Canon G10 – Climbing Camera Review

Hand-1.jpgI picked up the Canon G10 for a trip to the States where I would be traveling between San Diego and Los Angeles, including a mountain excursion to San Jacinto, and it seemed like the right time to buy. However, as I live in Switzerland and am sometimes active in the mountains, I’ve started taking the G10 on climbing and mountaineering excursions. This is my functional climbing review of the G10 as a mountaineering camera. A climbing camera needs to be as small and functional as possible. Climbing partners sometimes get pissed if you bring a Fuji GA645 or Sony A900 up north ridges. I’ve reviewed the Ricoh GR Digital (GRD) for climbing in the Swiss Alps, so it seemed like a good idea to do the same with my Canon G10.

Why the Canon G10?

First, from a specs perspective, why the G10? The G10 sports a 28-140mm lens in 35mm format. This gives good coverage for landscape and telephoto for portraits. In addition it shoots RAW and has a 14.7 Megapixel sensor. This is a pretty sweet combination of features, topped off by the fact that the manual control interface is almost as good as the Ricoh cameras (GRD, GRD-II, GX100/200). So far I’ve shot with the G10 in the San Jacinto wilderness in California, on a bike-mountain tour on Glarnish, sport climbing in Ticcino, and up the Braunwald klettersteig in the Swiss Alps. In general, it works very well for climbing. The battery last forever, even when the temperature drops below zero an I’m shooting sunset shots in the snow. It records RAW files instantly, and I barley have to wait before taking another shot. The manual interface is nice, allowing full camera control, exposure compensation, ISO settings, etc with a few movements of my fingers.


When you’re actually climbing (not setting up shots of other climbers), a camera is really only functional if it can be used with one hand. You occasionally get to use two, but most of the time at least one hand needs to be on the rock or rope belay. This is where the Ricoh still beats the Canon design. The Ricoh GRD can be almost completely controlled with the right hand. Using the custom function button you have full access to file format, exposure compensation, ISO setting, macro focus, flash, metering area, shutter speed, aperture, pretty much everything the camera can do. With the Canon G10, you have the speed wheel, which acts to control shutter or aperture and choose things in menus. Exposure compensation is on a click wheel on the top left of the camera, ISO selection is on a click wheel on right, while flash, macro mode, and menus can be controlled with the right hand using buttons near the speed wheel. From a control layout, the Canon G10 doesn’t measure up to the Ricoh GRD. The Ricoh is king in user interface design.


G10 vs. GRD

The main problem with the G10 interface is that exposure compensation can’t be controlled with the right hand while holding the camera. Further, ISO is controlled by the click wheel, which isn’t as easy to do as with the Ricoh. This is important for small sensor cameras, because if you over-expose the highlight areas, you easily get a blown out image, instead of a properly exposed one. It’s easy to avoid blown highlights by checking the live histogram and dropping the exposure on the Ricoh. But with the Canon G10 you have click the exposure wheel on the top left of the camera body, something which isn’t easy if you’re left hand is occupied holding your body to a rock face. If you have to pick between bodily injury and exposure compensation, you should choose the former, or get a new digital camera. This limitation can be sidestepped by shooting in aperture or shutter speed mode, but I still find it limiting. If the G10 had the ability to press a button and choose these things like the Ricoh does, it would be a much more functional camera in the mountains – and for implementation that’s nothing more but a firmware addition by the Canon people. Still, I’ve very much enjoyed taking the G10 on mountain trips. It’s reasonably small, the picture quality is excellent, and I wonder why people feel the need to buy a Rebel DSLR when the G10 will probably give all the quality and functionality which most people need in a camera.


Macro Goodness

The G10 includes a macro mode, much like every other digicam. In the late spring and early summer the mountain wild flowers take over after the snows melt away, and Braunwald is known as a sort of mountain flower paradise. It’s nearly impossible to walk around the place without killing at least a few violet or yellow beauties with your boots. Naturally I had to stop and take a few generic flower photos. As I had packed light on this trip, I didn’t use any strobes, and instead used the on-board flash for a bit of fill. To take this flower photos I dialed in a an exposure compensation of about minus 1/2 or minus 1 and focused on the middle of the flower patch.  The bokeh from the G10 is actually fairly nice. For these close-up macro type images the blurred background doesn’t distract from the sharp part of the image. The on-board flash does a good job of adding just enough light and not overpowering the exposure, of course, it’s best to control this using the exposure dial. When you have two hands free to operate the camera it’s very easy the intuitive to dial in manual camera settings and fine-tune the exposure, I just wish it was a tad easier to do with just one hand.

