Shooting with Sony’s latest portrait-perfect lenses

One of the biggest moans we’ve had with Sony’s mirrorless cameras is the lack of lenses available compared to some other systems.

But that’s becoming less of an issue as Sony continues to release more glass, andlast week the Japanese manufacturer introduced the 20th and 21st additions to its FE lens family in the shape of the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF G-Master OSS and FE 85mm f/1.8.

Both lenses are specialized for portraiture photography, though very differently priced for professional and amateur photographers. We got a chance to take both of Sony’s latest lenses for a spin – in the very different settings of New York and an English Country House – so let’s take a look at how they perform.

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The FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is officially the fourth lens in Sony’s G-Master line, the company’s series of pro lenses. It comes sporting a new advanced optical structure, an 11-bladed circular aperture and an apodization filter to help it render truly creamy bokeh – more on this in a bit.

Externally, the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS features a few additional controls over your everyday Sony lens. On the side there’s a custom function button, along with two switches to toggle manual focusing and image stabilization.

The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS does things a little differently. The STF (Smooth Trans Focus) designation means that while it’s an f/2.8 geometrically (i.e. in depth of field terms), it’s maximum T (transmissive) value is f/5.6, thanks to its built-in apodization (APD) element.

This apodization filter is essentially an ND-filter with a ring-shaped gradient pattern. Think of the element as a piece of glass with a smoked ring that’s clearer towards its center which gives it its unique bokeh.

This apodization filter or APD element helps to feather the out-of-focus areas in the frame. However, as a consequence the lens losses two stops of light from the get-go – thus resulting in the lens starting at t/5.6 when wide open.

You may be asking why in the world would you give up a stop of light for this apodization filter? The reason is for smooth, creamy bokeh.

Normally, light entering a lens can cut off on the edge of the sensor, causing the out-of-focus areas to become like cat’s eyes. The APD element prevents this from happening by decreasing the amount of light streaming through on the edges. This results in rounder bokeh balls, and focus areas that better hold their shape without distortion.

On top of creating nearly perfect bokeh, the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS looks like it could be one of the sharpest lenses we’ve used. We shot the lens with aSony Alpha A7R II , and as the images show you can capture plenty of detail from the center of the frame to the corners.
The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS can also be used to capture extreme close-up images with a minimum focusing distance of 0.57m (1.87-feet). Rather than having a focus range limiter switch, users will have to turn a ring behind the aperture ring to enable macro mode. From there, the lens offers a 0.25x magnification to capture the finest of detail.

The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS will be available by the end of March, priced at $1,499 / £1,699 (Australia pricing tbc).

For amateur and enthusiast photographers, Sony also introduced a new FE 85mm f/1.8. Although it doesn’t feature an APD element or macro mode, it offers a great focal length to shoot portraits.

The lens also includes nine aperture blades, and an extra-low-dispersion element to help reduce chromatic aberration.

Without an APD element, oval-shaped bokeh balls are extremely evident in images shot with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. However, in certain cases we actually prefer this effect; combined with the barrel distortion, it makes the background look like it’s almost swirling around our model in the shot above.

Without an APD element, the FE 85mm f/1.8 also gains over three more stops of light than Sony’s latest G-Master lens, which will come in handy for low-light shooting.

DirecTV Now Users Are Reporting a Variety of Problems at Launch

DirecTV Now Users Are Reporting a Variety of Problems at LaunchMany people eager to test out AT&T’s new online video app, DirecTV Now, are finding that the service has a few kinks that need ironing out.

The company’s forums and social media accounts have all been flooded with complaints since the app’s November 30 launch. Users appear to be experiencing a range of issues, from problems connecting to opening and playing video streams.

The technical glitches represent an early setback for AT&T as it seeks to claim the cord-cutting throne. While popular services such as Netflix primarily offer on-demand content, DirecTV Now attempts to replicate a true cable-like experience on smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart TVs by providing live TV content, too.

AT&T acknowledged in a statement that the company had witnessed the streaming problems Wednesday night. “Engineers resolved the issue and we haven’t experienced it since,” it said.
But despite the fix, some users still appeared to be experiencing trouble Friday morning.

