Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back to the Basics - The EOS Digital Rebel XT

Canon introduced the Digital Rebel in 2003 and revolutionized the world of digital SLR cameras with the model when it retailed for just under $1,000.00. What really shocked the camera critics was the fact that lightning did indeed strike twice when Canon released the totally redesigend second generation of the Digital Rebel line, the Rebel XT. With an 8MP sensor, it was a serious competitor of the EOS 20D and with the price around a grand as well, This camera could actually serve as a "disposable" DSLR for professional photographers to take into areas that they did not want to risk their more expensive gear.

I picked up my Digital Rebel XT in March 2005 and I have been impressed by what this little camera can do ever since. Even 6 years later, this camera (with the very inexpensive kit lens) continues to take great photos that compete on the level of my 5D (Classic and Mark II) bodies. For this reason, I selected this camera for the project to showcase the ability of entry level DSLRs.

Here is a summary of some of the Digital Rebel XT features:
  • Eight megapixel CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC II image processor
  • Instant power-on time, faster shutter release, shorter blackout time
  • Continuous shooting speed increased (3.0 fps)
  • Buffer increased (14 JPEG frames)
  • Image processing time decreased (thanks to DIGIC II)
  • Small, light weight body
  • Re-designed control layout (drive mode button, new metering mode & AF buttons)
  • Metal mode dial
  • Harder rubber finish on hand grip
  • Smaller and lighter NB-2LH battery (same as PowerShot S60 / S70)
  • Flash pop-up slightly higher than Digital Rebel (just 5 mm)
  • E-TTL II flash
  • Nine custom functions
  • Customizable SET button
  • Control noise reduction
  • Flash sync speed in Av mode
  • Shutter button / AE button
  • AF-assist beam control
  • Selectable 0.3 or 0.5 EV exposure steps
  • Mirror lock-up
  • E-TTL II mode
  • Flash shutter curtain sync (1st or 2nd)
  • Selectable Metering mode
  • Selectable AF mode
  • Flash exposure compensation
  • Independently selectable color space
  • Two preset and three custom image parameter sets, B&W mode (same as EOS 20D)

  • So as you can see, it was a pretty easy pick to select the Rebel XT as it was several hundred dollars cheaper than the 20D and had a better feature set than the competing Nikon D70. Plus with the feature set included in this camera, it was an easy step up to the bigger offerings from Canon like the 5D.

    Still today, this camera is a great bargain with the used kit packages selling for $400.00 prox. For the first time DSLR user, this is a perfect camera to begin learning the basics of photography. Add to the equation that this is also a Canon body that is compatible with the complete lin of EF and EF-S lenses, then you have a real bargain for a starter camera that will grow as far as you want to take it. This may not be the best Canon camera ever made, but it is on the list of memorable models that put Canon at the top of the pack in the now highly competitive DSLR camera category.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    New Project Now That Spring is in the Air

    Spring is in the air and may I never have the pain of ending winter with a broken wrist from falling on ice. It took four weeks of being trapped in the house to heal and another two weeks of modified work with a cast, but two months later, I can move my wrist without too much pain.

    So with that disclaimer out of the way, I am back and ready to roll on a new photography mission this year. My goal is extend my knowledge of photography and also explain more about what I learn in this blog to make others a better photographers as well. "Back to Basics" is a project where I am going to hit my favorite photography spots with my first DSLR, the Canon Rebel XT Kit.

    The purpose is to demonstrate the power of these little Rebel series cameras (even this 6 year old, second generation Rebel DSLR from the lineup) if you us the creative mode and not the fully automatic settings. I will work through how to set the camera and explain the accessories used in each shot.

    The one accessory that I recommend is good tripod with a easily manipulatible head. Many stores like Best Buy and Ritz Camera carry a selection of tripods that are perfectly sized for the smaller kits from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, etc. so it is not necessary to spend as much money as I have on my tripod legs and ball-head to support the weight of my 5D and EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS lens. But in later features, I will showcase where better features on tripods come to be a benefit in shooting.

    So this is where it begins. I will document my settings and show the camera setup to pull the images that I display. I will also describe my post processing, but the final post processing edit will have to be up to the photographer taking the image. Over the years, I have developed a taste for vivid colors and HDR that may not be appropriate for all DSLR shooters. But the concepts on how to capture the base image will be the same.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Deciding to Stick with Sandy Bridge

    One of the hardest decisions to make is to stick with something after it has been recalled by the manufacturer. Do I still want to purchase a Toyota automobile after the throttle sticking during acceleration last fall? What about Chevy trucks after their side saddle gas tanks were deemed a fire hazard. Or even continue to use my Ford panther daily driver even though it also is considered a fire hazard in a certain type of collision. And such was the decision that I made to keep my Sandy Bridge based parts despite having the recall from Intel for a bad SATA II (3.0Gb/s) controller. It took many hours of work and trouble to determine that the machine I built would be worth effort and I would not be severely impacted by the choice.

    I need to reference the most comprehensive article on the web as to the nature of the Sandy Bridge issue and what it means for the people that own this product. Special thanks needs to go out to Ryan Shrout for compiling the most informative source on the web as the news was breaking on January 31st. http://www.pcper.com/comments.php?nid=9694 Other articles of note are also available on PC Perspective regarding the situation with the Chipsets and what is happening throughout the tech world to either solve the problem permanently or work around bug to keep the parts in the stream without customer impact.

