September 2020

Monday — September 28, 2020

You may have noticed that I've removed the social networking sharing bar from this site. After doing some snooping at the underpinnings of the Web site, it seems to have been a source of a lot of nanny-software blocking. Moreover, I don't like anything beyond necessary tracking on my sites, so I removed it. You'll note that if you run zsystemuser.com under Blacklight, you get "no ad trackers", "no third-party cookies", and zeroes on the other five tests. That's the joy of starting a new site. Bythom.com, on the other hand, didn't fare so well on third-party cookies, so I've started batting them down wherever I find them. As soon as I get time, I'll be moving that site from its current server and updating it to https, as well (even though, technically, it doesn't need encryption).

Wednesday — September 23, 2020

Nikon today announced the Mac version of their Webcam software. You can download the beta version from their Web site. Reminder, this new software is designed to work with the Z cameras, as well as the D6, D500, D780, D850, D5600, and D7500 DSLRs. NikonUSA has a page dedicated to setting up your Webcam.

Tuesday — September 22, 2020

Who would have thought? The most emails I've received in a single day about a single subject was about one of the bullet points in yesterday's posted article. What could trigger such an avalanche of advice? Getting stuck rear lens caps off. It seems that all you need is a rope, a pen, a rubber band, a refrigerator, a special cloth, lubricants, the right plant leaf, and a host of other MacGyver-ish bits and pieces, and you can remove stuck lens caps. I'm struck by my readers' ingenuity, but I'm also a bit surprised at how many of you have encountered the same thing. In four decades of shooting I've not had this issue, now suddenly I see that hundreds of you—probably more, as some of you were to lazy to write ;~)—have had the same problem.

Monday — September 21, 2020

We have a number of countries that are trying to restart their tourism. I consider this to be premature, but it's happening. The pattern seems to be the same. I'll use Ecuador as the example: you must have a PCR type COVID-19 test taken within 10 days of arriving in Ecuador and a certificate showing a negative result. If you're traveling on to the Galapagos Islands, you'll need to take another test while in Ecuador within two days of your flight to the islands. Most of the travel services you'd use to book Galapagos travel can arrange that, but it means that you'll spend two or three nights in Quito or Guayaquil before heading to the islands. And, of course, there may be the issue of getting back into the country or area you left from. Where I live there's still a 14-day curfew in place for someone traveling to many states. It's unclear whether that applies to International destinations yet, but I'm sure it will at the point where Pennsylvania realizes that this kind of travel is happening. 

Kenya and Tanzania also have similar restrictions as Ecuador, and I expect several other tourist-heavy countries to join this trend in the next two weeks. I'd say this: be very, very careful, and consider others in your decision. Ecuador is trying to do the right thing—the Galapagos Islands now at least have a couple of ventilators on the islands, and they're going to great lengths to try to keep the islands isolated from the virus—but not all countries are. Before even considering this kind of travel, please consult the US Embassy page for the country, which generally is being kept up to date and has as much detail as is known. Tip: you have to click on the Embassy name once on that page, then further use the menus to find the alerts/messages/news pages. Because of some recent site reorganizations, it can be difficult to find the "COVID-19 Information" page for an embassy. If you get lost, drop me a line as to which country you're trying to figure out and I'll try to help. For example, here's the current Botswana virus page posted by the embassy in Gaborone.  (Even once the pandemic has tapered down—which it currently has not—you should still check the proper embassy page. COVID-19 isn't the only problem you might encounter in traveling.)

Am I traveling any time soon? No. I consider it immoral unless the travel is 100% essential. Why? Because even with testing you won't know for sure if you're a vector. The pandemic is caused by the number of interactions between people filtered by how well they use protection. Travel increases interactions. Protection isn't perfect. The more we can get the Rt close to zero, the sooner this all ends. Travel even within the US has been shown to increase the Rt. In the Atlantic states where I live, the Rt has basically been bouncing around 1 (currently just under 1 where I live). At that level, the virus continues to spread, though sluggishly (one new case for each previous case). 

