Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ready for Back to School? Essential for Learning the Traditional Art of Photography

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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Well it's that time of year. The kids, and many college students are getting back to school. While this may be bad news for many students, luckily some subjects are always entertaining for students at almost every level. Of course, photography is very popular, and many students study photography in place of traditional "paint and clay" art classes.

Even with digital photography dominating the future of photography, film is still hanging on strongly (and serving as a great way for students to learn the fundamentals of exposure and camera settings, not to mention printing and composition). Many people study photography at every level every year, and they all need one thing: good prices on the specialty photography goods they will need to complete their assignments. Luckily there is one place you can get all your photography supplies, at discounted prices. That place of course, is Penn Camera.

Whether you are in a beginning class, using manual film cameras and learning to do your own developing in the darkroom, or taking a college level photography or graphic arts class, Penn carries all of the supplies you will need this coming semester. Let's examine what you will need for a beginning photo class, like a high school photography class, from camera, to film and paper, and some other essentials along the way.

For these classes students will need the essentials, since they will be learning the basics. A good film camera, with full manual control will be needed. A 50mm lens is usually all you will need to start. Students may choose to experiment, but in class most photography will be black and white, developed in the darkroom. So of course, you will need plenty of black and white film, as well as paper. Get enough because trust me, at first, there will be a lot of bad exposures. These are all valuable lessons in the long run, but make sure you are fully stocked. Don't wait until the last minute when an assignment is almost due to run to the nearest Penn Camera. You'll need paper and film, as well as developing reels and tanks, negative sleeves, gloves and tongs for use working in the darkroom, and many other things. Your school will probably provide you a grocery list of supplies to pick up, luckily, they are all available at Penn Camera. We are happy to offer student discounts on almost all of these items. Click here for a complete list of student equipment and prices.

Of course we carry all the essentials for college photography too. High end image editing programs, professional grade inkjet printers, papers and inks, and a wide selection of digital cameras, video cameras, and other imaging equipment. This year, make your one stop for back to school Penn Camera. We offer many discounts for students, carry a full selection of basic to advanced photographic and imaging needs, and we will match any local retailers prices on the same item. Good luck this semester, we'll see you soon!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Keeping Your Equipment in Great Shape – Camera Care

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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While it is all too easy to overlook the importance of proper camera care, it is equally simple to make sure that your camera equipment is being properly cared for. With correct storage and maintenance you can ensure you will be using your digital camera at peak performance for years to come. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules; including using good protective gear, observing proper storage, and performing routine cleaning.

Protection: Your first line of defense in caring for your camera is obviously protecting the camera and each important part, whether it is a lens, the memory card, or even a battery. The two most common things that can damage cameras and equipment are shock or impact damage, and moisture. Shock can be prevented many ways. The easiest is simply to get a good protective case, and properly package all the equipment so that it is padded and well protected. A good strap can keep your camera from falling while you shoot. You should always use protective filters and cases for all lenses as well. If traveling, make your camera bag your carry-on if at all possible. Take proper care when using the camera too. Keep in mind the environments you are shooting in. If the environment is very dusty, for example, or especially humid. Smoke, steam, mist, all of these things can impact your equipment. Any extreme of temperature can affect your equipment as well. If your glasses fog up from changing temperatures quickly, you can bet your exposed lens just did too. Keep your equipment well protected whether you have your camera in hand or not.

Damage Protection Plans: There are as many different things that can go wrong as you can come up with, trust me I've heard every story (and keep hearing new ones), and I have seen the results. One of the best things you can have to protect your equipment is an actual Damage Protection Plan. Manufacturers warranties are very limited, and none will cover damage caused by external forces, such as impact, moisture damage, dog attack, etc. Yes, I've seen cameras that suffered dog attacks. Luckily there are contracts you can purchase to cover just such damage. Penn Camera offers up to three year damage protection plans that are available for everything from a point and shoot or video camera, to a DSLR or other interchangeable lens camera, as well as any lenses, flashes, and some other equipment. In addition to protecting your equipment from accidental damage, they vastly expand the manufacturers coverage of malfunctions and defects as well. For the cost of a few dollars a month, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that if you do damage your camera, you're covered. Some people won't even take a camera places like the beach for fear of sand, and water, but no one wants to miss a great shot because they're worried about their equipment.

