Saturday, March 31, 2012

Human Achievement Hour vs. Earth Hour: Need There be Conflict?


The Earth at night: the perfect symbol of our progress or our wastefulness depending on your opinion.

Today, as many people all around the world know, brings Earth Hour, a worldwide event wherein people all over the globe are encouraged to reduce their energy usage for the purpose of saving natural resources and, in general, the planet. However, there is another worldwide even going on at the same time, as a direct challenge to Earth Hour.

This is Human Achievement Hour.

By visiting the Human Achievement Hour's website, one reads that, “
On March 31, some people will be sitting in the dark to express their "vote" for action on global climate change. Instead, you can join CEI and the thousands of people around the world who will be celebrating Human Achievement Hour (HAH). Leave your lights on to express your appreciation for the inventions and innovations that make today the best time to be alive and the recognition that future solutions require individual freedom not government coercion.”
Needless to say, the whole idea of Human Achievement Hour goes contrary to Earth Hour, which serves as a rallying point to encourage governments to adopt policies that are more environmentally-friendly and lean in the direction of saving natural resources, while Human Achievement Hour champions the technology that those celebrating Earth Hour have vowed to spurn for 60 minutes.
Continuing on Human Achievement's home page, one reads that “Human Achievement Hour (HAH) is a celebration of individual freedom and appreciation of the achievements and innovations that people have used to improve their lives throughout history. To celebrate Human Achievement Hour, participants need only to spend the hour from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm on March 31 enjoying the benefits of capitalism and human innovation: Gather with friends in the warmth of a heated home, watch television, take a hot shower, drink a beer, call a loved one on the phone, or listen to music.”

So, come this evening's newscasts, it will be interesting to see how the mainstream media approaches coverage of these pair of hour long celebrations, ones that, when viewed in the extreme, are sure to cause some elevated blood pressure levels in the people who champion the opposite cause. Personally, I had never even heard of Human Achievement Hour before yesterday and seeing a story about it on the Internet. Earth Hour? Well, it's gone from a regional event to a worldwide phenomenon.
In the end, the middle path is the best course to take.

There is no doubt that we humans are using up our natural resources at an ever-increasing rate. Global warming? Well, several of the hottest years on record have come during the past decade but, at the same time, the planet has been an ice ball, a greenhouse, and everything in between during its 4.5 billion year history. At the same time, though, there is no conclusive way to prove that we humans are impacting the climate, only correlations. On the other hand, there is no doubt that technology has greatly enlarged man's footprint on the natural world.

On the other side of the coin, there is no doubt that science, technology, and the focus on the individual are making the world better every day. Think of it: if it were not for science and the inventive spirit that Human achievement Hour seeks to celebrate, we would still be in the Dark Ages. Think of it: there would be no real medical knowledge, no mechanical means of transportation, no mass dissemination of knowledge, no electricity, no space exploration, no computers, no Bodzash Photography and Astronomy, but a lot of mass superstition, ignorance, death and disease, starvation, and millions upon millions of fettered minds without the slightest aspiration to achieve higher goals than an animal-like existence of living from one day to the next.

Yes, the world is undoubtedly walking a tightrope when it comes to planet Earth, this pale blue dot that is, so far as we know, the only world in all of creation that supports life. Man has become God, having created for himself the power to preserve or destroy worlds by way of his technology. The choice is before us: life or death. Hopefully, we will choose life through wise use of our technology which, for the most part, has improved the world in incalculable ways ever since our distant ancestors first strove to make a better life for themselves all those tens of thousands of years ago.



 
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are Technologically-Advanced Civilizations Destined for Self-Destruction?


There may be 10 billion habitable planets, but there's no guarantee of life anywhere in all of creation.

It's a situation that scientists, politicians, philosophers, and dreamers all consider at some point: is all of this modern technology a good thing or not? The thought processes as well as viewpoints are near limitless.

It is an undeniable fact that technology can work miracles, such as: organ transplants, genetic engineering, discovering properties of planets light years away, and generally making life easier than it was in the past. On the other hand, there are some serious dangers that go along with technology, which include: weapons of mass destruction, increasing the ability of governments to play Big Brother to citizens, and the opening of a new avenue for the commission of crime.

Obviously, there is a lot of good and bad that comes about via high technology, so what does this all mean for scientists' search for alien life?

Yesterday, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced the result of a 6-year research study involving the hunt for alien planets around red dwarf stars which, according to some, could make up as much as 80% of the Milky Way's stellar population. The finding: there could be upwards of 10 billion habitable planets in our galaxy alone.

