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Current California Radiation Levels (live from La Jolla)


Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

30 April 2011, Saturday

COMING: I have my hands on the hot new little Sony NEX-VG10 AVCHD HD E-mount camcorder.

It's a real big-sensor HD camcorder, and an interchangeable-lens NEX E-mount still camera, all in one.

It makes great video without the panning defects common to DSLRs, and it makes great still images like the Sony A55. Mag factor is 1.5x for still, and 1.8x for video. It's a 23.4 x 15.6mm sensor. The top and bottom are chopped-off for 16:9 video to 23.4 x 13.2mm. Like most digital cameras this isn't really APS. Real APS-C is 25.1 x 16.7mm, and real APS-H (HDTV) is 30.2 x 16.7mm!

Better than a camcorder, this Sony records in 30P instead of 60i, for a more cinematic look as opposed to a video look. It can't do 24P.

The Sony NEX-VG10 gives better video without the hassle of a DSLR, and makes still shots as well. It's what to get if you mostly want video with the occasional still, instead of wanting stills with an occasional video. Still photo frame rate is low, while video is superb. Unlike my Panasonic PV-GS120 3-chip DV camcorder, the Sony can't make still images at the same time as rolling video; you have to swap shooting modes.

The NEX VG10 records to SD cards.

It's about time someone made a large-sensor video camera dedicated for the video market; it's about time that Canon and Nikon got put to bed for video. SLRs were never made for video, and Sony knows video cameras better than anyone.

With adapters, the VG10 takes not only NEX lenses, but Nikon and Canon and LEICA and just about anything else. With the big sensor, you get nice subject differentiation (soft backgrounds) when you want them, with a camcorder that works well without the clumsiness a DSLR. You don't need other lenses; it comes included with an 18-200mm AF zoom with internal optical stabilization, which drops-out backgrounds just great at its longer settings when you'd need soft backgrounds.


NEW: B&W Matrix 805 Review.

A great desktop computer speaker, but too good for a desktop.

B&W Matrix 805 Review

B&W Matrix 805.


29 April 2011, Friday

Apple Airport Express

AirPort Express.

NEW: Apple AirPort Express Review.

NEW: Apple AirPort Express Audio Measurements.


Panasonic VP-7721A

Panasonic VP-7721A Audio Analyzer.

NEW: Panasonic VP-7721A Audio Analyzer Review.


HP 209A

HP 209A Audio Generator.

NEW: HP 209A Audio Generator Review.


28 April 2011, Thursday

NEW: High-Fidelity Audio Measurements of the iPod Touch.

As suspected, the iPod Touch has magnificent audio performance right out of its little headphone jack. I pulled my dirty little iPod out of my pocket in a lab, plugged it into an advanced analog laboratory audio analyzer, and played some test files.

Bingo! Great performance: flat response from 5 Hz to 22 kHz, 0.0073% THD + N from 128 kbps AAC files, perfect channel balance, and more.

Maybe I'll haul my Airport Express into the lab next time. I'm sure its audio performance is as good. With the Airport Express, you don't need no stinking remote controls; you can play-out from your iPod, iPad or iPhone directly to you reference playback system wirelessly, while the device stays in your hand. You need no remote control; the device is still in your hand but playing remotely!

Don't tell your audiophile friends about this, because they prefer to pay tens of thousands of dollars for bigger, uglier, heaver and more cumbersome ways to play music — that sounds worse! For instance, they'd love to pay $55,000 for a pair of Luxman B-1000F monoblock power amplifiers, but they have frequency response only half as good as an iPod touch (-0.2 dB at 20 kHz versus -0.1 dB for the iPod at 20 kHz) and more distortion. For audiophiles, it's all about the gear, not the music.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Luxman amps, there's just less wrong with an iPod. I remember the good old days when audiophiles were still protesting digital that they didn't understand; now they're still prejudiced against iPod simply because they are so small and elegant. Audiophiles equate mass with class; put an iPod in ten pounds of billet aluminum, and they'll pay.



