Category Archives: Techno Babel

Topics having to do with new technology.

LEICA X1: Scott’s Way.

Image of my X1 created in Photoshop CS3.

I try not to do too much complaining about camera gearz. I know how hard it is to run a business and sometimes letting the customer have everything is a “bad” thing. BUT the new LEICA X1 tickled me (the right way) to evoke this response — seen in the image above. I created my perfect X1 in Photoshop CS3. If LEICA decides that they want my money — this is what I would want, in exchange for the healthy price. More info on the X1 can be found here.

Noise Canceling Headphones.

Panasonic RP-HC30 Headphones.

I just got back from SJC yesterday. I have tons to write about and gigs of images to share — but this is the first thing that I really felt strongly enough to write about. ;) So as you can see, I got my first pair of noise canceling “headphones” — ear buds to be precise. These are made by Panasonic; model number RP-HC30-K.

As far as “noise canceling” goes, these were cheap — $49.99 + CA sales tax @ Fry’s. They only advertise a 75% reduction in “noise” and in my opinion, that is accurate. The in-ear design does a good job of isolating the music to begin with and activating the “active noise reduction” feature really enhances the overall listening experience.

My flight from SJC to HNL was noticeably more pleasant without the typical mid range drone of the jet turbines. I played around with the noise reduction, with no music, and said jet drone was reduced to a higher pitched “white noise” of less magnitude. You could still hear it but it was definitely less noticeable — noise reduction rather than true noise canceling. With the music going at a respectable 8 of 10 volume, the noise is just about non-existent.

The set comes with an airline dual-mono-plug to single stereo-plug adapter. S, M, and L sized rubber “ear gaskets”. A Panasonic AAA alkaline battery. And a small nylon, draw string, pouch to carry it all. I am quite happy with my purchase of the Panasonic RP-HC30-K. I am sure there are much more effective products for more money but I think 50 bucks is my happy threshold… anything above that is a diminishing return on investment, for my “tin-ears” anyways. :razz:

How wide is wide? Nikon FX + Sigma 12-24mm.

Last week was awesome! Elizabeth and I shot four weddings –lots of work but all fun. I also managed to squeeze in a cover shoot for a local scholastic magazine. Mucho mahalos to “D” and “A” –it is so nice to work with excellent people! :-D

I got a ton of photos to edit and run post’ on BUT I had a brainstorm while sitting here in front of the computer. (I needed to take a break anyways.) So, I whipped up a quick and dirty wide angle, zoom lens, focal length comparison. I used the FX Nikon D700, Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM, and Nikon 16mm f/2.8 AF-D Fisheye. I shot in aperture priority @ f/11 and from a fixed tripod. Please ignore the differences in exposure.

The Sigma has a good amount of corner light fall-off (well documented). I did not test the D700’s vignetting correction but I have already read that it does not work well with third-party lenses. I shot one photo at each marked focal length: 12, 15, 18*, 20, and 24. (*The zoom ring was actually set to 17mm but the EXIF recorded it as 18mm.) The Sigma’s color rendition is warmer in comparison to the Nikon (I was locked in at 5250K for all shots). I have two examples of the Nikon 16mm Fisheye: one “normal” and the other “de-fished” using the lens correction algorithm in Nikon Capture NX (ver. 1.3)**. Here are the images:

Nikon D700 + 12mm.

Nikon D700 + 15mm.

Nikon D700 + 18mm.

Nikon D700 + 20mm.

Nikon D700 + 24mm.

Nikon D700 + 16mm FE.

Nikon D700 + 16mm NX.

As you can see, the Sigma at 12mm is pretty darn wide. Distortion is not bad (although perspective lines do get pretty intense at the edges). The biggest problem is the light fall-off, which actually covers much of the frame. (And does not go away –even stopped down.) The Sigma 12-24mm HSM is slightly wider than the Nikon 14-24mm AF-S (no pictures here). BUT the Nikon is much faster (f/2.8 constant), much sharper, and the Nikon 14-24mm does not have the same crippling light fall-off!

**One very annoying thing I learned through this quick comparison is that Capture NX version 1.3.4 (last one before NX2) cannot properly “de-fish” the D700 JPEG’s nor TIFF’s! Everyone knows D700 NEF’s are not supported but I found it flabbergasting that even “D700” tagged JPEG’s and TIFF’s were castrated also. Even for me, $110 to upgrade to NX2 is pushing it. Dammit Nikon, “throw me a frikken bone!!”

