Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Stay-cation

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas from the Soriano family. No fancy trips or winter travels this holiday season but a nice homely stay-cation in sunny Florida.

Who needs Rockefeller Center in NYC when you have joyous Manatees in your backyard? We made the most of our stay-cation with a large emphasis of our own local tourist attractions. Our first stop is the Manatee Viewing Center at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida. The Sea Cows were prancing in the warm waters of electric power plant runoff with glee!

A Christmas Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Florida kicked off the holiday weekend with family and friends. My measly pre-lit synthetic fraser-fur pales in comparison to the 500,000 LEGO brick Christmas Tree towering over toy hungry kids. Call it 6 tons of peace and joy!

Real LEGO Friends without the retail markup. Lasting friendships have humble beginnings on itchy St. Augustine turf. School winter break means two weeks of well needed fun and no school morning rush hour!

Home sweet home on Christmas morning. Gifts opened by my kids with joy and disappointment. Parents relieved the holidays are half over until New Year's Day. The long and treacherous journey to the in-laws begins. Oh joy!

My soon to be 22 month old daughter figured out Christmas rather quickly. Christmas tree with shiny boxes equals Peace on Earth! Back to back Cuddleuppets commercials on Sprout TV enlightened her on the true meaning of Christmas.

Ho! Ho! Ho!, the Filipino Santa with Kirkland Signature attire and a belly full of Jollibee Chicken Joy brings presents and his Canon EOS M digital mirrorless camera to capture the never ending holiday moments.

Filipino Santa was barely clicking away the slow focusing Canon EOS M from the holiday feast induced coma. Smiles and giggles inspired a sleepy Filipino Santa to move on to one more household.

Cousin chaos part 3. A three hour visit was well spent with my niece and nephew discussing the latest high school gossip and playing Black Ops 2 mulitplayer team death match over lunch. This is the true and priceless gift you cannot box and wrap. No sappy television commercial or Hallmark Greeting card can dare to repeat this true meaning of Christmas.

You can view more bundles of joy in my Christmas 2012 Gallery shot with the Canon EOS M paired with the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS with EF-M lens mount adapter.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ready For Launch

Armed with three model rockets and waning golden hour light, the space race began with Cold War readiness. With the help of my son's God Father at GetAwayMoments and my whole family, they launched homemade rockets into the atmosphere. NASA would have been impressed.

This 1080p video shot with the Canon EOS M at 29.97fps was very impromptu. Completely handheld during the launch sequences, I barely managed to keep a steady track of the model rockets. I even used the built in Canon EOS M stereo microphones for audio capture. Luckily, the sunset and minimal wind conditions made optimal video shooting conditions. I edited with iMovie'11 and used Quicktime to compress a 240mb h264 video file at best quality.

A precious God Father moment with his God Son blasting rockets into the sky is also a opportune moment for a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition video shoot. Getawaymoments maybe working on his next DIY GoPro Hero 3 Aerial Rocket Video with G Class solid propellant multi stage engines. Imagine the first GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition in the upper echelons of the atmosphere.

Humble beginnings spark ingenious ideas. Model rocketry inspires future scientific endeavors for young minds and priceless moments for my family. Many thanks, Getawaymoments.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Proud Soccer Dad Cometh

Watch out David Beckham, the next Filipino footballer has arrived with kicking enthusiasm and revelry. With a little encouragement and a well needed break from video games, my son came out running, quite literally, to the local youth soccer program at N-Zone Sports.

The "Bulldozer" intercepts the ball to dribble the tumultuous path to overcome the wary goalkeeper a few yards away. The excited soccer dad shoots the action with his camera with simultaneous shouts of consolation. A task proved difficult.

Sports photography takes practice and more practice. With my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with AF Servo enabled and my strategically placed AF point in the viewfinder, I managed to click some decent well composed soccer action pictures.

This is not my first youth soccer game photo shoot. My daughter played youth soccer a couple years back with much success. Her soccer interest has waned and is now replaced by social events and the latest fashion trends.

