Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Part I: Choosing Olympus Vs. Panasonic Micro 4/3's Cameras

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Part I
Why choose Olympus over the Panasonic? Or the Panasonic over the Olympus? In the end it is what I tell my customers that are torn between a Nikon, Canon, or Sony DSLR - how does it feel in your hands? I learned that lesson when I upgraded to the Nikon D200 from my Nikon D80 - before moving to the Olympus Pen series cameras. I kept going back to my D80 vs the D200.

A lot of the difference for me is making the choice has to do with the lenses available. Being an eager beaver on photo gear I jumped at getting the Panasonic 7-14 and 14-140 lenses for PEN cameras I have. This was after buying the Olympus 4/3's 9-18 and 40-150 lenses for use with MMF-1 (now the MMF-2 adapter, by the way the change between the two seems to be only the color - the MMF-1 is Silver and the MMF-2 is black). At the time I thought I would be adding an Olympus 4/3's DSLR body for the few paid shoots that I do. But made the decision after getting the EP-L1 that I was going to stay the course with the m4/3's format.

Just wish I had waited, the slight additional weight of the Panasonic lenses does add up. Not to mention the size differences between the Panasonic 7-14 and 14-140 m4/3's lenses over the the Olympus 9-18 and 14-150 m4/3's lenses. Add to that the the Olympus m4/3's 9-18 is not much larger than the m4/3's 14-42 lens when retracted! And it takes a filter that the Panasonic 7-14 m4/3 lens does not!

Specs between the two series of m4/3's lenses:

- 7-14/4 Panasonic and the 9-18/4-5.6 Olympus; 10.6oz vs. 5.5oz, 3.3"L x 2.9"W vs. 1.9" collapsed x 2.3"W, bug-eye lens vs. being able to use a 52mm filter, image stabilization is not built-in to either lens

- 14-140/4-5.8 Panasonic and the 14-150/4-5.6 Olympus; 16.2oz vs. 9.9oz, 3.3"L x 2.8"w vs. 3.3"L x 2.5"W, image stabilization built-in to the lens vs none (relying on the body)

I went with the Panasonic m4/3 7-14 over waiting for the the Olympus m4/3 9-18 because I wanted the extra FOV (field of view) that the 7mm gave over the 9mm FOV. Or so I thought. In the end I would like less FOV and a smaller and lighter weight lens. And one that can take filters. To that end I am leaning towards the Olympus 9-18 to replace my Panasonic 7-14 m4/3's lens. And as to replacing the 14-140 from Panasonic over the 14-150 from Olympus is about the weight.

One of the reasons I went to the Olympus m4/3's camp was a smaller and lighter weight kit. And these two new lenses from Olympus may fit the bill better than my two Panasonic choices so far. Don't get me wrong here... the Panasonic lenses have been great. But compared to their Olympus cousins... I am more willing to take the the weight and size savings of the Olympus lenses over the Panasonic lenses.

Some may be puzzled a bit about my comments about the size and weight differences between the Panasonic and Olympus lenses that I have talked about. The m4/3's 7-14 is a great lens but on the larger size compared to the m4/3's 9-18. But when you combine the weights of those two lenses series in a camera bag the Olympus lenses save about 11.4oz or nearly 3/4 of a pound. May not sound like much - but learned back in the day of backpacking an ounce saved here and there adds up. As does the choice of the camera bag that you want to carry.

More to come in Part II next week!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gallery at Fair Lakes - Photographer Shana Harris

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Shana Harris
Penn Camera Fair Lakes
Friday, August 6th
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Shana's goal is to capture the unique spirit of her subjects in a creative way. She has photographed weddings, special events, small business owners, headshots, and performers. Shana's photography is primarily done on-location and she works with studio and natural lights. Shana has been actively studying photography since 2006, and has primarily learned from photography books, networking with other photographers, and most importantly, getting out there and photographing as much as possible. Shana has been amazed at how photography has changed the way that she looks at life and people. Shana grew up near Smith Mountain Lake in Southwestern Virginia and currently resides in Fairfax County. She enjoys listening to her husband play music and dancing.

