Category Archives: New(ish) stuff

Something to hear about …

Soooo … hmm, do I have a tendency of starting out my sentences with that? OK … hmm, that is another word that I use to start. Let’s start this again.

Taking a break from posting the F-1 stuff, it stuck me that I could post something about what I am hearing … no, not what I am listening to but what I am listening with.

Some months ago my earbuds ran into a problem … no sound on one side due to electrical problem. I was not surprised as these buds have lasted me over 5 years of use. So I started a search for a replacement.

Now I am somewhat of an audiophile … but a really cheap one, so I was looking for the best quality earbuds for the lowest price !! The last ones I had were Panasonic something (it appears there is no model labelled), and I specifically got them because they were cheap but most importantly they had a really good frequency range. So now I search for something like it.

What I ended up with is … the Symphonized NRG 3.0.

Why, frequency response of 18Hz-22kHz and it was clean throughout. They are not for bassheads (unlike my Panasonic ones) but they do produce a “nice” overall range. Very pleasant while listening to Pink Floyd – Brain Damage or Vince Guaraldi Trio – Linus and Lucy (makes you want to do those odd dance moves). They also have an angled plug so it doesn’t pull at a right angle when plugged into the side my laptop.

Oh, and I forgot to mention … they have a real wood enclosure, so yeah they look cool (at least to me).

For under $30 they are a great buy.

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Just a review … Dell XPS 13

Ok, I am at the end of selling off my restored stuff and getting a hold of some new things to fix …

Some time ago I got a used Apple MacBook Pro, cause I really liked their design. I have had many PC’s, typically running Windows and Linux … so getting a Mac was a natural progression. I first got a used MBP 13″, then picked up a used 15″. The 13 was my carry around, while the 15 remained at home.

My current primary laptop is a used 2011 MacBook Pro 15″ … I like it. It worked, though all computers and OS’s have their issues. I recently got rid of the 13″ as I got tired of carrying it around, and started the hunt for something smaller and lighter … which means getting either a MacBook Air 11″ or a MacBook 12″.

After a month of searching for a used laptop, I realized that the MBA 11″ is underpowered and is not readily available with large memory or SSD … and the MacBook 12″ is just tooooo expensive, though it looks like an awesome computer … so I researched other laptops.

What I found, and ended up buying, was the Dell XPS 13 9343 i7 (2015) … I need to replace my failed Windows 10 computer anyway.

I think the XPS line of laptops came from the Alienware acquisition. Alienware had some really cool laptops, and built a real sleek gaming 13″ model … and I think Dell wanted to continue that cool thing.

Spec wise, the XPS13 is something between the MBP 13″ and the MB 12″ … it looks as cool as the MacBook but packs a more powerful processor.

I was going to post a picture, but I didn’t think it would be good enough to emphasis its good looks … so you can view google -> Google Images Dell XPS 13 9343

… so what do I have to say about it? Welllllll ….

Pros: small, light, i7 processor, great 13″ touchscreen LCD.

Cons: shorter battery life, fixed memory, integrated graphics, pathetic wifi.

This ultralite laptop has the same footprint as the Apple MacBook Air 11″ … but it has a 13″ screen. How? Dell got rid of the giant bezel surrounding the screen. Speaking of the LSD, is has a crazy high resolution and it’s a touchscreen. I’ve never had a laptop with touchscreen capability, and I like it … almost feels like using an iPad.

 

 

The continual search for a tripod … it’s orange this time, not so flexy … MeFOTO, youPhoto.

So … as you know the GorillaPod was not the tripod that worked best for me. It is still a pretty interesting tool, especially for those people that will use a lightweight camera … the ability to wrap the legs around things actually is pretty handy. For my SLT and Macro lens, it was just too much for it.

I have been keeping an eye on Mefoto. Recently they just released their new Air series. I like them, but not enough to spend that much money on them … I mean for my need of a small tripod, for cheap (I already have a Manfrotto tripod). Knowing the need for people to upgrade or change, I have kept an eye out for those wanted to get rid of their old ones … so I ended up getting a good price on a MeFOTO Daytrip.

mefoto

The MeFOTO Daytrip is (what I consider) a mini-tripod … cause it is small, even at max height it’s still small. The photo above shows a comparision to my GorillaPod, and due to the positioning and angle of shot, it looks like the Daytrip is much taller … it is in fact the same height when I took this shot.

