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Introducing Sennheiser URBANITE Headphones

While XYZ is primarily photography, every now and then we’ll talk about a product we find particularly interesting. Today we will take a look at a new Sennheiser headphone that just hit the market this month.

Sennheiser URABNITE is geared toward the average listener, a crowd sennheiser isn’t exactly known by. Typically Sennheiser is known for their extremely balanced headphones that generally take root in more “industry” communities such as musicians, DJ’s, A/V people, pilots, and travelers and more. However in a departure form their norm Sennheiser has opted to create a headphone that goes after today’s Beats By Dre obsessed youth.

With a cheeky & bizarre ad campaign Sennheiser looks to capture today’s youth by making them laugh and simultaneously learn about why the headphone they have been listening to stink. Playing on Sennheisers German hermitage the new ads feature a life sized version of the headphone as a hopeless romantic with a heavy Germanic accent.

How to The Sennheiser URBANITE Stack Up To Beats By Dre?

Beats by dre feature what is known as a “smiley face EQ” what this means is that the lows and highs are deliberately tuned way higher than they should be to give the effect of really hard and intense bass. While this can be great at times, the life sized Urbanite reminds us that “harder isn’t always better”. Sennheiser Urbanite offer a great low end, on with much more bass than the average sennheiser headphones but without being over exaggerated or too fluffed up. The thing about having tons of bass in the EQ of a pair of headphones is that you end up missing a lot of the frequencies in between the lows and highs that often make up the melodies of the song. What you are left with is a really muddy sound.

Sennheiser on the other hand has figured out how to add just enough bass to the headphones that the average listener loves the sound. Previously many people who like genres of music that rely heavily on the lower frequencies for their “driving force” felt that Sennheiser headphones were too “tinny” for their liking. Not the Sennheiser Urbanite, music lovers of all genres love the Urbanite and it’s clarity and booming lows.

The Urabnite is built for life on the go. One of the fist full sized fully collapsible headphones from Sennheiser, the Urbanite is ready to fold up and go anywhere, unlike the momentum, Sennheiser’s last take at a life-style headphone.

If you’re looking for an affordable headphone that’s going to last for years to come, the Urbanite might be the choice for you, with its replaceable cable, folding design, and its nearly unbreakable headband. With a price tag of only $199.95 the Urabnite is considerably more affordable than most beats by dre headphones being sold. While the price may be less, these headphones truly deliver more with their great sound and awesome design. With unbeatable comfort these headphones will allow you to enjoy your music anywhere with stunning clarity and presence.

Instax Gratification

Increasingly, I’ve grown worried about processing film.  There are always those shots I just don’t want to lose, and handing over a roll of film to the guy at my local pharmacy can be a bit tough on the old nerves.  So I’m thinking of trying the Instax thing.  Instax cameras are made by Fujifilm and come in two sizes:  wide and mini.  Supposedly, Fuji’s Instax films offer better color balance and tonal range than Polaroid’s.  Sure it’s expensive.  Sure it might appear reserved for the hip crowd.  Sure the cameras look a little gonzo.  So maybe I need a some coaxing.  I trolled around Flickr’s Creative Commons (’cause I like rebels who go against the capitalist grain and share art), and I found some eye-catching examples that really make me want to invest in this seemingly obsolete camera.

Instax Gratification

 

instax example once upon a time in america by pierro fissore

Once Upon a Time in America by Pierro Fissore

http://pierofix.wordpress.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pierofix/

 

instax example untitled by gustavo gomes

Untitled by Gustavo Gomes

www.gustavominas.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gustavominas/

 

instax example reg in my first instax shot by andy wilson

Reg in My First Instax shot by Andy Wilson

http://www.fatreg.net/blog
http://www.flickr.com/photos/by_andy/

 

instax example 1959 pink cadillac sixty two coupe by phillip pessar

 1959 Pink Cadillac Sixty Two Coupe by Phillip Pessar

http://www.flickr.com/photos/southbeachcars/

 

instax example dima by sasha kargaltsev

Dima by Sasha Kargaltsev

http://www.kargaltsev.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kargaltsev/

