Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App – Slideshow

September 29, 2011

Yet another update of the 500px BETA iPad app was released today. I’ve never seen a development team work quite this fast and yet still release a relatively bug-free software.

If you haven’t read my three previous posts which describe the app in detail and show off the screenshots for the main pages of the app, please see:

Today… The update included, among other things, the release of the very solid Slideshow feature.

This feature allows you to

  • Run a slide show beginning with the thumbnails on any given screen
  • Use any one of three transitions
  • Play music from your iPod app while the show runs (optional)
  • Slideshow Launch Menu – In the bottom left corner (also available in the upper right corner on full image pages) is the Slideshow button. From there, your options for setting the parameters of the Slideshow appear.
  • Music Selection Screen – When you select the ‘Music’ button, you may select multiple tracks from your iPod by artist, track, playlist, etc.

TIP: Any photo enthusiast worth his salt knows that Toto’s Africa makes an especially good backdrop for Landscape photos (Ed. Note: This statement is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the musical preference of 500px, although we’re pretty sure they would agree, because… honestly, who the hell doesn’t love that song?)

As for what the Slideshow actually looks like, it is the full screen version of the photos, as crystal clear as if you’d expanded the images manually, which was described in my previous posts.

More updates to come as new builds are released!

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BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App – SCREENSHOTS

September 28, 2011

This afternoon, I was informed that the restrictions on NOT publishing any Screenshots from the new 500px BETA iPad app had been lifted.  As a result, I am pleased to finally be able to show the images below.  I’ve been asked to reinforce the fact that this is a work in progress, with changes being made daily.

 

If you haven’t read my two previous posts which describe the app in detail, please see:

BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (30 minute review) and BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (Part II)

 

  • The iPad Splash Screen – As I said before, they are holding a contest to find an image to be the permanent “front door” of the app.  I think this one’s pretty good… but hey… who knows.  You slide your finger across the bottom right corner to open the app.

 

  • The Main Screen of the app – This is in Portrait mode, my preferred orientation.   I have a thumbnail for a landscape view below.  You’ll notice the navigation menu on the left side of the screen with all of the options you need.  To the right of the menu, 12 crystal clear thumbnails.

Click image to see Landscape view:

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWO MORE SHOTS AFTER THE JUMP:

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BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (Part II)

September 27, 2011

THIS IS A FOLLOW UP TO PART 1 (read first)

NOTE:  At the time of writing this, I was asked NOT to include Screenshots, thus there are not here.  But since then, they have lifted that restriction.  Please see THIS POST FOR SCREENSHOTS.

I received an UPDATE to the 500px BETA iPad app this afternoon and finally had a chance to sit down and play with it this evening. I wanted to just offer a couple quick updates, letting you know what’s happening with it.

Already I am growing more and more impressed with it as it seems they are taking to heart some of what I brought up in my first review. Now… I have it on good authority that these changes were already on the books to be implemented, but it is so much more pleasing for my ego to think I played some role in this.

Seriously though… Banged away on it for an hour tonight and I am noticing the following changes:

  • Fresh Gallery: Yes! The newest images. Offered from a menu on the left side along with all the other options.
  • More Export Options: For individual images, you can now ‘Open in Safari’ and ‘Export to Tumblr’

On a separate note… Something I neglected to mention in my original write up: I’d really like to see the ability to Filter by Category in all of the galleries. On the website, I am able to select (from a drop down) which type of images I want to see, i.e. Landscape, Fine Art, Macro, Portrait, etc. Maybe even a search by tag… But I don’t think i even need that much sort power, so I’ll just stick to the Filter by Category request.

Again… Still looking good. Load times and image quality still top notch. For the new Fresh functionality, increasing my rating to:

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Still waiting to see where we net out on some other points mentioned in the first post. Until next time…

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BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (30 minute review)

September 23, 2011

I was fortunate enough to be one of the beta testers for the as-yet-to-be-released 500px iPad app, currently in beta form.  I am going to give you just my initial thoughts and then will likely do a follow up post once I have lived with it for a while longer.

NOTE:  At the time of writing this, I was asked NOT to include Screenshots, thus there are not here.  But since then, they have lifted that restriction.  Please see THIS POST FOR SCREENSHOTS.

500px is a fairly under-appreciated photo portfolio site on the internet… in my humble opinion.  There are dozens of great articles telling you about the site, what it offers and why it’s superior to most other portfolio offerings out there.   But I’ll give you my quick list, just to add some context to the iPad app.

500px has successfully prevented you from ever having to login and see a given user’s 423 vacation pictures of Disneyland.  This alone it what makes them a great home for photographers and photo-related artists.  They do this by either charging a very reasonable fee for unlimited uploads, which scares off the majority of dump-loaders (those who dump their whole memory card into the service)… or limiting the number of images that the free users may upload to 10 per week.  As a result… at least 75% of the images uploaded are worth a solid look.  It’s my absolute favorite way to find new and interesting artists… hands down.

