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Other Side Drive: Monday

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Electric Eye

By: Alex Frank

Episode 8

This episode has a follow up to my earlier review of the Canon 6D, and offers a more in-depth look at the camera.

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A few months ago I talked about the specs and features of canon’s newest camera, after spending some time with it I feel comfortable giving a full review. The 6D is Canon’s first foray into the affordable full-frame camera market. I say affordable with a grain of salt, because it’s expensive, but the next camera up, the 5D MKIII is an extra $1000, so it’s all relative.

When I took the 6D out of the box for the first time, I immediately fell in love with the weight and feel. I’ve never held a camera that fit in my hand better than the 6D, though this doesn’t directly affect the quality of your images, it can have an indirect affect. The ergonomics of the body and relative light weight, when compared to the 7D make it easier to use over extended periods of time.

Before I go any further I’d like to address the two main complaints everyone reviewing this camera brings up. The first complaint is about the Auto Focusing system. The 5D MKIII has 61 AF points with up to 41 cross-types, the 6D has 11 AF points, with the center one being a cross type. On paper the 6D looks like a pile of garbage in comparison, but in the field I found it to suit my needs well. The center focusing point on the 6D is insanely sensitive, and focuses in extremely low-light situations that would cause a rebel camera to explode.  While not as advanced as the 5D MKIII, it holds its own.

The other point people bring up its lower Frames per second rate, the 6D has a burst-firing rate of 4.5 frames/second, while the 5D mkIII fires at 6 frames/second. When put head to head, the difference between the two is painfully obvious, but separately, the difference is negligible unless you shoot sports for a living. If you put both cameras in silent shutter mode, the speed gap is decreased even more. While I’m on the topic, the silent shutter mode is insane on this camera. I just took a picture with my T2i, and then my 6D, and the difference is out of this world. The T2i is obnoxiously loud, and the 6D barely makes a sound. The loudness of the shutter has a direct affect on your presence in an environment. If you’re shooting at a play, or during a wedding ceremony, you’ll want to be as quiet as possible, as to not disturb the guests or audience. It also helps you blend into the scenery more, which gets you better shots in the end. People’s behavior changes when they feel like they’re in the sights of your camera, being stealthy will lead to more candid, emotionally expressive shots.

Camera operation is intuitive if you’ve ever used a canon DSLR. For the 6D they cut down on the number of buttons on the back without losing too much functionality. The most useful change to the back of the camera is the still/video switch. During SXSW I needed to be able to switch between still and video mode effortlessly to get the footage I wanted, I was able to blindly switch back and forth. The one thing that I have mixed feelings about is the D-pad they put in the middle of the click wheel. My problem might be due to the fact that I spilled whiskey on it almost immediately, but from time to time when I put the camera up to my face it switches focusing points and my focus would be way off. It wasn’t hard to switch back to the center point, but it was a minor annoyance when it happened. Also, the lack of a dedicated white balance button is perplexing, and as a result you have to move the camera away from your face to change it, which is a hassle.

The 6D performed phenomenally in low-light situations. Full-frame cameras are better in low-light than APS-C (cropped-sensor) cameras to begin with, it handles high ISO settings like a champ. On a rebel series, or 7D, you wouldn’t want to take the ISO above 800, it becomes way too noisy and you might as well be using your camera phone. I took the 6D up to 4000 ISO and it was still tack sharp, in fact, it’s clear all the way up to 11,000 ISO. The 6D has a noise reduction feature built-in, turn it off, you can fix it in photo shop where you’ll have more control. But I do recommend turning on lens correction feature. My Canon 24-105L lens has distortions at either end of the focal lengths, and also has noticeable light falloff around the edges when you’re wide open, but again, you can fix that in photo shop.

