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Green Mountain Camera Blog

  • Sekonic to host a Live Online Video Seminar August 11th, 2011

    Sekonic Live Online Video SeminarSekonic just notified us of an upcoming live video seminar to be hosted 8/11/2011 at 1:00pm (EDT) on the Sekonic website. We think this is a great (FREE!) opportunity to pick up some new information, tips, and/or tricks. Sekonic provides the following description for this seminar:

    Log on August 11 at 1:00pm (EDT) for a free one-hour live seminar, hosted by noted photographer and educator Joe Brady. You'll have a front-row seat from the comfort of your home or office as you participate in our interactive streaming-video seminar broadcast in real time here on this page. In this session, we will explore common lighting situations that can occur when shooting outside, along with easy-to-follow solutions that give you the quality you want for your environmental portraits.

    Sekonic continues with the following information about what will be specifically covered:

    Creating portraits on location can be a great way to have both flattering light and beautiful surroundings to complement your subject. The place you and your client choose can help tell a story that says something about what is important to them.

    All of this sounds wonderful, but there’s a problem here as well. Many times, the light and cast shadows are not particularly flattering on your subject. Sometimes the problems are obvious and sometimes they are subtle, but to create a quality portrait, these are issues that have to be dealt with.

    In this session, we’ll explore a few common lighting situations that can occur when shooting outside, and we'll offer you some easy-to-follow solutions that can help you solve these challenges. We’ll explore ways to overcome problem lighting with tools that are simple and effective, and we’ll use a handheld light meter to provide us with all the information we need to control and shape the light in beautiful environmental portraits.

    In case you missed part 1 of the series (Control the Light and Improve Your Photography:
    Part I – Portraiture using Available Light), we have posted it here for your convenience:

  • Leica M9 Upgrade Program

    With the release of the Leica M9-P some M9 owners will wonder if the added benefits of purchasing an M9-P will be available to them. The short answer is "yes". Leica Camera Inc. in Allendale, NJ has just setup an upgrade program for current M9 owners. The longer answer, however, is "sort-of".  One thing an M9 owner will not be able to ever say is that they own an M9-P. Leica Camera Inc. will not upgrade the hot shoe of the M9s to read "M9-P". M9 owners will be able to have the LCD upgraded to be protected by the very tough Sapphire Glass of the M9-P. In addition, the top and bottom plates can be replaced to resemble the styling of the M9-P. The upgrade comes in two flavors:

    Leica M9 Upgrade Package 1 – Sapphire Glass
    • The display cover will be replaced with the valuable sapphire glass of the M9-P.
    • Choice between Vulcanite Leatherette or Smooth MP-Style Leatherette.
    • This upgrade will include a one year warranty extension valued at 345€.

    Leica M9 Upgrade Package 2 – Top Cover and Sapphire Glass
    • The display cover will be replaced with the valuable sapphire glass of the M9-P.
    • The top cover will be replaced with either the silver chrome or black painted M9-P top cover.
    • The bottom cover will be replaced with the corresponding color.
    • Choice between Vulcanite Leatherette or Smooth MP-Style Leatherette.
    • The upgrade includes a one-year warranty extension valued at 345€.

    The cost of the first package is $1295, and the second is $1995.

    Upgrades will be performed by technicians trained specifically to perform these upgrades in Allendale, NJ. Work will begin shortly after October, and on a first-come, first-serve basis based on reservations. If you are interested in an upgrade, please contact us at (802) 244-0883, or We will contact Leica directly, and we will get you a reservation for upgrade. Leica will not take any cameras before that reservation, so please do not send or give us your camera before that appointment. Leica is hoping that upgrades will done in less than 4-weeks, but it all depends on overall demand and workload. Leica feels that by scheduling upgrade appointments, upgrade times will keep to a minimum. Once we receive your M9 just before your reserved upgrade date we will get it off to Leica. At that point, turnaround time is not in our hands.

    Leica provided us with an FAQ for the upgrades. We thought it would be very helpful to customers if we published that information here:

    Can any M9 be upgraded?
    Yes, any M9 can be upgraded.

    When is the upgrade available?
    Reserving time slots begins on August 8, 2011 and Upgrades begin on October 3, 2011
    Reservations are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

    What is the cost?
    The Leica M9 Upgrade Package 1 cost $1,295.00 and the Leica M9 Upgrade Package 2 cost $1,995.

