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    Everything You Need to Know about The Beaglebone Black

    In the past, I’ve exclusively covered Arduino-based projects, but that platform is far from the only option for makers and anyone into D-I-Y electronics. Sometimes, you need more than just an electronics controller board, you need a full computer system. Among other options, the most significant single-board computers today are the Raspberry Pi and the Beaglebone Black. There’s been a lot of digital ink spilt about the Raspberry Pi since it launched early last year, but the Beaglebone Black hasn’t enjoyed nearly the same level of coverage (even though it's used in projects like OpenROV). I think that’s a shame, because the board actually has a lot to offer the amateur builder, and for many is a compelling alternative to the Pi. In this guide, I’ll take an in-depth look at the Beaglebone Black, discussing what it is, what you can do with it, and how to get started.

    What is the Beaglebone Black

    First, a bit of vocab: the Beaglebone Black is a single-board computer, like the Raspberry Pi. A single-board computer is pretty much what it sounds like—all the hardware you would expect to find in a desktop or laptop computer, shrunken down and soldered to a single circuit board. A processor, memory, and graphics acceleration are all present as chips on the board.

    To contrast, Arduino boards also have a processor and memory on board, but are orders of magnitude less powerful, and lack the specialized I/O hardware you need to connect the board to a monitor. In more concrete terms, you can hook a Beagleboard Black up to a display, speakers, a keyboard and mouse and an Ethernet network, and boot into a Linux-based operating system. From there, you can do anything you could do with a (low-powered) Linux computer. You can’t do that with Arduino.

    The original Beagleboard, launched in 2008 and was a little bit bigger and a lot more expensive. By 2012, the Beaglebone was released, which brought the size in line with the credit-card-shaped Raspberry Pi, but still cost $90. The Beaglebone Black came along earlier this year, and finally brought the price down to just $45, making it suddenly very competitive with the Raspberry Pi and other DIY-oriented Single-board computers.

    Tested: The Right $250 PC Graphics Card

    There’s an arms race happening in PC gaming. GPU manufacturers are beefing up the capabilities and performance of their graphics chips while PC game developers keep ladling on additional eye candy. If you’ve played the latest Assassin’s Creed or Battlefield, their lush graphics are easily capable of reducing systems running older graphics cards to a whimpering, huddled mess. Okay, maybe that whimpering mass is the owner of said system. Even slightly older games, like Tomb Raider and Metro: Last Light can easily hammer older PCs if certain graphics features are enabled.

    Upgrading your graphics cards offer the best bang-for-the-buck when you want to boost performance in modern PC games. However, not anyone wants to buy, or can afford, a $700 GPU. Also, most PC gamers run their games on a single monitor at full HD resolution: 1920 x 1080, usually shortened to 1080p. The problem is that the mid-range GPUs, running in cards costing between $200 and $300, are in a holding pattern. While both Nvidia and AMD have ramped up the high end substantially in an effort to become king of the GPU mountain, the mid-range cards are mostly rebadged GPUs – old wine in new bottles.

    Take the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition. AMD has added clock rate boost capability and called it the R9 270X. The GPU is otherwise the same. Nvidia has taken a slightly different approach. The GTX 760 is ostensibly replacing the GTX 660 Ti. Both use cut-down GK104 GPUs (the same GPU used in the GTX 770). But the GTX 760 offers fewer shader cores and texture units than the GTX 660 Ti, while beefing up the clock speed. On the other hand, the GTX 760 has more of everything than the somewhat anemic, GK106-based GTX 660 non-Ti variant. Confused yet?

    Where both companies gain back some favor is that they’ve cut prices back. The original Radeon HD 7870 cost $350 when they originally shipped in early 2012. The cards I tested for this review are all $250 or less. Here are the contenders.

