Cameras to buy

OK, so the fall is here and time to buy things (when isn’t it?). So here is an early Xmas list:

  1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1. This is the camera to get for something that is light and portable that you can throw into your bag and travel three continents (hint!). 12 megapixels, fast autofocus that is as good as any dSLR. Get it with the excellent Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH lense for every day and if you are going to on safari, get the EVF, the wide angle zoom and the telephoto too. Great RAW results with Adobe’s ACR. Very good ISO performance with even the small sensor Panasonic LX3 pretty good. The DMC-GF1 shoots well into ISO 800, (although the Olympus EP-1 odes well up to ISO 3200 on noise, it has slow autofocus).
  2. Canon EOS 500D. This is probably the best price/performance for an entry-level dSLR and a good choice to take on the road if you want to reuse lenses. It has a 15MP sensor which is a long way from the original EOS 350D from 12-Feb-05 with 8MP. It shoots well to ISO 1600 and its JPEG output is nearly as good as RAW. Interestingly with the kit lense resolution isn’t much different than the 12MP EOS-450D. Another reminder how unimportant raw megapixels are.
  3. Canon EOS 7D. I have this massive Canon EOS 5D Mark II that is full frame and takes superb pictures even at ISO 2400, but I still have a ton of great APS-size lenses that are incredible. The 5D is a monster, now Canon has shipped a new 18MP (so about the same size as the 21MP 5DII). Could this be the right choice for most people who don’t need all that low light performance and 8FPS shooting. Plus it has a new 19-point Autofocus system. If you haven’t gotten a 5D yet, its not a bad choice. We will see how reviews find the new sensors performance. The thing is $1800 and actually heavier than the 5DII. 
  4. Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This is the massive $3000 camera whose main advantage is better performance at low light because it is full frame. Shots at ISO 2400 are very good and 3200 are OK. The main issue is making sure you use the right default settings which are highlight tone priority on (this adds about 1EV to shadows). Then there is autolight optimizer which only at strong has some impact in high contrast scenarios where it pulls details out of very dark situations so it is OK to leave both on.

Two weeks of use for three bluetooth devices, get the Motorokr T505

OK, got three bluetooth things and after two weeks here is where they are:

  1. Motorokr T505. This thing is amazing. It is a hockey puck that you put in your car. Seems to have a really long battery and is an incredibly good speakerphone. I don’t know how they do it, but it sounds good as a speaker, Then if you push a funky magic button on the back, it finds a free FM station. In Seattle, it is nearly impossible to find a free station (101.9 seems the best), but otherwise it is wonderful. Also does stereo Bluetooth, so you can play your iPhone through it. Highly recommended. Biggest weakness is that you have to remember to take it out of your car to charge it. Not very natural. I finally just snaked a long USB cable to it.
  2. Blueants Q1. Wow, this is really loud and high quality sound unlike the really hard to hear Jawbone 2. The foam earplug works really well in isolating noise and fitting (again unlike the Jawbone 2 which falls out and whose wire earloop is always breaking, plus, it doesn’t have that gigantic hangup button which means whenever you adjust the Jawbone, it falls out). The main problem is that it is super delicate. When I took it out and stuck it in my pocket, the earplug part cracked and thus a useless $80 device. Also, it has an incredibly wierd and non-standard USB plug, so dont lose the charging cable. 
  3. Plantronics Voyager Pro. If you want to look like a complete geek wear this thing. It is literally the size of a gigantic ear ring. The sound quality is good but more importantly, it doesn’t break.

Net, net, I’m using the Motorokr T505 for all my cars, it is that convenient. As for a good in-the-ear, I have not found it yet. I realize I’m probably frying my brain, but the Q1 is good, but I just don’t like leaving the thing in the ear all the time and it is too delicate for my horrible throw it in a bag.

You can get the Motorokr T505 for $50 from Tech for less according to Google Shopping

Time Capsule failures

Time Capsule failures lead to opening of virtual cemetery – Ars Technica

No one is really sure how widespread the problem is, but it has been enough of an issue for one individual to start a website dedicated to cataloging the failures. The Apple Time Capsule Memorial Register collects Time Capsule serial numbers, date of purchase, date of death, and location, and displays the information along with the average lifespan of a failed device. In just one day, the site has 119 reports in its database with an average lifespan of 17 months, 19 days.

Time Capsule failures lead to opening of virtual cemetery – Ars Technica

Currently, all Time Capsules have a one-year warranty that begins on the date of purchase, but no option for extended warranty other than purchasing AppleCare for an eligible computer. When covered under a computer’s AppleCare, the warranty on a Time Capsule is extended to three years from the original purchase date.

This doesn’t help if all Apple does is replace the Time Capsule though. Replacing the device has the same result: people are losing their backups at some point in time. The majority of these Time Capsules in the database appear to be dying because of a PSU failure, though—a savvy person could potentially remedy the problem long enough to get his or her data off the internal disk. Still, the act will void any warranty and result in a loss of several hundred dollars if you bought AppleCare to begin with.

iPHone apps

Two cool new apps for iPhone 3GS owners only: Layar and Cardreader | 9 to 5 Mac

Layar ($FREE – iTunes link), the Augmented Reality program we profiled when it was for Android only. It needs the compass of the 3GS to navigate the Augmented reality world created with the iPhone’s camera. It enters the App Store alongside other augmented reality apps that have been introduced over the past months.

