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Top stories this week on The Digital Story: I found the cure to help me avoid purchasing the Sony RX1, Mobile Photography microsite coming to The Digital Story, The Return of Drobo, Workshops update... and more on this week's podcast.

This show was recorded with the RODE iXY Stereo Mic plugged in to an iPad 3. How does it sound?

Story #1 - The Cure. Remember how I was fighting the urge to buy the Sony RX1 that costs $2,800? I said that one of my tricks is to meet the same need with a lower cost item. Well, that's what I did.

I invested $499 in the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Micro 4/3 lens for my Olympus OM-D. It gives the better speed than the f/2 Carl Zeiss on the Sony RX1, plus the ability to soften the background (though not as easily with the M 4/3 sensor for the OM-D compared to the full frame RX1).

Story #2 - Mobile Photography section coming to TDS with the Book Owner's Lounge.

Story #3 - Return of Drobo. I was on TWiP recently with photographer Thomas Hawk. He brought up the Drobo 5D, same model that I'm testing, and remarked how fast it was via Thunderbolt. We had a good conversation about the Drobo 5D, and Thomas definitely likes his. I wanted to share that data point with you to give you another photographer's perspective.

Story #4 - Workshops Update. Registration is open for the June "Movie Making for Photographers" workshop. In addition to me, we'll have two filmmaking professions on staff for this event. We'll be covering the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic as our class project.

Registration forms for the August Sonoma Coast workshop should go out this week.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (27 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

The March 2013 photo assignment is Black & White.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Take the SizzlPix Challenge - See how your photo will Sizzl by getting a free 5x7 section of an uploaded image. Just put TDS or The Digital Story in the comments to get your free SizzlPix section.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to save 20% at check out.


Comments Are Off!

Due to a wave of recent spam attacks, I've had to turn off the comments feature on The Digital Story. You can, however, add your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post these stories for discussion.

Nikon joins the large sensor compact camera party with the Nikon Coolpix A. Built around a 16.2MP DX sensor, the Coolpix A uses a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens to allow photographers to capture 14-bit Raw files. The estimated street price will be $1,100.

Nikon Coolpix A

Lots of good things to explore about this pocketable powerhouse, but I do think it's curious that Nikon decided to go with an f/2.8 prime lens instead of a faster f/2.0 that I'd hope for on a premium priced fixed lens camera.

For example, the Fujifilm X100 features a 12.3MP APS-C sensor, 35mm (equivalent) f/2.0 prime lens, and a switchable optical/electronic viewfinder for $50 less than the Nikon Coolpix A. The Nikon is smaller with higher resolution; the X100 is brighter with a built-in viewfinder. We'll see how things shake out with photographers.

Due to a wave of recent spam attacks, I've had to turn off the comments feature on The Digital Story. You can, however, add your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post these stories for discussion.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


For the Jan. 2013 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters steadied their cameras and set their timers. See for yourself in our gallery, Self Timer. And which one will be the SizzlPix Photo Assignment Pick of the Month?

Greg Harris Photo Assignment

"Mirror Boats" by Greg Harris. A long-exposure night shot of boats on the Charles River in Cambridge, MA. Olympus E-P3 + 20mm f1.7 + f11 @ 25 sec.

See all of the great images from this month's assignment by visiting the Self Timer gallery page.


Participate in This Month's Assignment

The Mar. 2013 assignment is "Black & White." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is March 31, 2013.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: March 2013." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Gallery posting is one month behind the deadline. So I'm posting Jan. 2013 at the end of Feb., the Feb. gallery will be posted at the end of March, and on and on.

Good luck with your March assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for Jan.


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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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Rode iXY Mic for iPhone

You can record serious audio with your iPhone. With the new Rode iXY Stereo Recording Microphone for iPhone/iPad ($199) combined with the Rode Rec app in iTunes ($5.99), you can create audio for movie voiceovers, interviews, ambient environment, and more.

