Three NAS Drives and a Gizmo

Jack Neubart discovers several options for networking at home

NAS stands for network-attached storage. It essentially describes network storage options for the home and office. There’s a lot of technical gobbledygook attached to this storage option, but suffice to say that you can use it to share data among computers, use the network drive as a media hub to stream movies and tunes, share printers (via onboard USB ports), and possibly use these drives for data backups as well. Those USB ports can also be used to attach other compatible devices, such as flash drives and even hard drives (for data transfer or backup to the attached hard drive, as applicable). However, be aware that the connected drive may need to be reformatted for this purpose, which means all data will be wiped out.

Network drives look more or less like typical external hard drives, with one exception: They do not connect to your host computer but instead, via Ethernet cable, connect to your wireless network. Any computer on your network can read from and write to these drives once you’ve logged on from that computer. The drive comes pre-configured with specific “shares”—one of which is your “private” or “admin” share.

A share is a shared folder, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets to share it. It could just be shared among computers in your local area network (LAN), specifically your home network. You can password-protect shares and grant limited access, all by setting up user accounts and groups. And you can add to these at any time and adjust other settings using a Web-based administration tool. When you turn the drive on, it may take a few minutes for all the protocols to fall into place. Much of it runs on autopilot. Initially you’ll need to set up a user name and password for login (don’t lose these, or you may have to reset the entire system, which may also erase all data). That’s it in a nutshell. [Read more...]

Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

Jack Neubart discovers that this 18 MP single-digit “D” series APS-C EOS camera is indeed a chip off the old block-and then some.

The 7D is shown here with built-in flash ready for action, with EF-S 15-85mm lens attached. I hadn't worked with this lens, but the camera itself should be a model for future EOS designs. Canon photo.

Canon EOS 7D-front. The 7D is shown here with built-in flash ready for action, with EF-S 15-85mm lens attached. I hadn't worked with this lens, but the camera itself should be a model for future EOS designs. Canon photo.



I was all set to begin this review with a diatribe about all the negatives pertaining to movie shooting and Live View, but then thought better of it and opted to take the journey into 7D-dom with a positive foot forward.

When you look at the real meat and potatoes inside this machine, you’ll discover, as I did, that when you peel back the movie capture veneer, the Canon EOS 7D is a very capable DSLR. That’s especially true when it comes to capturing breaking action, owing to a highly responsive, albeit not flawless, AF system coupled with an even more responsive shutter release. There-I took the high road. Too bad Bob Hope isn’t around to do the movie version: “The 7D Road to Bali, the Musical.“ I could even write the music and lyrics. [Read more...]

Leica M9 Digital Camera Review: Field Test Report

Jack Neubart takes a step back in time to test this century’s classic manual-focusing, full-frame 18 MP CCD interchangeable-lens camera for the ages (along with the Summilux-M 21 mm f/1.4 ASPH).

Leica M9 (front). A ruggedly built, Euro-styled digital rangefinder in which quality, performance, and price go hand in hand. Photo courtesy Leica.

Leica M9 (front). A ruggedly built, Euro-styled digital rangefinder in which quality, performance, and price go hand in hand. Photo courtesy Leica.



It has been a very long time since I last worked with a rangefinder camera. And likely just as long since I last had the distinct pleasure of working with a Leica, although, as I recall, that was an SLR. The one thing that did stand out in my mind was how crisp the images were that came out of the Leica lenses I used.

Given that digital is, in a sense, a more complex image-forming process involving any number of variables mediating from the moment of capture on an imaging sensor and in-camera processing until the final image springs to life, I’m not sure that we’ll ever see quite the same quality, regardless of the lens or camera, or sensor. And yet we as photographers still manage to evolve our art with the technology and find ways to take that technology to new levels of creativity and bring new heights of awareness to every moment and scene we capture with our cameras.

The Leica M9 brings to mind my very first camera, the one that my dad bought me when I was a wee lad, and which he wouldn’t let me use for some years, afraid I’d break it (okay, I eventually did-but it wasn’t my fault, dad, I swear). So I bided my time and when the New York World’s Fair of 1964/65 rolled round, I finally got the chance to take the camera out on my own.