    The Best Small TV Today (32-Inches)

    The $298 Samsung UN32EH5300 is the best small TV. For not much more than a decent 720p display, you get full 1080p resolution and smart TV functionality built-in. Based on the non-smart version, it has better image quality than competitors as well. The catch is that it’s a 2012 model; it only recently dropped in price and therefore could go out of stock soon. In that case, we have other picks as well.

    Our old pick, the Vizio E320i-A0, is a current model that costs $288. That’s a great deal for a 720p panel with Netflix and other streaming content, but the Samsung is better at the moment. The reason we are changing the pick is because the UN32EH5300 cost well over $350 until just recently (which is too much for most people to pay for a TV of this size). It’s likely that the price drop is intended to clear out stock in order to make room for the 2014 models. Until then, the Samsung is the better buy.

    We also recommend the Samsung UN32F5000 if you want a thinner TV to hang on the wall. The image quality should be very similar to the EH5300 and it’s edge lit so it is almost 2” slimmer. It does, however, lack the smart TV features. There is just a general lack of thin 720p sets, so we are recommending a 1080p set instead.

    If you already have a streaming device to use, you should save even more and get the Samsung UN32EH4003. It is only 720p, but it has a nice image and is the cheapest 720p set out there from a major manufacturer today. The main caveat is that it won’t work with a sound bar.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (November 2013)

    Another month has gone by, and the deal making has really kicked up a notch. With the holiday season closing in, everyone wants to move more phones. That's great news for anyone in the market. Still, there's the dilemma of deciding on a new handset. It's a decision most people only get to make once every two years, so you don't want to screw it up. Let us help.

    Photo credit: Flickr user mesfoto via Creative Commons

    This month the Moto X shows us that specs aren't everything, the Nexus 5 keeps on rolling strong, and the Note 3 is still really (physically) big.

    How To Stream Your PC Gaming Online, Step-by-Step

    There are lots of ways to stream your gaming session online, and we’ve talked to a bunch of prominent members of the streaming community to get their recommendations for the easiest way to get started. Their recommendation for the best flexible, powerful, and free way: streaming on Twitch.tv using the Open Broadcaster Software. Getting this set up isn’t difficult, and we’re going to walk you through the process to make sure you get every setting optimized. Our goal is to broadcast the game itself, plus video and audio of the player. That's you! Well, me, for the purposes of this guide. Here's what you need, and how to set it up.

    Photo credit: Flickr user vsmak via Creative Commons

    A Decent PC

    Encoding and streaming your game, your voice, and your ugly mug takes processing power and RAM. As I mentioned in my last story, Twitch recommends an Intel Core i5-2500K CPU (or "AMD equivalent") or higher, plus 8GB of RAM. This is to ensure you have enough processing power and memory to encode while playing your game. djWHEAT says, "You could stream using lower-rated hardware, but the quality output will suffer." You also need a graphics card powerful enough to play the game, and an internet connection with enough upstream bandwidth to stream your video. The Open Broadcaster Software website has an estimator to help you figure out what streaming settings to use. The higher the resolution and the frame rate, the more CPU- and memory-intensive the encoding process will be.

    Photo credit: Flickr user robscomputer via Creative Commons

    I'm using a desktop PC with an i5-2500K, 16GB DDR3/1600, Windows 8.1, and a GeForce GTX 680. My upstream bandwidth is about 6Mbps. In order to get decent frame rates, I'm going to aim for a broadcast resolution of 1280x720. This isn't the resolution I'll be gaming at, just the resolution I'm sending to Twitch's servers. Further down I'll discuss how increasing your resolution impacts your computer's performance.

    The Best Mirrorless Camera Over $1000 Today

    If you want to get the best mirrorless camera and are willing to pay for that excellence, the way to go is the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Its combination of speed, rock-hard build quality, optical excellence, a huge lens library and an advanced control scheme makes it perfect for the high-end enthusiast or pro. It’s $1,400 for just the body of the camera, but it’s worth the investment.

