Entries Tagged as 'Digital Media'

HDX Media Player

I ran across this site while reading on the web.  The HDX 1000 and HDX 900 look like they could be interesting devices to hookup to your high definition panel to give you options in how you acquire and manage your content.

I haven’t played with one, so all I have to go by is what’s on the web site.

http://www.hdx1080.com/

Originally posted 2008-11-13 12:00:36.

Cloud Storage

 There are tons of free (and paid) cloud storage services… and you can use more than one of them (I actually use all of the following myself).

 

Amazon

Amazon changes their cloud storage option fairly often, currently it’s 5GB free with 250 songs — the subscription for storage and music storage are separate now.

 

Box

50GB of storage.  Works with Windows, Max, Android, and iOS – plus there are several other apps that allow easy migration of files to Box.

 

DropBox 

2GB of storage plus an extra 500MB for using the above link to sign up (there are other bonuses you can get as well).    Works with Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry.

 

GoogleDrive

If you have a Google GMail account (or Google App account) you already have this, just sign in to activate it.  Works with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS — probably others as well.  The storage amount you get seems to vary based on when you sign up.  NOTE:  Google Music is stored separately.

 

SkyDrive

If you have an MSN, HotMail, Live or any other Microsoft hosted/provided account you already have access to it.  Works with Windows, Android, iOS — probably others as well.  The storage amount you get seems to vary based on when you sign up.

 

Ubuntu One

5GB of storage, plus an extra 500MB for using the above link to sign up.  Works with Windows, Mac, Ubuntu (Linux), Android, and iOS – plus can be used automatically to store large Thunderbird attachments (great if you’re sending the same attachment to several people).

Originally posted 2013-08-27 11:10:21.

Canon D20 verses Nikon D40

Canon   Nikon

Neither of these digital SLRs are the top of the line or new models from either manufacturer; but I own one of each, and both are considered to be extremely good pro-sumer models.

With a DSLR, like an SLR, the quality of images you take will depend on the lens and skill of the photographer every bit as much as the equipment.

I’ve be interested in photography since I was a teen; and to be honest, I’m a technically great photographer, but I’m not a great photographer.  Or as I tell my friends, I’ve taken millions of technically perfect photographs in my years; and I have one or two that are actually good photographs.

What’s my criteria for comparison?

That’s easy.

I think you need to consider…

Price; that’s not easy with these two — in the years since I bought the D20 this technology costs significantly less — and even purchasing the 20D refurbished it will set you back substantially more than a D40 (you really have to go with a Rebel XSi or XTi or XS to be at a comparable price point, and those have plastic bodies like the D40 but more resolution than even the D20).

Construction; here there’s no comparison, while there’s nothing technically wrong with the D40, the 20D is solid, the magnesium alloy makes the plastic D40 body look like a joke.  And of course the additional weight of the 20D makes it handle like a “real” SLR, the D40 is so light that it has a bizarre center of gravity with even the lightest of lens attached.

Controls; both cameras are made by a camera company, so they act like cameras and you’ll be able to control them much like you can any SLR.  You might find the controls a little different than an SLR, but both companies have made an effort to make the cameras similar in many ways to their comparable SLR lines.

Ease of use; though rather than call it ease of use we should probably define this as straight forward controls that don’t require inordinate steps to do useful tasks; here the two are fairly similar, though I’ll have to say Nikon’s inclusion of “editing” features seems like a total waste, and serve only to clutter the menu.

Available accessories; both have an incredible range of accessories you can purchase for them, but I’ll have to say that in general the Nikon accessories will cost less than Canon.  Third party accessories for both are, of course, substantially less expensive.

Lens; again, both Nikon and Canon have an incredible range of lens for their cameras.  Nikon has, unfortunately for those of use who own an F series film camera, changed their lens (AF).  Third party lens for both are, of course, substantially less expensive — and you can argue the quality.

Raw imaging; both have raw imaging.  And both cameras offer

Image quality; both have impressive quality.  The 20D has more resolution than the D40 (you can get higher resolution Nikon models for about the same price, but the D40 is considered to have one of the best CCDs, and of course has a very attractive price).  The real difference for me in the image quality is I think the Canon has a more accurate rendering of color and detail (now you’re going to find people who say the exact opposite, in fact I was looking at a comparison between a Nikon and Canon model and the person was saying the Nikon was better, but in my mind 90% of the images looked like the Canon was better).  The bottom line of this is it’s going to depend on what you like individually — there’s no right answer, both of these cameras do an incredible job, and it’s DIGITAL, so you can apply some corrections with your favorite photo editing software.

Which is better… well, I’d give the Canon 20D that vote, which is interesting since I’ve used a Nikon F4 for years.

