Friday, November 28, 2008

Propane Nightmares

For those who don't know, I play a lot of Team Fortress 2. Love the game. Saw this over at Ubercharged.net:


Awesome fan created mod video. But, it's the song that really got me. That track in the background was amazing. After some digging I found that it was one of the singles from Pendulums latest album In Silico. Now I have two of their previous albums. And they're great, but since I've stopped buying CDs, and my music is pretty much 99% aquired through eMusic, I missed that they had released a new album this year. The song in the video is Propane Nightmares. My new favorite song.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

around and around

around and around
This is a great example of why I got the FM3a. Ok, it's not actually such a great example. It was a bit over exposed. The film is a cheap brand so it's grainy. But I still like it.

This photo is a 20 minutes long exposure. On digital this would require heavy noise reduction, usually something called dark frame subtraction. Mechanical cameras like the FM3a are great for long exposure shooting as you don't need the battery to do any shooting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The CRTC, Bell and Canada's broken Internet

For those here in Canada who have not been paying attention, Bell Canada, along with Rogers have started screwing with our internet. Both Bell and Rogers monitor what you do on the internet, and based on that monitoring, shape your bandwidth based on weather you are doing something they deem appropriate.

Now Bell and Rogers are free to do this for the moment. However, CAIP, a group representing Canadas independant ISPs began having their connections throttled by Bell earlier this year. Keep in mind that most of these ISPs do not simply resell Bells services. They only lease the last mile. The actual copper line going from the switching station to your home. At the point of the switching station, the connection is wholly run by the ISP. These independent ISPs are not having a problem with bandwidth in any way. But Bell claims that these switching stations (specifically, the DSLAM hardware) are being saturated, and that they are forced to degrade service for "bandwidth hogs".

So CAIP earlier this year complained to the CRTC that this practice was in fact illegal. It took the CRTC 7 months to reject this complaint. Now, 7 months is a VERY long time on the Internet. It's been an incredibly frustrating time to have your 500kb/s + connection degraded to 60k (or worse) because you happen to be using an application that Bell doesn't like. The gist of the CRTC decision is that there is no discrimination against the independent ISPs since Bell does the same thing to it's own customers under the Sympatico brand.

The CRTC made some major errors in it's decision.

  1. The CRTC claimed that Bell is not actually monitoring the connection in any way that infringes on privacy. This is untrue because the very nature of the technology requires the connection to be analyzed. In fact the CRTC contradicts itself in ti's response by claiming later that bell does in fact inspect every packet.

  2. The response stated that Bell had to do this because of congestion. Bells proof of this congestion was submitted as part of this process and made publicly available (sorry, can't find the link right now). This document was made as confusing as possible. But the gist of it was that maybe a couple of it's DSLAMS was congested 0.1% of the time during one or two 4 hour monitoring periods. In other words they proved nothing. I doubt the CRTC spent any time actually reading this document or if they did, didn't understand it.

  3. Lastly, the CRTC is harming innovation and competition in Canada. With this decision, not only will Bell (and of course Rogers) continue to limit what people can do on the internet by application, they are about to limit what people can do per month. Starting January of 2009, Bell will be limiting the total bandwitdh usage of it's resellers as well to 60GB. This is especially ridiculous when you consider that the bandwidth usage has nothing to do with Bell as it's the ISP you're with that has to pay for it. I'm sure Bell will come up with some way to make the CRTC see their view, and after all, Bell does that to it's own subscribers. Now I have no problem paying for my usage. In fact, my current connection is capped at 200GB. But that I believe is reasonable. And that is only a temporary reasonableness for todays applications and media.


That last point is the major one for me.
Currently Bell does not allow P2P applications, and caps their users to 60GB transfer (for most of their offerings). That's almost reasonable for the average user, today. Now. And that's the problem. This is the Internet. This is technology. Think about how far we've come in the last decade. Just imagine what we'll be doing on the internet in another decade? Well, at least the rest of the world will. We'll be stuck in this decade.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My First Camera, the Nikon F601

My First Camera: Nikon F601

This is my first camera which I bought with my own money. I purchased it while in College. Many a roll of film has gone through this Nikon.

