Friday, August 30, 2013

Canon EOS 70D Video Autofocusing Review: Stress Test

As pointed out in the ISO samples review, judging the Canon EOS 70D by its still image quality is a bit of an academic exercise. The advancements made in the sensor department have nothing to do with improving resolution or dynamic range. In fact that the 70D shows any improvement over the 60D in these areas is largely despite of the new Dual Pixel architecture, not because of it.

However, in playing with the live view and video autofocusing, the promise of faster and more reliable does come through. That doesn't mean that the 70D is prodigious as a video rig; it's more a case that the new focusing technology finally makes the traditional DSLR work as a usable videography machine....period.

Thanks once again to the kind folks at Broadway Camera

Canon EOS 70D High ISO Review

The following is a set of ISO samples from the Canon EOS 70D, first with ISO 100, and then samples from ISO 800-6400 in the "still usable range", as well as a bonus of ISO 12800. Thanks once again to Broadway Camera for providing a tester unit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beach Volleyball with the Nikon D7000 and Tokina AF 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX

Over the weekend us locals  were treated to some pretty high level volleyball action out by Spanish Banks with the 2013 Beach Volleyball National Championships. The weather ending up being a bit mixed on the day that I was there with my camera, but it was otherwise the quintessential sunny Vancouver beach weekend throughout the tournament.

Launch Review: Sony A3000 First Impressions

Lately, people have been anticipating the demise of the DLSR. Mirrorless has been with us for a number of years, and it is only a matter of time until the cheaper to produce form factor starts eating into the bottom of the DSLR market. Almost nobody is arguing that as history is threatening to repeat itself; recall the film SLR wane when compact 35mm cameras arose. While I agree with the the sentiment that the future will be more mirrorless than it is now, the empirical numbers so far say otherwise. No matter how hard Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Fujifilm fight, the lion's share of the revenue still lies Canon and Nikon, who are very much invested in making DSLR's. Enter now a shot heard around the world.... a very inexpensive shot.

The Sony A3000 is a continuation of the mirrorless trend. Many imaged that we would hit this price level; few thought that we would get here so soon. For the non-photographer, small sells, but everybody knows that serious photographers use DSLR's. That's why bridge cameras like the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 and the Fujifilm FinePix S8400W are shaped like DSLR's; they appeal to people who don't want to commit to a DSLR system, but want the "feel" of shooting an upscale camera. That's what you have with the A3000, inexpensive, but it wears the halo of its more expensive siblings. Despite it's looks, the A3000 isn't an SLT DSLR, it's an E-mount camera, meaning that it uses the same lenses that the NEX series uses. You can use A-mount lenses with an adapter, but basically, this is sort of like a re-skinned and updated NEX-3.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Food Review: The Frissant (Just Don't Call it a Cronut)

The frissant... which is not a cronut... not really...

So apparently, the cronut was the new black this summer. (Actually, judging by any sunny weekend, extreme short-shorts and visible under-butt were the new black this summer. I'm so glad I don't have a teenage daughter and don't have to deal with this.... yet... anyways, but I digress). This is the inspired (unholy?) union of a croissant and a doughnut... and is also a pending trademarked name if Dominique Ansel, the creator has anything to do with it. As I used to say to my former colleagues in marketing, "Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism." Vancouver's very own Swiss Bakery has their own version, the frissant, or fritter-croissant.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Launch Review: Canon PowerShot G16 First Impressions

It can't be new and exciting all of the time. Sometimes it can only be somewhat new, which is what the Canon PowerShot G16 is in terms of an update over the G15. Same essentially applies to the S120. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Or to malign a phrase: "It's new to you if you didn't have it before."

What's New

  • Digic 6 processor
  • Wi-Fi
  • Faster AF
  • 60 fps 1080p video
  • 9.3 fps burst mode, first 6 shots in burst are at 12.2fps
  • New shooting modes

So what's different? Not much, except for that one spec which should have caught you eye...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hands on First Impressions: Google Nexus 7

The first Nexus 7 was something of a revelation. This device, above all others, redefined the Android tablet experience as being one for a 7" sized device. The 10" screens are now the territory of the tech enthusiasts, but the Nexus 7 is a recognizable name amongst non-enthusiasts. The price of the first device raise a few eyebrows for undercutting Google's manufacturing partners; the second one holds the launch prices of the first generation while improving the experience of the device. Based on this alone, the second Nexus 7 should build on the success of the first.

ASUS MeMo Pad HD7: Hands on Impressions

The first MeMo Pad barely drew a second glance in a competitive landscape of 7" Android tablets. It's one redeeming feature was how utterly inexpensive it was, giving you 16gb at a launch price of $150 USD; this feel to $130 fairly soon after, with the remaining units quite near the $100 mark. The second version of this device is more interesting, as ASUS has made it more usable with the inclusion of the IPS panel from the out-going first-generation Nexus 7. This immediately transforms the device into something that you can tolerate looking at for long periods of time, but would you want to use it for that long as well?

