The Compromise Lens

Nikon 18-200 3.5-5.6 VRThat’s a bit of a misnomer. Every lens is a compromise. Even the best lenses have some compromise, such as being heavy or really expensive. What I just recently bought is what many people believe to be too many compromises. I bought a reconditioned Nikon 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR. The old one. (The new one isn’t out yet, but was recently announced by Nikon. Maybe not great timing.)

Here is a review at DP Review on the lens. If you jump to the last page of conclusions you will see that the review thought that it had distortion through out, and was soft at the long end. Despite this, Scott Kelby has used this lens on vacation many times and got great pictures. So, when it looked like I was going to be going on a trip where even a DSLR would be kinda heavy, I figured I needed to get to just one lens. (I couldn’t see myself going with just a point and shoot.)

The range you get with this lens is amazing. I went for a short ride on my bike with a fanny pack to check out the lens. It is crazy you can go from wide to really zoomed in just a twist of the lens.

As it turns out, the trip isn’t going to happen this year. Maybe another time. But I still have the lens. I think I am going to keep it. I have always wanted a better “walk around” lens. I find my 17-50 too short. I am often at the wide end of it, but sometimes you just need the reach. It would be great to have on photowalks so I didn’t feel I needed to carry more than on lens. It would have been useful on the beach when I was taking pictures of the girls too. The 17-55 was useful there, but sometimes…

It looks like this will be a very useful lens for anything that I am not doing client portrait work. It will take some getting used to the smaller aperture. We will have to see after some more use how I like that for people shots. I am often working at the 2.8 end of my lenses, so this is quite a change. I need to take and look at more pictures before I can know for sure. For now though, I will be walking around with just one lens.

How Internet Addicted are you?

I am back in Winnipeg (will be in Minneapolis in another day) after spending almost all of the last two weeks at a cabin on Lester Beach (near Grand Beach) on Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. We had no land lines, cable or phone, so no Internet. Sort of. I added a Canada phone plan so I could make cheap calls at 59 cents a minute? ?!#$%?? I also added a data plan to my iPhone, but was paranoid about using it, going over, and paying $5.99 a meg. So I really just checked email headers, and responded to a couple of them. I tried out TweetDeck a couple of times, and it even said I was lame and it wanted a high speed connection. Turns out after looking at my usage numbers that the iPhone doesn’t use quite as much as I thought. At least using those apps. I am sure that regular browsing and google maps would have used a ton.

I couldn’t believe the number of times I thought I would just check out some fact or location or some such thing by googling, but couldn’t. Couldn’t put up pictures, or blog, read other blogs, look for Lightroom plugins, or any other number of thinks I thought about doing. My name is Chris Ward, and I am addicted to the Internet. And I have no interest in a cure. It’s good to be back in the land of the Internet.

Busy Weekend

Just a quick note, then need to get going. I was at two photowalks yesterday: Stillwater and North Minneapolis. They were both great. I missed the social get together part of both, but I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. I will have pictures later. Unlikely today.

Today I shoot a wedding in the afternoon. I need to go get packed up for that.

What does Unemployed Mean?

No time for TVI used to think that you went to school, then got a job, and you were good. Unemployed meant bored and panicked all the the same time. The last thing you would want. I was probably 10. I have gone to school formally a couple of times, but probably have learned more out of school since, than in all the time I spent at University (both of them). I have had many jobs. From fast food chef, to restaurant buss boy, to retail sales, to bike mechanic, to snowboard store, to tree planter, to construction, to cabinet maker, to janitor, to mainframe programmer, to web programmer, to java GUI programmer, to educator, to photographer. But through all of those jobs, I have never had much time off. Sometimes doing more than one at a time. I would always try to find a job before moving to the next one. If I was ever without a job, I was usually slightly panicked.

This feeling is finally fading. One of the reasons I can “take time off” is that I haven’t spent as much as I made in the last three years I was at my last contract. This gave me the flexibility to finally not feel paniced when the contract ended. So I got to thinking, there are a lot of people for which the definition of the traditional job we think about doesn’t apply. Just about anyone with a small business. They often don’t have a steady or regular paycheck every month or two weeks. Neither do photographers. This is where I am trying to get to, to be able to do photography full time, but not for someone else.

