Friday, June 28, 2013

Anatomy of My Camera (Part 2)

Canon EOS 600D ( aka Rebel T3i in America)

It has an Eye-level Penta-Mirror Viewfinder with a focusing screen along with Depth-of-field preview. Ha ha ha…again a mouthful. It simply means that internally it has a 5 mirror system to reflect the light into the viewfinder and that autofocus can be previewed here along with Depth-of-Field.

Well, for sure, it has a very advanced Autofocus; only thing is, while it works great in the Viewfinder, it is a little slow in the Live View Mode.

Exposure Control, ISO Speed, Shutter Speed
These three controls are the very basics of taking good photographs. They are the backbone of the functioning of any good Camera. If you get this right, there’s nothing that can stop you from becoming a good Photographer. An over-simplification would be to say that all three of them combine forces to decide how bright or dark the image is gonna be. Along with this comes the shady business of Metering and White Balance. It would take me pages to explain what all this stuff means and how they come together to make-or-break your photos. My suggestion would be to study up on the Fundamentals of Photography before attempting to fool around with these suckers.
I can only say that this camera has got the goods when it comes to these features. It’s a bit technical, but for those interested in knowing:
1)   It’s got all sorts of Metering Modes, ranging from Evaluative metering (linked to all AF points), Partial metering (approx. 9% of viewfinder at center), Spot metering (approx. 4% of viewfinder at center) and Center-weighted average metering.
2)   Exposure Control is based on the Mode of shooting I choose, Program AE (Scene Intelligent Auto, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Program), Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority, manual exposure and automatic depth-of-field. F-Stops range from 3.5 – 5.6.
3)   ISO Speed ranges from 100 – 6400 expandable to 12800.
4)   ShutterSpeeds range from 1/4000sec. to 1/60sec.

There’s a Built-in flash mounted on top of the Camera’s body. It is retractable and there’s a button to the side, to pop it up when needed. Also, in Auto mode the Camera’s Scene Intelligent Program decides when to pop-up the flash or not, depending upon the lighting conditions surrounding the subject.
It also has a Wireless master unit function provided, which allows me to fire an external Flash Wirelessly.
There’s also a standard Hot Shoe to attach an external Flash directly onto the body.

Drive System             
Drive mode in the Camera allows me to take Single shots or Continuous shots alongside a self-timer feature.
If I shoot with JPEG it gives me a Max. Burst of about 34 shots, with RAW approx. 6 shots and with RAW+JPEG approx. 3 shots

Live View Shootings             
This means that the Camera allows me to shoot a scene thru the display on the LCD Screen. Although it works just fine, has Face Detection, Contrast Detection and supports Auto Focus as well as Manual Focus, I’m not a big fan of this feature. Reason being it’s known to be slow and not very accurate, be it stills or video.

Movie Shooting             
As I mentioned earlier, this is the first defining reason why I bought this Camera. Full HD Video recording. It is capable of recording:
1) 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) video at 30fps / 25fps / 24fps
2) 1280 x 720 (HD) video at 60 fps / 50 fps and
3) 640 x 480 (SD) video at 30 fps / 25 fps.
Recorded Video gets compressed into MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 Variable (average) bit rate and saved as a QuickTime MOV. Audio can be recorded thru the built-in monaural Mic as well as using an external Stereo Mic.

LCD Monitor             
This is the second defining reason why I bought this Camera. It has your standard TFT color liquid-crystal monitor, 3.0-in. (3:2) wide with approx. 1.04 million dots. It also displays all the in-camera Feature guides and Menus. But the major feature is its angle adjustment.

The Camera allows me to display images in a coupla formats viz., Single image, Single image + Info (Basic info, shooting info, histogram).
Images can also be displayed in 4-image index, 9-image index. I can also rotate it in-camera.
Along with images, movies can also be played back. Audio out is thru the built-in speaker. It can also be connected to an HDTV via the HDMI Terminal for better viewing experience.

Post-Processing of Images             
It has a tonna built-in Creative filters viz., Grainy B/W, Soft focus, Toy Camera, Fish-eye and Miniature Effect. Also resizing your images is possible.

