In the last few years it’s gotten a bit easier to use a microphone to record audio on your home computer — USB headsets with quality microphones have been available for a while, but only recently have USB desktop microphones oved out of the niche and specialty retailers into the mainstream, driven mostly by the development of podcasting and Garage Band recording systems.
But quality desktop microphones were expensive — the keyword there is were — now we’re seeing a bunch of new, high quality USB desktop microphones in the retailers at a much more reasonable price-point.
The Blue Yeti is one such microphone that has quickly developed a bit of a reputation for itself, in a good way, of course. So let’s take a look at some of the reasons the Yeti is getting some buzz.
All this on a microphone?
First off, the Yeti isn’t just a microphone. Inside the sturdy, heavy, burnished aluminium case is actually 3 condenser microphone capsules, strategically located to provide 4 recording patterns. I’ll get into those in a moment.
THX certification is either pass or fail. And product pricing is never a driving factor. If a product meets the THX testing standards, then certification is granted. With all of this testing from THX, the consumer is assured that the TV, receiver or speaker system they are purchasing meets the highest standards for quality and compatibility right out of the box.
Also inside the unit all the hardware necessary to translate the analog audio into digital audio, and then pump it out the mini-USB port and into your computer.
This hardware includes a pre-amp (controlled by the Gain knob on the back) and a zero-latency headphone jack so you can monit or the microphone audio without having to plug your headphones into your computer, and experience that annoying bit of audio lag (latency).
Three, no four mics in one.
You see this neat shot of the three condenser mic capsules? Well the way the Yeti uses them is kinda cool, because these three mics working together give the Yeti the flexibility of four distinct microphone pickup patterns.
Mobile Recording Studio
One of the other reasons I wanted to take a look at the Yeti was to explore it’s functionality in a highly mobile environment — specifically how it worked when connected to the USB input in Apple’s Camera Connector Kit for the iPad.
By combining a high-quality microphone with some of the sophisticated digital audio editing software for iPad (such as MultiTrack DAW), a potentially powerful podcasting setup could be created.
Yep, the Yeti works as a very nice and clean mic in a mobile situation.
I recorded some audio of my wife setting up her acoustic guitar, and while I’m no sound engineer, was quite impressed with the sound! Much better than any of the home / consumer mic’s I’d tried previously.
And, of course, I recorded the first paragraph of this blog post to give you an indication of what voice sounds like through the Yeti. The Yeti was connected through an inexpensive USB hub to the iPad, which was running Multitrack DAW. Yeti gain was up a bit, and the mic was set into the Cardioid pattern.
Then Apple Changed Things
Sadly, in the last OS update, Apple changed the way power was supplied through the Camera Connector Kit USB port — and the Yeti stopped working *when connected directly to the iPad*.
The workaround is that you now need to put a powered USB hub between the Yeti and your iPad in order for the system to work again.
So, as things stand, I’ve got a mostly mobile recording and podcast studio. The one major drawback with the Yeti is it’s heft — it weighs in at 1.85kg.
Add to that the need for a powered USB hub now, and things are a bit more complicated — but not enough that I’d not consider using the Yeti / Hub / iPad combination in a mobile setting.
Need a mic? Find a Yeti. If you compare prices on similar mics, you’ll find the Yeti extremely inexpensive — considering the number of additional features you get built in (multi-pattern, THX certification, internal Pre-amp, etc), well worth a serious look, or listen.
Last year around this time, Canon introduced the Rebel T2i (also known as the EOS 550D). An awesomely speced-out camera, as all the Rebel’s are, aimed squarely at the consumer Digital SLR and home video market — yes, the Rebel T2i was a true hybrid.
Well, today Canon reprised that tune with the announcement of the two new Rebels; the Canon Rebel T3 (EOS 1100D) and Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D).
The T3 (pictured above) looks like a great, modern entry-level DSLR with some powerful features. Here’s a few that caught my eye:
High Resolution 12.2MP CMOS Sensor
A 12.2MP (APS-C sized) CMOS sensor and DiG!C 4 processor captures high resolution images boasting exceptional sharpness, clarity, tonal range and noise reduction.
EOS scene detection technology
Enhance Photos Easily — When you want to go beyond Automatic Mode, Creative Auto allows you to change the photo finish to exactly how you want it.
Live View Function
Live View allows you to compose your shots using the large LCD monitor. This function is now available in ALL shooting modes including Full Auto and Movie Mode.
63 Zone Dual-Layer Metering System
This Metering Sensor analyzes colour and luminosity information surrounding the chosen AF points to optimize exposure and image quality.
