Friday, 26 February 2010

The Charging Has Begun

So, I've not quite left yet. I'm currently in the process of charging up all my batteries ready for the weekend's shooting; 5x Nikon EN-EL3e, 40x GP2700mAh AA, 12x GP1000mAh AAA. Should keep me busy for a while.

But, I just saw something mentioned over on Twitter that caught my eye. I know we've all seen the tilt shift effect timelapse over on Vimeo and Youtube before, but "The Sandpit" is one I felt was particularly nice and very well executed.

Shot mostly with the Nikon D3 (there are some bits done with a D80), and the tilt-shift effect added in Post, this is one of the best examples of time-lapse tilt-shift effect footage I've seen.

I'm sure the 35,000 images took a lot more effort and willpower to post and put together than he's letting on, but you can read more about the making of it over on AĆ©ro Film's blog.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Been a boring few days, but the weekend's looking up!

This week's been a little slow and boring for me. I decided that I was going to take the week off from the regular hustle and bustle of daily life and just stay at home with my feet up watching the TV, and what a great week it's been. :)

I did discover a new site this week though, TFPModels, and I shall be doing my first group shoot with organised with them this weekend at the beautiful Victoria Baths in Manchester.  The baths were closed down in 1993, but the local population has been fighting to keep this building alive and it is currently undergoing restoration to bring it back to its former glory.  You can find out more information about the baths and their restoration, as well as support the restoration efforts at the Victoria Baths website.

Also, I received a tweet this morning, as I'm sure many of you did out there, from Chase Jarvis letting us know about the next CJLive event happening today.  I missed a big chunk of the last one and only really caught it as things were winding down, but I expect it to be a fun filled day with lots of information, tips, and inspiration if the last one was anything to go by. It all kicks off at 10am Pacific Time (that's west coast USA), which is about 6pm for us folks in the UK.  Let's hope they've sorted out the audio issues this time. :)

I'm going to be away for the next couple of days and won't be back until Sunday's shoot.  This people shooting stuff is all relatively new to me still, as humans haven't been the primary subject of my images for the past 10 years or so that I've been a slave to Nikon.  But, it's a great looking venue and the models scheduled to be there are all absolutely gorgeous, so I hope to have at least a few decent images to show off next week.

Image courtesy of

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Yongnuo YN460-II Quick Review

So, my other order came in today, which included a pair of Yongnuo YN460-II flashes, 2 more RF-602 Tx/Rx kits with Nikon cables, and a couple more RF-602 receivers, bringing the total up to 3 transmitters and 7 receivers now, which should be plenty for the various tests I have planned.

I had a quick play with them earlier today just to see how well they'd work out for the whole repeating flash thing, and while not entirely reliable for fast stroboscopic stuff as an optical slave, they didn't work too badly.  Their power output is quite nice, and they're slightly larger in size than the Nikon SB-600 flash (as you'll be able to see from the images a bit lower down the page).

The thing that rather surprised be about the flashes, when I read about it, is that they were "sort of" compatible with the Nikon CLS system.  No, you cannot control them via a CLS commander, however they have a second optical slave mode which completely ignores the CLS pre-flashes and only triggers on the main exposure, making them ideal for something like background lights or to light up a Hilite or something, while still retaining full iTTL control on the subject via Nikon SB-900s.

The infrared trigger for use as an optical slave has been moved since the YN460.  It now resides behind a little red plastic cover on the front of the base of the unit.  The flash head will rotate vertically from -7 to 90°, clockwise 90°, and anti-clockwise all the way to 180° (the same as the Nikon SB-600), so having the body of the flash pointing at another light source while the head points at your subject (or whever you need it to) should rarely be a problem.

There is no "locking system" to hold the flash head at any position, but you do get rather satisfying clicks at various points while rotating the head to different angles.  I'm not so sure about the locking wheel on the foot yet, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.  Perhaps I'm just too spoiled with Nikon's quick-release flash feet.

Again, the build quality of these extremely inexpensive flashes has impressed me.  They feel pretty solid in the hands, although the cover for the battery compartment see,s require a little persuasion to click shut properly without the risk of breakage.

