Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Stuck for Mother's Day Gift Ideas? Photo shoot gift vouchers available

If you are sStuck for Mother's Day Gift Ideas then a photo shoot gift vouchers could be the perfect gift. Vouchers are available online for any of our photo session packages whether a family portrait or treating your mum to a makeover photo shoot.

You can buy gift vouchers online for any of our photo shoots in Kent by clicking on the link below.

Mothers Day Photo Shoot Gift Vouchers

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Canon 7D/Canon 60D/Canon 600D/Canon 550D Comparison

Canon now have 4 very similar specification cameras in their range with the same 18Mp sensor.

So what is the difference between the Canon 7D/Canon 60D/Canon 600D/Canon 550D and how do they compare?

Canon 7D is the top semi-professional camera that Canon offer. Above this is the Canon 5D Mark2 which Canon now rate as one of their professional series of cameras used by many wedding and portrait photographers.

The Canon 7D has a much more rugged body than the 60D/550D/600D which are all constructed of a high grade plastic. In reality unless you throw your camera around and take very little care of it any of these cameras will be suitable. I have the Canon 550D for nearly 12 months and have had no problems with the construction of the camera.

The Canon 60D and Canon 600D feature rotating LCD screens allowing live view to be used in more extreme situations where it isn't easily possible to view the LCD in the standard position at the rear of the camera. If this is not something you need then again any of the camera are suitable.

The video functions on the Canon 7D/60D/600D have been enhanced compared to the Canon 550D giving additional frame rates. The 600D also features a new video crop mode that allows full 1080p HD video to be shot at up to 10x magnification.

The Canon 7D and 600D also feature control of the Canon Speedlite range of flashguns from within the camera. This saves using a Canon ST-E2 remote flash trigger and could reduce the cost of your gear by around £200 if this is no longer required.

I am very happy with the Canon 550D that I have and it compares very favourably to the Canon 5D and Canon 5DII that I have. With the additional features that the Canon 600D has I believe that it is a fantastic camera for the money and is probably the best value of any currrent Canon camera. Unless you need any of the specific features such as frame rate or autofocus that are only available on the Canon 7D/60D then personally I would opt for the Canon 600D. While the Canon 550D is an excellent camera the 600D for a small amount more money is well worth the upgrade.

So the big question - would I upgrade my Canon 550D for a 600D? The answer is no. At the moment the features of the 600D are not essential and the 550D is purely a backup camera for me so the main features are those I use on the Canon 5D/5DII.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Budget 2011 - No more tax free imports of memory cards? VAT free from Channel Islands

One item not mentioned on the news but was in George Osbourne's speech that I heard on the radio earlier was the clampdown on tax avoidance and removing the ability of companies to use Jersey for sending tax free goods into the UK.

Does this mean that 7dayshop and the like will no longer be able to send memory cards, batteries and small items of photography equipment without paying VAT? Will Play.com and Tesco no longer be able to ship CDs from the Channel Islands with no VAT?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

M2 Motorway Lorry Fire - YouTube Hits pass 50,000

The video I shot of the car transporter lorry fire back in May 2009 that was the first real test of the Canon 5D mark 2 video capability has now had over 50,000 hits on YouTube.

I used the photos and video today for teaching material at a local school which went down really well and showed the huge advantage of having a camera that can shoot stills and video.

You can see the clip on you tube here

Car transporter Lorry Fire on M2 Motorway

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Crumpler Zoomiverse Field Reviews - Huge Photo Backpack but with Poor Design

A while ago I purchased a Crumplier Zoomiverse to replace my ageing  camera bag. For various reasons I never made the switch and having  finally come to do so I've found that the interior of the Crumpler  Zoomiverse is totally configurable with many different layouts possible.
However the bag does unfortunately suffer from some poor design flaws that limit its usefulness.
Crumpler Zoomiverse inside space
Although the bag is huge externally the actual usable space is not as great as you would expect. Almost like a TARDIS in reverse! There is an inner bag that stores the camera gear which helps protect it but as a result cuts down the volume available for storage. It is quite a squeeze to get 2 bodies with lenses attached into the bag along with a flash gun. The net pocket at the top of the Crumpler Zoomiverse can store small items but again it reduces the space available within the bag.
There is a front pocket which gives a lot of flexible space but unfortunately the bag needs to be laid on its front to access the camera in main compartment so needs to be zipped up again to reach the front pocket - itself a slow process due to the 2 layer zip on the main compartment.
Crumpler Zoomiverse review
This shows the main compartment net covering being zipped into place. The Zoomiverse has a unique design in that the backpack opens from the rear by folding the carry straps out of the way and removing the rear of the bag. This works quite well expect for limiting access to the front of the bag. The main compartment also features a laptop carry case but this limits the space available inside for camera gear even more.