I loved that 35mm camera-a Neoca (Japanese top to bottom). It was no Leica by any stretch of the imagination. Didn’t even have a light meter inside. But it was a rangefinder. And what I remember about that rangefinder is that I was never entirely comfortable using it-I just didn’t feel it gave me the speed I needed or the certainty. And that’s still how I feel about rangefinder focusing. (However, I’m certain that many of you may feel just the opposite and would take a rangefinder over autofocusing or any other type of focusing any day of the week.)

And that brings us full circle to the M9, a full-frame, 18MP CCD digital camera featuring coincident-image rangefinder focusing-with the added benefit of interchangeable Leica lenses. [Read more...]

Pentax K-x Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

Jack Neubart gets a taste of a sweet compact 12.4 MP CMOS APS-C DSLR with a suite of features.

Pentax K-x body, white version. Photo courtesy of Pentax.

Pentax K-x body, white version. Photo courtesy of Pentax.



I approach each new camera with a degree of skepticism. Unlike many out there, I’m not as easily swayed by all the media hype and promotional gobbledygook. I’m from Brooklyn and we need to see that something actually works. So when the Pentax K-x arrived, I looked at it, pleased that they sent me the “white” version, only because it reminded me of the Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars (would have been a great fit). I unpacked everything, mated the lens to the K-x body, installed the lithium batteries that came in the box, then added my own SDHC card-none included (also takes standard SD-but why hamper the machine out of the gate!). And I started to play with it.

Hmm, not bad, I thought. But let’s see how it performs in the real world. So, intrepid explorer that I am, I ventured outside. It may not be a tropical rain forest, but it is an urban jungle out there rife with photographic opportunities. [Read more...]

Nikon D300S Digital SLR Camera Review: Field Test Report

Egad and gadzooks! It’s time for Jack Neubart’s Halloween review, where he ponders life, the universe, and, most importantly, whether the added features (notably, movies & dual flash cards) mean it’s time to upgrade from the D300 to the D300S.

<strong>Nikon D300S--front of camera.</strong> The Nikon D300S is a solidly built 12.3 MP CMOS DSLR that exhibits solid performance. It's not revolutionary, but is definitely a step up the ladder, compared to the original D300. <strong><i>Photo courtesy Nikon.</strong></i>

Nikon D300S--front of camera. The Nikon D300S is a solidly built 12.3 MP CMOS DSLR that exhibits solid performance. It's not revolutionary, but is definitely a step up the ladder, compared to the original D300. Photo courtesy Nikon.



I’ve been very happy with my Nikon D300. I’m certainly glad I didn’t wait for the next iteration to come out because I’ve made good use of this camera on two continents. Three, if you count Brooklyn, NY (we like to think of ourselves as more than simply a borough of New York City). Anyway, I approached a review of the next-gen D300, the D300S, with some degree of trepidation. I’m obviously not going to hate the camera, unless they somehow managed to mess up a good thing. And if I love it, then I have to consider buying it to replace a body that still has that fresh camera smell, and for which I paid good money (is money ever bad?).

Before continuing, I should note that you’ve no doubt read my friend and colleague’s report on the D300-Peter Burian was quite thorough. (If you haven’t, check it out here.) But this is where I give you my take on the camera, and go into specific differences between new and old.

One thing I noticed is that the manual for the D300 is actually 18 pages longer than that for the new D300S. As a D300 owner, I gloated. Then I also noted that the D300S Quick Guide has nearly twice as many pages-now I’m starting to feel cheated. What could explain these odd discrepancies? Well, I wasn’t about to dig through each booklet page by page, so let’s just see what pops up as we continue to explore, compare and contrast.

JN_14
[Read more...]

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Review: Field Test Report

A full-frame EOS DSLR gets even better-with 21.1 MP CMOS sensor and much more.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 16-35mm lens. This is a versatile combination, which proved itself street shooting in New York City, with subjects ranging from street scenes to candid portraits-even a celebrity sighting at a film premiere. Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 16-35mm lens. This is a versatile combination, which proved itself street shooting in New York City, with subjects ranging from street scenes to candid portraits-even a celebrity sighting at a film premiere. Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.


I remember when long intervals would go by before a new SLR was introduced, back when we were shooting film. Today, those intervals are growing remarkably shorter and shorter, although not short enough for some of us who eagerly await the next iteration. Technology, it seems, waits for no man or woman.

