iTunes Radio Review

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I was one of the ones anxiously awaiting the arrival of iTunes Radio. Before iTunes Radio I was a paid user of Pandora Radio. While Pandora does offer streaming Internet radio for free, I paid to avoid hearing ads. I like Pandora, but the beauty of iTunes Radio is that it would integrate right into iOS 7,  iTunes on Mac/PC, and Apple TV. Like Pandora you create stations from your favorite artists, songs, genres, etc. iTunes Radio will sync all your stations to all your devices automatically via iCloud. The interface is pretty clean and consistent for the most part.

Getting Started

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It was really easy to get started. Launch iTunes Radio on an iOS device or go to in iTunes and tap/click the + sign to add a new station. Key in an artist, song, genre, etc. and you’re done. You can add additional artists, songs, etc. if you like. I also LOVE the ability to add artists that I NEVER want to hear! (Justin Bieber). I don’t know if there is a limit on the number of stations you can add, but I was able to add in several with no problem.

 

Music Playback and Repeats

The audio quality is excellent and I’ve used it both on WiFi at home and 4G on the road and in my car with no problems or skips. I did have one problem station that I ended up deleting and recreating. It actually got stuck playing the same 3 songs in a row over and over again. Once I got my stations sorted out with favorite artists and artists to never hear from, I have been using it every day. I have noticed that it does play a lot of the same songs repeatedly, especially when starting out at the beginning of my day. It seems that only after I’ve listened for a while (at least 3 songs) do I start to hear new songs. Luckily the songs it repeats are ones I really like.

 

Skipping Tracks and Thumbs Down

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You can skip up to 6 tracks per hour per station. This is similar to Pandora. Due to the licensing restrictions from the music industry you can’t just keep skipping songs until you hear the one you want. One of the odd interface things in iTunes Radio is that at first glance there doesn’t appear to be a way to thumbs down or tell it that you never want to hear a particular song again. You CAN do it! However, it’s oddly hidden under the Star icon. At first glance I figured the Star was to mark songs that I like (thumbs up). It wasn’t until I tapped on it on my iPhone and discovered that it’s actually a menu that contains the choices “Play more like this”, Never Play this Song” and “Add to iTunes Wishlist”

Your stations can also be shared with your friends and family or on social media. You can also turn on/off explicit lyrics.

 

Costs and The Bottom Line

Like Pandora Radio, iTunes Radio is FREE with Ads. However, if you are an iTunes Match ($25/year) customer (and I am) then you won’t hear ads on the devices that you have set up for iTunes Match! This works out to be a cost savings for me ($3.99/month) since I already had iTunes Match  and was able to stop my Pandora Radio subscription. If you hear a song you like and want to buy it there’s a button in the upper right corner that lists the price. Just tap it and buy the song. Also each station keeps a “recent” history so that you can go back through and see which songs have played and buy them if you like.

While I like the potential of iTunes Radio and how it’s integrated into all my devices, it will take a little more time to see if the music really works itself out. I have used Pandora Radio for over a year and with the thumbs up and thumbs downs that I’ve done over the past year, I could listen to Pandora for hours on end and hear music that I liked. It will take time to train all my iTunes Radio stations the same way.

As far as improvements go, I’d love the ability to restrict a station to only songs from a particular artist. I’m sure this is probably against the licensing agreements, but it would be nice.

If you’ve upgraded to the latest iTunes (and you’re running on a newer Mac/PC OS – Lion or above on Mac) you’ll have iTunes Radio right in your Music section. If you’ve upgraded your iOS devices/Apple TV you can check out iTunes Radio right in the Music App or main menu.

I’m Headed To A City Near You! #CreateNow

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photo by Jason Levine

Today I head out on the Adobe Create Now World Tour. I’ll personally be making stops throughout the US and Canada. My 1st stop is Portland tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing YOU! To see all the tour stops, go here.

