Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter !

The Ides of March have come and gone. From Supermoon to Spring Jubilee, Easter arrives to the delight of many including my chocolate bunny craving kids. You can thank the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers of early America for their egg carrying bunnies bringing egg decorating and hunting antics to children all over.

The Resurrection of Christ and the Exodus of Israelites from Egyptian slavery are a tough sell to everything chocolate and colored eggs for my kids in this festive time of Easter. Bring out the white vinegar and food coloring and let us make a colorful hard boiled egg mess.

My idea of Spring has nothing to do with bunnies or eggs. Warmer days bring beach filled sunsets and the sound of crashing waves. Easter weekend kicks off with a trip to Fort De Soto Beach. Serena's first trip to the ocean began with hesitation but with a few dips in the warm sea changed her newborn mind.

Who can resist the lure of the warm Gulf encapsulated with the orange glow of the setting sun? The "Golden Hour" as photographers call this natural and appealing ambient light blessed this photographic moment. I definitely took advantage of this special time with my handy Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600D paired with the EF 35mm f/2 lens.

Yes, I am in the salt water with a DSLR. Anything for the shot, right? Wide open at f/2 and a noise free ISO 100 gives me that dreamy bokeh that everyone desires. The sunset menagerie has only begun on the sandy shores and continues with glistening crests of ocean waves. You will be hard pressed for a bad image in this glorious beach. The sun behind you gives a warm pleasing light. The sun in front of you offers a nice backlit silhouette of your subject with a great setting sun in the background. What could go wrong?

My idea of Easter is a scrambled egg topped with cheese and crispy bacon on toasted Cuban bread with butter. Of course, accompanied by a large Cafe con Leche with heaps of table sugar. This is a perfect Easter Sunday breakfast of Champions.

You can view more eggs, hard boiled and scrambled, in my Easter 2011 Gallery.

11 months or less and counting until Serena can fully participate in my Canon HD DSLR Video tests and reviews. I cannot wait. By then, we will have the Apple iPhone 5 and iPad 3, the Canon 5D Mark III and 1Ds Mark IV and finally the much anticipated Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L wide angle zoom lens. Serena has much to look forward too in her Full HD future.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS Video Test

The demise of the Flip camera lineup by Cisco surprised nobody except all the people who bought them in the personal pocket-cam frenzy awhile back. The strong HD video and photo features of cellphones such as the iPhone 4 and the Android crowded the market. Now ultra compact point and shoot cameras with high megapixel counts fight on the HD video front. Canon recently introduced a mighty contender in the point and shoot war, the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS.

Two things lured me to this slimmest point and shoot in the market. The CMOS sensor with the Canon HS System and the Full HD 1080p video capability. I have been looking forward to more CMOS sensor ultra compacts in the Canon Powershot lineup and the ELPH 300 HS fits the bill. CMOS chips instead of the standard CCD's of previous cameras promote longer battery life due to less power requirements and the most important is the major reduction of ISO noise. I am not a big fan of built in and external flashes. I compare them to automotive high beam headlights. Very harsh shadows and usually blown out exposures with red eyes. CMOS rules!

Believe it or not, this is ISO 3200 from the Canon ELPH 300 HS. No more harsh built in flash pictures for me! This 12 megapixel CMOS chip camera has fixed ISO settings up to ISO 3200 as well as Auto ISO. ISO 1600 is even cleaner. Canon claimed a 60% reduction in ISO noise due to the "High Sensitivity" System with their CMOS sensor. I am a true believer.

Full HD 1080p video is now in the smallest form factor of a point and shoot Canon PowerShot camera. Okay, it is no Canon EOS 5D Mark II with full manual video and audio control but it is sure less inexpensive. The Canon ELPH 300 HS boast 1080p video at 24 fps (not sure if it is exactly 23.97fps but iMovie'11 conforms it anyway) with stereo sound and the ability to optically zoom during video capture. Another benefit is the ability to set a custom white balance and a fixed ISO setting. Just even more creative control over video for aspiring "Soccer Mom" filmmakers.

Now the downside to Canon ELPH 300 HS 1080p video. Initial focus on your subject is set when you hit the record button and that is it. No continuous AF during recording (as expected just like Canon HD DSLR's) and no exposure lock to speak of. Any movement of the camera to different exposures in the frame leads to a rise or lower of the video image. Well, beggars cannot be choosers for ultra compact "all in one" super cameras. By the way, the big dedicated video record button on the back of the camera for easy reach is a nice addition. No more switching back and forth between camera modes either via menu or dial.

Another feature that may satisfy your artistic palate is the "Creative Mode" in pictures as well as video. My favorites are "Toy Effect" and "Miniature Mode" Unfortunately, most of the effects in video mode do not output to Full HD but at lesser standard definition resolutions. Bummer! Well, as a consolation prize, Canon implemented a low resolution but very high frame rate (120fps and 240 fps) to capture very detailed slow motion video events. I will reserve this feature for a future ELPH 300 HS video test. Patience!

