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Really "Seeing" a Landscape

As you look at this picture, what to you see? Ocean, sky, rugged shoreline?

Monterey Landscape

Those were the elements that I noticed as I hiked by. But as you look closer, you might see that the beach is filled with dozens and dozens of Harbor Seals. Many hikers missed it on that day. Make sure that doesn't happen to you.

The Clever Joby Micro 800 GorillaPod

joby_micro_800.jpg

This is ingenious. A compact, machined-metal, ball head, tripod that you can leave mounted on your camera, yet, it doesn't get in the way. That's the JOBY GorillaPod Micro 800that I've been testing. This particular size is great for Sony NEX, as well as Panasonic and Olympus micro four thirds, and other cameras that size. For the Olympus Mini and Panasonic GX 1, however, I would go a size down to the Micro 250.

When not in use, the metal legs fit beneath the camera. When you need to steady a shot, just spread them out and precisely position the camera using the "just the right amount of tension" ball head. After you get the photo, fold the legs together and be on your way.

The 800 runs around $24 and the 250 is about 12 bucks. Nimbleosity rating is 4.5 out of 5. Very cool!

iPad for Exercise Bike

When I travel, I'm impressed with the exercise bikes I see in modern hotel gyms. They have a complete multimedia setups that help pass the time while I'm peddling away. After I got an iPad 2 for a client assignment, I contemplated ways to put my original iPad to good use. Then the lightening bolt struck: upgrade my exercise bike.

Close Up of iPad on Bike

The iPad fits wonderfully on the handlebars. It's a great size for this use. But how to secure it? I used a modul R case with the optional hand strap. It protects the iPad and creates a snug fit.

Close Up of iPad Back

For the actual exercise, I use the CycleOps MAGNETO trainer with progressive resistance. It's easy to set up, and it provides a good workout with my street bike. (I bought mine a while back at REI. You can get good deals on older models.) During dreary winter months here in Northern CA, I set the bike up in the shooting room at the studio. If I have an assignment I need to work on, I can switch back to photography in just a few minutes.

Bike with CycleOps and iPad

Since I've added the iPad to this rig, I found that I'm riding longer, and loving it! I'm able to maintain my workout regiment regardless of the weather outside.


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social_media_handbook.jpg

Photographers and other creatives can help connect with others by understanding the benefits of social media. I think the best approach is "be yourself." Share with others the things you find interesting, and take interest in what others do.

How to accomplish that can be a bit more challenging. Fortunately, PhotoShelter is offering a very helpful guide titled The Photographer's Social Media Handbook to help us with those details. You can get the PDF by requesting it here, and they will send it to you (in two parts) via email. It's free, and it's quite well done.


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When I first picked up the Polaroid Z340at CES, the sensation was more old than new. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Polaroid Z340

Even though the Z340 has a digital camera on the inside, it feels and shoots like the traditional instant print cameras that were so popular in the 70s. Using a second generation ZINK printer engine, you get ample-sized 3" x 4" prints within minutes. The images look like the Polaroid prints of yesteryear.

But there's also a 14MP digital camera inside that writes files to an SD card. Controls include ISO settings, scene modes, and more. What you don't get is an optical zoom. Polaroid provides a fixed focal length lens, and if you dare, a 4X digital zoom (resist the temptation).

I liked the tradition wedge-shaped design that's now outfitted with a pop-up LCD screen. The menus were easy to navigate, although you probably want to just snap a picture and enjoy what emerges from the printer.

Is the new Polaroid Z340 worth the $299 price tag?That depends on what you need. As a digital camera, no. But as an instant print device with digital backup, quite possibly. It's easier to use than standalone instant printers, more compact, and much cooler looking. I found it hard to put down.

I'm back from Las Vegas, and my "travel light" system worked! This week, I talk about small planes, hotel life, and highlights from CES. Lots of fun stuff that you won't want to miss.

Las Vegas Sunset

Listen to the Podcast

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You can also download the podcast here (32 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Mobile Phone is the Jan. 2012 Photo Assignment. Entries must be captured with a mobile device. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Jan. 31, 2012.

Special Offer from SizzlPix!

20% Discount for Jan. 2012 - So we can build up a gallery of SizzlPix! made from cell phone images. Any TDS listener/reader gets a 20% discount on SizzlPix!â„¢ Hi Definition Photographyâ„¢ made from pictures shot with T-Mobile My Touch Slide 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, or Apple's iPhone 4S.

SizzlPix! may be from 18" to 60" in the longest dimension. Photographer's cropping will be honored.

Shipping will be within one week. Photographer gives us permission to publicize, with credit, their SizzlPix! made from a cell phone original in yours and our on-line galleries and blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, Google+. etc.

When you fill out your order form for the SizzlPix, add "TDS Jan Offer" to get the discount.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

You might also want to check out my article, Artistic Gifts You Can Make in an Hour.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.




