In today's episode, DJI in Trouble, Hawk Fights Owl, Acer has a new 3-D camera coming soon and Ttartisans new 350mm F/5.6 Reflex lens.

You can find the show notes here.

Show Notes

Greetings everybody, you’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast, I’m your host Liam Douglas and this is Episode 406 for Thursday June 6th, 2024. In today’s episode DJI in Trouble, A Hawk and an Owl Battle, Acer’s Dual Lens camera and the Ttartisans 250mm F/5.6 Reflex Lens.

DJI in Trouble

DJI is in the crosshairs of U.S. legislators who are riding high after the success of the bill that will see TikTok banned unless it divests from Chinese Ownership.

While the bill in question, the Countering CCP Drones Act, was initially introduced last April by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) of the U.S. House of Representatives, it may finally be put to a vote this month. Both of the bill’s co-authors argue that Chinese law allows the government there to compel DJI to participate in and assist in its “espionage activities,” and as such, the company should be added to the FCC’s list of banned communications equipment and services in the United States.

“DJI presents an unacceptable national security risk, and it is past time that drones made by Communist China are removed from America,” Stefanik has said. “DJI drones pose the national security threat of TikTok, but with wings. The possibility that DJI drones could be equipped to send live imagery of military installations, critical infrastructure, and the personal lives of American citizens to China poses too great a threat. Allowing this practice to continue in the U.S. is playing with fire. This Chinese-controlled company cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the U.S.”

Last year, DJI vehemently spoke out against the bill, calling it inaccurate.

“DJI drones do not collect flight logs, photos, or videos — by default… DJI is not a military company. We remain one of few drone companies to clearly denounce and actively discourage use of our drones in combat… [and] DJI follows the rules and regulations in the markets it operates in,” the company said.

Last year it may not have seemed as though DJI was actually in any real threat to be banned as bills get introduced in Congress all the time and never reach the floor for a vote, but the recent success of the TikTok ban bill has changed that, emboldening Congress and clearly scaring DJI who has taken to social media to try and drum up support against the Countering CCP Drones Act.

“A bill against DJI is expected to move in the U.S. Congress in June, which would impact U.S. operators‘ access to DJI drones. This applies to recreational, commercial, and government use,” DJI posted to Instagram over the weekend.

“If DJI’s FCC authorizations are revoked, U.S. operators would no longer be able to access new DJI drones, and their existing drone fleets may even need to be grounded. This bill is based on inaccurate claims and contradicts a technology-based policy approach that would raise the bar on drone security overall.”

DJI points those who wish to push back on this bill to the Drone Advocacy Alliance, a self-described “non-partisan, drone-agnostic grassroots advocacy coalition.” According to the WayBack Machine, the coalition’s website was created last summer, which is in line with the organization’s description: “Formed at a time when proposed drone market access restrictions at the state and federal level could upend the burgeoning drone ecosystem, the Alliance works to ensure that drone users are able to weigh in on policies that could impact their ability to use and choose the best drones for their operational needs.”

While it positions itself as being formed by a group of drone enthusiasts, the Drone Advocacy Alliance is sponsored by and its website maintained by DJI, although it claims that it doesn’t endorse one drone maker over another.

“The United States Congress is currently considering the Countering CCP Drones Act or H.R. 2864 which would prevent new DJI products from coming to market in the United States and would potentially revoke FCC authorizations for existing drones. You read that right, this bill aims to prevent you from buying the latest DJI drones and could potentially ground your existing drones, regardless of how you use them!” the website reads.

“Unfortunately, this bad idea is gaining traction, in the U.S. House of Representatives with the Armed Services Committee including the Countering CCP Drones Act in their draft of the FY 2025 National Defense Authorization Act. To protect our industry and ensure that drone users can select the best drones for the job, we need to be vocal in opposition.”

The Drone Advocacy Alliance urges all interested to send a message or call U.S. Senators and Representatives and tell them to oppose the bill as the primary way to “take action now.”

This is the second major push DJI has initiated this year. Earlier this spring, DJI put one of its major US-based stakeholders in front of YouTube Billy Kyle to talk about the ramifications to multiple industries if DJI were to be banned.