They also have a very unique rating system that successfully gives EVERY member a shot at the spotlight on the “Popular” images page.  Over time (and by time… I mean… daily) ratings vastly change and you rarely see the same thing at the top of the Popular page.

In short… it’s not Flickr.

iPad BETA APP REVIEW:

Okay… on to the reason you’re here.  I am going to cover mostly features and what I think (although I can never be sure) the product is going for.  Minor bugs or things that I’m positive will be worked out will be sent to the developers but don’t need to be covered ad nauseam here.

LAUNCH:  A splash page starts the software off.  500px is holding a contest to find an image to be the “cover image” for the app.  From here, you flip into the app itself.

*** FULL REVIEW AFTER THE JUMP ***

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Zenfolio – New Features: HD Video, New Menus, Tablet Support

September 22, 2011

As a followup to my post yesterday, I thought I’d share this.  I am a big fan of sites that continue to work to add new features.

It was very reassuring to me, only days after switching, to log into Zenfolio and see a window sharing with me some new features that were coming to the site.  As I said, this was sort of my gripe with SmugMug — things were beginning to feel dated.

  • HD Video – Zenfolio will begin hosting 1080p HD video shortly.  So… no need to separate your portfolio across multiple sites when you need to include video.
  • Better Tablet Support – Along with their iPhone/iPad app they have optimized the user experience when viewing on a tablet.  The slideshows are all coded in HTML5 so they work beautifully on all devices — no Flash necessary.
  • New Menus & Themes – To keep things fresh, five new Menus and Themes have been added.

COUPON CODE – You save 10%:  Okay… read carefully.  All of my praise of Zenfolio the last few days, is totally unbiased.  I simply want the best photo hosting option.  I haven’t been paid or compensated in anyway by them or anyone else to sing this tune.  But… as with all of these sites, there are referal bonuses.  And I’m going to give you mine.  What will this do?  When you sign up for a full subscription, it will give you 10% off the price (and yes… I will get a small kickback as well).  Hey… we’re in a recession… but I’ll keep my honest thoughts coming regardless of the income.  So… if you want to sign up… use this code when prompted:  N95-WSY-REW

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REVIEW: Rode VideoMic Directional Video Microphone

June 30, 2011

With more and more DSLR’s featuring some pretty powerful HD video capabilities, the need to supplement what is nearly always an abysmal on-camera microphone is becoming more common.  I shoot with my Nikon D7000 in stunning Full HD (1920×1080 resolution) quite often, whether just video of my kids or something more deliberate.  But the audio, even in controlled environments sounds as if I’ve shot this somewhere in a NY subway tunnel.

I decided to try and find a decent mic (meaning, keep a relatively wide tonal range while eliminating some background noise) for a not-so super-pro (read: Sennheiser) price.

The Rode (pronounced ‘Rudd’) VideoMic Directional Video Microphone had been popping up in my searches.  It had received good reviews on Amazon and while its list was around $250, it was (and still is, as of this writing) on sale for $150.00.

FULL REVIEW AND SAMPLE VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: Blogsy for iPad

April 15, 2011

Let me start of by saying, I’m writing this post on a computer… an actual PC machine with a real keyboard, on the WordPress site.  Why?  Because it’s simply the easiest and best way to do it when we’re talking about working with pre-formatted blogging tools.  But… remember this post from yesterday?  That was written, formatted and uploaded using the Blogsy app on my iPad.

I love my iPad and use it for countless tasks, both professional and personal.  There are some limitations to it, and while I’m not here to discuss the iPad, per se, some of the usability issues which are inherent to the iPad, seem to plague Blogsy as well.  That said…

Blogsy is far and away, the best blogging app on the market for the iPad.  I’ve tried most apps out there, including the actual WordPress app, which is passable, but fails in many areas where Blogsy succeeds.

I opted to write the post from yesterday in Blogsy because it included a number of different formatting variables which I wanted to test out.  I’m fairly particular about formatting and was curious how this new tool would handle it.  It contains an image in the upper left, with the text wrapping around it, some links, a quoted section and some bullet points.  And when all is said and done, as a viewer, I wager you would never be able to tell that it was not created on a PC with the full WordPress interface.

One note… I’m sure I’m not going to cover every aspect of this app, and encourage you to watch the plethora of how-to videos available on the Blogsy site.  They really provide a good idea of the handling of the product and found my assessment in line with what was being presented.

