way to judge exposure.

You can use the VF-2 for anything that you would use the LCD for. Menus are crisp and easy to read. Looking at your images via playback is like viewing them on a small, sharp TV screen. And since the VF-2 is removable, you can stash it in your pocket or camera kit when you want to keep a low profile, such as shooting with the 17mm lens and the LCD.

How often you use the electronic viewfinder will depend on your shooting style. In my case, I found it very helpful outside in bright light and for low angle photography. It seems easy on the battery, so there might be some savings there compared to leaving the LCD on all of the time. And when you mount it on the E-P2, it's quite secure. So you don't have to worry about it sliding off the camera. If you decide that the VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder just isn't your cup of tea, you can go with the Olympus E-P1, and save yourself $300. Both options give you a quality micro four thirds camera.

More on the Olympus E-P2

Olympus E-P2 Black Body and Electronic Viewfinder


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Don't Let Flash Kill the Party

One of my favorite party photo opportunities is the cake shot. And there's no faster way to ruin the image than with an overzealous flash. So when we lit the candles to celebrate the 13th birthday of these twin boys, I pulled the compact Canon S90 from my pocket, set the mode to Low Light, and let the camera take it from there.

Face Detection really helped me tame the situation. Not only did it set the focus accurately, but you'll notice that the exposure and white balance were corrected for the boys' skin tones. It's fun to watch how the camera figures out the lighting, then makes the appropriate adjustment. The dominate light source was tungsten, which the camera identified. The byproduct of that correction was the bluish background from daylight outside. If I wanted, I could pull down that blue tone in post production, but I left the color balance alone in this shot so you could see how the original image came out of the camera.


Canon S90 set in Low Light mode (on the mode dial) with zoom at 28mm. ISO 1600, 1/60 at f/2.0 (Click on image to enlarge)


Once again, this is where the ability to capture with high ISO makes this all possible. Otherwise, the shutter speed would be too slow to freeze the action. So when possible, try existing light. And if the environment just won't let you go down that road, then it's good to know you can add supplemental light as needed.

More Articles About the Canon S90

Five Lesser Known (but very cool) Features on the Canon S90

Canon S90 Raw Processing Comparison: DPP vs ACR 5.6 RC

DigiScoping Pro Basketball with the Canon S90

Did Canon Really Improve Image Noise with the PowerShot S90?

"Compacts for Serious Shooters" - Digital Photography Podcast 201

Is the Canon S90 the New G11?


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Huntington Beach Pier at Sunset

On a walk back from the Huntington Beach Pier last night at sunset, I lined up this shot with the Canon PowerShot S90. The camera was set to ISO 800 using Raw+Jpeg. I then processed the Raw file in Canon Digital Photo Professional. This is the type of shot that typically gives compacts a problem at high ISO settings, but the noise is quite reasonable here.

Photo by Derrick Story. Canon S90, 1/13th sec at f/4.5, ISO 800. (Click on image to enlarge). You can see a larger version on the TDS Flickr page.

More Articles About the Canon S90

Five Lesser Known (but very cool) Features on the Canon S90

Canon S90 Raw Processing Comparison: DPP vs ACR 5.6 RC

DigiScoping Pro Basketball with the Canon S90

Did Canon Really Improve Image Noise with the PowerShot S90?

"Compacts for Serious Shooters" - Digital Photography Podcast 201

Is the Canon S90 the New G11?


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Photoshop Elements Black Friday Special

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Now through Nov. 30, you can get big discounts on Adobe Photoshop Elements if you order through Adobe.com. Here's how these specials shake out:

$50 discount for Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 Bundle (Windows). Only $99 after US$20 instant discount and US$30 mail-in rebate.

$50 discount for Photoshop Elements 8 Plus and Premiere Elements 8 Plus Bundle (Windows). Only $129 after US$20 instant discount and US$30 mail-in rebate.

$40 discount for Photoshop Elements 8 (Windows). Only $59 after US$20 instant discount and US$20 mail-in rebate.

$40 discount for Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac. Only $59 after US$20 instant discount and US$20 mail-in rebate.


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