I’ve picked up a great little handgrip for my camera called the Barska. This thing is amazing! The new Sony is small, powerful and smooth which made me nervous about it slipping from my hand. This thing completely eliminates that risk and offers a tremendous amount of stability to my photos and videos.

Also notice the finger grip to the left of the lens. That’s a stick-on device that I bought to supplement the handling. It didn’t come with the camera and is sort of an afterthought by Sony. And, the square thing at the bottom slides right into my tripod.

Here’s a little test video I shot inside the kitchen using the Barska:

Categorized as Cameras

South Bates

While exploring the capabilities of my new camera I was struck by the detail of this shot from the Family Room. It motivated me to jump in the truck this morning and drive down South Bates Road looking for photo ops.

I’m still learning and tweaking and you can see the other shots by clicking below.

The video quality of this little camera is also pretty impressive:

Categorized as Cameras

Syma Flight 2

I took my Syma drone over to the High School this morning. I needed a large grassy space to get a handle on the controls without worrying about trees. My flying abilities are not quite ready for prime-time yet, but I’m getting there:

Categorized as Cameras

Syma X5C

My sister and Steph took me out to Mexican food tonight for my thirty-ninth birthday and sis gave me a drone. This thing is sweet! It’s got a built-in camera, a rechargeable battery and I can’t wait to get it flying :-)

Categorized as Cameras

Nexus Infinity

I hooked up my Nexus 10 tablet to the desktop this morning using AirDroid, an app that gives me full control over the tablet, remotely. I was playing around with the Nexus’s camera when it came face to face with my monitor, creating this photo:

Categorized as Cameras

YouTube Player

I’ve been really frustrated lately by the fact that I couldn’t force embedded iframe YouTube videos to start in hi-def mode. I’m uploading in 1920×1080 mode which should playback in 1080p, but they default to 300p.

Screw that, I’m a computer programmer, so I dove into the YouTube Player API and wrote my own player. Here’s a short little video using my Cube on its Wheel moving around our living room tonight in hi-def, played back with my new player:

I find it interesting that real computers (you know, windows/intel or mac) will playback 1080p, but tablets and phones opt down to the lower resolutions. Do they feel inferior?

Categorized as Cameras

Black Cube

I guess I’ve voided the warranty on my Polaroid Cube as I had Steph paint it black. We striped off the colorful stripe and her excellent hand-eye coordination converted the soft blue color, to nothing. They should offer this as an option.

Categorized as Cameras

Cube Wheel

Riley’s old mountain bike has risen like the Phoenix to become, The Cube Wheel. The bike came with us to Idaho and I’ve ridden it twice, both times unpleasant. It was old, outdated and heavy and has been hanging on a hook in our garage.

Today I stripped the front end out to create a device for taking smooth rolling video shots with my Cube camera. This idea came about when my sister mentioned the camera would be good for making videos of the inside of her rental properties, and I know from experience that walking around with the camera in your hand introduces bounces from your footsteps.

Categorized as Cameras

Cube Update

I got an email this morning from a Polaroid technician named Shaquan. Hmm, I thought they had the day off today? The tech was friendly, had read my review of the Cube and thought they could help with my issues. Here’s the portion of the email that made my jaw drop:

We've just received an update from our manufacturers that state some microSD card formats may not be compatible with the CUBE, or other common action line cameras. The reason I bring this up is because people have been having issues with SanDisk Ultra cards and incompatibility.

Why me tech Lord, why me? Regular readers will recall that I was dissatisfied with the class 4 Micro-SD card that came with the Cube so two weeks ago I picked up a high quality class 10 card from Walmart during a trip to Rexburg. Of all the cards I could have picked, I chose a (wait for it… :-) 16GB Class 10 SanDisk Ultra Plus.

So the one second video issue was not with the Cube, but with the card. Shaquan suggested that I format the card, which I just did, a full format not the quick and dirty.

I’ve taken a test video and it came out fine so I’ll run with the SanDisk for a bit and see what happens. As to the other issue in the case of the screaming cube, I’ve put a bug in Polaroids ear for a firmware update.