Beyond Snap Shots

The mountains beg for landscapes, I sometimes shoot with a GigaPan, but it’s far too bulky and heavy for most of my mountain trips. I sometimes shoot with a tripod and pan, other times I just rotate the camera and guess that I’m keeping the nodal point reasonably centered. I process my panoramas in PTGui Pro, which works equally well stitching two or two hundred images together.

Pano_800px.jpgI took the G10 on my climb up the Eggstock in Braunwald. This is a klettersteig climb, you don’t have to worry about having a climbing partner and can cruise up the mountain with ease. I used the G10 to shoot perspective images, document the climb, and take a few landscapes. Generally I had the G10 slung in front of my, and shot with one hand while holding on to the rock with my left. After climbing up the Eggstock klettersteig I continued along the blue alpine route, which follows the ridge of the mountain, eventually leading up to Bos Fulen. If you follow this ridge it eventually becomes as wide as a pair of La Sportiva Trango S mountaineering boots. I took this time, standing on the edge between a moderately dangerous tumble on my right, and a suicide-sure-to-be-dead fall on my left to shoot a quick panorama. Yes I was wearing a harness, no it wasn’t connected to anything which would have saved me (sorry mom). Yes the rock in this area is a tad sketchy, and I soon decided to climb down rather than to continue and risk the rock collapsing under me, hoping I would fall to my right rather than the 600m drop-off to my left. You don’t want to be fiddling with camera settings when you’re trying to take a panorama like this. If you get distracted and forget to balance it’s rather easy to kill yourself, so I was happy that I was able to easily meter the scene using the live histogram, lock exposure with manual settings, and take a succession of shots for the final panorama before coming to my senses and descending.

Aside from the handling and image making capabilities, the G10 produces decent files for post-processing.  The resolution of the G10 matches and exceeds that of many DSLRs, but it’s the ability to manipulate shadows and the textures of life which fascinates me. The post-processing capability of images is where small sensor cameras deviate from DSLRs.  With better rendering of shadows and capturing the dynamic range of a scene.  This is where a camera like the Minolta 7D excels compared with, say the Canon G7. In the first two images featured here, I processed the images in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS3. Generally if you post-process small-sensor images, you can manipulate the shadows a bit, but pushing the exposure too much in Photoshop will blow everything out and you end up with a mess. With the G10 images, I can add a black+white conversion layer to bring out the shadows and the desaturate a bit and kick up the exposure a bit to bring out the clouds.


So, is the Canon G10 a sweet mountaineering/climbing camera? Yes, I would say that it is. The combination of functionality and image quality is really fantastic. In the Alps it’s easy to have fantastic weather, and the G10 takes beautiful images when the light is right and you don’t have a huge span from light to dark in your image. The flash works well to balance the exposure when you have a foreground subject in the shade and the background is bright and beautiful. I hardly ever use the viewfinder, and enjoy composing with the LCD, getting the exposure right with the histogram and then snapping a photo. The battery life is excellent, and I have not experienced any battery drain issues associated with cold temperatures, something which is a huge short-coming of my Ricoh GRD. With the Ricoh I have to keep the battery warm in my jacket before shooting, and with the G10 I can just shoot away.

I’m eager to see what comes from the niew micro 4/3 sensor cameras. The new Olympus E-P1 digital Pen camera will no doubt be a serious contender for my next mountaineering camera, likely with better dynamic range than the G10. But don’t count out Ricoh. Word on the digital street is that Ricoh is entering the micro 4/3’s arena with a small DSLR type camera, which will for sure be a sweet climibing camera, especially if they’re excellent user interface deisgn is retained.