I also recorded a couple of QuickTip videos to whet your appetite for the kinds of things I’ll be showing on tour:



DJI Phantom Review

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As some of you may remember, a while back I bought a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 mostly for fun and to fly around and record videos of my production setups. While the AR Drone 2.0 worked perfectly for short distance flights, it’s limited by the range of WiFi. It’s also limited to the built-in 720p video camera. During Photoshop World Vegas I attended Russell Brown’s pre-conference on the DJI Phantom Quadcopter. The entire class was given instruction on flying them and the chance to fly them all day. I was impressed by the control and range of this one over the AR Drone. It was like going from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR. Both can capture great images, but you have much more control and potential quality with a DSLR. The Phantom comes with a mount to mount a GoPro camera. Since I already had a GoPro Hero 3 Black camera and they were offering a show special to pre-con attendees on the Phantom, I figured it was time to upgrade and step up to a better quadcopter. When it arrived the setup was relatively simple. You have to put the landing gear on and the propellers. There’s a compass calibration routine as well. One of my friends told me to upgrade the firmware and I did. However, I was a little ticked that the only way to upgrade the firmware was with a Windows PC. Their Utility only runs in Windows. I use Parallels on my MacBook Pro with Windows 7 and had no problem updating the software as well as running the utility. It would be nice to have a native Mac version. Lastly I mounted my GoPro in the supplied mount.

My first flight

You can see the video here from my first flight. I already knew that to get steady video you’re really going to have to ditch the supplied mount and get a gimbal. This will make your videos a million times steadier. So my video is not steady. I also forgot to put the GoPro in 720p wide mode, but here it is:

I basically flew it straight up, captured some video and brought it back down. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to crash. After I got the hang of it I took it out the next day and went much higher and this time having the GoPro capture stills every 2 seconds.

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I’m amazed at how high this thing can go! My colleague has taken his over 1600 feet. I don’t have an altimeter, so i can’t say how high I’ve flown it, but I’ve flown it so high that I could barely see it and could no longer hear it.

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In the pic above that I captured with my iPhone, you can see a black dot. That’s the phantom so high up that it almost disappears. I’m having a blast with this thing.

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Above is a shot I took recently as the sun was setting. I also realized at this point that the GoPro doesn’t do well at all in low light. Most of the shots from this flight were blurry because the Phantom is vibrating and fighting the wind, so the camera is far from still. One of the things I really like is that the Phantom has a GPS built-in. If for whatever reason you fly out of range of the controller or the controller loses contact, the Phantom will fly up about 60 feet and then automatically returns to the point where it took off and lands. While I’ve had some really great flights so far, I did have a crash. I actually lost a propeller during flight. It wasn’t screwed on tight or had shaken loose and it flew right off. The Phantom came straight down spinning out of control. Luckily for me it hit the grass and there was no permanent damage. Thankfully the DJI Phantom comes with an extra set of propellers. It was really windy that day and I was flighting the wind just to keep the Phantom in place. I happened to be capturing video at the time with the GoPro. You can see the crash video below.

You can get the DJI Phantom (ON SALE) here. It comes with a battery that gives you about 12 minutes of flight. You’ll probably want an extra one here.

You can get the GoPro Hero 3 here.

I don’t have a gimbal yet, but here are some to allow you to record more stable video.

 

Continue Reading »

iPhone 5s Review

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Having been an iPhone user since the 1st iPhone back in 2007, I’ve grown accustomed to Apple’s annual release cycle and the evolutionary nature of the iPhone updates. Apple typically does a redesign and new form factor with each major number iPhone 3g, 4, 5, etc. and under the hood update with the ones that come out in between such as the iPhone 3GS, 4s and now the 5s. Therefore I was not expecting any major changes in the 5s. Apple did most of the work on this model under the hood. As a matter of fact the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 have the exact same form factor. iPhone 5 cases should fit perfectly on the 5s. However, under the hood the iPhone 5s sports a new A7 chip and 64bit processing. In layman terms the 5s is MUCH FASTER than all previous models of iPhone. Also as with all 32bit to 64bit transitions, the applications have to modified to take advantage of the new speed/pipeline. You’ll notice the new Apps in iOS 7 that are built-in will run faster. I was blown away by how fast Safari runs on the iPhone 5s. I may use it more than I used Chrome on the iPhone 5.

