Friday, February 26, 2010

Facebook Photo Contest Winners for January

Each month, Penn Camera hosts a photo contest on our Facebook page. We've had hundreds of entries during 2009 and hope to keep seeing your photographs again this year! For January, the contest theme was "Afternoon Light", and you sent in over 249 terrific submissions. Congratulations to the winners, and our thanks to everyone who submitted an image!

1st Place
Winner of $100 Penn Camera Gift Card
Steve Seamans

2nd Place
Winner of a $50 Penn Camera Gift Card
Chuck Dufor

3rd Place
Winner of a $25 Penn Camera Gift Card
Tom Barry

Keep the great photographs coming! We have some interesting contest themes planned for 2010. Keep checking our Facebook page for whats new. The latest photo contest theme is "SNOW" - seems appropriate given that the DC area has been blanketed this month. Enter the newest Photo Contest

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Product Review: Canon Powershot SX120 Digital Camera

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If you are considering purchasing some new camera equipment, either for your professional photography or just to have some fun with friends, you should know that the Canon Powershot SX120 digital camera, which you can find at a camera store like Penn Camera, is one of the best digital cameras on the market today. What is it that makes the Powershot SX120 one of the best pieces of photo equipment in the camera store? Here are some things you definitely want to know about the SX120 before you decide to purchase:

1.) 10 Megapixels:
Just because the Canon Powershot SX120 can fit in your pocket doesn't mean it can't take great pictures! With a 10-megapixel resolution, you'll be able to see the smile on everyone's face as you snap your pictures. If you are the kind of person who wants to be able to shoot extreme detail shots (such as for nature or landscape photos) on the go, this is definitely the camera equipment for you.

2.) Plastic Encasing:
As anyone in professional photography knows, having a camera that will not break when dropped is very important, especially if you are taking photos in the field instead of in a photography studio. Luckily, the SX120 is encased in plastic and also features a handgrip on the right side, which is great for those who find that they drop their cameras frequently.

3.) Sharp Photos:
Need crisp, clean photos with a lot of detail? Then the Canon Powershot SX120 is your best bet it its price range. Photo quality is not a problem for the SX120, as the camera takes great pictures at a high resolution. If you like to print large photos or need your photos to be optimized for viewing on a digital television or computer screen, you will appreciate the great photo quality that this camera has to offer.

Interested? Head over to or one of our 8 locations!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Image Editing On A Budget: Part II

Powerful Photo Software Programs That Won’t Break The Bank
By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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I'm continuing this topic from last week on choosing budget friendly image-editing programs.

Maybe you’re a Mac user and love to integrate your programs, and your life, simply and easily. Apple’s Aperture software delivers all the power and control you need over your pictures, with an easy incorporation to iLife, and iWork. This is a powerful program. It includes complete RAW file support, for brands ranging from Canon, to Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and many others. It also supports PSD (or Photoshop) files, so if you’re already an Adobe fan, you can still seamlessly integrate Aperture into your workflow. This program offers a great set of editing tools, from color retouching on only specified colors, to effective sharpening tools, to organizing and cataloguing metadata information (the digital info recorded on every picture you take with your digital camera). It offers custom printing setups, and may be the only program you ever need. Check out the free 30 day trial at the Apple website. Bottom line here: A little more money, but perfect for Mac users. Great RAW support, as well as support for plug-ins and PSD files, Aperture offers a complete, compatible, organize, edit, share and print system.

As a frequent Nikon user, I can proudly tout the powerful, affordable, and super-simple Nikon Capture NX2 software. Obviously for Nikon users, Capture NX2 offers a powerful, yet elegant and simplistic image editing program, which shouldn’t surprise users; as such traits have long been a trademark of Nikon. A personal favorite feature is the color control. Utilizing a point selection tool, it allows users to quickly adjust brightness and saturation by simply selecting a point in the image and adjusting the corresponding sliders. It’s easy to learn, and surprisingly easy to master. It also sports functions like Auto-Retouch, which can be used to remove dust, blemishes, or basically any unwanted elements in a photograph. In Raw mode, it has a terrific tool for adjusting shadow and highlight detail, which is recommended for use with Nikon’s RAW, or NEF format, but is applicable to both jpg and TIFF files. The adjustments are easy to learn, with no complicated layers, or multiple selections. It includes tools that handle noise reduction (noise is the digital equivalent of grain in film; anytime there isn’t enough light, it shows in the photo), distortion control, and a vignetting corrector. Distortion is caused by lenses that go very wide, or lenses that cover a large range, but this software corrects for both types of distortion easily. It also offers custom black and white, as well as colorize features.

Let’s say that after settling on a product, you find it doesn’t have a certain feature, or effect that you desperately want. Trust me, it happens. The answer? Nik Plug-ins. Compatible with all popular and professional imaging programs, Nik plug-ins offer enhanced control over specific areas, or types of photos. Need to handle light and color better? Nik Viveza. Love Black and White? Nik Silver EFEX Pro. Nik Color EFEX Pro offers 52 filters, for a total of over 250 effects. Blurry photos? Nik Sharpener. Like Low Light? Nik Dfine. These plug-ins are available in complete collections, or a la carte. Selling for around $150 for most, some plug-ins are under $100. The idea here is customization. With the ability to add plug-ins, you can customize your software to get the most out of every file, based on your personal needs, and based on your preferred type of photos. Whatever program you decide on, plug-ins can make it more powerful, and ultimately, give you more control.