In the Milky Way Galaxy alone there are (according to the most optimistic of estimates) about 400 billion stars and this number may rise as the galaxy, as science has progressed, has gotten increasingly populated as estimates of star counts have risen steadily over the decades. With so many stars, there are probably many times more planets, some of which are suitable for life as we know it. On some of these distant worlds, life may have arisen.

So, with all of these planets, where are the aliens?

One view of this paradox was explained by the scientists Enrico Fermi, one of the men whose research directly lead to the construction of the first atomic bomb. Fermi, upon witnessing the destruction the thing he helped create had wrought, got to thinking about the possibilities of alien life and the role technology could play in helping, or hindering, our search. Living in the era of the Cold War, Fermi realized that, should aliens come upon high technology, there was the very real possibility that they, like us, were teetering on the threshold of planet-wide self-destruction.

Thus arose the Fermi Paradox, which simply states that, because there are so many stars and there has been no alien contact, chances are that, upon reaching levels of high technology, the tendency of civilizations is to destroy themselves. So, could the Fermi paradox be true?

Answer: a definite 'yes.'

Ever since the industrial revolution, we humans have accelerated our technological capabilities at an exponential rate. Yesterday's science fiction is today's science fact. With all the great things brought about by the industrial revolution, such as: jobs, increased wealth, more time for leisure, and spin-off technologies came some not so good things: pollution, filthy, over-crowded, crime-ridden cities, and social problems including class warfare. So, by the end of the 19th century, mankind had already acquired the technology to make the world a much dirtier, unhealthy to live in place.

With the arrival of the 20th century, the Industrial Revolution was in full-swing all over the world. However, unlike in the 19th century when technology was employed with intentions to better the world, that same technology would soon be put to use for the creation of death and destruction in the cataclysm that was World War 1. Machine guns, submarines, aerial bombing, poison gas, and all of the filth created by war would, in 4 years, leave over 8 million people dead. For the first time, technology was changing the world, undeniably and intentionally, for the worse.

With the ending of WW1 in 1918, the same science and technology would once again be brought to peaceful usages, at least for 2 decades, as the peace-loving nations sought to bandage their wounds and move on with existence. During the same times however, other nations with sinister intentions were, at the same time, using the same technology to prepare for a new war that would wind up being far more destructive than the last: World War 2.

However, even more so than in WW1, WW2 would see an even more devastating marriage between science and military in the creation of the atomic bomb, whose dropping on Japan brought the war to a swift conclusion. Unfortunately, while the bomb initially brought peace, it would soon spawn a decades-long arms race that would leave the entire world in constant fear of a nuclear holocaust: the Cold War.

During the Cold War years, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union would be forever racing to build bigger bombs, longer-range missiles, and better ways with which to spy on each other. The result of this arms race was a doctrine of mutually assured destruction, which had the appropriate acronym of MAD. The most troubling aspect of the Cold War was that both sides knew the whole situation was madness but, despite having reasonable people on both sides whose greatest concern was national preservation, the hostilities continued until the communist economic system of the Soviet Union caused the superpower to fall and the nuclear standoff to end. During the years of the Cold War, besides nuclear weapons, deadly, yet cheap to produce, chemical and biological weapons were also developed as further deterrents to aggression.

Numerous times during the Cold War years of 1945 to 1991, the superpowers nearly came to direct blows. Between standoffs like the Berlin Blockade and Cuban Missile Crisis to proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, the world could have,if something had gone differently, spiraled into a nuclear holocaust that would have destroyed not only the two global superpowers fighting each other, but the entire world civilization itself. Fortunately, during the 4 ½ decades of the Cold War, this never happened. However, with the end of the superpower standoff, the world entered a much more dangerous stage of international conflict.

With the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ronald Reagan's 'evil empire' was a thing of the past. However, all of the USSR's weapons were not. With the sudden breakup of the Soviet Union and the formation of many different new countries, all of those old weapons suddenly found themselves with new owners, and some, with no owners at all. The trouble here is obvious: with all of those nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons unsecured, some of them, if the price was right, found themselves up for sale on the black market.

It is this proliferation of WMDs into the hands of small, rogue states and terrorist organizations that leads us to the current state of international problems we face today.

Come 2012, instead of economic systems, the world is most threatened by war over religion. Islamic terrorists, not global superpowers, are now the greatest threat the world faces. Unlike in the Cold War where the object of soldiers, both American and Russian, was to survive, the Islamic terrorist has no such desire, seeing death as martyrdom and a direct ticket to heaven. With such irrational fanaticism and no central government to control them, terrorists are the most insidious threat faced in the history of the civilized world. Needless to say, if WMDs were to fall into the hands of such people, there is no doubt that they, unlike the Soviets of decades past, would have no hesitance in using them.

This is the current state of our world, and it shows no sign of changing anytime soon, either.

