Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How Apple could design a better iMac.

My 24 inch iMac is a great computer. It is very pretty. That's the problem. It seems that the folks at Apple think that I bought this computer so that I could just look at it and go oooooh! They never thought that I would want to plug a USB flash drive in on a regular basis. They never thought that I may regularly plug and unplug a DVI to S-video cable in to watch movies on my television.

No, they put all of the ports on the backside of the machine, so that when I had to use them I must pull the machine forward and fumble with the plugs. I never put the USB drive in the right way.

I purchased a small self powered USB hub so that I could easily plug the 4 Gig memory card of my digital SLR in. More wires. More crap on my desk. It still doesn't help when I want to use my DVI to S video adapter.

Hey, Apple. Put the ports and the plugs on the left or right side. Don't put ports on the back! How long did it take for you to think of putting Firewire and USB ports on the front of a PC? Now you put them in the back of the largest computer you build?

Why not have an access panel on the front? A little door for flash cards and drives? The 24 inch iMac is so big, using the DVD/CD slot on the right side means I have to pull my machine forward everytime. I don't know what to suggest there. I wish it were in the front where it should be, but the iMac is too shallow.

It looks good though. DOn't get me wrong. It really looks good. If only that made me more productive.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pentax K100D review

I purchased the Pentax K100D today from Blacks Cameras in Mississauga. It took a couple of weeks of online reading to finally come to this decision and I thought I would share my thoughts.

It is hard to decide which camera to buy given the overwhelming amount of information the net, but this is how it boiled down for me. First, I had to dismiss the reviews by wannabe photographers employed by computer magazines. They follow the same, predictable pattern that they employ while review computer equipment. Less expensive equipment is "entry level" or "beginner", sort of like selling condoms by asking if you want "extra small". Then there are the dedicated digital/film photography sites, who basically find fault with everything.

"I wish the LCD was bigger, it takes 0.6 seconds to turn on, you can only take 400 shots before the battery runs out or, my wife won't sleep with me anymore." Constant whining.

Two sites helped me immensely. Steve's digicams was a great resource when I decided on my Point & Shoot Canon Powershot A70. I must say though, Steve doesn't use very good pictures as examples but Flickr now lets you search by camera model, and that really helps. Sort of.

There are so many talented photographers on Flickr, you really can't see the REAL difference between a Pentax, a Nikon or a Canon, or any other brand. Flickr proves, that at the end of the day, its the person behind the lens, not the lens. Steve does a good job at explaining features, but never really says, "hey, don't buy this, buy this instead". That's good, but I want someone to really tell me what it's like.

So my second source was Ken Rockwell. Ken loves his Nikons, but he is honest enough to tell you that he enjoys his Nikon D40 as much as his Nikon D200. He explains the minor differences, and actually blows the doors off the industry. Why do all of these cameras basically cost the same? Why is a D70 or a D50 selling for the same as a D40, when the D40 is new? Why do people pay a premium for a D100 that has an admittedly crappy screen? He really likes Nikon, but he he doesn't mind telling you that a D80 or a D200 is probably not necessary. He explains the megapixel myth, which will really make you think. It made me realize that all I needed was 6.1 megapixels to really enjoy the SLR again.

So, I read all of this, and I sift through the data. The Nikon D40 looks good. I had a Nikon FG for years and although Nikon lenses are overpriced, the equipment was top notch and the results were amazing. Everybody loves the D40. Flickr loves the D40. Why the Pentax?

Well, the Pentax has the same image sensor as the D40, so image quality wasn't the concern. I liked the fact that the K100D took AA batteries. Four of them ( i get over 500 shots on 4x 2650 NiMH). I have always used NiCad or Li-ion AA batteries in my other cameras, and I don't ever want to be stuck without power. Another factor was that the K100D has Shake Reduction technology (which also doubles as a sensor cleaner). That's cool and Nikon and Canon don't have it. The K100D has top display like the Nikon D50. The D40 did away with this. It's handy to know battery power, shots left, mode, etc. Why give that up? I use it all the time, since the rear color display is off 99 percent of the time.

Finally, Pentax invented the SLR and they have maintained the same lens mounting system for years. I can take a zoom lens from 1975 and it will adpat to this camera. Manual focus of course, but hey, I know how to focus. It isn't heavy work. Invest in the Nikon D40, and you have to buy into new AF lenses. In order to take advantage of Nikon  AF lenses that you have, you really need to to look at the D50 with it's built in AF motor. At this price point anyway.

The Pentax K100D is just a better camera. It also has an 11 point AF system. The Nikon D50 had 5, the D40 has 3. Sure, you probably only use one, but the K100D is keeping the pro aspects intact. The Shake reduction alone allows far more creative low-light shots than any of the other cameras. The Nikon D40 was $700 (Canadian) at Blacks, and the K100D was $750. This was a no brainer. Last but not least, the diopter correction on the K100D has a larger range. Just enough in fact. Buying a D40 would mean getting another eyepiece to compensate for my eyesight.

Look at Flickr and see the pictures for yourself. An unwritten feature of the K100D is its infra red abilities. Many digital cameras are incapable of decent IR photography which is something every photographer should experiment with. The Pentax K100D produces spectacular IR shots with a filter. Yes, almost all of the brands and models have amazing shots, but when you look at the cameras in the sub $1000 sector, the K100D is a pro model with more features and and expandibility (Pentax lenses will keep their value for sure).

I didn't buy the SDHC card at Blacks. $50 for 1 Gig. Across the street at Tiger Direct, I managed a 4 Gig SDHC (150x) card for $70. That's 378 6MP RAW pictures, or 1400 6MP, JPEG (high quality) pics. I downloaded the new firmware update that allows the Pentax to use SDHC cards. It's fast.

I haven't seen any LCD screen protectors. I use screen protectors for a Palm Pilot. This works on my Powershot A70 and my iPods as well. It's the first thing I do.

I used to take very good pictures with my old Nikon. I can hardly wait to do that again.

Quick update: After a thousand shots and some very good ones at that, I can attest to the capable AUTO features. Some wannabe photogs will insist on manual aperture settings and guessing their own shutter speeds all the time, but lets face it, you are splitting a thousand bucks between decent optics and a clever computer that figures out stuff for you. Shoot art when you have the time to set manual shots, but shooting from the hip at 2.8 fps using the K100D on Auto is absolutely amazing. I throw away about 90 percent of my shots when shooting this way, but the 10 percent that stays is great photography. Using a 4 Gig card, I can take 1400 high res JPEGS or almost 400 RAW pics. Of course, RAW is a bit over rated and should be reserved for special portrait or landscape shots. The compression algorithms on the K100D are exceptional and if Photoshop can't fix it, you took a bad picture. The camera model or the image format won't help you much if you didn't take a decent picture in the first place, so let's not argue over the merits of RAW.

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