Category Archives: Photography

Sony RX100 ii Review

Sony RX100 ii review

Seven months ago, I made the plunge to by the Sony DSC-RX100M II
point and shoot camera. Why say “plunge” you might ask? It’s a plunge because even though this is a completely pocket-able (read: small!) point and shoot camera, it retails for nearly $700. Yes, you read that right, $700 – more than several of the entry-level DSLR’s on the market today!
However, one look at the following stats, and you can see why:
– It has a Carl-Zeiss f/1.8 lens (for those not familiar with Zeiss lenses, they are some of the sharpest (and most expensive!) on the market. An aperture of 1.8 has never been seen in a point and shoot before either. f/1.8 means you can get incredible low-light photographs, without a flash!
– It has a 1 inch sensor- this is the size sensor found in most DSLR’s, meaning you’ll get amazing quality photographs out of this tiny camera.
– It has fully manual settings, as well as aperture priory or shutter priority (and many scene modes and auto that you’ll find on all point and shoots).
– Besides full manual settings for the shutter speed and aperture, it also has full manual white balance settings and manual control over aspects such as ISO.
– It can take photos in both jpeg and RAW.

Enough with the fancy camera talk– the photographs are what speak for themselves.

The lens goes from f/1.8 – f/11, and with the full manual settings, I can set my aperture to f/11 and get those starbursts that I love so much with my DSLR in this point and shoot!  This was one of the very first photos I took as soon as I got my camera out of the box, and believe me when I say that I literally squealed when I saw that sunburst come up on the screen!

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It also takes great panoramic photos – no stitching required- just pan the scene with the camera and it does everything in-camera.
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The colors that this camera renders are absolutely gorgeous:
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The f/1.8 aperture means lovely blurred backgrounds:
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The camera also has an in-camera HDR (that you can set on a scale of 1-6, one being subtle HDR and 6 being strong). Most P&S cameras make a very “fake” looking HDR, but in the Sony, it is very realistic, and helps a lot at night when brighter areas may be blown out.  This first one is with the HDR turned on (to a level of 3) and the one below is without.  You can see in the “with HDR” picture the trees are a bit brighter and there is more detail in the Grand Ole Opry.  In the “without” picture, the whole photo is darker, and parts of the two guitars are blown out (meaning they’re just white, no details or colors).
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Another with and without HDR – the HDR can really help bring out the sky when the camera wants to meter off of a building (oh- and gotta have that sunburst!)

With:
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Without:
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The manual settings mean you can really slow down the shutter speed to get some creative shots like this:1DSC02955

 

And did I mention how awesome the f/1.8 lens is? This shot of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland was done hand-held!1DSC03009

 

I may have only purchased this camera back in February, but it has already travelled through 17 states with me and to be honest, on our road trip, I used it more than my DSLR.  It was convenient to have in the front seat with me, and on some of our stops (such as walking around Nashville, or spending the day in Disneyland), when I know I’m going to be walking a lot, carrying this Sony in my pocket was so much easier than carrying my DSLR.  I’m not saying it is a replacement for a DSLR, but it is a close contender.

I have yet to go through all of my road trip pictures, but when I do, I’d love to update this sony rx100 ii review post with more of what this camera can do. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about it, do not hesitate to ask- I love to talk camera and I’d be happy to answer!

(ETA; Sony has updated this amazing camera, and now has the Sony DSC-RX100M III – a few key updates include an even better lens (with an even better aperture!), a back screen that flips up completely for ‘selfies’ (you can see what you are taking a picture of!), and a built in ND filter. If you can swing it, I’d go for the newest model – if not, I’m sure this means that the original will go down in price now!

Five on Friday – A Photography Exercise to Improve Your Pictures

Today’s Five on Friday is a five step photography exercise to help improve your photos!  This is a fun exercise to do if you’re stuck in a photography rut as it really forces you to see things differently.  You’ll need at least a half an hour for this, but don’t be surprised if it turns into much longer than that!  The only equipment you’ll need is a camera and a subject to photograph.  It doesn’t even have to be a fancy SLR, a point and shoot or even your phone will do!  The point of this exercise is to make you see one subject in a variety of ways, and in the process learn to train your eye.

Without further adu, 5 tips to improve your photography today:

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Grab your camera and scout out your location.  My location is fairly humdrum- I was out running one day when I passed by the marquee for my local middle school.  Planted in front of the sign was a small crop of tulips that had just bloomed.  After my run (and a shower!), I grabbed my camera and headed back over to my location.  The photos below were all shot with a Nikon D7000 and my Tamron AF 60mm f/2.0 lens. (*Both of those links are affiliate links that will bring you to Amazon. I get a small compensation if you purchase anything through my links).

