The PowerCube: An Excellent Stocking Stuffer For Charging Your Gear

I found the "PowerCube" first on Amazon before a two week vacation trip.  When traveling it is always hard for my wife and me to find enough power outlets to recharge all of electronic devises.  In the past we'd bring one or two power strips to leverage what power outlets are available in hotel rooms.

On our last trip, I brought one PowerCube.  Although it consumes just one wall socket, as you can see in the photo below the top socket of the PowerCube competes with the second socket of a traditional two-socket wall outlet.

So you do give up both sockets of the wall outlet; but the PowerCube gains you four sockets around the outside of the Cube.  By "fanning" out the sockets, you gain considerable room for plugs and bulky rechargers.  In addition there are two USB charging ports.

The three white cables are charging my iPhone, iPad and Mac Book.  In the back of the
PowerCube is a black Panasonic LX5 charger.
The two USB cables are recharging my Sony a6000 and Kindle.

There are a number of other configurations plus models that are fitted to an end of an extension cord. Also, for a bit less money one can buy PowerCubes with a fifth electric outlet instead of the dual USB ports.

Here's a link showing what is available:



One year with the versatile Panasonic 14-140 v.2

This blog post has been modified slightly from an article I wrote in November which was published by Heather and Mathieu of mirrorlessons.com.  The article can be found by clicking here.

“Washington Farmland”
1/250, F8, ISO 200, @65mm

In December of last year I decided it was a good time to add to my mFT lens collection.  As a bit of background, I also use Sony and Fuji mirrorless gear, but most of my equipment is mFT, having owned several Panasonic and Olympus cameras and a bunch of mFT lenses. As I write this article, my only mFT camera is the Olympus EM-1, a lovely and hugely capable camera which I have owned since it first become available.

That said, in December last year I decided that my new lens would be the Panasonic 14-140mm F3.5-F5.6. This is the second version of the 14-140. I’d been thinking about adding this lens configuration (28-280 mm equivalent) for quite some time, as I know so many people who have enjoyed these so-called "super zooms", especially for travel. An all-in-one lens is a very attractive choice when you want to travel light and simple. 

When the first Panasonic mFT version of the 14-140 was introduced in 2009 (with a slightly slower aperture of F4-F5.8), I was interested. But at an initial offering price of about $700, I was not interested enough to pull out the credit card.

“Golden Mantel Ground Squirrel at Mount Saint Helens”
1/400, F5.6, ISO 200, @140mm

Version 2 came along in 2013.  It has a lot going for it: a stepper motor, better optical image stabilization, a slightly faster lens, smaller, lighter, sharper in the corners (though arguably less sharp in the center according to at least one review), 58mm filter threads instead of 62mm, 1:4 (1:2 equivalent) magnification instead of 1:5, and closer minimum focusing distance. Looking back, I'm surprised I resisted. 

E-M1 plus 14-140 plus Really Right Stuff L-bracket 
A nicely balanced setup
Note: Though pictured here without the lens hood, I always use it.

Well, last December I saw the lens from a high quality N.Y. vendor for a $200 savings plus 4% rewards… and that had me smiling big time.  Out came the credit card. Ever since then, this lens has been almost permanently attached to on my E-M1.

“Lobster Boat in Morning Light” 
1/640, F5.6, ISO 200, @140mm

How good is this lens?

My immediate response is “good enough”.  I’m happy with the images I have taken, at least when it comes to the lens’ contribution to the image pipeline. But I should say that based on my personal experience, it is not quite as sharp as the PRO 12-40 F2.8 by Olympus or the 35-100 F2.8 by Panasonic. The 14-140 is light and small and I view this as a positive; however, on the flip side it does feel a bit more “plastic-y” than I had hoped. I suppose light, small and plastic go hand-in-hand. That being said, the parts fit together well and the focus and zoom rings are pretty smooth. There is a metal lens mount, as one would guess for a lens of this price.

