Candid, Episode #8: Mirrorless vs. DSLR →

April 07, 2016 |

Every now and then I get asked to recommend a camera purchase by a friend, reader, or Twitter follower.

Whenever that happens, I try to get a better idea of what it is they want out of a camera before pointing them one way or the other. The funny thing is, long ago I noticed that more often than not, these people seem to already have the perception than DSRLs are “serious” cameras, meant only for professional use. They also seem to group every other camera into a huge, loosely defined category: good for consumer use, but little beyond that.

Simply put, that could not be farther from the truth.

On this week’s episode of Candid, we dive deep into this issue, trying to dispel that myth once and for all. Among other things, we go over the defining aspects of DSLR and mirrorless technology, and see how they compare to each other in terms of battery life, AF, ruggedness, lens ecosystems, and price. Finally, we give our two cents about the future of the camera industry, and lay down our advice for prospective camera buyers.

What we ended up agreeing on may surprise you.1

  1. Or, you know… not.

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April 03, 2016

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.

There’s something about the latest Apple event that’s been bugging me, and I’d like to explore it in a bit more detail.

Issue #38: Confessions from a sad Mac user

During the presentation of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Phil Schiller joked on stage that there are currently more than 600 million PCs in use that are over 5 years old. He then cracked a joke at how sad the situation of those users is. Of course, the joke was received with laughs from an enthusiastic crowd. You’re so funny, Phil.

Except you’re not, not this time. Your considerable personal charm wasn’t able to make up for what was essentially an incredibly tone-deaf comment. It may have gotten a laugh out of the room, but out there in the real world, it fell pretty flat. You may have been careful to point out you were talking about Windows PCs, but the same reasoning must necessarily apply to old Macs as well.

Yes, we all like new and shiny stuff, but replacing a perfectly working computer just for the sake of owning the latest is a luxury at best, and irresponsible at worst. In any case, there’s absolutely nothing sad about owning your machines long-term, until they reach the end of their useful life.

My main Mac is an early-2008 24-inch iMac. It has a Core 2 Duo chip in it, which sounds ancient by today’s standards, but still performs rather well. It may not be the fastest machine anymore, but it takes on Lightroom and Xcode like a champ. In fact, after an SSD upgrade, it’s faster than it’s ever been. I do lust after a Retina 5K iMac — who wouldn’t — but I don’t think my iMac is sad in any way. Apparently you do, Phil, and that is sad. Sad that you seem to have forgotten about the real value of things.

My laptop is also sad. It’s a 2010 13-inch MacBook Pro, again with a Core 2 Duo chip inside. Like the iMac, it isn’t cutting-edge in any way, but I’m OK with that. It even has an optical drive and user-replaceable storage and memory, if you can believe it. And, check this out, if you look at it closely, you can even see the actual pixels in the display. I know, right? To you, Phil, this machine must feel like the kind of computer cavemen used to use.

Of course, I keep writing Phil, but I really mean Apple. This lack of respect for the old is an inherent trait of today’s Apple, and to some extent, they’ve always been like that. They’ve always loved new things, and they’ve always been keen on discarding the old to make room for the new. That willingness to wipe the slate clean and start anew is what makes them one of the most innovative companies in the world.

But discarding old technology to create better things is not the same as making fun of the people who can’t or won’t upgrade. This is not about poking fun at Windows, or Dell. They’re throwing their own customers under the bus, too, which is a first for Apple. That’s the slippery slope they seem to be on these days, and it’s one I personally find distasteful. I expect better from Apple.

Compare Schiller’s ill-advised joke with Elon Musk’s message when he unveiled Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 car. He said this is the car they’ve been working towards since the beginning, and specifically thanked the people who bought their previous models, because they helped pave the way for the Model 3 to be possible. He didn’t say everyone who still owns a Roadster is lame, he actually made it a point to publicly thank them on stage because without those orders early on, Tesla would not have been able to be where they are today. Now, that’s how you respect your customer base.

This is a very important message that I find completely absent from today’s Apple, and it worries me. It won’t be the end of the world — they have a lot going for them — but it makes them a bit more distant in my eyes. And that is sad.

Dear Apple, I get that you need to keep selling iPads, and maybe you’re even grasping at straws a little, trying to come up with new reasons for people to buy one. Clearly the ones you’ve been banking on so far aren’t working very well, and that’s a bit scary. I get that iPad sales are disappointing, and that even you don’t fully understand why. All of that I get.

