Some Technology Grades From Thomas Hawk

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what my favorite lenses are for the photographs that I shoot. I thought I’d put together a quick recap report on my lenses as well as on some of the other technologies that I’ve tried over the past few years or so in time for the upcoming holiday season. I’ve tried to keep each technology item to a single letter grade and then a couple of quick comments. Feel free to ask more specific questions in the comments.

Adobe Photoshop CS3: A+, The new Adobe Photoshop / Bridge combo may be the single best technological upgrade I made all year.

Canon 135 f/2.0 L Series Lens: A+, My favorite lens from Canon. Beautiful depth of field and bokeh at a reasonable sub $1,000 price.

Canon 5D Digital SLR: A, Best value for a full frame sensor digital SLR from one of the best manufacturers. Only complaint is that the larger sensor attracts more dust requiring more sensor cleaning.

Apple MacBook Pro: A, best computer I’ve ever owned. Great customer service from Apple.

Microsoft XBox 360 A, Great gaming platform, also works great as a DVD player.

Canon EF 100 Macro Lens: A, Great value for a macro that also works well as a portrait lens.

Canon 14mm f/2.8 L Series Lens: A, Fantastic results from this ultra wide angel lens.

Netflix: A, Very impressed with the speed and turn around of the service. Also impressed with the quality of the “watch it now” streaming video service which is included in the membership.

Verizon Wireless EVDO service: A- Reliable and consistent and speeds feel like they are getting faster. Still a tad expensive.

Apple iPhone: A-, great phone/iPod combo — best phone I’ve ever had. The Edge internet access sucks big time.

Canon 24mm, f/1.4 L Series Lens: B+, Strong L Series wide angle offering from Canon, lens is pricey but well built and worth it.

Drobo Storage Robot: B+, A strong multi disc array approach to digital media storage. Sometimes the units can react quirky. Transfer speeds are slower that standard hard drives but this trade off is worth having replicated primary storage.

Microsoft Media Center PC: C, admittedly I’m still running an early version (Windows XP) on an early box (HP 873N) but I can’t stand the 10 sec – 3 minute freeze ups and delays that that I believe are the result of accessing my large digital library over a network or the horrible performance on the DVD player.

Canon 50mm f/1.2 L Series Lens: D, A great 50mm but not for the price and poor autofocus in low lighting situations.

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  1. Farrell says:

    I like Photoshop CS3 as well. I wonder, have you tried Adobe Lightroom yet in conjunction with Photoshop?

    I started with it about 4 months ago and it saves tons of time when you’ve got a lot of images to process. Basically, you do the raw conversion and sync all your other images up with a few clicks. Then, you can tweak them one by one and even open them in Photoshop for pixel-level editing and retouching.

    It’s really pretty great.

  2. Brad C. says:

    Thomas, what will it take you to move to Windows Vista Media Center? Though I still run XP on my main desktop, I built a (sub-$500) box specifically to run Vista as my downstairs Media Center. It performs wonderfully even with my extensive library and networked DVD collection. I truly believe Media Center is one of the very few compelling reasons to upgrade to Vista, and I highly suggest you make the investment to start enjoying it today.

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Brad I might try Vista. We’ll see. I really really really want to love Media Center. I love the vision of it.

    If I thought that that Media Center could reliably handle my 100k file+ mp3 library and my 50k file+ photo library then I’d upgrade machines today. I’ve long believed in the vision of Media Center as the central unifying place for digital media in the home.

    I’d always planned in the past to buy a dual cable card HD media center PC and put it in my attic and then feed the various displays in my home via XBox 360 extenders. This is my dream actually. But I’m unwilling to invest the money to buy a dual HD cable card Media Center PC without being confident that it would be up to the task of handling my digital library.

    I still believe that the fundamental problem with Media Center’s ability to handle large digital libraries rests with Windows Media Player and how it handles files.

    On the same old Media Center PC that can’t handle my mp3 library over a network with WMP/Media Center, I can easily share my library from iTunes and access it flawlessly over the network. iTunes just isn’t integrated in with the MCE interface.

    Right now I’m torn between actually spending the money to experiment with a new Media Center PC with cableCARDs, crossing my fingers and *hoping* it gets better or just chucking it all and breaking down and buying Apple TV and realizing that my dream of a HDTV/home media combo just isn’t possible.

    I’ll probably figure something out with this in the next few months. In the meantime I suffer through 10 second to 3 minute freeze ups (as I have been for 4 years) on my Media Center PC when I want to look at pictures and listen to music in my living room.

  4. jeremy says:

    On the Drobo, you wrote: “Sometimes the units can react quirky.”

    Could you elaborate a little on this? Ever since you first reviewed the unit on your blog, I’ve been covetously eyeing the device. But I’ve read a few reviews here and there that mention aspects of quirkiness. If I’m going to be using the device to store all my digital photos, I don’t want some hiccup to destroy all my work.

    So, what problems have you had?

  5. Ade says:

    I have a 5D too. The dust is becoming a nightmare. I’ve tried cleaning with a system called “Green Clean”, but this seems to, at best, just move the dust around, and sometimes seems to make it worse.

    Do you have any advice?

    cheers
    ade