Friday, December 16, 2011

Not Christmas Just Yet

You might have noticed that Christmas is coming a bit late to this blog. It's not the case of the bah-humbug's, I've been preoccupied with making a 5 week project fit in a three week timeline. Sales driven versus product-led? I'm in the the latter camp. However, recent events have been conspiring with the former.

But till then, there's one more week, and here's Christmas wishes that you'll get to wind down the year properly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

ZAGG invisibleSHIELD Review for iPhone 4s

First and foremost... let me say that i never thought that I would end up being an iPhone user. I think the design is silly... sure the front of your device needs to be glass, but making the back of the device glass as well is basically just asking for trouble. That said... despite myself, I find that I am now one of the legion of Apple owners, and for the most part, I use my phone unprotected. Go figure, people are never as consistent as they say they are.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nikon D80 Review - A Great Student/Starter Value

It's a bit late reviewing a camera body that was first announced in 2006. Two generations have since succeeded it, so how relevant could a five-year old (at the time of this writing at least) dSLR body be? Actually, very much so,  if you're in the market for a used one.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Apple iPhone 4s Versus Feature Phone, Panasonic LX-5 and Nikon D7000

You might have heard that the camera in the Apple iPhone 4s is better than the one used in its predecessor. How about comparing it to a dSLR? This one isn't even close in terms of comparability. You already know how this will turn out, don't you...? For this post, we won't be delving into 100% crops or EXIF data. The typical phone camera user isn't that concerned, and must people don't need to pixel-peep to know that the D7000 will win this on an objective basis. However, each tool has it's use, and it's interesting to see how each of this handles a similar situation. Click after the jump to see how four different photographic tools pan out.

Nikon D7000 with 50mm AF-D at f/1.4 and ISO 25,600

Yesterday and last night we had a fairly lengthy power outage. So after wandering around and gabbing with the neighbors, I grabbed my gear out of the closet to see what the D7000 could do with an Nikon 50 f/1.4 AF-D opened up all the way. Just my potted palm and candlelight. This wasn't meant to be a scientific test. The out of camera pictures shows you why this is not such a great idea. This is as high as the ISO will go on the camera, and it's shot with a lens that isn't the greatest wide open. You can see that there's quite a bit of blue channel noise, much more than previous Nikon cameras. There's a fair bit of a blue cast as well, but that's down to auto white-balance and the moonlight coming in through the blinds. But this being a Nikon, the noise pattern is still fine and speckled, not mushy and blotchy. And to be fair, the 50mm AF-D f/1.4 is soft in the corners, but still has reasonable resolution in the center. In this type of shot, you can see that it doesn't matter... the corners of the picture are dark and devoid of detail. Having said that.... come on people, it's ISO 25,600! When I was a kid, ISO 800 film didn't look this good.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Review

It's funny how we're so many years into the digital revolution, yet things like full-frame crop frame equivalences still trip us up. Take the matter of the ever popular Nikon 70-200VR; no working pro would be taken seriously without it for weddings and social functions. Yet this is the equivalent of 100-300mm on a full frame camera, and the f/2.8 aperture is equivalent to f/4 on an FX camera like the D700. Sigma and Tokina made 100-300mm lenses like this, yet, for film and FX, it falls strictly into the neither-nor category... not really the working zoom, no quite long enough for birding and the more extreme sports. Yet there is no equivalent to what the 70-200VR on full frame is to the DX world, at least not in the Nikon camp. Tokina's 50-135mm f/2.8 has the equivalent angle of view as the venerable Nikon on full frame, yet most shooters in this category skip past this offering. Strange.

Update: Some more action shots with this lens here.

This is a lens to love.  The build quality is at a professional level... metal body, fluid dampened zoom ring, and a fluid dampened tripod collar. The petal hood is very long, and unlike what you would find with a consumer grade lens, the inside surfaces are lined with black velvet to further cut down on unwanted glare. It feels quite weighty, but it's not over burdening. Strap one on your camera and you'll know that you've got a serious tool in your hands, yet it isn't so long and heavy to the point of being unwieldy. You could fit this inside most day to day camera bags.... mine fits just fine in my moderately-sized Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home. That's with room for another lens and a camera body with a a lens mounted.

50mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/160s

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Renewing Postings on Craigslist

Craigslist's "renew this posting" feature adds a whole measure of convenience to selling an item, but even more headache. You have it, and so does every other seller out there. It's a nice feature, but it does nothing to give anybody a competitive advantage. This means that listings fall off the first page of any given search relatively quickly, forcing you to refresh every few days to keep your posting near the top of the list where the eyeballs are. I'm not a big fan of it, since the constant churning of posts is bad for both buyers and sellers.

Before it was this easy to renew listings, buyers could judge the worth of an item by the amount of time that had passed since the last post, and the market demand for that item by how often an item would need to be re-posted. A popular item like a Nikon 35mm AF-G DX would usually list once, and within a day or two, would be gone from the listings. Less popular lenses like the 24-120VR would often require the post to be renewed once or twice, but the time in between would be weeks, not days like it is now. With the constant churning of posts, a buyer has to spend more time each day watching the postings go by to gauge the market in the same way that we used to do before.

For sellers, the extra time spent on renewing posts and checking for price competitiveness is an added inconvenience. Price-wise, I do think that the new environment favors buyers, since the extra listing churning seems to encourage discounting on the part of sellers. The reason why this is so is because the more often the buyer sees a listing renewed, the more likely they are to assume that demand is not as great as the seller would hope, hence, greater bargaining position price-wise.

There is one group that benefits from the "Renew" button... and I hope Craigslist takes note. It's the keyword spammers. I've been seeing a lot of garbage clogging up the listings lately... input "Nikon" as a search term and you get a page full of listings for cell phones, with some photographic equipment interspersed.

As a seller, these are things to keep in mind in the new environment:
  • Price your item as competitively as possible. Gone are the days when you could list at a price that is obviously above market and then wait for it to be knocked down in negotiations. With the faster flow of postings, the chances are now greater that you will be undercut by another seller.
  • When you renew, change your listing pictures every so often. Craigslist gives you four pictures, keep two or three the same, but change the last one week to week so that you can give buyers a reason to look at the add again, and to also telegraph the fact that you are a living person and not some phishing-bot run from out of town.  

Otherwise, the key points are that you want to have the basics of a good posting down. What the renew button does is that it makes it easier to either grab the attention of a buyer or to wear out their interest. Naturally, a good posting should fall in the first camp, while being mindful of the second.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is it Okay to Buy Sightly Damaged Used Goods on Craigslist?

This scenario comes up now and then. A seller will post an item with some cosmetic damage that has no actual bearing on the operation of the camera or lens itself. Another possibility is that the seller is posting a lens with a visible scratch on the front element that for all intents and purpose has no real world impact on the final image quality. (And as working pros will tell you, minor scratches really don't affect image quality as much you thin they might.) In either case, the seller is up front about the damage and has priced the item lower to compensate fairly for the wear.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Contraian Tribute to Steve Jobs

In memory of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who was one of the greats in the craft of marketing, and a humble submission to consider that practice of commerce is sometimes easily confused with the commerce of living.
"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." -- Steve Jobs, BusinessWeek, May 25 1998

You have heard it said that you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. But instead let it be said that trust is not the end of all things, but only the process. Your trust will eventually be misplaced...misdirected... or broken... maybe even validated in the end... but that none of these things proves or disproves your trust. Instead, we must trust because we live, and not in the expectation that our trust will lead to our own selfish reward. If a person trusts without the guarantee of gain or positive outcome, it is to their credit. However, trust placed in the certainty of a reward is daydreaming without the risk of sacrifice. If you are certain to begin with, then there is no need to trust. Therefore, all who truly trust necessarily do so at their own risk.

"...If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same...
...Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And,which is more,you'll be a Man, my son!"  
                                    - Rudyard Kipling

You have heard it said that that you should do what you love and to keep looking until you find it. Do not settle. Instead, let it be said that we ought to strive to  love what we do, and that whatever we have been entrusted with we should do so with reverent consideration. Because it serves a person no purpose to dream of a better future while neglecting the needs of the present, let us ask each other to count the blessings that we have now instead of longing selfishly for a future that may never come.

