A note about iPhone cases

I took the iPhone plunge in early 2009, getting a 3G a couple of months before the 3GS came out because my old Motorola Razr died.

I knew I needed to get a protective case for it because I’ve had previous phones meet their demise due to repeated drops, a couple of friends with iPhones have dropped theirs and cracked the glass, and, well, it’s the most expensive phone I’ve ever bought.

Dave (boss, colleague, friend) solves this with a belt case, but I have long been opposed to the concept of the Batbelting of geekdom. I like to carry my phone either in a shirt pocket or in the front pocket of my pants.

My first case, purchase when the phone was less than a week old, probably, was an incase Slider. The case served me well with my only complaint being that the lower, smaller part of the case that was intended to slide off for docking more often stayed put while the larger part slid off. This wasn’t usually an issue because I don’t have a dock that requires removal of the small part. The case also started to lose its matte finish over time and became speckled with shiny spots.

My second case purchase was an Aquapac Waterproof iPhone case. I bought this for kayaking and other water sports after having a good experience with an Aquapac camera case. The iPhone fit is a little tight, but the phone can be fully operated inside the case, which allows texting and checking the weather while paddling (or during a rain-drenched football game).

My most-recent case purchase is an OtterBox Commuter TL (in blue). This is a two-part case consisting of an inner, colored silicone jacket that is nicely textured for grip along the edge. The jacket incorporates shock-absorbing coring to protect the phone from drops and has covers for the dock, headphone jack, and button covers to help keep dirt and moisture out of the phone. It is not, however, a waterproof case. The second part of the case is a hard, clear plastic spine that provides extra protection for end drops and covers most of the silicone to make getting the phone out of a pocket easier than with an all-silicone case.

My only negative (barely) observation so far on the Commuter is that the plastic spine has less friction than the Slider on hard surfaces like desks, dining room tables, and nightstands. As a result, it tends to slide around when I’m trying to type on the phone at my desk, for example.

The Commuter is also thinner than I expected. I was worried that it wouldn’t fit into the Aquapac case. I was wrong (though either case is easily removed). I’ve tried it once and it may slide in and out of the Aquapac more easily than the Slider due to the low friction of the plastic spine, apparently.

JBL On Stage II comments

JBL on stage IIMy latest gizmo arrived today. The JBL On Stage II iPod speaker was an impulse buy last week when I saw it on dealnn.com for 40 bucks. I had been looking for something like this to take along while traveling and for occasional use around the house. I don’t like wearing earbuds.

I like the size. I’ll have no problem taking this along in a suitcase. I can leave the iPod charger at home since this will do that, too.

The sound is big. It sounded good in the large great room in my house. I have no doubt that it could be cranked up loud enough to have hotel room neighbors complaining.

It comes with a short cable for hooking up non-dockable mp3 players or, say, a laptop. I think it would work well in a dorm room too, but a student might rather have a device that also functions as an alarm clock radio.

I was wondering why these were being sold at over half off. Well, I think the most current dock connecter in the package (and there were many) is the one for my now two-year-old 5g 60gb, which is shown. Also, the remote control only seems to be working intermittently so maybe the battery in it is nearing the end of its shelf life. There also may be concerns for some about whether it is iPhone compatible. I can tell you that it is iPod Touch compatible.

Some may consider it a drawback that it doesn’t take batteries to make it truly portable. I don’t care about that. If I need to be that portable, I’ll put on earbuds or headphones.

Geotagging photos for Flickr with Mac OS X and a Garmin GPS

Ichetucknee River tubingMy photos from my bike club group ride and Ichetucknee River tubing adventure over the weekend were my first successful integration of photography, my recently-acquired GPS unit, and my quest for adventure.

