The New Sony Alpha 380 And My Review Of The New Sony DSLR

Sony Alpha 380 front view

Facing tough competition from 12- to 15-megapixel DSLRs from Canon and Nikon, Sony’s new 14.2MP Alpha 380 $850, street, with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 SAM lens comes up somewhat short.

It has a couple of big strengths. Live-view shooting is the best we’ve used on any DSLR to date. It offers built-in wireless flash control—all too rare in consumer-level cameras. And its controls, from the placement of buttons to the made-for-beginners display interface, are very well designed.

But, unlike its chief rivals, Canon’s 15.1MP EOS Rebel T1i ($810, street, with 18–55mm f/3.55.6 IS lens) and Nikon’s 12.3MP D5000 ($850, street, with 18–55mm f/3.55.6 VR lens), the Alpha 380 doesn’t offer video capture. And, in our tests in the Pop Photo Lab, it ran neck-and-neck with the Nikon, but behind the Canon.

Test Performance on the Sony Alpha 380

With an APS-C-sized CCD sensor, the Alpha 380 earned an Extremely High rating in our resolution test, barely ahead of the Nikon. Given the Sony’s extra pixels, we’d have expected a little more. Color accuracy earned an Excellent rating, though its score trailed those of both the others.

Noise is also a mixed bag. On the one hand, the A380 scored a Moderate rating at its highest sensitivity setting of ISO 3200, never reaching Unacceptable in our rating scale. Even at ISO 1600 noise is Low, though that comes at the expense of some resolving power. But at ISO 800, it produces more noise than its rivals. We think this is because Sony steps up the noise reduction at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. (We run our tests at the default settings using the manufacturer’s RAW conversion software.)

At the brightest part of our autofocus speed test, the Sony proved extremely fast for this class. Once the light reached the rough equivalent of a well-lit living room, though, the A380 fell behind the Canon. And in the dimmest levels in our test, it fell behind both of the others.

Sony rates the AF system for use down to a light level of 0 EV, a little brighter than full moonlight—in our test, it focuses down to –1 EV, same as the Nikon. But the Canon’s AF worked in the truly dim conditions of –2 EV, the lowest we test. Diehard low-light shooter? You may be happier with the Canon.

Sony’s sensor-shifting image stabilization is a real boon, however. In our tests, we averaged between 2 and 3 stops of leeway when shooting handheld. So, if you’d normally shoot at 1/400 sec, you should be able to get a sharp version of the same shot at 1/100 sec or even as slow as 1/50 sec, depending on how steadily you hold the camera.

Plus, since the stabilization is in the camera body, it will work with any lens you can mount, including old Konica Minoltas.

Live View with Sony Alpha 380 

The A380, like all Sony Alphas, has the best live-view system we’ve seen. Other DSLRs expose the imaging sensor to let you frame your picture in live view, then flip down the mirror to autofocus, and flip it back out of the way to fire. This causes a significant lag between your pressing the shutter button and the picture being taken.

But, thanks to a second sensor placed near its pentamirror, the A380 doesn’t need to expose the main sensor to let you compose in live view. You can autofocus conventionally, using the TTL phase-detection AF module, and there’s no delay.

You can tilt the A380’s 2.7-inch LCD monitor up and down. Although we prefer the full range of motion offered by the LCDs on the Nikon D5000 and Olympus E-620 ($700, street, with 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 lens), we used it quite a lot in our field testing.

Handling and Controls on the Sony Alpha 380

One reason we stuck with live view: To avoid holding the redesigned grip.

The A380 feels unbalanced, even with the light new 50mm f/1.8 DT SAM lens (tested on page 78). The shape gives you nothing substantial for your fingers to wrap around, and any righthand finger action, such as turning the command wheel to change a setting, made the camera feel as if it would slip and fall. Too bad—we loved the steady grips of earlier Alphas.

Still, Sony’s designers got many other things right. It sounds like a small detail, but we appreciated the switch on the top of the camera that lets you move easily between live view and the optical viewfinder.

We also liked the placement of the exposure compensation button—on an angled part of the camera back, where you can reach it with your thumb but won’t press it accidentally. (Alas, it also controls the playback zoom, and several times we zoomed in on the instant review of our last shot when we’d meant to set exposure comp for the next.)

Other double-duty controls were far more helpful. The menu-control pad also lets you set commonly used functions, such as flash, ISO, drive mode, and AF. Other settings, such as white balance, can be found quickly using the function button.

We’re also fans of the standard mini-HDMI output and the dual SD and Memory Stick card slots, though it would be better if you could automatically go back and forth between them instead of having to use a physical switch.

