AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I was thinking about making some changes to the current format of my Morning Coffee articles. One such change included the possibility to offer it as an email newsletter instead of, or alongside the current version.

I’m still thinking about the best way to implement that but in the meantime, if you want your Morning Coffee to be delivered right to your inbox every week, I have some great news. Friend of the site Pedro Meireles has generously written and published an awesome IFTTT (if this, then that) recipe that allows you to do just that:

Every Saturday morning Álvaro Serrano publishes his weekly post titled “Morning Coffee”. With this recipe you will receive it on your e-mail the minute it is published. Great way to start the weekend reading!

This is so cool. My most sincere thanks to Pedro for sharing this!

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The Tools & Toys Christmas Catalog →

November 03, 2015 |

Some really awesome gift ideas in there this year, as usual. I particularly loved Shawn’s introduction, wherein he encourages the idea of intentional giving:

A gift is more than just an item to fill a box so it can be wrapped up in red and green paper and placed under a tree. When you buy a gift this year, don’t give out of obligation, but rather give out of thankfulness and gratitude.

There is another side to this idea of intentional giving as well. It’s the idea that intentional giving means getting something awesome. Which, is actually easier than it may seem. With just a little bit of forethought and inspirational assistance, you too can move past the black hole of terrible gift giving that is filled with fruit cakes and generic gift certificates.

Nothing says I love you like an Amazon gift card… wait, what?

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Ben Bajarin on Samsung and The Innovator’s Dilemma →

November 02, 2015 |

Astute piece by Ben Bajarin on the likely future of Samsung, and Android as a whole:

One of the most interesting observations about all of this is the innovator’s Dilemma was supposed to impact Apple. This was a fundamental tenet of most bear cases. When the market for smartphones became filled with good enough devices at very low prices, why would anyone buy an iPhone? Yet this is impacting Samsung exactly according to the guidebook — but not Apple. The fundamental lesson to learn here is the innovator’s dilemma, in this case, only applies to Android land because all the hardware OEMs run the same operating system. As I’m fond of saying, when you ship the same operating system as your competition you are only as good as their lowest price. This is the curse of the modular business model. This is also why Samsung had hopes for Tizen. They actually knew this was coming. I know this because I discussed it with them in 2013 and was convinced they understood this was their fate if they continued to sell out to Android. Unfortunately, Android was their only option given its momentum. I’ll make a prediction. Samsung will be out of the smartphone business within five years.

It’s a bold prediction, no doubt, but bear with him.

Not many people would have predicted Nokia’s fate in 2007. The Finnish company was comfortably leading the mobile phone market back then and yet, by 2011 — a mere four years after the iPhone launched — they were so desperate already that they entered into a partnership with Microsoft, which would lead to the eventual acquisition of its mobile phone business and, ultimately, the demise of the Nokia brand in the sector.

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October 31, 2015

Welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee. I hope you all got you new Apple TVs already, and I also hope you won’t stay the whole weekend at home sitting in front of it like mindless drones.

If I may make a suggestion, this would be a great time to sit on the couch — or, if you prefer, pay a visit to your favorite barista — grab a nice hot cup of the good stuff, and enjoy some interesting pieces of writing.

Lucky for you, I happen to have just the thing.

Issue #21: Making a digital scale, the ethics of ad blocking, and the rise of the writer’s space

This week’s issue includes some of the usual nerdy stuff — like how to turn your iPhone into a digital scale — some of the usual important stuff — like why CEOs should fight patent trolls and why online abuse matters — and some of the usual photography stuff — like camera and lens comparisons, packing for Fashion Week, and shooting in New York City.

Enjoy.

Turning the iPhone 6S into a digital scale | Ryan McLeod →

This cool story has been making the rounds on the Internet all week, and it’s easy to understand why. When a developer comes up with an ingenious idea to use the technology in the iPhone in new and exciting ways, only to see Apple reject the app for what seem like totally arbitrary reasons, people get understandably frustrated.

I don’t think it’s in Apple’s best interest to maintain this black-and-white approach when it comes to interpreting the rules. It’s often by thinking outside the box and coming up with new and innovative ideas to use existing technology in different ways that we create an opportunity for great things to happen.

