I loved watching that footage of the giant meteor that broke up over Chelyabinsk, Russia. It was caught by dozens of people, from every conceivable angle. Were they waiting for it to show up? Heck, no, no one knew it was on its way. The Russians are big fans of car dash cams to protect themselves from car insurance fraud. What a great idea! The dashcam craze is coming to American shores and we were sent one of the devices on the forefront of this new cadre of car security devices. Meet the Papago GoSafe 200! Read More →
Canon’s EF 16-35 f/2.8 L II is a very popular lens, particularly for landscape and architectural photography. It has remained out of the reach of many enthusiast photographers due to its very high price ($1700, but at the time of this writing there is a $200 mail-in rebate). The lens is also not image stabilized, though at 16mm it doesn’t really need it for most applications. Canon has recently announced the arrival of a more competitively priced version of this flagship lens – the EF 16-35 f/4 IS! Some subtle differences include the new lens having image stabilization, which helps to overcome the one-stop difference in aperture in low-light situations; a 77-mm filter thread (as opposed to the 82mm thread size of the f/2.8 variant), which is a size you are much more likely to have a filter for; and the price, which is coming in at $1200. This lens is due out this June, with preorders already underway at B&H Photo and Video.
I love photography. There is seldom a moment when I am not at work and there isn’t a camera in my hand. Like all photographers, I go through camera bags like crazy. What works for one application somehow doesn’t seem to work for another. I have used such camera bags as the Billingham Hadley Pro and the Thin Tank Photo Urban Disguise 50 and still keep a Roadwired Podzilla to hand when all I want to bring is my 5D Mark III with the 24-105L lens and cleaning equipment and maybe a remote. My main problem has been finding a bag that will work with all of my gear when it comes to my annual storm chasing expedition. I’ve gone through ten bags in the last ten times out chasing and none of them have really gotten it done. Read More →
There’s a great thing about being a teacher…being entrusted with a large number of keys. Keys to my classrooms, to the different cabinets in the classroom, my desk, my filing cabinets, cabinets in different rooms, the bathroom and the goggle cabinet. I teach chemistry and there are a large number of cabinets I need to be able to access. Keeping the 11 keys I use for work on a traditional keychain has worn out the pockets in my pants for the last quarter of a century. When the opportunity to review a solution that might spare my poor pockets, I pounced on it. Read More →
I hate my hair. Words cannot describe how much I detest my thin, sparse hair. I’ve never been able to grow it to my satisfaction but now it just looks awful. If I grew it long I would look like a crazy radiation victim. So what do I do? I shave my head. This is not so easy to do by yourself and with a stick razor it’s fairly difficult. I searched for a different way to shave my pate and found this little beauty. The HeadBlade ATX is a cross between an ATV and Zamboni, with a rubber finger loop at the top and sporty wheels that guide the contraption on your head. The blade is a four-blade job with wider gaps between the blades than most razors. It pivots to follow the terrain. The blades are removable and replaceable.
Essentially, one first lathers up with a good shave gel, then you put your middle finger into the rubber loop. You can shave with the wheels forward (shaving back to front) or the wheels in back (shaving front to back). It’s possible to shave the head very quickly with this. The first time I tried it (this afternoon) it took me half the time it usually does. I will get faster as I get more used to this novel way of erasing my scalp.
I picked mine up for $13 at Walgreens and it’s available on the HeadBlade site for $15, Your head will thank you for it.
The Lensbaby Composer Pro is an intriguing solution to selecting the perfect focus spot in your composition. Available in mounts for several ILC and dSLR cameras, it is a fully manual lens with a manual aperture control and swivel lens. The aperture settings will determine the width of the in-focus area and the swivel lens allows you to select what part of your photo the focus will be centered on. This is a great way of isolating your subject no matter where in the frame it is. Read More →
I have an older DVD player/receiver/amplifier that I used to play CDs on. I got tired of swapping CDs in and out a long time ago and my CDs have gone dusty on the shelf. Then I got an opportunity to review the Amped Wireless Long Range Bluetooth Speaker Adapter and music once again pours forth from my speakers! Read More →
I am a big fan of audiobooks and podcasts. I am an even bigger fan of listening to them while in the shower. In the past, I have done this by cranking up the volume on my desktop stereo system that I have hooked up to my desktop computer’s sound card. This produces enough volume for the job but my poor kitties don’t care for it much. So when I got the chance to review a dedicated Bluetooth shower speaker, I jumped at it. Enter the ABCO Tech Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Shower Speaker Auto FM Shower Radio. It’s a mouthful but it describes what it does pretty well.
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There seems to be a plethora of Bluetooth audio products out these days. I had been interested in wireless headphones but the price has been a huge factor in why I don’t have them. Battery life is also an issue…when you have a compact device, you are really limited in how long you’ll be grokking tunes. The Smartbean Bluetooth Wireless Receiver is an excellent compromise. It’s a 1 3/4″ X 1 1/4″ X 1/3″ block that weighs less than an ounce and can clip onto your clothing with a 3.5mm headphone port and a 6-hour battery life that will connect to your phone via Bluetooth and pump the tunes to your ears.
It has an integrated microphone so you can take calls and controls for volume, pause/play and track forward/back. It charges via USB. Save the audio port on your phone and get some more freedom with this very handy gadget. Available at Thinkgeek.com for $39.99.