    When do I have to pay for the upgrade?
    The customer books an upgrade slot and has to pay upon booking. You can compare this to a concert ticket.

    Can I choose my slot (day of repair in case I plan a vacation)?
    Capacity for upgrades is limited. All upgrades will be performed in the order of their booking payments. Leica will contact the customer when the upgrade slot is coming close to limit the time without camera.

    Where will the upgrades be done?
    The upgrades will be done at Leica Camera USA’s facility in Allendale, NJ.

    How long will the upgrade take? How long will I be without my camera?
    Upgrade capacity is limited. Leica will get in contact with the customer when the upgrade on his/her camera can be performed. Our goal is to have a door-to-door time of less than 4 weeks.

    For the cost of the M9, should it not have come with these features?
    The sapphire glass is unique on cameras. The sapphire glass has a very high material cost. It would raise the prices on standard cameras; therefore we are offering this as an upgrade.

    Is this not just Leica charging the customer to fix design flaws in the camera?
    The LCD glass is standard in the industry and does not represent a design flaw.

    Will I be able to purchase a new M9 with these upgrades? Will they become ‘standard’?
    A new M9 will not have these upgrades. The upgrades will not become ‘standard’ to the M9. Customers should instead buy the M9-P.

    Will the Sapphire Glass cover be available as a part?
    The sapphire glass will not be available as a single spare part.

    Can I have either Upgrade Package without the Warranty Extension for a reduced cost?

    As I have already bought a one-year warranty extension for 345€ can the warranty on my camera be extended by an additional year?

    Can I get a refund for the earlier one-year warranty which I bought?

    Will I get a new warranty card with the upgrade?
    No. Proof for the additional warranty can be submitted with the invoice number, invoice date or even by giving us the serial number of the camera, as all necessary information is in our system.

    Can I have a top plate in one color and bottom plate in another color?

    Can the leatherette on an M9 be changed?
    Yes, it can be changed for an additional charge if not done as part of the upgrade.

    What happens to the serial number?
    The serial number remains the same.

    Is the lettering “M9-P” engraved on the existing horse shoe?
    No, it will not have the lettering “M9-P”.

  • Olympus Electronic Viewfinder VF-3 Announced and Compared

    Yesterday Olympus announced a new electronic viewfinder, the Olympus VF-3. This viewfinder comes at the heels of the VF-2, which is a widely popular accessory for the PEN system, including the new PEN E-P3, as well as the extremely popular XZ-1 high-end compact point-and-shoot.

    Olympus VF-3 Electronic Viewfinder

    Olympus VF-3 Electronic Viewfinder - Launched Yesterday

    Quick side note: The PEN E-P2, E-PL1, E-PL2 and XZ-1 will require a firmware update to properly operate the VF-3. This will be available soon.

    The VF-2 features a very high-resolution display with excellent magnification and 100% image coverage. With such a high-quality, successful finder, why would Olympus bother to come out with the VF-3? Our best guess is price. The VF-2 retails for $249, while the VF-3 is just $179. Customers purchasing an XZ-1, which retails for around $500, have a hard time swallowing a $250 accessory finder (half the price of the camera itself). In addition, the more value conscious PENs, like the E-PL2 and the newly announced E-PL3, aren't much more than the XZ-1 in price too. If the VF-3 is less money, what's the catch? Less resolution and less magnification are the two biggest features to be compromised. Still the VF-3 has 920,000 pixels of resolution, 100% frame coverage, and .97x magnification. The competing Panasonic finder at the same price only has 220,000 pixels, but does have greater magnification. The performance should therefore be adequate for even more critical work required of the accessory VF-3 finder.

    We thought it would be useful if we published the full specifications for the two Olympus viewfinders here, and also published the specifications for the Panasonic DMW-LVF1 too, for a full comparison. This will give you an idea of how each finder stacks up against the other in what is becoming a very popular micro four-thirds market.

    Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder

    Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder

     Price: $249
    LCD Resolution: 1,400K dots
    Field of View: 100%
    Magnification: 1.15x
    Eye-Point 18mm
    Diopter Adjustment: Yes, -3.0 to +1.0 m
    Shoe-Lock: NO
    Articulating Body: 0-90 Degrees
    Optional Eye-Cup: YES, EP-9

    Olympus VF-3 Electronic Viewfinder

    Olympus VF-3 Electronic Viewfinder

     Price: $179
    LCD Resolution: 920K dots
    Field of View: 100%
    Magnification: .97x
    Eye-Point 17.4mm
    Diopter Adjustment: Yes, -3.0 to +1.0 m
    Shoe-Lock: YES
    Articulating Body: 0-90 Degrees
    Optional Eye-Cup: NO

    Panasonic DMW-LVF1 Electronic Viewfinder

    Panasonic DMW-LVF1 Electronic Viewfinder

     Price: $179
    LCD Resolution: 220K dots
    Field of View: 100%
    Magnification: 1.4x
    Eye-Point 17.5mm
    Diopter Adjustment: Yes, -4.0 to 4.0 m
    Shoe-Lock: NO
    Articulating Body: 0-90 Degrees
    Optional Eye-Cup: NO

  • Instant Savings This Week on Select Nikon Products

    Nikon D3100 DSLR with 18-55mm VR Lens
    Nikon D5100 DSLR with 18-55mm VR Lens
    Nikon Coolpix S4100
    Nikon Coolpix L24
    Nikon Coolpix S80
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens vs. Non-L Lens Comparison

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM L vs. non-L LensesWhen Canon announced the 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens late last year, we took it as very welcoming news. We could not think of a customer who was not happy with their 70-200mm L lens in terms of performance (whatever version it may be, although the f/4 non-IS is our most popular seller most likely due to the size, weight and price), but many of those 70-200mm owners wished they could have just a little more reach without the heft and weight of the 100-400mm L lens, in addition to the more awkward "push-pull" zoom function (the 70-200mm f/4 L is approx. 1.5 lbs., the 70-300mm L is approx. 2.3 lbs. and the 100-400mm L is just over 3 lbs.). The 70-300mm L lens now fits perfectly in that void of L lenses: a good compromise in size, weight, and focal length.

    The non-L 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens has always been a good seller for us. The price is right for the quality and features packed into this lightweight and portable zoom telephoto lens. Our customers on the whole have always been pleased with this lens, although we normally do not market it to the most discerning enthusiasts or professionals. One question that we have been hearing for a little while now is how does this lens compare with the newer L version of the same focal length zoom? In terms of L lenses, the 70-300mm L lens is not necessarily considered expensive, but compared to the non-L 70-300mm lens, it certainly does seem expensive, considering it is close to $1000 more. So, again, customers wonder, how do they compare? Is the L lens really that much better? We decided we had to definitively find out for ourselves, so we got out our old lens test chart from the basement, and had a look. What we found was interesting.

    We first tested both L and non-L 70-300mm lenses at the 300mm focal length. Customers purchasing a longer focal length telephoto lens are most likely purchasing it because they are planning on using the longer focal length. So, it only makes sense to start testing the lens at the longer focal length end of the zoom. We decided to try the testing with the Canon 60D, which is currently our most popular selling Canon digital SLR camera body. We set up the camera on a tripod at 26 times the focal length being tested, and shot with the exact same settings, only changing the lens in between shooting through a couple of apertures. We made sure to turn off any in-camera corrections, like Canon's peripheral illumination correction, noise reduction, etc.. The differences between these two lenses at the 300mm focal length are very, well, different. The L lens, hands-down, wins. Browse through the images below to see for yourself. Each image is a 100% crop of the lowest most right-hand corner of the lens test chart.

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens at f/16

    non-L @ f/16

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens at f/16

    L @ f/16

    We took a shot at f/16 to see both lenses closed down a bit. Looking at just the non-L image, you would consider that fairly sharp considering it is a 100% crop at the very edge of an image taken with a lens at 300mm. But, when you scroll down to see the image taken with the L lens, you realize the first is really not all that good. The clarity of the image taken with the L lens is phenomenal. The green and red Chromatic Aberrations of the non-L lens are very unsightly and distracting. The L lens holds them in check quite wonderfully.

    We then wanted to check the lenses both wide open. At the largest aperture, the optics of a lens are put to the test.

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens at f/5.6non-L @ f/5.6
    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens at f/5.6

    L @ f/5.6

    As you can see, the non-L lens falls apart and turns to mush while at the largest aperture of f/5.6 for this focal length. Although no longer tac-sharp, the L lens still maintains definition--you can make out what some of the numbers are supposed to be.

    We then wanted to see what the images looked like at the shortest focal length of both these lenses--70mm. S0, we moved the tripod closer to the test chart and gave it another go. Here we are including just the image taken with these lenses wide-open, at f/4.