Direct Printing             
It also allows me to directly print my images, both JPEG and RAW with a buncha PictBridge-compatible printers, including Canon's own range.

Well, the Camera’s gotta interact with the rest of the world, like, Computers, HDTVs, Printers, Mics and such. There are a buncha jacks that allow it do just that:   
1) Audio / video OUT / Digital terminal allows it to share Analog video (Compatible with NTSC / PAL) / stereo audio output to Analog TVs. It also works as a Hi-Speed USB equivalent for Personal Computer communication and direct printing.
2) HDMI mini OUT terminal allow it to interact with HDTVs
3) External microphone IN and Remote Control terminal.

It comes with a rechargeable ‘Battery Pack LP-E8’ that goes into the base of the Camera. Life of the battery depends on whether I'm shooting thru the Viewfinder or the Live View mode on the LCD. It may range from 200-400 shots and approx 1 and a half hour of video shooting before I’ve to charge it again. My advice would be to start using the battery only once it’s fully charged and only recharge it once it’s fully drained.

Dimensions and Weight             
One of the best things about this camera is that it feels so comfortable to hold and is pretty lightweight. Even the design of the body gives the user a very comfortable grip, which automatically reflects on the quality of image taken. Specification below:
Dimensions (W x H x D) - Approx. 133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm / 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1in.
Weight - Approx. 570g / 20.1oz.

Operating Environment             
Finally just like any other electronic device, you gotta keep the Camera cool. They say that a working temperature range of 0°C - 40°C / 32°F - 104°F would be great to keep it in good shape. Buy frankly I’ve never really kept an eye on that, although I do take care not to place it in direct sunlight or near the stove…ha ha ha...all jokes aside, for a long life. it’s good to keep it in optimum temperatures and it’s absolutely necessary to save it from sudden, extreme changes in Humidity, like stepping out of an Air conditioned room. Easy remedy is to keep Desiccant packets in the camera bag. These are often found in new product shipments to absorb moisture.

Well, that’s just about everything I know about my Canon EOS 600D. By no means is this an exhaustive review of the Camera. Please don’t consider this sufficient information to take a decision about buying one. If you really wanna go in-depth into the nitty-gritty’s of the features and functions, then do visit this multi-page Camera Review by the awesome guys over at DPReview or you could watch this youtube video.


Yours Truly,

Anatomy of My Camera (Part 1)

Canon EOS 600D (aka Rebel T3i in America)

Well, it’s time to unpack the purchase and once the Open-Sesame moment is over, this is what comes out of the box.
The Kit comprises of: A) Camera Body, B) Software CD, C) Install CD, D) Battery Charger, E) Battery, F) AV Cable, G) USB Connector, H) Strap, I) Kit Lens
There are a few good reasons why I bought this particular Camera. Firstly, it was the cheapest one available. The cost keeps fluctuating, so for current pricing, take a look at the Canon website or you might also wanna visit your local showroom. For my first Camera, I wanted to go for an entry-level piece. The plan was to get trained in photography, click some photos and then, once I might start selling my photos, then buy more expensive ones. Although, now that I’ve started studying Photography, I have come to realize that, other than a coupla reasons, there’s not much need to upgrade the Camera’s body. Just need to keep buying new lenses (Wide Angle, Prime, Telephoto) and maybe a Tripod, eventually. I’ll be writing about the reasons to upgrade the body below. Second, would be a question, Why Canon? Well, no particular reason, I am sure all camera makers, be it Canon, Nikon, Olympus and many more, put the best features into their Cameras. My decision was based on the fact that most of the courses that I studied from used Canon Cameras.
Of course, I did find two reasons, in particular, that helped me finalize the purchase. First being the fact that I can shoot 1080p Full HD video and Second, Vari-Angle LCD monitor, meaning the LCD’s on a hinge which allows it to be swiveled in almost any angle, great for viewing the frame while recording at crazy angles.