The last time I took out the GorillaPod I was hunting mushrooms in Algonquin Park. I noticed that it was just not steady enough … the great things about the Gorilla is that I did not even notice I was carrying it (weight), and the legs can wrap around things … but for my shots had too much camera shake, and because of that I had to look for something else (I was hoping it would be sufficient).

When I was first hunting for my macro tripod I did consider the Daytrip … but the cost was just too much. I was hoping the Gorilla was good enough.

That was last year … MeFOTO has made a new series of AIR tripods, which look great, and I was hoping that this would drive the price down on the older stuff. Just last week I did find a mint used Daytrip (now discontinued) for less than the price of the GorillaPod !!!

Construction is solid. The small ball head locks without any drift … and is secure. The rotating locks feel like they do the job. Overall this tripod is made very well.

I slapped my Sony A77II with the Sigma 150 f/2.8 macro on it … snapped some 20s (yeah, full seconds … not 1/20s) exposure shots.  Even with full centre column extension it did well. I think this is the one … well for now. The middle leg position seems to be the best overall for steadiness and low height. Note that the leg locks are not spring loaded, so you got to push them in to lock. Not sure if it was worth it putting the sand bag hook on the bottom, as there is not much room down there … possibly for those who actually crank this thing to full height (in which case I would suggest getting a different tripod).

So for those of you looking for a steady tripod to shoot close to the ground, or even just something very small … I suggest you give this MeFOTO Daytrip a consideration, and keep an eye on those used ones … I think many people going to upgrade to the Backpacker AIR.

The Gorillapod would be great for not so long exposures, just enough to steady, or selfies, or if you just like wraping legs around something … and if you have a mirrorless camera (it would be a great companion for my Sony NEX-6).

Below is a shot (yeah not the best but you get the picture … literally) of it attached to my Lowepro Transit Sling 250. I could have folded it to its most compact size, but it was too short for the upper strap.

sling

Gorillapod … first use.

Ok, so went to Algonquin park … I knew there were going to be at least one chance to get some mushroom shots, so I packed the pod.

For traveling this is great in the fact that it is small and I did not even notice the weight addition. I think that my Sigma 150mm macro is too much for this pod for long exposures. Shooting down to 1/4s is OK, but beyond that … not so much. I did get some sharp images when I did not push the shutter speeds. The quick release shoe is not very tightly secured to the head (it snaps into place) so there is a little bit of play on it.

mushroom

This one is at 1/4s @ f11 … though I did have the lens OS enabled, not sure if that helped or hindered.

One thing that I did notice is that with a heavy lens you really have to watch the angle/positioning of the legs … as the weight can make them move. One thing that I did miss is the height, as sometimes I would have liked to shoot at a higher angle … but I did make a decision for small size … though I might consider getting a MeFoto Daytrip.

Overall I would say that it is a handy tool. It does stabilize, and most importantly it is not a burden.

Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom … initial thoughts

Well just got it in the mail.

Is taller than I thought (forgot to add height of ball head and tripod collar). The camera sits about 35cm / 14″ off the ground (mid sensor).

joby

I slapped my Sony A77mII with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro … total weight 1.8kg / 4lbs. Seems steady enough for low shutter speeds, though I would still use the 2s timer or a remote to trigger the shutter … it feels not solid enough. That’s to be expected for such a device, and I was not expecting it to be.

The rated capacity is 3kg / 6.6lbs but the ball head and the quick release shoe make is a little shaky on top. The shoe snaps in and there is no way of tightening it so there is a little play … I took of the Joby ball head and it feels a little steadier, though you do loose the directional control of the ball head.

I tried a long exposure … 30s … set it for a 2s timer delay … I left the Sony SteadyShot on … the there is obvious  shake in the image. I turned off SS and set the Sigma OS on 2 … much better … then I turned that off, so no stabilization (which is the recommended setting when using a tripod) and it did produce a pretty sharp image. Not bad for a slightly shaky tripod, though I don’t think I would rely on this tripod for such long exposures if the wind is blowing.

Will see what I get in actual field use.