Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nikon D800 vs D600?

Off and on, I think about jumping ship to Nikon.

Recently, stores have been offering the D600 with 24-85mm lens at around $2000, cheaper than the retail price of the body alone.  It's a good deal if you need a slightly wide to slightly telephoto lens and you're in that hobbyist category they're targeting with the D600.

For me, it would be a way to get my feet wet but I can't imagine what kind of photography I would do with such a combination, since it's rare for me to just photograph, ummm, things.

I was thinking about the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for sports but in FX/135 format frame mode, it doesn't have much reach.  It's fine for the swim meets I'm currently shooting and it would be fair for basketball, although the lack of sharpness at f/2.8 bothers me.  If you're working in low light anyway, trying to avoid flash, wouldn't you want your photos sharp?  Shouldn't you get a sharp f/2.8 for $2500?

I saw that Adorama had the D800 in a refurbished state for roughly $2300 with a 90 day warranty.  That's about $700 off but you should buy an extended warranty to avoid problems since Nikon don't have 1 year of confidence for you.  (What's with the U.S.A. only warranty anyway?  If I travel and have a problem, I'm out of luck?)

The D800 is solidly above the D600 in a similar way that the D300s has been above the D7000.  It's a weighty decision, literally.  The extra functionality comes with a great deal of extra weight and size.  The D800 is no F2 but it's bigger than the D600.  I'm all for smaller gear, and many professionals have been working with mirror-less cameras lately.

Also, one of the review highlights I've noticed is about the D600's suitability for sports.  DPReview mentioned that the auto focus wasn't really good for sports.  I don't really depend on AF much and when I do, it's a single focus point.  I really don't care whether I have 51 auto focus points if they only work under certain conditions with certain equipment.  I'll get AF lock on my target and move back to my intended composition.  (No, I don't just point at something and hold the shutter release and hope that I get a good photo.)

Picking up a refurbished D800 for $2300 + 3 year warranty for another $300 + a 70-200mm f/2.8 for $2500 + tax seems absurd at this point, unless I'm charging too much for photos.  "Excuse me, I'm selling these 4x6 shots for $25.00 each.  How many would you like?"  "Well, no, I'm not retiring to an island in the south Pacific.  I'm just paying for my equipment to photograph your son."

Hey, maybe I could find a refurbished 70-200mm!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Level 3 snow emergency?

What an interesting day it's been!

About 27 hours ago, I got an alert about a blizzard warning.  Blizzard?  I've seen too many but we barely had snow in 2012 at all.  Then, a second alert.  As I travelled home along wet roads, I saw nothing to indicate a major storm.

In early afternoon today, the snow was fast and furious.  There are probably 7 inches of snow outside my house.  It seemed a lot as I shovelled the walk but it's always the most difficult during the first snow.  The worst, recent snow I remember was February of 2010 when we got 18 inches of snow and ice within a couple of days.  One snow shovel isn't enough to remove that much snow within a short time.  Add to that the worsening cold and difficulty breathing, and the snow can wait, especially during a level 3 snow emergency.

The last time I remember a level 3 snow emergency, I was in Philadelphia, PA during January 1996, and a friend was visiting from Maine.  It started snowing slowly on Saturday night, and I couldn't get to work until Wednesday.  They didn't even have the road to the apartment complex cleared until Tuesday morning and a number of trucks weren't trying to clear the drives and parking lots the rest of the day into the night.  Philadelphia hadn't a lot of snow for years, so they didn't have snow removal equipment, so they hired everyone with a snow plough attached to the front of their truck.  Someone on the local news in Ohio said that people were comparing this event to the blizzard of January 1978, when I got my frostbite.  I assure you it wasn't even close.  The county here supposedly lost one of their trucks and didn't find it until the snow melted.  That was a hideous month.

Looking at today, this town is well-equipped and they tend the richer areas of town much better than the rest.  Thankfully, the hills are fewer than just a bit south.  I bought snow tires this year, considering that the snow would be much greater than years past but hoping that I would be incorrect.  (Update: I was shovelling the snow from my car--it was that deep on the car.  My driveway is half clear and there is actually some sunshine, a pleasant change.  I haven't gone anywhere yet, but I can if I need to do that.  Since my street is covered with snow, we don't have to worry a lot about ice, which is a typical winter problem here.)

