Tesla unveils autopilot system →

October 15, 2015 |

Check out the latest futuristic technology from Elon Musk’s Tesla: starting on Thursday, many Model S owners will be able to have their cars steer and park themselves.

Alexandria Sage, writing for Reuters:

New “autopilot” features, designed for cars built after September 2014, will be available for customers in the United States, Tesla said. European and Asian owners must wait another week. Tesla will provide the features through an over-the-air upgrade.

Musk cautioned that autopilot functionality was in beta mode and full “hands-off ”driving was not recommended.

“We’re being especially cautious at this stage so we’re advising drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case,” Musk told reporters at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “Over time there will not be a need to have your hands on the wheel.”

When other people say “over time”, I hear “on an infinite timescale”. Musk, however, has no patience for that. This is a person hell-bent on ushering in the future way before it’s due. I’d be surprised if full hands-free driving took more than a few months to be fully operative.

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Zeiss announces new 28mm f/1.4 Otus lens →

October 14, 2015 |

Zeiss today announced a new member of their highly acclaimed Otus family: the new 28mm f/1.4 Otus lens. Together with the 55mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.4, this lens completes the trio of Otus manual focus lenses, which provide exceptional image quality for Canon and Nikon users.

From the official press release:

The lens consists of 16 elements in 13 groups. One of the lens elements has an aspheric optical surface and one element is aspheric on both sides. Eight other lens elements are made of special glass. The basis of the optical design is a Distagon. The special glass has anomalous partial dispersion, as is typical for an apochromatic lens. This corrects the longitudinal chromatic aberrations superbly, which therefore lie considerably below the tightly defined boundaries. Bright-dark transitions in the image, in particular highlights, are depicted almost completely free of color artifacts. The floating elements design (the change of distances between certain lens elements when focusing) allows for unrivaled imaging performance along the entire focusing range, from 0.3 m (11.81”) to infinity.

Retail price for the upcoming 28mm f/1.4 Otus lens is still unknown, but if you’re thinking so much “special” glass sounds expensive, you couldn’t be more right. Otus lenses have traditionally been priced in the several thousand-dollar range, with the Nikon mount version of the 55mm f/1.4 coming in at a hair under $3,850, and the 85mm f/1.4 at a little under $4,400. Both Canon mount versions are a few hundred dollars cheaper, but still comfortably over the $3,000 mark, so not exactly cheap either.

By all accounts, fine glass is expensive, but in the case of the Otus family, it really doesn’t get any better than that. If you’re a working photographer that needs the absolute highest quality possible this side of Medium Format, this is where you’ll find it.

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FX Developing a TV Series Based on ‘Y: The Last Man’ →

October 14, 2015 |

Great news over at The Mary Sue. It appears one of my favorite graphic novels is going to make its way to the small screen soon. Jessica Lachenal:

For those of you who don’t know, Y: The Last Man is a series of graphic novels revolving around a singular premise: a mysterious virus has killed all men on Earth except for one man. It’s an amazing novel, one that you absolutely should pick up reading now, with a really gripping story that explores the dynamics of gender roles in a world where there are no more men.

Yep. I can’t wait.

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Sony announces the new RX1R II Full Frame camera →

October 14, 2015 |

Today Sony announced the new RX1R II, the next Full Frame camera in Sony’s RX1 series. As the previous versions, the new RX1R II sports a fixed Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 lens. The new version, however, also sports a back-illuminated 42.4 MP sensor and the world’s first optical variable low-pass filter, which can be tuned to reduce moiré and color artifacts, or to maximize resolution.

Additionally, there’s an advanced AF system with 399 phase-detection points that cover a wide area of the image, and a retractable EVF with an impressive 0.74x magnification.

All in all, the camera is an impressive technological feat, but there’s a catch: the RX1R II will be released in November for a whopping $3,300 in the US. Ouch.

That’s a pretty steep price point for a fixed lens camera, no doubt, although one could argue that, since you’re getting a superb piece of glass included in the package, it’s ultimately not as terrible a deal as it may initially seem.