    The mirrorless camera market right now is going through a blossoming of high-end devices. Over just the last couple of months, a number of pricey and excellent cameras have been announced that promise to push mirrorless cameras more firmly into the world of professional shooters. We now have tougher bodies, larger sensors and more lenses. Where mirrorless cameras for a while were pushing up against the low-end DSLRs, now they’re aggressively going after the much bigger and better models, too.

    Photo credit: Flickr user antonylin via Creative Commons

    With all these new models popping up, our previous pick of the OM-D E-M5 ($1,230 with lens, $1000 body only) has been eclipsed, and we need to figure out which camera is now the best. Despite falling in rank, the OM-D E-M5 is still a very good camera; if you don’t see yourself benefiting from pro-oriented features like super-tough build quality and external control dials, it remains our pick for a step-down option.

    The Zoidberg Project, Part 3: Making a Mold Jacket and Eye Blanks

    The head cast I wrote about making last time is only the first step in making a core to sculpt on for The Zoidberg Project. While there is a way to cast a proper, useable core straight out of the Body Double mold, I want to make some alterations and have a longer-lasting master mold for future use.

    Out of the Body Double life cast mold we discussed last time, I pull a hydrocal casting. There are two kinds of plaster stone that we primarily use in the effects industry for casting: Hydrocal and Ultracal. They differ in their dry hardness. Hydrocal is a bit more porous and fragile, but can be cast quickly for "waste" molds, while Ultracal is stronger and can be used for molds that need to be baked or repeatedly used. Hydrocal my choice for casting this first copy of the head because I can do it in one batch very quickly.

    Painting plaster in the ear section of the mold first.

    To make this first Body Double cast, I fill the mold at the ears first, one at a time while the life cast is on its side, so that I won't get any air bubbles in that delicate area. Then once those are set up I'll brush a layer of plaster throughout the entire mold and scrub it into the details, and then continue adding plaster until the cast has a decent thickness (about 1/2" thick).

    Next, I’ll prop this first cast up a little higher with wood blocks to build out a sturdier base. In making the Body Double mold, I only cast my model to just below the shoulders, but will need more of a base in future casts for sturdiness. To make this base, I simply spatualate some Ultracal below the cast to build a quick-hardened surface. I'm using Ultracal here because I have a little more work time to refine the surface and make it smooth.

    Making a sturdier plaster base for the life cast.

    Once that’s all set, I’ll need to make a silicone jacket mold, also known as a case mold. I want to make a new mold so that it will be easier to cast parts and make multiples. Because i know that I’ll be using this a lot in the future and for this project, I want a more long-term and durable mold. The Body Double mold that we made directly from the life cast is great for a few castings, but after a while, it will be more prone to ripping and wear-and-tear. I have some Body Double molds that have had dozens of castings out of them and are still fine, but I really just want this mold to be made a certain way for future steps. You can make a jacket mold a few different ways, but I know I’ll end up pulling multiple castings of this head, so I want a mold that will last a long time, so the following guide is my preference for making one. (The other way is to do a brush-up, which is a process that I will do later in the project and explain then).

    The Best Travel Power Strip (with USB) Today

    The best travel-size surge protector is the ~$16 Accell Home or Away surge protector. Its compact size, outlet placement and powerful, full-sized-tablet-ready built-in USB charger make it the most convenient and well-designed mini surge protector.

    Why a Mini Surge Protector?

    Whether you’re jostling for one of the few available outlets at an airport or in a tiny hotel room, wall sockets are often at a premium when traveling. Having a mini surge protector on you can mean the difference between enjoying fully charged devices or trying to stretch the last 10% of your battery over an hours-long flight.

    What Makes a Good Mini Surge Protector

    Most importantly, a mini surge protector needs to be, well, mini. It should be easy to pack in a small bag or carry-on. Ideally, the plug should retract or fold in when not in use. This not only makes it easier to fit into smaller pockets but also makes the plug less likely to catch on or scratch other items in your bag.

    You should be able to plug in all of your devices without blocking adjoining outlets, regardless of plug shape or size.