The retailers certainly missed out on shoppers, although I suppose they'll somehow get to stores on Friday and Saturday.  The news mentioned that sales were only up 0.9 % over the previous holiday season, but any increase is good, considering how many people are out of work.

I miss the weather of Florida but even there it's not exactly warm at lower than average high temperatures.

Update: in two snowfalls, we got nearly half of what we got the rest of 2012.  Maybe, we won't have a drought for summer.  More snow is on the way for New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The end is near...oh emm gee!

I joke frequently about the end of the world being the fault of the Spanish, whose troops killed the Mayan calendar maker so no more calendars were made.

It's not so different than my joke about 666 being upside down and the correct number was 999, and as FORTRAN programmers will recall, "GOTO 999" was often paired with "999: END" in that language's programmes to cease programme execution.  Truly the end.

If anything truly happens, I'll be surprised and delighted.  For once, someone will be correct about the end of the world.  However, it will likely just include the human infestation (Star Trek: The Motion Picture), and the cockroaches will continue.

People might arrive on the planet millennia later and think that we obliterated ourselves with our stupidity.  How could a people be able to put a computing device in their pocket and couldn't stop ridiculous violence?

The whole world has felt the sting of murders, such as those in Newtown, Connecticut and Toronto, Ontario recently.  Canada is much less in love with guns than the U.S.A., yet a similar incident happened.  How do military weapons end up outside the military?

Oh, and there is another end: the fiscal cliff.  This Congress has been in session for 2 years and didn't accomplish anything that I can recall.  I can't recall a Congress so useless, even when Pres. Nixon and Carter were in office.  This Congress spent all their time trying to undo the previous 2 years and achieved nothing of their own.  Now, they're blaming everything on the president, who as they might recall, has no ability to make laws.  They are the anchor to this sinking ship.

We've had some tremendous weather today.  I'm not talking about sunshine and moderate temperatures.  We've had high winds, rain, and overnight, it'll all turn to snow and ice, as the temperatures drop steadily.  I just had someone at the door to tell me how some company from New York got the state of Indiana to invest in a natural gas facility.  It's awful outside and they couldn't organize months ago?  Besides, they should know by now that the holiday season has left a lot of empty pockets by now.

Well, if the end is near, it'll be a welcome change.  Life is too stressful at this point, and only a major catastrophe could change that.  You never know.  Maybe, aliens (from space) will come and take us all away to be enslaved on another planet to serve milk and cookies to Santa Claus.

Hmm...I think we missed out.  Durn.  I'm still here.  You're still here.  We had Christmas Day and plenty of people will have to pay their credit card bills for those once-in-a-lifetime items they bought just because the world was ending.  Oops.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Poor, poor Kmart

Don't you feel sorry for that other brand?  It's that brand that never gets any respect, no matter what.

Kmart bought Sears, didn't it, not the other way?  It's amazing to me that so much has happened and Kmart is still a mess but now, Sears is more of a mess than it was.

Last year, I got a deal on an LG television.  It was a 3D, LED-backlit model with the 3D-capable Blu-Ray player and it had a good price.  Even their two year service agreement was priced well, and seemed to be useful.  I wasn't buying a $2000 tv, so I didn't have such expectations.  It didn't really overwhelm or disappoint me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Kmart store in Oviedo/Winter Springs, FL where I shopped when I lived in the area for 10 years.  It's likely the best Kmart store anywhere in the country.  It's clean, well-organized, and the problems are few.  The employees don't gripe constantly, and they handle exceptions exceptionally well.

Returning to the store in Richmond, IN  couldn't be a shock but it's still shocking to see how rough the store is.  Practically everything is a problem.  e.g., my mum tried to buy a Sprint phone card, and it took 3 people and they couldn't figure out how to make it work.  I bought some Arizona Iced Tea a few months ago, and one of the bottles had liquor in it.  (I should have been happy for free liquor but I just wanted iced tea.)  What was more surprising was the "oh, that happens sometimes." reply on the phone.  Why does it happen any time?

