The Mackinac Bridge. Michigan.  Photo © Jim Doty Jr.

Can you take nice photos with an iPhone? Yes. Does it have its limits? Of course.

I have been experimenting with the photo capabilities of an iPhone 3G. The files are small, 600×800 pixels, but the image quality can be quite good under certain circumstances. This is a switch for me since I usually take photos with a full frame digital SLR. But I have been having fun with the iPhone and learning what it can and can’t do.

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You can’t go far wrong buying a recent model Digital SLR.  They are all good cameras and most of them are great cameras.

Over the last twelve months, the following DSLRs received a “Highly Recommended” rating from DP Review, their highest rating (with sensor size in megapixles – mp):

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 21 mp
Canon EOS 7D, 18 mp
Canon Digital Rebel T1i, 15.1 mp
Nikon D3X, 24.5 mp
Nikon D300S, 12.3 megapixels
Nikon D5000, 12.3 mp
Olympus E-620, 12.3 mp
Olympus E-30, 12.3 mp
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1, 12.1 mp
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, 12.1 mp
Pentax K-7, 14.6 mp

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2009 SHORT LIST (Top rated cameras listed by name, sensor size in megapixels – mp, and the zoom range of the lens):

Best point and shoot “transitional cameras” (point and shoot cameras that take interchangeable lenses):

Olympus Pen E-P1, 12.3 megapixels, interchangeable lenses
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, 12.1 megapixels, interchangeable lenses

Best point and shoot cameras:

Canon PowerShot SD880 IS, 10 mp, 4x zoom
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS, 9 mp, 10x zoom
Canon PowerShot SX10IS, 10 mp, 20x zoom lens
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd, 12 mp, 5x zoom
Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR, 12 mp, 4.4x zoom
Panasonic Lumix FZ28, 10.1, 18x zoom
Panasonic Lumix LX3, 10.1, 2.5x zoom
Panasonic Lumix TZ5, 9.1 mp, 10x zoom
Panasonic Lumix ZS1, 10.1 mp, 12x zoom
Panasonic Lumix ZS3, 10.1 mp, 12x zoom

Best underwater point and shoot cameras:

Canon Powershot D10, 12.1 mp, 3x zoom lens
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, 12.1 mp, 4.6x zoom

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Pretty amazing! Check out the Vincent Laforet video at the end of this article. This video is causing a lot of buzz among videographers.

The new Canon EOS 5D Mark II is the first Digital SLR to include 1080 high definition video. What is exciting about this is the size of the sensor and what it makes possible in terms of lenses choices and depth of field. It can do things that are impossible with video cameras.

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In my September 17 post when the Canon 5D Mark II camera was announced, I wrote:

“As always, I recommend that you wait to buy any new model of camera until a few months after the camera hits the shelves. That will give Canon time to work out the “new model bugs” that so often happen. The 5D Mark II should be “bug free” a few months after its release.”

I wasn’t picking on just Canon since cameras from lot of manufacturers are released with some bugs in the first cameras released to the public.

This time around, it is the Canon 5D which has “black dot” and banding problems. A Google search for Canon 5D black dot will turn up lots of articles. A good place top start is Rob Galbraith’s article. And example of the black dots next to white lights is here. Canon has posted a service notice which is reproduced below after the break.

If you haven’t bought the new 5D Mark II and intend to, I would suggest, as I did in September, that you wait until the bugs are worked out.

If you already have the 5D Mark II, you will need to wait for a firmware update and be aware of situations when the problem might show up. Details are in the service notice.

Official Canon Service Notice . . .

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top 4 cameras sensors overall
The Top 4 Digital Camera Sensors in Overall Image Quality – DxO Labs

How good is your digital camera sensor? How does it compare to other camera sensors in terms of color depth, dynamic range, and low-light high ISO quality? Is there a reliable source where you can find this information?

The good new is yes, there is a great, reliable source for this kind of information – DxO Labs.
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Canon 5D Mark II

It is now official. After posting teasers on their web sites for the last week, at midnight last night, Canon officially announced the much awaited Canon 5D Mark II.

So what’s new and improved?

*The sensor jumps from 12.8 megapixels on the current model to 21.1 megapixels on the new model. So long as the quality remains good, more megapixels means bigger enlargements.

*High ISO sensitivity jumps from 3200 to 6400 but it can be expanded to ISO 25,600. This is huge news if the quality is still good at the higher ISOs.  This should mean better pictures at much lower light levels and faster shutter speeds at lower ambient light levels.

*Now for the really surprising, good news (at least so far as I am concerned). For a long time I have wondered why Canon didn’t put a movie mode in a digital SLR.  This is a basic feature of many point and shoot digital cameras and it is one of the reasons I run around with a digital point and shoot (the Canon Powershot S3 IS).  I like to capture short video clips. Canon finally did it. The Canon 5D Mark II incorporates full HD (1920×1080) video at 30 fps. Finally!!  This is the first and only (as of Sept 17) D-SLR to provide a High Definition movie mode.  You can play high resolution movies from the new Canon 5D on your HD TV.

*The 5D Mk II has Auto ISO in all modes except manual. If the shutter speed drops below a certain point due to a drop in light levels, the camera jumps the ISO to maintain the desired shutter speed.

More additions and upgrades to the 5D Mark II:

*The dust reduction feature that is part of several other Canon D-SLRs.

*Digic IV image processing.

*A still photo continuous capture rate of 3.9 frames per second.

*“Live View” mode with many options.

*A 3 inch high resolution (VGA) LCD screen.

There is a lot more to this camera but the feature above interest me the most. You can read an excellent preview at DPReview.com.

The specs sound very good. How good is this camera really?  I will let you know when reliable test reports begin to appear.

As always, I recommend that you wait to buy any new model of camera until a few months after the camera hits the shelves. That will give Canon time to work out the “new model bugs” that so often happen. The 5D Mark II should be “bug free” a few months after its release. (I know you can hardly resist if you have been waiting for this model.) The cost is expected to be around $2700 USD.

Canon’s 5D Mark II promo page.

Canon has posted a couple of downloadable, full-sized jpeg images here.