Saturday, March 31, 2012

First 1080 Ever Landed On Skateboard, By 12 Year Old No Less!



This has nothing to do with photography, other than some of the videography is excellent. In fact, from strictly a photography point-of-view, there are some nice compositions that could be turned into good photographs.

The reason that I'm sharing this video is because this happened up here in the Tehachapi area, in a community called Stallion Springs. Tehachapi isn't known for extreme sports, except for those children wanting to attend the extreme sports camp called Woodward West.

The video also proves that kids can accomplish whatever it is they want, if they put enough work into it. We need to be sure to teach kids to keep trying and never give up. If they fall or fail, they need to get right back up on the proverbial horse.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March Snow

I was cleaning out some folders when I came across these photogaphs. It has been a very busy month and I'd not got around to post-processing them.

The first photograph was taken on Sunday, March 18th and the last two were taken on Monday, March 19th. All three were captured with a Samsung NX200.

BNSF Through The Snow - Tehachapi, California
Dusting Of Snow On The Desert - Mojave, California
Desert And Mountains In White - Mojave, California
Taken while driving on California Highway 58.
UPDATE:

I found another folder with more snow photographs from March 19th. These were also captured with my Samsung NX200.

Boy's First Snow Day - Tehachapi, California
Cold Life - Tehachapi, California
Snow Stump - Tehachapi, California 
Frozen Arch - Tehachapi, California
Leaves Poking Through - Tehachapi, California
Cold Bricks - Tehachapi, California 
Winter Berries - Tehachapi, California 
Weed In Winter - Tehachapi, California
Icicles - Tehachapi, California




Review: Samsung NX200

Two Saguaros And Moon - Goodyear, Arizona
Prelude

There are four great new cameras with APS-C sized sensors: the Sigma SD1 (not quite new, but newly priced), the Fuji X-Pro1, the Sony NEX-7, and the Samsung NX200. The SD1 has a unique sensor that has three layers of 15.4 megapixels and it doesn't require an anti-aliasing filter. The X-Pro1 also has a unique sensor (although different from Sigma's) that has 16.3 megapixels and it doesn't require an anti-aliasing filter, either. The NEX-7 has 24 megapixels and a weak anti-aliasing filter. And the NX200 has 20 megapixels and a weak anti-aliasing filter.
Prickly Pear Cactus - Goodyear, Arizona
If you don't know what an anti-aliasing filter is, it blurs certain parts of an image in order to prevent moire pattern distortion. Almost every digital camera has an anti-aliasing filter, but the SD1 and X-Pro1 don't have or need one. The NEX-7 and NX200 have a weak anti-aliasing filter that blurs very minimally.
Three Ducks - Goodyear, Arizona
The four cameras mentioned above produce images with resolution, details and sharpness that surpass all other cameras with APS-C sized sensors, and come very close to many full-frame DSLRs (actually, they surpass first-generation full-frame with ease). With a couple exceptions, the difference in resolution, details and sharpness between the four cameras mentioned above and full-frame DSLRs is very insignificant.
Butterfly On Flower #1 - Surprise, Arizona
The biggest difference between the four cameras mentioned and full frame DSLRs is money. For example, the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR, which has 21.1 megapixels on a full frame sensor, has an MSRP of $3,000 for just the body. The X-Pro1, NEX-7 and NX200 costs significantly less (while the SD1 costs about the same as the 5D Mark II).
Saguaro Skin - Goodyear, Arizona
Of course, full-frame has some advantages. When saved in RAW format, you can squeeze a half-stop more of dynamic range out of an image if post-processed correctly (think extra work for what may be an insignificant gain). Full frame will also have lower noise at high ISO, which may or may not be important to you, depending on how much low-light photography you do (the X-Pro1 actually matches up pretty well to full-frame in this regard).
Cactus Man - Surprise, Arizona
The point is, the Fuji X-Pro1, the Sony NEX-7 and the Samsung NX200 will give you results very similar to full-frame DSLRs, but for a fraction of the cost. None of the three cameras are perfect--they each have advantages and disadvantages--but they're all quite impressive and should appeal to pretty much all photographers.
Typical Arizona Home - Surprise, Arizona
The X-Pro1 has an MSRP of $1,700 for the body only and is the most expensive of the three. The NEX-7 will run you $1,700 for the body and a 18-55mm lens (because of demand, the price of this camera has gone up in recent weeks--watch for it to fall in a few months as supply catches up to demand). The NX200 has an MSRP of $900 for the body and a 18-55mm lens, but if you shop around, you can find it for as low as $750.
Saguaro Arms - Goodyear, Arizona
Imagine, $750 for a camera that fares well when compared to cameras that cost $3,000 or more. Why is there not more press and excitement? The NX200 is also about half the price of the NEX-7 with a lens and the X-Pro1 without a lens.
Bee On Orange Blossom - Surprise, Arizona
Not one of the three cameras is clearly a better choice--they each have advantages and disadvantages. The Fuji X-Pro1 has the best sharpness and lowest noise at high ISO, but it also has the lowest resolution and the highest price tag. The Sony NEX-7 has the highest resolution and a boat-load of features, but it has the lowest sharpness and highest noise at high ISO. The Samsung NX200 has the best user interface and the lowest cost, but it has the fewest features (such as an electronic viewfinder). Even so, when these cameras' images are compared side-by-side, there is not much difference between them, especially at low ISO.
Kennedy - Surprise, Arizona
That is why I chose the NX200 over the other two choices. Right now, there is not a digital camera with a better value--meaning, best image quality for the lowest price.
Sonoran Desert At Dawn - Goodyear, Arizona
ISO

