31 March 2015, Tuesday
Tuesday Only (NYC time) $35 quadcopter.
Nikon D4S trick
Check out this spot white balance trick new in the D4s.
I hear it works the same on the D750; I have not tried it.
Retail stores are mostly gone the way of the horse and buggy, as obsolete and unnecessary hassles, as I've been saying for years.
No one needs them, their attitudes, high prices, lack of service, salespeople driven by commission and not customers, lack of selection and lack of full cash refunds.
I haven't bought cameras or electronics at retail since the 1970s. I'm surprised anyone still does; mostly the ignorant or those without computers or phones.
If you've got a great local, single location walk-in store with the owner on-site like Adorama, B&H (or OC Camera), great, but otherwise, especially with people being more environmentally conscious, retail has got to be stamped out. No one needs retail (except the retailers themselves), and keeping them open creates traffic and pollution that hurts everyone. Pay more to get less? Not me.
This weekend's project
Man, that was a blast!
I started assembling my Elekit TU-8200 tube amplifier kit Saturday afternoon:
Partially assembled main board. bigger.
Main board completed. bigger.
I even started assembling the chassis on Saturday night, but quit early.
I couldn't resist, and started back up Palm Sunday morning:
Completed chassis, sans tubes. bigger.
Lo and behold, I had everything complete before church!
Completed amplifier. bigger.
I don't know if most people would have completed it in under 7 working hours from box opening to finished amplifier, but I've done plenty of this before. The instructions were perfect: everything was extremely clear and the kit worked the first time I turned it on. Bravo!
I ran it through its tests and checkout on Sunday afternoon, and it works and sounds great. It measures well in the lab.
What struck me as super fun is that for the past 30 years I've been having to design and build all my own gear from scratch. A kit is fun because the work's already done. With a kit, you've got a box of everything you need, so you just steam ahead without having to design and source everything.
It is quite different from a Heathkit or a Hafler. This kit is from Japan, and all the parts seem to be very high quality domestic Japanese parts. The only things that seemed not to be direct from Japan were the tubes: two from China and two Electro-Harmonix power tubes from Russia. The circuit boards are very thick glass epoxy with precisely drilled holes. The pot is a glorious, smooth and great-tracking Japanese Alps, and the knob is solid billet aluminum also from Japan.
Quite different than 35 years ago; the parts are much nicer than American kits were, and the instructions expect that you know how to solder. Another huge difference is that there's no chassis wiring. All the power and chassis wiring are all cables with edge connectors, so its nearly impossible to wire it incorrectly.
I'll have a review in a few weeks as I listen to it.
28 March 2015, Saturday
Here's to Hobbies
Yay, it's Saturday, and I've had enough shooting for one week. Time to goof off.
Remember when people had hobbies, like photography, working in a darkroom, building model planes and building electronic kits for when we had rainy and snowy days?
I sure do, and I'm pretty excited that I just got a Japanese tube amp kit to assemble. It's the real thing from Japan, all ready for a hot soldering iron and an afternoon spent not looking at a screen.
I was earning 100% of my income in audio engineering when I first started, and I love the smell of hot rosin. It's been 35 years since I built my Hafler DH-200, so here I go.
Elekit TU-8200 box.
As I open it. bigger.
What's under the instructions and circuit board. bigger.
What's inside. bigger.
27 March 2015, Friday
Nikon 55-200mm DX VR II.
OK, back to reality. This is a swell little lens for DX.
NEW: How-To Pages at 1X
These are lessons showing a great photo and then explaining how it was created.
Neumann KH 120 A.
When you absolutely, positively need to hear what's really in your audio before your client does.
Dangerous Music Source.
Not the quality of the Neuman, but still a handy-dandy American-made desktop monitor controller, DAC and headphone amp.
26 March 2015, Thursday
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4 L.
ALL NEW: Canon 11-24mm Review.
Wow, this new Canon is a landmark that expands the envelope of photographic capabilities, and this is probably the longest review I've ever written. I've been working on it all week.
It's the world's widest professional SLR lens, and it's also sharper than anything that used to come close to this wide.