"We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew,
There's something for all of us here,
There's big work to do, and there's lesser to do,
And the task you must do is the near.
Douglas Malloch

You have heard it said to follow your own inner voice and that we ought to stay hungry and to stay foolish.  Instead let it be said that we ought to guard against these very things, because hunger and foolishness are the very things that salesmen will use to separate us from our money and life's accumulated work. The one who feeds your hunger is your friend, but the one who tells you that you are hungry and that he has a loaf of bread to sell to you merely wants to do business with you. Though everyone needs to eat to live, let it be said that life is more than the satisfaction of needs and desire. Noble desires do not make a noble person, and desire... even determination and passion... do not determine the world.

"The race is not to the swift 
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise 
or wealth to the brilliant 
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all."
  - Ecclesiastes 9.1

Remembrance of a remarkable life's work in genuine admiration, as guarded as it may be. No surprise that one of the world's greatest marketers would inspire with advice that is easy to hear, but that was his calling... to tell us what we wanted. That was his utopian vision, that was what he sold. But for everything else, we ought to pay attention to the words that are not so easy to hear, and think about what we need instead. Because all men of commerce sell dreams, but struggle with the less inspiration building that vision. Just like the rest of us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX: Bokeh Comparison

The pace of life has picked up after the summer holidays, which unfortunately has meant less time for shooting and posting. While the full review of the Tokina 50-135 slowly makes its way down the pipeline, we'll do a quick review in the form of the following bokeh comparison.

I've lined up the following, all at 50mm.

  • Nikon 50 f/1.4 AF-D, 
  • Tamron SP AF 17-50 f/2.8 XR Di II, 
  • Tokina, all at 50-135 AT-X

Other than the fact that they cover 50mm, these are three lens with three completely different uses. On a DX camera, the Nikon is the best pure portrait lens, the Tamron is an all-purpose normal-zoom, and the Tokina is a professional-grade portrait zoom. The following test shots are not so much an indication of the quality of the lenses, but an illustration of how differences in intended lens purpose show up in shots. All three shots used the same indicated focal length, same distance to subject and same aperture. Key things to look for are the quality of rendition of the foreground subject verses the texture and appearance of the background subject. (Also try to guess where I went for vacation over the summer...)

Big caveat: Because I am currently using a Nikon D80, I don't have the focus fine-tune function present on newer cameras like the Nikon D7000. Differences in subject sharpness will have more to do with focus calibration than they will with the actual design of the lens. However, for our purposes, the impact that will have on background rendition will be minimal.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4:
ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1600s, Matrix Meter
This will be a bit familiar if you've read my post comparing the Nikon 50mm versus the Tamron 17-50. The Nikon has the best background rendition out of all three lenses here. It has a reputation for giving busy backgrounds, but that's only true at wider apertures. From f/2.0 to /2.8, the bokeh is fairly smooth and consistent.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to Photograph Fireworks

Summer means fireworks, and that of course means photographic opportunities. Capturing fireworks is it's own unique discipline, as it is about capturing essence of movement in a stationary image. Because of this, more so than other forms of picture taking, fireworks shooting involves a high degree of interpretation on the part of the photographer.... it is not possible to sit back and capture what the eye 'sees', because it is not possible to coherently capture all of the movement in one single picture. The end result tends to be vary individualistic. Take two  people and put them side by side and you'll find that the pictures from both take on a distinctive look for each photographer.

ISO 100, f/5.6, 2s, -2/3 EV

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coming Up Next

Been away from photography for some while. Just a couple of things I've been working on for upcoming posts.
  • It's fireworks season again and I've got a bunch to get up on the web in the next week or so.
  • Another in my infrequent series of equipment reviews... a bit of a rarity but a goody, the Tokina 50-135 f/2.8. Coming in September.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anatomy of a D700 Craigslist War

This one showed up first...

Nikon D700 body, mint condition - $2100

Date: 2011-07-12, 9:36PM PDT
12,000 shutter actuations. Like new condition. Local sale and pick-up only, cash preferred.

Then this one came just a little later...

