Canon and Sony News for Feb 2019 (Page 3)

 Tuesday, February 12, 2019

From the B&H YouTube Channel:

Mike Olbinski presents his inspirational story about taking a passion for storms and turning it into a photography business. He then follows that with some great, basic guidelines about photographing storms, lightning, and even some time-lapse tips thrown in the mix.

Post Date: 2/12/2019 9:25:36 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, February 11, 2019

From Canon Europe:

Canon EOS R Firmware v.1.1.0 changes:

  • Support for "continuous shooting" is available when "silent shutter" has been enabled.
  • Corrects a phenomenon in which an error may occur if there is a large number of files in a specific format on the memory card.
  • Corrects a phenomenon in which an error may occur when silent shutter has been enabled.
  • Corrects a phenomenon in which horizontal linear noise may occur when using specific lenses together with certain recording image quality settings.
  • Corrects a phenomenon in which the information displayed in the viewfinder may become abnormal.

Download: Canon EOS R Firmware v.1.1.0

Posted to: Canon News   Category: Canon Firmware Updates
Post Date: 2/11/2019 7:08:33 PM CT   Posted By: Sean

Just posted: Datacolor SpyderX Pro/Elite Review.

Notable is that the SpryderX brings a very significant speed benefit over its Spyder5 predecessor.

The Datacolor SpyderX Pro/Elite is available for preorder at B&H.

Post Date: 2/11/2019 8:21:09 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan

From Datacolor:

Lawrenceville, NJ – (February 11, 2019) – Datacolor, a global leader in color management solutions, has launched SpyderX, its fastest, most accurate and easiest to use color calibration tool for monitors. The development of SpyderX is testament to Datacolor’s commitment in advancing color management solutions for photographers, videographers and creative specialists worldwide.

SpyderX uses a fully redesigned color engine that provides significantly increased color accuracy and low light capabilities, giving photographers the confidence needed to achieve their creative vision.

SpyderX enhanced features include:

  • Blazing Speed – Taking less than two minutes to calibrate a screen, the SpyderX is several times faster than previous models, with calibration happening so fast it easily becomes part of the workflow.
  • Highest Accuracy – Providing a significantly higher level of color accuracy and shadow detail on a wide range of monitors.
  • Ease of Use – Simple and intuitive single-click calibration software, as well as advanced options.

Susan Bunting, director of marketing at Datacolor, said: “We know photography is a labor of love, and a lot goes into taking every shot. That’s why we’ve redesigned SpyderX from the ground up, ensuring you can trust the color on your screen while making the whole process of calibration as intuitive and quick as possible.”

Now available in two versions, the SpyderX Pro is designed for serious photographers and designers seeking a fast and easy-to-use monitor calibration solution. The SpyderX Elite takes it one step further with more advanced settings for professional photographers and videographers who want ultimate control of their color workflow.

Purchase SpyderX at Amazon or other authorized resellers.

Posted to: Canon News, Nikon News, Sony News   Category: Datacolor News
Post Date: 2/11/2019 7:24:25 AM CT   Posted By: Sean

Those photographers looking for a versatile full frame camera but not needing the blazing speed afforded by a pro sports body (and who are not interested in a mirrorless option) will likely be considering either the Canon 5D Mark IV or Nikon D850 DSLR camera. Both DSLRs are the mature, durable, refined culminations of their respective camera lines. But which is right for your particular needs? Read on to find out.

Shared Primary Features

  • Full-frame sensor
  • Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV
  • Shutter Speed: 30-1/8000 sec., Bulb
  • Viewfinder Coverage: approx. 100%
  • 3.2" size-class touchscreen LCD
  • No pop-up flash
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: 7 fps (Nikon D850 can achieve 9 fps with optional battery grip)
  • 4K recording up to 30 fps
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • SuperSpeed USB 3.0, 3.5mm headphone & microphone jacks, HDMI Type-C
  • Dual memory card slots
  • Weather sealing
  • Similar size & weight

Advantages of the Canon 5D Mark IV

  • More Selectable AF Points: 61 vs. 55
  • More Selectable Cross-type AF Points: 41 vs. 35
  • More AF Points Supporting f/8 (total/selectable): 21/21 vs. 15/9
  • Live View Focusing: Dual Pixel CMOS AF vs. contrast detection
  • NFC vs. N/A
  • Built-in GPS vs. optional accessory

