Friday, January 30, 2009

Epson Print Academy

Tomorrow I will be at the Epson Print Academy Seattle Session all day with 5 other Delta Photo Club Members. The great "Technical How To" sessions help you with all Quality Work and Print matters and are a great price for a full day session and lunch is included.

After the show I will ask how others liked it and will report back as a review of these classes. We will all be in the Track 1 group and when Epson returns to Seattle or comes to Vancouver, we will be taking Track 2.

To see if there is an Epson Print Academy in your area, check out the Academy sites. These links are for the United States, Canada and the UK but I think they also have classes in other countries.

Epson Print Academy - America

Epson Print Academy - UK

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - January 2009)


Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teaching Photography

I have always enjoyed sharing my knowledge and teaching others. I was a young man when I first started teaching or rather coaching Baseball and from baseball went on to coach Badminton including Coaching Badminton at the BC Winter Games.

A coincidence just recently occurred in which a fellow Delta Photo Club Member turns out to be the Mother of one of the kids that I coached at the BC Winter Games. This 'Kid' is now teaching in the Richmond School District. Small world.

Since my coaching days I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours at first teaching by way of mentoring other young photographers and models and in more recent years teaching and mentoring other computer specialists. I have also taught boardroom computer classes on Windows, MS Office including Word, Excel, Power Point and Outlook and I have lectured on topics such as Computer Viruses, Spyware and Computer Security. I enjoy the sharing of knowledge and I am always glad even when sharing cooking secrets.

Through the Delta Photo Club I will now be teaching a Basic Digital Photography Class at a local College that will be the basis for the knowledge sharing I will be posting on this site. Here is the course information:

H12 – Introduction to Digital Photography

Learn more about your digital camera and how to use it effectively. This course will introduce basic camera terminology, demonstrate how to use ‘all those buttons’, and how to take better pictures through the understanding of the art of photography, composition and lighting. You will also learn what factors to consider when purchasing a new digital camera and have opportunities to ask questions about photos you bring to class with a view to improving your own artistic efforts.

Presenter: Francois Cleroux
5 sessions; $45.00; class size, max. 12

OK, so it's not a local University and it is just a 'basic' course but I am already looking forward to sharing information in this course every Tuesday evening in March. I was going to start posting the series on the "Art of Photography'" this week but I will now postpone it for several weeks as I rework and re-write for the course.

Anyway, looking forward to teaching and meeting new friends.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shoot in the Rain with the Right Rain Gear

I live in Tsawwassen British Columbia Canada which is in the Vancouver area. Vancouver is a bit of a rain capitol and although we get much less rain in Tsawwassen than does Vancouver, we still get our fair share. For the photographer rain poses many issues the least of which is potential water damage to camera gear.

Over the many years I have tried many different rain covers and other protective devices to keep rain at bay including the trusty large garbage bag. To this day I still carry a large clear bag in my camera pack in case of foul weather or to protect my camera from ocean or waterfall spray.

Although a large plastic bag works to protect your gear, it does have its drawbacks. Generally bags are not clear and so seeing your camera and settings may be impossible. If you do have a clear bag, it is usually not optically very clear but rather just translucent.

Even if you manage to find a good quality 'clear' bag, it tends to wear out and tear after some time. If it happens to tear during a shoot it may spoil your shoot completely. Duct tape repairs do not work well on wet bags in the rain and you wouldn't want to risk water damaging your gear.

Another issue with bags is the flimsiness of the bag. It tends to lay on top of and can even stick to your gear as condensation builds up inside the bag. On very windy days the home made plastic bag contraptions are next to impossible to use.

OpTechRainCover
Image from OpTech USA

Like I mentioned I have tried other devices including the OpTech Rainsleeve. The 'Rainsleeve' is not much more than a plastic bag with a drawstring at one end. The bag in general does not appear to be designed for a DSLR camera as I could barley fit my 50D with Battery grip into it. Once inside the bag there was no room left for even one of my hands. The drawstring is another issue with this product as it does not work well on a lens hood that is bevelled such as those on wide angle lenses. A disappointing product.

RainCover
My Canon 40D.

I purchased another contraption from eBay called "Digital Camera Rain Dust Cover" that sells for about $15.00 U.S. This product is a contraption. It does come nicely packed into two separate pouches. One for the two piece armature that needs to be snapped together and then attached to your cameras Hot Shoe (Danger Will Robinson). The second pouch stores the plastic cover. The cover is better thicker proper plastic that will not wear like the OpTech plastic bag material.

The cover attaches using Velcro tabs and the armature is telescopic and can adjust its length to work with various size lenses. It should accommodate a lens up to 200mm. All in all it does work but it is rather hokey. I do not like the fact that it attaches to the Hot Shoe but for the price it works. There is even ample room for both my hands as pictured in the above photo. I am not sure I would want to assemple this and attach it to a camera on a stormy day.

As I needed to find a better solution I kept looking and saw that Tenba sold a rain cover, the RC-18 Rain Cover. This product looked promising at first. The material was heavy duty but not 'clear'. Doing my homework I checked out reviews of this product on Amazon and on other sites and based on mostly bad reviews I chose not to buy it.

KataBag
My Canon 40D with Standard 24-105mm Lens.

While checking out the Tenba reviews I stumbled upon the Kata E-702 Rain Cover. Based on the good reviews I went to my local photo shop and checked it out. It appeared to be very well made and well designed so I purchased it and ordered the optional E-704 Lens Sleeves. These optional sleeves are not required for most standard lenses and the main cover should accommodate most 200mm lens.

After bringing it home I tried it out on my Canon 50D with Battery Grip and my standard 24-105mm Lens. Attaching the back to the camera was simple. The Draw Bungy String pulls tight around the neck of the lens as opposed to the hood and a heavy semi rigid material wraps around the hood and Velcro's into place. The bottom has two separate zipper that closes the main opening tight or tight against your tripod.

KataE702Rear
Kata Image.

Using the Kata E-702 Elements Cover is simple by means of the two large arm/hand openings that also protect your hands from bad weather. These hand sleeves also have Draw Bungy Strings so that you can make them snug. The bag also works well when used vertically. Once you have your hands inside there is plenty of room for both your hands to get at all your cameras knobs, dials and buttons. You can also see all the camera because of the well integrated plastic window. Even with the Battery Grip on the camera there is still plenty of room for both hands.

The Kata E-704 Lens Extension Kit is a lens cover extension kit that comes with two separate long lens sleeves and a separate hand sleeve. One is designed for lenses up to 350mm and the other for lenses up to 650mm. You can attach then hand sleeve to any part of the lens sleeves so that you can have direct access to the focusing rings on any lens.

I have looked at other options including the "Hydrophobia 300 - 600", the "FotoSharp Camera Rain Cover", the AquaTech Sports Shield" and the "Lightware Rain Cover" and I think that for the money, for the usability and comfort of use, the Kata System is the best.

Although it is a little larger to store than a garbage bag, I feel much more comfortable knowing my expensive gear is better protected than a 25 cent bag. Using this cover in the rain has been great and overall I give this product a 5 out of 5 rating.

Pricing on the Kata system is not cheap but then again you are wanting to properly protect expensive equipment. Properly taken care of the Kata Rain Cover should last many years.

Street prices have dropped recently and the E-702 sells on Amazon.com (as of January 23rd, 2009) for only $38.67. The two links below will send you to Amazon.com and the third link will send you to Kata.

Rating - 5 Out Of 5 - Highly recommended.
Buy - Kata E-702 Large Digital SLR Camera Raincover
Buy -
Kata E-704 Lens Extension Kit
Kata Home Page -
www.kata-bags.com

2013.03.13 Update - This post has been updated here. Note changes to rating and some follow up information.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On Professional Photography Gear and President Barack Obama

The Obama Machine, now the new U.S. Government and President, has just released the “Official Presidential Portrait”. The official portrait can be viewed here at CHANGE.GOV (www.change.gov).