Basic Features for the Mic

The basic features for the mic include:

  • 30-pin Dock Connector - for iPhone 4/4S, iPad 1st/2nd/3rd gen
  • Two 1/2" cardioid condenser capsules
  • Onboard A/D conversion
  • Up to 24-bit/96kHz recording
  • Works with paid ($5.99) or free Rode app
  • Adjustable input levels
  • Foam windshield for outdoor recording and to control "pops" indoors
  • Reinforced protective zippered case

Sample Recording

Here's a sample recording with the RØDE iXY mounted to my iPhone 4S. The recording was captured with me holding the iPhone in my living room. I did not use the included windshield or a pop-screen on the mic. The file is unedited, but compressed to MP3.

You can also download the audio test here (42 seconds).

RØDE Rec App

The $5.99 RØDE Rec app for the iPhone (there is a free version too) is a complete recording, editing, and sharing studio for your iOS device. Highlights include:

Rode Rec app

  • High resolution 16-bit, 48kHz stereo/mono recording (up to 24-bit/96kHz when paired with the RØDE iXY microphone)
  • EQ and dynamics: Compression, high/low-pass filter, and frequency cut/boost
  • Live input monitoring
  • Preset recording profiles for a range of common situations (lecture, concert, interview and more)
  • Complete control of the iXY microphone, including high pass filter and LED behavior
  • Real-time waveform and one-touch markers
  • Landscape mode provides greater visibility when editing
  • Non linear cut/copy/paste/crop
  • Output in multiple formats including WAV, AIFF, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC and more

Software and Hardware Working Together

RØDE has put together a powerful tandem of hardware and software. In my sample recording with an iPhone 4S, I chose my living room at home and recorded without the foam windshield that comes with the mic.

I could monitor my input with headphones while I spoke. I used the "Hiss Reducer" preset that's located in the Input menu for the app. Once I finish a capture, it's added to the Recordings menu where all of my "raw" files are listed. I say it that way, because I'm capturing at 44100 Hz (can go to up to 24-bit/96k Hz) and in mono (stereo is available too). But when I share the file, I have the option of sending it out as an AIFF, WAVE, CAF, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC, or Ogg Vorbis. The master audio remains in my Recordings menu until I remove it.

Editing in the Rode Rec app Editing in the RØDE Rec app.

I can edit what I've recorded on the iPhone or iPad before I share it. This is a terrific timesaver when working on the go. Rotate the phone sideways to reveal the editor. Tap and drag downward to select an area. Tap on the blue dot to reveal the contextual menu with options for your selection. It's easy and works great.

Bottom Line

The RØDE iXY Stereo Recording Microphone for iPhone/iPad is a quality stereo microphone that converts your iPhone into a high resolution audio recorder. As nice as the mic itself is, what pulls this package together is the RØDE Rec app that maximizes the hardware's capabilities.

For best results, I recommend using the included foam windshield and mounting your iPhone on stand. The first version of the iXY Mic is available with a 30-pin Dock Connector. But it appears that Rode is working on a Lightning connector version too.

I give the RØDE iXY Stereo Mic a very high Nimbleosity rating. It allows me to use my iPhone for recording on the go instead of having to carry a separate device. I'm sure you'll hear a podcast recorded with it before long.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


When natural light isn't available, you can still create flattering portraits on the go using a ring flash. But which one? In the article, Best camera flash for portrait photography: 6 models tested and rated, you can survey the pros and cons for a half dozen different models.

orbis_ring_flash.jpg

One of the six, the Orbis ring flash with bracket, I've used for both macro and portrait photography. And there are five others to peruse!


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


One of the regular deals making the rounds via Groupon and other discount sites is the Vibe Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard Case and Stand for the iPad mini. I decided to risk $22 to try it for my mini, and I'm pleasantly surprised by its performance.

Vibe Bluetooth Keyboard

The Vibe has a rechargeable battery that powers its built-in Bluetooth transmitter. When I first received the keyboard, I charged the battery using the power cord that came in the box. I then paired the keyboard with my mini.

Typing is a little cramped, as you would expect for a small keyboard, but after a few minutes, I was doing just fine. The aluminum keyboard has a metal protrusion near the spacebar that serves as a latch if you use it as a cover for the iPad. The protrusion does interfere a bit with using the spacebar. I'm working around it now, but it did bother me in the beginning. I learned that if I use my left thumb for the spacebar, I rarely have a problem,

I really like the blue function keys that control screen brightness, volume, search, home screen, and more. I find them easier to use than tapping on the glass when the iPad is positioned upward in the slot on the keyboard that serves as its stand.

