review

The future is now…er…not yet.

You photographers out there are most likely aware of the alleged shift in product design for dSLR’s. The companies have banned together to deny us the viewfinder…or something like that. :-)

Apparently when the big dogs switched from film to digital, in their SLRs, they kept the mirror. The mirror is basically necessary so we can see what we’re going to photograph. Then when you press the shutter release, the mirror flips up and the actually viewed image can be captured by the sensor, which is behind the mirror when it’s down.

We could loose the mirror, but then we’d either have no viewfinder, or we’d have to have a digital view of what’s being “seen”.

I know that’s a poor description, but it’s the best I could do with my layman’s understanding.

Enter, the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, MILC. Yeah, I know. There are actually a few different names for these newfangled cameras, but “mirrorless” seems to be sticking.

Trey Ratcliff actually discussed all of this much better than I have even tried, on his blog, Stuck in Customs. Seriously, go read about it all there. Then come back, please.

Now that you know all about these newfangled mirrorless/3rd generation camera systems, I’ll get to my point. I picked up one!

Since I’m a Nikon guy, I looked first at the Nikon 1 series. The upcoming Pentax K-01 caught my attention as well. Honestly, I really liked what I read about both cameras. I believe that the Pentax K-01 is a better camera, and would have served me as well, if not better, than the Nikon 1 series.

However, the lower price of the Nikon J1 is what won me over. (That was a mistake. More on that later.) Plus, Nikon had just announced an adapter that would allow me to use my existing family of F-mount lenses on the new J1.

So I picked up a J1 package, with two lenses;  a 10-30mm and a 30-110mm. Both lenses have VR. I got mine at Costco, which threw in a 16gb sdcard and a case. Oh, and I chose the white model! (It comes in red and black as well.)

Nikon J1

Right away I tried using it more often than my D7000, and various lenses. It was easy, I will admit. It still is. For most life photography, it’s just real easy to grab and go. Two lenses for everything from 10mm to 110mm. (FYI, with the 2.7 crop factor of this sensor, that means 27 to 297mm, in 35mm terms.) That’s pretty much everything I’d need! Yes the speeds of the lenses are a huge factor, and so are the relatively smaller number of easily reachable features. The lens speeds, I can adjust to working around. I simply bump my ISO when I can’t get a comfortable shutter speed. Also, the VR helps with the lower shutter speeds.

The best feature, to me, is the insanely fast autofocus. It just works. It’s automagical, and it happens even when you’re not pressing the shutter release halfway down. I love it!

The rapid fire is quite cool. I can shoot 10 fps, on the special fast mode, with some limitation. The focus becomes fixed, and is limited to a semi-manually selected focus point. But the regular rapid speed is 5 fps, and that’s with the live focus! I generally use this mode all the time. BTW, they call it continuous mode. I used this mode to help capture this shot of my dad, 4x4ing this past week.

Dad 4wheeling

Overall, I like the camera, and am glad I bought it. It will serve me and my family well for quite a while. I hope to be able to use it to instruct my wife in the use of more features, to get better photos. Eventually I hope that she’ll begin using it more and more, freeing me to acquire that Pentax K-01, or whatever fits the role even better.

The single largest problem with the J1 is not any one single feature, it’s a bunch of little frustrations. The smaller sensor, really isn’t a problem. The lack of a viewfinder, I’m getting over it. Even the lack of bracketing I’ve adjusted to using the tripod and exposure compensation.

The problem is that everything I want to do is 7 million clicks deep in a menu setting. The features I want are simply too buried. I thought that the big camera companies were hoping to convince dSLR users that these mirrorless cameras are their future. What I’m feeling is that Nikon doesn’t care about the J1 being useful for me, but for the pocket camera user, as an upgrade.

******

Side note: I wrote this post with MarsEdit. I had great hopes for MarsEdit. It sucks. This would have been 10x easier within the WordPress app.

Nexus One, the first month

My customized home screen

I took delivery of my Nexus One on 02/11/2010. You can read about that exciting day here.

Since then, I’ve loved having my Nexus One! It really is a great smartphone. Several features of the Android-based phone really are great, especially compared to my T-Mobile G1.

The speed. Compared to my old, and now very damaged, T-Mobile G1, this phone is on fire! I rarely wait for a menu feature, or a screen change. I know none of this is a scientific opinion. Accepting that, this Nexus One breaks records! In fact, I find that it’s snappier than my iPod Touch, which has my entire iTunes library of 27 Gb’s of media. I notice this most often when navigating the Gallery, full of photos, and when I use Google Maps.

The touchscreen. On the old T-Mobile G1, I felt like the touchscreen was an afterthought. In fact, it was not only a lower quality screen, but it was not really accurate. When I started using the Nexus One, I had habits from the G1 that forced me to use the trackball more often than I needed. It took a few days to adapt back to depending on the touchscreen to actually work well. It does.

