Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Tale of Two Cameras (Nikon L840 and Lumix DMC-FZ200)

At some point, most of us would like to photograph our 3D printed objects.  That is certainly true when you write or teach about 3D printing.

While I have a full-frame Canon 5D MK II with professional "L" lenses, most of the time using it for quick photos to post here or to include in my video training materials is just plain overkill.  It's a pretty heavy rig and what I usually need is something a bit quicker and easier to handle.

I've used my iPhone and even a GoPro to grab quick images.  But, what I really needed was something with a good macro capability that took reasonably good images.

I was finally prompted to action by my daughter's need for a camera with macro capabilities to shoot her artwork.

In the end, we tried two different cameras... one very successfully, the other not.

Let's start with the "NOT".

My first choice was the Nikon L840 at $199.  The price was certainly reasonable and the lens promised to do exactly what both of us needed.  The reticulated screen was also appealing.  I had used such a screen on my first serious digital DLSR, the Olympus E-10 ten years ago and knew the value when shooting small objects,

Nikon COOLPIX L840 Digital Camera (Red)
Nikon L840

But, it turned out that focusing the L840 was just plain too slow.  After many attempts to get it to work as I needed it to work, I gave up.  Besides, it was the first and only camera I had ever used where the preview was in focus; but, the final image was not!!!  Even using a tripod and timer to avoid any shake, it seemed to have a problem grabbing a sharp final image.

Unfortunately, by the time I figured that it was not going to be acceptable, it was too late to return it.

To be fair, this may be a defective camera.   It happens.  So, I will send it in to Nikon to see if it can be improved.  But, in the meantime it was time to move on.

Now let's turn to the "SUCCESSFULLY".

For several years, since I first purchased my Panasonic HC-X920 3MOS Video camera, I have been following Graham Houghton's Youtube channel.   While my primary focus was on those offerings related to video, I also knew that he had produced some material on a Panasonic bridge camera called the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Digital Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

I already knew that Graham Houghton was a person that could be trusted when it comes to reviews and evaluations, so I decided to take a close look at this camera he seemed to like so much.  I was shocked to find that the Lumix FZ200 was just $47 more than the Nikon L840 and the feature differences would have suggested a MUCH wider price gap!  So, I decided to try one.

I could not be happier.  While the FZ200 can be operated in fully automatic point & shoot mode, it's comprehensive manual controls make it EXACTLY to right camera for my need to provide my students and you the perfect images to demonstrate 3D printing concepts.  Moreover, while it is no $3000 full-frame SLR, it has most of the features I am used to relying on with my professional cameras.  The lens, for instance, is f2.8 across the entire zoom range!  

You can see from the two images that the L840 does not have a hot-shoe while the FZ200 does.  This also make it a good second camera for shooting events or adding an off-camera flash for macro photography. The Nikon L840 only shoots in .JPG; while, the FZ200 shoots in RAW as well as .JPG!   All in all, the $47 price difference buys you a LOT more camera!

By the way, the 1080p video (Either MPEG-4 AVCHD or MPEG-4) is stunning for a camera of this price and it can even shoot High Speed Video up to 240 frames per second!  That's going to come in handy when documenting 3D printing artifacts and issues!

My Conclusion

Frankly, having owned a wide variety of point & shoot and SLR cameras over many years. I consider the DMC-FZ200 to be THE best value in a camera among all that I've ever purchased.  

In fact, if you have never owned an SLR or, are not willing to invest at least an additional $600 in an f2.8 lens, then I would choose the FZ200 over any SLR on the market.  At $247, it is an incredible camera for any level of expertise.  I now know why Graham Houghton was so appreciative of it.  I join him in being an equally enthusiastic fan.

The Icing on the Cake

All that capability would be worthless without expert guidance to make things easy.  And, once again, Graham Houghton has come to the rescue.  He has written a fantastic book for novices and professionals on the FZ200 that introduces using the camera in an organized presentation that takes the mysteries out of getting the most out of its features.  It's called the The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 User's Manual eBook.

Sooner or later, many of you will be looking for a camera for yourself or a loved one.  Before making that decision, I hope you will hop over to Graham Houghton's blog where he covers a variety of photographic topics well beyond the FZ200.  You will be very happy you did.