Since the A380 is intended for lessexperienced photographers, it’s no surprise that it has a handful of scene modes on the top dial. When you turn it, the LCD displays a brief description of the selected shooting mode.

And the A380 has Sony’s new graphical interface for people who are just learning photographic concepts. It shows a scale for aperture and another for shutter speed. This has a running figure at the faster end and a standing one at the slow end, implying that you need faster speeds for moving objects. It’s a nice touch for beginners—and if you don’t like it, you can easily switch to an alternate display mode.

Nikon’s Newest DSLR The Nikon D3S

Nikon is all about the “S” here in 2009. Nikon’s newest pro-level DSLR checks in at $5,199.95, which is about $200 more than its predecessor, the D3. Notable upgrades come in the form of an HD video mode capable of capturing 1280 x 720 (720p) footage at 24 fps. There have also been some substantial upgrades in the ISO department. They have added a ISO 100 setting on the low end, as well as expanded sensitivity settings of ISO equivalent 25,600, 51,200 and an impressive 102,400.
At the heart of the D3S is a newly designed FX-format 36×23.9mm CMOS sensor that boasts the same pixel size and 12.1-megapixel resolution as the D3. They claim the new design gives it a higher signal-to-noise ratio as well as an “unmatched” dynamic range for both stills and video.

Other upgrades include a self-cleaning optical low pass filter that oscillates to shake off particles. There’s also a monaural microphone built-in, as well as an input for a stereo microphone if you want higher fidelity sound with your video.

All in all, the changes are few, but also quite signiicant. The increased sensitivity alone is groundbreaking, marking the first time any camera has allowed an ISO over 100,000. Photos are sure to be quite noisy at that level, but will let you capture images that weren’t possible before this camera came along. You can expect the D3S to show up at your Nikon dealer by the end of November. Check after the link for more photos and a rundown of all the critical specs.

Nikon D3S Information

–12.1-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor (36×23.9mm)
–ISO range from the equivalent of 100 all the way to the equivalent of 102,400
–Self-cleaning optical low pass filter
–Quieter shutter noise
–HD video recording up to 1280 x 720 (720p) at 24 fps
–Full aperture control from f/1.4 to f/16 in video mode
–Full-res image capture at 9 fps in FX format or 11 fps in DX crop mode
–1.2x crop mode
–2 UMDA compatible CompactFlash card slots for consecutive recording or simultatneous recording
–HDMI out port
–Multi-CAM 3500FX focus module with 51 AF points: 15 cross type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors
–Three AF modes: Single point, dynamic area AF and auto-area AF
–Live view mode
–Latest generation EXPEED Image Processing System provides faster processing and lower power consumption
–3D Color Matrix Metering II references the scene against 30,000 images in its internal database to calculate correct exposure
–Moisture, dust and shock resistant body with a shutter system tested to 300,000 cycles
–100% viewfinder with .7x magnification
–3-inch LCD with 921,000 dot resolution

–Up to 4200 shots per single battery charge

Photographing Birthday Parties Destin Florida

I enjoy Photographing Birthday Parties in Destin Florida. They are a time of joy for the youg and old alike. They are usually a time for family get together and remembering the parties of the past. The are often held at pool side or on the Gulf Beaches at a beach pavilion on a Sunday afternoon. Destin Florida is a great place to live and photograph Birthday Parties.

Photographing Birthday Parties

Birthday party photography is fun. It is like shooting a wedding without the tears and commitments. I forgot shotguns if you are from the south. It is a time to document the party with photography from start to finish.

Nikon D300s DSLR Review: Not Much of an Upgrade! Come On Nikon!

The D300s remains a capable, even impressive camera. I mean, it’s not like it got worse: The D300 retains the same sensor, excellent 51-point autofocus system, fantastic chassis build quality and ergonomics—just about the same everything—as the D300, and it still holds up 2 years later, mostly.

Low-light performance is solid, as you can see in the giant sample gallery here that walks through ISO ranges. We’re talking fairly good-looking stuff up through ISO1600, though noise starts to creep in there, finally getting oogly around ISO3200. It’s no 5D Mark II or D700, but it still stands up. Color saturation remains top-notch, and it seemed to handle white balance even a bit better than 5DMkII we shot alongside last week. Bottom line, though, you’re getting the same D300 performance.

The New Features Are
• 720p video recording
• Extra SDHC slot
• More Active-D Lighting controls
• Tweaked button layout

What’s majorly new in the D300s is video, and even it’s not a whole lot different than what you saw with the D90, which also shot 720p video and had a similar 12.3MP sensor. But, there’s stereo input, and you can autofocus during recording. However it’s god-awful slow, so you’re better off doing it your own damn self. Not to mention movies are capped at 5 measly minutes. And if you’re still in live view, you can’t actually watch the stuff you’ve just shot, since the playback button is how you adjust the display’s brightness in live view mode.

