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In Brief: Skepticism about Lockheed's Fusion Reactor Ambitions

Lockheed's announcement that its Skunk Works division had made a theoretical breakthrough in developing a compact fusion reactor got people very excited this week. The idea of a clean, safe, and compact way to produce nuclear power easily spurs the imagination (as well as Mr. Fusion references). And even though Lockheed's own engineers admit that it'll be 5-10 years before they can put their theories to practice in a viable reactor, they seemed confident in Lockheed's videos. Less optimistic are the nuclear physicists who want to remind us just how difficult it is to implement small-scale fusion. The dissenting voices are always worth reading to get a better understanding of breakthrough claims. I found a few here, here, and some good points on Reddit's thread on the topic. At least this seems more credible than the latest Cold Fusion claim.

Norman 5
NIkon's D750 Temps me to Switch from Canon

Early last month, Nikon announced its D750 full-frame DSLR camera. It sits between the popular D810 and entry level full-frame D610. The two aforementioned cameras are the Nikon equivalents of the Canon's successful Canon 5D MK III and 6D, but there's no comparable camera in Canon's lineup to the D750. And now that I've read some early reviews of the D750, this is beginning to worry me as a Canon user. First off, some specifications. The D750 is a 24MP full-frame camera running Nikon's EXPEED 4 processor. It basically combines the 24MP sensor of the D610 with the 51-point autofocus system of the D810. The processor bumps the framerate up to 6.5fps (using appropriate SD cards), and video recording features are adopted from the higher-end D810. New for Nikon FF DSLRs is a tilting LCD display and Wi-Fi for photo transfers. It's on sale now for $2400 (body only). This video below does a good job giving an overview of its specs.

I've been very happy with my Canon 6D, and was looking forward to upgrading to Canon's next 5D release, if that happens in a year or two. For these full-frame cameras, upgrading the body every 3-4 years or so makes sense, since the lenses are where the money's at. But this new review by photographer Ross Harvey gives me a little bit of envy. Harvey demonstrates the tremendous low-light auto-focusing abilities of the D750 in a wedding shoot, and the image quality of photos he shot at ISO 9000 made my jaw drop.

The best way to use a camera is to adjust your shooting style to the capabilities of your equipment. Camera performance dictates best practices. For example, the FF sensor on the 6D and a wide zoom lens lets me shoot pretty great low light photos, but I know I have to frame and compose my shots quickly because of the limited autofocus points. I shoot center point focus because I can't rely on full auto. A 51-point AF system that can lock in focus at -3EV, as well as the tilting LCD would absolutely change my shooting style, or at least expand my shooting options. It's like unlocking new abilities in a photography skill tree.

Since I'm actually in no rush to buy a new DSLR body, all I can hope is that Canon has a good answer to the D750 in the next year. Based on recent trends, I'm not sure that's going to happen. Canon has been putting a lot of effort into video recording, from the 7D Mark II to its professional Cinema cameras (and respective lenses). The last Canon product that really excited me was its PowerShot G7X, and that was a response to Sony in the point-and-shoot market. Nikon is really impressing with its continuing innovation in traditional DSLRs, while Sony has lead the way in new format cameras like the A7r.

In terms of ecosystem, I'm about $4000 invested in the Canon EF format. That's not a lot compared to some photographers, but it makes switching to Nikon and Sony something I can't just do on a whim. For those of you who have switched, how did you go about doing it and how was the transition?

In Brief: The Hardest Part of Designing a Typeface

Typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones (formerly of Hoefler & Frere Jones, who recently settled his lawsuit against former partner) writes an wonderfully insightful personal blog about typography and design. In his latest entry, he addresses what he considers the most challenging part of designing a new typeface: finding an appropriate name. Think about what a name evokes, and the lexicon of typographical nomenclature. Historically, typeface names would be derived from broad genres like Roman or Italic, but the Industrial Revolution forced type foundries to expand their conventions to suit descriptive needs. The naming of modern typefaces is complex--foundries balance the need to appropriately (and simply) describe the typeface with a word, while choosing something that will capture the attention of designers. Like the names of companies, products, and anything else sold, typefaces are brands.

