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Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

18 Oct

As the use of mobile phones as cameras become more popular people want to get the best possible images with them. In some ways, they are very limited in how you can take photos. There are many companies now making lenses for mobile phones to help you get much better images.

Some are better than others with most requiring a magnetic ring to attach them to your phone, over the camera lens. They can have varying degrees success. Some have good lenses, but the rings don’t work, while others are designed for a particular camera and aren’t good on other models.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

The Struman Optics case, the clip, and three phone lenses.

Struman Optics has come up with a set of lenses that consider all aspects of using them along with different phone products. Through phone cases for the most popular brands, or a special clip for the others, you can now use their lenses (the macro, fisheye, wide-angle and telephoto) with any phone.

Phone cases

Unlike many other lenses for mobile phones, the Struman Optics ones have covers for the top two brands – both iPhone and Samsung. The phone covers have a section where the camera is that allows you to screw in the lens so it is aligned perfectly with the camera.

The case makes taking photos a lot easier as you can hold your phone in any manner, and not worry about the lens coming off. It makes the whole system much sturdier.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

The phone case with a lens screwed into it ready to be used.

Clip

If you have one of the lesser known phone brands or models, the lenses come with a clip that allows you to put them over the phone. They come with a spongy surface that sits against the screen so it won’t scratch. This takes a little more mucking around to get the lens correctly aligned, but once it’s done you can take your photos.

You can put the empty clip to help you work out where it should go. You can then screw in the lens that you want to use and take your images. If you decide you want to change to another lens, it isn’t a problem as they are easy to swap out.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

The clip on the phone with a lens in it.

The Lenses

There are two kits available. The first includes a macro, wide-angle and fish-eye lens. The second is a telephoto lens that also has a holder for your phone and small tripod that you can use to help you steady the camera.

Macro Lens

Trying to get really close to objects for macro photography with your phone seems to be something that so many of us try to achieve. Some phones do it well, while others struggle. My current phone has trouble getting close and it can be frustrating. I do like macro photography, so having a lens I can put on my phone is great.

The Struman Optics macro lens is incredible. It will allow you to get a lot closer to your object than your phone can. It gives you a great amount of detail and is very sharp. When you go to take an image you can get as close as a couple of centimeters or an inch away from the subject.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

This photo was taken with my phone and the macro lens screwed into the phone case.

Perhaps the one negative thing about this is that you don’t have a lot of choices, you only get the one focal range. All images have to be taken from the same distance, which is really close. However, if your intention is to get as near as possible, then you will love this lens.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

This is as close as you can get with just my phone and no added lens.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

When you screw in the Struman macro lens, you can get a whole lot closer and capture a lot more detail.

If you decide you want to get a little further away the wide-angle lens is what you need.

Wide-Angle Macro Lens

The wide-angle lens will let you take photos at any distance. You can get a wider angle than what your phone will take. If you have a subject that is hard to photograph because you can’t quite get it into the frame, then this lens will allow you to get a wider angle of view.

Compare the images below. The first image shows you the lighthouse taken with the phone and no lens. It is a tight image, and to get more distance I would have to move farther back. But as there was a cliff behind me so that was not an option.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

The lighthouse taken with the phone and no lens attached.

The Struman wide-angle lens was attached to the phone and now you can see that there is a lot more room around the lighthouse. This made it a better image.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

Same Lighthouse, but with the wide-angle lens attached.

The lens also has macro capabilities. If you find that you don’t want to get as close as you have to with the macro lens, put the wide-angle on and you can get that distance. It is good for photographing the whole flower or getting more than one in the shot. It is a great lens to go with the macro.

Fish-eye Lens

The fish-eye lens is a lot of fun. When you use one for the first time it is addictive to see what you take with it. This lens is similar to other fish-eye lenses for phones in that the image is a circle. If you give your subject enough space you can crop it so it is square or rectangle. However, if you do that you are reducing the size of the file.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

Fish-eye lens used to photograph the lighthouse and then cropped to make a normal rectangular image.

Like the wide-angle lens, the fish-eye can also do macro. It can be used when you want to highlight an object in particular. It creates a bokeh effect with everything around it.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

Some shelves with an assortment of things, taken with the fish-eye lens.

Carry Case

The above three lenses and the clip all come in a little case that fits in your bag or your pocket. It makes it very easy to carry them around. There is a little pocket that has some instructions and a cleaning cloth for the lenses. The case is not soft and is quite solid, so it keeps everything inside safe.

Telephoto Lens

As stated earlier, Struman Optics also makes a telephoto lens which you can purchase in a kit with a stand and a holder for the phone. This also fits into the phone cover case or the clip to help hold it still. You do really need the stand and phone holder as it’s a large lens. It is hard to hand-hold it to take photos.

When you find a subject you want to photograph, you have to be a certain distance from the object, a meter or a yard away. You do have to focus it manually, so if you find it is too hard to focus that could your subject is either too close or too far away.

Out of all the Struman lenses, this is the hardest to use. You do need to use the stand, or a stand with the phone holder. It does mean you have to carry a bit more equipment with you if you want to use this lens.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

The telephoto lens in the phone case, with the phone secured by the holder and kept up-right on the stand.

Stand and Phone Holder

The stand is basic and not very big, though it is easy enough to carry around. You do need to have a surface to put it on and that isn’t always possible.

The phone holder screws onto the top of the stand and you put your phone in it. It is easy to use, though it can be a bit stiff to mount your phone. The holder will also fit on other tripods or Gorillapods. That allows you to use it with your other gear if you decide to throw the holder and lens in your kit when you go out.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

This flower image was taken with the wide-angle lens, shot very close to the flower.

In Practice

When I went away recently I put the cover on my phone so I could use the lenses anytime I wanted. I didn’t take the telephoto lens with me, but I most definitely packed the other three. They were always with me, either in my bag, or my pocket.

They are the best mobile phone lenses I’ve seen yet. The images are amazing and the detail you can get in your images is so sharp. If you love using your phone for photography and want to get more out of it, then here are the lenses that may be perfect for you. Struman Optics is an Australian company, but they ship all over the world.

I would give these lenses 9 out of 10, I love them.