Cleaning: If protection is your first line of defense, maintenance is certainly the next. It isn't enough to just keep your equipment clean; dust can creep onto your image sensor, or into your lens, and will worsen over time, affecting the quality of your images. It is important to have sensor cleanings done on interchangeable lens cameras at least once a year, more often depending on the type of environments that you frequently shoot in. Yes this is true even for the cameras that do automatic in-camera "sensor cleaning"; believe me, that is no substitute for a true cleaning. The best option is to have your equipment professionally serviced, but if you are feeling confident, you can at least tackle sensor cleaning on your own. Penn Camera carries multiple options for home sensor cleaning, and instructions can usually be found in your camera's instruction manual (yes you need to keep that). Keeping the lens clean is just as important, so always make sure there is no dust, or fingerprints, or especially any kind of residual buildup. When you are cleaning a lens, don't use compressed air. Use a soft blower or brush for dust and dirt particles, and a microfiber cleaning cloth or a lens pen on things like fingerprints. When it comes to cleaning, remember the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Storage: This is where most people are a little more lax caring for their equipment. Many people tuck away their gear in a closet or somewhere convenient and out of the way, and it may sit there for weeks, or months. Where you decide to leave your equipment is important though. Cameras should never be stored anywhere humid or dusty. Temperatures should be neutral, and the environment should be clean. It can be a good idea to leave the desiccant packages that come in your camera bag in, to prevent condensation. You should also not store your digital camera near magnets, or leave the battery in the camera while it is being stored.

With the right protective equipment, and proper camera maintenance and storage, you can keep you camera in great shape for years, and ensure that each picture you take is as good, or hopefully even better than the last one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gallery at Springfield: Photographer Bill Hamm

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Bill Hamm
Penn Camera Springfield
Thursday, September 9th
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Bill Hamm spent his early childhood in a small, rural town in Michigan. He enjoyed the river that flowed through his town, and all that the river had to offer him. Walking home from school he would always find a way to take a detour so that he could walk along the riverbanks and see what he could find. Frogs, fish, birds, baby raccoons, you name it and Bill would find it and bring it home. His back porch on his house was more like a zoo than a back porch. Thus his love of nature was born. On his 8th birthday he received a Kodak Brownie camera. Put the two together and what do you have - a nature photographer.

His father was transferred to Colorado Springs, Colorado for a short time, this gave Bill a chance to fall in love with the Rocky Mountains. Again his father was transferred, this time to Washington DC. This is where Bill finished high school, fell in love, got married, raised his family, and started his automotive repair shop in the Maryland suburbs.

During this time, his high school years, raising his family and starting his business he had no time for hobbies such as nature photography.

Fifteen years ago when his children started graduating from college, getting married and raising their own families, Bill found the time to get out the old Kodak Brownie, dust it off and then realize photography had changed a little since the fifties. He purchased his first Nikon FE from Penn Camera and started snapping away. He joined the Gaithersburg Camera Club and that brought his photography to a higher level.
Bill now shoots with a Nikon D300S and his favorite lens is his Nikon 200 / 400 Zoom and his 600mm for those long shots.

He and his wife love to travel to their “wild” spots. They love Alaska, Denali and Katmai National Parks and Kenai Fjords National Park in the summer. In the fall it is Yellowstone for the elk rut. Late fall it is north to polar bear country, Churchill, Manitoba or if they stay locally they travel to Chincoteague for the snow geese in November. February is time for Florida birds. Springtime is spent in Shenandoah National Park photographing fawns and black bears.

Bill is a past-president and an active board member of the Gaithersburg Camera Club. He organizes and leads photo trips to Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Canaan Valley in West Virginia and Chincoteague.

Bill is working on a wildlife photography website. Hopefully it will be on-line by Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gallery at Tysons: Gallery Opening for Photographer Kevin Maxson

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Kevin Maxson
Penn Camera Tysons
Wednesday, August 25th
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Kevin Maxson is a Virginia-based photographer who began his journey with the Canon Snappy 20, a compact 35mm film camera, in 1982. Undaunted by his little sister breaking its lens cover, he continued to take photographs with it. Today, he is a loyal Nikon owner and has his camera with him wherever he goes. It has accompanied him to places as far off as Italy and as near as Great Falls. He has explored genres from glamour and beauty portraiture to scene and landscape photography. Among his photographic acheivements, Kevin has had his photographs published in the book Carving Classical Styles in Wood by Frederick Wilbur.

Always striving to improve, Kevin has taken instruction from James Harrington, Stan Goldstein and renowned glamour photographer Rolando Gomez. Currently, he is enrolled at the Washington School of Photography in Bethesda, Maryland in order to receive a certificate in professional photography.

Send e-mail to kevin@km-photo.net for more information.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tamron’s 18-270VC Di II

Tamron 18-270 VC Di II Lens…
All in One Versatility and a Superb Value!
By Andrew Shippin

How many lenses will let you switch between taking pictures of a delicate flower and then without swapping lenses, let you take great wide angle shots of your family standing in front of a historic site, and finally zoom in on that distant wild animal? Not many, which is where the “all in one versatility” of the Tamron 18-270 VC Di II lens comes into its own.

Since its debut in 2008 Tamron’s 18-270VC Di II has been one of the top sellers for both Tamron and Penn Camera. It has won numerous awards from such notable publications as Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo, Popular Photographer and many others.

Designed for Digital SLRs with APS-C size sensors it features an amazing 15x optical zoom (approx. 28-420mm in 35mm terms) and a very useable macro that lets you close focus as tight as 19 inches. The Vibration Control (VC), which is arguably one of this lenses most redeeming features lets you shoot under an amazingly wide variety of lighting conditions. Even if it’s a moderately cloudy day most people can still hand hold the lens because of its very effective Vibration Control, as can shooters who are looking to take candids without having to worry about using a flash.

This unique balance of value, sharpness, reliability, and over all versatility is why many professional travel photographers have picked one of these lens. As well as other photographers who are just looking for that “one good lens” to take on vacation. Another popular use for this lens is with amateur outdoor sports photographers, who need to be able to zoom out across the field, and then at a moment’s notice drop back for close in action.

Additionally, because it has a built in motor, it will work very nicely on the newest generation of Digital SLR cameras. Available in both Canon and Nikon mounts it works very well with both brands. Another cool thing about this lens is that it comes with Tamron’s SIX year warranty at no extra cost!

If you are looking for good value in an all-around lens with above average performance the Tamron 18-270VC is a hard one to beat.

Suggested Penn Camera accessories for the Tamron 18-270VC:
Promaster Digital UV filter,
Promaster Digital Polarizing filter,
Lens Pouch,
This lens also qualifies for the Mack USA NO FAULT Damage Protection Plan.

Suggested sites for learning more about the Tamron 18-270 VC Di II:

Tech specs:
Complements of Tamron’s website

Lens Construction (Groups/Elements): 13/18

Angle of View (APS-C size equivalent):
Diagonal: 75°33'-5°55' Horizontal: 65°36' - 4°55' Vertical: 46°21' - 3°10

Diaphragm Blade Number: 7

Minimum Aperture: F/22 ~ F/40 18mm-270mm)

Minimum Focus Distance: 19.3in.(0.49m) (entire zoom range)

Macro Magnification Ratio: 1:3.5 (at f=270mm, MFD=0.49m)

Filter Size: ø72

Weight: 550g (19.5oz)*

Diameter x Length: ø3.1 x 3.9in. (ø79.6 x 101.0mm)
Included Accessories are the petal shaped lens hood, front and rear lens caps.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Promaster: High Grade Photographic Accessories

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Perhaps you are like most people, and photography began as a hobby, or something you studied in school. As you grew as a photographer, so did your gear. New lenses, cases, filters - the works. Then you realized that photography can be a very expensive hobby, especially for photographers who begin to earn money with their photography; and may do weddings on the weekend, or shoot sports or events and require more and more sophisticated (and expensive) gear. As you grow as a photographer, so do your needs for accessories and equipment. Of course so does the price tag. Luckily, there are some great alternatives to your sometimes pricey accessories.