Following is a basic breakdown of the key features of my Camera:

Body Type           
Well, so for sure, it’s a DSLR i.e., Digital, Single-Lens Reflex, AF / AE Camera with built-in flash. Wow, that was a mouthful. It simply means that it's a digital Camera and the body has a movable mechanical mirror system (Reflex Mirror), which is switched down (exact 45-degree angle) to direct light from the lens to an optical viewfinder eyepiece and flicks up when the picture is taken. Along with that, it has built-in Auto Focus and Auto Exposure features.
It also comes with a Revised kit lens - Canon EF-S 18-55mm F3.6-5.6 IS II and is compatible with Canon’s range EF and EF-S lenses.
Combine the two and you get this piece of beauty.

In addition it has an SD Memory Card which happily sits on the side of the body, so that you can change it without lifting the Camera off the Tripod.
The CMOS Image Sensor sits right behind the Mirror and its size is approx. 22.3 x 14.9mm. Now this is the information that helps you decide whether to upgrade the body or not. To get the best quality without any compression one must have a Full Frame or 35 mm Image Sensor. This is basically the size of the conventional Film reel. Smaller sensors will have lower picture quality. With the advent of Digital Recording, the option to buy a full frame or reduced sensor is now open to buyers depending on their spending capacity.
Most of the controls for clicking photos are on the top right part of the body viz., Mode Dial, Display toggle, ISO button, Jog Dial and the Shutter button.
The Mode Dial has the entire range of standard shooting modes found in most DSLRs, starting from Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Program mode for the professionals, to the very reliable Scene Intelligent Automatic Mode for the novice, to a tonna Preset Modes for the enthusiasts.
The rear side of the body has the unique vari-angle LCD Screen, the Viewfinder, all the Controls for Camera & Shooting Settings, Image Viewing and Post-Processes.

Recording System             
The Camera allows me to record images in both JPEG and RAW formats, in various sizes, along with the option to record both at the same time:
JPEG: Ranges from Largest being 18 Megapixels (5184 x 3456) to smallest, approx. 350,000 pixels (720 x 480)
RAW: Approx. 17.90 megapixels (5184 x 3456)
Image size directly affects file size. Larger the size, lesser the number of pics you can click. My advice would be, keep the size large and invest in more storage. You could also learn photography properly and click better photos…ha ha ha. No point in having a tonna low quality images you can’t use anywhere as opposed to a few good ones you could probably sell later.
From post-processing point of view, it’s better to shoot RAW. Although JPEGs can be edited to no end in an application like Photoshop, Adobe’s Camera Raw allows you to do a tonna pre-processing before opening the image in Photoshop. Although you can also open JPEGs in Camera Raw, the range of controls is less. Hope that made some sense.
It also performs some amount of image processing during shooting which involves choice of Picture style, such as, Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome. Along with a buncha White Balance settings according to the type of lighting in the scene, like, Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom White balance correction and white balance bracketing features are also provided.
One of the most important features is the amazing NoiseReduction, applicable to long exposures and high ISO speed shots. Along with Automatic image brightness correction and Auto Lighting Optimizer.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Learning Curve

Ok, so now I have a Camera, a DSLR no less. The next thing, is to find out what to do with it. You guessed it, gotta Learn how to use it…!!!
My learning Curve started by searching the Internet for learning recourses and tutorials on Photography and ended with an Awesome website called I must say, is, by far, the best one-stop-shop for all your learning needs. They are an Online Tutorials and Training website and have a huge repository of training material delivered by highly experienced Gurus who are themselves experts in their fields, be it, 3D, Animation, Audio, Business, Design, Developer, Photography, Video or Web.
The first one that caught my interest was by Author Derrick Story, a Professional, Writer and Teacher. 
He also runs a very informative website - The Digital Story where he shares weekly Digital Photography Pod casts, Photo Tips, Reader Submitted Pictures, Equipment reviews and more.

DigitalPhotography Principles: The Camera - This tutorial shows us how to master digital cameras and their settings to create magazine-quality shots.
Once I got a good understanding of the Anatomy and various key features of a DSLR camera, I did what Mr. Story mentioned as one of the most important things to do when starting to use your camera for the first time, and I quote ‘Read the Manual’. Although I won’t claim to have read the whole thing, whatever I did read made me a better Photographer for sure.

