App Focus

app focus

There are countless applications available for iDevices and it really is impossible to keep up with whats new or interesting. When I find a new app it is almost always through either a developer I am already familiar with or through one of a few tech/app blogs I track on my RSS feeds. On occasion one comes along that manages to make its way into my daily workflow but most, I will admit, end up collecting digital dust in some forgotten corner of my iPhone. I look for apps with forward thinking, simplistic approaches to its functionality and design and have gotten to be just as picky with the apps I use as the physical products I buy.

One of the most heavily used category of apps on my phone is found in my camera app folder. Photo apps are a dime a dozen these days but from time to time one comes along that I have fun with for a few weeks before it either finds a permanent home in its space or gets removed because its novelty has worn off. The few that have stuck with me for the long run are Tiltshift Generator, Autostitch, and a handy darkroom timer app made by the Massive Dev Chart site. The reason for writing here today is to mention a couple of newer additions to my photo app toy folder both which were recommended by a commenter here on my previous post about using the iPhone as a camera.

First up is one that I have really been enjoying a lot actually and may end up being one of those long standing apps. It is dead simple and does something many other phone apps have done before but it does it with a subtlety that I really like. The app is called CrossProcess and its effect is pretty self explanatory. It gives the odd color effects that developing slide film in negative film chemicals would give. As far as customization goes it is really dead simple and gives you a choice of five different color effects as well as options to save the original image or add a border to the image. By default the app randomly chooses one of the five color effects leaving you with unexpected results but I find it is nice to jump into the options screen and choose one single effect that works best for the image at hand. So far, green is my favorite. The end result is always much more subtle than most apps that do the same thing which is part of the reason I enjoy using is as much as I do. Here are a few examples of photos processed with this app.

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The other app I have had fun with lately is one that only time will tell if I will continue to enjoy. It is the type of app that adds light leaks and rough film edges. That can be fun at times but these kinds of apps have one serious flaw and that is the variety of small differences in these effects. If the light leak or dust or odd effect is always in the same places, in the same way it gets old fast when all of your photos start looking exactly the same. It’s why hisptamatic got so boring to me.

The app I am using to add these sorts of effects at the moment is called Plastic Bullet. It’s one flaw so far is its interface, its just not quite as smooth as I feel it could be but it does get the job done. You take a photo or select one already taken and simply cycle through random combinations of color alterations and light leaks until you find one you like. I find it doesn’t always work for every image I have but when it does work it looks really nice and adds a high quality film like look to your iPhone images. A nice benefit of this over other like minded apps is this has more of a variety of possibilities when it comes to the end result. I would love to see that expanded even further in the future. Here are some examples below.

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So I may make more of a habit of this in the future, talking about new, interesting iPhone or iPad apps here. I have officially added a tech category here partially in preparation for the incoming update to the site when a few other new categories will make an appearance as well. So let me know your thoughts on posts like these should you have an opinion on the matter and we will see how things process from here.

Tma-1 Headphones

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I first read about these through a Ghostly International email newsletter and was immediately intrigued as my second pair of my favorite headphones, the Sennehiser HD 25-1, started to give way to a distorted driver and a short in a cable and rather pay to replace the parts and prolong their inevitable replacement I decided to buy into a new pair. I spent a good year or so searching and listening to every pair of headphones I could get around my head. I remember a visit to NAMM out in California one year and spending half my time there wandering every audio company making a pair of headphones.

As a frame of reference, I consider myself a little to picky for my own good when it comes to headphones. For me they are the gateway into the music I love. My personal listening space. On the other hand, however, they also need to be constructed well enough to hold up to heavy use and being thrown in and out of bags and work in all sorts of different environments. I work in live audio production and events and their locations vary greatly. Not to mention they should be able survive being turned up unnecessarily loud without blowing out the drivers.

When it comes to the audio fidelity I don’t like headphones or speakers that have a lot of color to them, I really would much rather have a nice solid performance throughout the lows, mids, and highs. I really have never liked headphones with huge dips in the highs and big boosts in the low end. I like them to have a nice solid punch in the lows but not to the point where it drowns out the rest of the sound and I prefer a closed back as opposed to many “high fidelity” audiophile style pairs. The closed design also allows for much greater reduction of outside noise/sound which is also a must for me.

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So that out of the way I can move into the headphones themselves. It was a tough call whether or not to get this pair as the previous pair I bought from AiAiAi (the company making them) was an overly styled pair of in ear phones that were greatly underwhelming to me. To be honest, this time around I bought into their marketing hype and the simple fact that they were road tested by DJ’s and producers around the world, many of which I have a lot of respect for. It seems the first and foremost these headphones were made to stand up the the daunting needs of a DJ in a dirty loud club. I will say that the first thing you clearly notice is that their construction is nothing short of perfect really. The minimal design they chose keeps things to a minimum and the lack of rotating points and fragile cable elements is really perfect for a pair of headphones like these. The semi-flexable headband is perfect for quick monitoring with one ear while they lay around my neck. The lack of marketing and flashy logos is a really nice touch and good to see a company can release something like this with enough confidence not to need logos plastered all over them. It adds a lot to their first impression appeal.

One of my favorite aspects of the design is the fact that a simple 1/8″ plug fits into the left side of them which is great for two reasons.  First, should you step on the cable it will just pull out of the headphones, not jerk them apart or rip off one of the drivers, they just come unplugged. Second, the simple fact that, if you chose to do so you can easily replace the cable with a shorter one or in the future, a new one should the supplied one give out eventually. with the quality and weight of the cable supplied I could not imagine that ever happening really. They also ship with a screw in 1/4″ adaptor and a nice simple zippered pouch to transport them in.