What I don’t get is why you’re so bitter about it, lately. It used to be that you took pride in making things to last. You understood that for most people, a Mac was an investment that wasn’t always easy to make. To justify. You understood people made the effort, because it was worth it in the end.

Those people are the reason you’re here now, sitting atop the hill watching the billions come in. Had they not decided to stick with you through the difficult times, there would be no iPad. No iPhone. No iPod. No iMac. You get the idea.

There are a lot of ways to get people excited about new tech products; you know that better than anyone. Shaming long-time customers into upgrading should never be one of them.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: Sad PCs, Andy Grove, easy things that make our lives better, the inside story of ‘Superman’, and a window into Paris’ history

This week there’s a bit of Apple, and a bit of everything else. Enjoy.

Hey Apple, a five-year-old computer isn’t ‘sad’ | Sam Lionheart →

iFixit’s Sam Lionheart also takes Phil Schiller to the woodshed for precisely the same issue I wrote about above. It’s a good one.

Andy Grove and the iPhone SE | Ben Thompson →

Great piece by Ben Thompson on the remarkable career of Andy Grove. This is from last week, but I missed it then, and so here it goes:

Grove soon persuaded Moore, who was still CEO to get out of the memory business, and then proceeded on the even more difficult task of getting the rest of Intel on board; it would take nearly three years for the company to fully commit to the microprocessor, even though said microprocessor was already a smashing success thanks to IBM’s decision to use it in their first PC.

Over the next two decades Intel would not only reap the benefits of IBM’s decision but also greatly increase their profits through more shrewd moves by Grove. As part of selecting Intel in the first place IBM insisted that Intel share their design with another chip manufacturer called Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to ensure multiple suppliers, but once IBM’s position was weakened through the rise of IBM-compatible manufacturers like Compaq, Intel reneged and eventually renegotiated the deal, allowing the company to leverage its technical superiority into the sort of differentiation it had not been able to achieve in memory.

Fascinating stuff. Grove is a man for the history books.

4 absurdly easy things I do that make life disproportionately better | David Cain →

The most important things in life are those that take very little effort to do, but create a massive improvement on your happiness, productivity, or any other area of your life. They’re usually easy to miss because on the surface they seem insignificant or mundane, but they’re really, really important.

In this article, David Cain touches on some of the things that work for him. Your mileage may vary, but the method is sound:

Making your morning coffee beside a shiny sink is an empowering, self-affirming experience. Making coffee beside a dull sink, containing even a single dirty fork sitting in a puddle, is comparatively draining and dehumanizing. Add a stray, bloated noodle or two and it becomes strangely life-destroying.

In my experience, one of two different people emerge from that coffeemaking process, depending on the condition of the sink. One of them is sharp and ready for life. The other must fight his way to his desk from under some great existential weight, some grimy psychic debris that’s inseparable from the marooned soup remnants that greeted him this morning. The Sun is his enemy, not his ally, and all his work will be uphill today.

This is absolutely true for me. It’s the little things.

‘Superman,’ The Inside Story: Director Richard Donner remembers meeting Stallone to play the lead, working with Brando, and a near-fatal knife attack | Stephen Galloway →

The title on this one is pretty self-explanatory. What a fantastic read.

Via Daring Fireball.

Paris. Fenêtres sur l’Histoire | Julien Knez →

This is a remarkable project by photographer Julien Knez. Commissioned by French magazine Parigramme, it’s a series of historical photographs of Paris merged together with the current state of the city. Spectacular work.

The entire series was edited in book form by Parigramme, and it’s available on Amazon.

Thanks to Candid listener Aaron Alfano for the heads up.


Life is slowly returning to normal after the past few weeks, and I’m excited about the near future.

Before I sign off, though, I’d like to remind you once again about the giveaway we’re having this week on the podcast. We’re trying to settle the backpack vs messenger bag discussion once and for all, and the good folks at Think Tank Photo have generously offered a Retrospective 20 messenger bag or an equivalent backpack for the winner.

All you need to do it tweet whether you prefer a backpack or a messenger bag to carry your photography gear, and why. Depending on which side you’re on, use the #TeamMessenger or the #TeamBackpack hashtag, and don’t forget to include the show’s Twitter handle (@Candid_FM) at the end of your tweet.

The winner will be announced this Wednesday, so you still have plenty of time to participate. Best of luck!

Have a great Sunday, and thank you for reading.

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Candid, Episode #VII: Photo Gear For Travel →

April 01, 2016 |

On Candid’s episode VII1 we talk about packing photography gear for a trip, and how a travel kit differs from a regular kit. What makes for a good travel camera? How about lenses? Should you go interchangeable lens or fixed lens? Should you take a tripod with you? Listen on to learn our answers to these questions, and more.

