New Additions - First Impressions

All the new goodies arrived today, and I immediately popped open the box containing the new Tamron 18-270 PZD. One thing that really surprised me was the difference in size between this lens and the older version. I don't know if the difference is because the Sony version lacks the vibration reduction, or if the newer lens overall is just smaller.

I've only taken a small number of test shots, but so far, the sharpness seems to be a little better than the older version and achieving focus is considerably faster. The zoom is not as smooth as the older model, but if it's like the other Tamrons I've owned, it will probably smooth out after a couple days of use.

I also very quickly attached the BlackRapid RS-7 strap. Having the strap attach to the bottom of the camera is really just the right place to do it. One of my big, big gripes about traditional straps is that they're forever ending up between my eye and the viewfinder, especially when I'm shooting a vertical. With the BlackRapid, that just plain can't happen. Nice. And, it almost feels as if the camera is not there.

I'll be loading up most all of the kit and caboodle over the next couple of days to see how it all works together. I am thinking that I'll be adding a couple more items to my new "must have" list -- I'd like a light-weight convertible tripod/monopod, for instance. But, look for some more comments over the next few days.

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New Affordable Keyboards

I'm always happy to be able to report that something that I've complained about has changed. A couple of years ago, I complained loudly that there were very few good, affordable (under $750) keyboards. At that time, there were only a couple of decent-sounding instruments out there -- Korg's X-50 and PS-60 (both of which I own), Roland's Juno-D, and Yamaha's MM-6. I'm happy to report that the market is responding! There are now at least 15 sub-$750 professional-level keyboards available from a variety of manufacturers, with two new models on the way from Casio.

That's right, I said Casio.

Casio brought out some of the first of the affordable synths and samplers (you can read an interesting history of Casio keyboards here and here), but with the exception of digital pianos, they've pretty much ignored the pro market until now. Casio will be releasing two exciting new instruments in the next couple of months -- a pro-performance-level model called the XW-P1 (slated to ship in March) and a loop and groove oriented model called the XW-G1 (arriving in April). MSRPs on these models are right around $700, with one dealer listing prices of under $500! While I need yet another keyboard like I need a hole in my head, the XW-P1 is on my short list for purchase later this year -- despite the fact that I just acquired a Casio CTK-6000 arranger keyboard.

I'm really excited by the resurgence of lower-cost instruments in the market. There are a lot of us weekend-warrior musicians who just don't have the cash assets to plunk down a lot of money on equipment, but still need reasonable quality keyboards for our garage bands that only gig a couple times a month at best.

Of course, I found some more info on the new Casio XW-P1 after I posted and shared. Here's a video from Casio:

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