So like I said, there is a little something for everybody. One thing is for certain, software bridges the gap between file and final, snapshot and work of art. No matter what you use or who you are: RAW or Jpg, Windows or Mac, Enthusiast or Serious photographer, only one thing is standing between you and your dream images. Your computer. So take control. Make every shot perfect, even if it takes every tool in the box.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Product Review: Nikon D3X Digital Camera

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If you walked in a Penn Camera store today, our sales reps would be able to tell you that, hands down, the Nikon D3x digital SLR camera is one of the best pieces of photo equipment on the market today, and anyone in the arena of professional photography who decides to purchase this camera is going to be a very happy customer. After reading something like that, you may wonder what it is that makes the Nikon D3x the best deal in the camera store. Let's take a look at some of the D3x's amazing features:

Do you like to take extreme detail shots? Well, this is definitely the most important piece of camera equipment that you will ever own! It offers 24.5 megapixels for those who engage landscape or nature shooting (or any other type of extreme detail photography).

All-Weather Body:
Not only does the Nikon D3x DSLR feature plastic and rubber coating on the outer body, it also has a magnesium frame. This will give peace of mind to those who find that they often drop their camera equipment, as it makes it pretty resistant to shock.

Sensible Design:
You should know that the each of the buttons featured on the Nikon DX3 are large enough that you will have no problem pressing them while wearing gloves (which makes winter photography a snap!). Also, each button and dial features symbols that help you understand its function, and the information concerting shutter speed, ISO, and aperture is readily available on the D3x's top and rear screens. Should you have any trouble with understanding the functions your camera, you should know that offers a "tips and tricks" blog that will help you get the most out of your purchase.

Although the Nikon D3x is a great piece of photo equipment, it should be noted that it is by no means perfect. For example, the D3x does not have the quick continuous shooting speeds of its predecessor, the Nikon D3. The D3x can only handle five frames per second, while the D3 was able to capture nine frames per second. This difference isn't so vast when you factor in the higher megapixel abilities of the Nikon D3x, but this may be a concern for photojournalists and sports photographers, who often need to snap pictures in rapid succession in order to get that perfect shot.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that the high ISO (a measure of the camera's sensitivity to light) settings are no longer present. Instead of the D3's 200 to 6400 ISO range, the ISO in the D3x only ranges from 100 to 1600. While this may make shooting in extremely low light a challenge for some, you can do without the extensive ISO setting if you are willing to shoot low-light pictures that are slightly more low-resolution.

With that said, the Nikon D3x is still a great camera, and definitely one of the absolute best on the market today. It obviously offers quite an advantage over other brands and models in its price range with the 24.5 megapixels that it offers. If you are in professional photography and need high-resolution shots on a consistent basis, it's a must that you visit your local Penn Camera (the best camera store for those of you who live in the Washington, DC, Maryland, or Virginia areas) or take a look at their website,, to purchase this camera. Beginners will find the camera easy to use, while professionals will appreciate the ergonomic design and plethora of features that the Nikon D3x offers. Because you can control every aspect of the shots you take, this camera is perfect for those who are always looking for that "just-right" shot. No matter what your level or experience, it is almost a sure bet that you won't regret purchasing the Nikon D3x digital camera.

Call the Penn Camera location near you to check availability on this item!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Image Editing On A Budget: Part I

Powerful Photo Software Programs That Won’t Break The Bank
By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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This is a great topic that I couldn't resist giving you lots of detail about, so this post will be delivered in two installments. Check back next week for Part II!

You've done your research. You’ve read and read, visited website after website, store after store, and you’ve made your decision. You’ve bought the best camera for you, and your budget. You’ve added the right lenses, or accessories. You have digital photography covered. Except for one thing; you have thousands of photos on your computer, on your memory cards, and you don’t know what to do with them. It’s time to take the next step.

There are powerful, easy to use imaging programs that will allow you to edit, organize, print and share photos for much less than you might expect. Isn’t it time to organize, enhance, and get the very best out of all those photos you’ve worked so hard to take? It might surprise you to learn that there are several very powerful and easy to use imaging programs that will allow you to quickly and efficiently edit, organize, print and share those memories without spending a bundle. For less than $200, there are several programs that will suit almost any photography enthusiast.

Don’t worry about which camera you have, or what type of computer. There is something out there for everyone. Let’s start with perhaps the easiest, and best all around bargain software program, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. You’ve probably heard a lot about Adobe if you’re into digital photography. Both Photoshop CS (Creative Suite) 4 and Lightroom are highly touted programs known to every graphic artist and pro photographer. However Elements offers the non-professional many powerful tools for hundreds of dollars less than these professional programs.

