The Analog Counter Revolution Continues

Digital information technology has changed the World in the last 50 years.  Much of this change is beneficial and here to stay.  I have embraced advances in digital for decades, but now when almost everyone predicted that photography, movies, music, newspapers, magazines, and books and much more would go digital there is an analog counter revolution happening as you read this post.

This week I realized that the analog counter revolution is here to stay and going to get bigger.  I got fed up with trying to read the news on digital and started getting the newspaper delivered again every day.  This is after a two year break of getting almost all of my news via TV & Internet.  I live in a big city and we have a good local paper.  When I stopped getting the paper newspaper two years ago I kept getting their digital version.  I finally realized that it is just not as enjoyable to get your news digitally compared to print.  Why, because it is organized, you don’t have a light box staring you in the face, and you just pick it up and read it without worrying about charging the batteries, anywhere.  Plus source shopping from 100,000 outlets is just a brain pain and your head spins after 12 youtube videos of people shouting at each other or complaining about Trump or Clinton or immigrants or 50 other current topics.

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The fact is that unless you are the President you don’t need to know about every news story in the World.  You only need to know about the news that affects you.  If there is some time left over you can look at some special interest news items.  That said digital news is very good for looking up special interest pieces or specialty news like dog news, or audio news, or news on the planet Pluto.  So for me the best thing is to mix analog and digital.  Does this mean that newspapers will get as big again and as powerful as 50 years ago, no.  But it likely means that a lot more people than I are not happy with digital only.

Lately I have started buying records again, vinyl records.  I bought a new phono cartridge and bought several LP’s from eBay.  As in getting the news, digital music is great, but I missed the other benefits of buying analog records.  Some of those benefits are, an album that is organized by someone other than me, usually beautiful covers, lots of times words to the songs on the inside envelope, I own it no monthly fees, oh and it sounds better.  If you have a good turntable and cartridge a vinyl record has more information in it than either on line or CD’s.  It helps to have good speakers too.  In speakers size matters.  Bigger ones are usually better.  Sure you have to clean the records and be careful with them, but many of my 40+ year old records sound better than CD’s of the same music or high quality on line.  For me, and I have older ears, it is very easy to tell the difference between vinyl, CD, and on line music.  The difference is hard to describe but easy to hear.  I am not alone in this opinion as vinyl record sales last year I believe totaled to more money than downloads.

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I have no intention of only listening to vinyl.  I like digital music if the quality is good and I don’t have to be bombarded with ads.  I have an Apple Music and Pandora subscription to listen to ad free music at home or in the car.  But when I want to sit down and enjoy some music I think I am going to mostly go vinyl.

I have never switched to reading books on digital except for things like wikipedia.  If I want to read something I just buy it.  When I finish I sell it on Amazon.

I have written a number of blog posts about analog vs digital photography.  To me these are two different art forms.  Of course they are close substitutes for each other so they get compared a lot.  But when you shoot film the structure of the image is just not the same as a digital image.  You can clearly see this if you enlarge the photos enough.  And of course with film you have to scan the image if you don’t print it.  That means you are once removed from the initial image and the result is it just looks different.  Most images in my opinion look better from film than digital.  However, photos of children, pets, friends, and action are just so much easier to do with digital that most people should stick with that method.  But for pictures of things and in many instances people (street photography) just comes out way better using film.  Kodak, Fuji, and other film makers have spent a lot of time getting the result to come out well.  Again last year my best photos mostly came from film shots.  And I took way more pictures digital than film.  On the other hand I have never taken super 8 movies, which are coming back.  I shoot most of my video on either my smart phone or DSLR.  I am not going to change that.

On the other hand I find movies shot with film and not digital to be much more pleasing to view.  I can easily tell the difference and I would expect that the movie business is going to go back to more film and less digital.  There are ways using software to make digital look more like film.  In some cases when this is not done I find the resulting product almost unwatchable.  Netflix original movies being a case in point.

The other really strong advantage of personal film photos is that there is so much really good gear still at great prices.  Good digital lenses for a DSLR can run over $1,000.  Many good lenses for film cameras can be bought for under $100.  I have both, and you cannot tell the difference most of the time.  Camera bodies for digital can easily run over $100.  Very good SLR camera bodies cost less than $100.  Improving your skills with new digital gear is very expensive when you start buying news lenses and bodies.  If you buy right older lenses can work on newer digital bodies.

So to sum up, the digital counter revolution is upon us and I suspect this will continue as people realize that not everything new is better than everything old.

iPhone 7 Plus Camera Review

I got my Apple iPhone 7 plus about 3 weeks after they came out.  It was a replacement for my iPhone 6S that I had for just under a year.  The camera for the 7 plus is a system unlike any I have used before.  If combines two separate cameras, one a wide angle with about a 28 mm equivalent lens with f1.8, and a second camera with about a 56mm equivalent lens with f2.8.  And these two cameras are tied together with very sophisticated Apple software in the phone to give you many extra capabilities.  In addition, the phone camera is designed to work well with Apple’s own “Photos” app on the phone, iPad, Mac or other Apple device.