Fairly plain and boring right?  Read on to find out how to turn this into something magical!

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1- Get down low and be aware of your background.  For these flowers, standing above them and photographing them from 5 feet above them isn’t going to create a visually appealing photo.  For this first picture, I got down on their level and moved myself around so that the American Flag was in the background.  Be aware of what is in your background.  If it is distracting, move around or move in closer/zoom in to eliminate it.  If there’s something interesting, move around yet again to include it.

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2. Look for leading lines.  Leading lines (in this case, the flower stems) draw the eye into the photograph.  In this photo, the stems draw your eyes upward to the bright red flower.  Look around in your location for something that could be considered leading lines and photograph it with your subject at the end of those lines.  You’ll be amazed at how abstract your photos can turn out!

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3. Get close and personal.  If you have a macro lens (or a macro feature on your point and shoot), use it and see how close you can get to your subject.  In this case, I moved in close to the stamen of the tulip.

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4.  Don’t have concrete feet.  I always remember a college professor who told us (in an education class) that as a teacher, we shouldn’t have concrete feet- as in, don’t act as if your feet are planted in one location, make sure you move around.  In this case, I laid down on the ground to shoot these flowers from down low.  So many photograph flowers from above, but look how interesting the lighting is when I got down low.  It makes these flowers appear as if they were on fire!

I once read that a photographer pretended that their subject had a clock drawn around it, and then proceeded to photograph it from every “hour” angle. They positioned their camera at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and so on.  By photographing 12 different angles, you might find a different perspective you would have not other noticed.

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5.  Turn around.  Yup– do a 180 and turn around. You’ve been focused on one subject this whole time, turn your body around and find something else behind you to photograph.  I turned around and on the other side of the sidewalk was this puffy dandelion.  I know they’re a weed, one that many wish they didn’t have in their yard, but I find them whimsical and oh so fluffy.

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So there you have it- 5 tips, and a half an hour (or more) and look at how far your photos have already come.  You’ve gone from a boring scene and turned it into a work of art.  Remember to take your time and have fun!  If you try out this exercise, I’d love to see your before/afters! Link up to them in the comments above.

5 On Friday – Favorite Photo Apps

Today’s Five on Friday is my top 5 favorite photo apps. You have no idea how difficult it was for me to narrow this list down to just five! At last count, I had 42 different photo apps.
These may be my favorite 5 apps, but there are some exceptions- I wrote this as an informative post, and I’m pretty sure that everyone knows what Instagram is, and that is truly my most used app, so that would be #1, but I left it off the list in an effort to introduce you to an app you might not know about.

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*Note- I use all of these apps on my iPhone- I am not sure if these are available on any other platform.

First up is Rhonna Designs- this app is normally 1.99, but I happened to score it on a week when it was on sale for FREE! Woo!  Either way, now that I’ve used the app, I can see that it is well worth that $1.99.  This app is the app when it comes to adding graphics or text to your pictures.  Not only is there a plethora of fonts and designs, but they can all be customized to different sizes and colors.  Check out the hashtag #rhonna or #rhonnadesigns on Instagram to see what others are doing with this amazing app!

Second up is LensLight.  This app is $1.99 as well, and in my eyes, is also well worth it (I don’t often spend money on apps- in fact, in my 4 years of owning an iPhone and iPad, I’m guessing I’ve spent less than $10 total on apps).  This app is essential if you want to add lens flare or starbursts to your photos.  It’s great when you take a picture in wonderful light, but the starburst lines aren’t that well defined- this app will make your photo go from good to great!

Here’s a before and after of a photo I added a starburst too:

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Number three on my list is Pixfx.  I love making pictures look vintage, and sometimes the filters in Instagram just don’t cut it.  This app is the mecca for vintage filters, and it also comes with some frames, bokeh (the little balls of light) and textures.  Each filter can be adjusted to your liking, either by rotating it or making it less transparent.

Next up is the Squaready app.  This is the app to go to if you want to upload a rectangular image to the always-square Instagram.  It is a quick app- upload your picture, hit a button or two, and it fits the rectangle right into the square and sends it right to Instagram.  You can also do some basic edits in this app as well.