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens at f/4

    non-L @ f/4

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens at f/4

    L @ f/4

    As you can see, at 70mm, there is not as great a difference between the two lenses as there was at 300mm. Both lenses are very sharp. If you quickly scroll up and down the L 70-300mm appears to have a little bit more clarity. As the aperture was stopped down, the differences between the two became less apparent.

    Although we did not have the time (this test was to just quickly see if there was a noticeable difference between the lenses) it would be interesting to try the lenses at other focal lengths to see how they compare. We imagine that most people purchasing a telephoto zoom will be leaning more towards the longer focal length end than the shorter focal length end of the zoom, and in comparing the two lenses at 300mm the L is therefore a much better lens to have in your camera bag. If you are looking for a telephoto zoom that will produce tac-sharp images, the L 70-300mm is an obvious choice. Also, you have to keep in mind that when purchasing this lens, the image quality is not the only part of the equation. The L lens is more solid, and better weather sealed. It just feels more sturdy in the hand. In addition, the speed of the autofocus is phenomenally fast. If you are looking to capture images of wildlife, the L 70-300mm is a great choice for getting quick-moving animals (think birds in flight) in focus and capturing them in a tac-sharp image.

    If you are interested in purchasing either of the lenses mentioned here, please visit our retail website by clicking here.


  • Zeiss Camera Lens News Issue No. 40 - Macro Photography

    More than 3 months ago Zeiss transformed their Camera Lens Newsletter into a blog. The previous newsletter was a series of articles assembled in an easy to download, print and/or view PDF file. The new blog format has the advantage of being more current and up-to-date by providing instant publishing of current topics. The Zeiss Camera Lens Newsletter is now simply a collection of blog posts for the last quarter (3 months), usually on a given subject or topic. This CLN is on macro photography, and the articles can be found here.

    Our favorite articles are Mozart in Miniature, and the ongoing series of articles about Zeiss lens names with this one highlighting Planar. Mozart in Miniature helps to highlight the detail and artistic bokeh of the 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar, a customer favorite for our store.

    Also, although this is not exactly on-topic in regards to Camera Lens News, it does involve Zeiss lenses. The Zeiss M-mount lenses continue to be tight in supply. Luckily, we have started to see more and more come through the pipeline. More recently we have received the Biogon T* 35mm f/2, which can be found here.

  • Nikon Support Article: "Why is 'in-lens' VR superior to 'in-camera' VR?"

    Diagram of lens shift correction VR systems

    Lens Shift Correction (from Nikon article mentioned in this post)

    Let's face it, the draw for many photographers to camera systems made by manufacturer's like Sony and Pentax is the in-camera anti-shake technology. Take any lens, including older lenses being used with adapters, and you have VR. Nikon obviously recognizes this draw because they recently found it necessary to point out the benefits of an in-lens vibration reduction system over an in-camera system. See the support article here:

    Why is 'in-lens' VR superior to 'in-camera' VR?

    Nikon highlights four points in this article, which we will include here for quick reading:

    1. Corrected finder image makes photo composition easy.
    2. Each lens is optimally tuned to achieve reliable correction.
    3. Image information captured by the AF and metering sensors is corrected with in-lens VR.
    4. Patterns of image blur are not the same with all lenses.

    We think point number 2 is probably the most important for arguing the in-lens anti-shake system over an in-camera system. It has now been widely accepted that in-lens anti-shake systems are more effective at reducing blur than in-camera systems, for the exact reason that point number 2 mentions.

    One thing that Nikon does not mention, and it is no surprise that they don't, is what benefit is the in-lens system if the lens does not have VR? Does Nikon manufacture a 50mm f/1.4 with vibration reduction? The answer is no. But mount a 50mm f/1.4 to a camera with an in-camera shake reduction system and you will see at least some benefit.

  • Inside the making of a Leica lens: A brief video

    We recently ran across a brief video highlighting some of the processes involved in the manufacturing and assembly of Leica lenses. Many people ask: "Why are Leica lenses (and products in general) more expensive than many other camera equipment manufacturers?" After this video you'll certainly get a better idea. Notice all of the people who are part of the manufacturing process. A lot of human hands go into making one lens.

