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All posts in Gadgets

12 Apr 2015

Smart watches (Pebble and Apple)

With my renewed commitment to blogging, that will mainly be about photography, I want to add some variety to the posts and include some posts on my other interests, particularly technology.  With the launch of the new Apple Watch today (10th April) , I have ordered one and look forward to this incredible piece of technology. I already use a Pebble Steel and an iPhone 6 Plus and find this a great combination which will get better still with the new Apple Watch. I regularly walk and listen to podcasts and audiobooks and it is so useful to glance at my watch to see who is calling and decide whether to accept the call using my Bose QC20i headphones or decline the 0843 and nuisance calls with the X option on the watch. I can make calls using Siri and the in-line mic so I rarely need to take out my iPhone. In the cold winters of Aberdeen, this becomes even more useful when wearing gloves.


Other indispensable things about the Pebble / 6 Plus combo
  • Vibrate when iPhone disconnected – this has saved me forgetting or losing my iPhone several times.
  • Misfit app to track my activity (steps, calories burned etc.) although I still also use a Nike fuel band which I will stop using after I get the Apple Watch.
  • Reminders on the watch are very useful e.g. a reminder of a meeting or task to be completed
  • Text and email notifications on my wrist are a great way to stay informed when looking at my iPhone would be inappropriate but lets me selectively deal with anything urgent. I was photographing at a conference last week and got a notification (vibration) on my watch about a job request and this did merit taking out my iPhone for a quick reply which got me the job.If I had waited until the conference was finished, I would’ve lost the opportunity.
  • A 4am daily alarm on my wrist wakes me with a subtle vibration, but not my wife – easily declined if I change my mind
  • The shake to light for the time during the night is also very useful

This is only going to get better with the Apple Watch. When I ordered the first Pebble, I did think it was a gimmick and not necessary when carrying a phone but using it has proved very different. This viewpoint is from a dedicated watch lover who has top end Swiss watches which I have always had a passion for. I have recently sold some of these on eBay as apart from an occasional very dressy occasion, I already cannot imagine not having a Smart watch on my wrist.

I think a lot of people will question the point of a “connected” watch but when they see the functionality and usefulness they will quickly be converted.

As soon as I get the Apple Watch, I will create a post with my initial thoughts.

11 Feb 2012

New Nikon D4 and D800

Amazing New Cameras from Nikon


On Wednesday of this week, I was at an Nikon Professional Services event to launch the new D4. It is always worth attending these events as there is a camera clinic and you can have your camera checked and cleaned while you attend the presentation. I was really looking forward to seeing the new D4 which is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary upgrade to the beloved D3s that I use. The day before the trip to Edinburgh Nikon launched another camera the D800 to the world’s press in London and other places across the world. I knew it would be a talking point but I did not expect to see it one day after the release.  However it was very exciting that there was a D800 there so those at the workshop were among the first group of photographers in the world to handle this amazing new camera.

The ground breaking news is that the D800 has a full frame 36.3MP sensor. High resolution is usually delivered at the expense of high ISO performance but this new D800 can still perform amazingly at 3200 ISO or even 6400. It cannot compete with the 16MP flagship D4 in this area, as it can virtually "see in the dark" and goes to an insane 204 800 ISO but it does have twice the resolution. Most photographers are taking the view that the D800 will be the logical choice for the commercial, studio, and wedding photographer while the D4 with it’s ability to work in very low light and it’s speed (up to 11 frames per second (compared to 4or 6 of the D800) will be the natural choice of the press photographer. I would expect to see lots of D4’s at the Olympics. However I do not think we can make a decision until we try the cameras and see the files.

It was great to see and handle both cameras along with the full range of Nikkor lenses and I cannot wait to properly test them both.

This is me in Edinburgh on Wednesday with the D4 and D800

As the cameras were pre-production models, the memory card slots were taped up. However someone in our group (who will remain nameless for fear of repercussions) managed to sneak a memory card into the D800. Although I cannot open the raw file as Adobe are not supporting the new cameras yet, a jpeg shot with available light at 3200 ISO is below. The "male model" in the shot is Charlie Stewart of Royale Photographics.