    Outlets should be spaced out, not placed right next to each other. You should be able to plug in all of your devices without blocking adjoining outlets, regardless of plug shape or size. High-output (at least 2.1 A) USB ports are essential for charging smartphones and tablets quickly. Exactly how many outlets you need will vary from person to person, but two or three AC outlets and two USB ports should be enough to satisfy the needs of most while keeping the surges to a travel-friendly size.

    Finally, it should provide peace of mind that gadgets plugged into it are adequately protected. A power surge may last less than a second, but that is more than enough time to destroy your devices. The best way to tell how much protection you’re getting from a surge suppressor is to look at the Joules rating.

    “The higher the surge protection rating, the more energy it can absorb, so the better it is,” explained Richard Baguley, who designs tests for us and Reviewed.com. “Joules is an energy measure, so the number indicates how much energy the device can shunt away from your electrics before it blows, leaving your electrics unprotected.”

    So how many joules do you really need? To some extent, this will depend on how many and what types of devices you are trying to protect. The mini surge protectors we looked at had joules ratings ranging from 612 to 1,050. Full-sized power strip surge protectors, on the other hand, can have joules ratings up to 3,000 or higher. All that said, anything above 600 is enough for most people’s needs. And, considering the surge protectors we tested will have a maximum of five connected devices at once, all of our models offer more than adequate surge protection for the laptops, tablets and handsets most people will use them for.

    Given that we rely on surge suppressors to protect our most valuable devices, a surge protector should guarantee surge protection by offering a warranty covering connected devices should the surge protector fail or malfunction. These warranties vary, but the brands we looked at had warranties covering connected devices ranging from $75,000-$100,000.

    Tested: PlayStation 4 Hard Drive vs. SSD vs. Hybrid Drive

    The PlayStation 4's built-in storage drive is more important than ever, but the 500GB hard drive included with the next-gen console is slow to install and load games. Good thing it's easily replaceable. We test the benefits of replacing it with an SSD and a hybrid drive (SSHD) to see what difference a $100 upgrade can make.

    14 Essential Tweaks to Perform on Your New Nexus 5 Smartphone

    Google has been making iterative improvements to the Nexus flagship phones for five generations now, and the appropriately named Nexus 5 is perhaps the most competitive phone to come out of Mountain View thus far. The Nexus 5 offers us our first look at Android 4.4 KitKat, which is the most significant update to the platform since Ice Cream Sandwich two years ago. This phone debuts unique software and hardware features that you'll want to take full advantage of, and it's a steal at just $349 for the 16GB model.

    This device is a great experience out of the box, but you can always make it better. Here are our14 essential steps to getting your Nexus 5 configured properly and ready for heavy use.

    The Best Cheap In-Ear Headphones are $12

    After sifting through literally hundreds of options, seriously considering nearly 150 models, testing the top 40, and calling in audio experts to blindly evaluate the top 20, we’re pleased to report that if you want to buy an inexpensive pair of in-ears, you should get the Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergo Fit. They sound good, have a one-button remote and mic, fit well, come in a variety of colors and cost less than $15.

    Who’s This For?

    So you’re at the airport and realize you forgot to stuff your favorite headphones into your carry-on bag. Your kid asks you for a new pair of earbuds because they lost theirs (for the second time this month). Or maybe the Apple EarPods included with your phone got run through the laundry. Whatever the reason this time, we’ve all been there. Sometimes you just want a pair of headphones that cost as little as necessary to get the job done. But here’s the problem: which ones are worth putting in your ears? There are a million models out there, and nobody has really bothered to review them. Until now.

    The Zoidberg Project, Part 2: How To Make a Life Cast

    To make the full-size Zoidberg mask, we need a full-size head to sculpt on. And for that we’re going to use something called a life cast. A life cast is a three dimensional copy of a person’s face of head that I can sculpt the mask or prosthetic on top of, since I can’t expect a model to stay perfectly still for hours on end. Since the makeup has to be fitted for a specific actor’s head shape, the life cast has to be as close of a reproduction of that head as possible. That means putting the actor under molding materials like alginate or silicone to create a 1:1 mold of their head, and then casting it with a material like plaster or gypsum.

