Somebody wanted to give me a warm welcome when I returned to California. More like beg. Who has been feeding this guy?

Canon, How Much of a Hint Do You Need?

Canon lowered its sales forecast for compact cameras by 9.5 percent to 19 million units, according to Bloomberg source. Canon has some of the world’s best optical engineers, and expertise in image processing. Canon should build an Android smartphone with an optical zoom lens, say around 3x range, and a low noise image sensor. That would be a compelling reason to differentiate their Android phone from the 100s of millions of others that are sold each year.

Government employment = 1/8 of workforce

In 2010 (the latest that federal figures are available), out of a workforce of 153.8 Million source, the federal government employed 4.443 million people source, state governments employed 3.803 million source, and local governments employed 10.965 million source.  I call that big government.

A few things I find interesting:

  • Assuming $100,000 average in salary in pension liabilities, federal payroll would be $444.3 Billion, or $2,800 for every worker.
  • Why are the number of higher education non-instructional employees 2x greater than the number of instructional employees?  How many custodians, administrators, and lunch ladies does a high school need?  source
  • Almost 3% of Americans err…”documented and undocumented labor force participants” work for the Federal government.  This doesn’t include contractors.
  • Germany, not a country you think of when you think of small government :), only employs 1/9 of their labor force in government, and the country currently has a lower unemployment rate than the US!  2011 numbers: 4.602 M in Öffentlicher Dienst (civil service) source + Bundeswehr (military) out of 43.36 million in the labor force source = 10.6% of labor force.

Photokina 2012 Report

I took off of work and went to Cologne for Photokina on Friday.  Photokina is held every two years and is the largest photo tradeshow in the world.  Unlike a lot of tradeshows, they let the general public in.  I played the part of the general public in this exhibition.  It seems larger to me than CES.

I started from the North hall so the first thing I saw where there were several analog photography companies with booths including Foma.  Foma films and papers are available at Freestyle in the US.  Fotoimpex/Adox showed off a new film called ‘Silvermax‘ which claims 14 f-stops of exposure range.  They had some B&W slides on a light table which looked pretty impressive.  I will definitely shoot some Foma when I get back to the US, and maybe some Adox Silvermax, if I can find it.

Hahnemühle had an interesting booth:

Hahnemühle booth

I am not sure exactly what is going on here but since Hahnemühle makes paper, I guess that is the concept.

Schneider had a kit to add lens adapters to your iPhone.  A must for the hipsters!Ira Tiffen is apparently working for Schneider now.  Interesting.  The big news for Schneider was they had a line of DSLR lenses they will release next year.

I had wondered why Schneider never followed Zeiss into making DSLR lenses.  Well, now they are apparently.  Schneider made some great lenses for the F&H Rollei 6000 series.  DHW Phototechnik is the new name for the company making the Rollei TLR and Rollei 6000 series cameras.  They had a new version of the Hy6 with an 80 megapixel digital back.  I spoke briefly to the director of the SLR cameras at DHW.  I get the impression things are going okay for them.

A friend asked me to take a look at the Nex-6, but I kind of got distracted at the Sony booth.

Sorry Lars, I didn’t look through the Nex-6 to check out the viewfinder, but here’s a static shot:

Sony Nex-6

Sigma APO Macro 180 f2.8 on Nikon

Sigma had a booth where you could give the staff your ID and borrow a lens and shoot it.  I picked the APO Macro 180.  This lens was supposed to ship in March of this year but has been repeatedly delayed.  It appears sharp.  The autofocus is pokey, but you should be shooting macro in manual mode anyway.  Unfortunately, it appears to have a tendency to flare:

Canon debuted the S110, which is a continuation of their S series.  I have an S90 and love it.  The Powershot S110 adds Wi-Fi.

