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.