Nexus One, Main WindowNexus One, GMaps Navigation

The camera. My very first dSLR camera was a Nikon D40. This little camera came with a 6 megapixel processor. This sweet little Nexus One has a 5 megapixel camera. Yes, I know that the sensors are quite different, but it cannot be ignored that very few mobile phones have that high of quality camera. With the built-in LED flash, and Android’s decent list of photo processing apps, I like it a lot! (I’ll address photo apps in a future post.)

The display. The amazingly bright (and dark) display is gorgeous! Even just watching a high res video on YouTube is quite nice. It helps when trying to gently process a photo, and when surfing the web. I’ve been trying to keep up on a few photography video podcasts, and switching from my iPod Touch to the Nexus One is a serious upgrade.

Google Maps/Navigation. OK, this one is worthy of the entire upgrade. Of course, the combined package of a good touchscreen, display, and processor make this work as it should, but this feature/app best demonstrates the immense ability of this smartphone. And the most recent upgrades that integrated the Buzz features, navigation, and voice recognition in the search are awesome. I will say that I didn’t really care when the Android folks added multitouch. It didn’t seem like it was all that important, until I started using Google Maps on my Nexus One. I don’t even know if my Garmin GPS has good batteries in it anymore. Why? Because all I need is my Nexus One! I can’t wait for a decent car mount for it. (I have a nice RAM Mount system, for use with my Garmin. I don’t like the universal mounts, so I’m waiting until they release one for the Nexus One.)

Nexus One, Driving Window

Now, even thought I laud the amazingness of this sweet nano-computer, there are a few issues I have with it…

The storage space. This would be a real issue, if the Nexus One didn’t have a microSD slot. Now all that limits me is my willingness to purchase a properly sized card. Right now I’m sporting a 4 Gb card, and that allows me to sync about 6 or 7 albums, from iTunes. That’s not really enough for my spontaneous desires, so I’m hoping to drop down for at least a 16 Gb soon.

Inability to directly sync with iTunes. You may have caught my mention of iTunes above. Don’t freak out, I cannot sync my Nexus One directly with iTunes. In fact, I’m planning on writing a post about that soon. But on the surface, this is a problem. People want their tech to simply work, right away. Being forced to use two apps to accomplish one task will deter most people.

So, here’s my first month’s review. Over all, the Nexus One has enhanced my ability to be more efficient in communicating with people and in documenting important milestones in my life. And that’s really the goal for adding any new tech to your life; making it better. In my life, the use of technology is really just about finding a better tool. I believe I have purpose in life, and the use of my time is a stewardship issue in satisfying my purpose.

Take a look at my small screenshot set of my Nexus One.

If you missed them, go take a read of my first two Nexus One posts:

Nexus One Review, back story

I’ve put this off long enough.

As you may know, earlier this year Google announced and launched their newest Android-based smartphone, the Nexus One. Android is the operating system, developed by Google, and is technically considered open-source. It competes head to head with Apple’s iPhone OS, the Blackberry platform, and whatever is Microsoft’s current Windows mobile platform.

Several years ago, when Apple first launched the iPhone, I wanted one. I lusted after it to an unhealthy level. The single problem was that the iPhone was limited to AT&T, for service. Yeah, there are technical means to make it work elsewhere. I’m not interested in that.

So I figured that eventually Apple would open up their hardware for use on other networks. As of March, 2010, they’re still only on AT&T. This extreme limitation forced me to first go with Blackberry for my first smartphone. A little bit of shrewd shopping, on my part, found that Amazon (my favorite online retailer) had an additional discount off the network’s contract price, if I was willing to go with T-Mobile. I was with the Sprint-handicapped-Nextel at that time. Since $50 was a sweet price for a brand new smartphone, I was sold.

I had that nice Blackberry Pearl for just over a year, and it served me quite well. The tiny keyboard worked, even with my Shrek fingers. The camera was lacking, but whoever expected their smartphone to replace a real camera? Not me. Everything else functioned as I expected. It simply worked. I had an iPod for real mobile music, and the social networks hadn’t really taken over our mobile systems yet. It was a simple skiing accident that brought about the demise of the Blackberry Pearl. It wasn’t crushed, like you might expect. No, it got wet. Really lame, on my part.

The real victory of the Blackberry Pearl was our family’s adoption of T-Mobile. We fell in love! Seriously. Their customer service was great. They have not once made me feel stupid, or that they’re trying to trick me into something I don’t want. In fact, several times they have volunteered to walk me through my service plan, and helped me choose a LESSER plan, to save me money, based on my past usage. Even when I really, really wanted the new Google Nexus One, and couldn’t qualify, they took a serious effort to help me not just understand the rule, but why I was being limited. I was still frustrated, but not at T-Mobile. It just made sense.