So, taking this world, the only inhabited one of which we know, as a model, the search for alien intelligence does not bode very well if technologically-advanced aliens take the same path on their planet as we humans have taken here on Earth. Yes, so far, anyway, we have managed to avoid man-made catastrophe. However, that could all change tomorrow and there is no doubt that the same day-to-day existence is true on other worlds around other stars all across the known universe.

Yes, it's a depressing scenario, but it is a very real possibility that, at this current point in time, we may be all alone in the cosmos, huge as it is.

Fermi may have been right.



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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's a UFO, it's a Alien, it's a . . . Shark?


Is this a UFO or a flying RC shark?


In an interesting tale from my neck of the woods, a 12-year old girl shot nearly a minute of video depicting a metallic UFO hovering over her neighborhood. Local police couldn't identify it and neither could the feds. So what was it? Well, after the video went viral, a plausible answer emerged: an inflatable, remote-controlled shark. Don't believe it? Want to see the video? Well, go here and see for yourself!



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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RAW vs. JPEG: Which is Better?

 
Which is better: RAW or JPEG file format?
Well, for people who are serious about their pictures, ther answer is simple: RAW. But why is this?
First of all, RAW is not an acronym, RAW (I have no idea why most people put in all caps) is simply raw data as recorded by the camera. Simply put, RAWs are to digital as what negatives are to film. Sure, there are inconveniences: special software needed for viewing (comes bundled with RAW-capable camera) and mandatory post processing (at the very least to convert to a "normal" format), but the benefits far outweigh these minor hindrances.
White balance doesn't matter:
In JPEG (or anything else), if the camera is shot in the wrong white balance, you're screwed. In RAW, simply click a button to have the picture looking as it should.

The finer things in life
When the camera process the raw data into another file format, post-processing that you cannot control takes place as the camera tries to make an image appear as noise-free as possible. The result: blurry looking images. This is even true of cameras known for doing good jobs at balancing detail retention and noise. RAW? Fine details are retained very well. Want proof? See
the dramatic difference between RAW and “cooked” pictures for yourself

Expanded ISO.
With RAW, it is possible to, essentially,
expand the ISO range of your camera. So, if a lack of insanely high ISO capability may lead you to buy a new camera, it may be time to reconsider.


Ease of post processing
In
JPEG (or any other in-camera format), post processing, especially in regards to color cast, can be a tedious pain in the neck. In RAW, simply move a tool bar and you're good to go.Hate the thought of post processing? No problem! You can have it both ways at once!



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Monday, March 26, 2012

Nikon Jacks Up Its Prices on the D800 and D4



In case you haven't heard, Nikon UK has just raised the prices on the D800 (undeniably the greatest camera in the world) and D4 by about $400 and $1,000, respectively. The reason for the jump in cost: an “unfortunate mistake” wherein the wrong prices were published in the initial press releases (and the fact that no one managed to notice the error for two months!). The good news: for anyone who ordered before the price hike, the original price will still be honored. For all my American readers, if you want either camera, just go preorder one now before Nikon USA decides to get in on the act and screw us over (maybe), too.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Amazing New Photos of the Titanic to Appear in National Geographic


The Titanic before it met its doom.

Less than a month from now, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. When the 'unsinkable' ocean liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank with a loss of over 1,500 lives (making it the worst maritime disaster to that point), man's, at the time, almost unshakable faith in new technology was shattered as it was proven that, no matter how great man's creations were, we humans are still subservient to nature and our own hubris.

After the ship went down in 1912, no one probably ever (certainly at the time) imagined that the great ship would ever be seen by human eyes ever again. However, with advances in submarine technology, by the 1960s, people began to ponder the idea of finding the Titanic wreck. Problem: there were a lot of confused coordinates given by both the Titanic herself and other ships in the area that pinpointing an exact location for the sinking was just about impossible. Result: anyone looking to find the wreck would have to search a large area of ocean floor more than 2 miles beneath the surface.

Then, In 1985, American oceanographer Robert Ballard, using, for the time, state of the art technology, discovered the ship not by looking for the wreck itself, but the debris trail. Stumbling in on the debris, Ballard's team then followed the trail to the ship itself, which had broken in half, thus conforming eyewitness accounts from the night of the sinking. Returning with a manned submarine the following year, Ballard recorded hours of video footage and hundreds of still imaged of the wreck. Since then, countless teams followed to investigate, photograph, and recover items from the wreck site.

Now in 2012, 26 years after the ship was found and 100 after it sank, researchers using technology that was unimaginable in 1986 have pieced together the first complete picture of the Titanic wreck site (your half a dozen shot mosaic that you think is so wonderful can't hold a candle to this). For researchers, these images freeze in time a wreck that is quickly disintegrating and may collapse into a pile of rust in the next couple of decades. For the curious, the pictures offer never before imagined detail on the wreck of a ship that has become a worldwide obsession.