Advantages of the Nikon D850

  • Higher Resolution: 45.7 MP vs. 30.4
  • More AF Points: 153 vs. 61
  • More Cross-type AF Points: 99 vs. 41
  • Larger AF Working Range: EV-4 to EV 20 vs. EV-3 to EV 20
  • Larger Metering Range: EV -3 – 20 vs. EV 0 – 20
  • Lower Selectable ISO (native/expanded): 64/32 vs. 100/50
  • Better dynamic range
  • More Registered Custom White Balance Settings: 6 vs. 1
  • Higher Resolution LCD: 2,359K dots vs. 1,620K
  • Tilting LCD vs. fixed
  • Faster Flash Sync Speed: 1/250 sec. vs. 1/200
  • Full Sensor Width 4K Recording vs. 1.74x crop
  • Bluetooth vs. N/A
  • Battery Life: 1,840 shots vs. 900
  • Shutter Durability: 200,000 shots vs. 150,000
  • Automated AF Fine Tune vs. manual Autofocus Microadjustment
  • 8K in-camera time-lapse vs. FHD 1080p time-lapse
  • Negative Digitizer Mode vs. N/A
  • Backlit buttons vs. N/A
  • Focus Shift mode vs. N/A
  • More Auto Exposure Bracketing Images: 9 vs. 7
  • Limited Focus Peaking vs. N/A

Other Differences: 5D Mark IV vs. Nikon D850

  • CompactFlash, SDXC vs. XQD, SDXC
  • 4K DCI 4096 X 2160 vs. 4K UHD 3840 X 2160

Who should opt for the Canon 5D Mark IV?

While the advantages of the D850 listed above may seem pretty long, if you're already heavily invested in the Canon system, you have to ask yourself whether or not those benefits are worth the high cost of selling used items to fund alternate gear and the time investment required to acclimate to the new system. For some, the advantages may be worth the tradeoffs. For others, the 5D Mark IV's feature set makes it a more than worthwhile addition to their kits.

If you are a videographer who plans to use autofocus tracking while filming, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV will be the best option by far. Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology is significantly better at locking onto subjects compared to the contrast detection sensor AF utilized by the Nikon D850.

While many will not like the 5D Mark IV's heavy crop with 4K recording, some videographers (especially those shooting wildlife) may find the crop beneficial for more tightly framing distant and/or smaller subjects.

Want to shoot with the widest aperture lenses possible? F/1.2 aperture primes with autofocus are a reality for Canon DSLR and mirrorless customers; Nikon users will have to invest in a Z 7 / Z 6 and wait for the release of the manual focus-only Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct to use an aperture wider than f/1.4.

Who should opt for the Nikon D850?

Those with Nikon-based kits who do not need the benefits of Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor have little (if any) reason to switch brands; the Nikon D850 is one of the most feature-packed and versatile cameras available today.

Summary

While the advantages listed in the Nikon D850 column seem strong, both of these cameras are highly capable of tackling a wide range of situations with nearly equal proficiency. As I said in the introduction, these cameras represent the culmination of generations of camera design. The technological innovations, durability and user interface refinements that come with that time and attention to detail are apparent the first day you use the cameras. Those heavily invested in either system will likely want to stay with their familiar respective brands, but those with fewer ties will likely opt for the Nikon D850 for primarily stills use while those prioritizing filmmaking and want the benefits of solid AF performance will likely opt for the 5D Mark IV.

Relevant Info

Post Date: 2/11/2019 7:09:34 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, February 10, 2019

I have a Nikon D850 in my hands and it is time to set up the camera for use. Following are the 31 steps I took to make an out-of-the-box Nikon D850 ready for use.

