LensProToGo Robbed: List of Serial Numbers of Stolen Gear Here

Dear Readers,
In a crime that has shocked the photography world, Lens Pro To Go, one of the nation’s leading camera and lens rental services, suffered a break-in at its headquarters outside Boston this weekend and was robbed of nearly $600,000 worth of equipment. These types of equipment thefts are unfortunately not terribly rare (although this is by far the largest one I’ve heard of), because photography gear is unfortunately very easy to resell and is therefore a notoriously attractive target for thieves.

(In addition to being one of the country’s leading camera and lens rental houses, Lens Pro To Go also happens to be near and dear to me personally: I know the owner and several of the employees personally, and have worked with them for years and years. Paul, the owner, is a genuinely kind human being and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever come across.)

The exact specifics of how LPTG was robbed are lurid: an external window was broken, allowing the thieves into a small closet; from there, the thieves broke through an interior wall to get into LPTG’s main storage area (the apparent familiarity the thieves had with the internal layout of LPTG’s facility is sure to raise eyebrows, and more than a few questions).

More importantly though, at least for the time being, is that no one was hurt during the commission of the crime, and incredibly, the LPTG team was able to pick up the pieces, inventory their losses as well as what was left behind, and continue fulfilling customers’ orders without missing a beat… for which they deserve an incredible bravo. That’s dedication, folks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Lens Pro To Go has compiled a list of all the equipment that was stolen, AS WELL AS THE ITEMS’ SERIAL NUMBERS. As is the nature with photo gear thefts, the thieves will almost undoubtedly try to sell the equipment as quickly as possible. Therefore it is essential that if you are looking to buy a camera or lens on eBay, Craigslist, or through any other aftermarket means, you check the list of stolen gear serial numbers to make sure you don’t buy stolen property, and if you find someone selling any of LPTG’s stolen gear you contact the police.

The stolen equipment serial number list is available on Lens Pro To Go’s website, here, as well as in downloadable spreadsheet form, here.
(Should either of the previous links fail to work over time, the spreadsheet of serial numbers is also available here.)

Again, if you’re buying camera equipment now or in the future via services like eBay or Craigslist, please be vigilant and check the serial numbers against the list of stolen gear. If you find someone selling stolen gear, call the police.

(And when you need to rent a camera, lens, or a variety of other photo- and video-related stuff, the Lens Pro folks are great people; consider giving them your business!)

Today is the last day for public comment on the FAA’s proposed rules on drones!

Hi folks,
As you may know, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration released preliminary rules governing the operation of “small unmanned aerial systems” (“sUAS,” or more simply, drones) a couple of months ago. The FAA’s process for adopting new rules includes a period where the public is allowed to comment on the preliminary rules before they are finalized. Today is the last day of that public comment period, so if you are a photographer or filmmaker who either uses drones as one of your tools or wants to, this is your last opportunity to have your voice heard! If you want to make your voice heard and submit a comment using the easy online process, there are instructions below on how to do so, as well as a sample comment that I’ve written.

The FAA’s proposed rules cover all manner of issues relating to the flying of drones, and include, among many other proposals, the following:

1) The FAA will define all craft weighing less than 55 pounds as sUAS, and will treat all sUAS equally
2) Drone pilots will be required to take certification classes and pass a written exam to pilot drones and register their aircraft
3) Drones will be limited to flying no higher than 500 feet above ground level in altitude and no faster than 100 miles per hour
4) Drones will be required to be flown only within the pilot’s line-of-sight
5) Drones will be prohibited from flying over uninvolved bystanders

In general I think most of the rules are reasonable, however I do have a number of quibbles, so yesterday I wrote a comment which I submitted. My biggest issue with the rules as they are proposed is that popular drones such as DJI Phantom models are tiny (less than 3 pounds) compared to the 55-pound systems they are being lumped in with. Phantoms that weigh 2.2 pounds pose far less of a safety risk to the public and other aircraft than much larger and heavier systems, so it isn’t fair that they would be lumped in with these larger systems and regulated as strictly and heavily, especially considering that Phantoms are far more popular and numerous than larger, heavier (and more potentially dangerous) systems.
My comment is as follows:

In regards to Proposed Rule FAA-2015-0150, “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”:
 
- A wide array of commercial enterprises have a legitimate business interest in flying small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”), and an even wider array of American consumers will benefit from these business’s ability to do so.
 
- The complexity, skill required to operate, and potential safety hazards to both the operator and third parties resulting from the operation of sUAS are all far less than those of manned aircraft. Therefore the licensing and regulatory requirements to operate sUAS must be commensurately less intensive and demanding than the licensing and regulatory requirements of operating manned aircraft.
 
- It is reasonable and appropriate for both hobbyist and commercial sUAS operators to be required to fulfill licensing and regulatory requirements to operate sUAS, provided those requirements are appropriate to the level of complexity, skill required to operate, and potential safety hazards posed by sUAS, as described above. The licensing and regulatory requirements must be inexpensive and minimally time consuming for hobbyists and small commercial operators to complete.
 
- The vast majority of sUAS units in the United States weight less than 5 pounds. Therefore, the proposed rule’s equal treatment of all sUAS weighing less than 55 pounds is unrealistic and inappropriate. Hobbyist and commercial sUAS exist ranging from mere ounces in weight through and exceeding hundreds of pounds in weight, with commensurately differing levels of capability and potential safety hazard. Appropriate sUAS rules and regulations must reflect the realities of the differing levels of complexity, skill required to operate, and potential safety hazards posed by the variety of sUAS.

 

If you would like to submit a comment of your own, simply go to the regulations.gov page for this specific proposed rule using the link below, then click on the blue button on the top right that reads, “Comment Now!”:
http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2015-0150-0017
If you agree with the comment that I wrote, feel free to copy and paste the text above into your comment! (You can choose to include your name with your comment, or if you prefer you can submit your comment anonymously!).