I have worn eyeglasses since I was in second grade. My first pair was short-lived, I had not gotten used to wearing them yet and I took them off every day at lunch in the cafeteria. For some reason, I had the habit of putting them in the brown paper bag that my mom packed my lunch in. One day I forgot I had put them in there and threw them out. It didn’t even hit me until I was on the bus on the way home. My parents asked me where my glasses were and I told them I left them at school. The next day I tried to find them, but the trash had been dumped. In my desperation to not get into trouble, I made a pair of glasses out of paper and colored it with crayon. I wore them home. My parents saw right through my deception and I decided that I had not done a good enough job with the mockups. The next day I made another pair (though in retrospect, these were even worse than Version 1.0) and was finally busted at home.
I could have avoided this unpleasantness if I had only known about Magnetic Eyeglass Holders “Eye Loop” magnetic eyeglass holders for women and men. And then invented it myself instead of flawed mockups.
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I have been an amateur astronomer for the longest time but astrophotography has always eluded me. I never had the proper equipment and getting a dedicated CCD camera for the purpose of photographing the sun, moon and planets is prohibitively expensive. A while back, a company called Scopetronix made custom milled adapters that connected point and shoot digicams to a telescope eyepiece for eyepiece projection photography. Scopetronix went out of business last year but a new company has picked up where they left off. Just select the proper filter size and choose an adapter that includes a ring that attaches to the barrel of your smaller 1.25″ eyepiece (typically Plossls are used) and a step-up ring that connects it to your camera lens filter thread. They also carry a line of adapters for smartphones and T-adapters for different builds of dSLRs. Read More →
I love my 17-40 f/4 L Canon wide zoom. Last year it grabbed me some tasty shots of storms and the aurora borealis! Storms aren’t that hard to shoot… until you hit low light, then the camera struggles to find that autofocus point. Same goes for the aurora. So you flip the switch and enter manual mode. What now? Well, lenses have a rough guide for manual focus, but the manual focus point changes when you change the focal length of your lens. Not fun to fiddle with when you have such a small scale and constantly have to peek at the top of the lens from a less-than-ideal position. Well, the folks at PhotoJojo have given us the Focus Shifter, a new way to do manual focus. It’s like a manual shift lever in your car with a dry-erase surface where you can make whatever markings you want. Shooting auroras at 17mm? In the daytime, set the camera to autofocus, and get the infinity focus you want and then mark it on the device, which clamps onto the manual focus ring of your lens. Doing macro shots and want to get the same focus point every time, or just want finer control over your manual focus than grabbing and twisting the ring can get you? Just nudge the Focus Shifter’s handle to where you want the manual focus point to be. Comes with clips to allow you to come to a hard stop so you can hit that proper focus point, even in the dark! Also comes with a storage bag. Available now from PhotoJojo for $49.
So you’re out in the wilderness, Les Stroud style, and you need a fire. Stat. You would have bought a lighter but they didn”t allow them on the plane. Fortunately, you remembered to pack your Pilot Slider USB Rechargeable Lighter! Available for $19.99 at ThinkGeek, $11.99 at Amazon and reportedly (from reviews) for less than five bucks in the checkout line at Walmart, it is nothing more than a rechargeable battery connected to a heating coil. Boasts 150 lights at a full charge and is weatherproof. But leaping from a cliff into a pool below to escape the wildlife in your area will probably kill it. Sure, you could keep a battery and some steel wool in two separate baggies but this is a sure-fire waA y to get that tinder lit when your chips are down. Available at ThinkGeek and Amazon.
I love cameras but a nearly equal obsession of mine is finding better ways to carry them wherever I go. This has seriously piqued my interest: the MindShift Gear UltraLight Camera Cover. Available in two colors (blue or black) and three sizes to accommodate different sized camera setups. It comes with an integrated belt and stuffs into itself for easy packing. Unstuff it, click the belt around your waist and you have a ready repository for your camera. Best used with your camera on a shoulder strap (I use the Blackrapid Rapidstrap Sport), it acts as a weather-resistant, lightly padded holster that will protect your camera from dings and stop it from flapping around on the end of your shoulder strap. For hikes into the wilderness, this would seem just the ticket! $29.99 will get you the Size 10, which will fit a smaller dSLR with kit lens, $34.99 gets you the Size 20, which will fit a pro gripped dSLR with a medium lens (their example is a 24-70 f/2.8 lens) and $39.99 will get you the Size 30, which will cradle your pro or gripped dSLR with up to a 70-200 f/2.8 lens with the hood reversed or the 24-70 f/2.8 with the hood in position. There is a short and informative video on how to use it at their website. I know what’s coming with me on my hikes this spring and summer!!
I’ve played a Moog Etherwave theremin (badly) for several years now. Hooked up to a Korg KP3 effects processor, you can get some really great effects out of it. However, plucking notes out of thin air in a continuous scale is maddeningly hard work. Unlike a guitar or piano, where the notes are clearly delineated, a theremin has no defined notes. In fact, you play it without touching it at all. This lack of tactile feedback makes it one of the more difficult instruments to play. Moog Music Inc. has come up with a solution that will make the theremin a more accessible instrument to the great unwashed masses, the Theremini. Not only does it have pitch quantization and allow you to set a root note and scale type, it will even display what note you are currently playing on its LCD display. It includes 32 wavetable-based sound patch presets so that you get more out of it and, for those theremin purists among us, allow you to play the good old-fashioned way. The pitch antenna (the vertical one sticking on on the right in the photo above) detaches for easier portability. The Theremini is not available yet but Moog is taking preorders for $319. There will be one in my studio shortly after they are released!