When Samsung designed the NX200, they balanced megapixels, anti-aliasing filter, noise reduction and sharpening perfectly in ISO 100 through 400. There is really no noise to speak of when ISO 100, 200 or 400 are selected, and it takes a close side-by-side study of 100% crops to detect the slight increase in noise from ISO 100 to 400. Samsung really got it right--the images are sharp, clean and loaded with fine details.
Ice Cream Van - Surprise, Arizona
The first jump in noise happens at ISO 800, but there still isn't much of it to speak of. I compared images taken at ISO 800 on the NX200 to images taken at ISO 400 on a Pentax K-x DSLR, and the digital noise is the same.
Interesting Desert Plant - Surprise, Arizona
When using low ISOs with the NX200, there is as much resolution, details and sharpness as what one might expect from a full-frame DSLR. That's really amazing for a camera that is so compact and lightweight. It's even more amazing for a camera that costs so little!
One Cactus - Goodyear, Arizona
There is a large jump in noise at ISO 1600. It's still very much usable, but large dark areas will show some visible noise and significant crops and big enlargements will show the decrease in sharpness. Images taken at ISO 1600 with the NX200 and the K-x were on par with each other (they K-x, by-the-way, is above-average with noise control at high ISO).
Three Leaves On Sidewalk - Surprise, Arizona
There is another jump in digital noise and a sharpness reduction at ISO 3200. I won't say it is unusable, but you won't want to use it often. It's pretty much what one would expect ISO 3200 to look like on an APS-C sized sensor with 20 megapixels. Images taken at this ISO will look better converted to black and white.
Boy And Toy Trains - Goodyear, Arizona
This is an example of ISO 3200.
ISO 6400 and 12800 are available but are more-or-less unusable.

Welc Mat - Surprise, Arizona

To put all of this a different way, the NX200 is exceptional at ISO 400 and below, very good at ISO 800, above-average at ISO 1600, average at ISO 3200 and below average at ISOs higher than that. Samsung made the NX200 to be a daylight camera--maximizing the cameras capabilities in normal light conditions but sacrificing performance in low light situations.

Cactus - Goodyear, Arizona

 Design

Image quality is the second most important aspect of a camera, right behind the skill of the photographer, which is always the most important component. Things like build quality, design, size, weight, ergonomics, etc., come after that.
Pinnacle - Goodyear, Arizona
If a camera looks crappy and feels like junk, but captures images in an amazing way, I'll use that camera over a sleek and comfortable camera that takes ho-hum images. However, if design, weight, ergonomics, etc., are important to you, know that the NX200 scores high in those categories.
Orange Blossom - Surprise, Arizona
No Viewfinder

One common complaint about the NX200 is that Samsung left off an electronic viewfinder (or any viewfinder). They did include an AMOLED screen on the rear, which does a fine job.
Makeshift Flag And Flagpole - Surprise, Arizona
Viewfinders are overrated. Is it better to place your eye really close to a tiny screen, or a foot away from a larger screen?  Six one, half-dozen the other. Those who wear glasses would probably prefer the larger screen.
Pink Flowers - Goodyear, Arizona
The only time I wish the NX200 had a viewfinder is when I'm using a slow shutter and want to prevent camera shake. Holding a camera to your eye is more stable than out in front of you. However, I've been able to get exceptionally sharp images with the shutter as slow as 1/15, and reasonably sharp images with the shutter as slow as 1/6 while hand-held. I even had a somewhat sharp image perfectly fine for an 8" x 10" (or 8" x 12") print with the camera hand-held and the shutter at 1/4. That certainly meets my standards.
Honeysuckle - Surprise, Arizona
I remember using a film SLR camera with no anti-shake and it was tough to get a sharp image with the shutter below 1/60 when hand-held. The NX200's anti-shake does a very good job, and if you need perfectly sharp images with the shutter less than 1/15, well, that's what tripods are for.
Red Yucca And Cactus - Goodyear, Arizona
 One advantage of not using a viewfinder is that you can compose your images with the camera at a lower or higher level than your eye. Perhaps you don't want people to notice that you are actively photographing. Or perhaps you are not quite tall enough to get the angle you need. The AMOLED screen can really come in handy.
House Shapes - Surprise, Arizona
I really haven't found the lack of an electronic viewfinder to be a big deal, but for some it will be a deal breaker. For some, the only way to take a picture is through a little window near the top of the camera. If that's you, the NX200 is not your camera. Otherwise, don't worry about this non-issue.
Parking Lot At Dusk - Scottsdale, Arizona

