Back to Back Issues Page
DSLR Guide News - Creepy Crawly Cameras
November 01, 2009

Having trouble viewing this newsletter? Read the latest issue online at or read back issues

If someone you know has forwarded you this newsletter and you've enjoyed it, subscribe now to receive the next issue when it's published.

DSLR News - October 2009

I'd like to kick off this newsletter with an apology.

The apology goes out to all fans of Pentax digital SLR cameras - or those interested in buying one.

In last month's summary of the 2009 trends in DSLR technology, I completely left out Pentax...not intentionally to be sure, but there was no mention at all of what Pentax has been up to recently.

In order to rectify that oversight, I'd like to kick off this newsletter by talking about the two new cameras from Pentax: the K-x and the K-7.

The Pentax K-x (release date: October 2009) is the lesser of the two cameras, but has some unique qualities. First and foremost is a dash of color: every digital SLR I've ever owned has been a solid matte black.

By contrast, the Pentax K-x body will be available in black, white, red and navy blue.

A second interesting feature is that the camera runs off of regular AA batteries, rather than using a special rechargeable battery. This means that if you're in the middle of nowhere and your camera runs out of power, a quick trip to any convenience store will provide you with more.

Finally, the K-x is quite small and light. The only other digital SLR camera this compact is the Nikon D3000, and that camera lacks the live view LCD and HD video capture mode that are included with the Pentax K-x.

The Pentax K-x retail price with lens is $650 USD.

Packed with features, the Pentax K-7 (release date: July 2009) should be considered by anyone who wants to use their digital SLR in the elements.

The K-7 is weather resistant, which means that you can safely use it outside on rainy days (or in the middle of a sandy desert if you so desire). For cold weather enthusiasts, the K-7 is designed to function normally all the way down to 14°F (-10°C).

In addition to built-in image stabilization, dust control, live view, and High Definition 720p video capture, the K-7 offers up some interesting bonus features: an in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, an electronic level and a system that corrects for distortion in lenses.

The Pentax K-7 retail price with lens is $1,100 USD.

In This Issue
  • What About Pentax?
  • Q & A
  • What's New
  • Selecting AF Points
  • Picture Stories

Latest SLR Guides
Canon Rebel T1i Nikon D5000 Nikon D90 Nikon D60 Canon Rebel XSi Pentax K20D Canon 40D Olympus E-510 Nikon D80 Canon Rebel xTi Nikon D40

Digital SLR Terms
Megapixels Stabilization ISO / Image Noise Sensor Dust Crop Factor RAW vs. JPG Continuous Photos Autofocus Points Aspect Ratio

Lens Terms
Focal Length Prime vs. Zoom Maximum Aperture First vs. Third Party SLR Lens Features Canon Lens Glossary Nikon Lens Glossary

Stay Updated!

The Digital SLR Guide is now on Facebook. If you're on Facebook, drop on by to get frequent updates about new digital SLR cameras and photo techniques.

Digital SLR Q & A

This month's Q&A explains a new feature that is emerging on digital SLR cameras and might become a lot more common in 2010.

Unfortunately, the new features is a bit tricky to understand, and that's why I thought it might be a good idea of have a quick tutorial on it now.

The question is: "What is HDR Photography?"

First, let's tackle the acronym. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it addresses a limitation of all SLRs (both film and digital).

In a scene with strong contrast (bright sun and deep shade) your eyes can make out details in both the bright areas and the shadows at the same time. Your DSLR camera cannot.

Instead, the camera will need to go one of two different ways: render detail in the bright spots (highlights) and make the shadows pure black OR render detail in the shadows and make the highlights pure white.

This inability to capture detail across the entire high-contrast scene is something called limited dynamic range.

Several years ago, someone figured out that you could do something in the digital medium that wasn't possible with film: you could capture - at a minimum - 3 separate exposures with your camera: one dark, one bright and one right in the middle.

By layering these three photos together using software, you could create an image that preserved detail in both highlights and shadows. High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography was born.

It didn't seem like it would take the manufacturers too long to realize that what could be done with software could also be done inside the camera at the moment of exposure...and it didn't.

Several new cameras of 2009 - including the Pentax K-7 and the Sony DSLR-A550 - have built-in HDR modes. While the technology is still in its infancy, I expect to see an HDR feature on many new cameras released in 2010.

