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Tab time…

Since I’m obsessed with mobile devices, I’ve been thinking about adding a “Mobile Beat” category to this blog. Sherry Boylan (of ChesBay360 fame), suggested I do a “choosing tablets” blog. Great first mobile beat topic.

Photographers on the go love to stay in connected. Early this year, a couple of my friends brandished iPads–screens big enough to display photos–better than smartphones. Had to have one, but…

Then, I discovered iPad’s operating system (IOS) didn’t do things like flash (80% of what moves in the Internet), notification panels, over-the-air operating system updates and voice recognition text entry like I’m used to on my Android phone. The Google Android ecosystem nicely integrates contacts, gmail, google calendar, google maps, gps navigation (yes, voice activated with turn by turn audible instructions), etc. I’m spoiled by Android goodness. So, my tablet search then tread in Android waters. Enter the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Why I chose the Tab 10.1 instead of the iPad2? Android, Wide Screen Aspect Ratio, Higher Resolution Screen (1280 x 800 vs iPad’s 1024 x 768), More vivid display, Higher resolution cameras (front and back), Higher resolution video recording, Slightly thinner and lighter, Stereo support (left and right speakers vs iPad’s single speaker), Customizable home screens, Superior browsing experience. Now don’t get me wrong. The iPad is a wonderful device. And if you are already in the Apple IOS ecosystem with an iPhone or iPod Touch, then you may be more at home with an iPad.

I’m loving that Android system updates come over the air. Already an update from Android Honeycomb (Android’s tablet operating system) 3.0 to 3.1 has been pushed out. Soon, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (combining phone and tablet operating systems) will push down. So far, iPads still have to connect to the computer for this. I also like to voice in my text entry on occasion. Just tap the microphone key and speak. Sometimes I have to edit a character or two, but it does save typing.

Use cases? Internet browsing, Facebook, Google+, 500px, Twitter, HRDPC club meetup site, pictures, video, e-mail, reading books and magazines, music via Amazon mp3. I take it with me to restaurants, club meetings and anywhere I may have to wait. Apps? I love the Android Kindle app. I prefer to read kindle books downloaded to my Tab. They’re in color! Great for photography books. Also, I love the Zinio app, my preferred way to subscribe to and read magazines. The Android Netflix app lets me watch movies on the Tab. Oh my gosh!!! Movies are awesome on this Tab (brilliant screen, wide-screen aspect ratio, stereo speakers). The more squarish aspect ratio of the iPad leaves large letter-box lines at the top and bottom of the screen when viewing movies. The iPad’s single speaker? Uh uh. The cloud synchronizes songs from Amazon mp3 on my PC, phone and tablet. And the cloud synchronizes the book pages between all these devices.

I got the Wi-Fi Only version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. This requires you to be somewhere where there’s a wi-fi signal (home, restaurant, etc.). In places that don’t have free wi-fi, I just tap the wi-fi hotspot box (tethering) in the settings of my Android phone, and I’ve got wi-fi for my tablet–provided there’s a data signal (e.g., 3g, etc.) in that area. The wi-fi version frees you from having to sign onto a data plan with a carrier. Caution, some carriers charge extra for tethering.

Negatives? Occasionally, the browser would close and put me at the home screen. This has almost been alleviated with the Android 3.1 update. Also, on one occasion, the back/delete button didn’t work. Note that the Android 4.0 operating system (code name Ice Cream Sandwich :-)) is due out soon, and may resolve these issues. Also, I wish the Tab had a MicroSD card slot (also an iPad failing). The max memory you can have is 32GB and it’s not upgradeable. The iPad can have up to 64GB. Not sure if I’ll ever use 32GB, though. **UPDATE**  I must add that, although I have the apps I like, the number of tablet-optimized apps available for the long-established iPad dwarfs those of the much younger Android tablets so far. If the apps follow suit with the smartphone world, this gap will close at a blistering rate. And the key is not the number of apps, but are the apps you really want available?

Price? $499 wi-fi w/16 GB, $599 wi-fi w/32 GB, $529 wi-fi+4G w/16 GB, $629 wi-fi+4G w/32 GB. Note that some Android devices are 4G capable in areas that broadcast 4G signals. IOS devices (iPhones, etc.) are not.

So now, when I’m on the go and want to see it on a big screen, I put it on my Tab!



Feelin’ the pod…

My friend, Sherry Boylan of, had a terrific idea for me to post gear reviews. So, I created a new category–Gear Beat. Sherry’s been known to say, “I’m not feelin’ the pod” when she’d rather hand-hold the camera. It fits here for my first beat.

Travel to new places and don’t want to lug a heavy tripod around? I got a tip (thanks, Sherry) on the availability of a super new travel tripod from Oben… the CT-3510. Research showed that this carbon fiber tripod matched the features and capacities of the Gitzo Traveler GT-1541T. On my recent trip to New York City, I sauntered into B&H Photo (yeah, the actual store!) and checked out the most popular travel pods thoroughly. Honestly, I couldn’t find a more desirable travel pod than the Oben—at any price. It’s extremely light (3.2 lb with ball head attached), compact (15.5” folded up with ball head attached), and nearly 17 lb load capacity. Further, it is just beautiful. All the twist locks and knobs on the legs and ball head are rubberized for a nice grippy feel and tactile feedback that lends confidence that it’s locked down firmly. It also has nice touches like foot spikes you can install, and a removable leg that can be attached to the removable center post for a really cool monopod. I checked out the height with the legs fully extended and the center post down. It’s actually pretty tall for a travel pod. My back is thankful. It only takes a quarter-turn to unlock and lock the twist locks. And the legs can individually lock in two different angles, which helps in sloped or rocky terrain.

Negatives? The internal joint components aren’t as high quality as the Gitzos, and parts may not be as easily replaced as those in Gitzos. For heavy duty work using a super-telephoto lens, I’d probably go with the Gitzo GT3541LS and a Wimberley gimbal head, but that’s a different use case.

The Oben’s price…$399.95 including ball head. That’s a cool $600 cheaper than the Gitzo (w/head) combo. I liked the Oben best, and I’m not gonna hold it against them if they want to sell it cheaper. Heck, I thought, why not give them a chance? So  far, I’m thrilled. Not a single complaint. We’ll see how it holds up over time and travels, though. Note that my September 19, 2011 pic “Bright spot in dark times…” was taken at Clingmans Dome with my camera atop the Oben. Now, when I leave the hotel or cabin, I’m feelin’ the pod. Check out the links below for more info.

photoframd – Bargain Compact Carbon Fiber Tripod You Will Want To Carry

B&H – Oben CT-3510 5-Section Carbon Fiber Folding Tripod w/ BB-0T Ball Head

Bright spot in dark times…

In our darkest moment, a bright spot sustains us. Lifts us. Warms us. And brightens our lives.

Atop the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Clingmans Dome. With dear friends Sherry Boylan and Sam Maggio. August 25, 2011.