Indeed, the RX1R II’s price translates roughly to paying $2,300 for the body and $1,000 for the lens, which are both much more reasonable amounts, especially considering that this is practically an A7R II with a fixed lens and without the 5-axis IBIS — which, to be honest, is not really a must-have at this focal length.

At the end of the day, this is yet another excellent camera from Sony, and at this point I’m starting to lose the count.

The new Sony RX1R II is available for preorder at B&H.

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Jason Snell reviews the new 4K iMac →

October 13, 2015 |

Jason Snell:

Apple says that the display in this 4K iMac, as well as the revision to the 5K iMac that was announced the same day, offers an expanded color space. Thanks to new red-green phosphor LEDs, the displays can display a wider range of red and green light than before, allowing them to display 25 percent more colors.

In a demo at Apple, I was able to detect subtle differences. The new displays can offer more color detail and more vibrancy than the display on the older 5K iMac models. I’m a little red-green color blind, and even I could detect the differences. If you work in graphics or video, you’ll probably be happy to have access to a display that’s capable of displaying 99 percent of the P3 color space. But for most people buying the 4K iMac, the real difference will be the mind-blowing jump to Retina.

Besides this, it’s worth noting that all the 21.5-inch iMacs, including this one, use Intel Broadwell processors. The 27-inch iMacs, on the other hand, use newer Skylake processors, which should provide improved performance.

Also, don’t forget to check out Jason’s reviews of the new Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 over at Six Colors.

As a side note, reading Jason’s reviews I’ve found out that the new accessories require Bluetooth 4.0 to work, so my Early-2008 iMac is not compatible with them. Perhaps it’s finally time to buy a new iMac, after all.

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Apple updates the iMac family →

October 13, 2015 |

Apple today updated the entire iMac lineup, launching a new 21.5-inch model with a 4K Retina display and extending the 5K Retina display to all of the 27-inch models. From the official press release:

Apple® today updated the entire iMac® family, bringing a stunning new Retina® 4K display to the 21.5-inch iMac for the first time and the Retina 5K display to every 27-inch iMac. The new Retina displays make photos and videos more immersive and true-to-life thanks to a wider color gamut and spectacular image quality. The updated iMacs also feature more powerful processors and graphics, two Thunderbolt® 2 ports and new storage options that make the high-performance Fusion Drive even more affordable.

So far this update seems like a typical yearly upgrade. But wait, there’s more:

Apple today also introduced a new lineup of wireless accessories including the all-new Magic Keyboard™, Magic Mouse® 2 and Magic Trackpad® 2. The Magic devices have been redesigned to feel more comfortable than ever, and feature rechargeable batteries that completely eliminate the need for disposable batteries. The new Magic Trackpad 2 also brings Apple’s revolutionary Force Touch interface to the desktop, adding a new dimension to the iMac experience.

At first glance, those new accessories look uglier than the ones they’re replacing, with the sole exception of the Magic Mouse, which remains nearly identical. That said, I’m still curious to try them. Force Touch is an interesting feature, and Apple seems to be betting big on it for the future.

Another great feature is the built-in rechargeable battery that all three accessories have. I never remember to keep spare batteries around, so this is definitely a welcome addition for me.

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Playboy magazine will stop publishing nude photos →

October 13, 2015 |

Sebastian Anthony, over at Ars Technica UK:

The Internet has claimed one of its highest profile victims yet: As of March 2016, Playboy magazine will no longer feature fully nude models. This follows on from August last year, when the Playboy website also stopped publishing nude photos and videos. Yes, you’ll now be able to read Hugh Hefner’s flagship publication, which published its first nude centrefold way back in 1953, just for the articles.

Speaking to The New York Times, Playboy CEO Scott Flanders explained the reasoning behind the change: “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.” Basically, Playboy stems from a time when nudity was racy and exciting; today, it’s de rigueur. The circulation figures illustrate that fact nicely: from a peak of around 5.6 million subscribers in 1975, Playboy is now down to around 800,000.

Surprising, to say the least, but also understandable. Nudity used to be edgy, but clearly it isn’t anymore. The real question is, will Playboy be able to reinvent themselves convincingly enough to be successful in this new, highly competitive, digital-first era?

