The Patent System is Officially Broken

Software, pharmaceutical and some molecular biology patents have strained our current patent system. Many have argued that it may be too broken to fix. It was my impression, wrong it would seem, that more traditional patentents; those based on novel ideas, implentaitons or inventions and involving no algorithms or cell lines were still working. Turns out I was wrong.

From Photography Bay:

Amazon Technologies, Inc. (a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc.) has legitimately patented studio the common studio photography method of photographing subjects on a seamless white background using a cyclorama and the USPTO actually granted the patent.

Photography bay includes the Patent illustration of the technique. Amazon has, somehow, patented the standard way that photographers have set up lights for a photo with a bright white background – millions of catalogue images have been shot using exatcly this technique.

This is pure silliness.

Due Diligance

Trolls and the legitimately ignorant…

The New Mac Pro (20113) is not:

  • An overpriced game machine
  • A fail because you can’t stuff it with spinning hard drives.
  • Just a round PC
  • A trash can with a fan or a beer keg or…
  • Typically closed Apple hardware
  • Will, unlike the pre-2013 Mac Pro, spawn a sea of cables and clutter
  • To be compared with a Hackintosh, a Chrome book or a, wait for it, MS Surface
  • The next Cube or the NEXT cube
  • More expensive than truly comparable HP or Dell hardware.

 

The Mac Pro (2013) is:

  • Made of server level components (Intel Xeon processors, PCIe- based flash storage, 4-channel DDR3 memory controller EEC memory)
  • The Fastest Mac ever produced
  • Capable of running 6 Thunderbolt displays or 3 4K displays
  • Equipped with dual AMD FirePro graphics cards
  • Darth Vader Black
  • Double the floating point performance compared to the previous Mac Pro
  • Remarkable industrial design which can be moved without two teamsters doing the lifting

The New Mac Pro is a workstation. It will typically be tethered to a RAID system and one or two monitors. Many if us use an NAS for additional storage. It is true that Apple, by limiting the internal storage capacity has pushed some of the cost of the New Mac Pro downhill to the consumer. That said, most of the target audience were using RAID (5 or better I’d wager.) USB 3.0 RAIDs, FW800 RAIDs and with a breakout box, eSATA RAIDs are welcome. You will eventually want a Thunderbolt RAID and they are currently selling at a premium.

Importantly if you don’t want or can not afford a Workstation (or, as some comments suggest, don’t have a clue what a workstation class compter is or does) then you have three choices:

  • Buy an iMac. Fully spec’d at less than $4,000. Starts at less than $2000
  • Buy a Mac Mini. Capable but limited
  • Don’t buy anything Apple. Go away and quite trolling.

On The Death of Everpix

Memo to: Apple

Re: Everpix Shuts Down

I am but a small blog in a sea of bigger and smaller ones. I am a professional photographer that uses Macs and iOS devices (nice job on the 5s camera by the way) along with a collection of digital cameras to make a living.

But, and this matters, I don’t post “real” images on social sites. Hoisting any image on the internet is no different than being willing to give it away. I make a living and devote my working life to taking images that have value. Zero is not value. Other Pro photographers have a different view and have gained (sometimes) deserved accolades by using Social media to get the word out; to show the world what they can do.

I have tens of thousands of photographs – more than would fit on my iPhone or iPad. Photo Stream works, after a fashion, but I need access to my photo library, the entire photo library, when I’m meeting with a client or traveling or…

For the past year or so I’ve had just that, universal access to my images, with Everpix. I gladly paid their subscription price and I gained access to my entire image collection, curated in Aperture and loaded onto Everpix servers. That is ending as Everpix, a great service, failed to gain enough subscribers to keep the servers running and the lights on.

In many ways, Everpix has become what Aperture and iPhoto should be but are not. What appears to be a very sad day for the folks at Everpix and for people like myself, should look like an opportunity to Apple. These folks have dug the trenches and laid the pipe and I’m running out of metaphor here. Buy Everpix, expose millions of people to the idea of “all your images, anywhere” and offer to back up those pictures of Brandon’s or Ella’s or Isabel’s or Mathew’s first steps, High school graduation and candids at their weddings. iPhones have become our casual cameras but we use others. We need a drawer to toss the images in, for the more organized, an album to arrange and annotate them. Everpix was this and iPhoto / Aperture with Photo Stream are clearly not. Hard drives die, phones don’t float and iCloud is not yet up to the task of backing up every important image that we need not to lose.

 

P.S. Everyday Everpix, with my permission, sent me a few images from the past. The images were arranged by year. This was genius. My Wife and I on vacation, my favorite dog, past and present, a wedding, a commercial shoot or some giant home remodel that isn’t quite finished yet, these are evocative and effective reminders of the passage of time. And they showed up in my inbox everyday.