Nikon D700 body, better than mint condition - $2150

Date: 2011-07-12, 10:08PM PDT

6,000 shutter actuations. Like new condition. Local sale only

Well, there are two possibilities, the legit one and the not so legit one. I'll deal with the latter first, since our local Craigslist has been flooded by some goof in Toronto advertising a D700 with AF 14-24 for the absurdly low price of  $1,650.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Panasonic LX5 Review: Jpeg Versus RAW

Much has been said about the LX-5's jpeg engine, and to be honest, the output that you get straight out of the camera is not bad at all. Compared to what you would get from the Canon G12, the results lack a bit of bite, but for most purposes, unless you are comparing pictures side-by-side, you won't miss the difference. That said, I agree with the sentiment that nearly every scene that you could shoot with the LX-5 could be better shot with RAW, though I am also certain that not ever scene will require this.

To begin with, the jpeg versus RAW debate is not a real debate... RAW gives you more detail and control. However, if you nail the exposure and white balance correctly at the time of shooting, then the difference is not as great as some would make it out to be. The remaining advantage will come down to how the file is rendered, and in this, a RAW converter will always win against the in-camera jpeg engine, though in some cases it will be close. it just depends on the situation.

Take this scene for example. Even though there is a lot of detail in the foreground, none of it really matters, as it's not the focus of attention. Because the sky is large expanse of a blue and the clouds are relatively large picture elements, the additional acuity 'bite' that a RAW processed version would offer would be minimal to the picture. However, a the RAW file would give extra leeway in adjusting the exposure... and that will alter how the detail that is captured by the camera is emphasized.

Garry Point Park, Richmond, B.C., Canada

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In the Aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot

Repeat visitors to this blog will know that I'm not shy about using opportunities to show off the local scenery. By now the images from Wednesday's night Stanley Cup aftermath will have spread around the world... and even though it the mayhem was the work of core group of hooligans, none of us in the Greater Vancouver area felt any pride in our city the day afterward.

To know Vancouver's history is to also know the anxiety we feel about large public gatherings and unrestrained demonstrations of community pride, and by the end of Wednesday night, history had repeated itself in the worst possible way.... which was to say that it was even worse than before.

A little bit of local history. Vancouver loves hockey. There can be no truer fact. Vancouver also loves the Canucks...when they don't hate them. This is an unfortunate fact. Over the 40 years of history, there have been three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, but nothing to show for it. The last time was 17 years ago, just after a game 7, after a season of so much promise. Just like this time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Dangers of Craigslist

The following is an all-too-real account of what can go wrong in a Craigslist transaction at the time of the iPad2 launch. The item in question doesn't matter, it could be any hot in demand item, the principles remain the same:

Our local newspaper cited many of the things that the prospective buyer did right... daylight hours, deal arranged in a public place in an affluent neighborhood, person did not go alone... however, there are a few things that were seriously wrong:
  1. Never agree to meet somebody in a parking lot. No matter how busy the mall parking lot is, meet in a  busy place where there will be plenty of people who can see you, as well as the seller coming and going. Above all else, entry should be by foot. It would have been better in the above case to have met inside the mall in the food court or at one of the coffee shops. Bad guys will think twice about robbing somebody and then having to run through long corridors with plenty of witnesses and security cameras.
  2. Don't describe to the buyer what car you'll be driving up in. You don't want a bad guy to follow you back to the car after a transaction. Also, don't walk back to your car if there is no traffic in the vicinity.
  3. If it's too good to be true, it is. This is where the whole deal fundamentally went wrong. Yes, there are those out there who will have bought an iPad and then resold it because they were not happy with it... but seriously, how many such people exist? Let alone, how many people would be dissatisfied with two? There are a few sad sacks out there who hoarded the iPad2 and are now trying to unload them, but you have to wonder at the payoff verses finding one in-store.
Don't get me wrong, this is a terrible thing to have happened to these people, especially the innocent bystanders, but it illustrates the point that it's harder to deceive an honest person than it is to deceive a less honest person. Especially for new and hot items, you have to be on guard to not ignore the "It's too good to be true" messages that you're brain is sending you... because when it's too good to be true, a part of you will want to believe it.