The post Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Nikon D850 Review

16 Oct

Nikon D850 Review

The Nikon D850 is Nikon’s latest high resolution full-frame DSLR, boasting a 46MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. But, in a fairly radical departure for the series, it is also one of the company’s fastest-shooting DSLRs. This combination of properties should significantly widen the camera’s appeal to high-end enthusiasts as well as a broad range of professional photographers.

Key Specifications:

  • 45.7MP BSI CMOS sensor
  • 7 fps continuous shooting with AE/AF (9 with battery grip and EN-EL18b battery)
  • 153-point AF system linked to 180,000-pixel metering system
  • UHD 4K video capture at up to 30p from full sensor width
  • 1080 video at up to 120p, recorded as roughly 1/4 or 1/5th speed slow-mo
  • 4:2:2 8-bit UHD uncompressed output while recording to card
  • 1 XQD slot and 1 UHS II-compliant SD slot
  • Battery life rated at 1840 shots
  • 3.2″ tilting touchscreen with 2.36M-dot (1024×768 pixel) LCD
  • Illuminated controls
  • 19.4MP DX crop (or 8.6MP at 30fps for up to 3 sec)
  • SnapBridge full-time Bluetooth LE connection system with Wi-Fi
  • Advanced time-lapse options (including in-camera 4K video creation)

High resolution

The use of a backside illuminated (BSI) sensor means that the light collecting elements of the sensor are closer to the surface of the chip. This should not only increase the efficiency of the sensor (improving low light performance) but should also be expected to make the pixels near the edges of the sensor better able to accept light approaching with high angles of incidence, improving peripheral image quality.

Like the D810 before it, the D850 continues to offer an ISO 64 mode, that allows it to tolerate more light in bright conditions. We will be testing whether this gives the D850 the same dynamic range advantage as the D810, as soon as a production version arrives but our initial quick looks suggests it does, meaning it should be able to compete with the medium format sensors used in the likes of the Fujifilm GFX 50S and Pentax 645Z.

A BSI sensor with ISO 64 setting should be able to match the D810’s low ISO DR while also offering improved performance in at high ISOs.

The D850 has gained a more usable electronic front curtain shutter option (EFCS), which can now be used quiet shutter modes, as well as live view and Mirror-Up mode. To get the full benefit, though, you need to turn on exposure delay (which has had two sub-second delay settings added). However, exposure delay persists across all shooting modes. Thankfully, and presumably thanks to a redesigned shutter and mirror mechanism, our quick check with a pre-production model suggests that mirror/shutter shock may not be much of an issue, even without engaging it EFCS.

The D850 has no anti-aliasing filter, which should allow for slightly finer detail capture but with added risk of moiré, if any of your lenses are sharp enough to out-resolve a 45.7MP full-frame sensor. There’s still no sign of the clever design Nikon patented so, unlike the Pentax K-1 or Sony RX1R II, you can’t engage an anti-aliasing effect if you do find false color appearing in densely patterned areas.

High Speed

In addition to the increased speed, the D850 also gains the full AF capabilities of the company’s flagship sports camera: the D5. This includes all the hardware: AF module, metering sensor and dedicated AF processor, as well as the full range of AF modes and configuration options, which should translate to comparable focus performance combined with high resolution.

Given the D5 possessed one of the best AF systems we’ve ever seen and could continue to offer that performance in a wide range of conditions and shooting scenarios with minimal need for configuration, this is an exciting prospect.

As part of this system, the D850 gains the automated system for setting an AF Fine Tune value. It only calibrates the lens based on the central AF point and for a single distance, but it’s a simple way to ensure you’re getting closer to your lenses’ full capabilities, which is handy given you’ll now be able to scrutinize their performance with 46MP of detail.

Add the optional MB-D18 battery grip and an EN-EL18b battery, and the D850 will shoot at 9 frames per second.

Impressively, the D850 can shoot at nine frames per second if you add the optional MB-D18 battery grip and buy an EN-EL18b battery, as used in the D5. As well as increasing the camera’s burst rate, this combination also ups the battery life to a staggering 5140 shots per charge. You don’t get this same boost in speed or endurance if you use a second EN-EL15a in the grip, though.

An MB-D18 plus an EN-EL18b is likely to set you back over $ 580 over and above the cost of the camera body ($ 399 for the grip, around $ 149 for the battery, $ 30 for the BL-6 battery chamber cover plus the cost of a charger).

The D850 also includes a sufficiently deep buffer to allow fifty-one 14-bit losslessly compressed Raw files, meaning the majority of photographers are unlikely to hit its limits.

Video capabilities

In terms of video the D850 becomes the first Nikon DSLR to capture 4K video from the full width of its sensor. The camera can shoot at 30, 25 or 24p, at a bitrate of around 144 Mbps. It can simultaneously output uncompressed 4:2:2 8-bit UHD to an external recorder while recording to the card. Our initial impression is that the video is pixel-binned, rather than being resolved then downsampled (oversampling), but we’ll be checking on this as part of the review process. This risks lowering the level of detail capture and increases the risk of moiré, though it’s a better solution than line-skipping. There also seemed to be a fair amount of rolling shutter, but again these are only first impressions from a camera running non-final firmware.

At 1080 resolution, the camera can shoot at up to 60p, with a slow-mo mode that can capture at 120 frames per second before outputting at either 25 or 24p. The 1080 mode also offers focus peaking and digital stabilization, neither of which are available for 4K shooting.

The D850’s tilting rear screen will make video shooting easier, though we doubt many will use its contrast-detection tap-to-focus system when they do.

The D850 doesn’t have any Log gamma options for high-end videographers, but it does have the ‘Flat’ Picture Profile to squeeze a little extra dynamic range into its footage, without adding too much to the complexity of grading. It also offers full Auto ISO with exposure compensation when shooting in manual exposure mode, meaning you can set your aperture value and shutter speed, and let the camera try to maintain that brightness by varying the sensitivity.

As you’d expect from a camera at this level, the D850 also includes the Power Aperture feature that allows the camera to open and close the lens iris smoothly when in live view mode. There’s also an ‘Attenuator’ mode for the camera’s audio capture, that rolls-off any loud noises to avoid unpleasant clipping sounds.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

11 Oct

In this review, I’ll take a look at the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens. If you shoot Fuji and have considered this one – read on to see why I rate it top marks!

