Abductee Megumi Yokota exhibition

Asagao-no-kai, a group supporting the family of Megumi Yokota, opened a Web site showing photos of young Megumi and her family before she was abducted by North Korea in 1977 at age 13.


The online photo exhibition is based on a real exhibition that has been traveling around Japan.

Soon after the Web site opened on Oct. 13, 2006, they received widespread news coverage and a flood of hits. The site had to be shutdown temporarily as a result. Hopefully it is up and running when you access it.

Ginza Nikon Salon’s new address from Oct. 7, 2006

Nikon Plaza Ginza, which includes the Nikon Salon photo gallery, Nikon camera repair center and showroom, moved to a new place in Ginza on Oct. 7, 2006. The new location is more difficult to find than the old one. It’s almost behind Matsuzakaya Dept. Store in one of the back or side streets. You’ll definitely need a map. See the link below.

New address and contact info:
Nikon Plaza Ginza
Ginza 7-10-1
Chuo-ku, Tokyo

TEL:03-5537-1469 FAX:03-5537-1533

STRATA GINZA(ストラータ ギンザ)

Interview with Canon’s camera development director

There is an interesting interview with Mr. Ohara, the director of Canon’s camera development center who talks about the development of and ideas behind the new Canon EOS Kiss Digital X (400D/XTi).


Here is my summary in English. Note that this is not an official translation and it may or may not be entirely accurate. Use or believe it at your own risk.

– Canon started investigating dust reduction methods since 8 years ago in 1998 with the EOS D2000. By then, there were users wanting some way to reduce dust on the sensor. So Canon knew that they had to do something to alleviate the dust problem.

– Investigation of concrete ideas for dust reduction methods started 4 or 5 years ago. They decided that the system had to be very effective and reliable and not just a band-aid-type feature. Otherwise, they would not incorporate it.

– With the thin crystal plate (low-pass filter) in front of the sensor vibrating to shake off dust, there might be concerns about affecting the plate’s durability. So Canon spent quite a bit of time testing it and found that it was not a problem.

– There is no standard criteria to measure the effectiveness of a dust reduction system (effectiveness not mentioned in the camera specs). Like how much dust can be removed by the system. The effectiveness varies depending on the type of system. So how can users judge the effectiveness?

There are various types of dust. The dry dust particles fall off easily. However, oily dust such as those mixed with your sweat or oily skin, and sticky particles are difficult to shake off.

However, he thinks that the dust reduction system is effective enough on a practical level. To see how effective it is, the only way is to actually use it yourself and see. The effectiveness cannot really be quantified.

– Canon did not think that just shaking off the dust was enough. So they also incorporated the following four approaches for maximum overall effectiveness:

1. Minimize dust generation (from moving parts inside the camera such as the shutter curtains)
2. Minimize dust attraction (Anti-static coating)
3. Remove dust from the sensor (with shaking sensor and dust absorption material on the periphery)
4. Post-processing (removal of dust spots with software)

– Older cameras cannot take advantage of the post-processing method, even with a firmware update. This is because the distance between the low-pass filter and sensor is different in previous cameras. This distance is taken into consideration by the software when removing the dust spots. (This distance affects the size of the shadow on the sensor caused by the dust on the low-pass filter. The dust spots are actually shadows on the sensor caused by the dust particles on the low-pass filter covering the sensor.)

– As to whether the dust reduction system will be incorporated in other EOS D-SLRs, the answer seems to be yes. However, it may not necessarily be the same system used in the EOS Kiss Digital X (400D/XTi). They will keep developing and improving the dust reduction system or use any method which is more effective, easier, or cost effective.

– He says that, although it is a tight fit, it is “not impossible” to also install a vibrating crystal plate in front of the sensor for dust reduction in full-frame D-SLRs. Instead of having a cover glass, the first layer is already the low-pass filter (like with the EOS 5D) (which can vibrate). So dust reduction in full-frame EOS cameras may well appear.

– About the S/N ratio of the sensor as affected by the smaller pixel size (pitch), he says that the quality of the signal obtained from the sensor is exactly the same as the Kiss Digital N (350D/XT)’s, but not better.

The internal image processing is the same as the 350D, but since Picture Styles have been incorporated, the image might look different between the new and older cameras.

