Category: Product Reviews

Dell Latitude Rugged Extreme

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme (Model 7404) notebook computer, group shot, one open 90 degrees, the other closed, showing handle.

If you’ve ever dropped your laptop off a table, you know the fear. Every digital thing you own may have just died a tragic, untimely death.

Dell has the solution, and it comes in the form of the Latitude Rugged Extreme 14. This laptop is ridiculous in every way. It’s heavy, it’s bulky, it is so big it has it’s own handle and shoulder strap. And you could drop it off a cliff in a rainstorm while it’s open and on, and when you climb down to retrieve it, it will still be running just like you left it. It’s constructed from magnesium alloy and ultra-polymers. It’s IP-65 against water ingress. Its official spec says it can withstand a 6′ drop, but they are tested at 12′, and most survive from much higher drops than that.

It’s tested to run at -20 to 145 degrees. It can operate in blowing dust and sand, snow, salt fog. The desert. High altitude. The jungle.

And best of all, it can run in a manufacturing operation in Missouri. That’s where I come in. I work in a manufacturing environment where we have heavy equipment and chemicals everywhere.

So a top spec rugged 14 extreme will set you back about $7,000, and it will last until the sun turns into a chunk of charcoal. I frequently toss and drop mine to demonstrate to friends. It’s a computer AND a party trick.

Hasselblad X1D-50c

Do you love insanely high resolution, smooth, creamy medium format images but you hate carrying 200 pounds of medium format gear? If so, you have found the perfect weapon of choice in the Hasselblad X1D-50c.

Prior to the X1D, I was shooting the Hasselblad H5D-50 Wifi camera and carried several of the heavy HC lenses in my kit. The X1D uses the SAME sensor. It uses software that is actually more modern than the H5D.

After a couple of weeks with the X1D, I sold my entire H5D kit including all of the HC and HCD lenses. The XCD lens line is so much lighter, and syncs at 1/2000 out of the box. My HC lenses would have required an expensive shutter upgrade to achieve anything higher than 1/800. And multiply that fee by 6-8 lenses and you’ve got some serious outlay of cash.

I currently shoot with the X1D, and my lens kit includes the 90mm, 45mm, and 30mm XCD lenses. I’m excited for the release of the 120mm later this year, and frankly that may just complete my kit.

The 30mm is plenty wide for landscape, the 90mm is amazing for portraits and fashion, and the 45mm is a great walking around lens for street photography.

So as pros go, the high end 50MP CMOS sensor, the beautify of Hasselblad’s color management system, the fast flash sync, and the medium format “look” in a package that comes in at a third the cost of a new H5D system, and frankly stacks up nicely even against the H6D-50.

As many before me have noted, it does have some “early adopter” issues you might expect in a new platform. The firmware is buggy. It sometimes hangs up. The delay after a shot is unacceptably long… close to 2 seconds. Focus is MUCH slower than any comparable full frame 35 (as if there’s such a thing), but it’s quite similar to the H6D I rented. Again, I think this is more related to firmware than hardware. We’ll see with future updates. My biggest complaint is the “eye level activation” that works like a piece of crap if you happen to wear glasses. I cannot get the thing to activate unless I take off my glasses, which renders me nearly blind. I really hope that Hasselblad addresses this issue in a future firmware update, as it drives me absolutely nuts.

All in all, for a camera body that rings in under $11,000, and lenses worthy of the brand, I highly recommend this camera. If you shoot action, medium format isn’t for you anyhow. If you need 100MP, you need the H6D anyhow, and you are almost certainly shooting in a studio. X1D was meant to be highly portable, and it shines.

Why I Chose Odyssey 7q Over Atomos Shogun

I’m an early adopter. Being an early adopter lets you (in many case) input to future product updates and it’s generally fun to play with toys when they are sparkly and new.

When Atomos announced Shogun, I was thrilled. At the time, I was shooting BlackMagic cameras and Shogun was the only recorder on the market with 12G-SDI. It could record RAW from the BlackMagic Cinema Camera and the URSA. It also promised to be compatible with just about any 4k camera coming onto the market.

Shogun was also cheap for what you were getting, especially if you factor in all of the promised firmware updates.

I ordered my Shogun and waited. And waited. Finally, it arrived. One TEENSY little glitch, they promised they’d fix… it could PLAY YOUR FREAKING VIDEO BACK. The little “Play” button was greyed out. Come on, man. But I got over it, because by that time I was shooting URSA and CFast 2 cards are wicked expensive and were hard to find at the time.

Atomos slowly released updates with the features they had promised originally would be there from the start.

Then I changed cameras. I wanted something run-and-gun capable, which the URSA most certainly is not (not to mention Blackmagic Design shares Atomos’ affinity for promising a lot and delivering very little), so I went with the workhorse Sony FS7.

Sony doesn’t mess around. When someone, anyone finds a glitch with their professional camera products, they actually fix it. Fast. When Cinema 5d discovered a RAW output glitch, it was fixed within a couple of months. After mucking around with a company that doesn’t ever deliver what it promises (BMD), I was super excited to start working with Sony.

Some projects dictate using all 14 stops of dynamic range that the FS7 can offer, and the way you do that is by recording 12-bit RAW .DNG using the XDCA-FS7 extension unit to an external recorder. Sony makes a recorder, but it is $5350 plus you need a $2000 interface unit. That’s a lot of cash to do what Atomos promised/promises that the Shogun can do. But the date for Atomos support of the FS7 is constantly pushed back further and further. Now it’s saying sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2016. Mmmmhmmm.

I had always steered clear of the Convergent Design Odyssey 7q because every review I read said the interface is terrible, the screen isn’t as nice, it’s basically poopy compared to the Shogun. But I was left in a situation where I could spend $7500 for the Sony system (plus another several thousand in proprietary media) or I could find a nice used 7q.

I did one better, because I found a used 7q that already had the RAW license on it (normally $995 extra). I went into it with tame expectations of the screen, interface, and build.

What I got shocked me. The Shogun feels like a plastic toy compared with the 7q. Even the power connector is a well-designed Neutrix that actually stays in place. The first impression out of the box was good. I always felt like one drop would be the end of the Shogun. The 7q feels like it could take a punch.

Then I turned it on, plugged it into the camera, and watched as the 7q detected the FS7 and instantly presented me with all of the available recording formats for FS7 RAW recording, which include HD, 2k, and 4k ProRes and .DNG. I thought – it can’t really be that simple. I didn’t read the manual. I spent 2 minutes pushing the various buttons on the touchscreen and I feel confident I know exactly how to use it. Within 5 minutes of unboxing, I was recording gorgeous Cinema DNG RAW in all of its 12-bit glory.

But there’s more. Shogun, by it’s design (single drive) is permanently constrained to 30P when shooting 4k or UHD. The 7q can shoot 60P in 4k and UHD, and it can shoot TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY FRAMES PER SECOND in 2K. WHAT?! Holy Snikeys.

If you only ever shoot ProRes and you never plan to go over 4K30P, the Shogun will probably work fine for you. If you want to shoot anything more, you simply must get the Odyssey.