Photoshop Elements 8 (at a price point around $100) offers some great options. Included are simple, but effective modification tools like red-eye correction, teeth whitening, and skin tone correction. It also offers an option for automatic online back-up of image files, which will enable users to eliminate the risk of losing their photos in the event of a hard drive crash. In fact, Adobe offers a version of Elements 8 called Elements 8 Plus, which includes 20 gigabytes of online storage(as opposed to 2), as well as delivering tutorials directly to your software, almost like a software auto-update. But don’t worry, there are tutorials available online that cover almost all your editing questions and needs. Elements 8 includes a range of high-end features, such as people recognition; you can tag a face, and the software will locate all other pictures in your library in which it detects the same face. When it comes to easy organization, nothing beats the “smart tag” system employed by Elements 8. Add the ability to use graphics and effects, share online or e-mail, and create interactive online albums, and Photoshop Elements 8 may be the best all around, simple program that offers true control over your files. Do you also shoot video clips? Adobe Premiere Elements 8 might be right up your alley. Think of all the editing features of Elements 8, and apply it to video.

Check back next week for Part II! More image editting programs that give great results for a good value.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gallery Opening for Photographer Julie Cochran

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Julie Cochran
Penn Camera Fair Lakes
Friday, February 12th
7:00pm - 9:00pm

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Photographer Julie Cochran will be exhibiting a variety of fine art images in her gallery opening on the 12th.

A sampling of images from the show!

Julie is a native to the Washington Metro area. After graduating Robinson High School in 1981, she attended Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and graduated in 1987 with an Associate’s degree in early childhood education.

In 1993, she took her first photography class at NOVA using her husband’s Pentax K1000 camera. Since then she has taken many more photography and photography-related classes like developing and printing as well as digital imaging. Julie has participated in workshops offered by Blue Ridge Workshops led by Elliot Stern, and those at Meadowlark Gardens given by Jack Nevitt, Cory Hilz and William Folsom. Julie is also a member of Vienna Photographic Society and Vienna Arts Society.

In her Penn Camera Gallery Exhibition, Julie is presenting a body of work entitled “From the Ground Up”. All images were taken with a Minolta 5d and a Nikon D40dx. The pictures in this show are a product of above mentioned workshops and other photographic excursions.

“My favorite subject is nature, in all its forms. From a butterfly on a flower, to a sunset framed by mountains. There are, however, subjects nature cannot produce. Like two planes passing so close together you’d think they touched. Although not shown here, I also enjoy photographing animals of all shapes and sizes, from horses to cats, to snakes.”

SPECIAL NOTE: For each picture purchased there will be a 5% donation made to the Red Cross to help fund the relief effort in Haiti.

Would you like to host your own Gallery at Penn? Highlight and exhibit your, or your student's finest artwork with a Gallery at a Penn Camera store. High School students, College students, Amateurs & Professionals welcomed. Email us for information.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Filter Factor: Using Filters on Your Digital SLR

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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Whether you’re new to SLR photography, or you're a seasoned professional, people generally put a lot of thought into what type of lenses to use. Wide-angle or telephoto? Prime or macro? What many people don't consider, and often miss entirely, is the importance of filters for all of these lenses. Lenses can be large investments, while filters are relatively inexpensive, and can serve to both protect your investment, as well as improve the quality of your pictures.

With the huge popularity of today's high-end image editing software programs, the need for many traditional filters has been virtually eliminated. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Apple's Aperture, and others include tools or offer plug-ins that can create specific filter effects easily, without the need for extra equipment. However, there are a couple of filters that no photographer (or lens) should go without. These filters can not only help you get the best out of your photos, but also can save your lens from dirt, scratches, and even protect against impact.

There is one type of filter that should be on every lens, film or digital, even video. A UV filter, or even a clear protective filter, is an essential item for any lens. UV filters serve a dual purpose; first, they protect the lens both indoors and out, preventing dirt, dust, and scratches from reaching the front of the lens. Most lenses have special coatings, and the best way to preserve lens quality is to keep that lens untouched. The second benefit to a UV filter is that when taking photographs outdoors, UV light is filtered out. This is great for landscape photography, as distance usually causes a haze effect from UV light. A UV filter cuts through this haze, giving your photograph a sharper look. Clear protective filters, like Skylight filters, will provide protection but will not filter UV light.

The second must have filter is a Circular Polarizer. The best way to think of it is as sunglasses for your camera. Polarizing filters have two major advantages. When shooting outdoors, a polarizer will add depth and contrast to the sky, making the clouds pop out in detail against a deeper blue sky. This is a great effect for landscapes, cityscapes, or beach photos. A polarizing filter also removes reflections from non-metallic surfaces. Reflections from glass or water can be controlled and eliminated with a polarizing filter. This feature alone has a huge number of benefits in everyday photography.

So there you have it. Two must-have filters for every lens that can both protect your equipment, and improve your photos. This is true for video as well. Most camcorders are compatible with certain size filters. Some high-end point-and-shoot cameras even have filter options, usually with adapters. If you want the best photos and videos, make sure you have your bases, and your lenses, covered.

Visit Brendan for more information about choosing filters at our Tysons Corner store.