A Walk in LA – Street Bratz Photos

Bratz-1-2.jpgAfter hiking out of the San Jacinto wilderness in California I slept on a couch in an apartment in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. On Sunday I took a walk in LA with Eric Wech, the famous comedian. It wasn’t a full day of walking, we had to drive of course. It’s impossible to walk in LA. Das Ziel of our hunt was graffiti. I wanted to shoot some with my new Canon G10 to continue my project of capturing graffiti images of all the cities I visit like Zurich. We stopped somewhere on Sunset Blvd. and started walking around. We found our way to Echo park, an oasis in the LA jungle with a lake with paddle boats. The local community was out enjoying the beautiful Sunday and a sidewalk sale from the locals started up. I was in a curious mood and we checked out the offerings. Most of it was pointless stuff I could never use, as I was set to fly back to Switzerland in a week. Nothing that is, till I met a nice Latino mother with a box full of Bratz dolls. $3 a piece she said, “Hells yes I says in my heads.” I picked up two Bratz, one with Go-Go boots, one with respectably unrealistic high-heels. I didn’t want to be too weird, so I just bought the two. The concept was easy, take the Bratz dolls around the LA streets and record the excursion with my Canon G10.

Bratz-1-7.jpgWhile the Bratz dolls provided tons of cheap fun on the streets of LA and San Diego it was obvious to me that more characters would need to be added. The key was contrast, as with camera lighting, contrast is needed in the subject matter. For some reason, I felt that nothing short of a vintage Godzilla would contrast correctly with the Bratz. This proved difficult to find, and I stepped into a toy store in Horton plaza in downtown San Diego. The store clerk asked if he could help me find something, and I promptly said I needed a Godzilla or giant lizard to go with my pair of Bratz. He laughed joyfully into the air and I could tell that he was down with the adventure. There were no Godzillas in the store, so he recommended a T-rex at first, but then brought up the idea of a large alligator. See, the alligator has proportions close to that to that of the Bratz, and I agreed. My credit card came out and the alligator joined the Bratz street shoot.

Bratz-1-5.jpgShooting on the street is a pretty cool photo project when visiting a city. You find a cool spot, unload a Bratz from your bag and set her plastic heels on the pavement. With the Canon G10 I underexposed the background and then added a reduced flash to the exposure. This allowed me to balance the power of the sun and fill in shadows around the Bratz. The challenge is to keep things fresh, so it drives you to keep moving, thinking up places and backgrounds. The fact that you’re shooting from street level means you’re challenging your photo eye in new ways and forcing a new perspective on to your visualization capabilities. A day later I was tooling around downtown San Diego, and happened to step into Sam Goody, on the hunt for a copy of the High Fidelity soundtrack. I found a used copy at a sweet price and realized that Sam Goody also sells various assortments of tripped-out toys and action figures. It was a hard decision: should I go with the Hellboy, Nite Owl from Watchmen, no…a bobble head Joker, and two freaky creatures. The Joker was only $10 on sale, I couldn’t resist. Now I had an entourage of Bratz, an alligator, two Freaky Creatures, and a bobble head Joker.

Bratz-1.jpgI shot the Bratz with my Canon G10, generally using the on-camera flash to fill-in shadows and balance the sun exposure. Generally I would want to shoot with an off-camera strobe, but I decided to go light on this trip and leave the lights at home. The relative size of the Bratz dolls versus the flash is very good, meaning you have nice control over the exposure of the Bratz doll, and can easily over-power the exposure of the sun. Excellent training ground for setting up future shots with “real” models. You would think people might find it weird to see a man walking around LA and San Diego with a Bratz doll and camera, but when you’re wearing Levi jeans and a green Berlin sweater, folks only look upon you with interest and merriment. I kept my assortment of toys, Brats, Freaky Creatures, alligator, etc. in my Mountain Smith backcountry briefcase and pulled them out whenever I felt the inspiration. On the San Digo trolley, at the train tracks, on the beach, during breakfast, at the Oceanside Triathelon, whenever I had few minutes to kill and felt bored. That’s the point of vacation, doing new things. What comes next? Well, the Bratz are in Switzerland now, and the possibilites are endless.

The full set of so-far processed and edited photos can be found at the Flickr Bratz Set.