It’s unclear how widespread the problems are, but at least one analyst – Dan Rayburn at market research firm Frost & Sullivan – said a troubled launch could threaten the service’s success.

“If AT&T can’t get these DirecTV Now sign up errors fixed, it’s going to kill the service from the start. ‘error messages’, ” he tweeted.

At the moment, more tweets have been posted by DirecTV Now’s support account, in an effort to help struggling customers, than on DirecTV Now’s main promotional account. On the company’s forums, one user complained that it is currently impossible to watch a single episode of content without having to refresh the feed.
“Sling has issues, but nothing this bad,” wrote Razoreb, referring to Dish Network’s competing service, SlingTV, which has also been beset by technical difficulties. “Just glad I didn’t pay for anything upfront.. I’ll give them the 7 days to sort it out, but so far it isn’t looking good.. Now I’m having problems getting on at all…”

Other users are experiencing a persistent “Error 40,” which concerns a “temporary glitch in data transmission,” or “Error 60,” which occurs when the system detects too many simultaneous video streams happening at once.

Although AT&T recommends making sure your device is up-to-date and not jailbroken or rooted, some customers report they are still having problems nonetheless. On Thursday, AT&T reported that it had fixed an issue that was preventing some DirecTV Now customers from logging in.

Without much recourse other than to wait – and fume – customers can only hope their service gets better soon.

Samsung to Buy Harman for About $8 Billion in Cash

Samsung to Buy Harman for About $8 Billion in CashSamsung Electronics said Monday it would buy US auto parts maker Harman International Industries for $8 billion (roughly Rs. 54,107 crores) in a bid to enter the growing market for automotive technology to produce “connected” cars.

Board members of Samsung – the world’s largest producer of smartphones – had approved the all-cash acquisition of the Connecticut-based firm for $112 a share, Samsung said in a statement.

The deal – the largest by Samsung in terms of value – would give the South Korean giant a “significant presence” in the global market for online-connected auto parts including telematics, the firm said.

“Harman perfectly complements Samsung in terms of technologies, products and solutions, and joining forces is a natural extension of the automotive strategy we have been pursuing for some time,” Samsung vice chairman Kwon Oh-Hyun said in a statement.

“Harman immediately establishes a strong foundation for Samsung to grow our automotive platform.”

Harman produces high-end audio systems and other internet-enabled entertainment features for global carmakers including General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.

3 Things to Analyze Before Selecting Home Health Management Software

Technology has made it far easier for companies to become more efficient, and the home health management software industry is one that has exploded in recent years. This is partially due to home healthcare becoming a larger industry, and so software has been developedas a way for agencies to streamline their home care systems.

With so many new products on the market, it can be a challenge for agencies to choose the right one for their needs. Before you decide on software, analyze these 3 elements to help narrow down your choices.

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Your Billing Methods

Healthcare billing is complex, and larger agencies often find that billing departments can require lots of time, resources, and manpower to keep the process moving. Entering home care into the equation only makes things more complicated, as this means that departments often have to deal with Medicare and private insurance companies. This can mean a number of different processes are running at any time, and your staff may quickly become overwhelmed with processing payments and monitoring claims.

If you find yourself with a pushed-to-the-max billing department, a software management program can help make sure your process is streamlined and online, allowing for team collaboration and properly recorded data.

Your Caregiver Communication Methods

One of the challenged home healthcare agencies face is keeping track of patient visits and making sure individual caregivers are properly dispatched. For some agencies, this becomes a hugely tedious process of finding phone numbers and calling caregivers if a schedule changes. Plus, maintaining accurate and up-to-date service visit records is essential for auditing and records collection requirements, so you’ll want to make sure you have a system for making this information consistent and clear.

The problem? This process relies on several areas that have the potential for error. While your caregivers are thoroughly vetted and responsible people, they are still people, and may forget to keep track of visit time. Besides, you want to be sure you know whether or not your caregivers have a pattern of lateness to make sure your patients are receiving adequate care. Finally, yet another team is required in this scenario to make sure that caregiver timecards are properly and promptly recorded for billing.

Most software management programs seek to help agencies streamline this process with integrated tracking and messaging systems, making sure that information can be sent in the blink of an eye.