While the Advocacy website and much of the language on it has existed for the better part of a year, DJI’s outspoken public language in 2024 shows that the move to ban DJI in the United States has picked up steam and it is entirely possible that the Chinese robotics company that made a name for itself on the back of its impressive drone technology could find itself in a worse state than TikTok — outright banned with no recourse.

Owl and Hawk Battle

Photographer Jack Lodge has spent over 30 evenings and early mornings with barn owls in the U.K. but has never witnessed anything as dramatic as what he captured last weekend.

Lodge tells PetaPixel that he has never seen another predator try and take a barn owl’s catch until a hungry hawk showed up on Friday night.

“The Sun had just begun its descent after three hours of waiting patiently in a local field, leaving what was a beautiful golden field to turn quickly into shadow and (in my head) my chances of getting a good wildlife photograph being left behind,” he explains. “Little did I know, this tranquil evening was about to turn into a high-stakes drama.”

Lodge writes on his blog that he followed the “elegant” barn owl as it glided over the field and swiftly dived to catch its rodent prey. But a hawk had arrived on the scene and Lodge says his “heart raced” when he realized he was about to witness a thrilling clash.

“I could hardly contain my excitement as I clicked away with my Canon R5 and RF 100-500mm lens, capturing each moment of this fierce competition. The determination in the buzzard’s eyes and the resilience of the barn owl were a stark reminder of nature’s relentless struggle for survival.”

Common hawks are confusingly known as buzzards in the U.K. but semantics aside the barn owl won the competition and saw off the raptor totally unscathed as it was back hunting for its next meal just minutes later.

“This encounter was a humbling reminder of the delicate balance in nature and the constant fight for survival that unfolds daily, often unnoticed by human eyes — a truly amazing encounter to witness, let alone photograph,” adds Lodge.

Lodge is a young, yet accomplished photographer who has already proven patience to be a great asset after he waited four years to capture a perfect sunburst shot of the iconic Durdle Door landmark on the south coast of England.

“Wildlife photography often involves long hours of waiting. Stay patient, and your perseverance will pay off,” Lodge says while also advising photographers to “familiarize yourself with your camera settings to quickly adapt to the dynamic changes in wildlife scenes.”

Lodge is a professional landscape photographer who operates photography courses. More of his work can be found on his Instagram, Facebook, Threads, and website.

Acer 3-D Camera Coming Soon

Acer is all in on three dimensions. The company’s SpatialLabs devices, including monitors and laptops, support stereoscopic 3D images without using glasses. While there is some 3D content already out there, Acer now has a way for users to capture 3D imagery of their own, the Acer SpatialLabs Eyes Stereo Camera.

This compact 3D camera is designed for photographers and seamlessly integrates with SpatialLabs devices, streaming, and video calling platforms, per Acer.

Like all stereo cameras, the SpatialLabs one sports a pair of cameras — each with eight megapixels of resolution. The camera includes a built-in selfie mirror, autofocus and touch focus, electronic image stabilization, and a manual mode “for more experienced photographers.”

“The SpatialLabs Eyes Stereo Camera completes Acer’s stereoscopic 3D portfolio, providing solutions from content capturing and creation, to display and interaction,” says Jerry Kao, COO, Acer Inc. “We hope to empower users to capture the world around them in stunning stereoscopic 3D through the new camera and we’re excited to see the possibilities and the amazing content they will be able to create and share.”

These promised manual controls for seasoned shooters include controls over ISO, white balance, and shutter speed, at least.

Given that the f/2 lenses are 3mm and equivalent to 21mm, it is immediately evident that each camera sports a small image sensor. Acer doesn’t detail the precise sensor it is using, but the company says it is a Type 1/2.8 CMOS imager. A seven times crop factor is significant, and beyond what is seen with many modern smartphones.

Per the provided specs, the camera can shoot JPEG still frames. The camera’s ISO ranges from 100 to 1,600, and its shutter speed ranges from a second to 1/2,000s.