Go here to read more from National Geographic



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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poof . . . It's Gone!


The Holy Grail: here one moment, gone the next.

The Holy Grail has vanished! Yes, just like in the legends of King Arthur, the Holy Grail made a brief appearance to the disbelief of our eyes only to disappear, without warning, just as fast as it materialized. No this isn't talk of that Holy Grail, but the 13mm f5.6 AI Nikkor that made a brief appearance on Ebay on Monday. So yes, anyone with butt loads of cash who wanted to (probably) spend $30,000 on the rarest, widest 35mm/FF digital-capable Nikkor optic ever produced is out of luck, sorry.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Vernal Equinox and a Magic Show From the Maya


Still a crowd-pleaser all these centuries later.
 
For people interested in astronomical history, it is no secret that the Maya were probably the best astronomers the ancient world produced when it came to practical, real life observing. Over the course of centuries, the Maya made advances in astronomy that still leave modern experts astounded. Perhaps the most surprising this about the Maya is the paradox of their achievements vs, the things they didn't have: Example: the Maya came up with a perfectly interlocking series of 3 calendars that cycled for 5,125 years yet didn't grasp the concept of the wheel or ever use metal tools.

Perhaps more than any other civilization, the Maya set their record of astronomical achievement in stone. Of all these astronomically-themed buildings, the pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichin Itza is probably the most dramatic. The fact that thousands of people still gather on the equinoxes to watch the play of light and shadow is testament to this fact.
Besides being a calendar in stone (91 steps on 4 sides plus the temple on top make 365), the pyramid was orientated so that, only on the equinoxes, a play of light and dark would combine to create the illusion of a serpent (Kukalkan was depicted as a snake) slithering its way down the pyramid. Obviously, the combination of planning for such a show and then constructing it so flawlessly into the design of a building took a lot of brains on the part of the Maya.
Now, over a thousand years later, people still stand in awe, at least for a day, of the people who built this amazing structure over a millennium ago.


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Monday, March 19, 2012

Ken Rockwell's 'Holy Grail' (13mm f5.6 Nikkor) for Sale on Ebay


Behold . . . The Holy Grail!
Yes, the 13mm Nikkor f5.6 AI, perhaps the rarest non-prototype photographic lens (certainly for wide angle lenses) in the world is up for sale on Ebay. Want to own the lens Nikon guru Ken Rockwell has dubbed 'The Holy Grail?' Well, here's your chance, if you have tens of thousands of dollars to burn, that is. For the rest of us, it may be fun to keep an eye on the bidding as there is no 'Buy it Now' option, meaning that the lens will sell for as much as the top bidder is willing to pay, which could be a lot! Expect daily updates as the bidding war ensues!

Day 1 of the Grail Tracker:3/19, 1:00pm EDT: top bid is $12,000.


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Friday, March 16, 2012

Opinion: High ISO Performance Doesn't Matter


The Canon 5D Mark III is the best high ISO camera.

Yes, Nikon's 5-year reign sas high ISO champ is most assuredly over as Canon's new, 22Mp 5D Mark III bests the 36Mp Nikon D800 at high ISO (not unexpected) but also kills the 16Mp D4 (which is a bit of a surprise). The good news for the people contemplating switching systems: high ISO performance doesn't matter for 95% of us. Go here and see why.


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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Canon Kills Nikon for High ISO Performance


The 5D Mark III: the new high ISO champion.

Which brand's cameras are better at high ISOs: Canon or Nikon? Well, the answer to that question, at least in regards to full frame cameras, has changed with the latest generation of new models.

For pretty much as long as both Canon and Nikon were making dSLRs, Canon held a major advantage in the high ISO/low light performance area, blowing away pretty much all of the competition, hands-down. Result: Canon's already established lead among serious shooters became all the more seemingly insurmountable.

Then came 22007 and the Nikon D3 which, at the cost of resolution, took high ISO performance to new heights. Want to shoot ISO 6400 and not really have to think about it? Well, the D3 was the only option. This, partnered with fast Nikkor primes not only helped Nikon catch Canon, but far surpass any of its cameras for low-light shooting. In the following years, Nikon would essentially stuff a D3 sensor into a D300 body, call it the D700, and sell it for half as much as a D3 and then refine the sensor to make it even better, stick it in a D3 body, and call it the D3s. In comparison, it hardly looked if Canon was trying to do anything.

Well, come 2012, Nikon's 5-year reign is most assuredly over as Canon's new, 22Mp 5D Mark III bests the 36Mp Nikon D800 at high ISO (not unexpected) but also kills the 16Mp D4 (which is a bit of a surprise).