No ‘inverted T’? No thanks | Riccardo Mori →

Riccardo Mori touches on something that’s been on my mind recently: the redesigned layout of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, and the new MacBook’s before it. Particularly, the new positioning and size of the arrow keys. Instead of the traditional ‘inverted T’ layout, the new keyboards come with full-sized left and right arrow keys, which apparently screws with muscle memory because pretty much everybody — myself included — uses the gap above the keys to feel your way around the keyboard in order to find the right position for your fingers to type on the arrows.

Clearly, we’ll all end up adjusting to the new layout, but what bugs Mori — and, to a lesser extent, me — is that there’s just no good functional reason to adopt this new design:

Of course, what else can you do? Apart from returning the keyboard, there’s no other option than adjusting to the new arrow keys design. I’m absolutely baffled by this change, because it’s simply poor design. It impacts usability, it goes against the majority of keyboards out there, it seems completely unnecessary and arbitrary, something like Let’s fill up all the space because the empty areas above the left/right keys don’t look cool. Something users have to take time and adjust to for no justifiable reason.

Why one software CEO agreed to meet a patent troll—and then fought it to the end | Joe Mullin →

I enjoyed this report on the legal case between Pegasystems and a patent troll called YYZ LLC. When CEOs decide to stand their ground against patent trolls and fight instead of just paying up, the entire industry is better off as a result. Kudos to Alan Trefler for doing the right thing, despite the financial risk to his company.

Why it’s OK to block ads | James Williams →

Great piece on ad blocking by James Williams over at Practical Ethics, an official blog tied to the University of Oxford:

I often hear people say, “I use AdBlock, so the ads don’t affect me at all.” How head-smackingly wrong they are. (I know, because I used to say this myself.) If you use products and services whose fundamental design logic is rooted in maximizing advertising performance—that is to say, in getting you to spend as much of your precious time and attention using the product as possible—then even if you don’t see the ads, you still see the ad for the ad (i.e. the product itself). You still get design that exploits your non-rational psychological biases in ways that work against you. You still get the flypaper even if you don’t get the swatter. A product or service does not magically redesign itself around your goals just because you block it from reaching its own.

Exactly. You need to read this piece right now.

Why online abuse matters | Richard J. Anderson →

Richard J. Anderson:

But let’s bring this discussion back down from the cosmic level. In the last year or so, online harassment and abuse has become a major issue, in no small part because of organized campaigns like GamerGate. Despite this, the attitude remains among people who should know better, that online harassment and abuse is less than real and worthy of their time. The idea that a harassed person can just turn off their phone, unplug their computer, and go about their life, blissfully free from the virtual slings and digital arrows of outrageous fortune is a myth. It has been for over a decade. The Internet is real life, not some sort of magical cyberspace that we can slip into and out of at will. It a part of nearly everything we do, and the people who are decidedly not connected to it are a shrinking minority.

Well said.

Greenland is melting away | Coral Davenport, Josh Haner, Larry Buchanan and Derek Watkins →

Fantastic piece over at The New York Times.

The strange rise of the writer’s space | Evan Hughes →

Evan Hughes, writing for The New Yorker:

There is something embarrassing about working from home. You wonder what the UPS man thinks of you when he delivers advance copies of new books. So this guy just reads all day? You worry that the prominent figure you are interviewing by phone can hear the refrigerator door or the neighbors’ kids upstairs. (Skype video interviews are even worse; the trick is finding a camera angle that doesn’t reveal anything blatantly domestic.)

As a writer who works from home, I so can relate to this. Luckily, there’s a way to make things better:

A relatively new institution, the shared writers’ space, fills a niche so small that it isn’t covered in Saval’s book. At these urban oddities, members get access to a quiet room or two full of desks, often with an adjacent eat-in kitchen, perhaps a couch—in other words, an office. But without a boss. And you pay them, instead of the other way around.

It sounds like a great place, but I could never get any work done there, for one simple reason: the silence. As Hughes writes:

It’s a different beast from the “co-working space,” where, as I understand it, startups and entrepreneurs gather under the banner of cross-pollination and ideation and use whiteboards. My writers’ space, by contrast, sternly enforces silence in the main room. White-noise machines, earplugs, and cough drops are provided, and a sign advises, “PLEASE WALK SLOWLY & LIGHTLY.” (The library-like atmosphere does present difficulties for reporting; I have called sources from the stairwell, as others walked past, to discuss their days dealing cocaine.)