 

Okay, so apart from the sheer nostalgia factor (get yourself a retro outfit and a prop or two and boom! time travel), what really appeals to me about this is the actuality of the film.  At a time when most of the world has gone digital and my beloved Kodak T-MAX has gone the way of the dinosaurs, I still get a set of prints with my developed negatives.  I’ll flip through my prints and I’ll hold them up, and I don’t have unwanted comments or Facebook “likes” crowding my thoughts.  What you have in a print is a physical object in and of itself, not just the electronic blueprint.  So why not stick with digital photography and print the photographs?  I have a love-hate relationship with technical mastery.  On one hand, I think you should master techniques, but on the other hand, one more HDR image of the New York skyline might give me a cerebral aneurysm.

As we push onward and upward with technology that allows us to take near-perfect photographs, I think it’s important to acknowledge the mistakes that stemmed from or led to photographic masterpieces (works by Henri Cartier-Bresson and William Klein come to mind). With Instax or any other film, and the outdated cameras we’re shooting with, there might be some technical imperfection to the image, but some of us are going to find that we can live with it.

 

Lomo Effect with Photoshop

lomo effect photoshop original

You don’t need to buy a film camera to achieve that lomo effect.  Here’s a quick guide to capturing the same look using Photoshop.

Let’s start with our sample image.

lomo_effect_sample

 

Step 1.  Feather

lomo effect step 1

Set your feather at 100 pixels.  Setting your feather ensures there is a smooth blend between the layers you are about to create.

Step 2. Lasso

lomo effect step 2

It’s time to lasso your subject.  You can be irregular with the lasso, or you can try a more even shape.  Whatever you’re into.  Just choose the lasso tool, and then click and drag to select an area.  Choosing a portion of the total area (for instance, the subject’s face) will recreate the uneven exposure most people associate with the lomo phenomenon.

Step 3.  Select Inverse

lomo effect step 3

Next, go to “select” on the toolbar and click on “inverse.”  The area around your original lasso selection will be highlighted.

Step 4.  Insert New Adjustment Layer

lomo effect step 4

Now you’re going to insert a new adjustment layer.  From the adjustment layer menu, select “curves.”

Step 5.  Adjust Curve

lomo effect step 5

Adjust the curve of your layer dragging and dropping any point on the line.  You should now see a dark curving line beneath a lighter straight line.  What we’re doing now is lowering output, but increasing input.

Step 6.  Add Fill Layer

lomo effect step 6

For Step 6, simply add a fill layer from the layers menu.  I recommend filling with a solid, but you gradients and patterns can also be a lot of fun.  For color, you’ll want to select black.  We’re going to use this to give you’re photo a sharp contrast that lomo cameras and film are famous for.

Step 7.  Set Properties

lomo effect step 7

Now it’s time to set the properties for your fill layer.  I personally like overlay at 25% opacity. Again, this is going to help give your photo a sharp contrast, like a real lomo photograph.

Step 8.  Flatten Image

lomo effect step 8

Before you save, go ahead and flatten your image.  For those of you who want to upload your photo, flattening is going to remove your layers, allowing you to save in jpeg.  Once you flatten, you won’t be able to edit your layers, so only follow this step when you’re satisfied with your photo.

 

Now here is our finished image.

lomo effect finished

Is there a specific technique that you would like to see us demonstrate?  Contact us with your requests by selecting “contact” from the menu at the top of this page, or leave a comment below.

Top Four iPhone Photo Apps – Finally Take Better Photos On Your iPhone

Some people say that cell phones are replacing cameras, but I think the greatest applications for our phones are using them to support our photographic ambitions.  You may not be able to get the same high-resolution photos out of your iPhone that you do from your camera, but that doesn’t mean you should let it gather dust, either.  What else are you going to use your cell phone for?  Certainly we’ve all seen enough Bitstrips. We here at XYZ reviewed a ton of the most popular iPhone photo apps and came up with what this reviewer feels are the 4 Top Picks for iPhone photo apps.