Whether you choose a Canon D20, a Canon Digital Rebel XSi,  Canon Digital Rebel XTi, Canon Digital Rebel XS, or a Nikon D40 you’ll be getting a quality photographic instrument made by camera company that will be a good general replacement for a SLR.  While all these DSLRs offer “point-and-shoot” modes, it really only makes sense to buy one if you’re a little more serious about photography.  As I said before, it’s also going to depend on the lens, accessories, and operator skill what kind of results you see.

For pricing and availability, you can check the price search engines on my side bar.  One word of caution when buying photographic equipment online; try and deal with a reputable company and avoid the headaches.  Also be mindful of grey market items and understand what you’re buying.  NOTE:  There’s no real issue with buying a grey market item (item that was not intended for US sale), but you should be aware of what you’re getting before you get it.

Originally posted 2009-02-26 01:00:22.

Digital Photography

Most of my digital photography for the last several years has been with my Canon 20D and Nikon D40 DSLRs.  Often I shoot in RAW mode and then use an image editor (GIMP) to reduce the image and optimize it for web viewing (JPEG).

I consider the Canon to have by far the best image quality; but the Nikon is much smaller / lighter and easier to carry around.  The Nikon is actually much newer than the Canon; I got it for convenience.  Both of the cameras are great; and come from a long line of DSLRs.  If you’re serious about digital photography either of these would be a good option.

I also have a point-and-shoot camera.  A Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33S which I carry with me when I just cannot afford the extra space and weight a DSLR would cost (outdoor activities) or when the risk to damaging a DSLR would be too great.  I personally don’t care for point-and-shoot cameras, and I hate to shoot without a real view finder (and LCD panel on the back of a “camera” is awkward for me at best).  There are times, though, when I’m thrilled to have a descent camera with me, and this is a descent camera and very compact.

My older digital photography was done with a host of cameras; starting with two of the first Kodak digital cameras in the late 1990’s.

Before that I shot almost exclusively with a Nikon F2 and Nikon F4 and a Yashica Mat 124G (6x6cm – twin lens).  I have some shots using a Canon F-1 (borrowed) as well.

I’ve never been very skilled with a camcorder; but I do have some old footage done on two different JVC DVC models and will be taking more with my Panasonic HDC-SD10 HD solid state unit.

Canon 20D
Canon 20D

Nikon D40
Nikon D40


Panasonic DMC-FX33S

Panasonic
Panasonic HDC-SD10

Originally posted 2010-02-26 01:00:09.

GIMP

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

That’s what the GIMP site says; but what GIMP is is a free Open Source alternative to programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro that runs on Linux, OS-X, and Windows.

GIMP is reasonably easy to use, powerful, and rock solid.

If you understand the principles of image/photo editing you’ll be a pro at using GIMP in no time — far easier to use than Photoshop, far more functional than Paint Shop Pro.  And it’s free — totally free — just download it an install it.  There’s lots of plug-ins for it as well (so make sure you take a look at some of those add ins).  Be sure and review the online documentation, tutorials, and FAQ; plus there are a number of well written books on GIMP available for purchase.

GIMP.org

Originally posted 2010-03-08 02:00:45.

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit

Nikon

I purchased a Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit for my Nikon D40 DSLR.  Mostly I purchased the flash unit because I’d read some good reviews, it’s very small and compact, it’s inexpensive (about $99 online), and I had enough credit card point to pay for it (and nothing else I really wanted).

When I got the unit I was impressed with how small it was.  I’d expect it to be a little larger than it was, but I was quit happy (for reference, it’s about the size of the battery plus battery charger, but lighter).

The instruction manual is clear and simple (you can download that from the Nikon web site if you want to review it).  Attaching the flash and using it with a Nikon DSLR is straight forward.  You can also review the key features and specifications on Nikon’s site, I’m not going to copy them here.  See the end of the post for the URL for the Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit.

I immediately shot a dozen images inside under conditions ranging from almost not needing a flash (fill) to almost total darkness — with a distance of just a few feet to right around ten feet (all my tests were done bouncing the flash off the ceiling in landscape orientation — the flash only tilts, it doesn’t swivel, so you can’t bounce from the ceiling in portrait orientation).

The images I took that used the flash in fill mode turned out exceptionally well; and really showed off what an asset a small flash unit like this can be.  The images I took that used the flash in near darkness showed that this unit really isn’t capable alone of being used under those conditions, and you really should consider a dual flash setup if you’re going to shoot in total darkness).

