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Nikon D3100 Hands On Preview at DPR

August 19, 2010

DPreview.com has posted a hands on preview of the new Nikon D3100. While it’s an entry level camera, it features probably the most significant upgrades of any recent DSLR release.  Although no sample images are up yet, the full specs plus extensive body shots are now available for view. Will be interesting to see how the low light performance is on this little gem. The new Nikon D3100 is the first DSLR with the ability to shoot 1080p D video.

While it’s likely not a camera I’ll buy, it’s a capable backup body especially when unexpected things happen and funds are low.

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Nikon Announces 4 New Lenses

August 19, 2010

MELVILLE, NY (August 19, 2010) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced four new lenses to the legendary NIKKOR line to meet the needs of all types of photographers, from those looking for the ideal lens for capturing memories of the school play to pro glass that captures client work in the studio. The new AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S 85mm f/1.4G deliver the optical excellence and stunning image quality that consumers have become accustomed to with AF-S NIKKOR lenses. Nikon’s optical engineering experience and devotion to extraordinary standards of excellence have contributed to the strength and legend of the NIKKOR brand. With the addition of these four lenses, 2010 has seen the introduction of a total of seven new NIKKOR lenses, reinforcing Nikon’s role as the world leader in optics.

Ideal for producing stunningly sharp images with excellent clarity and color reproduction or capturing HD video that exhibits critical focus with a dramatic depth of field, these new lenses will empower photographers with a variety of core Nikon technologies. The three zoom lenses utilize Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) II Image Stabilization system which provides up to four stops of correction* to help create blur-free images while shooting handheld or in challenging lighting conditions. Found in the 85mm f/1.4 and 24-120mm f/4, Nikon’s exclusive Nano-Crystal Coat reduces instances of ghosting and flare – even in challenging backlit scenes. Additionally, all four lenses feature Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology to deliver fast, accurate and quiet AF performance and Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) for color consistency and reduced flaring. The construction of each of these lenses also includes a nine rounded blade diaphragm, to help achieve a dramatic separation between subject and background with a natural out of focus area coveted by today’s image-makers.

“The AF-S NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, 24-120mm f/4 VR and 85mm f/1.4 build upon Nikon’s reputation as a preeminent manufacturer of high quality lenses delivering tack-sharp, high contrast images whether shooting stills or video. ” said Lisa Osorio, general manager of Marketing at Nikon Inc. “As camera capabilities expand and the role of photographers evolves, NIKKOR enhancements continue to meet the demands of beginner and professional photographers alike, and we continue to exceed expectations of optical excellence.”

AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR: Making Super Telephoto Shooting Easy and Affordable
The new AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR fills a variety of roles as the perfect lens for family picture takers and photo enthusiasts alike. This lens is the ideal complement to the 18-55mm VR DX-format camera kit lens, such as the one coupled with the just-released D3100 D-SLR camera, and provides users with an affordable way to achieve super zoom focal lengths from 82.5mm to 450mm (35mm equivalent). The 55-300mm VR lens brings the benefits of longer focal lengths into range for users when capturing distant subjects, such as at athletic events, family gatherings and summer vacations. Additional features include a Tripod Detection Mode, which allows users to keep VR image stabilization activated and automatically compensates for minute vibrations when mounted on a tripod. Additionally, a High Refractive Index (HRI) lens element is implemented to keep the lens compact while offering high contrast even at maximum aperture. The optical construction consists of two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Elements that effectively minimize chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings.

AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR: High Performance, High Quality and Telephoto Zoom
Building on the popularity and versatility of broad focal range lenses, the new AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is Nikon’s first FX-format lens with a 10.7X zoom range for enthusiasts and professionals. The new 28-300mm is the all-in-one optical solution that is ideal for travel, landscapes, portraits and capturing distant subjects. The 28-300mm VR lens is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness on both FX and DX-format D-SLR cameras, and has an equivalent focal length of 42-450mm when attached to a DX-format D-SLR. It’s optical formula includes two ED glass elements that effectively minimize chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings, and three Aspherical Lens Elements that virtually eliminates coma and other aberrations at wide aperture settings as well. This high performance lens also incorporates an M/A Focus Mode Switch that enables quick changes between manual and autofocus operation, and Internal Focus (IF) providing fast and quiet autofocus without changing the length of the lens while retaining working distance through the focus range.

AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR: Defines Versatility
The new AF-S 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR zoom lens redefines the wide-to-portrait lens category, and provides users with a medium focal range lens with a constant aperture that is ideally suited for a wide variety of photographic disciplines. This high performance lens offers a constant maximum aperture of f/4 to maintain exposure settings throughout the entire zoom range and is perfect for photographing landscapes, portraits, interiors and weddings. The 24-120mm f/4 also features two ED elements, three aspherical lens elements, a useful M/A Focus Mode Switch, Internal Focus and Nano Crystal Coat to reduce ghosting and flare for greater image clarity throughout the entire frame.

AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G ED: Fast Medium Telephoto Lens Destined to Become a Classic
A highly anticipated lens for professional photographers with no room for compromise, the new AF-S 85mm f/1.4G ED is an ultra-fast classic portrait lens boasting amazing picture quality, high performance and the ability to create dramatic background effects (bokeh). This lens is engineered for professional portrait, studio and wedding photographers wanting to shoot at fast maximum apertures while retaining the highest performance. The 85mm lens is also well suited for portraits and low-light shooting situations because of its ability to create a shallow depth of field with exacting sharpness and detail. The AF-S 85mm f/1.4 is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness on both FX and DX-format D-SLR cameras, and features two focus modes, M/A (manual-priority autofocus) and M (manual) to further enhance versatility and adapt to a shooters needs. Additional features include Internal Focus (IF) that allows the lens to focus without changing the barrel length, Nano Crystal Coat to reduce instances of ghosting and flare, and a rugged construction build to endure aggressive field use.

Price and Availability
The compact telephoto AF-S NIKKOR DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens has an estimated selling price of $399.95**. The versatile AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR has an estimated selling price of $1049.95**. The AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR zoom lens has an estimated selling price of $1299.95**. The ultra-fast AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G has an estimated selling price of $1699.95**. These four lenses will be available starting in September 2010. For more information, please visit http://www.nikonusa.com.

Nikon Announces New D3100

August 19, 2010

Camera junkies were at the ready awaiting Nikon’s long rumored announcement of the new D3100, replacement for the D3000, and the first DSLR to be able to shoot full HD 1080p video. You know, even thugh I have video capability on several of my cameras, half the time I forget it’s there. Anyway, here’s all the dirt:

MELVILLE, NY (August 19, 2010) – The new Nikon D3100 digital SLR camera speaks to the growing ranks of enthusiastic D-SLR users and aspiring photographers by providing an easy-to-use and affordable entrance to the world of Nikon D-SLR’s. The 14.2-megapixel D3100 has powerful features, such as the enhanced Guide Mode that makes it easy to unleash creative potential and capture memories with still images and full HD video. Like having a personal photo tutor at your fingertips, this unique feature provides a simple graphical interface on the camera’s LCD that guides users by suggesting and/or adjusting camera settings to achieve the desired end result images. The D3100 is also the world’s first D-SLR to introduce full time auto focus (AF) in Live View and D-Movie mode to effortlessly achieve the critical focus needed when shooting Full HD 1080p video.

Packed into the compact and lightweight body of the D3100 camera is a host of advanced Nikon technologies, such as the new EXPEED 2TM image processing engine. EXPEED 2TM in conjunction with Nikon’s new 14.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor is the driving force behind the enhanced performance and rich image quality. Ready to go wherever life leads, the D3100 features split-second shutter response and a blazing fast 11-point AF system to help ensure tack-sharp images. For shooting in challenging lighting conditions, ISO 3200 (expandable to 12,800) enables versatility in environments such as indoors or in the evening hours.