Fuji added a new camera to their X series of cameras, the XE-1.  They put a major emphasis on showing how lots of other lenses can work on the X series camera.  You could even check other company lenses out on a XE-1 with a dramatic sequence of carabiners being attached to counters and photo ids given to staff.  I find this interesting, since most people rave about how good the Fuji lenses are but complain about their manual focus performance and autofocus speed, which this does nothing to address.  Fuji had their lens bits on display:

Fuji also showed the XF1 which is like Canon’s S90/95/100/110 series but with upgraded materials.

Fuji also showed some of their Cinema lenses, which would probably go over better at something like NAB.

You can see that Cinema lenses have some unique features, including a gear so that focus can be adjusted during a shot via a gear mechanism.  There are lots of witness marks on the barrel.  Crew will measure out distances from where the talent stands and then use the witness marks to focus very precisely.  There are screws to allow the lens to be opened by a technician and cleaned.  And, it can be yours for only $28,800.

Panasonic debuted the Lumix GH3.  Again, unfortunately I got distracted and forgot to look at the camera.

Panasonic booth?

Wait, was that the Canon booth?  Anyway…Moving on to professional strobe equipment.  Strobe equipment typically have long product lifetimes but there were several product announcements at Photokina.

Profoto is kind of regarded as the standard bearer for pro flashes, in the US at least.  Every rental house has Profoto equipment, they were one of the first to work on multiple voltages, they have a very short flash duration because they charge the flash capacitor to 900V on the pro models, instead of 450V like most other flash manufacturers (see my last post) they are built like tanks, and they are repairable.  And expensive.  So if you think your B3 is not expensive enough, now you are lucky because you can get a B4!

Profoto B4

Profoto was mobbed, but somebody named Sven was kind enough to answer my questions.  The B4 is a 1J to 1000J professional battery or mains powered strobe pack.  Both lamp heads are completely asymmetric.  The thing has a ~30V battery and weighs 9.8 kilos, which is more than the B3 (8.8 kilos), and it provides 80 fewer shots at full power, with less energy (1000 vs. 1200J).  While I’m on my soapbox, the thing is back in the stone ages of film-based photography when I was lugging 7b and 7b-2s around, you almost always had one pack for each head, which makes me wish people would make full-featured packs which weighed less and focused less on having full asymmetry in the pack.  Just get two packs instead!  The Acute 600B is not an option because it has poor flash duration.  The B4 does have some advantages though, the flash duration is (claimed) to be from 1/5500 to 1/2000 in ‘normal’ mode (although those are t0.5 numbers) and from 1/25,000 to 1/11,000 in freeze mode (again t0.5) which is mighty quick.  It also charges in 45 minutes, and has ‘unlimited’ flashes when plugged into the mains.  I would have liked to have seen an LED light source for the modeling light so that the entire battery wouldn’t be depleted in about 10 minutes on location with the light on.  LED technology has evolved quite a bit in the past few years.  I think that is the biggest thing I don’t like about this pack.  But, like all Profoto equipment, it is nicely built, will be available everywhere for rentals, and will undoubtedly be very expensive.  Sadly, at least in Los Angeles, more and more people are moving to cheaper platforms like Paul C. Buff.  BTW, for the guys at Profoto who won’t read this, at one of the fly-by-night China exhibits I sourced a LiFePO4 battery for $50 that will fit my 7b and will try installing it when I get back to LA.  It is probably the same battery Profoto sells for $1100.  If I get lucky, the pack won’t blow up.  

Bowens came out with their Creo line.  Bowens products are sold in Calumet stores in the US.  They are more affordable than Profoto but I wasn’t happy with their offerings.  But the multivoltage Creo have very fast flash duration, and can recycle in .5 to .9 seconds for the 1200J and 2400J packs, respectively.   Unfortunately, these suckers are heavy, 12 kilos for the 1200 and 15.35 for the 2400.  The Profoto 7a 1200 and 2400 are 9 kilos and 12 kilos respectively.

Hensel came out with the Nova DL 2400 and DL 1200.  These packs are relatively light, at 7.15 and 8.5 kilos, although not fully asymmetric.

Elinchrom showed their Quadra hybrid, which has a lithium battery and is very light (only 2 kilos) and, which does have an LED modeling light.

