Lensbaby Adds Scout – the First Non-Bendable Lensbaby Lens

Lensbaby has added a new lens to its line, the Lensbaby Scout, a manual focus SLR lens that utilizes the company’s Optic Swap System but does not bend like other Lensbaby lenses. The Scout ships with the Fisheye Optic, giving photographers the ability to shoot with a 12mm (160-degree) ultra-wide angle of view. And, because the Fisheye can focus from infinity to 1/2-inch from the front of the lens, the Fisheye Optic will allow users to create very unique images.

Due to the extremely wide angle of view of the Fisheye Optic, photographers using cameras that feature full frame image sensors will generally see a black circle around almost the entire image, and those with cameras using the APS-sized sensor will see black at the corners of their images. The Fisheye Optic can also create unique flare effects in an image, creating a light filled border when a strong light source is in the frame.

Although the Lensbaby Scout ships with the Fisheye Optic, the other Lensbaby Optic Swap System optics can also be used, including the Soft Focus, Pinhole/Zone Plate, Double Glass, Single Glass and Plastic. And because the Scout does not bend, the sweet spot of focus will always be centered in the middle of the photograph.

The Lensbaby Scout is available in lens mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus Four/Thirds DSLR cameras.

The Scout with Fisheye retails for $249.95. For more information, go to www.lensbaby.com.

— D.B.


Nik Software Ships HDR Efex Pro

Nik Software has begun shipping HDR Efex Pro, a completely new High Dynamic Range (HDR) solution designed to help photographers quickly and easily achieve a full spectrum of HDR enhancements.

Nik Software’s proprietary U Point technology is also incorporated into HDR Efex Pro, providing precise selective fine-tuning of images without the need for complicated selections or layer masks.

The software also gives photographers the ability to create dramatic HDR images from a single exposure; which is ideal for subjects that don’t lend themselves to multiple exposures, or for reprocessing previously captured single images.

HDR Efex Pro installs as a 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Windows only) and CS5 (Windows and Mac), and as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3 or later (Windows and Macintosh) or Apple Aperture 2.1 or later (Mac).

MSRP for HDR Efex Pro is $159.95.

Go to www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro for more information.

For our original post on the product announcement, click here.

— D.B.


New 600X CompactFlash cards from Kingston

Kingston Digital has announced the availability of Compact Flash Ultimate 600x media cards supporting UDMA mode 6, that offer read and write speeds of up to 90MB/sec. The cards join Kingston’s 266x Ultimate and 133x Elite Pro CF media cards.

The new 600x CF cards come in 16GB and 32GB capacities, ideal for use with newer DSLRs that are optimized for use with fast/high capacity media.

MSRP of the 16GB card is #154.00, MSRP of the 32GB card is #270.00.

For more information, go to www.kingston.com.

— D.B.


Photodex Corporation Releases ProShow Producer 4.5

ProShow Producer is slideshow creation software on steroids. From the first version I was hooked (and that’s saying a lot because I’m a Mac person but the software is only available for Windows-based PCs).

The latest iteration, version 4.5 has been packed with hundreds of new transitions and slide style effects, along with an all new wizard to help you create fabulous slideshows.

The ProShow Producer wizard mixes photos, videos and music together for a dynamic slideshowfor those users who want a slideshow created automatically. As always, you can get as involved as you want, choosing each transition and effect, adjusting the energy level of the slideshow and customizing the themes to your liking.

A new Create Transition tool lets you build your own transitions. The company also redesigned the transitions interface to make it easier to browse among the hundreds of effects. The software also supports ProShow Transition Packs, optional collections of transitions that can be incorporated into your digital slideshows.

ProShow Producer 4.5 is available now, in download and boxed editions. The full version price is $249.95, and upgrades are $89.95. Go to www.photodex.com for more information.

— Diane Berkenfeld


Lensbaby Unveils Lens Compatible with Micro Four Thirds Cameras

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer

By Diane Berkenfeld

Lensbaby today announced the newest addition to its product line-up, the Composer with Tilt Transformer available immediately for the Panasonic Lumix G Micro System and Olympus PEN digital cameras; and for Sony Alpha NEX cameras in Q4.

The Tilt Transformer will allow photographers to mount any Nikon mount lens onto their Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX camera and tilt up to twice the amount of standard tilt-shift lenses, delivering photos that have a slice of focus through the image, bordered by a soft blur.

The Tilt Transformer also serves as the foundation for the Composer Focus Front. When used together, they become the Composer with Tilt Transformer, for use on Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX cameras.