My absolute biggest complaint with the flash unit is that it exacerbates my biggest complaint with the D40 — the body is so light, it has an unusual center of gravity (even with a small lens on it), by adding the flash unit it makes the center of gravity even worse.  NOTE:  The only solution to this I’ve read of is adding a battery grip, and while that would help pull the center of gravity back and down, it would make the camera substantially larger; and many of those units are reported not to work very well.

Pros

  • Small
  • Light
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Works well as a fill flash in landscape orientation
  • Well constructed
  • Uses two AA batteries

Cons

  • Not suited for near total darkness conditions
  • Does not swivel for use in portrait orientation

Personally I’d say the unit is an incredible value, and well suited for a number of indoor applications.  The one that came to mind immediately was using it to take pictures of small items you were going to sell online.  Of course it also works well for any type of general indoor photography, but you’ll have to get used to shooting in landscape (even in conditions where the subject matter is obviously portrait) and just crop down the image.

Would I recommend buying one.  Well, I think you have to consider what you want to use it for.  If you want something that’s very small, very inexpensive, you’re only going to use it indoors, and you can tolerate the landscape only limitation — sure, buy it… you’ll be quite happy with it.  But if you can afford to pay more, can tolerate a larger unit, and need to shoot outdoors or absolutely require portrait I think you’ll be happier with another unit.

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit

Originally posted 2009-02-16 01:00:43.

Video Editing on a PC

I purchased a Mac Pro and Final Cut Studio to do my video editing, simply because I felt that PC solutions were just not there.

Adobe Encore is a joke, the only thing it was good for was crashing (and thinning out your wallet).

Sony Vegas was a descent application (and solid), but difficult to use and didn’t seem to expose as much control as I wanted over DVD production.

Times change; and now I’m not as concerned with DVD production as I am with just video editing, and two of my friends have shown interest in video editing and really don’t want to invest in a Mac (there is only one real choice for video editing from Apple, and that’s a Mac Pro, and the combination of the hardware and software is a little scary).

One of my other friends has used Vegas for quite awhile, and he’s been happy with it (of course he’s never done video editing on a Mac).

I’ve decided my project for the next several days will be to evaluate Sony Vega Pro 9.  I’ll try it out on Windows 7 and write a BLOG post that tries to detail the strengths and weaknesses without directly comparing it to Final Cut Studio; though I may use Final Cut Studio as the “standard” for what a high end video editing suite should do.

Originally posted 2010-02-19 01:00:15.

WD TV Live Plus – Network Media Player

I purchased the WD TV Live Plus about a month ago from Amazon (good price, free shipping, great return policy if you need it)… I looked at several other alternatives including the Seagate FreeAgent Theatre, Roku Digital Video Player, and Apple TV.

Rather than high light the weaknesses I perceived in the other devices, let me underscore the abilities that I felt were compelling in the WD TV Live Plus, but let me start by listing the minimum requirements.

  • support full HD (1080)
  • support component video (I have one older panel that doesn’t support HDCP)
  • support TOSLINK and/or SPDIF digital sound
  • support HDMI (video plus audio)
  • support Netflix streaming
  • support media from local sources

Additionally there were a few more items on my wish list

  • not require any proprietary software installation (ie iTunes)
  • support MPEG2, MPEG4, h.264 plus as many other CODECs as possible
  • support audio
  • support browsing SMB/CIFs shares
  • support media servers
  • straight forward user interface
  • reputable vendor with reasonable support and updates

The WD TV Live Plus (don’t be confused by the other models WD offers — only the high end one supports Netflix) did everything I required, and everything I wanted — plus it has features beyond what I care about.

Let me start by saying I unpacked the device, plugged it in, and it worked — I didn’t need to read the manual, I didn’t need to change any settings, I didn’t need to do anything to play local media off of file shares or media servers.  The only thing I had to do to play Netflix through the device was type in the device registration code on my account screen online and it was up and running.

I cannot say that the device is perfect; but I can say that it works as well as any set top box I’ve ever used (including cable boxes, satellite receivers, U-Verse IP-TV, and HPCs).

Like all those devices you’ll get sputters on occasion (though I’ve never seen any issues with playing local media that is properly encoded), but a quick power cycle (the power button on the device actually seems to do a reboot of the device — but unplugging the AC adapter is always a sure fire way of resetting the device).

My Netflix queue started with well over 100 items in it; I’m actually watching items in the queue faster than I’m adding new items to it… it’s just so easy to watch, and so comfortable.  You kick back on the sofa and watch a movie as you’re writing a BLOG post (like I’m doing now).

I really like this device, and I’ll buy a second one for the panel in the bedroom, but I’m hoping that WD will reduce the price to be a little more competitive, and I hope that they continue to update the firmware and improve the device.