1X.com is now offering a service by which photographers can sell prints on the site.

1X handles all the order taking, printing, shipment, payment processing and fulfillment.

All you need to do, presuming your work passes the tight artistic review process for entry into 1X.com, is to sign up and provide master files, and 1X does the rest and sends you 60% of the profits. The 40% stays with 1X, an ad-free fine-art website run by guys as crazy as us about photography. They need the 40% to keep the ads off their site and pay their hosting and people who code it.

1X.com has the best photography on the Internet precisely because everything has to be juried-in. It's not a free-for-all of junk like photo sharing sites.


27 April 2011, Wednesday

What Computers and Memory to Bring on a Photo Trip.

13" MacBook Pro reading a CF card with a Moshi Cardette Ultra.

NEW: What Computers and Memory to Bring on a Photo Trip.

Less is so much more.


Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G

IT'S OFFICIAL: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G.

It should be available 16 June 2011 for $220.

This is the little brother of the 50mm f/1.4 AF-S, and the FX big-brother of the 35mm f/1.8 DX.


25 April 2011, Monday

New Nikon D7000 Firmware v1.02

Download here (or download here if you haven't upgraded yet from windows).

More information from Nikon.


Nikon claims:

Long Exposure Noise reduction processing is now much slower, since it now makes a second dark-frame exposure on shots made with exposures between 1s and 8s, while before, it only wasted our time with this blank exposure for shots of 8 seconds and longer. Nikon added this because the D7000 used to have too many red dots at these exposure times.

Some movie files were useless with some movie editing software, now claimed fixed.

When the camera was connected to a television via the A/V cable and a movie was played back a couple of times, the sound broke Now claimed fixed.

When white balance for RAW images created using the camera’s image overlay function was fine tuned with Capture NX 2 or ViewNX 2, the images acquired a magenta cast. Claimed fixed.

An issue that caused 0.00” to be displayed for heading information when the GP-1 GPS unit was connected to the camera is Claimed fixed so that ---.-- is now displayed.

When Viewfinder virtual horizon was the role assigned to the Fn button or the preview button and the applicable button was pressed, errors in the virtual horizon indicator were displayed. Claimed fixed.

The following errors in Help displays have been resolved.
"Maximum sensitivity" help was displayed for shooting menu>ISO sensitivity settings>On or Off help.

German help displayed “Select focus priority for AF-S mode.” for Custom Settings>a1: AF-C priority selection help, claimed fixed.


Which means:


Who cares?


Secret Meeting Uncovered!

My pal Steve Cirone, one of the world's greatest bird photographers, just posted these hidden-camera spy photos of a secret meeting we had in Surf City last Thursday.

My pals, Steve, his sidekick Elena, humanitarian photojournalist Karl Grobl, Jim "Jaime" Cline are usually so busy traveling around the world that we never see each other any more, so we got together for a good old-fashioned BS session like we could do back in the 1990s before this "Internet" thing took off and everyone got distracted.

Steve had an interesting observation. Steve spends hours every dawn and dusk waddling out in the mud sneaking up on birds to get awesome shots. When he tried to "post" something about photography on some "chatroom" (I think some people euphemize these to "online forum" or "community" today), he was chastised by the inhabitants as "What do you know you moron, you spend all your time away from the computer out shooting, what the %*Y%^% do you know about photography?"

Apparently, that photo chat room defined photography knowledge as chatting about computers and software , so time spent away from one's screen was considered as wasted time, not related to photography.

Now I've heard it all: the one thing that is photography, which is to be out shooting, has now been denigrated by the great majority of stupid people as not being photography at all.

Photography is the art of expressing imagination in tangible form. Technique, cameras or computers have nothing to do with it. It's not a photograph until you can hold it in your hand; that's what "tangible" means.


Get it while you still can

No one is happy about the Japanese nuclear disasters, tsunami and earthquakes of 11 March 2011. Not to say I told you so over a month ago, but duh, this, and the continued workplace screw-off-induced slide of the Dollar versus the Yen, is making what little made-in-Japan gear is still available climb in price faster than I can update my pages.