– For years, Canon has worked to improve the level of image detail, more so than just reducing noise. This also applies to the Kiss Digital X. It does not make sense to have more megapixels if it does not also obtain better image detail. Instead of relying on image processing to reduce noise, we go back to improving the design of the sensor and other analog components to improve the original signal.

– Users will probably not really notice the difference in image quality between images taken with an 8-meg and 10-meg sensor.

– DIGIC III has already been incorporated in Canon’s compact digicams, but not in the new Kiss Digital X. The development cycle is different for compact cameras and D-SLRs. Incorporating a new DIGIC circuit in a D-SLR would entail a wholesale change in the internal electronics.

In any case, the speed and response of DIGIC II is more than adequate for the new new Kiss Digital X. DIGIC III will be incorporated when the time comes, he says.

– The grip has been improved. The part where the palm of your hand touches the grip is fatter. There is also a thumb pad. They did not go to great lengths to improve the grip. However, they tried to make at least some improvement.

– The LCD monitor is bigger, and the AF sensor is the same as in the 20D and 30D. Compared to the Kiss Digital N, the AF sensor is more sensitive and precise. With 10 megs, the AF precision had to be improved.

– They did discuss switching to SD cards. However, CF cards currently have high (or higher) capacities and they are cheaper per megabyte. Yet they are aware of SD cards being more popular and more laptops having built-in SD card slots. So they will keep this open for discussion.

– Regarding lens stabilization in the camera body like Sony and Pentax, Canon plans to continue incorporating lens stabilization in the lens instead. This is more effective since the IS (Image Stabilizer) can be designed and controlled to suit each lens. It is more effective this way especially with longer lenses.

As to the question of having IS in both the body and lens, it would not be practical to invest in the development of both and to have the user bear the cost of both. With a body-based system, you cannot see the stabilization effects through the viewfinder. Thus, there are more advantages with a lens-based system. We hope to expand our IS lens lineup so more people can use it. (Seems to be a hint that cheaper IS lenses are forthcoming.)

– Final words: The Kiss Digital X looks similar to its predecessor. However, inside it is totally different. Instead of judging the camera by its looks and specs, you have to pick it up and see it for yourself. The image quality is also top-notch.

See black lens kit here
Black body only here

Related article:
Canon No. 1 in Dec. 2006

Canon EOS Kiss Digital X/400D/Rebel XTi first impressions

Note: This note was posted the day after the camera was first announced on Aug. 24, 2006. It was also posted at dpreview where it received over 50 comments:

The 400D (Europe)/Rebel XTi (USA)/Kiss Digital X (Japan) is on display at Canon showrooms in Japan. I went to the Ginza showroom in Tokyo today and touched the 400D for the first time.

These are my initial impressions:

– The front, top, bottom, sides, and grip of the camera looks almost (or exactly) identical to the previous 350D. But the rear is totally different due to the larger LCD monitor. The feel in your hands is almost the same as with the 350D except for the grippy patch of rubber on the camera back where your right thumb rests.

– The most obvious improvement is the larger LCD monitor which is terrific. The large display is sharp, bright white, and very easy to read. It is much, much easier to read than the 350D’s small, slithery LCD panel. I also really like the ISO speed indicator which is always displayed. You don’t need to press a button to see the current ISO speed setting. And needless to say, viewing your images on a larger screen is also more pleasant than on a smaller screen.

– The LCD monitor turns off automatically whenever some physical object comes near the sensor right below the eyepiece. This works very well and instantaneously. It turns off when you put your eye over the eyepiece so the glare from the monitor does not hinder your view of the viewfinder scene. It also turns off when the camera is hanging down a shoulder strap and touching your side or belly.

– The on-screen user interface for changing/setting the ISO speed, WB, metering mode, AF mode, drive mode, etc., is nicer since it’s done on the larger LCD monitor.

– The grip might feel too small or cramped for people used to using a larger camera or people with really large hands. However, I think I can get used to it. I appreciate the smaller size and weight, especially when I need to stuff the camera in an already-full backpack, etc.

– If you have the original 300D and thinking about upgrading, this 400D will be irresistable. One major surprise is the battery size. It’s much smaller/lighter and almost (or exactly) the same size as for the PowerShot compact cameras. It largely explains the camera’s much smaller size than the 300D. It’s also surprising that they could attain this small size even without switching to SD cards.