But, the editing is all reserved for my last app- Snapseed. A picture does not get uploaded to my blog, facebook or Instagram before heading into Snapseed first.  It is by far, the best app I have found for editing pictures on the go.  There’s a section for basic edits such as contrast, brightness and saturation, a section for sharpening, cropping, straightening, and more.  I love the “selective adjust” tool where I can highlight a certain area and apply certain edits (brightness, contrast or saturation) to just a part of the image. I also love the drama effect- it works great on most photos as an all in one edit for making photos pop.  Seriously- if you only download one photo app, this one should be it.

I hope this helped you out by introducing you to at least one new app you’ve never seen before, and now it’s your turn- I’m always looking for great new apps- what is your favorite one? Leave me a note in the comments to let me know!

Be sure to follow me on Instagram @ Sewin2Disney to see what I can do with these apps!

Part 2: *More* Tips For Taking Better Product Photos

Last week, I shared 5 tips to take better product photos with your point and shoot. You can find that post here. Once you’ve mastered those steps, I have a few more today to really take your pictures to the next level! The best part is- these can all be done with your point and shoot camera! (Please read part one as I do talk about how having an SLR is important, but how you can make do with a point and shoot).
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Today I am going to cover white balance, editing, reflectors, and the power of Play Doh (yes, seriously!).

White Balance-
Are your pictures very blue or very red? Your white balance can be off. Different kinds of lighting in your house (or wherever you may be taking pictures) can cast different colored hues on your photographs- this is called white balance. Most cameras have a setting where you can change your white balance to a variety of different settings- auto, tungston, flourescent, cloudy, sunny, etc. Each setting has a different “shade” and can really change the overall look of your picture. Play around with the settings to see what looks best!
For example, here is an example of the picture on auto white balance (which normally does a fine job)
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Here is the same picture on “cloudy” mode- it casts a red hue. (So if your picture is overly blue, you’d put it on this to balance out the color)
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And last, this is on tungsten (a very blue hue- if your picture is very red, you could put it on this to balance it out)
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Editing-
I was letting my photography shine through, so none of these images were edited. Normally though, I do use Photoshop Elements for my editing. If you do not want to purchase this product, Pic Monkey is a great, free, no download required alternative. In fact, I edited and created the header image (with the text on it) in Pic Monkey just so I could prove how easy and fun it is to use!
For most photographs I adjust the brightness, contrast, and sometimes the color saturation and/or saturation.

Reflectors:
Is one side of your product much darker than the other side? Use a reflector! I own a small pop-up reflector from Photojojo and this 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector from Amazon. You don’t have to go out and purchase these though- a large white sheet of paper or even a piece of posterboard/foam core board would work great. Basically, you place the reflector right next to the darker side of the product and it reflects some light back onto it.
Here’s a pullback of me using a reflector to illuminate the dark side of my necklace.
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Here’s a picture with the reflector
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And without– see the difference?
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Play Doh:
Yes- you read that correctly! I do keep a can of Play Doh handy (who am I kidding? I have several cans of Play Doh handy- it’s so much fun to play with!). Play Doh can really come in handy if you have something that just won’t stay put. For example- you want to take a picture of a ring, but you really want to show off the design on the side and the ring just won’t stand up. Take a small blob of Play Doh, and stick the ring in that!
*Note* – I have never had a problem with Play Doh harming or staining anything, but I am sure that it can, so if in doubt, don’t use it! Most of my product photography is on metal stamped metal washers, so the Play Doh wipes right off, but if it is something with small details the Play Doh might get stuck into or something vintage you are worried about ruining, I’d err on the side of caution and find a different solution!

And that’s it! Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared 9 tips to take better pictures with your point and shoot camera. Did you try any of them out? What helped you the most? I’d love to see some of your *new and improved* photographs- link them up in the comments so I can see! Or, follow me on Facebook or Instagram and share it with me on there. Make sure to use #handmadeisbetter so I can see it!
Interested in purchasing the necklace I photographed in my sample images above? It can be found in my Etsy shop here.

*Most links used in this article are affiliate links. They do not cost anything to you, but if you do purchase something on Amazon, I do receive a small kickback. I thank you in advance for following my links through to Amazon because the money earned is what helps keep this blog going!*

This post was featured on Living Better Together!


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Take Better Product Photos With Your Point and Shoot!

Today I am going to share some tips with you on how you can take better product photos (for your blog, Etsy, etc) with your point and shoot! I have been selling on Etsy for 10 months now and I’ve learned how a great photo of your product can really make or break a sale. Even though I have been selling on there for less than a year, I have been a frequent buyer on both Etsy and Ebay and weather you realize it or not, the photo has more impact on your purchase than you’d think! I know not everyone can afford an SLR, so this will give you some tips to get the most out of your point and shoot camera.