    Here's the video:

  • Hoodman RAW STEEL SD Memory Cards: Why you need one (or two)







    Most major camera equipment manufacturer's are now making almost all of their digital cameras with Secure Digital (SD) memory for the storage platform. The once popular compactflash card is slowly being pushed aside, and for very good reason--size. Using a smaller storage device allows equipment makers to either decrease the size of their cameras, or to pack more image-crunching electronics inside the same sized body.

    Another benefit of SD memory: less breakdowns. As often as once every week we see a customer walk through our doors with a very sour look on their face. The culprit for the poor mood is a bent pin in their camera's CF card reader. If you have a digital camera that takes CF memory, take a look inside the door where the memory card goes. Inside there you will see two rows of gold-colored pins. If a CF card does not align just right when being inserted into the card reader, you can very easily bend one or more of those pins. Once that happens, lights out, and time to send the camera in for a repair. SD cards have electrical contacts on the back side, and they do not require intrusive pins to transfer data--just other electrical contacts to press up against them.

    Hoodman has been making innovative products for a while now, and we like their products and them as a company. Recently they developed a more ruggedized version of the standard SD card. These cards cost a little more than the ordinary card, but for good reason. More care is put in to the manufacturing of these cards, and it means better results and longer life for your precious photographs.

    First, these cards meet class 10 specifications, so they are fast. Fast enough for the highest resolution, video-shooting DSLRs currently out there. Second, they are waterproof, so go ahead and forget them in your pants's pocket and throw them in the wash. If you do a lot of shooting, you most likely know what that is like. Third, the actually memory chip is physically smaller. Why would that matter? The plastic housing has more plastic in it because the memory chip and associated electronics are taking up less room, which makes it more rigid and stronger. Fourth, there is an actual steel plate affixed to the top of the card. Again, more rigidity to help the card from being cracked or ruined. Fifth, and the coolest part, there's no soldering. These cards have acid-etched circuitry right on board. Less solder means less additional conduits for the data to travel through where noise can be induced in your photographs (and you thought a photograph was just a photograph).

    The product manager from Hoodman was recently at our store, and he allowed us to take his sample RAW STEEL memory card apart to photograph the insides. He also had a very well loved traditional SD card already taken apart for us to photograph too.

    Here is the top view to showcase the steel plate of the Hoodman RAW STEEL card:

    Hoodman RAW STEEL SD Card Steel Plate ViewHere is the card taken apart. The part with the gold electrical contacts is the entire memory chip. The rest of the plastic housing where this chip does not sit is filled in with more plastic to be more rigid (32GB memory chip is larger, so this does not apply for that card).

    Hoodman RAW STEEL SD Memory Card Internal Components

    Here is a closer look at the memory component and associated electronics:

    Hoodman RAW STEEL SD Memory Card Memory ComponentCompare that to a traditional card where everything is laid out in the open and not as compact (probably not good if the card becomes water-born):

    Traditional SD Memory Card Internal ComponentsDue to the larger size of the internal structure the external plastic housing is thin and frail (and as you can see cracks and breaks easily):

    Plastic Housing of a Tradition SD Memory Card

    If you are serious about your photography and use your equipment hard, you should definitely consider the RAW STEEL cards available by Hoodman. We carry the full line of Hoodman Raw Steel SD memory cards, and they can be found for sale at our website here:

    Hoodman 4GB RAW STEEL SDHC Memory Card
    Hoodman 8GB RAW STEEL SDHC Memory Card
    Hoodman 16GB RAW STEEL SDHC Memory Card
    Hoodman 32GB RAW STEEL SDHC Memory Card

  • Just Announced: Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Macro Lens

    Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Macro Lens

    Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Macro Lens

    Nikon announces a new lens, the AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Macro lens (Nikon Part #2200, UPC 018208022007). This lens is designed for DX, "crop" sensor cameras, like the highly popular D3100, D5100, or D7000. On a DX-format camera the effective field-of-view is equivalent to a 60mm lens. One of Nikon's most popular macro lenses has been the 60mm f/2.8. It only makes sense then for them to come out with a lens like this that has a 60mm equivalent field-of-view for DX camera bodies.

    The tentative release for this lens is sometime in August. We already have our initial order in with Nikon, and when the lens comes in you will be able to purchase it from our website here. If you are interested in pre-ordering, please call our retail store at (802) 244-0883.

    We are excited for this lens to come in for testing. It is the cheapest macro lens we have seen in a long time ($279). When we get one in we will test it out and let you know here, on our blog, our initial thoughts.

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