In the meantime, I will be using the DMC-FZ200 to document the super detail of the print from the ProJet 1200 micro-SLA printer.  So, stay tuned! 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Some great advice for Cube1 and Cube 2 users.

This arrived in my inbox and just in case you missed it, it is very good advice!

Tip for First and Second generation Cube owners

iSense 3D Scanner
To get the best performance and to ensure the longevity of your Cube filament when your printer is not in use or idle, move the Printjet over to the far right. See the diagram above.
For more help and support for your Cube, visit our support pages

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glow Forge: The one Non-Additive Manufacturing Product that Interests Me

When we set up the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab in our YouthQuest Foundation offices, we very specifically decided that, unlike the usual maker spaces, we would concentrate ALL of our energies in providing the ultimate in 3D scanning, design and printing experiences for our at-risk students and their teachers.

Personally, my interests are in line with that focused vision.

But, I have to admit, there is one non-additive product that has captured my imagine in a big way.

It's a desktop laser cutter called Glow Forge.

Glowforge picture
Glow Forge Laser Cutter

I don't know whether it's the convenient size, the fact that they include an air filter in all but the most basic model (meaning no need for outside venting) or the fact that it has a camera that let's you simply draw your design with a pen or pencil and it will follow it.  Perhaps it is all three.

Or, just maybe it's the fact they they call the Glow Forge "The 3D Laser Cutter"!

But, whatever the reason, it's got me salivating over all the fun and creative things it can do.

This is a 3D PRINTING blog.  So, I'm not going to write any more.  But, I promise you that your creative juices will flow as you read about the Glow Forge laser cutter.

Glow Forge Laser Cutter.

Here is a YouTube video from Tested.com that helps explain why I am so stoked over the Glow Forge's potential.

Kind of self explanatory isn't it?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

As Doors Close, New Doors Open!

The Cubify.com site is expected to be closed on Jan 16, 2016.  From that point on, all of the updates and accessories will be obtained through the 3D Systems web site.  Once the changeover is complete I will post the pertinent links.

But, life is a series of passages and as old doors close, new doors open.

One such new door is in the area of 3D Scanning.  In particular it involves a whole new breed of ultrabook class computers that include Intel's new RealSense scanner technology.

While the hardware might suggest a single development path, the reality will be quite different.  The reason why I believe that the RealSense scanning hardware is simply a launching platform is that there are already mulltiple early teams taking different paths on making use of RealSense to capture 3D scans.

Sense for RealSense, from 3D Systems brings us a Win8/10 app that encapsulates the scanning experience suitable for both local and cloud printing.   (An updated link to come after the Cubify move)

ItSeez3D takes a cloud-based approach.  Originally developed for the iSense or Structure scanners, they have ported the app for Win8/10 for 4th generation Haswell Intel Core processor products (or newer) using Intel's RealSense technology.

XYZPrinting recently introduced a handheld USB 3.0 RealSense scanner that is available from B&H Photo for just $168.90!   It includes scanning software.

XYZprinting 3D Scanner

While it doesn't appear on the Creative web site as yet, Creative produced the RealSense cameras for Intel's RealSense pre-release SDK package!


But, the company that prompted me to claim that techniques for taking advantage of RealSense are going to blossom in new directions is CAppASITY.  While I have not been able to test the product, Easy 3D Scan, the samples they display are fascinating.  It appears they provide the capability of using a Canon SLR with RealSense to producing high fidelity textures!  The result look stunning.

I'm a Canon 5D Mark II user, so this REALLY appeals to me.  :)

They have other products for scanning rooms and articles.  Very interesting.

All of this is brand new so we are just beginning to be able pull back the covers.  But, the little we know at this point sure peaks our interest. 

I recently purchased the HP Spectre 12-a000 X2 (m3 chip) which is a 12 tablet having the R200 (Rear Facing) Real Sense camera and have already done some testing using Sense for RealSense at the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab at our YouthQuest headquarters.  We invited cadets from our Youth Challenge classes to take part in a focus-group giving feedback on their scanning experiences comparing the handheld Sense and tablet-based RealSense.  Their observations will be published on the YouthQuest site.  I'll let you know when it's available.  I can tell you we certainly had fun learning to optimize the experience.  RealSense is real.  :)

We're ready to charge through this new open door!  :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I Plan to Keep on Blogging for Cube Owners

I'm having too much fun to stop now.