It, along with the 100-400 IS L II, are landmark lenses that let us do new things we never used to be able to do.
So by how much does the Canon 11-24mm exceed the Nikon 13mm and others? Now you'll know.
New bags from Think Tank
Think Tank just released a new series of shoulder bags/backpack called the Urban Approach for mirrorless and compact DSLRs, they still have a room for a tablet, and with the backpack, up to a 15" laptop.
Nikon Lens Rebates End Saturday
Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro:
24 March 2015, Tuesday
NOW ORDERABLE: Canon 5DS.
It's important to order now, since if you don't, you'll be at the back of a very long line. Order now, and if you hate it, it's easy to return for a full cash refund.
You can't lose by ordering now (you don't have to pay until after it arrives), but if you don't order, you may get stuck having to pay a gouged price if you want yours in time for summer vacation.
Don't order it anywhere but at an approved source, since Canon doesn't seal its boxes, you'll have no way to know if you're getting one that's been kicked around a store a few times. The approved sources I use myself all ship from secured, remote warehouses where no one gets to play with your camera before you do. This is how I get the best performance; not by buying from retail stores which have open stock rooms where employees have access to the cameras — I avoid retail like the plague!
See also How to Get It.
21 March 2015, Saturday
Not only is the new Canon much wider than anything before, but it's also optically magnificent. It's much sharper than anything similar, except for the Nikon 14-24mm, which is still a pretty good lens — but that old Nikon lens is nowhere near as wide.
This, along with the 100-400mm L II that I got for Christmas and for which most people are still waiting, is a world-changing lens. Each of these expands our photographic envelope and lets us do things we never could before. The 100-400 II focuses so close and fast that it replaces all 70-200 lenses, and this new ultra-ultrawide is now the widest lens there is — and it's super-sharp and reasonably free from distortion and falloff.
My review is still under construction, but the sample images I've published so far ought to be enough to let everyone in real estate know they need to get one on order before all the amateurs catch on and they become much harder to get and the prices go up.
19 March 2015, Thursday
NEW: Nikon D5500 Review.
Wow; this little gem is awesome. With Nikon's first and only touch-screen, it handles much faster than other Nikons.
Free photography presentation tonight
TONIGHT: Lev Tsimring speaks as the San Diego Photo Club — free. Be there at 7PM, Wesley Palms, 2404 Loring St, Pacific Beach.
See some of Lev's work.
18 March 2015, Wednesday
DEAL: iPad Air $200 off.
Go figure; but the wife wants black frame and the deal-of-day is white-framed.
Even worse, I bought at retail because the wife insisted (I NEVER buy retail), and as I look at Amazon so I could link to it to show the one I just got, it's $60 less than I paid at retail.
Know how great is Amazon? I picked up a friend from leg surgery yesterday. They have a knee scooter to get around, but they liked the idea of a wheelchair after being carted around in it — and especially since they just had leg surgery and it didn't dawn on them that using that scooter might not be as comfy. No big deal, I looked on Amazon, and we have this brand-new wheelchair arriving today for $125 — the same price for which people resell them used on Craigslist (I checked). Wheelchairs go for about $700 at retail, and I saved myself the trip to find one. Ha! I love Amazon.
Beyerdynamic headphone deal
16 March 2015, Monday
What is this, deal day? Oh well, here they are:
Quadcopter deal: $59.99
I have a different $55 mini quadcopter which Ryan and I love to fly all over. It's not as nice as the deal-of-the-day one, and the deal-of-the-day copter includes a rotor guard, which is $10 extra for the one I have. Of course I'm flying around kids and indoors, so I need a rotor guard.
My $55 quadcopter is impressively stable; it's gyros always keep it level so it's easy to fly or land on tilted surfaces. It lacks GPS so it takes skill to get it to hover in one place, but boy can it fly fast and high!
I got my little copter as a trainer for the hard-core DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter I also have just gotten. The DJI is hard core: it can cruise at 50 MPH! As you pilots know, pilots need supplemental oxygen above 10,000 feet, and the DJI has a rated ceiling of 14,500 feet. That's OK, because the the transmitter is rated for 2 km (1.2 miles).