Apart from that, this week’s episode is special because we also have our first giveaway, thanks to the good folks at Think Tank Photo.

If there’s one thing we learned from our recent episode about camera bags is that people are very opinionated about their bag choices. Well, now is your chance to settle the backpack vs messenger bag discussion once and for all.

If you want to help us out and get a chance to win a handsome Think Tank bag in the process, tweet which side you’re on using the hashtag #TeamBackpack or #TeamMessenger. You also need to say why you prefer one vs the other, and don’t forget to include the show’s Twitter handle (@Candid_FM) to make sure we find your tweets.

The contest will run for about a week, and after that we’ll pick the best and/or funniest reason as the winner. Depending on which side the winner’s on, Think Tank will ship them a Retrospective 20 messenger bag, or an equivalent backpack.

Think Tank makes some of the most durable camera bags out there. All three of us Candid hosts own at least one Think Tank bag, and we definitely recommend them. They’re extremely well made, last a lifetime, and will never attract unwanted attention. As far as travel bags go, it really doesn’t get any better than that.

  1. In hindsight, I really wish we’d titled this episode “The Travel Bug Awakens”, for obvious reasons.

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Bonus Round: The Great Galaxy Experiment’s conclusion →

March 27, 2016 |

Sometimes it’s easy to become complacent with your smartphone platform of choice and ignore what competitors are doing. If you’re a long-time iOS user, as I am, you probably look at Android phones with a certain ambivalence. But how long has it been since you checked out an Android phone objectively, without letting your opinion be biased by Apple’s marketing machine?

Luckily, my friend and co-host Marius Masalar spent the past few weeks testing the new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and comparing the experience with his existing iPhone 6s Plus. You know, for Science.

This is a fair, thorough, and all-around excellent write-up, and I greatly enjoyed reading along as Marius slowly figured out the kinks in the experience and reached his eventual conclusion. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t be quoting any excerpts here. Suffice it to say, this one deserves to be read slowly, preferably with a hot beverage in hand.

Normally I would have included this link in the Top Five section of today’s Morning Coffee, but I do believe this series is strong enough to merit its own separate post. If you haven’t been following along, check out Part 1 and enjoy.

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March 27, 2016

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.

First of all, I think it’s important to acknowledge it’s been a while since the last issue. This has been so due to some recent events in my personal life: two weeks ago I broke up with my girlfriend of four years, after a long and difficult few months of struggles. It’s always sad when a personal relationship fails, especially one with so many great memories attached, but it had become increasingly clear to me that neither of us were getting what we needed out of the relationship, and so there was only one way forward.

Ours has been an amicable split, but it still takes some getting used to. As you would imagine, my past couple of weeks have been spent on the most tedious of human affairs: moving out of our shared apartment and taking care of every bit of bureaucracy that goes with it. It’s a soul-destroying process, and one I can’t be done with soon enough. Thankfully, I’m almost finished by now, so here we are, back to writing. I’ve missed this.

I’m not one to dwell on the past, and I strongly believe the best way to deal with these things is to focus on what lies ahead, not what’s left behind. With that in mind, let’s pick things up where we left off, shall we?

Today I’d like to tell you a bit about the Easter holiday tradition in Spain: the Holy Week.

Issue #37: Semana Santa

The Holy Week, known as Semana Santa in Spain, is the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter Sunday. Every day of the week there are penance processions in many Spanish cities, involving millions of people in this deeply religious tradition. Going back to the Middle Age, these processions commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ.

The processions are organized by several brotherhoods, each of which is devoted to a particular moment of the Passion as described in the gospels. The main features of the processions are pasos, which are floats with incredibly detailed sculptures depicting these scenes. They are carried by the members of each brotherhood.

The common attire worn during the processions is the nazareno, a penitential robe which includes a tunic, a hood with conical tip — known as capirote — that covers the person’s face, and a cloak. The emphasis on anonymity is the main characteristic of the nazareno, and indeed the Holy Week as a whole. It is supposed to offer a chance for sinners to repent and atone without being publicly shamed.

There are also other roles in the procession which are performed by people wearing different types of attire, but explaining all of that would be too complicated, and outside of the scope of this piece.

I’m not so much interested in describing the particulars of the holiday, as I am in explaining why it’s so important for so many people in Spain.