 

Top Four iPhone Photo Apps:

screen shot for light meter app for iphone

App:  Pocket Light Meter from Nuwaste Studios

Cost:  free

If you shoot film, you can’t miss a light meter.  I downloaded the app from Nuwaste Studios because I hated my rinky-dink model from the sixties and didn’t want to shell out fat stacks for film tech.  It comes in very handy with old film bodies that don’t have built in metering.  Plus feature:  set your ISO and aperture, and shutter speed will automatically update.  You can also add text notes to your readings, and log them for future use.

 

App:  Voice Memos from Apple

Cost: free

This app comes standard with the iPhone.  I’ve been playing with the idea of an image slideshow set to ambient noise.  A case that attaches to your belt might be useful with this app, as sound can get muffled easily.  Plus feature:  it’s about as good or better than the apps you might pay for.  At least, that was my impression.

 

App:  Photoshop Express from Adobe

Cost:  free

This app allows you to edit on the go.  I got tired of editing every picture I took on my laptop, so I decided to just do it all on my phone.  The time saved on post processing and easy upload will increase efficiency.  Plus feature:  basic editing like saturation, exposure, brightness, and contrast are all included at no charge, but you can pay for certain artistic filters from Adobe without the annoying watermarks that come with other apps.

 

screen568x568

App:  645 PRO Mk II from Michael Hardaker

Cost:  $3.99

Truly the coolest camera app I have come across.  Replicates different medium format frame sizes, like 6×6, 6×7, as well as 6×4.5 and more.  Plus feature:  a mode dial in the app allows you to select the type of film you want to replicate, so you can choose the color fidelity and grain to suit your needs.

You can see photos taken with the 645 PRO Mk II app (and edited with the Photoshop Express app) here.

Top Ten Monster Images

It’s Halloween, folks!  So in celebration, we’ve compiled a top ten list of scary photos that cover the most iconic images, real or imagined.

10.  The Montauk Monster

True story:  the mysterious creature was found washed ashore near Montauk, New York.  Different sources explained it as a dog, raccoon, sea turtle or sheep, but inconsistencies keep the debate alive.

childs_play_1_08

9.  The Good Guy Doll

You probably remember that first moment when you realized Chucky wasn’t just a figment of Andy’s imagination.  Even though this monster comes from a movie, we feel it’s just too iconic to pass up.

8.  Whatsitsname from The Evil Dead

Whatever the monster might have been in this movie – whether it was the book, the cabin, or the woods, it scared us stupid.  Sam Raimi’s claim to fame also spawned two movie sequels and a musical, complete with splash zone.

7.  Zombies

George A. Romero’s classic may seem tame by today’s standards, but upon its release the film generated controversy over its depiction of violence.  The hungry hordes might have been slow-moving, but they’ve gained tremendous ground in the collective mind and imagination.

Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)

6.  Frankenstein’s Monster

The look that you probably equate to Mary Shelley’s Modern Prometheus stems from makeup designed by Jack Pierce, while Shelley’s original story might be loosely based on the exploits of Johann Conrad Dippel.

NosferatuShadow

 

5.  Nosferatu the Vampire

Even if you’ve never seen the silent movie, you’ve probably experienced the classic chill-fest of Nosferatu climbing a flight of stairs.  Nosferatu became one of the first cult films after Bram Stoker’s estate sued for copyright infringement, and court orders resulted in the destruction of all but one copy.

McMinnville_UFO_Photograph

 

4.  Extra Terrestrials

Fear of UFOs was in full-fling in 1950, when the McMinnville photographs appeared.  The image of a black saucer clouding the bright sky would soon become emblazoned in our subconscious.

3.  Ghosts

Beliefs in spirits roaming the earth date back to antiquity, but an early and infamous image purportedly proving their existence surfaced in Norfolk, England.  Known as the Brown Lady, the ghost haunted Raynham Hall and appeared as two men were photographing a staircase for Country Life Magazine in 1936.  The creepy part?  Experts scrutinizing the negative found no evidence of tampering.

bigfoot_frame352_patterson_grimlin

2. Bigfoot

What monster list would be complete with out a reference to the ‘Squatch?  We’ve all seen it, and we all have our theories on what it might be – a gorilla, a man in a monkey suit, or even a sunbathing Robbin Williams.  The world will never know what it saw – and can’t forget it saw – on frame 153 of the Patterson-Grimlin film.