  1. Charge battery
  2. Install neck strap
  3. Mount a lens
  4. Insert charged battery and power on the camera
  5. While looking at an in-focus subject through the viewfinder, adjust the viewfinder diopter until the view is sharp. To do this, pull out on the adjustment knob beside the viewfinder and turn it until the view is sharp. Then press it back in to lock the setting.
  6. Download and install any Nikon software you want to have available.
  7. Insert memory card
  8. Scroll through all of the menu tabs to configure the camera as follows:
  9. Playback Menu: Display Options: RGB Histogram (I want to see the graph of individual channels)
  10. Playback Menu: Image review: On
  11. Photo Shooting Menu: Image Quality: RAW
  12. Photo Shooting Menu: Set Picture Control: Neutral with sharpness set to "1" and all other parameters set to "0" (this option provides a low contrast view and better shows available dynamic in the histogram)
  13. Photo Shooting Menu: High ISO NR: Off (Low is also a good option)
  14. Photo Shooting Menu: Vignette control: Off
  15. Movie Shooting Menu: Frame size/frame rate: 3840x2160; 30p
  16. Movie Shooting Menu: Set Picture Control: Standard with Sharpening = +2
  17. Movie Shooting Menu: High ISO NR: Low
  18. Custom Setting Menu: Autofocus: AF-C priority selection: Focus
  19. Custom Setting Menu: Autofocus: 3D-tracking face-detection: On
  20. Custom Setting Menu: Autofocus: Store by orientation: Focus point
  21. Custom Setting Menu: Shooting/display: ISO display: ON
  22. Custom Setting Menu: Viewfinder grid display: On
  23. Custom Setting Menu: Bracketing/flash: Bracketing order: Under > MTR > over (having my bracketed shots in brightness sequence makes post processing visually easier)
  24. Custom Setting Menu: Controls: Custom control assignment: Fn1: Viewfinder virtual horizon, RESET Select center focus point, Sub-selector: Same as multi selector
  25. Custom Setting Menu: Controls: Custom control assignment: f10: Assign MB-D18 buttons: Fn button: Viewfinder virtual horizon
  26. Setup Menu: Date and time: <use current>
  27. Setup Menu: Format memory card
  28. Setup Menu: Copyright information: <set as desired>, Attach copyright information: selected
  29. Setup Menu: Airplane mode: ON
  30. Setup Menu: Slot empty release lock: Lock (I want the camera to prevent me from taking a picture if a memory card is not installed)
  31. My Menu: Add items: Setup menu: Format memory card, Lock mirror up for cleaning, Focus shift shooting, Shooting menu: Long exposure noise reduction, Flicker reduction; Shooting/display: d5 Exposure delay mode
I of course make other menu and setting changes based on current shooting scenarios, but this list covers my initial camera setup process.

To copy this configuration would mean that you intend to shoot similar to how I shoot – including shooting in RAW-only format (highly recommended). While my setup works great for me, your best use of this list may be for tweaking your own setup.

If you can't remember your own menu setup parameters, keeping an up-to-date list such as this one is a good idea. Anytime your camera goes in for a service visit, the camera will likely be returned in a reset-to-factory state (unless you request otherwise). If your camera ever needs reset to factory settings any reason (or you purchase a second model), you will be ready to restore your setup quickly while ensuring that you do not miss an important setting. Your list will ensure that you do not miss an important setting when putting the camera into service.

More Information

Nikon D850 Review

The Nikon D850 is in stock at B&H | Amazon | Adorama | WEX.

Rent the Nikon D850 from Lensrentals.

Post Date: 2/10/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, February 8, 2019

If you're an Amazon Prime customer and love sports cars and British humor, then you're probably already a fan of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May's banter on The Grand Tour. But even if you're not terribly interested in automobiles, you may still enjoy The Grand Tour: Season 3, Episodes 2 & 3 (Colombia Special Part 1 & 2) where the hosts are supposedly sent on assignment by Amazon to capture wildlife images for display on the company's suite of products, including Alexa devices. My wife falls squarely in the uninterested-in-cars group, but loves the show.

Being a photographer, watching the hosts cluelessly tackle the challenges of wildlife photography made the show significantly more humorous than it normally was. If you're an Amazon Prime customer, I recommend you check it out. [Sean]

Posted to: Canon News, Nikon News, Sony News   Category: Amazon News
Post Date: 2/8/2019 9:21:16 AM CT   Posted By: Sean

Today, sigma released the notice found below:

The SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports for Nikon F mount is scheduled to start the shipment in February, 2019.
Interestingly, B&H still lists the SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports for Nikon F's availability as March 2019.

Posted to: Nikon News   Category: Sigma News
Post Date: 2/8/2019 7:54:12 AM CT   Posted By: Sean

From the B&H YouTube Channel:

Wanna take better nightscape and Milky Way photos? Start with these 5 tips from our friends over at SLR Lounge. From using apps for finding the Milky Way to scouting out the perfect shooting location, this video provides you with some useful advice to capture some great shots.

Ready to take your Milky Way photos to the next level? Check out our lens reviews and tripod reviews.

Post Date: 2/8/2019 7:48:32 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, February 7, 2019

Nikon has released its 3Q financial results for the fiscal year ending March 2019.

Nikon 3Q of the Year Ending March 2019 Financial Results

Notes from the Presentation Material:

  • Imaging Products Business decreased its revenue (down 3% from the previous quarter) due to declined sales volume of digital cameras.
  • Year-over-year revenue in the imaging business was down 22%.
  • High-end camera sales was brisk thanks to the new [mirrorless] launch, but fierce competitions in the shrinking entry/mid-range DSLR markets suppressed the volume largely in addition with the initial cost, resulting in revenue/profit reductions.