I'm afraid of the DJI; it's a serious aircraft made of billet aluminum and carbon fiber. It has no rotor guards (just like an Osprey), so as the son of a CFI (certified flight instructor), I'm not going to just charge it up and see how it crashes without a lot of practice first.
When I'm up to the DJI, it has a great camera on it and we'll see what it can do.
HINT: LiPo batteries get hot when flying, since they are run so hard they are completely drained in just 10 minutes or so. For the best long-term battery health, give it 10 minutes of more to cool down before you put it on the charger. Your battery will thank you.
This is the latest D3300: Nikon D3300 + 18-55 VR + 55-200VR: $449. Refurbished, with with free shipping.
Sandisk deals - last day
Speaker Monitor deals
3.1415 ≈ Pi Day
Rollei Factory Auction
Rollei finally gave up.
Here are some photos of the lots to be auctioned.
This simply shows that there is only one immortal camera brand, and that brand is LEICA. Other brands come and go, but when they start selling commemorative junk that's simply rebranded cameras made by others, it's their doom. Make all the fun we want of LEICA's crazy special editions, but the key is that people buy those as fast as LEICA can make them, and that LEICA has a martyr, ensuring its divine immortality.
Contax went out of business twice, and now Rollei's gone, too. Of course we'll still see the Rollei name licensed to junk makers just as Polaroid did after it was gone, but no more new real Rollies.
Joke Camera Fire Sale
FIRE SALE: Hasselblad Stellar: $999.99.
The Hasselblad Stellar was a camera so foolish I couldn't bring myself to mention it before. It was and is a common small-sensor point-and-shoot tarted up by Hasselblad and offered at $3,299.99. Geesh.
Once the few foolish collectors with infinite disposable incomes bought three of them, Hasselblad is stuck with the rest, so you can get it now for the fire-sale price of $999.99.
I find the whole concept of using a sacred act, the landing of Americans on The Moon, as a marketing ploy for something completely unrelated as offensive — and so did you, which is why Hasselblad is stuck with these. People are stupid, but not that stupid.
$3,300 for a camera not as good as a $210 Canon S110? Good riddance. Canon has the secret sauce for great colors that no other compact camera maker has been able to match; Canon Powershot snaps just look better.
The Stellar, on sale, has a point-and-shoot sensor. The more foolish Hasselblad Lunar costs even more and still only has an APS-C sensor - not full frame and certainly not medium format, and not made in Sweden or West Germany. The Lunar is a Sony NEX 7 with the Sony lens (which is pretty bad).
When I want a lunar Hasselblad, I'll get a real Hasselblad 501 or whatever from eBay — the real thing for a whole lot less.
Of course the Nikon D5500 takes even better pictures than any of these modern Hasselblad imitations. How dare a foreign company attempt to profit from America's achievements with sad commemorative editions - of nothing.
Did you know LEICA just announced an M camera with simulated wear marks, so rich people with low self-esteem can pretend that they actually shoot? It sold for about $25,000 a set and sold out within minutes. There is never a shortage of people with big wallets and small self esteem. LEICA can do this, others can not.
From where do pictures come?
A reader sent me some great photos, and thanked me saying "I am taking better pictures because of you!"
Au contraire, I replied.
"Your pictures are because of YOU. Hopefully I help clear some of the tech mumbo-jumbo out of the way so the YOU can come through."
Pictures come from our hearts and imaginations. Cameras are just there to grab those thoughts; cameras and technique have very little to do with making a picture — but oh boy, do camera makers and camera sellers have a field day getting everyone's panties in a wad trying to convince us otherwise!
Your imagination and powers of observation are everything. The camera is just along for the ride.
It's not the 1950s anymore; today, we point and shoot our DSLRs or iPhones, and we've got it.
The important part is the "it" that they capture. As Jay Maisel so brilliantly writes in his book, the only hard thing about photography is finding the picture in the first place. Once you've found it, it's trivially easy to capture it today.