Updating the Fuji X100 (not the X100s): It’s a big deal.

I’ve written about the Fuji X100. I use the Fuji X100. I may have mentioned, as have others, that it is a flawed masterpiece.

This past week it became a bit less flawed. The X100 was announced at Photokina in 2010; I took custody of mine in early May, 2011. Despite it’s considerable age (in digital terms anyway) Fuji has not forgot about the camera and issued a major firmware upgrade. Focus speed is faster, it focuses closer, AF focus selection finally makes sense and some real effort has gone into making manual focus a viable way to use the camera (it really wasn’t prior to this update.) Focus Peak Highlight, a huge help in manual mode, has made it’s way from the X100s to it’s predecessor.

Good stuff and rare to see such extensive support for a camera long out of production.

LensAuthority.com

I’m a fan of Lens Rentals. I use Lens Rentals to audition a lens before I buy. Sure in theory I could do that locally but only in theory. There are just two camera stores with any significant inventory left in my metorplex and to leave with a lens you will have had to pay for it. Or I can drive into San Francisco and hours later still have to buy a lens to see if it’s worth keeping. At least one of the Bay Area stores charges a hefty restocking fee – so no.

Renting and spending a quality weekend or even a bit longer kicking a lens around a bit (metaphorically) is a very good thing. Also there is that vacation which somehow requires a really long or really wide lens that you don’t want / can’t begin to afford once the fun is over.

And I’ve become a fan of Roger Cicala’s lens reviews and lens vivisections.

Now add to all that an new site, LensAuthority.com which appears to be the place that LensRental sells off their no longer needed lenses. All the lenses I looked at were used, had a short description of what used meant to that particular lens and rated. You will not find the absolute latest and greatest there but you will find lenses recent, well maintained lenses for a fair price, shipped quickly and I suspect, given everything else I know about the company, the will arrive just as they were described.

Good stuff.

TBA Eventually – Aperture X

I’m going to go out on short, strong limb. Apple just released Logic X (Logic 10 in Apple speak.) With the new, beyond souped up Mac Pro due this Fall a new version of Aperture is next. Aperture X on a MacPro will make any other RAW converter seem silly slow and with this new torque will come new features. As pro cameras gain pixels speed is officially an issue.

Not incidentally, the Mac Pro it should do the same for Video and Audio. Not incidentally, everyone wants to know the price of this jewel.

The EOS M

The Part Where I compare it to the Fuji X100

I, along with many others, jumped at the chance to own an EOS M (arriving loaded with the latest 2.x firmware) for a deeply discounted price. It’s a nice camera with a surprisingly  well made, good to good plus STM kit lens – I bought the zoom. Canon, among camera manufacturers, seems almost alone in getting touch right. It’s not Apple good but it’s good enough.The few physical buttons are well made and unfussy. It tears though batteries like a Bugatti Veyron gulps premium gasoline.

And I think it’s too small to handle well. Yes I understnd that there is a race to small in this sort of camera but at the expense of utility and handling? Why?

My problem, and I don’t intend to get over it, is that I also own mirrorless done right – the Fuji X100. It has a lengthy list of idiosyncrasies, a lousy LCD and remarkably fussy buttons. It also has a very nice Hybrid viewfinder,  just a bit more size and the prime Fuji lens. I take pictures and the Fuji is better at taking pictures than the EOS M. I suspect that the Fuji (and it’s siblings) is better at taking pictures than any of the Mirrorless herd. It was designed with a cleaver and entirely successful viewfinder.

The hybrid viewfinder separates the Fuji from the rest of the mirrorless masses. Using the rear LCD is optional so batteries don’t suffer from powering the viewfinder, internals and providing camera shooting information. It is possible to set the Fuji X100 up to take more images than it’s battery would seem to allow by powering down all the standard mirrorless displays and using the viewfinder in optical mode.

The EOS M, and by extension all mirrorless cameras that require the rear LCD to do the heavy lifting, all strain their batteries. Add an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the battery is officially out of it’s depth.

Size Matters – Too Much

The EOS M body is just slightly larger than the S90 we have here (and by extension the S100 and S110). As good as the S90 (and the subsequent s100 and s110)  is it’s  too small to hold correctly. The EOS M, likewise, is not enough larger to hold well – especially with the zoom. One-half inch on the right side with a bit more bump would solve that… it does with the Fuji x100.