Sony Canikon Feel the RED SCARLET Fire

Image of RED SCARLET copyright RED.comThere are things that are known, those which are unknown, and inbetween are the doors of digital perception, when these are opened the world will appear to the viewer as it truely is…infinite.

Words are power and when arranged in the right way they form phrases, which can become insiprational bits of revolution. The Red Scarlet has been called a DSLR Killer in various online forums, and this naturally makes the mind think twice. DSLR Killer? How does one kill the embodiment of the whole digital photography industry, the marker by which all other digital imaging products are measured? Of course, there area calls of impossibility. What! How can one company challenge the Old Guard of Canikon and repell attacks by the 800 pound Sony DSLR Gorilla?

Red has released the specs of the SCARLET and EPIC Digital Still & Motion Camera (DSMC) systems.  The images and specs were released on the and included the DSLR-like configuration shown above. What, you want to shoot full-frame 35mm, oh…, no, you want to shoot in full-frame 645, ahhh, ok, you’d prefer to shoot in the  digital 617 format today?  NO PROBLEM.  The new SCARLET and EPIC cameras are completely, 100% modular, upgradable, and fully custimizable to whatever shooting setup you want.  The base SCARLET Brain (imaging sensor body) will go for only 2500 USD.  Of course you need to add on a lens,  viewfinder, etc.  But the SCARLET now fullfills the desire of many serious photogrpahers, because you can build the camera you want to use.  Detractors have said to compete with Canikon RED is at a disadvantge, since they need lenses to compete.  Well, RED offers a full range from f/2.8 zooms to f/1.5 primes including some with image stabilization – simply awesome. Or, you can just get a Canon or Nikon lens mount and use any of the millions of compatible lenses already on the market. YES! The SCARLET allows three lens mounts, including Canikon and RED. At the heart of the new SCARLET and EPIC systems is the ability to choose the sensor size you need.  Sizes include 2/3″, 35mm full frame, and then go on up to 186×56 mm. In megapixels this means a range from 4.9 up to 261 MegaPixels. The Mysterium-X, Monstro, and Mysterium sensors offer A/D conversions from 12-16 bit, and 11-13 stops of dynamic range. The maximum frames per second are 25-120fps. And since the system is fully modular, you can even do things like putting two Brains together and shooting directly for 3D with a stereo camera setup.  And of course, since the system is modular, as sensor technology improves, you just buy a new one, a concept which should have been implemented 4 or 5 years ago by Nikon or Canon.

RED of course, has an advantage against the old skool camera makers.  They are a very forward looking company, which has designed their cameras exactly how new technology should be developed – without the lethargy of an old skool company which simply increments old designs.  Why do we fly in airplanes with static wings while birds have aeroelastically adaptable wing structures?  Why do we produce energy from coal when there are abundent sources of clean power?  Because too often companies introduce technology in small increments instead of challenging the concept of their product line. As a technology fanatic and one who thinks in moving pictures instead of still images, it’s obvious that the SCARLET is, in fact be the first step in killing off the DSLR. The truth is, the DSLR has been heading towards the meat packing district for sometime now. The resolution limit of DSLRs, has for all practical reasons been reached. The funtionality and draw of the DSLR has been that if offers higher picture quality than small compacts, but is more affordable and functional than medium format digital back systems. But things change.

The Sony A900 now offers near medium format back quality in a small and relatively affordable package, while the next generation of pro high resolution handheld cameras are coming in the form of the Leica S2 and Nikon D4 (or whatever Nikon calls it), the former already released, and the latter rumored to be ready for 2009, and both having a larger than full-frame 35mm sensor. With advancements in the pocket camera market, such as the Panasonic LX3, Ricoh GX200, Canon G10 and a host of followers, why do people need the DSLR construct? The Canon 5D-II is only a relevant design because of it’s video capabilies.  Most people will be buying it to mix photo and video in one package, or as a high quality HD camera. I would rather have a high tech cinema camera that shoots stills than a high quality DSLR which does video. So why do DSLRs exist at all? A long time ago in a world very close to the Earth, the ability to develop chemicals on paper to reveal an image was far easier to realize than painting a portrait. The large format film camera was replaced with medium and now the small 35mm format film cameras, and now that digital imaging has enabled the packaging of high-quality video in a hand-held package, I wonder, what is the point of shooting with a DSLR, an instrument which is simply the latest design iteration to solve the problem of communicating with visual imagery?