Next up I came across another Awesome Author, Ben Long, also a Photographer, Writer, and Teacher. Mr. Long has a buncha courses that really helped me in improving my skills as a budding Photographer. 
I picked up some of his courses and am studying them in the following order:
Foundations of Photography – Lenses This course shows us how to understand, choose, and properly use lenses.

Foundations of Photography – Exposure This course describes how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings relate to one another, and how these settings expand your artistic options with any photograph.

Foundations of Photography –Composition - This course is a detailed exploration of the concepts of composition, from basics such as the rule of thirds and leading lines to more advanced topics such as entry and exit points.

Foundations of Photography - Black and White - This course describes strategies for capturing the best black and white images and techniques for converting to black and white in Photoshop.

Foundations of Photography - Night and Low Light - This Course covers the tools, creative options, and special considerations involved in shooting with a DSLR camera at night or in low-light conditions, such as sunset or candlelight.

Shooting and Processing High Dynamic Range Photographs (HDR) - This course describes and demonstrates high dynamic range (HDR) photography, a technique that broadens the luminance or range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image.

By the time I will finish the above listed courses, I’m pretty sure my Photography will be way better than when I began. 
Now, most of the Professional Photographers whom I have spoken to, as well as Trainers, advice to achieve the best possible version of the Photograph, ‘in Camera’. But some times a little Photo-Retouching can really bring out a look and feel you could never achieve otherwise. In this matter, the go to Digital Software is Adobe’s hugely popular Photoshop, now in it’s CS6 version. Yet again, has a huge collection of Courses for Photoshop and it’s implementation in Photography by various Authors. 
Following are the ones that I’m studying:

Author - Julieanne Kost
This course explores the Photoshop features and creative options and shows efficient ways to perform common editing tasks using Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Bridge.

This course provides in-depth training on Camera Raw 7, the Photoshop CS6 component that enables photographers to open and manipulate raw format images.

This course covers the essential techniques to create composites from multiple photos using Adobe Photoshop—from working around tricky exposure challenges to creating stronger group photos and crafting creative photo illustrations.

This course takes you on an insider's tour of the key photo-enhancement features in Photoshop CS6.


Yours Truly,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Journey Begins

Well, my Photographic journey started with buying my first DigitalSLR camera in the year 2012, an entry level Canon EOS 600D. (Canon India)

I live in a city called Pune in Maharashtra, India. The easiest way for me to search for cameras was to go to one of these electronics outlets, like, Vijay Sales or Reliance Digital. But eventually I found that Canon itself had a few showrooms in Pune as well. So, I went to their Camp branch on M.G.Road and found their customer interaction very hospitable and friendly.

Canon Showroom -   Shop no 11, Sterling centre,
 M. G. Road, Opp Hotel Aurora Towers,
 Pune - 411001.
Contact -                    Kishor Kunal (9657573581, 020-26138227)

The executives there were very informative and I immediately realized that I had taken the right decision to have come to an authorized Showroom, instead of buying it from some bulk outlet. I left the Showroom with a smile on my face and a promise that if I would end-up buying a camera, it will be from this very place. They did have finance option for the purchase, but unfortunately it was only applicable to HDFC Bank Credit Cards and since I had an Axis Bank Card, I could not avail it. So, my options were to either go for an EMI based payment structure with interest or full down payment.

After a week or so, I was able to finalize on my decision and came back to the very showroom with my wife, Snehal and our 2-year-old daughter, Aarohi. The people there were again very friendly. They recognized me and greeted me with the utmost kindness. Once I placed the order, the package was revealed and the necessary formalities were carried out, while I waited on pins-and-needles to be able to hold my very first DSLR in my hands. The executive briefed me with the basic functions of the Camera and clicked a few photographs to demonstrate key features.

The first one was mine of course:

Then he went around the showroom and caught a few gorgeous snaps of Aarohi having a great time in wide eyed wonder:

I also grabbed the camera and took a few clicks of Snehal, which, in the hands of a novice like myself, came out so bad that my wife has threatened me with murder if I ever share it with the World…Ever…ha ha ha…!!!

End of the day we walked out of this Awesome experience of buying something exciting for the first time and I would like to forward my gratitude towards the cool peeps at the showroom for their kindness…Cheers…!!!

Yours Truly,