BarackObamaS

The image was taken by the newly announced official White House Photographer, Pete Souza (http://www.petesouza.com/). Pete Souza is a Freelance Photographer and an Assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication.

He has published work in National Geographic, is the National Photographer for the Chicago Tribune, and has worked as an Official White House Photographer for President Reagan. He has released a new book entitled "The Rise of Barack Obama," which was published in July 2008 and includes exclusive photographs of the Senator Obama’s rise to power.

Souza has won numerous awards including several prestigious “Pictures of the Year” in NPPA's Best of Photojournalism Competition (http://www.nppa.org/), and the White House News Photographers Association's yearly contest (www.whnpa.org).

This is the lead-in to what I wanted to write about. People often write and ask for my opinion about going “pro” and should they purchase the newest high end cameras available and in more recent months the new Nikon D3 or a new Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. They ask because they feel that they need these pro cameras to be able to take pro images.

Part of this rational is from how we are brought up or how we have been blasted with consumer propaganda for many years on how “more expensive is always better”. Part of the rational also comes from the Camera Retailer’s propaganda and lastly, we as individuals and photographers always just feel the need to constantly upgrade our equipment foolishly thinking it will make us better photographers.

I state this because here the new Official White House Photographer has taken the Official Presidential Portrait using the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Yes this is a full frame camera but it is considered to be a prosumer camera not a professional camera. Prosummer (the portmanteau formed by contracting the word professional with the word consumer) being in between a low end consumer and a high end professional camera.

And yes, the new 5D Mark II is a new high end 21 Mega Pixel camera but note that it is still half the price of the 1Ds Mark III. Now there are reasons and arguments that can be made for buying a 1Ds Mark III, but for the majority of us, a 50D or a 5D are more than adequate. After all, if Souza can win awards, get into National Geography and be the Official White House photographer with a 5D, it should be good enough for us.

It is also interesting to note that Pete Souza was also concerned about the White House Post. Souza, 54, said he accepted the offer today after talking with Gibbs and reaching an agreement that the primary function of the White House photography office will be to document Obama's presidency for the sake of history. This was a bone of contention as he did not merely want to be a Portrait Photographer or simply a Media Photographer.

On the portrait taken of Obama, Souza told Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on NBC’s Today Show that he took about four hours with his assistant (freelance photographer Andy Cutraro) to set-up lights and be ready for the shot. Then, the President-elect then gave him about five minutes for the traditional formal sitting on Tuesday.

After the session, Souza said that he and his assistant showed the shots to Obama “on the back of my digital camera.” They narrowed the selection down to a couple of shots that they liked, Souza said, and the photographer made the final choice. Souza said he showed his selection to Obama’s new White House press secretary Robert Gibbs before releasing it.

The EXIF data is intact and can easily be extracted from the image on the Change.gov site.

Image EXIF

  • Make - Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Software - Adobe Photoshop CS3 Macintosh
  • DateTime - 2009:01:13 19:35:18
  • Copyright - © 2008 Pete Souza
  • ExposureTime - 1/125 seconds
  • FNumber - 10.00
  • ExposureProgram - Manual control
  • ISOSpeedRatings - 100
  • DateTimeOriginal - 2009:01:13 17:38:39
  • ExposureBiasValue - 0.00
  • MeteringMode - Multi-segment
  • Flash - Not fired, compulsory flash mode
  • FocalLength - 105.00 mm
  • ColorSpace - Uncalibrated
  • ExifImageWidth - 1916
  • ExifImageHeight - 2608

It is interesting to see that this image was also shot at a 105mm focal length which means it was probably shot with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens. We will look at this EXIF Data more closely in another blog.

For now, do not think about your gear but rather, think about getting out and taking pictures or about learning new photography skills as this is what will make you a better photographer.

Oh, and Congratulations Mr. Souza on your new Post and Mr. Obama on becoming the President.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Photo Albums - Again

I have changed how I will be posting my Albums yet again but I think I have it now. Please check it out. This allows me to add PayPal commerce (click on one of the bird photos).

The pricing listed is just temporary and notices will be posted stating that all profits will go to the "George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary" in Delta British Columbia. My Charity of Choice. I have already donated a complete computer system including software and some financial donations. They are a great sanctuary and they do great work. Please help support them at http://www.reifelbirdsanctuary.com/

My blog can now be reached at www.eyesonphoto.com. This makes it a little easier to remember. This new easy to remember link just re-directs you to this site at eyesonphotography.blogspot.com so you do not need to change any of your existing saved links or RSS Feeds.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dear PC Magazine

This Blog post appears to be about Computers and a Computer Magazine but it is about "Digital Magazines" which have been around for some time now. Please read it all and please forward your thoughts on this.

I recently picked up one of my four free copies of "PC Magazine" print edition that I get as subscriptions. I have been reading PC Magazine religiously for over Twenty-Five Years now. I subscribed many times off and on over the years but now get four free subscriptions and I pass them around to friends, doctors and co-workers.

This new edition came wrapped in plastic and had a card slash letter inside the plastic. Here is the card (Ok, not quite the card as I didn't want to type it all out but a similar letter taken from their site but it reads the same as the full page letter in the magazine):
__________


An Open letter to PC Magazine (Print) Readers,

The January 2009 issue (Volume 28, Issue 1) of PC Magazine will mark a monumental transition for the publication. It is the last printed edition of this venerable publication. Of course, as with any technology-related enterprise, this is not the end, but the beginning of something exciting and new.

Starting in February 2009, PC Magazine will become a 100-percent digital publication. So, in addition to our popular network of Websites, which includes our centerpiece, PCMag.com, as well as ExtremeTech, blogs like Gearlog and AppScout, and audio and video content that includes PCMag Radio, Cranky Geeks and DL.TV, we'll offer PC Magazine Digital Edition to all of our print subscribers.

The PC Magazine Digital Edition has actually been available since 2002. So for thousands of you, the benefits of this unique medium are already clear. And those benefits will continue to multiply in the coming months, as we work hard to enhance your digital experience.

With PC Magazine Digital, you will continue to receive the same quality, unbiased, expert reviews of products, as well as tech advice, news, and opinions you have come to expect from us these past 27 years, all in a package that is completely portable. Our coverage will not change, only the format, which offers these benefits:

It arrives in your e-mail automatically. Just click the link to either download the latest edition, or to view it entirely online.

It is portable. Once you've downloaded the issue (which takes a matter of seconds), just power up your PC and view it anywhere, on an airplane, in your hotel room, wherever.

It looks like the PC Magazine you're familiar and comfortable with. I know why you've stuck with us all these years. You like the magazine and you enjoy the format. Our digital platform makes it possible to deliver that same magazine experience on your PC. So you can "turn" the pages and view our features and departments as you do now.

It's lively and interactive. Our digital edition will eventually offer rich media options within a magazine format. So, for example, next to the product review you're reading in First Looks, you can easily view a slideshow of that product. Or while you're reading a Solutions article on Microsoft Outlook tips, our PC Labs experts can walk you through the steps of some of those tips in a video.

Yes, you can print it. You can print as many pages of the magazine as you want.
It's searchable. Here's something PC Magazine print cannot do. Enter a search term and PC Magazine Digital will fill all the related pages.

A live TOC: The table of contents is not only a place to find out what's in this month's issue. You can use it to navigate directly to the stories you want to read.

It's Green: You can actually feel good about the amount of paper, ink, and gas we'll all be saving by not producing and consuming a physical magazine.

