My MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Rant

I’ve always been a fan of Apple. I still am, but I have a bone to pick. These last few days, we saw the release of Microsoft’s Surface Studio and Apple's new MacBook Pro line. If I hadn't been in the market for a new laptop, given that I already have a desktop iMac, its possible that I might have been well one my way to a new Microsoft Surface Studio. 

Around 2009, Simon Senik explained the Golden Circle concept. Heres an overview. 

It start with the why, as in, “Why do we do exist” 

Then comes the how, as in, “How do we do it.” 

And last, the what, as in, “What is the product that results.”

This was very different from most companies that were working the opposite direction. Most companies would say something like, "We have this awesome new technology, here's how it works, and this is why you should by buy it.”

Fstoppers, a photography and creative blog recently released an article titled What Happened to Apple’s ‘Why’? It argues that Apple as lost their why with the release of the new MacBook Pro with its Touch Bar. I think Apple is still centered around the same ‘why,’ which is to change the status quo and think different. How are they doing that? By always looking forward and leaving inefficient concepts and dated technologies behind. Then they got to the 'what'... 

By now we all know what, and Let me be clear. I never use the function keys except for their alternative functions like volume and brightness controls, so getting rid of the function key row is hardly a problem for me. Its a great idea to get rid of it. The problem is this. If you ask any painter or sketch artist where the vast majority of their attention is focused on, its the subject. As a photographer and filmmaker, my creative process is similar. Any time I break the visual connection with what I'm creating, it puts a kink in the flow of creativity.

Now you can immediately see how having a screen down on my keyboard, that changes every time I want to perform a new task, would require me to break that connection if I wanted to utilize it. Fact is, I’ve typed this entire article and I’ve looked down maybe once or twice. So you can see my skepticism when the claim is that it will drastically increase productivity. Will I be able to adapt to the Touch Bar and eventually not have to look down? Maybe. Only time will tell. 

Lets shift gears a little. Now heres where I really start to get frustrated. Look, I get it Apple. No one is diving head first into making Thunderbolt 3 peripherals. You’re the big kid on the block so you release a computer that only has 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports knowing full well that it will force the hands of every other company that manufactures peripherals. Lets be real. Everyones still going to buy it, and eventually, every hard drive, monitor and card reader is going to be using Thunderbolt 3. Well “eventually” is a big pain in my ass, because now I have to pick up two Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapters ($49 each), a USB-C to Digital AV and USB 3 adapter ($79), and a USB 3 hub (~$40). Thats over $200 in adapters just so I can get my current peripherals to work with my new laptop. YES. I BOUGHT ONE. What else am I going to do. Buy a PC? 

Although to be honest, its not so ridiculous of an idea these days. If I wasn't specifically in the market for a laptop, If I was an illustrator, or designer, or was more involved in 3D animation again, I’ll tell you right now. My desk could have had a Microsoft Surface Studio on it in a couple weeks. I digress. Thats a whole different scenario. 

I would love to have everything in a single laptop: touch screen, pro stylus, USB 3 ports, Thunderbolt 2 ports, Thunderbolt 3 ports, SD card reader, machine guns and laser beams. Right now that does seems like something that Microsoft would offer rather than Apple, but until the day comes when Windows is completely free from bloatware, system updates every 10 minutes, security scans, background utilities, and the constant threat of malware, I'm sticking with Mac.

At the end of the day, a Mac just works. Updates are done in a matter of seconds, I'm not worried about viruses and I can focus on the whole reason I even bought a computer at all - To Create.

Canon 5D mark IV - Not The Obvious Choice

I’ve owned my 5D mark III (5D3) for about 4 years now. I adore this camera. So when Canon announced its successor, the 5D mark IV (5D4), you can imagine how excited I was to see if it’s worth the upgrade. Now that I’ve done the research and tested it out thanks to my buddy Lance, I can say that its a lot more complicated than than “yes” or “no.”

Im not going to go into specs. There are a million review sites that will lay it out for you. What Im going to discuss here is why you would and why you wouldn't buy the new Canon 5D mark IV. While the specs play a small role in this, the greater factors are beyond that. To see why, we have to go back quite a few years. 

