Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Are Point and Shoot Camera's Going Extinct?

When working on a post on how to buy a camera, I was looking for some statistics on camera ownership.  I couldn't find anything good that was recent, so I decided to check out Google Trends (tool that shows number of searches over time) and the results were not what I was expecting.

I entered "digital camera" and what I got is a very steady decline in searches since 2004.

At first I thought this must have something to do with the use of the word "digital camera" declining rather than actual interest in digital cameras declining.  But then I saw an article from 2004 (where the little "A" flag is) that was called Sharp forecasts the death of the consumer digital camera.  Basically the article states that the growing quality of cameras attached to phones will eventually kill off the need for consumer digital cameras.

Well, it's 8 years later, and consumer digital cameras have not yet gone the way of the dodo But smartphone camera's have come a long way from the 2 to 3 megapixel cameras the article was talking about, to Nokia's recently announced 41 megapixel behemoth.

Another interesting trend I found was the oposite graph generated from searching "DSLR".

It seems that people's interest in learning more about photography beyond the consumer level has not waned. I would even go so far as to say that many people probably get started taking pictures with their phone and eventually move on to a DSLR.

What does this all mean?  Well pretty much, it's just an observation of the evolution of technology.  We used to have separate mp3 players and phones.  The smartphone revolution pretty much did away with the need for a separate music playing device for most people.  In the very near future, we might be saying the same thing about point and shoot cameras.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Act of Valor [Movie Review]

I've always been a sucker for a good war movie.  I think being thrown into a world that is unfamiliar to me is one of the things I love about the movies, and little is more foreign to me than war.  

Now to me, the best war movies are the ones that successfully engross you in the day to day reality of a specific set of soldiers.  Saving Private Ryan for example, captured the epic scope of WWII by following a small group of soldiers throughout some of the biggest battles in recent history.  The Hurt Locker was a great example of the slow nerve-racking intensity of the Iraqi war.

Act of Valor attempts to capture the versatility of possibly the greatest fighting force in the entire world... the Navy SEALS.  The producers of this film worked with the Navy to create a fictitious story that weaves through multiple missions based on real Navy SEAL missions.  The idea is, everything that happens to the characters in this film, has happened to real Navy SEALS.

This leads to two things to point out about this film.
  1. The acting leaves much to be desired (although really isn't as bad you might think).
  2. It honestly feels like what you're watching is real.
The action scenes in this movie are absolutely phenomenal.  It's hard to explain how unique if feels than other action/war movies.  The way my wife described it afterwords is that "it just seemed so professional."  Once the mission began, there was no witty banter, no funny one-liners, and in general no characterization.  Most of the time, you didn't know who was who since all of the SEALS had on so much camo.  It was very plainly good guys vs bad guys.

Now normally that would be considered a bad thing, but the strategy involved in the missions themselves were so intriguing that taking the time to develop characters would simply be distracting.

The story itself left much to be desired.  The bad guys were pretty generic as was the overall plot line.  The first 15 to 20 minutes were pretty slow, and didn't really do much to go into depth of the characters.  I will say that, despite plenty of cheesy dialogue, I really found myself liking the two main characters a lot (although this probably has to do with their "good ole boys" accents than anything else").

Rating: 7/10

Overall this movie was fantastic, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes war movies.  It's definitely lacking it some areas, but as a way to experience what it's like to be a Navy SEAL you will not likely find anything better.

Beyond the Screen:  Another amazing thing about this movie, is it was primarily shot using a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR.  That's absolutely amazing that a camera designed for photojournalism could perform so well on the big screen.  

This also allowed for some crazy angles that wouldn't be possible with most modern filming equipment.  Now, I know 5D's have been used for specific shots in movies (Iron Man 2 comes to mind), but I think this is the first film to make it to theaters with a DSLR as it's primary camera.

Here's a behind the scenes video on how Act of Valor was created.

Also, if you are at all interested in creating films with DSLRs you should definitely check out Act of Valor cinematographer Shane Hurlbut's blog

Friday, February 24, 2012

Control your Canon DSLR with your Android Phone/Tablet

Ok this is awesome.  Probably the most difficult thing about shooting video with a DSLR as apposed to a standard camcorder is proper focusing.  The screens are just not quite big enough or high enough resolution for proper focusing, and most DSLR's don't have a proper continuous autofocus during video (except for the Sony SLT's). This combined with the razor thin depth of field SLR lenses can accomplish, and you have a problem.