View more of Shana's work online at http://www.taylorharrisphotography.com/. Hope to see you on the 6th!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Image Recovery: I Didn’t Mean to Delete Those Photos!

If you’ve found yourself the victim of an itchy trigger finger which caused you to delete all the latest photos off your memory card, don’t fret just yet. We have a few tips that may help you recover those images. And if it makes you feel better, plenty of people who are considered ‘computer experts,’ have made the same blunder, so don’t berate yourself too much! You may also lose images due to your media card becoming corrupted through no fault of your own; technology doesn’t always behave as it should. These things sometimes happen; here’s what to do if it does:

Stop Everything! As soon as you realize what happened, DO NOT attempt to do anything further to the camera card. If you continue to take pictures, it will begin overwriting the files on the card. Deleted images may still be on the card (although you won’t see them listed) but taking more pictures will write the new images over that older data.

Get to the Computer: There are many companies that offer inexpensive ‘digital photo recovery’ software and you can use this phrase as a search term online to identify the best solution.

Choose Wisely: Before choosing a software recovery program, check to make sure that the company’s website is current and that they have positive reviews from industry magazines or associations. Make sure that the software program doesn’t write any data to the memory card as this altering can hinder recovering your photos. Most companies explain (on their website) how their product works to retrieve digital photos.

Stop by the Store: Come by one of our stores and bring your digital camera with you. We’d be happy to take a look at the memory card to see if we can get those precious photos back for you. As one of our digital services, we offer image recovery and can save you the hassle of having to figure it out on your own.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gallery at Springfield - Photographer Robert Blanken

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Robert Blanken
Penn Camera Springfield
Monday, August 2nd
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Bob is a member of the Professional Photographers of America and its local affiliates. He is also a member of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). He has been certified as a Professional Photographer by the Professional Photographers of America and has received their esteemed Craftsman degree. He served on their National Council for nine years.

His peers have honored his work with 19 nominations as Best Photographer of the Year and he has won:
2006 ISES Capital Award Winner for Best Social Photographer
2003 ISES Capital Award Winner for Best Corporate Photographer
2002 ISES Capital Award Winner for Best Social Photographer
He has been honored with two nominations as an International Esprit Nominee for Best Event Photographer in 2003 and 2005.

Blanken Photography Studio, Ltd was incorporated in 1991 after existing as Bob Blanken Photographer, a sole proprietorship since 1981. Prior to 1981, his photography work was directed toward architectural and advertising photography. Since the early 90’s, his work has been targeted to special events and portraiture. You can see more of Bob's work online at www.blankenphoto.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Quick Tips for Shooting Sports

It's a busy time of year for sports photography, with an exciting World Cup win by Spain (unless you’re a Netherlands fan!) just wrapped up, and the All –Star game taking place on Tuesday. Even if you’re not shooting professional sports, you can still get great looking images of your kids on the field or your favorite AAA team scoring the winning run. Here are a few quick tips on getting better sports photographs.

Scout Your Spot Early: Figuring out where to stand is critical to getting the best shots because success means being in the right place at the right time. Try to get to the field a bit early to gauge which places are best for shooting the action as it unfolds. Is it possible to get a spot close to first base? Are there items that could obstruct your view? As you start shooting in this environment, you’ll get a feel for the best places to stand, and once you’ve got that down, you should be set for the entire season.

Getting Around the Fence: How many times has the fence proved a formidable opponent to your getting that perfect shot of your child sliding into home plate? Again, a little bit of planning can make all the difference. Play with various locations close to the fence to see if there is a particular angle that will allow you to shoot in the clear. You may also want to consider a monopod for these events as they can be a great asset in helping you shoot from a higher angle, which will not only allow you to secure the shot but also to create images from a new and interesting perspective.

Candid Camaraderie: Sometimes we’re so focused on the action that we forget about those wonderful moments of playful connection and camaraderie between teammates. Keep your eyes open for those high-fives and pats-on-the-back. These moments represent the heart of team sports and lend another dimension to our sports photography library.