Posted to: Nikon News   Category: Nikon Financial Results
Post Date: 2/7/2019 6:45:35 AM CT   Posted By: Sean

From the Phlearn YouTube Channel:

Today Aaron shows you how Curves Adjustment Layers can be used to fix exposure, brighten up a subject, and add creative coloring to any photo. Learn how to use Curves in combination with Layer Masks and the Brush Tool to make precision adjustments and solve a wide variety of problems in Photoshop.

B&H carries Adobe Photography Plan subscriptions.

Post Date: 2/7/2019 5:50:59 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, February 6, 2019

From TimeLapseCameras:

Rochester, Minnesota, February 1, 2019TimeLapseCameras.com, the exclusive North American retailer of the Afidus ATL-200 long term time lapse camera, introduces an exciting tool for video creation. Go beyond hours of capture and think days, weeks, even months of unattended shooting without battery life concerns. Dedicated time lapse cameras are typically used for construction documentation. The Afidus ATL-200 is positioned for mainstream use from construction to crafts, to research and education, the applications are endless. Kitchen remodels, restorations, 3D printing, crop growth, traffic studies, weather patterns the sky is literally the limit when it comes to long term time lapse.


Feature Highlights

  • Full 1080 Sony sensor with high dynamic range
  • Optical zoom lens (16-35mm DSLR equivalent)
  • Wi-Fi app control with full screen preview
  • Wi-Fi download to phone
  • Weather resistant without a housing
  • Timer with day of the week scheduling
  • Motion detection
  • Pinch zoom app Screen to confirm precise focus
  • MP4 file format in-camera generated video
  • Macro Focus inches from the lens
  • One tap auto focus with manual precision
  • Days, weeks or months of battery life
  • Customizable time stamp and video orientation
  • 1:1 square format preview
  • And more!

The highlights just scratch the surface of what the camera is capable of. Digging deeper there are some very unique features. Video Lapse mode allows you to capture 3-5 seconds of 15 FPS video at any capture interval. Rather than a time lapse of individual frames, it is gaps of real time video which is a hassle free way to create a compelling and interesting video.

“We have been in the long term time lapse business for years, the Afidus is an unbelievable camera update from a well established surveillance camera company in Taiwan. The optical zoom with macro capabilities gives you a range of creative flexibility comparable to a DSLR. Not having to worry about shutter actuations or tying up expensive gear is a production relief. Josh Banks, Founder of TimeLapseCameras.com.

Josh sums it up well, “Go beyond before and after photos with before, during and after time lapse.”

This camera makes long term capture easy with stunning results.

An initial round of cameras are in the hands of users. The $389 Afidus ATL-200 is on preorder for late February delivery, visit TimeLapseCameras.com for details.

Post Date: 2/6/2019 1:33:35 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, February 5, 2019

FAA-certified pilot Griffin Hammond explains why flying your drone legally in New York City is almost impossible.

Post Date: 2/5/2019 3:35:34 PM CT   Posted By: Sean

Of course, B&H will publish the photographers' presentations as individual videos later, but right now you can catch the Depth of Field: Day 1 presentations live. I've been watching for a few minutes and it's been very interesting, educational and entertaining. [Sean]

Post Date: 2/5/2019 1:00:57 PM CT   Posted By: Sean

From Canon USA:

MELVILLE, NY, February 5, 2019 – On February 3rd, Canon U.S.A., a leader in digital imaging, was proud to see an estimated 70 percent1 of professional photographers in the Atlanta stadium captured the Big Game between Los Angeles and New England with Canon cameras and lenses. The sidelines were filled with Canon’s iconic white barrels from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. In addition to the sports photographers using Canon camera systems throughout the stadium, an extensive array of Canon HD and 4K UHD broadcast lenses were used to help deliver the live telecast to over 100 million viewers.

“As one of the premier sporting events in the world, the Big Game has become an iconic piece of American culture,” said Kazuto Ogawa, president and chief operating officer, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “The opportunity that these photographers have on such a large stage is one that can launch a career with the push of the shutter. Canon is proud to help support these photographers on this important assignment, while also helping to broadcast every inch and angle of the game for viewers to enjoy at home.”

A fixture at major sporting events throughout the year, the knowledgeable staff from the Canon Professional Services (CPS) team was on site at the stadium in the week leading up to game day to assist photographers in a multitude of ways. The CPS team kicked off preparations by bringing in loaner gear to supplement the arsenal of cameras and lenses owned by Canon professionals. On site, credentialed photographers were able to bring their gear to CPS for a thorough clean and check to help ensure their equipment was in peak condition and ready to go. Right before game day, the CPS team hosted a Canon-sponsored luncheon dedicated to photographers capturing the Big Game. A Canon broadcast lens technician was also on site at the stadium in the days leading up to the Big Game, providing cleaning and maintenance services to help ensure optimal image quality could be achieved for the vast television viewing audience.