For our current subscribers, if we already have your e-mail address, you don't have to do a thing. The digital edition will begin arriving in your e-mail inbox. If we don't have your e-mail address, please visit our customer service Web site (
http://go.pcmag.com/subscriberservices) and follow the instructions on it. If you're not yet a subscriber, you can find a free trial edition of PC Magazine Digital Edition at this link: http://www.zinio.com/express3?issue=316996843&o=ext.
While we are energized by the endless possibilities of the digital format, I assure you that the decision to stop producing a hard-bound copy was not an easy one.


But the reality is that the ever-growing expense of print and delivery was turning the creation of a physical product into an untenable business proposition.

I want to personally thank you for more than 27 years of devotion to PC Magazine in its print form, and now I invite you to, if you haven't already, join us in the digital age. There are many technology innovations on the horizon. It promises to be a wild ride, one for which you'll find no better guide than the PCMag Digital Network.

—Lance Ulanoff Editor-in-Chief PCMag Digital Network
__________

Wow, shock at first and then horror. First you must understand that this is my favorite Computer Magazine and I do read it religiously and look forward to every new edition that comes out. This magazine "IS" the industry standard that most people in the industry read and follow.

I assume that as leaders they have taken this bold step in an attempt to be at the forefront of a relatively new technology and they probably feel that since they have such a large religious following that they can simply make it work.

I for one do not think they will be successful. Yes they can make the transition, and yes it may work at first, but not for long. There are several problems with what they are trying to attempt, of which people not liking to read digital magazines is but only a small issue. Other problems like reduced sales to ardent and casual retail buyers, decreased advertising sales because or decreased circulation all will add to their demise. Yes this is my prediction for the year. I may end up being wrong and may end up looking foolish, but here is my rational for my prediction.

My "Digital Magazine" failure prediction is not aimed at PC Magazine specifically, but rather at 'any' successful print magazine that tries to switch from print (or print and digital) to a full digital only publication. Several companies have tried to create digital magazine formats and many have failed. In more recent years a new digital reader called Zinio has emerged as a winner (so far) in the digital publication wars. They have been the most successful and have been endorsed by most publishers which has helped with their success.

Zinio Reader is a free download and there are even free digital magazines one can subscribe to. I have been reading digital magazines because of free subscriptions I received since 2003. You can purchase subscriptions on-line at the Zinio site and now through other retailers. Their service works well as does their product. Reading a magazine using Zinio works well. You can read most pages easily if you have a fairly large monitor but need to zoom in to partial pages on most 17 inch monitors which is rather annoying. Try reading a magazine of a small 14 or 15 inch laptop monitor. Like the letter states above, it is easy to read and a simple click at the top corners of the pages turns them and it gives you that "reading a magazine" kind of feel.

Other features like live links to sites and e-mail addresses are nice as is the searchable text. Yes it does arrive in your e-mail box and yes it is most definitely "green", but I do not think Lance Ulanoff tells you everything you need to know.

His statement, "It is portable. Once you've downloaded the issue (which takes a matter of seconds), just power up your PC and view it anywhere, on an airplane, in your hotel room, wherever." is not very accurate. First off you have the problem of the computer, not everyone has a laptop and last time I checked, desktop computers were not very portable. Also, how often do you as a reader pickup a magazine to quickly fill in a few spare five minutes? Now you would need to get to the computer, power it on, wait for your system to boot up, launch Zinio Reader and load the magazine (it will automatically start up with the magazine you were reading at the last page you were reading unless you closed the publication"). Five minutes are up.

The last part of the statement "wherever" is also not quite right. I regularly throw magazines in the car to read later in a cafe while I wait for a colleague or to read at a doctor’s office where I may not want to bring a laptop. What about reading on the "throne" or better yet, do you really want to read with your laptop while taking a long hot bath on a cold winter night? I think not.

Another important aspect that is not mentioned is that Zinio Publications are not portable. Yes they will travel with you in your laptop but they can not be shared with others. Zinio has several Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies licensed from both Adobe and some other company that requires you to re-download your magazine onto another computer if you have more than one. It cannot be copied and backups will only work if restored onto the same computer. Zinio does keep backups for you but as for me I would need to re-download over 100 issues right now.

Zinio does have a "Share With A Friend" option that lets you e-mail a copy to a friend. They will need to have a Zinio Account and will need to install a copy of Zinio. Note also that not all publications can be shared and even some that are limited in how many you can share with. I had once tried to pass along every monthly copy to one friend that I always gave my print copy to but I could only share that magazine title once with him.

Another drawback is that it is difficult to use as reference material. Try an instructional step by step article on how to do something on your computer. You constantly need to switch back and forth between two programs. Niceties like being able to copy text, say to post a quote in a blog, is nonexistent as is printing a whole article without printing every page the article is on and without all the ads.

All in all Zinio is lacking in many ways and just not that convenient. Give me a standard PDF version any day or better yet, a good old fashion "print" copy. Yes, I could print out a whole Zinio magazine but that would be costly to print in color and not very green.

Pricing is another matter. Although some digital publications are cheaper as they should be, others are the same price or in some cases even more expensive than some of the great print subscription deals you can get. Why would I want to pay "more" for a magazine??

The downfall of a print only PC Magazine and others to come is not limited to the facts stated above. Sales of PC Magazine will drop. First, many computer people I know buy the magazines off the shelf at retailers. They like it that way. I do not know why, it is somewhat dumb as subscriptions are cheaper but many have done it that way for decades. When these people get to a news stand, they will buy the other computer magazines they usually purchase and they will perhaps never get back to buying PC Magazine.

Then there are all the current subscribers to PC Magazine, I know for a fact that many will NOT renew their subscriptions. More lost readers.

Many of these same computer industry people hate Digital Magazines as much as I do and many will NOT go Digital. More lost readers. These are the "ardent' readers. The casual readers are those that buy the occasional copy of PC Magazine. If they are not on the shelves, these readers will purchase other publications. I have even been known to buy duplicate copies when I have found myself at airports before boarding long flights so that I have something to read when I have forgotten to bring my copy along. Again, these are all lost sales.

All these lost sales will turn into lost readership. Further lost readership will happen because the magazines cannot be passed around to friends and co-workers and in they will eventually not end up in doctors’ offices where they are read by many others. This "readership” is a very important aspect of the magazine industry.

Studies are done in general and in many cases with specific publications to see exactly how many people read each copy of each printed publication. Many households will have several readers and often they are passed on and in many cases one print magazine will on average be read by three or four people. This will not be the case with Digital versions. All in all the printed circulation of the magazine will be down but more importantly the total "readership" will be down.

Why is this so important? Magazines live by their advertising sales, not by their subscription sales. Advertising is priced based on the demographics of the readers and by the total circulation and readership. Advertisers know that the circulation is only a portion of the total readership and in turn a portion of advertising exposure. With reduced ad exposure, reduced advertising sales will follow. Thus starts the slippery slope.

What I do not understand however is the logic used here. Many print publications give away many free subscriptions in order to keep total circulation numbers up so that they can keep advertising rates high. Many publications lose money or barely break even when they sell a subscription based on the price of the printed material plus the cost of delivery. They usually more than make up for it with the ad revenues.

So, if publications are willing to break even with the cost of the subscription or even lose money why would they not distribute a "FREE" digital version to anyone that wants it? They could double or triple their exposure at no cost. All the articles that appear in PC Magazine are created and published first on their web site. They are then hand selected to make up the print version. Actual sales have dropped because of this in recent years because readers have gone to their site to read all the same articles and other articles before the print version is out and because it is free. So why should readers buy? PC Magazine have in some way killed their own publication because of the free web site.

Creating one or one billion digital copies costs almost the same. Advertising revenues from one digital copy versus a billion digital copies is enormous! PC Magazine now makes most of their revenues and profits from advertising on their web site, yet, over 600,000 copies of the print edition are sold every month to readers that prefer print or do not want to chase around for articles in a web site environment, why not create more advertising revenues by giving out free subscriptions!