“Sea Smoke at Sunrise”
1/2500, F5.6, ISO 200, @140mm

Lens sharpness is always a primary concern, though folks will argue about how sharp is sharp enough.  For me, this lens is sharp enough for 95% of the pictures I take. I say 95% because if I see a shot that has a chance to be a “portfolio shot” (the other 5% of my images and likely far fewer) I will want to switch the 14-140 for the sharper and faster 12-40 or 35-100, assuming I even have these two lenses with me at the time. I do, however, realize that in most cases it will not make a difference in the appeal-factor of the resulting image…perhaps until you start printing bigger than 12’ x 18”.  

“View From Cadillac Mountain, Mt. Desert Island”
Shot toward the sun, 1/800, F8, ISO 200, @73

Other than that, for downsides I do notice some occasional vignetting which has always been fixable in post, and some annoying difficulty in finding focus at infinity when using small size apertures. It is especially annoying when using a polarizer, which of course reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor, artificially creating a low-light (or at least lower-light) situation. The work-around for me is to simply switch to manual focus when the occasional situation requires it.  (These comments are based on my experience with the lens on an Olympus body.  I suppose it might be possible that the focusing issue is non-existent on a Panasonic body.)

“Yellow Sailboat”
1/200, F5.6, ISO200, @97mm

The versatility of the 14-140 is very comforting. And, amazingly, it only weighs 9.3 ounces or 265 grams, and measures only 3.25” in length when retracted (full expansion is 5“).

“Soup and Sandwiches”
1/320, F5.6, ISO 200, @37mm

“Farmer’s Market, Bath, Maine”
1/160, F8, ISO 1000, @73mm

I love this lens for travel and landscapes.  For this I typically shoot at F4 (where available at the wider end of the zoom) through F8, depending on the desired depth of field.  I generally shoot in aperture priority and auto ISO. 

“Rainforest, Olympic National Park”
1/30, F8, ISO 3200, @14mm

The macro capabilities are excellent.  I take a lot of flower images in botanic gardens where one needs to stay on a walkway.  The fact that this lens has ample magnification (1:4 which is equivalent to 1:2 on a full frame camera) when fully zoomed to 140mm is fantastic for these situations. You can get a flower closeup image without getting, well, close up. Generally for flowers I shoot wide open and at least 1/200th.  That shutter speed might seem high, but all my flower work is outdoors and there is always some air movement.

“Brown Eyed Susan”

1/400, F5.6, ISO 400, @125mm

1/200, F5.6, ISO 400, @140mm

I am so confident in this lens that in June, on a two week mobile home vacation in the state of Washington, this was the only lens I took for the E-M1.  Even the 12-40 stayed home!  (Having said that, I also had a Fuji X100T, a fixed lens camera with a 35mm equivalent lens.)

“Lake Diablo”
1/200, F8, ISO 200, @14mm

“Mount Rainier”
1/1250, F4, ISO 200, @14mm

The images shown above were all taken over the last 12 months and were picked to show the versatility and capabilities of the 14-140.  Post-processing is in Lightroom CC. Most of my images are taken at base ISO of 200.  There are a couple here shot at ISO 400 and 1000.  The one taken in the rainforest of Olympic National Park was at ISO 3200. 

I have a larger collection (70) of higher resolution images taken with this lens on my Web site.  Here’s the link to that collection:


Thanksgiving Photos Through An Underwhelming Lens

We had a nice big group of family for Thanksgiving at our house. Its no longer possible to have four generations present, and there’s some sadness in that.  But three generations were well represented, and the youngest generation is gaining in numbers!  

The 20 pound Butterball turkey was cooked (as always) on a charcoal Weber, and it was its usual success.  And with everyone contributing their favorite recipes (Laurie prepared a signup sheet earlier in the month), you can imagine the assortment of good food we had.  Not the least of which were the four desert pies!

[By the way, one advantage of cooking the turkey on the grill is that it frees up the oven!]

Turkey day photography:

In preparation for the day, I put together three combinations of cameras. 

