Followup: Dawn of Dead…Talking Points

Well well well well… Not only is the UN flying “drones” (in the African conflict), but Pakistan, ever crying the victim, has since “developed” its own UAVs.  Hypocrisy much?

Pakistan’s Shahpar and Burraq UAVs just entered Army and Air Force service; their Navy is in trials.  I’ve seen claims that Pakistan won’t arm them… but I don’t buy that for a second.  First, the Shahpar is clearly based on China’s CH-3, which is armed.  Second, sub- and full-scale displays went public, arms at their wings.  3rd, Pakistan’s predicament begs for hunter-killer patrols.  Says analyst Usman Shabbir, of Pakistan Military Consortium:

It is important in a sense that it greatly cuts the gap from detection to shoot… Earlier, once you detected something and wanted it taken out you had to pass on the imagery to higher ups, who had to approve and allocate resources like aircraft and by the time the aircraft got there the bad guys were long gone. Now detect, make decision, shoot and go home — all in same loop.

One kill, and they lose all sympathy.  This, after admitting US drone kills were exaggerated.


Dawn Of The Dead (Cockpits)

Looking around for a sale this Black Friday?  Or still looking for a parking space?  The ads are full of mini-helicopters, and some empty cars… just like the Afghani skies, and test courses in Silicon Valley respectively.  It’s not Black Drone-day, it’s now drone-era.

Lost in all the handwaving and whining about “drones” (or UAVs, UCAVs, or what have you*) is one simple fact: geeks know they’ve been here all along, ever since we called them “R/C planes” (or cars or helicopters or what have you).  How do I know?  Full disclosure: 45I’m not just a geek, I did some consulting on a “drone” project, though it was general work and would apply to a manned plane.

These are shelves in a hobby shop.  Like most such shops in the developed US, you can pick up an R/C plane for 200-400 bucks.  Some people have that in their pocket right now.  Some lucky kid in your town has such a plane, and maybe a bunch of kids. Continue reading

“Waaah Waaah Waaastronauts”

94I hear it again and again: ‘we aren’t even past the Moon yet.’  And by “we,” they mean “the uninformed.”

Here’s a loaf of bread: approx. 4x4x12 inches HWD.  You’re looking at the future of space exploration: CubeSats in particular, and miniaturized craft in general.  That’s right, probes that (in most cases) you can balance on your hand.  The future will be discrete, scalable, and efficient.  I said this the last time I got asked about space exploration.  His response was ‘that’s not what I think is cool.”  Sorry dude, the future made up its mind while you were uninformed.

~4x4x12 is actually a “3U” CubeSat; each “U” is defined as 10x10x10 cm, or 1 liter.  Besides 1U birds flying right now, there are in fact sub-U designs for sale.  That’s right, future space gets down to loaf leftovers, and at times a thick slice (0.2U). Continue reading

Phone-ys, Part 3

Nokia is claiming their Lumia 1020 is “The first smartphone to put the camera first.”  Pardon my tone, but… total and obvious b*******, Nokia.nnk

Samsung had a unit with a massive camera bulge, years ago.  And Kodak had a Kodak-branded device that could, oh, also make calls, years before that.  I don’t know how these companies, of this size, can lie openly and think they won’t get called out on it.  Maybe desperation at being Nokia?  (And yes, I’ve owned Nokias, back when they were good.)

Oh, and if you think the “smartphone” subcategory leaves Nokia a semantic window, even that’s just a half-truth.  Nokia’s own N95 was arguably as good a camera (for its time, of course) as the 1020 is today.  Semantics don’t help Nokia’s argument, they hurt it.  The whole point of a smartphone is that there is no “first”– they’re supposed to be multifunction computing plaforms, not a mashup of gadgets.

See also: Phone-ys, Part 1 and Part 2

Critical m4ss

There comes a time when something becomes clear, even obvious.  This used to be called “breakthrough,” Malcolm Gladwell might call it the “tipping point,” popsters (at least, less-wonky ones) might call it “blowing up.”  Whatever you call it, one mirrorless-camera format has gotten there.

The Micro Four Thirds standard for mirrorless cameras has pretty much arrived.  Last week, German manufacturer SVS-Vistek has announced their m43 industrial body.  The industrial cam will be used for factories (machine vision), optical recordkeeping and recognition, security, mapping, etc.  Oh, and this is in addition to Blackmagic’s cinema body… and Astrodesign’s pledged industrial cams… and the consumer bodies produced by Olympus, Panasonic, and now JK (buyers of the former Kodak).  And this is in addition to lots of existing C-mount industrial lenses, and prosumer Leicas and Leica-clones, that can be adapted to Micro Four Thirds.

Here’s a hint for wonks and popsters: what you, the consumer, sees is a portion of what’s out there.  A whole parallel economy of industrial products exists that you aren’t even aware of.  21st-century camera designs (not SLRs) have entered that economy.

See The Future

Ravens cornerback Ed Reed soaks up the Baltimore victory parade… and his sports-cam soaks up the view for posterity.

Photo credit: Barbara Haddock Taylor

Photo credit: Barbara Haddock Taylor








If you’re not familiar with “extreme sport” cameras such as the GoPro seen here, you’re familiar with their clips: first as a gimmick shot in gimmick sport pieces.  The NFL itself experimented with “lipstick cams” in quarterbacks’ helmets.  Now, consumers buy these readily, without needing hacks, and post their (mis)adventures to gimmick sites or YouTube.  I’m seeing them in stores, and not camera stores either: sporting-goods retailers, camping and outdoors places, and motorcycle shops.  That was when it truly hit me. Continue reading

Future Ford Coppola

And now, let us talk about hybrid… cameras.  Mostly.  Well…

In the photo world, “hybrid” means something will do both stills, and video.  Not quite the same implications as in the road world.  And yet, like with road vehicles, the old guard is meeting the new technology, and it’s a bit messy.  Fortunately, photo people aren’t nearly as attached to film and formats as people are to internal combustion and fossil fuels.

This week is the Photokina convention, in Germany.  Basically, it’s the Euro version of the Vegas electronics show, except it’s imaging only, not music or gaming (unless they’re photographic games).  It’s also September instead of January, since there’s understandably a fair overlap with the Vegas convention.

Anyway, the not-so-big news (at first).  Schneider-Kreuznach just announced three lenses in the Micro Four Thirds lens mount.  Shocking, I know.  Why is this actually big?  Schneider had announced one lens in m4/3 before; now they have a lineup, an actual, usable lineup.  Again you ask, why is this big?

Schneider-Kreuznach now joins Carl Zeiss and Voigtlander as producing expensive, high-quality lenses for the Micro Four Thirds format… lenses too expensive for home hobbyists, but OK for professional shoots.  VIDEO shoots.  In Micro Four Thirds… the format which also has the the AF100 pro video camera, again too expensive for home hobbyists… the format that just announced the GH3 still/video dSLR, with feature-film-like imaging… the format that’s just shy of Super 16’s circle…

But hey, don’t take my word for it.  Take Francis Ford Coppola, who (among others) rated the video from the GH2 above any other competing DV camera. Including ones home hobbyists can’t afford, such as a RED. Still don’t believe me?  Take Black Magic’s word.  The Black Magic Cinema Camera is not only named “Cinema Camera,” but it lacks handgrips, a large battery, and even autofocus.  These details all scream “professional video shoot.”

When combined with the new Canon C300 format, plus the REDs and the previous Sonys, it’s clear the filmmaking world is being turned over by new technology.  And why wouldn’t it… even a camera phone can shoot a feature.