At Home with Tech

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Tag: best digital cameras

At Home with Tech – The Year in Review

How about 50 Tech Tips for my 50th post to kick off the New Year? Let’s begin!

How about 50 Tech Tips for my 50th post to kick off the New Year? Let’s begin!

We’ve covered a lot of ground this year!
And what have we learned in our quest to keep our digital gears spinning at home?
The trek is never over.
But the journey doesn’t have to be so confusing.

That said, it’s time for my year in review!
Here are my 50 tech tips to take with you into the New Year:

50 At Home with Tech Tips

What’s Your Backup Plan?
#1 – Technology is a Tool That Will Eventually Turn on You
That T-800 with your name is never far away.
So don’t get complacent.

It Got Cloudy
#2 – Happily, There’s Life After MobileMe
If you want to share your photos online, use Flickr.
For your home videos, use YouTube or Vimeo.
If you need to share some files, then go with Dropbox.

Date Night and the 42” Plasma
#3 – Without Planning, You Can’t Guarantee a Good Date Night Movie at Home
(Even with full access to Cable TV, Netflix DVDs/Streaming, Apple TV, Roku, and Blockbuster!)

My Mission for the Perfect Picture
#4 – Taking an Amazing Photo Is Often Just an Accident
Embrace your accidents! And keep taking lots of pictures. It’s free.
Statistics are in your favor.

The IT Guy is in the Doghouse
#5 – Don’t Try to Win the Battle with Older Tech
Your tech is only as strong as its weakest link.
Enough said.

Your Shoebox Vs. the Cloud
#6 – Print an Annual Photo Book of Your Life
Otherwise, your best photos will get lost in the quagmire of your photo glut.
Time is your enemy.

I Am a Road Warrior
#7 – When a Tech Door Closes, Look for a Window to Open
My cable company locked down its box, which shut off my mobile media viewing on my portable DVD player. Then, streaming cable content on my iPhone became available through services like HGO Go.
Go figure.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
#8 – Just Because You Know How to Make Someone Younger in a Photo Doesn’t Mean You Should
My digital moral code says don’t mess with someone’s CDI.
(The Core Digital Integrity of a person’s image).

Please Rate This Product…or Else
#9 – No Product Ever Gets a Perfect Score Online
You’ve got no choice but to rely on Tech Group Think.

Is it Time to Stockpile Light Bulbs?
#10 – New Tech Light Bulbs Cost $50!
Thank The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
It says incandescent bulbs aren’t cutting it anymore and need to be 25% more efficient or else.
The solution? Pricey LED Bulbs.
The new darling ‘A Bulb’ by Philips launched with a steep $50 price tag.

The Art of Inaction, Part 1
#11 – The Tao of Total Tech Caution Says Don’t Upgrade Unless You Absolutely Have To
That also means never buy the first of anything.

The Art of Inaction, Part 2
#12 – Remember the Software Update Button
When you finally upgrade to a new operating system months after the rest of the world, don’t forget to immediately check Software Update.
Otherwise, gremlins will show up!

Parental Omniscience for only $24.95
#13 – You Can Have X-ray Vision Through Your Smart Phone
An Eye-Fi wireless memory card + a Flickr Pro account, + Flickr’s iPhone app = The power to almost instantly see photos of my lad’s adventures wherever I am.

Loving the Loser Light Bulb
#14 – Don’t Spend $50 on the Lexus of New LED Bulbs
Go with the runner up bulb for $15- Philips’ AmbientLED!

Joe and the End of Your World
#15 – If Your Coffee Mug Spills Near Your Computer, Game Over
Buy the HotJo Stoneware Wide Base Travel Mug.
(It’s pear-shaped!)

Living in the Amazon and Loving It
#16 – Amazon Prime Is the Best $79 You Will Ever Spend
Amazon to the rescue…
Every day!

Taming the Evil Work BlackBerry
#17 – It’s Okay to Turn Into a Pumpkin
Choose a time to stop responding to work emails on nights and weekends.
Everyone is supposed to catch some Z’s at some point.

Cancel the Cable TV Mutiny
#18 – 50,000 Free Hot Spots Coast to Coast
The cable industry announced it will share metro Wi-Fi services throughout the nation.
Now we’re talking!