More recently (before a lot of Christmas shopping would occur) I went to the web site to buy some Joe Boxer stuff since they have a poor selection in the store.  (I remember shopping for Joe Boxer in Strawbridge & Clothier in the Philadelphia, PA area.  It was a much different brand then, but then, so is any brand Kmart touches, yes? )  In any case, I selected several items and one could not be bought, as it had sold out while I was shopping online.  I picked something else and placed my order.  I got a notice the next day that an item was being shipped from a store.  (What, they don't have these items in the warehouse?)  I got that item quite quickly from a store in Charleston, WV.  The other items took several days but shipped from the Chicago area.  I guess there isn't anything in Michigan any longer but they moved to the Sears headquarters for everything.

Does anyone believe they'll be in business in 2020?  I doubt it, unless they're servicing one Kmart at Red Bug Lake and Tuskawilla Roads in the Winter Springs/Oviedo, FL area.

Update: the Sears in Richmond, IN is closing but not the Kmart.  That's interesting.  They both have everyday pricing above other stores' pricing.  The good thing for the Kmart store is that there isn't much on that side of town.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A new computer

Okay, so it's kewl to hate Apple.  I'm not an Apple fanatic anyway.  The fanatics drive me crazy.  I like the company's products, but don't own a huge number of them.

I've had Apple computers since 1993 when my IBM L40SX' mouse port died and they'd have to replace the motherboard to fix the problem.  The company gave me almost $1000 for a two year old computer that originally cost me $1500, and sent me on my way.

I took a friend and went to the local OfficeMax.  They had an Apple Performa 426 (LC/Performa 425 with a 250 MB hard drive).  Yes, Performa was the budget line and for around $1500, you got a keyboard without the keypad, a mouse, and a 14 inch 640x480 monitor.  It was a good deal, especially when the Quadra version of the same machine was more expensive (having the 68040 with inbuilt math coprocessor, instead lf the 68LC040) but lacked the keyboard and monitor.  I'm thinking that the keyboard and mouse were included in the LC425 version.

19 years ago, the company was okay, but their operating system was craptacular in fundamental ways, i.e., it needed to be scrapped.  Today, they have a good operating system that has some weird issues and they're trying to make it more mobile--like handheld devices mobile.  Is something with a 15.4 inch display a mobile device, really?

At this moment, I'm transferring my data from a backup of my current mid-2009 white MacBook to a mid-2012 aluminium MacBook Pro.  I'm thinking that I should have bought a USB 3.0 drive instead of saving a bit of money on the clearance item, as USB 2.0 isn't so fast.  The previous time I did a migration, it was over a Gigabit Ethernet connection from my late 2004 PowerBook G4 to the white MacBook.  I regretted not having a machine with discrete graphics but the nVidia 9400M graphics hardware was fast and with almost 5 years of technology between the two machines, the games I had ran very well on the MacBook.

This new machine has current graphics hardware: nVidia 650M with 1 GB of GDDR5 RAM.  That's fairly extreme for a notebook computer.  These days, desktop graphics hardware requires significant power, so it's nice to see that they can give good abilities to a mobile computer that doesn't require a long extension cord to do anything.  For daily uses, it's got the Intel HD 4000 graphics chipset, which is, ummm, less underwhelming than the HD 3000 chipset.  That's as generous as I can be.  I expect that Fishlabs' Galaxy on Fire 2 HD will run fine at 1440x900, rather than the 1024x600 window it uses on the MacBook.  However, I suspect UT2004 won't run at all, due to deprecated (retired) software in Lion/Mountain Lion.

Yesterday, I took the old PowerBook to have the backlight repaired.  The machine is a pleasant design and doesn't give any feeling of being cheap but it's not a unibody design.  Neither is the MacBook I have a unibody design, though it doesn't feel expensive or cheap.  Certainly, remembering the late iBook family sitting in a store with half its keys missing is enough to make you think that any of the MacBook family are not cheap.  However, this certain MacBook Pro is the aluminium slab unibody machine, and it felt very impressive pulling it out of the box.  It should be interesting to compare the two side-by-side.  Notably though, the 1440x900 vs 1280x854 display resolution and graphics hardware are the biggest details.  Considering that the 1280x854 15.2 inch widescreen display arrived in 2001 when most of the world offered a 1024x768 4:3 display is still amazing.  Of course, you pay extra for the better, higher resolution display and back then, Apple didn't have the sales numbers to push down the cost of the display with economies of scale.