Left to right: In my opinion, the best quality images can be expected to come from the Olympus E-M1 and 12-40 F2.8 zoom.  Next in image quality would be, arguably, the Sony A6000 with 28-70 full frame kit F3.5-F5.6 zoom.  And bringing up the rear (on the right) is definitely the Sony NEX 5R with the very compact and marginally sharp 16-50mm F3.5-F5.6 kit lens. All were equipped with flashes capable of bouncing.  (If a flash doesn’t bounce I won’t use it indoors.)

I mention all of this about the cameras, because in spite of having my best gear available, I nevertheless always picked up the last one on the list, the Sony NEX 5 with kit lens.  Looking back to Thursday, I can only conclude that all things considered at the time it was the best combo for the job.

That might be hard to imagine, but clearly getting the best image quality was not an overriding concern.  All these cameras and lenses take images that are “good enough” to document our Thanksgiving celebration. The Olympus and a6000 would have given better image quality, but who cares.  The Olympus with the F2.8 lens could have given me the shallowest DOF, but who cares.  The Olympus flash can bounce left or right, or rearward; but I didn’t want to think about that.  You see, I was just making snapshots. The results will be viewed on computer screens, or on cell phones or tablets… or, on this blog at no bigger than 750 x 600 pixels! I suppose I could have just used my iPhone camera but I felt its equivalent 30mm wide angle lens was too limiting.

So, because image quality was not my number one priority, I went with the smallest and least intrusive of the three combos.  I find even with family members that the smallest camera keeps things informal and casual. This is especially true when using a flash.  Keeping the camera and waist or chest level also helps, as people these days are accustomed to that sort of photography.  

It would have been nice to avoid a flash altogether, but I needed the extra light.  It allowed me to get the ISO down from 3200 (ambient light) to 1600, generally.  I could have increased the flash output further to decrease ISO further, but at that point things start to look a bit unnatural (i.e. the deer in the headlights effect). Neither of my Sony’s have a silent shutter.  The Olympus does.  But since I was using a flash, a silent shutter would not have helped me be stealthy.

Again, the images below are all snapshots.  These shots and a bunch more I haven’t shown here will help us remember who was with us this year and what we ate. (Always take a lot of food closeups... so you can easily recall the menu items from prior years.)

The first image below is my favorite.  


The Parmachene Belle: A Slip-Wing Variation of this Classic Fishing Fly

This variation of the original Parmachene Belle is a slip-wing style tied by my friend Alberto, using a recipe found in the fly-tying book Forgotten Flies by Paul Schmookler.

Apparently, the original pattern goes back to the mid-1870's and is named after Parmachene Lake in Maine. It was designed to imitate the fin of a small brook trout. (From Terry Hellekson's book Fish Flies.)

Photo technique:

For this image, I used the focus stacking feature available with my Olympus E-M1 camera and 60mm Olympus macro lens.

This feature results in eight images focused at different distances (think of a CAT scan) and then the sharpest areas of each image are combined in-camera to give the result you see here.  The combining process takes just a few seconds.  Otherwise, it would take a considerable amount of time (15 minutes perhaps) to do this by hand with any of the several software programs available, including Photoshop.

The result is essentially an increased depth of field. Think of the process as combining eight images captured at eight focusing distances at 1mm increments.


Fall Reflections: An October Week in Maine

Another great trip to Maine has come and gone.  October is such a nice time to visit the coast of Maine. The crowds have disappeared, with some notable exceptions, like Mt. Desert Island. The nights get a bit cool, and we found that in the evenings we kept the antique wood stove stoked with hardwood. We had no rain during our one-week trip, and I even found myself longing for some wild skies to make photographs more dramatic.

Dramatic or not, I've included here a selection of images.  They are low resolution files for blog posting.  Higher resolution files can be viewed on my photography website, here:



Staying Warm

Lobsterman's Chair

Popham Beach

Popham Beach


Farmers' Market, Bath 



Lobster Roll at Sprague's, Wiscassett

Four chairs with a view


Ladies enjoying chowder and sandwiches


From Cadillac Mountain