For veteran sports photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Damian Strohmeyer, Canon and CPS have always been a great resource throughout his career. Strohmeyer has shot the Big Game for 33 years, with 2019 marking his 31st consecutive year.

“Each year, CPS pulls out all of the stops for the Big Game,” said Strohmeyer. “But quite honestly, CPS service and support is phenomenal all year round. My Canon gear is incredibly important to help me get the job done. I always know what is going on with my gear, and I’m always supported if I need a replacement or want to try something new. Knowing that I have CPS behind me gives me great peace of mind – especially at an assignment as important as the Big Game.”

In 2019, Canon Professional Services will be on site to assist professional photographers at over 25 engagements, including major sporting, auto racing, Hollywood and political events.

For more information about Canon’s extensive lineup of professional imaging products, please visit pro.usa.canon.com.

For more information about CPS, please visit usa.canon.com/aboutcps

Posted to: Canon News   Category: Canon USA News
Post Date: 2/5/2019 12:11:55 PM CT   Posted By: Sean

One of my jobs here is to make sure that this site, a free resource that hopefully has value to you, remains adequately funded. The costs, in both time and money, of maintaining and developing this site are substantial and it is becoming ever-more-challenging to meet those needs.

Basically, there are five ways you can help support us. The first is my favorite (and it costs you nothing additional), but hopefully you can use at least two or three of these options regularly:

  1. Use the Retailer Links on the Site for Your Purchase of Anything
  2. Direct Support 
  3. Link to the Site
  4. Disable Ad Blockers
  5. Tell Others
The support page clarifies the above options.

We thank you for your support and look forward to serving you long into the future!

Posted to: Canon News, Nikon News, Sony News   
Post Date: 2/5/2019 7:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan

by Sean Setters

A friend of mine, Maria, who has recently become interested in photography asked if I would accompany her on a sunrise shoot. As it had been much too long since I had photographed a sunrise, I eagerly agreed. Of course, when when I awoke to my alarm clock well before sunrise on an otherwise lazy Saturday, I was considerably less eager to set off for the sunrise shoot. But, I was ready when Maria picked me up about 45 minutes before sunrise.

I had advised Maria to use The Photographer's Ephemeris to scout out possible locations she'd like to use for the sunrise shoot. We are fortunate to live in an area of the country that provides vast views of the sky with interesting, varied landscape options (the Atlantic Ocean, marshes, rivers, fields with oak trees, etc.) with only a short drive required to arrive at any of them. Unfortunately, time had gotten away from Maria; she had not researched any options before arriving at my door.

So, we drive a short while before coming to a small town, Thunderbolt, about 5 miles southeast from downtown Savannah along the Wilmington River. After seeing a nice looking dock on the right side of the road (before the upcoming overpass), I suggested we stop to photograph it before the sunrise. As we were walking the short distance to a clearing with a good vantage point, I noticed how striking the glow of the covered dock looked against the rich blue of the sky. "Blue hour," as it's commonly referred to, is the time just before sunrise and just after sunset. This time presents especially good opportunities to photograph landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes (as well as many other subjects) set against the deep blue color and hint of warm sunlight that often graces the sky just before sunrise.

Sunrise came not long after this shot was taken, but clouds obstructed its view making us very glad to already have our blue hour photos in the bag.

My advice? Take some time this week to shoot a sunrise. Even if the circumstances prove to be less than ideal from a photography perspective, the experience may prove fulfilling from a personal one. There's just something refreshing about a sunrise.

The shot above was created using a 7-shot exposure bracket, edited in Aurora HDR 2019 and Photoshop CC.

Gear Used

Post Date: 2/5/2019 7:47:02 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, February 4, 2019

From the Gerald Undone YouTube Channel:

Explaining the math behind a flash's guide number, how it relates to f-stop, and more practical formulas for nailing exposure on your strobes & speedlights.

Post Date: 2/4/2019 2:50:53 PM CT   Posted By: Sean

Just posted: Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens Review.

It's another phenomenal big white Canon lens. Even if not interested in this lens, you might find the review interesting.

Hurry! The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens just showed up in stock at B&H and WEX!

This lens is also available for preorder at Amazon and Adorama.

Rent the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens from Lensrentals.

Please share this review with your friends!

