Fujifilm X100S First Look

Old is new with this camera. Fantastic look.

Oxford School of Photography

The Fuji X100S is a much coveted camera, it definitely has style, if what you look for in technology is something that harks back to before you were born. It also has a pedigree of fine technical excellence so do you want one?

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When Fujifilm announced its FinePix X100 retro-styled compact at Photokina 2010, it instantly captured the imagination of serious photographers. With its fixed 23mm F2 lens and SLR-sized APS-C sensor, it offered outstanding image quality, while its ‘traditional’ dial-based handling and innovative optical/electronic ‘Hybrid’ viewfinder gave a shooting experience reminiscent of rangefinder cameras. On launch its firmware was riddled with frustrating bugs and quirks, but a series of updates transformed it into a serious photographic tool. Certain flaws remained, apparently too deeply embedded into the hardware to be fixable, but despite this, it counts as something of a cult classic.

Fujifilm X100S key features

  • Fujifilm-designed 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans…

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Long Live The New Flesh?

Get ready for In-N-Out Vitro burgers. Several scientists in the Netherlands hope to grow meat in a lab like some odd experiment from a 1980s movie. But it’s not just another weird technological imperative, and it isn’t as scary as some of the other stuff being done to food out there. But the question is:  are you going to eat in vitro beef?

I mean, the ultimate goal behind this meaty marvel isn’t just benign – it’s benevolent. The idea behind in vitro meat is profit-driven, economically viable and even sustainable. The world can’t deal with how much meat we’re eating – it’s just not going to last, especially given the amount of grain it takes to harvest meat and the number of new meat-eaters born every year. This technological advance could feed millions for a fraction of the cost of traditional meat collection.

Once this meat-growing process is perfected, it will be much cheaper to create lab beef than to kill a cow. Also, it doesn’t kill animals – just relies on the building of muscle tissue from previously harvested cells. Even PETA supports it (really). And why wouldn’t they? It’s cutting down on the amount of animals killed for meat, plain and simple. PETA supporters will now be able to have their steak and eat it, too.

But what about life-long vegetarians? Those who stayed away for moral reasons may just be tempted to chow down on that Wagyu lab-beef burger with gorgonzola cheese and sun dried tomato aioli on a multi-grain bun. Those who stayed away for health reasons…well, I don’t know – I’m not a vegetarian. But I imagine if real meat gave them pause, meet made from droppers and test tubes might give them nausea.

Aside from the obvious need to re-name the product (“lab meat” sounds like the term morbid autopsy docs use to refer to their cadavers), the makers of in vitro burgers (also not marketable) have a lot going for them. Sustainability, creativity, a possible $1 million reward from PETA, and motivation to heal the world’s hunger problems.

Yet I’m still skeptical.

I’m all about knowing exactly where my meat comes from – organic, local, etc. – so I’m not sure what to think when I know my cheeseburger originated in a cold, uninviting room lit like a hospital. I just can’t bring myself to believe that science can create a better burger than my agricultural great-great-grandparents could decades ago. I’ve seen Monsanto do things to food in the name of technological progress that are, at best, disgusting, and at worst, immoral. Why should I trust this new flesh? I think I’ll give it a few decades on the market before I start eating these sci-burgers.

Hmm. Sci-burgers. That might be marketable.

A New Frontier in Birdwatching

The classic visage of a birdwatcher usually includes a pair of black binoculars suctioned to one’s eye sockets. And probably a hat.

But birdwatching isn’t just for binoculars anymore – this product looks like it’s integrating youth-oriented technologies with a typically non-youth-oriented pastime. So here’s to hoping the kiddos of today start using their iPhones to capture interesting videos of birds instead of using them to fling birds into poorly constructed pig houses.

http://www.birdphotobooth.com/#sthash.26yLuach.U6scA0km.dpbs

Returning to Our Roots: Progress vs. The Passage of Time

 

There seems to be a strange resurgence of back-to-the-basics movements in the past decade; movements that hearken back to the nature-minded atmosphere of the mid to late 1960s. But this is not simply a rehash of “hippie” morals and flower-power mantras. This return to our roots is coming at a time when our technological progress is exponential, and people seem to want to take the time to stop and grow their own roses.

It is becoming increasingly common for people to be interested in activities their grandparents would find very familiar – homesteading, jarring, going to farmer’s markets, buying local – all of this didn’t need a label in the 1920s. It was just the way life was. Now, with large corporations churning out squeezable tubes of yogurt, pizza with cheeseburger crust and purple ketchup, we suddenly see people fighting back.