Dear PC Magazine,

I will not be renewing my subscription to PC Magazine. If you decide to send out free copies of your digital edition (you currently send me four free print copies every month), please include me in your list.

Sincerely,

Francois Cleroux

As for readers to this blog post that are mostly “Photographers”, I sincerely hope that this trend does not follow suit in the photography world!


© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)


Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Photo Albums

I have finally organized how I will be posting my Photo Albums and I have started posting images into the photo album entitled - BIRDS

I will over the next few weeks add to this album and start adding to the other listed albums.

Please feel free to contact me regarding the images with comments, suggestions and even critiques using the link provided in each album. Thanks for your input and hope you enjoy the images.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Odds and Ends

Canon celebrates 50 years of single-lens reflex camera sales. More than 50-million units produced since 1959.

TOKYO, January 6, 2009—Canon Inc. and Canon Marketing Japan Inc. today commemorated the 50th anniversary of the sale of Canon's first single-lens reflex camera in 1959. Over the past half-century, Canon SLR cameras have evolved with the times, incorporating advanced and groundbreaking technologies. Winning the widespread support of users worldwide, production of Canon SLR cameras have already surpassed the 50-million* unit mark.

The history of Canon 35 mm single-lens reflex cameras began in May 1959 with the launch of the Canon Flex, which was followed by models reflecting Canon's reliable technologies and innovativeness. In 1971 the company introduced the F-1, its first professional model; in 1976 the AE-1, the world's first SLR camera to feature a built-in CPU; and in 1986 the T90, the top-of-the-line model of the T series lineup.

In March 1987, Canon launched the EOS650, the world's first AF (autofocus) SLR camera to realize electronic control for the entire system. The EOS series, which continues to this day, has contributed significantly to the popularization and development of AF SLR cameras, fuelling dramatic growth among both professional users, with the introduction of the top-of-the-line EOS-1 in 1989, as well as entry-level users, with the release of the EOS Kiss (EOS Rebel XS or EOS 500 in regions outside Japan) in 1993.

The year 2000 marked Canon's full-fledged entry into the digital era with the launch of the EOS D30. Canon's EOS Digital series, based on the key concept "speed, ease-of-use and high image quality," has consistently led the digital evolution of SLR cameras with Canon-developed CMOS sensors and the high-performance DIGIC image processor, along with the company's EF lens lineup, boasting outstanding optical performance and an extensive selection.

In 2008, Canon further strengthened its digital SLR lineup with the introduction of four new models, including the EOS Kiss X2 (EOS Rebel XSi or EOS 450D), which garnered the top share in Japan and other global markets, and the EOS 5D Mark II, the first SLR camera to incorporate full high-definition video recording.

With film-based SLR camera sales of more than 39 million units and digital SLR camera sales exceeding 14 million units, Canon is sincerely grateful to all of its users for their support and will continue pursuing the challenge of creating cameras that deliver superior imaging performance and reliability.

*53.68 million units as of the end of December 2008

Canon 50th

CANON EOS 5D MARK II FIRMWARE UPDATE

Version 1.0.7 has been released fixing the "black dots" phenomenon that can occur near edges of bright areas.

Available at: http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/firm-e/eos5dmk2/firmware.html

Note: Watch for new Adobe Updates and other Graphics Program Updates that make changes to allow for corrections made by the v1.07 Firmware Update.

CANON DIGITAL PHOTO PROFESSIONAL (DPP) v3.5.2

Version 3.5.2 has been released. Available at (Select Your OS): http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ModelInfoAct&fcategoryid=139&modelid=17662#DownloadDetailAct

CANON PICTURE STYLE EDITOR v1.4.2

Picture Style Editor version 1.4.2 has been released. The newest CS3 version is 4.6. Available at (Select Your OS): http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ModelInfoAct&fcategoryid=139&modelid=17662#DownloadDetailAct

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Big Lenses

Until Recently Canons biggest available lens was their Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens. Then last year they introduced their new big lens; the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens.

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens

Canon800

ReleasedJune 2008
Original Price$11,999.00 U.S.
Lens Construction (group)14
Lens Construction (element)18
# of Diaphragm Blades8
Minimum Aperture32
Closest Focusing Distance (m)6
Maximum Magnification (x)0.14
Filter Diameter (mm)52
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)163 x 461
Weight (g)4,500

The EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM is a professional L series lens released June 2008. This lens is constructed with a magnesium alloy body and mount and with plastic extremities. Features of this lens are: a wide rubber focus ring that is damped, a focus distance window, the ability to limit the focus range, a focus-preset mechanism, an image stabilizer that is effective up to four stops and is tripod sensing, an AF stop switch, and weather sealing. A maximum aperture of f/5.6 gives this lens the ability to create depth of field effects. The optical construction of this lens contains two fluorite lens elements, and "Super UD" (Ultra low Dispersion) and UD Lens elements. This lens uses an inner focusing system powered by a ring type USM motor. This lens is compatible with the Canon Extender EF tele-converters.

You would think that it would continue to get bigger and better from here. However, it's not always been limited to 800mm lenses. It wasn't all that long ago that Canon made a 1200mm lens. Yes, the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Super Telephoto Lens.

Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Super Telephoto Lens

Canon1200

ReleasedJuly 1993
Original PriceUnknown (Selling now for $99,000.oo U.S. used at B&H Photo)
Lens Construction (group)10
Lens Construction (element)13
# of Diaphragm Blades8
Minimum Aperture32
Closest Focusing Distance (m)14
Maximum Magnification (x)0.09
Filter Diameter (mm)48
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)228 x 836
Weight (g)16,500

This super telephoto lens has the longest focal length of an interchangeable lens for AF SLR cameras at the time. Silent and fast AF is realized using a ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor) and rear focusing system. Extremely sharp, professional-quality images are realized through use of two large-diameter artificial crystal fluorite lens elements (3rd & 6th) that thoroughly eliminate secondary spectrum. Although the optical design is the same as FD1200mm f/5.6L (prototype), this lens is optimized for the EF system with a nonlinear focus cam for moving the focusing lens group, a focus preset function for quick focusing at a predetermined point, and power manual focusing with three focusing speeds. A one-touch revolving mechanism for quick switching between vertical and horizontal formats is possible. Extenders EF1.4X or EF2X transforms the lens into a manual focusing super-super-telephoto 1700mm f/8 or 2400mm f/11 lens.

But, way before that in the 60's Canon made a 2000mm FD Mirror Lens and a 5200mm Mirror Lens. The Canon FD 5150mm f/14 Super Telephoto Mirror Lens. In the photo below, note the full frame SLR camera mounted to the lens on the far right hand side.

Canon FD 5150mm f/14 Super Telephoto Mirror Lens

Canon5200

ReleasedEarly 1965
Original PriceUnknown (Recently sold on eBay for $55,000.00 U.S.)
Lens Construction (mirrors)2
Lens Construction (element)3
# of Diaphragm BladesNo Diaphragm
Minimum Aperture14
Closest Focusing Distance (m)120
Maximum Magnification (x)0.957
Filter Diameter (mm)Drop In Unknown Size.
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)500 x 1890
Weight (g)100,000

From a Canon Brochure - "This is the only ultra-telephoto lens in the world capable of taking photographs of objects 18 to 32 miles away (30km to 52kms away). Having a focal length of 5200mm, Canon Mirror Lens 5200mm can obtain one hundred times as large an object image as that of a 50mm lens."