1.  Nessie

Alright, not many kids want to dress up as a dinosaur, or giant eel, or whatever you think Nessie might be.  But we can’t ignore the minimalist genius of the photograph that has wormed its way to the top in terms of our word-association.  Supposedly taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, the famous picture has become known as “the Surgeon’s Photograph” due to its creator not wishing to be associated with it.

Olympus Announces Stylus 1 for December

My first camera was a compact Samsung.  By no means was it a workhorse; I am amazed that I ever progressed from lackluster snapshots (such was the technology only five years ago).  But this morning I happened to get my mitts on a press release from Olympus regarding their new arrival to the compact market, the impressive-looking Stylus 1.  Here’s a brief rundown of camera:

Use your smartphone as a remote.

Utilizing an app by Olympus, you can turn your smartphone into a camera remote equipped with live view.  Just scan the QR Code on the Stylus 1 and BAM! you’re in business.

The zoom lens is bright!

How many times do we see that f/2.8 zoom lens and wonder if the aperture holds up at longer focal lengths?  This lens does that.  What else?  It’s close-focusing, so you can also take macro images from only two inches away.

You get a viewfinder.

In addition to live view and that wonderful smartphone application above, the Stylus 1 also gives you an electronic viewfinder offering 100% field of view (like a DSLR).  And that’s not all:  the viewfinder utilizes an eye sensor that switches view from the LCD tilt-screen as the user looks into the camera.  Color information and exposure values are also shown in the viewfinder, so you can spend less time looking at your camera and more time using it.  Yes please.

There is one ring to rule them all.

When I think of compact cameras, I think of menus.  And when I think of menus, my fingers hurt and I cringe.  But the Stylus 1 comes equipped with a nifty control ring, capable of two shooting modes:  digital and analog.  These modes are tripped by a lever on the front of the camera, facilitating manual zoom and focus in digital mode and changes to aperture and shutter speed in analog mode.  Oh, to have an aperture ring again!

Like, OM-D!

This bad boy’s 1/1.7 inch CMOS sensor weighs in at 12 megapixels, with the same processor as the OM-D E-M5, promising low grain and vibrant colors.  Check out some sample images from an E-M5 here.

It will appeal to your creative side.

With 1080p Full HD video and eleven art filters, you’re guaranteed to try something new.  What’s more, RAW shooting capability, coupled with a Neutral Density filter (for blur effects) and a capture rate of seven frames per second, gives you the perks of going pro.

It’s too early to say if all of my hopes for the Stylus 1 will hold true under closer scrutiny.  But come December, I know I’m going to be wishing this could have been my first compact camera.

See the full press release here.

Canon Vixia mini pwns webcams, smartphones

In September, Canon released the VIXIA mini – a compact and lightweight digital camcorder that fits in the palm of your hand.  Geared toward Youtubers, bloggers, and others in the selfie crowd, Canon touts the VIXIA mini as versatile and innovative – providing you with an easy-to-use interface and settings that will maximize productivity and creativity.  Initially skeptical of these claims at first, a brief stroll around Midtown with the gadget in tow assured me of one thing:  the Canon VIXIA pwns webcams and smartphones.
Auto mode.
Youtubers, bloggers, and others might view the VIXIA mini as an upgrade to their webcams or smartphones.  Its easy-to-use menus, built-in shooting modes, and tilting LCD screen all strengthen such an argument.  Whether you’re capturing hobbies or family fun, the camera’s built-in shooting modes for low-light, bright, or fast-paced environments hold up remarkably well.  In addition to these modes, you can also record at varying speeds, though audio capture fails at increased or reduced speeds.  The standard perspective for both photo and video is a fisheye view.  A closeup mode is also available, but image resolution suffers significant dropoff.  With a built-in stand and tripod mount, you won’t have to worry about camera shake, and when it comes to sound, the camera has a microphone complete with a noise-cancelling filter, and settings to increase fidelity for speech, music, and ambient recordings.
Sport mode.
Where the VIXIA mini really shines, though, is candid photography.  Whether you’re walking down a busy street, or photographing your friends, the lightweight and inconspicuous design of the camera allows it to be easily overlooked.  Volume settings can render photo and video capture completely silent, and the wide field of view will net almost any action occurring around you.  Even using a tripod, you can suffer little interference in your routine.

