10 May 2010 Podcast 242: MBP Podcast Companion Now in iTunes App Store!
Last week we launched the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast Companion App, and it’s now available to buy in the iTunes App Store, and today I’m going to explain a little about what you will find in the app and how we intend to develop it depending on initial sales. I would like to say a huge thank you to Marc LeBlanc, the Software Engineer that developed the application for us. In my opinion, Marc has done a great job of the app, and I really look forward to enhancing it further together.
[UPDATE: Please note that the original MBP Companion App has been discontinued, replaced by our new Photographer’s Friend app, which is a free upgrade for anyone that bought the original app. Please check the App Store for the upgrade.]
So, let me explain what you get for your $4.99. As the name implies, the app is really a companion to the Podcast and Online Community that we have built around the Podcast. It helps you to stay in touch with what I’m up to, and also links into the community. There are five buttons along the bottom of the app when you start it up, and we’ll work our way across, from left to right.
First we have the Podcast Player. When you first click this you’ll see a list of all available Podcasts to date, and can select and listen to any of them right there in the application. Because the Podcast is an enhanced Podcast, it means Marc had to jump through a few hoops to be able to play the audio and show you the pictures that we are talking about, as playing Enhanced Podcasts is not possible in third party apps with the current SDK, though that may change in the future. I imagine that as most people that own an iPod or iPhone will already be using iTunes, the player really is like a backup at the moment. Say you want to listen to a certain Podcast from the archives, but you don’t have access to your PC to download and sync it up. The player that we had to use is not the best solution, so if you currently subscribe through iTunes, so continue to do so, as I have to admit it’s a better listening experience. We did try to make sure that you can still jump through chapters and see the images as I speak though, and videos will play as well, so I’m relatively happy with the outcome.
Next, is the Depth-of-Field Calculator, that some people have been kind enough to say is the best they’ve used on the iPhone. Even though I say it myself, it is the best I’ve used too. Unfortunately I can only take a small amount of credit for this, as Marc did most of this himself. I just gave my feedback on a few changes that I wanted, and Marc came through with them.
When you first start the Depth-of-Field Calculator, you’ll need to select your camera. To do this, just tap the camera box, and select your camera from the list. It’s a big list, but Marc devised a way to use the first three characters of the camera manufacturers name along the right side, so you can quickly get to your camera model without having to scroll through a lengthy page the traditional way. To select your camera, you just have to find it in the list, and tap it.
We intend to keep updating the camera list as new models are released, but in case your camera is not listed for some reason, you can also select the circle of confusion size by selecting CoC at the bottom of the screen. To find out what size your camera’s circle of confusion is, take a look at the Digital CoC page on DOFMaster.com. I’ll put a direct link to the page in the show-notes. Note too that if your camera is not listed on the DOFMaster page either, there’s a circle of confusion calculator right there too. If you should buy the app and find that your camera is not yet list, always feel free to mail me and request it to be added, and we’ll get on it.
Once you have your camera selected, you will want to select the focal length that you will be shooting at, so say you are using a 70-200mm lens at the 70mm end, just tap the focal length box, and type in 70, then hit the check mark at the bottom right to confirm your input. When you want to change the focal length, you just repeat this, but note that you have to use the back-space button to remove the current focal length. We’re probably going to change this so that the value is cleared when you open this box, rather than having to remove it manually.
Of course, you can do this in any order, but for this explanation, next let’s set the aperture, again by tapping on the Aperture box, and this time you will want to select the aperture that you will set your camera too from the list. Let’s say F2.8, as though I’m using my 70-200mm at 70mm with the aperture wide open. Now let’s set the distance to subject. You’ll notice that boxes that have settable values have light text, and those that are not editable, have dark text. The Subject distance is set by the middle button on the third line of buttons. If you want to use a different unit to the one selected, I think it’s meters by default, tap the Units box second from the bottom on the right. Then tap the Subject box, and enter the distance to your subject, let’s say 2 meters.
As an example, we can see that if you select the Canon 5D Mark II as the camera, 70mm as the focal length, an aperture of F2.8, and a subject distance of 2 meters, the Depth-of-Field will be .134m. If the DoF is smaller than you thought, and you can’t be bothered to calculate how many centimeters that is, just click the Units box, and it will cycle through the units, to centimeters, and automatically update the subject distance and Depth-of-field to display in centimeters, so we can see that we would actually have around 13.4cm of the subject in acceptably sharp focus. If you prefer feet or inches, you can cycle through the Units to display in imperial units too.
You’ll notice that we also display the near limit and far limit of the focus as well, either side of the subject distance, and Marc built in a cool little scale using the MBP Kneeling Photographer logo, so that you can imagine how the depth-of-field might look. It doesn’t expand or contract with the values unfortunately, but I think this is a nice visual aid.