The Holy Week is perhaps the one week of the year when religious fervor runs rampant in Spain. Some people even participate in the processions barefoot, as a sign of further penitence. These passionate believers, however, are only a small minority among those who participate in the Holy Week. Even people who don’t consider themselves religious participate, too, in many cases going as far as to carry the pasos themselves in the processions.

But why would non-religious people get involved in such a markedly Christian holiday?

Spain is currently a non-denominational state, meaning there’s no official religion in the country. That said, Spain has been historically linked to Catholicism more than any other religion, and there are still many people who are adamant in their faith. That has little to do with why the Holy Week is so popular, though.

Due to the many historic ties with Catholicism, numerous families in Spain have been educated in the Christian faith for several generations. This has created a strong tradition that is often carried on by the younger generations during the Holy Week, even if they don’t particularly identify with the spiritual aspect of it.

This has been the case in my own family, at least, with both my brother and I participating in the processions for many years, despite the fact that neither of us are Catholics — or even religious, for that matter. In fact, I can’t even remember the first time I participated, but I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old. This year, my 4-year-old niece is participating in her first procession, and she’s far from being the only kid there. You clearly can’t have an understanding of what religion is at so young an age.

The reason we do this in my family is because one of the main pasos in Plasencia’s Holy Week — the crucifixion of Christ — was discovered by my great-grandfather in an abandoned mill in the very early 20th century. He personally paid for its restoration and then donated it to the newly established brotherhood, which has carried it out in procession every Good Friday since then.

Neither my brother nor myself participate in the procession anymore — and haven’t for a few years — but my family has been involved with that image of Christ for five generations already, and there’s a good chance the tradition will live on for a few more at least.

And that’s exactly the key to this particular mystery. For most young people, the Holy Week is a matter of tradition, not necessarily religion. It’s also a very important event culturally, historically and artistically, not to mention one of the most popular events of the year among tourists.

One thing appears clear: Spain’s Holy Week has a very distinct energy and an air of solemnity that is hard to ignore. Regardless of your particular religious beliefs — or lack thereof — there are plenty of reasons to be interested, or even fascinated by it.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: OS X turns 15, the Amazon Echo, caffeine in sports, changing careers in middle age, and the real power of metadata

This week’s top five pieces are all superb. Enjoy.

Mac OS X 10.0 | John Siracusa →

OS X turned 15 years old on March 24, and what better way to celebrate the milestone than by going back to John Siracusa’s review of Mac OS X’s first public release, codenamed Cheetah.

Reading this review in 2016 was lots of fun. John has certainly changed much in the way he writes about software over the past 15 years, but his unmatched attention to detail and his incredible passion for the technical underpinnings of the platform were already evident back then.

Via Stephen Hackett.

Amazon Echo review | Drew Coffman →

My friend Drew Coffman penned an awesome review of the Amazon Echo on Tools & Toys a couple weeks ago. He eloquently dubbed the device “a glimpse of Tony Stark’s Jarvis”, which is pretty much all I needed to know to want one.

Sadly, the Echo is still not available for sale in Spain, so for me Siri will have to do for now. If you can get your hands on one, though, Drew’s review is a great place to start learning about Alexa’s many talents.

How athletes strategically use caffeine | Murray Carpenter →

This piece is fascinating on several levels, but there’s one thing in particular I’d like to point out. According to the article, caffeine used to be on the International Olympic Committee’s banned substances list, but was removed from it in 2004 because it’s so ubiquitous that pretty much everyone takes it. Go figure.

Now we’re actively encouraging athletes and regular people to use it as a performance-enhancing drug because, hey, it’s legal. It really wouldn’t surprise me if it was put back on the banned substances list at some point in the near future, and what happens then? Do we go back and invalidate all the records of caffeine-using athletes? It’s a mess waiting to happen.

For the most part, I find the history of banned substances in sports to be a joke. The banned substances list should be nearly immutable, and adding or removing substances from it should be an incredibly rare occurrence.

Maria Sharapova’s recent ban for using meldonium, a drug she’d been legally taking for over a decade, is a perfect example of this. Another egregious case is that of Spanish cyclist Pedro Delgado, who won the 1988 edition of the Tour De France despite testing positive for probenecid, a masking agent for steroids. The problem back then was that, even though probenecid was on the IOC banned substances list, it wasn’t on the UCI’s own banned substances list, which is cycling’s governing body. The irony is that probenecid was added to the UCI banned substances list only one month after Delgado’s victory.