    To make our life cast mold for the Zoidberg sculpt, we're going to use Body Double from Smooth-On--a silicone specifically made for lifecasting. There are three kinds of Body Double, each with different work and set times (how long you have to apply it and how long it takes to cure). Standard Set which has an 5 minute work time and 20 minute set time, Fast Set which is 90 seconds work time and 7 min cure time, and a new "Body Double Silk" which has a 6 minute work time and 20 minute cure time. All three types have a durometer of 25a. Durometer (or shore hardness) is the scale that materials are rated on to assess how hard or soft they are. "A" scale is for materials that are flexible, "D" scale is for things that are rigid, and there is a "00" scale for gels. The three scales overlap a bit, as you can see on this chart (PDF).

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (October 2013)

    The android device ecosystem is in the middle of a shakeup. The Nexus 5 is a reality now, and it works on three out of four major US carriers. There are also hot new phones like the Galaxy note 3 and Moto X floating around. What are you supposed to do when it's time for an upgrade? That's what we're here to figure out.

    AT&T

    Because AT&T runs a standard GSM/LTE network you should have no trouble getting the latest and greatest Android device running on Ma Bell. The Nexus 5 is certainly an option, but it is still a few hundred dollars off-contract. For some people, taking a contract is acceptable if it means up-front savings. So maybe the Moto X is a good alternative. These are your options: the latest and greatest of Android, or a finely tuned experience with unique features.

    Let's go over the possibility of buying Google's new Nexus 5 for use on AT&T. The device has killer hardware with a Snapdragon 800 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and a 5-inch 1080p screen. Around back is an 8MP camera with optical image stabilization. The device itself has a soft-touch back with a landscape Nexus logo much like the new Nexus 7.

    Tabletop Tutor: Little Games, Big Experiences

    Board games take up space. They take up a lot of space. The hundred or so games in my collection take over three eight-foot bookcases, and I’m always looking for more room. Taking board games to local gaming cons or meetup groups means I have to choose three or four, because lugging them around takes substantial effort. Unpacking and setting up some games can take a good half-hour. Play time can take an hour or three.

    Not all games are like that. Some take up very little space, can easily be thrown into a backpack or handbag. They can be pulled out at a moment’s notice, set up in a few minutes and give you a substantial tabletop gaming experience before your lunch break is over. These little games often cost much less, but don’t let the size and low cost of some of these games fool you. Many are real gaming gems.

    I generally sort these games into a couple of bins in my mind. One bin are small filler games that take only a few minutes to play and can be a precursor to other games. Most people think of these filler games when they think of small games, but not all little games are filler. The other bin are more substantial games which happen to be physically small and easily transportable, but give you a more robust gaming experience. Let's go over some of my favorite small games that offer big experiences.

    The Best PC Gaming Mouse Today

    After more than 30 hours of research followed by 100+ hours of testing ten gaming mice, there's no question about the one I'd buy: the $60 Razer DeathAdder 2013. It's affordable for a gaming mouse, comes with Razer's straightforward and customizable drivers, and has quite possibly the best body design and buttons of any gaming mouse I've used.

    That’s saying a lot. Even before doing this guide, I’ve used a lot of mice, ranging from popular brands like Logitech, SteelSeries and Roccat to the lesser-known Ozone and CM Storm. Furthermore, I didn’t decide on the DeathAdder by myself: I tested ten mice (on top of a few I already owned) alongside professional Battlefield 3 player Charlie Goldberg, who plays under the handle LevelCap, and we both agreed that the DeathAdder is the best gaming mouse we’ve ever used.

    (Charlie is quoted under his handle LevelCap throughout this article, and he also wrote up his own impressions on all of the mice we tested.)