Sorry Nikonians, your company is behind the curve, for now as, guaranteed, Nikon is working its hardest to try and catch up (and surpass) Canon once again. Oh, in case you considered it, don't go switching systems yet as cameras (no matter how expensive) are disposable but lenses aren't.





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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sony Announces SLT-A57, A55's Successor, Movie Light Panel


The Sony SLT-A57
Sony has just announced the successor to its popular, entry-level A55, the A57, which borrows technology from the higher-end A65 and A77 models while maintaining the low price that made the original A55 a top-seller.
In the following couple of days, expect some commentary either here or on Examiner. For now, if you want some in-depth analysis, go here.

Key specs:
Body: plastic
Sensor: 16MP APS-C
Aspect ratios: 3:2, 16:9
Formats: RAW, JPEG
ISO: 100-16,000 (25,600 boost)
AF Points: 15
AF assist lamp: yes via built-in flash
Viewfinder: OLED with 100% coverage.
LCD: 3” 1,040,000 dot live view
Built-in flash: yes
Shutter Speed: 1/4000-30 seconds, bulb
Continuous drive: 12 fps
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3 stops
AE Bracketing: 3 frames
WB settings: 9
WB Bracketing: yes, 3 frames
Video: 1080p full HD
Movie Formats: H.264, MPEG. AVCHD
Microphone: stereo
Speaker: mono
HDMI: Yes
Wireless: no
GPS: no
Storage: SD/SDHC/SCXC, Memory Stick, Duo Pro
Weight: 1.36lbs (with battery)
Size: 5.2” x 3.8” x 3.1”
Price: $799.99 (with 18-55 kit)
Availability: April



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Monday, March 12, 2012

Are Camera Companies Screwing Us Over or are We Just Stupid?


The Sigma SD1: corporate greed made reality, but are we always getting ripped off?

In case you didn't hear, photographic company Sigma has just finalized plans to give users the equivalent of a nearly $5,000 rebate for early buyers of its flagship SD1 dSLR camera, which was initially announced with a $10,000 MSRP and which hit streets at $7,000. Why? Well, thinks to, according to Sigma, a change in production, costs have dropped and the camera can now be sold at $2,300. Really? That 'production change' is probably more thanks to a wave of complaints than anything else, which brings us to a big question: are camera companies screwing us over or not?

Well, in the case of Sigma, the answer is all but certainly a 'yes.' Think about it: how could a company claim that a camera is so expensive to produce that it suggests a $10,000 price tag, which retailers cut to $7,000, and then change the MSRP to $3000 overnight (from which retailers cut another $700)?

That sounds more like plain and simple corporate greed to me.

As for the other companies, they're ripping us off, too. Take Canon and Nikon. Both companies offer a ton of cameras for sale, including (until recently) a split flagship series: The D# and D#'x' for Nikon and the 1D and 1Ds for Canon. The pricing story is very similar for both companies in that they offer a high-speed, lower resolution model for about $5,000 and then offer a high-res version for $3,000 more. Question: does it really cost $3,000 to produce a sensor with double the resolution of that in the $5,000 model? I'm sure it doesn't, these companies simply do this because they know that they can get away with it as professionals will buy the cameras regardless of price. Another example: Nikon brings out a 18-200VRII. The only addition from the first version: a barrel lock to prevent zoom creep. Apparently, this amazing bit of technology costs an extra $200, as evidenced by the price difference between the lenses when both were still selling new.

Olympus is ripping us off, too. The just-announced $1,000 OM-D equals or bests the company's supposedly better, $1,600 E-5 in just about every area that matters. Heck, the OM-D even feature an all-new sensor and an OLED viewfinder to the E-5's archaic optical one. Naturally, one would think that the new sensor and OLED screen would make the OM-D just as expensive as the E-5. Well, nope, the superior OM-D sells for $600 less. Why does Olympus do this? Easy, the OM-D is not marketed for pro use while the E-5 is. As has always been the case, the company knows that working pros will pay anything and so it prices accordingly.

Another company that also once ripped us off was Sony. When Sony announced its $3,000 A900 in 2008, many people jumped for joy. However, come 2009 and the A850, many A900 owners felt as though they had been pick-pocketed. Why? The A850 was a clone of the A900 except that it only did 3fps (vs. 5 on the A900) and had only 98% viewfinder coverage (vs. 100% on the A900). Oh, yes, the A850 was priced at $2,000 and remains, to date, the only $2,000 FF camera in the world. So, Sony, did cutting that extra 2% of viewfinder and 2fps frame rate really lower the cost of production so much that you felt safe to drop the MSRP by $1,000? Probably not, you were just really greedy with the A900, that's all.

