Nikon D3S video: dark, rain and wind 400mm f/2.8

As part of my tests of the Nikon D3S (British Journal, report in December, with additional material by Richard Kilpatrick who is shooting with Nikon on November 25th at a press event) I dragged the £6,000 400mm f/2.8 AF-S IF ED G supertele into the rain as darkness gradually forced the ISO up from a mere 10,000 to the maximum 102,400. The object was make a short video showing rising floodwaters, no threat in our town but still dramatic to watch.


Here’s how it came back from the hour in the rain, a quick wipe down with an oily rag and it was all as good as new. Actually, it needed a thorough drying with the towel then a clean up with a lint free microfibre cloth to remove dust and towelly stuff. The very deep lens shade kept the exposed front element totally dry despite the wind and rain; I just made sure it was never aiming into the wind.

During the shoot, wind noise was a major problem. I locked the microphone to level 2 manual gain, not automatic which would have been a disaster. Many clips had to be shortened, some discarded due to violent wind noise I could not mask. The sheer weight of this combo made lugging it with a decent Slik tripod (pan and tilt head for video) difficult; I drove to the evening location with the rig laid flat on the back seat of the car, but still had to walk several hundred yards for some shots. I wore a Tog24 parka and found that by pulling the fur-lined hood over the camera body I could cut out nearly all the wind noise. I must have looked like a view camera operator with a dark cloth, or something out of Monty Python with my jacket pulled up and the hood over the Nikon!

But, this seemed such a good solution to the wind noise I would consider unzipping the hood from the parka and using it as a baffle in finer weather.

My favourite part of the video is the one with the worst noise, where I was not able to keep the wind away from the direction of shooting – the sequence of the road (flooded by the morning) with headlights, tail lights and cars in rain. This consists of three takes blended with long crossfades. During each take, the manual focus of the 400mm used at near wide open f/3.2 aperture was pulled to bring the moving traffic in and out of focus, and create huge bokeh circles from the lights. This would be impossible with a camcorder and not all that easy with a conventional high-end video kit. The combination of full frame 35mm format and the fast 400mm has enabled a highly effective cinematic technique to succeed on the first time of trying. With some markers on the focus ring, some practice and many more takes the result could have been refined further.

But I was getting very wet and so was the camera!

The first part of the video is all on the 400mm with tripod, with High ISO video enabled. The ‘next morning’ stuff is on the 24-70mm, hand held, locked down to ISO 200 at f/8.

I’m not sure when our final review of the camera will appear in the British Journal, it should be early December.

The video is encoded to best quality 720p from iMovie09, and can be best be downloaded and viewed without any YouTube jerkiness at full res if your connection is not good.

– David Kilpatrick

Ricoh seal the future of interchangeable lenses

Tokyo, Japan, November 10, 2009—Ricoh Co., Ltd. (president and CEO: Shiro Kondo) today announced the development and release of the GXR interchangeable unit camera system featuring the world’s smallest and lightest* digital camera with the ability to change lenses.


The new GXR is an interchangeable unit camera system in which lenses are changed by using a slide-in mount system to attach camera units to the body. The lens, image sensor, and image processing engine are integrated into the camera units so the body itself does not contain an image sensor.


With world-leading small size and low weight* enabling easy carrying, the GXR interchangeable unit camera system features a highly rigid magnesium alloy body and multiple camera units that can be changed to best fit the scene to be photographed. You can enjoy easy lens changes as well as amazing image quality and shooting flexibility. Concealing infinite possibilities in its small body, the GXR is a revolutionary camera system that pioneers a new realm of photography.

Distinctive characteristics:
1.    Lens, image sensor, and image processing engine comprise an integrated unit which can be changed to match the scene being photographed.
2.    World’s smallest and lightest* digital camera with interchangeable lenses
3.    System potential expanded through use of interchangeable units

Comment from David Kilpatrick:

Though the Ricoh system as revealed through this press release appears to show only a GR-size body with a zoom lens module suitable for a 2/3rds or slightly smaller imaging sensor, Ricoh has said that sensors right up to the size of APS-C will be built in to further lens modules. The ultra-wide angle version would have an APS-C sensor making similar to the Sigma DP-1. For similar reasons, high ISO and fast lens may be combined with a different size of sensor.

