Thursday, September 20, 2012

Experiencing my new D600

Ok it’s easy to take snap shots of cats with the D600 and ED class glass (see this shot). However what about action shots of sports with this cam?

My fiance’s son plays basketball in a local community stadium. He had his grand final last night. So off we went, fully charged D600 in hand.

Now this stadium has some very ordinary lighting, one court had some good light but of course the court we were on has lighting that really needs updating. Anyhow, ideal really, to push the high iso capability of the D600 perhaps...

One thing I learnt, the hard way, is to discover the various methods of setting focus tracking BEFORE one sets out on a session such as this. The experience is not like my D200.

With the conditions of this shoot, this was gunna be HARD and as it turns out it sure was. Hard lighting conditions and as it turned out no idea how to drive the cam. Good one Pete.

I have a number of DX and FX lenses. I have ordered a 24-70 in lieu of my 17-55 ED DX however it is still on back order. So the only FX lenses I have are a 60mm 2.8 macro Nikkor and my 70-200 VR1.

I tried the 60mm first then the 70-200. I had access to any area I wanted around the court. 

A few things I noted:
1.      Unfortunately the battery grip is still on order. The cam is great with just the 60mm lens but put on the 70-200 and the weight of the lens is immediately obvious. Seemingly more so than with my D200 with grip. The D600 grip for my long fingered hands is, I dunno, too small and perhaps ‘squarish’. After while I seemed to get sweaty hands. I’m sure it was because I had to grip harder than I do with the D200 with grip than the D600 without grip. Hopefully this will change when I get the D600 grip.

2.       As I had no idea how to change the focus method from ’39 point ‘auto’ (no manual and no time to read it anyhow). I looked and looked but it eluded me on how to do it. (30 seconds when I got home with the manual and I found it’s easy but the operation is nothing like the D200).

3.       Sport, fast action, hard light and cam on 39 point auto is NOT the ideal setting. The cam would take too long to focus or not focus at all. Often with back focussing. Bummer. Hopefully when I work out the best focusing options this will vastly improve. See this shot as an example. On the night I shot high res jpg only, I usually shoot raw only but the only SD card I had is a small 4gig job and the cam indicated only 77 shots available with RAW).

4.       It’s great not to have to fart arse around with Compact Flash cards and adapters etc. Most devices have SD card slots including my laptop, tablet etc. Great stuff.

5.       It's REALLY great to be able to use up to 6400 ISO. REALLY great. See here for examples.

I’ve a looong way to go :)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Hayward household being "tech savvy"

Reviewing the new Sony Tablet S for has been a very interesting and rewarding exercise for us. As the Sony Tablet utilises the Google “Android” operating system at version 3.2 or “Honeycomb” as Google likes to refer to it, and being open source, there is an amazing amount of information available for nerdy types (like me ... hhmnnn) to take advantage of.

I like to tinker in the programing side of things where possible. While digging around on the Net I found a cute little device put out by and that I bought here in Australia from called the IOIO (or pronounced “yoyo”).

To control the IOIO board I have had to load the Android SDK development environment on my Lenovo laptop. With this, Google have chosen to use the very powerful ‘Eclipse’ IDE.

Setting up the development environment is not as easy as say the Microsoft Visual Studio development environment for Windows however there are plenty of straight forward instructions available on the Net to guide you, especially if you are familiar at all with cross compiling development platforms.

My son Alex is very keen on his DJ setup that he has been creating, much to the annoyance of our neighbours I fear. Anyhow, with the Sony Tablet S and with Android operating system, there are a number of apps available that he plans to take avantage of including DJ studios, mixing consoles, spectrum analysers etc. One of the areas that DJs love to use is lighting and fog effects. We plan to use the Sony Tablet S, coupled with the IOIO board to control Alex's lights, fog machines etc directly with this little device coupled with an interfacing board we will be developing. Much fun to be had:)
The Android "Eclipse" environment running on my Lenovo laptop.
Click on the image for a larger view.
The Android development environment includes a development machine based based "emulator" where you can run up applications on your development machine rather than bothering with the upload process onto the Sony Tablet S, although doing this is not at all difficult. Your development machine can be either Linux, iMac or Windows. I have run mine up on my Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit Lenovo laptop. 
The obligatory "Hello, World" running on my Lenovo laptop.
Click on the image to get a larger view.