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Now, for the sound of them. Coming straight off a pair of Sennheisers with a nice solid high and mid range I was caught off guard by the weird frequency curve/tuning/color of the Tma-1’s. Way heavy in low mids and deep low end with huge dips in odd places in the high end. Clearly these were designed to punch in the common places club music hits and leave the highs behind in compromise or in an effort to not seem to harsh on your ears when you listen at higher volumes. The reason I like a nice well rounded sound personally is because I like to use one pair of headphones for my personal listening as well as at work and these are defiantly more suited for work than leisure, at least for my ears. After having them for a couple of weeks now I feel I have gotten used to the sound of them and Im sure we will get along just fine in the long run.

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Remember what I was talking about function versus form? These were a compromise based on my needs rather than my desires for the perfect sounding pair of headphones and I am more than happy with that compromise. I have a feeling these will last me for a long time to come and I could easily recommend these to someone who enjoys a nice big punch in the low end really solid construction that will no doubt hold up in even the most demanding of circumstances. Not to mention they are gorgeous with their minimalist, non branded design and matte silicon type finnish.

One last note about the design, the padding is removable which makes for easy replacement if they wear out (although they don’t seem to have replacement parts available yet) but also allow for you to use an alternative padded pair of covers which are made of that light porous foam not unlike your standard old pair of headphones. I can honestly say that they totally ruin the sound of the headphones. The high end does come through higher with them on and they have more of an open sound but makes the overall  sound absolutely horrible to me. These drivers were clearly designed for the padding it ships with as it allows for the sound to resonate within the space of each capsule and really, the alternate covers are useless to me and will live in the box they shipped with.

They are for sale in the US at the Ghostly International shop and a great boutique shop in NYC called Dijital Fix.

As an added bonus to the review I have put together a pack of wallpaper images of all but one of the review photos seen above in desktop, iPad, and iPhone resolutions. To grab the zip simply click or right click here and enjoy!

Twelve South

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I don’t write too much about tech here on 50ft anymore and that is simply because I feel like there are plenty of people out there reporting on the latest and greatest and I figure its best left to the tech blogs to cover such things but I do find myself in a position somewhere between the photography world and the tech world because the large majority of my readers are here looking for great new imagery for their devices so why not poke my head into the tech side of things from time to time. Those of you who have followed along for a long while know that I have pretty high standards for products that I decide to spend my money on. One such product is a portable stand for my iPad, something I have been looking for since I first bought mine but none of the ones on the market really impressed me at all or were too expensive to even consider.

Sometime last week while picking up something at the local Apple store I noticed way up on the top rung of the accessories wall a really slick iPad stand simply called Compass made by Twelve South and was immediately drawn to its sturdy looking simplistic approach that would allow for use with the Speck Candy Shell case I use for it at times. I took a chance and bought it on the spot and I have been really happy with it. The stand is able to function in two different ways. One, as a slightly elevated and tilted surface for typing and two, a tall upright easel like position that is able to support the iPad in either orientation. It accomplishes these two functions effortlessly using simple mechanics and a minimal approach that I love. There are two small rubberized arms that fold down out of the stand in the bottom for its taller standing position which I find get in the way while in the typing position but I find that the rubber pad at the top of the stand does a fair job of holding it in place while I type without these little tabs poking into my palms as I type. The construction is incredibly solid and has a really nice weight to it. Im sure this will last longer than the iPad itself.

The only negative I could speak of is something that is unavoidable with this design style and that is the fact that if you tap with any force int he top edges of the screen while its on the stand it does shift in position a bit but I quickly adapted to this and tap lightly when using the upper corners of the display. The only other thing that has happened during its use is that if pushed back slightly in its taller setting the supporting leg in the back starts to fold in on its own and a couple of times I have had the stand collapse but again, its something I was able to quickly realize was happening and adapt to. These negatives are simple compromises for such a wonderful minimal design and I am overjoyed to have such a perfect portable stand that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to use in public hehe.

Also worth noting is a little black sleeve that it comes with that further added to its obvious inspiration a compass meant for drawing perfect circles. The sleeve is a nice tight fitting affair and while I wish there were a small snap rather than a little piece of stretchy material to hold its flap I still find it a really useful addition to the package that I did not expect to find in the package.

When I first bought the Compass I tried to find information on it online and was surprised no one had reviewed it or talked about its release but that was quickly remedied as I have seen it popping up all over the tech web the past couple of days and there is a product page in place now for it. Im sure they will sell well so get em while their hot. I can easily recommend this to any one looking for a great portable stand for their iPad!

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Souldier Straps

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It seems I get countless questions on what camera strap I use as its pretty bold looking. As you can see in the photo above of YoungDoo (Gave one to her to use with her 5DMKII) Its a pretty sturdy looking strap. They are actually made from seatbelt material and are available in any color you could want. They are hand made to order and incredibly sturdy and trustworthy. There is an optional padding you can get added to the center of the strap that is a rather bland looking grey color but it does a great job of holding your camera in place and adding a small amount of extra padding if your carrying around a heavy camera.

The company that makes the straps is based out of Chicago and is called Souldier. Some of you may recognize them from a popular photography blog/store called Photojojo which sells a few colors from their shop but I would suggest buying straight from the source on Souldier’s website where you have well over twice the color selection than Photojojo carries and the option to add padding to the strap. The company also sells all sorts of other types of wonderful vintage looking straps for both cameras and guitars and really I cant recommend them enough for those of you looking for a nice strap for your camera.

You can visit their website by clicking here or visit the shop page for the seatbelt straps here (which is located in the 2“ strap section).

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