Camera Firmware Updates

Darren wrote this at 10:08 am:

Several firmware updates for various cameras have been released recently:

Olympus Announces Evolt E-330 DSLR

Darren wrote this at 3:10 am:

Olympus has made a lot of new product announcements this week, including their new Olympus Evolt E-330 digital SLR.

The E-330 is a ’4/3 System’ 7.5 megapixel DSLR, basically refining the previous model E-300′s feature set with improvements seen in the later E-500. The most striking new feature, though, is its ability to do full-time live preview on the rear LCD, something not available on any other digital SLR. There are two live-preview modes: A-Mode (full-time live view) allows for full use of the optical viewfinder as well as the rear LCD; B-Mode (macro live view) locks the mirror up preventing use of the optical viewfinder, is manual-focus only, but gives very accurate depth of field and framing with a 10x magnification option.

Obviously A-Mode will be useful for general photography and for handing the camera to bystanders to take a shot, while B-Mode is designed for more technical tripod-based photography such as macro and still life work.

DPReview has posted an Evolt E-330 Preview examining the features of this interesting new camera, including a very good look at how live view works.

Edit: fixed the link to DPReview. Thanks to those who emailed to let me know it was wrong!

Olympus E-500 Firmware 1.1

Darren wrote this at 7:39 pm:

Olympus has just released E-500 firmware version 1.1. To download, simply open the Olympus Master software, connect the camera via USB to the computer and log onto the internet. Choose the Update Camera function from the Online Service menu in the Olympus Master software and the update will be initiated immediately.

Improvements/updates include:

  • Button timer: As well as the current three and five seconds, photographers can now increase the time interval between when a button is pressed and when the camera reverts back to the current mode, to eight seconds. This provides for more time to make necessary adjustment in difficult situations and lets enables better customisation for personal preferences.
  • Enhanced one-touch WB functions: In addition to one-touch WB, test picture, my mode and preview – customers can now select a WB OFF mode. By choosing this function, the WB button is disabled in order to avoid any unintentional activation.
  • Security step: When erasing both RAW and JPG files of one image, a new security step has been added. The camera will display a warning message to alert users that both images will be deleted. This additional step ensures data will not be lost unintentionally.

Photoshop Camera Raw 3.3 Beta

Darren wrote this at 5:32 pm:

Adobe has just released a Camera Raw 3.3 public beta, which adds support for RAW files from:

  • Canon EOS 5D and 1D Mark II N
  • Olympus E-500, SP-310, SP-350, SP-500UZ
  • Pentax *ist DL, *ist DS2
  • Sony DSC-R1

Adobe warns:

This version of Camera Raw is in a Beta stage and has not been fully tested by Adobe Systems. Please use Camera Raw 3.2 for the latest certified plug-in.

At this stage it’s probably only worth upgrading if you need support for one of the cameras listed above.

Why Full-Frame 35mm Digital?

Darren wrote this at 12:54 am:

No doubt inspired by the attention the new EOS 5D has been receiving, Edwin over at CameraHobby.com has just posted an article asking why we need full-frame 35mm digital sensors. The posts there don’t seem to have permalinks, so you’ll need to look for the August 24, 2005 entry on either the CameraHobby main page or on the Archives page (if you’re reading this sometime in the future when it’s scrolled off the main page). I think I agree with Edwin’s conclusions, but wanted to elaborate a little.

Besides the two arguments Edwin gives for full-frame 35mm DSLRs (the hassle of figuring out the 35mm-equivalent focal lengths of your lenses, and the problem of trying to shoot wide angle when you’ve got a 1.5x crop factor), there are three additional issues I can see:

  1. A larger sensor gives reduced depth of field, which appeals to some people. I have several fast prime lenses, and love working with narrow depth of field – the fact that I have an EOS 20D with a 1.6x crop factor works against me a little bit there.

  2. A larger sensor has larger individual pixels than a smaller sensor with the same pixel resolution (pretty obvious). This will always mean a better signal-to-noise ratio in the larger sensor’s image, meaning higher quality output (given the same technology used to manufacture and control the sensor and post-process the raw data). The corrollary of this is that a larger sensor with the same pixel size as a smaller sensor will produce a higher resolution image.

  3. A larger sensor is going to cost more to manufacture than a smaller one, even given the same economies of scale, technologies, processes, etc.

If we’re going to question “why choose the 35mm frame size?”, I guess we really need to question “why choose the APS-C or APS-H frame size?” as well. The only reason we currently have them is because they were a reasonable trade-off between cost (larger sensors cost disproportionately more to manufacture than smaller ones) and the practicality of continuing to use 35mm lenses and body designs. Basically the smaller sensors are good enough, but a much better price.

If you could ignore your legacy investment in lenses and accessories, then:

  • if size, weight and cost matter most to you, you’d go for the smaller Four Thirds format and a camera like the Olympus E-1
  • if absolute image quality, resolution, and control over depth of field are your main concerns, you’d go for a medium format digital back like one of the Phase One P series

APS-C (1.5x and 1.6x crop), APS-H (1.3x crop) and full-frame 35mm are just points along the path between the extremes of SLR bodies: Four Thirds format (18mm x 13.5mm) at the small end and 645 medium format (60mm x 45mm) at the big end. Each of those points represents some kind of trade-off between all the factors mentioned above, and so each represents an ideal solution for some group of photographers. As long as each group of photographers is an economically-viable size, various manufacturers will be there to meet their needs.

I can see the niche APS-H format eventually being phased out (it’s only offered by Canon currently, and then only on expensive bodies optimized for sports shooting), but I think the others will probably be with us in DSLRs for a while yet.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there’s a place for full-frame 35mm digital sensors? Are the Nikon guys just jealous? :-)

Olympus E-System Zuiko Digital Fisheye Lens

Darren wrote this at 8:17 am:

Olympus has announced a new lens for their E-System cameras – the Zuiko Digital Ed 8mm 1:3.5 fisheye lens. This lens features a full 180-degree angle of view, and can shoot macro at just 2cm from the subject. It will begin shipping in January 2006, with the price yet to be announced.

Olympus E-300 Firmware v1.3 Released

Darren wrote this at 12:20 am:

Olympus has released firmware version 1.3 for their E-300 DSLR. According to their press release, the changes include:

  • Enhanced exposure metering stability: To provide even more precise readings and give photographers more control over their compositions, the stability of Digital ESP and Centre-Weighted-Average metering has been improved.
  • Button Timer: Photographers can now set the time period for how long a modified setting remains active until it reverts to the basic setting of the mode currently in use. This customised interval setting option lets users tailor the camera better to their specific requirements.
  • Two new underwater scene programmes: Together with the PT-E01 underwater case and ports for the Olympus E-300, plus the wide range of accessories, photographers can now fully explore beneath the water’s surface. Two new scene programmes, Underwater Macro and Underwater Wide, have been specifically created for underwater photography.
  • Changed start-up process for future lenses: Looking to the future, the start-up process has been changed to support interchangeable lenses that will be released as the E-System range continues to grow.

The Great DSLR Shoot-Out

Darren wrote this at 12:14 am:

Popular Photography and Imaging has just published The Great DSLR Shoot-Out. They put up nine sub-$2,500 DSLRs head-to-head, comparing features and performance to help you decide which one is right for you.

The cameras reviewed are:

  • Canon EOS 20D
  • Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel)
  • Fujifilm Finepix S3 Pro
  • Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
  • Nikon D70
  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus Evolt E-300
  • Pentax *ist DS
  • Sigma SD10

The article is in PDF format, so you can print it out and analyse it in detail when shopping for a digital SLR.