That would be an absolute deal breaker for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Co-working spaces are becoming increasingly common among writers all around the world, and with good reason. I don’t know about you, but I find that having some noise and movement around me acts as a very effective shield that really helps me concentrate. By comparison, whenever I’m at home in complete silence, I often struggle to get into a decent writing rhythm, which is why I usually have some music playing, or a podcast episode I’m not even listening to, really. Anything works for me, except silence.

But the human connection is also important: writing at home can be a lonely experience, if you do it every single day. Going somewhere else where you meet actual human beings in the flesh helps a great deal, and sharing a common working space goes a long way towards creating a sense of community. All those things are conducive to better, more consistent creative output, at least in my case.

Packing guide to photography at Fashion Week | Tyler Stalman →

Cool piece by Tyler Stalman on what it takes to prepare for a week of fashion shooting in New York City, London, Toronto and Paris. It’s not all about the equipment, mind you, you also need to look the part:

As a photographer no one is paying attention to you and that is the way it should be. A monochrome outfit is as much about being practical as it is about style. I heard about a photographer who was new to fashion week and wore a bright orange jacket. He drove every other photographer crazy because when he was in the background of a shot, all you see it a bright orange coat. Stick to simple colors, which for me is black, white and blue.

Photographers don’t need a three piece suit to to fit in at fashion events. Just keep it clean and minimal.

Comparing two M.Zuiko portrait lenses – Olympus 45mm f/1.8 vs. 75mm f/1.8 | Heather Broster →

I have the highest regard for the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens. In the 18 months or so I used the Olympus E-M10 as my main camera, this little gem of a lens was always my go-to piece of glass for portraits, and I even used it a fair bit for product photography and even street photography. My enthusiasm was obvious when I reviewed it for Tools & Toys, as it should be: it is a superb portrait lens.

Olympus also has the longer and more expensive 75mm f/1.8 lens in the lineup, and most people agree that it’s one of the sharpest and technically better corrected lenses in the MFT system.

A comparison between both lenses seems trivial, but for some reason I haven’t seen many of them around, certainly none that I can recall off the top of my head, which is why this piece from Heather over at MirrorLessons was so interesting to read.

The results, of course, came out as expected: the Oly 75mm is clearly the better lens, but the 45mm offers the better value. All in all, two excellent pieces of glass for your MFT camera.

The Panasonic GX8 done grow’d up! A first look comparison | Tyson Robichaud →

Tyson Robichaud got his hands on the new Panasonic GX8 MFT camera and he did an awesome in-depth comparison between the new 20-MP camera and his beloved Panasonic GX7. If you’re considering an upgrade or are otherwise interested in the GX8, this is a must-read for you.

A trip to New York | Jordan Steele →

Gorgeous photoset by Jordan Steele in the greatest city in the world:

I hadn’t been to New York for a real visit since 1996, and back then, I was a casual snapper, having not really gotten into photography as a hobby and artistic endeavor until around 2003. As such, I really wanted to capture a few key prominent places, because while they have been captured by many photographers over the years, there’s a reason they are popular photography spots: they’re great subjects. These included the skyline from Brooklyn, the city from the top of one of the tall buildings (I chose to go to the Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza), Central Park, the new One World Trade Center and 9/11 memorial and Grand Central Terminal. I’ve wanted to photograph these for quite a while, so I’m very glad to have gotten the chance to do so.

Amazing stuff. This is making me want the Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 FE lens so badly.

Afterword

It’s been interesting to read people’s first impressions on the new Apple TV and for the most part, I’m intrigued about the device. I will probably end up buying it, but I’m not in a great hurry to do so.

The truth is, I don’t usually think of the Apple TV as more than a device I can use to watch movies and TV shows and for that purpose, my current 3rd-gen Apple TV works just fine. I suppose getting Siri search to work across all apps and services would improve the experience somewhat, but I’m not really looking forward to playing games on my Apple TV, to be perfectly honest.

As for other, non-gaming apps, I’m sure there will be many interesting ways to exploit the new Apple TV’s capabilities, but really, how many of them will be things that we can’t currently do on our iPhones, Macs, iPads or, for those who own one, Apple Watches? The range of features and services that will be unique and exclusive to the Apple TV seems exceedingly small to me, and I’m not sure they’ll be all that compelling to begin with.

That’s not to say it won’t be better than the current version because in fact, I’m positive it already is — it’s just that I’m content with watching from the sidelines for the time being.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m a bit concerned that Apple seems to believe that the answer to all their long-term problems lies in more platforms, more OSs, more App Stores. In less than a year, they’ve added two new OSs to the ecosystem, and if the car rumors are true, we may even see a third one soon.