I hardly use this camera anymore since I acquired my FM3a. Still, if I need Auto Focus and have an urge for getting a nice roll of Fuji Velvia out, I will use this camera. One great thing about this camera, if you can get one used is that it meters with MF lenses. On the downside it doesn't work with G lenses in A or M mode. And it doesn't auto focus with AF-S lenses. Ironically, always wanted the 17-35mm AF-S but never got one until I got my D70, glad I didn't because I would have been very annoyed that it didn't auto focus.

This camera is fairly well built and very simple. This was one of the last consumer cameras before Nikon got into putting scene modes in place of actual useful controls. It has all the controls you need and still use today on my D200. The built in flash is useful in a pinch. The focusing is slow and noisy but that never bothered me. Lack of depth of field preview and focus assist is annoying. It only has one cross type auto focus sensor in the middle with spot, center weighted and matrix metering.

This camera can be had for $50-100 on eBay and I highly recommend it for someone looking for a film camera but doesn't want a fully manual camera all the time. If you are fine with manually focusing then get one of Nikons excellent FM series like the FM3a.

The viewfinder is huge compared to todays DX digital SLRs. It's bright and great for manual focusing. It's not like an F# (single digit) series or the D3, but still much better than any cropped sensor viewfinder.

The lens in this picture is also my first lens. It's a 35-80mm f4-5.6D AF Nikkor. I bought it with my camera. It's only current benefit is it's one of the lightest zoom lenses ever made by Nikon. It was also very cheap at the time, I was in college after all. Shortly after leaving College I got the 24-120 f3.5-5.6D. Strangely I still have this lens but not the 24-120mm even though I never use it. Probably because it's worthless. I think Henrys offered me $10 for it a few years ago.

See shots taken with my F601.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Avoiding huge accidents

This morning I was going to bike in from home to work.
I was feeling really tired so decided to do my normal half/half ride. Drive to Park Lawn and Lakeshore and then bike the rest of the way in. However, I got a call from Laura telling me the QEW was shut down at Evans. Ave.



Boy was it ever.

When biking down on Cawthra, the traffic was backed up as far as I could see going eastbound to Toronto. Lakeshore, same thing.

My ride probably saved me a heap of time, and was a pleasure to boot.




Onwards Toronto
Onwards Toronto
Originally uploaded by tracer.ca

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35 f2.8D ED-IF Lens Review

Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35 f2.8D ED-IF Lens

I got this lens originally used on eBay from a local seller. It was in new condition. Hardly a sign of use other than some dust on the outside and some marks on the lens cap. That sample was stolen and I have since gotten a brand new one to replace the used one I had.

This was "the" lens from Nikon. Used by photojournalists for ages. It's recently been replaced by the 12-24mm f4D DX for digital only bodies to produce the same field of view on digital as it had on film and to some extent the 14-24mm f/2.8G. On digital the 17-35mm lens has the FOV of a 25.5-52.5mm lens.

This lens has amazingly fast Auto Focus. AF-S doesn't always mean fast focusing, but in this case it does. The angle of view is great for general photography on my D70. Here are some photos I have taken with my 17-35mm.

Walk on the beach

I can't really comment on the sharpness because I don't usually worry about it. From what I have seen though this is one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used.

The feel of this lens is second to none. It's exactly what I would expect from a "pro" Nikon lens. It also has the heft of a pro lens. It's a bit annoying to carry around but I find it worth the results. Even the numbers are etched and painted not just "printed" on. My only complaint is the action of the zoom ring. It has a bit more friction than I would like, but I’m really just complaining here.

Moon

The main reason I got this lens was for its constant f/2.8 aperture. It allows me to shoot in more places than I was able to before. The only thing that would make this lens better is if it was f2 or even f1.8 :) It also offers a very close focusing distance. Just under 1' or 0.28m from the film plane. The official magnification ratio is 1:4. The wide angle and close focusing distance can make for some interesting shots.

