Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top Gear meets a camera store in Hong Kong

I've always been into cameras, and in the last couple of years have got quite seriously into photography. Recently I've bought a few bits of new kit and found on-line reviews a great help in choosing the right compromise. Better still are the video reviews where camera experts actually demonstrate the kit in the real world, and in my searches no-one does these better than DigitalRev TV.

From what I can fathom, DigitalRev are a Hong Kong based camera shop serving primarily the UK market. However, their web site not only sells you kit, but it also hosts tips & review reviews in both written and video form. The videos for me are pure entertainment, with the host Kai Wong (who appears to be of Hong Kong origin, but must have spent some impressionable years in the UK) doing for cameras what Jeremy Clarkson does for cars. His videos are very well made - can be a tad crude at times - but generally are great fun and very informative.

I bought an Olympus E-PL1 camera and Billingham Hadley camera bag on Kai's recommendation and love both items. Kai is an interesting character - Leica & Nikon loving, but usually often seen testing Canon gear. He's always inventing unusual ways to test lens 'bokeh' and does a great take-off of your stereotypical British paparazzi. His latest video is a good example of the formula - actually, this is a self-take off - gently mocking Kai's much more traditional predecessor on the DigitalRev TV channel. If you're into cameras, and enjoy a 'Top Gear' style sense of humour, then I recommend you check out DigitalRev TV.

Thanks for reading, and happy shooting!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The marvellous Mac.

I briefly blogged a while back that I'd taken the plunge and purchased a new Macbook Pro (13" i5 Thunderbolt). I've set this up as a desktop replacement, connecting it to my existing Samsung LCD monitor, giving me a 2-screen set-up, perfect for photo editing which is my main use for it. Having lived with this for a few months now (and recently upgrading to Lion), I can confirm it is everything I hoped it would be.

For a long while I've wanted to break free from Windows but have never found a satisfactory alternative in Linux. Nice as many distributions are (especially my favourite, Fedora), they all have one fundamental flaw - lack of support for commercial desktop apps. I wish to use MS Office, Photoshop, and iTunes - all of which just do not exist on Linux (although, of course, similar alternatives are available). Having tried hard to migrate to these alternatives, they simply do not give me the functionality I want. As such, I had 2 choices: stick with Windows, or 'Think Different' with a Mac.

So, how have I found the Mac? It's not perfect, but it's pretty damn close, and to be honest, it's by far the best computing experience I've ever had. Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

  • Despite the powerful processor and large memory, apps still tend to 'hang' more often than I'd like, exhibiting the spinning beach ball pointer while they think about what to do next. What's that all about?
  • The hardware is somewhat expensive compared to equivalently specified Windows laptops.
  • Hmm, I can't think of any more cons!

  • The hardware, despite it's price, is absolutely exquisite. The aluminium unibody detail is wonderful - having a solid base with no fans to suck the fluff from your trousers means you can properly use it on your lap without fear of gunging up the internals.
  • Wonderful screen.
  • Very quiet most of the time - silent hard disk, very quiet fan, and no flashing activity lights. Fan does get noisy when the processor is working hard however.
  • Great backlit keyboard, although the flat keys take a little while to get used to.
  • Appstore - borrowing heavily from Linux repositories as a way of distributing software, I have to say this is such a good system. Being able to purchase high quality apps and install them almost instantly is just better.
  • Support for commercial apps on a Unix-based system is great - MS Office is very smart on the Mac, and I have since moved from Photoshop to Aperture which is simply a joy to use.
  • System updates are handled in a smooth and unobtrusive way, similar to Linux. No longer do I have to suffer Window's insistence that, before you can get any work done, you must spend half a hour installing updates.
I've always been dismissive of Macs as expensive form-over-function devices, although I have always admired OSX since it's release. Whilst they do cost more, I genuinely believe you get value for money especially with such a high quality of build. I can't see myself replacing the hardware for many years, and with OS upgrades for only £20, and apps cheaper via the appstore, the running costs feel less than Windows.

So, I'm very happy to kiss goodbye to Windows. I also bid a fond farewell to Linux desktops (although I will still run some form of Linux on my netbook - currently Fedora 15). If you too are trying to break free from Microsoft's finest, and Linux just isn't delivering, then save-up and buy a Mac - you'll love it.

Thanks for reading, Nick