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Author Archive for Leah Hallett

Scosche boomBOTTLE rugged weatherproof wireless speaker review

Let me start off by saying the Scosche boomBOTTLE is a really nice speaker for cycling, or for wherever you want to carry your music.  This speaker has high quality construction, great sound, durable rugged exterior, splash proof design, and it fits in most bicycle water bottle cages and cupholders.  If you frequently participate in outdoor activities including camping, hiking, canoeing, bicycle touring, laying by the pool, or splish-splashing in your bathtub, you’ll be very pleased with the sound coming from this 6W speaker. Read More →

Image quality evaluation – how does your device score?

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These days everyone and their mother has a camera, be it cell phone, pocketable point-and-shoot, or expensive DSLR with interchangeable lenses. The more discerning (geeky) photographer who is on the prowl for a new device will want to find a credible independent source for image quality testing. I have found such a place, DxO Lab’s DxOMark. On the DxOMark web site you can find image quality measurements for the latest-and-greatest in cell phones, digital cameras, and interchangeable lenses. They score a number of different quality characteristics and offer an easy way to tag and compare devices from their extensive database. You can use separate scores to determine which cell phone has better individual qualities, like exposure or low-light noise performance. Pick and choose which individual score matters most for your type of shooting.  Read More →

Poo~Pourri, an awkward subject and rather, well, smelly

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We all know poo happens, but did you know it doesn’t have to stink?  Yep, you heard me right, you can have stink-less #2 too by pre-treating your loo with a product called Poo~Pourri.  One of our most advanced senses, our sense of smell, isn’t fooled by covering up poo odor with fragrance.   Poo~Pourri doesn’t just cover it up, it creates a barrier for it.  The magic of Poo~Pourri lies in its use of essential oils.  Spritzed as a pre-treatment mist in the toilet bowl, the oils form a topical blockade for foul aromas.  Trap those smelly suckers beneath the water in the bowl and flush them straight away.  The all natural oils are infused with quite agreeable odors such as Lemongrass, Jasmine, Eucalyptus, and Blood Orange, over 20 different scents in all.  The product is receiving positive reviews, and customers are reporting it is poo~rrific.  It’s not an aerosol, and there are no harsh chemicals involved, so not to worry about the occasional splash.  If the shared bathroom at your workplace is in a location nearest you, I say increase your sense of serenity and avoid the daily threat of malodorous poo~roma wafting near your desk.  Give holiday gifts of Poo~Pourri to all co-workers. Read More →

Tablet atop a tripod – my screen’s bigger than your screen

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AllPuter.com is offering the Tablet / iPad Holder / Mount w/ Adapter Ready for Camera Tripod that transforms your tablet into a tripod-mounted camera with an extra-large viewing screen.  Taking photos of family and friends from a tripod inevitably leads to a small crowd of eyeballs glaring down on the tiny camera LCD screen to review the pictures; everyone wants to check what goofy expression the shutter captured in that fraction of a second.  Mounting a tablet on a tripod ensures a steady shot, and the tablet’s seven-to-ten inch screen allows more room to view your always-a-possibility uncomplimentary pose.  You could also continue to shoot with your camera and use the tripod mounted tablet as a wireless remote viewer for instant gratification.  It could be used for small group slide shows or presentations for school.  If you set it up in the corner of an educational seminar, you could record the speaker live - if allowed of course.  Recently released tablets are sporting higher resolution cameras with more sophisticated controls and features.  We will likely see more family photographers out there opting for the easier to view larger screen that a tablet can provide.

  • Holds a maximum of 2.2lbs
  • Mounts to any standard tripod head
  • Universal 4-point grip holders for tablets measuring  5” – 8” height and 7” – 10.1” diagonally
  • A panning and control handle for smoother pans
  • Quickly and easily mounts to your tripod
  • One button quick release

You can purchase the AllPuter.com holder/mount now for a retail price of a mere $7.95.

RAVPower FileHub RP-WD01 WiFi file hub, SD card reader, and power bank review

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Do you want to expand the accessible storage of your tablet or smartphone but can’t because they don’t have an SD/microSD slot or USB port to do so?  The RAVPower  FileHub RP-WD01 3000 mAh power bank is a portable, self-powered WiFi file hub that doesn’t require any physical connection to your device.  The FileHub can transfer files via 802.11b/g/n or from external USB hard drives, flash drives, or more portable SD cards, and it can add storage to your needy devices.  Basically any USB-connected or SD card storage you have laying around will work.  The great thing is the FileHub gives you device independent flexibility.  If you’re at an event in charge of photo documenting with your phone, you can offload the entire group of photos wirelessly to the storage attached to the FileHub.  The photos are ready to share with guests as soon as they’re written accessible whether they’re on an Android or iOS device. Read More →

Photoshop CC plus Lightroom 5, $9.99 a month, for life?