This is not the first time a digital camera has been designed with lens-sensor modules that could be changed. The Minolta Dimage EX 1500 accepted either a standard zoom module, or a wide-angle module. These included viewfinders (missing from the Ricoh concept, which relies entirely on the rear screen or electronic viewfinders) and had the unique ability to be removed from the camera on a 1.5m long Cable EX. This allowed users to position the wide-angle module inside scale models, doll’s houses and similar subjects to obtain realistic human-scale perspectives. It was only a 1.5 megapixel camera, and Minolta abandoned the concept before they had a chance to develop it further, whatever dPreview said ten years ago:

The technology behind the Ricoh is not all that different from the way consumer digital cameras are constructed anyway. Lenses are already sold sealed to CCD/CMOS sensors, as a single unit. That is how the OEM sources of the lens-sensor modules market them. At photokina, you can see (every two years) a new crop of such modules with both the technical resolution specs of the optical unit and the megapixel count of the sensor, identifiable to this non-Chinese/Japanese reader in the middle of a description which is usually inb Chinese. In 2006, I tracked such a module from its maker to the first camera I could find which used it – a compact branded as Vivitar. The customisation consisted of building any body the maker chose to design, and putting a ring on the lens front labelling it is a high resolution Vivitar lens; actually, it was just a generic lens-sensor assembly from China.

Ricoh has also pioneered unusual digital designs in the past, including rotatable or detachable lens modules and one of the first viewfinder-less designs, where the viewing screen was intended to be used at waist-level rather than today’s habit of waving the camera in front of your face.

This differs from anything previously done in the power of the CPU unit in each lens, and control module with screen display and card interface in the host body. It should allow any reasonable pixel count and sensor size to be built in to future optical modules. If the accessories do eventually include dedicated APS-C lens-sensor sealed modules, ‘dust on sensor’ will be one clear benefit (or the lack of it will). A supertelephoto module is also planned which will use a sensor smaller than APS-C.

Sigma’s DP2 – Camera less obscure


Sigma’s DP1 was launched in 2007 (with production models available in 2008) to great critical acclaim. occupying a unique spot in the marketplace by combining an APS-C format sensor with a compact “point and shoot” style body. There were a few controversial design choices, and the user and reviewer feedback varied greatly with the time and effort people were prepared to put in learning about the camera, yet the verdicts on the optical performance were united – the DP1 was astounding. Now the DP2 has arrived, with production-quality units available from UK retailers.
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Nikon D5000: live view, HDv, articulated screen

Nikon UK is pleased to announce the D5000, its latest digital SLR camera that is perfect for capturing family fun and developing the skills of photography hobbyists. Packed with features that make taking pictures easy and fun, this camera stands out above the competition with its unique Vari-angle LCD monitor, allowing you to shoot easily from almost any angle. (Press release from Nikon UK, April 14th).

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Re-create Rejlander and win £500!

The Royal Photographic Society has launched a competition to recreate a never-forgotten scandal of Victorian photography – and update it for the digital age.

The competition – Modern Virtues, Modern Vices: Restaging Rejlander’s ‘Two ways of life’ (1857) – celebrates The Society’s forthcoming lecture and workshop series: ‘The Real Thing: Staging Manipulation and Photographic Truth’.

Two ways of life’ – Oscar Gustav Rejlander 1857 – Image from the RPS Collection at the National Media Museum

Two ways of life’ – Oscar Gustav Rejlander 1857 – Image from the RPS Collection at the National Media Museum

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Portrait Professsional 8 – now for Mac

Portrait Professional, the downloadable software from Anthropics which resculpts face shapes while smoothing out skin imperfections and signs of ageing, has been updated to Version 8 and launched for Apple Mac as well as Windows PC. We tested it briefly as a first look in our magazine Master Photo>Digital.
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PortraitPro smooths over the viewing session

CLICKING on key mapping points of a face, then adjusting some simple overlaid Bezier curves using movable anchors, it takes only a minute to load a typical headshot portrait into Portrait Professional.

