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Reviews of photography products that enhance the enjoyment of taking pictures. Published frequently but irregularly.

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18 July 2013

At the end of his short (and happy) review of the Olympus EP-5, Kirk Tuck talks about what he finds interesting about a camera:

My intention is to discuss the camera as it is relevant to me.

I shoot most of my cameras at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800. Most are really good at those ISOs (except the Sony a850 at 800 ISO...) and I know how to add some photons to a scene if it's darker than that.

Even the most expensive fast lenses are sharper in the center than on the edges, wide open and I'm OK with that. The only time I need a lens that's sharp wide open from corner to corner is when I'm shooting flat objects and I stopped doing that because it wasn't very interesting.

I am as interested in how the cameras feel in my hand and how welcoming the menus are as I am interested in a camera's ultimate image quality. With that in mind I've stopped including "samples" from digital cameras under review because they would be smaller than the camera is capable of, compressed for the Web and meaningless unless I was shooting test targets. And life is far too short to shoot test targets.

And gear isn't what he loves about photography. If you regularly scour the camera world for news, as we do, you might think the whole point of photography is to buy gear and put it on a shelf until it's superseded by some revision.

Take pictures? What's that?

Tuck is a professional photographer branching into video production. His report from the trenches at the Visual Science Lab is always worth a peek. Because, you know, he uses his gear.


When we reviewed cameras for Imaging Resource, we were usually (but not always) stuck with the low-end models that are now fast disappearing from the market because they don't make much of an argument over a smartphone. They were generally uninspired updates to inexpensive versions of stripped down technology cobbled together more by a marketing department than any engineers.

It was depressing stuff but at least we didn't have to shoot test targets. Luke did that.

Canon PowerShot ELPH 310 HS. The ELPHs were always a pleasant surprise. This was shot with f5.9, 1/320s, ISO 100 at 40mm but cropped and enhanced in Photoshop CC using ACR 8.1 as a filter, of all things.

We did have to following an editorial formula that covered the basics of the design and handling the camera. But the fun part of any review was the shooter's report, where we took the thing for a test drive and reported on the adventure.

Thinking back on it, that was a photography assignment. Use it.

Of course, that was also the subjective part of a review, probably skipped by the reader keen on knowing if one spec or another supersedes what's on his shelf at the moment.


But that part of the report often branched into a deeper discussion of some new twist on the technology. Using WiFi, for example. Or shooting video. Two things which intrigue us even now.

And, obviously, there were things that did not matter much after all. Like touch screens and weatherproofing. And a few the jury is still out on (in this district, anyway), like GPS.

The little cameras sported a lot of JPEG magic from various "artistic" filters to resolution enhancement (mid-tone contrast enhancement) and built-in shadow/highlight protection (iContrast, D-Lighting, DRO, etc.).

We appreciated the utility of that latter as much we scoffed at the former but we would never have bought a camera based on any of these features. They were just processing shortcuts affecting the JPEG, after all.


Fortunately the digital revolution in photography wasn't confined to digicam technology. Nor to camera technology alone. The developments in image processing technology have been a thrill to chronicle.

Enhancing an image like our little PowerShot capture above isn't much work but it's a lot of fun. And it takes the image to a place the camera could not.

In this case, our 2012 JPEG image got the benefit of Photoshop CC's new Camera Raw filter. Highlight and shadow detail were adjusted beyond what iContrast could do and Vibrance picked up the detail. The original image wasn't captured at a 16:9 aspect ratio but that was no problem to impose in post processing. And it enhanced the effect.

Cameras aren't trophies. They're meant to be used. But the image isn't fixed on the memory card. It's just beginning to live.

Now that we're running the show at Photo Corners, we can write reviews on using the gear and show you how to breathe life into your images no matter what gear you use (and we're using some pretty old stuff here). The camera captures the image but your processing skills can set it free.

Ars longa, vita brevis. Mastery takes a lifetime -- but life is short.

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