So this brings me back to this summer, where I am unemployed. I am certainly not sitting around. To start with, we have pulled Lily from daycare, and with the exception of a couple of day camps Kate is in, she will be around too, until Kindergarten starts. So Daddy Day Care it is. This will take up a huge chunk of my time. They are at an age where they don’t yet run out the door to play with friends the whole day. On one hand this is good, because I will get to play with them all summer. One the other hand, I have a long list of things I want to do.

First off, I have been blogging about building my NAS as I get it running again. This is my photo backup, and needs to get finished. I also need to finish the redo of my site at¬† After watching the Zack Arias critiques, it is obvious (as if it wasn’t before) that I need to make that site reflect the direction I am trying to take my photography. I have the design done, and need the pictures and content now. Once that is up, I need to start marketing. I have some ideas, and will talk about those another time.

Also, my education in photography is far from done. It is just starting. There is so much to learn. So I am signing up for Kelby Training for the next couple of months. Not just for photoshop classes, but I am really looking forward to the stuff that Joe McNally and David Ziser have up there. I am sure that I could spend several hours a day doing this stuff. Never mind the books that I have that I could finish or reread.

Oh yea, I need to get out and shoot. This is photography right? Tonight I am meeting friends at a studio to practice some lighting setups, and tomorrow I have a shoot with a young mother and her newborn. I also have an upcoming charity shoot for a Lions banquet coming up.

Does all this sound like work? Yup, kind of does. Just that I am not getting paid much if anything. But its all ground work, and all necessary. In fact, there could be a lot of people that will be working far less than I will this summer, but will still be getting paid by their employer. Such is life. I am just glad that I get the opportunity this summer to do the things I want to do: hang with my kids, and take pictures.

Note: the image is not to suggest that most people unemployed sit and watch tv. If you are unemployed not by choice, how about looking at it as an oportunity to do something you haven’t been able to do, or learn something new.

Yea, I’m Unemployed

thecubesI am finished with my position at the State of Minnesota. I was there for a one year contract that turned into three. It was a good run, but time. When you are on a location for three years, you can make a lot of friends. I made no enemies. I will miss some of the people there. It took a long time to walk around and say good bye to everyone. I left almost two hours later than I had planned.

It was a good contract. I had pretty good flexibility to look after sick kids, and got 3 years of solid swing experience as well as struts2, mentoring, and teaching 13 lessons in the classroom. See the “Intro to Java” tutorials.

July 1, Canada Day by the way, is the start of a new adventure. Yea in the title is not “Yea, you heard right I’m unemployed and bummed about it.” It is more of a “YEA! WHOO HOO! I’m Unemployed.” I know alot of people are pretty bummed and paniced about being out of work, but I am not right now. The plan is to hang out with the kids this summer, and find work in the fall when Kate starts kindergarten.

There was a time when people were very defined by their jobs. Er… wait, we still are in that time. I really have too much I want to do to be working. I am lucky to have this time without panic because I thought ahead. Three years ago I started putting more money into an account than I “paid” myself monthy in salary. It was specificly to cover times when I didn’t have a contract. Right now, it seemed like a good oportunity to take advantage of this.

Before today, I felt like I had at least two jobs. One I got paid for (Computer Consulting), and one I am trying to get the skills and experience at (photography). And as any Father knows, playing with kids, and maintaining a house also consume a great deal of time and energy. I have no intention of sitting at home watching TV. I still have more things to get done than I have time for, but now I get to choose. It feels great. I will blog tomorrow about what the plans are (photography and otherwise), and explore what unemployed really means.

PS. Happy Canada Day

Nikon Camera Clock Battery

This caught me by surprise. I was reading pixelated image about creating a “Oh Sh!t Kit” and he talked about having replacement clock batteries. For some reason, I had never thought about it. When I pulled the battery out of my old D40, or my current camera, the D90, part of the display is still powered, and the the setting and clock don’t get reset. Obviously there must be another battery.

