Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bells And Whistles

After eight years and almost 30,000 photos our main digital camera, a Sony DSC-F828, has finally died. It had been suffering for a while from randomly misbehaving pixels, but the more recent problems are rather more fatal. It will still take photos but only if you don't try zooming in. Once you get past a zoom level of x3 (which isn't really very much) then pressing the shutter doesn't result in any mechanical sounds and the photo is highly over exposed. If you turn the camera on when zoomed in then you can feel the motor inside the lens buzzing rather than doing anything useful. So while I might continue to use it for close up macro work (especially given that I own a macro lens adaptor for it) it isn't going to see much use.

Given that we've had no problems (until recently) with the Sony camera and have found it easy to use we have replaced it with another Sony bridge camera; specifically the DSC-HX200V. This camera, while costing half what the old one cost, has a x30 optical zoom compared with x7 and an 18 megapixel sensor compared to the 8 megapixel sensor in the old camera. It's the number of new features though that amazes me, and these are just the ones I've found so far:
  • sweep panorama
  • 3D still images
  • 3D panoramas
  • HDR still images
  • tracking focus
  • background defocus
  • face/smile detection
  • GPS tagging
I'm assuming that some of these are more of a gimmick than truly useful (I don't see how you can do true 3D photography with a single non-moving lens), but others, like the GPS (which will mean I don't need to carry my GPS track logger around), might turn out to be really useful. It is also supposed to support full HD quality video recording, although any video recording would be better than that supported by the DSC-F828 (very poor quality VGA resolution), so I might start doing some video work as well.

So far it looks like a really good replacement for the old camera, what we need now is a holiday to give it a really good test!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Blink And Remeber It Wholesale

If you've been reading this blog for a while you may well remember that while I'm in favour of bundling digital copies of movies with a DVD purchase, I haven't always found the experience to be particularly enjoyable. Recently though I've been very impressed with Tesco's blinkbox service.

While blinkbox is mainly aimed at the digital distribution of movies and TV shows (you can rent or buy digital copies of most of their offerings) I haven't actually paid them any money directly. My only contact with blinkbox has been the checkout at my local Tesco store.

Basically if you buy a supported DVD (one that is also available through blinkbox) in Tesco they give you access to a free digital copy through blinkbox as well. If you use your club card when paying then you will find an e-mail waiting for you when you get home reminding you about the digital copy, otherwise you'll find there is a code on your receipt that gives you access. The first time I came across this was when I picked up a copy of the new Total Recall film (which is actually pretty good, and which explains the title of this post) but I've had the same experience with quite a few other films now as well. I've only tried watching these digital copies on my computer (it even seems to work under Ubuntu although it isn't listed as supported) but blinkbox supports a whole range of devices from computers, to TVs, consoles, and various set-top boxes.

Amazon are doing something similar in the US with CDs which they call AutoRip, where if you buy a supported CD you will instantly get access to an MP3 copy of the CD to listen to while you wait for the physical version to arrive. This sounds like a really useful service which I hope they extend to the UK at some point.

While I think both services are a great idea I can see one small wrinkle; copyright law. Both services are essentially providing you with a digital copy when you buy a physical copy, not purely to make your life easier, but to move people away from performing format shifting themselves. The digital copies these services provided can't be easily shared (either they use DRM to lock them to your account or watermarking to make them easily traceable) and the hope is that if they provide the flexibility of a digital copy you won't need to create and share an untraceable copy. That is all well and good, but what about if you buy a DVD from Tesco (or a CD from Amazon) as a gift? If you give away the physical copy do you still have the legal right to watch the digital copy? I would assume that you don't although I can't find any details in the terms and conditions. Usually the assumption is that you can format shift for personal use, but if you get rid of the original copy then you must get rid of the copies you made as well (i.e. you can't rip your CDs to MP3 files and then sell the CDs while keeping the copies). I would assume the same legal restrictions would apply to blinkbox and AutoRip. One day copyright law might catch up with the modern world and answer such questions.