Thoughts on Working with the iPad Mini and What's Needed for the Ipad Mini 2

Recently, I returned to my market research roots in an on-going project run by the local tourism board. It's a bit of an ironic re-visit, as there's a reason why I don't do this type of work anymore. Simply put, there is no way that you could pay me to do groundwork again. Which is why, of course, I got roped into doing this on a volunteer basis. Makes sense to me. Anything for civic pride and a free lunch... What's different about the modern era of survey work and the bad old days is how much the iPad has transformed the act of data collection. I used to dread crunching the numbers that field workers brought in on paper survey forms because the answers were usually written in a scrawl and barely legible. Since the field works always had quotas to meet, they never cared about the quality of the answers so long as they were hitting their numbers.

An iPad and a well designed survey can change all of that, making the process quicker for the respondent, easier for the field worker to approach people, and making the data much more streamlined for the analyst at the end of the process. There used to be one other positive: people used to love to play with iPads when they were still new, but that advantage has evaporated now the novelty factor has worn off.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Review: "How to Photograph Absolutely Everything" by Tom Ang

It goes without saying that if you really want to study the art of photography, you have to look at a lot of pictures. Now that we have the internet, half of that is possible, but the understanding part of the equation can go missing with the constant back-and-forth that goes on in today's photography forums. Enter the old-fashioned world of books. How to Photography Absolutely Everything is a beautiful book with lots of practical advice for beginners and late-beginner photographers. There's not a lot of discussion about technical matters, which suits it's purpose as Tom Ang does a good job of keeping the reader focused on the act of image-making rather than getting bogged down in details. Think of it more as a book of inspirational material rather than a technical Bible. Eventually, the reader is going to want to move on, but for the intended audience, taking more pictures is likely just as important as taking better pictures.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sony DSC-RX100 II: Hands on Impressions

The great thing about iteration is that it has a tendency to repeat itself. The original RX100 might have ended up as a well-regarded one-time offering, but with the 2013 refresh, Sony seems poised to carry the big camera in a small body concept forward into the future.

How Camera Product Positioning Works

I'm a firm believer that all great companys are product-led, not sales driven. Is Apple the company that they are because they have an aggressive sales staff, or is because the whole world by now pretty much instinctively knows what an iPhone is? Marketing and advertising are involved disciplines in their own right, but the first part of the equation is the product. If the product does not speak for itself without the help of advertising, then the sales team is going to have a harder job to do. So in terms of speaking to the customer, what a product is becomes just as important as what is said about it.

Another non-advertising aspect of product marketing is the lineup in which the product sits. To extend the analogy, "The company that you keep says something about who you are." Where a product sits in the lineup conveys information to the consumer, sometimes in a clearer way than the brochure can. When it comes to judging value, the human brain is surprisingly poor at making judgments in a vacuum. What happens more often than not is that consumers tend to subconsciously make judgments about products relative to other products. Would you be happier having the most expensive compact camera in a group of friends who shoot with compacts, or would you be happier with the cheapest DSLR in a circle of DSLR users? Logic dictates that you would be better off with having the DSLR, as the vast majority of DSLR's are superior in overall functionality to the best compacts. However, the science suggests that the majority of people would prefer to be in the group of compact users if they could have the best compact.... despite getting an objectively inferior camera experience. (Econ students will recognize this as a set of well-known income/residency preferences studies). In part, I think this is why the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D cameras have only been well-received sales-wise; at heart, they tend to convert a set of users who were top togs in the APS-C category (D7000 and 7D users) into the lowest rung of the full-frame category, and all of the envy that goes with it.

That's the power of product positioning. Without strong-arming the customer, you can shape their decision making simply by offering them a set of choices; how the choice are presented can serve different purposes for the manufacturers, and lead to different purchasing outcomes on the part of consumers. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

App Review: Fast Camera for iPhone

Image preview screen.