Broncolor showed the Move 1200 L pack which weighs only 6 kilos with the MobiLED head which again features an LED modeling light:

Broncolor is famous for being even more expensive than Profoto.  They are one manufacturer who state flash duration @ t(0.1), however, their numbers at full pack power are not that impressive.

Outside, some birds of prey were on exhibit.

So, that was Photokina.  It was good to see some interest in analog photography in the 2nd half of 2012.  Many incremental improvements to products like the S110 adding WiFi.  Lots of product announcements.  Maybe they should have Photokina every year since the market seems to be accelerating life cycles of products?  Would I buy anything?  Obviously, I haven’t mentioned the new Leica M camera or the new Canon DSLR which tells you I wasn’t interested; I like the Nex-6 price point but for right now I’m happy with my Nikon D800 and my Canon S90.

Profoto Pro-7b t0.1 Flash Duration

I measured the t0.1 Flash Duration of the Profoto Pro-7b pack using one Pro-7 head.


All measurements were with Pro-7 head (not 7b head), and measured from 10% of maximum intensity to 10% of maximum intensity (t0.1)

I measured whole stops only (MAX -> -4 on the pack) .  Since you can use the pack at 1/2 power and 1/4 power, this gives 7 stops (1200J to 18.75J)

One measurement in ‘A’ Asymmetric is an outlier, and should be retaken.

Some Findings:

  • A in Asymmetric (A 1/2|B 1/4) is same as B with switch up (A 1/1 |B 1/2)
  • Use B outlet in Asymmetric mode (A 1/2|B 1/4) for shortest duration flashes @ 300J and below
  • Use A outlet in Asymmetric mode (A 1/2|B 1/4) or B outlet in Symmetric mode @ 600J
    Example: if you need 600J, put the head into ‘B’ and set dial to ‘max’ or put dial in ‘A’ and set switch down (A 1/2|B 1/4); light will be same but duration will be 1/833 instead of 1/425 when head is in ‘A’ and symmetric (switch up)
  • Profoto manual appears to be wrong in flash durations
  • Pro-7b appears to reduce flash output by reducing voltage on the capacitors, which causes flash duration to increase.
  • Fastest setting is B 1/4 setting at 150J (dial at -1 which is 1/4 of 600)
  • risetime of flash is much quicker than it was with Dynalite, possible because pack discharges a higher voltage?

Flash Duration Measurement

I took a photo class where we used studio strobes. I was surprised when I set my shutter speed to 1/250s (the maximum sync speed — 4ms duration), when I looked at the image, part of the frame was black. With an on-camera flash, you never see this. The solution in class was to set the shutter speed to 1/160s (6.25 ms). I thought about why this was so and thought it had to do with the flash being of such long duration that the flash hadn’t delivered all of the light it was supposed to before the mechanical shutter started closing, causing part of the frame to be underexposed.  I decided to investigate the duration of the flash with different strobes. In order to do this I decided to measure the flash duration using a light sensor called a photodiode and a circuit I built which I’ll talk about at the end, if you are really curious.  Anyway, from searching the web it turns out that flash manufacturers typically quote a “t 0.5 time” which measures the flash from 50% of light delivered to 50% of light delivered.  Let’s look at one of my measurements:

This is a graph of the output of the photosensor that I built vs. time. It’s measured on something called a real-time oscilloscope, which plots voltage vs. time. The flash works by discharging a high capacitor charged to high voltage through a xenon tube. The shape of the graph should be familiar to most engineers.
I drew the 50% mark that most flash manufacturers quote. You can see that after 50% until the 10% mark there is a lot of light which hasn’t been delivered yet.  A more accurate measure of light duration is the t.1 measurement, which is when you measure from when the flash is 10% of the peak until it falls back down to 10% of the peak source. So, I measured the t.1 way, which people say is approximately 3x as long as the t.5 time. I set a trigger to capture the waveform, then I made sure the peak was not hitting the limit of the amplifier, and I called that the peak, then I measured from 10% peak to 10%peak using the cursors on the oscilloscope.