The potential for innovation that those new platforms create is great, but Apple needs to remember that building new platforms is not about making them popular for a month, or a year, but about making them sustainable. Apple has never had any problems with popularity, but we’re still not sure how good they are at sustainability.

The new Apple TV will probably be OK — people, after all, love on-demand entertainment — but Apple’s relentless drive to build new platforms capable of running 3rd-party apps may end up hurting them in the long run.

One of the reasons 3rd-party apps for the iPhone were so successful was that back in 2008, the iPhone was the only real game in town. If you wanted to develop a cool new mobile app, you needed to be on the iPhone. There was no iPad, no Apple Watch, no Apple TV, and not even Android to distract you from your goal. Today, the situation is very different.

Is it really wise to direct so much attention towards a brand-new platform, when the Apple Watch is heading into its first holiday quarter? All those new SDKs inevitably compete for the attention and finite resources of 3rd-party developers, and the lack of focus could well end up being worse than the lack of options.

It’s easy to be bullish on Apple — they are, after all, the most profitable company on the planet — but let’s not forget that so far they haven’t managed to replicate the original App Store success story on any other platforms: the iPad was built largely on the back of the iPhone and is already rapidly losing steam, the Mac App Store is far from a resounding success, and it’s still way too soon to tell if 3rd-party Apple Watch apps will be successful enough to create a sustainable market.

Apple is great at creating platforms and tools for developers to work with, but in their ambition, it’s possible they may be overwhelming those developers instead of helping them focus, and that may end up coming back to bite them.

And on that note, I think it’s time to close this issue. I have a very good friend visiting in Madrid for the weekend, and tonight we’re celebrating the birthday of another one of my closest friends, so it’s hopefully going to be a fun couple of days ahead.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a fantastic weekend.

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Sizing up the new Apple TV →

October 29, 2015 |

Dan Moren, over at Six Colors:

One could almost argue, then, that the 64GB version of the Apple TV is the “game console” version, with the 32GB primarily targeted as a “set-top streaming box.” The 64GB version is also for customers who want to not worry about running out of storage or want to feel like they bought the best Apple TV available. And, as with the 16GB model of the iPhone, perhaps the 32GB model is there to stake out the low ground, and convince customers on the fence that it might be worth it to spend the mere $50 to upgrade to 64GB.

He makes two excellent points here. Apple has a history of offering entry-level products of questionable value in order to upsell customers to higher end models, so there’s a distinct possibility that the new Apple TV could be another example of that.

That said, I like his former point better: that the 32GB version is simply the one for people that don’t think of the Apple TV as a gaming device and are not likely to need the extra storage capacity of the higher end model.

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The Verge reviews the new Apple TV →

October 29, 2015 |

If you’re one of the many people who are still waiting for their brand-new Apple TVs to be delivered, Nilay Patel’s review over at The Verge will keep you entertained for a while:

The streaming boxes on the market right now all compete to do very few simple things: get everything you want to watch in a single place, make it all easy to search and discover, and get out of the way. And the Apple TV does that as well or better than anything else on the market. It has virtually every streaming app save Amazon Prime video, Siri works reasonably well and can answer a wider range of questions across services than the Fire TV 2 or Roku, and playback is super fast. If you just want a new streaming box, you can happily buy a new Apple TV. (I would buy the $149 base model.) You’ll like it.

In other words, the new Apple TV is not quite the revolutionary experience many of us were hoping for, but it is a pretty solid product considering today’s sorry state of affairs in the TV industry.

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My review of the Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* lens was published today over at Tools & Toys.

I’ll be the first to admit that, just by looking at the specs, this 55mm f/1.8 lens sounds a bit pedestrian. However, as you can probably guess just by looking at its $1,000 price tag, this is not your typical nifty-fifty. If you’re considering this lens but are concerned that its performance may not live up to its cost, fear not: this is an incredible piece of glass, easily the best I’ve ever used. It has quickly become my favorite, too.

I don’t know what it is about it. It may be its blistering sharpness, or maybe the contrasty look that just screams of Zeiss quality. It may well be its gorgeous bokeh, or the fact that even though it is a Full Frame lens, it still fits in the palm of my hand.

Either one of these things alone would be enough to justify the purchase of a lens. But when you see them together, well, that’s when you know you’re onto something special.

