End of Elevated Parks? UK Garden Bridge & US Pier 55 Projects in Doubt

28 Apr

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

It has been a challenging few weeks for architect Thomas Heatherwick, whose proposals for elevated green urban spaces in both London and New York City face uncertain futures. While the specifics vary, there may be lessons for elevated parks that spans both cases — and if these fail to move forward, it could spell the end of a decade-long trend for lofted public parks.

The Garden Bridge project in London has long been criticized based on its cost and officials are getting serious about making sure the investment (especially tax dollars) will pay off. The design has been touted as a kind of High Line Park for England’s capital, but unlike the High Line it is a brand new construction project (not adaptive reuse) and not positioned to revitalize areas of its city.

At the heart of the issue, unsurprisingly, is money: an initial projection of £60,000,000 has blossomed into an estimated cost of around £200,000,000. Shockingly, even cancelling the project now would result in a bill of over £40,000,000, despite the fact that construction has not even started. While £70,000,000 in private funding was secured at the outset, the rest would have to be covered by taxpayer money, which is less than popular with the public. As of now, the mayor’s financial inquiry has resulted in a recommendation to scrap the project.

According to a governmental report on the project, “Decisions on the Garden Bridge were driven by electoral cycles rather than value for money,. From its inception when there was confusion as to its purpose, through a weak business case that was constructed after contracts had been let and money had been spent, little regard has been had to value for money.” It is unclear whether the project is stalled or slated for abandonment, but it looks unlikely to proceed at this point.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Heatherwick’s proposed Pier 55 project (images by Luxigon), an elevated park stretching out over the water next to Manhattan, is also stalled out, at least for now. Its permit was recently revoked in part based on environmental studies that concluded it would disrupt local marine habitats. There are also concerns that it will block views along the waterfront.

The 10,000-square-foot, $ 200,000,000 park was designed to replace a disused pier in the heart of New York City, but once again it lacks some of the conditions that made the High Line a viable solution, particularly its lack of reuse. Perhaps the elevated parks trend is coming to an end, or (more likely): it is too often pitched as a solution, even in cases where there is no obvious problem to be solved.

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Aurora Aperture launches 16-stop ND filter and rear filters for Canon’s super-wide lenses

28 Apr

US filter brand Aurora Aperture has announced a neutral density filter that it claims reduces exposure by 16 stops. The company has launched a new family of fixed factor ND filters called PowerND and is offering strengths of 6, 12 and 16 stops in screw-in and square formats.

The ND64, ND4000 and ND65000 filters will be available for threads of 37-95mm as well as a special 105mm version that will fit an adapter for the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F2.8G ED wide-angle zoom. Those preferring a filter system will be able to use the 100 x 100mm square filters. The 16-stop filter is designed for those wanting to make long exposures in daylight conditions and can knock a 1/1000sec shutter speed situation down to 1 minute.

Aurora Aperture has also introduces a series called Aurora CR with filters designed to fit over the rear mount of Canon super-wide lenses. The arch-window-shaped Gorilla Glass filters slide into a holder that screws on to the rear of the lens, and while aimed at users of the Canon EF 11-24mm F4 L USM the system will work with a range of the company’s wide-angle zoom lenses.

The filters are available via Kickstarter with delivery and general sales due to begin in August. Prices start from $ 34 for small screw-in filters of any of the strengths, to $ 117 for the 150mm circular filter. The CR kit including the holder and three filters is $ 165. For more information see the Aurora Aperture website and the company’s Kickstarter page.

Press release

Aurora Aperture Introduces PowerND Family and an Industry First Rear Mount Glass Filter for Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM

Aurora Aperture Inc., a Southern California startup, today has introduced the PowerND family of high quality fixed neutral density (ND) filters.

The PowerND family consists of three ratings of light reduction capability: ND64 (6 stops),ND4000 (12 stops), and ND65000 (16 stops). Four different formats are available: circular filters from 37mm to 95mm, 100 x 100mm square filters compatible with popular square filter adapters, 150mm circular filters with an adapter for the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, and the Aurora CR format, an industry first, a rear mount glass filter for the Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM lens.

The 6 stop filter is typically used in low light conditions such as during sunrise or sunset for sub-second shutter speed. The 12 stop filter can slow down shutter speed to minutes in dusk and dawn conditions. The 16 stop filter can do magic on a bright day, allowing photographers to expose up to several minutes or more.