These episodes are incredibly frequent across all sports, and it’s a joke. Only by being consistent on which substances are banned can these cases be avoided. Unfortunately, governing bodies need to operate under the assumption that athletes will always try to take things as far as they can within the confines of the rules, which is why each change to the list can potentially destroy many a career and tarnish many a reputation.

Ultimately, though, it is an athlete’s responsibility to know what they put in their own bodies, and if they’re found to have broken the rules, they should be held accountable. In my opinion, Sharapova’s excuse — that she did not open an official letter informing her of the changes to the banned substances list — does not justify her actions, or limit her liability in any way.

Quit your job | Barbara Bradley Hagerty →

Another great piece over at The Atlantic:

Some researchers believe that the midlife slump is driven by a sense of dashed expectations. According to Hannes Schwandt, an economist at the University of Zurich, as young people, we overestimate our future happiness, and so we feel disappointed as life goes on. But as we approach 60, we start underestimating our future happiness, and then are pleasantly surprised by reality. We also seem to don rose-colored glasses later in life: Brain studies suggest that as we age, we disregard negative images and focus on the positive.

In other words, you may be able to outwait your malaise. Indeed, the particulars of your job may be incidental to it.

Well worth your time.

How your innocent smartphone passes almost your entire life to the secret service | Dimitri Tokmetzis →

What an eye opening — and scary — piece. Read this one through to the end.


After the past few difficult weeks, Semana Santa has been a refreshing change of pace, and a chance to spend some much-needed quality time with my friends and family. There’s lots of exciting work to do on the horizon, but at least until tonight, it’s still time for relaxation.

And if you’re driving back from the holidays today, please take enough precautions and make sure you’re well rested. CEST kicked in last night throughout most of Europe, and one hour less of sleep is something you can definitely feel when you’re on the road.

Be safe, happy holidays, and thank you for reading.

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Candid, Episode #6: Accidental Apple Podcast →

March 25, 2016 |

This week’s special episode of Candid is all about the recent Apple event, where the 4-inch iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro were announced.

We only wanted to do a quick overview of the event but as it turns out, once you start talking about Apple product announcements, it’s really hard to stop.

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Candid, Episode #5: Mobile Workflows →

March 17, 2016 |

This week’s episode is all about mobile workflows: what apps and services we use — or don’t use — to shoot, edit and share pictures from our mobile devices. We also dive into the best ways to get your pictures from a dedicated camera onto your phone in order to share them on social networks. And we go over what’s already there vs what’s still missing in iOS for the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil to become the ultimate photo editing setup.

Lots to unpack in this one, for sure.

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My review of the Rode PSA-1 boom arm was published today on Tools & Toys.

This was a fun product to review. As some of you may know, I recently launched a photography podcast alongside Josh Ginter and Marius Masalar, and choosing the right gear to get started was a crucial part of that process.

On one hand, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on gear, especially when there was no guarantee that this would be a profitable business. On the other hand, I didn’t want to sound terrible, either, and I definitely didn’t want to sound a lot worse than my two co-hosts, so it was a matter of finding the right compromise for me.

In the end I settled on borrowing an XLR microphone from my father’s FM radio station. It turned out to be an old Shure 10A dynamic microphone (now discontinued), which on paper is a rather basic model, but it just so happens to work incredibly well with my voice. I also needed to buy a Tascam US 2x2 audio interface to connect the microphone to my computer.

Being a dynamic microphone, though, the Shure 10A is extremely picky about my posture, and requires consistent technique to sound any good. It soon became clear that a traditional desk stand just wouldn’t do, so I decided to invest in the Rode PSA-1 boom arm and I never looked back.

The Rode PSA-1 is a great product: it is very solid, and it offers all the features of more expensive studio arms at a very reasonable price point. What’s not to love?

All things considered, I spent about $250 total for my setup, and I’m really happy with how well it’s working for me. I can’t recommend the Rode PSA-1 boom arm enough, especially if you own a dynamic microphone, or are planning to get one anytime soon.

As a side bonus, I recorded a short video for the review, where I go over the main advantages of having a boom arm vs a desk stand for your microphone. You can find it embedded below. I’m well aware there’s lots of things to improve as far as production goes, but for a first attempt at a multiple-camera video, I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

It’s not that bad, is it? Especially considering this was my first time ever working with Adobe Premiere Pro and I only had a couple hours to assemble the final cut before submitting the review to the editor. I cringe here and there every time I watch it, and there’s definitely a couple things I would have done differently had I had more time to work on the edit, but I think for a first attempt it’s pretty respectable.

If you want to read more about the Rode PSA-1 boom arm, head on over to Tools & Toys for the full review.

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