Because they communicate via Bluetooth, however, you don't have to use the Vibe as a stand. I sometimes use my leather case as a stand with the keyboard positioned in front of it. I find that more comfortable.

You can use this device as a cover too. It locks into place over the iPad's screen. I don't use it that way because I don't want the keys in contact with the glass. So I continue to use my soft case for the iPad and just carry the keyboard separately. And because it's so thin and light, finding room for the keyboard in my shoulder bag hasn't been a problem.

Overall, I've been quite happy with the Vibe as both a part-time stand and keyboard for the iPad mini. It works as advertised, seems to have quality construction, and looks good too.

If you run across a Vibe online at a good price, you'll probably enjoy using it.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


Most photos can be improved with just a few adjustments... especially if you know which levers to pull. In my Macworld article, The 7-step edit in Aperture 3.4, I walk you through an easy image editing workflow that will improve 90 percent of your pictures.

aperture_seven_step.jpg

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


Flickr 2 Updated

The folks at Flickr are not resting on their recent laurels. They've released Flickr 2.1 for iOS, and it includes a handful of terrific new features, including:

  • Faster uploading
  • Easily save photos from your Photostream to your camera roll
  • Automatically saves your original, pre-filter photos to your camera roll
  • Quickly tag your contacts in photo comments and description by simply typing @screename
  • Get notified when your contacts mention you
  • Higher resolution photo display in lightbox view
  • Take photos in a snap using your iPhone's volume up button

In my testing, images do process faster during uploading. And I love the fact that I can save shots from my Photo Stream to my Camera Roll, especially since I have more than 1,100 images posted on Flickr. I'm also happy to see the Volume Up "+" button making its way back as a shutter button in our photo apps.

If you haven't tried the new Flickr for iOS app, I highly recommend it. You can download it in the iTunes App Store.


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Real Time Reporting Workflow

I posted a photo of Andris Biedrins of the Golden State Warriors blocking a shot on my Instagram page just moments after it happened using this workflow with an OM-D, FlashAir card, and an iPad mini

warriors_defense_phoenix.jpg Andris Biedrins blocks a shot in the Warriors 108-98 win over the Phoenix Suns at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA.

I captured the original image (shown here) with an Olympus OM-D and a Zeiss 85mm lens. I had a Toshiba FlashAir SD card in the Olympus that fed the images to my iPad mini. From the iPad, I uploaded the photo to Instagram.

The image looks fine on my iPhone 4S, but it isn't a top quality rendering. That's why I capture in RAW+JPEG for this workflow. The JPEG goes to Instagram, then I process the RAW file in Aperture 3.4 when I get home. That's the image I've posted here.

I like being able to share images in real time, yet still have top quality files for printing and publishing. I'll continue making adjustments to this system, but thought you might find it interesting.


Take a look at the Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide for an overview of cameras, lenses, and accessories.

Wood Camera for iPhone

Chocolate Heart

If you're in the mood for a new photo app to play with on your iPhone, you may want to take a look at Wood Camera - Vintage Photo Editor. Currently on sale in the iTunes App Store for 99 cents, Wood Camera provides an array of imaging tools to capture, edit, and share your pictures.

The app features 32 lenses, which you'll recognize as filters similar to those found on Instagram and Flickr. You can capture with a filter turned on, or apply the effects afterward while editing. A nice touch is the ability to control the intensity of the lens via a slider. There are lots of other tools too, such as brightness, contrast, sharpen, saturation, hue, cropping, frames, and effects. Plenty here to keep you busy while waiting in line for coffee at Starbucks.

Once you have the image to your liking, you can save to your Camera Roll or post online to Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. I had good luck posting to Instagram, but wasn't as successful sharing to Facebook and Flickr. Maybe the network gods were against me at the moment.

The quality of the output from Wood Camera seems somewhere in between Instagram and Flickr. OK on the iPhone, but not as good as Flickr when examined on a computer screen.

All in all, though, Wood Camera is a blast to play with and a great deal at 99 cents. You might want to see what you can create with it.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography.