kv0925: (photo lens)

So I finally got that Yongnuo 35mm f/2 lens I mentioned a while back--it took the slow boat from China, literally! I made a point of trying it out over the weekend, so I thought I'd share some of those photos with a little review and some notes on the lens' performance.

So the short version first: if you can score it for somewhere near the $65 I paid, it's a great value. Even the MSRP of $120ish is reasonable, really.

As I'd read, it does *feel* like a cheap lens--it's mostly plastic (with a metal mounting ring, which helps), and there's simply a cheapness to it. If you've ever played with Canon's (or presumably Nikon's) low-end 50mm f/1.8 lens, it's a lot like that in design and build. When I shake it, there's a very slight rattle from the focusing ring, that sort of cheap. Even so, I'm not concerned the thing will fall apart or anything like that, at least under normal circumstances.

But the optics are what matters most, and really I have no complaints there. Reviews I read noted softness away from the center, but since I'm still using crop-sensor bodies I'm not really seeing that. Center sharpness, and even overall sharpness, look fine to me. I can count eyelashes when I zoom in on a well-focused portrait like the one above, and that's good enough. I'd say the autofocus is also plenty quick and snappy, though there's no full-time manual, and the focusing ring itself is small and not-ergonomic. Those things aren't a surprise at this price.

Some more images and notes under the cut!

Clicky! )
So yeah, for $75 or so, assuming you're not in a hurry to get it, I would definitely recommend one of these. It's a nice walkaround focal length (more or less equivalent to a 50mm on a crop-sensor camera, and a bit wider full-frame), and the f/2 makes it more useful indoors as well. Worth checking out!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
The new A/V receiver was supposed to be delivered Saturday. It was coming via FedEx, who typically come around in the late afternoon, and the delivery notice said "by end of day," so I figured that would be the case. Heather's band had a concert that morning, so the girls and I decided to go to EPCOT for a walk around the world. Heather figured she'd be home by 11:30am or so, and I figured no way FedEx would come before then. But of course they did, apparently about 5 minutes before she got home. The package is signature-required, so since no one was home they couldn't leave it. And for some kooky reason they only do home deliveries Tuesday through Saturday, and their website isn't giving me a pickup option, so the soonest they can redeliver is tomorrow. So that gave me a sad.

Heh, I just checked the FedEx site again to see if pickup was an option, and it's not--it says the package is still on a truck and out for delivery, even though the scheduled delivery date is tomorrow. So maybe that means it's just getting a joyride around town today? I guess we'll see. The wife is home, so if they do swing by someone should be there. We shall see.

So anyway, since I was temporarily denied the receiver, my mind turned to getting something else instead. The new receiver gives me an extra HDMI port, which my brain figured might be handy if I ever decide to get another gaming console. The girls are all gamers like their Dad, I'm proud to say, but we mostly play solo on our PCs since PC options for couch co-op games are a bit limited. Our only current video game console is the WiiU, which we like, but since it's Nintendo it's mainly for cutesy family games since I/we generally prefer to use the PC for other stuff.

But I was in Costco the other day and saw that the prices on the current-gen systems had dropped to a reasonable range: in particular, I saw they had the PS4 with Uncharted 4 and a second controller for $250. I've vaguely had my eye on the PS4 because The Last Of Us looks really good, and then I looked at Uncharted 4 and it looked like something we'd also enjoy (especially since a couch co-op survival mode was recently added, or is about to be). So when the receiver didn't come Saturday, I got to thinking, why not get the PS4 as an early Xmas present and enjoy that? I could even basically pay for it with the money I got selling some old audio gear last weekend, and selling that Tool cd/dvd set. So I ran it by the wife and she said fine, whatever. :) So now we have a shiny new PS4 slim, and Hallie (who is turning out to be our most serious gamer) and I have been enjoying Uncharted 4.

So now, of course, I'm looking at what other games I'd like to get for the PS4. If any of you have the system and have suggestions, please chime in! As a general rule, if a game is available for both PS4 and PC, I'd get the PC version since I have a preference for the PC controls. But anything that's a PS4 exclusive, or which offers an especially good local co-op experience (since we aren't really into online multiplayer) is fair game. My list so far:

-The Last of Us (PS4 Remaster)
-Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4 Remaster)
-Destiny: The Taken King
-Little Big Planet 3
-Until Dawn
-inFamous: Second Son

Now I want to go home and play, but alas, I'm stuck at the office. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So Thanksgiving is behind us. Already! This year, for all its nonsense and loss and horror, has at least flown by for me. Seems like we were just celebrating the New Year and looking ahead to an interesting election year. Who knew then that 'interesting' would so quickly and drastically take on the Chinese-curse parameters?

Anyway, the long weekend was good. The quick rundown:
-Thanksgiving Day: We started out with a quick trip to a park for some play and a short walk, but otherwise I stayed home with the family, since the wife had already bought a turkey to cook and Hermione was still getting over the cold she had (and which unfortunately put a bit of a damper on her birthday last Tuesday, poor kid). So it was a nice, quiet day, really.
-Black Friday: We tend not to plan on much BF shopping, but I did run out on a little adventure to procure a new (artificial) Christmas tree. Our old one was handed down to us by my Dad at least 8 years ago, and for the past few years we've wanted to retire it and get a new one since it was starting to disintegrate. The room our tree goes in has vaulted ceilings, so I wanted a taller tree, and I also wanted to go with a pre-lit (LED) tree. So I found a nice nine footer on sale at Home Depot. I went first to our closest location, only to find that the inventory of 1 indicated on the HD website was the display model, which was already spoken for. Our next-closest HD also showed 1 in stock, so I presumed that might be the same situation, and instead headed to the east Orlando store which showed 4 in stock. Sure enough, there it was, so I grabbed that and also a new pair of lighted deer for the front of the house, since our old ones were on their last legs too.

We'd also seen that our favorite big comics/collectibles shop was having a storewide Black Friday sale, so we headed out for lunch and to stop by there. We found some good stuff there for Xmas, so that was nice. On the way home we stopped at the exotic pet store to buy a pinkie mouse. Did I mention Hermione got a pet snake for her birthday? She'd wanted one for a while, so we went ahead and got that when we got back from our trip. Anyway, it wasn't taking the frozen pinkies we'd tried feeding it, so we picked up a live one to try on our way home, and that did the trick. Though Hallie had already named it and everything by the time we got home. She didn't take it too hard, though. :) Then we put up the new Xmas tree and decorated it.

Saturday: I had a photoshoot scheduled in the afternoon, so we stayed close to home. I spent the morning putting up the outside Christmas lights, which went fairly well and looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. We might go a little further and do our driveway/island too, we'll see how ambitions I feel about that!

The photoshoot was at Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney). The client was looking for Christmas decor, and could only do it Saturday, so I suggested Disney since I knew their decor would be up and lit. But of course it's a madhouse at WDW this time of year, and she wanted afternoon, so the place was packed and that made it tough to work. It was the lady, her husband, and their 18-month-old son, and they were all nice enough, but the kid (while cute and generally well-behaved) was very easily distracted and tough to get to look at the camera. So I haven't even looked at the photos yet, but I'm a little worried I might not have gotten a great set. Ah well, it is what it is. I'm sure there are some decent shots in there, at least.

Sunday: We headed over to the coast to visit my Mom, and also meet up with some friends at a park. That was a pretty good time, really. The lowlight was when we stopped by mi sister's house. Ugh. She's so totally different than me. They had a Trump sign (still) in the yard, a Trump sign (still) in their front window, and a big yellow sign saying "Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight" and something about the 2nd Amendment. Just.. ugh. They just got the house a few months ago (a HUD home, because they both live on Social Security Disability, so their agitation for the candidate and party who loathe government handouts is supremely ironic), and it already reeks of cigarette smoke, so badly that Hermione could only stand to be inside for a couple minutes. Just ugh. I hate to say it, and I don't really want to tell Mom this, but if we can just pretend she doesn't exist next time I come for a visit, that would be swell.

Anyway. While we were there we stopped at a thrift store we like to go to when we're in the area, and found they were having a weekend-long BF sale, 50% off of everything. So we found a few things, including a jigsaw puzzle of the little town in Georgia we just visited! But the real gem was a little cd/dvd box set of the band Tool's 2000 album, Salival. It was 50 cents after the sale discount, so I snagged it because I like Tool well enough, but also because it looked like it might be a collector's item. And sure enough, I looked it up when I got home and found that not only is it rare and out-of-print, the first printing was even more rare because it contained several typos in the booklet. I checked, and sure enough, this one has the typos. Looked like the misprint version sells on eBay in the $75-100 range, so I think I will resell that for a tidy profit. I love finding things like that!

Today I'm back to work, but so far it's been a pretty quiet day--I think a lot of the muckety-mucks are still on vacation. So in another consumer coup, I looked around for a compact point-and-shoot camera for Hermione (who just recently mentioned wishing she had one of her own, which was good timing because we were a little stumped on Xmas presents for her this year) and found a steal--a refurbished ELPH camera direct from Canon (which means the full 1-year warranty) with a free memory card, $60 and free shipping. Not bad at all! It's last year's model so it doesn't have WiFi, but that's not a dealbreaker by any means. 12x optical zoom with IS, so that should be pretty versatile.