That’s just a few of the features on the inside. On the outside the T3 is a very stylish camera too — available in Black, Red, Brown and Metallic Grey — some colour’s you don’t find often on DSLRs.
Movin’ on up
But if you’re a more advanced photographer looking to graduate into a camera that offers you more creative options with more serious tech, check out the Canon Rebel T3i.
More closely aligned with it’s predecessor, the Rebel T2i, the T3i breaks tradition with the previous Rebel models by adding this one cool feature; a large Vari-Angle LCD display screen — A First to the Rebel Series.
The 3.0” Vari-Angle LCD screen makes it easy to shoot from very high or low-angles. Features a 3:2 wide aspect ratio, and an incredible 1,040,000 pixel resolution, allowing for precise focus checking.
Another neat feature when you’re using multi-flash lighting layouts is the ability to remotely trigger and control the power of external flash guns — the feature is called ‘Integrated Wireless flash controller with multi-flash support’.
Full HD 1080
And one feature that reinforces the hybrid status of the Rebel line is the ability to record full HD resolution movies at 1920 x 1080p.
Consumer or Prosumer?
Both cameras are part of Canon’s consumer line. Yet the line between consumer and professional equipment is getting quite blurred — especially with the introduction of powerful equipment like this. I can’t wait to get my hands on them and give them a workout
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Sometimes it great just to kick back and play ball with the dogs. Especially when it’s -20 something outside and the little Daschunds just don’t enjoy playing outside. Yes, they like their squeaky balls.
As you can tell, I’ve been playing with photos in my iPad Darkroom. This shot was taken with my Panasonic FZ-30, exported from the SD card to the iPad using Apple’s Camera Connector Kit. There, I cropped it using PhotoPal. Then loaded it into Camera+ for a bit of filtering (Tailfins filter) and a nice ‘film look’ border.
It’s a new year, so the slate is clean and there’s lots of new things to try. Or old things that dropped off the radar to revisit.
In my case, it’s photography and image processing. I used to enjoy working in a wet darkroom and watching images materialize on paper. That was years and many moves ago. My wet gear has long since vanished, and my attention turned to other things.
Recently, you’ll have noticed I’ve started exploring iPad Darkroom apps and technology — and have once again become interested in making and enhancing images in post production.
The holiday season is upon us, which means that we’ll be enjoying time spent with family and friends. Many of us will grab our handy camera-enabled data phones and snap priceless shots that we’ll want to share, and keep for posterity.
But that’s where the tech can get a bit tricky. Sure, we’ve tried sharing to our various Facebook, Flickr and Picasa accounts, but what about the ‘saving for posterity’ part.
Photos in the Cloud
Well, two of those three services mentioned above are a great start. Here’s the four that I’ve seen and used that will offer solid photo service over the holidays and into the future:
Flickr offers a Pro level account (about $25 per year for unlimited photo and video storage) that will keep all your photos online and available. Free gives you unlimited storage, but only your most recent 200 photos are viewable. Online image editing provided by Picnik.
Picasa has a free account that offers 1GB of free photo storage and basic image editing tools.
SmugMug is pricier, offers three levels of service, and is geared toward the more serious photographer.
Adobe Photoshop Express gives you access to basic online photo editing and organization tools, and 2GB of free photo storage. Additional storage space can be purchased annually.
So, what’s so great about storing your photos online anyway?
Backup — you don’t have to worry about keeping your images safe; the service you’re using does that.
Sharing — easy to embed the images into blogs, email and twitter messages. Each photo usually has a public URL that’s sharable (or private, if that’s your thing).
Printing — a few of the services are offering partnerships with professional printing labs which lets you produce photobooks, custom prints etc.
Integration — some of the more popular services are already integrated into your iPhone camera applications (such as Instragram). Push a button and your latest shot is uploaded to the service, ready for you to edit and share.
Yep, you can keep your photos on your own computer, but you do run risks should your computer crash or worse. I do keep the majority of my images at home, stored on a network attached storage device that’s got two drives, one a mirror of the other. So if one should die, I’ve got a copy of my data on the other.
Also, I backup my photos weekly, and move the backup drive to an offsite location for even greater safety. Yeah, a housefire would ruin a lot of things, but I know my photos and other important data would be safe.
It depends. Take a solid think about what you plan to do with your photos, how you want to share them, and how important they are to you (can you afford to lose them?). I’ve likely given you some ideas to try and experiment with as we head into the holidays. I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and how it worked (or didn’t).