The ND4000 and ND65000 have distinct advantages in having more stops than the typical ND1000 or ND32000. They allow users to avoid diffraction softening by enabling users to avoid very small aperture settings or alternatively allowing for longer exposures. In the case of the PowerND 4000 that means two more stops than the typical ND1000 and for the Power ND65000 there’s one additional stop.

“We introduced a variable ND family last year and it was embraced by photographers and videographers worldwide,” said Jinfu Chen, founder and CEO of Aurora Aperture Inc. “the fixed ND family we introduce today is much more powerful in terms of light reduction capability and offers even better optical performance, along with more formats for different camera lenses.”

A small rear mount filter using Gorilla® Glass for the Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM is an industry first. Prior to this users would have to use extremely large filters with diameters up to 186mm with a bulky front lens shade adapter. The Aurora CR format filter mounts in the rear of the lens, making it much easier to carry and lower in cost. Other Canon lenses that Aurora CR format filter can be used in* are the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye, EF 11-24mm F4L USM, EF 14mm f/2.8L US, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, and EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

Designed in California by Aurora Aperture, the Aurora PowerND filters employ up to 128 layers of double sided nano coating** in order to achieve color accuracy and powerful light reduction capability. Hydrophobic and oleophobic coating is applied to filter surface with PFPE coating. The end result is that water droplet on the filter surface can maintain a static contact angle of 110 degrees, one of the best in the industry.

Availability and Pricing
The Aurora PowerND family will be available through Kickstarter starting in April 2017 and to dealers and direct orders in August 2017. List price starts at US$ 42 and varies depending on filter format and size.
* As of April 21, 2017
** ND4000 and ND65000

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


Updated: A closer look at Sony a9 image quality and autofocus

27 Apr

While combing through our thousands of images from Sony’s a9 launch event last week, we’ve taken a critical look at the camera’s revamped JPEG engine and the effectiveness of its 653-point autofocus system. Read more

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Serious speed: Sony a9 real world samples gallery

27 Apr

The Sony a9 made headlines shortly after its announcement due in no small part to its laundry list of impressive specifications. With 20fps burst shooting, 693 autofocus points and a 3.7m dot electronic OLED viewfinder with no blackout at all in continuous shooting, this camera’s got some serious specs and Sony has made some serious claims about its performance.

During our time in New York for the announcement, we were able to learn the ins-and-outs of the camera while photographing hockey players, figure skaters, and a full-on track meet to see just how the camera fared – and it fared well. But don’t take our word for it, check it out for yourself in our real world samples gallery. The AF system combined with 20 fps allowed us to nail the exact moment, while the excellent JPEG engine retained detail and minimized noise even at ISOs in the thousands.

See the Sony a9 real world samples gallery

But we’ve also been hard at work digging into the Sony a9 as much as we could, given our limited time with it and lack of Raw support. Our shooting experience has been updated with impressions of both JPEG image quality and autofocus performance.

DPR’s updated impressions of the Sony a9

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Sphere of frustration: Nikon KeyMission 360 review

27 Apr

360-degree capture is still a relatively new concept, and one that can be hard to explain to the casual consumer. But play someone a 360 video and you suddenly have the ability to expand their idea of what photography is. This is especially true when 360 content is viewed with a smartphone that senses its position in space, allowing viewers to explore an entire surrounding area, revealing more – behind, above, and below the viewer – as they move the device around. Where most photography provides a window onto an experience, 360 puts the viewer smack in the middle of a scene.

When Nikon announced the KeyMission 360 more than a year ago it appeared, on paper, to be the category leader. 4K image resolution, a somewhat compact form factor, weather sealing for action sports, dual lenses to capture a full sphere of image data: it was all there.

  • Dual F2.0 lenses for full 360-degree image, each with a 1/2.3″ 21MP CMOS sensor
  • 4K UHD video capture
  • 29MP still capture
  • Shockproof and waterproof housing
  • Removable battery and microSD card
  • Prominent, easy-to-access physical controls

Well…mostly there. When it was finally released in September 2016, the KeyMission 360 arrived with a personality as dual as its opposing lenses. The hardware impresses in many ways, but the software and interaction with mobile devices quickly make you forget about those advantages. Although Nikon is making incremental progress, you may find the urge to test the camera’s shockproof construction by throwing it across the room.