Update: coverage of the new Mac and PC dual platform improved Portrait Professional 8 is on line now.

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Pentax Optio W60 – zoom underwater

PENTAX UK has today announced the release of the Optio W60 compact digital camera.  The W60 boasts improved underwater performance that enables it to operate at depths of 4 metres for up to 2 hours.  It has also been dust and sand proofed to a certified JIS Class 5 Standard and can operate in temperatures as cold as –10°C, making it the ideal choice for both winter and summer holidays, as well as water and extreme sports.

One of the lightest waterproof cameras ever developed, it features a 10 megapixel sensor for exceptionally sharp images. It has also been fitted with a newly developed 28mm wide angle lens, which incorporates an impressive 5x optical zoom.  The lens, designed specifically for the Optio W60, covers a focal range from 5mm to 25mm (approximately 28mm to 140mm in 35mm format) and features a refraction lens system so the lens never protrudes from the body while zooming. This flexibility enables the user to capture a wide variety of scenes, including expansive landscapes, architecture, and crystal clear telephoto shots.

In addition, the Optio W60 boasts enhanced video capabilities and can capture movies at resolutions as high as 1280 x 720 pixels, which is comparable to High Definition TV.  The movie function also incorporates Pentax’s Movie SR (Shake Reduction) technology, which automatically corrects camera shake, and has been optimised for use underwater with the Underwater Movie Mode, which makes use of specific settings for shooting.

The Optio W60’s Face Recognition AF & AE function has also been improved to deliver beautiful portrait shots from a single setting. The W60 can now automatically set the focus and exposure, so that it can detect up to 32 faces at one time – all in as little as 0.03 seconds.   This is complimented by a  SmileCapture mode, which waits until the subject is smiling before releasing the shutter, and Blinking Detection, which alerts the photographer if the subject blinked at the point of capture.

The camera also features advanced Auto Picture which automatically selects the optimal scene mode from seven different options – Flower, Sport, Night Landscape, Portrait, Night Scene, and Standard modes. It also has a highly sensitive Digital SR (Shake Reduction) mode, which compensates for camera shake and subject blurring during still-image photography. This mode automatically adjusts the sensitivity, up to a maximum of ISO 6400, in keeping with the subject’s brightness, to permit a fast enough shutter speed to capture a sharp, clear image. In addition, an electric shake reduction function corrects blurring in images during image playback.

Finally, the 2.5-inch high-resolution (approximately 230,000 dots) LCD monitor is finished with an AR (Anti-Reflection) coating that cuts glare from reflections of external light while being bright enough to be viewed easily even in bright sunlight. The monitor’s wide viewing angle — about 170° both horizontally and vertically — means photographers can conveniently check their shot from nearly any angle.

Other features

  1. Macro mode can be used as close as one centimeter away from a subject for stunning close-up shots
  2. Digital wide function merges two shots into one image for ultra-wide-angle expressions equivalent to a focal length of approx. 21mm in 35mm format
  3. Our proprietary SP (Super Protect) coating adds superior water repellency to the lens’s front protective glass to prevent water droplets from forming
  4. Optional Optio W60 Skin O-CC812 (sold separately) guards the camera from scratches and dirt
  5. Panorama mode stitches a series of up to three shots into one wide photo
  6. Intelligent zoom function extends the zoom range without compromising the optical zoom’s image quality
  7. Supports SD memory cards and SDHC memory cards
  8. Approximately 36.4 MB of built-in memory
  9. Frame composite function allows photographers to shoot and create images with decorative frames; 80 styles to choose from
  10. Date and Time imprint function for easy image categorizing
  11. Includes the ACDSee for PENTAX 3.0 image viewer/image management software, that supports Windows VistaTM
  12. Supports PictBridge, DPOF functions, Exif Print, and PRINT Image Matching