To many a mirrorless camera with interechanagle lenses THAT also fits in your pocket is a design goal, But at the expense of proper handling? Really? After some initial enthusiasm mirrorless sales have tanked. The drop in sales is the result of at least three questionable design decisions:

  1. Relying on “live view” aka the rear LCD panel for framing requires that the camera be held out and away from the body. This is a silly way to hold a camera – especially if it has any weight. A mirrorless camera with a zoom lens will always weigh more than a cell phone.
  2. Leaving out the mirror and the accompanying mechanism, found in a DSLR allows for a significantly slimmer camera. It doesn’t require a tiny camera, just a slim one. Pictures are lost with bad ergonomics. A Canon EOS 1D-X is a brute but it’s a joy to hold and shoot.
  3. An advanced level / pro camera requires a viewfinder. Not an optional one, a built in, integrated, included-in-the-sales-price viewfinder. Fuji has my money for their Hybrid viewfinder. Other manufacturers are welcome to offer an alternative but so far the efforts are weak.

It Stays – For Now

The EOS M has some redeming qualities. It was inexpensive, costing roughly what the STM zoom cost as the “clear the warehouses” sale began. Buy the body, get the lens for free or vice versa.  It shoots nice video and the current generation IS is a genuine help when shooting hand held. The STM kit zoom is nearly silent. Focus is quick enough for my style of shooiting. It’s fine at reasonable ISO’s though the sensor shows it’s age above ISO 1600.

I suspect that, despite it’s tiny size or maybe because of it, the EOS M will spend a fair amount of time on a tripod as a video camera. The stills meet my definition of very good all the way out to ISO 1600 so that may, on rare occasions, be handy (though that argues for the 22mm f/2 pancake and not the “starts at f/4 zoom.)

At one pound 2 oz (.51 kg) for zoom and body, it will be a nice hiking camera.

It’s easy to speculate that all digital cameras will have fewer internal parts going forward. Slapping mirrors may someday seem quaint. Someday, just not yet. Maybe not for a while.

Electronic Viewfinders Are Awful

Luminous Landscape beat me in this post.

I don’t really hate electronic viewfinders. That’s hyperbole. But I really dislike them a lot of the time. The reason why is that they are at best tiny TV sets, and as such have very low contrast ratios compared to the ability of the naked eye or a good optical or large DSLR viewfinder. In bright situations, where there is also deep shade, it can make visibility into the shadows when shooting highly compromised.

and

In the meantime, what flashed though my mind as I was shooting, was that a Fuji X Pro 1 would have been just the ticket. Flip the front lever and switch to a good old fashion optical viewfinder. Humm…. a friend who visited here a couple of weeks ago had one which I played with..

He may find the word “Hate” to be hyperbole, I don’t. It’s, at this point a big, fat compromise and worth hating. We are years into this and an inaccurate electronic viewfinder adds $400 plus to the cost of your plenty expensive mirrorless camera.

One of the themes of the feedback on Canon’s new Very Compact EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 DSLR is that viewfinders are things of the past and / or they would be unusable in a compact DSLR.

Viewfinders are necessary. Fuji seems to be alone in “getting it.” The $400 you will spend on a mediocre electronic viewfinder will get you half way to a shinny new Rebel SL 1 DSLR.

So, As I Predicted, Aperture Lives On (if only as a rumor)

Aperture is better at organizing images than Lightroom and it’s equal in most other ways. I also prefer the workflow. It is not an Adobe product so the specter of onerous upgrade prices or, worse, a monthly “rental” price is not a concern. Aperature runs only on Macs and Apple uses it and other apps to sell hardware. Adobe has shown that it’s software only business model is frayhing a bit. Their response has been to squeeze the users of Adobe products a little harder. I am not a fan of being being squeezed nor upgrading simply because Adobe has a virtual gun at my head.

The current version of Aperture is 3.4.2 is where I live as a photographer. With a couple of pug-ins I rarely need to go out Photoshop. When I do I am reminded what a mess it has become. Photoshop is a lifestyle, not an app for occasional use. All the non-photographic cruft is just too much to wade through. Though less able, I can get the little things that Aperture and plug-ins lack from Pixelmator.

So, as I predicted, comes a rumor that Apple is developing Aperture X, a replacement for the current Aperture app. Aperture came out a slow, poorly engineered app which has become a stable, cabable place to do RAW processing and manage a large number of images. As good as it has become, Aperture, it was released in 2005 and  is in need of some fundimental re-engineering,There has been some discussion as to it’s continuing as a product. Well, it looks as though it will.

Which is no surprise. Apple clearly understands the importance of digital photography – the iPhone camera’s starting with the 4s prove this. Even Preview, free on every modern Mac, is a fairly capable photo editor. A reimagined and re-engineered Aperature may just keep Adobe honest – at least in the photographic app space. Aperture is $79 in the Mac App store, which is a genuine bargain for a Pro app, and It has already caused at least two price decreases in Lightroom.

Nice way to start 2013.