Now, for the second question: are we all stupid?

First thing's first, since the majority of camera users live in capitalistic countries, we have choice as to what we choose (or don't choose) to buy. This is especially true of luxury goods like cameras, which we don't truly need. So, with the power of choice in a free market, why do we choose to buy such goods when we know they're almost certainly way over-priced? Well, because we can! We see stuff and want it, the manufacturers know this and price accordingly, high enough to have a comfortable profit margin (which they have the right to do) but low enough that we can afford them (this is why 'prosumer' cameras typically cap out at $3500) if we want to buy one (which is a great thing about having freedom to use one's own money as one pleases).

Bottom line: no manufacturer can force us to buy anything we don't want and/or think is priced unreasonably. Even better news: in a free market, the consumer have the choice and, if we collectively refuse to buy something because of price, one of two things can happen: the manufacturer essentially admits it was gouging us (like Sigma did) and lowers its prices or things stay unsold and the company makes no money.

The great news: there is absolutely no shortage of cameras on the market at all different price ranges to suit all needs. Want a camera? Well, look a little bit and you're guaranteed to find one that fits your budget, yet another great thing about a free, competitive market.

A final bit of advice: quit drooling over that new camera you can't afford yet, go out, and take some pictures instead.




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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daylight Savings Time Trivia

Love it or hate it, we've just had to spring ahead for Daylight Savings Time (DST). So, rather than complain, have fun with DST and baffle your friends with these interesting DST trivia facts. Enjoy!


*Many ancient civilizations divided their days into 24 hours just like us, but adjusted the 'hours’ lengths so that there would always be 12 hours of day and 12 of night (this had to make setting up a date really suck).


*While he did not propose DST, Benjamin Franklin, while serving as envoy to France, anonymously published a letter suggesting people rise early (and thus go to bed earlier) to economize on candles and make use of natural sunlight. so no, don't blame Ben Franklin for our having to change the clocks (and you being an hour early for church this morning!)

* The catalyst for starting DST: saving energy during World War I, after which it was dropped until, you guessed it, WWII. Funny how wars spur things to get done.


*While we shift by an hour today, twenty and thirty minute shifts, and also two hour shifts, have been used in the past anda re currently used in different places over the world.


* The Uniform Time Act of 1966 standardized DST start/stop dates for the United States even though it doesn't require states to observe DST (Ariziona and Hawaii don't).


*Even now, start/end dates aren’t standard around the world


*Switch dates are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere


*In some areas, voters have rejected use of DST altogether while in other areas, there are pushes to eliminate Standard Time and have DST all year long (thus making DST the new Standard Time).


*'Standard' Time only lasts 3 months of the year (hardly standard if you ask, me, how about calling it Daylight Losing Time?)





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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Canon 5D Mark III Kills the Nikon D4 at High ISO and What it Means


The 5D Mark III is a stop better than the D4.


Which is better at high ISO: the Canon 5D Mark III or the Nikon D4? Well, the answer to that question has presented itself in a decisive manner: the 5DIII absolutely blows the D4 out of the water at anything above ISO 1600 by at least 1 f-stop. Want the full analysis, go here and read all about it!

So, what does this mean for would-be buyers? Answer: not all that much, yet.

When looking at photographic tests regarding noise, one must remember that the test is being done by looking at the pictures at full resolution, which is something that no one is going to do when it comes to printing pictures on paper or sharing them electronically. In contrast, when printing, most people stop at the 8x11” size, which is the largest most consumer-grade printers go and as big as most people want to pay a pro to print. By shrinking an image that would be about 60 inches wide on a computer screen onto a 8x11 piece of paper, the pixels essentially shrink and, along with them, the noise. Result: a picture that looks noisy when viewed in-full on a computer is silky smooth in print.

The same thin is true when it comes to electronic sharing. Think about it: do you send your friends 12+Mp pictures via email? Doubtful. If you're like most people, you shrink the pictures so that they can be viewed in-full all at once on a computer screen to about 1,000 pixels wide or so. In shrinking the picture, you lose that magnification that shows all of the unsightly noise, meaning that downsampled pictures are always remarkably clean-looking.

Now the caveat: yet.

Two things could make the above information irrelevant: the need to crop/print huge and the next generation of cameras. First thing: cropping. When one crops an image, you are essentially magnifying the portion of it that you are keeping. By zooming in on the view, any faults with the images, like noise, will become more apparent. End result: if you plan on making some heavy crops, expect some noise to become visible due to the magnified view. The same is true of huge printing. If you're a pro planning to print mural-sized images, the noise will show up. If you're an average Joe who will stick with 8x11s, the small size of your picture will erase the noise, promise!