  Nikon KeyMission 360  Ricoh Theta S  360fly 4K  Samsung Gear 360 (2017)
Max Video Resolution

3840 x

1920 x 1080/30p 2880 x 2880/30p

4096 x 2048/24p

Photo Resolution 7744 x 3872 5376 x 2688 2880 x 2880 5472 x 2736
Waterproof (without a housing) Yes No Yes No
Field of View 360 degrees (dual lenses) 360 degrees (dual lenses) 240 degrees (single lens) 360 degrees (dual lenses)
Storage microSD card 8 GB internal 64 GB internal microSD card
Weight 198 g 125 g 172 g 130 g
MSRP $ 500 $ 350 $ 500 TBD

It’s worth noting a new 4K Ricoh Theta will likely be announced soon. The Nikon KeyMission 360 is available now for a a street price of $ 496.95. 

But let’s start with the overall experience, because shooting in 360 degrees takes a different approach from most cameras.


When we talk about how a camera handles, we usually mean how it feels in the hand, how much it weighs, and how comfortable it is to shoot using a viewfinder or an LCD. With the KeyMission 360 (and most other 360-degree cameras), the entire surrounding area is recorded as a sphere. Its dual lenses (each backed by a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor) capture two separate images that are stitched together by software, leaving nowhere for a photographer to hide.

The camera itself is compact and solid, with a size and heft a bit larger than a baseball (roughly 6.4cm/2.5in cubed), including the space occupied by the curved lens covers. The KM360 weighs in at around 198g (7oz). If you’re holding the camera, though, your hand and arm dominate much of the field of view. When I asked in the DPReview offices if anyone had a selfie stick I could borrow, I thought I would be knocked over by a concussion wave from eyerolls. And yet, 360 works best when you can get the camera away from yourself, be that on an extended mount, a tripod, or a helmet mount. The KeyMission 360 has a standard 1/4 inch socket at the bottom for attaching almost anything.

Two prominent buttons on the case let you capture video or stills. They’re sized and placed in such a way that you can easily trigger a shot by feel alone: video recording using the rectangular button on top, or still photos using the smaller square button on one side. They’re also large enough that you can initiate a capture if you’re wearing gloves. (The typical way to turn the camera on or off without recording is to press and hold the video-capture button for a few seconds.)

Additionally, pressing a button starts a capture even when the camera is off, an unusual feature for most cameras that, in this case, is often helpful. If the camera is mounted on top of your head, for instance, you don’t want to mess around trying to start recording when it’s time to hurl yourself down a snow-covered mountain. By default, the still photo is on a timer so you don’t capture just your King Kong-looking giant hand. The downside to this feature is that it’s easy to accidentally start a video recording as you’re putting the camera back into a bag (I have the hour-plus videos to prove it), or occasionally capture a still image while opening the interface hatch on the opposite side of the button. I’d like to see a setting or lock switch for toggling this feature on and off.

That exterior hatch reveals one of the KeyMission 360’s strengths: the battery (the EN-EL12, which is also shared by several of Nikon’s Coolpix compact cameras) and microSD memory card can be removed and swapped with others when needed. Many 360-degree cameras have sealed-in batteries and internal memory, requiring you to stop and recharge the battery or offload media when the storage is full (or both). You’ll also find a microUSB port for charging and data transfer, as well as an HDMI micro (type D) connector.

Nikon claims a CIPA battery rating of 230 still shots and about 1 hour and 10 minutes of video capture per battery charge. In my experience, I got a little less than 1 hour of video when shooting continuously until the battery ran out, without controlling the camera via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (which consumes a bit more power). Shooting stills using the exterior button and with minimal interaction from the phone app resulted in an impressive 479 shots, however.

The hatch seals tight when closed with a double-locking door, retaining the camera’s waterproofing down to 30m (98ft). It’s also shockproof from 2m (6.6ft) and freezeproof down to -10°C/+14°F.

The wide-angle lenses sit behind protective plastic lens covers that you’ll want to keep clean from fingerprints and dust. Unlike most 360-degree cameras, the KeyMission’s covers are removable so you can swap in an alternate set of included covers designed for use underwater (to adjust for distortion). Although I could have used the camera without any covers, I didn’t see much difference in the image quality, and would rather pay to replace lens covers than the lenses themselves if the KeyMission took a tumble.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


Meet The Aquapac Waterproof DSLR Case

27 Apr

Water and camera guts don’t mix. That’s just science.

So, give your precious DSLR the ultimate protection – the Aquapac Waterproof DSLR Case!

It’s rated to keep your camera bone dry down to 30 ft below the water’s surface.