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Adobe has received a huge backlash of negative comments from current users of Photoshop CS about expensive Creative Cloud pricing.  In an effort to make numerous frugal photographers happy, actually let’s say less upset, Adobe is throwing current users a “bone-us”.

During a recent Photoshop World conference in Las Vegas, Adobe announced a significant drop in the Photoshop-only $19.99 monthly fee to a $9.99 monthly fee.  They also sweetened the offer significantly by adding Lightroom 5.2.   Adobe is calling this special bundle the “Photoshop Photography Program”.  Don’t look for the deal yet though, it won’t show up on the Adobe CC site until the week of September 16th.  A caveat – you must be a previous owner of CS3 or higher, and unfortunately, owners of the Adobe Creative Suite products do not qualify.  Yep, if you bought the most expensive full suite, you won’t qualify!  That part sucks, and I feel for those owners/businesses.

Despite this still being “rental” software, IMHO this is good news for many enthusiast photographers like myself.  We still want to receive the frequent feature updates to Photoshop, but we don’t want it to break the bank.  (Do I really neeeeeed Netflix?)  You may well already know, CS6 will only be updated with bug fixes, but new features upgrades are no longer added.  Sadly, the desktop versions of Photoshop are at the end of their line.

Here’s what you get:

  • Photoshop CC
  • Lightroom 5.2
  • 20 GB of online storage
  • Behance ProSite – Build and manage your personal portfolio site
  • Access to Creative Cloud training and support resources
  • Ongoing upgrades and updates

One fear of mine was that Adobe could still jack-up the monthly fee in coming years at will, but I received an email today stating the $9.99 monthly fee is for life.  It wasn’t from Adobe, but it did help take the edge off that fear.  It was from KelbyTraining.com or  Scott Kelby.  Mr. Kelby is someone I think, surely hope, we can trust.  He is a very well-respected Photoshop educator, author, publisher of Photoshop User Magazine and president of the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals).  Adobe only stated that this is not an introductory price for previous owners, but didn’t go as far as saying “for life”.  We shall see I guess.

Don’t forget, you MUST sign-up by December 31st to get this bundle at a reduced monthly price.  If you have already purchased Adobe Creative Cloud Photoshop at the original price it will automatically be switched to the new cheaper price.

What do you think? Post your thoughts.

iCPooch is a video chat, treat-dispensing soother for your anxious dog

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Brooke Martin, a 13 year-old aspiring scientist from Spokane Washington, has recently been named a top-ten finalist in the nationwide 2013 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.  Her entry, a product called iCPooch, is designed to help dogs (and their owners) with the separation anxiety that often comes from being apart. We’ve all witnessed those bad pet behaviors that crop up when you’re away from your dog for a long stretch; getting in the trash, relieving themselves on your favorite rug, chewing on a pricey pair of shoes, or scratching away at the already seen-better-days wallpaper in the bathroom.

iCPooch helps to sooth your dog by allowing them to see and hear your familiar, caring face and voice.  Using two-way Skype video chat (auto-answer mode) with a smartphone or tablet that’s attached to a wireless electronic treat dispenser, you can pacify your pooch’s nerves at a dog’s-eye level from virtually anywhere.  I can imagine this being used for kitties, too.

The unit uses a Raspberry Pi, WiFi-enabled motherboard to connect to your wireless home network and an attached motor to dispense the treat.  Login through an iCPooch password protected web portal using any internet-connected device (regardless of operating system) from afar to send a “drop treat” signal to the unit.

iCPooch is a current Kickstarter project with a pledge goal of $70,000.  The funding period ends Tuesday October 1st, 2013 at 2:08am EDT.  A pledge of $99 or more will get you one iCPooch device and a sample of the iCPooch dog cookies.