Update: The one second video bug is still there. Sigh… I guess I should head back to Washington and dig my GoPro out of the ocean and rescue the card from it, or buy another. Come on Polaroid, recommend one!

In the meantime, my Cube tripod mount arrived. I like!

Categorized as Cameras

Bad Cube

Man, I sure miss my GoPro. Sigh… My ongoing saga with the cheap little Polaroid Cube continues. From a delayed delivery, to audio issues on my very sweet and current Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit system, and now it goes crazy on me.

Photojojo is the exclusive distributor for this product. Polaroid invents the thing and then lets them market it in their cutesy little way. The problem is, when issues arise, you’re dealing with the distributor and not the creator.

Tonight I turned the cube on by holding down the button for three seconds. Next, I pressed the button twice to start video recording. After shooting about 10 seconds of video I pressed the button twice to stop it. Oops, maybe I should have just pressed it once! Apparently I started a video recording on top of a video recording and the damn thing went tits up! Are you kidding me?

There is no way to reset it or power it down since there is no access to the battery. It is now emitting a solid obnoxious high pitched sound and sitting out on a window sill in my garage so I don’t have to hear it.

The whole experience is just leaving a bad taste in my mouth and I’m about to bail and send this thing back. If I heard directly from Polaroid support I would re-consider, but I doubt it. Here’s the arrival and some [video], [video].

Update: Steph brought it back in last night when it finally stopped screaming. I just plugged it in this morning and found that it had reset itself back to normal. I also saw a familiar sight in it’s photos folder, a one second 1920×1080 video with a length of 1,304KB, while the video I shot preceding the crash was about 10 seconds. This is not the first time I’ve seen one second videos identical to this occur with this device! The Cube has some major issues.

My buddy Christina from Photojojo, who’s been really nice and very helpful through this whole ordeal wrote me last night after viewing this post:

Hey Jim, That is wild, and we're not sure why the Cubes are beeping like that. I've been in touch with Polaroid. Here is their e-mail

She also offered a full refund, but wait! That email implies I’m not the only one with issues. Anyway, I fired off an email to Polaroid support last night, and thankfully they got right back to me, sort of:

Please be advised in observance of the Succos holiday, our office will be closing at 6:00 pm on Wednesday October 8th and will remain closed through Sunday October 12th. We will reopen for normal business hours on Monday October 13th. All emails will be answered when we return.


Categorized as Cameras

Dry Farms Drive

I’m still having issues with audio from my new Cube. I’ve installed Divx-10 and it managed to convert a 1920×1080 .mov video straight from the camera into a 1280×720 .mp4, preserving (or should I say “restoring”) the audio.

Here’s the converted 5 minute video showing a segment of our drive back to Teton Valley Idaho from Rexburg yesterday, accompanied by the sweet rumble of my ’88 Mazda B2200 travel truck, cracked window and all. Welcome aboard!

Categorized as Cameras

Polaroid Cube

My GoPro replacement, the Polaroid Cube, finally arrived today. It’s been an arduous process as I bought this thing when it was first announced on August 12th. They billed me right away and have enjoyed the interest since, I’m sure. When the ship date of September 20th rolled around, and no shipment, I contacted them.

It turned out that one of the mounting components I’d ordered along with it got hung up in customs, thus delaying the order. I said split the order and send me the camera! which they did, along with free shipping. One thing I noticed about this Photojojo outfit is they like to talk in a cutesy manner and their shipping document continued the style.

Here’s what I got, along with my initial take:

• The camera. It’s got a 720p/1080p switch in the back along with a card slot and a USB 2.0 port. There’s a function switch on the top and a magnet on the bottom. The front has the lens and a microphone.

• The shipping document was very cute and included a plastic dinosaur which I’m sure will become one of my valued treasures. Ok, maybe not…

• A ridiculously short USB cord. Really?

• A 16GB class four micro sd card. Again lame, my GoPro sitting in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean had a 32GB class 10 card, which is prefered for 1080p video. I had the card included in the order without diving into the specs, so it’s my error.