“People are stepping up to digital SLR cameras – consumers are embracing the enhanced performance, amazing image quality and options for lenses and accessories that only a D-SLR can provide,” said Lisa Osorio, general manager of marketing at Nikon Inc. “The D3100 is a camera that makes it easy to take beautiful pictures and will grow with the user, unlocking their potential and assisting in creating lasting memories or amazing art.“

Get Inspired With The Guide Mode
Whether new to D-SLR photography or exploring new shooting techniques, the D3100 features an enhanced Guide Mode with an easy-to-use interface to help customers build confidence in using their D-SLR through on-demand, step-by-step assistance. A stand out feature in the D3100’s predecessor, the D3000, the Guide Mode is easily accessed through the Mode Dial on the top of the camera. This enhanced help function now features sample assist images that change with camera settings to inspire consumers to achieve a desired look and feel to their images, while guiding through easy to understand photographic techniques. For example, to instill the majestic appearance of moving water, users can select “show water flowing” from the Guide Mode, and simply follow the prompts to create the ideal camera settings to capture an amazing image.

By following the guidance on the bright 3-inch LCD screen, users can achieve professional looking photographs to be proud of. Whether looking to soften backgrounds, freeze a moment in time or convey motion, the Guide Mode assists users in exploring effective picture taking solutions at their own pace to make capturing great pictures even easier and enjoyable.

Full HD Video Made Easy with D-Movie
The Nikon D3100 D-SLR allows users to capture stunning Full HD, 1080p resolution (1920×1080) movies. Users can record cinematic quality 24p video clips, or shoot at 24 or 30 frames-per-second at 720p, ideal for sharing online. By incorporating versatile NIKKOR lenses to the equation, users can now create a variety of photography effects to video such as isolating subjects with a shallow depth of field, and recording in low light conditions. NIKKOR lenses also deliver the sharpness needed for HD video, and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) II technology helps to eliminate camera shake.

While Nikon pioneered HD video in a D-SLR, Nikon is now introducing another industry first to enrich the user experience: The D3100 is the first D-SLR to implement full time AF for D-Movie video shooting and while in Live View mode. Using contrast based AF, the D3100 automatically focuses on subjects when Live View is activated to aid shooting when using the LCD. The D3100 camera also uses Face Detection technology to lock focus on up to 35 human faces, a feat not even accomplished with consumer camcorders. To further simplify movie shooting, Live View is activated at a single flick of a dedicated switch, and HD video recording is achieved by a simple press of a button.

Sharing and editing video clips is also easier than ever, as the D3100 records movies in the versatile H.264 AVCHD codec (.mov file). While playing movies back in the camera, users are able to edit recorded videos by clipping footage from the beginning or end of a movie. High Definition movies and stills can be shared with family and friends on an HD television via HDMI output, and control slideshows and video using the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) interface that is a part of most modern remote controls from HDTV manufacturers. Additionally, the D3100 is compatible with the new SDXC memory card format to store large amounts of photo and video data so users can shoot multiple scenes without interruption.

Renowned Nikon Technology
The D3100 leverages proven Nikon technologies to create the most positive picture taking experience for consumers of any skill level. With its new 14.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor and Nikon’s new EXPEED 2TM image processing system, the D3100 delivers exceptional image quality with low noise. The new EXPEED 2TM image-processing engine enhances camera performance and helps to ensure brilliant image quality while managing color, contrast, exposure, noise and speed for optimal results. The D3100’s normal ISO range extends from ISO 100 to 3200, allowing users to capture stunning images, even in low light environments. Additionally, the D3100’s ISO range can expand to a Hi-2 setting of ISO 12,800, furthering the opportunities for low-light shots that other cameras miss.

Other exclusive Nikon technologies include the Active D-Lighting system, which automatically rescues dark or backlit images to help create flattering images with even tones. This is especially useful when photographing subjects that are backlit by the sun or lights to provide an even exposure.

What’s more, Nikon’s Scene Recognition system draws upon the 420-pixel RGB color 3D Matrix Meter for outstanding exposures under a variety of lighting conditions by integrating a database of tens of thousands of sample images. The result is a camera intelligent enough to recognize when photographing a specific scene such as a portrait or landscape and automatically choose the proper camera settings.