When the original, and very reasonably priced, EOS 5D came out, I bought it and chucked my APS-C Canons. I had heretofore resisted buying EF-S glass expecting to make this move one day. And while I’d considered the pricier 1Ds-series cameras, I felt that, for my needs, the 5D would do. In fact, for the same price as a 1Ds, I could buy the 5D and several lenses.

More to the point, I bought a Canon fisheye for starters, to take advantage of the full-frame sensor. So I felt like I had my cake and could eat it too. To top it off, all my Canon EF lenses would now be true to form. No more dealing with sensor factors. My wide-angles would be truly wide, although I did miss that extra boost my telephotos got with the 1.6X factor (applicable to Canon APS-C). But coming back to that fisheye, I now could take pleasure in that unique fisheye perspective. (Sadly, it wasn’t till I bought the Tokina fisheye zoom-for an APS-C camera, no less, namely the D300-that I truly began to exploit the possibilities of fisheye optics.)

With continued use, I could sense that there were certain features lacking on my original 5D, but I wasn’t really looking forward to upgrading too quickly. Besides, for me to take the plunge, a new 5D would have to be packing some serious new hardware-or software (technically, firmware).

Well, I’ve finally got my hands on the 5D Mark II. But is it all it’s cracked up to be, enough so for me to upgrade? Having tested the 1Ds Mark III adds another twist to this story. That 1Ds is a marvelous piece of machinery, if pricey. Should I continue to play the waiting game? Well, the only way to find out is to put the new 5D through its paces and see how it compares. [Read more...]

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Review: Field Test Report

Still the EOS to beat.


Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - front. This is a rugged camera, with everything needed to deliver top quality images from day one. Granted, the heavy-duty battery gives it a large footprint and considerable heft, but still this is one camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - front. This is a rugged camera, with everything needed to deliver top quality images from day one. Granted, the heavy-duty battery gives it a large footprint and considerable heft, but still this is one camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

I’ve been working with Canon EOS single-lens-reflex cameras since they burst upon the scene. Well, actually, since shortly before, when I and other members of the photo press were introduced to the very first one-the EOS 1-on a top secret junket in Bar Harbor, Maine, many, many moons ago. Back then the photo press consisted entirely of print publications and cameras were analog, or as we simply liked to call them, cameras.

Fast forward to the digital age-and the full-frame EOS 1Ds DSLR. The 1-series continues to be the ranking member in the EOS lineup, designed for every imaginable professional application, with durability, functionality, reliability, and consistency at the forefront. And you’ve no doubt heard of the EOS 1Ds Mark III (MkIII, for short), the current flagship. While not the newest EOS on the block, like the 5D Mark II, it shares a 21.1 megapixel CMOS sensor.

But more to the point, it maintains the longstanding tradition established by its progenitors. And since Photocrati is a new site, we thought we’d take this camera out for a spin and round out our experiences with the EOS, with newer cameras to come under our scrutiny when available. In the meantime, here goes. Oh, and at the outset, at roughly $7,000, we should also point out that this is not the cheapest camera out there. But you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck and a camera that will probably outlast you in the field. [Read more...]

Tamron SP AF60mm F/2.0 Di II LD 1:1 Macro Lens Review

At f/2.0, the world of macro just got a bit faster.

Tamron SP AF60mm F/2.0 Macro. This APS-C macro is one stop faster than others in its class, and balances nicely when attached to the camera. Optically, it performed admirably. Courtesy of Tamron.

Tamron SP AF60mm F/2.0 Macro. This APS-C macro is one stop faster than others in its class, and balances nicely when attached to the camera. Optically, it performed admirably. Courtesy of Tamron.

Any-and every-macro lens excites me with the challenge of portraying my subjects in intimate detail. So when I heard that Tamron introduced the SP AF60mm f/2.0 Di II LD 1:1 Macro, my heart truly started pounding. Normally, macro lenses in this focal length range start at f/2.8. So we’re talking about a macro lens that is a full stop faster.

Are you beginning to feel the adrenaline? Because this is an APS-C lens, that 60mm translates into a very respectable 96mm short telephoto on the Canon Rebel T1i that I used in my testing (soon to be available for Nikon and Sony). That short telephoto focal length gives me added breathing room between the lens and those tiny, often skittish critters I routinely confront.