Saying “Sleep Tight from 5,000 Miles Away
#19 – When Traveling Internationally, Keep Your Smartphone Connected on the Cheap with Skype
Buy a Skype Online Number plus a $2.99/month Unlimited US and Canada plan.

The Price of Staying Connected
#20 – Skype Video Can Work on 3G (4G) If the Signal Is Strong Enough

At Home without Tech
#21 – The Digital Sisyphus Always Looms
Do you fear being at home without tech?
Fear is a great motivator. And so is a deadline.
Do your Apple software upgrades or suffer the consequences.

Laptop Time Machine
#22 – Your Laptop Really Is a Time Portal!
The tether of your social media connections remains long after you’ve moved on.
Today’s younger generation will never experience completely losing touch with old friends for decades.

Remembering MobileMe
#23 – Life Isn’t Easy. Why Should Your Virtual Existence Be Any Different?
The marketing gurus say moving your email to iCloud is so easy even a child can do it.
I say you’d better have a child around to show you how.

I Sold My Soul to the Digital Devil
#24 – Final Cut Pro X Claims to End the Era of Pesky Transcoding
Yes, FCP X will grudgingly edit your camera’s native H.264 MOV files without you first having to transcode them.

High Tide at Grand Central
#25 – My Favorite New York Minute of the Day!

Singing the Blu-ray Blues
#26 – It’s Painful, but Stick with Blu-ray Disks
Here are five reasons:
-The downloadable copy
-The extras come with extra extras
-DVD Player, Say hello to VHS Player in the attic
-Owning atoms instead of bytes

The Joy of Shopping at Midnight in your Underwear
#27 – Unless You’re Out of Toilet Paper,
Online Shopping Is the Way to Go!

Who’s got time to waste traveling to the mall, hoping they’ll have what you need and then waiting in a long line?

GPS Jane
#28 – Garmin Nuvi Loses to My iPhone During Their GPS Smackdown
(Probably still holds true even after Apple’s ‘Map-Gate’ debacle)

Going Batty Buying Movie Music
#29 – It’s Almost Impossible to Purchase the Complete Soundtrack for
“The Dark Knight Rises”
I found at least five bonus tracks available across two sales channels.
Holy Complex Marketing Scam, Batman!

Five Tips to Rescue your Best Summer Family Photos
#30 – Brutally Choose Your Best Photos and Leave the Rest Behind
The more vacation pictures you bring home to clog up your computer, the smaller the odds are you’ll actually share any of your best photos with family and friends.
Your only chance is to quickly find the few gems and forget the rest.

My iPad Doesn’t Brake for Flash
#31 – Apple’s Mobile Devices Don’t Use Adobe Flash Player
Now, Adobe has removed its Flash Player from the Google Play store, which is the beginning of the end for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook owners.

My New Area Code Twists My Tech-Dentity
#32 – Skype Online Numbers Let You Choose Your Area Code!
Now, you too can be a New Yorker without moving out of the ‘burbs…

My Laptop Battery Got Pregnant
#33 – Don’t be Surprised If the Lithium-Ion Battery In Your Old Apple Laptop Turns Into the Hulk
Mine did. After some research in the X-Files, I realized I was not alone.

I Don’t Know How to Install my Wireless IP Camera, Part 1
#34 – This Journey Can Break Anyone’s Tech Zen
I had no choice but to continue on and risk ‘tech-tastrophe.’

I Don’t Know How to Install my Wireless IP Camera, Part 2
#35 – My Winning Tech Death Match Against the Foscam
Wireless IP Camera

(model FI8910W)

Ode to iPhone 5
#36 – My 4S Contract Says It’s Not Yet Time to Upgrade
Instead, write a poem!

Epson Multifunction Printer Vs. Multi-Talented Toddler
#37 – In the Hands of Baby McGyver, the Evil Power of the Penny Will Destroy Your Printer
Time to look for a new one on sale.

All I Want is to Have my Peace of Mind and Cloud Storage
#38 – You Need a Backup Cloud Solution
For total peace of mind you should create a copy of your precious home media offsite.
I went with the CrashPlan+ Unlimited one-year plan.

How to Rescue your iPhone Voicemail
#39 – Use an Old Analog Mini Audio Plug and Audacity Software
Rerecord your messages and save your visual voicemail onto your computer as AIFF audio files.