MY DRONE JUST HELPED THE POLICE FIND A FOREST FIRE

Tonight my drone just helped the Massachusetts State Police locate a forest fire.

The Middlesex Fells is a large nature preserve near where I live. There are a couple of lakes that are very pretty, so this afternoon I took my DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter (with GoPro Hero 3+ Black video camera mounted to the bottom!) to the Fells to get some pretty sunset footage. As I was setting up the drone just a few minutes before sunset, I saw smoke in the sky. I called the State Police to report a likely forest fire. The operator took my name and number and thanked me for the report, and after I got off the phone I started flying the drone.

A few minutes later, the police called me back. The officer asked if I knew more specifically where the fire was located (the Fells is pretty large and spans four different towns, and parts of it are pretty remote and are only accessible by foot). I told the officer, “I don’t, but I can find out!” I explained that I was flying a drone and could use it to locate the fire more specifically. With the officer on speakerphone I took the drone up to about 100 meters and looked around and could clearly see where the smoke was coming from, right between the southern and middle of the park’s three lakes. I told the officer, and he then gave my information to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, which operates the park and manages the land, who then directed their firefighters to the area I pinpointed.

Framegrab from the video:

Frame grab from GoPro mounted to DJI Phantom 2 showing forest fire in Middlesex Fells reservation, Sept. 22, 2014. ©2014 Chris Conti Photography. All rights reserved.

There you have it. Tonight my drone and I helped the State Police pinpoint a forest fire!
(and some people want to ban them!!)

Great Behind The Scenes Look At How GoPro Videos Are Made

GoPro’s marketing videos are awesome. We all love them. They show incredible people doing incredible things in incredible locations, with incredible camera angles (and incredible editing).

What the official GoPro videos DON’T show you is what goes in to making those videos, and personally I’ve been somewhat disappointed that GoPro seems to actively try to hide the details, tactics, equipment and (most importantly) talent that makes them so incredible. This isn’t surprising: the goal of those videos is to sell cameras to consumers by giving them the illusion that by buying the camera they too can create videos as mind-blowing as GoPro’s official marketing videos. Showing the consumer all of the professional-level (and often big-budget) production that goes into those videos would shatter that illusion of attainability.

For people who use the cameras though, it is incredibly helpful to see how some of those incredible shots are captured. This morning I stumbled on a video on the New Yorker’s website (thanks to Cameron Davidson for the find!) interviewing one of GoPro’s sponsored professional athletes and showing some of the tricks and gadgets that allow some of those incredible shots to be captured (the video doesn’t go into any of the extensive editing and post-production that makes GoPro’s official marketing videos sparkle, but it does pull the curtain back on a bit of the filming process).

If you like (or want) to shoot point-of-view action video, this is a good thing to watch.
(click the preview below to go to the New Yorker website)

Sony A7s Firmware Requests

Since the Sony A7s camera was released a few weeks ago, early adopters have been using the camera in the field shooting a variety of material with it, in both stills and motion. I personally pre-ordered it the day it was announced at NAB in April and received my camera as soon as they were released to the general public in the first week of July. I put the camera through a series of tests before using it on actual client work, and I just completed a somewhat major corporate video shot entirely on the A7s.
The camera is truly exceptional; Sony’s sensor technology has, very simply, put Canon and Nikon to shame. Most pros who I’ve spoken to agree though that the A7s’s firmware could use a little bit of polish. There are a number of requests for alterations to the firmware that have become almost universally agreed upon by the pro community.

Therefore, in an effort to make a great camera even better, I’m sharing this list (and I invite other pros familiar with the A7s to chime in with their suggestions) in hopes that Sony may listen to the feedback from the pro community and consider including some of these suggestions in the next version of the A7s firmware. This list is taken both from my own experience using the camera in a variety of settings shooting a variety of material as well as conversations with other users, and it presented in order from most basic (and hopefully most attainable) to most complex. (NOTE: As the A7s is primarily a video camera for me and only secondarily a stills camera, this list is biased towards video, although some of the items are applicable to stills shooting as well).

Sony A7s Firmware Requests

#1: In movie mode, allow shutter release button to be configured to start/stop movie recording (this is the single biggest one: EVERY video shooter I’ve spoken to is begging for this)
#2: Allow video record button to be configured as a custom button
#3: Allow the “APS-C Size Capture” menu item to be assigned to a custom button (at the moment there is no option to assign this function to a custom button)
#4: Allow the “Video Record Setting” menu item (where frame rate and codec are chosen) to be assigned to a custom button (like APS-C mode above, it currently can’t be)
#5: Allow the “FINDER/MONITOR” menu item (where EVF vs. screen use is configured) to be assigned to a custom button
#6:
 Move the “APS-C Size Capture” menu item out from where it is currently buried (in tab 5 of the gear menu) forward into a more prominent and accessible place in the shooting menu in the first couple of tabs
#7: Create display mode with histogram on same screen as all other info (scrolling through the display modes by pressing the “DISP” button only shows the histogram in 3rd screen where much other information is omitted
#8: Create option to reconfigure function of scroll wheels (a number of people, myself included, find the scroll wheels’ function unnatural; it would be nice to be able to configure how each of the three wheels works)
#9: Create iris-open function assignable to a custom button (being able to hold the lens iris to its maximum size by holding down a custom button would make manual focusing much faster & easier)

I would encourage everyone to share this page with Sony (you can tweet it to @SonyProUSA, @SonyProEurope, or any other Sony contacts you may have). And if you’re a pro who uses the A7s and has a suggestion I haven’t included above, please mention it in the comments below!

I already love the A7s… and now I’d love to make it even better. :-)

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