Aquapac protects your photo snapping pal from sand, snow, rain and all your messiest adventures.

Head on over to the PJ shop to learn about our cameras’ new favorite go-to outfit.


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Throwback Thursday: Minolta DiMAGE X

27 Apr

There were many ‘races’ in the compact camera market back when they were selling like hotcakes. From resolution to zoom, manufacturers were constantly trying to one-up each other. Another area in which they were competing was just how small a camera could be. One of the smallest was the ultra-thin Minolta DiMAGE X, released way back in 2002.

The DiMAGE X’s dimensions were 84 x 72 x 20mm (3.3 x 2.8 x 0.8in) – yes, less than an inch thick – so it easily fit into a shirt picket. How did they do it? Folded optics.

While we’re not 100% certain, it’s likely that the DiMAGE X was the first digital camera to use folded optics. Light comes through the lens, hits a 90-degree prism and then heads downward where it passes through the various elements until it his a 2 Megapixel CCD. As you can probably tell from the design of the camera, all of the zooming and focus takes place in the ‘downward’ portion of the lens.

As noted in Phil Askey’s review, two other things that allowed the DiMAGE X to be so thin was its compact lithium-ion battery and ‘tiny’ MMC/SD cards (which is funny, considering that the way-too-small microSD format was just a few years away). One tradeoff to having such a compact body was the camera’s tunnel-type viewfinder – you might as well just use the 1.5″ LCD.

While the camera was a snappy performer, its image quality was less impressive. Phil Askey noted that photos were very ‘video like – soft with some visible ghosting artifacts.’ Vignetting was also an issue. Its measured resolution was the lowest of any 2 Megapixel camera DPReview had tested at the time. Phil suggests that most of these issues are due to the folded optics design that made the DiMAGE X so unique.

Despite its unique optical design and ultra-compact body, the DiMAGE X didn’t win over Phil (mainly due to image quality), earning it a ‘Below Average’ award – a rarity on DPReview.

Did you have a DiMAGE X or its successors? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Read our review of the Minolta DiMAGE X

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Fujifilm launches professional support program for GFX system in the US

27 Apr

Starting in May Fujifilm will provide a professional support program for its GFX medium format system. Photographers who want to take advantage of the Fujifilm Professional Services (GFX FPS) program have to own the GFX camera and at least one GFX lens. You also have to sign up within 30 days of purchase of a GFX product and be based in the continental United States.

The cost of the program is $ 499 per year which buys you the following goods and services:

  • Welcome kit
  • Personalized FPS Card confirming exclusive access to dedicated hotline technician telephone and email support
  • 30% discount on non-warranty repairs for Covered GFX System products
  • Expedited two business day turnaround time for repairs with free 2-day express shipping to and from the repair facility
  • 4 Check & Clean program service vouchers
  • 50% discount on additional Check & Clean program services and 2 business day turnaround for check and clean services with complimentary 2-day express return shipping for all service
  • GFX system product loaners for covered equipment in repair may also be available upon request if repair is expected to exceed two business days

If you are Fujifilm GFX owner and thinking the program might be useful to you, you can find more information and register to become a member on the Fujifilm website. 

Press Release:


Valhalla, N.Y., April 24, 2017 – FUJIFILM North America Corporation, as the leader in innovation for photographers, announced the new Fujifilm Professional Services (FPS) in the U.S. beginning in May 2017. This service is designed to provide exceptional support for photographers currently using the newFUJIFILM GFX system, Fujifilm’s first medium format mirrorless digital camera. The innovative GFX system utilizes a Fujifilm exclusive 43.8 x 32.9mm (FUJIFILM G Format) 51.4MP CMOS sensor that delivers ultra-high image quality. The GFX 50S combines the heritage of over 80 years of imaging and theaward-winning functional design for a relentless pursuit of perfect image quality.

GFX FPS Program Puts Photographers First

Members of the new GFX FPS Program will receive extensive benefits to ensure the utmost support for photographers utilizing the new FUJIFILM GFX System, including:

  • Welcome kit
  • Personalized FPS Card confirming exclusive access to dedicated hotline technician telephone and email support
  • 30% discount on non-warranty repairs for Covered GFX System products
  • Expedited two business day turnaround time for repairs with free 2-day express shipping to and from the repair facility
  • 4 Check & Clean program service vouchers (voucher limitations, terms & conditions apply, terms here)
  • 50% discount on additional Check & Clean program services and 2 business day turnaround for check and clean services with complimentary 2-day express return shipping for all service
  • GFX system product loaners for covered equipment in repair may also be available upon request if repair is expected to exceed two business days

GFX FPS Program benefits are intended to put photographers first by providing service and convenience for an optimal photographic experience.

