Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010)


More satisfying than most action movies released in theaters
Dolph Lundgren makes the most of limited on-screen time and has good lines to boot!
Movie surprisingly dramatic even though Van Damme doesn't fight that much!
Good, percussive music
Just ignore those plot holes!
Van Damme looks intense! He better look intense because he barely talks!
Suffers slightly for having been shot on video but you've got to save money in the budget to blow stuff up!
No re-watching of previous movies necessary
Solid acting throughout that serves the simple story well
Those kidnapped characters didn't really need dialogue, so they thankfully didn't bother to give them any!
Makes the most of a limited budget. Less CGI = better action
From the son of the guy who directed Time Cop! A generational feat

On par with the other awesome DTV movie with Wesley Snipes, The Contractor.


I'll have my first show in many years at 4Culture in Seattle this coming October. See some of my recent work on my web-site:


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Canon S90 Review

After using the Canon S90 for a few months I can safely say it is the first digital point/shoot I have used that is controllable. It is not an SLR-replacement by any means but the rich level of features and ability to save those features in different program modes is wonderful.

The biggest geeky feature on the camera is a large dial similar to an aperture ring on the barrel of the lens. I set this dial to ISO and alter it depending on lighting situations while setting a smaller rear dial to exposure compensation to ensure quick control of highlight detail. While it may not be professional to do so, I use Program mode with these settings quite often with success, later processing the RAW images in Lightroom. I control whether the self-mechanized pop-up flash goes on or off and it is an easy switch to change so that's also nice. I can quickly shoot a portrait indoors at ISO1600 and then do another portrait outside at ISO100 without missing a beat. This is a bigger plus than I would have imagined.

You can set the front dial to whatever you want, but it defaults to aperture and shutter in those respective modes. You can also set it for white balance, zoom, manual focus (sucks), and exposure compensation.

The screen is of high enough quality that it is easier to judge the quality of exposure than with most other machines. You can also view the histogram while shooting or immediately after-wards but it is generally unnecessary given a quick judgment of the screen image.

Image quality is excellent at ISO 100-200 and then falls off from there, but even at 400, the pix look quite good unless you're making some big prints. Even at high ISOs such as 1600 it seems like the quality is less noisy than all other point/shoots on the market. On the whole, colors are rich and they have a surprisingly good dynamic range. It's amazing how far image quality has come in point and shoots. Apparently this camera also features the same sensor as the larger, Canon G11, which runs for slightly more but has additional features including HD video. Frankly it never occurs to me to shoot video but this is a compact camera suited to picture-making, not making a movie of your kid's next birthday party.

There are a couple of things I would change, mainly that it only remembers your last focal length setting in custom-C mode. This can be overcome by starting the camera in C and switching to a different mode. I have yet to fully take advantage of the C features. I never use A (Aperture) priority as it seems like with zoom lenses on cameras like this, you're going to have a decent amount of depth of field regardless because of the slower lenses. S (Shutter) priority is a waste of time as SLRs are unbeatable for action.

The lens does go down to f/2 though I rarely use it at the widest focal length, equivalent to a 28mm lens in 35mm, required to utilize that large an aperture. Given that this is still a point/shoot zoom lens, a big aperture won't produce a really pleasing out-of-focus effect like it would with a Leica f/2, single-length lens. The S90 doesn't have a super-fast lens throughout the zoom but if you're looking for fast then you should stick with an SLR. On the long end of the zoom, the S90's maximum aperture is f/4.9 at the equivalent of 105mm, which is actually pretty darn good as well for a compact camera.

The black paint is not super durable but digital cameras are designed to depreciate, so you might as well throw it in your bag and not worry. Naturally getting scratches on a $430 camera doesn't make one feel good even if you know it will be technologically outmoded in a couple of years.

On the whole, the S90 is a terrific, ultra-compact camera that can do a lot for your picture-making when you read the manual and take the time to find what works best for you.

Sorry I'm not including sample images but you can find those elsewhere. It's been fun to carry this camera around, playing with it whenever an opportunity presents itself whether for fun or in making something deliberately artful. I'm doing portraits of the kids at my agency and have done about 40 so far. I couldn't imagine doing them well with another machine. With that in mind I recommend this camera for serious amateurs or professionals who demand high quality even when making snapshots.