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

The Fujinon 23mm f2 lens

First look

With the Fuji XF 23mm F2 WR lens now being offered as a kit with the X-Pro2, and the new X-E3, it’s probably a good time to look at this little wonder if you shoot Fuji. This weather-sealed prime lens is 35mm equivalent field of view in full frame terms and makes a perfect street and general photography lens.

The fast f/2.0 aperture is a stop slower than it’s f/1.4 predecessor, but it’s leaps and bounds faster in the focus department. It also has a much quieter motor, which is important for video and it’s weather resistant.

Quiet motor great for video

As the Fuji X-T2 body has 4k video, and with a firmware update to add 4K video to the X-Pro2 due, this is an essential feature for current users looking to do video. Personally, I’m shooting a lot more video of late, both for my YouTube channel and in the creation of shorts in general, so this feature made the lens enticing for me. The original Fuji X camera is, of course, the X100, which has a built-in 23mm f2 lens. The new 23mm lens is a better design though, making it a great option instead of getting an X100F.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

For this article, I’m including some “tourist in my own town” style shots as I’ve not had this lens long enough to travel with it – yet!

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

The f/2.0 Trinity

The 23mm is the widest currently in this range, which includes the XF35mm F2 and the XF50mm F2. In the community, they’ve been nicknamed the Fujicrons, as a kind of homage to the Summicron range of f/2 lenses from Leica. This weather sealed range offers great quality lenses in small, light packages, with quiet motors suited to video work as well as stills.

They focus faster than the higher range primes in the Fuji range, such as the 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, and the 56mm f/1.2. (It’s not fair to directly compare the 50mm and 56mm as they’re not quite the same, though they are close enough for this purpose). The F2 lenses are also really well priced; You can get two of them for the price of one of the faster primes.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Specs of the XF23mm F2

The XF23mm F2 WR lens has 10 elements in six groups which includes two aspherical elements. The original f/1.4 lens has only one. These elements increase the sharpness, a big plus for this small lens. The housing is metal, making this a robust lens in keeping with most of the Fuji range.

The aperture ring runs in 1/3 EV steps and uses nine blades internally which leads to a smoother bokeh. The minimum focusing distance is 22cm (about 9″). The lens comes in at a sprightly 180 grams (0.4 lbs) too. Good news if you’re looking to shoot video on a gimbal or flying on budget airlines with low weight baggage limits! Fi, ally the filter size is 43mm.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Comparisons

The first lens people want this lens compared with is the Fuji 23mm f/1.4, because that’s usually the choice they’re trying to make. The XF23mm f/2.0 is a stop slower than then the 23mm f/1.4 but is faster to focus. The additional element makes it sharp, but the original 23mm is quite a sharp lens anyway. Weightwise the f/2.0 is 180g (0.4 lbs) versus the 300g (0.67 lbs) of the f/1.4.

For close focusing the f/2.0 has a minimum focus distance of 22cm (9″) compared to the 28cm (11″) of the f/1.4. In terms of cost, the f/2.0 is half the price of the f/1.4 at $ 449 versus $ 899. The real question to ask yourself is, does the additional stop of light justify spending twice the money? Only you can decide that.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

The f/2 lens has a slightly wilder field of view than the f/1.4 below.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

For street work, a lot of people choose the XF27mm f/2.8 pancake lens. This makes your Fuji very pocketable. The lens doesn’t protrude much and is really unobtrusive. It’s the smallest lens Fuji makes. Yes, it is cute. The XF23 is much longer (52mm versus 23mm), but isn’t too obtrusive. Again it’s a faster lens and wider. Both are the same price, so it’s a question of speed and depth in this choice. The 23mm is the superior lens, but if you must have a pancake, the 27mm is the only choice really.

Using the XF23mm F2 Lens

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

I’ve found 23mm to be a great focal length to have with you. In fact, it’s probably the most versatile prime lens you could travel with. There’s no issue with general streets scenes, or even general landscapes. It’s great for shots including people in the scene. While it’s not a typical portrait focal length, it looks great for 3/4 length shots in landscape mode (a vertical composition) or portrait mode at a push.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Even with just f/2, you still have the opportunity to shoot handheld evening shots while traveling.

Photos from the lens have nice contrast and are generally sharp, even wide open. The lens focuses quickly, even in low light and I can’t say I’ve particularly noticed many misfires. Couple it with the XF56mm f/1.2 or even the XF50mm f/2.0, and you would have a great two-lens kit that covers most shooting situations.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

A typical low light situation where fast primes can help.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Fast Focus
  • Quiet operation
  • One of Fuji’s less expensive lenses

Cons

  • Not the fastest aperture at this focal length

Verdict

If you absolutely need a faster aperture, don’t get the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR lens. Otherwise it’s utterly fantastic at what it does. I voted with my cash and got this over the 23mm f/1.4 and it hasn’t disappointed.

 

The post Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Review of the new Agua Versa Backpack 90 by Miggo

09 Oct

Photography is an expensive hobby, and yet still we love doing it whether be it professionally or as a passion. Owning costly camera bodies and lenses is one part of our job, and making sure that they are stored safely in a camera bag is an equally important responsibility. As a street and travel photographer, I am always on the go carrying a camera body, a zoom lens, and a flash. I make sure that I am not carrying all this gear in a heavy backpack.

The Agua Versa Backpack 90 by Miggo is one of a kind. It’s a versatile storm-proof backpack that can be used as a camera bag as well as a normal day-to-day use bag. When it comes to choosing the right camera bag, I am very particular about its quality, comfort, and weight. Now let’s find out if this classy looking backpack comes out as a clear winner or not.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 2

What you can store in the Agua Versa Backpack 90

  • DSLR with attached lens (such as Canon 5D Mark III or IV with 24-70mm f/2.8),
    or medium size DSLRs / large size mirrorless cameras
  • Extra lens (such as 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • Flash unit
  • Up to 14.5” laptop (but I am able to store my 15.6-inch laptop)
  • iPad / tablet
  • Memory cards
  • Cables
  • Extra battery
  • Extra personal belongings

Appearance

Cover Photo

Trust me when I say that this backpack could make you fall in love with it at first sight, and I am saying this from my personal experience. It’s not just me but my fellow photographers have been asking me about this bag as I have been carrying around for weeks now.