Just like life itself, I think my son is striker bound. Heading forward through obstacles to an ultimate goal. Keeping ahead of the ball is not an easy task despite the anarchy. This soccer dad cometh with overwhelming adulation this holiday season.

You can view more soccer chaos in Jude's Youth Soccer 2012 Gallery shot with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV paired with the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS zoom lens.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

An Epic Thanksgiving in New York City

Fond memories. A fresh roasted turkey with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day sticks to my ribs like numb fingers and watery eyes on a cold evening at the Trump Wollman Ice Rink at Central Park in New York City. Let the hectic holidays begin with a family trip to the Big Apple!

The huddled masses came in droves for prosperity and freedom in early days. The Soriano family came with stroller draped with diaper bag and my Canon EOS M bound for non stop NYC cuisine and tourist attractions. Most huddled masses come to an abrupt halt at the $12 toll at the Lincoln Tunnel and take mass transit!

The early bird gets the worm at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you are not hitting the streets at the break of dawn for a good viewing spot, you get to watch the parade from a block away like us. With good timing and a zoom lens, you can witness the larger than life balloon characters stroll down the Avenue of the Americas.

Explaining the unexplainable to your kids is a daunting task. The epic National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center reminds us about that tragic loss suffered from the acts of terrorists. The two cascading waterfalls surrounded by the names of people lost during the attacks makes a thankful Thanksgiving this holiday.

This breathtaking 1080p video of New York City was brought to you by the Canon EOS M digital mirrorless camera. The "Canon Rebel T4i/650D in a Powershot form factor" gives outstanding image and video quality in a very small package. The smaller body paired with a large APS-C sensor packs a big punch especially when attached to good glass.

My kids hit the books during our family trip at the New York Public Library. Of course, I mean that quite literally and there was actually no reading involved. We were all to busy gawking at all the ornate architecture and amazing artwork. My fisheye images are from my Rokinon 8mm T3.8 Fisheye Cine lens paired with the Canon EOS M with Lens Mount Adapter.

Like all good Catholics, we made an obligatory visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC. Like most of New York City, the famous church was under renovation. Amidst the scaffolding, the Rokinon 8mm T3.8 Fisheye Cine Lens captured every moment with beauty and poise.

New York City's finest paid me a visit during my New York City Subway photography session. I did my homework of the Mass Transit Authority rules and regulations when it concerns photography that cold morning. After a brief confrontation with the NYPD about "no photography allowed", I quickly resolved the misinformation about the law with my own copy of the rules. As of this date, there is photography with no tripod or lights allowed without permit in the New York City Subway system. Enough said!

Bright lights meet big city at Times Square in New York City. Night becomes day in this wall of lights from ground to sky. It is like orchestrated chaos of people, traffic and illuminated skyscrapers composing a light and sound symphony.

Cherish the freedoms of Lady Liberty and be thankful this hectic holiday season. Two values worthy of unspoken explanation.

You can view more Central Park goodness in my Thanksgiving in New York City 2012 Gallery shot with the Canon EOS M digital mirrorless camera. The Canon EOS M was paired with the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM, EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS and the Rokinon 8mm T3.8 Fisheye Cine lenses.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Canon EOS M Verdict and Video Review

Big things come in small packages. Consider the new mirrorless Canon EOS M as a Rebel in a Powershot body and you have yourself a wolf in sheep's clothing. Underneath the hood of Canon's first entry in the mirrorless digital camera market is an 18 megapixel APS-C sensor with DIGIC V processor like its bigger Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D brother.

For a retail price of $800, the Canon EOS M with EF-M 22mm f/2 STM kit lens does not come cheap when compared to other mirrorless brands like Sony, Panasonic and Nikon. The high price pays for the large APS-C sized sensor like in the Canon EOS Rebel T4i and the rest of the Canon cropped sensor lineup such as the Canon 7D. The Canon EOS M is a big sensor in a compact form factor with a new interchangeable EF-M lens mount.