Canon introduced native WI-FI and GPS functionality with the 6D. Honestly, I could care less about GPS, and don’t recommend turning it on if you’re on a long shoot. If you’re casually shooting, or are on a photo walk, go for it, once the GPS satellite initially locates you works like a charm. You can make a photo map in iPhoto or any other programs that can add geo-location data to your photos. WI-FI wasn’t something I was looking for on a camera, but it’s a welcome feature. If you have a smartphone you can connect your camera to it through an ad-hoc network and do some pretty cool stuff. First, you can use your phone as a viewfinder, which works wonders when you’re trying to take a picture, but the angle’s weird and you can’t see the LCD screen. You can also transfer your photos to your phone and can immediately e-mail them, or upload to a social media site (including instagram, yet another way to cheat this app). The downside is that the photos get converted to JPEG, but the upside is if you’re covering an accident or fire, you can get your photos to your editor immediately and beat everyone else on coverage. Wi-Fi also allows you to wirelessly transfer your photos to your computer, but honestly it’s way easier and faster to do it over USB or with a card reader. In order to make room for the GPS and Wi-Fi chips, Canon removed the pop-up flash, I don’t use the built in flash unless I’m in a pinch so this doesn’t bother me. The thing that does bother me, is that the top of the camera is plastic to enhance Wi-Fi and GPS functionality. This decreases the durability, the rest of the camera is magnesium alloy, which is durable, but it also cuts down on weight so it’s all a matter of preference.

The canon 6D is a durable camera, it made it through SXSW with only one sticky button. Apparently people like to throw beers at me, oh and stage dive directly on top of me. That’s actually relevant because this camera took all the depravity SXSW could offer and came out the victor. I mainly shoot concert photography, and skateboarding, and it excels at both. Could it be better? Yes, but I’m not the monopoly man, and my parents don’t buy expensive gifts to make up for not being there for me as a child. If you’re looking to upgrade to a full-frame camera, but don’t have the scratch for the 5D MKIII, the 6d is a viable alternative. I’m aware I didn’t talk about the video aspect, but all you need to know is that it’s better than the Nikon at the price point, but not as good as the mkIII.

Next week I’ll talk about photo walks, and why you should take them.

Tech Talk

By: Colton Matocha

Episode 8

This week in Technology Apple overhauls the iPhone case to include multiple displays, and North Korea shuts off its 3G service only a month after it launched.

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The future of iPhones could see a dramatic overhaul of the phone itself. Apple has released three phones of nearly the same design, and the phones prior to that were not that different either. Because of this many people seem to want something new, and Apple may be keen to deliver. A patent recently filed by Apple depicts a new case design in which the entire phone is oval and better yet, one big screen. In the patent Apple says that for too long phone makers including itself have been content making square phones that contain a screen on one side but leave the sides and back “unused” aside from casing the internals and buttons which often result in pocket dialing. The new phone design would utilize a curved glass case, multiple displays, and would interact with the user through facial recognition technology and hand gestures. The design is much similar to the iPod Nano’s form factor except as mentioned almost the entire case would be glass. Apple has been a big fan of using glass and for the most part its a great material to use and makes the phone feel and look great. There’s just one down fall, It breaks so easy. Cracked screens and cracked cases are the most common with Apple products. Most people can probably think of at least ten friends who are using a cracked screen or have cracked their iPhone screen in the past. So it begs the question how will a completely glass phone stand up to its most heavy users? Perhaps Apple will also invent a new glass that is impossible to break. Doubtful so if this new case design with multiple displays, facial recognition and hand gesture technology has your panties in a wad just remember, plastic is forever, glass is fleeting. Don’t expect to see this new design on the iPhone 5S as it’s still a ways away from being realized. Still one cannot deny that this would be a very cool phone to have…unless you drop it.

In a previous Tech Talk episode we reported on North Korea’s new 3G service which was made available to tourists. Its seems that only roughly a month later the service has been disabled, and North Korea back in the dark. The service was never made available to citizens of North Korea, Probably to keep them in the dark, but for tourists it was possible, until now. A tour group in North Korea was first to break the news to tourists on its website, stating that the 3G service was no longer available but tourists could still purchase a sim card to make international calls. In the past North Korea forced tourists to leave their phones at the border during their stay in the tightly controlled country. TechNewsWorld reported that “there is a chance that the 3G service is merely busted.” However popular opinion is that it has been disabled by the government, possibly due to recent military tensions with the U.S. and South Korea. North Korea’s decision to allow tourists to keep their phones and even have 3G service while staying in the country was a big deal but it looks like its all over, at least for now.

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