Stubby

This has quickly become the main lens on my camera. The one that's usually on and the one I enjoy photography with the most. For anybody who is looking at getting a new 17-55mm f/2.8D for the DX body or are looking at the 14-24mm f/2.8D for their FX body but doesn't want to blow that much cash get one of these used on eBay.
I also shoot film, both on my trusty F601 and my favorite camera, the FM3a. I thought this lens was nice on Digital, wow. On film it's amazing. No wonder this lens used to get such high praise. It's sharp, fast and the FOV on film/FX is amazing (bigger and brighter than the 12-24dx on digital).

It was a dark and foggy night.

There has been a lot of talk about the images produced by this lens vs. the new 14-24mm f/2.8G. I have seen the comparisons and I agree the new lens is better in some ways from a purely IQ perspective. However, in my opinion, this lens still performs very well. Not only that but I find the 17-35mm range much better on Full Frame (FX) than the 14-24mm range. That and I'm still a Luddite and prefer the AI ring over the command dial. Backwards compatibility with my FM3a doesn't hurt either. Nor does the acceptance of front mounted filters. I got a chance to analyze a friends detailed side by side comparison of the 17-35mm to the 14-24mm done on a D3 tripod mounted over a full range of stops and focal lengths. . The 17-35mm had less distortion and better edge to edge sharpness than the 14-24mm. Granted at 17mm f/2.8 the 14-24mm had better edge sharpness, but not by much. That and the 17-35mms sharpness improved much quicker than the 14-24mms. I guess it could be argued that you can shoot the 14-24mm at 14mm f/2.8 and then crop to get the same FOV sharper. Contrast and colour rendition went to the 14-24mm. I'm convinced more than ever that the 17-35mm is the lens for me. Yes, the 14-24mm is better in some ways, but the 17-35mm is better in others.

The Fux Deluxe holds Laura

Overall I would say that the 17-35mm is one of Nikons best lenses. I’m assuming once their stock runs out, they will mark this lens discontinued. Still, it’s worth a look weather you are shooting DX, FX or film.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A review of The Karachi Outpost by Crumpler

What I carried around this weekend.

In short, It's a great camera backpack. And an OK notebook backpack.

Pros:
- looks good / doesn't look like a "camera/notebook bag"
- even fully loaded has proper straps to distribute weight
- re-configurable to just notebook, just camera bag (as pictured) or plain old backpack
- nice colours (this one being black/gray and the other brown/tan)
- extremely well padded, armour like even.
- excellent security for travelling (opens from the inside only requiring you to remove the pack)
- seems to be well made
- water resistant (not tested)

Cons:
- smaller divider pieces have Velcro at the ends but you can’t Velcro things to them
- excellent security means less convenient to get at your stuff
- curved shape (which make it look good) means space not as usable on the sides
- expensive considering it's made in china like a lot of it's competitors.

I've had this bag for a few years now. It's starting to show it's age slightly in the straps. Overall, considering it's use, it's holding up very well. The stitching and materials look in great shape. I generally use this bag as the hauler bag. When I need to move a lot of stuff (as pictured above). It does not make a good assignment bag due to the way you need to get into the bag.

The Karachi Outpost by Crumpler

Competition: The only other brand I have experience with is Lowe Pro. I have own(ed) a few of their products and have spent many hours in camera shops testing them out (to the dismay of store clerks I'm sure). The packs I specifically looked at are the CompuTrekker AW and the CompuTrekker Plus AW.

Colour: gun metal/black/mid grey
Model: KO-01A (2033)

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Review

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Review

I've had a chance to use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM on and off for a while now. It's been a nice lens to use.

The only lens Nikon made that was close was the 28mm f/1.4D, which was discontinued a few years ago. Used, it now goes for more than it's original high price (over $2k). I have never used the NIkkor but by all accounts it's optically better, built out of metal not plastic [Update: The Sigma does have a mostly metal construction, however it is not as sturdy and solid feeling as the Nikkors of this level] and has full 35mm coverage. It's also much larger, heavier and you could buy 3 to 4 of these sigmas for the price of the Nikkor... if you can find one. I'm sure Nikon wasn't selling a lot of the Nikkors, and with a lens like this in the market, they would sell even less of them.