First thing I did was try to look at the manual. I found a PDF of the D90 manual that you can download here. I found on page 28: 

¬†”The camera clock is powered by an independant, rechargeable power source, which is charged as necessary… two days of charging will power the clock for about 3 months.”

 This sure sounds like it is not user replaceable. So I did some more searching, and found this flicker D90 group discussion about his clock battery dying, and no talk about how to replace it.

I then found this Nikon support entry on replaceing the battery in the D3/D3x. Those cameras use the CR1616 “watch” type battery. That is not a rechargeable type battery. Is the D3 the only Nikon camera that has a field replaceable clock battery?

So good news D90 (other Nikons ???)¬†owners, one less think to pack in the Oh Sh!t Kit, but bad news in that if it does die, you will likely say more than “Oh Sh!t”.

Are you a REAL Photographer

David duChemin of pixelatedimage got into it on Twitter (check  his twitter stream: ) yesterday. This is what he posted there to start things off:

Just saw this quote: “To really be a photographer, you have to be a business…” BALONEY! Please discuss…

The issue in question was what makes a “real” photographer. There was lots of lively conversation if you can call it that on Twitter. It is really hard to follow though unless you can see all the 140 character thoughts from everyone chiming in. So, to clarify, David has a post today to clarify his position: A Question of Definition.

I couldn’t agree with him more. Why we need to tie money to art/sport/craft/activity to legitimize it is very frustrating. I realize that it comes from people that get paid for their craft/art wanting to separate themselves from others, but the only thing that is separating them is the money. As a people that buy¬†goods and services, watch actors, hire¬†trades people,¬†and buy art, we get so caught up in the “If it costs more, it must be better” crap.¬†People that do amazing things or create amazing images should be able to charge more for their work/art, but price is not the sole indicator of the value of that work.

Continue reading

New iPhone 3GS

“S” as in Super phone, or at least “S” as in speed. If you missed the WWDC live, you can check the recaps from the live feeds that Ars Technica and Engadget posted.

The highlights are the speed, and the new hardware bits. I don’t find my iPhone to be too slow; more network bound than anything, but I am sure for the folks playing games that the extra speed will be welcomed.

I think the compass sounds interresting, and the ability of the phone to allow accessories will allow TomTom (they demoed the app) to do turn by turn directions. The biggest hardware piece I think is the new camera. Not the most exciting, but now a 3MPix camera that can autofocus (currently fixed) and do macro, and video. Already I heard someone complaining about only 3MPix. COME ON PEOPLE! How big a sensor do you think is in this thing. More pixels than that just equals more noise!

Anyway, they are also talking longer battery life, all fitting into the same size hardware. The 3G version has dropped to $99, and the new 3GS will be available on June 19 (with the iPhone OS 3.0 available June 17). It will be $199 adn $299 for 16meg and 32 meg versions.

I am continually amazed at the applications that are created for a device such as this. I use apps on my phone (not even games) more than I use the phone capabilities. Build it, and they will come.

They also demoed voice control, but I wasn’t sure if that was a 3GS feature, or a OS 3.0 feature. Either way, voice control over not just dialing, but things like iTunes is pretty cool.

There were lots of cool OS 3.0 features demoed. The google maps service will be empedable into other apps with full pan and zoom, custom annotations, current location and geocoding. The ability for iPhones to talk to each other sounds really cool, but the push notifications are what looks to be a great feature. Not sure how it will effect battery life, but having notification from other apps would be great, although as I add more and more poeple to my twitter friends, I am not sure I want to be notified everytime someone tweets!

Find my phone appears to be only for Mobile Me users, but it allows you to locate a missing phone on a map. You can send it a code to have your phone (even if set to not ring) to make a noise. If you are convinced that your phone is gone, you can even send it a code that will wipe all your data.

I can’t believe it has taken so long to get MMS messages on the iPhone, but they will finally be here. Not on June 17 with the new OS, but sometime this summer when AT&T gets around to getting their support for it. Really? Yikes. I don’t suppose that this or AT&T blowing off tethering support all together is going to set that well in Jobs corner office. That’s right, AT&T has chosen to not implement tethering on it’s network. Shakes head. Sees new carrier in Apples future.