Why We Need a Fast Macro Lens

Now, granted, most of us shoot our close-ups stopped-down. And it’s a given that depth of field is minimal when shooting at or near life-size. Still, depth of field does matter. We try to squeeze out every pixel of sharpness we can, especially when shooting handheld. The slightest hand tremor is enough to throw a subject out of focus.

You could add image stabilization to the lens and get around the worry over camera shake, at considerable added cost (provided it’s even available). And the benefit of this feature at or near life-size magnification is questionable. Besides, that addresses only one challenge. Outdoors, any breeze can make long arduous moments spent in fine-tuning focus on a delicate blossom a memory. Hence, you’ll often see me using a ring-flash attached to the front of the lens as a means of addressing practically any close-up challenge.

So where does a fast macro lens enter the picture? For one thing, not everyone likes to use flash or has a suitable flash in their camera bag. But there are even more important reasons. When shooting wide open (using selective focus), you surround the subject in a soft blur of color that many of us find pleasing. Or you want to throw distracting elements out of focus as much as possible and focus attention entirely on your subject-or one aspect of it. Combine that with exposing at a usable handheld shutter speed (preventing camera shake) when shooting under low light levels. And, last but not least, shooting wide open provides the added benefit of allowing shutter speeds that may be fast enough to prevent subject motion blur.

Of course, it’s all relative. You go with the flow, and tailor your approach, prioritizing depth of field and motion control-or both equally, as the situation and your artistic sensibilities demand. The fast macro lens gives you that added flexibility. [Read more...]

Olympus E-3 Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

A versatile camera, a powerful combo.

While it was fun to use, the Olympus E-620 did not leave a lasting impression. I needed to get back to my own DSLR system and do some serious shooting. Fast forward. Now the Olympus E-3 lands on my doorstep. Obviously not the newest camera in the Olympus Four Thirds DSLR camp, the pro-level E-3 certainly is the one that takes itself most soberly, as the flagship in the fleet.

You might say, I began with the progeny and traced its lineage back to the progenitor. Well, not all the way back, an interim step but a quantum leap above the original E-1, the DNA strand from which all Olympus digital SLRs evolved.

Olympus E-3 front. The Olympus E-3 looks, feels, and works like a pro-level camera. The only thing that detracts from that impression is the built-in flash. On the other hand, it's nice to have on occasion. Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Olympus E-3 front. The Olympus E-3 looks, feels, and works like a pro-level camera. The only thing that detracts from that impression is the built-in flash. On the other hand, it's nice to have on occasion. Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.



The E-3 ($1,250) begins with the high-speed Live MOS sensor and 10.1 million effective pixels. It also features Olympus’s Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system for the image sensor, along with image stabilization built into the camera body (effective range: 5 steps, according to the specs), making it usable with every compatible Four Thirds lens (and there are lots of them). [Read more...]

Canon Rebel T1i (EOS 500D) Review: Field Test Report

Small and compact, a good choice–if you don’t mind some compromises.

Canon Rebel T1i--front. The Canon Rebel T1i is a neat little DSLR to tool around with. You'll hardly know it's hanging from your neck, owing to the cozy size and heft of the camera/kit lens combo. By the way, look closely at the lens: if it appears that there's no focusing ring, look again--it's an annoyingly very thin knurled ring on the very front of the lens barrel. Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Canon Rebel T1i--front. The Canon Rebel T1i is a neat little DSLR to tool around with. You'll hardly know it's hanging from your neck, owing to the cozy size and heft of the camera/kit lens combo. By the way, look closely at the lens: if it appears that there's no focusing ring, look again--it's an annoyingly thin, knurled ring on the very front of the lens barrel. Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.



The Rebel has always been Canon’s sleek but inexpensive choice in a digital SLR. That’s true even now. The T1i, while still not the sharpest tack in the bunch, manages to make a point with a solid feel and comprehensive feature set.

Each succeeding Rebel climbs one rung up the ladder, with this latest Rebel offering higher resolution–15.1 MP–and faster processing–Digic 4 (one of those acronyms that has never really caught on as such, but does appear to deliver in principle) on its CMOS chip. Then add a larger LCD and HD video capture (if you go in for that), and the camera becomes even more appealing. Of course, when you include an image-stabilized lens in the package and price it all under $900, there are bound to be some compromises. But are these compromises you can live with? Well, that depends. [Read more...]