OT: A quick question about a brand of electronic time-keeping devices. If you have knowledge and/or experience, please toss in a comment. Apple Watch.


This is a brief, information gathering, request post. I think someone in my family might be getting me an Apple Watch 6 for my birthday next week. I'm wondering what I can expect from the product...

I'd love to hear from people who've researched the Apple Watches and from people who have owned (or still own and use) any generation of Apple Watches. 

What features do you use most?

Are they complicated to set up the first time?

Are there certain apps you think are "must haves"? 

Is there something about "smart watches" in general that disappoints you?

Have you played with any of the biometric measuring tools?

Do the batteries last long enough to make the watches fun?

How do you normally use your watch to get the most value from it?

Please, if you are an Apple hater, smart watch cynic, etc. I'll just remind you that it's a gift and not a political statement or an announcement of social status. It's just a watch that does other stuff than just telling time.

I'm guessing that some of you find them great while others consider them useless. C'est la vie.

If you can make me smarter about the  Apple Watch 6 I'll appreciate it. I hope it will take some of the 

sting out of turning 65....

The best camera in the world sucks if you don't aim it at interesting stuff.

 I've been thinking how grateful I am to continually have fun stuff to shoot. Not everything I photograph turns out to be spectacular but my takeaway is that constantly practicing, and routinely having fun, people-oriented projects to shoot, makes the little differences we go on-and-on about in our latest cameras seem a bit more worthwhile. There's some stuff you don't appreciate until a project pushes you to make use of obscure functions. And there's some stuff we appreciate while we're reading specs and reviews which we subsequently find to have absolutely no benefit for our actual work. It's funny that way. You never know what you'll end up valuing in your equipment...

For a while I was happily stumbling along shooting big, full frame, high resolution photographs with my Lumix S1R and then, one evening, I ran smack into the realization that I needed a longer focal length than the 200mm on the long end of the 70-200mm lens. Some camera models have a setting in the menu that allows you to put your camera into an APS-C mode to get 50% more reach but the Lumix cameras don't have that same setting option. 

I remember researching this about a year ago when I first bought the cameras but I'd forgotten about it. I kept looking and looking for that APS-C option but never found it. I ended up shooting in full frame and thinking the client would have to crop the image to get a tighter frame.... 

During a break in the job I grabbed my phone and did some research. Prompted by the info on my phone I remembered (finally) that the camera has an "ext teleconverter" setting instead. You enable this setting and then head to the file size area of the menu. There you will notice that the medium size and the small size settings now have an "ex" next to them. Full frame is still full frame but if you click to the "medium" size option you get a 1.4X crop (at 24 megapixels) and if you click on the "small" size you get a 2.0X crop with a 12 megapixel file. You can leave the teleconverter setting on and if you are set to "L" in the file size menu that's what the camera is going to give you; the full frame. Sadly, this only works with Jpeg files. Not raw files.

But "why" you might ask wouldn't I just shoot full frame and then crop after the fact? Well, consider the project I was busy shooting. It was an outdoor concert under the stars. I could only get so close to the stage. I wanted at least a 25-35% tighter crop but I would end up shooting about 300 images and none of them would have the exact same composition so if I wanted to crop and then share all of them with my client I'd have to go in a crop each frame individually. That takes way too much time for a fast turnaround, P.R. style shoot. 

Also, and I can't stress this enough, my brain doesn't function in a way where I can pre-visualize what I want to end up with in a frame if I can't "see" the edges. There are just way too many options! In other words I need to see the image out to the edge of the boundary instead of thinking, "Oh, I'll just remember to crop this one at XXX x XXX and it will be perfect." It just doesn't work that way for me. I want a formalist boundary or frame around the image as I'm shooting it. I'd accept frame lines but you can keep the freeform, after-the-fact frame trimming. I don't like to go there and it doesn't match the way I create. 

I want to be able to shoot 300 frames, do a few more or less global color and contrast corrections, apply them to all the frames in Lightroom and then output all the files into a folder to send directly to my client. And, if I can do it like this instead of cropping each frame individually, I can generally do my post processing between the end of the job and bedtime, freeing me up for new work or new play in the morning. Why make a job much, much harder than it has to be?

This is just an example of a feature that no one reviews, no one talks about and no one writes about. But if you need it then you need it. And having used it changed the way I've been using that "high res" camera. 
It's also added some flexibility to my lens usage. Now, when I put the Sigma 45mm lens on the S1R I don't just have a 45mm lens, at the click of a menu item I now also have a 63mm lens as well. And as you probably know the longer normal focal lengths are a favorite of mine. The icing on the cake is that there's no change in maximum aperture. It's fun. And really, do we often need more than the 24 megapixels on offer with that cropped mode? 

In this way the client sees all the images in the composition you intended. You delete from them their power to screw up your images by doing ham-fisted cropping. They get to see your exact visualization. 
You save time. Time is money. Or time spent futzing with files is time robbed from other pursuits. 

In video you have a similar but different menu set up. You can choose to shoot in full frame or APS-C or exact pixel mode. But in every case you are still getting the full, un-interpolated 4K resolution files. The full frame downsamples the entire frame which increases read time and can inflict "rolling shutter" artifacts to your footage. Generally, the APS-C frames write out more quickly and have less rolling shutter. The exact pixel mode reads just exactly as many pixels from the center of the frame to get you to 4K with no downsampling, binning, etc. It may be the sharpest setting but the trade off is increased noise. 

But still, the camera gives you options. And you aren't limited to just the few options reviewers consider the banner news story (more speed, more speed, more speed).

So, after shooting with a 1.4X crop on a photo job and also in APS-C for a video project I have a new appreciation for under-rated features cameras can offer. I spent some time last Sunday just walking around shooting the 45mm like a 63mm and I have to confess I now like the lens even more! Here's some samples: 

Sigma at 63mm.

Sigma at 45mm

Sigma at 45mm.

Sigma at 60mm.