the king

After yesterday's Abraham Lincoln shot I thought I would post this shot I took on the QEW (an Ontario Highway) last summer. Yes it is true - Elvis is alive - and living in a quiet Burlington suburb!

abraham lincoln

Traveling in Toronto today to a meeting and who did I bump into - Abraham Lincoln playing a harp - just as well I had my camera or you would never believe me!

stoney bay

Even thought the D90 is gone I will be posting shots I took with it for a while. It was only the shallow DOF shots that were problematic. This is a shot that looks fine - taken early one morning - just after the sun came up on the Leslie Spit, Toronto.

You might notice, however, that for a setting of 1/800 sec at f/4.2 it looks a little softer than expected. That is the lens - the Sigma 10-20 is always is a little soft - but the dramatically wide angles are worth it.

nikon d300s

If you come to my blog regularly you know what this shot means already—a new camera—this time a Nikon D300s.

Given my experience with returning two defective D90 bodies I was a bit anxious getting the D300s because what if there was something wrong with this too!

I unboxed it outside the store and my heart sunk initially because when I booted the camera up it did not give me the new camera screen that it is supposed to. Also, someone had already entered the date and time information. I initially suspected the unit was not brand new. Things got better from there on though as I systematically began testing:

I tested total camera shutter releases using Opanda IExif software which confirmed that despite my suspicions, the camera was indeed new and never used before.

I tested focus points, especially those on the edges of the view finder, and confirmed that there appears to be no back or forward focusing problems.

I tested for sensor dust and found about 4 dust spots that show up when the sky is shot at f/22 and contrast is boosted in post shot processing. While not perfect, this dust is nothing to worry about because it will not show up in regular shooting.

This means that my original plan to upgrade my old D300 to a D300s (which has video and a few other features I wanted) seems to have worked. I wish the revised plan to go with a D90 rather than D300s had worked, because I wanted a lighter body not to mention the savings, but the focusing issues derailed that plan.

I will be doing more tests over the next few days, but if the D300s continues to pass them, I am set for a while.

winter driving

One of the only good things about Daniel moving to China, is he sold me his SUV, which although it has over 150,000k on the clock, still makes easy work of the snow we have had this week. Thanks Daniel!


Pretty much everyone got it right in yesterdays photo quiz. The problem is where the sharp area falls on the road. Today’s photo is a close-up-crop from yesterday’s shot and shows the issue more clearly. Because the camera was focused on the yellow number this should have been in focus—but instead the area behind that point is in focus—this is called “backfocus.”

I tried two Nikon D90s and both had backfocus problems; the first with all focal points, the second only with the side focal points. I did not rely only on this one photo to conclude there were back focus problems, I did dozens of controlled shots with the camera on a tripod testing each focus point against a specially designed chart that measures focus point and depth of field (DOF), and all these shots confirmed what I noticed in this photo.

It is strange that two D90s had the same problem: Perhaps it was a problem with a batch of Nikon cameras, or it might be a common D90 problem that is not usually recognized because the issue will only be visible shooting at a large aperture with a shallow DOF.

Nikon could fix the backfocus problem for me if I sent the camera to them for calibration, but being fussy I expect new cameras to work properly right from the start, so I did not go for this option. Instead I asked for a refund and the staff at Henrys (Ancaster) were very understanding and happily gave me one—they are returning the two D90s back to Nikon as defective.

So what now? Likely I will get a D300s, which because of its more advanced focusing system, will hopefully not exhibit the same problems.

The importance of having pin-point-accuracy with shallow DOF can be seen from this earlier shot taken with the D300 where the DOF was right. Notice how the subject has to be in the very narrow focused area to make a viable photograph.

quality control

Here is a quick quiz – what is wrong with this photograph – or more accurately what is wrong with the camera that took this photograph? I will post my next photo Tuesday and give the answer – post your guesses in the comments section.

So here is the context. Walking along the Leslie Spit with my cousin Saturday morning, I found this piece of wood with the number 28 on and I just liked the way it looked. I placed the wood in the middle of the road, laid down in the road, set the D90 at aperture priority, selected f/2.8, and set the right focus point on the wood. My idea was to take the photo at the angle shown and use the shallow depth of field to draw attention to the number by having the out-of-focus forground and background forming a nice backdrop.

It is easy to make errors in a photo like this—but in this instance none were made—if you can spot the error it is to do with the camera. I will tell you more about the issue and why I know it was the camera on Tuesday.

In the mean time enjoy – even though there is something wrong with the photo – it is subtle and it is still a nice shot (in my opinion).

math café

This is the McMaster "Math Café" (in the math school) which is relatively quiet at the moment because it is reading week, so a good time to take photos.

So Michael asked me what I think of the D90 so far.

I like the weight which to me makes it more comfortable taking pictures. I like the colour, which although is supposed to be the same as the D300, I am finding a subtle but pleasing difference with a more natural look to the D90 shots. I like the built in curves which I think are a little less harsh and preserve highlights a bit better.

What I don’t like is the focusing, the last body went back after a few days with a serious back focus issue and the verdict is still out on this one. You will not notice it in these shots – but I notice it in the tests I do – and more importantly it will show up with shallow depth of field shots where focus has to be exact. I don’t like having less manual controls but there is a manual control for all the functions I use most. The other worry with this unit is sometimes fails to recognize one of my SD cards, so far the same card each time, but none the less concerning.

The verdict - I am still not sure – but I am sure that what the decision will hinge on is focus. By next week if I am not convinced that I am getting results as sharp as the D300 I will take it back and swap it for a D300s (the updated version of my previous D300), which was the original plan anyway when I sold the D300. Shame though – because I like the lighter smaller body of the D90 so I am hoping it works out.

global warming

Thanks to global warming birds get to drink in winter!

happy new year

James - just before he left for China - where it is now new year. Happy new year China!

As rrz says in yesterday's comments, James arrives, "on the first day of the year of the tiger, which is bold, courageous, and fearless." These are good words, remember James, show your strength of character, kindness and patience, as for your other strengths, be a "crouching tiger hidden dragon."


James left this evening on his one-way ticket to China with no plans to come back in the near future. "It is time," he said, "to go out on my own and do something in the world." I sure will miss him.

nikon d90

Sorry for not posting for a few days – I was so busy!

Today’s photo you have seen before – when I get a new lens or camera it is my traditional test shot. Today I picked up a Nikon D90 and will be testing over the next few days to make sure that it is working properly.

handheld device

This is an older photo – taken when driving – there is now a law against this in Ontario so I suppose I will not be taking any more shots like this.

On the camera front, I am on the verge of buying a Nikon D90: The D90 is less “professional” than my D300, but it is a later model so it has an image quality that should be indistinguishable from the D300, and it is also lighter, smaller and has video – which are benefit I am looking forward to.

Once I do buy it – look forward to pictures that are much more recent than today’s shot.