Having fun while reviewing the Sony Tablet S

We had heaps of fun recording a video to go with our review of the Sony Tablet S. Thanks heaps and heaps to Sony Australia and especially to the gang at for enabling the opportunity for us to participate.

First, the "final" videos:


And Claire gets her own spot ...

... and the bloopers  (it does contain a language slip or two...sorry)

Reviewing the Sony Tablet S - Part 4 Networking

Reviewing the Sony Tablet S - Part 4 Networking

The Sony Tablet S has a variety of ways to interface with other devices and networks. I summarise these below.

Wireless: No device these days would be complete without at least some form of technology to connect to a network for Internet access and also to connect via TCP/IP to other devices. Connecting to a wireless network is a very simple task and vital to enable facilities such as installing “apps” and to install any available operating system or application software ‘updates’.
A couple of screen shots showing the Wireless facilities are shown below:

Infrared: A significant area of differentiation with other tablets is that the Sony has an infrared port. They have included a superb application that enables the control of devices such as television sets, hifi units etc that have infrared remote controls. This application includes two modes of operation, first by the typical on screen controls and also by the use of “gestures”. Neat. One disappointment though is that it seems that it is not possible to enable ‘macros’ to control more than one device simultaneously i.e to switch on or off all desired devices with one button or gesture. This is a bit of a pity, perhaps something like this will come later via an enhanced app from Sony or perhaps someone else may write one. This sort of thing is the real beauty of the Android world.

USB: The tablet has a micro USB 2 port. This enables easy connection to devices such as computers however only in ‘client’ or ‘slave’ mode. There is no USB host or “On The Go” capabilities i.e the tablet cannot take advantage of devices such as external hard drives. A real pity.

SD Card slot: Unlike the Apple iPad 2 or the Blackberry playbook, the Sony tablet S does have an SD card slot. This really is a major bonus point for me as this enables me to upload photos taken with my stills or video cameras in the field. A great way to check shots taken and also as a form of in the field backup.
DLNA: The Sony Tablet S is DLNA capable. This is one area that I am not all that familiar with. To be honest I had to look it up to find out more about it. The ability of the Sony Tablet S to “talk” or "throw" to my son’s Playstation and hopefully to his Bravia Sony TV should be an interesting area to explore with the Sony Tablet S.
In summary: Save for USB host capabilities, the Sony wants for little in the way of enabling communications with other devices.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Reviewing the Sony Tablet S - Part 3 Screen Display

If there is one area where the Sony Tablet S shines in particular, it is with the sheer quality of the screen display. I am a keen photographer so to have the ability to view photos and videos with such excellent clarity is a real bonus for me. On several occasions now, since I have had the Sony Tablet S, I have had people comment on the ‘wow’ factor of photos.
Actually, for photographers, as the Sony has an SD card slot, this enables a great way to view shots in the field and also as a backup storage mechanism. Although the unit as supplied to me is the 16Gig version of the Sony Tablet S, there is still plenty of room to store a very large number of photos even in the highest resolution including raw images.

Photos are shown with very good colour accuracy with very rich blacks. To me, the Sony clearly excels when pitched against the Apple iPad 2. The difference is less marked though with the Blackberry Playbook which also has a very good screen display. As the Sony Tablet S is a larger unit, the photos and videos do seem to have a better appeal than the Blackberry Playbook. I do admit though that this is being rather picky given the difference is so small.
I have captured some screens of some shots of mine from my Sony Tablet S “gallery”. The pictures were taken with my Nikon D200 DSLR.

Click on the image for a larger view.

I have also taken some screen captures of a You Tube video that is showing off the capabilities of the little “Go Pro” high definition video camera. My son, who used to favour the Apple iPad 2 said something along the lines of “Heck Dad this really is a good display of video with the Sony Tablet S”. Playing high definition videos was easy and no pausing occurred.