    Now, a big part of choosing the mouse that’s right for you is finding one that comfortably fits your hand size and grip style. With that in mind, we’ve picked out three other mice from our carefully chosen testing pool that don’t quite match the DeathAdder, but are still great. Comfort matters, and personal opinion is always an important part of picking out the right mouse. But even more important is knowing what to look for in a gaming mouse to inform that opinion—button placement, click distance, weight, material grip and sweat resistance, driver software options and the mouse sensor itself. Switching to a new mouse can take some adjusting, but it can also pay off with better control and reaction time.

    First we’re going to tell you what all that stuff means and why you should care about it. Then we’ll tell you why the DeathAdder and a rare few other mice get it right where so many other mice get it wrong.

    Who Should Get This?

    If you play PC games, especially first-person shooters, you should buy the DeathAdder. This is a great choice for just about anyone looking to upgrade to a new mouse, and it’s a pretty affordable buy at $60. (Amazon often sells it even cheaper.) The mouse’s CPI is customizable up to 6,400, which is so high that you’ll barely be able to follow the cursor as it flits across the screen. Even if you really love your current mouse, read up on why we recommend the DeathAdder. It’s possible that the DeathAdder (or a mouse with a similar grip, which we’ll explain in detail) could actually make you better at games than you are now.

    Left-handed? Me too, although I’ve always used a mouse with my right hand. If you’re a left-handed mouser, though, Razer has you covered with a left-hand edition. Unfortunately, the left-hand model hasn’t been updated for 2013; the older DeathAdder has a great mouse sensor but inferior glossy plastic sides. We think mousing lefties will be better off choosing our favorite ambidextrous mouse, the Mionix Avior 8200, which we talk more about below.

    If you’re a PC gamer but spend all your time playing MMOs, the DeathAdder may not be the mouse for you. It has only two customizable buttons on the left-hand side of the mouse, which may not be enough for players who like to bind multiple commands to their mouse. However, after talking to pro gamers who play shooters (Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike) and real-time strategy games (Starcraft), not one recommended a mouse with tons of buttons. In fact, they unanimously preferred simple, lightweight mice, saying more buttons tend to get in the way of a comfortable and highly-controlled grip.

    Worse, too many buttons can cause you to even press buttons accidentally. “I can’t imagine any pro gamers would get a mouse for macro functions,” said Derek, one of the pro gamers I talked to. “Most of the time they stack them all right where your thumb goes on the mouse, like the [Razer] Naga and Logitech MMO mouse. I can’t control those mice for shit even with the same DPI/resolution. It feels off because I’m gripping the mouse differently. For an MMO they would be fine though.”

    The Best MultiTool Today

    If someone wanted to buy the single best multitool available today, I would tell them that the Leatherman New Wave is the one to get. It has a versatile mix of tools, great ergonomics and solid construction, and the price tag is fantastic for the amount of functionality you get. It’s just $61 on Amazon today, and ~$51 if you downgrade to the nylon sheath (do it; you won’t miss the leather). You can pay almost twice as much for a multitool, but the extra investment doesn’t buy you a tool that’s much more useful or practical than this one.

    Photo credit: Flickr user zomgitsbrian via Creative Commons

    If you prefer to spend a bit more for smoother action and a nicer finish, we recommend the $93 Swisstool Spirit X.

    There’s definitely some personal preference to consider with these tools. As was revealed by hours of research with experts and interviews with multitool fanatics, it’s important to consider what’s comfortable for you to use. Some people want a smaller tool that’s less bulky in a pants pocket. Others want a big tool that feels heavy and solid to grip. But even taking into account everybody’s differences of opinion, brand loyalties and personal histories with particular tools, the New Wave kept coming up as the answer to what the folks in multitool land call the unanswerable question: what’s the best multitool on the market today?