Second consideration: the future. First, there is no doubt that the 5DIII is about a stop better than the D4 when it comes to its image quality. This fact is especially impressive considering that the 5DIII has higher resolution (by 6Mp) than the camera it betters. Clearly, in bettering the 16Mp D4 with the 22Mp 5DIII, the ball is clearly in Canon's court now as Canon has clearly won the high ISO battle for this generation of cameras.

Back in 2007, Nikon leapfrogged long-standing King Canon for the high ISO title. Come 2012, Canon has reasserted its place as the best in the industry in regards to this very important photographic capability. Right now, Canon is better, no doubt, but there is no way to look at the long-term trend until the next generation of pro cameras hit stores, probably in 2015/16. If Nikon fails to close or erase the gap with the D5, then there is considerable reason to possibly consider jumping ship if one is not too heavily invested in the Nikon system, that is unless Canon doesn't offer any real improvement, either.

My advice: for now, stick with what you're shooting as, by what's been outlined above, there's a good chance that the 5DIII's 1-stop advantage is a moot point unless you plan on printing wall-sized pictures or plan to crop a lot.
Still think the D4 sucks? Well, you may want to look at some noise reduction software before dumping your entire Nikon system at a loss and buying into Canon at full-price . After all, as with any product, the winds of fortune change and its simply financial insanity to change systems every time one manufacturer makes a new camera that's a little bit cleaner than the competition. Personally, I'd worry a lot more about the glass I was using than the camera.

For full coverage:Canon announces 5D Mark III
Key specs.
Why did it take Canon so long to listen?
5DIII noiseless through ISO 12,800
Sell your 5DII before no one wants it
5D Mark III vs. Nikon D4 at high ISO
5DIII vs. 5DII, D700, D800, A900
5DIII renders 1Dx irrelevant


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Pg 108 28D review

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why Did it Take so Long to for Canon to Make a Camera Like the 5D Mark III?

The 5D Mark III is 4 years too late for most, but is it Canon's fault?

Canon shooters around the world, rejoice, the 5D Mark III is here and it's hands-down better than its predecessor, the 5D Mark II. For many, this is a long over-due camera that should have hit the market 4 years ago. Still, late is better than never, but why did it take so long?

When Canon launched the 5DII back in 2008, the market climate was very, very different. With the 5D in 2005, Canon created for itself a new market niche: an 'affordable' FF camera priced at the $3,000 mark. At the time, only Canon was making full frame cameras, namely the $8,000 1Ds series (Kodak briefly tried, but its cameras were over-priced, under-performing flops) when pitted against the Canons. So, with the market all to itself, Canon could do no wrong and 5Ds became the favored camera for many pros and amateurs alike.

Come 2008, it was time to refresh the 5D and Canon had already had the 5DII in the works for quite some time as an evolutionary step-up from the original 5D. Problem: unbeknownst to Canon, Nikon was working on its own $3,000 FF model: the D700. Unlike Canon, Nikon lifted a lot of technology straight from its flagship D3, stuck it into a half-height body, and called it the D700. In contrast, Canon, not knowing that the D700 was afoot, decided to keep a lot of its best features from the 1D series there, lest an almost equally-capable 5DII cannibalize on 1Ds sales. Unfortunately, when release time for the 5DII came around, the camera already looked rather unimpressive against the D700 (except in its nearly double resolution).

To put it plainly, Canon got caught with its pants down. In the end, only its stunning image quality and existing users' commitment to the system probably kept a lot of 5D shooters from jumping to Nikon. As for it slow burst speed, lousy AF system, and wimpy build quality, those would just have to be things to be endured until, hopefully, the 5DIII came about.

Well, come 2012 with known competition, Canon released a camera designed to go toe-to-toe with the D700 as Canon was much more generous in letting 1D features, including AF system, dual memory, and weather sealing trickle down to the 5D line as, D700 a known competitor, there was no way a 5DIII could be sold on image quality alone the way the 5DII was. Simply put, consumers demanded more and Canon, knowing what it was up against this time, delivered the goods.

Oh, by the way, if you plan on buying a 5DIII, preorder right now as the waiting list is sure to stretch from the Earth to the Moon in no time!

For more on the 5DIII:
Canon announces 5D Mark III
5D Mark III high ISO samples



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Friday, March 2, 2012

Canon 5D Mark III Key Specifications

The Canon 5D Mark III.

Canon has just announced the long-awaited successor to the 5D Mark II: the 5D Mark III. In digital camera terms, the 5DII was getting quite old for a dSLR. Launched in 2008, the 5DII revolutionized photography by being the first camera to offer full HD video while continuing the tradition of high image quality at a reasonable price began with the original 5D in 2005.