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Steve Huff reviews the new Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 FE lens →

October 12, 2015 |

Steve Huff got his hands on an advanced prototype of the next lens in the Loxia lineup:

When the 21 f.2.8 arrived I loved it for its small size and quality Loxia build. Feels the same as the other two in the Loxia line and that is a good thing as these lenses are built very well, even including a rubber seal around the mount to avoid dust getting in. The Loxia line of lenses from Zeiss are just what the doctor ordered for most of us who love a manual shooting experience with small high quality lenses.

The images are gorgeous. No word on pricing or release date on this piece, but the lens is already available for preorder at B&H for $1,499, with an estimated availability date of mid December 2015.

I’m still not sold on the Loxia lenses for the most part, but I have to admit this does seem to be a fine piece of glass. Then again, $1,499 sounds quite steep for a lens like this.

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October 10, 2015

Well, what do you know. It’s been almost a month since iOS 9 arrived — and content blockers with it — and the sky still hasn’t fallen on the heads of all those poor web publishers. Of course, that hasn’t stopped anyone from talking and writing about it ad infinitum, and the trend continued this week.

This tendency to over-analyze and dissect everything is clearly present in much of the writing that goes up online these days, particularly in the tech community.1 At the end of the day, though, life goes on, and regular people simply don’t care much about these things, if at all.

We’ll see what the real damage that can be attributed to ad blockers is when the dust settles but for now, in the absence of real, verifiable data from publishers or advertisers, the whole debate has reached a sort of standoff: both sides have clearly made their argument, and now it’s up for regular people at large to decide whether ad blockers are worth using or not.

Now, for a more enjoyable time, let’s move on to some of this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #18: Life with a Plus-sized iPhone, diversity in tech, gender stereotypes, and apps vs Starbucks

This issue comes packed with cool pieces, as usual.

First up there are a couple user reports on the iPhone 6S Plus, with different but equally valid and interesting observations. Then we move on to a couple tech-related pieces, including a very controversial one that was taken down by Forbes, and we take a look at gender stereotypes and how they can go both ways. Then it’s time for a few photography-related articles and finally, we round out the issue with a few more light-hearted and hopefully fun to read pieces.


Thirteen days with an iPhone 6S Plus | Shawn Blanc →

Shawn Blanc shared his experience with the iPhone 6S Plus earlier in the week:

My friends who also use a 6/6s Plus told me to give it at least a week or two. It’s been 13 days, and I’m still not sure about it.

There are some things which I love about the phone. Namely: the superior mechanics for photography and videography, and the bigger screen real-estate. But I am not yet convinced that the tradeoff for those things — having a device that is unwieldy at best when using it with one hand — is worth it.

Shawn is finding himself at a crossroads, like many people in the past year. Ben Brooks said it best: the iPhone 6S Plus is not the best phone in the world, but it is the best pocket computer in the world. Framing it like that, it really makes a lot more sense.

iPhone 6S Plus review | Stephen Hackett →

Another great take on the Plus-sized iPhone:

I know the Plus isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. The 5.5 inch, 401 ppi display isn’t just beautiful, but I find the additional space (and increased battery capacity) useful as this is the most-used device I own. Thankfully, every year, my pocket computer gets better, right on schedule.

Twitter’s moment | Ben Thompson →

Interesting — and optimistic — thoughts on Twitter the company by Ben Thompson:

I think, though, it’s time for a new prediction: that the summer of 2015 will be seen as the low point for Twitter, and that this week in particular will mark the start of something new and valuable. Crucially, the reasons why are directly related to why I was bearish for so long: the product, the CEO, and the stock.

Ben’s article comes right on the heels of Jack Dorsey’s triumphant return to Twitter as CEO. It seems there’s hope and good vibes all around for Twitter these days, as if in the hands of Dorsey Twitter could somehow do no wrong.

I’m nowhere near as optimistic, but I hope Ben is right. The world is clearly better off with Twitter as a healthy company than it is with Twitter struggling to turn a profit and doing all sorts of sketchy things to its users in order to monetize them.