Incidentally, this is the longest review I’ve ever written for Tools & Toys — or anywhere else, really. There was just so much to say about the lens that I ended up going well past my usual length.

If you want to learn more about this fantastic optical instrument, head on over to Tools & Toys for the full review.

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October 24, 2015

This week marks the 20th issue of Morning Coffee. Over the past few months I’ve tweaked the format a little bit but it’s fair to say that, for the most part, Morning Coffee has remained true to its original formula.

I’m now considering making more changes to the format, and maybe even offering it as a newsletter instead, or alongside the existing one. I will continue to think about this over the next couple of weeks, but if you have any comments or suggestions on how to improve Morning Coffee, I’d be most interested to know what you think.

Now, let’s move on to some interesting pieces of writing. Enjoy.

Issue #20: Apple accessories, Microsoft lapblets — or is it tabtops? — and one too many lens comparisons

This week’s selection turned out quite a bit a bit nerdier than usual. That comes as a result of the tech industry’s natural pace — reviews for new products tend to appear all within just a few days of each other — but was also caused by my own work, and the sort of research I dive into when writing a review.

This time around, my research has me knee-deep in lens comparison pieces, and so it was only natural that a few of them would make it into this issue. Other than that, Apple and Microsoft have been busy lately and as a result, so have been Apple and Microsoft writers. Finally, there are also a few pieces on Analytics, Mac Pros, Filed Notes, James Bond, and the difference between farther and further. See? Nerdy. I told you.

If you’re ready to move further — but not farther — grab your favorite beverage, and let’s get started.

Magic Keyboard review | Rene Ritchie →

Rene Ritchie reviewed all of the new “Magic” Apple accessories over the week. His reviews were not only insightful and interesting to read, as usual, but they were chock-full of cool pictures showing the new accessories in the best possible light.

If you enjoyed this one, don’t forget to also check out Rene’s reviews of the Magic Mouse 2, and the Magic Trackpad 2. Good stuff.

Why I bought a ginormous iPhone | Aleen Simms →

Nice pro-Plus argument from Aleen Simms:

Pockets were also not much of a consideration. When the bigger phones were announced last fall, I was concerned that the iPhone 6 would be too big to fit comfortably in my front jeans pocket, where my cell phones have lived since the early 2000s. As it turns out, I was right. It didn’t take long before I mostly abandoned my front pocket and started carrying my phone either in my hand or back pocket, removing it when I sat down. My phone only goes in a bag when I’m making my way through airport security.

Sometimes I forget that both of these iPhones are pretty big, certainly bigger than my beloved iPhone 5S. For many people, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6S is already too big to comfortably fit in their front pockets, which means the extra benefits of the 6S Plus come with almost no extra penalty in terms of convenience.

Once you have to carry your phone in some other pocket, or in a bag, it doesn’t really matter which model you own. For those people — and I may very well be one of them — the iPhone 6S Plus definitely seems like the one that would provide the most value.

Racking Mac Pros | IMGIX staff →

Terrific — and super nerdy — story on how IMGIX managed to rack-mount several of the new, cylindrical Mac Pros in order to use them as image rendering servers:

The R2 design consists of a metal chassis which houses four Mac Pros in a horizontal, sideways orientation with separate hot and cold air compartments. This chassis allows us to mount Mac Pros as we would any other server: on rails, in a rectangular enclosure, and with front and rear port access. The chassis itself is completely passive (although it could be adapted for fans in poorly ventilated sites). Each system within the chassis operates independently of the others.

Honestly, I doubt all this trouble was worth it, other than for the PR value. In terms of actual raw processing power, surely there must be a more efficient — not to mention cheaper — way to build something powerful enough for their needs.

Surface Pro 4 review: The tablet that still doesn’t quite replace your laptop | Peter Bright →

Solid review by Peter Bright. The Surface has matured into a nice product, and it’s easy to see why some people would prefer it to an iPad. That said, I believe this pressure to be the device that has to replace your laptop is keeping it from realizing its true potential.

If Microsoft embraced what the Surface actually is — an excellent tablet computer that’s making some wrong compromises — they’d have a much better shot at creating a hit.

Microsoft Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 review: New hope for Windows hardware | Joanna Stern →

Another interesting and mostly positive take on Microsoft’s latest hardware announcements:

It’s not that simple, though. The Surface Book is a laptop, but it moonlights as a tablet with its detachable 13.5-inch touchscreen. And then there’s the new Surface Pro 4, a tablet that can pretend to be a laptop—if you buy its much-improved keyboard dock.