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Now, I am no way discounting the SLR camera, if you can afford it, I would definitely recommend investing in one. Point and shoot cameras have come a long way, and can take great photos, but for full control and the best possible photos, I suggest an SLR. (Personally, I use the Nikon D7000 and usually my Tamron AF 60mm)

I am going to cover five basic topics today, lighting, backdrops, clarity, macro, and props. To prove that you really can take appealing photos with your point and shoot I am going to use a new product for my Etsy Shop as a guinea pig for my tutorial, and then I will use these pictures in my shop when I list my item later to show you that you really can take a great picture with a point and shoot! The camera I will be using today is my Pentax Optio WG-3 (You can read how I picked this camera out in my blog post here.)

Lighting:
First things first, and what I consider to be the most important step in any photography, product or not- lighting. If your lighting isn’t good, then the picture will not be good. Find the flash setting on your camera and turn.it.off. The flash can cause blown highlights (areas of pure white) or harsh shadows, and it will definitely make your picture appear flat and lifeless.
Now that your flash is off, you’ll need some natural light, so find a nicely lit room in your house- I prefer setting up my stuff in a room with a north or south facing window. I set up about a foot away from the window for soft, even lighting. If you only have east or west facing windows, either hang a sheer curtain over the window or wait for a cloudy day to soften the lighting.
Here’s a picture where I turned the flash on- see how the flash makes everything look “flat”? Not to mention the harsh shadows in the background.
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And here’s a picture with the flash off. See how flattering the light is? The corks have more texture and everything appears more three dimensional.
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Backdrops:
Have you ever gone on Ebay to buy something and see a picture of it sitting on someone’s kitchen counter? To the left of the object is an open bottle of soda, in the background is a sink of dirty dishes, etc. You get the picture. This doesn’t make for the most appealing photograph- you focus too much on what is going on in the picture rather than the object itself!
I usually set my items up on a folding card table or a chair if I’m in a pinch. I keep a piece of white foam core board (about $3 at a craft or office supply store) handy for a clean, white backdrop. Using a chair really helps to hold up the backdrop for a clutter free background. You could also use fabric or a tablecloth for this, but make sure it is well ironed as any creases or wrinkles will show up! More on backdrops below in the “props” section.

Clarity:
You want your pictures to be sharp, and the best way to do this is to put your camera on a tripod. There are many inexpensive tripods out there, and for this purpose, since the point and shoot isn’t heavy, you won’t need the most expensive one. But, do invest in the best that you can afford, especially if you think you’ll be upgrading to an SLR down the line.
Use the tripod to steady the camera– set it up and move it around until the photo looks good in the viewfinder (or on the screen). To really make the shot steady, find the self timer option on your camera and set it to go off in 10 seconds. By doing this, you give the camera enough time to stop shaking or any movement you may cause by pressing the shutter button (yes, even though it is on a tripod, you do cause some movement just by pressing the shutter button!).
This one is handheld-
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This one is on a tripod with the self timer set.
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Macro:
Now, we’ve got our product set up next to a window with soft light coming in, our product is set up in a clutter free area, and the camera is on a tripod ready to go. If you are selling your item on Ebay or Etsy (or even if it is something for a blog post!), your readers will only get a feel for the item through your pictures, so make sure you take photographs from all angles, and include some close ups! To get a great close up, find the macro setting on your camera (it is usually represented by a little tulip-looking flower) and turn it on. Now you can get in real close and show some of those great details of your item! By using the macro setting you will also get that wonderful background blur you see in some of your favorite product photos.

Here it is without macro (the camera could not focus and therefore the photo is blurry)
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Now the macro is turned on
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Props:
This is my favorite part about taking product photos for my blog and Etsy– the props! Take a look around Etsy or Pinterest– what pictures intrigue you? Most likely it is the one with the great props- sometimes it is as simple as a fun napkin in a food shot or an interesting rock to display a pair of earrings on. I always have an eye out when I am in vintage/thrift shops, garage sales, and the clearance racks at Kohls or Target for interesting plates, bowls, decorations, etc. I have a whole shelf in one of our cabinets that is reserved for my photography props- I have plates, bowls, fun fabric napkins (which double as great backgrounds!), shells, rocks, vintage silverware, etc. You don’t have to go out and buy new items either- take a look around your house and challenge yourself to look at the items you already have with new eyes. You never know what you might find!
Some props can make great backgrounds too- for example, my bamboo cutting board looks great behind food pictures, leftover bead board from a project makes a beachy background, my fabric napkins (and even pieces of scrapbook paper) make colorful backgrounds for smaller items. The possibilities are endless!