– The continuous shooting speed is almost the same as the 350D and nowhere as fast as the 30D, but the maximum burst is much improved. I see a lot of people trying to compare the 400D with the 30D. Well, the 30D is obviously a superior camera whose main selling point is higher performance and durability. It reflects the price you pay for it.

– When you turn the camera on and off, a short message appears on the LCD monitor to indicate that the self-cleaning sensor is operating. This feature is a first in the EOS Digital lineup. The big question is if it really works. Well, if it weren’t effective enough, I don’t think Canon would have incorporated it. It was quite ingenious to incorporate both a hardware (ultrasonic vibration of the low-pass filter in front of the sensor) and a software back-up (clone stamp tool to erase mapped dust spots) countermeasure. Any kind of countermeasure against dust on the sensor must be welcomed. If this dust reduction feature is found to be effective by initial users, then I believe that it will be a major selling point for this camera and Canon.

– On sale in Japan from Sept. 8 for around 100,000 yen (including the store’s discount system) with the lens kit. The major camera stores in Japan are already accepting pre-orders. In Japan, the camera is called EOS Kiss Digital X. The “X” is pronounced like the letter X, and not the number 10 although it is named after the 10 megapixels and being the 10th-generation Kiss camera (including the film models).

Web site in English:

In Japanese:


This is my response to some of the most common reactions in the dpreview forum to the 400D’s specs.

– If you want spot metering, buy a camera that has spot metering. This would resolve your problem.

– Don’t take a poll on whether people want to upgrade to the 400D before people can touch and feel the camera (and see the big, beautiful LCD screen) for themselves.

– I can understand 350D users thinking twice about upgrading. It’s really too soon unless you can afford to buy a new camera every 18 months or so. I myself have decided to upgrade with every other camera. I bought the 300D, painfully and regrettably skipped the 350D, but my patience will be rewarded with the 400D. For 350D users, the good news is that the 400D uses the same battery and vertical/battery grip as the 350D. The 400D can use the same accessories as the 350D.

– Not sure about how much battery power the new LCD monitor will require, but you can turn off the LCD monitor with the DISP. button so it stays off. Convenient if you want to really conserve power and not attract attention with a big, bright monitor. But it may be terribly inconvenient not being able to see the current camera settings. Well, just press the DISP. button again to see it, then turn it off again. It’s like using the old Illumination button at night.

However, when you turn off the LCD monitor, you cannot tell whether the camera’s power is on or off. This is why the camera now has a power lamp on the top (right shoulder). It lights when the power is on while the LCD monitor is off.

– The new LCD monitor reminds me of the iPod when it switched from the ugly-gray liquid-crystal display to the bright and colorful color screen we see today. It will be hard for me to turn it off. And so, before you decide for or against upgrading or purchasing anew, run out to your nearest dealer when it becomes available and see for yourself.

About the grip

Yes, the grip is very slightly larger than the 350D’s. Thicker by 1mm. There is also a rib on the camera back, besides the rubber patch.

At the Canon showroom, I compared the 350D and 400D side by side, I held both cameras and both felt virtually the same in my hands. However, I’m not a 350D user, so perhaps a 350D user will feel the difference more than me. But a 300D user (like you and me) will probably not feel the difference.

They could not make it too much bigger because they wisely want to keep the camera compatible with 350D accessories (like the vertical grip).

I’m sure Canon went to great lengths to very successfully downsize the camera from the 300D. It was understandable from a marketing point of view. During the time of the 300D, Pentax had a D-SLR which was smaller and lighter (I think the smallest and lightest in the world.). Canon had often made that claim for their previous SLR cameras. And they most likely wanted to reclaim the “lightest and smallest in the world” title (among D-SLRs with interchangeable lenses).

So I don’t think they will want to make the camera significantly bigger than it is now. If you really want a bigger grip, buy a bigger camera. I for one am willing to get used to with the crampiness in exchange for smaller size and weight. My 300D has never felt “heavy” at the end of the day, even after carrying it around all day long under the hot sun or while hiking up hills and mountains. My priority is light weight and small size. I travel a lot, and I carry not only a camera and lenses, but a laptop, AC adapter, portable HD, digital video camera, compact digicam, etc., etc.

