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The eye-catching feature of the Solio Mono charger is the 3" solar cell that can charge the internal 1000Amh Lithium-Ion battery. And indeed, this is a selling point for the device.

But if you're going to be happy with this purchase, you'll have to take a broader view and see this as an all-purpose back-up charger for your iPhone, digital camera, handheld GPS, or other small electronic device. That's because the easiest and quickest way to recharge its Lithium battery is via the USB port on your laptop or with a separate USB charger. This only takes a few hours. If you have to depend on the sun for a full recharge, it will take a few days. And that's only if you have direct sun shining on the device.

So the way you might want to think about the Solio Mono is that it's a back up charger for you small electronics that his its own back up via its solar cell.

I purchased one at the Apple Store for $79 specifically to charge my iPhone 3GS while working in the field. This particualar kit comes with the connections required for iPhones and iPods. The same charger is also available on Amazon for $59, but I couldn't tell which specific connections that kit came with. Either charger has the ability to replenish thousands of devices, it just depends on having the right connection, such as an Apple Dock Connector, for your particular gizmo.

You can tell how full its battery is by the number of green blinks you get when you push the clear button on the back of the device. Each blink indicates 20 percent charge. So, five blinks is full, and one blink is 20 percent.

I was happy with how the Solio charged my iPhone. For example, when the iPhone was at 59 percent charge, I connected the Solio via its dock connector cable. I pressed the clear button to initiate the charge, and 90 minutes later the iPhone was back to 100 percent full. The Solio charger still had 40 percent capacity, leading me to believe that it can come close to fully charging the iPhone.

I generally replenish the Solio's battery using its USB cable and the iPhone USB wall charger. It usually takes a few hours to top off the Solio after I've used it. I've also tried recharging the Solio via its solar cell. I got about 20 percent charge for every 5 hours of direct sun. I will use this feature more when camping to gather as much energy as possible, especially for topping off the Solio's battery. I like this option as a back up feature. Just don't get it in your mind that you're purchasing a solar charger that will keep your electronic device running on a daily basis.

To carry the Solio kit, I'm using the Lowepro 4.3-Inch Navi Shield GPS Carrying Case that holds the charger itself perfectly in the internal pouch, plus all of the cords and connecters in the secure mesh area. It almost seems as though the Navi Shield was designed specifically for the Solio Mono.

Overall, I like the Solio-Mono. I'll charge it completely before I hit the road, then top it off using the solar cell. By keeping my iPhone charged, I know I'll always have a 3-megapixel camera, voice, SMS, email, and Internet available as long as there's a cellular connection.

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If children aren't the most popular subjects for photography, they are definitely near the top of the list. The challenge, as I see it, is that most snapshooters don't really take a moment to consider the best way to capture shots of young ones. Yes, they are usually cute regardless of how casually we approach them with the camera. But there's potential for so much more.

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In the article, 7 Tips for Photographing Children, the editors at Virtual Photography Studio help you think more carefully about your approach, enabling you to capture more meaningful memories. Keep these thoughts in mind the next time an opportunity presents itself.

Photo by Landon Michaelson.


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So Lady Like... and Such a Guy

Nothing like a birdbath to highlight the difference between males and females. I have a little backyard garden at my studio that I enjoy all day through a sliding glass door next to my desk. I maintain this little ecosystem for my distraction, plus it's a constant source of fresh images. Why drive to the mountain when its habitants will come to you?

One of the features in my own private Eden is a makeshift birdbath. It's heavily used, so I change the water daily and keep it shallow because, well, the birds like it that way. Just like with any creature you observe daily, you get to know their habits and quirks. In this case, the difference between some males and females.

The female in the top photo was very lady like as she bathed her feet and freshened up. The male, on the other hand, just bent over and stuck his head in the drink. I'm sure he burped afterward too.

Both images captured with a 5D Mark II and a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L zoom. The female shot was tethered to a MacBook Pro (located behind the curtain) running EOS Utility. The shot of the male... just handheld. He wasn't nearly as shy. You can click on either image to enlarge.


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"Mama, don't let your sons grow up to be photographers," at least according to Wall Street Journal's Best and Worst Jobs 2010. Says the WSJ, "The 200 best and worst jobs in the U.S. in 2009 were based on five criteria -- environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress -- according to a newly released study from job site CareerCast.com.".

Of course things could be worse: you want to be a photojournalist. That ranks #189. Ten slots below "Roofer." This is why I became a blogger too. Oh wait, "Blogger" didn't even make the list. Oh my...