My Cable Box Blurred my Political View
#40 – Don’t Press the “#” on Your Cablevision DVR Remote Control. Ever.
Don’t lean on it. Don’t point at it. Don’t look at it.
You’re welcome.

How to Fix Your Broken Email
#41 – Use Connection Doctor
It will tell you if you’ve got the right incoming and outgoing mail server settings.
Then listen for the happy ‘Whoosh’ or ‘Ping!’

Fighting the Digital Darkness after Hurricane Sandy
#42 – MiFi Can Repair Your Broken Tech Bubble
If your smartphone has a signal, and you’ve got some power at home,
a MiFi mobile hotspot generator will get the rest of your tech back in business.

How to Lose Your Email while Upgrading from Entourage to Outlook
#43 – Moving to Outlook for Mac 2011 Shouldn’t Be Hands-Off
After loading it, you’ve then got to copy all your email over from Entourage!
And if you’re not careful, you’ll create unwanted duplicates from your mail server and then accidentally purge your entire email archive. (like me)
Check the settings first!

I Got Lost While on Safari 6.0.2
#44 – Safari Has Received Some Significant ‘Upgrades’
Get used to the Google URL OMNIBAR.

Best Digital Cameras to Capture Your Speedy Toddler
#45 – Buy Last Year’s Canon PowerShot S100 at a Great Discount
I also got the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens to upgrade my old Canon T1i DSLR.

The Beginner’s Guide to Editing Your Camera’s Video Clips
#46 – There’s Nothing Like a Deadline to Push Your Video to Completion!
Shoot some video. Edit it. And distribute the magic. All in one day!
I took the challenge and quickly created a little finished flick from my father-and-son outing to Stepping Stones Museum.

Holiday Gift Guide for Home Tech
#47 – Nine Winning Tech Gifts for Anytime of Year!

Blinded by the UltraViolet Promise in Your New Blu-ray Movie
#48 – UltraViolet Streaming Has Replaced Free iTunes Downloads on
Blu-ray Disks

This bait-and-switch has only further destabilized my commitment to physical discs.

What Photomosaic Software is Best?
#49 – Download cf/x Photo Mosaic v 2.0 for $29.99 From the Mac App Store
Become the new family Picasso!

#50 – Keep Blog Posts Short.
(I’m working on it!)

Happy New Year!
(And I wish you much ‘Tech Clarity’ in 2013!)

Best Digital Cameras to Capture Your Speedy Toddler

My Canon PowerShot Elph 300 is no longer up to the task of keeping pace with my action-packed son. Time to upgrade and look for holiday shopping deals.

My two-year-old son moves fast.
He runs everywhere.
Unless he’s marching.

Sometimes he’s not moving forward.
But then he’s bouncing.

The good news is I can still keep up.
The bad news is my digital camera gear can’t.

Why Your Camera Isn’t Good Enough
Any of your child’s various activities present you the opportunity to take amazing photographs. But the action is often hard to capture.
Here are two reasons why:

  • If you’re trying to use natural light at home, your pictures can end up looking blurry. Unless you’re shooting outdoors, most pocket cameras don’t have lenses that let in enough light or big enough CCD (charge-coupled device) image sensors to freeze the action.
  • And if you use your camera’s flash, then you’ve only got one shot at the shot. (unless you’ve got a DSLR)
    In the few seconds it takes for your pocket camera to prep for the next photo, your child is already in the next room.

Look, I’m no pro photographer, but I know enough that one camera cannot possibly meet the needs of all situations. So I’ve got more than one.
The problem is I feel I’m still not getting it done.
Sure, people tell me what great shots I take of my son, and I do get some.
But only I see the many shots I still can’t get right.

And as we pass through Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all the other ‘shopping deals’ through the end of the year, I got the itch to upgrade my camera arsenal, which covers three main categories:

Point-and-Shoot Pocket Cameras
Those magic photo moments present themselves when you least expect it.
You need a camera you can whip out, quickly turn on and snap.
The pocket camera I’m currently using is a
2011 Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS.
(The new model on the market is the Elph 320 HS.)

I like my tiny Elph.
It takes great pictures and has a nice 24mm wide-angle lens, which lets me capture more of my son, when he’s playing right next to me.
(It’s also great for group self portraits of up to four by simply stretching your arm out while holding the camera in reverse.)