What’s New?

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Like I said above most of the work went into the inside of the iPhone 5s. On the outside you’ll have three new color choices: Gold, Silver and Space Gray. I had always gone with a Black iPhone and this time I was looking forward to getting the Gold one. However, Gold sold out instantly and by the time I got a chance to get mine it was Space Gray. The Home button is now a finger print scanner as well as a physical button. The little white iconic square on this button is gone now. The only other thing you’ll notice on the outside is the new dual LED flash near the camera on the back. More on that in a moment. I opted for the 64GB model as I was constantly running out of room with my 32GB iPhone 5. As a matter of fact I was looking to upgrade regardless of what the new features were just to get the higher capacity. I have over 400 Apps, thousands of photos and other content. On the inside you’ll find the speedy new A7 processor as well as the new M7 motion co-processor to offload a lot of graphic work and battery saving techniques from the main processor. Lastly the other major improvement is the iPhone 5s camera.

How’s the speed?

The speed is noticeable throughout the phone. You’ll feel the difference right away in all the built-in apps. However, third party apps will really need updates before they feel faster. Aside from third party apps, everything else seems instantaneous.

Does the fingerprint scanner really work?

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There were two things I was most interested in besides just having more capacity (64GB vs 32GB). The first one was the new camera and the other one was the new fingerprint scanner. When you set up your iPhone 5s you’ll be prompted to set up the built-in fingerprint scanner to recognize your fingerprint/thumbprint. You can configure up to 5 different finger/thumb prints. The process is very easy and it records your fingerprint at multiple angles so that you don’t have to place your finger/thumb on the sensor at the same spot each time. Once you have it set up, you will then be able to unlock your iPhone 5s just by holding your finger/thumb on the sensor for a couple of seconds. There’s no need to even swipe to unlock. You can also use your finger/thumb print for iTunes purchases. No need to enter your Apple ID password. I have to say that I’m really impressed with just how well it works. I had to record one of my prints over again, but after that it works every single time now. People ask me things like what if you have a cut on your finger? Or your finger is wet, dirty, etc? Keep in mind that you have up to 5 fingers to use. Lastly if all else fails you can simply enter your passcode. So to answer your question, does it really work? The answer is YES! It works great! Better than I expected and better than other fingerprint scanners I’ve used in the past.

How’s the new Camera?

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The iPhone is the most popular camera in the world! There are more images posted online that were captured with iPhone than any other camera. As a photographer I’m always taking pictures with my professional Nikon DSLR bodies. When I have my pro gear I use it. However, there are many more times that I’m out and about and the only camera I have with me is my iPhone. The camera on the iPhone 5 was already pretty good, so any improvements are/were welcome. The new iPhone 5s camera features a lower f/2.2 aperture. It has the same 8 megapixel resolution, but it also has larger pixels 1.5µ in size. While there are smartphones out there with more megapixels, most photographers know that more megapixels don’t automatically equal better quality. There are several factors and Apple gets it. The new f/2.2 aperture and larger pixels means better low light performance. Couple that with a industry first of a dual LED flash that flashes warmer or cooler depending on the lighting conditions of the room and you have the potential to have better photos from here on out. The new iPhone 5s camera also features both a burst mode (thanks to iOS 7, yes it works on the iPhone 5 as well) that can shoot up to 100 stills by simply holding down the shutter button and a new slow motion video capture feature.

Here’s a sample I captured using the slow motion feature:

The iPhone 5s comes in the same 3 capacities of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB and is available on all the major carriers in the US starting at $299.

What are my favorite features in iOS 7?

Even if you’re not getting a new iPhone, you can still benefit from upgrading your current iOS device (if it meets the minimum specs) to iOS 7. See My 7 Favorite iOS 7 Features here.