This camera system using the standard (And very good) Apple camera app takes still pictures in wide or square format.  Plus it takes video in up to 4K.  In addition, to those usual modes the 7 Plus also can take Apple “live” photos, time lapse, slo mo, and excellent pano shots.  And, “portrait” photos which have software that adds bokeh when used properly.

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Taken with the iPhone 7+ and edited with Lightroom 

The Apple iPhone 7+ system for zoom is brilliant.  It is a different level of performance from any other smartphone camera I have used and is likely far better than any other smartphone camera currently sold.  I am fully away that lots of you tubes and other ratings people, and camera magazines test this system and say that several other smartphones are better, but in my opinion that is in the lab and not the field.  My ratings system is based on the images or video I get and not lab test.  If you actually want to get great work out of your smartphone this is the one to get.

I started to realize how amazing this camera system was the first few times I shot zooms where I went well beyond the optical zoom.  The first few times I looked at the result and though, “wow that looks really good for digital zoom”.  I don’t know how Apple does it but their “secret sauce” software amazingly lets you use the two cameras to zoom a lot closer than the optics of the 56mm lens and get great keepers.

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Shot with 7+ and about 8x zoom at dusk into the sun – edited in Lightroom

The above shot was at sunset at about 8x zoom, which is about 4x the optical capability.  And it is shot in low light into the sun.  The result is frigging astonishingly good for ANY camera much less one that was included with a multi use portable computer.

Then there is the pano capability.

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Shot with iPhone 7+ and edited in Apple Photos on a Mac

The image above was taken at the Painted Desert National Park in AZ a few months ago.  It was very simple to take and what you see here is about 180 degrees, maybe a little more.  The Apple software stitched the whole thing together and then made it very easy to edit in Apple Photos even though it is a lot of mega pixels.  I basically just cropped it a little and hit the enhance button.

Then there is the bokeh software.  I tried this a couple years ago with an Android phone and google’s system at the time and it did not work very well.  I am sure google has improved it but the Apple system has to be the one to beat at this point.  The Apple “portrait” mode works extremely well when you use it right.

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Taken with 7+ using portrait mode
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Also taken with 7+ using bokeh mode

The Apple iPhone 7 plus is very compatible with the Apple Photos app on the phone, and iPad, or a Mac.  For most photos the Apple app is all you need.  I use both the Apple Photos app and Lightroom.  I have the monthly charge Adobe Lightroom CC which gives you both the latest version of LR and also Photoshop.  In my opinion this is a bargain.  The Adobe software is big, complex, and takes quite a bit of effort to learn it.  Plus many things are not intuitive.  But after using it a while LR becomes relatively easy.  I have tried organizing my photos with LR and really prefer to let Apple’s system do it.  Plus I always have my master set arranged in chronological order in a standard file set up.  I also like using the Apple system because it sends slide shows to my Apple TV so I can see my latest photos on the big screen.  Generally when I edit I use my MacBook Pro 13″, but like it much better when it is hooked up to my large Apple display.  That said, both Apple and Lightroom have very good iPad and iPhone editing apps.  The LR one is far more capable, but for most photos the Apple one works fine.  One other significant advantage of using Lightroom is that you can take RAW photos with the iPhone.  If you want the most detailed image LR RAW is the way to go.  Plus when you need to make adjustments having a RAW file allows far greater latitude than a jpeg.

I don’t take a lot of videos.  When I do I almost always use the iPhone instead of my Nikon.  Why, the results from the iPhone are usually better and a lot easier.  I do not use 4K.  The files get too big.  For editing video I use the standard iMovie app that comes with the Mac.  It works well and for the amount of videos I take it is good enough.

I have and use regularly a Nikon mid range DSLR.  If used right it does give superior results on still photos than the iPhone 7 +.  Having a viewfinder is very helpful in the sun.  Plus for quick action shots the Nikon is very fast.  When you want to shoot sea gulls flying overhead the Nikon is the way to go.  It freezes the sea gulls in flight even when hand held and not in perfect light.  Plus you do get more details.  As good as the iPhone 7 plus is for longer range tele shots a Nikon with a tele lens is better.  Plus you can put filters like polarizing ones on.  I use a polarizing filter all the time when taking flower pictures.  It cuts down on unwanted reflections.  You cannot do that with the iPhone.  So no the 7 plus as good as it is does not replace an SLR or DSLR, but the two together make a great combo.  And when you are walking the dog you will likely have your smartphone and not your DSLR.

Waiting for the next iPhone?  No, get the iPhone 7+ now.  It is that good.  If you think the next iPhone will be amazing you may be right.  So get the Apple plan that lets you upgrade in a year.  That’s what I did.  But so far I have heard of nothing in the rumor posts about any feature that is completely a have-to-get item for me.  I have already had a couple of phones with OLED and while I think OLED is great for a TV, I am very happy with the excellent screen on the 7+.  Full glass covering?  Who cares.  I use a case any way.  BTW, I have both the leather and rubber case for my phone and the rubber one is better for pictures.  Easier to grip when you want a shot.  The leather one looks better though.  So what is my rating on the iPhone 7+ on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest, it is a 10.  The best compact camera you can buy.