Seasoned photographers or those with dedicated hardware need not purchase the VIXIA mini.  For those that are looking for something better than a webcam or smartphone, or for anyone looking for an invisible camera, this puppy packs a punch.

Must Haves For Your Camera Bag – Part I

What’s in a camera bag?  Of course your camera (isn’t it in your hands?!), maybe an extra lens or two, an extra memory card . . . but what else?  DPReview recently posted a list of “Ten Things You Must Have in Your Camera Bag,” which has some good–if a little obvious–things.

Here in Part I of our “Must Haves for Your Camera Bag,” we’ll recap DPReview’s list and add a few thoughts of our own to consider.  Keep an eye out for Must Haves Part II, which will include a bunch of things they missed.

First, the obvious on DPReview’s list of Must Haves For Your Camera Bag:

3110ndzugyL._SX270_

1.  Extra Battery & Memory Card.  Of course.  But one thing: don’t put that memory card into your bag until you’ve downloaded (and backed up) then deleted everything on it.  This keeps you from wondering in the field whether you can delete on the fly.  Also, I don’t put my extra battery in my bag unless I’ve charged it fully the night before.

 

2.  Microfiber Cloth.  Great for cleaning dirt and dust and smudges on your LCD screen and all else (don’t even think of using your cotton T-shirt to clean the front element of your lens).  Here’s one from Canon that we like.

21JBrMeWPxL._SX270_

The Giottos Rocket Air Blaster is the gold standard of air blowers.

3.  Air Blower.  More cleaning products that could have been combined under a single header.  The air blower helps you clear away dirt from hard to reach places before going in with a cloth.  Giottos makes a great set that include a blower, a brush, and a microfiber cloth.

4.  Smartphone.  Doesn’t this just belong in your pocket…  OK, we get the recommendation for it’s ability to send out photos on the fly, but you weren’t going to leave it home, were you?

Next, several items that are a twist on the more obvious:

5.  Mini Flashgun:  A very nice addition, more powerful than your pop-up flash.  Both Canon and Nikon offer reasonably-priced lightweight options (but the priciest additions to this list) that some cameras can trigger wirelessly.  On first seeing this addition to the list, we thought it a bit unnecessary, but the idea of a small, lightweight, off-camera flash is quite compelling, and definitely saves weight over larger flashes.  Oh, and if you’re shooting with Canon Full Frame cameras, you don’t have a built in flash… Doh!

6.  Mini Tripod:  Eh, these can be quite heavy.  If you KNOW you’re not going to use it, don’t lug one around.  But if there’s a chance–and there often is–we’d recommend going with a Joby GorillaPod–their bendable legs allow you to use a fence post or chair back to hold the tripod in place.

 

Off brand wireless remotes work well and are cheap!

Off brand wireless remotes work well and are cheap!

7.  Remote Release:  We consider a Remote to be a must have accessory.  Remotes allow you to trigger the camera’s shutter release at the exact moment you want to take a picture.  Wired remotes are more precise but limit the distance you can be from the camera; infrared remotes tend to be much cheaper and have a greater range but can be unreliable in bright light.  Great for self portraits, but also for any time you’re using a tripod.

8.  Circular Polarizer:  DPReview correctly points out that just because you’re shooting digital doesn’t mean you don’t need a polarizer.  Polarizers are still indispensable for landscapes, making blue skies and foliage pop, increase contrast in clouds, and reduce water and glass reflections.  (Also consider getting some filter wrenches.)