The Bottom Line

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As with every iPhone review I do, at the end I tell you whether or not the new iPhone is worth the upgrade? You should be used to hearing this by now, but here goes. If you’re currently on an iPhone 5, especially if you’re under contract, you can probably sit this one out and wait for the iPhone 6. Yes the iPhone 5s is better than the iPhone 5, but not enough to spend more than you have to to upgrade. Now if you’re on a 4s on down, then yeah it’s time! The iPhone 5s is leaps and bounds better than the iPhone 4s or iPhone 4. You may also be wondering about the iPhone 5c. I have to admit that other than knowing that it comes in colors and it’s cheaper than the iPhone 5s, I really don’t know much about the 5c. I saw it and knew that it wasn’t for me so I didn’t spend any time checking the features of it.



I made it onto the Westcott Rapid Box Box!

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F.J. Westcott liked the images from my recent shoot at Red Rock Canyon so much that they inquired about using them on the Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa packaging. I was thrilled to work it out with them and once again honored to have my work in print with brands that I admire. PocketWizard was also happy with the results and mentioned them in their “Making Waves” blog post here.

See my Westcott Travel Portrait Lighting Kit here.

See more of my photography here.

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My “Master The Shoot” Photography Workflow Workshop Heads to Cincinnati this Saturday

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That’s right! You can join me in Cincinnati for an end-to-end digital photography workflow workshop. We’ll light, we’ll shoot, and then we’ll go through my entire digital photography workflow from memory card, through Lightroom and Photoshop ,and out to the final images.

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We had a blast a couple of weeks ago in Michigan and now it’s time to do it again, but in Cincinnati, Ohio. There are still seats left, but it is filling up fast. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to streamline your workflow. You can register here.

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New Photoshop CC Generator Creates Web Optimized Graphics Automatically

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In this episode of Adobe Creative Cloud TV, I’ll show you how to use the “Generator” feature in Photoshop CC (14.1 update). With Generator, Photoshop CC can automatically generate web optimized graphics from your layered Photoshop Files.

Are you missing out on my Bonus Content?

See more of my Adobe Creative Suite Videos on my Adobe Creative Cloud TV and get the App below. It features EXCLUSIVE CONTENT that no one else gets to see. This episode has a BONUS CLIP that is available only in the App! My iOS App is a Universal App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. I also have an Android version on the Amazon App Store:

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Standardizing on Hoodman Memory Cards and Photographic Accessories

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When it comes to memory cards I have a variety of different brands. I’ve used SanDisk, Lexar, Transcend, and Sony. No problems to date with any of them. I usually buy the ones that are on sale at the time that I’m in need of new cards. With that said, there is something to be said for going with products that are trusted by the photographer community. While at Photoshop World in Vegas I was introduced to the folks at Hoodman by my friend Robert Vanelli. Sure I’d heard of Hoodman and stopped by their booth before at previous Photoshop Worlds. However, I hadn’t really paid that much attention to what they were really offering and how they differentiate their products from the others. One of the first products to catch my attention on this visit was the Hoodman Steel. First off they come with a lifetime warranty. Secondly they claim that they have the fastest camera burst rates and quickest download times (UDMA 7 at 1000x). Lastly they actually have steel in them to make them more durable. I was also impressed by the sheer number of photographers that I admire who use and vouch for these cards (many with video testimonials). By the way Hoodman isn’t sponsoring me or paying me in any way. I’m genuinely interested in their stuff.

Hoodman Steel 64GB UDMA 7 1000X CF Card Here

Hoodman Steel 32GB UDMZ 7 1000X CF Card Here

Hoodman Steel 64GB Class 10 SDXC Card Here.

Hoodman Steel 32GB Class 10 SDHC Card Here.

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The next product I was interested in was their USB 3 Card Reader. This card reader is not only fast at USB 3 UDMA transfer speeds, but it’s durable because it’s made of steel. It’s also about the attention to detail. The CF slot has a door that opens automatically as you insert the card. This keeps the pins protected and dust free when not in use and when bouncing around in my bag. It handles both CF and SD cards.