In 2009, Canon released the 5D mark II, which marked a huge milestone for prosumer photography/videography. It was the first full-frame DSLR to offer high quality 1080p video recording. Not only that, it was compact and affordable. When the 5D mark III was released with upgraded specs in 2012, they added a few more features for videographers. Things like a headphone jack for monitoring and upgraded specs. By then, Canon was the first name in DSLR video. Whether you were looking to upgrade or buy your first camera, that was the one you went with. The point I'm trying to make is that these cameras, in their time, were the overwhelming obvious choice for prosumer creatives who shot video as well as photos. 

With he Canon 5D mark IV, this is no longer the case I'm afraid. One of the big improvement over the 5D3 is that it shoots 4K video. Thats a fine and dandy, but in my eyes, is worthless. The 4K video uses a 1.6x cropped portion of the sensor. That basically eliminates the whole appeal of full frame video because your not shooting on a full frame. In fact, your shooting on a portion of the sensor that smaller than the sensor on a Rebel t5i. Admittedly, most cameras out right now shoot 4K at a crop, but most of them aren't as drastic. In fact my Sony A7s mark II shoots 4K with no crop at all. In addition to that you’re restricted to recording 4K in a motion-jpeg format. These videos files write up to 500 mbps/sec. To put it into perspective, my Sony writes up to 100 mpbs/sec making a 30 second 4K clip about 400MB. If I recorded that same clip on the 5D4, it would be over 2GB. 

So if you’re just looking for a 4K camera, the 5D4 isn't the best option. In the video below I’ve made a 1080p comparison and slow motion comparison of the 5D4 to the 5D3. You can deduce what will from it. 

Testing the new Canon 5D mark IV against the Canon 5D mark III

Test 1 - Detail Test at 1080 23.98p

Test 2 - Slow Motion Test played back at 40%

Everything shot in default neutral picture profile

Up until now, it might seem like the 5D4 is obviously not the best choice, but this is where it gets complicated. Years ago, the Canon would have been the obvious choice solely based on specs. Now that’s clearly not the case. There are factors beyond specs that myself and other videographers come to value over specs. 

For our studio at least, its the color and ease of use. The color science that Canon cameras have is, in a word, special. That’s really the best way to describe it. Some call it warm, but its more than that. Skin tones come through beautifully and just have more life when rendered though a canon sensor. Its hard to describe. Ive shot with several cameras from different manufacturers and none of them quite capture colors like the Canon. The term “The Canon Look” is even thrown around in the filmmaking world. Its a thing. Then there’s the ease of use. The menu system is simple and intuitive, its now even easier with a touch screen. The button layout and ergonomics are intuitive and logical. The 5D3 is still the most solid and comfortable camera I've held to date and the 5D4 continues with the same form factor. 

At the studio, we shoot primarily with the Canon Cinema cameras, but we do have a 5D3 that we will probably replace with a 5D4. It will be our compact camera to fit in tight spots and we can fly it on the glide-cam, Ronin gimbal, and the slider. It gives us a little better image quality and the option to shoot 60p. Yes, I have my Sony A7s mark II which shoots full frame 4K, 1080 120p, and has way more dynamic range. Its such a pain in the but though, and in every area that I love the 5D line, I hate the Sony, but we have the luxury of having different cameras for different purposes, so other than the money, theres no downside for us to upgrade. Especially since were so heavily invested in Canon glass. For most people, thats not the case. 

I cant honestly recommend the 5D4 to anyone who wants a hybrid camera for photography and video. The Sony A7r mark II is probably a good compromise. Epic specs, but sometimes frustrating ease of use. If you're primarily doing photography, maybe weddings or sports, then yes, the 5D4 would be a decent upgrade from a 5D3. Its a great photo camera and has a great ecosystem. If you're into landscape, and travel photography, its still behind the likes of Sony and Nikon as far as dynamic range and resolution, but thats sort of a toss up depending on how much time you typically spend setting up a shot. I’d run and gun with the Canon over the others.