My Nikon D5500 continues to enchant me with its stellar image quality, tiny size and great ergonomics.
12 March 2015, Thursday
USA D5500 warranty papers and manuals. more
I just added an illustrated section on how to check that you have a legal USA version to my D5500 review.
Canon 100-400mm II
It seems to be in stock at Adorama and at B&H (Adorama also has a kit that throws in some free goodies for the same price).
It's such a world-changing lens since it focuses faster and closer than any of the 70-200 lenses that it's hard to find, and some places gouge prices if they do have it in stock.
Remember, only buy from approved sources.
11 March 2015, Wednesday
I'm loving my new Nikon D5500 and need to update its review.
I was thinking it was the same as last year's model, but no!
The D5500 touch screen is so well done that it makes using the D5500 twice as fast as old-fashioned DSLRs that needed us to fiddle with a thumb-controller to move a cursor around a screen like a 1970s PC.
With the D5500, I tap the screen, and bingo, I've selected my resolution or ISO or whatever in one tap, not three clicks. This is huge, and makes the D5500 a huge step up from the D5300.
The D5500 is a flyweight camera, while today's bloated LEICA M240 is a big, fat flabby shadow of what LEICAs used to be. This isn't 1965 anymore; today, the D5500 works much faster and weighs less and and has a much better viewfinder and is far more reliable and has over twice the battery life of the kludgy M240.
50 years ago, the Nikon F weighed almost twice what a LEICA did, which is why LEICA was a top choice of news pros who needed to get in, get the shot, and get out:
Today, LEICA's offering is even bigger and heavier than it was 50 years ago, while Nikon has shed almost half its weight and has over twice the battery life of the LEICA:
If you want to show your friends a great camera, own the LEICA; it is the world's finest. If you want to show your friends great pictures, use a Nikon or Canon (or an iPhone or Fuji X100T if you don't want to carry anything. Then again, the D5500 and SL1 are about as light as the X100T.)
You can get a brand-new Canon 70-200/2.8 L II on eBay right now for $1,899 with free shipping, but the seller has awful feedback.
The legitimate price for it is $2,049 after rebate, so I suspect these are gray market — or who knows.
The good news is that eBay's money-back guarantee really works. If you don't get your stuff, report it and you should get a refund. eBay today does a great job at policing itself.
Canon 7D Deals
Canon 7D with 18-135mm IS for $1,099 < recommended.
While the new 7D Mk II defines a new generation of DSLRs for sports and action; the original 7D remains a fantastic camera. Just look at the photos in my review, and the photos I made in Maui with it.
Think Tank Deal
But wait — there's more than just a free laptop case. Think Tank has a standing offer where you folks get another free goody at checkout.
Order a Think Tank Photo roller bag and you'll get any of these free, along with a laptop bag.
The laptop bag is so super-special that you can't buy it and it has no link; it's only is available as a premium along with a roller bag:
15" Laptop bag. bigger.
Therefore, if you get any Mac Pro or Mac Mini Desktop you can get:
One rebate per computer.
09 March 2015, Monday
Don't forget: your cameras don't reset themselves, and therefore we all need to go find each and every one of our cameras and be sure they're reset to daylight time.
When we don't actively do this, since we rarely see the camera's clock, we could be shooting all summer with our EXIF data an hour off.
Our Macs and iPhones are so smart we sometimes for get that our Nikons and Canons and LEICAs are not. When I forget, it may be summer until I do a sort by capture date and wonder why my iPhone and DSLR shots aren't sorting correctly, then realize I've had my D810 or 5D MK III set wrong for months.
Set it NOW.
New Photo Tours
I have one in Yosemite in May. I need to get you the dates.
Dan Ballard has his schedule up for 2015, and it's filling up fast.
07 March 2015, Saturday
Art Show Saturday Night
I'm not in the area Saturday night, but if I was, I'd definitely check out this show for some fresh California coastal art.
It's an an art show for the completion of Volume 1 of the online bodysurfing magazine, SwellLinesMag.com.