Building on the success of the 5DII, Canon has offered improvements in many categories that are sure to make many current Canon shooters look to update and some non-users consider jumping ship.
In the following couple of days, expect some commentary. For now, if you want some in-depth analysis, go here.

Key specs:
Body: magnesium alloy, weather seals
Sensor: 22Mp FF
Aspect ratios: 3:2
Formats: RAW, JPEG
ISO: 100-104,800
AF Points: 61
AF assist lamp: no
Viewfinder: 100% coverage. 0.71x magnification
LCD: 3.2” 1,040,000 dot live view
Built-in flash: no
Shutter Speed: 1/8000-30 seconds, bulb
Continuous drive: 6 fps
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5 stops
AE Bracketing: +/- 3 stops (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at ½ or 1/3 EV steps)
WB settings: 6
WB Bracketing: yes, up to 3 frames
Video: 1080p full HD
Movie Formats: H.264
Microphone: mono
Speaker: mono
HDMI: Yes
Wireless: no
GPS: optional
Storage: Compactflash, SD
Weight: 2.09lbs (with battery)
Size: 5.98” x 4.57” x 2.99”
Price: $3499.99
Availability: Late March





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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why Planetary Science Matters

The Curiosity rover could be the last major planetary mission for a decade.


Recently, NASA announced that it was shelving all future 'flagship' missions to the planets, pulling out of 2 international missions, and is scraping for enough funds to launch a pared-down mission to Mars by 2020. All in all, things are not looking good for NASA's planetary science division in the coming decade, which is bad for multiple reasons.

First of all, no missions to the planets means no new science. Now, while many people may consider spending millions, sometimes billions, of dollars on sending robotic probes to the planets a waste of money, it is not for one simple reason: survival.

For one reason or another, Earth will become uninhabitable at some point in the future, whether it be through pollution, resource depletion, some other man-made catastrophe, or through the death of the Sun, which will turn into a world-engulfing red giant at the end of its life, the final gasp of a dying star. Either way, Earth is doomed and if we are to survive as a species, we must become space-faring. As with human exploration on Earth, the first step in going to a new place is a quick, probing expedition which, in the case of planets, must be done with robots in our stead.

Spending money on space exploration is not a waste, it is an investment in our future.

Now, another, latent effect of this lack of going to the planets is even more damaging in that it may create a snowball effect wherein a lack of space exploration results in future disinterest, and even less exploration. This problem: no space exploration now could prevent today's children from taking up careers in space science in the future.

Yes, the old saying that the leaders of the future are in the schools of today may sound trite, but it is true. Many adults can find their lifelong passions in childhood, space scientists included. Now, with no missions to the planets planned in the coming decade, children of the 2010s who are interested in space will have very little current developments to read about. Worst case scenario: come the end of the decade, kids all across the country will be reading about NASA's planetary science program in the past tense, with no current news to spur their interest. For America, these could be the first children in a century not to have something exciting and new to read about in regards to space.

While the space age is only about 50 years old, the public's interest in space goes far deeper back in time. It was in 1888 during a close approach of Mars that Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiparelli thought that he saw channels, or canali in Italian, on Mars. In translation, canali was misinterpreted as 'canals,' thus implying some sort of artificial intelligence. Result: Mars fever swept the world, infecting an English writer by the name of H.G. Wells, who would go on to write War of the Worlds in 1898. After Wells, space-inspired science fiction became all the rage.

In 1902, Le Voyage das la Lune, A Trip to the Moon in English, became what is considered to be the first sci-fi film ever made. Despite running only 12 minutes, the film captured audiences' attention worldwide with its dazzling (for the time) special effects that showed astronomers blasting themselves to the Moon in a giant gun, fighting with the hostile inhabitants, and eventually returning to Earth and a hero's welcome.

For the next 50 years, the public would continue to get the same picture of space, namely far-out science fiction involving brave heroes, beautiful damsels, hostile aliens, and fantastic weapons. Still, though none of this was taken seriously by professional astronomers, such stories found in dime store novels and comic books was plenty to keep the public interested in the planets and what they might be like. In his Cosmos TV series, Carl Sagan recalled how, as young boy, he was enthralled by the Barsoom sagas of Edgar Rice Burroughs, even going so far as to stand in a field and try to wish himself to Barsoom (the name for Mars used by the Martians) in the same manner as series hero John Carter. Obviously, it never worked, but Sagan was undoubtedly not the only boy of the 1940s who would become a scientist in the 60s to do so.

Now, in the age when science has supplanted science fiction, today's children have no great space-based adventures to read and, should NASA cancel it planetary program, not even any current science, either, a loss whose immensity may not come to be realized in full for decades to come.


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