"For focusing this mounted or fixed lens on an extremely distant object, two aiming telescopes are set on the side of the lens barrel, and the entire lens is placed on a rigid stand which rotates smoothly. Minimizing the overall length had been a big problem in designing this lens. However, the Catadioptric system that is applied to the other two Canon mirror lenses has succeeded in reducing it down to one third of the nominal focal length. In general focal length and optical aberration increase with each other, however, our long and persistent research and development have succeeded in solving this problem. Canon mirror lens 5200mm composed of spherical main and secondary mirrors and a correction lens would assure you of clear images."

Gee, with a 1.6x Crop Factor and a 2x Extender this would be a 16,480mm Lens. You could take pictures of the nose hairs of tree swallows from across the ocean.

Other great big lenses of note were the Nikon Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6~8 P ED IF Zoom Lens dubbed "The Beast" and the Nikon Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm f/11 and from Carl Zeiss the ZEISS Apo Sonnar T* 4/1700 Lens (1700mm f/4 and 550Lbs).

ZEISS Apo Sonnar T* 4/1700mm Lens

CarlZeiss
This lens I believe is still available. It was originally custom made for a "Photographer" obviously with loads of money. It is a custom order lens that is designed for a Hassleblad 6x6 Camera (Shown in Photo).

So, next time your out shooting with your 300mm or 400mm lens and you think its kind of small, well, it actually is!

(Hey, my counter lost 5000+ clicks. Whats up with that?)

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Odds and Ends

I will try to keep Canon users updated on Canon News and Updates although I do report on major Nikon and other manufacturer updates. These "Odds and Ends" also include Adobe News and other products that affect everyone. Want Funky? Check out the first bit of news.

SHUTTER VOICE v2.5

ShutterVoice (www.shuttervoice.com) gives a photographer freedom like never before. Through the use of speech recognition technology you can now control your EOS Digital camera with your own voice! Supports many EOS Cameras and there are special controls for the 50D and the 5D MK2.

POLAROID FILES FOR CHAPTER 11, AGAIN!

"Our operations are strong and during this process Polaroid will ship products to our retail partners, work with our suppliers and contract manufacturers to fulfill retailer demand, honor customer warranties and employees are expected to receive their regular paychecks without interruption," Mary L. Jeffries, Polaroid's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "We expect to continue our operations as normal during the reorganization and are planning for new product launches in 2009."
Polaroid did introduce new products this week at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

CANON EOS 50D FIRMWARE UPDATE

Version 1.0.3 has been released aimed at fixing 3 rare issues.
Available at:
http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/firm-e/eos50d/firmware.html

CANON WIRELESS FILES TRANSMITTER WFT-E3/E3A

Version 2.0 has been released for Canon 50D Support.
Available at:
http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/firm-e/wfte3/firmware.html

ADOBE CAMERA RAW v4.6 (CS3) & v5.2 (CS4) and LIGHTROOM v2.2

Adds support for many new cameras. Note that the Camera RAW 5.2 is for CS4 only. The newest CS3 version is 4.6. Available at: http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html

APPLE APERTURE and iPHOTO

Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update v2.3 adds support for the 50D, Nikon D90 and other cameras including the Sony Alpha A900. Available at: http://support.apple.com/downloads/Digital_Camera_Raw_Compatibility_Update_2_3

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Favorite On-Line Resources for Photography Products and Services - Part 4 - Where I Shop For Services

Although some of the services I mention could be labelled as 'products', I classify them as services because they are products that either need replenishing or are purchased often for clients and such.

Printing Services

VistaPrint (www.vistaprint.com and www.vistaprint.ca) - Vista Print was the very first on-line printing site I used. They offered 'free' business cards and I needed some. They offer Free cards and way back when shipping was cheap. I am not sure how much shipping is now. They also offered premium card upgrades like no VistaPrint.com Logo, Double Sided Printing, High Gloss and so on.

They have grown and evolved over the years and now offer many other free products. They also offer premium products and also now have a site in Canada.

Although I like PrintRunner (Listed below) better for inexpensive premium quality printing, if you need some free cards, VistaPrint is the place to go.

PrintRunner (www.printrunner.com) - PrintRunner I found over a year ago after doing a very in-depth search for a great place to order printing services. I wanted a place with a great assortment of services that could handle all my printing needs, that offered great print quality, offered great service and didn't cost an arm and a leg like they do at local print shops around town here in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

After deciding to give PrintRunner a try I sent them some business cards I needed printed before attending the Consumer Electronics Show for some colleagues. I followed all their great directions for submitting the files properly. The following day I received a phone call asking me if I had made a mistake or if I had intentionally set a color funny (this had to do with 'Press Black' versus 'Photo Black' but more on this in another blog).

I knew right away that I had made a mistake when the printing person called me and I asked if I could re-submit the file to which he answered yes. I thanked him. That evening I fixed the file and re-submitted it and a week later I received the nicest full color high gloss cards that had the correct blacks. I am so thankful for that thoughtful phone call. There were no extra charges.

I have since used PrintRunner for my company business cards and my photography cards. Everyone that sees them comments on the quality. I have also used them for other print jobs with great success.

I have referred others to PrintRunner and the have also been very happy with their service, the quality and the pricing.

Short Run Posters (www.shortrunposters.com) - I while ago I needed to get some posters for displays in a store front for a friends business. I was doing this as a favour and was trying to find a good cheap solution so that he could have nice prints and posters that he could change regularly without a lot of cost.

Through a magazine ad I found ShortRunPosters.com and decided to give them I try. Check this out; 18" x 24" full color posters are only $2.00 U.S. Need it laminated? Only another $2.00. Shipping is kind of expensive for one poster but the cost is the same if you add more to the order so shipping can be fairly cheap. Your 10+ posters order do not need to be the same as they can all be different. You can have just one poster printed.

My initial order was for 5 posters of which I had one laminated. The laminated image was much nicer and obviously much more durable for retail store use. The quality of the posters were great for the two dollars. The largest problem was the original image quality I had sent. The two full frame and one near full frame images were great. The two half cropped images were looking a little grainy up close but from four or five feet away where the sidewalk is, the looked good.

If you think megapixels are not required and don't count for anything, try cropping 33% off your image and then have it printed at 18 x 24 inches! Any way, the colors were great and since all I did was send a few test/sample images I am sure I could get better results if I spend the time prepping the images. By using the extra megapixels of my 50D (15.1 MP) rather than the 40D images (10.1 MP) I sent and by using ICC profiles suited for ShortRunPosters printing press, I should get much better results.

These posters are not Gallery Quality Archival prints, but for short term low cost posters, these are excellent.

Supplies

Amazon (www.amazon.com and www.amazon.ca) - Yes this was listed in the Products page but I have listed this one here in services and I have listed a few others also that are worth mentioning a second time. A great place for some papers and inks.

I get the best prices on the Canon PGI-9 10 Cartridge Value Pack for my Canon Pixma Pro 9500 printer. Like other vendors, check out their pricing and watch for sales.

Digital Art Supplies (www.digitalartsupplies.com) - They supply Scanners, Professional Inks and a great selection of some harder to find Papers including a great selection of Rolls. Their pricing is OK but they have some great sales every once in a while. Check them out.

CardBlanks.com (www.cardblanks.com U.S. and Canada) - A source for Clear Boxes and Clear Sleeves/Bags.

Documounts (http://www.documounts.com/) - Again, duplicated entry. They are a good source for Frames and Framing supplies. Although I have tried their Wooden Gallery Frames which are just OK, not great, I purchase better quality frames locally for less money. They have been reliable, and tend to have way better prices on Mats and other supplies than what I can get locally. They are also a good source for those clear poly bags for bagging you matted pictures. They have these poly bags in all sizes.

Pro Studio Supply (www.prostudiousa.com) - Again, not the best pricing but a great assortment of hard to find products and supplies. Only used them once and all was OK.