The article on diversity in tech that Forbes took down | Brian S. Hall →

Brian S. Hall hit a nerve earlier in the week with a piece that was published on Forbes, provocatively titled “there is no diversity crisis in tech”. In it, he argued that Silicon Valley is first and foremost a meritocracy, and that the so-called diversity crisis in tech amounts to little more than people making excuses and not working hard enough to get what they want.

Unsurprisingly, the criticism the piece — and Hall himself — garnered was so brutal that Forbes ended up taking the piece down, but not until more than 24 hours had passed and the article had generated tens of thousands of pageviews, which is certainly a bit hypocritical on their part.

Hall has now republished the piece on his own site for all the world to see, and he’s standing behind it despite all the controversy.

Now, I don’t agree with Hall’s point, and I’m convinced the diversity crisis in tech is a very real, very serious problem.

That said, I’m linking to his piece here because I don’t believe in censorship, and I find Forbes’s behavior in this whole story to have been shameful, to say the least. If they published the piece in the first place, they should have owned up to it and left it up, despite the criticism they must have known it would garner.

What they’ve done — reaping the benefits of the situation and then hanging Hall out to dry — is quite simply despicable.

Breasts: the ultimate weapons | Dean Burnett →

And since we’re talking about controversial topics, this hilarious peace on the over-sexualized appearance of many female characters in comics and video games is certainly a winner:

The gyroscopic properties and ability to store highly dangerous fluids are also results of the unique physics of breasts, but it also provides a distinct defensive property. Bullets and blades are very dangerous to humans due to the laws of conventional physics, but breasts don’t obey these laws, so are practically invulnerable to traditional weapons. You seldom see any of these comic or game characters with damaged breasts, and now you know why.

And if they’re invulnerable, there’s no real point in covering them with clothes. Clothes are damageable, so you’ll just ruin a good outfit.

How poker player Annie Duke used gender stereotypes to win matches | Shankar Vedantam →

I loved this story. If you can, listen to the full recording:

DUKE: I figured it was part of the game that if somebody was at the table who was so emotionally invested in the fact that I was a woman, that they could treat me that way, that probably, that person wasn’t going to make good decisions at the table against me. So I really tried to sort of separate that out and think about it from a strategic place of, how can I come up with the best strategy to take their money because I guess, in the end, isn’t that the best revenge?

It is, indeed.

Mossberg: the real trouble with web ads | Walt Mossberg →

Walt Mossberg:

I would gladly opt into seeing ads I found useful and relevant, just as I opt into reading content I find useful and relevant. And such opt-ins would even give the industry better information about what people might want to buy on a regular basis. If opting in is a bridge too far, I would even grudgingly settle for a clear, easy, universal way to opt out of ads that don’t work for me, or which are clumsy and obtrusive. That, too, should be useful information for sophisticated, up-front advertisers and the ad buyers they employ.

But web users in most cases can do neither, so some turn to blunt weapons like ad blockers, which do inflict collateral damage, especially on small web sites. Yes, the industry has created various ways of reporting bad ads. And an organization called the Digital Advertising Alliance has a program where some advertisers agree to place little blue triangles in ads, which users can click to report bad ones or to opt out of targeted advertising on a site. But, at least in my experience, that little blue triangle doesn’t show in most ads.

I agree with his general take, but I don’t accept his assumption that ad blocking will hurt small sites more than the bigger ones like The Verge. If anything, the rise of ad blockers will probably increase the value proposition of native advertising, which is precisely the form of advertising best suited to small sites. Native advertising doesn’t scale well, but it can be a very viable way for a small site to thrive.

Mossberg and the rest of big-website publishers are trying very hard to appear selfless and generous, as if they’re just looking out for the small guy. We’re fine here, it’s the little ones that will be hurt by all this.

Time will tell, but I suspect the reality is very different. Clearly, they are the ones who have more to lose if ad blocking becomes the norm. And I bet he knows that, too.