The controls on the back, while fairly primitive when compared to something like the SB-900, are straightforward and to the point.  There is an on-off button, which has to be held down for several seconds before the unit actually turns on or off, although unlike the Nikon SB-600, it sits proud of the interface and could possibly be depressed for a long enough period of time to turn it on while in transport.  Fortunately, when in "M" mode (the default when you turn it on) the flash automatically goes into sleep mode after about 3 minutes of non-use, and turns itself off completely after 30 minutes, but it's still probably a good idea to remove your batteries immediately before packing up to travel.  In S1 & S2 modes, it automatically powers down after 60 minutes of inactivity.

The "Pilot" button gives you a quick flash trigger.  The "Mode" button allows you to switch between standard manual flash mode, S1 and S2 modes.  S1 is your bog standard optical slave mode; when it sees another flash, it triggers.  S2 is the pre-flash-ignoring optical slave mode.  This is the one that allows you to add the YN460-II to a CLS setup (in a limited fashion, obviously).

The power buttons allow you to go from 1/64th to the full power of the flash, which has a GN of 38 @ 35mm & ISO100.  These settings can also be fine tuned in 1/7th of a stop increments for a total of 46 different output levels.

So, another result for Yongnuo as far as I'm concerned.  Between these and the RF-602 gear, I'm very happy.  I wonder if they'll ever produce a flash that has the RF-602 receiver built in?  Oh, and a 3.5mm sync port would be handy too (and I'm sure David Hobby would agree with me). :)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

It goes from bad to worse, then better again! :)

So, after spending a couple of weeks in bed recovering from surgery, then heading down to Birmingham for the Spring Fair, I get back home to find myself spending another week sick in bed.  After talking to a few other people that went it seems their must've been something going around at the show.  Now, though, I'm finally starting to feel human again so just wanted to post a quick update.

Had some new bits arrive this week.  My free SB-900 arrived yesterday from Nikon.  For those of you who didn't know, this was a special offer Nikon had for registered DSLR owners to upgrade to a D300s before mid-January and receive a free SB-900.  So, I did, and now it's arrived to join the ranks in my growing little Speedlight army.

Just as an aside on the flash situation, I just recently discovered that the Yongnuo YN460-II actually has some limited CLS support (sort of).  I always knew this flash had an optical slave mode (manual power, set from the flash itself, as usual), but what I didn't realise is that it has a second optical slave mode which is designed to ignore the pre-flashes sent by the CLS system.  Very very handy if you just want to add a little light to a dark corner in your scene and you don't quite have enough SB-900s to go around.  Just set your power (manually, from the flash itself, not via the CLS menus), pop on a gel, snoot, grid or whatever, and set it to CLS slave mode.

How close the colour temperature is to SB-900s (or even if their quality control provides for consistency between different samples of YN460-II flashes) I don't know, but at only £38 each, I think I'm going to have to pick a couple up and see how well they work.

Anyway, to go along with the new SB-900 and the RF-602 gear I received last week, I decided to pick up some Konig light stands.  I had bought some on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, but they turned out not to be anything like Konigs with a non-standard adapter nobody I know has ever seen before (although the image in the listing did clearly show a standard 5/8" spigot).  The company failed to acknowledge that the image misrepresented the item, but did refund the purchase cost minus the shipping (I had paid extra for next day), and my return shipping costs.  So, all in all, I'm out about £20 because of those idiots.

A friend suggested an alternative seller on eBay from which he'd purchased some in the past, and they were top notch, so I ordered four.  Konig, 2 metres tall (that's 6'6" for the rest of us), each with their own individiual bag.  Very pleased.  I hadn't tried them before, but I needed something a bit more lightweight than I usually cart around.

They'll definitely require some assistance to help prevent them from falling over in anything more than a breeze, and I probably wouldn't want to throw a 43" brolly on one outdoors, but they're not bad at all for the price and will definitely see much use now that the weather's starting to warm up.  Given that I got these to help become more "lightweight", I'm currently seeking alternatives to sandbags.  That kind of defeats the purpose of lighter stands, but we'll see. :)

Speaking of the weather warming up, and getting over spending far too long in bed doing nothing, I'll hopefully be able to get back out and shooting more regularly again soon.  So, I'll be popping up some reviews of the new gadgets I've picked up over the past few weeks, giving them a good workout and testing, along with some tips and tricks to workaround any problems that may come up when using them.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Breaking out of CLS - First Impressions