The Sigma handles well. It's a nice size and weight. It feels great on my D200. A tad large on the D40 pictured here.
Side Note: This is one of the few sub $1k primes you can buy that will auto focus on the D40 [Update: D40x and D60 as well] as it has "HSM" Sigma's brand of electronic in lens focus.

The biggest problem with this Sigma (and is true for a lot of this brands products) is sample variance. You never know exactly what you'll get when you buy a Sigma lens. This particular sample didn't have the AF issues with the D200 that plagued early versions. It did however have the squeaky focus when pointing down or up. No manufacturer is perfect. Every lens made is slightly different to it's brother or sister. However Sigma seems to suffer from this in a more negative way than other manufacturers.

Two Cows

This leads nicely into the failure of the lens pictured above. The lens in the picture above died shortly after this picture was taken. After returning it to it's owner, I recommended they get the squeaking in the focus ring fixed under warranty. They dropped it off with Sigma Canada. After several weeks of waiting, they declared the lens as non-reparable and gave my friend a brand new one. At least their Customer Service is good.

Wide open it's not the sharpest lens I've used. However it's acceptable considering the price. The sharpness degrades sharply near the extreme edges though and doesn't really improve stopped down. The filter size of 62mm is an odd size and you'll find yourself either buying a step up ring or buying new filters. I did not pay particular attention to light falloff as it's not usually a concern for me and rather like it when I do notice it, however it does have some at and near f/1.4.

Laura

The included lens hood (not pictured) proved very good. It's made out of a sturdy plastic and locks in better than a lot of Nikon Hoods. It's my preferred method of protection instead of overpriced and detrimental "protective" filters.

Even if Nikon releases an update to their 28mm f/1.4D, it will probably remain expensive, large and heavy. True the Nikkor will also be better quality, but you get what you pay for. The Sigmas focal range on 1.5x cropped digital and overall price/performance make this a lens one I recommend for available light shooting. It also makes a great general purpose prime for walking around.

Summary:
+ size
+ autofocus
+ price
+ focal length ("normal FOV on 1.5x crop")
+ well balanced on most bodies
+ great available light lens

- Not FF/FX
- quality/sample variance
- sharpness wide open
- slightly heavy on the D40
- edge detail

At the car wash...

I ended up buying this lens as a gift for Lauras Birthday. Check out Lauras stream for photos taken with this lens.
For myself, I've owned a 35mm f/1.4 AI Nikkor for some time now. I purchased it used on eBay in fair condition. The Nikkor is sharper than this lens. However, nailing focus at f/1.4 with the stock focusing screen on the D200 is really really hard. Mostly for this reason, I don't use that lens often.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blinkenlights crew @ hacklab.to

The Blinkenlights crew showed up at hacklab.to to give a demo and talk about their Nuit Blanche Stereoscope Stereoscope.

The talk was pretty cool. They talked about their first project, and how each one built upon the last. This latest one at Toronto City Hall was done using wireless technology developed by them and released under the CC License. They even had to get the wireless devices certified here which was an adventure. Really cool guys and the best show of this years Nuit Blance.

Blinkenlight Box

See the rest of the photos from the Blickenlights talk @ hacklab.to.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nikon D90 Chase Jarvis Video

So it looks like Nikon has gone gorilla advertising on us. Here is the main promotional gimmick for the new Nikon D90.

I'm not exactly thrilled with the D90, but that's for very specific reasons that have nothing to do with how good of a camera it is. I would still buy a D300 over this. The movie mode is cool, but not for me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nikon D90 and Canon EOS 9D coming

There have been plenty of rumours of the Nikon D80 and Canon 5D replacements, but now we have some pretty concrete proof they're coming. Probably announced at this years Photokina.

The UPC Database now has entries for the D80 kit and the EOS 9D.

Via Engadget

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Canadian Wireless Carriers find out new ways to screw you by charging for SMS messages received.


In the battle of the Cell Phone carriers, during the release of the Apple iPhone, Telus and Bell have found new ways to nickel and dime you by charing you for text messages received. This is a bad move considering how many people will flock to the iPhone (more on this later).