For a brief guide for getting a good deal and for increasing your chances of safely completing a transaction, check out this post.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bokeh Comprison: Nikon AF 50mm f/1.4 D verses Tamron 17-50 f/2.8

The Nikon 50 AF-D and the Tamron 17-50 are both common lenses that are often found in the bag of serious enthusiast shooters. Much has been said about using 50mm lenses on crop frame cameras for portraits, so the question is, can a fast-zoom do the same in a pinch? The following was the same for both lenses:
  • ISO 100
  • f/2.8
  • 1/250 seconds
  • 50mm
I chose f/2.8 for obvious reasons, namely that the Tamron only opens up to f/2.8. However, given the challenges of producing an acceptably sharp image at f/1.4, it's fairly reasonable to suggest that many people would find use for the Nikon at settings other than completely wide open.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tamron 17-50 verses Tamron 28-75 for Social Gatherings

A while back I sold sold my Tamron 28-75, having acquired a non-BIM version of the 17-50mm. This was a hard sale for me personally, as the 28-75 was one of the best lenses in my collection but it simply wasn't getting used anymore with the more convenient DX sized 17-50.  In some ways, these lenses are like little brother and big brother, and some ways, they are not. A few quick thoughts:
  • One the same camera, the 28-75 produces nicer headshots at 75mm than the 17-50 does at 50mm... that's a given considering the extra perspective compression. The bokeh rendition is also better, as the smaller lens can be a bit harsh in out of focus areas. However, for casual purposes, I find that any of the 50mm primes are usually a better choice than either of these two lenses for portrait shooting, as the zooms tend to produce a harsh bokeh if the background gets busy. This is especially true of the 17-50.
  • With the 17-50, you really don't miss switching back and forth between lenses that is necessary with the 28-75. If you are in a big space, it's no problem, but mounting and un-mounting lenses gets old fairly quickly in small spaces. The 17-50 is much better matched to the DX sensor size. With the 28-75, the awkwardness of the focal length constantly reminds you that it's there.
  • 28mm on DX is still in the 'normal' category. You really miss the feeling of depth that the 17-50 range provides, and have to work hard to exaggerate perspective.
  • The 17-50 is sharper at f/2.8. The plane of focus is quite curved, especially at the wide end of the lens, but the 17-50 is bit more contrasty wide open.  Both lenses are superb by f4, but you can shoot at f/2.8 with a bit more confidence with the 17-50.
  • The 28-75 is practically vignette-free on crop frame. This is a weakness with the 17-50, the dark corners are fairly apparent when you shoot against big expanses of light background. However, for people shots, it's not that intrusive and is rather welcome at times.
  • The 17-50 is a tad shorter than the 28-75. By normal zoom standards, the 28-75 is fairly small, but it still feels a bit on the long and heavy side when mounted on a DX camera.
No surprise, then, that the crop frame lens works better on a D80 (or D90, D7000, etc.) than the 28-75. There are a few opinions out there (mostly from working pros) that normal zooms are boring because most pictures are taken in this range, and consequently, don't stand out. That may be true, but there is a reason why Leica shooters collect 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 90mm primes... which is the full range of the so-called 'normal-zoom'.

If you have a chance to get either 17-50 or 28-75 on the used market, especially the AF-D non-built-in-motor versions, go for it. They're great deals, and for anywhere between $250 to $350 on Craigslist, you'll get a lot for your money.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Panasonic DMC-LX5 Review

No, I have not given up my dSLR, but I have been re-evaluating some priories as of late. My philosophy used to be that a camera is for the using, and that the quality afforded by a dSLR beat relying on somebody else's compact hands down. If portability was a factor, then it was simply a matter of strapping on a prime lens and making the kit smaller. Well, more is more, so it doesn't hurt to have a second camera kicking around. I found my copy of the LX5 for a price that couldn't be refused and jumped on it. And to be honest, as a portable kick-around camera, it's going to do nicely.