The Nikon D700? It flew up to $2,700 from $2,350 within a week of the tsunami, which closed Nikon's FX camera plant, and today, as predicted, is no longer available. Duh.

The made-in-China Nikon 35/1.8 DX? Up to $290 from $199, and not in stock.

The Tokina 11-16/2.8 DX? Up to $660 from $600, and out of stock.

The moral? If you've waited this long to get anything, shame on you, and be prepared for higher prices than you were expecting.

Getting a used D700 from eBay is the best place to get a D700 (see How to Win at eBay), since as far as I know, they have been out of production since March. The D700 has been due for replacement for a long time; I doubt Nikon will be making any more and will go straight to whatever's next in FX when Nikon gets its act back together.

Would I buy a D700? Of course not; the D7000 is a better camera. The only reason to go FX today is for the huge viewfinder; the D7000 is a newer, better, faster, smarter camera than last-decade's D700. Until any new FX cameras come out (which may be a while with Nikon's FX factory on shaky ground), the D7000 is King.


Workshops Update

We have two back-to-back workshops in Yosemite next month.

The first tour, Yosemite Waterworks (Monday-Thursday 16-19 May 2011), still has two spots open. Call or email Dave Wyman (323) 377-7565 for registration or more details.

This will be a unique photography workshop and tour of Yosemite, which will see our group of photographers explore the park on bikes, on foot, and in cars. Our bike rides and walks will take us around the flat Yosemite Valley floor, while our cars will take us to more vertical terrain to visit giant sequoia trees and old barns, and give us grand views of one of the crown jewels of the National Park system.


The second tour, Spring Light Photography in Yosemite (Thursday-Sunday 19-22 May 2011) has long been sold-out, but spots sometimes open due to cancellations. Registrations for this tour are handled by the Yosemite Conservancy, and taught by Dave Wyman and myself.


21 April 2011, Thursday

Odd Nikon Item for Sale

I found this on eBay this morning. It's for FX and 35mm cameras; forget it for DX.


Nikon 13mm

Nikon 13mm f/5.6 Ultra Ultrawide (review)

I've never bought from these guys, they look like pain, but hey, others tell me that they are a real retail dealer specializing in unusual items.

This will probably sit unsold for a while. This dealer usually throws odd items up at a high price waiting for a rich guy who doesn't care to come snag his prize.


20 April 2011, Wednesday

New Automatic Monthly Donation (Subscription) Button

PayPal's previous box stopped working, so I added this one to the bottom of my Help Me Help You page. Since I had the code in my paste buffer, I share it here as well.


Film Sale

Adorama has two-packs of Ilford HP-5 on sale for $5.00 ($2.50 per roll).

More deals.



NEW: LEICA SUMMILUX-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Review.

I borrowed this to shoot in San Luis Obispo last weekend, so had to write it up so I can link to it from the photos I'll be posting.


13 April 2011, Wednesday

NEW: Think Tank has a request line to be notified when the Retrospective 5 becomes available next month.


11 April 2011, Monday

Best way to spend $2,000 on a camera?

A reader asks how I'd spend two large on a camera.

My response is:

LEICA M3, dedicated LEICAMETER MR-4 and 50mm f/2 SUMMICRON mit close-focus range.

All this sells for under $1,000 if you know How to Win at Ebay.

Spend $30 of what's left on a copy of The Art of Photography, and give the rest away to the needy. The M3 may need a trip to Gus for an overhaul, but that still leave lots of money left over.


If you want digital, then I'd spend the two grand on:

Nikon D7000 ($1,200, body only)

35/1.8 DX ($300)

SB-400 ($125)

I never use other lenses with my D7000. If I did, we've got $375 left, so I'd get a 55-200 VR for $250 (or $150 refurbished.) Spend $30 of what's left on a copy of The Art of Photography, and give the rest away to the needy.


Death from Aloft

David Rockwell

Man falling to his death from the Thousand Steps, Canton Tower (Guangzhou TV tower), China.