Hoodman USB 3.0 RAW Steel UDMA Reader Here.

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Lastly I was very interested in their loupes for viewing the LCD screen outdoors in bright light and for shooting DSLR video. I checked out the Custom Finder Kit. I already have a good loupe for still shooting and pro version for shooting DSLR video by another company. However, I couldn’t help but notice how much cheaper the Hoodman versions are. So I decided to give this one a try.

Hoodman Custom Finder Kit

 

The Bottom Line

I can’t say that this will be the last manufacturer that I use for these kinds of products. However, I’ll be using Hoodman memory cards and other products from here on out until I find a reason not to. I’m impressed by what they offer. I look forward to trying more of their product line and reviewing the results here.

Adobe Creative Cloud Bundle For Photographers Announced at Photoshop World

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Adobe Creative Cloud makes a lot of sense for a lot of creative users. More than 700,000 paid members have joined Creative Cloud since its introduction and they enjoy the benefits of having access to all the Apps, Services and regular feature updates. However, we’ve heard and listened to the feedback from Photographers and one common request was a solution specifically tailored to this market. A solution that would give them both Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 for a more reasonable monthly cost. I’m pleased to announce that at Photoshop World Las Vegas we’re announcing a special offer for our loyal Photoshop customers. Beginning today, customers who own Photoshop CS3 or higher are eligible for a special Creative Cloud membership offer that includes all of the following for just $9.99/month!:

  • Photoshop CC
  • Lightroom 5
  • 20 GB of online storage
  • Behance Prosite
  • Access to Creative Cloud Learning Resources
  • Ongoing feature upgrades and updates

To be clear, $9.99 is NOT an introductory price. It is the price for those who sign up by December 31st, 2013. This offer will be at the same time we release the new version of Lightroom 5.2 in a couple of weeks. Check back here or follow Photoshop and Facebook or Twitter to find out when the offer goes live.

UPDATE: The Photoshop Photography Program is NOW LIVE! Check it out HERE

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If you missed the Photoshop World Keynote you can watch the replay here.

For general questions about Creative Cloud, please see the Creative Cloud FAQ

Q: What is the Photoshop Photography Program Offer?
A: This offer includes access to Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, plus feature updates and upgrades as they are available, 20GB of cloud storage for file sharing and collaboration, a Behance ProSite, and access to the full library of video tutorials in Creative Cloud Learn.
This offer is available to customers who own a previous version of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended product, version CS3 or later (CS3.x, CS4, CS5.x, or CS6). Suites do not qualify. Requires annual commitment, billed monthly.
Offer valid through December 31, 2013 and is available in countries where Creative Cloud is purchased directly from Adobe.com. This offer is not available in China, Vietnam or Turkey.
Q: Can I get Adobe Bridge CC with the Photoshop Photography Program Offer?
A: Yes. Bridge CC is available for download and use as part of your Creative Cloud membership.
Q: I am already a Creative Cloud member; do I qualify for this offer?
Existing Creative Cloud members who wish to transition to this offer must own a previous version of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended product, version CS3 or later (CS3.x, CS4, CS5.x, or CS6). Suites do not qualify.
Those who meet the qualifications have two options:
Creative Cloud Single App members for Photoshop CC who already completed the qualification process when they originally signed up for their membership will be automatically transitioned to this new program when it ships, with the additional benefits and lower ongoing price.
All other Creative Cloud members who meet the qualification requirements may contact Adobe Customer Service to discuss transitioning their membership to this new offer.
Q: I own an earlier version of Lightroom but not Photoshop. Do I qualify for this Photoshop Photography Program offer?
A: Only customers who own a previous version of Photoshop CS3 or later qualify for this offer.
Q: Will the cost of my membership increase?
A: This price is not a special introductory price for your first year only; it is the standard price for this level of membership. Customers who sign up by December 31, 2013 will be able to continue their membership at the same price. But if you cancel your membership in the future, you will not be able to re-join at this special price.

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