The build quality is very nice... very nice indeed. You get a metal body... a real metal body... something that you wouldn't get in full in the Nikon dSLR world until you reach the D300 level of camera. Cameras are for looking at things, but the LX5 is very nice to look at in itself. The whole range-finder aesthetic thing works very nicely for it... it has a very precise, very purposeful aura about it. Shooting in public, you wouldn't be mistaken for anything less than an enthusiast with this piece of kit.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Cheapest Way to Get a Leica M9

This one came up on our Craigslist today:

Leica M9 like new
Date: 2011-04-04, 9:58AM PDT

I am offering this beautiful black Leica M9 in terrific condition. I have owned it for a year, and the camera has been babied and not used very much (under 1500 actuations). It looks as new, and comes in the original box with all accessories, plus a gorgeous handmade leather half case and strap by Luigi Crescenzi. It simply isn't being used as much as it should be, and rather than tie up the money I have decided to move the camera on to somebody who will use it more frequently. There are a few more accessories, such as a Thumbs-Up, and a special bottom plate (M-Mate) with an opening for the SD slot. The case and these accessories are worth at least USD700.

The camera works perfectly, I have had no troubles whatsoever - of course, it takes great images, especially with great Leica or Zeiss glass in front of it.

The camera is leased through Vistek in Toronto. The three year lease has a $10 buyout at the end; one year has passed so there are 24 payments remaining. The buyer would not need to pay me anything, they simply need to assume the lease and for that purpose supply some credit information to the leasing company. There is a small transfer fee which the buyer would be responsible for.

Serious enquiries only. I can provide photos on request to a serious buyer. I also have some M-mount lens that might be available.

Communication by email initially. Thanks.

If you go to Vistek's website, you can see the terms of the leasing program. It's just a shade over $406 CDN a month for three years, or almost $4900 a year. Body only. The $11,299.00 list price has something to do with it... One has to wonder about the economics of this transaction. On the face of it, leasing something this expensive makes sense if you are savvy with your money.. some of it can be doing work while the camera is being paid off. But I think it's plain to see where the buyer's remorse started to kick in. Add on a Summilux lens and you'll have spent enough to buy a new Honda Civic.

I think given that the ad hits all of the right notes and spells out a few details ahead of time, the camera will find a new home. And they key point is, on something this insanely exclusive, the ad hits all of the right notes, which it needs to, since the potential pool of buyers is significantly smaller than your usual Craigslist transaction.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-D Review

In the earlier days of digital, the 50mm AF-D f/1.4 was something of a luxury lens in the Nikon world. Just as an example, see how many of DPReview's in-house shot's futured this lens mounted on a Nikon body. Many found the cheaper f/1.8 lens a revelation for sharpness at a very thrifty price, but in the days before nano-coating and all the exotic lenses that came after, the f/1.4 commanded a very steep price increase for an extra 2/3EV of exposure.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens, wide open.

We now have other choices in terms of the newer G-version and an offering from Sigma. So is there still a place for the once top of the heap lens? Read on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anatmy of a Craigslist Ripoff (Part 7)

This came up today:

NIKON LENS 70-300MM - $275

Date: 2011-02-17, 12:39AM PST

If you've been looking or a 70-300, you'll know right away that the price is a ripoff. 70-300VR lenses go for roughly $400-$425 in our locale. The older ED version... you'll be lucky to get low-mid hundred's. The non-VR ED version is, to politely put it, a mediocre performer. However, you can see the effect that the newer vererion has on the older version's price... there will be some people who will try to ride on the coattails of the more expensive lens with the better reputation.

You also tend to see this phenomenon with old push-pull versions of the 80-200 f/2.8. It's a great lens, but quite a few people are asking above used market value because of the asking prices for the newer two-ring version of that lens.

That also happened to me when I picked up a 24AF last year. The seller was asking for a 24AFD price, but I called him on it and knocked $50 off. It just goes to show,you've got to know your market. Fore-warned is fore-armed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Craigslist Ads

These two posts came up on the same day. All things being equal, if you were in the market for a Nikon D50, which one would you pick?

Nikon D50 Body Only, FS - $250 (Downtown)

Date: 2011-02-13, 12:39PM PST
Comes with strap, charger and extra battery.
Pretty simple ad, right? Good price, central location in a big city. It's pretty sparse, so you would have to see it in person, but it's a no-nonsense kind of an ad, which is usually a good sign. Or would you rather go for this one?