Braven 625s Bluetooth speaker review

First things first.  Do you enjoy listening to clear clean voices with readily identifiable instruments and feel a little uneasy with big booming bass?  Then the portable Braven 625s speaker, built for the outdoors thanks to a rugged rubber exterior, should be a Bluetooth speaker at the top of your wish list.  I usually stream movies and music to a Sony home theater system, or a set of Bose speakers and the sound quality from both is, well, “lifelike”.  The Braven isn’t home theater or Bose sound quality, but take it with you outside on the patio, on an impromptu camping trip, around the office or to a party with friends and you’ll absolutely love it just as much. Read More →

Sony changes form and future of mirrorless cameras plus three new lenses

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A New Sony DSLR camera was announced today – but hold on, it only “looks” like a DSLR.  The Sony A3000 is actually an E-mount mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera cloaked as a DSLR.  If you want a mirrorless that has a wrap-your-fingers-around proper DSLR-type handgrip, this might be an interesting choice.  The specs look pretty good, but definitely shout strictly entry-level lightweight body.  One of the biggest advantages I see for this Sony is the remarkably low price tag of $399.  Yep, $399.  If the image quality pans out, Sony could make a real dent in the entry level DSLR market. Read More →

Eagle Tech Neptor 5600mAh portable battery pack review

Several times over the last couple of years, I’ve been left high and dry because my smartphone battery was so drained I wanted to “save” it in case of an emergency. There were still calls/texts/photos/global positioning I needed to do, but with no convenient place to recharge my phone, I was out of luck. That perfect photo opportunity – lost. Lost in an unfamiliar location with no GPS. If I kept a small battery pack like the Neptor in my purse or pocket I wouldn’t run into these dilemmas. The Eagle Tech Neptor Battery pack is so small, you can carry it with you everywhere and not worry about feeling helpless with a dead cell phone. Read More →

Olympus OMD E-M1 photos and hands-on video leaked

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A prominent gear-related site was recently hacked, and a link to a “hands-on” video by Olympus technical specialist Rick Sasserath was leaked. The video demonstrated the not yet released Olympus OMD E-M1.  It has since been removed, but stills from the video are easily found.  If you do a search, it’s still possible to even find the video available.

Olympus owners are giving the camera a mixed review, due partially to the larger size of the hand grip and the possibility of a $1500 body-only price tag.  In the pics, the grip appears odd or disproportionate to the body.  The E-M1 looks to inherit many of its features and its appearance from the very popular high-end OMD E-M5; it looks to be the same approximate size and weight as the OMD E-M5.

Reports from the video state that the E-M1 will focus with both Micro Four Thirds AND Four Thirds lenses with almost equal speed due to a new hybrid auto focus.  Currently Four Thirds lenses on a Micro Four Thirds body are exceedingly slow and tend to hunt.  The MMF-3 adapter will still be required to mount Four Thirds lenses to the E-M1.

This is fantastic news for current owners of what I consider, optically, the best lenses I’ve ever used, native Four Thirds lenses.  Enjoying bird photography as I do, the Four Thirds-mount Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm SWD f/2.8-f/3.5 (100-400mm equivalent) is simply outstanding. It’s extremely sharp across the entire frame and versatile, and it remains sharp even when attaching the 1.4x tele.  Even better news: the lens can be had for as low as $550 currently on the used market, though that may rise quickly due to the capable E-M1.

Also notable is the addition of WiFi, the removal of the AA filter, and 9fps continuous drive.  Still to have a 16mp sensor and excellent 5-axis image stabilization built in to the body.

The appeal of Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the E-M1 to DSLR users continues to be size, weight, and a now top-of-the-line lens system.  When you talk about comparing total weight of the camera including lenses to either Canon or Nikon DSLRs, the Four Thirds system will almost always come out on top.

Luxi converts your iPhone into an incident light meter

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The Luxi, created by Extrasensary Devices, takes the light meter app for iPhones one step further by adding an actual physical adapter.  Professional hand held light meters tend to be bulky and expensive.  Luxi is a small inexpensive adapter that manages to do the same thing as a professional meter – help capture a well exposed photo.  The dome shaped diffuser fits over your iPhone’s front facing camera.  Snap on the adapter, load the Luxi version of the “Pocket Light Meter” app and you have a hand held incident light meter.

Incident light meters like the Luxi measure light falling on your subject as opposed to reflective meters which measure light reflected from your subject.  Reflective meters, like the ones built-in to digital cameras, can be fooled by bright, dark, or shiny backgrounds because they measure the light across the entire frame.

We’ve all snapped that photo of someone in front of a bright window and been disappointed with the results.  The subject is an underexposed dark silhouette.  Using an iPhone with the Luxi installed, move in close to your subject and accurately measure only the intensity of light falling on the subject, not the entire scene.

You can use your camera’s spot meter to try to match the results of an incident meter, but there are other variables that may interfere with reflective metering.  Textures, ultra-reflective surfaces and even colors.

Extrasensary Devices successfully funded the Luxi project through Kickstarter platform and is now shipping the adapter for the iPhone 4/4S and 5.  Priced at $29.95 there’s little excuse not to explore your metering options.  You can download the “Pocket Light Meter” app form the App Store. Unfortunately, Luxi is not available for Android phones.