Don't get me wrong, after struggling with SB-50DX flashes as optical slaves back on my old Nikon D100, I absolutely love the Nikon Creating Lighting System (CLS).  Now I can control all my flashes without ever moving my position, or putting down the wonderous chunk of plastic, metal, glass & silicon cradled in my hands.  It's a lazy photographer's dream. :)

But, CLS does have its limitations.  The biggy being that light (which is a pretty fundamental requirement for CLS) doesn't travel all too well through opaque objects.  If you're shooting an interior, for example, and you want to put a flash outside firing through a window, things can start to get pretty tricky if you want to also trigger flashes inside the room too.  Or, a little simpler, you just want to throw an extra flash behind a couch or under a table to light up the wall behind it a bit.  CLS isn't the ideal solution for these sorts of problems.

So, I finally decided to invest in some wireless radio triggers.  I say invest, but they weren't that expensive.  I'm far too cheap to fork over for PocketWizards just yet, especially as they're still slacking on the Nikon TTL compatible jobbies.

I went for the Yong Nuo RF602 transmitter & receiver (which you may see me refer to throughout the rest of this post as Tx and Rx for the sake of brevity) kit and a couple of extra receivers, which were extremely inexpensive.  The kit, comprising a transmitter, receiver, sync cord and Nikon 10-pin cord, was a mere £28.  Two extra receivers cost me £17.50 each for a grand total of only £63.  Seemed like an absolute bargain to me, a little over a quarter the price of a single PocketWizard transceiver.

As well as the obvious lighting solutions radio that wireless triggers bring, I had another motive for going with this system.  I wanted something that would allow my D200 to fire and take a shot every time I pressed the shutter button on my D300s (I'll explain the how and why of all that lot in another post after I do a bit more research), but so far my tests are showing positive results.

I have to say that I have absolutely zero prior experience with wireless radio triggers for flash.  After reading reviews of intermittent faults with some of the eBay triggers, as well as having to rely on mail systems in the UK and Hong Kong to sort out replacements should something break, I decided to just save up and eventually get some PocketWizards, but then these came along, and from a decent supplier already in the UK too (Scotland, to be precise).

Immediately upon opening the packaging, I was quite struck by how good they look, and how solid they felt; far beyond the quality I had expected.  So, first visual impressions are good.  There was a CR2 battery and a pair of random generic AAA batteries included with the Tx/Rx kit, but no extra batteries with the extra individual receivers.  So, I popped the supplied CR2 into the Tx, and tore open a big pack of Duracell Ultra AAA batteries for the receivers.

The transmitter is pretty basic; trigger button on top with hotshoe and channel selection switches underneath.  There's also a sync socket and an LED on the front indicating transmitter status (green for half-pressed, red for fully pressed).

The receivers have a very solid on/off switch with "ON" written in big letters so there's no confusion as to which way is which, an LED that changes colour depending on the state, and blinks while idle when the system is turned on (just to let you know you've forgotten to turn it off).  The top also contains a hotshoe mount for sliding in your flash, as well as the same channel selection switches as on the Tx.  On the bottom there is a plastic coldshoe for mounting on your brolly adapter or, in the case of the remote camera trigger, your camera's hotshoe mount.  Finally, on the back of the receiver is a 3 pin socket into which you can connect one of various cables for triggering flashes or a camera body (my particular kit came with a sync cable and a 10-Pin Nikon cable, but this may vary, so check which cables your kit comes with before you order).

As mentioned above, one of my reasons for getting these (actually, the main one at the time) was to trigger one camera with another.  So that was my first test.  Initially I hooked up an Rx to the 10-pin port of the Nikon D200 using the supplied cable, and just used the button on the Tx manually.  Half-press, AF light comes on, lens whirs into action.  Full press and the shot is taken, so far so good.

For my next test I put the D200 into full manual mode, 1/250th, f/4, ISO200 with the lens also preset in manual focus mode (the 50mm f/1.8D if anybody's curious).  Then I popped the transmitter into the hotshoe of the D300s.  Half-pressing the shutter release on the D300s body lit up the Tx's LED green to indicate its current half-pressed status, and the LCD on the D200 also indicated that it was in half-press mode by showing me the number of free image slots remaining in the buffer.  Firing the D300s trigger all the way triggered the D200.  Success!