The Lensbaby Focus Front (top) combines with the Tilt Transformer (bottom) to form the Composer with Tilt Transformer.

This provides photographers using these cameras with access to the limitless creativity offered by the Lensbaby Optic Swap system.

The Tilt Transformer’s swivel ball is based on the design of the Lensbaby Composer DSLR camera lens. Tilting a Nikon mount lens on the Tilt Transformer will place the slice of focus in different orientations within the image. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal slices are possible depending on the direction the lens is tilted. Objects in both the foreground and background can be in focus within that slice. For those photographers who have had experience with large format, tilt-shift lenses are similar to the tilt/shift possible when using a view camera.

For example, a photographer can focus on one person close up in the left portion of the frame while also focusing on someone standing much further away from the camera on the right side of the frame. The ability to focus on several items at once (while blurring out the rest of the image) when each item is placed at a different distance from the camera, is typically possible only with traditional tilt-shift lenses or view cameras. The size of the slice of focus is dependent upon the aperture used.

Because the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer lets you tilt the lens at more of an extreme angle, up to twice as far as a standard tilt-shift lens; which will produce a more extreme angled slice of focus than possible with standard tilt-shift lenses.

A built-in mechanism allows Nikon G lenses to function properly at all apertures. Nikon G lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens itself. This mechanism allows the aperture to open and close by manually rotating the lens.

The Tilt Transformer with a Nikon lens on camera.

The Composer with Tilt Transformer is compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and ships with a Double Glass Optic installed. Additional optics can be swapped in and out, providing photographers with a range of creative effects including: Single Glass, Plastic, Pinhole/Zone Plate, and Soft Focus.

I asked Jessica Darrican, PR spokesperson for Lensbaby why the company chose to make the Tilt Transformer compatible with Nikon lenses, She explained that there were a number of reasons that made Nikon lenses ideal for use with the Tilt Transformer and these interchangeable lens digitals. In addition to Nikon’s lenses being known for their high quality, there are plenty of Nikon lenses in the Nikon F-mount available on the used equipment market. Also, the backfocus  distance of Nikon lenses is the longest of all the SLR systems, allowing the most amount of tilt in the Tilt Transformer.

For those Canon shooters wondering why Lensbaby isn’t offering a Canon compatible mount Tilt Transformer, one major reason is that Canon, uses an electronic aperture system, eliminating any possibility of controlling the aperture with the Lensbaby system, limiting photographers to only being able to shoot wide open with a Canon lens.

For more information, go to www.lensbaby.com.


Nikon Announces D7000 DSLR, Two Lenses & a Speedlight

By Diane Berkenfeld

You know a big trade show is close when every day brings announcements from another camera maker about their latest new innovations. With photokina just a week away, Nikon today announced the D7000 DSLR, two prime lenses and a Speedlight. The D7000 is positioned above the D3000 and below the D90—both cameras will remain in Nikon’s product line.

Nikon D7000 DSLR

The Nikon D7000 with optional vertical grip attached.

The D7000 uses a newly designed 16.2MP CMOS sensor (APS-C size) and EXPEED 2 TM image processing engine, with 14-bit A/D conversion, along with both a new metering system and new AF system.

The company describes the metering system as “groundbreaking”—it is a 2,016 pixel RGB 3D Matrix Metering System. Another Nikon first, this system interprets scene data for improved control of light metering and i-TTL flash output. Additionally there is now a new Ambient white balance setting which gives images a warm rendering in Automatic White Balance.

The 39-point AF system includes nine center cross-type sensors that operate with more than 60 Nikkor lenses. The system is designed to acquire the autofocus of the subject faster and track it better. Additionally, photographers can activate dynamic or single point AF, configurable in varying combinations of AF points to match a variety of shooting situations. Photographers can also activate 3D tracking, which continuously follows moving subjects within the 39 AF points.

The D7000 can capture full 1080p HD video, with full-time autofocus, giving photographers the ability to produce sharp movie footage without having to manually focus during capture. Photographers also now have manual exposure control while shooting video. The camera can even track up to 35 faces for critical HD focus. Frame rates include 24 fps at 1080p, or 720p recording at either 24 or 30 fps for up to 20 minutes a clip. And, video clips can be trimmed and edited in-camera to save post-production time.

The camera utilizes dual SD media card slots.