Shave like your great grandpa: the ultimate straight razor shaving guide | Brett McKay →

Solid primer on straight razor shaving over at The Art of Manliness. I disagree with this bit, though:

Many right handed shavers switch hands to shave the left side of their face. Personally, I don’t trust the dexterity and touch in my left hand to make the switch. So I continue using my right hand to shave.

Shaving with your left hand — if you’re right-handed, that is — is scary at first, especially with a straight razor, but it’s surprisingly easy to learn. After only a couple shaves I quickly started to get the hang of it, and now I’d say I’m actually better at shaving the left side of my face than the right one.

The reason to use your left hand on the left side is that you should always follow the growth pattern of your beard, and that can change depending on the particular area you’re shaving. Due to the design of the razor itself, following that pattern cross-handed is often impractical, and sometimes even risky.

The initial resistance to maneuver a razor-sharp — quite literally — blade around your throat with your non-dominant hand is entirely understandable, but it is rooted in fear, not logic. If you’re careful, and patient, you’ll quickly get over it, and you’ll be surprised at how much better your shaves get.

A weekend with a wide angle | Mathieu Gasquet →

Mathieu and Heather review the Sony FE 28mm f/2 lens over at MirrorLessons.

Recommended Sony A7R II settings | Nasim Mansurov →

With so many customizable buttons, and so many menu items on Sony cameras, finding the optimal configuration for your shooting style is far from trivial. This excellent piece provides plenty of guidance on how to set the Sony A7R II just the way you like it.

Pitching my “Snakes on a Plane” remake | Anna Heyward →

I really can’t think of a better piece to close this issue:

I know what you’re thinking: this movie has already been made. Why make it again? But hear me out. I really think I could make it better. For one, we could have it be a bit more gritty and realistic. So, instead of the snakes—which, I admit, are a fun touch, if a bit far-fetched—it’d be a normal American Airlines flight, and the fantastical element is introduced when the plane’s just sitting on the tarmac for two hours and forty-five minutes. Yes, that’s right, just sitting there. No, the audience doesn’t know the reason; neither do the characters. Instead of dramatic irony, it’s, like, the audience and the characters are bound together by American Airlines in their powerlessness.

Sounds horrifying.

Stop comparing app prices to cups of Starbucks | Ben Brooks →

Nope, I was wrong. This article from late last night is the perfect way to close the issue. Ben Brooks lists all the reasons why a cup of Starbucks is actually a better value than most apps:

There was actual work put into this “latte”, and I know the because I saw them do it. Look, my nephew makes “apps” in his basement and I think it’s not very hard because he’s just not very smart. He can’t even carry a conversation — like at all. I think he mostly just watches porn down there, but that’s pure speculation as I am far too engaged in my social graph to go check.

The entire piece is full of awesome.


This is a long weekend in Spain, and I’m spending it in my hometown, as usual. Spain’s national holiday is on Monday, and Madrid will be occupied by a military parade, with fireworks and everything. It’s a fine display of patriotism, but I’ve already seen it plenty of times and I could really use some quiet time at home to get some work done.

As such, the rest of my weekend will probably be spent at the computer, or behind the camera. I’m hard at work on my review of the Capture Clip for Tools & Toys, which should be published next Tuesday, and after that I have a couple other projects coming up that I’m very eager to tackle.

Next week I’ll also be doing a portrait session with a good friend, and that will be a great opportunity to put the 70-200mm lens to good use once again. I just hope the weather is good because apparently, there’s a big storm coming. I’ll be sure to share a few images from the session, as well as my ongoing thoughts on the lens, and the camera.

Other than that, things have now settled into a kind of busy routine for the past few weeks, and I’m happy with the way everything is going. Granted, I’d love to have more time on my hands to do some longform writing, but I guess that will have to be put on hold for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up again before long.

And on that note, we’ve reached the end of yet another issue of Morning Coffee. I can’t believe there’s already 18 in the can with this one. It somehow still feels brand new, as if it was only yesterday that I published the first one. I don’t know if that’s a good sign, but I’ll take it.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and, as ever, thank you for reading.

  1. Of course, I’m as guilty of this as the next web… see what I did there?

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