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Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens (Black)
Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens (Black)
Price: $496.95
61 used & new from $419.00

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Low Cost DSLR Camera, April 17, 2014
I bought this Nikon D3300 as a replacement for my seven year old Nikon D40X and I have not been disapointed. There have been a number of improvments in the past few years that make this new camera a better fit for some of the photos I wish to take. First this camera looks and feels and to a large measure behaves almost the same as my earlier model which still functions as well as the day I bought it, attesting to the quality probably built into this newer model (at least I hope so). But this new model also has two and a half times as many pixels for better cropping, assuming I have lenses to support this. Also this newer model is in fact lighter while having a liveview mode and the ability to take movies, something I don't really plan on using it for all that much. But I really bought the camera for its low light capabilities and it seems that it has at least 2 stops better performance over my D40x which has proven useful in my now getting non blurred shots of the grandchildren in various theater functions where the light is never really good. I've noticed also that there is less likelihood of the highlights being blown so the metering is better in the D3300. Hitting the "i" button also brings up a screen that allows one to quickly change ISO, metering mode and focusing so I am not really bothered by the need for diving into memus all that often. I've mapped the Fn button to ISO but I have AUTO ISO on so I don't use this all that often. I'm looking at alternative mappings but none of the options (WB, quality,D-lighting) seem really good especially since I shoot RAW + JPG fine and can adjust WB later if desired. The kit lens is noticeably smaller and lighter than the one it replaced in the D3200 and is collapsable. The entire package (camera plus kit lens) is still too big to fit in a normal pants or jacket pocket, however. I'm presently using a wrist grip for those times when the camera and lens don't weigh too much. This includes the kit lens and my Nikon 35mm F1.8G. I have the Nikon 18-200 mm VR lens also and this is a relatively heavy lens that makes this camera front heavy and a bit awkward to use with the wrist grip and even with the standard neck strap. For the most part, I find that my photos don't require 200 mm all that often and for 4x6" snapshots I can simulate a 35mm effective 100 mm via cropping photos taken with the 35mm f1.8 G (a factor of two crop still produces a 6 Mpixel image, remembering, of course, to up the shutter speed to match since this lens does not have VR. For light travel I also have a Nikon 55-200 mm VR lens which worked on my D40x on whale watches and other "subjects at a distance" events. Now this camera is missing some features that the more expensive "cropped sensor" cameras such as the D5300 and D7100 have. The D5300 has a fold out screen, and the other cameras allow for easier bracketing, HDR, more external flash possibilities and they may be built more ruggedly with a better viewfinder and perhaps a Depth of Field preview - although I just take the picture and see what's in focus and adjust accordingly. But with respect to image quality (pixels and ISO sensitivity) one really has to go to full frame (the Nikon D610, D800 and the Df among others) to achieve a noticeable improvement. And this requires a huge stepup in cost that one of my daughters can justify with a BS in photojournalism, but I cannot. For the rest of us, this is a light, easy to use DSLR that will take great pictures and will allow even experienced individuals to easily change any of the important factors in photography to get properly explosed, in focus shots. But then again the my daughter's Nikon Df and other full frame cameras are about 2 stops better in sensitivity at the expense of cost and weight. There are always better cameras and even my daughter says she has eyes on a better lens.

Blue Jasmine [HD]
Blue Jasmine [HD]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Woody Allen Film, January 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Excellent performances by the women in this film with Cate Blanchett receiving a well deserved oscar nomination for best actress. As is typical in many of Allen's films the movie shows a short period of of a person's life and then just has this person continue on afterwards almost as if nothing has happened. View this film to see the acting.

Lenmar NVD150S 150-Watt N-Verter
Lenmar NVD150S 150-Watt N-Verter
Offered by lakeplacegames
Price: $42.99
3 used & new from $20.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy 12V Converter, June 30, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This converter works as advertized in my car (2012 Camry) but is a tight fit into the plug. There is a "tightness" adjustment on the converter but even after adjustment it's really tight. At other adjustments it's so tight it will not fit. Also, as others have mentioned, there is a heat dissapating fan built into the converter that is a bit loud and annoying. Still you can see that this is a well made product that I keep in my car to charge and run electronics while on travel.