Whether you need a beginning film camera, along with the filters and black and white paper to do your own darkroom developing and really learn photography from scratch, or you are looking for a high quality studio setup complete with lighting, backgrounds, and stands, you can look one place for price, performance, and quality. Promaster. Penn Camera is proud to be the biggest local supplier of Promaster photographic equipment.

Promaster is a distributor that specializes in high end photographic accessories that are sold at a much lower cost than name brand accessories. From the most basic digital equipment like Promaster brand SDHC and CF cards, available in high speed and professional lines, to filters ranging from basic film filters to the higher-end Promaster Pro Digital series of filters (available in Protection, UV, and Circular Polarizing). Need a replacement or a backup battery? Promaster makes replacement batteries for nearly every current and popular point and shoot and DSLR camera on the market. Have the battery, lost the charger? No problem. Promaster also carries travel chargers that will work worldwide, and charge almost all current and even many older model digital camera batteries. They'll even charge your USB devices, like an iPhone, Blackberry, MP3 player, etc.

No matter what your photographic need, Promaster has an accessory that is right for you. Let's say you are just getting into low light photography. You'll need a tripod, as well as an off-camera shutter release, whether it is a wireless remote or a shutter release cable. Promaster has you covered. Their line of tripods range from inexpensive models to high end carbon fiber tripods for reduced weight, and increased load. Oh, and they make cases to carry your tripod in as well. Maybe you need the perfect background for your portraits, as well as some additional lighting and stands, reflectors, supplemental flash units, basically an entire studio setup. Promaster has kits for complete lighting setups, backgrounds and background supports, and also offers units separately, so you can add just the equipment you need. No matter what your photographic needs are, there is a good chance you can save some money with Promaster equipment.

Stop by your neighborhood Penn Camera today to speak to our staff about the full line of Promaster products, and see for yourself how much you could save! Plus, we know our customers expect quality, so we can assure you that you’re still getting a great product. Our stores offer a full line of Promaster photographic accessories and our knowledgeable staff can explain the benefits, as well as making sure you get the right product for your particular point and shoot, video camera, or DSLR. You can also view our full line of Promaster products in all categories on our website, penncamera.com. Remember whatever you need, you can be pretty sure Promaster has it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gallery at Laurel: Photographers Tom Fretz and Renee Montes

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Gallery Opening for Photographers Tom Fretz and Renee Montes
Penn Camera Laurel
Friday, August 6th
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Tom’s interest in photography began in the late 50’s on a trip to Europe to attend the Boy Scout World Jamboree. Over the years, his photographic interest has had peaks and valleys due to professional responsibilities. For several years in the 70’s, he I was intrigued with Black and White photography and the challenge of the darkroom. From the late 70’s through the mid-90’s his professional activities curtailed his photographic interests to little more than a point and shoot approach, but in the late 90’s with an increasing commitment to international travel related to his academic career, his photographic interest was rekindled.

In the spring of 2001, Tom was encouraged by a colleague to learn to scuba dive. Not only was he fascinated with the underwater environment, but after no more than a few dozen dives, he knew that if he continued to scuba dive, he could not do so without taking a camera below the surface. Initially he began with a Nikonos V system but rapidly graduated to a Nikon D-200 in a Subal housing with dual Nikonos SB-105 strobes and either a 105 macro or 20mm wide-angle lens with the accompanying lens port. In his pursuit of underwater photography, Tom is committed to capturing images from these unique and beautiful environments that few have the opportunity to see and enjoy first hand. “It is critical that images from the world’s diminishing reef systems are captured before witnessing further environmental damage to these unique and irreplaceable treasures,” says Tom. “As much as I enjoy creating these and other images, my greatest joy comes in knowing that others enjoy viewing them.“