AFTER-WORD: I did not display the results here but PanoTools came to the rescue. It was able to properly “de-fish” D700 JPEG’s and TIFF’s to create the single widest rectilinear image possible using the Nikon 16mm f/2.8 AF-D Fisheye. (A “shaved” Nikon 10.5mm DX Fisheye also works but the pixel density within the usable area is very poor.)

D700: first impressions, (vs. D3).

D700 + MB-D10 in warm light.
So it has been several days now; I have had the chance to do a decent shake down of the D700. The very first thing I noticed (in comparison to the D3) is that the grip on the body is a little cramped. My thumb feels “squeezed” in between the multi selector and “thumb ridge” next to the CF door. Also the right side of the D700 body is flatter, in section, compared to the rounder D3. The D700 does not “fill my hand” as nicely as the D3. The addition of the MB-D10 does not help with this particular, “empty hand”, feeling. BUT it does make the finger purchase and palm support much more solid.

When shooting in portrait orientation, the MB-D10 actually feels better than the D3. (The D3’s CF release button’s protective flap forms an unusual bump under thumb.) I really like the mini multi selector that was added to the MB-D10 –it works very well! With the older MB-D200, I would miss a lot of shots when I had to stretch my right thumb and move my face to reach the multi selector on the S5 Pro. It is minor but very important for “run & gun”.

Speaking of run & gun: with the EN-EL4(a) loaded, the D700 is plenty “machine gun” for me. With my shooting style, the difference between 8 fps and 9 fps is invisible. Yeah… technically the D3 “goes to 11” but 11 fps without auto focus is practically useless for dynamic action sequences. Its nice for analyzing your golf swing or batting technique. But c’mon, that is what video is for. (Ever heard of the Casio EX-F1?)

The new sliding CF door is not terrible. I could see it being a problem only in the most squirrelly of situations (one handed, off balance, extreme angle shooting). Regarding the single card slot: the D3 is the only DSLR I have ever owned with more than one memory card slot. So to have “just” one in the D700 is not a problem. Sure, double card slots are nice but I can do my job just as well with a single. 8)

The 95% viewfinder is nothing to worry about. Yes, it would be nice to have exact edge to edge framing in the viewfinder. But again, I can still do my job very well without it. (Live View is 100%!) On the other hand, one viewfinder item that I do find quite annoying on the D700 is the exposure / leveling scale. Since it is squeezed in with the rest of the viewfinder digital read out, on the bottom edge vs. the right side, it is smaller and harder to read.

So far these observations sound rather nit-picky, don’t they? Yes, they are! The fact is those nits are all there is to compare… In every area that counts: performance, build, & image quality –the D700 (+ MB-D10) is practically identical to the D3! My quick and dirty side-by-side images show a tiny tiny amount of softness in the D700 images. Could it be the dust shaker? Maybe. But more likely it is just a matter of focus calibration. I’d have to sit down and do an exhaustive studio comparison to verify –sure, when D700’s rain down from the sky! ;) Who cares, really?

In my hands the only practical difference between the D3 and D700 is form factor. (Yes, of course $1,500 is a very practical difference also but my perspective is that of a career professional –equipment is ultimately a write-off.) The D700’s ability to “transform” is a huge advantage over the D3! (Though I am very glad to have one of each.) If one sat down and got neurotic, one could argue the nits –one way or the other– till discontinuation, but why bother? Bottom line: if you are a full time 9 fps shooter: D3 wins. If you are anything else: D700 wins. Both are exquisite tools!

B&H Photo, FTW!

In a previous post I mentioned that B&H Photo was one of the few big name camera retailers that did not have a “true pre-order” system in place for hot new items. Well I am happy to report that, like a champ, B&H Photo has knocked that problem out! I just got an email from B&H Weborders, regarding the D700 body. Although the D700 (body only) is still not available for immediate shipping, B&H has extended their “Accepting Orders” (special order item) status to include the D700 body. “Accepting Orders” now appears where the “Out of Stock” used to and you can now “Add to Cart” and go through the usual check out process — same as special order items. For all intents and purposes, that sounds like a real pre-order registry to me! :-D And that is why B&H Photo is still tops in my book — NICE JOB B&H!!

ADDENDUM: 08-01-08, DOH!!! Ok, so apparently that “Accepting Orders” status had a limit. Today when I checked B&H, the D700 (body only) status was down graded to “Back Ordered”. You can now only register via email or place on your wish list. Shucks! :sad:

Decisions, decisions…

Can't decide animation.
We are on the verge of the first D700 shipments (on sale July 25th, in Japan for sure). So with the D700 officially “outed” people (me too) are starting to ask, “what’s next?” Once again the rumor mill starts to churn.