Many in the millennial generation see the baby boomers suffering from heart disease, diabetes and other ailments caused by poor diet. It’s present in their own generation, too; kids are more overweight now than they’ve ever been, and it’s easy to see why when the aforementioned “foods” are somehow pushed into existence.

Thus, the rise of organic, local, vegetarian, vegan, raw, etc. Young people working on a farm is no longer an antiquated idea – no middle or upper class twentysomething in the 1980s would have been caught dead harvesting radishes unless their parents did the same. Now, people educated on the dangers of the “food” being tossed out there by fast food joints and large industries are choosing to grow kale.

This return goes beyond just health benefits – I mean, what’s the real benefit of jarring your own food? Maybe part of it is the connection with nature one feels when farming land. Maybe it’s a response to the constant urbanization that inevitably occurs in developed nations. I would argue it is both of those, combined with a frustration with the ubiquity of technology and mass-produced everything.

Today, it seems like a new, faster and more powerful phone comes out every month. If you’re not keeping up, that communication miracle in your pocket will be obsolete by Valentine’s Day. The same goes for computers, televisions, cars, video games, movies and more. Every aspect of life seems to be updated as often as the newsfeed on Facebook. With all that forward motion, a growing segment of the population is returning to simpler times in specific ways.

Thanks to this movement, there is now the option to pursue slowly-made, lovingly-crafted goods of all types. Slow-drip coffee. Hour-long haircuts with a straight razor shave. Small-batch hot sauce. They’re all responses to the industrialized processes that have taken over our lives. And no, there’s no need (or time) to take part in all of the slower things in life; but everyone can find their niche.

Here’s to hoping this growing trend is proof that progress and the passage of time aren’t necessarily synonymous – that technology isn’t always the answer. Maybe our grandparents had a few things right, even if they didn’t have the science to know it. Maybe small-batch, organically grown, pickled beans in mason jars aren’t about being cool – maybe they’re about fighting back and creating a real cultural shift in how we view food, progress and technology.

…says the guy with the iPhone.

The Autographer: Conceited or Revolutionary?

This month will see the launch of a brand new camera that could revolutionize everyday photography. Or maybe just engender some more navel-gazing.

The Autographer touts itself as the “world’s first intelligent, wearable camera.” It can be placed around your neck and the camera judges at what junctures to take photographs of your life with a 136-degree view. Though the technical specs are certainly impressive and the idea is somewhat novel, I can’t help but think…is this just the next level of the over-documentation of people’s lives?

I feel like the Autographer will be a popular product for the same reason that any social media is popular – it gives people a chance to track and share their lives in another medium. The only difference is that this truly requires zero effort. You throw it around your neck after you take a shower, then take it off when you go to bed (hopefully), and your day has been documented randomly in photographs.

Now most of the time, your day probably will not be interesting enough to warrant Autographer use (another bowl of rice for lunch? Really?). But on those days when something really cool is happening – you go to a concert, head to the beach, go out to dinner with friends, destroy public property – the Autographer is your friend and constant documentarian obsessed with the same thing that you are:  you. It will take candid pictures and capture moments that may have gone unbeknownst to you while you were busy living.

This camera takes away a formerly crucial and unfortunate part of being a photographer, which is that you had to remove yourself from being present in the moment in order to forever document the moment. For this, I applaud the Autographer. I love the idea that my life can now be remembered in pictures without me having to constantly stop living to maintain the record.

However, I also feel like the Autographer will lend itself to even more self-obsession than social media and the information age has already created. People Tweet their every thought. They Instagram their every food. They Yelp their every critique of the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE IN THE WORLD.

It’s fantastic and frustrating.

The democracy of opinion, information and thought is a great feature of this social media revolution. The ridiculous emphasis on the self is the awful part, and the Autographer plays right into it. It will cut every person’s Instagram work in half, compile a perfect Tumblr with its photography, and essentially create a visual journal of the smallest, most minute, and pointless details of every person’s life. For every photo of a breathtaking beach, we’ll see a guy clipping his toenails. For every masterpiece, a thousand dime-store pictures that others won’t care about.

Maybe the Autographer isn’t made for sharing though, and that’s how I’ve reconciled the product with reality. It isn’t a camera where you’ll take lots of pictures and show your friends. It isn’t a camera that will display a level of artistry only seen in museums and Shutterfly. It is a camera that is all about you. Your life as seen by an objective, all-remembering, all-encapsulating eye.

If I buy one of these cameras (I won’t), it will only be so I remember moments way down the line, years later. I’ll buy it (I won’t) so I can peer at the little details I may have missed while I was busy living; so I can have that cool moment where I try to figure out exactly where I was in each shot. It won’t be for others to look at it.

Because who cares about me cooking rice again?