There are many solutions, some cheaper than others, but I have yet to see anything as awesome as this (or as cheap).

Meet the DSLR Controller app for Android.  This app allows you to connect your android device directly to your Canon EOS DSLR, and gives you a multitude of features.  For starters, your android device becomes a live view monitor for your camera.  Depending on the resolution and size or your phone or tablet, this can be fantastic, and aid significantly in focusing.

Another feature the DSLR Controller app boasts is tap to focus.  Personally I don't think this would be that helpful, since the autofocus on Canon DSLR's while the mirror is flipped up (it's in live view) is terribly slow.  One of the features that is apparently being worked on however, is the ability to set focus points that you can jump to.  This could be a huge deal as it could be used as a follow focus that's detached from the camera.

I haven't had a chance to try it yet as I have to order the proper cable to connect my phone to the camera (mini usb to micro usb).  There are all sorts of other features already implemented, or currently being worked on.  The app is currently labeled as beta, so it probably still has some kinks to be worked out.  But you can't beat the current price, and the developer says you'll be able to upgrade for free once it moves out of beta.

If I can get this working with my phone (which is technically on the supported devices list) then I'll post a review once I get the cable in.  Until then check out this video demonstrating some of the features, and then hit up the source link to try it yourself.

UPDATE:  It looks like my phone won't work.  Or at least I'm not willing to go through the trouble to make it work.  Turns out, your phone must support USB Host mode (OTG mode) so that you can plug usb devices into it using a USB host cable.  While there are some kernels for my phone that support this (and I'm fairly comfortable loading them), they currently require an outside power source to make it work, which kind of kills the appeal.  

This does make getting a Nook Color more appealing though, as it's officially supported on the DSLR Controller website, and it's pretty much the cheapest android tablet available right now.

Source :  : direct link to market 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Photography for Beginners

Everybody is a photographer these days.  The digital age has made capturing images incredibly easy, and sharing them even easier.  More and more people are now becoming interested in capturing higher quality pictures, so I've put together a little guide to the basics of photography.

Depending on your camera you may not have the option to control all of these settings, but even most of the cheap point and shoot cameras I've come across have had at least some of these controls.

This is going to be very basic.  I'm not going to explain why this works, I'm just going to give a simple cause and effect for each setting.  Click on any of the images to expand them so you can see what I'm talking about better.

Shutter Speed - Measured in Seconds, ie. 1/25

Bigger Number - More light, More blur

Small Number - Darker, Less blur

On a tripod, a long shutter speed can allow much more
light than even the naked eye can detect.

If your shooting handheld or a scene with a lot of movement, you will probably want shutter speed to be set to a lower number (remember this is a fraction, so the denominator is actually higher).  If you have a tripod you can get away with a longer shutter speed to capture more light.

Apature - Measured in F-Stops, ie. f3.5

Bigger Number - Less light, Bigger Depth of Field (More is in focus)
Smaller Number - More light, Shallower Depth of Field (Less is in focus)

Notice the thin line of carpet that is in focus.
This is the result of a very narrow depth of field.
The Apature is one of those things you probably don't have a lot of control of if you have a cheap point and shoot, but there are still many consumer cameras that have a least some control over Apature.  

If you can set your Apature to something like f2.8 or below, you can usually get a really shallow depth of field.  This means that only a very narrow area of your image is actually in focus, which gives you those nice really blurred out backgrounds.  The obvious disadvantage is that it's harder to get your image in focus.

ISO - Measure in hundreds, ie. 200

There is a lot of noise visible in the dark blue sky in
the upper left hand corner
Bigger Number - Brighter, Noisier image

Smaller Number - Darker, Less noisy image

ISO is simply the sensitivity of the sensor.  The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light the sensor is, but also the more junk you will see in your image.  Some cameras can handle higher ISO values than others, so this one requires a little experimenting to figure out.

So there you have it.  Hopefully this makes sense to everybody.  If something I said doesn't make since,  or is glaringly incorrect leave a comment and I'll fix it before the lies spread.