Kenji Ishikawa Exhibition till Sept. 5, 2006, Tokyo

A few days ago, I got a call on my cell phone from Ishikawa-san who kindly informed me about his major show at Tokyo’s Daimaru Department Store.

He specializes in photographing landscapes under the full moon. His images are very pacifying and often astonishing.

When: Aug. 17, 2006 to Sept. 5, 2006, 10:00 – 20:00 (till 17:30 on last day)
Where: Daimaru Museum Tokyo (12th floor of Daimaru Dept. Store at Tokyo Station)
Phone: 03-3212-8011

Admission: 800 yen

Web site in Japanese:

Book review:

Registered at YouTube

I finally gathered my video clips of Japan taken with my compact digicam or miniDv video camera and put the better ones online at YouTube.

See it here:

I’ve organized the video clips into various categories (Playlists) to make it easy to find the videos which interest you. Most of the videos are of Japanese festivals.

Obviously, videos can capture sounds and motions which my still camera cannot, so these videos really complement my photos well.

YouTube is not the only video-sharing service, but apparently it’s the most popular. It’s still pretty wild with many copyrighted videos online illegally, especially TV shows, etc.

I also looked into Google Video which is much more controlled and orderly. However, it takes a few days before you see your video online because they screen your video before it goes online. I’m too impatient to wait for Google’s approval. And so I decided to use YouTube.

I really like YouTube. You upload your video and it goes online within minutes, not days. You can create Playlists to organize your own videos as well as your favorite ones. The image quality is not great (ditto for Google Video), but acceptable as a free service (and free bandwidth).

There is an incredible variety and explosion of videos. Very easy to get addicted. If we could watch YouTube on our cell phones, it would be great.

Oyako (Parent-Child) Photo Contest

Photographer Bruce Osborn is organizing the following contests:

OYAKO PHOTO CONTEST: Send us your most unforgettable family photo!
This year’s theme is “OYAKO LOVE”.

Olympus digital cameras (1ea.)
Lexmark printers (5ea.)
Trinity Line Cosmetics Basic Sets (3 ea.)

1 Send photo on the theme of Oyako Love
2 Include a brief note telling the story about photo
3 Your name, address and age (If you do not want your real name to appear on our web site, use a “handle”.)
4 Deadline: July 31, 2006

E-Mail: oyako-apply2006@oyako.org
please include “OYAKO photo contest” as your e-mail’s subject line


Example subjects: “now we can laugh about it”, “an unforgettable memory”, “now that I’m a parent, I finally understand”, “what a crazy family”…

130,000-yen JTB travel pass for travel within Japan (1 ea.)
Lexmark digital printers (5 ea.)
one year supply of LivLon Supplement (1 ea.)

1 send500-1000 word essay
2 Include your name, address, age, and title of essay (If you do not want your real name to appear on our web site, use a “handle”.)
4 Deadline: July 31, 2006

E-Mail: oyako-essay2006@oyako.org
please include “OYAKO essay contest” as your e-mail’s subject line

Japan photographers need not worry about PSE seal

The new PSE safety seal law is creating a major stir in Japan during this month of March.

From April 1, 2006, a new law in Japan will require electrical appliances to have the PSE safety seal which assures that the appliance is safe for consumer use based on tests conducted by the manufacturer (instead of the government).

The PSE safety seal has been required since 2001. So electrical appliances made before 2001 which do not have the PSE safety seal cannot be sold new or used in Japan from April 1, 2006.

One important thing to note is that this law applies only to retailers and recycle shops who sell new and used electrical appliances as a business. It does not apply to individuals selling such stuff at flea markets, Internet auctions, etc.

It also does not apply to personal computer equipment which conforms to a different safety standard. And very fortunately, it does not apply to cameras, both film and digital. This means that used camera shops in Japan can stay in business.

The law applies to electrical appliances which need to be plugged in to a power outlet to operate, such as TVs, stereos, refrigerators, etc. This includes darkroom equipment such as enlargers, darkroom lamps, and print dryers. Also, slide projectors, overhead projectors, studio flash and power packs, and lightboxes. Such equipment made before 2001 cannot be sold at all by retailers from April 1, 2006.

PSE stands for “product safety of electrical appliance and material.”

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