NIKON d50 - $300 (It's in the suburbs)

Date: 2011-02-13, 7:32PM PST

i have a nikon d50 great condition no scratches or anything, like new.
-carrying bag
-wall battery charger
-computer cord plug in
-lexar professional SD card
Very different ad. Lots of bundling going. Bit higher price. The two things that the second ad has going for it is the bag and the memory card... which could account for the price difference. However, since you don't know how big the card is, it's a non-factor. What the first one has that is more important is the extra battery, which is a welcome convenience for older cameras.

Lots of people try to get a better price by bundling their stuff with odds and ends. This doesn't get you that far on Craigslist. People fell secure if they have to scrutinize one thing... having to scrutinize a multitude of things will push them on to another guy with an easier to understand proposition. 

The unfortunate thing is that the second ad sells at a higher price in a far-ish suburb. Prices around here tend to go down the further you are from the urban center... it's just a matter of finding enough demand given your circumstances. 

So, to conclude, my guess is that the first camera will go very quickly. The second will take a bit longer, but it will eventually go, but not at $300.

Friday, February 4, 2011

ICE is Nice

Downtown Vancouver, B.C., Canada

This was me Friday afternoon staring out the window watching as the sun went down. That crane is a harbinger of a 20 story high rise that is slowly but surely going to block out half of the view from my office. I stitched a string of snaps from my cell phone camera together with the Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor (ICE). You can download a free copy here: 

It's a simple and quick photo stitching program....emphasis on quick and emphasis on simple. Most pros will go straight to Photoshop, but this is one quick and convenient program. Lots of positives:
  • Simple interface
  • Support for many file formats
  • Multiprocessor support
  • 64bit operating system support
  • Automatic exposure blending
 ... and did I mention that it's free?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Anatomy of a Craigslist Ripoff (Part 6)

Now that the D700 is getting on in years, the D7000 seems to be picking up the slack as the choice bait of scammers:

Nikon D7000 Body ONLY BNIB Never used - $900 (Vancouver)

Date: 2011-01-28, 12:57AM PST

Nikon D7000 BODY ONLY BRAND NEW Never used All accessories and software are still in their plastic wrapping, the box is still sealed, zero actuation count.
Price is firm at $900

CASH ONLY transaction 

So the first thing you have to ask is... if it's brand new and the seller didn't want it, why didn't he just refund it? The post gets around this by offering a rather low price; this baits the people with more greed than brains. Retail for a body only D7000 in our town is $1279. Most legitimate posts of near-new equipment peg the price at just under retail. What happens is that the buyer saves on the tax, which is 12% for us. So it begs the question, why would anybody leave that much money on the table, especially for something that is in short supply? Body-only D7000's are still harder to find that kits as I write.

This also brings up another issue. It goes without saying, but Craigslist purchases of near-new equipment doesn't offer much value. (BTW, the only legitimate reason is if the return period is expired. There's no reason why something that is still returnable should show up on Craigslist.) For the little mount that you save, you'd be missing out on the warranty, which is almost never transferable for camera equipment.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Other People's Cities are Interesting

Pasadena City Hall, Pasadena, California

I took this a couple of years ago when I went to visit an old buddy of mine. The funny thing is, if I lived there, this wouldn't have been such an interesting shot... I would know in my head that city hall is very scenic, but if I lived there, I think I would have struggled to see if as photo worthy. During that trip, I stumbled across two very interesting public art installations, and commented to an acquaintance how much I loved Southern California because of all of the interesting things that go on down there. His answer? He struggled to find something interesting to shoot in a town he had lived in all his life. Something for me to remember... Vancouver is a tourist town, after all, and all of those folks from other parts of the world with cameras around their necks can't be wrong.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Used Lens Market as a Beauty Pagent.

NPR's "Planet Money" podcast never fails to make the weekly download (twice weekly, actually) onto my mp3 player. Recently, they ran an experiment to test one of the classic theories of economics. And all you had to do was to pick the cutest animal.

For the record, I picked the kitten. The results of the experiment were broadcast in this follow up podcast:

The trick to the experiment was that participants were divided into two groups. One group picked what they thought was the cutest of the three animals. The second group was asked to pick what they thought other people would pick as the cutest animal. Of the first group, 50% picked the kitten as the cutest animal. With the second group, 70% of the respondents said that other people would pick the kitten as the cutest animal.