The matte black kind of finish that this bag has is the reason that you may get attracted to it. That is the storm-proof material (tarpaulin) that has been used to create the bag. The combination of black and blue colors makes this bag look elegant as well as stylish at the same time. By looking at the bag you can tell how light and convenient this bag would be to carry on your back.

Inside the Bag

The Agua Versa Backpack 90 has three pockets in total. One on the front side which can be used to store accessories such as lens filters, memory card holder, a mobile phone, etc.

The second pocket is on the right-hand side of the bag which is the main compartment where you can store your laptop (I was easily able to store my 15.6-inch laptop), iPad, pen drive, Gorillapod, etc. You also get a removable padded insert in which I was able to carry my Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens mounted, a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens and the Godox TT685C flash. The best part is that you can carry this padded insert as a standalone camera case during shoots. Once the insert is removed, you can use the backpack as a day-to-day bag as well or store your clothes while you are traveling.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 5

Agua Versa Backpack 90 7

The third pocket which is placed on the left-hand side is a secondary storage space where you can securely store the card reader, important cables, some accessories, and anything that fits inside the pockets.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 4

3 Different Carrying Options

The Agua Versa Backpack 90 allows you to carry the bag in three different ways. The first being the basic backpack position, which is the most comfortable in situations when you are walking a long distance carrying heavy gear. The second way is the X position, in which you can customize the straps in a cross pattern which could be helpful if you are trekking or hiking. The last way is the sling position which basically converts your backpack to a sling bag. By using it as a sling bag, you can easily and quickly draw the camera out of the bag and avoid missing any important moment.

 

Agua Versa Backpack 90 1b

My personal favorite is the sling position as I do not have to constantly take the bag off my shoulders to take out the camera. Simply swing the bag forward, open the side zip and draw the camera swiftly.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 3

Comfort

One of my favorite things about this backpack is the quality of padding that it has on the back as well as on the straps. I have been using this Miggo bag for weeks now, sometimes for hours at a stretch, and not once did I have any kind of shoulder or back pain despite carrying a camera body, two lenses, a flash and other accessories. Be it the backpack or the sling position, the bag sits comfortably on my shoulders and the lower back padding is just perfect.

Dual-Port Charging Connector

Agua Versa Backpack 90 6

How this backpack by Miggo stands out from the rest is the external USB connector that it features on the lower right-hand side. The USB connector unit has two ports which allow you to use a power bank stored in an internal dedicated pouch inside the bag. This means that using one port you can charge your smartphone or any other USB connected device and by using the second port you can charge that power bank too without taking it out of the bag.

Final Verdict

At a price of $ 169, the Agua Versa Backpack 90, come sling bag, is a good value for your money if you are a frequent traveler or if you shoot in extreme conditions.

Cover Photo

You may be thinking that I am only highlighting the positives of this bag, but there are few negatives as well. This bag lacks a side pocket which can hold a tripod/monopod or a water bottle. The straps are way too long, they roll up and there is a band which holds them up but on some occasions, it comes off.

You can get your hands on the Agua Versa Backpack 90 and a couple of more bags in the Agua series of Miggo brand on Indiegogo.

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Gudsen Moza Air gimbal review

08 Oct

Gudsen Moza Air
$ 599, ($ 798 for the thumb controller kit)
www.Gudsen.com

There are whole lot of things about shooting video that are difficult, such as getting to grips with the specific terminology, mastering audio, understanding input/output files types and finding your way around new software. All of this stuff can be learnt, but what I struggle with most, and which just wrecks most of the videos I shoot, is just holding the camera steady. This beats me even when I’m standing still, but it destroys every beautiful or dramatic scene I encounter if I have to so much as pan across a view let alone actually move my feet as well. I can achieve smooth motion sometimes, but with such a degree of concentration that everything else goes out of the window. In short, I find this aspect of shooting movies almost impossible to overcome.

The Moza Air is designed for compact system cameras and small to medium sized DSLRs

I guess I’m not entirely alone here, as there are now quite a number of mid-sized gimbals designed to help videographers achieve smooth footage when they are moving with a handheld camera. The Zhiyun Crane has been a popular option for some time, but newer on the scene is the Gudsen Moza Air.

Gudsen had mostly produced gimbals for small devices and mobile phones, but has recently moved into support for larger, heavier cameras. The Moza Air is designed for compact system cameras and small to medium sized DSLRs with a maximum payload of 5.5lbs/2.5kg – a restriction which actually only really excludes top-end professional models.

Specification

The Gudsen Moza Air is motorized gimbal platform-on-handle designed to create smooth motion and steadier stationary views for videographers. It is made from aluminum tubing and weighs 2.4lb/1.1kg when it is all put together and the batteries are loaded. The large camera platform offers two cut-out runners and two sizes of threaded screws, as well as plenty of room to shift cameras backwards and forwards to find a balance. There is less side-to-side space than front-to-back though, with the maximum gap between the camera retaining screw and the right hand arm being 3 7/8in/97mm. This isn’t necessarily an issue when it comes to actually fitting a camera in that space, so much as for attaching cables to ports on the right hand side of the camera.

The platform allows continuous 360° yaw, tilt and roll movements, all of which can be controlled via the joy stick on the main handle. Built-in Bluetooth 4.0 allows these actions to be controlled remotely via a separate thumb controller too, and users can take charge of settings and motion via the Moza Air app. Further connections come in the form of a micro USB port for connection to camera remote control sockets.

Three 3.7V lithium ion batteries drop into the handle to power the device and Gudsen claims their 2000mAh capacity will drive the gimbal for between four and eight hours. The dramatic discrepancy between the battery life figures is a function of the range of weights the gimbal can accommodate as well as the differences in power required to hold a camera in the normal position and at some contorted angle.

Handling

The Moza Air comes very nicely packaged in a hard case with a range of accessories. I’m not entirely sure what is in the standard kit, as I received two kits each with different accompaniments. The basic setup includes the main handle with the gimbal as well as the battery compartment and the thumb controller. Also in the box is a set of handlebars is that allow the device to be used with two hands while a second person deals with the head movements via the thumb controller.