Exciting new features of the D7000 include the ability to process RAW images in-camera, and add special effects via the retouch menu. The ISO range of the camera is 100 – 6400, expandable up to 25,600. The camera has the ability to shoot six fps for a burst of 100 images. Other features include a dual SD media card slot, compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards; a built-in iTTL Speedlight and wireless commander support; a 3-inch LCD, Live View, and a brand new battery designed to offer more shooting on a full charge.

Nikon’s D7000 is durable; the body is built from magnesium-alloy and incorporates a 150,000 cycle-rated shutter system. Additionally, the DSLR is dust and moisture sealed and features Nikon’s dust reduction system. A new Mode Dial eschews traditional Scene Mode icons for more advanced manual functions and two user-defined settings. Placed under the control wheel is a Release Mode dial, which allows access to the burst modes, timer, and Quiet Shutter.

While the D7000 is priced at the enthusiast level, we definitely see pros using this camera, and can only assume that some of the groundbreaking new technologies incorporated into the D7000 will be making their way into new pro level models soon!

AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G lens

The D7000 DSLR is scheduled for mid-October delivery with an MSRP of $1,199.95 for the body only and $1,499.95 for body/lens kit including the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens.

Two  Nikkor Prime Lenses

Nikon also announced the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G and AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2 ED VR II professional lenses.

Both are fast prime lenses, featuring Nikon’s famous glass, and hefty price tags. The fast apertures of both lenses make them ideal for low-light shooting and movie capture.

The 35mm lens can be used on Nikon DSLRs with both the full-frame FX format image sensors as well as the smaller DX format sensors, such as the brand new D7000. When used on a camera with a DX sensor or on an FX format camera in DX Crop Mode, the lens has an effective focal length of 52.5mm.

AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II lens

The AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II, like its 200mm f/2 predecessor, is incredibly fast. The VR system provides up to four stops of correction. Because the lens uses an Internal Focusing (IF) system, the lens barrel doesn’t extend when focusing. There are three focus modes on this lens, the conventional M/A and M modes, and an A/M mode. The lens also features a Tripod Detection Mode, which automatically compensates for minute vibrations when mounted on a tripod and allows users to keep VR image stabilization on and active.

The AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G lens will be available in mid-November with an MSRP of $1,799.95. The AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II will be available early October for an MSRP of $5,999.95.

SB-700 Speedlight

Today, Nikon also introduced the SB-700 Speedlight, designed for a range of photographers. The flash incorporates a wide zoom range and FX/DX-format identification system that optimizes the flash based on the camera body used. The SB-700 can be used as an on-camera flash or wireless flash (set up as a Commander or a Remote) for use in multiple flash set-ups. An improved user interface includes a large easy-to-read LCD panel. The flash can recycle in approximately 2.5 seconds for full power with NiMH batteries and 3 seconds with AA Alkaline batteries.

SB-700 Speedlight

For improved durability, heat-resistance and ease-of-use, the SB-700 uses new hard plastic-type color filters for fluorescent or incandescent color temperature balancing. When using the supplied filters, the flash automatically recognizes which filter is being used and adjusts white balance accordingly on select Nikon DSLRs.

Similar to the Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, three illumination patterns (standard, center-weighted and even) can be selected in SB-700 to match each shooting situation. And, like the SB-900, when the SB-700 is mounted on a camera compatible with user firmware updates, the SB-700 firmware can be updated using the same procedure as with a Nikon DSLR camera.

To enhance the weatherproof capability of the flash/camera, optional water guards will be available for select cameras to protect the connection between the flash and camera.

The Nikon SB-700 Speedlight is scheduled to be available in mid-November 2010, and will have an MSRP of $329.95. The SB-700 comes bundled with the Speedlight Stand, Bounce Adapter, Color Filter Holder, Intelligent Color Filter Kit, Diffuser Dome and soft case.

For more information, go to www.nikonusa.com.


Olympus Introduces Flagship E-5 DSLR

Today Olympus announced the E-5, the new flagship E series DSLR. The camera uses a 12.3MP High-Speed Live MOS Sensor with Olympus’ proprietary TruePic V+ image processing engine for crisp images that display greater detail than previously available. The E-5 also incorporates the capability to shoot 720p HD video, at 30 frames per second.

Other features of the camera include a 3-inch, 270 degree swivel LCD for flexibility when shooting isn’t straight on, and 10 creative in-camera Art Filters that can be applied to both still and video.

The art filters are an example of features that first appeared on enthusiast level DSLRs and have migrated to the pro level. The Art Filters can be used in all shooting modes. ISO range is 100 to 6400, and the top shutter speed is 1/8000 of a second. The camera can capture up to four multiple exposures to be combined in either real time or in the camera at a later time.