I don't want to get too much into the whole multi-camera thing at the moment, as I said earlier, as I want to do some more testing an research.  In fact, my testing so far is so limited, I don't really want to get into too much of anything other than first impressions and detailing my quick trials of the system.  This was a very brief playing around.  I'll post more on them as I get to use them and really put them through their paces.

Now it's time to test the flashes though. So, Tx on the D300s hotshoe, two SB-900 flashes and an SB-600, each on their own receiver, and fire the shutter.  All three went off, although they were all only about 15ft from the transmitter.  Fire a few more shots, no misfires, still happy.

Now time to do a quick rapid fire test.  D300s, MB-D10 grip, 8xAA batteries, 1/250th of a second, f/4, ISO200 @ 7.7fps.  Held the button down long enough to get about 20 shots, the flashes fired flawlessly every time, not a misfire.  Tried that again a couple more times, again, still not a single misfire.

Just as a sidenote, I use GP 2700mAh AA rechargeable batteries in my MB-D10 grip and Speedlights.  I've always found them to be the most solid and reliable rechargeable AAs, and they've not let me down yet (and they fully charge in only 15 minutes).  I've just ordered some GP 1000mAh rechargeable AAA batteries for the receivers too, so those should be here in a couple of days.

That's pretty much it at the moment.  I did warn you that it was pretty limited testing.  I found that they had been delivered late on Thursday night when I'd arrived home from the Spring Fair at Birmingham, so I was already half asleep when I walked through the door.  Since then I've just been too exhausted/lazy/busy to get them out and really put them through their paces.

I am quite chuffed with these at the moment though, and they seem to work quite well.  I will be getting another Tx/Rx set and a couple more receivers to do some better testing, and to have backups handy, so once I get them and do that testing I'll be updating the blog.

Do be warned that you should remove the CR2 from the Tx after use.  The button on it is kind of sensitive to a half-press (and is essentially the only "on/off switch"), so it can drain the batteries if it gets depressed while being carted around in your camera bag.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Spring Fair International 2010

Well, I'm back from the Spring Fair International at the Birmingham NEC.  Had an absolutely blast getting to talk to some of the people from companies I've dealt with in the past, and making soem new contacts.

There's really not too much to write about it, but I just wanted to say a big hello and a thank you to the guys from Epson & Fujifilm for spending far too much time with me chatting about the various pro printer range and the different media avaiable.  We'll see you guys again at Focus next month! :)

Also a huge huge thank you to the folks at Designline Systems for convincing me to even consider Canon hardware (just to be clear, I'm talking printers not cameras!).  Hopefully I'll be getting down to visit them in Poole sometime over the next couple of weeks to see their facilities and have a good chat about their range of Canon pro printers.

I'm not shifting entirely away from the HiTi dye-sub printers, but I need something for LARGE prints and canvas, and it would be nice to be able to print 4'x3' canvas in-house. :)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Dell Zino HD (Take Two)

As I type from my laptop while up in the bedroom, I'm watching my replacement Dell Zino HD (see previous post) go through its "Windows Experience Index" tests. I don't expect any spectacular results, but I am curious. I notice that in Windows 7, the maximum index has been upped from Vista's 5.9 to 7.9. So, have a watch of this again while it's running.

No surprise, it just finished and came up with a rating of 3.1, which is determined by the lowest score, which was the graphics card.
  • 3.6 : Processor - Calculations per second
  • 5.0 : Memory (RAM) - Memory operations per second
  • 3.1 : Graphics - Desktop performance for Windows Aero
  • 4.8 : Gaming graphics - 3D business and gaming graphics performance
  • 5.9 : Primary hard disk - Disk data transfer rate
So, overall, a bit better than I expected, but still nothing amazing.  I don't expect it would handle something like World of Warcraft in its current state.

This article is really about the ease of setup and general information regarding my experiences and first impressions with this device.  I'll post again in a couple of weeks and let you know if I still think it seems like a neat bit of kit.  I'm treating this as a sort of "for dummies" exercise, as this is just going to be a media center, and will not really satisfy any of my usual PC needs (except to maybe play the occasional Youtube video full screen on the TV) so I don't want to have to go in-depth with this machine to sort out any of the troubleshooting issues that usually come with setting up a new PC.  I want this to be smooth and easy.