Here’s the toolkit:

Here’s the procedure:

  • Synchronize your camera’s time with the GPS unit’s time.
  • Take your powered-on GPS unit with you on an adventure. Garmin makes a nice handlebar mount for mine. I also have a boat mount that I plan to put in the kayak. For the tubing, I put it in my dry bag that I took along.
  • When you get home, download the photos from the camera to your Mac.
  • Using RoadTrip, download your GPS track to your computer and edit the track as necessary. I copy my edited track to its own folder in RoadTrip. Export the folder from RoadTrip, creating a GPX file.
  • Open GPSPhotoLinker and load the track and the photos. Use the “View on map” button to preview the position online in Google Maps (the default, others are available). I mostly found myself using the “Time weighted average point.” When you are satisfied with how things are looking, use the “Save to photo” button to write the geographic info into the metadata of the photo file. A batch mode is also available.
  • Before uploading to Flickr, You need to set the Import EXIF location data setting in your profile to “Yes.” I don’t know why Flickr doesn’t have a “This photo contains geographic data, do you want to use it?” option when you click, “Add to your map,” but for now, it will only automatically use the data on upload.
  • Upload your images to Flickr. If you are editing the images first, make sure you don’t save them with a method that discards the metadata.
  • Sit back and enjoy your mapped photos. Here are mine.

A tale of two lenses

It was a good weekend for butterflies in the garden. On summer weekends around the house, I usually keep my Canon Digital Rebel D-SLR by the front door (and therefore near the butterfly garden) with the Canon 75-300 zoom lens on it ready to go should my visual motion detector go off as I gaze out the windows facing the garden.

I had a visit Saturday morning from one of my favorites, the black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. I took a bunch of pictures and was very disappointed when I downloaded them. Maybe I was particularly shaky for some reason. I thought the light was sufficient.

Later in the afternoon, the black butterfly was still hanging around and had been joined by its more typically marked cousin, shown here. It was clouding up for an afternoon thunderstorm making it less bright than earlier and I thought that was trouble if I went out there with the big zoom. So I grabbed my fastest (and lightest) lens, the 50mm f1.8, put it on the camera, and went out and got some great results. I probably could have cranked up the ISO, but I didn’t want to deal with the noise.

I was worried about getting close enough to the butterflies with such a short lens, but I was inspired by having seen David Pogue’s funny video demonstration of how to zoom the fixed-focal-length Sigma DP-1 and no doubt also thought of Derrick Story‘s frequent admonitions to “get closer” and got as close as I could. I am pleased.

Another option would have been to grab the 17-85mm IS zoom, but it’s heavy (the 50mm is light as a feather) and not any faster than the big zoom.

One of the problems I have with shooting the 75-300mm zoom for butterflies is that you can only get as close as about 5 ft. with it. (Why do I always think 7 ft. while shooting?) I often don’t think that’s close enough. The 50mm and the 17-85mm zoom both get you within 18 inches.

I hadn’t yet listened to Derrick’s podcast show from last week about how sweet good glass is. That reinforced the decision I am mulling about getting the Canon 70-200mm f4 L zoom lens to go with the Canon EOS 40D I am thinking of upgrading to from the Digital Rebel. Derrick might say that I just ought to go ahead and buy the lens, based on what he said on the podcast. (I looked and it gets you as close as 4 ft.)

Ironically, the 50mm/f1.8 is also the cheapest lens in my bag.

My new camera

This post is only about a month late. I didn’t feel like writing though. So shoot me.

The aformentioned camera conundrum was resolved in mid-December when, after spending what seemed like a couple of hours in Best Buy going through every menu and setting on the camera, I brought home an Olympus Stylus 770 SW.

I feel guardedly positive about the purchase. “Mr. Though shalt buy Canon” brought home an Olympus and I’m not used to the UI or the handling quite yet. One thing that’s taking getting used to is the lens being up in the corner of the body. I’ve taken several pictures that contain a fat-finger corner vignette.

Manatee on my leftIt has performed very well on its first couple of kayak adventures–to Turkey Creek in Palm Bay during Christmas week and up and down the Ichetucknee River on New Year’s Eve.

I love the sturdy feel. The handling is good even with my big, thick-fingered hands, but I sometimes find myself pushing the wrong button due to unfamiliarity. The screen is good enough to shoot with in broad daylight which is good because there is no optical viewfinder.