Of the three units, the Sony Tablet S is the standout with respect to the screen/ video playback capabilities.

Reviewing the Sony Tablet S - Part 2 Gaming

Out of the box, the Sony Tablet S (to me, it is a pity there isn’t an easier, catchier name that the iPad and Playbook has, “Hey Dad, where is the Sony Tablet S?”, just doesn’t sound the same as “Hey Dad, where is the Playbook?”) … oops sorry, back on task … Out of the box, the Sony Tablet S has two games pre, installed, “Pinball Heroes” and “Crash Bandicoot”.

Comment from son Alex(18): I’m afraid I’m going to have to start off with a negative note; The name. Come on… Really? The “Sony Tablet S” was the best Sony could offer? Our whole household has come to the conclusion it’s a silly name. It just isn’t easy to say “where’s the Tablet S?” we have collectively resorted to calling it the “Sony thing”. I just can’t believe that a huge company such as Sony cannot think of a better name. The device itself has a unique and wonderful flagship wedge design so why not call it something like, say the “Wedge”?
Pinball Heroes: This is a Sony PSP based game by appearances. I’m not sure if it is running under Sony PSP console emulation or natively, not that it matters as the game play, video and sound is very good. It is incredible how much computing and graphics power these little tablets have, especially this effort from Sony.

The game is very easy to play straight up. There are however numerous instructions available from the intro screen if you wish to take advantage of a traditional pinball game playing strategy.
PS: It took a while to figure out how to obtain screen dumps like I have shown here. Unlike with the Blackberry Playbook where capturing a screen is really easy, with the Sony I had to utilise the Android development environment which has a screen capture facility. All way too hard really. There are apps available to do this however these seem to require the Android to be what the Americans call "rooted". A most unfortunate name here in Oz.

The game may be played in either landscape or portrait mode. I found it easier and more natural to play the game in portrait mode as the game then takes up the whole screen, unlike landscape mode where the screen shows a windowed view of the Pinball game ‘table’.
Controls: Very easy and natural including a “tilt” action.
Graphics: It may be me being overly pedantic, although the graphics look great however the display is just a smidge ‘soft’. It’s as though the game was designed for a different resolution screen.
Game play: Just as with most real pinball machines, it takes a lot of practice to get a good score. However for short periods of spare time, a great time filler i.e for when in waiting room but not perhaps a morning commute on the train.
Crash Bandicoot:
On the intro screen the game is introduced as a Sony Playstation game and it is copyrighted as 1996. And to be honest it looks like it, with the graphics that could only be described as ‘retro’. Still, my 13 year old daughter loves the game. The PSP controls are cleverly overlaid on the screen making game play relatively easy but without the ‘feel’ of real buttons which does take some getting used to.
Controls: The on screen controls are not overly intrusive to the game area.They are a clever idea and as such this is an area that Sony has great deal of experience in and provides them with a significant marketing differentiation to other Android implementations.
Graphics: The graphics are looking a little dated in this implementation.
Other game sources:
There are various ways to download games onto the Sony Tablet S.A prime method is via the Android Market where there are an amazing number of games available from free to very reasonable prices.
Selecting a game from the Android Market couldn’t be easier. I downloaded and installed a special app from Nvidia, makers of the graphics processor in the Sony Tablet S. Once installed, this app opened up yet another way of selecting and installing games onto the Sony Tablet S.

I really want to be impressed and so select a good game. Honestly it is very hard to know which game to select as there are so many to choose from. I decided to install a highly rated game called “Dungeon Defenders – Second Wave”. This game took an extraordinary long time to fully install all the required components. The initial part of the installation was very quick to install and the app appeared to have been completely installed. However after selecting the game from the apps list, the runtime then required no less than 230 separate data files to be downloaded. This process stalled for around an hour so I restarted the game and the remaining files then downloaded ok. The whole process took over two hours!

This game appears to be on a whole new level to video quality and complex game play in comparison to Pinball Heroes and Crash Bandicoot. The graphics are superb, incredible when one considers the size of the tablet in comparison to say a PC or an iMac.