Educational

National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) (www.photoshopuser.com) - NAPP is a great place to learn not only Photoshop but he skills required to improve all your photographic digital imaging processes including printing. NAPP is also a great source for inspiration and for all sorts of tips and tricks.

Members get their own On-Line Portfolio, a 1 Year Subscription to 'Photoshop User' Magazine, access to great resources and tons of discounts to other great products and services. Well worth the money.

Kelby Training (www.kelbytraining.com) - A great source for excellent training in Adobe products (Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom, others) and other great courses that cover all aspects of Digital Photography Editing. Check out all the courses on their site. Only $19.99 per month for all the courses you want to take in that time. Discounts for a yearly membership and greater discounts for NAPP members.

Lynda.com (www.lynda.com) - This is another great source that may not quite be at par for Adobe Courses as that given by Kelby Training, they still offer excellent classes including their great new CS4U course and they have way more classes. Their classes cover every aspect of Computers, not just Adobe. Only $25.00 per month.

Computer

Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) - These guys offer great on-line backup services at great prices. I have been using their services for about a year now and their product works very well. They will backup an unlimited amount of data to their site for only $49.00 per year.

Although it is a great service, note that this is not a great solution for backing up all your RAW files. Remember that any file that gets backup up will need to be sent by your computer through the Internet to the Carbonite site. For you basic Data alone this could take a long time and if you wanted to do 500 Gigs of RAW Images it could take almost forever. A warning also, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) could charge you if you send too much data over their Data Line. Most ISPs have limits on how much you can send per month and if you go over those limits you could wind up with a fairly large bill in the mail.

I did test restore some files during the Free test period (give it a try) and it worked well. You can also specify which files and folders you want backed up. I also changed computers and restored all the files onto a new computer and that was also successful.

Like I mentioned perhaps not the best solution for Image Backups (although you could back up copies of your best and most valuable images only) but a great solution for backing up all your Data and giving you peace of mind so you can concentrate on Photography.

Magazines

Amazon (www.amazon.com) - Amazon offers a great selection of Magazine Subscriptions and great prices. Check them out.

Closing

I hope you enjoyed this four part article on Shopping on the Web. If you have any thoughts or ideas or great sites to buy from that you would like to share with the rest of us, please pass them on.

I have already received a few other links from readers and even have one comment posted in part three of this article from one of the Adorama Staff Members. I Didn't know they read my Blog.

I will be posting a follow up blog in a few days with more links (I also forgot a few), one more warning for Canadians, and any final notes based on what people send to me.

Thanks for reading.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Favorite On-Line Resources for Photography Products and Services - Part 3 - Where I Shop For Products

When I make purchases on-line, where do I shop? Well, I shop at many different sites and I'll list them here with some notes. I'll start with the bigger and larger sites and then the smaller shops and vendors and finish off with what I call service sites like printing services, business cards, posters and such.

Check Out The Site

Before I get into the list I will give you a few last warnings. Remember to do your homework on pricing and on sites. Yes, check out the sites you are shopping at.

I am not suggesting that Broadway Camera (in New York) is bad, they are the ones that have full page ads in many Photography Magazines, but try this;

1) Do a Google search on these words "review Broadway Camera" and see what results you get! Read a few of the results.

2) Do a Google search on "Better Business Bureau Broadway Camera". The second or third result should be a link to the BBB in New York here: http://search.newyork.bbb.org/reports.aspx?id=68047
Read the different business names they use. Check out all their different Web Sites. Read their reports and then read the "Government Actions".

If you check all this out properly, you will see why I personally would NEVER EVER buy from Broadway Camera in New York, U.S.A. or any of the associated affiliate sites or stores.

You of course are free to do what you want but this was my warning to you -"Check Out The Site You Are Going To Buy From" and follow the suggestions in my previous post. Enough said, on with shopping.

Large Photography Sites

eBay (www.ebay.com) - I shop on eBay a lot. I buy many odds and ends here and often find things I cannot find in town locally. I often find small items that are in the $20 to $60 dollar range for much less that I would pay out here. I have even purchased from vendors that are in China and Japan.

With eBay you should always do two things, one, check the Persons or Vendors "Rating". How many sales have they done and how happy have people been with them. Read a few results. I have seen items where people complain about slow delivery but in every case these people got a good product at a great price. I would buy from someone like that.

If people complain about a crappy product on the other hand or about damage or NOT getting the product at all, then I would NEVER buy from that vendor.

The other thing I have always done on eBay is I have never bought something for more money that I was willing to loose. Do date, 'knock on wood", I have never been ripped off or lost anything and I have always been happy with the products I have received. If I ever get ripped off now for $50 or $70 dollars it would not be a big deal as I have saved way more money than that. And besides, eBay purchases through PayPal accounts (read previous Blog post) are Guaranteed for these smaller purchases.

But, personally, I would never risk loosing $1500.00 dollars on a lens buying it from eBay. Loosing $1500.00 hard earned and saved dollars would hurt too much. And besides, then you need to worry about warranty issues and so on and perhaps even buying stolen items.

Having said that though, I know people that have had great luck buying large items and even buying several collector Porsche Cars. But, in all those cases they did their homework which included asking the vendors many questions about the products.

Amazon (www.amazon.com and www.amazon.ca) - I have had great success with Amazon.com and .ca. I have made very large purchases from them including my Canon 50D. All my lenses except my macro and both my flash units were were purchased from Amazon.com.

Now, just like with eBay you do need to be careful just a little bit. Amazon also has other 'vendors' that sell through their site. Make sure you check out the smaller vendors to see what kind of feedback and reviews they have. Several of my lenses and many other accessories have come from Amazon via or through Adorama.

The good part of buying through other vendors through Amazon is they will get involved way more than eBay to help resolve an issue but luckily, just like eBay, I have never had a problem buying Camera equipment.

The only problem I ever had was ordering a DVD from Amazon.com only to receive a VHS tape (several years ago now). I remember thinking "Oh! this will now be a pain in the ass!". On-line I went to Amazon and found the link to Returns. A quick link to the past order and then a link to the specific item. One questions, "why was I returning the Product?" and ta-dah, done. Print the return slip and at the same time it prints a Pre-Paid Postage Slip for UPS to stick on the outside of the box. No problems at all. I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon and I have saved several thousand dollars over the years.

This is where people always ask me about Warranty stuff since I buy from the U.S.A. and I live in Canada. I'll start by saying that on three (3) lenses alone I saved over $1200.00 dollars Canadian as compared to my buying the same lenses in Canada. That was a year and so ago when the Canadian dollar was at par!

So, If a lens breaks down I could probably just throw it out as I have save way more than the cost. Of course I would not do that, but I could. What I would do is on a weekly trip into the U.S. I would ship it back to the U.S. warranty depot for Canon U.S.A where the lens is warranted. No big deal or hassle.

As far as the Amazon.com vs. Amazon.ca, again, check out the pricing. Also, Amazon.ca does not carry as much product specially when it comes to Camera equipment.

Adorama (www.adorama.com) - Adorama I must say has been great. I was introduced to them because of an Amazon.com purchase that came from Adorama. I have many times purchased from Adorama through Amazon but on several occasions I found items there that were not listed on Amazon. In those cases I purchased directly from Adorama and I have had great success. I have not needed to return any products so I do not know what that would be like.

Smaller Shops and Vendors

OK, I didn't know where to change the line from Big to Small so lets not argues about their sizes.

J&R Music (www.jr.com) - Again introduced to J&R through Amazon, I do now buy directly from them. If you check them out on BBB you'll see they are registered as members and are in great standing. An excellent company to deal with and a great place to get those hard to find photography items.

Cameta Camera (www.cameta.com) - This is another great store where you can find some good hard to find odds and ends.