The box is very small.  It has a footprint of about 8"x8" and is only about 3.5" high.  Great looking little box besides the TV, and it's almost completely silent.  As the box is so small, there's no room for an internal PCI TV Tuner card, so I picked up an external Hauppauge WinTV USB stick, which is currently attached to the PC via a USB extension cable and gaffer taped to the top of the TV in order to be able to see the remote control (I'm definitely going to have to work on an alternative solution for that one).  Now to find out if the CD that comes with the WinTV is really as "Compatibly with Windows 7" as it claims.

Well, plugging in the device did fire Windows into life, and while it did not detect a driver available for automatic installtion, a screen popped up that sent me directly to a download from the Hauppauge website.  I didn't even have to go sifting through pages and pages of support; I just click the link from within Windows and it asks me to save a file.  Drivers extracted into a new folder, and Windows now tells me to click the setup file.  All good so far.  And there we go, drivers installed without even having to take the supplied CD out of its packet.

I'm going to assume that this has not installed Hauppauge's own TV software, which is perfectly fine with me as I plan to use Windows Media Center anyway.  The only reason it's been needed in the past on XP and Vista setups is in order to be able to utilise the IR remote control.  Let us hope that all goes to plan.

Batteries in the remote, point it at the TV, press the green button, and.. oh.  That was unexpected.  It told the PC to shut down.  Or, more correctly, it seems to have put it into sleep mode as pressing it again powered it back up without issue.  Let's try that again, with the "Go" button this time. Up comes Windows Media Center.  Success!

Setting up the TV section seems to be going smoothly.  It's detected the WinTV USB stick, has seemingly downloaded my 14 day program guide and is currently scanning for channels I can receive.  I must say that I have the device plugged into the aeriel on the roof, and not the little portable antenna that's packaged with the device (which has often proven in the past to be just a tiny bit worse than completely useless).

Now this is interesting.  Loading up the program guide shows that I can get Sky Player, let's give it a whirl.  Create a Sky ID, done.  Login, done.  Play some Sky News.  Nothing, black screen.  Click back, lots of flickering through different menus and confusion.  Nope, guess that's not working.  I'll have to do some digging on that later and get back to you.

Switch over to Dave, and there's...  Sorry, got distracted there watching Top Gear until Sun came up and asked me if I wanted to allow automatic updates to Java.  I imagine I'll be getting these for a couple of days as various things come to action and expect me to do something about it.  Well, never mind, it's repeated on Dave Ja Vu, so I'll just set it to automatically record.  Oh, new interface on the recording options since Vista Media Center.

The interesting thing so far, is that I've not had to touch a keyboard or mouse since installing the WinTV, except to enter my postcode when setting up the TV listings guide.

But anyway.  More on the Dell Zino HD in a couple of days.  The Top Gear show I was half-watching is about to start over on Dave Ja Vu, so I'm going to watch a DVD and let it record in the background.  Let's see if it can cope. :)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Tweeting & Stuff

At the request (some might call it nagging Big grin) of a few readers I've finally gotten around to registering over on Twitter (and I do plan on "tweeting" as often as is useful without spamming the place) and I've also added social bookmarking icons with links to most of the major sites (yes, I know there's a couple missing).

I've got a few more planned to put up as soon as I find the time to dig up the appropriate code & URLs, so stay tuned.  Please post a comment on this blog entry if there's any specific site you want me to try and add support for.

Big thank you to Mohanjith's Blog for the links, and another big thank you to jwloh over at Deviant Art for creating his icon set. :)

I will also get around to changing the template for this at some point.  I've been having a browse around the various blogger template sites on the web, but I've not really seen anything that jumps out at me as something I'd like to use.  So, it will get done in my own time, and make something of my own, as I figure out how the blogger template structure actually works.

My Mobile Phone Camera

I've owned mobile phones of one flavour or another for about 15 years now.  I always eagerly anticipated the next generation of phones that would come out every year or two, bringing technological leaps and bounds to what has essentially become a mini-laptop (ok, so they're not *quite* that good yet) in the palm of your hands.  I wasn't one of those people who had to have the latest and greatest, but I wanted to keep up and see what they could do, to see if there ever was anything worth getting to replace whatever I was using at the time.