That may sound like a riddle, but at least it’s one that will eventually solve itself. Both new Surface PCs point to a future where we have fewer gadgets that do more. For now, there are a couple of distinct (and sometimes painful) sacrifices you must make for combining the tablet and the laptop.

The Surface Book and the Surface Pro are two sides of the same coin for Microsoft. In my opinion, they’d be much better off letting each device embrace its own category: let the Surface Book be a great laptop, and the Surface Pro be a great tablet. This sort of middle-ground approach may please some people, but it will delight no one.

Death to Analytics | Ben Brooks →

Great piece by Ben Brooks:

That stress of only reaching 20 people, or the even worse stress of reaching thousands of people. Knowing how many people read your site will effect what you say, and what you write about. You’ll hold back because your audience is too large, or not edit enough because you audience is too small.

But if you don’t know the size of your audience great things can happen.

This is so true. Self-censorship is a very real problem when you’re too concerned about the way your own audience will perceive your work. It’s ironic, because it’s getting the whole thing backwards: your audience follows you because they like your work, not the other way around. We shouldn’t write trying to please an audience, but instead produce genuine work we love, and let the right audience find it.

To that end, turning Analytics off could very well work, although it may not be enough. After all, there are other ways to be aware of the size of your audience — Twitter followers, for one. You’d probably need to live a hermit-like online life to remain oblivious to all the metrics, but that would be missing the point.

Turning Analytics off is making a statement, and a promise to yourself. Keeping that promise, of course, is then up to you.

Daniel Craig on James Bond | Rüdiger Sturm →

This is a great interview with Daniel Craig, shortly before the release of the next film in the Bond franchise: SPECTRE. What I found most interesting from the exchange is just how detached Craig seems to be from the role. It’s as though he’s trying to make the point that he’s very much not like Bond, and that there’s nothing particularly admirable about the character in his mind:

But James Bond is one of the most legendary movie heroes of all time. Surely he must have a couple of inspirational personality traits?

Let’s not talk these films up as some kind of life-changing experience. Bond is what Bond does. Bond is very single- minded. He takes his own course. And that’s simple, which is great.

Definitely a weird way to promote a picture, but what do I know. At least he’s honest, I’ll give him that.

Field Notes Colors: Shenandoah | Mike Bates →

Loved this story by Mike Bates. His pictures of the new Color edition of Field Notes notebooks are gorgeous. I have to admit I’m not much of a Field Notes user myself — I prefer classic black Moleskine notebooks — but I do love the autumn season, and Mike captured it in perfect fashion.

A day in Cambridge – Hands-On with the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 (Sony E-Mount) | Mathieu Gasquet →

Mathieu took the just-announced Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens out for a spin, and the results were lovely.

ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 and Batis 2/25 1st Look | 3D-Kraft! →

Nice look at the new Zeiss Batis lenses, including some impressive comparisons between the Batis 85mm f/1.8 and the jaw-dropping - and wallet-melting — Otus 85mm f/1.4:

Even though there was not much time for an in-depth look, I am sure, both members of the new Batis family will find friends easily and sell like hot cakes. The Batis 1.8/85 may not have the level of perfection like an Otus 1.4/85 and relies in some situations a bit more on lens correction profiles provided by camera firmware and/or raw processors but taking into account the enormous resolution and processing speed of today’s cameras, this seems like a very well balanced compromise. This allows to provide a professional grade lens in a compact and lightweight form factor including autofocus and optical stabilization with a reasonable price tag.

The Batis 2/25 surprised me with extraordinary sharpness across the whole frame right from open aperture in a compact, lightweight housing. At f/2.0 you may have to correct some vignetting and some minor CAs but these almost disappear already when you stop down one step to f/2.8. Thanks to its wide aperture and short close focus, it provides additional options to play with depth of field and shows a pleasing bokeh not available when using wide angle zoom lenses.

Most adorable 50s | 3D-Kraft! →

Another super-interesting lens comparison by the folks over at 3D-Kraft!. This time they arranged a comparison between some of the best 50mm Full Frame lenses money can buy:

The candidates this time tested on a Sony A7R:

  • Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM (Nikon mount version)

  • Zeiss FE Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8

  • Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH

  • Zeiss Otus Apo Distagon T* 55mm f/1.4

As pricewise the Sigma Art 50/1.4 and the Zeiss FE 1.8/55 are closest to each other, this test focuses mainly on a direct comparison between these lenses but some aspects are compared in similar settings with the Summilux and the Otus as well.