To make taking great pictures even easier, the D3100 elevates Nikon COOLPIX technology and incorporates an Auto Scene Selector feature in Live View. This innovative function automatically selects the best scene mode to match shooting conditions. When engaged, the camera will automatically recognize when shooting a lush landscape or fast action sports and adjust the camera settings to create an astounding image. Six preset scene modes can also be accessed with the Mode Dial on top of the camera to overcome many common shooting challenges.

Compact Design. Huge Performance.
With comfortable yet intelligent ergonomics, the D3100 packs powerful technology that’s easy to use into a compact form factor. The advanced 11-point autofocus system of the D3100 makes it easy to find and focus on a subject through an enhanced viewfinder design with new “hollow” focus points to give a clear view of the subject.

In the playing field or the backyard, the benefits of Nikon’s advanced 3D Subject Tracking become clear, as the camera continuously focuses on fast moving subjects throughout the frame, resulting in crisp, clear action shots. Additionally, the D3100 offers split-second shutter response, eliminating the frustration of shutter lag—the annoying delay that ruins so many pictures. With the ability to capture images at up to three fps, users never miss a moment.

Also added to the D3100 is a Quiet Shutter Release mode, which substantially reduces the sound of the mirror while shooting. Quickly accessed by selecting “Q” on the release mode dial, this feature is ideal for the photographer who wishes to remain unobtrusive, for example during quiet ceremonies or photographing a sleeping baby.

Nikon also empowers users to prepare their photos for sharing quickly and easily using Nikon’s extensive in-camera Retouch Menu, which easily applies a variety of fun and dramatic effects to images without a computer. Fun and easy-to-use adjustments include a miniature effect to photos, image overlay, color outline and softening filters for flattering portraits and realistic skin tones.

The D3100 also incorporates Nikon’s Integrated Dust Reduction System, which offers a comprehensive solution that combats the accumulation of image-degrading dust from the camera’s image sensor. The shutter is tested to 100,000 cycles for maximum durability, ensuring years of captured memories.

Gateway to Legendary NIKKOR Optics and Accessories
Nikon has also introduced the ideal companion to the D3100, the brand new AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm VR lens, which gives users super-telephoto zoom capability for an affordable price. This is a perfect complementary lens when combined with the AF-S 18-55mm VR kit lens, and is great for capturing images of sports and wildlife around town or on vacation. Photographers can also appreciate the D3100’s system expandability, as it is compatible with more than 40 legendary NIKKOR AF-S interchangeable lenses. While the D3100 offers a versatile built-in flash, the camera also operates with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System and is capable of Advanced Wireless Lighting when using the SB-900 Speedlight or the SU-800 Wireless Commander. The D3100 D-SLR’s design also supports Eye-Fi memory card functionality, enabling the convenient wireless transfer of images from the camera to a computer when using Eye-Fi memory cards. Also included is a new version of Nikon’s powerful image editing application, View NX2. The latest edition of this software allows users to organize and edit both photos and video files easily.

Price and Availability
The D3100 D-SLR camera outfit, including the versatile AF-S NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR image stabilization lens, is scheduled to be available at Nikon Authorized dealers beginning in mid September 2010, at an estimated selling price of $699.95.

Vue 3D Environment Competition Winner Announced

August 13, 2010
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And while this image s not from the winner, it was one of my favorites from the 2010 competition. If you’ve read any of the Vue posts on the blog, you know I have my own love/hate relationship with the company, but still you have to love what Vue can do.