• I shot a short test video and it actually looked pretty good, except there was no audio.

Alright, the USB cord and the SD card can be upgraded, no problem, and maybe I’m missing a setting that would cause the audio to not record, but my gut is saying not…

Categorized as Cameras

The Cube

If you follow my blog at all you know that a gust of wind blew my GoPro off a Des Moines, WA pier this summer, into the Pacific Ocean. Today, Polaroid announced a little camera called The Cube for a hundred bucks and I jumped on their pre-order. It won’t be available until next month, but it eases my sense of loss just a bit.

Categorized as Cameras

Canon Kudos

I’m a bit of a camera buff, a photography nerd I suppose. Back in the seventies and eighties I spent small fortunes on 35mm equipment and even dabbled in darkrooms. In the nineties I used to dabble around in dark rooms and tried to capture digital images. The following century found me moving away from interchangeable lenses to spending small fortunes on point and shoot cameras.

I love these little marvels of camera technology. You can carry one in the front pocket of your shorts without the fear of it pulling your shorts to the ground. They start up quick and take amazing shots. Long-range manual zoom coupled with image stabilization circuitry lets you photograph uncle Rob picking his nose covertly at the wedding while you’re standing well behind the cake.

Unfortunately, a lot of these new cameras have an issue: sensor crud. Dust accumulates on your lens when you turn the camera on and the lens extends outward and becomes exposed to the air. It’s then sucked back into the body when you turn the camera off where it floats around inside until it ultimately lands on your sensor, and then your image results are screwed.

It happened to my $350 Panasonic DMC-FX78 two summers ago. I sent it to their repair center where they took it apart, cleaned the sensor, and returned it at no charge. Three months later new dust had found it’s way back down to the sensor. That poor expensive camera died a quick death shortly after due to an accidental water spill during a road trip to the South, but I was fed up with it anyway.

I replaced it with a Canon PowerShot A1300 which only cost about $100 and performed great, with no sensor crud. I ended up giving it to Steph when I bought the upper scale SX280 which I just recently had to send back to Canon for sensor crud issues. Sigh…

The problem must be that these better cameras have great zooms. If my SX280’s zoom went off in my shorts, I’d be embarrassed!

Canon product support was great. They said they couldn’t fix the crud on my sensor but they would send me a new or refurb unit in exchange. What you see below is what I got and the camera appears to have never been used and it came with a new battery, charger and connector.

I’m very pleased, thank you Canon! I feel for the engineers at these companies who are being asked to drive the technology further and smaller only to get caught up by a single bit of dust on a sensor that can’t be cleaned.

Here’s an example of an artifact before and after some image tweaking. Note the subtle shadow in the upper left corner.

I’ve tweaked the example here to illustrate the artifact, and to expose a smaller dot that I hadn’t noticed before.

Now you know I’m not just being paranoid, I just have a good eye!

Categorized as Cameras


I’m still trying to find the optimum video capture setting for my Hero3+ camera. The settings menu defaults to 960p at 60fps (frames per second) with an ultra wide FOV (field of view) which results in a screen resolution of 1280 x 960 (4:3) which is the standard resolution of a typical flat screen monitor along with a fisheye look.

I’m not sold on the fisheye look yet so I flatten it out while converting down to 1280 x 720 (1/2 = 640/360). The 60 frames per second may not be such a great bonus because YouTube makes the decisions as to which frames get kept, merged, or dropped when the file is uploaded and converted to 30fps.

The content portion of my blog (what you’re reading here on the left) is built around a 640 pixel horizontal width. Each main (large format) photo is in the long-standing standard format of 640 x 480 and the supporting photos are in mathematically scaled smaller sizes.

While I was writing this, Steph came in and informed me of a mushroom formation she found on one of our berms, so I decided to use it for an example. Here’s the video I shot and uploaded at 1280 x 720 x 60, presented as 640 x 360 x 30:

I can do better. Today I experiment with 720p, not wide, at 30fps. I’m thinking native format aimed at the upload destination (YouTube), with a minimum of conversion, is the way to go.

Categorized as Cameras