The Canon EOS M shares many features of the similar priced Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D except an actual SLR view finder, a swivel screen and a pop up flash. The differences stop there. The Hybrid AF system with continuous auto focus during video recording comes to the Canon EOS M. The AF Servo works in conjunction with STM (stepper motor) lenses for smoother lens movement in photo or video mode.

The touchscreen feature comes back to the Canon EOS M with open arms. I am not a big fan of limited tactile controls but the Canon EOS M combines real buttons with an intuitive touchscreen. The limited landscape at the rear LCD forces you to use the touchscreen at times. The on demand buttons of ISO and white balance of the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D are gone and replaced by a press of the "Q" menu button for the touch interface. Old school button pushers rejoice, the multifunction controller remains intact for the meantime.

With big APS-C sensors come dreamy bokeh and fantastic image quality. The included EF-M 22mm f/2 STM kit lens is fast and sharp with bursting color rendition. Now for the bad news...the autofocus is slow like turtle slow! Gone are the fast and accurate 9 AF points of the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D with a real DSLR viewfinder. The Canon EOS M is a point and shoot camera with a point and shoot AF system. The Canon EOS M takes a good one second to lock focus on a sunny day. Poor lighting conditions give way to the external focus assist light to help out if needed. Sports photographers (aka soccer moms) in need of AI Servo for fast action shots will be disappointed.

Long time Canon photographers can use their extensive EF and EF-S glass with the Canon EOS M with the optional Canon lens mount adapter. The optical possibilities are unleashed like my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L prime lens paired with the Canon EOS M above. Do not hold your breath when it comes to AF speed. The point and shoot AF speed of the Canon EOS M is the same with mount adapter and EF glass. Bummer!

Aspiring photographers do not be afraid of all the technical jargon. The Canon EOS M has entry level Scene Intelligent Auto and Basic Zone modes with the addition of Creative Filters for beginners just like the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. There is an even a fool proof Face Detect AF mode for people photos. A bad picture is not in the Canon EOS M vocabulary.

A clean ISO 3200 will make you smile and freeze your manually focused indoor sport action shots. Just like the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D, ISO all the way up to 3200 is for everyday use with no problem. ISO 6400 is grainy but can be cleaned up in RAW post processing. Anything higher like ISO 12800 is a crime against nature on many levels.

Just like the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D, the Canon EOS M video quality is outstanding in all video resolutions such as the 1080p video shot at 29.97fps shown above. Just like the Canon 5D Mark III and T4i/650D, the Canon EOS M has an extended video recording capability up to 29 minutes and 29 seconds without the FAT32 memory card limitation. Do not expect to record hours of footage with the LP-E12 battery. With no viewfinder, the LCD Live View along with any image stabilized lens drains the battery very quickly. Buy spares!

The Canon EOS M in video mode has full manual control over exposure and audio levels for ultimate creativity. The Canon EOS M has integrated stereo microphones and a mono microphone input port on the side that allows external audio devices to be connected for audio capture. DSLR filmmakers can now have a primary or secondary discreet camera for multiple camera shoots.

The continuous AF during video recording from the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D makes it over to the new Canon EOS M with all its disappointment. As you can recall, the Hybrid AF system allows objects or people to be continuously tracked in focus during video recording. With Canon's new EF-M STM or stepper motor lenses, the Hybrid AF system allows smoother lens focusing when compared to USM and non USM EF lenses. Everything sounds good on paper but ultimately an epic fail in execution. Just watch the video below and judge for yourself...

My Hybrid AF conclusion is the same for the Canon EOS M and the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. I give it a big thumbs down. Canon needs to do its homework on AF Servo technology because it simply does not work well at all! My old school policy of good camera work is manual focus, manual exposure, manual audio and lots of practice.

For all those Final Cut Pro 6 and 7 fans out there, I have an Apple NLE treat! Just like the modified .plist of the Canon E-1 Movie plugin of the Canon Rebel T4i/650D, I hacked the .plist again for the new Canon EOS M. With this .plist modification, you can automatically log and transfer your Canon EOS M .mov files to AppleProRes422 instead of manually transcoding. Just read the above .plist and follow my links in my last Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D Video Test for detailed instructions.