Apparently, is selling the Nikon D3 body for $4,541.97. Probably in response to the huge amount of D700 pre-orders but fewer D3 sales — which are already in stock. B&H Photo is still at $4699.95 — I put more faith in B&H. For whatever reason, Amazon is having a fire sale.

Most agree that there are at least two more Nikon DSLR’s waiting in the wings: a D80 DX replacement and a higher resolution FX sensor body. Most pro’s and serious amateur’s are more interested in the latter. Nikon is on a “time to catch up” rampage, this year. Makes sense, it is a big anniversary year for Nikkor lenses and Nikon cameras — Nikon cannot afford to lose anymore face. Sony has already made it perfectly clear that they will release their “A900?”, 24 MP, full frame, mid-sized DSLR, flagship; later this year. Photokina? That fact alone almost guarantees (in my mind) a Nikon design high resolution FX sensor equivalent. The million dollar questions are, “What form factor?” & “When?”

Nikon could pull another “F6 move”. In case you never shot with 35mm roll film, the F5 was the only Nikon professional film body that had the integrated (non-removable) motor/battery/vertical grip. The F, F2, F3, F4, & F6 all had dynamic form factors (grip or no grip, it was up to you). For some reason — probably the battery — the big body/integrated grip form factor stuck with professional DSLR systems. But now the D700 is proof positive that a professional grade, FX, DSLR can be built into a more compact form factor. (95% viewfinder is the rub.) And just like with the F6, if you need the speed (extended battery life), you can add on the optional battery/verticle grip.

The D3 is a sports/action/PJ/event camera. There is no doubt — high speed is very important for the D3. Therefore it is totally logical that the integrated “speed grip” be built into the system. But what about a higher resolution studio/landscape type camera? As far as I know, 5 frames per second is more than fast enough for most studio and landscape situations. Do we need the speed grip on a high resolution studio camera? Nope. True, the vertical shutter release is very useful shooting hand held fashion–just ask the medium format digital guys who do not have it. BUT just about every other studio and landscape situation has you shooting off of a tripod or camera stand with a cable release–vertical shutter release is irrelevant. Will Nikon apply this same logic to their high res FX DSLR? We will see.

OR, this is what I am brain storming at the moment: D3 is to D700 as D3X is to ???? Who else thinks Nikon will pull a “D3/D700 marketing move” with the next FX body evolution?

Nikon: Ready to Blow?

Take cover!!!
There has been a lot of Nikon product rumors flying around the internet ever since PMA’08. Within the last week it has reached a feverish pitch! “Word on the street”: a big announcement is “supposed to be” coming on June 30th / July 1st.

Rumored products include a super high resolution Pro body (D3X), a compact “D300-ish” DSLR with the D3’s FX chip (D700?), and a new “SB-900(?)” speed light. Any or all of those would make a really sweet announcement!

There are at least two prime lenses that Nikon already talked about (45mm PC-E and 85mm PC-E) both are specialized “perspective control” designs–just like the already available 24mm PC-E. Whether or not those two lenses will be officially released next week is also unknown–but probable. That would be a little disappointing though. I like and use PC lenses in my commercial work BUT, those three PC-E lenses are not exactly ground breaking. (Canon already has equivalents in their line up and have had them for some time now.) A new AF-S f/1.2 prime or two–now THAT would be exciting!

I have serious doubts about a compact full frame camera from Nikon–this year. Don’t get me wrong — I’d buy one in a second if it were available. But I think Nikon is saving that one (till after the Canon “5D Mrk.2(?)” arrives). My opinion (as well as many others’) is that Nikon will be replacing the D80 instead. The fact which leads me to think that: B&H Photo has dropped the purchase price of the D300 body. It was $1,799 (and change) but now is listed at $1,649.95–basically a $150 discount. IF a compact full frame (FX DSLR) were coming out next week, I doubt the street price would be remotely close to the $1,800 introductory price of the D300. ($2,999 is a likely street price.) 150 bucks off the D300 would do absolutely nothing to sway a D300 vs. “D700(?)” purchase decision.

BUT imagine a D80 body with the same 12.3 MP sensor as the D300–with anti dust and everything. The street price of the D80 at introduction was basically $1,000 for the body. What if a “D90” were coming out next week at a street price of $1,000? $800 less than the D300?! Now, that same $150 price cut in the D300 makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? As of today — $650, not $800, is the going price for weather sealing, metal body, 3 inch super LCD, D3 menus, and so on. The recent discount makes more sense with that supposition as a given.

Time will tell. Who knows? B&H may be doing some speculation of their own. OR maybe we will get 3 new DSLR’s from Nikon–how cool would that be?! How fat has your piggy bank grown since the D3??? :-D