Somewhere Between [HD]
Somewhere Between [HD]
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt Documentary, March 18, 2013
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My wife and I loved this documentary which has some surprising twists. The adapted teenage girls who were interviewed were extremely talkative and in touch with their feelings and I can only imagine what it must be like to know that you were once abandoned by your birth parents even though you know that you are loved and cherished by your American mother and father. For the most part these girls feel that they are different than their school mates because they are Asian and this weighs on them in different ways. The movie follows them through an organization that brings together other adapted chinese teenagers and again through their visits to China. Some just want to help those who wish to adapt other abandoned children while other girls wish to search for their birth parents. It's also amazing to see how the American parents have tried to learn more about China and, in some cases, to even learn Chinese. But it's the girls that are the stars of this documentary and will have a lasting effect on those who see this film.

Plug In with Nik: A Photographer's Guide to Creating Dynamic Images with Nik Software
Plug In with Nik: A Photographer's Guide to Creating Dynamic Images with Nik Software
by John Batdorff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.01
44 used & new from $18.75

67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This Book Might Teach You Something, January 30, 2013
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This book represents the cheapest printed solution that might work to replace the missing manual not supplied by the software creator. If you are looking for some basic starting points on how to use the NIK tools this book will be of some value but, in truth, to really understand the major plug-ins the book would have to be much longer. In fact, Color Efex Pro 4, HDR Efex Pro 2 and Silver Efex Pro 2 each might require a book of this length (about 200 pages of pictures and text). For more in depth discussion of these tools try Jason Odell's luminescentphoto web site where he offers more examples in his e-books, each about 200 pages and each about the price of this book. And his books are not printed, so if you want to print them in color the total cost will be much, much higher than this book.

I assume that most who buy this book already have at least one of the NIK software plug-ins. If you do then you probably already know that last September Google bought NIK software, presumably to get their SnapSeed software, an Instagram like competitor. The author mentions this purchase in his introduction, but doesn't seem to have any additional insight as to how this will effect support for the NIK software packages. Hopefully NIK will continue to support these excellent plug-ins but, as some have pointed out elsewhere, NIK has already stopped selling NIK plug-ins for use with Nikon's Capture NX; not a good sign.

I knew that there would be some issues with this book, when the author, on page 2, tells me that my camera's sensor "is made up of thousands of photosensitive pixels". Really. He probably hasn't heard of the mega pixel wars; 8 MP, 12 MP, 16 MP and now even 24 MP or 36 MP are becoming standard on many types of cameras. He is off by a factor of one thousand, which is indeed huge. My cameras are made up of millions of photosensitive pixels. This should have been caught in the editing. But this is a mere quibble; it's the printing that I really object to. It's not that the pictures are too small (maybe they are) but they are printed on a paper that makes it really hard to see the improvements the author has generated. The before and after pictures are not all that different when I believe that they really are that different based on my use of this software. When Scott Kelby's books can show differences I know it's technically possible and when I look in his books I see vivid prints, not like the ones in this book. Oh Well.

The author does offer some suggestions on using this software. Try and visualize what you want before randomly trying presets is certainly a good idea. And if you have some of these software packages, or are thinking of buying them, this book will provide some idea of what to do with them. You might also try out the packages free for a while to see if you like them. But I wish he had emphasized shortcuts more in his illustrations. He does list Viveza keyboard shortcuts on page 46-47, including my favorite: In Windows you can duplicate a control point (U-point technology) by alt-dragging an existing point to a different location, a feature I learned before I read the book.

So in summary, this book contains a well written quick printed summary of the features of the NIK software and can help someone just starting out with these plug-ins. For more in depth discussion, look elsewhere.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 8, 2013 10:44 AM PDT

Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact
Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact
by Bryan Peterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.86
60 used & new from $10.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for improving your photos, November 24, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Many years ago Kodak published a book "How to make good pictures" which implied that enjoyable photos just don't happen, they are created. In this small book Bryan Peterson will show you how he does it, with some tricks of the trade. (If you want even more tricks read Scott Kelby's "The Digital Photography Book series) Peterson goes through the usual suspects; frame your subjects, rule of thirds, backgrounds, focus (depth of field), arranging items within the picture and many others. Because the publisher printed the example photos on excellent paper, you can really see what Peterson is talking about and the sometimes subtle differences between pictures. Even though this book can be read by itself, I think the reader would get even more out of it by first reading the author's classic book "Understanding Exposure" which everyone seems to quote. In Understanding Exposure" he describes better how f stops effect depth of field and emphasis and the differences betweeen Depth of Field in DSLRs and compact cameras. In this book he does list the camera, lens and f stop used for each photo but, to the best of my knowledge he never really explains how to get the same effect with the better compact cameras. "Understanding Exposure" will explain this, especially the 3rd edition.

I think that Peterson lifted some of the photos from his other books and on page 251 he points out that our cameras now have the advantage of automatic winders! Really. Peterson's photo examples are usually taken with a full frame DSLR Nikon camera or a professional DSLR camera with a crop factor of 1.5. Even his limited use of the Leica D-Lux (rebadged Panasonic LX-3/5) can do much better that the film rewinders. I'm sure this just slipped by.

By reading this book, you can at least get some small idea of the thoughts and creativity of a really great photographer who also enjoys teaching.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX7K 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Optical zoom and 3.0-inch LCD -  Black
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX7K 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Optical zoom and 3.0-inch LCD - Black
Price: $379.50
33 used & new from $271.56

28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Panasonic LX-7 - A Compact near State-of-the-Art Camera, November 5, 2012
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The Panasonic LX-7 is the latest in a line of high end compact cameras that are reasonably pocketable and can produce excellent photos (and videos) in daylight and lowlight conditions. Previous models have been well received and unless you have them side by side you would be hard pressed to see any real differences in the way the LX-7 looks and feels compared to it's immediate predecessor, the LX-5 introduced two years ago. This time, however, the LX-7 is not alone and in fact there is an elephant in the room, the Sony RX100, that really cannot be ignored if one is to understand the merits of the Panasonic LX-7.

The Sony RX100 has made it to the Time Magazine list of 25 best inventions of the year - and as we know, Time is never wrong. Well almost never. The RX100 is truely pocketable, able to fit into a shirt pocket whereas the LX-7 needs a jacket pocket. The RX100 has 20M pixels and the LX-7 has only 10M pixels, potentially improving resolution and cropping ability. The RX100 has a sensor that is 2.8 times the area of the one in the LX-7. And to get these features the RX100 sells at a different price point than the LX-7, roughly 150 dollars more at suggested retail and because the LX-7 has been undergoing price fluctuations lately, I've noticed that sometimes the difference is closer to 240 dollars! This cost difference alone may steer many away from the Sony, unless, of course, you really want a high quality shirt pocketable camera.

Now why consider the LX-7, other than price. It's the lens. The LX-7 has a lens that extends from 24mm to 90mm (35 mm camera equivalent values) while the Sony starts at 28 mm and goes to a little above 90mm). The LX-7's widest lens opening is f1.4 and never exceeds f2.3 over its range. The Sony RX100 starts at f1.8 and quickly goes to f2.8 (at 35mm) and eventually goes to f4.5 at 90mm. This means that the LX-7 has about a half stop advantage at wide angle, a 1.44 stop advantage at 35 mm and nearly a 2 stop advantage at 90mm. What does this mean for the performance of the LX-7, since this is one of the prime reasons to purchase this camera?

The large sensor is the heart of the RX100. Because its area is 2.8 times that of the LX-7 its noise or grain at any ISO value should be significantly better (lower) than the LX-7, in fact if it had 10M pixels it should have about a 1.5 stop advantage. The fact that it has 20 M pixels, means that the area of each pixel is cut in half and the advantage over the LX-7 drops to around half a stop. Of course, there are ways to combine the pixels, effectly increasing the area of each pixel and to reduce the noise again. I took a look at the RAW samples of the LX-7 and the RX100 via the dpreview site and compared them at ISO 400. In my view, the RX100 is clearly better at ISO 400 than the LX-7 at ISO 400 but the RX100 at ISO 800 looked worse than the LX-7 at ISO 400. This crudely confirms that the RX100 sensor has somewhat less than a 1 stop advantage over the LX-7. What does all this mean with respect to daylight and low light photos?

In daylight (good light), the RX100 should perform about 1 stop better than the LX-7 since both cameras are probably at their lowest ISO setting and have similar lens openings. Fortunately, the Panasonic LX-7 noise or grain is reasonable at this setting and unless one pixel peeks (looks at really large blowups of small sections of the image) one will not see much difference. Also in dim light at 28mm, since both cameras would probably be set to the lowest f stop, the RX100 would have a one stop advantage. Once one moves away from 28 mm, however, the Panasonic LX-7's lens has a two stop advantage as stated above, and it can become the camera most likely to produce the lowest grain.

And lets not forget the 24mm wide angle of the Panasonic LX-7. For some, this is the deal clincher. Sure it can get more people into a group picture in close quarters, and more landscape into your images, but many believe, in fact that it should be used as a close up lens, providing a sense of depth to your image. Move in close to an object, and have an interesting background and this lens will add perspective to your image. Just don't try to make the closeup object an adult face since they will not be happy with the big nose look - mine is large enough as it is.

So the LX-7 works well in daylight (the RX100 may work a little better if you care to pixel peek), but the advantage really goes to the LX-7 in dim light because of its relative constant f stop. Having 24mm doesn't hurt either. If only it would fit into a shirt pocket.

I suppose another consideration might be purchasing the previous model, the LX-5. As of this writing it is still available for around 300 dollars, and I've even seen it for sale at 250 dollars. The construction differences between the LX-5 and my LX-7 are really minimal with both being high quality. The LX-7, given its f1.4 lens and improvements in its sensor, mean it has about a 1.5 to 2 stop improvement in light gathering ability over the earlier model. The display screen resolution has doubled to over 900,000 pixels (nice). There is an aperture ring around the lens akin to cameras of old, a convenient touch and selecting aperture using it is way easier than using the rotating wheel on the camera rear. The LX-7 can also show a horizontal and vertical level which can be helpful in some situations. And the video resolution has increased from 720p to 1080p - true HD. I'm not sure that the LX-7 white balance works well, but since I shoot in RAW, this has not bothered me since that is simple to correct (and one of the reasons to shoot in RAW, of course. Post processing with Adobe Photoshop CS6 makes processing RAW straight forward since ACR is becoming the perferred work flow, but that is another story.)

For me, the LX-7 is the camera to take when I want to travel fairly light and I am not worried about subject motion in dim light(High ISO). For the most part the LX-7 has decent image quality up to ISO 400 (shooting RAW) maybe even ISO 800 with some noise suppression. But it is not a DSLR. IF you look - pixel peek, you can still see noise, even at base ISO and bringing up the shadows can also create visible noise. As the saying goes, there is no perfect camera. When I want really low noise, or I expect really dim conditions with movement, such as the grandkids in theater productions out comes the DSLR. Also shooting inside museums (paintings), if allowed, seems to work best for me with wide apertures and high ISOs, another use for DSLRs. But naturally the price to pay is size and weight and sometimes large cameras just seem out of place. For the moment, this camera represents state-of-the art performance, in a reasonably small package and a reasonable price. But the Sony RX100 just may show the way forward.

This was a really great camera when I bought it at over $400 but when it went to $300 it became sensational. Since I still had some time left on the Amazon return policy I contacted them and they sent out a new LX-7 at the reduced price which I shipped back to them unopened for the refund on the original camera which I kept. Great, but a little cumbersome. You would think that they would just credit me with the difference, saving postage.

As I use the camera more, I find low light performance works as well as I thought it did initially and, in fact, I am more willing to shoot at ISO 800. Using a Topaz Labs plug-in and Adobe raw processing has produced very useful results at this and even at ISO 1600 for small prints. I have found that using the display as a viewfinder in bright light can be a pain (as it is on all such cameras, it seems) so I have used my savings to purchase the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) which adds bulk to the camera when attached. It comes in a little pouch that can go in a pants pocket and I will probably use it on bright summer or winter days or when I shoot grandchildren in plays (the lit screen can be annoying in a darken theater). This EVF gives a really crisp image and, like the Sony RX-100 probably points to the future. I suspect that if this is an example, we will see more of these at even higher resolution on SLR type cameras (Sony and Olympus already are there, it seems). Anyway, at prices close to $300 this camera is hard to beat.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2012 9:00 AM PST

The Digital Photography Book, Part 4
The Digital Photography Book, Part 4
by Scott Kelby
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.50
65 used & new from $11.65

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Really Helpful Photo Book for Amateur and Pro Alike, March 9, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My recommendation: If you own a DSLR and want to improve your photographic technique and produce better pictures then you should buy this book (Part 4), even if you have Volume 1. I'm an amateur photographer and this book contains information on how I can improve travel photos (be ready at sunrise and sunset, which I knew from experience and from reading his other books), improve pictures of people (don't cut off their legs below the knees and elbows), and suggestions on landscapes (use a wide angle lens and get up close to capture something interesting in the foreground). For group shots get on a step ladder so that you can see all the faces and for head and shoulder shots, use a long lens (say 200mm) to get blurry backrounds and complementary facial proportions. These are just some of the recommendations the book contains that amateurs can use. For professionals there are lighting hints and methods for handling people that will produce better pictures.

This book is written in the usual Scott Kelby style. Each chaper has a beginning page with Scott's humor which some may find tiring but is certainly clever. The rest of the chapter has suggestions usually one on a page with a color picture or pictures illustrating the point. The writing style is casual with the emphasis on DSLR photography since he discusses properties of different lenses. But even point and shoot camera users can learn something about technique and using different angles to improve their pictures. There is a reason that Scott Kelby has written so many books on photography: They are extremely helpful and direct. Now if only he could get his humor under control...

SIIG SuperSpeed 3.5-Inch USB 3.0 to SATA Enclosure Pro (JU-SA0B12-S1)
SIIG SuperSpeed 3.5-Inch USB 3.0 to SATA Enclosure Pro (JU-SA0B12-S1)
Price: $38.51
53 used & new from $25.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well made USB 3.0 SATA enclosure, February 8, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This enclosure is so easy to use that it can almost double as a USB 3.0 dock, a device where all you have to do is insert and remove a sata drive to use it. In some ways it is better than a dock because it has its own cooling fan and and because it obviously protects the drive while in use, something that a dock will not do. You need no tools to insert and remove a disk from this device and the case is very sturdy. It's also very convenient to have the on and off switch on the front. It's a little more money than some others but it does provide toolless insertion and removal of the disk drive and appears to be well made. I liked the enclosure well enough that I bought a second one later.

As far as transfer speed goes, this enclosure seems to provide speeds that are similar to esata and when powered on drive is always quickly recognized by Windows 7.

Linksys E3200 High-Performance Simultaneous Dual-Band Wireless-N Router
Linksys E3200 High-Performance Simultaneous Dual-Band Wireless-N Router
30 used & new from $33.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for Wireless - Adequate for Wired Connection, February 8, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this to add a high speed wireless "802.11 n" capability to my home network, replacing a "g" radio scheme. Installation via the included CD was straight forward and the wireless connection provided the same download and upload speeds that the previous wired connctions had (about 44 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload on Verizon FIOS). However, the wired connections on this bridge actually provided a slower upload speed (about 15 mbps) than obtained on the previous network although the download speed was as expected. This result occurred on both a laptop and a desktop computer that I had easy access to. Of course, unless you upload a lot and want to use a wired connection, this really isn't important, just surprising.

I resolved this by adding a wireless USB dongle to my wired computer and now have high upload connection capability along with the high speed wireless network I originally wanted. Also the coverage around my home appears to be excellent on the two floors I expect to communicate with this WIFI network.

My rating probably would have been 5 stars, if not for the behavior of the wired connections that most users might not find significant.

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