A set of cables allows you to connect the handle to certain compatible cameras for stop/start recording controls and there’s a support bracket for heavy lenses. In one package I got a mini-tripod that attaches to the threaded base of the handle. This is very useful for getting the camera balanced and can also be used to extend the handle for an even greater field of motion.

Once the gimbal is assembled you have to balance the camera in the main cradle. It’s important to get the kit as well balanced as possible before switching the gimbal on so that you get the maximum out of the movements possible and so that you don’t use more power than you need to. Getting the balance right can be time consuming especially the first time you have to balance a kit. You have to remember to get the camera exactly was you want to use it first as well, as even taking the lens cap off, or flipping out the camera’s screen, will upset the balance.

Having a tripod, mini or not, with you is a good idea for when the kit needs to be altered.

Switching lenses during a shoot means taking a break to rebalance the gimbal, which is difficult to do in the field if there is nowhere level to position it – so picking a non-extending zoom makes life a bit easier. Having a tripod, mini or not, with you is a good idea for when the kit needs to be altered. Using in-camera levels is handy for ensuring the camera is perfectly balanced, if your camera has them.

The Moza Air makes leveling reasonably easy by having arm-brackets that slide nicely to allow small adjustments. There are three brackets to get in balance so this isn’t a ten-second job – though measured markings on each of the arms makes positions easier to return to when re-attaching a previously used camera and lens combination. Some way of keeping the camera screw in place would be really useful, and in fact a quick release plate even better, so that after moving the camera for a battery change or a card swap you don’t have to rebalance it all over again.

One of the more obvious differences between the Moza Air and the Zhiyun Crane is that the Moza Air features controls that face the user, so they can be operated with the thumb. There are only two control points and each can perform a range of tasks according to how many times it is pressed. It doesn’t take too long to commit these functions to memory, and I appreciated having all the controls in one place while trying to keep an eye on the screen while filming – so I guess it is better than having a collection of dedicated buttons for each task.

The stop/start function is very useful, and the proximity of the thumb rocker is handy for controlling the camera angle without having to change the way your hand is gripping the handle. The rocker controls the left-right/up-down direction of travel of the gimbal, but there’s no way to tilt the camera left-to-right, and it takes some practice to get the motion slow and smooth.

Despite its light weight, in use the Moza Air gets quite heavy

Despite its light weight, in use the Moza Air gets quite heavy. That isn’t an inherent fault of the device so much as the nature of holding a camera on a stick at an angle for a long time.

If you record sound from a hotshoe mounted microphone you’ll want to choose a small one that doesn’t restrict your movements too much. When using the gimbal in the upright position there is loads of room for a microphone, but as soon as you begin to tilt the gimbal forward into the flashlight position the brackets of the device will clash with the back of the microphone.

When the camera is slung under the gimbal for low angle shots there is even less space for a microphone, but there are accessory points where a mic can be attached. I used the Rode VideoMic Pro and Pro+ in the hotshoe for most of this test, and attached it to the handle bars when shooting with the camera slung low.

Motion in action

The second version of this gimbal that I received was dramatically improvements over the first very early version I used. Its motor seems much stronger, or better tuned, so it can hold more weight in more difficult positions for longer without suddenly giving up and throwing the camera around – which happened a lot with the early model.

The ability of the gimbal to support and steady the camera at quite a wide range of angles is pretty amazing, and allows the user to perform crane-like sequences with the camera coming from a low angle up to an overhead view in one smooth motion. The side-to-side support is also very good, and though side movements can create clashes with cables and screens sticking out to the side of the camera.

at the extremes, the head can’t hold the camera for long before flipping out

Using the controller on the Moza Air’s handle you can introduce tilt and twist actions. With the handle in the upright position you can rotate the camera 360 degrees about the vertical axis while the tilt motions are more moderate. Although I didn’t expect to be able to get the camera to look directly down I’d rather hoped to for a better range of tilt angles – and at the extremes the head can’t hold the camera for long before flipping out.

The controller on the handle doesn’t really allow fine movements or adjustments during filming as the increments are crude and a bit jerky, so users will be better off using the Bluetooth thumb controller that comes in the kit. With a bigger joystick and a wider range of actions this provides a little more precision. The thumb controller can instruct the head to move at different speeds as well as customize the way it works and to instruct the system which camera is in use. It is important for the system to be informed of the camera brand so that the cabled remote that connects the head and the camera can operate properly.

The new Mimic Motion Control feature makes a massive difference to the finesse with which movements can be communicated to the head. Attaching the thumb-controller to the handle bars and setting it to the appropriate mode allows users to control the head remotely just by moving the handle bars – and the head follows every action. This allows much finer movements as well as complete flexibility in the speed at which the head moves. It makes a huge difference to how the camera angle can be dictated when the rig is mounted on a tripod or being carried by a third party.

recording can be initiated and stopped using either the thumb controller or from the buttons on the gimbal’s handle

Using the cabled remote, which connects the camera’s remote control socket to the gimbal via USB, recording can be initiated and stopped using either the thumb controller or from the buttons on the gimbal’s handle. Canon users’ cameras compatible with the system can be made to focus from the remote buttons as well. The stop/start feature is particularly useful as it means you don’t have to alter your grip on the handle to kick off the recording – and suffer a few seconds of wobbly footage at the beginning and end of each clip. This can save time in editing and quite a lot of memory card capacity during a long shoot with a number of scenes.

The App

I used the smartphone app with my iPhone 5s and found early versions of it slightly prone to hanging and displays lagging behind what the head was doing. The app offers a virtual joystick for controlling the head, but I found the lag such that accurate instructions proved hard to communicate.

The app also allows you to program the speed of the head as well as to calibrate the motors and determine the angles of movement in each of the controllable axes. The early version was not especially easy to use, but the more recent update has made a big difference.

The head’s timelapse feature is also controlled via the app, and gives filmmakers the opportunity to determine start and end points for motion in the sequence as well as three other points for the head to cover during the action. Thus the head doesn’t just move from side to side or up and down – it can move in all directions across the four shooting segments of the timelapse. Initially the head moved continuously during the sequence, which wasn’t ideal for those wanting to use long shutter speeds. Consequently many of my first timelapse sequences are a bit jerky.