I'm interested in how I'll function with Lion or Mountain Lion.  I didn't get far enough to find out which it has, but the entry on the Apple store said that it qualified for the up-to-date program.  I'm all for massive security improvements, as Apple has lagged the industry, even when the security improvements were free and available to them.  I can't understand the need to suck people into their world without protecting them.

The operating system(s) is much different than Snow Leopard from what I've seen.  A lot of it seems to be superficial eye candy, which doesn't do a thing for me, if the system is still broken when you use it.  e.g., I have a problem when I'm not a System Administrator in Snow Leopard.  I'll go from my default of the Applications folder to one of my photo folders, the Utilities folder, or some such.  The Back button should be enabled and light up with a visual cue to let you know that you can click it to return to the previous folder.  Nine of ten times, it does not, and clicking the button does zero.  I'm sure it's someone else's fault because Apple never makes mistakes.  Did your sarcasm detector just jump to 100 %?

I have about 2 hours, 21 minutes at latest count until the Migration Assistant finishes.  The good thing is that this machine is not tied down since it's all being pulled from the Time Machine backup.  It's odd watching the latest thermometer/progress bar work.  It has sharp edges--no rounded rectangle there, but it still has the fluid effects and the ever-present blue.

Hopefully, it will handle my Phase One Capture One 7 Pro software well.  If not, after the 16 GB RAM switch, it'll be even better.  I'm being hampered by only 6 GB of RAM, and the system is often at a crawl.  Isn't that crazy that so much RAM isn't enough?  I'll find out in a couple of hours.  Hopefully, it'll be a wonderful experience.  I mean, it's Apple, yes?  Nothing could ever be wrong.  Yes, yes, there goes your sarcasm detector again.

It took about 3 hours for the Migration Assistant to finish.  That's not terrible, but it missed a few settings or, I guess, they didn't apply correctly for Mac OS X 10.8.  Just after that, I went to the shop where they're going to repair my PowerBook and used their internet connection to download 1.32 GB of updates to the operating system and other Apple-related software.  When it wanted to restart, I clicked Restart (as opposed to Not Now) but it didn't seem to work.  It was only much later, when I went back to the merged Software Update/Mac App Store that it updated correctly.  It's confusing.  As of midnight, the machine seems to be working reasonably well.  I can't keep a Finder window but other things seem to be working, including my Capture One 7 Pro.  That's a good thing.

Continuing, all of my updates have been processed, and I replaced the 8 GB of RAM with 16 GB.  The combined Mac App Store/Software Update found a tiny update for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.  It's been out a couple of weeks, so I'm surprised that it wasn't found already.

Of course, the 16 GB of RAM makes the re-launch of almost any application instantaneous.   However, Capture One 7 Pro still lags when loading more than 1200 photos (and their associated change information) in one folder.  The 5400 rpm drive has a lot to do with that, but of course, 1200+ photos are quite a lot.  I started out with over 2100.  The drive really does feel abnormally slow when I've been using a 7200 rpm drive for about 1 year but limited there to 6 GB of RAM. 

In the standard user account where I have my photography, it mostly remembers my Finder window.  In my administrator account, it almost never does.  Of course, this is 10.8.2 and I'm not comfortable until any release gets to 10.x.4.  Apple just don't figure out things correctly until around that time.  I'm concerned about sync-ing my iPhone with iTunes 11.  I can appreciate the enhanced user experience, but iTunes is generally flaky until the second patch, but they've been stopping at the first and releasing something new after that.  I don't want the data on my phone scrambled.

I'm not saying that anything is unusable.  It's just not as good as it should be, and things are moved around, probably for the sake of moving things, like with Software Update.  Be sure to click on "more" at the end of the description, so you can see the whole list of updates and choose which you would like.