It's bad enough that in Canada you have to pay for calls received.

From an article on this SMS Charge in the Globe and Mail I de-construct the quotes made by each companies PR people.

From the article:
“The growth in text messages has been nothing short of phenomenal,” wrote Telus spokeswoman Anne-Julie Gratton in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, referring to the latest statistics from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association that pegs the number of text messages sent in Canada at more than 45.3 million per day.

This is a load of shit. A text message is up to 150 Characters (including spaces). Each character is 1 byte. So each SMS message can be up to 150 bytes. Lets assume that every messages sent is 150 bytes. We have the following:
45,300,000 x 150 = 6,795,000,000
There is 1,048,576 bytes in a
6,795,000,000 / 1024 = 6,635,743 kb (rounded up)
There are 1024 kb in a mb
6,635,743 / 1024 = 7mb (rounded up).

That's right ladies and gentlemen. The ENTIRE Canadian market (as far as Telus is concerned)[Edit: As far as a trade group representing Bell and Telus is concerned] has to send a WHOPPING 7MB of data around for SMS messages. Now granted, there are headers and such. Overhead if you will. Lets be generous and double that to 14MB.

But we're not done.

Bell and Telus charge 15 cents per message, soon in both ways.
Lets say nobody uses any SMS package (I know, this is actually unfair, but it illustrates my point). [Edit: I'm assuming in these numbers that Rogers would also charge 15c for incoming] So we have:
45,300,000 x $0.30 (15 cents to send and another 15 to receive).
That's $13,590,000

o_O

Now that was made on a theoretical 14MB.
Lets divide that back into cost.
$13,590,000 / 14 = $970,715 per MB (rounded up)
And again
$970,715 / 1024 = $948 / KB of data (rounded up).

So anybody who's complaining about the data rates from Rogers, just think, you're paying $948 per kilobyte of data sent when you SMS.

“This volume places tremendous demands on our network and we can't afford to provide this service for free any more,” Ms. Gratton wrote.

I wish Ms. Gratton would be eligible for jail time for outright lying. I know, I know it's just her job and she's probably a nice person. There is no way in hell this makes even the smallest blip on either carriers network. It's a pure Money grab.

More from the article:
“Remember that almost all major North American wireless carriers, including in Canada, have taken this pricing approach,” wrote Bell spokesman Jason Laszlo in an e-mail to The Globe. “In fact, most carriers in the U.S. now charge 20 cents.”

This is awesome. Yes, well, the USA is slowly being turned back into Ma Bell land where there is only a few companies. What about comparing yourself to the rest of the world? As it is SMS charges are a scam.

If you think this is as stupid as I do. If you beleive that these companies are outright lying to make more money of people who don't really have a choice. Please consider supporting the NDP to put a stop to this nonsense.


Stop the text message cash-grab

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nikon D700 FX DSLR, SB-900 Speedlight and the new 45mm and 85mm Tilt Shift Primes

Nikon D700 DSLR
Nikon Finally announced the new Full 35mm coverage DSLR, the Nikon D700. This camera is Nikons Answer to the Canon 5D. In a lot of ways (including price) it's going to be better speced. Being that it looks like a D3 with a smaller viewfinder and slower FPS, it will be an amazing camera.


Along with that we have the new SB-900 Speedlight. Nikon finally got around to implementing DX mode in a Speedlight. They've increased the "zoom" coverage and looks like they drastically improved the UI (which needed it).

The new 45mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/2.8 PC Lenses have also been announced. More on this later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

D700 Chinese Forum Translation

My friend Stone was kind enough to translate the forum post referenced below.

We had discussed strenuously about whether D700 is existent or not in the last week, and EVO gets the final conclusion that D700 is not just rumors, it is real. Also, EVO got the info again this week that D700 has flash built into the body.