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The Making of "Pro Roller Swing"

I found a motorized "lazy Susan" in the garage the other day, and asked myself, "What could I do with this?" I had just seen the movie Hugo that features the filmmaking pioneer Georges Méliès. One of Georges' favorite tricks in the old days was to stop the camera, change the scene, the start filming again. This created the illusion of things appearing and disappearing.

derrick_movie_making.jpg The set for recording Pro Roller Swing.

I thought that it would be fun to honor the work of this early filmmaker, use the motorized lazy Susan, and check-off an assignment request from a client... all at the same time. So I set up the shooting room to make this short, fun movie.

I used natural window light with a large white fill card for the lighting. I added a bit of sparkle to the bag using a small LED panel on a boom. I recorded the footage with a Canon 60D and the 16-35mm f/2.8 L zoom. I edited the movie in Final Cut Pro X. The royalty free music was created by Kevin MacLeod.

I decided to keep that lazy Susan in the studio for now, instead of the garage. Who knows what else I'll think of to do with it?


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Field Test of the Panasonic Lumix GX1

This field report, including photos, is contributed by TDS member, Ed Shields. I also took a look at the GX1 while at CES, and enjoyed testing it in the short time I had with it. I'll talk more about that in the comments of this article.

As one would expect, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1is very identifiable as belonging to the Lumix line of cameras -- a comfortable, solid feel in the hand, solid feeling dials, control wheel, and buttons for the many external controls. And to me, a very intuitive menu system.

Illustration 1.jpg

I feel that even if one didn't have previous experience with a Lumix camera, one could easily pick it up and use it without reading the manual. Most likely due to size and form factor, the similarity of the external controls are closer between the GX1 and the LX5 than with the G1. One thing I really appreciate is the fact that the main control dial only has a single icon for jpg scene mode vs the G1's and and my 60D's cluttered practice of squeezing 150 different scene mode icons onto the mode dial. Some early reviewers have faulted the metal 4-way controller buttons as being largely unreadable. My aging eyes are no longer good enough for manual focus, but I don't have any problem reading them in all but the dimmest, almost dark, light.

Image Quality

Because Aperture 3 does not yet support RAW conversion for the GX1 (as of Jan. 2012), I shot everything with RAW+JPG and imported the JPGs into Aperture. I don't shoot high speed action photography, so I don't normally shoot JPG. I wasn't really expecting stellar performance with the GX1, especially since everything I've read or seen about the Olympus PEN cameras having such great OOC (out of camera) JPGs. What I got out of the Lumix was just so-so at best. I felt they were a bit soft and flat. I suppose one could tweak the GX1 settings to increase sharpness and saturation to get better results, but I didn't go there as I discovered that on the Adobe Labs site they had a release candidate LR3 update that supports the GX1 RAW conversion.

So I downloaded it and imported both JPGs and RAW images into LR3. Nice! With only a minor boost in Clarity/Definition and Vibrance to about 18-20 and a slight nudge of sharpness from LR's default 25 to about 28 or so the image quality was excellent. If one sets these as a camera specific import adjustment it would be all that is needed for many grab images and an excellent starting point for those images where one desires local adjustments and further artistic expression. One caveat, I haven't printed anything yet, but I have no reason to expect anything less than excellent print quality for 11 x 14 or 16 x 19 inch prints.

One thing I did discover after comparing the LR3 RAW to JPG images is that rather than the JPGs universally being somewhat soft and flat, I feel they're more inconsistent. Take a look at the images below. There's a clear difference between the RAW and JPG in the Poinsettia images.

OOC_FM_AP3.jpg Out of Camera Jpeg from the GX1.



fm_RAW_in_LR3.jpg Processed RAW file from the GX1.

In this ocean image I don't see much difference between the RAW and JPG. If anything, I like the JPG better and need to go back and lighten the shadows in the RAW image. Its inconsistency is the same with others, hence my opinion that OOC JPGs are inconsistent vs. a bit soft and flat. But the RAW images all are consistent and excellent.

ocean_ooc.jpg Out of Camera Jpeg from the GX1.



ocean_RAW.jpg Processed RAW file from the GX1.

There are more images on my Flickr site -- all processed as RAW in LR3.

General Use, Shooting, and Handling

I purchased the GX1 with the non-powered 14-42mm zoom lensas I'm generally not a fan of power zoom lenses (I have my LX5 zoom programmed to discrete focal length increments, and with my S90, I have the lens ring set the same way, which isn't too bad). But the GX1 kit 14-42mm zoom is nowhere near the quality of the older 14-45mm kit zoom that came with my G1.

Besides looking and feeling rather cheap, zooming with it is more akin to turning a rusty faucet rather than a lens zoom ring. I know that's an exaggeration, but you get the point. It's quickly been relegated to the back shelf of my closet until it's time to sell my G1. Except for a few early images, all the rest were shot with either the older 14-45mm zoom or the 20mm pancake lens.

Except for one area, I find the handling and control of the GX1 excellent, very straight forward, and intuitive -- with external wheels, knobs or buttons for most functions. There are two configurable Fn buttons but I haven't had the chance to explore them yet. The generous hand grip is a pleasure to use.