Leonardo, an advanced photo editor app for iPad and iPhone

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Have you often wished for an image editor app with a magic wand tool to make selective image adjustments for your iPhone or iPad?  Do you long to post process your iOS device photos using more sophisticated tools like a clone tool, text tool or paint tool with adjustable brush sizes and hardness?  Leonardo, a full-featured photo editor for iOS, could grant you that wish.  Published by Pankaj Goswami, the recently released Leonardo is available now in the App Store at a 60% discount of $1.99 during an unknown promotion period.

The app works well whether you create a layered collage of vacation photos or a complicated selection of an unwanted background.  You can even feather the edge of a background selection and invert it so only your main subject is selected for a copy and paste into a more pleasing background.  You can then transform your copy and pasted selection for more realistic proportions.  Read More →

Facebook public post embedding announced

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Is Facebook moving away from a mainly private social network?  Until now, there wasn’t an easy way to embed Facebook status updates, posts, or your favorite photo/video of the moment into other news websites or blogs.  Well, today that all changed.  Facebook wants to branch out into more “live” web events – think Twitter-esque.  Only a handful of websites (Bleacher Report, CNN, Huffington Post, Mashable, and PEOPLE) are currently participating, but it’s expected to spread quickly.

As soon as availability is expanded, the drop-down dialog box that lives at the upper right of your Facebook posts will include a click option to “Embed Post”.  This will open a new window that includes the HTML code to copy/paste to embed your post in its original form to a news or blog site, much like the code used to embed a YouTube video.

Embedding will only work on posts that are open to the public or posted by someone that allows non-friend followers.  Liking and sharing posts would be available without ever loading Facebook, though they would update back to Facebook.  To participate, the website must install a Facebook plug-in to enable embedding Facebook posts.

Facebook already added hashtags; now the potential for other sites to show and update Facebook posts in their original form blurs the line even further between Facebook and Twitter.  You have to wonder how popular this will be considering most posts on Facebook are not set to Public.

SanDisk introduces wireless flash storage drives

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Flash drives aren’t anything new, wireless storage devices aren’t either, but SanDisk has managed to combine the two in a fun, ultra-portable, attractive USB drive.  SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drives include a 16GB or 32GB option, while the larger cube-shaped SanDisk Connect Media drives include 32GB or 64GB versions, both for sharing your stored photos, documents, movies and music wirelessly amongst your mobile devices.  You can even easily expand this storage space further.  The flash drive has a microSD slot, while the media drive includes a handy standard SDHC card slot.  Nice!

SanDisk’s goal is to save us the need to locate cables, cords, or a USB plug when you want to transfer files to other mobile devices.  None of these are necessary, nor is an internet connection to access or transfer files wirelessly, BUT it does require use of a SanDisk Android, iOS, or Web app available on the App Store, Google play or Amazon.  Access is WiFi password-protected, and the wireless range is pretty good at 150 ft.

Battery life on the flash drive is about four hours, while the media drive doubles that to eight hours.  Both devices offer eight simultaneous device connections. The flash drive allows three HD media streams, while the media drive offers five.

Destined to be popular for travel/location photography or anyone who needs to beam files wirelessly on the go, I think SanDisk has a winner here.

Pricing for the Flash drive is $49.99 for the 16GB and $59.99 for the 32GB version.  The larger Connect Media Drive price comes in at $79.99 for the 32GB and $99.00 for the 64GB version.  They are available right now for preorder from Amazon, Newegg, and Micro Center.

Canon Pixma Comix app on Facebook review

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Ever daydreamed of being a character in your very own comic strip? Now with Canon’s new Pixma Comix App on the Canon U.S.A. Facebook page, you can do just that, for free. Use six images (either uploaded or already on Facebook) to embarrass yourself, friends, or family for many years to come in a printable personalized comic strip. You can even add images or individual frames captured from video via Canon’s Full HD Movie Print technology. Read More →

Panasonic announces the Lumix DMC-FZ70

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Ever wish you could take a tighter shot of something, but you just couldn’t get close enough for a good quality picture?  Well, with its 20mm wide to 1200mm telephoto f/2.8-5.9 stabilized optical zoom lens, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 just might give you that chance.  It’s also notable how ultra wide it is; 20mm f/2.8 is impressive on any super-zoom.  This may be Panasonic’s most versatile “bridge camera” yet.

The newly announced 16.1MP Panasonic Lumix FZ70 super-zoom “mini-SLR” with a 60x O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) zoom easily bests the previous FZ60 zoom range of only 24x.  The FZ70 boasts much improved image stabilization at the long end of the zoom, minimizing camera shake induced by the exceptional 1200mm zoom length.