For the moment, I recommend you read the information on Western Digital’s web site – that will help to answer questions you might have.  I found that downloading and reviewing the user manual was actually the fastest way to answer most of my questions.  You can also read many other articles about the various media players available — but always keep in mind when you read the opinions of others that they are looking at the device for their needs with their perspective… consider what they say more than their conclusions.

And keep in mind, buy it from Amazon and if it doesn’t meet your expectations the return is as easy a printing a return label with the click of a button and dropping it at the post office.

WD TV Live Plus

WD TV Live Plus

Originally posted 2010-10-16 02:00:43.

Adorama — Follow Up

This is a follow up to a fairly unflattering post I made on a purchase from Adorama.

First, the time line of the entire espisode for reference, my thoughts follow.

  • 2008/12/26: I order a Sunpak CF-7078 Twin Filter Pack (52mm Ultra-Violet and 52mm Circular Polarizing) from Adorama through Amazon (Amazon was out of stock).
  • 2008/12/18: Adorama ships my order, and sends tracking information.
  • 2008/12/31: My order arrives, but Adorama has substituted a Tiffen filter set without contacting me (the invoice clearly indicates that it’s intentional).
  • 2008/12/31: I contact both Adorama and Amazon via Amazon’s web interface).
  • 2008/12/31: I contact my credit card company via telephone; they indicate their will be no issue initiating a charge back, but ask that I give the merchant time to resolve the matter first.
  • 2009/01/01: Amazon replies to my inquiry and indicates that vendors may not materially change an order and that the Amazon A-Z Guarantee would apply should I not be able to resolve the matter with Adorama.
  • 2009/01/04: Adorama has sends me a pre-paid UPS shipping label for the return of the items via email.  Though the instructions indicate that I must drop off the item at a shipping location.
  • 2009/01/05: I’ve also been contacted by Helen Oster, Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador who has read my BLOG post and interested in investigating the matter.  I’ve already sent her enough information to get her started.  I’ll be sure and post anything of interest that happens.
  • 2009/01/06: The Tiffen filters to Adorama via UPS, my regular UPS delivery person picked them up for me, so I didn’t need to drive to UPS to drop them off (but I was still out packing material and time).
  • 2009/01/09: Adorama has offered an explanation (that their buyer felt it was acceptable to replace an out of stock item with an in stock item that retailed for more, without contacting the customer first); while I accept this as an explanation, I find it an unacceptable practice.  Only I can decide what product has equal or greater value, since only I am able to gauge the metrics of the products I choose to fit my needs.  Also, Adorama is attempting to “make this right”, and I certainly applaud their effort — but it would have been easier on everyone had someone just ask what I wanted before shipping a substitution.  Additionally Adorama offers a single Hoya filter as a replacement; I reject that offer simply because I would still need to buy an additional filter.
  • 2009/01/10: Adorama offers two Hoya filters in place of the Sunpak.  I agree to this and they ship the filters (I have an order pending for the Sunpak filter set on Amazon; that’s what I wanted, and that’s what I’ll have — but I certainly felt like I needed to let Adorama exercise their right to “make it right”).
  • 2009/01/16: The Hoya Filters arrive as promised.

Let me start by saying that this matter probably should be characterized as one individual making a bad decision that was inconsistent with the Corporate polices of Adorama, I think Helen’s dedication to making things right, and Adorama’s willingness to incur substantial costs in this matter is evidence of that.

I rarely appraise companies by whether or not they make mistakes, but rather by how they address their mistakes.  While I would have preferred to just get the items I ordered in a timely fashion; or been told their was no stock, I would put forth that you simply could not find a company more willing to go the extra mile; or an individual (Helen Oster) with more moral fibre and tenacity to make sure the right thing is done.

Initially I felt that I would never deal with Adorama again; but my feeling is that they’re certainly worth a second shot (each of you will need to decide for yourself, since this is my only dealings with Adorama I do not have a feel for statistically how often something like this may happen, other than to say my gut tells me it’s rare).

Originally posted 2009-01-16 01:00:20.

Gallery Images

I’ve started to add more pictures to my gallery. The first set are in and around San Francisco, CA. Since I spent twenty years living there, and visited there uncounted times before there’s a great deal to post.

I will probably break from posting San Francisco pictures and post other things as I sort through my fairly substantial set of digital stills.

It will take quite awhile before I even thing about putting up any of my old film shots.

I may try my hand at posting some high definition h.264 video clips as well (but I’ll need to get a great deal better with the camcorder before that happens).

If you desire to use any of these images, you must obtain a written authorization from me.  While I’m happy to share these for you to view, they do belong to me and I do not want them used by others (not that I really think any of them are that great).

Enjoy.

Originally posted 2010-02-25 01:00:21.