A small file on a blog post cannot convey the resolution and quality of this jpeg straight from the camera but it certainly looks very impressive. However, Nikon has made a selection of sample images available for download on its official site for the new cameras. As always, these are compressed JPG files – we will wait to see what the RAW files of these cameras can produce before we can even begin to really judge the quality. Still, interesting nonetheless.

Nikon D800 Sample Images

I have not went into any detail on the specification or even mentioned video as there are hundreds of opinions, and detailed technical reviews on-line (I have probably read them all) and all the specifications can be obtained from Nikon or DP Review.

There is already huge debate over which is the best camera. However they are both fantastic tools and both will yield amazing results – it is a very exciting time to be a photographer.

10 Feb 2012

The Professional Photographer’s Compact Camera

The Fuji X100

I have been taking lots of images with this Fuji X100 compact camera and have been rediscovering taking photographs for fun. This small fixed lens compact has been the subject of lots of hype, and was one of the most anticipated cameras released in 2011. There is no point in repeating all the technical details and specification which can easily be found on-line.Visit the Fuji X100 website for details.

Some of the comments and reviews have been amazing

"Let me get this out of the way… The Fuji x100 is the greatest digital camera ever made and may just be the greatest camera I have ever owned……"

"Couple always-fantastic images with the world’s smallest real camera, and you can see why I love it so much….."

"The images I get from my Fuji X100 are nothing short of amazing. Photographing my fast-moving kids and family under every lighting condition from desert sun to dim restaurants to moonlight, my Fuji X100 makes skin tones look better than from any other camera. The X100’s ability to tame difficult light under unscripted real-world conditions automatically, which is what’s most often encountered everywhere except inside a studio, is amazing…."

"I would go so far as to say that the X100 is the most enjoyable and satisfying camera I have ever used…"

So what makes it so special

  • beautiful retro styling reminiscent of a Leica
  • Great build quality
  • Traditional dials
  • Superb 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens
  • Amazing colour straight from the camera
  • An APS-C size sensor – nothing is more important in a digital camera than sensor size

It has been called the "Professionals compact" and this is because it has a great blend of size, quality, and traditional dials. It is certainly not perfect and some of the menu controls are badly thought out, the manual focus is useless, the start up time is slow, and after a DSLR, the focussing is slow. To master this camera takes some time. I bought from Amazon, the Photographer’s Guide to the Fujifilm FinePix X100 [Kindle Edition] and after reading it, I am completely comfortable with it now. There is great pleasure in using it that is hard to define. It feels great in your hand, the main controls – shutter, aperture, and exposure compensation are traditional dials that take me back almost 40 years when I first developed an interest in photography. I am enjoying the fixed lens as it forces me to think more about my shots and composition compared to having a bag of zoom lenses covering all focal lengths.

An evening shot taken hand held on the X100 and although I have been asked if HDR was used, this is a jpeg created from the raw with no localised adjustments.

An evening shot taken hand held on the X100 and although I have been asked if HDR was used, this is a jpeg created from the raw with no localised adjustments.

However despite the retro styling, it has all the features and more that you would expect from a modern digital camera – Raw files, 5 frames per second shooting, auto ISO, auto bracketing, auto dynamic range, amazing fill-flash, and the killer feature – the hybrid viewfinder. The Hybrid Viewfinder combines the window-type “bright frame” optical viewfinder found in high-end film cameras, such as 35mm or medium-format cameras, and the electronic viewfinder system incorporated in fixed single lens or mirrorless digital cameras. While traditionalists prefer the clear, sharp view of an ‘optical’ viewfinder, modern electronic displays, giving data like shutter speed, aperture, white balance, exposure correction and ISO can aid photographers tremendously. The new Hybrid Viewfinder on the FinePix X100 aims to give the ‘best of both worlds.’

Taken at Cove, this file is direct from the camera and highlights the great dynamic range and colour from the X100

Taken at Cove, this file is direct from the camera and highlights the great dynamic range and colour from the X100

One feature that I fully expected to ignore was "Motion Panorama" – a mode that lets you move the camera horizontally following a yellow line in the viewfinder while the camera takes several images and stitches them together to create 120 or 180 degree panorama jpegs. The example below was taken at Cove using this mode and apart from some level adjustments, this image is direct from the camera.