The camera sports a 2.4-inch touchscreen and weighs just 220 grams (7.8 ounces). The camera is 104 x 65.4 x 23.2 millimeters (4.1 x 2.6 x 0.9 inches). Media is recorded on a microSD card, and the camera has a USB-C port for interfacing and charging. Aesthetically, it looks pretty similar to Intel’s failed RealSense camera series. Undoubtedly Acer is hoping for a better fate.

Acer says users can stream 3D video content to YouTube and use the stereo camera for 3D video on Teams and Zoom. People can also create content for AR/VR headsets, including Meta Quest and Apple Vision Pro. And, of course, 3D content works with Acer’s glasses-free SpatialLabs notebooks and displays.

Acer has also provided sample images for download, although they must be displayed as side-by-side 2D images here. Given the recent controversy concerning sample images, PetaPixel performed a detailed check on these, and they passed the sniff test.

“Whether users are reviewing content on Acer SpatialLabs laptops or displays, VR/AR headsets, or even 3D projectors, the SpatialLabs Eyes helps present the richness and impact of their 3D content as intended. The camera also comes with a downloadable gallery feature so users can look back at their 3D portfolio and re-experience their immersive 3D journey,” Acer promises.

The Acer SpatialLabs 3D Camera will be available sometime during Q3 this year for $549.

Ttartisans 250mm F/5.6 Reflex

TTArtisan announced a compact and affordable 250mm f/5.6 telephoto reflex lens for full-frame cameras.

To achieve its lightweight design and $298 price point, TTArtisan has opted for a reflex lens design, otherwise known as a “mirror lens.” These types of lenses are relatively unusual, although not unheard of, in the modern age.

A reflex, mirror, or “catadioptric” lens became quite popular during the heyday of film photography thanks to its small, lightweight build and ability to capture distant objects. The lens design uses curved mirrors and refracting optics to achieve a longer focal length with less glass, keeping the size and weight down.

There is a “downside” to the design — although TTArtisan seems keen to market it as a benefit — donut-shaped bokeh. For the mirrors to work, the central area of the optical path must be blocked by a secondary mirror array. This doesn’t impact in-focus areas as much as one might expect, given that there’s something in the way, but it significantly changes bokeh. It’s an interesting-looking style, to say the least.

Alongside this unique disadvantage, mirror lenses offer reduced contrast and sharpness, all else equal. They also have no means of adjusting the aperture, so they are fixed-aperture lenses. The new TTArtisan 250mm prime is always at f/5.6.

TTArtisan has also embraced reflex lenses’ vintage charm by giving its new 250mm f/5.6 a “retro look.” It looks like a lens from the 1970s or 80s, complete with the old-school diamond knurling on the (large) focus ring.

The lens is designed for the M42 mount, although this is a very adaptable mount and can be easily used on Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, and Sony mirrorless cameras, among others. It sports six elements across five groups and can focus as close as two meters (6.6 feet). The lens weighs around 380 grams (13.4 ounces) and ships with a metal lens hood.

The TTArtisan 250mm f/5.6 reflex “donut bokeh” lens is available to order now from Pergear and TTArtisan for $298. It is also in stock on Amazon, although it is priced a bit higher at $319.

Personal Note

As I mentioned before, I recently got my hands on the new Fujifilm X100VI on loan from Fujifilm US and have been having a ball shooting with it. Last weekend I went out and did some Street Photography with both the X100V and the X100VI to allow my Subscribers to compare the images for themselves.

This coming weekend, June 8th, 2024 I will be shooting the Roxboro, NC Cars & Coffee car show at the Palace Pointe south of Roxboro. I am really excited about shooting the awesome cars and people down there and the 40.2MP sensor should make for some awesome images especially with the new Reala Ace film simulation.

I also recently had the XbotGo company send me their AI powered smartphone gimbal which is designed for shooting sports like football, soccer, basketball. Etc, but so far I have not been able to find any local sports to shoot so I may end up using it to track the grandkids as they run around the yard or the park while they are down visiting. I will keep you posted on that or better yet stop by and Subscribe to my Youtube Channel and turn on all notifications!

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