Posted to: Canon News   Category: Camera Gear Review News
Post Date: 2/4/2019 8:51:46 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan

From Tamron:

February 1, 2019 – Tamron Co., Ltd. announces that the company will exhibit its photographic lens products at CP+ 2019 scheduled to be held at PACIFICO YOKOHAMA from February 28th (Thu) – March 3rd (Sun), 2019.

The Tamron booth at CP+ 2019 will feature a large touch & try counter, where many visitors can actually try out a wide variety of lenses that include the highly popular 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (Model A036), a standard zoom lens for full-frame mirrorless cameras, SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Model A041) and 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD (Model A037), ultra wide-angle zoom lenses, ultra-telephoto zoom lenses, and fixed focal lenses. Visitors can also try the lenses on their own cameras at the concierge counter. Featured on the stage for events will be a lens presentation by a professional photographer and a talk show that’s full of fun. Proving very popular among the visitors to our booth each year, the Tamron “lens cleaning unit” will again be here at CP+ 2019. We look forward to seeing you in Yokohama.

You can catch the latest news on Tamron booth activities at CP+ 2019, on Tamron’s website and official SNS sites as they are updated.

Posted to: Canon News, Nikon News, Sony News   Category: Tamron News
Post Date: 2/4/2019 6:48:17 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, February 3, 2019

This mother black bear had sent her cubs high up into a large pine tree and was searching for food. She kindly paused and looked in my direction at a break in the bright green foliage.

There are many ways to compose a wildlife image and each scenario can be different, but a technique that often works is to center the animal in the frame and then open up the frame in the direction the animal is looking. In this case, the momma black bear was looking straight toward me and its near-centered position works well. I left a slightly more room around the bear on the right side as there is a very slight head turn and the tall green plants on the right helped balance and frame the image.

The color, or lack thereof, of black bears is a challenge for cameras' auto exposure systems with overexposure being the frequent outcome. A manual exposure is often best.


Joining me for the Shenandoah National Park workshop this June?

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/4.0  1/640s
ISO 4000
3533 x 2355px
Post Date: 2/3/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, February 2, 2019

by Sean Setters

First and foremost, this is not a photography-related post. It's just something fun I thought I'd share.

If you own an Alexa device (Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Dot, etc.), and you want to have some fun with your significant other/friends & family/roommate, then I'll let you in on a little prank you can pull on them. It will take some time to develop and implement this scheme, so start sorting out the details now if you want the big reveal to be around April Fool's Day.

A couple of months ago, I had a moment of inspiration while sitting at my work desk and setting up our family's third Echo Dot. "What if I could make this Echo Dot say anything I wanted? That could be pretty funny," I thought to myself. And so my quest began.

But first, a little backstory. My wife, Alexis, despises our Echo Dots. When we received our first Dot at the end of 2017, we changed its wake word to "Echo" because the default wake word, "Alexa," was too close to her name and she thought that could be confusing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of commonly used long-"o" sounding words in the English language, meaning that our Echo Dot often got triggered unintentionally, especially while watching TV. The frustration caused by the device's (now devices') inaccurate triggering was compounded by my wife's relatively private nature.

"They're always listening. It's creepy," she would say.

Our first Dot was placed in the living room, and we did find it useful for controlling the lamp that provides the primary illumination for the room (the lamp is connected to a smart plug). Being able to turn the living room lamp on and off without having to leave the couch proved very convenient, so the pros of having the device seemed to outweigh the cons. When a sale on Echo Dots rolled around, we added another Dot to our kitchen which proved useful for adding items to our shopping list.

This past Christmas (during another sale), my moher sent us another Echo Dot for my photography studio. I will likely use it to control the window air conditioner without having to leave my desk chair once the warmer weather rolls in.

Oh, the conveniences of the twenty-first century are indeed marvelous. But what if we got a peak at the darker side of these amazing devices? That's what I wanted to explore.

If I could figure out a way to get my Echo Dots to say very precise, well-timed responses, then I could make it look like the devices were much more of an invasion of privacy than what they actually were. But I first had to figure out how to manipulate the devices to do my bidding.

A little bit of Google research showed this wasn't the first time a person has wanted to make their Amazon Alexa device say custom statements. One site suggested that you sign up for the Amazon App development program so that you had access to Alexa and Echo app development testing platforms. But the steps involved in registering to be a developer made that solution less than desireable. And then I stumbled upon TextToVoice.io,i.e., exactly what I was looking for.

TextToVoice.io is an Alexa skill that enables you to type speech commands into your browser and send them to your Alexa device. With the skill enabled, that familiar Amazon Alexa voice will say [just about] anything you wish using the wake word (in my case, "Echo," but by default, "Alexa") and "Tell TTV to speak."