The only real con I've discovered is that the rear thumb grip is rather small and too close to the rear control wheel. My hands are only medium size at best, but my natural grip covers both the thumb grip and thumb wheel, which when depressed, toggles between aperture or shutter speed and exposure compensation. I need to develop the muscle memory to keep my thumb away from the wheel and in the meantime make frequent checks that I haven't accidentally changed something.

Lenses

gx1_with_pancake.jpg

Although the 14-45mm is well balanced and not over powering for the GX1, it definitely loses a "nimbilosity" star. I can comfortably walk around all day with it hanging from a neck strap, but it's a bit large, for say, putting on the table when going out to dinner. The 20mm pancake is much better, but not wide enough for my liking. I've already ordered the pancake 14mm pancake, which I suspect will live on the camera with the 20mm in my pocket. When available, the 14-42mm power zoom might be an option that would provide a bit more flexibility and still maintain a 4 star "nimbilosity" rating (assuming the S90, 95 and 100 are the 5 star standard).

Touch Screen

I briefly tried the touch screen. My feeling is that touch focusing could be real useful when the camera was on a tripod. But having it on for general use is a pain, unless one turns the camera off after each shot. The problem is that while on a neck strap the constant hitting movement and handling causes the camera to constantly change focus location, or worse if one has full touch screen activated but aperture and exposure compensation settings as well. For me it's infinitely easier to center focus and recompose.

Exposure and White Balance

As with my other Lumix cameras, I find auto white balance to be fine in just about any light other than low light where flash is required. It's almost always fine as is but if a post processing adjustment is required, it's only a minor tweak one and that more often than not for personal artistic preference. Speaking of flash, the built in flash is for minor fill flash at best as witnessed by several of my Flickr photos.

Initially, I thought exposure was spot on, unlike my G1 or LX5 that consistently need a -1/3 compensation adjustment. However when I view the GX1 files in LR3 or AP3 they also seem to be overexposed by 1/3, the difference being that the GX1 LCD histogram doesn't necessarily show this.

Battery

I haven't done any precise testing, but in general use the battery feels to be noticeably less robust compared to either of my other Lumix cameras. This is just an observation I have by viewing the remaining battery indicator at the end of a day's shooting.

Final Thoughts

Overall I'm very satisfied with the GX1. It feels great in the hand, has lots of external controls, an intuitive menu system, and excellent RAW image quality (albeit JPG just so-so). Overall I'd rate it at least 4.5 stars (out of 5). Nimbilosity is probably quite different for different people, especially considering where they are starting from, but with any pancake lens it's a solid 4 star for me (deduct at least a 1/2 star with the 14-45 non-powered zoom). For traveling both the GX1 with the 14-45mm zoom and 20mm pancake, plus the LX5, and the chargers -- all fit nicely in my Lowepro Nova 160 AW.

As I mentioned previously, I've already ordered the 14mm pancake, which will probably live on the camera with the 20mm in my pocket. When readily available, and depending on the reviews, the new 14-42mm power zoom may be a nice option. But for me, I want to upgrade my G1 to a GH2(3?) before my wife and I go to Peru later this summer. So budget wise, the zoom upgrade is probably way down the road.

Is it a perfect camera? No. For me a perfect camera would have the GX1 form factor and price with in-body stabilization and a tilt LCD (like the the Sony Nex 7).

When I get the 14mm, and as I continue to use this camera, I'll shoot Derrick an quick update if I uncover anything substantially different from this review.


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Whacky Favorite Shots from CES

When you watch people and technology collide, have your camera ready. It's a playing field for interesting photography.

As expected, 3D was a major theme at the 2012 show. Here, however, an attendee is having a personal experience.

Sony Personal 3D Viewer
Sony personal 3D viewing experience.

And how our backs get tired during the long days on the trade show floor. Fortunately, Inada was there with high-tech massage chairs for all.

Inada - World's Best Massage Chair

There's more in my Flickr set titled Wonderful, Fascinating CES, including a portrait of Rohan Marley, Short White Skirts, and a solar charging station for mobile phones.


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Samsung - A Force to Be Reckoned With

The question that surfaces in nearly every conversation here at CES is, "Have you seen the Samsung booth?" Not only is it amazing in terms of design and dazzle, but looking at the contents there, it's clear that this company has become a major force in the technology world.

Samsung Smart TV Display at CES The Samsung booth at CES 2012

In my normal life, I hear mostly about this Korean giant in terms of their cameras, such as the Samsung NX10APS-C camera system, or about the battle with Apple in the smart phone arena. Their latest Samsung Galaxy S II 4G Android Phoneis a good example of their excellent hardware.

But when you enter the booth at CES, you see so much more -- super thin OLED big screen TVs, 3D cinema quality Internet connected TVs, a plethora of digital devices, and a whole lot of people interested in them.

Samsung LED TV Series 8 Samsung LED TV Series 8 with stunning picture quality.

It's clear that Samsung is a driven company. Competitors beware.


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