Choosing the Right Lens: You are inevitably shooting from the sidelines during a game, and you’re also probably a good deal away from the action. You need a long lens. That’s right - the longer the better usually. If you are a digital SLR user, you should opt for a focal length 100mm or longer, with 300 being your best bet. Choose a zoom lens for even more flexibility. You also want to choose a fast lens – meaning one that has a wide maximum aperture, f/2.8 or greater. This will give your more ability to capture the action at dusk or in other low light scenarios. A new post of the Complete Lens Buyer Guide is being worked on as I write this, I’ll post more information once it’s ready.

It’s all About Timing: Getting the great shot at a sporting event has a lot to do with timing. It helps to be familiar with the sport, with the plays, and the general rhythm of the game so you can be prepared when something exciting happens. Think about following the players with your camera to your eye, ready to fire, so when that split-second play happens you are ready and waiting to capture it. Choose a camera that allows you to shoot multiple frames per second – that way you can choose from a bunch of images of that definitive moment.

What are your ideas for better sports photographs? There are certainly a lot of you out there who have probably been doing this for awhile. Leave your comments below!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gallery at Rockville - Russell Willard

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Russell Willard
Penn Camera Rockville
Friday, July 16th
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Russell Willard is a serious travel and documentary photographer based in Bethesda, MD. While not shooting on assignment, Russell conducts photography workshops and photo tours to some of the most exotic locations where architecture and nature come together.

Russell started his formal education in photography over a decade ago when he joined the photography club at his university. Having soon learned - among other things - how to research and photograph buildings in nature, he set up a clandestine darkroom in the closet of the family home in order to further his future phtoography career in architecture and in nature.

Thinking that he was going to live the Brady Bunch life as an architect, he was in for a rude awakening upon his first professional job, which paid him $5 an hour. In order to supplement his salary as a licensed architect, he began to photograph historical homes for private owners who wanted their home on the national registry.

Taking to photography, Russell has traveled extensively throughout the world. While continuing his architectural design work, he has been refocusing his energies on professional travel and documentary photography, specializing in the area of blending the buildt environment with nature. He has had the opporutunity to train with Bob Krist and Ralph Lee Hopkins of the National Geographic Society, and he is active in the Gaithersburg Camera Club, which is leading him to several opportunities to showcase his work.

When not in the office as lead designer, Russell leads photography workshops and photo tours. Needless to say, Russell is intimately familiar with on-location photography and how to select the most vitalizing sections fo building for visual impact. With a flair for simplifying the most complex subjects, Russell loves sharing the wealth of photo-ops that abound all around us with participants in his photo workshops and tours.

On display at Penn Camera Rockville are works that illustrate the blending of the built environment with the natural world. These phtoographs were created in a location with the finest examples in the Western world where the human race has successfully blended with nature; that location is Italy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shooting in Low Light

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Shooting in low light can be one of the most challenging things in photography to do well. It takes practice to know which combination of f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO will be sufficient in any given low light situation. There are of course a few rules and guidelines that will help you take much better photographs in low light.


First there is the issue of using the right equipment. Let's start with lenses. Lenses are of course a very important aspect of any part of photograph. For low light photography, you will want a fast lens, meaning a lens with a wide maximum aperture, like f/2.8 or f/1.8. Faster lenses allow for faster shutter speeds, since more light is gathered during the exposure. This can be important in digital photography because it can allow you to hand-hold in low light conditions, and exposures lasting too long can sometimes introduce noise into the photograph. Image stabilized lenses can also help with by allowing hand-held shots at slower shutter speeds than a non-stabilized lens.

Of course in many cases, a tripod will be your best tool. Even a portable mini tripod can give you the stability you need when shooting on the go. A tripod is a necessity for very long exposures. It is also a good idea to use a shutter release cable to further reduce camera shake. A flash is obviously a good option for adding light to a scene, but can be tricky to use properly. Direct flash will often illuminate too much, causing overexposure and blowing out details in the scene. On camera flashes can work, but your best bet is an on or off camera flash that can be angled to reflect or bounce off of a ceiling or wall. This will help to get even, diffuse light without overexposing or losing any detail.


