Lensbaby Composer goes Pro

Sarah Tew/CNET)

The latest lens accessory Lensbaby pulls out of its quiver targets pickier users who want better build quality and smoother focus and tilt operation than the company’s previous products offered. The Lensbaby Composer Pro will come in two configurations: $300 equipped with the Double Glass Optic, or $400 with the Sweet 35 Optic. The older Lensbaby Composer will remain available at a lower price of $250 (with the Double Glass Optic).

If you’ve never heard of Lensbaby’s products, they’re adapters for a variety of dSLR and Micro Four Thirds lens mounts which deliver relatively inexpensive manual-focus specialty lenses and special-effects capabilities.

I got a chance to play with the Composer Pro this weekend, and took the Sweet 35 Optic out for a shoot on the Canon EOS 7D. The differences between the Pro and entry-level versions of the Composer are noticeable, not just because of the obvious black vs. black-and-silver finishes, but because of the Pro’s much smoother operation in all respects. The rotation feels much more fluid than the rather stiff movement of the earlier model, and the focus ring works far more like a normal lens’–the original was very loose–though still just a bit looser than I like. The upgraded build delivers more precise movement, and the increased fluidity makes it far more suitable for shooting video.

Lensbaby Sweet 35 photo samples

It’s still not big on the reproducibility aspect of “professional,” however; if you find a particular tilt angle you like, good luck exactly replicating it again. And I wish there were some mechanism or indicator that made it possible to quickly snap back to a position parallel to the focal plane–or at least tell me when it is.

As for the Sweet 35 Optic, it’s one of my favorites to date–probably because it’s the easiest to use. Unlike the other lenses, you don’t have to manually swap aperture rings. You rotate the lens, and feel the distinctive click of the 12-bladed aperture locking in from f2.5 to f22. There are several caveats to keep in mind, though. First, at smaller apertures the optical viewfinder gets very dark and low contrast, even on the relatively nice viewfinder of the 7D, which makes focusing that way difficult. Live View is always an option, depending upon the quality of your LCD. I also found the lens couldn’t focus at all at the more oblique tilt angles (the Composer Pro tilts to 17.5 degrees). It focuses only as close as 7.5 inches. And optically it’s not a great lens, displaying quite a bit of aberration and never getting as sharp as I wanted. Of course, it’s also a lot cheaper than most fast 35mm lenses ($180 standalone).

This is about as sharp as I could get with the Sweet 35 Optic.

Lori Grunin/CNET)

If you have the extra bucks to spend, the Composer Pro’s smoother operation definitely makes it worth it over the original Composer, and if you want to use it for rotation while shooting video, you pretty much need the Pro model. Either way, if you’re a creative shooter–or are looking for a gift for one–a Lensbaby certainly increases the experimentation quotient for a reasonable price.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20049434-1.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

CNET Car Tech: 2011 Chevy Volt

You can literally count the truly impactful new
cars of the post-war era on two hands with a couple fingers left over. With the arrival of the Chevy Volt, there’s one less finger free. But does that guarantee the Volt will do all its expected to? Brian Cooley takes you for a drive to check the tech.

Article source: http://cnettv.cnet.com/8301-13415_53-20050146-11.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=TheCarTechblog

This week in Crave: The crowdsourced edition

James Cameron and Mars cam

James Cameron’s Mars mast cam will stay on Earth for now.


Too busy working on your composition for CNET’s crowdsourced album to keep up with Crave all week? Here’s what you missed while you were busy becoming the next GarageBand great.

? GPS mortars got deployed to Afghanistan.

? Dan Ackerman detailed his mini-man-cave strategy.

? Not up for a real girlfriend? Consider a cloud gal.

? Bright news for the Nook Color.

? James Cameron’s 3D Mars camera not headed for Mars.

? Here’s how a
tablet could beat Apple and Android.

? Submarine sonar tech’s new target: strokes.

? Would you pay $40,000 for a watch?

? You might want to lay off your horns, Jetta owners.

? Paging Dr. Sexytime!