B&H Photo (www.bhphotovideo.com) - This is another great Photography store and also a great Video and Electronics store. Unlike some of the others they do not have 'great' prices but they do have a great selection. They also have "THE" best printed electronics catalogues. Yes, that's catalogues in that they are so large they make one for Photography and one for Video. Getting either of these was like getting the Sears Christmas Catalogues when you were a kid!

Documounts (www.documounts.com) - They are a good source for Frames and Framing supplies. Although I have tried their Wooden Gallery Frames which are just OK, not great, I purchase better quality frames locally for less money. They have been reliable, and tend to have way better prices on Mats and other supplies than what I can get locally. They are also a good source for those clear poly bags for bagging you matted pictures. They have these poly bags in all sizes.

NOTE: I have been buying from them and they have been great. I would like to find a great place for buying Wooden Gallery Style Frames in Natural Grain and Black. If you know of such a site, please share.

Software Companies

Over the years I have purchased from many of the software companies directly. This includes companies like OnOne Software (www.ononesoftware.com), PhaseOne (www.phaseone.com), Digital Anarchy (www.digitalanarchy.com), Photodex (www.photodex.com), Adobe (www.adobe.com) and others. I have found them all to be great even the small companies.

A warning here though, make sure you buy from the 'actual' software manufacturer's web site. I have seen and heard about sites that sell other companies products and some of those are rip off or even scam sites.

Buying directly from these sites can be great as you can get other deals after your original purchase and you can get notifications on updates, news and such.

Note: If you have had problems with any of the sites I have posted, please let me know. Also, let me know if the problems were resolved or not. Remember that we are a community and that we are here to help each other out.

Services

OK, this has gone a little longer than I thought so I will continue this in the next blog, Part 4, I guess.

Part 4 is available here: http://eyesonphotography.blogspot.com/2009/01/favorite-on-line-resources-for_1724.html

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.03 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Favorite On-Line Resources for Photography Products and Services - Part 2 - Safe and Secure

How does one safely shop On-line so that they do not get ripped off and do not but their personal information at risk of being ripped off? Although this discussion will be fairly lengthy, all the steps and measures taken and described here are mostly all things that you should already be doing even if you do not shop on-line.

Wether buying on-line from eBay or shops like Amazon.com, doing personal or business banking, paying bills on-line or even using pay services like iTunes or buying Antivirus on-line, you should always make sure you are completely protected.

Hardware

Part one of this protection is what I call the hardware layer. It starts where your Internet Provider leaves off at the Modem. The modem provided to you is a direct link in and out to and from the Internet. It is the best and easiest way fro someone to hack into your computer. Between your modem and your computer you should have a properly configured Hardware Firewall (most modern day Routers are Firewalls) to protect yourself.

This hardware layer is not the end all be all of protection. Hackers can still get through it if they know what they are doing, but it is a great start. On an average Cable based Internet Connection, you will probably have 20 to 30 hack attempts per day into your computer. Ninety-nine percent of these attempts are merely kids looking for an "open" connection right into your computer.

Software

Software protection is multi faceted and despite you best efforts will also not be complete protection (I'll explain why later). The very first of these facets are the patches or updates and then your Firewall Software, Antivirus Software and Anti Spyware Software round out the other facets.

Updates

Warning on Updates! - Always make sure that you create a backup image of your system or that you at least back up all your data before playing around with your system.

It is imperative that you keep your system fully updated and patched. Yes, even if you have Vista or a MAC! Windows, MACs, Linux and most other Operating systems ALL have flaws and bugs and once discovered by hackers, they will taken advantage of. Keep your system fully updated.

This is a little more complex than it seems however. First you must update you Operating System. Then you must update you Internet Browser as they have their own bugs and flaws, yes, MAC Browsers also. Then you need to update you browser plug-ins like Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash Player, Apple iTunes, Apple Quicktime, Sun's JAVA and any other plug-in you use. Chances are that you have most of these on your system even if you do not know it.

Lastly you need to make sure that your software on the computer is up to date. Games and Graphics Programs can also case problems for security. The good part about doing all these updates is that they can also prevent many system crashes.

Exception to Updates: I do not recommend doing ANY Hardware Driver Updates recommended by the Microsoft Site. Actually, I do not recommend doing any Hardware Driver Updates at all unless you are having specific problems. Again, make sure you have backups before doing any updates.

Firewall Software

Your computer probably came with Firewall Software, Windows XP and Vista both do. Use it! Make sure it is turned on if you do not have some other Firewall software like Norton's Internet Security. Make sure you know how to check if it is on and make sure it is on. My recommendation here if you have a good Hardware Firewall is to just stick with the basics but do use your integrated Firewall if you have a full Security Suite of programs like Norton's Internet Security.

Antivirus Software

A big and very important part of your protection is good Antivirus Software. Again, like most levels of security described here even the best AV software is not 100% full proof but some are way better than others. Do a little homework here. Just because you have used one product for the past five years, doesn't mean you shouldn't switch AV vendors.

NortonIS2009

My favorite by far is Symantec's Antivirus Corporate Edition. This is the best Antivirus Program out there, it gets the most frequent AV updates and it does not slow your computer down like many other AV programs. However, this is only available On-line and in Five Packs as it is not meant for home users.

Other great options are as follows; Norton's Internet Security Suite 2009 (http://www.symantec.com/) is exceptional and pretty much full proof for home users. It is highly rated by most Computer Magazines and was just recently (January 2009) given a 9 out of 10 with a "Kick Ass!" award for best overall protection. This great security suite also includes Anti Spyware, a great Firewall, Anti Spam E-mail control and Identity Protection. This product is available at most retailers. It should NOT be confused with their other product called Norton's 360 which I consider to be a mess of a program.

Other good options are Kaspersky's Internet Security 2009 (http://www.kaspersky.com/) also very well rated and ESET's NOD 32 Anti Virus which has been winning awards.

McAfees arsonal of AV and other products are no longer as good as they used to be and I at this time do not recommend them.

Free Antivirus Software has always been available. Programs like Avast 4 Home (http://www.avast.com/) and AVG Free (http://www.grisoft.com/) both very good at one time or another have been loosing ground on the Virus front for the last two years. This is from personal experience from clients of mine that have run into trouble using these products.

I have been keeping an eye on another free product that appears to be pretty good and again the January issues of Maximum PC Magazine concurs with their best Free Antivirus rating going to Avira Antivir. Available at http://www.free-av.com/. I have not used this product but friends have so use this at your own risk.

Microsoft makes their own AV Software called Live One Care but they have already announced they are discontinuing the product. You get what you pay for used to be valid in the Virus world but in recent years, this is no longer the case. Many other programs are available and many far inferior ones cost much more than these programs including the free ones mentioned here. There are also fake Antivirus programs that will hold your computer ransom or turn it into a Bot as part of a Botnet sending Spam all over the world that sell for as much as the ones mentioned above. So, be cautious, do a little research and choose wisely.

Note: Before installing any Antivirus software make sure you un-install your old software first.

It doesn't matter how good your Antivirus software is, if it isn't updated at least once a week (this is usually an automated process) it will give you little protection as many new viruses are created every week. Check for the date or time stamps on your Virus definitions.

Anti Spyware Software

In the ever evolving world of Viruses, the bigger and more recent threats appear to come from Spyware. Spyware can be as bad or worse than a Virus and can introduce even nastier things called Rootkits. This Spyware can steal your "secure" passwords including banking passwords or they can turn your computer into a Node of a very large BotNet.

Many Antivirus programs include Anti Spyware protection but many are not very good at it. Likewise, many Anti Spyware programs include Antivirus protection but they are very bad at that. So get a good Antivirus program and if it has good Anti Spyware, at least get another free Anti Spyware program.