This years winner was Laurent Rodriguez, and while I did fine the prize image a bit boring for my taste, you still have to be amazed at the capability of Vue when put into skilled hands. And what a cool prize package too:

Laurent Rodriguez will receive the following prizes

  • Vue 8.5 xStream ($1,495)
  • 3D Total Mega Bundle (>$1500)
  • Carbon Scatter
  • Pixologic Zbrush 3.5 + Free upgrade to ZBrush 4 ($595)
  • d’Artiste Character Modeling Volume 1, 2 & 3 ($225)
  • 1 year subscription to 3D World magazine ($150)
  • $100 voucher on Cornucopia3D content
  • 1 year subscription to 3D Creative and 2D Artist magazines ($81.2)
  • 1 year CGSociety Membership ($29.95)

That’s quite a bundle.  I wish Laurent all the best and Many Happy Renderings with all of his new loot.

All of the finalists and submissions can be found at the 2010 Vue Environment Contest link. Take a few moments to explore other words. Some really great stuff here.

I’ve Got That Buying Bug Again

August 12, 2010

I just don’t know what it is about August. Seems every year around this time, I get antsy to get a new piece of camera gear. Strangely, I have no such cravings around the Christmas Holiday season. So I’ve been looking at the Tokina 11-16 mm 2.8 lens. While I love digital cameras, I do miss that ultra wide look I used to get from my 18mm lens. Because of the “crop factor” on APS-C sensor DSLRs, the 18mm effectively becomes about a 27mm. With the Tokina 11-16, I’ll be back shooting wide again.

When I shop gear, yes, I do look for reviews. I searched on the Tokina 11-16, and I had a laugh when I saw Ken Rockwell come up first on Google. Some love him, some hate him. Ken’s ok in my book and offers some good information. In the little review of the Tokina, he backs up his praise with some test shots. I’m sold. I did do a quick check on DPReview, and over there it was the same old argument – that a 12-24 would give you more zoom range. When you want to go wide, who cares about zoom range? Some of these guys just have to get over that notion of “having every focal length covered.” That kind of thinking will just make you crazy.

The going price for the lens is $599, and that may seem a lot to some for a lens of seemingly limited use. But, remember that camera bodies come and go. Good lenses last a lifetime. I’m still using Nikon glass I bought in 1982.

So what about camera bodies? Well, as I’ve stated here before, don’t care too much about a new DSLR. Photokina, the infamous bi-annual event, takes place in September, so I’ll see what announcements are made, and maybe put together an upgrade plan early next year.

An Interview With Bertrand Benoit

August 10, 2010

I finally had the time to do a little serious web cruising.  Yes, I do have my list of daily stops, but I save things like Ronen Bekerman’s Blog for times when I am at a more relaxed pace. And what a bonus on my latest check in, an interview with Bertrand Benoit, arch viz man extraordinaire. A good read and enlightening too.

While I don’t dare to compare my meager skills to someone as lofty as Bertrand 😉 it’s nice to know that he has photography roots too, so in some very minor way, we parallel.

I’ve often been asked about how much postwork I do in my 3d stuff, and my answer is, as little as possible. Just like getting it right in a photographic camera, it pays to get your 3D renders good from the start too. And that’s why I found this statement by Bertrand interesting

Of course, post-work is always a must when it comes to color correction and some lens effects. You can improve a good render enormously with sensible post-work, but I think you can never rescue a mediocre render.

Ah, we are a kindred spirit in this way too. It’s nice when you come across someone who is highly skilled that echoes some of your own thoughts.

You can see the full interview with Bertrand Benoit on the Ronen Bekerman blog along with some other image samplings of Bertrand’s work.

Maybe I Should Start Small

July 20, 2010
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Photo from Yahoo Video

In between photo jobs here, I’ve been trying to think up what I should concoct as far as a 3D architectural project. Trouble is, my brain has been all over the place the past few weeks. But I ran across this video on Yahoo, and maybe I should think small too.

Jay Shafer has taken Small Living to the level of Ultimate Coolness. While I myself probably could not bear such extremes, he does make great points about living more simply without all “the junque”.

My own life has been complicated  over the years by needless acquisitions, and it’s time to do some more serious purging. The camera gear was inventoried and purged last summer, and the book cases here are next. Probably after that, I can get into some of the photo prop boxes here. I’m talking multiple crates of stuff. All was necessary back then, but less of it is needed now.

Maybe someday I will even tackle my shoe closet 😉

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