One thing that really caught my interest was the evolution of the smart phones, and about 6 years or so ago, I actually got one when the company I was working for switched providers and went with some very cool (at the time) Windows Mobile 5 "PPC" (Pocket PC) phones.  I was blown away.  I could sync it all up to my Outlook; Address book, schedule, ToDo list, the lot, I could browse the web, I could even hook it up via USB to get my laptop online wherever I had a signal.

I was sold, completely.  When I left that company and had to relinquish my phone, I decided to go get one for myself, so I picked up an MDA Vario II.  Loved it, great for work, and I loved the ability to have it sync up with my PC, and the media capabilities had improved slightly too, meaning it was a sort-of viable mp3/video/podcast player during long train trips (ok, so the screen was a little small to be able to really watch a 2hr movie on a train ride, but I was happy).

I got the Vario on an 18 month contract, but when it was up I switched over to a shiny new Samsung Omnia, with 8GB of storage, and another 8GB provided by a Mini-SDHC card.  Now I had plenty of space for as many tunes as I wanted, a few videos, and I could download Podcasts on my PC at full broadband speeds, and then pop them over with a USB cable to watch at my leisure (and with my Sony Bluetooth stereo earphone headset, it sounds better than an iPhone).  It also has GPS, which has proven to be more accurate than TomTom at finding good routes on several trips around the country.  That said, I do miss my Vario's keyboard.

The one thing that never interested me even in the slightest about any mobile phone was the inclusion of a digital camera.  What's the point?  I can't change the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, or even the focal length. They produce noisy, horrible pictures I'd be ashamed to put my name to.  I think at this point in my life, I've taken a total of maybe 20 photos with a phone, ever, and those only when I've gone out shopping to take a photo of something to show the wife when I get home in order to get her blessing before spending a bunch of money.

But, with all of the talk of Chase Jarvis, his Best Camera application for the iPhone, and the book to go with it all it has started to get me a little more curious about the abilities of the humble crappy camera built into my Samsung Omnia.  I'm not even going to bother trying on the Vario as its camera is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I've now decided I'm going to start using my mobile phone to start taking more pictures as I go about my daily life.  I might not use it every day, but I'm going to try to remember to use it at least once a week, and with the discovery of Kinoma Freeplay, I have the ability to publish the photos straight from my phone to flickr.

Whether I'll be able to deal with the hassle of an on-screen keyboard to also publish on Blogger from my phone, well, only time will tell, but for now I am determined to try to get at least *some* use out of this little camera included in my phone.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Dell Zino HD

I hadn't heard about Dell's new Inspiron Zino HD before, but while wandering the aisles of the local PC World to find a new PC for my wife, I ran across one on display and thought "Hey, that's a neat little box.  Could replace the PC that just died in the bedroom".  The PC in the bedroom is actually an HTPC, one of three PCs we run as HTPCs on the network, so that they can all access programs recorded by each other.

So I decided to go ahead and get one, along with the PC the wife had picked out, a wireless multimedia keyboard and a Hauppauge USB Dongle.

It wasn't the top of the line version with all the optional extras (Blu-Ray, larger hard drive, 8GB RAM, WiFi, etc), but it didn't need to be.  The TV in the bedroom is only 720HD, and it hooks up just fine through the HDMI.  It didn't have the TV Tuner card inside it, but a couple of aisles over I picked up the Hauppauge Win-TV USB stick with remote control (not the one shown on the site, we got the one that actually looks like a regular TV remote control).  Mass storage of recorded TV is all done on a central server so that all three HTPCs (as well as any other PCs wired into the network, or wireless laptops & devices) can access it all, so I wasn't too bothered about the fact that the hard drive was a mere 500GB.

I was so excited, I unpacked the base unit out of the box, along with the power adapter and started to plug it all in.  I had my own wireless keyboard and mouse for the bedroom already, so I didn't bother to unpack those.  I'm still using XP or Vista on most of my machines here so this was my first look at Windows 7 too.  As I said, I was quite excited.