I ended up using an old map (because my item is a latitude/longitude necklace- I thought the map went with the theme) along with some corks to prop the necklace onto.
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Now you’ve got great lighting, a steady camera, appealing macro shots on a clean and creative back drop, now all you have to do is practice, practice, practice! Look around on your favorite websites (I suggest Etsy and Pinterest) and see what pictures catch your eye– what is it in that picture that makes it appealing? I’m not suggesting copying someone’s style, but using it to decide what it is you like and then using it as inspiration for your photographs. On Etsy/Ebay, a photo can really make or break a sale, so it is in your best interest to make it the best photo possible!

*Note* I wanted to show you what your camera can do, so all of these photos are un-edited. Before I list anything to Etsy, I usually slightly edit my photos- usually adjust the contrast/brightness, crop and maybe sharpen. This will be covered in part two of this post.

Bonus tips: Mastered everything above? Stay tuned next week when I share four more tips to really take your product photography to the next level!

Interested in purchasing the necklace I used in the images above? It can be found in my Etsy shop here.

*Most links used in this article are affiliate links. They do not cost anything to you, but if you do purchase something on Amazon, I do receive a small kickback. I thank you in advance for following my links through to Amazon because the money earned is what helps keep this blog going!*

Choosing the Best Underwater Camera

Happy First Day of Summer!  In honor of the change of seasons (to the best time of year in my opinion!), I’m reviewing four underwater cameras to help you decide which is the best waterproof / underwater camera out there!
We leave for our honeymoon in just over a month, and I’ve been saying I want to get an underwater camera to bring with us! I’m debating leaving my SLR at home (yeah right, we know that isn’t happening….), but I still want something tough and waterproof to bring that I can throw in my bag as we’re lounging on the beach in St. Lucia. My fiancé left the camera buying to me, and I take my job seriously, so I decided on a full out comparison/review.

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Here’s the four cameras I reviewed*

Let me start by saying that I’ve owned many, many, many cameras in my 30 years of existence. I am largely a Nikon girl, with my primary camera being a Nikon D7000 . In the past, my point and shoots have been Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic, so while I am brand loyal to Nikon, I will branch out if it means getting the best photos possible.

For this review, I picked two Olympus brand cameras, one Nikon and one Pentax.  The Olympus and Nikon both received top ratings in the underwater category on Amazon, but I wasn’t sure if that was based on user reviews or sales, so I did what any nutty photographer would do.  I bought them all. (Allll the cameras….buy allllll the cameras!).  These field tests are not full of charts and graphs, but are basic comparisons to each other.  They’re waterproof cameras, so I headed out to the beach and put them through a variety of tests.  For each photo, I set all the cameras to the same (or comparable) settings and stood in the same spot and took one photo with each camera.  All the photos below are un-edited, as you would see them straight out of the camera.  I wanted to test the cameras abilities, not my photo editing abilities!

In each photo below, the top left hand corner is the Olympus Tough TG-320, the top right hand corner is the Olympus Tough TG-2, the bottom left hand corner is the Nikon and the bottom right hand corner is the Pentax.  I’ll write what settings I used above each photo/what the purpose of each photo was.

This was just taken on the auto setting.  In this case I was testing how wide angle each lens was.  (Each camera claims to have a wide angle lens).  As you can see, the Olympus TG-2 and Pentax are both the widest.  But- the Pentax takes wider than normal photos (at an HD aspect ratio).  If cropped to 4×6, it would be on par with the other two cameras.  Also, you can see that the Nikon (bottom left) seems to be washed out.

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Next up is the macro capabilities.  All cameras have a macro and a super macro setting.  I set each on the super macro setting and got as close as I could to the caterpillar.  The Pentax out-performed all three other cameras in focusing distance- I was practically on top of the little guy!
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Now, to the beach to check out the cameras’ rugged-ness.  This is the end of the beach looking out over a marsh area.  Again, I wanted to see how wide the wide angle was, in addition to how well the cameras rendered the green of the grass and the blue of the sky.  In my opinion, the Olympus TG-2 was far superior.