Beginner Digital SLR Lessons

  • Master the controls of any digital SLR
  • Dramatically improve the photos you take
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Download each lesson as a PDF
  • Ask me questions
Learn More

What's New

I've been updating a lot of the content on the site this month to make sure that the information on the site is current for the upcoming holiday season.

Here are some of the pages that have been recently updated:

Quick Tip - Selecting Autofocus Points

If you've got a relatively current digital SLR camera, then chances are you're using an autofocus system with anywhere from 5 to 10 individual focusing points.

Multi-point autofocus systems have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, but they are not foolproof.

Autofocus systems rely on contrast to determine what they should focus on. When you're photographing a scene with little to no contrast (a wall painted entirely white) the autofocus is going to have a very tough time locking focus.

A similar thing happens in very dim available light - anyone who has tried taking pictures outdoors at night with their digital SLR will attest to the fact that autofocus is hit or miss.

One trick that I often use when my camera's autofocus is not zeroing in on the right subject is to manually select the focus point.

This works especially well when you're dealing with subjects that aren't right in the center of the viewfinder - just manually select the focus point that is directly over your subject and see if the camera will autofocus correctly.

If this doesn't work, then manually select only the center focus point.

The center focus point of a multi-point autofocus is often the most sensitive and therefore the most accurate. It's also the best one to use when photographing subjects moving straight toward the camera, since the camera only has to determine focus for a single spot, rather than a slew of different spots.

And yes, there's one last fail-safe solution for locking focus if you can't get the autofocus to behave: switch over to manual mode and focus yourself.

Picture Stories

A recent article on Outside Magazine Online caught my attention.

They asked 16 separate professional photographers to talk about their most difficult photos - ones where the photographer had to go to exceptional lengths to capture the shot.

What was most interesting to me is how each image I looked at changed because of the description.

This is not to say that the photos aren't interesting to look at on their own. But their impact - and your feelings about each one - can be altered dramatically once you understand the story behind them.

With this in mind, I thought that it would be fun this month to provide some context for the image below.

I am an arachnophobe. For years I have been utterly terrified of these tiny eight-legged critters.

A couple of years ago, our backyard became home to several arachnids that are native to the area called white cross spiders (due to the white cross pattern on their backs).

Each year, they build elaborate webs in different parts of our yard. So far - thankfully - I have not run into one of their webs face-first.

Last year, I started taking closeup pictures of them. Despite the chills that would run down my spine, I did my best to hold the camera steady and to get as close as I could to capture their activities.

Over time, an interesting thing happened.

The more I took pictures of them, the more fascinated I became with their appearance. Details that I could not see with my naked eyes - like all the tiny little "hairs" on their legs - became evident when I blew up the images on my computer monitor.

Once I'd taken several dozen shots of them, they became a lot less scary - even fascinating in their own special way.

Today, my arachnophobia is considerably less than what it once was. Rather than running for the vacuum cleaner, I now capture the ones I find inside and carry them outdoors to live in the garden. After all, they're not going to find anything edible inside the house...and plus, they're much more photogenic in natural light.

Photo Links

Other Photography Sites

  • Betterphoto - a wealth of photography learning opportunities
  • Flickr - share your photos with friends and others
  • - plenty of learning resources and examples of exceptional photography
  • Borrowlenses - rent lenses to use on your digital SLR before you spend tons of money on one
  • Photojojo - tons of photography do-it-yourself (DIY) projects
  • - read product reviews from other consumers like yourself

Great Photo Blogs

  • Digital Photography School - hundreds of photo tips and techniques
  • Strobist - everything you ever wanted to know about lighting with external flash
  • Joe McNally - get the "behind-the-scenes" thought process from a professional photographer

Recommended Digital SLR Retailers

(These are the three online stores that I use to purchase all of my digital SLR photography gear)

In Conclusion

The holidays are almost upon us and there are TONS of new digital SLR cameras to choose from - either for yourself or for a loved one.

Next month, I'll run down some of the options that are available to you and which ones to consider based on budget and features.

If you already happen to have a camera (or know someone who does) and want to keep your spending down, I'll also provide list of some nice-to-have accessories for all digital SLR enthusiasts.

Until then, happy picture taking!

--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide

Back to Back Issues Page