Taken at Cove, this 180 degree panorama was created in the camera.

Taken at Cove, this 180 degree panorama was created in the camera.

I am currently involved in giving training to beginners on how to get the best from their DSLR or mirrorless system cameras and it has been useful for me to go back to basics taking photographs with a new camera, learning it’s features, reading the manual, all things I am "preaching" to the course delegates. In the process I have had a lot of fun with the Fuji X100 and although much larger than my Canon S95 point and shoot (now replaced with the S100), I am taking it everywhere with me instead of the Canon. It is not for everyone and I would not recommend it over a DSLR or if you only have one camera but if you already have a DSLR and are an enthusiast, then I am sure you will love it as much as I do. Of course if you have £10 000 or more to spend, a Leica M9 and M lenses is still the ultimate and this week, I am getting to borrow an M9 and I am very excited about this and I will have a blog post on this next week.

18 Mar 2011

Commercial Sample Slideshow

Slideshow for the iPad

I have spoken before about how useful the iPad is as a sales tool and I now have several clients using these as sales presenters. I have just created a slideshow of commercial photography to show on the iPad. I thought about grouping exteriors, interiors, etc. but eventually decided just to mix a selection of shots to give a "feel" for the type of work I do. I created it at 720p and the quality on the iPad is great. The Youtube version below does not look so good as the iPad but if you choose 720p, it will give a good idea.


I have not "blogged" much recently as I have been so busy but I have a lot of draft posts with recent work prepared so all being well there will be a new post everyday next week. I love to get feedback on any of the posts so any comments will be appreciated.


9 Dec 2010

New Macbook Air (2010 Edition)

New Macbook Air

I have just taken delivery of the new 13 inch Macbook Air with 256gb flash memory, the upgraded processor and 4gb ram. I had sold my previous Air as I thought the iPad was a replacement for it but much as I love the iPad and use it a great deal, I realised that I missed the Air. My main machine is a very high spec. 17 inch Macbook Pro connected to a 30 inch Cinema Display. It is a great machine and is portable enough to take on an assignment or trip but if I am out during the day, I tend not to take it with me.

The Macbook Air (MBA) is so light, it is very easy to have it with you always and where I prefer the iPad for viewing photographs, reading books or magazines, or browsing the web, the Air is much better for email and documents. The iPad is fine for reviewing  e-mail and I am much more likely to reply than I am on my iPhone, but I would not sit down and deal with a large volume of Mail on the iPad and this is where the MBA comes into it’s own.

The other use for me is for tethering to my camera and using it with Lightroom connected to my D3s is a great way to work especially if the client is with you. Being so  small and light, it can be in my camera bag and the option is always there.

The new one is not a huge change from the previous model but the increase to 256gb allows me to copy everything from my main SSD drive on the 17inch MBP as it is also a 256 SSD (it also has a 500gb internal drive and I can copy this to an external if I need this but generally this is not the case). The increase in speed is noticeable but not a huge improvement. The second USB port is a big plus. However there is one big drawback – no illuminated keyboard. This is a real inconvenience as a lot of the places I use my Air – on the sofa watching TV, dimly lit coffee shops etc., it is a real miss – so much so I have ordered a USB keyboard light. I do not often criticise Apple but I think this is a big mistake on a machine that is likely to be used in a lot of dimly lit places.

13 Apr 2010


New Apple iPad

Anyone with an interest in technology will have heard about the new Apple iPad launched in the US on Saturday 3rd April, and due in the UK at the end of the month. Sandra, my partner was in Houston on a work trip and was arriving on the launch day which was very fortunate, so I pre-ordered one to be collected on the 3rd. I then got an email saying it had to be collected before 3.00pm on the Saturday and as Sandra could not be at an Apple Store before 3.00pm, my hopes of getting one were dashed. However Sandra's boss, Lynn, kindly agreed to collect it for me and give it to Sandra, who took it back from the US last week.

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