The video quality itself is good, generally, but pushing past ISO1600, it starts getting a little dicey Beyond video, my favorite new addition to the D300s are the dual memory card slots, which were formerly a super pro feature. The extra slot holds an SDHC card, which you can use a number of different ways—continuing the storage over from the CF card, duping whatever goes to the CF card, or to save JPEGs from RAW+JPEG shooting. FYI, OS X and Aperture don’t support D300s RAW files yet.

And of course, one of the best things about Nikon cameras is that since the lens mount for their SLRs hasn’t changed in about 50 years, you can use seriously vintage lenses and save money, which is something we definitely took advantage of while shooting.

Here’s the thing about the D300s: It’s a great camera, no doubt. The problem is two-fold: At $1800, it costs the exact same as the D300 did when it was released two years ago, but beyond video, delivers no major advancements. There’s no new pixel-squeezing camera tech here. The other part is that the very shortly forthcoming 7D from Canon is their first direct competitor to Nikon’s D_00 semi-pro cameras, and it may make the value proposition look even less fantastic with what appears to be the most advanced video features of any DSLR yet. As it stands, the D300s is a tough purchase call (you can pick up a D300 for $150 less if you don’t need video), and certainly not a necessary upgrade. But we hope to head-to-head the 7D and D300s very soon to figure out the best camera you can buy for about $1800.

We want Nikon to just given us the D400 like we wanted. If you’re going to spend $1700, you’re probably a pretty serious amateur. So why not spend $2100 and get the full frame D700 with twice the sensor area.


In every walk of life the way you deal with people is incredibly important and can determine how successful you become. Photography is a people business. Even if you primarily take pictures of inanimate subjects – cars, food and architecture – you will still be dealing with a lot of people to make your shoots work.When it comes to photographing actors and models your people skills are even more important.I’d like to share a story with you that made me quite sad and inspired writing this blog. We’ve recently been doing headshots for actors, like Leanne above, and I kept hearing the same thing.Most actors wanting headshots need them for a casting, for their book and their headshots have to be regularly updated. This means they experience different photographers. Sometimes they work with a photographer provided by an agency and other times they search for a specialist headshot or portrait photographer who knows what agents and casting directors are looking for and how to present the actor in an honest, useful way that will catch the eye of casting agents.The actors we photograph all said the same thing; how comfortable they felt, how patient and easy going we are and how enjoyable the photo-shoot had been. You may think actors are comfortable in front of the lens but when it comes to stills and they don’t have a script and they are not acting, they can feel as vulnerable as next person.The stories I heard were about how some photographers treated their models and actors as objects. They were often abrupt, rude and sarcastic, and in some cases reduced the models to tears. In particular this happened with photographers working for a modelling/acting agency. The photographer saw their client as the agency feeding them a conveyor belt of actors and models to photograph.These photographers probably took very good care of their agency clients but forgot that their subjects, the actors and models are real people. I think this is appalling. Now I know that sometimes models and actors can be ‘difficult’ but there is absolutely no excuse for not treating people right.Photography is a service industry, and like a hairdresser, restaurant or high street retailer we have to ensure our customers, the people we photograph, have a good and rewarding experience – before, during and after the shoot. And that goes for the whole team on the shoot too – make-up, hair, styling and assistants.Treat people right and you’ll go a long way in this business.

Advanced Photoshop Magazine Cover Art Contest

Advanced Photoshop, in association with, is offering four digital artists the chance to see their work on the cover of the magazine, as well as win some great prizes. has supplied ten fantastic images, which can be downloaded from You’ll need to log in to an account to get the images, but don’t worry if you don’t have one as registration is free and easy…

Photoshop CS4 Compositing: Surreal Landscapes, Sample Chapters

Here are two sample chapters from Real World Compositing With Adobe Photoshop CS4 book.

Wacom Adds Multi-Touch To Bamboo – Combining Multi-Touch And Pen Input

Wacom today announced an exciting new computer input solution with the introduction of Multi-Touch in its new family of Bamboo tablets. Bamboo tablets are USB peripherals that deliver natural and intuitive input to desktop or laptop computer users. With the ultimate goal of creating harmony between humans and technology, Wacom combines Multi-Touch (finger- based input) with pen input to deliver an entirely new standard in human-computer interaction.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 and Adobe Premiere Elements 8 – Product Overview

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 software gives you power and ease of use so you can do some amazing storytelling with photos and videos. Bring all your video clips and photos together in one convenient place where you can easily find, view, and manage them; protect them with automatic online backup and 2GB of free storage; and then dive right into a full range of creative activities.


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