Moto 360 – Enthusiast Photographer Diversion

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My day job is in the tech industry, and I’ve been watching the wearable tech pretty closely.  Apologies for the diversion, but I thought this might be of interest to some folks who follow the blog.

When I first saw the Moto 360, I wanted one.  The design looks great, and my hope was it was as simple and classic as it looked.  I happened to wander through a Best Buy when they had one (and only one) on the shelf, so I had to grab it.  Here’s a few thoughts after about two weeks of ownership:

  • I only got 12 hours the first day, but averaged 14 hours or so after that.  In the last few days of Sept. there was an update that has me up to 16-20 hours.  I’m not worried about battery any more.
  • I’m using Ambient Light (always on, but dims unless you tab it or roll your wrist over to look at it) and 4 for brightness.
  • It is keeping my phone in my pocket more
  • I really like being able to see e-mail and deleting it right then and there. Reading isn’t great, but at least lets me know if it is worth getting my phone out….
  • Seeing texts and being able to respond with my voice is great. I do not text and drive, and I’m not going to make a lot of use out of this feature, but being able to glance at it, tap the watch and respond has come in handy a couple of times. My Nexus 5 doesn’t integrate as well with my 2011 Mini Clubman as well as my Lumia 920 did, but the Moto360 fixes that to a large degree.
  • The heart rate and step counter were a little limited at first because they seemed inaccurate and I was babying the watch a bit for battery life.  The suede leather isn’t what I’m thinking of for exercise, either – I’ll probably pick up the metal band when it comes out.  I just got back from a business trip to Iceland (I’ll post the pix soon), and the update seemed to fix things nicely: the step counter generally agreed with my buddy’s FitBit while we were stomping around.
  • I really wish this thing tracked sleep, but even the improved battery life doesn’t allow it. This is the only thing I feel is strongly lacking for me.
  • There is virtually no setup. Settings are a little weird to get to (originally was press and hold the button, but that seems to have been updated to tap the face a couple times to get the Google Now screen and swipe up. The order of items in that settings menu doesn’t seem to be usage- or usefulness-based. Kind of annoying, but minor.
  • I wish I could configure how/which Google Now cards showed up (true of Android in general)
  • It recharges very quickly on the stand – an hour or so to a full charge.
  • I love how the thing looks. I like the dimmed face when I’m driving at night. Who needs tritium??
  • I have a million ideas on how this thing can be used. Fun to think like this again.

Overall – I’m really digging it. It isn’t overdone or intrusive, and it looks and works great. It doesn’t feel like 1st-gen tech, but there are a lot of possibilities.  It keeps my phone in my pocket, which is helping with battery life and makes for less things in my hands when I’m doing something like photography.  If you’re an Android person, this thing might be right for you.

(This also gave me the chance to try out the Canon S100 I picked up used to take the photo above – I really like this little guy!  Will make a nice lightweight travel companion.  It is an older camera, so I’m not sure I’ll put up a review, but another example of an “old” camera serving perfectly well and saving me a lot of money.)

Black Rapid / Arca-Swiss Solution: Mr. Blurrycam Edition

I get enough questions about my setup that I thought a video might help:

Black Rapid and Arca Solution – Enthusiast Photographer from Lee @ Enthusiast Photographer on Vimeo.

The full write-up can be found here.  I’ve carried this setup literally all over the world, and it has performed flawlessly.  If you’ve got a Black Rapid Strap and an Arca-Swiss-based tripod head/plate system, I think you’ll like this rig a LOT.  I think it even acts as a quick-release system for Black Rapid users who don’t have Arca-Swiss, too…

Apologies for the poor camera-work – I’ll try to improve on that in the future!

Here are some updated photos (though still camera-phone pix):
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Card Test: X’s aren’t the only thing that matters…

[UPDATE: If a search engine has brought you here, I found an error in my testing – a quick scan might be useful here, but the final information is found in the “oops!” update.

I recently posted about the benefits of “X’s” – one measure for measuring the performance of our digital film cards, both SDHC and Compact Flash.