    So my new Sandy Bridge Beast has been built and I have to say that I have learned a few lessons along the way about everything from setting the bios to the effectiveness of CPU coolers when testing systems for reliability. In the end, it is an extremely fast PC that dramatically speeds up my photography workflow and I have high hopes that the 8 threads of overclocked calculating goodness will make quick work of pivot tables that are slicing and dicing a million lines of raw data for statistical research. When not running full bore, the system does seem to be on the radical side of overkill to type a blog post or read my Facebook feed. But when comparing this to other items that I own, do I not need 300 Ft/Lb lightly modified torque monster under the hood of my daily driver when I rarely run Milo at any level to take advantage of all those ponies and torques? Do I need a 21.1 megapixel full frame camera when my 12 megapixel 5D is just as capable of taking a stunning photograph? The resounding answer to all of these questions is a resounding "Yes!"

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

    The building of a new "Monster" PC

    In December 2007, I began the project to build a new PC out of the ashes my old Gateway GM5266E which lasted 10 months. I wasted the majority of November trying to find which piece was bad, but after having checked all the parts that are bolted to the motherboard, I came to the conclusion it was time to walk away from the corpse and as start stripping the case for parts because the obvious part that has failed in the motherboard.

    The first part of my journey to build a new PC was to determine the cause of the failure. At the time, the obvious culprit was the weak power supply that came with the kit which was not capable of sustaining the operation of the PC after I added a second hard drive and doubled the RAM to 4GB. Also, the heat that was generated by the system could not have been good for the health of the PC. Pretty much, it is obvious that one has a problem when the heat coming out of the back exhaust fan was so hot that it was uncomfortable to hold your hand in front of it for any amount of time. So, I think I had a basis to begin looking for parts.

    The foundation of the PC now known as Monster was a new Asus P5K motherboard with the leftover RAM, CPU, hard drives, etc. from my old Gateway. To hold this new MoBo, I selected an Antec Nine Hundred case because it had way too many fans to make sure the computer stayed cool under the most stressful of load. I selected a CoolerMaster 500W power supply for a good level of clean power and modest price. Finally, I tossed a ThermalTake CPU cooler on top of this as I felt this would be best to keep the CPU cool.

    As time passed, I added more stuff to the PC including a new ATI 2600 series video card with 512 MB of RAM, a new ATI TV Wonder Tuner, and even a new Core2Quad Q6660 CPU running 2.4 GHz. Eventually, it was upgraded to 8GB of RAM and is sporting 5 TB of hard drive space. In all, a pretty good system that can keep up with the Jones while surfing the web.

    Now it is time to move on and build another machine of even better caliber. The goal is to attempt to double every specification (except HD space) that I can with the new system. More of everything is the rule and the goal is to do as much as possible in a single big bang. Plus, I want the cabling to be neat as the always visible parts of Monster looks pretty ratty. I think with the technology offerings that have hit the market in the last 3 years, I can find plenty of gear to generate the amount of performance game that I need to justify the purchase of this much gear. Short of the introduction of Sandy Bridge, the bang for the buck factor never equaled the outlay of cash needed to make the upgrades. So now I have revealed the secret ingredient to the new PC build.

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    Still Cleaning out 2010 to Prepare for 2011

    More times than not, it is common to throw out and clean up the year before the beginning of the new year. I guess this means that I am not normal, but there are more than a few that already know that fact.

    I am hoping that the last of my projects associated with implementation of the new system at work have wrapped themselves and I can seal up some other things that are hanging on right now. Then I can clean up the pile of gear in the floor so I can focus on some new projects in February.

    My first goal for the year is to attempt to build a DSLR remote from netbook to aid in my HDR photography. I love the controls and capability of my Canon 5D Mark II, but they could work much better and be a bit more user friendly. Then their is the the Promote camera remote, but it is so manual that I might as well be shooting with my AE-1. Actually, the Promote is more backwards than my AE-1 because it does use any of the automatic features such as auto-focus and light metering. As a response, I am going to make my own version of the promote using equipment around the house and either the Canon software or maybe another program. Once I get a direction on this project, I will write up my findings and results.

    Until then, it is (looking around the office) time to get back to cleaning up from 2010. It is almost complete and one of my little netbooks is ready to get blown away in the name of photography experiments.

    Sunday, January 02, 2011

    100% More Blogging in 2011 than 2010

    I have decided to keep my goals for 2011 in line with simple expectations as 2010 ended with much more work and much less time for me. With a marathon run of work for December, I have decided to keep my personal goals in check as post implementation work continues to drain time from my personal life.

    This year, I hope to blog more about the joys of running Windows 7 64 bit and how to work around all those annoying situations where the system is still not fully compatible with the rest of the world. I want to get more into my photography habit and develop some new ways to shoot HDR and complete all the photos on the Hard drive that need finished. Finally, I would like to find more awesome free applications that can help computer user complete tasks without spending thousands on software.

    And all the while, I am going to include observations and other notes of interest. Funny pictures, observations from the places I have visited, and snapshots of day to day life from my cell phone. Hang on... It will be a fun ride in 2011.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    It's spring so back to blogging

    I find it really funny that my blogging seems to go on hiatus every fall. Maybe it is the fact that big changes take place in the autumn around my life. Maybe the holidays get in the way coupled with all the travel that is involved. Maybe it is the record snowfall that hit Philly this past year. Perhaps it was me going back to school and picking up my Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. Whatever the cause, the class is over and I am back. Time to get back into blogging.

    I let many great ideas whither, but I am not going to let them die. Time to dust of the innovations and kick this blog in gear.