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December 23, 2005

"Kong" review

"Hmmmmm. Chewy, with a heady bouquet. Strong flavors of fur, grass, kibble, with a hint of human -- owner, I think. Slight off notes of cat, but not to excess. Bounces in unpredictable directions, easy to mouth. Easily a 92; a Best Buy!"

Posted by Mike Lief at 08:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2005

Mid-week hound


Bogie often enjoys starting his day with a satisfying chew on his squeaky toy, Squeaker.

Bogie's owner often enjoys beginning his day by telling the dog to "Go get Squeaker!"

Then Bogie's owner smiles and sips his coffee as he listens to Squeaker's squeaks while Bogie chews on the toy.

The simple pleasures.

Posted by Mike Lief at 08:03 AM | Comments (1)

December 10, 2005

Which digital camera?

Several friends have asked me which digital camera I'd recommend, probably because they know I'm a technnophile who enjoys researching before buying damn near anything; why not take advantage of my obsessive tendencies and "expertise," which tends to run very, very, veryveryvery shallow but extremely broad.

I should also add that I'm a shutterbug from w-a-a-a-a-y back, and made the leap into the digital world about three years ago. I bought my camera, the Canon A80, based in large measure on the recommendation of a professional photographer, Ken Rockwell. I've relied on his extremely thorough and totally opinionated reviews for purchasing decisions on lenses, flashes, camera bodies and digital cameras, and I've got to say the man has never steered me wrong.

He's posted a Holiday Buying Guide that tells you all you need to know about his take on the best digital cameras for all types of photographers, with links to additional info if you need to know even more.

Check out the rest of his web site, especially the How-to section; there's tons of good stuff to be found.

As far as my camera goes, I'm very happy with the A80, pictured below. Although it's now a couple of years old, it has some design features that make it preferable to some of its newer siblings in the Canon line.


The swiveling screen is a big plus, and it's a feature that has been deleted from the current lineup of cameras. It enables you to shoot over the heads of a crowd, while letting you to see what's in the picture. It lets you get down for low-to-the-ground shots without forcing you onto your belly. You can use it for unobtrusive candid shots, where the camera doesn't appear to be pointed at anyone.


But the most important aspect of the swiveling screen is the ability to protect it by folding it into the camera body. These LCDs are pretty fragile, and it's nice to be able to drop the camera into your pocket without worrying about scratching the screen.


Another thing I like about the A80 is that it uses AA batteries, not some funky proprietary design by the manufacturer. This means that wherever I am, I can always get batteries if the old ones die. I use rechargeables, which last a lot longer than standard alkelines, and they recharge in less than 30 minutes, too. But it's nice to know that I have the option of ducking into some little bodega if I need to and be able to keep on shooting.

a80-func menu.gif

As you can see from this picture, the menus are fairly extensive and provide you with a lot of control, far more than I had come to expect in a pocket camera.

What don't I like? The red-eye reduction feature is irritating, so I turned it off. I also ditched the auto-focus assist beam, cause I think it's distracting when I'm going for candids. I tend to almost never use the flash, preferring natural lighting, and I can handhold some pretty slow shutter speeds if I take my time. The camera can be slow when trying for action shots, but you can deal with this by selecting the fast "motor-drive" option, which cranks off about 10 fps.

I also disabled the digital zoom; anything beyond the 3X optical zoom is just a crap-tastic feature designed to one-up the competition. Trust me, "10X Digital Zoom" is sucker bait. If 3X won't work, get closer. Or, you can buy the telephoto lens Canon makes to fit over the bayonet mount on the front of the camera body. I haven't used it, but I hear it's okay.

I'm tempted by the Casio EX-Z750 reviewed by Ken Rockwell; it's so small and has more features and capabilities than the Canon, but I've been completely satisfied with the results I've been getting with the A80, so much so that all my expensive Nikon 35mm gear sits unused, gathering dust.

Here's a review of the A80 that's fairly exhaustive.

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:55 AM

December 05, 2005

I'm much more interesting than that stupid iBook!

Posted by Mike Lief at 11:23 PM