Thursday, March 27, 2008

Persian Ballet

The art and culture society “Ballet Afsaneh” is a professional non-profit performing arts company based in the San Franciso Bay, California. This dynamic group presents performances and activities featuring dance, poetry, and music of the Silk Road—the historic trade route that stretched 11,000 kilometres across Central Asia from the China Sea in the east to the Mediterranean in the west.

The group performed a Persian ballet at the San Francisco City Hall last year during the Persian New Year (Norooz) celebrations in March 2007. The beautiful dance was accompanied by stunning Iranian music performed with Ney and Daf, Persian classical music instruments.

Watch a short video of the program:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Canon S5 IS

Canon S5 IS is the best prosumer high end, SLR like camera available.

This little S5, 120mm long, 80mm wide and 80mm deep, 450g camera (550g with batteries) is flooded with fantastic features. Let me list a few:

- Remote control of the shutter from pc; you can control the zoom lever, aperture and shutter time, and many more controls from your pc
- Amazing face detection; detects up to 3 faces
- 12x optical zoom combined with 4x digital zoom with a very efficient image stabilizer IS up to the far tele end of the zoom; also effective in video recording, thanks to the super silent zooming motor of Canon; both optical 12x and digital 4x (48x total) can be used in video recording
- Stereo sound in video recording
- Stereo sound recorder
- Aperture and shutter time(1) priority modes for professionals, full automatic mode for beginners, and also a full manual control of everything including focus for professionals and creative amateur photographers
- Two levels of macro, regular effective 100 to 500mm from the lens, and super macro effective zero, that’s right, 0 to 100mm from the lens
- Flash with 3 levels of light intensity (output) up to 5.2m effective
- Easy to use menus with each and every control at the finger tip
- Exposure bracketing with 3 shots at the compensation levels you define
- Focus bracketing with 3 shots at the focus levels you define
- Dedicated scenes mode with amazing preset controls for indoor, snow, fireworks, and many more situations
- Live light histogram which shows the light condition before shooting the photo
- Focus check right after the shot
- Red eye reduction in the camera needless of a software
- Swap colours mode, lets you switch the colour of the subject to whatever colour you’d wish!
- Dedicated rotating LCD and excellent electronic view finder EVF

When investigating the tons of reviews for this camera along with a competitive model, Panasonic FZ18 with a seducing 18x zoom, I noticed two major complaints about S5, the lens cap pops off very easily, and the noise is not acceptable in ISO settings over 400. It should be noted, this camera is not a professional SLR and it can be assumed the user of this S5 will never need prints larger than 4”x6” and very rarely up to a letter size 11”x17”, and in such sizes noise cannot be noticed even with ISO1600 for the 4x6 print and up to ISO 800 for the 11x17 print. Actually, the noise can only be clearly seen in what professionals call 100% crop in their reviews. Besides, everything should be paid for; reducing noise equals losing details on the other side! So, clean details versus noise should be balanced at some reasonable point. And about the lens cap, I really can’t imagine what pressure would have been on the motor if the lens cap did not pop off easily! You—just like myself—will definitely forget to take off the cap before turning on the camera more than 50% of the times, I assure!

The 18x zoom announced for a few other cameras including FZ18 works mostly on the wide side, say from 28mm equivalent focal length. Also, the IS does not work well on the tele side and you will have issues with your hand shake anywhere above 12x!

Bottom line… I highly recommend this magic Canon S5. I would suggest adding a set (possibly 2 sets) of NiMH batteries and charger along with a lens hood and adaptor. You can also add a UV filter to leave in place all the time to protect the lens, only, you’ll need a larger bag for this system.

Lions Gate Suspension Bridge, 2km away, full wide 36mm, 2sec, f4.0, ISO100

Same bridge, same vantage point, full optical zoom 12x, 432mm, 2sec, f4.0, ISO100

A coin almost zero distance from the lens at super macro mode, 6mm, 8sec, f2.7, ISO100... please note, when you cover the subject with the large 58mm diameter lens at zero distance, there will not be enough light for the shot, and this is the reason for this long shot with shutter time of 8 seconds! A tripod is a must in such super macro cases.

Watch a video introducing Canon S5 IS:

There are a few more samples on my photoblog. Also more professional reviews can be seen on Steve’s Digicams and Digital Photography Review.

(1) Professional photographers use the term "shutter speed" but this term stands for the length of time that the shutter remains open to let the light pass the aperture, and the unit of this quantity is seconds; so, I would rather call it "shutter time".
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