The recent firmware update allows the head and camera shutter to synchronize and offer a move-stop-shoot-move routine that holds the camera still while the shutter is open – with cameras that are compatible with the head’s cabled remote. The timelapse feature of the app now offers plenty of control over the end result, and with cameras that plug into the head it will start and stop the shooting too.

Performance

I have been very pleasantly surprised by how well this gimbal performs. I had expected it to be of some assistance in keeping the camera stable during walking shots, but didn’t expect the degree of correction that it provides when running. When kept within the perimeters of the angles it can handle the gimbal works really very well, so it is a question of finding where those extremes are. Inevitably I wanted it to be able to cope with angles it could not manage, but in the course of normal shooting I suspect the more difficult poses I demanded in testing would not be required. I found that the more I got used to what it can do the more I was able to compensate with my own movements so that the gimbal didn’t have to work so hard.

There were a number of occasions on which the humming of the motor rose to a level that would be noticed in the audio. These occasions were not limited to handheld and demanding shooting with heavy equipment, but also occurred while the Moza Air was mounted on a tripod. Usually the whirring could be solved by rebalancing the camera, but sometimes that wasn’t enough – but it would go away by itself.

Battery life isn’t too bad, and I found a set of three could keep the Moza powered for at least four hours. I also found though that removing the batteries from the handle in between shoots was a surer way of there being power in them the next time of shooting.

In general, I thought the Moza Air behaved rather well throughout the test, and it allowed me to get plenty of shots I wouldn’t have managed otherwise, and the updated timelapse feature is actually really useful.

Conclusion

The Gudsen Moza Air is slightly less than perfect in some respects, such as the complications of getting the camera balanced to begin with and in the arms clashing with each other when in certain positions. However, the company doesn’t appear to be sitting on its laurels – there have been really quite significant updates even during the period of this test. It is an excellent solution though for holding a recording camera steady for 80% of the shots any videographer is going to want to shoot. It can’t do angled up or down shots very well, but for everything else I found it a great assistance.

In the world of video, where everything seems to cost a small fortune this device is relatively affordable

Critically, the Moza Air has allowed me to create a video that doesn’t look like it was shot by a monkey even though this is pretty much the first time I have shot more than two clips that were intended to be stuck together, and my videography experience is slim to say the least. In the world of video, where everything seems to cost a small fortune this device is relatively affordable and actually presents very good value for money considering the difference it will make to your footage.

Yes, some of the mechanical design is in need of refinement, but for the most part I can live with that for now – although when the motors give up when holding the camera during a difficult angle it can be frustrating. More powerful motors would allow it to hold better and would reduce the whine and wobble that can be produced in the extremities of the head’s operating envelope, but I suppose that would cost more money. If you don’t push it too hard, and don’t expect too much you will be very happy indeed with the Moza Air – as I have been.

This little movie was made for a bit of fun – but primarily to demonstrate what the Moza Air can do in a range of situations. It was shot with the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 in VLogL and edited in Davinci Resolve. I used two Moza Airs – one to support the camera for the whole of the shoot and the other in the box that we could film being assembled. It’s neat that Gudsen supplies a hard case for the kit, but it struck me as something you might see in a gangster movie – hence the theme we went with for this clip.
Pros:
  • Relatively good value
  • Supports most DSLRs
  • Nice button controls
  • Good stabilization
  • Mimic Control is excellent
Cons:
  • Build quality could be refined
  • Could be made lighter with different materials
  • Hard to balance the camera quickly

For more information see the Gudsen website.

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Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

02 Oct

In this article, I will review the latest version of PaintShop Pro 2018. I have a unique perspective, having used it over 17 years ago for the first time. Let’s see how it fairs now.

Please note: this is a Windows-only program.

Start of PaintShop Pro (PSP)

Approximately 17 years ago I was working in retail selling computer hardware and software. A lot of people came in asking for Photoshop and were understandably shocked when they were informed the price was $ 1500. So being able to offer them an alternative for around $ 200 meant I made a lot of sales of what was then PaintShop Pro Version 7.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Since then, Corel bought the program and invested in further development. PSP (as it was known in the day) could do quite a bit of what Photoshop did, it had layers and masking, support for graphics tablets, and for the majority of people who just wanted to be creative, was a very cost-effective option. It was laid out in a similar way to Photoshop, functioned very similarly and to a certain extent was just as difficult to learn for a newbie.

Things have changed a lot since then. Now, I have spent the last three years learning to use Photoshop to creatively edit my images beyond straight photography. With a new set of skills under my belt, it’s time to see what PaintShop Pro 2018 can offer once again.

Price and Options of PaintShop Pro 2018

PaintShop Pro 2018 is available in both Standard ($ 64.99 USD) and Ultimate ($ 79.99 USD) options, where Ultimate includes some other potentially useful Corel programs. For our purposes here, this review will only cover the Standard version.

Purchase Full version for a new installation, or upgrade if you are a current user.

Please note that PaintShop Pro 2018 is only compatible with Windows operating systems, however, it must also be noted that this is a perpetual license, not a subscription. You only need to pay once and it’s yours forever, which may appeal to some customers.

Ease of Use

On starting up PaintShop Pro you are greeted with a Welcome screen and the choice of Essentials or Complete.  Each screen is a different color to minimize confusion. At the bottom of each screen is a choice of links encompassing tutorials, free stuff and access to technical support.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

There is also access directly within the program to purchase extra textures, software (including an upgrade to the Ultimate version) and lots of different plugins and special effect options.

Creating a new file offers choices from a custom design and several different image or document presets.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

The Essentials Workspace

The Essentials workspace layout is very simple and clean with the usual central space dedicated to the image, a menu bar at the top, tool bar options to the left and right, and an image browsing interface (similar to Adobe Bridge) at the bottom.

The left tool bar can be moved, docked, floated or stretched out to a single column of buttons. Adding or removing functions is easily done by clicking on the plus (+) at the bottom and selecting from the choices available. It is a pretty extensive list and would likely cover the requirements for most average users.

The right tool bar by default handles the colour palette options and can also be docked by right-clicking and selecting that option.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

The Complete Workspace

The Complete workspace layout is a bit more involved with an additional Learning Center docked on the right-hand side. Good news is that if you switch between Essentials and Complete, the program remembers your preferences for laying out the menus so it stays consistent. Layers also dock much tidier in Complete workspace than they do in Essentials – so if you want to use Layers, I suggest using the Complete workspace. There is a fair amount of customization of the visual layout, sizing, and color options as well under User Interface.