Okay, enough of this nonsense, time to get a little work done. I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
For those of you who expressed interest in my experience with Canon Price Watch, here's your quick follow-up: Big Thumbs Up. The 7D2 arrived yesterday, a day ahead of when I was expecting it (and, I hasten to add, a day sooner than even Amazon said they could get it to me--and this from Canada!), and is indeed the real McCoy. New in box with all included accessories, Canon warranty cards, and though I only had time to configure a few settings and fire off a few indoor test shots, it seems to work just fine. I didn't actually try the battery grip yet, but it's impressive too: I bought relatively cheap aftermarket grips for my other dSLRs, and there's a definite look-and-feel quality difference in the genuine Canon grip (which makes sense given the price difference).

ETA: Just to be sure, I found a little application which grabs the shutter count from Canon dSLRs to verify the 7D2 was truly brand new, and it checked out. Around 99,500 actuations on my trusty old 7D, which sounds about right. It's rated for 150k (the Mk II is rated for 200k), so it should be good as a backup for some time.

So anyway, definitely give CPW a try if you're in the market for Canon gear (looks like they offer deals on some third-party lenses as well). I'm a believer!

Now back to hunkering down for this oncoming storm. But more about that in a bit.

Hiya LJ!

Oct. 3rd, 2016 04:29 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I dunno, I don't really want to bore you with my photos from NYC, mainly because I'm not especially happy with them. I can't even really say why, but they feel more like snapshots than usual. Out of practice, perhaps. But it was a nice day in the city. The above is from the Empire State Building's observation deck, which I visited a little before sunset, which was nice. It was packed up there, though. Like whoa. Central Park was pretty similar, which isn't surprising since it was such a gorgeous day. I think the high temperature was right around 70F, which was a very refreshing change after a summer in the mid-90s down here.

Anyway, the quick recap: Flew into LaGuardia on a smooth red-eye flight, and caught a Lyft (my first!) to Penn Station in Manhattan. Stowed my luggage there and set off on foot. Visited Herald Square, Bryant Park, the library (closed, unfortunately), Times Square, popped in for a quick peek at St. Patrick's (it was Sunday so a service was underway). Then to Central Park (did I mention it was packed?), where I walked for a bit. Caught a cab over to the west side for the Intrepid Museum, which was pretty decent. Then another Lyft to the ESB before walking back over to Penn Station to catch my train to Connecticut.

Actually, one more photo:

Exciting, right? It's a hunk of iron stuck in a rock! But I was thrilled to find it. You see, in the early days of New York City, the now well-known notion of the (mostly) orthogonal and evenly-spaced grid of streets and avenues in Manhattan was a new idea. And urban parks were rare, so Central Park had no place in the original plan. Starting in 1811, a man named John Randel (the same man who designed the grid layout in the first place) began the process of marking where each intersection would be, by means of iron rods or marble monuments. Most of those markers were of course removed as the streets were built, and others disappeared to the ravages of time and humanity. But a few remain, especially in places where streets were planned but never built. And this one is there in Central Park, marking the never-built intersection of 6th Avenue and 65th Street. It's actually pretty much right out in the open, surely passed within feet by many thousands of people every year. But I'd wager hardly any of them ever notice it, let alone have any idea what it is. So I thought that was pretty special, to seek out and find this little piece of history, a simple iron rod set in its place two centuries ago and left to watch as one of the world's greatest cities sprang up all around it.

The visit to Stamford was pretty okay. It was nice to actually meet the people I've been working with by phone and e-mail for the past couple months. And we covered a lot of stuff, but not the most top-of-mind thing, which is how our organization will actually look when all is said and done. I think my Presumptive New Boss (PNB) really thought it would be settled by the time we got together, but no such luck. Maybe within the next few weeks. It's certainly 99.9% obvious that I'm destined for his team, but exactly what form that will take seems a little less clear. And some of it may depend on whether I'm willing to relocate to CT, which frankly I'm not. Even if finances didn't constrain us to our house here, it's not an area we'd really choose to move to, and it's not like this is my dream job that I'd chase anywhere. So I'm planning to stick around here, and if that means the job and I eventually part ways, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In other news, we got the information on the pension payout, and... underwhelming is putting it mildly. I don't know what math they used to calculate it, but it was a lot less than I was minimally expecting, and FAR less than I was hoping. So refinancing the house is basically a non-starter. We can at least pay off the cars and some other small things, which will put some money back in the budget each month. And there will be some left over, which can go to trips and whatnot. Bottom line, it still beats a kick in the nuts, that's for sure. But I can't help but be disappointed that it wasn't the game-changer I was hoping for.

Speaking of whatnot, I did get permission to use some to get myself a new camera. My venerable 7D has exhibited a couple of concerning symptoms recently, which made me realize the thing is very nearly 5 years old. And as much as I use it, that's gotta put the shutter at or over its expected lifespan. So I found a great deal* on a 7D Mark II--I figure I may as well stick with the crop sensor since for most of the work I do it's a benefit, and the shooting speed is crucial for my HDR predilections. Hopefully the high-ISO performance is improved, and I think it adds some other nice upgrades as well. That should arrive in a couple days, something to look forward to. And good timing, as I have a photoshoot this weekend with a family I work with every year. I'll bring the old camera as backup, just in case. :)

There's probably more, but that's plenty for now. I hope your week is off to a fine start!