I haven’t tried the panorama feature yet because I just got an Olympus xD card last week (a gift). I don’t like that Olympus makes you buy their memory cards in order to unlock features. I wish is used SD memory instead just because the world doesn’t need so many memory card types.

I wondered today, when I read the Olympus announcement of the Stylus 1030 SW, whether I should have waited. I like the look of the Canon-ish mode dial. 10 megapixels (vs. 7) and the more versatile zoom specs might come in handy too. This isn’t my first experience with this, I think I bought my Digital Rebel not long before the Rebel XT came out.

My new camera

This post is only about a month late. I didn’t feel like writing though. So shoot me.

The aformentioned camera conundrum was resolved in mid-December when, after spending what seemed like a couple of hours in Best Buy going through every menu and setting on the camera, I brought home an Olympus Stylus 770 SW.

I feel guardedly positive about the purchase. “Mr. Though shalt buy Canon” brought home an Olympus and I’m not used to the UI or the handling quite yet. One thing that’s taking getting used to is the lens being up in the corner of the body. I’ve taken several pictures that contain a fat-finger corner vignette.

Manatee on my leftIt has performed very well on its first couple of kayak adventures–to Turkey Creek in Palm Bay during Christmas week and up and down the Ichetucknee River on New Year’s Eve.

I love the sturdy feel. The handling is good even with my big, thick-fingered hands, but I sometimes find myself pushing the wrong button due to unfamiliarity. The screen is good enough to shoot with in broad daylight which is good because there is no optical viewfinder.

I haven’t tried the panorama feature yet because I just got an Olympus xD card last week (a gift). I don’t like that Olympus makes you buy their memory cards in order to unlock features. I wish is used SD memory instead just because the world doesn’t need so many memory card types.

I wondered today, when I read the Olympus announcement of the Stylus 1030 SW, whether I should have waited. I like the look of the Canon-ish mode dial. 10 megapixels (vs. 7) and the more versatile zoom specs might come in handy too. This isn’t my first experience with this, I think I bought my Digital Rebel not long before the Rebel XT came out.

Another camera conundrum

It’s been two years since I last bought a camera so I guess it’s once again time to hem and haw about my equipment and making changes to the toolkit. One major consideration is that a lot of my more interesting recent work has been from the seat of the kayak I bought over the summer. My rig for that work has been the venerable Canon G1 in its Aquapac bag. The G1 still takes great pictures, but the system has some deficiencies:

  • The camera seems to take forever to start up, at least compared to the instantaneousness of more recent models. It’s also so slow that I’m sure shots have been missed.
  • The camera’s autofocus doesn’t work through the Aquapac bag so I have to use the camera in “Pan Focus” mode which limits you to wide angle focal length.
  • Handling the camera in the bag is cumbersome.

So here’s what I’m considering:

  • Buy a waterproof camera. Specifically, buy an Olympus Stylus 770 SW. The cons of that choice are that it’s not a Canon (and I instinctively know how Canons work) and it uses xD memory cards and I’ve always been critical of the need for that card format (and I have big SD cards already). The big pro is that it wouldn’t require a waterproof case for kayaking, tubing, wet bike rides, etc. The shockproof feature would allow it to replace the G1 as the bike camera too. Michael Reichmann from The Luminous Landscape took one on an Amazon expedition and recommended it afterward.
  • Buy a Canon SD850 IS and the accompanying waterproof housing. My guru Derrick uses an earlier-generation version of this rig with outstanding results. The big pro is that it’s a Canon so I already know how to use it. It would also replace the SD450 as my pocket/belt camera that I take everywhere (as might the Olympus). I don’t know if it would replace the G1 on bike rides though, maybe. I’m a little leary of proper care of housing 0-rings.
  • Buy a Canon A720 IS and keep using the Aquapac bag. Canon lists a housing for this camera on its site too, but it is apparently not yet available as of this writing. I wonder about the autofocus performance inside the Aquapac. I’d hate to waste the 6x zoom by having to use pan focus mode.

I think a reconnaissance trip to Best Buy just may be in order.

Like last time, I may do nothing and just be suffering from what Dad would call “money burning a hole in my pocket.”