In the corporate world I use and recommend Webroot Anti Spyware (http://www.webroot.com/). It has won many awards and it is usually best or second best rated depending on what versions and when it was rated during the year. They have been at the top for many years now.

WebRoot3User

Webroot Anti Spyware is also available as a stand alone boxed product available at most retailers and is also available in a three license version that can be installed on up to three computers at a much reduced price per computer. I swear by this product. Again like with other security options it is not 100% effective and so I turn to other products.

Years ago the free programs Lavasoft's Ad-Aware 2008 (http://www.lavasoft.com/) and SaferNetworking.Org's Spy-Bot Search & Destroy v1.6 (http://www.safer-networking.org/) were the GO TO programs to use. But like most free products they have not been able to keep up. Two free products that have been very good in the last while are SUPERAntiSpyware (http://www.superantispyware.com/) and a very good new comer that appears to get the nastier stuff, MalwareBytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org/).

If you would like another good commercial option to call upon, PCTool's Spyware Doctor (www.pctools.com/spyware-doctor). Don't let the fact the Dr. Phil recommends this product fool you, it is very good. I use this on some systems.

Again, just like all other software, these need to be updated regularly. The difference between the Free and Paid versions is that the paid versions usually update themselves and are usually on all the time whereas you need to manually update the free ones and need to manually run a scan every once in a while. The upside to the free is that it is not running all the time and so it does not slow your computer down so much. Good if you have al older slower computer.

Quick note on BotNets

If your system is acting funny you should always re-boot and then run a FULL Manual Antivirus AND Anti Spyware scan. If you have a second Anti Spyware program like Malware Bytes run a scan with that also. If any of the programs find Viruses or Spyware, remove the infections and reboot. If your system is still acting funny, it could have a Rootkit or/and could be part of a new BotNet.

If you suspect your system is part of a BotNet, try myNetWatchman SecCheck v2 (www.mynetwatchman.com/tools/sc). Run the single stand alone program (it runs is a DOS window) and let it do its thing.

Shopping On the World Wide Web

Now that your system is protected and free of Spyware and Viruses and hopefully all threats its time to start shopping. Where to go? What to buy? Oh wait, first things first "How to buy?"

Shopping on-line has one big downside, how do you send them your money? This is why we need all the security. The only real option is to use a credit card. Sending Checks is slow and the can be stolen from the mail system. Once received by the retailer they may get held for weeks before a product is shipped.

Giving anyone your Credit Card information is a big security risk. Specially on line where you may trust a big vendor like Amazon.com or Apple.com but what about the person responsible for the transaction once it is received? Most large vendors are reputable and most can be trusted as they have systems in place that keeps your credit card information secure even from their own staff.

Smaller shops and stores however are another whole matter. Their transactions are usually handled manually and so you information is at risk every time you buy something. How can you best protect yourself from very large risk?

Personally I do two things to protect myself and my bank. The first is that the credit card I use is a Card I acquired specifically for Internet Transactions. It is not special in any way except that it is not one of my other cards. It also has a very low limit of $500.00 on it. If it ever gets stolen on-line the thieves will not get very far with it. This then protects my other cards and also, since you are not responsible for the theft purchases, protects your bank from thousands of dollars in losses.

I use this card for ALL my on-line small shop purchases and sometime even for small shops or restaurants in town when I don't trust the staff.

The second thing you can do and something I recommend whole heartedly is using a service called PayPal (http://www.paypal.com/). PayPal is a service that is owned by eBay. Think of it as an on-line credit card. Basically you give PayPal your credit card information (the one with the $500.00 limit) and then when you make eBay purchases and other retailers that have signed onto PayPal you pay for items using a secure on-line transaction process using your PayPal Account. You never need to give your credit card information to the retailer.

There is no cost for using PayPal for purchasing products, all fees are paid for by the retailer. Once setup though, you can use PayPal to accept other peoples payments to you. You would then pay any transaction fees.

There are several benefits in that PayPal insures some transactions with certain limits and transaction types (read the fine print) and it makes it much easier to purchase. Once your account is setup with PayPal and 'verified', future purchases are quick and simple. This is the number one method of payment used on eBay with millions of transactions made everyday.

On Passwords

Before you can purchase anything on-line you usually need to setup an account at that site. This should always be free. In order to make a purchase you need to sign-in to your account and then you would use PayPal or your credit card to make the purchase.

The Password you use for these sites including eBay and your PayPal account password should be secure and kept very private and confidential.

Passwords for Facebook and your Yahoo Mail and other non credit sites should be secure and if they are all the same it is not a huge deal. They should still be kept private as a lot of damage can still be done with those passwords. However, your credit site passwords should all be different and should be more secure than you other passwords. This is what I usually recommend:

Never use the same password, perhaps change it based on the sites name. Keep a secure log in your home of these passwords. Use a completely different and more secure password for any and all commerce sites.

Simple Passwords for sites like – "JamesBondM" for Microsoft and/or "JamesBondF" for FaceBook. Easy to remember.

More Secure Passwords like – "S3cur3B@nk~eBay" or "C@nucks4EveriTunes" are much more secure.

Protect Yourself

The two biggest sources of problems I have been encountering are from people trying to get rid of Spyware or Viruses. They either do a search on Google for Free Anti Spyware Software (Bad idea!) or for Free Antivirus Software (Another Bad Idea).

Many of the programs that you will come across are themselves Spyware, Viruses or Trojans that will cause harm to your system or will hijack your system for ransom or other financial gains. Some of the programs you look up will seem very real and legitimate and you will read good (fake) reviews, but they are trouble. Do not randomly just buy software on-line. Either buy from a very reliable source like the ones I mentioned above (use the links provided to ensure you get to the right site and not a fake site) or go to a store and buy a retail box.

If you think your system is infected, the very last thing you should be doing is buying something on-line anyway! There is a very good change your credit card information WILL be stolen if you are infected.

Another big scam and another source of many infections is the Fake Anti Spyware or Fake Antivirus Pop-Up. What happens here is a Pop-Up will happen when you go to the standard bad sites like Free Game Sites, Free Desktop Wallpaper Sites, Free Cute Cat Screen Saver Sites (remember, nothing is free in this world) and so on. This Pop-Up will look like an Antivirus Program or an Anti Spyware Program and it will tell you that you system is infected. It will look so real that it will even say what viruses you have and how many! It will then ask you if you want to remove the infections.

HERE IS THE CATCH. In order for these sites to infect your computer they require your help. They need you to push a button in the Pop-Up Window. Pushing ANY button in a Window gives them the required security permission to install what ever Virus or Spyware they want. DO NOT PUSH OR CLICK ON ANY BUTTON. The way they program these is that by pushing the YES or the NO buttons, it will install the Virus or Spyware. So, what to do?

Your two options here. The first is to only click on the orange X at the top right hand side of the Pop-Up Window. This should safely close the Pop-Up Window but lately, this does not always work. If it fails to do so, you should save any work you are doing in other programs like Word, Excel or a Graphics Program, close all your open programs except for your Web Browser and then just Power Off the computer or just Pull The Plug.

Then you can restart your computer and run "Your" Anti Spyware or Antivirus program to make sure you have no infections.

What If I Get Infected

Getting rid of Malware (Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Rootkits) can be very difficult at best of times even when you know what you are doing. In some cases it is like an art. With new emerging Rootkits it can sometimes with today's technology also be impossible to remove the infection. If you are having problems please consult a professional. Everything I talk about here is for preventing problems. If you run into problems, don't cause more damage by trying to do it yourself. Get help or you could loose all your files and data.

Where to Shop

In Part 3 of this blog post I will share the sites I shop at and why I shop at those sites.

Part 3 can be found here: http://eyesonphotography.blogspot.com/2009/01/favorite-on-line-resources-for_08.html

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.03 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.