Still holding out for the iPhone, I was bummed that I needed a new phone, but didn’t have the iPhone as a choice. In that bind, my mother-in-law had an old GSM Motorola Razr that she loaned me, until we could make a better decision. A swapping of the SIM from the Pearl, into the Razr, and I was in business. Yes, I went backwards, by several years, but I had mobile phone service.

I actually stuck with that Razr for several months. I was frustrated, but it kept working. As I was able to save up the money, I eventually decided to lower my standard, and go ahead and make the move to AT&T, just so I could have the iPhone. When the time came, my wife had decided she wanted that nice phone too, and we took the humbling walk-of-shame into the AT&T store. Low and behold, we’re not good enough for them. Yup, they wanted a huge deposit, just to open an account with them. Hear me correctly. The lower standard, lower quality, crappy mobile phone company wanted me to give them MORE money, in order to bring my business to them. I guarantee that this is NOT how Steve Jobs wants his iPhone to be adopted.

So, we were sent packing.

What a blessing.

Our hearts back with T-Mobile, we set out to research other options. Being a huge Google fan, I had heard the chitter chatter about Android. I knew that one day they’d launch and that it would probably be a great platform. As I looked into the Android platform more closely, I realized that they were on the cusp of launching their first phone, the T-Mobile G1. I had seen the development models that they had given all the Google employees, and had made available for purchase. I knew what to expect. Early on, I had considered the iPhone’s lack of a physical keyboard not as a feature, but a failure. My past experience with the Pearl has shown me that I wanted the physical keyboard, and the G1 offered that feature. The more I read, the more I decided that Android would serve me well.

Within months of the official launch of the G1, we were onboard. The wife and I both picked up one, and we really did love them from the first moment. I downloaded all the apps I could, and constantly pushed that little under-powered G1’s system to the limit. I knew it was really a beta product, but I didn’t care. I was head-over-heals for the Android family. Without reviewing the G1 anymore here, I’ll just leave you with the idea that I had decided that the Android platform was my present, and my future.

This started out as my first review of my new Nexus One. Then, I realized that I wanted to give you some backstory. There.

Upcoming…Nexus One, the first month.

Go check out my Unboxing of the Nexus One to hold you over!

I am Iron Man!

Iron ManI really enjoyed Iron Man. I really liked the cartoon and the comic. Like Batman, Iron Man is great because he is intelligent and full of ingenuity. He’s no mutant or alien. That’s what I like about him.

OK, retro kid thoughts over…

I’m glad to see Robert Downy, Jr. do a good film. I’m sure that this summer’s huge list of blockbusters will overshadow this one, because it’s so early in the season. However, it surly will be purchased in our home. Our kids get to see a lot of the action and adventure films. We mostly steer clear of sexual stuff. With that said, we’ll have to skip one scene, if we let the kids see this one.

  • Good action.
  • Tells the back story of the superhero.
  • I love that Marvel wasn’t afraid of making the bad guys be Middle Eastern terrorists. Well, they’re not the only bad guy.

It’s hard not to make a predictable movie, when everyone already knows the major story plots and sub-plots. Modernizing it, with the terrorists was a nice touch. Purists may not be happy.

OK, I’m done.

Oh, one more thing. Not once do I remember hearing Bob Junior say, in the suit, “I am Iron Man.” We heard it in the previews, but not in the film. Bummed me out. I’ll get over it.

Trevor, out.

Full Review: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens

Way back in May of this year, 2007, I received my fancy new Sigma 30mm lens. It was only a few months prior that I had even learned about prime lenses. Photography was still very new, and I desperately wanted to learn and grow. A good friend had recommended that I pick up a prime lens, like the popular 50mm’s that many start out using. I have the Nikon D40, which has a small limitation on lenses it can use, so I had to stick with Nikkor AF-S and Sigma HSM lenses.

With a bit of research, I was able to find the Sigma 30mm, and it seemed like what I was looking for. I shopped and found a store selling them for $350, almost $50 less than Amazon, so I bit.

When the lens arrived, I remember being excited, like the first day of school.

I tore it out of the packaging and installed it immediately. Within minutes I was shooting away, testing the low light sensitivity in the dark bathroom and playing with the amazing aperture values. I was in love.

Since that day, the 30mm remains on my camera all the time. If I need to shoot something else, I make the switch. But, I always put it back on when I’m done.

Here’s a few examples of images I’ve shot with my Sigma 30mm…

The Carpenter kidsDSC_4954

Two good examples of portraits. I’m very excited to use this lens for the December Challenge.

DSC_4789DSC_0107

These two images help demonstrate how nice this lens creates shallow depth of field.

 

DSC_2122

DSC_5156These last two photos help you see how well the Sigma 30mm performs in low light situations. Not only does it capture great detail, it also helps bring out beautiful color.

Back in 2005, when this lens was released, DPReview covered it. You’ll find a lot of good technical information by reading their information, here.

Of course, picking on up is best done at Amazon, B&H, or Adorama. Enjoy!