So, just because some places are offering travel options, that doesn't mean the pandemic is over. Far from it. 

Friday — September 18, 2020

Wednesday — September 16, 2020

I've gotten a few comments about "broken" RSS feeds. When I simplified the site structures, the RSS feed links logically changed name slightly. Sansmirror is now as it should be (at least for the rest of 2020). Go to any News/Views page and use the Subscribe to RSS feed link. The dslrbodies feed needs another small tweak, which I'll get around to next week. The zystemuser feed should be fine, it's never moved. However, because of the way I organize my static HTML pages, you really need to update your RSS feeds every year, as the yearly archiving process moves folders.

Tuesday — September 15, 2020

Friday — September 11, 2020

What's going on with Zeiss? New lens production from 2015 onward: 8, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. The Touit lenses were the last to be in any mirrorless mount other than Sony E. Meanwhile, Canon, Nikon, and Sony have upped their game when it comes to lenses, often besting the best equivalent Zeiss. The unconventional and potentially groundbreaking ZX1 camera was announced almost two years ago (Sept 27, 2018) and still hasn't shown up. Do we need to send a courtesy/welfare squad to Oberkochen to check on them? Please tell me you're okay, meine Freunde. 

Wednesday — September 9, 2020

I'm mostly heads down this week, trying to get a book complete. So there might not be much in the way of new articles for a bit as I concentrate my writing/editing efforts elsewhere.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for Nikon D6 or a 120-300mm f/2.8, let me know, I know of a dealer with one of each in stock.

Tuesday — September 8, 2020

Welcome back from the Labor Day non-celebrations. It seemed like last week was a FedEx parade here at Thom's Self-Isolation Center (otherwise known as Thom's SIC). Nikon finally pushed out a range of new gear, though amusingly the 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens I ordered via NPS priority purchase—NikonUSA didn't think to let you order the Z5 kit, only separate body and lens—isn't one of them. Be careful, Nikon, one of the other goodies FedEx dropped off was a Canon R6 and the 100-500mm f/4-7.1 lens. I just might tackle those reviews first as I wait, as do many of you, for Nikon to deliver announced products.

Traditionally, this is the week I return from a month-long absence from the Internet, rush to catch up, and then run out the door again to various destinations those of you with jobs have now abandoned. That and I start shooting fall sports. Of course this year, I didn't take that break, I rarely leave the SIC, and the only sports I seem to see are a few joggers passing the SIC every now and then. I can no longer call the rabbits and squirrels in the back yard wildlife, as I've given them all names. Product testing is going to take some imagination and a few steps outside the SIC. Fortunately, one of those FedEx deliveries was my new bike, so maybe I'll pedal down to the river a few times and see if I can find a different set of squirrels.

Meanwhile, Nikon D850 owners are upset enough to create a petition on change.org. Actually, it's more of a plaintiff wail than a petition ("where is the CFe update?"). I understand their concern. XQD card choice has narrowed, and there's clear worry that by buying XQD cards you might be crippling some future camera you might buy. In my case, I just want the faster ingest that CFe offers over XQD with the right card reader. I've said it before, I'll repeat it for the thousandth time: Nikon Japan needs to get re-connected to its customers, and soon. Some of Nikon's best customers (D850 users) are again questioning corporate decisions and promises. Nikon promised a CFe upgrade for the D500, D5, and D850 in February 2019. They haven't delivered in over a year. If they can't deliver on that, these users are now pondering what else can't Nikon deliver? Ultimately it comes down to that in consumer products: deliver or die. And I don't mean deliver boxes, as Nikon did last week for many. I mean deliver on promises, hopes, and addressing customer concern.

Thursday — September 3, 2020

Wednesday — September 2, 2020

Thanks for all your suggestions about presentation topics (keep them coming, I'm getting a better sense of other topics you want me to cover). I've come up with an idea that's going to end up as a three-part presentation, now I just have to realize it. All but one of you are going to be surprised—and even that person is going to be surprised by parts 1 and 2—but this is about something core and you all need to know it, no matter which camera you use. 


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