A Sony Alpha A900 Gorilla Eyes the DSLR Jungle

The end is near, and hack camera writers across the web are digging in for the mad-capped pseudo blood-bath set to be unleashed on the digital camera world. The release of the Sony A900, the full-framed 24 Megapixel beast will be launched before the end of 2008. There’s little doubt that Sony will unveil a DSLR marketing spectacle like the world has never seen at Photokina 2008 in Cologne (September 23rd-28th), and it might even be worth attending this year.

For give-or-take a decade now the DSLR market has been dominated by small sensor APS-sensor sized offerings, and Full Frame 35mm sized image sensors have been integrated into only a few cameras models, such as in the release of high-end Canon cameras such as the EOS-1Ds and more affordable 5D models, plus a few washout releases by Kodak. Full-frame 35mm image sensors have many advantages, in particular that the majority of DSLR lenses are designed for that sensor size. All the benefits of selective focus and shallow depth of field can be fully exploited when paired with 35mm sensors, which are less pronounced when one uses a 35mm-designed lens on an APS-sized camera body. So far the benefits of larger imaging sensors have stayed in the plus of $2500-$3000 (at the low end). Even the recent release of the affordable ($3000 MSRP) 35mm full-frame camera by Nikon; the D700 is really only there for professionals and gear heads thirsty to drop money on a new trophy camera. The D700 competes directly with the Canon 5D, which originally brought full-frame capabilities to pros and advanced amateurs the world over for the lowly MSRP price of $3299. The release of the Canon 5D and Nikon D700 were significant, but for true innovation the market need competition.

Competition benefits the consumer, and Canon has been the Microsoft of the digital camera market, nearly fully dominating the 35mm full-frame digital segment since it started. There’s good reason for it; Canon does cameras, lenses, sensors, and software/firmware, all of which are key components needed to produce a successful digital camera. Canon has the means of developing all of these essential components in-house using one design strategy.

By comparison, every other DSLR company has been able to do maybe two of the above (at most), but without the last piece of the development puzzle it’s been difficult to match Canon, which generally means the ability to develop and manufacture the imaging sensor. Many companies, such as Nikon have relied on partner companies to design and manufacture the imaging sensors. So while Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, Leica and Olympus could design great cameras and lenses, they couldn’t build DSLRs without sensors from companies like Sony. Sony produces many of the imaging sensors used in current point-and-shoot as wells as DSLR cameras. But it wasn’t until Sony bought the camera technology from Minolta that they could start developing the Alpha DSLR System. The true strength of Canon has been its ability to develop, manufacture, and release DSLR models faster and with more precision than the competition. Even Nikon hasn’t kept up with the Canon camera release cycle and only released its first full-frame model a year ago in the form of the D3. Nikon is improving in this respect, but there is now another beast in the DSLR Jungle.


Enter an 800 Pound Gorilla…

Unlike every other camera company, Sony can actually match and beat Canon in the camera development game. Sony bought the camera and lens technology from Minolta, who got out of the camera business because it couldn’t develop and release cameras at the rate of competitors. Sony has partnered with Carl Zeiss, who now designs and oversees production of high-end lenses and markets the Zeiss ZA line for the Sony Alpha mount. And as a final piece in the puzzle, Sony can design and produce their own imaging sensors, which is something only Canon does at the moment (although Nikon has recently started down this road with the D3 and D700). Add to that the fact that Sony is huge, with distribution centers and marketing people in every corner of the globe, and it’s a sure bet that with an aggressive business strategy they’ll change the DSLR playing field. Why? Because Sony doesn’t enter markets just to release products, they’re a contender. Sony over turned the high-end video and camcorder markets, and they’re poised to do the same with DSLRs – with the new A900.