Got a sexy story idea? Page us at crave at cnet dot com.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20049331-1.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

Nintendo 3DS microwaved in the name of insanity

A Nintendo 3DS engulfed in flames. With all that’s wrong in the world, this is exactly what we need people to be doing with their time.

Kenny Irwin)

Nintendo has a lot going for it right now, but none of that really matters to Microwave Theater host Kenny Irwin, who maniacally microwaves electronics and other miscellaneous objects.

The latest victim is a mint aqua blue Nintendo 3DS, which is completely incinerated in a four-minute video that is beyond absurd.

After setting the microwave to full power, the $250 3DS takes about half a minute to explode and burst into flames. Be sure to turn down your volume after the 2:30 mark, as the narrator can’t seem to contain his excitement at destroying the portable game console. After scraping off the burned remains with a spatula, he offers it for sale for nearly a thousand dollars. What a bargain.

The only common sense found in the video is the warning that people should not attempt this at home.

Irwin, a self-described artist, innovator, and inventor, has somehow marched on past 15 minutes of fame after we first got to know him in the microwaved iPad 3G video. His YouTube channel has ballooned to more than 14 million views and he even appeared on the Conan O’Brien show.

I’m not sure if I’d leave my microwave alone in a room with this guy after listening to his banter.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20049868-1.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

CNET Car Tech: 2011 VW Touareg Hybrid

If you want a vehicle that’s fast, big and economical (sort of) can you get all of that in a VW? That’s seemingly the promise of the supercharged 2011 VW Touareg Hybrid. Brian Cooley takes you for a drive to check the tech.

(Full CNET Review of the Touareg Hybrid)

Article source: http://cnettv.cnet.com/8301-13415_53-20050049-11.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=TheCarTechblog

Did Sony CEO leak plans for iPhone 5 camera?

Sony CEO Howard Stringer fueled speculation that Sony would be supplying the camera for the iPhone 5–and that it would be late doing so.


The tech blogosphere is abuzz this morning with news that Sony CEO Howard Stringer may have accidentally leaked word that Sony was supplying the camera sensor for the
iPhone 5–and that delivery of that sensor has been delayed due to factory damage in Japan.

During an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, Stringer reportedly was talking about how Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami had affected 15 Sony factories. One of those factories happens to be where Sony makes its camera sensors.

9to5Mac’s Seth Weintraub was at the event, which the public paid $20 to attend (the event was called Talking Tech with Sony and the Wall Street Journal). He reported the following:

I’m here watching Walt Mossberg talk to Sony’s CEO, Sir Howard Stringer. Stringer just said that their camera image sensor facility in Sendai was affected by the tsunami. Getting image sensors to Apple will be delayed. Stinger said something to the effect of: “Our best sensor technology is built in one of the (tsunami) affected factories. Those go to Apple for their iPhones…or iPads. Isn’t that something? They buy our best sensors from us?”

That’s not an exact quote from Stringer but later the Wall Street Journal, reporting on its own event, mentioned the camera comment:

Early on, he raised the irony of Sony supplying camera components for Apple devices. It “always puzzles me,” he said. “Why would I make Apple the best camera?” It is unclear what devices he was talking about as Sony isn’t known to supply key camera components, known as image sensors, to Apple; A Sony spokeswoman declined to comment and an Apple spokesperson couldn’t be reached for comment.

OmniVision has been providing the image sensors for the iPhone 4, but recent rumors have suggested that Apple was switching to Sony camera components for the iPhone 5. Word was Apple was looking at Sony’s Exmor R 8MP sensors, which are found in the new Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and Neo smartphones (the iPhone 4 has a 5MP sensor). While users have been impressed with the iPhone 4’s video shooting capabilities some have complained that indoor still shots have a yellow tinge to them. Apple has been rumored to be moving to Sony sensors for a while.

If indeed the delivery of the sensors is delayed, the question is whether the iPhone 5 will be delayed. Some recent reports suggest that the iPhone 5 will ship in the fall instead of in June, with Apple focusing exclusively on software at its World Wide Developers Conference in June. Of course, none of that’s confirmed and many believe Apple will announce a next-generation iPhone this summer as it has in the past.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20049964-1.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

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