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Next up was the zoom capabilities.  I stood in the same spot as the photo above, and zoomed in as far as I could to an Osprey sitting in the dunes.  They all appeared to be similar- but the Pentax has a larger digital zoom (which I’d rarely use because it decreases quality)
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For this photo, I set the camera to auto and focused on the feather.  The Olympus TG-2 and Pentax both have an f/2 lens, and I wanted to test out the depth of field.  Nothing to write home about here- although the Pentax did have a bit of bokeh (blur) in the background.  (Also, note to self- the Pentax lens seems to be in the way of my finger- I am not new to photography by any stretch of the imagination, but I found my finger in 3 or 4 Pentax pictures!  In my defense, it was very bright outside and I wasn’t really looking at the screen too carefully).

Again, look at the color differences between the four photos!
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While not a true macro, I did put all the cameras on the macro setting to try to focus on the sea glass I collected.  All cameras performed similarly.  (And yes, I can take a photo with a straight horizon….)
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This photo was to test contrast.  I put each on the “landscape” setting (if anything- just to check for color renditions). I knew I was essentially shooting in the sun, and under the boardwalk area would be dark and potentially underexposed.  The Olympus TG-2 and Pentax performed best in my opinion (are you sensing a trend here?).  You can actually see detail under the boardwalk area, and yet my legs aren’t overexposed.  I also tried out the self timer setting on all four- the two Olympus had 2 second and 12 second options and Nikon and Pentax had 2 second and 10 second options.  Pentax also has the option to buy a remote, which is a nice feature.
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Last, I put all four onto their underwater mode and got down on the level of the waves (which oddly were not big at all!)  For the first time in all my tests, I think the Nikon performed the best- the water seemed the most “crisp”, followed closely by the Pentax.  Both Olympus cameras produced images that were too soft for my liking.

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So at this point, I was down to liking two cameras.  The Pentax and the Olympus TG-2.  The Olympus has a nice option of buying two different lenses to screw onto the front (A 1.7x teleconverter and a fisheye).  Both lenses are waterproof, but for a point and shoot camera, seem expensive to me (both run around $100)  The Olympus also had great color renditions, as opposed to the cheaper Olympus and the Nikon.  And last, the Olympus has aperture priorty and some fun features called magic art filters (fisheye, tilt shift, dramatic, etc) which can be fun to play with, but aren’t anything I can’t do in Photoshop.  Even with all of that going for it, I went with the Pentax.  Why?  For one reason- the Pentax does one thing that not one other waterproof camera (not just the ones I reviewed, but out of every waterproof point and shoot out there) does- it has bracketing, meaning I can take a series of 3 photographs, one overexposed, one properly exposed and one underexposed and merge them later into a properly exposed photograph (called HDR for those who care to know).

Now, both Olympus cameras have an HDR setting where they manually merge pictures in camera, but I found them to look dull and flat.  Here is a picture taken with the HDR feature turned on:
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And turned off:
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But- with my Pentax, I was able to take 3 photos and merge them when I got home in my Photomatix program to get this:
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Last- both Olympus cameras have something called “drama” which creates a fake HDR, but it seemed to be very jarring:
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Final verdict?  The Olympus TG-2 and Pentax were both awesome cameras.  If the Olympus had a bracketing option, that camera would have won by a landslide, but, the bracketing is very important to me, as I tend to shoot 75% or more of my pictures with bracketing turned on, and when I’m not carrying my SLR, I like still being able to have that option. Also, I take a lot of macro shots, and the Pentax’s macro outperformed the others. Plus, the Pentax has a ring of LED lights around the lens that can be illuminated to evenly light a macro object. I tried it out and it worked surprisingly well. It also comes with a macro ring to help balance the camera when using the “digital microscope” effect. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it looks like it’s going to be great.

If you want to keep reading, here’s some pro’s/cons for each camera:

Olympus TG-320:
Pros: lightweight, quick to start up, fun filters, cheapest out of the bunch, macro worked surprisingly well, the toggle switch on the back (sort of like a joystick) was very easy to use, especially when the camera was wet.
Cons: the color renditions were horrible compared to the other three cameras, and that is a major turn off. The camera does not come with a dedicated charger (the camera itself must be plugged in to charge- a pain if you have more than one battery!)

Nikon:
Pros: Very quick to start up, comes with a dedicated battery charger
Cons: the dials are very stiff and tough to operate, zoom is very slow, shutter button is difficult to press, macro worked the worst out of all four cameras.

Olympus TG-2:
Pros: color rendition is excellent!, it’s nice to have a dial on the back to easily access different settings (all three other cameras have you going into a menu), fun filters, adaptable to 2 different lenses, aperture priority mode (with f/2 lens).
Cons: while it is nice to have that dial, it is very difficult to turn when the camera or your hands are wet, 3rd most expensive camera (compared to the other three), no dedicated charger, macro was hit or miss.

