Ben Brooks reviews the Fuji X100T →

May 26, 2015 |

What a fantastic review by Ben Brooks. Over the past year, Ben gradually reduced his photography gear down to what ultimately worked best for him:

I am now all in on the X100T and what I can tell you right now is that it is a wonderful camera. I truly love it. My plan isn’t to make any hard and fast decisions over whether this was a smart move for another 5-6 months. With a one year roll up on shooting with just one focal length.

However, what I can tell you right now is that this is one of the best cameras I have ever owned, and it is quickly becoming my favorite camera I have ever owned.

I love how he went through the discovery process, and I also love how he kept an open mind all the way through. The Fuji X100T looks like an amazing camera and if I were in the market for a 35mm equivalent fixed-lens camera, it would be a total no-brainer.

NOTE: As of publication time, this piece was still behind the Brooks Review paywall. You’ll be able to read it by following the link above, but please consider signing up to become a member and support Ben’s work.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Stephen Fry meets Jony Ive →

May 26, 2015 |

Everyone’s favorite Mycroft, Stephen Fry, recently met Jony Ive in Cupertino. Among other things, they visited the construction site of Apple’s new spaceship campus and talked about Ive’s recent promotion to Chief Design Officer within the company:

When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”

“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”

“Exactly. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start. He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him. With those two in place I can …”

I could feel him avoiding the phrase “blue sky thinking”… think more freely?”


Sounds like the right kind of promotion for Ive.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Tyson Robichaud reviews the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Micro Four Thirds lens →

May 26, 2015 |

Over the weekend, Tyson Robichaud reviewed the Leica Nocticron, one of the best-rated lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system:

What is there to say, really. This is the best lens that I have shot for the micro 4/3 system. Any lens this fast is going to have a challenging depth of field to work within. While it exhibits an 85mm equivalent field of view, it still has the same DOF as any other 42.5mm f/1.2 lens would have. Instead of trying to put it into terms of a portrait focal length, look at it as a standard f/1.2 lens. This lens, while cropping to a narrower field of view, has roughly the same shallow DOF capabilities as say the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens does, nearly.

That’s interesting. I never thought about its DOF in terms of comparing it with that of a 50mm f/1.2 lens, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Tyson’s review is excellent, as always.

However, and let’s be honest for a moment here, this is a very expensive piece of gear. $1,500 is clearly pushing the limits of what can be considered reasonable for the Micro Four Thirds system. It’s actually entirely in Full-Frame ballpark, with some of the best Canon L lenses coming in at well under that price point. The Full-Frame Canon 6D and Nikon D610 cameras are both under that price point as well. Simply put, for the Nocticron to be worth $1,500 despite being coupled with a smaller sensor, it’s not enough for it be good. Heck, it’s not enough for it to be great, either. There’s plenty of great Micro Four Thirds glass already, nearly all of which is considerably more affordable than this lens. No, for the Nocticron to make sense, it needs to be simply outstanding. It needs to be breathtaking.

Luckily, that appears to be exactly the case.

As outstanding as the Nocticron is though, it’s also clearly a specialty lens aimed at professionals. I’d love to own such a lens but don’t think I would ever actually buy it for myself, if only because it’s not even close to being a good fit for the rest of my Micro Four Thirds setup.

Before I would even entertain the idea of spending that kind of money on a Micro Four Thirds lens, I would need to upgrade my camera body to something more substantial, like the E-M1. And since I already own a remarkably good lens in this focal length — the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 — I would need to get rid of that one, too. Not to mention the many, many ways I can think of to spend $1,500 that would result in ultimately better pictures than those the Nocticron would allow me to take.

For that kind of money I could pretty much buy an entire indoor studio from scratch. I could get really nice lights, flashes and reflectors that would enable me to work a scene just the way I want to, and create some truly remarkable images as a result that I just wouldn’t be able to get from the Nocticron alone.

Now, I’m of course not saying this will apply to you in the same way it applies to me. Not even close. If you really want this lens or all that’s left to complete your setup is an outstanding 85mm equivalent portrait lens, by all means go for it. It is a truly remarkable piece of glass.

Having super nice gear is always great, and the Nocticron in particular is about as nice as gear comes this days. It’s also the kind of purchase you never really regret making, because you do get what you pay for. If I’m being honest with myself though, it’s just really not the best use for my money, at least at this particular point in time.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years →

May 22, 2015 |

Mike Yost:

2025. You just found that DVD you had in that drawer you couldn’t remember which one it was. Along with 9 old cell phones that no longer will work with today’s new technology. Your 3 inch by 3 inch cube computer no longer has a DVD drive since in 2015 they were totally phased out. Your 3rd grandchild is sitting on your knee and asks to see pictures of their Mom- and all you have to show them is this piece of round plastic that is pretty much worthless. Not to mention dusty and scratched from all those old cellphones moving around every time you opened that drawer. And since Instagram had been merged with another company, and they started charging, you let that go 8 years ago.

It’s scary, I agree. As much as cloud technology and backup software have improved over the years, making actual prints of your photos will always remain the only 100% backwards-compatible format.

It’s also incredibly satisfying to make prints of your own images, to give them physical form. It somehow makes them more real. It makes them endure.

It totally makes them matter more.

Via CJ Chilvers’s excellent email newsletter, which you should already be reading.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Richard Prince Selling Other People’s Instagram Shots Without Permission for $100K →

May 21, 2015 |

Michael Zhang, writing at Peta Pixel:

Artist Richard Prince is notorious in the art world for taking other people’s work, “appropriating” them as his own with various changes, and then selling them for large amounts of dough. His latest endeavor is once again raising eyebrows: Prince is selling other people’s Instagram photos for up to $100,000 each.