Keyboard shortcuts appear to be pretty similar to those used in Photoshop. I tested Ctl+Z (undo), B, and X with expected results.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Performance

The system used for testing was an HP Z230 Workstation with an i7-4770 3.4Ghz processor, 12GB memory, and an SSD drive. The performance was quick and responsive. However noticeable lag was experienced when bringing in a large PSD file with around 50 layers. It took about a minute for the program to process and open the file.

Linking to a Network Drive to view RAW files also showed some hesitation while the program did some background processing.

Image Management and Editing

Enhance Photo options are available within both the Essential and Complete workspaces. My preference is for the Smart Photo fix, as you get a large preview window to view the effect of adjustments, plus you have more options and control over the settings. One Step Photo Fix is a “click the button and what you get is what you get”. Smart Photo Fix gives you basic options but with a bit more control.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Smart Photo Fix option offers some basic editing options as well as a Before and After preview which is really useful.

There are also some Lens Correction options under the Adjust Menu to help counter various distortion problems.

The usual Adjustment layers are available; Brightness/Contrast, Curves, Hue/Saturation, and Levels being the most likely candidates, plus a few unique to PaintShop Pro. One feature I did particularly like was that it offers a preview of the effect from within the editing palette.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

A preview window is offered on all the Adjustment Layers that I tested.

Working with RAW images

RAW images can be edited via a Camera Raw option. It appears to work similar to Lightroom, where you point the navigation at the desired folder and it pulls up the images in a grid view. I have everything saved on an NAS (Network Attached Storage), and the Computer navigation option couldn’t view it, but I was able to add a link to the NAS under the Collections>Browse more Folders option. It took a while for the program to make the network linkage, and bring up the images.

Once you find the RAW file you want to edit, select it and click the EDIT Tab and it will open up a fairly basic panel with similar options to Adobe Camera Raw. It would be on a par with Lightroom version 3 or 4, so quite limited compared to current Adobe options. However, if you do not need the more advanced features, it is quite functional.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Raw file editing is fairly basic compared to today’s standards (Adobe ACR) but it covers the bases for most home users without being too complicated.

Creative Options

Masks are still a bit clunky. When you want to add one, you are asked to choose from three options – if you want it to behave the same way you expect in Photoshop, choose Source Opacity. The default is Source Luminance.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

No wonder I found masks so difficult to learn back when first using PaintShop Pro.

The Scratch Remover worked alright but when I tested it on a textured background, there was an obvious blur visible where it had applied. Object Remover was a bit clunky to use, in that you had to select the object you wanted to remove with one tool, and the background you wanted to replace it with via a separate tool. Once applied it did a pretty good job. Some feathering of the edges, and it would blend in nicely.

Here you can see a line of blur where I have used the Scratch Remover (red circle). I have also used the Content-Aware option but that is less obvious (purple circle).

Text can be applied, and there are lots of options for texture, paint, brushes (though there is a very limited default range of brushes, you do have the option to purchase more or create your own).

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Brushes and text and using layers.

Conclusion

PaintShop Pro 2018 is a program that is clearly aimed at the consumer market. With two levels of control, it caters to the most basic requirements, and still allows enough scope for people who want to stretch their editing capabilities.

For those needing professional or advanced level editing Lightroom and Photoshop, both offer much more advanced functionality, but PaintShop Pro will cater to the vast majority of user requirements. The price is attractive, as is the lack of any ongoing subscription costs. A lot of work has gone into improving and modernizing the interface and there is a lot of flexibility offered as to how you can interact with the program.

It offers a good range of tools and options at a reasonable price and should not be overlooked. It would compare favorably against Adobe Elements.

Rating

There are a few historical quirks (like management of layers) that should be improved to make it easier to use. But PaintShop Pro is ideal for a home user who wants a range of features that are not too complicated.

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OnePlus 5 camera review

02 Oct

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The OnePlus 5 is the Chinese manufacturer’s flagship smartphone, replacing last year’s OnePlus 3T. The new model is the first OnePlus to feature a dual-camera setup and offers some enticing imaging specifications: a main camera with a 1/2.8″ 16MP Sony IMX 398 sensor and fast F1.7 aperture is supported by a 2x tele-module featuring a 20MP 1/2.8″ Sony IMX 350 sensor and F2.6 aperture.

The dual-camera design allows for an iPhone 8 Plus-like background-blurring portrait mode and the Smart Capture feature combines optical zoom with multi-
frame technology for improved zoom quality. The OnePlus 5 camera also comes with 4K video, a 720p/120 fps slow-motion mode and a dual-LED flash. The camera app’s new Pro mode provides manual control over the most important shooting parameters and DNG Raw capture.

The OnePlus 5 uses Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 flagship chipset. Offering 8GB RAM/128GB or 6GB RAM/64GB memory options and a 3300mAh battery that supports the OnePlus Dash Charge quick charging system, the rest of the device’s specifications are firmly top-shelf as well.

Key Photographic / Video Specifications

  • Dual-camera
  • 16MP 1/2.8″ Sony IMX 398 sensor and F1.7 lens
  • 20MP 1/2.8″ Sony IMX 350 sensor and F2.6 lens
  • Dual-LED flash
  • 4K video
  • 720p/120fps slow-motion
  • Portrait Mode
  • Manual controls
  • DNG-Raw support
  • 16MP / F2.0 front camera

Other Specifications

  • 5.5″ AMOLED 1080p display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 6GB RAM/64GB storage or 8GB RAM/128GB storage
  • USB Type-C
  • Fingerprint reader
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • 3300 mAh battery with Dash Charge

DPReview smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance, and image quality.

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Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

01 Oct

I was fortunate enough to get hold of the new Spekular Modular LED kit from the people at Spiffy Gear a little bit earlier than most. So I’ve been using it for a couple of months now on everything from a personal portrait project to a product shoot of a whole load of shoes, and lots of other things in between.