In conclusion, the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS shoots fabulous low ISO noise pictures at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 without the built in flash. The ultra compact shoots great Full HD 1080p video and made easily with the Apple iMovie'11 video editor. The picture and video quality definitely exceeds my iPhone 4 and the previous Canon ultra compact Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS. Especially, in the battery life category. I shot over an hour of video day and night and the NB-4L battery level indicator did not even budge. Impressive!

You can view more pictures and videos in my Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS Gallery.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PhilFest 2011

Filipino culture invaded the festive grounds of the Philippine Cultural Enrichment Complex for three exciting days for the 16th annual PhilFest 2011. Everything native to the Philippines converged with food, entertainment and exhibits to the delight of the Tampa Bay community.

The long traditional gowns of the Philippines adorned the stage with graceful Filipinas. The Grand Flores de PhilFest Parade soon followed with beautiful Munting Reyna's circling the Philippine Village with a crowd of envious onlookers. Call it a celebration of a long standing ethnic traditions.

Filipino culture also includes the plethora of culinary delicacies. My personal favorite and the exclusive "food of the gods" is the delicious Carioca. Consider it fried doughnut balls on a stick with an ever so sweet glaze that will make you beg for more. It is also an effective bribe for out of control children.

The ever so dusty and dirt filled Philippine Village is replaced by thousands of square feet of smooth and clean concrete. Kudos to the Philippine Cultural Foundation for this very welcome addition to the annual Fiesta. Crowds of anxious people looking for the next Filipino delicacy will no longer have the ominous dust trail behind them.

The PhilFest 2011 video is shot with the Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600D. Paired with the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens and the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro optical viewfinder, the 1080p Full HD footage was edited with Apple Final Cut Pro.

The still photographs of PhilFest 2011 was captured with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II zoom lens.

You can view more images in my PhilFest 2011 Gallery.

Yes, my newborn daughter Serena only slept and cried through this glorious event. Ripe and sweet yellow mangoes did not even appease her.

Crispy Lechon, lumpia shanghai, pancit and halo-halo will have to wait until next year's PhilFest 2012. I will be there with mouth wide open and maybe the next latest Canon HD DSLR such as the soon to be Canon T4i/700D.

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***UPDATE*** Here is the link to PhilFest 2012 with updated pictures and videos.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Canon EOS Rebel T3i and Zacuto Z-Finder Pro Video Test

Spring has sprung with the 10th annual Spring Jubilee at my children's school over the past weekend. Food, fun and festivities became all the talk of my son and daughter preceding this kickoff to the spring season. My kids anticipated "free rides" day while I looked forward to another Canon EOS Rebel T3i video test with my newly acquired Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x optical viewfinder from my friends at North Tampa Photography.

I had my first brush with the Zacuto Z-Finder during last year's Philip Bloom Florida Meetup. Surrounded by aspiring filmmakers with the latest HD DSLR gadgets became a fruitful and egg timer raising experience for me as well as for my friend at Getawaymoments. I was immediately impressed by the outstanding quality and build of the viewfinder until I found out how much they cost. A little sticker shocked, I moved on to more pressing issues like the dinner menu at The Hurricane Restaurant.

Almost a year later since my last encounter with the Zacuto Z-Finder, I took the plunge and acquired the latest version of the Zacuto Z-Finder with 2.5x magnification which includes the Anti-fog eyepiece, Gorilla plate with metal mounting frame and those Extender frames for farsighted eyeballs. The whole kit was very complete and included everything to get shooting HD DSLR video right out of the box. Little extras like a viewfinder lanyard and even a hex wrench are included.

Now to the Zacuto nitty gritty. The Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x does the job of achieving critical focus with fast lenses in low light conditions. Another caveat is the ability to focus in bright sunlight and maintain exposure with a Fader ND Mark II filter by Fader. All these critical elements converged in my latest Canon EOS Rebel T3i Video Test of Spring Jubilee using the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x optical viewfinder.

My skeptical bubble burst with ample use of this valuable cinematic tool. Speaking of tools, I paired the Canon Rebel T3i/600D with an EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens with a Fader ND Mark II filter by Fader to reduce the incoming light. For audio capture, I used a Sennheiser MKE400 shotgun microphone. This whole rig was mounted on a Manfrotto 701 HDV fluid head on Benro 3580 tripod legs. I edited this 1080p video test at 29.97fps with iMovie'11 and used Quicktime at best quality to compress a 800mb h264 video file.

To view more Canon EOS Rebel T3i videos like above and more ISO and quality comparisons, you can view my Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600d Gallery.

You can view more shattering images in my Spring Jubilee 2011 Gallery. Shot exclusively with a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV.

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