* Photographer friends, let me throw out a tentative plug here for Canon Price Watch. I was planning to just snag a 7D2 body at Best Buy since I have their credit card and they do no-interest financing, plus it was on Canon instant rebate for $1499 ($300 off the usual price). But none of the stores nearest to me had it in stock, so I Googled and came across CPW, which mentioned a deal on the body PLUS the genuine Canon battery grip for $1349 total. The battery grip alone retails for $200, so yeah, that's a great deal. CPW seemed a bit shady, somehow, at first--on the CPW site you submit your name and e-mail address, then they e-mail you with a few potential deals on the product you're after. You reply with which deal you want, along with your name and address, and only then do they actually e-mail you the info on which store you're dealing with, and a link to the deal you selected. In my case, it turned out to be a camera dealer out of Ontario. But hey, no sales tax, free shipping, and I figured if it was a scam I'd just reverse the charge, right? So I bit, and got the shipping notice from Canada Post within just a few hours. That was Friday afternoon, and the camera should arrive Wednesday, which was actually the best Amazon Prime said they could do anyway. If it's truly new-in-box product with a valid Canon warranty and all that, I will be a CPW customer from now on, no question. I still want a Canon 100-400mm, after all. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Hm, that title sounds kind of ominous. It implies there's something going on. But really? Nah, same stuff, different day. Some highlights lately:

I had 3 photoshoots in 8 days last week! And all repeat business, which was kinda nice. I did a maternity shoot out at the Polynesian for a couple I know (we used to work together and I shot their wedding a year or two back). Then a Massachusetts family I shot out at WDW a couple years ago were back down for a cruise, and we met out at Cocoa Beach last weekend before they set sail. And then last Monday, a family I'd shot twice before hit me up for Round 3--EPCOT this time. Pretty nice weather for all, thankfully, though the beach was ├╝ber-windy. We made the best of it, anyway. I have the first two sets all done, just need to plow through editing the last one and I'll be all caught up. Then I have another maternity shoot in early May, and a family down on vacation later in the month. And whenever the aforementioned couple's new baby arrives I'll be doing a newborn session with them. Keeping busy, kinda nice! The extra money is certainly helpful, and has already paid for some new toys. Observe:

Cut for those who don't care! )
In other musical news, I've been playing more--practicing more, I should say. Trying to polish up some areas of my playing that I've always neglected, while also trying to cram more musical theory knowledge into my aging brain, especially as it pertains to the guitar. Helps to know the rules before you trash them, right?

Oh, and one more recent purchase with my gig money: I'd been wanting a new tablet, since my aging first-gen Nexus 7 was getting more and more clunky. Given my musical aspirations I wanted one that could serve as a mobile music-making platform, so I decided to go to the dark side and get an Apple. I prefer the smaller form factor for tablets, so I decided on an iPad Mini, and had just about talked myself into going for a refurbed Mini 2 for $250 when I got an e-mail from Best Buy that they had new ones on sale for $200. Nice! So I grabbed one of those Friday, and spent a little time over the weekend setting it up. So far I really like it. Performance is snappy, screen is a good size and looks amazing, battery life seems quite good. My only real complaint so far is that a couple apps I have and use on my iPhone aren't available in iPad versions, for no good reason I can see. But there are workarounds and alternatives, so I guess that's not too terrible.

Now to actually indulge my creative side more often. And stay off of Facebook more, I've been getting unduly annoyed by stupid people on there lately, especially with this whole bathroom-bill fiasco. Win-win if I skip FB and go to tinkering with music instead. :)

Otherwise.. Work is work, though we got a treat Friday in the form of a fun team event, bowling at Downtown Disney. I hadn't been bowling for a few years--I should do that more often, it is fun. I should take the girls sometime too, see if they take to it.

Speaking of the girls, I started taking Amy to a karate class we found at a neighborhood rec center not too far from home. She likes it, and I think I might start doing it with her. That should be fun. I'm waiting for the instructor to send me the e-mail he promised, and I'll ask him if I could join in too. I'll look silly doing it, of course, but it's been on my wanna-do list for ages and would be good for me.

This past weekend we didn't roam too far from home. Saturday we headed out to a park or two up towards Sanford, and yesterday Heather had to take Hermione to a concert at a church for the morning. After that we went for a hike in the woods and found a geocache, something else I've been meaning to get back into. That reminds me, I need to log that find.

Okay, better get some work done today, even if it's just submitting an expense report for my work-related road trips last week. Hope everyone is having a fine day!

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