In a gallery exhibition titled “New Portraits,” which ran at the Gagosian Gallery in NYC from September through October 2014, Prince displayed 38 portraits featuring photos taken from his Instagram feeds — other people’s images, and without permission.

It’s things like this that make me wish I had a “Jackass of the Year” award to give away.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Shawn Blanc on Apple Watch: Just Smart Enough →

May 21, 2015 |

Shawn Blanc:

Apple Watch fits, appropriately, right between a smartphone and a dumb watch. Apple Watch is certainly more feature-rich and “connected” than my analog watches ever were, yet it’s not anywhere near an “iPhone 2.0” type of product.

In other words, Apple Watch is just powerful enough to be useful and fun, but not so powerful that it’s distracting or frustrating.

I still think it’s early to be making predictions about the future of Apple Watch, but I like Shawn’s first impressions and I do hope he’s right in the long term.

Many people keep thinking Apple Watch will become more and more like a mini iPhone in the future, but I actually don’t think that would be desirable at all. Things like cellular networking and more independence from the phone sound great in theory, but I believe the whole point of the Watch is precisely to not become just an iPhone on your wrist.

The right long-term goal for the Watch should not be to move the annoyances from your pocket to your wrist but rather, to do away with them entirely and for that, Apple Watch will need to remain unapologetically “just smart enough”.

There’s nothing wrong with being “just smart enough”, and it’s not just about what’s technologically feasible today vs. a few years from now. The reason for keeping Apple Watch’s feature set limited in relation to the iPhone’s should not be one of technical limitations, but of purpose. Just because technology allows you to create something doesn’t mean that you should, or that it is the right call.

Historically, having devices that were too smart was never a problem, until it became one with the iPhone. Having the Watch follow the same pattern would be a huge mistake if you ask me.

Still, it’s early days. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, but every day I’m getting more and more excited about the Watch, which is something I hadn’t anticipated. I just hope Apple doesn’t get blinded by their desire to innovate, to the point where they end up ruining what could potentially be one of the greatest products they’ve ever created.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Apple Watch and continuous computing →

May 21, 2015 |

Ben Thompson:

Indeed, for now I think it likely that one of Apple’s oldest and most cherished skills — it’s ability to make beautiful, desirable objects — will make the Watch exactly what Tim Cook promised: another tentpole product that rivals the Mac, the iPod, the iPad, and even the iPhone. Framed as nothing more than A Watch that Does Stuff — and that you actually don’t mind wearing — Apple will rightly sell enough to kick-start a world that gets just a little bit smarter and little bit better when it knows who and where we are.

I think Ben’s right on the money here. The entire piece is full of clever, insightful analysis, as usual.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Spotify Connect lets you decide which device plays your music and which one controls it →

May 21, 2015 |

This is admittedly an old-ish feature — apparently it’s been around for over a year — but I had no idea it existed. Spotify Connect lets you play your music on any of your devices, and control it from any other device. The way it works is really simple: from any device you’re using to interact with the app, you get to choose which one of your other devices will actually play your music.

And it does work, like a charm. As a matter of fact, I’m using it right now to play the new Thelonious Monk collection between my iMac and my iPad. The iMac controls playback and the iPad, which is plugged into my home’s HiFi sound system, plays the music. And unlike AirPlay, I can still play all kinds of other sounds locally on my iMac.

That by itself is pretty cool, but the best part is that I found out about it completely by chance — or, rather, by clever design. Spotify allows you to play your music on only one device at a time, and I was already playing music on my iMac. When I launched the Spotify app on my iPad to switch devices, I was greeted by a dialog offering me to continue playing the iMac’s music. I just touched yes and my music immediately started playing on the iPad, right from where the iMac left off. No lag, no buffering delay, nothing. It really couldn’t have been any simpler.

This is what great software design is all about. New features should not only be easy to use, they should be easy to discover. In this case, I did everything in my power not to discover Spotify Connect — by not reading anything about the app and not playing around with the interface after every update — and the feature still ended up making itself known to me. That’s great design, and it is awesome.

It has also saved me quite a bit of money, by the way. For the past few weeks I’d been this close to buying an AirPort Express just so that I could stream music from my iMac to my stereo, but now I don’t think I’ll be needing it.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

The Best of Thelonious Monk →

May 21, 2015 |

Richard Brody, writing at The New Yorker:

A treasure chest of jazz is being rereleased this week: “The Complete Riverside Recordings” of Thelonious Monk, a fifteen-disk set of his recording sessions, in the studio and live, for that seminal label. Spanning the period between 1955 and 1961, it’s the core of his recorded legacy. The set contains the disks of his that I return to most often, and it shows off a wide range of his art. For me, it’s the most essential trove of Monk’s recordings that exists. Most of the recordings in the set are available separately, as the albums on which they were originally released, but having them together in chronological order tells a musical story that is as much about Monk as it is about the musical times.

The entire collection is available on Spotify, and I’ve been listening to it all day. What an awesome discovery.

After just a few hours with it, I am so buying this. I could get the MP3 edition, but that would defeat the purpose. Call me old fashioned, but this is a set to be enjoyed in physical form. I only wish the vinyl edition had been rereleased as well.

If you’re as crazy about this sort of thing as I am, Amazon has the 15 CD Box Set in stock right now. I’d hurry if I were you, because they’re going to go fast.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