TextToVoice Amazon Alexa Skill Screenshot

While that's a neat trick, in order for this prank to work, we need the device to say things without being prompted to "Tell TTV to speak." So the next hurdle to overcome is recording the Echo Dot (or Alexa device's) voice while she's saying the custom message.

There are actually several ways to tackle that problem, but I'll describe the two that worked well for me (I tried multiple ways just so that a wide variety of people could benefit from theis scheme) and a backup way I didn't attempt.

First, you can use a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cord to plug your Amazon device directly into your computer's microphone jack. Press the record button, then say "[Wake word], tell TTV to Speak." When the sound finishes playing, stop the recording. Note that TTV will say your custom text, pause and then ask if you want to hear the response again. Just stop the recording after the first long pause or later delete the unwanted portion after your desired response. Using Audacity, a free audio editing program, you can record the output of the device and save it as a WAVE file (or .MP3, if you install an optional LAME encoder).

Second, you use the same 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable and a portable audio recorder (Zoom H2n, Tascam DR-07X) to record your custom message, which will then need to be transferred (via card reader) to your computer.

Third is to use a portable audio recorder's (or possibly a phone's) microphone placed near your Amazon device and record the audio that way. As this won't produce a clean recording (ambient sounds may be captured), this is not the recommended approach.

No matter how you record the audio, you'll likely need to edit the file to make it optimal for playback (Audacity works great for this). You will likely need to amplify the sound (using the Amplify filter feature), add a few seconds of silence to the beginning of the track and delete any TTV prompts afer your custom message. The reason for adding a period of silence at the beginning of these files is because they will be sent to the Amazon device from your smartphone, and you don't want the device saying odd things right as you push a button on your phone. By adding 3-5 seconds of silence to the beginning of each custom message, you have time to put your phone down and/or begin a conversation with your mark which could be interpreted as the catalyst for triggering the device's custom response.

What kinds of custom prompts should you create? That's where you can have a lot of fun with this. I suggest starting small and building up to bolder statements. Also, making your device make references to other Amazon products aids in this pranks believability. During a three week span, I played all of the following custom messages on our living room Echo Dot while my wife was in the room.

While baby is crying:

"Would you like me to play lullaby music to soothe a crying baby?"
While discussing the weather with my wife:
"The weather is very cold. Your baby will probably need a jacket today."
After saying, "I think I'm going to get a sweater,":
"It seems a bit chilly in here. Would you like to order a smart thermostat from the Amazon Store?"
As my wife was getting ready to leave for work:
"I sense that you're leaving for work. Would you like for me to read you a book along the way. Just select a title from the Amazon Alexa app on your smart device."
As my wife is describing a terrible day (she got really annoyed at this one):
"It sounds like you're having a bad day. Would you like me to play some soothing music so you can relax?"
And the one that pushed my wife over the edge, just after I mentioned to her that a bank statement had arrived that day:
"Did you receive your tax documents from Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo? If so, you may be ready to do your taxes. Turbo Tax is highly rated and available at the Amazon Store. Would you like me to purchase the version that's appropriate for your financial needs and family of three?"
Apparently, Amazon mentioning two banks we have accounts with was a bit too much for her. After that, I had to let her in on the joke or she would have chucked all our Alexa devices in the trash bin outside the house. I'd like to say that we had a good laugh about the prank and that she was impressed by the effort I had put into it, but I think that would require a genial, fun-loving, carefree sense of humor that my wife wasn't necessarily born with.

Our couch is actually a quite comfortable place to sleep, thank you very much. Moving on.

Note that with my wife already being annoyed with our Echo devices, I knew she wouldn't say "Yes" to any of Amazon's supposed offers to help (she did say "No" rather emphatically to all of them, though). If she had, the device would not have responded. In the unlikely case of an affirmative response, you can prompt your Amazon device to perform the appropriate task ("Alexa, play some soothing music."), as if the device didn't hear the mark's affirmative response.

Once you have the files recorded, you'll need to get them on your smartphone or smart device. Being an Android user, I found WiFi File Explorer PRO to be the best method for transferring files from my computer to my phone. Otherwise, you can likely use a data cable or Dropbox/cloud storage solution to do the same thing.

Once you have the sound files on your phone, you'll need to connect your phone to the Amazon device (via bluetooth) so that audio files played on your phone will be transmitted to the device. To discreetly connect your phone to an Amazon Alexa device, I'd suggest enabling "Whisper Mode." Here are the steps to do this:

Using a browser:

  • Go to: alexa.amazon.com
  • In the left side menu, click "Settings."
  • Scroll down to the General section and click "Alexa Voice Responses"
  • Enable "Whispered Responses."