Other Complaints

Another complaint is that the camera struggles to autofocus in low-light situations. In daylight, autofocus is accurate and extremely quick. Turn down the lights, and it usually takes two seconds for the camera to figure out where it wants to focus, and it might not be where you'd like the camera to focus. Changing the camera to manual focus is quick and easy (and more accurate anyway), so as long as the subject is not a pet, child, car or other moving object, it's not a problem.
Red Flower Beginning To Blossom
Again, the NX200 is a daylight camera, and if you do a lot of low-light photography (especially of moving objects), it might not be the best choice for you. Or, simply add light, such as with the camera's flash or (because the NX200 has a hot shoe) with studio lighting.
Asian Doll House - Scottsdale, Arizona
One last complaint is when saving in RAW format, the camera takes a long time to write the files. If you shoot RAW, you'll find this frustrating, as it will slow you down. The solution? Save your images as JPEGs.
Cement Lines - Surprise, Arizona
RAW is rarely necessary. Sometimes you need to push-process or squeeze slightly more dynamic range out of an image, and RAW allows you to do that later in post-processing. Beyond that, if you get all the settings right before opening the shutter, there is no advantage of saving in RAW format. A few seconds of work getting the exposure, white balance, color saturation, contrast, etc., correct in the field can save you several minutes of work in front of a computer later.
Yellow Cactus Fruit - Goodyear, Arizona
Time is important, and RAW will cost you time. If RAW is your format of choice, you may want to consider a different camera.
Elephant Head - Surprise, Arizona
User Interface

Samsung made the NX200 a blast to use. All commonly used functions are found by pushing one button. Another button on the lens near where most photographers have their left hand (unless, perhaps, they're left handed) gives direct access to a few functions like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and exposure correction. Once you learn where everything is, it's quick and easy to make adjustments.
Carousel Pole - Scottsdale, Arizona
The NX200 is the most intuitive camera I have ever used, and as far as I'm concerned it is how all digital cameras should be set up.
Edward - Quartzsite, Arizona
Lenses
The 18-55mm lens Samsung includes with the camera is pretty sharp for a kit lens. There are eight other lenses available, none of which I've tried. From what I've read and heard, they're all highly rated. Sharpness and color fringes are complete non-issues.
Carousel Horses - Scottsdale, Arizona
Colors

The NX200 does a great job of producing accurate skin tones, and it can also produce rich and vibrant images, as well. Whether you are a portrait or landscape photographer, you'll be pleased with the way this camera captures colors.
Young Girl - Scottsdale, Arizona
If anything, the camera goes slightly orange, but it is very slight and nothing to be concerned over. Red in bright light can give this camera some trouble, and, if you save in JPEG, you may have to lower the color saturation, depending on how high you have it set (it's easy to adjust).
Little Red Flowers - Surprise, Arizona
The auto-white-balance does a fine job, but with white balance a breeze to adjust on-location thanks to the camera's design, I found myself not using auto-white-balance very often.
Snow Tree #2 - Tehachapi, California
Actual Image Quality

I said earlier that the second most important aspect of a camera is the quality of the images it produces (the only thing more important is the skill of the one using the camera). All of the photographs in this review were taken with the NX200 over five days, so you can judge for yourself if the quality meets your standards.
Roofs And Palm Trees - Scottsdale, Arizona
What I can tell you is that, at low ISOs, the NX200 beats pretty much all other cameras with APS-C sized sensors and gets pretty darn close to matching full-frame sensor cameras. Thanks to a photography friend, I was able to see first hand that the differences between photographs taken NX200 and the Canon 5D Mark II are very minor and are hardly noticeable even with a close study.
Bougainvillea Shadow - Goodyear, Arizona
The Samsung NX200 (with a lens) has an MSRP of $900 and can be found for as little as $750, while the Canon 5D Mark II (body only) has an MSRP of $3,000 and can be found for $2,200. That's a significant price difference for cameras that don't produce significantly different images. Yes, the 5D Mark II is the better overall camera, but it's absolutely nowhere near three-times better like the price tags would indicate.
McDonalds' Snowy Drive-Thru
Who Is This Camera For?

The NX200 is for any and every photographer that wants a small and lightweight camera that packs a huge punch. It's very impressive, and anyone shopping for a digital camera with a budget of at least $750 should strongly consider the NX200.
Canopies - Scottsdale, Arizona
As I said at the top of this review, there are two other cameras that photographers should also consider: the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Sony NEX-7. It's hard to say one is a clear-cut winner because they each have advantages and disadvantages. But whichever of the three you choose, you will be happy with your purchase, no doubt about it.
Yellow Weed Flower - Goodyear, Arizona
Conclusion

I've dragged this review on long enough, and I hate to repeat myself, but the NX200 is a smartly designed camera with one of the best APS-C sized sensors ever made. It also has a good set of quality lenses to choose from. It's not perfect, but for $900 (or as low as $750 if you shop around), it is as close to perfection as one will get.
Stream In The Sonoran Desert - Goodyear, Arizona