There’s a new 16.1MP CMOS sensor that promises improved noise levels at higher ISOs for smoother low-light performance and the added ability to shoot raw photos.  For audio/video enthusiasts, you can shoot 1080i60 HD video with auto focus, and a new special, sealed Wind Shield Zoom Microphone is said to reduce extraneous wind noise by a staggering 70%.

It remains to be seen if the improved features will work in real life as well as they appear to us on paper.  I only wish they would have upped the ante even further with an articulating LCD and improved EVF specs.  If it came down to a decision based on specs between this camera vs. Panasonic’s current flagship, DMC-FZ200 super-zoom, I’m not sure which would come out on top.

It’s due out September, 2013, at an expected price of approximately $400.00.

Free professional workshops from creativeLIVE

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Starting in 2010, creativeLIVE has broadcast workshops and seminars taught by leading professionals and educators in the fields of photography, design, business, lifestyle, and video… online for FREE!  These workshops are jam packed with knowledge so if you’re streaming the class, you really need to set aside uninterrupted time to soak it all in and/or take notes.  Think summer school in college, they talk fast!  Each workshop has its own creativeLIVE chat room available for online viewers to gain direct participation through the moderators and to meet/mingle with other viewers from around the globe.  It’s interesting to watch the differing points of view and philosophies in the chat room posts as well as garner valuable tidbits from fellow participants .

Glancing over at my other computer screen as I type this, creativeLive is streaming three workshops simultaneously: a Photoshop Mastery class called “Image Ambulance”, a “Children’s Posing Guide”, and a business primer for entrepreneurs called “Escape from Cubicle Nation”.  The Photoshop Mastery class taught by Ben Wilmore, a Photoshop Hall of Famer, teaches you how to salvage an image previously thought to be visually unrecoverable or old and un-restorable.  Most of the instructors have bucket loads of experience and it shows.  These one to three day sessions include the online audience, an instructor, a couple of moderators, and a small in studio audience able to interact with or contribute to the session.

There are high-quality sponsored prize giveaways and/or contests during the show, open to all viewers and Facebook participants.

You can stream creativeLIVE courses online for free with a networked computer or purchase an “Anytime Access” version of the course that is available online or to download in .mov or .mp4 format.  If you miss the original live workshop, they are re-broadcast in “rewatch” sessions afterwards.  The feed glitches occasionally, but it’s usually sorted out quickly.  The purchased workshops often include downloadable bonus materials, such as presets or actions, templates, legal forms, or .pdf workbooks.  Be sure to click at the bottom of the calendar page to select your own time zone so you don’t miss the start of the course.  Been there done that!

As you and I both know, learning and re-learning is a lifelong process!

Is the new Canon EOS 70D a home-run for Canon?

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Canon have put themselves back in the game with the release of their latest innovative 20.2 Megapixel APS-C DSLR, the EOS 70D.  Due to be released on or possibly before September 13.  The 70D features a new ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ sensor that is receiving very positive (pre-production) reviews.  The new ‘on-chip technology’ (new phase detection autofocus that utilizes the same sensor as the imaging sensor) produces class leading speed and accuracy by doubling the number of pixels available for the task.  The smoother, more accurate HD video continuous AF, even at lower light levels, gives a reported camcorder-esque experience.  The Dual Pixel AF offers an 80% coverage area of the articulating capacitive touch screen unlike previous models only covering a very limited area.

If you’re more optically viewfinder inclined, the mid-level 70D inherits the already excellent 19 point, all cross-type AF system of the Semi-Pro Canon 7D.  Although, unfortunately, it may not include the spot or expanded focus features of the 7D.  It does however have built-in Wi-Fi for sharing/remote control functions borrowed from the new Canon 6D full frame DSLR.   AF microadjustment, that was sadly lacking on the previous EOS 60D, has mercifully been added back. Continuous shooting is bolstered from 5.3fps to 7fps.

The 70D does this all in a slightly smaller body that remains essentially the same as the 60D with a few tweaks in the control layout.  Shutter life is not stated anywhere that I can find?  The jury is still out on noise in high ISO images, still waiting for production samples.  Hopefully the Digic 5+ image processor, first introduced with the 5D MKIII, will improve noise levels beyond that of the 60D.

Canon could hit one out of the park for video and live view shooters with the 70D and may have created new AF speed standards in the process!

The EOS 70D will have an estimated retail price, body only of $1199.00, body with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM $1349.00, body with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM $1549.00.  Battery Grip BG-E14 holds up to two LP-E6 batteries/six AA batteries for $270.00.