- If shooting handheld, use the inverse rule between focal length and shutter speed. If your lens is 100mm for example, you will need a shutter speed no slower than 1/100th of a second. Any slower and you will need a tripod.

- If you have a point and shoot camera, most have special scene mode settings that automatically adjust for low light situations, like night portrait and night landscape. Typically these setting need a tripod to work well.

- If you can, start by avoiding "late night" photography, and limit your low light shooting to the times just before dawn, or just after sunset. This will let you get the hang of things before you try really low light photography.

- Get creative. Use long exposures to capture the trails of light created by cars moving through the city. Flashlights and glow sticks can also be used to create artistic effects during long exposures.

- Most importantly, practice. Take multiple shots of the same scene, with varying exposures and continue to check your progress. Stick with it, and you'll be a low light expert in no time.

For more information on exposure, and tips for using flash effectively, check out our Exposure Control and Off-Camera Flash blogs for more hints on getting good exposures in tricky lighting, and tips on using flashes to improve your photos. Stay tuned for our lens buyers guide if you’re thinking of picking up a new toy. Until then, keep shooting!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Beach-proof Cameras - my take....

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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I was happy to see mention of the beach-proof cameras in our weekly email newsletter on Tuesday. I guess that many of you that view this blog already are getting our weekly newsletters - if not you can sign up here on the right column of this blog.

I have been a big fan of these cameras, in particular those that are drop-proof from at least five feet. But I wanted to share a lesson learned from one of the first beach-proof cameras - an older Pentax Optio. An expensive lesson for me... never borrow a camera from a friend. My tale begins with a cruise I was taking. I was going to to hang poolside and do some snorkeling - that is where it got expensive.

I took my friends camera with me thinking of pools and beaches. And some simple snorkeling. So for snorkeling I never thought I would meet the 10 foot depth of this Pentax Optio. I thought that in snorkeling I never get deeper than the 10 foot depth that camera was rated for. Boy was I wrong!In the end I flooded the camera and had to replace it. This is one of the reasons I suggest underwater cameras for snorkeling that go to 30 feet.

So my advice is that if these cameras are more about the beach, pool, and sand - then cameras that are between 10-15 feet are great- otherwise opt for one that is more robust.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Confessions of an Olympus m4/3's Fan

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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My path to the Olympus PEN m4/3's digital cameras started just about a year ago. But that journey started about a year earlier when Panasonic announced the first m4/3's camera in September of '08 - the G1.
Then about a year later Olympus changed the m4/3's game with the the E-P1. I think it is fair to say that all of us that work at Penn Camera were taken in some way by the E-P1. It may have won a few of my co-workers at the Tysons shop over.

One thing about Penn Camera is lots of us that have been into photography for a very long time. Even with my being with Penn Camera for just 10 years, I am the middle child in the family of Penn staff members. Though my experience goes way back to the 1970's.

But I digress... back to the E-P1. It was what lots of us old timers remembered what cameras used to be. Metal bodies and the like. And the look and feel was very much like the original Olympus PEN half frame film cameras; a camera that in my youth I lusted over. With July being my birthday month, and always treating myself to a new toy for my birthday, I bought an E-P1 with it just being in the shop just three days. I rationalized the purchase by saying that it would be a nicer fit in my sling bag.

A few days after getting the E-P1 I went to a pool party at a friends place. First, it was nice not lug around a big DSLR. I used a Tenba 10x10 camera wrap to protect in my sling bag. Second, NOT carrying a DSLR led to better pictures of my friends. More on that in my follow up posts. When I got home and looked at my shots, I was wowed by the colors from the pics I took. I had the pleasure to be the host for classes that we offer for free from some of our vendors this past winter. During a break, I was asked by someone why I made the switch...and I said it was the colors of the images. Soon 6-8 others chimed in saying the same thing!

In fact, that are a number of more serious photographers than me are touting the camera's jpeg images. More to come on this in my post next week.

You still have time to enter to win your own Olympus E-PL1 to see for yourself as to what makes this camera so special for many of us photographers. Just go to our website and upload your best great outdoor picture!