In addition to his interest in underwater photography, Tom has a continuing interest in floral, garden, travel and architectural photography. For more information about the images on display or to see additional images please contact tfretz@umd.edu or go to http://www.tomfretzphotos.com./

Renee Montes is an amateur photographer in the Baltimore area. She studied photography in college and I have a Master's degree in IT. "I love working in Adobe Photoshop to create art out of images!" says Renee. She currently shoots with a Canon 5D Mark II with a range of Canon lenses, and enjoys photographing infants, children, and animals. "My previous experience as a veterinary technician makes it easy for me to work with animals, and I have a 2 year daughter that has given me priceless experience working with infants, and children."

The Battle Continues...Choosing Olympus Vs. Panasonic Micro 4/3's Cameras

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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As to the Panasonic GF1 verses the Olympus E-PL1...the lens choices may drive the decision for Panasonic users by the need for lenses to have image stabilization built-in to the lens. This is opposed to choosing Olympus for it's in-body stabilization.

This blog post is not so much a review of the two cameras; but more of my own take after taking the plunge with the Olympus E-P1 a year ago. Some of you that have followed my blog posts so far know that I am in the Olympus m4/3's camp. Yet I see that the Panasonic m4/3's cameras fitting the needs of photographers out there as well. Any comments I make are based on my own use of the Olympus PEN Series and spending way too much time in reading various web forums and blogs out there - as well as talking with customers that have come to me as sort of the m4/3's guru at Penn Camera Tyson.

- The GF1 has a metal body verses the E-PL1's polycarbonate body. I don't care either way. I prefer lighter weight bodies over all.

- HD video seems to be the buzz word between the competing systems. Both can shoot 720P HD. Olympus uses MPEG for video which limits capture time to about 7 minutes per a clip; while the AVCHDlite allows you to record as long have memory on your SDHC card. The buzz is that MPEG is easier to edit with many more programs out there as of right now.

- Built-in flash performance based off the specs posted on DPReview... Olympus was listed as 32 feet verses 19 feet for the GF1. But that is half of the story as far I can tell. One reason I bought the E-PL1 was the ability to use the pop-up flash as a remote trigger for the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R flashes - something I had enjoyed with the Nikon CLS system on some of their DSLR's. (And have had the chance to talk about a few times of the past couple of years in the Penn Camera free seminars held every couple of weeks. Just click on the Upcoming Classes link at PennCamera.com to find out about these short seminars that are FREE!).

- Top shutter speed: for most shooters out there it does not make a difference between the E-PL1's 1/2000 shutter speed and the GF1's 1/4000 shutter speed. I guess I am power shooter that loves the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens and loves to play with the depth of field that lens can give - if I can shoot at f/1.7 verses f/2.8.

- The NMOS sensor on the Olympus verses the CMOS sensor on the Panasonic. This really ends up as a Red State vs. Blue State argument. All I can say there on the topic is that like many reviews and blogs out there - I like what the PEN Series cameras give me from the JPEG. I did have the chance today to talk with a customer of mine that bought and E-P1 early on, and just got a G-2 from Panasonic.... Asked him what he thought of the IQ (image quality) between the two cameras... He admitted that he has to work at getting the same IQ from the G-2 over the EP-1... but for now the G-2 fitted his needs better...

- ISO tops out at 3200 on the Panasonic verses the Olympus at 6400...While some may feel that the noise at 6400 is excessive - there are times that an extra stop is worth the costs. I like the film-like quality of the noise/grain that 3200 has with the m4/3's format. I came about in photography that ISO was grainy as all heck. I have some ISO 800 and 1600 images done as 13x19 prints that hold up well here from the likes of the Panasonic LX-2 point and shoot camera....

So there you have it... my take on Olympus verses Panasonic and the m4/3's system as it stands as of right now...