But it can’t handle that action moment unless you’re outdoors.

The Camera in Your Smartphone
Sure, like much of the planet, you’ve also got a smartphone in your pocket that can take pictures. So you may feel like you don’t need another bulge in your pocket, but your phone is even less capable at capturing action shots.

It’s good for taking a posed photo, and that’s about it.

DSLR Cameras
I know. I know.
Doesn’t everyone understand if you’re serious about getting great photos of your kids, you’re going to need a Digital SLR with a big CCD sensor and a decent lens?

Sure it’s going to cost you some coin, but the price of entry into the DSLR world isn’t as high as it used to be.
Consumer DSLRs these days start at only a few hundred dollars more than their point-and-shoot cousins.
(Prosumer models still live in the $1-2K range.)

I’m currently using a 2009 Canon EOS Rebel T1i.
(The new model out there is the T41)

But the big problem with a big DSLR is…
It’s big!

It’s tough to carry around all the time.
And when you’re schlepping the diaper bag, the toy bag and the stroller, you end up leaving your DSLR behind more often than you’d like.

But it remains your only hope to consistently capturing great low-light action photos.

The Bundled Kit Lens
One reason why entry-level DSLRs are so affordable is they typically come bundled with inexpensive kit lenses that are simply not that great.
Still, these lenses are better than the lenses in your little pocket camera.

So it’s still a decent choice for the price-conscious consumer who wants to take better pictures, right?

Up to a point.

Any article you read about these bundled kit lenses say they’re good to learn with. After a while, some photographers see the limitations and find themselves wanting more.

And I’ve reached that point.

Married to Canon
I’ve been using Canon cameras for years and have been generally happy with my compact point-and-shoot cameras and my DSLR.
My frustrations have surrounded the elusive toddler photo, and as I documented above, this problem simply lies with the limitations of the tools I’ve chosen.

And as I look to expand my photographic capabilities, it’s a hard move to choose another partner.

There’s a certain coziness that has set in by using a common Canon user interface. Each camera generally operates the same way.

Plus, it’s just about the only camera maker that’s using QuickTime H.264 files for capturing movie clips. (which I also shoot a lot of!)
I like H.264 movie files, because they are better to edit with in Final Cut Pro.
And in Final Cut Pro X, you don’t have to first transcode these movies to a friendlier codec like ProRes to edit with.
FCP X will work natively with the H.264 files, saving me tons of time, duplicated media and extra file storage.

You can’t go wrong sticking with Canon.

Sony Rocks Your World
But in studying recent reviews of Canon’s non-DSLR camera line up, Canon has slipped from grace a bit against the competition.

Currently, The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is universally regarded as the best compact point and shoot out there.
A major reason for that is the large, one-inch DSLR sensor they’ve somehow crammed into it.

Yes, it’s really expensive at $650, but everyone is absolutely crazy about it:
CNET loves it.
Gizmodo says it’s a “significant achievement.”
David Pogue calls it “the best pocket camera ever made.”

I would leave Canon in a heartbeat for this.
The RX100 shoots movies with the silly HVCHD codec, which won’t work with Final Cut Pro.
So I would have to return to transcoding my movie files, which I simply can’t bear, now that I’ve tasted freedom from that unspoken tech burden.

Sony- please call me when your movie codec starts to play nice with Apple.
I’m be waiting…

The Choice in Canon Cameras
So what’s a demanding amateur photographer to do if he wants to go with a Canon?
There are thirty-five options, which can quickly get confusing.
One way to sort through all the choices is on, which allows you to compare the specs and reviews between two cameras.

But by my count, there are really only five ways to go in attempting to
capture your child’s elusive low-light highlights.
(And they’re not inexpensive!)

Canon PowerShot G15 ($500)

The G series is a tank of a camera. (I used to use the G9.)
Reviews agree that this camera is a solid choice and does well in low light.
But tanks are big. You’re never going to stuff this one in your pants pocket. Maybe your jacket…
However, it’s no longer the darling it once was with Sony’s RX100 out there.

Canon PowerShot S110 ($450)

This is a newer version of the S95 and S100, both of which are still on the market.
It’s the best pocket camera Canon has, but it’s not as good as the G15.
So you’ve got a dilemma. Should you go with the better, bulkier camera you’re not going to take with you all the time, or keep something not quite as good with you all the time in your pocket?