I have an older Dynalite pack I bought used. The Dynalite packs have kind of idiosyncratic notation, especially the old ones. It can either be in ratio mode, where each half of the pack is separate, or combine, where all the energy is available to both channels.

So, here are my results with a Dynalite 500XL strobe and 1 4040 head:

w/Pack set to Ratio and Variator set to zero:

62J   — 1/1355 s (claim from Dynalite: 1/4500s)

125J — 1/925 s

250J — 1/581 s

With pack set to combine and Variator set to zero:
312.5J — 1/464 s
375J — 1/460 s (why so little difference?)
500J — 1/342 s (claim from Dynalite: 1/1000s)

So you can see that increasing the light output increases the flash duration. Now something I have mentioned but not talked about is the variator which is a way of controlling the flash on a fraction of a stop basis.

Let’s look at when the we set the pack to 250J + 250J (combine) but the variator is set to -1 Stop
250J — 1/291 sec. Now, that is very close to our sync speed. If we have an wireless trigger for the flash, that probably adds some delay (maybe I’ll measure that next), and we could start to close the shutter when the flash is still on and delivering light.

In reality, in class we used 800J and 1000J Dynalite packs, which are slower than the 500J pack that I have. We were shooting with small f-stops, so the pack was almost at its full power setting. I am pretty sure that is what caused the black bars to show up on the camera.

I attached a report which has a graph of all measurements I took.

If you are shooting outdoors where you have to balance available light, or trying to capture a model in motion in the studio, try set the variator to the ‘0’ or no-trim setting. This will make the flash duration the quickest possible for the pack you have. If you want to estimate t.1 time for a flash pack, my measurements show that it is safe to use the rule of thumb that t.1 time is approximately 3x as long as t.5 time, as long as the variator is set to minimum at least with Dynalite flash.

How I built this thing:
Since a diode converts photons into electric current, I used a transimpedance amplifier to convert the current to a voltage. I used a TI 2380 Op-Amp which has a GBWP of 90 MHz. Originally I set the resistor to 10K but this provided too much gain, so I set the feedback resistor to 4.7K and increased the capacitance to 8pF. I carefully selected a photodiode which was sensitive in the visual range, but I think given the brightness of the light, I didn’t need such a specialized photodiode, and I probably could have used even an LED as the photodiode. The scope I used, an Agilent DSO9104A seems to be pretty noisy at 1V/div.

What Craigslist has degnerated to

I tried to sell something on Craigslist.  Let’s see what I got for responses:

  • 2 Nigerian scammers.  Are these guys on Craig Newmark’s payroll? They always use small i’s and no space after punctuation,
  • “Thanks for the reply,i am buying the item for my son who study oversea,so i want you to ship the item to him,I will pay $100 for the shipping cost,I am a member of the UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS(USMC)i …”

  • 1 picture of a guy’s junk — did nothing for me, but if that’s all I had, I wouldn’t be emailing it to strangers
  • 5 guys offering $100 less than it’s worth
  • 1 hood in North Hollywood who wanted to meet in the parking lot of a Sun Valley strip club frequented by gang bangers

how hard would it be to implement a community system and filter IPs based on location? Google does it, so why can’t craigslist?

How to Survive…Las Vegas

While many people might think you are super lucky to be posted for an extended time in Las Vegas for example, for a trade show like CES or INTEROP, in my experience, the reality is a little less glamorous.  You have to be there before everyone else, and leave after everyone else.  Here’s what I’ve found makes it a little easier.

  • Rent a car

Taxis are the biggest rip off in Vegas.  You have to tip the door man and there are always long lines for taxis at the airport, at the convention center, at the hotel, just about anywhere you need to go.  All casinos have plenty of free parking, so when you want the strip experience, you can have it, and when you are sick of it, you can go do something else.  Also, sitting down in your car after a day on your feet instead of standing and waiting for the shuttle van back to the hotel is priceless.  You can park in the neighborhood next to the convention center for free.  You can drive to Fry’s if you need to.  Close to Fry’s is Whole Foods.