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I've been following the news from CES in Las Vegas, and I'm amazed at how many compact cameras are being announced. It's not just the variety of manufacturers that dazzles me, but the sheer number of models each camera maker is releasing.

For example, Sony announced 12 Cyber-shot compacts, Olympus chimed in with at least 9 new models, Panasonic adds 5 more, Samsung lists 4 new models, Canon released 4 new compacts, and I'm sure there are others I have forgotten. Are we buying that many point and shoots?

I thought the walls were closing in on the standard point and shoot. I mean, these days we have smart phones that are capturing 3 and 5 megapixel images, and micro four thirds systems that are half the size of traditional DSLRs. Don't get me wrong, I love compact cameras, but there's a lot of competition out there. Even a photo geek like me only buys a new compact every 18 months or so. And I know a lot of people with cameras that are 3 years or older.

So, I'm curious. How often do you buy a compact camera? Please post a comment and let us know. Maybe I'm totally off-base about this whole quantity thing.


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Aperture Workshop at Macworld 2010

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I'll be leading a 2-day workshop at Macworld 2010 titled, Professional Photography Adventure with Aperture. The dates are Feb. 9 & 10 at Moscone Center in San Francisco. I think the title of the seminar is particularly appropriate for this year's class. There's always the chance that Aperture 3 will be released before Macworld, giving us the opportunity to have the first full workshop on the updated photo management application. Plus, I've been working on ways to integrate Aperture into a broader photo workflow, and I'll be covering that too.

Either way, this is going to be a wild ride. So I hope you join me. You can sign up now at the Macworld site.


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Do You Have a Spare USB Port?

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There were lots of great announcements today from Canon, Eye-Fi, and Lexar. But one of my favorite new goodies may have been overshadowed by all of the hoopla: the 32GB Echo ZE Backup Drive (also from Lexar) that provides anytime backup of files because it resides barely noticeable in a spare USB port.

The Echo also comes with automatic backup software: " Built-in Lexar Echo backup software securely and automatically encrypts files and performs ongoing backup to any files in use, targeting essential files to help protect your working data. It also easily restores previously saved versions of a file, preventing you from accidentally overwriting or deleting files. And the software works across platforms with one seamless interface, allowing you to easily back up or restore files on either a PC or a Mac system."

Lexar says the Echo ZE Backup Drive is coming soon. I'll keep an eye peeled and let you know when I see it.


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In this follow-up to last week's show, I finally nail down my photography workflow for 2010. I've decided to go the "referenced file" approach. So I purchased a new LaCie 320GB Rugged Triple Interface Portable Hard Drive (7200 rpm), cleaned off the hard drive on my MacBook Pro, and designed a totally flexible photo management system. You can hear all of the details in this week's show.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (19 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Slippery is the Jan. 2010 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Jan. 31, 2010.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


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Camera Club Specials for Jan. 2010

Here's a new Digital Story feature for 2010: Camera Club Specials. Once a month I receive a list of deals on photography gear from the folks over at B&H Photo. I sift through the list and pick a few items to feature as club specials for the month. If you see something you like, just click on the link to read more about it on its product page. Enjoy!

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Special #1: Lowepro Toploader 65 AW Camera Holster Bag - Color: Black; Condition: Brand new/Never used -- In original manufacturer's packaging -- $29.95

Special #2: Canon Selphy ES40 Compact Photo Printer - $89.95, plus you can save another $50 via Canon rebate (offer ends 1/31/2010)

Special #3: Xuma SEP-10 In-Ear Stereo Earphones - pouch and extra sleeves included -- $19.95

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Special #4: Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens - USA warranty, for APS sensor Canons such as the 50D, Rebel T1i, and Rebel XSi -- special price ends on 1/16/10 -- free shipping -- $392


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Tripods Getting Smarter Too

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The march of innovation affects everything, not just the latest digital camera or computer. Tripods are an excellent case in point. Take a look at the new Davis & Sanford Traverse Tripod ($169) that folds up ingeniously to a mere 16", but extends to a comfortable 57".

Other companies, such as Benro, offer the Travel Angel Aluminum Tripod, ($231) that's a full-featured, sturdy camera support with legs that also fold up over the tripod head resulting in a compact unit you can take just about anywhere.

Even traditional brands, such as Manfrotto, offer a 4-Section Tripod with Ballhead ($115) that's relatively compact (19" folded) and supports most DSLRs and all compacts.

My point is, if you haven't looked at tripods lately, like everything else, they have continued to improve. And chances are, you can get something just right for your needs that fits within your budget.


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