Two cool new apps for iPhone 3GS owners only: Layar and Cardreader | 9 to 5 Mac

Cardreader, which is $7.99 at the App Store, turns your iPhone 3GS into a business card scanner. With the Autofocus camera, you can take a picture of a business card, the software then scans the picture, runs OCR software on it, and inputs the information into your contacts list (awesome!). It even saves the business cards as images and creates a coverflow like interface for browsing the cards (below).

Print from your iPhone

9 to 5 Mac | Apple Intelligence

t continues to vex many of us that we can’t print from our iPhone – surely it would be a simple matter to enable printing over WiFi or Bluetooth? Now you can, thanks to EuroSmartz new app, “Print” ($3.99), which joins the company’s popular “Print n Share” app ($6.99) to enable such functions.

Google Sync is cool

I’ve been using it for a while and it is really very good. Much less buggy that our Exchange stuff. And it is great to see other people calendars. Works better than native Exchange really. Now, it does push mail too, so you don’t have to configure imap.

AppleInsider | Google brings push Gmail to iPhone, iPod touch

Google Sync, the service that allows users the ability to sync Gmail contacts and Google Calendar with the iPhone, has been updated to support Gmail as well, bringing push capability to the iPhone

iMac

Mac Rumors: Apple Mac Rumors and News You Care About

the next-generation iMac may be the first to offer quad-core processors in the form of Core i7 “Clarksfield” mobile processors from Intel. Additionally, previously rumored Blu-ray support may not be included in the new models.

More specifically, people close to the Cupertino-based company have picked up on chatter suggesting that earlier plans to offer Blu-ray technology on the new all-in-one desktops may have been pulled back just before the systems went into product last month.

Sidekick OMG!

Microsoft kills the Sidekick. The first smart phone is dead – Computerworld Blogs

There is no official word on the death of the Sidekick from Microsoft or Tmobile, but it certainly looks bleak for the iconic device.

This week, Microsoft announced that they had lost all Sidekick user data including pictures, contacts, calendars and other information from the Danger’s servers. Since the devices sync with the servers, the devices also lost the data. The Sidekick data services had amazingly been out over a week.

From what they say, after a week of investigation, there is no way to retrieve the user data. Customers will have to start over. The word on the street is that it was a Hitachi SAN upgrade failure.

But customers will be happy to know that Tmobile is offering a free month of data (not a free month of service, just the $20 unlimited data plan) for all of their information. I really hope a lot of Sidekick users used the Intellisync software that pushes data to the desktop and would have backed their data up.

T-Mobile has halted the sale of new Sidekicks. All models are now showing “temporarily out of stock” on the company’s website.

Lumix DMC-GF1 looks good

Well, it is $800, but the initial reports are good. It is so exciting that the small compact, but professional segment of cameras is opening up. It used to be just the Ricoh GR Digital II and the Sigma DP2 which has a 41mm equivalent lense at F/2.9. The lense is sharp but autofocus is slow. I has decent resolution through ISO1600 and noise is OK through ISO 400. It doesn’t have a stabiilzer but has the Foveon sensor.

Now Olympus has the EP-1 which is nice but slow to focus. And the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 looks particularly good. Ships with a very fast F/1.7 lense 20mm (40mm equivalent) and has low noise up to ISO 400 and is decent at ISO 800 so great for available light.

There is also the super expensive Leica X1 that also uses an APS-C sensor but it is more like $2K! With Luminous Landscape preview, it looks pretty good.

DPReviews had a good preview on this. It looks pretty good and they say the screen is nice. Cameralabs also had a good review. The initial tests show that focus is fast and the noise is very well controlled even to ISO 400 and usable to 800. Digitalcamerareview.com did a review. The 14-45mm F/3.5-F/5.6 is slow but the 20mm F/1.7 is fast. The 14-45mm is also image stabilized. The 20mm seems like a nice choice. Photographyblog.com say the images are little soft with the default sharpening in camera.

The camera with a 20mm lense is $900. There is also a wide range of lenses that Panasonic has including alot of micro 4/3 lenses including (these are 2x factor

  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f4.0 ASPH. A nice wide angle lense for landscape. It is a little slow, so mainly for brighter light. 14-28 equivalent. This would be the next lense I’d get. No reviews yet on image quality. SLRGear says the images are very sharp. It does have strong chromatic aberration at the edges. Very little distortion as well. It is 300 grams which is very light.
  • 14-45mm f3.5-5.6. A pretty slow lenses, but a good intermediate, personally I’d get the 20mm instead since it is faster. This is the other kit lense.
  • 14-140mm f4.0-5.8. This is a zoom lense that is 28-280mm equivalent. A good travel lense for zoom. Probably the second lense.
  • 45mm f2.8. Very fast for macro photography. A specialty lense.
  • 45-200mm f4.0-5.6. A super long lense 90-400mm equivalent.