The E-5 employs an in-body Mechanical Image Stabilization system to compensate for camera movement, up to 5 EV steps. Now the full line of compatible Olympus Zuiko Digital lenses become image stabilized.

The new Dramatic Tone art filter represents real space in a more imaginary way by applying unrealistic tones of light and darkness based on local changes in contrast. This new filter joins the Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process and Gentle Sepia filters previously available on the E-30, E-620 and PEN series cameras.

Rear of the E-5 with optional vertical grip attached.

Like its predecessor, the E-3, the E-5 is completely splashproof and dustproof. The camera also uses a built-in Dust Reduction System with a Supersonic Wave Filter. The shutter is expected to withstand 150,000 exposures.

The Olympus E-5 is compatible with a range of external flashes and can wirelessly control both the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R flashes with its commander function incorporated into its built-in flash.

The E-5 has a built-in microphone and also features a microphone jack so you can use external microphones for even greater quality audio capture while recording video.  The E-5 can accept both CompactFlash Type I UDMA and SD (SDHC/SDXC) media cards.

Olympus is scheduled to ship the E-5 DSLR in October. Street pricing for the E-5 body is $1,699.99.

For more information, go to: www.olympusamerica.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld


Canon Introduces PowerShot G12

Canon’s PowerShot G12 is one of those P&S cameras that is so much more than a P&S, and that’s why we’re including it here. Just introduced today, the camera’s predecessors have been a popular choice by professional photographers as their “carry around anytime/all the time” camera, and we’re sure the new G12 will be just as hot.

The PowerShot G12 is packed with many of the features that were found in the PowerShot G11, the camera that it replaces, with the addition of High Def video capture and Canon’s HS (High Sensitivity) system. The G12 utilizes a 10MP High Sensitivity CCD sensor and Canon’s proprietary DIGIC 4 image processor to reduce noise.

Other features of the camera include 720p HD video recording, a full range of shooting and recording modes, a 5x optical zoom with image stabilization, a 2.8-inch LCD, and now, an HDR (high dynamic range) scene mode. Optional accessories include Canon Speedlite flashes, an underwater housing, and a tele-converter lens.

Canon is scheduled to ship the G12 in early October for an estimated price of $499.99. For more info, go to www.usa.canon.com.

Incidentally, the Canon PowerShot G series of cameras is one of those often chosen for Infrared conversion, as we found out when we researched a recent article on the 100th Anniversary of Infrared Photography. To read that article, click here.

— Diane Berkenfeld


New Camera Gear from Pentax

Pentax today announced a new DSLR camera, lens and two P&S cameras, one of which we’ll be discussing later. Now onto the DSLR body and interchangeable lens.


New on the DSLR front is the Pentax K-r DSLR offering a wide range of automatic and manual features sure to appeal to most DSLR shooters. This 12.4MP camera is being offered in three colors: traditional black, classic white and Pentax red.

The K-r is the newest DSLR introduced by Pentax. It will be available in black, white and red.

Features of the K-r include a large 3-inch LCD, widescreen HD video capture (720p HD video at 25fps), maximum 1/6000 of a second shutter speed, large ISO range of 100 – 25600, and 6 fps framerate that can capture 25 images in a single sequence. Other features of the camera include a viewfinder focus point indicator, improved in-camera HDR mode including a Night Scene HDR mode, and improved noise performance.

Pentax offers two options to power the camera: a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or four AA-size batteries which means that if you’ve forgotten your charger or suddenly find yourself with a dead battery on vacation, you will be able to power the camera with four AA batteries using the optional AA Battery Holder (D-BH109).

The K-r also features infrared data transfer compatible with the IrSimple high-speed IR data transmission system for transfer to the web or other IrSimple-compatible devices. The K-r DSLR is packed with features. The K-r utilizes Pentax’s own shake reduction mechanism and dust removal mechanism.

The new smc Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL lens.

Creative types will love the addition of a wide-range of in-camera image processing and special effects filters. These include custom image functions, digital filters and cross processing modes. The camera ships with the Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4 software package that includes a RAW processor.

Pentax will be shipping the K-r in October. MSRP for the K-r body is $799.95, MSRP for the K-r with the 18-55mm lens kit is $849.95, MSRP for the K-r double lens kit including the 18-55mm lens and 50-200mm lens is $899.95, and the MSRP for the K-r double lens kit with the 18-55mm lens and 55-300mm lens is $999.95.