Fast Camera purports to help you take better pictures by increasing the speed at which your iPhone takes pictures. In other words, the "spray and pray" method. For the most part, the app does what it says it does, but photographically speaking, my question is: "What's the point?"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Canon EOS 70D Image Quality Review: DPR and IR Pre-Production Samples

Imaging Resource and DPReview have sample images up for the Canon EOS 70D. These are still considered pre-production, as the camera won't ship until September '13. However, there is enough information in these shots to get a general feel of how the 70D's sensor and JPEG picture engine will work relative to other more known quantities... especially it's predecessor the EOS 60D and perhaps it's most direct competitor, the Nikon D7100. Because its novel approach to autofocus, interest remains high in how this sensor will perform, and as per usual, that means browsing through lots of ISO samples. Pixel peeping after the jump.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Launch Review: Nikon AF-S DX 18–140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR First Impressions

Nikon has announced the AF-S DX 18–140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, and despite the pent-up demand for anything new on the advanced enthusiast front, it's probably not what the advanced shooter crowd is looking for. To get one thing out of the way, this (probably) isn't the kit lens for the hypothetical D400. The fact that it's being announced with the new SB-300, ostensibly a replacement for the SB-400 flash unit ought to tell you something. Also, the Coolpix L620 is being announced on the same day; even though Nikon can be haphazard with their marketing at times, this isn't the case. It's solidly a consumer-oriented announcement day. Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if it was bundled in a D400 kit, but the fact remains, the more serious photographers out there will be looking for the body-only form.

The new 18-140mm lens replaces the long serving Nikkor f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX lens that was the kit lens on theD90, D7000 and D7100. In fact, it's pretty much a modern version of the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 G IF-ED DX kit lens that came packaged with the D80. That was an unusually sharp lens for the it's price range, but it suffered from high degrees of distortion, vignetting and lateral chromatic aberration. In many ways, the 18-105VR was a tamed version of the 18-135; by backing off on the focal length, a slightly better compromise could be made optically. In an oblique way, the 18-140 will also supplant the venerable 18-200mm; due to focus-breathing, the actual object magnification wasn't that much greater than the 18-135mm when focused at objects at close range.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Snaps from the 2013 Powell Street Festival

It's been a busy couple of weekends in Vancouver this year. The annual fireworks festival has been on for the past week an a half, overlapping the Wand Erection (ops, did I type that?) One Direction and Jay Z/Justin Timberlake concerts that have book-ended this these past two weeks. Needless to say, downtown has been a pretty busy place, and this is on top of the normal tourist traffic, and not counting the gigantic block party that was the Khatsahlano festival.

Just outside of  the downtown that the city would like to portray to the world is the "other" downtown: the east-side, notoriously known as "Canada's poorest postal code." Though it is undoubtedly poverty-stricken as we know it now, it's still a proud place with a long history. One of the most vibrant weekends of the year happens here, not just in the DES but pretty much in the whole city, and that's the Powell Street Festival.

"The Society tries to accomplish these goals by presenting the Powell Street Festival every year. The Festival, which began in 1977, is a unique street festival that is free to the public and is held on Powell Street in Vancouver, Canada, (an area where the first Japanese in Canada settled). Through the Festival, we provide a venue for Japanese Canadians to perform, display their work and gain publicity. They, in turn, inspire others to continue their pursuits and participate in the Festival. By providing an opportunity for groups and individuals to participate in various ways, we foster community development. The Festival also allows the Japanese Canadian community to show the general public the diversity that exists within our community and to share it with them."
- Powell Street Festival Society

For two days in a year (three if there is a baseball game), the local neighbourhood greenspace that is Oppenheimer park becomes the center of the Japanese world world, at least in Vancouver. If you are visiting the city in late July/early August, I highly recommend spending an afternoon here. Come hungry and line up early, as the popular stands often run short /run out, especially the okonomiyaki stand. Also, the arts and crafts are some of the most unique and compelling that you can find in the city, especially the hand-made greeting cars which come in traditional Japanese themes.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Launch Review: Impressions of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

Panasonic came out with a hit (by m4/3 standards) with the the GF1, moving the company's mirrorless offerings away from the pseudo-DSLR form factor of the well received GH1 towards the rangefinder-esque shape that is no so common, and arguably more suited to the m4/3 size. However, subsequent iterations of the GF-series moved more and more towards the point-and-shoot end of the spectrum; this combined with Panasonic not keeping in step with the sensor technology of their competitors led to the Lumix m4/3 lineup languishing in terms of shelf space and mind-share in the North American market.

2012 saw a reversal of that trend with the DMC-GX1, the true successor to the enthusiast-oriented GF-1. Looking like a scaled-up version of the LX7, the GX1 was a solid offering... and an under-rated one at that. In marketing terms, it was too little too late. While the Olympus OM-D EM-5 gets raves for bringing high quality 16mp resolution to the m4/3 world, the GX1 was nonetheless launched around the same time, if not sooner. Both cameras perform excellently, but outside of the mirrorless community, both still unfairly get saddled with the reputation of the prior sensors used in Panasonic and Olympus cameras, Panasonic more so.

Which brings us to the GX7. It's a handsome little beast. Fuji X-E1 fans are going to say that it apes their camera, but the X-series very openly borrows from Leica aesthetics... of which Panasonic is arguably so, since they produce a number of cameras for Leica. Note the familiar "L" at the bottom corner of the GX7... more about that later.