Program Requirements, Availability and Pricing

The GFX Professional Services begins on May 1, 2017 for an annual membership fee of USD $ 499.Photographers can become a member of the GFX FPS Program by registering online. For full details on the GFX Professional Services program requirements, please see the GFX digital camera and GF lens purchase requirements and other eligibility requirements here.

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Canon boosts 2017 profit forecast following strong Q1 financial results

27 Apr

Canon’s recent acquisition of Toshiba’s medical equipment unit has helped spur strong first fiscal quarterly financial results for the camera company, and as a result it has increased its full 2017 operating profit forecast. In January, Canon estimated that it would see a yearly profit of 255 billion Yen; following the favorable Q1 2017 results, the company now estimates the profits will be higher at 270 billion Yen. However, the company’s outlook on 2017 camera unit sales are gloomier, with ILC unit sales dropping 7% and compacts down 13%, working out to -9% overall.

Overall, the company saw a year-on-year Q1 operating profit increase of nearly 89%, rising from 40.09 billion Yen in Q1 2016 to 76.67 billion Yen this past first quarter. According to Reuters, Canon Executive VP and CFO Toshiz Tanaka stated during the company’s earnings conference that mirrorless cameras are helping drive the company’s camera sales. The company’s financial report notes that ‘healthy demand’ for Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV has helped drive the company’s interchangeable lens camera sales. First quarter revenue from camera sales were up over 7%, though unit sales were unchanged since Q1 2016.

Canon likewise saw its compact-system cameras’ sales increase in Europe and Asia (6% globally), and though overall digital compact camera sales volume dropped in the last quarter, Canon says the PowerShot G-Series and other ‘high-value-added models’ experienced ‘solid demand.’ Things aren’t looking great for the digital compact camera market overall, where Canon sees sustained market contraction for its budget-tier models (-6% globally). However, developed countries’ decreased demand for interchangeable lens digital cameras is ‘decelerating steadily,’ the company says. 

Canon also touched on the topic of last year’s Kumamoto earthquake damage, saying that the resolution of the shortages caused by the earthquake have resulted in ‘temporary moderate growth’ for interchange lens digital cameras. 

Via: Reuters, Canon 1, 2

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Rage Rooms: Hourly Russian Service Lets You Vent Aggression

27 Apr

[ By SA Rogers in Destinations & Sights & Travel. ]

Has life in the modern world given you a simmering sense of resentment, anxiety and anger you wish you could unleash upon some highly breakable objects? Maybe you’re fuming over your job and fantasize about smashing a copy machine, Office Space-style, or maybe you’d like to give a certain public institution a piece of your mind. In Russia, you can pay by the hour to take out these aggressions on the environment of your choice – safely, legally and as violently as you like.

For a fee ranging from $ 150 to $ 450 depending on the complexity, ’Rage Rooms’ by Debosh can be customized to your liking. They’ll design your personalized smashable room to resemble your workplace, apartment or any other space you prefer, or you can bring your own breakables and clean up after yourself for a mere $ 50. Prices also vary by ‘difficulty level,’ depending on whether you want to smash some dishes and televisions or rent out a larger space with a group of friends, with more to destroy.

Founder Alexei Barinskiy says he originally owned a flea market, and was often left with too much merchandise that wasn’t selling. He wondered if he could find a way to get rid of it while still making a profit. Shortly thereafter, Debosh was born. They provide the space, breakables, hard hats, protective eyewear and highly satisfying sledgehammers, clubs and baseball bats to do the job.

“Destroyery is a kid of entertainment where people can do things they are restricted to do in everyday life, or maybe such things are just hard to do or they may have really bad consequences,” notes the website (translated from Russian.) “For example, at Destroyery you can smash a TV with a sledgehammer, take off safety goggles, dust down and go home pleased and relieved.”

“However, Destroyery is not just about crushing things with a hammer. You can come on your own or with your friends and experience a new feeling of freedom and permissiveness like when you were a kid, causing mischief and your mom went off on you for broken things at home or your dad smacked your ass for smashing a window.”

It’s kind of nuts, but it’s also hard to deny the draw. Maybe the idea will catch on in the United States, too.

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