Crumpler Zoomiverse backpack review - good but could be better

The dividers can be positioned as required. Unfortunately that does mean that starting from scratch is tricky as  you need to find a layout to begin with using the available velcro  dividers! There are more dividers than can be used inside the bag which is confusing to begin with!
Inside the Crumpler Zoomiverse layout
Standing bag upright showing the rear opening to access the main compartment.

Crumpler Zoomiverse review - large photo backpack

The photo below shows the Tamrac Adventure 9 side by side with the Crumpler Zoomiverse. Although they are similar heights the space inside the Tamrac is much more usable than in the Zoomiverse. The primary problem with the Tamrac is that the top pocket is not padded so needs to be used carefully to avoid damaging kit.
Crumpler Zoomiverse compared to Tamrac Adventure 9

Sunday, 13 March 2011

How do I edit MOV Video files from the Canon 600D/550D/Canon 7D/60D using Windows Movie Maker

A common question about the MOV video files that are produced from the Canon 600D/550D/Canon 7D/60D cameras is how to edit them. For people who only have software such as Windows Movie Maker on their PC it is not simply just a case of adding the files and editing them. MOV files cannot be processed in Windows Movie Maker without some changes.

The best way that I have found is to use some software called Cineform Neoscene. This will convert the MOV files which are highly compressed into a more usable AVI format that Windows Movie Maker can edit. You can get a free trial of the Neoscene software from the Cineform website and to purchase is around £70. This may seem a lot of money but remember that with this software you can then edit the video on your PC using Windows Movie Maker without having to purchase any further software. Buying something like Adobe Premiere would add around £100 and still not easily be possible without the conversion to AVI.

How to get a JPG Image from a Canon 5D2/7D/60D/550D/600D MOV movie file

I recently needed to get a still JPG/JPEG image from a movie that I had shot on the Canon 5D2. However the process for getting a still image from a MOV file is the same if you have the Canon 7D/60D/Canon 550D/Canon 600D DSLR cameras that shoot video.

Using the Canon Zoombrowser software if you open the MOV video file and start to play it you will see a button called Save As Still Image which will save out the JPG image of the movie at that point. This gives a better result than just trying a screen capture as it will use the frame from within the MOV file. You can also move the movie frame by frame to get the best pose or avoid unwanted blurring from movement. Shooting at a faster frame rate would reduce movement anyway but my video was shot in low light at 1/30 sec.
 I would recommend saving at the highest quality setting which strangely isn't the default within the software.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Video Won't Play Smoothly from Canon 600D/550D/Canon 7D/60D cameras

A common question about the MOV video files that are produced from the Canon 600D/550D/Canon 7D/60D cameras is how to play them smoothly on a PC as they can be very choppy/jerky when played as the MOV format.

Even if you have a very high spec PC the playback can still be jerky and not smooth. The best way that I have found is to use some software called Cineform Neoscene. This will convert the MOV files which are highly compressed into a more usable AVI format that your PC can play more easily. You can get a free trial of the Neoscene software from the Cineform website and to purchase is around £70. This may seem a lot of money but remember that with this software you can then edit the video on your PC using Windows Movie Maker without having to purchase any further software and also without buying a new high spec PC.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Canon 600D or Canon 550D - Which camera is better? Digital Video Zoom/Video Crop Mode comparison

A question being asked is - which camera is better the Canon 550D or Canon 600D. Both are similar prices and similar spec. Both cameras have Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at 24, 25, and 30 frames per second. And 720p or VGA video at 50 and 60 fps.

One key difference that I've found between them is the video crop mode. This is something that was introduced on the Canon 550D with the 640x480/50fps video mode, sadly a feature missing from the groundbreaking first HD DSLR the Canon 5D Mark II. The Canon 600D now calls this Digital Video Zoom.