Finally, you’ll notice that there are too different colored boxes across the bottom of the DoF Calculator, and these are for hyperfocal distance display. The left box shows you the hyperfocal distance. This is where you would set your focus to, to achieve hyperfocal distance at the focal length and aperture selected. Of course, with F2.8 at 70mm, this is not going to be enough to achieve pan-focus, where everything in the frame is in focus, but this is the sort of information that you would probably be using the DoF Calculator for. We can see that hyperfocal distance with these settings is actually 57.8m, and the box to the right shows us that if we were to focus at 57.8m, everything from 28.9m to infinity would be in focus. Another nice touch is if you tap on the hyperfocal distance box, it will repopulate the subject distance with the hyperfocal distance, so you can again visual your depth-of-field with the near focus distance to the left etc.
The other use for this of course is to find out the aperture that you would require to get closer to pan-focus, so you might now try setting the aperture to F11, and you’ll find that you now have everything from 7.25m to infinity in focus, and if that meets your needs, you can get to capturing your scene.
That’s it for the DoF Calculator, but I would also like to say that I really like the idea of being able to actually check Depth-of-Field with the calculator during Podcasts, and you going into the app along with me. I can imagine that in the episodes that we are talking about Depth-of-Field, say if you are sitting on a train listening, you’ll be able to go right into the calculator and try the settings yourself, which will probably help to drive some of what we’re talking about home more easily.
Next we have a Twitter button, and this will display my last 10 tweets on Twitter. If you see a tweet with a link that you want to follow, you can click on the Timeline button, and launch the in-app browser to view the tweets online with active links etc.
Next along we have a Web sites button, and this just links to all of the MBP Web sites. This is going to be useful, if you want to quickly take a look at a forum post, or check the details of my upcoming workshops. There’s also a link to the member’s galleries, so you can check comments on images that you uploaded or take a look at the images in an assignment gallery for example. There’s a link to my blog in there too, which automatically formats for the iPhone unless you turn that feature off, so you can check the transcript to Podcasts if my British English was a little difficult to understand, or if you just want to check the blog for posts that are not Podcast related.
Finally we have a contact button, with an email button that will simply launch your phones email program and put my mail address in the To line, and there’s a link to the online Contact Form, which you can fill out and send to me as well if you’d prefer.
Currently that’s all the functionality that we were able to build into the first version of the app. Now, I know that some people are not going to think that the $4.99 that we are charging is too much for what is currently really just a great DoF Calculator, and then the rest really MBP Community related bonus material. Well, if that’s how you feel, don’t buy it. What I would like to propose to you though is that this is an excellent way for you to pay a little something back for all of the work that I put into this Podcast each week, and to help off-set the costs of hosting the web sites and podcast audio files etc. I rarely ask for donations, although some people do kindly send them, but if you buy the app, you actually get something back for your money, and help with the upkeep of the community at the same time.
There’s also a bit of a Catch 22 situation here too. If you think that you would like to buy the app, but want to wait until it has a richer feature set, then please don’t wait. All future updates will be totally free, no matter how much we build out the app, but if we don’t see enough sales in these early stages, there’ll be no incentive for Marc to work on a future version with enhancements. Also, bear in mind that if we do get enough sales to continue to build out the features, and the app starts to get really good, we’ll probably put the price up, so it will cost you more in the long run anyway.
So there’s the proposition, if you enjoy the Podcast, and my almost five years of archives, and you find the community and blog useful, then do consider buying the app, if only as a donation. You’ll initially get a nice companion to the podcast and community with a great DoF Calculator built in, and you’ll also be buying into a great photography learning experience in the future.
Before we finish I’d also like to thanks the five community members that helped to test the app, and also mention that thanks to two of them already having iPads, we were able to ensure that the app worked great on the iPad as well as the iPhone and iPods. Thanks so much for all your help everyone!
I’m excited today because I queued for 90 minutes today to order my own iPad, which will be with me on or shortly after May 28th, which is the day that they are currently scheduled to be released into the Japan market, so I’m looking forward to that.
Something else that I’m really excited about is that one of my images along with a few paragraphs from an interview with me is in the June issue of Popular Photography Magazine that went on sale last week. You can see a tear sheet on my blog in a post about this, but if you are a subscriber do check out the “How: Expert Tips and Techniques for Better Photos” section. You can also subscribe or buy individual issues of the magazine via Zinio at Zinio.com, if you want to check that out.
Also note that I’ve been playing with the integration of my blog, and the new Graph Paper Press theme, to my PhotoShelter account. Over the weekend I took an hour or so to put together an updated Nature & Wildlife Portfolio, but did it on PhotoShelter this time, and then embedded a slide-show into my blog in about 30 seconds, thanks to the integration that these guys have built in. I have put a link into the Blog Pages pull-down menu at the top of the blog, so take a look at that if you are interested. I’m still playing with the order of the images, but if you are interested in seeing how PhotoShelter, Graph Paper Press and WordPress are integrated really well for photographers, then you might want to take a look anyway.
CoC sizes by Camera: http://www.dofmaster.com/digital_coc.html
Music: Studies In Ether, by Andrew Aversa – UniqueTracks Production Music Library Inc.
Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.