Being realistic, at my age, health is always a consideration.  But, as long as I can do so, I plan to focus on ways of making our 3D designing and printing lives richer and more fulfilling.

This means experimenting with Intel's new Real Sense scanning capabilities and learning new software applications like TinkerCAD and 3D Coat. 

It also means keeping in touch with 3D System's engineers so that if and when new firmware or software is released we will be on top of it.  Because I work with other printers as well as the Cubes, I understand that the goal is to come up with a single front end that will work with all of their 3D printing platforms.  I don't know if this includes the Cube line; but. if it does I will do my best to evaluate the pros and cons of switching to a different platform for slicing.

In short, I will be here for you as long as I am able.

Monday, December 28, 2015

While We Will be Supported, the Cube, Itself, is Discontinued.

I woke to a sad message this morning. 

While CubePro production will continue, the Cube series will no longer be produced by 3D Systems.  

Here is the press release making the announcement.

Supplies and support will still be available through 3D Systems, so we are not left high and dry. 

What I don't yet know is if they will continue to develop new types of filament for the 3rd Gen Cube.  As soon as I know more, I will pass it on to you.

Friday, December 18, 2015

3D System's New Direction...

You probably have already seen this announcement.

Dear Cubify Customer,
We’re excited to announce that we will be focusing on serving our customers in the education and engineer’s desktop markets in the new year.What does this mean to you? Just a few changes on where to shop!
  • Cubify.com will be moving to 3dsystems.com, effective Jan. 31, 2016.
    Don't worry, you can continue to find printers, software, scanners, cartridges, and accessories for your 3D Systems devices, as well as support, at 3dsystems.com
  • Paid retail products like phone cases and jewelry will be discontinued.
    Free downloads will still be available for you to print at home.
  • The “Design Feed” and “My Shelf” cloud storage will be discontinued on Jan. 31, 2016.
    Until that time, your Cubify App will sync all models from “My Shelf" automatically to your local computer when you open your app, login, and go to the “My Shelf” tab. Alternatively, files may be directly downloaded from https://cubify.com/account/myshelf until Jan. 31, 2016.
We thank you for your continued support and patronage.
Team 3D Systems

I'm also sure that you have questions as to how this is going to affect consumers who purchased Cube 3D printers.  While I am NOT a 3D Systems employee, I have asked that very question of some 3D Systems employees and think it will have little real impact on us.

Based on my understanding, this decision does not affect the future of either the Cube 3 or the CubePro.  It basically is just a shift from consumer focused marketing to a greater emphasis on targeting education and business (desktop engineering).  I suspect that this will mean that retailers will not be selling the Cube3 and sales will be handled more directly or through 3D Systems reps.

Support should not be affected at all.

It is also interesting that the free downloads will still be made available.

One thing, I think, that will change is the way products are announced and released. The Cube 3, right now, is a solid 3D printer.  But, we all remember the issues that resulted from releasing it before it was ready.  We remember it and so does 3D Systems..  And, they are committed to never seeing that happen again.

For the first time, since I first saw the 1st Gen Cube, I have participated and, hopefully, will be participating in several new product Beta programs.  Products will no longer be released simply due to pressure of product announcements.  New products are in the pipeline that will benefit all of us.  But, don't expect to hear about them until 3D Systems is confident that we can use these products reliably.

The Nylon filament for the CubePro and Infinity supports for the Cube3 and CubePro are examples of products that have undergone that kind of testing before being put into our hands and they have both been solid additions to our 3D printing experience.

I think the new organizational direction is a good one for 3D Systems without materially affecting any of its current owners.  I will not only keep this blog alive for consumers; but, will be expanding the coverage of 3D products that enhance our Cube3 and CubePro experiences.

You may also see more articles about 3D in education... particularly as it relates to at-risk students.  I'll be involved in a pilot with autistic students soon.  I will want to share what we find with parents.

Lastly, I'm sure all of us will be looking at CES to see if there is any mention of previously announced products like the CubeJet, CeraJet, ChefJet and CocoJet 3D printers.   I don't need a delivery date; but, I would like to know which ones are still on the table.  There is something seductive about the concept of eating what you 3D print!  :)