35mm Lens

Pentax also announced the smc Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL standard lens. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 0.3 meters. The new 35mm lens is also expected to ship in October with an MSRP of $219.95.

Optio RS1000

Although we usually feature DSLRs here on the Picture-soup.com blog we wanted to mention the new 14MP Pentax Optio RS1000 P&S camera.

The Pentax Optio RS1000 on the left and some of the included skins on the right (note, skins are not to scale).

This compact P&S model is unique in that it comes with 11 different skins that allow users to customize the camera to their own personality. In addition to the included skins, Pentax is also including a Skinit gift card so users can order a high quality, pre-cut 3M vinyl skin from www.skinit.com. Other ways to personalize these compact cameras include using the included stencil on printed photos or other unique printed pieces to use as skins; or download the Pentax personal skin designer software that lets you import a photo and save the skin as a PDF for printing.

For more information, go to www.pentaximaging.com.


Sony Adds New Alpha DSLRs & Lenses to Line

Alpha a55 and a33 DSLRs

The Sony Alpha a33 DSLR

Late last month Sony added to its Alpha DSLR line with new camera bodies and lenses. The products include cameras that feature Sony’s newly-developed Translucent Mirror Technology. This technology means the cameras can continuously and quickly focus while shooting stills and video, even full HD.

The new 16.2MP Alpha a55 can capture up to 10 fps, and the 14.2MP a33 can capture up to seven fps. Both cameras utilize Sony’s proprietary Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, BIONZ high-speed image processing engine and 100% Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder.

The Translucent Mirror technology enables light to pass through the lens, and simultaneously be received by the image sensor and AF sensor, so there’s no need to raise and lower the mirror, hence the cameras are significantly more compact than traditional DSLRs.

Rear of the Sony Alpha a55 DSLR with its LCD folded out

Other features include: a newly developed 15-point AF system with continuous Phase Detect AF. While shooting video, the cameras can maintain continuous focus, which means it will be easier than ever to get great video footage; full-time Live View, using either the viewfinder or LCD;  large 3-inch, fully articulated LCDs; and an ISO range from 100-12,800.

Also new is the Auto HDR feature which gives photographers the ability to capture High Dynamic Range photographs with ease; 3D Sweep Panorama technology that creates two images from a single frame, for viewing in 3D on compatible 3D systems and other devices that support 3D technology; and Sony’s Multi-Frame Noise Reduction The Alpha a55 also incorporates a built-in GPS.

Alpha A560 DSLR

Sony Alpha a560 with its built-in flash popped-up

In addition to the Alpha 55 and 33 cameras, Sony also added the A560 to its line. This new DSLR features a number of proprietary Sony technologies include Sony’s Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor, BIONZ image processor, Multi-frame Noise Reduction, Sweep Panorama, 3D Sweep Panorama and full HD video capture.

At 14.2MP, the A560 also features Quick AF Live View, seven fps continuous shooting and Auto HDR. The camera features a 3-inch LCD that tilts 90 degrees up/down. In addition to the regular Quick AF Live View, the camera utilizes a Focus Check Live View for critical framing and focusing. The camera also has a wide ISO range up to 25600.

All three DSLR cameras accept Memory Stick PRO Duo (including Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo) and SD (including both SDHC and SDXC formats) media.

While these are not necessarily pro-level DSLR bodies, we do expect to see them in the gear bags of pro photographers who are Sony shooters as back-up cameras; as well as with semi-pros and enthusiasts looking for a more affordable camera.

Camera Pricing and Availability

The a55 and a33 cameras will cost about $750 and $650 (respectively) for the body only and about $850 and $750 (respectively) for the body and kit 18-55mm zoom lens. The a33 is expected to hit store shelves in September and the a55 in October

The a560 model with the camera body and 18-55mm kit lens has an MSRP of $750 and will be available in October. Body only MSRP is $650.

Three New A-Mount Lenses

(l. to r.) Sony's three new A-mount prime lenses: Carl Zeiss Distagon T*24mm f/2 ZA SSM, DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM, and 85mm f/2.8 SAM lenses. (Images are not to scale.)

Sony is expanding its A-mount lens line with three new prime lenses including the Carl Zeiss Distagon T*24mm f/2 ZA SSM, DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM, and 85mm f/2.8 SAM lenses. MSRP for the three new lenses are  $1,250, $200, $250 respectively. The lenses will be available in October.

— Diane Berkenfeld