Pentax:
Pros: the macro worked amazingly well for a point and shoot. I’d say almost as good as my Nikon and my Tamron AF 60mm macro. This camera has bracketing, as described above, and also I liked the feature of having a ‘fn’ button to which I could assign 4 more options from the menu. Makes changing settings easy. Last, it’s very rugged- the camera is surrounded a heavy rubber that looks like it can take a beating- not to mention it comes with a carabineer clip which will make it handy to attach to my bathing suit in the pool or ocean.
Further research also uncovered that there is a lens you can buy to screw on to the front of the camera. It is a Rioch fisheye and it costs about $125. I can’t really see myself spending that much on a screw on lens for a point and shoot, but its nice to know the option is out there!
Cons: out of the four, this one is the heaviest (which could be a pro if that’s what you’re looking for), it is also the most expensive. It doesn’t come with a dedicated charger like the two Olympus’ cameras. Last, because of the heavy rubber coating, the shutter button seems to be difficult to press, which, could cause camera shake in low light situations.

I think that about covers it! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment and ask.
I cannot wait to go on our honeymoon and test this bad boy out! For now I’ll have to settle on testing it out at the beautiful Jersey shore when I head to the beach one day next week. Stay tuned for more pictures taken with it!

After deciding on the Pentax and playing with it for a few more days, I’ve decided that I am going to back to Amazon and buy the 2 battery pack and charger and a floating wrist strap.

One additional note:
Some of the cameras came with optional GPS- it is not something that is important to me, so I did not review that, but if it is something that is important to you, you should take that into consideration.

*This post is in no way sponsored by the individual camera brands, but the links placed within this post are affiliate links. By clicking through my links and purchasing from Amazon you help support my small blog. Any monies made go toward web hosting. All opinions, words and photographs are my own and may not be copied/reproduced in any way without prior consent.

Update:
Here are a few pictures I took with the Pentax, both on our Honeymoon to St. Lucia and just in general since then.

Scuba diving:
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Power tubing (we went close to 40 mph on these things!)

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And in our pool:1115945_590980898189_603437288_o

 

The pentax also takes awesome panoramas 1149598_590520076679_1202657217_o

 

One more pool shot1263748_595573329919_1698799662_o

Five on Friday – Forced Perspective Photography

Stuck in a photography rut? Grab your camera, a few props and some assistants (your friends or children are perfect for this!) and head out for a fun-filled afternoon of forced perspective photography. Forced perspective photography is a technique where you make another object appear larger/smaller or closer/further away than it really is. The results are creative and in often cases, hilarious!

Today’s Five on Friday is five examples and tips for forced perspective photography!

1. This is probably the most well known– I’m sure everyone has seen the photos of tourists holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which, by the way is on my bucket list so I can get that exact shot… haha). I took it stateside and had my sister hold up the Washington Monument in Washington DC. I’m not going to say we didn’t get some strange looks, but it’s all in the name of photography, so I don’t care!
Tip: Take lots and lots of shots! It’s very difficult to get hands (or feet, or whatever you have “leaning” on the building to line up perfectly, so it comes in handy to have lots of shots). Another tip is once you have your model close to the position, move yourself around until they are lined up perfectly. It’s easier for you to move the camera then for them to know what you mean by “move your hand slightly…like this….no like this! You get the picture, right?
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Of course one has to “hold” up Spaceship Earth anytime they visit Epcot in Walt Disney World!
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2. Use forced perspective to “grab” something. Every summer, there’s a big hot air balloon festival in NJ, and these shots were taken a few years ago. This is more of a tip on what *not* to do. If you are using an SLR, you’re going to want to have a small aperture, like an f/8 or higher. If you are shooting wide open, you’ll have a blurred foreground and clear background or vice versa, which ruins the optical illusion.
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3.  Use fun carnival/amusement park characters and animals and interact with them.  Here, my friend and I were wandering around Funtown Pier in Seaside, NJ on a foggy afternoon and I positioned her so it looked like the dinosaur was chewing off her head.
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4. This is pretty much a Washington DC tip– I wish I had time when I went down to visit recently to line up all the monuments that appear on the back of bills like I did here.
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5. Clouds provide a great background.  Here, I’m “spray painting” them, but I’ve also seen pictures where people use ice cream cones to line up with a puffy cloud to look like a cone of ice cream, or, they position their heads so that it looks like they’re blowing the clouds out of their mouth.  The possibilities are endless!
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I know we did 5 already, but this is one of my favorite forced perspective pictures, and quite frankly, it doesn’t fit in the above categories.  The Weinermobile recently made a stop nearby, and I stood like an idiot in the parking lot while my mom snapped this picture of me.  I posted it to the Oscar Mayer facebook page and they loved it!
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If this isn’t enough inspiration for you, click here for 40 more inspiring photos! Makes me want to get out and take some more!