    The Best $100 In-Ear Headphones Today

    If I had $100 to spend on earbuds, I’d get the Sony XBA-C10IPs, which only cost $50 but beat competition twice as expensive. After researching dozens of headphones, considering 79 and testing the 15 most promising, our expert listening panel liked them the best. The Sonys fit everyone well, sound fantastic, and have both a remote and a mic.

    Why Spend $100 on In-Ear Headphones?

    When looking for in-ears, there are three things you want to take into account.

    First, fit. Are they comfortable in your ear canal? Do they stay put or do they tug when you move? Do they seal off external sound? Do they chafe or irritate your ears? Good in-ear headphones should be light, easy to wear for long periods and fit comfortably once you find the correct tip.

    Second, sound. How well do the in-ears reproduce sounds? Is there one frequency range that is over- or underrepresented? Are they so loud in one frequency range that it makes it uncomfortable to listen to music for very long? Music should sound warm and full and have a sense of space; voices should be clear and crisp.

    Third, build. Headphones in this price range and size are generally used for commuting so it makes sense to look for something sturdy enough to survive the abuses of daily use. Things like a tangle-resistant cord and a well-designed carrying case are also good to look for as well.

    You should also get something with a microphone and remote because having to take your phone out of your pocket/bag to answer a call while on the go (or even while sitting at a desk) can be really annoying.

    Headphones in this price range will have better drivers and sound than models around $30 or less.

    Why spend a little more? Headphones in this price range will have better drivers and sound than models around $30 or less. They’ll also have features like extra tips (to fit your ears properly), cable clips or a carrying case. While they won’t have the detail, sense of space and sonic clarity of $200 models (like our pick in that range, the RBH EP2) they will sound a darn sight better than the pair that you got with your mobile phone or that you snagged from that accessory kiosk at the mall. Not into in-ears? Take a look at our over-ear recommendations in the same price range.

    Living with Photography: Getting a Grip

    It's difficult not to be self-conscious when it comes to DSLR photography. Walking around public spaces carrying a big camera and lens draws more attention than just taking out a smartphone and tapping a touchscreen. It always feels like people walking by can't help but try to see what you're taking a photo of, and maybe what gear you're using. But while I don't mind any attention from passersby when taking photos in public, there's one audience that I do get self-conscious about, and that's other photographers. That's because I do the very same thing when I see photographers in public. Some things just jump out at me: what lens the photographer is using, how they're positioning themselves with the given lighting, and most recently, how they're physically holding their cameras.

    The ergonomics of holding a camera will differ between camera models and what accessories you use, but there is good reason to seriously think about them when you're using a DSLR. DSLRs are not only heavier than point and shoots and compact mirrorless cameras, they're physically larger as well. Good prime and zoom lenses add to that bulk, complicating the overall weight distribution of the camera when hand held. And while the standard DSLR body design is suited for a two-handed grip in the landscape orientation, turning the camera on its side for portrait photography is awkward, to say the least. Do you rotate the body so the shutter is on the top of the camera, or on the bottom? To be honest, I first started getting self-conscious about the way I was holding my camera when one of you guys pointed out that I was holding it "wrong" in the portrait position.

    So I've done a little bit of thinking about how I hold my own cameras, and after reading up on some other photographers' recommendations, have come up with some best practices that I've etched in my brain--another subconscious checklist to run down every time I put a camera up to my eye.

    The first thing I thought about was the goal of good camera gripping ergonomics. What's the point of holding a camera in one way over another? You can choose your camera grip for different priorities: physical comfort, ease of access to settings, finer control over the lens rings. My top priority is reducing camera shake. I wanted to get a grip on my camera that would give me the most stable shot at the slowest shutter speed possible, eliminating as best I could the unavoidable judder effects of pushing down on the shutter button.

    In some ways, that means thinking of your body as a tripod for the camera, which means having a firm and balance stance on the ground. I typically put one foot forward when shooting, planting my feet firmly on the ground and leaning my upper body slightly and slowly forward or back to adjust for minimum focus distance.