Now that I have the 1000X Lexar Professional Compact Flash cards in-hand to go along with my 400X Lexar Professional SD cards and both USB 2.0 and 3.0 card readers, I figured I’d test the combinations and see how things turned out.  The results were surprising…

Here was my methodology: I had 2.03GB of JPEG files from shooting the day before.  I would attach the reader with the card and dragged the DCIM folder from the card to a new folder on the drive.  I timed it from the moment I released the mouse button until the moment the copy window disappeared.  After each test, I deleted the folder so the same amount of space remained on my hard drive, which is a 180GB SSD (which is pretty fast, so your times might vary on spinning hard drives).

First up were the cards on the USB 3.0 reader, a Kingston model with good reviews on Amazon, though sometimes I wish I’d bought the Lexar version, which looks smaller and is less cluttered with other card types I don’t care about.  The 400X SD card finished copying in 2:05.4, where the 1000X Compact Flash card took only 1:09.1, not quite twice as fast.

Next I plugged in the much older USB 2.0 reader, which was also a Kingston product.  I bought the USB 3 reader when I thought one of my kids had lost this one.  Since I knew I was soon getting a ThinkPad T430s with USB 3.0, I went ahead and got the latest thing.  Then my wife found the old reader.  Oh well, at least I have my own now.

Anyway, after running the tests, I was a little dumbfounded.  The SD card took 2:31.8, which gives USB 3.0 a decent 26 second advantage.  Since this was only 1/8 of the card capacity, that can really add up.  However, the 1000X card finished in 1:10.7, giving USB 3 a modest 1.6 second advantage.

I heard back from Lexar when I asked about incompatibility issues, and their reply was they were maintaining compatibility and would work with any customers experiencing issues., so I guess this is good news for people with USB 2.0 readers and PC’s with USB only 2.0 slots.  At some point I’ll try to re-run these tests on a USB 2.0-based machine.

The last test surprised me quite a bit.  I copied the same files from the SD card using my built-in SD card reader on my machine.  The 400X SD card was exactly ten seconds faster than the 1000X Compact Flash card!

I’m sure someone can explain the reasons why, but the lesson I take away from it is this:  just like all cards at the same rated speed don’t deliver the same performance, overall performance isn’t limited to the card.  Your reader makes and the machine itself can make a big difference, too…

Knowing what I know now, I’d probably buy 600X SD cards and slower Compact Flash cards as backup – my goal in buying 1000X cards (which are not-quite-twice the price of the 400X cards) was to get faster transfers off the cards.  My guess is 600X cards off the built-in reader would be faster than the 1000X cards for about half the price.

If your PC doesn’t have a built-in reader, the faster CF cards give you a big benefit, but if you do, the SD cards might be a faster an more affordable alternative…

Continuing Saga of CES: Lenspen

So between a busy day job and being a little under the weather, I’ve fallen behind in finishing up my CES experiences.  I’ve only got a couple left after this: Timbuk2 and my Nikon/Canon visits.  Today’s topic, however is Lenspen.

Ever tried to clean a filter and only have it wind up looking smeared and covered in tiny threads?  I’ve got pretty good microfiber from my auto detailing hobby and side business, and even my best stuff fails for photography filters.  On occasion, difficulty cleaning the filters has made me debate keeping them on the lens.  It sucks.

I’d heard references to Lenspen, but had never taken the time to look them up.  While a co-worker and I were wandering around, I happened to see their booth at CES.  I’m really glad I did.  I watched a demo, and picked up three different models.

LensPen is really simple:  You use the retractable natural-goat-hair brush (these are some hippy goats, that’s all I’m going to say about that…) to remove dust and particles from the lens surface.  Then you open the “pen” end, which is really a small concave rubber tip with a carbon-infused pad on it.  You wipe the lens clean using a steady circular motion and *voila* clean lens.  There is a filter model with a slightly flatter tip.  You re-charge the tip when you put the cap on and twist a bit – there is a reservoir of carbon material in the cap.

They rate each pen for 500 uses, which for me sounds like a years of use.  It works great, and I’m now satisfied that I can keep my filters and lenses clean.  They are probably available at your local camera store (and I mean the real camera store…) or, of course, at B&H.

One less thing to worry about…

When Gadgets Collide…

It all looks so innocent, doesn't it?

If you’re following the blog, you’ve heard me talk about two things recently:  my new tripod and head setup and the Black Rapid Strap.  I’m loving both of them:  The Arca-Swiss platform and L-bracket are just plain functional with a healthy dose of awesome, and the Black Rapid strap makes carrying your camera more comfortable and available.

One problem.  They don’t work together.

It isn’t so much that they can’t work together as they step on each other if I try to use them as they sit.  Here’s the issue:  If you look at the picture, you can see the fastener for the Black Rapid on the bottom of the camera (they cleverly call this the “FastenR-3” – sometimes marketing guys should restrain themselves…),  There is a handy hole in the bottom of the Really Right Stuff L-bracket for exactly that kind of thing.

Here’s the issue:  With the FastenR screwed into the L-bracket, I can’t mount the camera to my tripod unless I take the FastenR off.  That means I’m having to choose between quick and easy use of my tripod (which I love) and the easy-carrying strap unless I’m willing to unscrew the thing every time I want to put it on a tripod.

I don’t like that because:

  • (A) it is very inconvenient,
  • (B) it causes handling that puts me at higher risk of dropping my camera,and
  • (C) I’m worried that after a certain number of times through this cycle the threaded hole won’t hold as well as it should, and back out, dropping my equipment.  That may not be reality, but I don’t want to worry about it.  Half the point of the strap is to make the camera “disappear” when aren’t using it.

I have some ideas to fix it, and set the pieces in motion today (literally), so look for an update early next week.

In the meantime, have you had any gadgets fight each other?  Let’s hear some stories (and solutions)!

New Gadget: Back Rapid RS-7 Curve

The Black Rapid in action. Of course, that is a model from their website, not me 🙂

If there is an industry full of gadgets useful and not-so-useful (witness the $300 gloves recently annouced by Manfrotto), photography ranks near the top.  Being and Enthusiast Photographer means almost by definition that you’re on a budget.  Balancing what looks cool and useful against what you need to successfully improve your images can be a mysterious process at times.

I’ve made several purchases recently, but the first I’ll write about is the Black Rapid RS-7 Curve.  This is one of those things that makes you wonder why someone didn’t invent  it long ago.

Is the standard camera strap something you find a useful part of your kit?  Do you actually hang it around your neck like the classic tourist in the movies?  Do you hang the camera from your shoulder and find it secure and comfortable?

I’m guessing the answer to all of those questions is “No.”

Enter Black Rapid.  It is a sling that goes over your shoulder bandolier-style, with your camera hanging at the bottom.  It is secured by a screw mounted in the tripod mount of your camera (or lens if you have big glass with a built-in foot).  The screw has a rubber gasket that prevents damage as well as the screw coming loose.  A couple clips limit the range of swing by the camera.

The result is that the camera hangs perfectly and very comfortably on your hip, and is very naturally ready for action when it is time to take a picture.  Your hands quickly find the grip and you swing smoothly up to a shooting position.  The strap also gives you a little tension to use to steady your hands for a sharp shot.

They have several versions.  The higher-end models have modules you can add for storage, etc.  I can’t speak to any of the accessories, but the strap itself is just plain terrific, and they start a little over $50.  The camera is inconspicuous, comfortable and ready.  Highly recommended.  You can buy it at B&H or Amazon.  I’ll add a few pictures of the Black Rapid on my camera in the next few days – I’ll spare you the pictures of me ;).

Upcoming are blogs on the Ona Union Street bag and the new (used) tripod and head that is on the way to me (that will be a big one, or maybe several).

What gear are you thinking about?  You know, Santa is coming to town…