Did you try this? Leave me a comment above with a link to your picture. I’d love to see it!

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Five on Friday: Tips For Using A Lensbaby Lens

My first installment of Five on Friday is going to focus on photography (like all that /f/ alliteration?). Today I’m bringing you five tips for using a Lensbaby Lens. I bought my first Lensbaby lens a few months ago, and have fallen in love with it’s ‘back to basics’ mentality. For those who don’t know what a Lensbaby is, it is a series of lenses that have selective focus. The lenses are flexible, and you bend and twist them until you get one spot of focus (which they have dubbed the “sweet spot”) surrounded by creamy blur. They are fun to use (and have definitely taken off with the return of the vintage and toy camera look that photographers are looking to achieve in their photographs!), but they have a definite learning curve. As I’ve gotten to know my Lensbaby Composer, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that I’d like to share with others who are just getting started.
{One quick piece of background before I get started with the tips– the Lensbaby is a completely manual lens. You manually set your camera settings and you manually focus the lens.}

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1. In most of the Lensbaby lenses, you can change the aperture. I have the Composer, and like many of their models, it comes with a series of interchangeable aperture plates that you stick right to the front of the lens. When you put the Lensbaby on your camera, the camera will read f/0. You set the aperture by picking a plate, and using the magnetic wand to attach it to the front of the lens. No matter what plate you put on, the camera will still read f/0. My first tip is this– do not pick the largest aperture you have right off the bat! You may be tempted to put that f/2 plate on there so you can get lots of blur, but as a beginner who is just getting used to the bending of the lens, finding the focus will be extremely difficult! I recommend sticking with an f/5.6 or smaller, as their focus spots will be much larger.  In the picture below, I used f/5.6– at first, I had f/2 on, but I couldn’t get the whole yellow ribbon in focus, so I switched to a different aperture.  This first tip is a biggie– I wish someone had told me this tip up front because it would have saved me from countless frustrating hours trying to find the focus!

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2. Now that you’ve practiced finding your focal point, you can begin experimenting with the different apertures. For this second step (and tip) I recommend practicing by photographing stationary objects. Following around your pets or kids might not be the way to go. When you have to manually focus and they’re constantly moving, it might get difficult! I started out by shooting lots and lots of flowers and other objects in nature.

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3. Tip three involves the light meter in your camera. Since you have to manually set the shutter speed, I use my light meter to help me pick my speed. For some reason though, my Lensbaby pictures come out dark, so I intentionally overexpose by 2 or 3 stops in order to get a properly exposed image. Your miles may vary though, so be sure to check your playback and/or histogram.  The first shot below is what it looks like when my light meter is telling me the shot is perfectly lit, and the one below that is overexposed a bit.

 

 

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4. Now you’ve mastered the finding the focal point, focusing and getting your exposure correctly… it’s time to move on to the fun stuff! Tip number 4 is to use that sweet spot of focus to draw your eye into the focal point. In this case (photo below), I placed my subject (my cat- who was sitting on the piano bench) at the very lowest point of the frame, and used the blur to draw your eye down the image from top to bottom. Normally, when using the standard ‘rule of thirds’ my subject wouldn’t be this close to the edge of the frame, but because of the blur the Lensbaby creates, it helps draw your eye downward.

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5. The last tip is to use the Lensbaby to help clear up an otherwise cluttered or distracting background. In the picture below of my fiancé and myself, we were closer to the trees in the background than it looks, and even using my largest aperture lens (a 60mm f/2 macro) I still couldn’t get the trees to blur enough, and they were proving to be too distracting in the photograph, so I switched to my Lensbaby and successfully turned those trees into wonderful bokeh.

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Do you have a Lensbaby? What have you photographed with it? Have any other tips to share? I’d love to read them and see any links to pictures you’ve taken with your Lensbaby! Leave me a message in the comments!

Stay tuned, because I have an upcoming post about how to make custom shaped bokeh using your Lensbaby Lens!

Ready to purchase your own Lensbaby?  Amazon* always has it for a great price!

*Please note that this is an affiliate link and I receive a small compensation if you purchase this item through my link.

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