The man in this photo looks like my brother. I think the freak accident was also caught on video, so I'm looking for it on YouTube. Beats working.


Rockwells join Team Nikon Miami

The Rockwells join Team Nikon Miami. (Nikon D7000, Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX, Nikon SB-400, my standard U2 settings gave ISO 400, 1/125 at f/5.6.)

Many thanks to The Bulldog, one of the greatest Nikon photographers ever, who arranged for us to get official team shirts.

See the photo bigger at Ryan's or Katie's websites.


B&W Bass Alignment Filter

NEW: B&W Matrix 800 Series Bass Alignment Filter.


One Month from Disaster

American memories are so short.

One month ago, Japan suffered one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the world, and certainly the worst disaster to hit the developed world — ever.

So now as the prices of Japanese cameras obviously spiral upwards with Nikon's key SLR and Canon's key lens plants in that area remaining closed with no full-scale re-opening in sight, and as the US Dollar continues to plummet against the Yen as Americans spend more time on Facebook and Flickr at work than they actually spend working, I'm amazed that some people are amazed that prices for Japanese-brand goods are skyrocketing.

What did you expect, business as usual? Tens of thousands of real people are dead or missing, and nuclear radiation continues to leak out, poisoning just about everything.

Why do you think I've been so freaked out this past month? Unlike your teeth, disasters in other countries don't go away when you ignore them and think about more pleasant things.

If you're considering getting something, don't wait, because it may not be available at any price in the near future.

As I predicted a month ago, duh, the Japan nuclear disaster is now officially rated as bad as Chernobyl, and unlike Chernobyl, Japan still isn't under control.


09 April 2011, Saturday

How to split-tone

NEW: Digital Split-Toning.

How to get those subtle warm-toned black-and white prints using your computer.


Yosemite in Winter

NEW: Yosemite in Winter.

Here's what I snapped on our tour and workshop back in February.


More Workshops at which I'm instructing:


16-19 MAY 2011: Yosemite Waterworks.

Call or ask Dave Wyman (323) 377-7565 for registration and more details.


19-22 MAY 2011: Yosemite in Spring.

This tour is organized by the Yosemite Conservancy, and taught by Dave Wyman and yours truly.

This will be a unique photography workshop and tour of Yosemite, which will see our group of photographers explore the park on bikes, on foot, and in cars. Our bike rides and walks will take us around the flat Yosemite Valley floor, while our cars will take us to more vertical terrain to visit giant sequoia trees and old barns, and give us grand views of one of the crown jewels of the National Park system.

Details and sign-ups for this second Yosemite trip are through the Yosemite Conservancy, and of course you can ask Dave Wyman (323) 377-7565 if you have any other questions.

Hint: These two Yosemite trips run consecutively, so if you're going to travel out here, extend your trip just a few days and you can do both workshops, presuming you can get into either one. These sell out quickly.


07 April 2011, Thursday

Nikon Lens Bundle Rebates are Expiring

For your information, Nikon lens bundle instant rebates will on April 30. If you've placed a backorder, it has to ship by then for the rebate to apply.


Ultrasone Edition 8

Ultrasone Edition 8.

NEW: Ultrasone Edition 8 Review.

Whew! That's the last of the audio reviews.

These headphones sound great with everything, plugged into anything, and they travel without having to baby them.


05 April 2011, Tuesday

Technics SH-8065 33-band EQ

Nikon D5100 and 18-55mm VR.

NEW: Nikon D5100.


Oh oh, I told you so: The price of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX just jumped 45%. It's now $290, if you can find one in stock!


NEW: Audio Review Index.

NEW: Stax Headphone Review Index.

NEW: Electrostatic Headphones: How They Work, and Why They Sound Better.

When I tried to research a pair of headphones for myself at Christmas and found nothing but idle chat room commentary and reviews by computer writers, I was duty-bound to share here what I learned through actual experience. This new index page lists all my audio equipment reviews.