Your Security Methods

Patient privacy is essential, and with the move to online and computer-based systems, many agencies are tasked with making sure internal processes are HIPAA compliant. The storage of documents needs to be protected, and any information transmitted must be securely encrypted. If your agency is relying on multiple apps and services to maintain this information safely, a home health management software will likely help you get all of your information in one place, while making sure it stays secure. Plus, the software will be up-to-date with any industry changes to privacy regulations, giving you one less thing to manage.

 

 

Which 2015 Apple MacBook should you buy?

This year has already seen a wealth of new Apple products, including the Apple Watch, the new 12-inch MacBook, a new version of the Logic Pro music-making software, and updates to both the MacBook Airand 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops.

For anyone considering a new MacBook purchase, all this new hardware makes choosing which one to buy even more difficult. Unfortunately, there’s not one single perfect MacBook recommendation for everyone, and each model has its strengths and weaknesses. It comes down to a combination of budget, required features, and just how portable you need to be.

The new 12-inch MacBook is a design and engineering marvel, but is also missing features some might find irreplaceable, such as nearly all the common ports and connections, or a mainstream Core i5 processor. It’s also expensive, and costs just as much as the much more powerful 13-inch MacBook Pro(although the same $1,299 initial investment gets you a 256GB solid-state drive in the MacBook, but only a 128GB SSD in the MacBook Pro).

Smartphone Microscope Helps Detect Blood Parasite Levels

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Using an Apple iPhone, a team of US scientists has developed a mobile phone microscope that rapidly detects parasite levels in blood.The team from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health and University of California, Berkeley developed the device to measure blood levels of the parasitic filarial worm Loa.

To rapidly screen for Loa infections in community settings, the scientists developed CellScope Loa, a video microscope integrating an Apple iPhone 5s.

With the help of a custom iPhone app, the device automatically captures and analyses videos of the characteristic “wriggling” motion of microfilariae, enabling quantification of microfilariae in blood from a finger prick in less than two minutes.

“No special preparation of the blood is required, limiting potential error and sample loss, and healthcare workers need minimal training to use the automated device,” the authors noted.

The point-of-care device may enable safe resumption of mass drug administration campaigns to eradicate the parasitic diseases onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).

Efforts to eliminate these diseases in Central Africa through community-wide administration of antiparasitic drugs have been suspended due to potentially fatal drug-associated side effects in people with high blood levels of Loa microfilariae, the filarial worm’s larval form.

A potential solution is to identify and exclude such people from mass drug administration.

“However, standard methods for measuring microfilariae are time-consuming and must be performed by trained personnel with laboratory equipment,” the team wrote.

Screening of blood samples from potentially Loa-infected people showed that CellScope Loa results correspond well to those obtained by standard methods, correctly identifying people with microfilarial levels over a certain threshold.

Although additional work is needed to prepare the technology for broad use, the researchers predict that a team of three workers could screen up to 200 people during the four-hour midday window when Loa circulates at its peak in the blood.

The work is detailed in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

OnePlus Two to Sport Snapdragon 810 SoC, Tips CEO Along With Price

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While OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has already given a Q3 2015 time-frame for the launch of its One smartphone successor, the company CEO has now tipped the price and processor of the OnePlus Two.

OnePlus CEO Liu Zuohu (aka Pete Lau) on Wednesday asked his followers on Weibo what price tag the OnePlus Two should sport if it comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC. After receiving several answers, Zuohu on Thursday agreed with some of his followers who had suggested a price of CNY 2,499 (roughly Rs. 25,000). Zuohu had asked, “If OnePlus Two comes with Snapdragon 810, what do you think will be the price?” and then later replied, “2,499 Yuan seems to be a reasonable price.”

While Zuohu has not confirmed if the price or processor mentioned have now been finalised for the OnePlus Two, the post certainly whets our appetite for an affordable (under Rs. 30,000) Snapdragon 810-powered handset heading our way.

To be noted is that OnePlus last month also confirmed a cheaper handset will be launched towards the end of the year, so those smartphone enthusiasts who are finding the tipped price of the OnePlus Two difficult to stomach could look forward to the more affordable handset instead. The company had then also said it aims to sell between 3 and 5 million smartphones in 2015, and 10 million in 2016.