APP OVERVIEW:

Despite all it does, the Blogsy app is very clean looking.  It allows you a lot of screen real estate to get your content onto the window, and when you need one of the ancillary functions, it neatly slides into view from the right.  More on this below…

The important thing to notice is there are two “modes”.  A Rich Text format (or “Visual” as WordPress calls it), and HTML.  You do ALL of your editing of text in the HTML mode, then swipe across the page with your finger and it will flip the page and show you what it will look like to your reader.

Across the top, you have all of your standard formatting tools which are fairly self explanatory.  These can be implemented from both the Rich Text page and the HTML page.  I ended up applying the bullets in my post in the HTML side of things and only found out at the end I could do it on the Rich Text page and see immediately what it looked like.

Getting back to the tools on the right side of the frame.  It is here that you can do a variety of things really in quite a simple way.  You can navigate to a webpage and drag the URL (and thus the link) into your post, linking your selected text – even opting to “open in new window” — this is the kind of details most apps leave out.  Boo them… Yay Blogsy.  You can also drag YouTube Videos and photos from your Flickr account over into the post as well.  Both can be placed anywhere by just dragging to your desired locations (novel idea, huh… odd most apps don’t do that) and you can select to resize and format in various way.

When all is said and done… you flip back to the Rich Text page and decide if you like what you see:

Post in HTML Format

Post in Rich Text Format

If you’re done editing, you progress into another area that I am a stickler for… Categories and Tags (and other data of the meta variety).

If you click the gear icon in the upper left corner, you can add, apply or unapply various settings.  For me Categories and Tags are big.  I was able to see all of my settings from my WordPress blog.  [Note:  Syncing with my blog on WordPress was fairly painless… so painless that I neglected to mention it until now.  So… yeah… painless.]  In this menu you can also allow or disallow comments and other various options.  Again… this is the sort of detail that I find a lot of iPad apps leave out.  They sort of take whatever the masses agree are the most popular setting, and force you to use them.

Once all is set… you press the Publish button and you’re done.

WHAT WORKED:

  • The interface is fantastic.  There is plenty of real estate to edit the test of your post.  More so than I even get on my PC interface for WordPress.  The ancillary tools are a single press away, but do not infringe upon your space to work.
  • The method in which you can add images, video and links is very well thought out.  From placement to sizing to the options such as “open in a new window”, you can do just about anything you need to.
  • Intuitive!  I love it when a program thinks like I do.  That’s not to say it will think like you do… but for me.  I expect to find options where I expect to find them (not sure that made much sense… but I’m going with it).  And each option was exactly where I expected it to be.
  • Rich Text vs. HTML – Being able to see what it is you’re going to post, in the format in which it will be posted is big.  There is no guess work.  But if you want to make manual HTML modifications… it’s right there for you to do.

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED:

  • The folks at Blogsy are very up front about one key feature being missing — the ability to upload pictures from the library on your iPad to your post.  But they say it’s coming and I have no reason to doubt them.
  • Edit in Rich Text – I do wish I could edit the text in Rich Text mode.  When I had dropped in all the bullets and quotes in the post I created using the tool, and then had to edit content, navigating around the HTML code to change a simple typo was a little but frustrating.
  • Undo — I don’t know if there is the required engine on an iPad to have an undo function… but it’d be nice.  I inadvertently deleted some HTML code and had to go back and manually type it in.  I know about as much about HTML as I do about defusing a nuclear weapon, so… there was a lot of guess work.
  • Other blog options:  I use WordPress — so I was fine.  I know Blogger is supported as well.  But there may be other blogging options which would be useful.
  • SmugMug:  I have a Flickr account (which is covered here), but primarily use my SmugMug account for professional things.  I’d love to see that included as well.

WHAT CAN’T BE IMPROVED:

  • It’s an iPad — it’s not a lap top with an external mouse.  Everything takes a little extra effort.  I have big fingers — and you know what they say about a guy with big fingers… that’s right: “Highlighting on an iPad sucks!”  There is a lot of that in this program.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

If you’re on your computer at work/home/studio/library/etc… use the programs provided to you in your browser or on your desktop.  But if you are going to be writing blog posts from anywhere else… this is your answer.  I can say without a doubt that there is no better option.  There was a lot of time spent catering to the small details, while never losing site of the main purpose of writing.

POST SCRIPT:

When I sent out a tweet stating that I was going to be writing this review, the folks (or folk… person, whatever) at Blogsy responded right away and thanked me for doing a review.  They had no idea whether it was going to be a good review or a bad review… but they were attentive and they were listening to their users — this is a great trait in a software company.  I can’t say whether or not they will be there if you want to complain about some aspect of the program, but for me, the fact that in just a few minutes I got a response from them was reassuring.

RATING:

4 stars out of 5 – for now.  But I don’t think it will take much improvement to push this up to a perfect program.

Blogsy for iPad (via iTunes)

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