9.  Rain Cover/Poncho:  The real insight here is to keep the camera rain cover in your bag.  You don’t know when that unexpected downpour is gonna happen (it’s unexpected).  I’ve used cheap versions to great effect even in hurricanes!  Yes, a plastic bag will also do the trick, but not as well as a dedicated DSLR rain cover.

10.  Business Cards:  This is one of several insights on the list that are particularly useful.  As DPReview points out, if you’re “taking pictures of people, it’s polite to ask permission and offer to send them a picture, and a business card will reassure them of your intentions (as well as providing contact details).”  These don’t have to be professional photographer cards, by the way–just anything with your email address.

All in all, a pretty good list.  

 

Be on the lookout for Part II where we include all the things they forgot!

Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Announced

Sigma today announced the latest in their Art line of high-end lenses, a 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM, which covers the popular wide-angle to medium telephoto zoom range.  It is designed for both full frame and cropped sensor Canon DSLR cameras.

The Sigma  24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM lens.

The Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM lens.

The lens boasts a constant f/4 aperture, fast enough and with enough depth of field for most applications, but perhaps not fast enough for those looking for the faster f/2.8 aperture found in some 24-70 lenses.  Curiously, no price was included in today’s announcement, but expect it to sell for far less than f/2.8 lenses.

The 24-105 has an inner focusing system that eliminates front lens rotation, which enhances stability and allows for easier use of circular polarizing filters.  More significantly, the 24-105mm has Sigma’s Optical Stabilizer (OS) technology to compensate for camera shake.  For autofocusing, the lens uses a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM), which delivers high speed focus with minimal noise, making it well suited for continuous shooting and video recording.

Sigma also claims that “it was designed to surpass the required quality inspection of every Global Vision lens with Sigma’s own modulation transfer function (MTF) “A1” measuring system to create new optical standard to align with the high-spec cameras on today’s market.”

The Sigma 24-105mm lens comes with a custom lens hood.

The Sigma 24-105mm lens comes with a custom lens hood.

The 24-105 is compatible with Sigma’s USB Dock and Sigma Optimization Pro software for adjusting focus position, and updating its firmware to better suit your needs.

Looking For The Best Place To Buy Headphones? Beats By Dre, SOL Republic, Panasonic and More!

Searching for Headphones? Look No further!

Have you been searching for the best place to buy the perfect pair of headphones? Have you been itching to get your hands on the latest headphones from brands like Beats By Dre, SOL Republic, Panasonic and more! Well rest assured your search is over! Orb Headphones aka Orbheadphones.com is your one stop shot to get all the headphones you and your family have been searching for. Whether its DJ headphones, in-ear headphones, or On- ear headphones, Orb Headphones has you covered!

The friendly and helpful staff at Orb Headphones is dedicated to providing the smoothest shopping experience around when it comes to selecting headphones. They are there to guide you to the right pair of headphones that perfectly matches your needs when it comes to sound, design and comfort. While brands like Beats By Dre, and the beats by dre pro are among the most popular items, Orb Headphones has over 20 brands to choose from, so you’ll never get bored of the selection!

The folks at Orb Headphones believe that music is meant to be experienced, not tolerated. It’s a fact…Without a good pair of headphones, you’re missing out on the top-of-the-line quality that your music has to offer. Professionals and musicians everywhere agree: a pair of high quality headphones is one of the most important pieces of equipment to invest in. We know, however, that you don’t want to pay big bucks to get the same perfect audio that professionals get. That’s why the folks at Orb Headphones store provide the most competitive prices on the market, with a huge list of the best headphones under $50.

The people at Orb Headphones also strongly believe that fashion is about making a statement, not about blending in- and nothing makes a louder statement than stylish headphones. You love music, so why not let the world know it? Headphones are the perfect way to express yourself, and having a huge selection to choose from is the first step in finding the perfect pair for you. Because you have needs, we provide fashionable, in vogue headphones for more than just music: you can get the coolest gaming headsets to impress your friends, or even sleek bluetooth headsets that make a bold, professional statement. From fashion to quality; no matter your needs, the friendly staff at Orb Headphones have got you covered.

 

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