Carry This

00.18.12 - Mark

It's always fun seeing where the mind wanders, and last night it wandered into beer bottle carriers.
Three Bottle Carrier Patented in 1957
It started as a quick mental though to see how much those bottle carriers cost. Since I started home brewing beer about this time last year, and give out some to friends those bottle carriers are a decent thing to have. Six pack carriers are simple to get - go to store that sells glass bottles of beverages and chances are it comes in a cardboard carrier. However, as a home brewer we may not want another breweries logo wrapped around a distributable brew of your own. A bit of spray paint can solve that problem, or if you develop finer tastes a store that lets you mix and match a 6 pack may offer carriers that yes, has a logo, but not one of a brewer's. If you're allergic to brand names of all varieties la Cayce Pollard (from William Gibson's Pattern Recognition) blank six pack carriers can be had for less than a dollar.

Now while I have uses for 6 pack carriers, if I'm giving friends home brew I'm not so sure about giving them a full six pack. Putting fewer in a carrier works but it feels a little cheap to be a gift.

The solution my mind targeted on was 4 pack carriers. While big name brewers seem to prefer multiples of 6, a microbrewery (and the ones that didn't forget that they were) may make something different enough that 4 packs make sense. The blanks versions also exist, but I wasn't finding luck in anything other than bulk. Per piece they're dirt cheap, but I don't brew enough to want a couple hundred carriers for nearly a thousand bottles.

So the next mind journey was a template for making one. Which is where the cool things started showing up. I didn't find digital templates to download and print, but got reminded that a reverse engineering approach would work in a pinch. Mostly suggested for those common 6 packs, but true too for a four pack.

The next little discovery was at one point in history a glorified cardboard box once was patented. Or rather multiple times. While I was googling around for a 4 pack template, Free Patents Online popped up with a patent for a collapsable four pack carrier that aims for minimal gluing and materials with a PDF of all it's diagrams and details. It also lists it's past resources, including other collapsable 4 packs, to older 6 pack designs, to a patent for a Three-bottle collapsible carrier - which as a geek I love. It appears unpurchasable, but it maybe worth making one for myself.

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Potential Compact Camera

18.43.52 - Mark

I'm looking more and more at the Panasonic DCM-LX2 (aka the Leica D-Lux 3) but Ricoh just announced something that might be a dead on match for what I want. While it isn't out yet, and the only info on it is a press release, the GX100 looks like it hits on every bullet point in Camera Shopping, with the exception of 16:9 shooting. It even goes further than that. It also takes AAA batteries (nice to have in a pinch), has an accessory hot shoe for external flash and electronic viewfinder (not so sure about that) and takes conversion lenses.

I have no idea about the image quality, which is extremely important, and from what I've seen the price is well outside my range. The press release says 400 GBP, which Google translates as just under $800. In a way it is a fair price, the specs look like a DSLR disguised as a compact camera, but at $800 I could just as easily be looking at quality DSLR kits which while not as portable, are far more proven.

If I haven't committed to something by April, its one more camera to look at.

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Camera Shopping (Warning: Long Rambling Post)

04.01.57 - Mark

I've been itching to replace my dead (via my own stupidity) Canon SD300 for a while now. It more than proved its worth but I'm only now starting to get the cash to replace it. What I'm finding however is there isn't a camera out there that matches the feature set I want. The following is a lot of thinking out load. The meat of the post is in the last paragraph or two.


Wants (where things get complicated)

What am I looking at. I'm really partial to Canons, not just because of the SD300, but also because I've never been disappointed in their products. I'm looking at the newer Digital ELPH cameras which are decedents of the SD300. That should be fairly obvious. The SD700 and SD800 are both tempting. They have image stabilization, and all of my accessories will work perfectly with the SD800 AFAICT, but they're currently a bit beyond what I'd like to pay and lack some of my wants. The SD800 also lacks some of the manual controls I need.

Other Canon's I'm looking at are the A710, which is essentially the SD800, plumped up on AA batteries and given the option of conversion lenses. The Canon s80 and S70 are tempting, but they've got several strikes against them for reasons not on the list. The s70 does nearly everything I want, except video - which has a 30 second max, and can be purchased for under $300 is also 2 and a half years old. The S80 which fixes video (but drops RAW) is a year older and pushed my budget.

The Panasonic DMC-LX2 and its predecessor the LX1 have a damned near perfect feature set, only lacking of timelapse photography. The downside is that there are pretty strong arguments against their image quality. Watercolors are frequently mentioned in reviews, but shooting in RAW supposedly helps - some. The big downside is the price, which is well above my price range. The LX1 might be affordable off eBay, but it would be pushing it and I'm not fond of buying a used camera.

I'm likely missing a few potential options. For one thing I want to look at more of the Panasonics. I also find myself drifting away from the ultracompacts (like the Canon SDx00's) and more towards the regular compacts like the Canon A710 and the Panasonics. Fortunately I don't need it tomorrow, I've got a couple months to shop before I'd like to have a good camera in my hands, hopefully some prices will drop, deals will show up, and I'll have time to better refine my need/want list as well as compare image quality on flickr.

What bugs me is that camera shopping today feels a lot like computer shopping a few years ago. There's a big emphasis on meaningless numbers rather than on anything useful. When there's a shortcoming in the camera the response is to throw more pixels at the problem, which is often makes the problem worse. They're also taking away features, not adding them. Few of the compacts and none of the ultra-compacts I've looked at have RAW support, things like manual control and interesting features like time lapse photography are stripped away or avoided when all it would take is a bit of software that clearly exists.

Digital Camera Resource Page
Digital Photography Review
Flickr Camera Finder

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