  • Stay in an off-strip hotel non-gaming near the airport

You won’t appreciate if somebody in the room next door makes a lot of noise.  If they are a high roller or celebrity, in my experience the casino will not do anything, and the hotel will be completely full, so you will be stuck.  Hotels near the airport sell blocks of rooms to airlines so pilots and the rest of the flight crew can sleep.  If someone is making a lot of noise, they are more likely to throw the people out.  The other problem with strip hotels is that check-in takes forever!

  • Eat off-strip. 

since you have a car, you can drive to places like Parma by Chef Marc on days when you’re not taking a customer out, or, if you are, to Kabuto if you are able to get a reservation.  Or, stop by the Ethiopian places East of Swenson.

  • Visit the outdoors

If you’re there when the weather is bearable, and you have some downtime (like on the Sunday before a show, or after you pack up) vist Hoover Dam or Red Rock Canyon

Following these steps makes an extended stay in Las Vegas enjoyable.  It’s just a lot different from what most people experience.


Nerd stores in the Valley…

a few stores I find interesting. Not all are surplus. mostly for building stuff, and electronics

8909 San Fernando Road
Sun Valley, CA. 91352
m-f 8-5
sa 8-4
surplus electronics. wire.
Unfortunately, this place is a dump! On a hot day with the dust from the Vulcan dirt mine across San Fernando Road, it looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. With piles of junk everywhere. Nobody wants a BetaSP deck with lightning damage from 1993.

Luky’s Hardware and Surplus
3814 West Burbank Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
m-f 8-5
sa 8-4
surplus aerospace hardware
lots of hydraulic hoses and attachment hardware. If I ever clean up one of my Saab engines, I might use some fittings from here. Also, good for rigging things.

1400 West Burbank Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91506
m-f 8-6
sa 10-5
cinematography/video supplies
lots of cool stuff. go to ‘camera’ in the back.

All Electronics
14928 Oxnard Street
Van Nuys, CA 91411
m-f 9–6:30
sa 9-5
surplus electronics stuff.

Tool Time
4126 West Burbank Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91505
m-f 7:30–5:30
Sa 9–1pm
Makita power tools. Full line. Repair drop-off.
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VC, your time is going to come (again)

I’m all for calling things as they are.  For example, it’s obvious Led Zeppelin’s first album is basically just a cover album [6 of 9 songs = cover album]. And I agree with Alexander Haslip Facebook is basically just an ad machine. At least our ‘best and brightest’ aren’t becoming quants on Wall Street. So what is the root of the lack of ‘good’ things coming out of Silicon Valley? Venture Capital. What I mean is a lot of people like to go bowling but nobody is throwing money at them to eat pizza for 3 years and dedicate themselves to bowling like is happening with the ‘soft’ tech companies Haslip decries. All of these ‘soft’ tech companies are getting funded by venture capitalists. VCs have a herd mentality so when one thing makes money, they fund everything else that’s similar — we saw it 12 years ago in the dot bomb era, we saw it 8 years ago in 10GBASE-T PHYs [Teranetics, Plato Networks, Solarflare], and now we’re seeing it in social networking. And they don’t care if Silicon Valley “can do better”. The hope is to make some money. The second factor for the lack of groundbreaking companies being formed is the fundamental technology has already been developed. And often, it’s been open sourced. Firewalls, routers, website hosting softare, databases…Things that 11 years ago would require heavy development work and could get concomitant venture funding can now be deployed with a few GUI strokes. So now, rather than taking that and making better IT for medicine, it’s easier to remake VRBO into a hipper version, complete with meth pipes for added hipster cred. It’s interesting how some of the most successful communications IC companies (QUALCOMM and Broadcom) were founded by UC system professors without VC involvement. Maybe that’s the solution? Develop a fundamental technology at the right time w/o VC funding?