A report in January tipped that the OnePlus Two smartphone will feature the same 5.5-inch display panel as seen on the original OnePlus One, but with an increased resolution from full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) to QHD (1440×2560 pixels). The report also tipped that 4GB of RAM will accompany the Snapdragon 810 processor, while a 3300mAh battery has also been tipped.

The OnePlus Two was additionally seen listed by a Chinese e-commerce website in December. While some of the specifications shown in the listing matched with those mentioned above, the SoC listed was slightly less powered. As per the listing, the smartphone featured a 5.5-inch display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, 32GB of inbuilt storage, 16-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front-facing camera, all backed by a 3300mAh battery. The connectivity options included were 4G networks, GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Micro-USB and OTG connectivity.

Here’s an Indian ISP That Actually Supports Net Neutrality

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“If you’re an Internet Service Provider (ISP), then your job is to get the Internet to people. The Internet should be neutral, and you should not degrade any traffic, or charge more for any traffic, or prioritise any traffic.” Prasanna Gokhale couldn’t have said it in simpler terms if he tried. At a time when India is seeing widespread debate around net neutrality, the words of Gokhale, CTO of Bengaluru -based ISP ACT Fibernet, sound very reassuring as a customer.

Ever since Airtel first announced its plan to charge extra for 3G data used for VoIP services like Skype, people have been paying more attention to the issue of net neutrality. So far, the debate has mostly centred on mobile Internet access. This has partly been because the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had been working on a set of draft guidelines for Over The Top (OTT) services – what we’d call apps and websites – and presented these for feedback last month.

Over a million responses later, we are still no closer to a final resolution on the issue. However, many of the concerns that are being raised about wireless providers are equally applicable for wired broadband. Companies like Airtel and Reliance – for example – both have DTH networks and video distribution platforms, therefore in theory at least, something like YouTube affects their business in the same way.

Because of this, it’s all the more important that our broadband providers make their position clear on the matter before things come to the same pass in that industry. Gokhale is very clear when talking to us that ACT Fibernet supports the idea of net neutrality. The only kind of traffic management he says the company supports is data usage packages (called fair usage policy or FUPs by some ISPs) – where your maximum access speed is throttled after you have used a certain limit of data.

“It is a standard model for India, and one that is well understood by the customer,” says Gokhale. “We are able to give people a good service at a reasonable cost by doing this.” And compared to most other companies’ packages, ACT’s broadband packages are actually much more affordable.

Aside from ACT Fibernet, so far one other ISP has also spoken out in support of net neutrality. In its feedback to Trai, Citycom networks (better known as Spectranet) outright states that it is too early to regulate OTTs, argues that if regulation and interference is kept to a minimum then we will see more innovation from OTTs and thus greater revenue from data. It’s a fantastic response, and well worth reading in its entirety.

spectranet.jpgCompare that to the responses companies like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea or Reliance Communications have stated in their responses to Trai’s draft proposal, and you can see that most Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) are not on the same page as Gokhale.

ACT Fibernet itself is unfortunately not so well known in many parts of India. The company offers its services in just six cities in Southern India – Bengaluru, Chennai, Nellore, Vijayawada, Hyderabad, and Eluru – and Gokhale tells us that growing into new markets is a slow process that will take time. In fact, given ACT’s very reasonable plans (in Chennai, a 20Mbps plan with a 60GB limit costs Rs. 1,099. On Airtel, a 16Mbps plan with a 35GB limit costs Rs. 1,649) when compared to other providers, we had to ask Gokhale whether ACT Fibernet has any plans to expand to Delhi now. He laughed and said that people always ask him about coming to Delhi and Mumbai, but added that at present, the company was going to continue to expand in the South.

As the name suggests, ACT Fibernet uses fibre-optic cables to deliver Internet access to its customers. In contrast, most established companies use a technology called DSL that uses the regular copper line of your phone, Gokhale explains. Fibre allows for much faster connections, and is also free of electro-magnetic interference, according to Gokhale.