I hit the power button and up it comes on the 32" Bravia mounted on the wall; It even detected it as 1360x768 resolution (which is near as good enough to 16:9) and not the 1280x768 16:10 resolution it normally detected (thus squashing TV programs and DVDs slightly) when hooked up to a PC via the VGA cable.  I was suitably impressed.

Shiny new loading screen from Windows 7, still impressed.  Then, all of a sudden, for no reason whatsoever, the system decides to reboot and I see the all too familiar "Windows failed to start correctly" screen (or words to that effect), and options to boot normally or boot into safe mode.  I figure it's just a fluke, and tell it to boot normally.  It gets halfway through the boot sequence again, restarts and no longer detects that there is a hard drive connected to the system.

So, to my dismay I package it all back off and trek back down to PC World, not a happy bunny.  I was even less happy when they told me they had no more in stock, only the display model.  So, now I have to wait until they can get a replacement machine into the store for me to pick up on Monday.

Not quite the post I was hoping to make when I handed over my credit card at PC World, but hopefully on Monday, I my will be faith restored.  This is the first time in about 15 years though that I've seen a Dell die so soon after coming new out of the box.

The wife, on the other hand, is currently installing World of Warcraft on her shiny new PC.  No doubt she'll be having me restore her system from the backup DVDs within a week or two. :)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

iPad Camera Connectivity

After doing a little reading up on Apple's website, they have announced that they will be releasing a "Camera Connection Kit" for the iPad.

According to the information on the iPad website...
"The Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera. The Camera Connector lets you import your photos and videos to iPad using the camera’s USB cable. Or you can use the SD Card Reader to import photos and videos directly from the camera’s SD card."
So that solves at least one of my problems.  I generally use 8Gb 60MB/sec Sandisk Extreme CompactFlash cards for shooting stills on the D300s, but as it has a dual card slot, I have a 16Gb Integral SDHC card that I use for shooting the HD video.

So, I can whip the SDHC card out of the camera, slot it into the SDHC reader on the iPad, and then view the footage as soon as the data has copied over (no indication of transfer speeds released yet though).  Or, presumably I'll be able to play straight back from the card itself if necessary.  Depending on the ultimate speed available when transferring from SDHC to the iPad, I may have to invest in a faster SDHC card for this purpose.  As the D300s requires a relatively low speed to record and playback 720p HD video in realtime, I went cheap with a class 4 card (a mere 4MB/sec).

The other adapter is a little more confusing to me as such little information (none, basically) has been released on the iPad.  On my D200, the USB port can operate on two different modes; either USB Mass Storage or Peer 2 Peer mode.  In Mass Storage mode, when hooked up to the PC, it simply shows up as an extra removable drive in explorer.  In P2P mode it actually recognises it as a camera device (the same as it does with my Samsung Omnia windows mobile phone).

On the D300s, the camera only seems to operate in P2P mode (if there is an option to change that, I've yet to find it, although I haven't really looked all that hard).

Some cameras are Mass Storage mode only, and some cameras are P2P only.  Will the iPad be able to acknowledge and access both?

If it will access images from digital cameras USB Mass Storage mode, does that mean then that I will also be able to hook up a USB hard drive that has its own external power source (without using the iPad dock)?  Or a USB CompactFlash reader so that I can transfer still images that way instead of draining the camera's battery?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Chase Jarvis Live

So I thought this was quite a neat idea when I first heard about it, although I was kind of curious about the format and interaction with viewers given that it was a live production shoot.  I didn't actually hear about it until it was already over halfway through, so only caught the last 3 hours or so, but it was a fairly enlightening experience.

For those of you who have never heard of Chase Jarvis, he's a multi-award winning photographer based in Seattle, Washington.  He's done shoots for the promotion of the new Sandisk Extreme Pro cards, and many other big names.  He was also asked to be a judge, and help decide who gets the $100,000 prize, in the Nikon Festival.

As I said, I found out about it late, but CJLive was quite a unique experience, and not exactly what I'd expected.  One that I find difficult to describe in ways different to those already stated by others.  It gave you a lot to think about with regard to inspiration, style and evolution of a shoot, rather than talking about the geek stuff and settings used.  I think this article from Suiiter Designs pretty much sums up my sentiments the closest.

The whole event is expected to be archived online at some point for future viewing, but no news as to when yet.

Image courtesy of