To Karma or to Mavic

Alright, since I finally got my new website up, let’s go ahead and make this my official stance on the two new drones that came out. I been getting a lot of questions from friends who know I do a lot of drone video and photography. First, newly into the drone market, GoPro has its newly updated GoPro Hero 5 in the Karma drone. Then there’s the drone juggernaut, DJI who released the Mavic Pro. 

Let me start off by saying that I haven't personally tested either of these, but I have kept up with the reviews by several trusted bloggers. Check out Casey Neistat if you want a slightly more in depth review of the Karma and the Mavic Pro. 

Without further fluff, lets look subject A. The GoPro Karma, with the ability to detach the camera and place it on a handheld, mountable gimbal, seems like an irresistible setup for someone who wants a full system in a small package. Its really incredible how easy it looks. Anyone who wants to have some fun making action videos/photos, this is what you want. In the past and from what I’ve experienced, GoPro’s camera is typically a smidgen ahead of DJI as far as image quality on a small sensor, and now with the reduced distortion, it seems like they are catering to a more professional crowd as well. 

So even though the Karma and the Mavic Pro seem like direct competitors, they really two different sports in the same stadium. 

For me, the most important thing in photography and filmmaking, is ease of use. In the past, that wasn't the case, and I think a lot of new creatives make the mistake that I made of prioritizing image quality over all. Eventually, everyone comes to the same realization. Story is king. In my day to day, the drone is just one of the tools that I use to tell a story. If I can fit that in a single bag with my other tools, that improves my ability to tell a story more completely. A lot of our big shoots involve so much gear that one extra bag for the P3P isn't really a deal breaker, but for those sunrise hikes it an enormous difference. Its always an internal debate whether to bring a regular camera bag or the drone bag. This is a case of, "The best camera is the one you have on you."

At this point, you can probably see where I'm headed. The DJI Mavic Pro just seems unbelievably more manageable as a drone. Look at this size comparison!

When ready to fly, the Mavic Pro is just slightly smaller than the Karma, but once you fold them up to transport, the difference is immense! It seriously looks like a tiny Autobot. Now check this out. Heres some dude holding it in his hand. Or maybe its a lady, I don't know. Dainty hands, and da finger. It do like dat.

Anyway, I can’t even fit my Canon 70-200 comfortably in my strait fingered hand like that. Chances are, I can take that lens out of my bag and pop the Mavic Pro right in its place with room to spare. The Phantom series needs its own bag for the most part. Yes, the Karma comes with a nice carrying case that can easily fit into any standard backpack, but I would have to chuck more than half my gear to fit it in my camera bag, and there is the divide. 

Is that something you have to worry about? Probably not. Trust me, I would love to show up to every shoot with an arsenal of GoPros. They're awesome! I love the ease of use, image quality, the price, and I can store them in the water tank of my toilet if i wanted to. But alas, I can’t do that for obvious reasons. Plus, our clients would probably find it very odd that we use the toilet as storage space.

Fine, lets blabber about image quality a bit. What you get out of these small sensor cameras is incredible these days. Just look at what you can do with an iPhone. Honestly, I could care less if either one is a little better than the other. My current drone is almost 2 years old already and I'm quite happy with the image it puts out. If either of them put out an image on par with my current drone, I wouldn't even consider it a factor. 

So its obvious. I'm getting one right? I’m probably not. Neither of them really offer a whole lot more than what I have now. Yes, its tiny. Yes, it does shoots 1080p at 96 fps for 1/4 speed slow motion. I know. But, for now at least, its not enough reason to spend money on a second drone. If the Mavic Pro controller had its own screen like the Karma controller did, it might be a different story. I know. Drone snob. I just like the idea of flying a drone with a Gameboy looking controller with its on screen. Using my phone as a monitor is kind of annoying and adds extra pieces to the puzzle. If only the Karma could fit in the 70-200 spot of my camera bag, it would have been the best of both worlds. 

Verdict? If you're a professional in the market for a prosumer drone, you're probably going to want to pick up the Mavic Pro. If you're a professional with a drone, you have to ask yourself if the Mavic really gives you that much more than you already have. Maybe just save up for some new glass. If you're neither of those and your just looking to have some fun, a kick ass waterproof action cam that can fly, Is probably what you want.