Sony RMPCM1 Wired Remote for the PCM-D50 Audio Recorder

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: It could be better - but how?

The Long Version: The Sony PCM-D50 is a great audio recorder, tough with good sound quality. One of its nifty features is a five-second preroll buffer, meaning that it can capture sounds that happen when the recorder is running but paused. All you need to do is hit the 'pause' button without spoiling the recording with handling noise, and that's where having a remote comes in.

The RM-PCM1 is a simple little device, being a thin remote on an equally thin 6-foot long cord. It has buttons for pause, record, stop, and divide, and a light to show when the recorder is rolling. Simple, straightforward, and does everything needed to control the recorder during capture. It even has a right-angle connector, which I love.

But despite its seeming usefulness, the RMPCM1 remote isn't an easy recommendation. For one thing, it doesn't really feel like a Sony product, certainly not in the same league as the D50 and D1 recorders that it mates with. The cable is thin and slightly insubstantial, leaving an expensive accessory feeling almost cheap. The other issue is that it's something of a nuisance to use. The six-foot long cord is too long to use while close enough to monitor the levels, and if you want to monitor the audio from the end of the remotes' reach, you'll need an extension for your headphones. Using a reliable radio-frequency wireless system would be a huge improvement, even if it adds to the already nontrivial cost.

So get the PCM1 remote if you'll need to be able to control the PCM-D50 or D1 from a moderate distance, or if the preroll buffer is an important part of how you'll use the recorder. Otherwise, give it a pass - it really doesn't add anything for normal use.


Perception and Imaging, by Richard D. Zakia

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: I like reading textbooks.

The Long Version: There are a lot of photography books out there that are really about cameras. 'Beginner' books, like the excellent National Geographic Guide To Etc., mostly talk about how to choose a camera and what to do with it in the first few weeks. More advanced books, like Understanding Exposure, talk about the decisions to make when moving buttons. Others, branching out a bit, will talk about the decisions to make when moving buttons on speedlights or computers. Getting into the more refined audience, there's a huge number of books about where to point the camera - and what buttons to press when you get there.

This impressive tome by Richard Zakia is about none of those things. Its subject is exactly what it says: Perception and Imaging. The word 'camera' appears only once in the entire table of contents, and by the time we get to it, we've already studied figure-ground relationships, gestalt, and the influence of memory. The brief discussion of 'camera' turns out to be about how its position influences the depiction of space; really, it's just an exhortation to choose different vantage points for their influence on the depiction of space. We quickly get back to more typical subjects like anisotropicity, the Munsell colour system and its descendants, and the Necker cube. The physiology of the eye, semiotics, rhetoric, and the significance of theriomorphic forms all find a place in this simultaneously advanced and eclectic mix.

Perception and Imaging is about 350 pages, with a single main column of text and/or images coupled with a narrow column of supplemental images or quotations on each page. I'm a sucker for well-sourced quotations, making Perception and Imaging a joy to flip though - Richard Serra, John Cage, and Joseph Campbell all make an appearance; Ansel Adams and Ludwig Wittgenstein even appear on the same page. The layout style is more typical for graphic design books, and the result is engaging and can give respite from the sometimes heavy subject matter. The book is populated with line drawings, diagrams, advertisements, and colour photos that provide additional material, but make no mistake: this is mostly a text book, complete with excercises and notes at the end of each chapter.

While I've only been 'into' photography for less than a decade, I'm a bit technical in my approach, and read as much as I've been able to get my hands on. While I've yet to find a way to translate technical information into art, ability, or vision, I'm very happy to find a button-pushing book that teaches me things that I haven't read before. To pick up a book that hits me with new concepts right from the second page has been reinvigorating. Perception and Imaging absolutely won't tell you what mode to use, but if you're ready for the psychology of seeing, this is a book that can provide a much broader and stronger foundation to your thinking.

Translating that into art, naturally, remains an exercise for the reader.


Canon EF 70-200 f/4 Collector Cup

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: Funny: peculiar or ha-ha?

The Long Version: These mugs have been a huge phenomenon - there are probably more people looking for one of these than the replacement for the 50D. Canon has always had a way of building up buzz, and this is no exception. Highly sought after and rarely seen, this replica is a brilliant idea. And there's no saying how much milage they could get out of it - a 300/2.8 pitcher, 85/1.2 coffee cup, 50/1.8 shot glass - the possibilities are tremendous. But alas, some dreams are best left as fantasies: I have to say that it looks better in photos than it does in person.

The packaging has the same image on all four sides of the box. The top is sealed with a clear plastic sticker, but the bottom is simply the four sides folded inward and can be undone. Inside, the mug is in a loose clear plastic bag, and includes a small paper slip with care instructions on it. Aside from all the obvious warnings about hot beverages, spillage, and metal in a microwave, the 70-200 mug also isn't for carbonated beverages and has to be washed by hand. That means that its pristine collector status is in no danger from me - I'm not about to use anything that can't be put in the dishwasher.

The 70-200 does have a metal inner liner, suggesting that it could be used as more than a novelty item. And perhaps, like a Leica, keeping it protected on a shelf is to keep it from its true calling. I occasionally get together with a few photographer friends to relax and compare prints in a local coffee shop, and the idea of using this mug is pretty tempting. If they didn't know that I mostly use Nikon and Panasonic, it would be even better.

I said in the beginning that this cup might be better as an idea than a reality, but perhaps I'm being too harsh. The level of detail is good, but not exacting; the rounded corners to the plastic give it just hint of a Burger King feel. But the key is that it's a tribute, not a replica - it doesn't look like someone actually hollowed out a real lens, it looks like someone made a mug that looks like an actual lens. Aficionados like myself can immediately recognize which lens it's supposed to be, and when Penny saw it, she laughed out loud and thought it was great. Since she's not a photographer, but has to put up with one, that's a stronger endorsement than anything I could come up with on my own. Hopefully Canon takes the idea and runs with it.


Coke's 414mL / 14oz Bottle

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: Let's all contain our excitement.

The Long Version: I'm old enough that seeing the words "New" and "Coke" on the same label leaves me a little apprehensive. The good news, such as it is, is that the beverage itself hasn't changed - the excited yellow "NEW!" banner on the bottle merely refers to the packaging. The huge innovation is a 414mL size polyethylene terephthalate container, which joins the existing 600mL and 710mL plastic bottles. There was once a 500mL bottle, which was replaced by the 20% larger size, so there's a certain feeling of deja vu to this new container as well.

I haven't actually seen these bottles on the shelf yet, but a report puts the pricing closer to the 355mL can than the existing bottles. That's not too surprising, given the capacity, but to be honest I would prefer the smaller size to the 600mL bottle even if the price-per-milliliter was slightly higher. They're nicer to hold and drink from, and even at the rate that I consume the stuff, a 600 or 710mL bottle is likely to be warm and flat by the time I'm done with it.

While I prefer cans for home and work, I have a hard time buying them singly from a convenience store because I know how much cheaper they are in a case. When I'm out and about, I'll buy bottles simply to rationalize the higher price of getting a single container from a fridge. Coke's not exactly betting the business on this new venture, but hopefully the smaller portion size will be a success. It's the one I'll be looking for from now on.

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