On the Canon 550D the video crop mode allows you to zoom up to 7x on the centre of the image but only in the 640x480 and not in HD 1080p mode. The Canon 600D extends this to allow you to zoom anywhere between 3x and 10x on the 1080p and still keeping full HD quality.

This fantastic zoom facility makes this an idea camera for birdwatching videos as it allows you to capture details from a huge distance giving a whopping 4500mm equivalent lens just using a normal 70-200 zoom.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Canon 550D/600D Video - Crop Mode for Birdwatching, Zoom Mode Video on Canon DSLR

Canon 550D Crop Mode Video at 640x480

The videos below were shot on a Canon 550D with Canon 17-40 f4 L lens. The same features are available on the Canon 600D shooting video but unfortunately not on the Canon 5D Mark2.

The video below shows the Canon 550D video mode set to 640x480 50fps (shot at 40mm)

The video below shows the Canon 550D video mode set to 640x480 50fps

 but in CROP mode. This gives approx 7x zoom compared to the standard footage. (shot at 40mm)

Monday, 7 March 2011

Canon 600D Now available

The Canon 600D is now available to buy in the UK.

As a reminder the spec is a 18Mp sensor in similar body to the Canon 550D along with 3" vari angle screen, remote flash control, 3.7fps shooting and the now standard feature of 1080p HD movie mode.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Canon 5D Mark 2 Video for travel video/photography

Having just returned from a holiday to New Zealand with the Canon 5D2 I thought it was worth highlighting the benefits of taking this camera when you are travelling.

Using the Canon 5D mark 2 means that you only need to take one device with you. Once packed into my backpack with a selection of lenses (50mm f1.4, 15mm f2.8 fisheye, 24-105mm f4, 70-200mm f2.8 - yes thats right I was travelling light!) it meant that I didn't need to take a video camera with me as well.

Admittedly the selection of lenses along with the Canon 5D2 body in the Tamrac Adventure 9 backpack was hitting the carry on luggage limit and in New Zealand was actually over the limit at nearly 10kg with my notebook packed too.

This is a shot taken with the Canon 5D2, 24-105mm lens at the Abel Tasman National park on New Zealand's South Island near Nelson. (taken using polarising filter and slight tweak in Adobe Lightroom)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Tamrac Adventure 9 Backpack/Bag Full review

I took the Tamrac Adventure 9 backpack to New Zealand for my recent trip.
It was a difficult choice to decided what kit to take with me when I needed to keep weight and bulk to a minimum but also to be able to make the most of the photography opportunities with travel to such a beautiful place along with some wedding photography during the trip.
Tamrac Adventure 9 compared to Crumpler Zoomiverse (right)
In the end I decided to take the following items:

Canon 5D Mark2 camera body (rather than the Mark 1 which meant I could also shoot video)
Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS lens
Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS lens
Canon 50mm f1.4 lens
Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye (to get shots such as the one below at Louise and Brendan's wedding on the beach)
Canon 430EX flashgun (lighter than my normal 580EX)

This combination along with my Acer netbook fitted perfectly in the main space of Tamrac Adventure 9 with the netbook to the rear pocket. This still left the top bag of the Tamrac to store day kit such as money, cards and sunglasses. Water bottles could be stored in the side pockets of the backpack. The total weight of the bag with the full kit listed was almost 10kg which was over the limit for carry on baggage but out of 8 flights we only had a query on one which involved removing the laptop into another bag.
Tamrac Adventure 9 field test review

The rear zip pocket for the laptop is sealed with rubber thus preventing sand or other dirt working its way into the pocket. The bag has many clips to secure the contents when being carried and even with the full 10kg weight it was comfortable to carry during the day.

The Tamrac adventure 9 performed perfectly for the trip and I would recommend it for anyone who is travelling and looking to transport their cameras and other photography gear for overseas trips. The Tamrac would be equally useful for day trips in the UK given the quantity of kit that can be carried.
Tamrac Adventure 9 field test review
 The photo above shows the main compartment on left and the top pocket on right with another body stored in it. This is not padded so needs to be used with care.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New Canon Camera - 600D

Canon have released the latest in their line of consumer DSLR cameras, the Canon 600D. This builds on the features of the Canon 550D but adds movable LCD screen along with external flash wireless control.

There are no additional features that would tempt me to replace my Canon 550D yet; so far it has been a great workhorse and I'm very pleased with it.