Using the Alexa App:

  • Open the Alexa app on your Android phone or iPhone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left of the app.
  • Select “Settings.”
  • Tap “Alexa Account” at the top of the screen.
  • Choose “Alexa Voice Responses.”
  • Enable the “Whispered Responses” mode.

With that done, you'll need to set up each device for whispered responses. The first time you whisper to a device (it works best if you're very close to the unit), it'll ask if you want to turn on the feature for that specific device. Say "Yes" and you're ready to go.

I found the whisper feature to be crucial for discreetly connecting my phone while my wife was in another room. The feature has also been handy when a sleeping baby is nearby. Also, after connecting your phone, you'll want to make sure the volume setting for playback on the connected device is at its maximum level. If it's not, your mark may not be able to hear the message (that happened to me a couple of times).

Before you start playing custom messages from your Amazon Alexa device, you might want to mention to your mark that "Our Alexa asked me today if we'd like to be in a pilot program where new features are tested and the device demonstrates 'more personality,' or something like that. Anyway, I said 'yes.'" By doing so, your mark will be prepared to hear new things from your device, making the prank much more believable. So, here's a quick rundown of the steps for this prank:

  • Enable the TTV skill.
  • Record custom messages and edit them accordingly.
  • Enable "Whispered Responses" for your Alexa devices.
  • Connect your phone to the Alexa device and play the custom message(s) at an opportune time.

After you get everything in place, it's a good idea to conduct a trial run without your mark around so that you can work out an issues. You may find that you need to amplify your recorded message a little more to match the volume level of Alexa's natural responses. Otherwise, you may find that your smart device refuses to connect to the Alexa device at full volume, requiring that you adjust the volume level each time you connect.

One downside to this prank is that the device will not light up during the custom message's playback like it would if Alexa were really speaking. Many people may not notice the difference, but if you think your mark will, you might try putting some objects around the device to block their view of it. My wife still has Christmas cards all around our living room Echo Dot (making it practically invisible), so she never noticed the LED light discrepancy.

So there you have it, the best prank I could come up with to share with you before April Fool's Day rolls around. If you decide to follow the steps above, send us an email to let us now how it went. I'd enjoy knowing if you had as much fun as I did and how long you let the prank endure.

Posted to: Canon News, Nikon News, Sony News   Category: Pranks
Post Date: 2/2/2019 8:15:35 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, February 1, 2019
Post Date: 2/1/2019 9:40:31 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan

From AdoramaPix: It's our 8th annual Your Best Shot Photo Contest and we want to see what amazing picture you captured in 2018. Enter to win thousands of dollars in prizes, including a grand prize of your choice of a Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II or a Sony Alpha A7 II. So what are you waiting for? Give it a shot with these 3 easy steps to enter:

  • Every entrant must submit only ONE image – jpeg – along with your name and email.
  • Like Adoramapix on Facebook and load your web-ready image to our timeline. Or follow AdoramaPix on Instagram and tag your image #YBS2018.
  • The image must have been captured in the year 2018. Entries are due by February 17. 2019 midnight PST.

Enter Here

Posted to: Canon News, Nikon News, Sony News   Category: AdoramaPix News
Post Date: 2/1/2019 6:56:58 AM CT   Posted By: Sean

From B&H

B&H and Sony Present #BeAlpha

Join us for an exciting evening celebrating B&H and the Sony Alpha community! Try out the latest gear from Sony onsite to capture themed photo and video vignettes as well as dance performances. Get inspired by talks and panel discussions with Sony Artisan and Collective members. Mingle and create new connections with the B&H, Sony and the New York photo community. Enjoy complimentary food and drinks.

Event Date: Wednesday, February 13th Event
Location: Hudson Mercantile, 500 W. 36th Street
Time: 5:00pm - 9:00pm

Panel with 3 Collective Members | 6:30-7:00pm – How to step up as a creator today

Artisan Talk with Katrin Eismann | 7:15-7:45pm – “Shoot and Share” Camera to Social Media workflow: Learn how to quickly, download, process and share your best shots on social media

Artisan Talk with Ben Lowy | 8:00-8:30pm – Going from Photo to Video?

Register Now

Posted to: Sony News   Category: B&H News
Post Date: 2/1/2019 6:47:36 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
<< Next Month    < Previous     1 | 2 | 3    Prev Month >>
Archives
2022   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun
2021   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2020   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2019   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2018   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2017   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2016   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2015   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2014   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2013   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2012   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2011   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2010   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2009   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2008   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2007   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2006   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
2005   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec
Help  |  TOU  |  © 2022 Rectangular Media, LLC  |  Bryan CarnathanPowered by Christ!