*** photo here ****

You can confirm build-in flash from above photo, from which you can see a segmented line on the top front of camera body. You also can confirm the reality of D700 from the strap above which has ‘D7’ on it. Again, the photo maybe exposes another info about the type of lens it uses: upgraded version of Nikon's AFS-S 24-120mm VR unit (notice the size of the lens and the VR marker near the body).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

D700 shot in the wild

Update: Turns out this particular shot is a fake.

[Edit: Photo Removed]

From a Chinese forum (via Nikon Watch)

See the prism/popup flash. That is unlike anything before it. The strap also has D700 strap (though you can't see the rest of the zeros)..the D70 strap did NOT look like this so this is also a key sign.

We wait for July 1st.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nikon D700 all but confirmed by Nikon

"The spokesperson did volunteer that the pictures were taken at the agency where the brochures were printed."

If that's not an admission I don't know what is.

From CNET Asia

With that, here is the new D700 group on Flickr.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Canadian DMCA

The Conservative Government has brought forth new legislation that would make the average Canadian a criminal. Some facing huge fines. Why? Because some large US corporations cannot adapt to the changing landscape and they want their old school business models to stand.

I'm talking about the new An Act to amend the Copyright Act, Bill C-61. If you read the Industry Canada Press release on the matter, you'd think it was a good thing. But it's all spin. If you read the fine print you'll see that it's all smoke and mirrors. The real catch is you are not allowed to have, make or more importantly use devices or programs that break digital locks. Digital locks can be anything that dictates how you can and cannot use the digital media you now posses. This is a broad and over reaching act. Imagine being sued by a printer manufacturer because you make aftermarket ink cartridges for their printers?

Closer to home, you won't be able to transfer your copy protected CD or DVD to your portable media player (iPod) without a $20,000 fine. Want to unlock that cell phone that you bought because you're travelling to another country and don't want to pay insane roaming fees? $20,000 fine.

I could go on, but there is even a more important point. How is Canada going to police this? How much of our tax dollars is going to be spent turning us all into criminals instead of battling REAL issues that we call genuinely care about? The answer can be found in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which our government is now negotiating and mentions in this new copyright bill. This trade agreement has very little to do with counterfeiting and everything to do with policing copyright infringement on a level like many police states. ie. having your iPod and notebook searched by border guards in member nations for copyright material.

I'm not sure who Jim Prentice, the Industry Minister responsible for a lot of this is working for. Canadians or Lobby groups representing large US corporations. I encourage you to help Kill Bill C61 by writing your MP, the Industry Minister and our Prime Minister.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nikon D3x hint found in new firmwear

A Nikon D3 Flickr Group member found the following inside the firmware upgrade of the Nikon D3 which was recently released.

6048x4032 24.4 M
4544x3024 13.7 M
3024x2016 6.1 M
5056x4032 20.4 M
3792x3024 11.5 M
2528x2016 5.1 M
3968x2640 10.5 M
2976x1976 5.9 M
1984x1320 2.6 M

Now why would 24.4M be there? :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

flickTube (do not want)


flickTube (do not want)
Originally uploaded by tracer.ca
Of all the things to implement in Flickr, the last thing I needed was flickTube. If I wanted YouTube I'd go to, well.. YouTube. I guess Yahoo! Corp felt the need to compete. This is just plain sad really.

It would have been really nice for the flickr dev team to have been working on something that really DOES need improvement. Like maybe the horrible message board system? Or allowing people to see the site on black backgrounds which traditionally make photos look better? Or any of the other enhancments users have hacked together using javascript as standard features?

(P.S. school + work has made me too busy to post here often)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The end of Nikon Backwards compatibility

Today is the day that we can confirm that Nikon is full steam ahead on breaking the backwards compatibility we have enjoyed for so long between cameras and lenses.

Today Nikon released the D60, a camera that is just as lacking as the D40x it replaced. Many people were hoping for a true D50 replacement with AF drive motor.

We also saw two knew prime lenses. The PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED Tilt Shift lens. The other is the replacement of the 60mm f/2.8D Micro Nikkor the AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED.

Now we kind of knew that the primes coming out from Nikon would be lacking aperture rings, but a modern manual focus lens lacking one? I guess my less than a decade old FM3a is really obsolete.