Well, looks like I will be doing a sync and update around June 17, but despite the new camera features, I won’t be in line on the 19th. I don’t want to be stuck in an AT&T contract and find out I can switch carriers 🙂

Update: Looks like Chase Jarvis is getting one for the camera features, but then again, he takes better pictures with his iPhone than I do with my camera… sigh…

Update: Apples guided tour via video:

Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 Back from Service

Tamron 17-55 f/2.8 Well, I was quite surprised to see a box from Tamron when I got home yesterday. It was my 17-50 back from service. I was not expecting it so soon. I had recieved a letter from Tamron late last week saying that it would be another 2-3 weeks. That must have just been the standard boiler plate that goes out with every repair notice. It is a little annoying that they can’t look around the room and see how many lenses are in the queue waiting to go out and make a better estimate.

Notice I said I got a letter from Tamron. Yup. Paper. Not email, a paper letter. Weird. I don’t quite get what is going on there. They need a serious upgrade in the software side of the house at Tamron’s repair facility. They need to look at getting more automated communication with their customers.

I did get an email, from the post office for tracking the package. I found it in my junk mail. It must have only showed up a day or two ago, becuase I check it fairly frequently. Outside of my phoning awhile back, the only communication from Tamron was the letter from last week.

Ok, so was it fixed? It looks like it. I had several issues when I sent it in. The front ring where the lens hood attached was really loose when I sent it in. It is just like new now. The barrel, where you adjust the zoom appears to have been tightened as well. It is smooth, but tighter.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

The biggest issue I was having was the focusing. It just didn’t seem to nail the focus properly. I wish I had thought to take this same picture before I sent it in to compare. But if you look at the picture of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 above, you can see the the text in the middle is very sharp. This was in auto focus. It was not anywhere near this sharp before. I need to so some tests with flowers and people still, because that is what appeared to not hit the focus sweet spot before.

So I am giving Tamron service an A for the repair, but for the whole experience, a C. The lens did come back fairly timely (sent May 11, so not super speedy). I am OK with that, but the utter lack of communication is a problem. 

Note to Tamron: customers want to have confidence that thier investment is being looked after. Remember, if you have to send something back, you are starting off with the customer frustrated.

Update: I sent Tamron a letter suggesting they improve their ability to communicate with their customers via automated emails or better/more information online. I got back a reply:

“Thank you for your suggestions. We are actually in the middle of doing some updates to our repair process to make it more automated. This may take some time but we hope to have drastic improvements in the future.”

Nice to see them respond so quickly. Hopfully (for their sake) the improvement will be soon.

Tamron Customer Service

tamron17-50I sent my Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 in to be serviced a couple of weeks ago. I was wondering if they really got the lens, as I hadn’t heard anything from them. I knew they really got it, because I asked for signature confirmation from USPS. Still, I hadn’t heard from them. I decided to go online and look around. I found a service section, but to get a status on your lens you had to have a service order number. I didn’t have one yet. They had a repair status form, so I filled that out. And waited.

I gave up waiting and called. Virtually no hold time and I was though. I give them points for that. I talked to someone who was able to confirm that they indeed had the lens and that it was sent to the repair area. That meant that they agreed that it had issues. Then I was told it would be 2 – 3 more weeks to do the repair. Really? Wow. That is not the fastest shop around. So then I asked if normally they sent out emails on the status of the repair, such as if they recieved the lens, if it had been sent to the repair shop, that kind of thing. The response was “No, we don’t have time.” Really? Wow.

To me, this means that either there are a lot of Tamron lenses that go back so they are overwhelmed, or they just don’t hire enough staff. I have never sent an item back to Nikon. I wonder what the turnaround is for Nikon and Canon, and how well they keep you up on the status of repairs. I was not expecting a personalized thoughtful carefully crafted response. I was expecting and automated email to go out when somone entered into the computer that the lens had arrived. I was expecting an automated email to go out once somone had looked at the lens and entered into the computer what problems they found. There shouldn’t be a time issue with this.

Tamron, you need some technology applied to your customer service area. By the way, I am looking for a programming job, do you want me to implement that for you?

Update: Lens fixed.