The force was strong this weekend, just like my Canon EOS M verdict. I was at the premiere of LEGO Star Wars Miniland at LEGOLAND Florida snapping away LEGO pics with my Canon EOS M around my neck. My Canon EOS M conclusion? The image quality out of this Rebel in a Powershot body with interchangeable lenses is outstanding. I always wanted a Canon Powershot G1X with a DSLR sized sensor. Now my mirrorless dreams have come true. Of course, any good dream has to end and the disappointing Hybrid AF is definitely from the dark side of the force.

Nothing says cool like a hot pink trike and glitter shoes! The new Canon EOS M is the perfect compact travel companion with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and the ease of use of a Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. Despite the slow point and shoot AF for pictures and disappointing AF servo during video recording, the Canon EOS M shines as a portable powerhouse with DSLR image quality.

You can view more eye candy photos and videos in my Canon EOS M Verdict and Video Review Gallery. I have more videos, ISO comparisons and images shot with a variety of EF/EF-S lenses from the Canon EOS M mirrorless digital camera.

Hit the streets of NYC like at Times Square at night with the Canon EOS M paired with the Rokinon 8mm T3.8 Fisheye Cine lens. The small form factor combined with the full array of Canon EF glass with EF-M lens adapter make a fabulous duo.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yosemite National Park Experience

Ansel Adams relied on his trusty pack mule to venture into the Yosemite wilderness with heavy camera gear to capture epic vistas and breathtaking landscapes. I traveled with my family and reliable Peg Perego baby stroller through paved mountain passes to El Capitan and Tunnel View parking lots photographing tourist laden panoramas. I call this family wilderness photography with a wife and three kids.

The National Park Service warned us about a Hantavirus outbreak but never adorable and hungry baby cubs luring wary onlookers for constant attention and cherry lollipops. Through the looking glass of our minivan rental, we saw Mule Deer, a coyote, annoying squirrels and Stellar Jays a plenty!


With so much grand views of the Sierra Nevada, a bad photograph is hard to come by with this much eye candy. No 4x5 view cameras and plate glass emulsion in my bag during this adventure, but my full frame Canon EOS 5D Mark III ready for landscape detail. A good wide angle with minimal distortion is great for vistas but a zoom lens is even better for compressing forest mountain tops. Fill the frame!


Our Yosemite National Park visit was brief but memorable. The trip to San Francisco led the family straight to Jollibee and other "City by the Bay" landmarks. My son had his eyes on landmarks like souvenir gift shops and Jollibee Chickenjoy!


My fashion diva oldest daughter willingly posed a many in the picturesque Japanese Tea Garden by the Academy of Science Museum. The middle school fashionista dominated the city and wilderness with ease.


Too much family pictures and not enough nap time, make adorable baby cubs angry and short tempered. A bit of family picture advice for the novice, take baby and toddler photographs fresh from a nap and arm your self with loads of patience!


A 1080p video shot with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III at 29.97fps. Edited with Final Cut Pro 6.0.6 and used Compressor to get a 1.2gb h264 video file at best quality. I used the Canon E-1 Movie Plugin to automatically transcode to AppleProRes422. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III was paired with the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L, Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS lenses. For audio, I used a Sennheiser MKE400 shotgun microphone. For stability, I used a Manfrotto 701HDV fluid head with Benro 3580 tripod legs.


The Golden Gate bridging gaps with one clam chowder filled sourdough bowl at a time. Considered a civil engineering wonder of the world, the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset strikes an ominous pause through my "L" glass. A sturdy tripod is a must on top of this windy overlook for the extra sharp details.

My four wonders of the world posing in hot pink, camouflage and Kirkland Signature Khaki in front of another grand wonder, Half Dome at Glacier Point.

You can view more in my Yosemite National Park and San Francisco 2012 Gallery shot with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III paired with the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS and EF 70-200mm f/4L IS lenses.

 Stay updated with the latest gear like my upcoming Canon EOS M Verdict and Video Review by Becoming a Fan on my Facebook Fan Page and following me on Twitter!