Norman
Print the Mystery Object: Who Said That? - 10/17/2014

The Printrbot is still in play, but we've returned to the original camera angle, mounted on the plate. What did Will print? Post your best guesses in the comments below! And if you'd like to check out the full, 4k version of the mystery build, it's here: http://youtu.be/X99sWKcD1mE

Tested In-Depth: Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Mac OS X Yosemite is out today! We've been running and testing the various betas leading up to the final release, and sit down to discuss what's new and noteworthy in the latest version of Apple's desktop and laptop operating system. There's more than just a few cosmetic changes!

Apple Announces New iPads, Retina iMac, and Mac Mini

Despite the product leaks via its own store yesterday, Apple managed to surprise us with the announcements at this morning's press briefing. We'll start off with the annual iPad updates, which fall into two categories. On the full-size iPad, Apple didn't announce any "pro" model, sticking with improvements to the iPad Air. It's now 6.1mm thick, uses an optically bonded LCD, supports 802.11AC MIMO Wi-Fi, and runs off of the expected A8X. Weight finally drops below one pound at 435 grams. TouchID also comes to the iPad Air 2, but no NFC for mobile payments (though Apple Pay will be supported). Apple made a big deal about the new 8MP f/2.4 camera in the iPad Air 2, which shoots better 1080p video and has a burst mode. It'll also come in gold. The iPad Air 2 is available for pre-order this Friday and will ship by the end of next week. Pricing is familiar--$500 for 16GB--but $100 more gets your 64GB, like with the iPhone 6. Last year's iPad Air stays in the lineup, getting a $100 price cut.

The iPad Mini 3 only got a brief mention at the presentation--it has now a TouchID home button. It's otherwise exactly the same as last year's popular Mini with Retina, down to the A7 processor. We were impressed that Apple put the same internal hardware in the iPad Air and Mini lines, but it looks like they're segmenting their lines again this year. That's a little disappointing. Last year's iPad Mini gets a price cut to $300 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, while the Mini 3 starts at $400. $100 is a LOT to pay for TouchID, especially since there's no NFC chip in the Mini 3, either. If you're in the market for a new iPad (eg. still using the first iPad Mini or an iPad 3 or older), my recommendation would be to get the iPad Mini 2.

A Retina iMac also made its debut today, in a 27-inch iMac equipped with a 5120x2880 screen. It has the same formfactor as the existing iMacs, but the high-density LED backlit display now runs off of AMD's Radeon R9 M290X GPU (a mobile GPU). The base configuration has a 3.5GHz Haswell Core i5 (upgradeable to a i7 4GHz), 1TB Fusion drive, and 8GB of RAM. It starts at a whopping $2500. It's available today. Apple didn't upgrade the 21-inch iMac, though we're expecting refreshes in the spring with Intel's Broadwell CPU release. A 5K desktop iMac indicates that Apple could release a standalone Retina Cinema Display in the future as well. Update: this Anandtech hands-on explains why this display (which is likely the same panel as what's in Dell's 27-inch 5K monitor) would not work off of a single DisplayPort connection. MaximumPC got a closer look at the Dell 5K panel in September, which retails alone for $2500 and requires two DisplayPort 1.2 connections.

Finally, the Mac Mini got a long-awaited upgrade. It now runs on a Haswell CPU (1.4GHz dual-core i5 standard), 802.11AC, and two Thunderbolt ports. PCI-e storage is an upgrade option, as is a i7 CPU. It also goes on sale today, and the base price has dropped from $600 to $500.

We'll be testing the new iPad Air 2, though the iMac Retina likely won't be sufficient for the kind of video editing we do. iPads have always had great LCD displays, so I'm curious to see how that holds up with the new optical bonding on the Air. Let us know what from the presentation interests you, and how you feel about this year's new iPads and iMac.

NYCC: Triforce's Video Game Replica Props

We've met and worked with independent replica prop makers who specialize in video game props, but here's a company working directly with game developers to bring digital characters, armor, and weapons to reality. At New York Comic Con, we stopped by Triforce's booth to check out their newest scale statues and full-size replicas, as well as learn about their production process.