The soon to be released A900 from Sony could change the status quo of the DSLR world. The release of the A900 will mean that together with Canon and Nikon, there will be three major development and manufacturing entities producing and marketing DSLRs with full-framed 35mm image sensors to the general consumer market. The potential technology infusion and price reductions could be the first real signs of an end (or at a least plateau) to the DSLR evolution game. The 2007/08 DSLR offerings from Sony have been significant. The A700 was released in late 2007.  Essentially the upgrade to the Minolta 7D, which fans of the camera had been waiting for, which showed the world that Sony can design and manufacture a serious DSLR.  Sony has implemented excellent Live-View capabilities as well as vibration reduction technology into their camera bodies (like the Sony A350), at prices which make the Alpha system extremely attractive for camera buyers transitioning from point-and-shoot models to DSLRs.

Once one transitions from a Sony W300 point-and-shoot to an A200, A300, A350, or A700 DSLR; the energized customer will be thirsty for something…more. The A900 will be the ultimate fulfillment of that thirst (at least until the next model), and has the potential to establish Sony as a serious camera Brand – not a rebagged Minolta camera maker, not a me-too-jump-on-the-bandwagen DSLR distributer, but a full-time serious contender in the DSLR Jungle. The most important notion here is that a full-frame DSLR from Sony will have to have a price lower than that of Nikon and Canon to be competitive.  The A900 will have Sony Super SteadyShot (SSS) built into the body as well as a 24.6 Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor. According to Mark Weir (Sony Digital Imaging and Audio Division), the senior technology and marketing manager of the Alpha camera line, the 24.6 Megapixel sensor will achieve very low noise due to an intelligent A/D converter technique (as reported at PMA 2008 in a Calumet Photo interveiw).  This could be significant, since it is generally felt that sensor noise has to dramatically increase with high pixel density.  If the A900 retains it’s high resolution with low noise levels and is offered at a price point below that of the competitors, the A900 could be an excellent options for photographers needing medium format resolution in a 35mm sized body.  The next camera with such features is the Canon 1Ds-Mark III, which boasts 21 Megapixels and retails for nearly $8,000. 

The true profits for digital camera makers is not in the cameras but in the system. Sony lenses, memory cards, flashes, and other random add-ons is where the long-term profit strategy exists. The point is to get people into the Alpha System, because once you have a sweet 24 megapixel beast in your hand, you want to fully exploit its potential with a Carl Zeiss 24-70 f/2.8, Sony 80-200 f/2.8, or any of the variety of other lenses which are currently available – as well as those that will be released into the marketplace. Not to mention a vertical grip to make the camera look cool, as well as the flagship Sony FL-58 flash, which actually has one of the most innovative head designs of any other maker, and boasts excellent wireless control for additional flashes.

I’m looking forward to the Sony A900, and might actually buy one. The successful Canon 5D is now essentailly discontinued and can be had for less than $2000, but only until the successor is released (probably called the Canon 6D). Aside from the new Canon 5D replacement and the new offerings from Nikon (the just released D700 and soon to be here D3x), the Sony A900 should have the biggest impact on the DSLR market in 2009. It will affect camera prices, encourage (more like force) innovation, and no matter your favorite brand, the release of the A900 will have a positive impact on the DSLR Jungle.



Canon D2000 – The Awesome Antique Digital Camera

pict3145.jpgI’m an engineer, which means that although I search for Zen, I am forever bound to the material attraction of gadgets and toys. My camera collection includes a Woca (Holga), Minolta 7, Minolta 7D, Fuji GA645, Contax G1, and my very first digital: the Canon D2000 (Kodak DCS520). The D2000 was the Canon version of a co-development between Kodak and Canon to produce the first real Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. Kodak did the sensor and Canon provided the camera body technology. It’s true, there were predecessors, the Kodak-Nikon did come first with the DCS420, but the digital back and camera body really weren’t integrated, and it didn’t even sport an LCD on the back. The D2000/DCS520 displays integrated digital-camera body technology with a LCD and the large adjustment wheel, which is still standard on every pro-level Canon and even on the top-of-the-line G7. All subsequent pro-level Canons have their routes in the D2000/DCS520.

