Cameras for Christmas

  Once again it's that time of year when I forget that Santa has forsaken me and start thinking that maybe I'll find a new camera in my stocking or under the tree, or even in a plain box left in the door by the UPS driver. But I know that's just wishful thinking, so this is for you and yours, just in case you are shopping for Cameras for Christmas.

  Cameras in this review range from $99 to just under $700. We start at the low end with cameras incorporating an integrated lens, known as Point & Shoots, and follow with several entry level Digital SLRs. Our criterion is value for the money you'll spend, and we offer at the end of the piece a list of review sites that provide a professional hands-on evaluation of digital cameras, most having its own picks or favorites that you may want to consider. We'll also tell you why and where to buy used gear, and short treatise on megapixels and why they really don't matter. But first...the Cameras!

Freeware 2009

  In our third review of Freeware for the Windows PC you'll find sixteen applications that are worthy of your consideration. This time we're adding more emphasis to image editors and other tools for digital photographers, and yet we have some nifty applications for general use as well. All of the programs are free for personal use, but as always we encourage you to consider a donation to the programmer who authored the program if you find it useful.

  We sort through dozens of programs, install and test two or three in each category before settling on one that we believe works best and offers some real value. Several of the programs merited individual reviews and you'll find links to those and more in Freeware 2009.  



Canon Hackers Development Kit

Here's a hack that won't void your warranty and does add some serious functions to the humble Point and Shoot, including a RAW format that adds extra color depth to your photos. But first, CHDK is a program that runs on top of your camera's operating system, and once it is loaded onto a memory card you can choose whether or not to run it. If the card is locked CHDK will load, and if not the camera will ignore it and take pictures as it does normally.

  I 'm using a Powershot 590 IS. It's one of my Best Buys from Cameras For Christmas 2008 and for the budget conscious, the aspiring photographer, or even serious amateur who wants a pocket camera, the 590 has a lot to offer and retails for around $100. But CHDK spans nearly the entire line of Canon Powershots so if you have one already then hustle over to its Wiki and load up.

  The advantage of shooting RAW is that you can control the development of the image, and you get all 10 bits coming off the sensor while the JPEGs are only 8 bits per channel (R, G, B). Each additional bit doubles the file size, therefore in 8 bits you have 256 levels of light per channel, and in 10 bits you have 1024.

  JPEGs are processed in the camera and are therefore subjected to a tonal curve and compressed thereby losing at least some of the information or detail in the image. RAW files come directly from the sensor with no processing, and no compression. The result a wider gamut, or simply more light and consequentially more color.

  To illustrate this I've taken a couple of shots to provide you with a side by side comparison. RAW files are saved in the Digital Negative format developed by Adobe and have the extension DNG. When you take a shot CHDK saves both a RAW file and a JPEG so you have both files on your memory card.

Follow this Link to the article and sample photos


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Akvis Noise Buster Review

  If you think kids are noisy then you should take a close look at the photos coming out of your camera. It's called pixel peeping and it's not always a pretty picture.

  Akvis offers three versions of Noise Buster and a 10 day free trial of the Home version. We tried it, we liked it, and we reviewed it. Get our take on Noise Buster Here.


Links to CHDK

Time Lapse with CHDK

Motion Detection with CHDK

Online Learning

Philip Greenspun writes a concise book that is available on, complete with comments by the community. With plenty of examples, this is a professional's guide for, as it is titled, Making Photographs.  You'll also find links on selecting a camera, lenses, and accessory equipment as well. A Good Read and lots of artistic photos.