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS ($200)

This has a 20x super zoom lens, which I once thought would solve all my problems.
I bought the Canon PowerShot SX230 during the summer of 2011, and quickly realized that zooming into the action from far away doesn’t necessarily make the action any clearer.
Then, the flash stopped working, and the battery wouldn’t hold a charge.
Maybe it didn’t help that the camera took a nasty four-foot spill onto a cement sidewalk on its maiden voyage.
(Let’s speak no more of this.)

I haven’t repaired the SX230, because I’d rather put that money towards my toddler action-shot solution.
And the SX260 probably isn’t going to help there.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens ($339)

So none of the above choices really attack my problem sufficiently.
(And by the way, if you’re thinking about Canon’s new PowerShot G1 X for a whopping $800, put your wallet away.
All the reviews agree it’s not worth it. That’s DSLR pricing!)

And speaking of DSLRs, my older Canon T1i can’t even do the job the way I want.  Is it time to buy the brand new model- EOS T4i? (drool)

Nope. That’s just putting money in the wrong place.
I need to graduate to the prosumer camera world, and just buy a better lens for my old T1i.

I have a friend I work with who is also a professional still photographer.
When I told him my story, he suggested I buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.
This professional 50mm lens would be a good first glass purchase outside the kit lens world.
(‘Glass’ is what the pros call their lenses.)

It’s a prime lens, which means it doesn’t zoom.
But prime lenses generally give you a better picture for the price.
He said this 50mm lens would give me a little bit of reach… so I wouldn’t have to be on top of my toddler. My feet would have to do the rest.

Glass Isn’t Cheap
This lens costs $339, including a $60 Canon discount as I write this.
Good zoom lenses easily go into the thousands!

Do professional photographers spend more money on their glass than their cameras sometimes?

At these price points, you can see why the typical amateur photographer isn’t playing in this sandbox.

All I know is when my toddler is happily playing in his sandbox, I just want to take a good picture!

Buy Last Year’s Model!

By now, digital camera technology has reached a certain maturity. Buying last year’s model of a good camera is a great idea, because by now it’s heavily discounted.

Don’t feel like spending $820 on the new Canon T4i DSLR, with 18-55mm kit lens? (drool)
Buy the Canon T3i. (some drool)
Amazon had it on sale over Black Friday weekend for $500 with the 18-55mm lens. And don’t fret on missed discounts. There’s always another Amazon or other web deal waiting in the wings. Just keep looking…

My Decision
So there’s really no perfect solution.
The G15 is too big for your pocket.
The S110 isn’t as good as the G15.
The big zoom of the SX260 isn’t going to make the blurs go away.
Buying last year’s DSLR at a discount is a deal, but I need glass.
And good glass is expensive!

So what did I do?

I pulled the trigger and bought the Canon 50mm lens.
I bought it online from Adorama, because they threw in a lens UV filter and cleaning kit for the same price.

But I wasn’t done…
Option #5 came in particularly handy on Black Friday at the Lester household.

It just so happens that Amazon was offering the Canon PowerShot S100 as a ‘Gold Box’ daily deal for only $229. (That’s almost half the price of the slightly newer S110.)

The S100 would do a much better job in my pocket than my still decent Elph 300.
I couldn’t resist.


I know it seems like an indulgence, since the new glass is my solution.
But I quickly created a bulletproof rationale to back up my impulse purchase-

After replacing my Elph 300 with the new S100 in my pocket, I would move the Elph into the kitchen for the rest of my family to use, replacing our old Canon SD960 from 2009.

This retiring PowerShot is the Dorean Grey of my camera fleet.
It’s really taken a beating over the years and has kept on ticking, although its photos now look kind of muddy.
Plus, its faceplate is being held on with duct tape!
(My son has taken a few self-portraits with it.)

Ready for Action!
So there you have it.
I bought some glass and upgraded my pocket camera.
It’s a win-win. Yes?

Now, there’s always a sharp picture around the corner…
No matter how fast he’s moving!
Problem solved.

But I’ve clearly blown my holiday shopping budget on tech gear for myself.

Time to focus on my son, and the rest of my family!

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