“With DSL, the upload speeds are also much slower, it is a technological limitation,” he explains. “The real advantage of fibre is that it is scalable. Today we are offering plans from 20Mbps to 100Mbps, but over time, we will be able to offer even greater speeds with the same cable. On the other hand, the DSL connections can’t get faster.”

This is why DSL providers are also starting to invest in installing fibre-optic cables, and bringing these services in other parts of the country. That doesn’t mean that ACT is going to rush to gain a presence all over India just yet.

“To build the network, there is a lot of investment needed,” says Gokhale. “You have to basically dig up the place, and lay the cable and this is not an easy process. We have gained a level of expertise in doing this, but if you try and expand too fast then you won’t be able to ensure quality of service.”

This is another important point that the TSPs could stand to learn from ACT Fibernet – especially at a time when practically half the mobile Internet users say that the experience between 2G and 3G connections is indistinguishable.

Hopefully, companies like ACT Fibernet and Spectranet will stick to their beliefs when the debate shifts from wireless broadband to all ISPs, so that we as customers have viable alternatives to switch to if we feel we need to do so.

DVDFab Video Converter

If you are wondering why you should purchase a converter when you can avail the free services that are available, then you must give it a second thought. The free services that are available online will not suffice all your requirements. They have limited features, but when you purchase the application, then you will have access to all the advanced features and you will be able to exert greater control as well. Speed is an important aspect of any software and when you are converting any video or audio, it is important that the conversion takes place at a very fast pace.

When you are trying out any video converter, then it is imperative that you make use of the software that can convert the videos to almost all the popular formats that supports the TV viewing and you can also view the videos in your smartphones. After the conversion of the video, if the outcome quality is poor, then it will be of no use at all. Therefore, the conversion tool that will provide you with great output quality will be in high demand. The conversion must be pixel perfect, otherwise how will you enjoy the video after the conversion? In order to meet all your requirements, DVDFab has come up with the DVDFab Video converter that is easy to use and provides unmatched features to its users.

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Making use of the software

The converter is mainly useful for people who watch loads of movies. One fine day it might happen that you are trying to watch your favorite movie, but your system is not able to read the format of that movie. No matter how much you try to fix things, it won’t work. At that point of time, what you need is converter software that will convert videos for you.

The software will help you in changing the format of the video to suit your preferences. DVDFab Video Converter is one such converter, which is highly compatible with even mobile devices as well. It has an intuitive interface that helps in the successful conversion of the videos in different formats. It is the universal converter, which has the ability to process the videos in batch to save time.

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Customization is also possible in this converter, but for limited parameters like the bit rate, frame rate, size and level of volume, channel mode, etc. All the information related to the files is displayed on the converter’s interface. So, if you are looking for information like the play time, name of the file source, format, audio codec or resolution, you will get it right up front.

If you are trying to convert a two and half hour movie to .avi format, then it will take approximately 20 minutes to complete the conversion procedure. The DVDFab Video converter has the ability to accomplish the task, so quickly because it makes use of the latest technology and also due to the fact that it has the ability of batch conversion. It also has the capacity to act with the multi core CPU.

How to select multiple languages for Google voice search

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Google has pushed voice search and actions to the forefront over the last few years, introducing features like the Google Now Launcher and the “OK Google” command. Many phones now let you initiate a search from any screen, and a few can even be woken up from slumber with the trigger phrase.

However, when you do a voice search, Google only listens for your one default language. If you speak multiple languages, you can change that in a few taps.

Head into the main Google app settings (open the Google app, or swipe over to the Google Now cards, then select Settings in the flyout menu on the left). From there, open the Voice section. The menu item you’re looking for is predictably called Languages. This will open up a new selection menu with dozens of languages, each one with a checkbox. You can select up to five of them for your phone to recognize on the fly, but make sure you long-press to pick a default language as well.

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Just pick the languages you speak.

Selecting secondary languages allows you to switch back and forth with a limit of one language per search. Basically, Google detects the language you’re speaking for each search, then plugs in the right translation engine. If you have voice output enabled, the device will also speak in the detected language.

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All I remember of high school Spanish.

You won’t be able to mix and match words from multiple languages in the same query, but this is still much more convenient than going into the settings each time you want to use another tongue.