It's Saturday, March 7th from 5-8pm at the Hill Street Cafe and Gallery in Oceanside.
There will be food specials if you'd like to grab dinner.
Their cutting-edge photography and other art will be on display, from all media including film and digital.
This is a one-time show. It will be set up tonight, and then be taken down.
If you're an art buyer, these are the sort of grass-roots exhibits where you never know what up-and-coming California surf art you'll find direct from the artists.
I always love to check out every art show, since you never, ever know what you'll see until you see it. Art's like that: it's all different, so it's always a surprise. That's what makes art art; you can't predict it.
The show has no website; it's in-person only show, as art is supposed to be. It happens once tonight, then disappears forever. Catch it while you can!
Film versus Digital
People still ask, and the difference all comes down to what you want to do with your pictures.
If you want to project on a screen in a dark room, nothing beats direct-projected Fuji Velvia or Agfa Scala (B&W). Using a projector and shining the live-from-film image in screen gets more resolution and dynamic range than any electronic projector — but keeping the film in perfect focus is a pain.
However, if you display on an electronic monitor, post online, or use an electronic projector, digital cameras give much cleaner and less contrasty files. Film usually turns shadows all-black, while digital cameras preserve detail in the shadows almost as well as our eyes saw the original scene. Since you have to scan film to get here, you're losing two generations by shooting and scanning film, where a digital camera gives you that file directly.
For B&W, nothing beats B&W film, shot properly, which means using colored filters over the lens as-shot. These contrast effects can't be added-in properly later.
For art's sake, everything looks different. You have to shoot what gives the look you want. At best, software and Photoshop can never duplicate the look of any film. Now what you want may be the look you get from a digital camera and software, but if you have a look you love from film, that cannot be duplicated with a different process.
05 March 2015, Thursday
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM.
TubeDepot TubeCube | 7.
NEW: TubeCube | 7 Review.
An absolutely adorable little tube amp for $179.95 — and it works great!
Crown IC 150 Stereophonic Preamplifier.
NEW: Crown IC 150 Review.
An enduring American classic.
Adorama is now offering an additional $250 Mail-In Rebate, on top of the already existing $300 Instant Rebate for a total rebate value of $550!
All Cameras are bundled with a Pro Printer Deal and other accessories for free to get you this secret low price.
Audio-Technica Pro Monitor Headphones ($169.95 Value) with PreSonus Ceres Studio Monitor Speakers. You get the headphones free with the speakers.
ToCAD America is giving up on Contax repair, and handing it off to:
Nippon Photo Clinic
New Lenses from Sony
Sony Zeiss 35mm F/1.4 ZA E Mount Lens: $1,598.00
Sony 90mm F/2.8 Macro G OSS E Mount Lens: $1,098.00
Sony 28mm F/2 E Mount Lens: $448.00
02 March 2015, Monday
NEW: Nikon D7200.
Adds NFC and Wi-Fi to the D7100.
Also new from Nikon:
Nikon ME-W1 Wireless Stereo Microphone: $246.95. You put it up close, and it sends audio to your camera for recording.
Sigma 150-500 review.
Pentax 645 deal from WPPI
Adorama has the Pentax 645Z Camera bundled with up to $1500 of free products.
01 March 2015, Sunday
Canon has dumped a lot of prices for March:
5DS or 5D Mk III?
The innocent don't realize that the 5DS doesn't exist yet. It's not out until maybe June, which tells us that Canon is still trying to work out the bugs — otherwise we'd have it today.
Canon early-announced the 5DS to try to stem the tide of less-skilled shooters drifting off to the Nikon D810 based solely on pixel count. (Skilled shooters know that once you get above 10 MP, pixel count is purely a marketing ploy unrelated to print quality.)
The 5DS is for those who just have to have the newest. It's not the best, since it's actually slower than the 5D Mk III, but for the sort of guy who needs a Porsche or LEICA to boost an iffy self esteem or compensate for other shortcomings, the 5DS hits the spot. It's a "numbers" camera, all about the big 50 MP number, like when a wimp buys a 500 HP Mustang.
See also Is it Worth It.
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