I bought a set of Sennheiser HD 800, and they sounded worse than my old set of Beyers, so I returned the HD 800 and kept listening.

I'm still working on my review of the spectacular Ultrasone Edition 8, which although intended as some sort of audiophile device, turns out to be the world's best headphone for use with the iPod and iPad in the field and around the house. There're so good I'm trying to stall so I don't have to give them back! Unlike the Stax below, which sound better if you don't mind babying them and being connected to a wall outlet just to listen to headphones, the Ultrasone Edition 8 need no amplifier, and sound awesome plugged directly into iPad and iPod.

The Ultrasone Edition 8 are so much better than the Sennheiser HD 800, and the funny part is that they cost no more.

Here are some of the other doo-dads people loaned me:


Stax SR-Lambda Professional

Stax SR-Lambda Pro (1982-1995).

NEW: Stax SR-Lambda Professional Review.


Stax SR-X Mark 3

Stax SR-X Mark 3 (1975-1989).

NEW: Stax SR-X Mark 3 Review.


Stax New SR-3

Stax New SR-3 (1971-1975).

NEW: Stax New SR-3 Review.


Stax SRM-1/MK-2 Professional

Stax SRM-1/MK-2 Professional Headphone Amplifier (1982-1995).

NEW: Stax SRM-1/MK-2 Professional Review.


Stax SRA-12S

Stax SRA-12S Integrated Amplifier (1976-1982).

NEW: Stax SRA-12S Integrated Amplifier Review.


Stax SRD-5

Stax SRD-5 Energizer/Adapter (1968-1971).

NEW: Stax SRD-5 Energizer/Adapter Review.


04 April 2011, Monday

Hats off to Japan

Californians tell themselves how great they are, as the world's ninth-largest economy.

As the world focuses on Japan as the world's largest natural and nuclear disaster continues to unfold (today, they're letting out thousands of gallons of water with 100 times the legal limit of radioactivity into the open Pacific Ocean), I stopped to look at Japan on the globe.

It's pretty tiny.

Looking further, Japan is smaller than California.

Japan is smaller than California, and Japan is the world's third largest economy.

Good going Japan! They make Californians look like slackers per square mile.


Nikon D7000

You gotta love the Nikon D7000: when I picked it up this weekend to snap my kids in whatever screwy dark conditions they discovered (see Ryan and Katie),

1.) Every setting just came up where I needed it as soon as I selected my U1 or U2 poisons, regardless of where I left the camera set weeks ago when I last picked it up.

I can't even remember the last time I shot my D7000, since I've been shooting a borrowed LEICA M9 in DNG and running it through Aperture since February.

The fantastic thing is that I grab my D7000, and in one flick, (not three Function Bank Menus), I'm exactly where I need to be to photograph my kids exactly as I want them,


2.) I continue to be astounded at the new level of performance the D7000 has set for the industry. Looking at the clean shots I got automatically at way over ISO 2,000 (see Ryan and Katie) in all sorts of screwy conditions, I appreciate my D7000 more and more all the time. I had no idea the D7000 was reaching that high; it just did, the the pictures look better than perfect, considering the dark conditions.

Not only is it cleaner than my full-frame Nikon D3 ever was, my settings automatically conjured perfect WB and Auto ISO on the fly regardless of conditions, with no input from me other than chasing my kids.

The D7000 so rules. All I ever use is my 35/1.8 DX lens, which is perfect for everything.


02 April 2011, Saturday

My apologies for April Fools. Everything of which I thought was so childish or inappropriate, even to my own 7-year-old-mentality, that I had to pass.

For instance, I thought of spiking the Official California Radiation Levels report or telling you that I had to close up this site because California's proposals to outlaw the sort of advertising that supports this site got passed (they might, but not until later this year), but those wouldn't have been funny.

Am I getting more mature? Hardly! I'm just getting lazier, and have been working on a slew of not-yet-published reviews.

Look out next year. Don't forget the Nikon D3P from 2008, which was also made in Nikon's closed Sendai plant.


What Was New in:

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

2009 back to 2005


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