I came across this piece while doing some research for my upcoming review of the Sony Zeiss FE Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8 lens, and couldn’t help but read the entire article in one sitting. Really great comparison, with lots of impressive pictures to go with it.

Further and farther: A theory | Caleb Crain →

Allow me to leave you with this wonderfully intricate and ultra-nerdy explanation of the difference between two of the most commonly misused words in the English language:

A mathematician might say that further is referring to the increase of a vector, and farther to the increase of a distance. To say it in English rather than in math: farther refers to a greater distance, literal or metaphorical, from a shared measuring point. Further refers to a greater progress in a shared direction.

Not quite clear on it yet? Let’s try an example:

If John was able to carry the Holy Grail only a hundred yards into a primeval forest before expiring, and Mary buckled on her armor and picked up the Grail where it lay, her intent would have to be to carry the Grail further, not farther. In fact, it’s possible for her to carry it further even if she doesn’t carry for as great a distance as John carried it.

Got it? Good. Glad we cleared that up.

Afterword

This week I finally got to try one of the greatest home entertainment experiences ever. To those living in the US this will come as a shock, but we only just got Netflix here in Spain. The company started offering the service a mere four days ago, and I signed up for it on Thursday.

In the couple of days I’ve had to use it so far, I have to say I’m really, really impressed. The implementation on the Apple TV is flawless, and the recommendations are great. I am yet to experience any playback issues whatsoever, and the HD quality is stunning.

I was also particularly impressed with how, whenever I switch devices, Netflix keeps track of what I was watching, and even preserves my language and subtitle preferences when I move over to a new device. That may seem like a small detail, but it makes the entire experience much more cohesive, and enjoyable.

Netflix’s arrival in Spain was long overdue, so this gets a well deserved finally. The first rumors that the company was harboring plans to operate in Spain surfaced in 2012, but some sources claim it was quickly discouraged from doing so by Spain’s unreasonable tax system. Allegedly, due to our infamous tax on digital media, Netflix soon realized they wouldn’t be able to offer the service at a competitive price, and so the whole deal went on hold, until now.

I’m not aware of any special negotiations between Netflix and the government, but I’m definitely glad the company finally decided to move ahead with its plans because the truth is, the streaming landscape in Spain was in sore need of disruption.

In the work department, my review of the Sony Zeiss FE Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8 lens for Tools & Toys is well underway, and it’s on track to be published on Tuesday.

This has quickly become my favorite lens on the Sony A7 II, partly because I love prime lenses, and partly because it’s just the sharpest lens I’ve ever seen. It also has an incredible bokeh, and handles like a dream in the field.

The Sonnar 55mm wasn’t the first lens I bought, but If I only could have one lens for this camera, it would be this one, without a doubt.

I can’t wait to show you the full review. Until then, thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

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Sony A7R II: compressed vs. uncompressed RAW files →

October 21, 2015 |

Great post over at MirrorLessons. Long story short, there is a small improvement in image quality, but it’s only noticeable in extreme cases and at high ISOs, and it comes with massive penalties in file size (2x bigger), and performance (number of shots in a burst before the camera slows is cut down in half, and time to write to card roughly doubles).

Honestly, I don’t see a real-world scenario where the new uncompressed files would be worth it. It appears current A7-series cameras simply aren’t equipped with enough processing power to handle fully uncompressed RAW files, which is a bit of a disappointment. This is a wasted opportunity, because had Sony implemented lossless compression, as opposed to no compression at all, performance would probably have been much better.

The good news is, Sony has already shown they’re willing to work on this to get it right, so maybe they’ll add a lossless option in a future firmware update.

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Brent Simmons on Internet abuse →

October 21, 2015 |

Fantastic piece:

The community had always been on my side, so this came as a shock. But I should have remembered Dave Winer’s words to me from 2003, after I released NetNewsWire 1.0. I’m paraphrasing, not quoting, but they were something like this: “You’re the golden boy now. Enjoy it. They’ll turn on you later.”

For the next six months after the pile-on I asked myself every day if I should just quit the industry. Seriously. Every day, and especially every night. I came very close.

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