b7931626.jpgIn 1993 the D2000/DCS520 retailed for something on the order of $15,000. Built on the supposedly fantastic Canon 1N film body the D2000 sports a vertical grip, EOS lens mount, first-rate viewfinder and 2 Mega-Pixel APS sensor. Yes, two Mega-Pixels, by modern digital camera marketing number standards this is no better than a crap camera phone. But the keen engineer-gadget-freak looks beyond hollow numbers to the buried beauty inside. The D2000/DCS520 can be found for something like $300-$500 on eBay (depending on what else is included). For my D2000 I picked up the cheap-but-killer-awesome Canon 50 mm f1.7 lens (~$80). With the battery the D2000 is a bit of a brick to hold in the hand. However, there are some cool advantages to owning near 10 year-old pro digital camera technology (from the product research and development time, it may be closer to 20 years old).

First off, the view-finder really is awesome. It’s high-quality and bright, very nice for low-light shots, and the focusing screen can be replaced if desired for better manual focusing. Robust and responsive, the D2000 does 3.5 frames per second. The main limitation during use is lighting and exposure, the results above IS0200 start to introduce a lot of noise. On the plus side, the noise is so bad (blue channel) that it’s easy to identify and clean up. When the lighting is bad and high ISO images look like a twisted dream – converting to black and white or playing with the raw image will yield nice results.

b7931506_300px.jpgYou can shoot in JPEG but I always shoot raw. At 2 Mb per raw file you can enjoy all the raw benefits and not fill up your hard-drive. I love shooting raw with my Minolta 7D, but at 8.1 megs per raw file, the small 60 gig drive on my G4 PowerBook only holds so much. The size of a camera sensor pixel translates to it’s ability to interact with light. So point-and-shoot cameras with high mega-pixel counts and very small pixel sizes produce images which look clean, but generally flat because the sensor pixel size is not large enough to effectively capture the light hitting the sensor (at least this has been my observation). Conversely, multi-ten-thousand dollar medium format digital backs generally render deeper, richer colors, due in part to their larger pixel size. In fact, the keen camera fool might note that the 2 megapixel APS-sized sensor retains a pixel pitch of 11.9 microns. In the age of megapixel marketing driven mania it is interesting to note that this pixel pitch is larger than that of the $2500 Canon 5D, the $16,000 Canon Mark-IIn, or even many of the $25,000 medium format digital backs. If you add a large flash the camera is a tad too big to carry around in normal settings. But when the lighting is right the results can be fantastic. For controlled lighting work, like with off-camera strobes (check out Strobist), the results are smooth and edgy. I like to use the D2000 for it’s unique look – skin tones are not rendered perfectly and missing the exposure results in sub-par images. Due to the high pixel pitch the colors from the 2 MegaByte raw files have a deep quality I don’t see on 35mm film, 6X45 medium format film, my Minolta 7D, or the Nikon D200.

Much spunk is made about digital camera file support, and the fear that your photos won’t be readable by future computer applications. So it actually pretty cool that Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw both fully support D2000 raw images and produce fantastic image conversions. Much spunk is also made about camera companies going under and no new lenses will be sold, like the Minolta – now Sony line with a very limited buyable lens range, or Contax (which went under), but the D2000/DCS520 takes any EOS lens – from the $1500 24mm L to the the 70-200mm IS L. I recommend the normal primes, the 28mm, 35mm, 50mm or 85mm. And since it’s a Canon EOS mount, it can take a number of lenses from Leica, Contax, Nikon, Pentax and others via the proper adapter.

b7931607.jpgPlus, and this is important, the D2000 is a killer party camera – maybe not so much for the club night or bar hop, it’s too big for those gigs. However, the D2000 is awesome in a festive setting and works best at costume affairs or dinner parties. It just looks cool to carry a large camera around these circles. If it’s a costume party and you go with a Hunter S. Thompson theme, the Canon D2000 will no doubt boost your Gonzo-reporter flare. I reviewed the limitations of the D2000/DCS520 before buying it, and the purpose in doing so was mainly as a learning camera. It has all the features of a pro-body, but with a learning curve which guarantees you’ll gain a unique education in digital photography. But after using it on and off for two years I have to say I prefer it in some situations due to the limitations which, like those of a Holga, I’ve become quite fond of. Further reading at Dpreview and Shutterbug