In the box with the Spekular Modular LED kit

The kit comes in a handy carry case that keeps all of the gear together. You get four of the Spekular LED bars (I’m just going to call them bars, you might want to call them something else) and clips to join them together, along with a mounting connector that has a metal 1/4″-20 thread. This allows you to screw it onto a light stand, or as I’ve been doing, onto a tripod base-plate and using it on top of a tripod, which allows me to move the light where I need it. You get a multi-voltage power supply and a bit of documentation in the box, too.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

The kit ships with a regular power supply and plugs in and is controlled very easily on one of the light bar units, with the power running from what would be 0% to 100% in step-less increments. There is also an external battery kit that you can pick up if you’re looking to use Spekular away from a power outlet.

Setting it up

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

The mounting bracket that is included simply slips along the back of any of the light bar units. You can adjust exactly where you’d like it to be connected to the unit, and then you simply connect it to a light stand or via a tripod plate or any other stand/magic arm with a 1/4″-20 connector.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Let us move swiftly on! Take a look at how the unit works and what it can do, according to the Spiffy Gear video below, and then we’ll get on with how well it worked for me in real-world situations!

Using Spekular in the real world

I’ve read a little of what others are saying around the web, a few people mentioned that they don’t like the specular highlights the kit gives, to which I’d say, “So set it up differently!

You can set the unit up as something that resembles a traditional rectangular LED panel, or you can set two kits up as a crazy epic star-like looking thing! As with any art/photography, the resultant look you’re after is subjective, and that’s fine! You can get seriously creative with this Spekular Modular LED kit, and that flexibility really impressed me.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Spekular for portraits

The first shoot I took the Spekular kit along to was one of my own. It’s a portrait series that I’m working on, based on men’s mental health. The Spekular kit was on a Kupo Click light stand slightly above and forward of my camera position.

It was only a test, but I was very happy with the results! (Yes, that’s a self-portrait below, I’m taking the photograph using Sony’s Play Memories with my A7R II).

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Spekular for product shoots

The other main use I’ve had with the Spekular kit was on a spur of the moment product shoot for a friend. I needed to photograph 20 pairs of shoes for a website. This is something I’ve not done much of, but I was very interested to try out the kit and see if it could provide the results that were needed for this job.

The thing I found about using the Spekular kit was that it provided a really great quality of even light when positioned correctly. I used a Kupo C-Stand and positioned Spekular, set up in a square format, over the top and slightly forward of the product. This really cut down on shadows!

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Yes, these shoes have wings!

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Great, even light for products.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

The shoes were photographed for a web-store, my friend was very happy – yay.

Each light bar puts out 14.5W of light which is kinda similar to a 150W halogen light. The lights have a 94+ CRI (CR-What? Read What CRI is here)

So, what’s the verdict?

Still not convinced? Here’s another video showing the Spekular LED light in use.

What did I like about the Spekular Modular LED light system? In two words, almost everything. The build quality is great, the unit stays level when attached from one side, it doesn’t twist like plastic units tend to do. I’d love to start using the kit with a battery pack to make it a little more portable.

One of the things I need to work on, but fixed very easily with Rosco Cinefoil ($ 34 for 25′ of the stuff) was the light spread. Naturally LED lights don’t tend to be super focused, so you need to find a way to shape them if that is the look you’re after. I found it very simple to do using flags or Cinefoil kind of shaped like barn-doors.

In my opinion, the Spekular kit is very good value compared to other options on the market considering what you get, how well it appears to be built (keep in mind I’ve only had the kit since July 5th), and how well it works.

Spiffy suggests that Spekular is “the Swiss army knife of LED lighting,” and I’d tend to agree! Well done!

Five Stars, Spiffy Gear, Five stars!

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Review of the DJI Spark Drone

27 Sep

DJI doesn’t particularly need an introduction. Their Phantom series brought drone video to the average Joe, while the Mavic Pro brought it closer to the tech and vloggers communities. Now, the DJI Spark aims to bring it to everybody. This tiny wonder goes places no toy drone could hope to go and really packs the tech of its older siblings into a tiny package.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Specs of the DJI Spark

The DJI Spark is not much more than palm-sized, and I don’t have particularly big hands. Weighing in at 300 grams (little more than half a pound), you’d think it wouldn’t be up to much, but as I live close to the sea, most of my flights have been in high winds. The DJI Spark has coped admirably, especially considering its petite frame.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Aerial views are a breeze in the wind with the DJI Spark.

Toy drones for practice

Let me give you a little of my drone background. I’ve wanted a drone for ages, but with my history of new gear accidents, added to seeing some of my friends destroy really expensive drones, I avoided getting a good one. Instead, I bought loads of toy drones and learned to fly them. While my agenda was always to get a proper drone, flying toy drones is a lot of fun. Best of all, the price means you’re not afraid of crashing them. I found this a great way to get comfortable with flying.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

A seascape frame from a DJI Spark video.

Let’s look at the rest of the DJI Spark’s specs. It has a 12MP JPEG only stills mode, with video capabilities limited to 1080p 30fps video. This camera sits on a 2-axis gimbal, which, while not in the league of the 3-axis capabilities of bigger drones, works quite well in practice.

The field of view is 25mm equivalent and looks great. The battery is an intelligent type and has its own firmware independent of the drone itself. Charge time is quick, and as well as the dedicated charger, there’s a micro USB port on the drone that can be used to charge the battery. That’s handy when you’re out and have a power bank at the ready.

DJI Spark Options

The DJI Spark comes as a standalone device, flown via the DJI Go 4 app for $ 499 and as the Fly More kit combo with a controller, spare battery, prop guards, 3 battery charger and a bag for $ 699. Don’t waste your money on the basic version. Get the kit. Why?

Well, flight time is quoted at 16 minutes, but it’s less in practice. You’ll need the extra battery after your first flight because you’ll want to fly more! But the main reason is the controller. With just the phone, you’re limited to using an ad hoc phone Wi-Fi network to control the Spark. This is a meager 30m radius. You’ll run out of fun really quickly.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

In Flight

Now for the crucial question. How does it fly? After flying toy drones for a while, I’m well used to how the controls work. My left hand has throttle and spin, with the right doing forward/back and left/right. It becomes natural quickly. Because the DJI Spark uses GPS for positioning, as soon as you stop flying, the drone stops moving. It’s locked solidly in place.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

I began using the Beginner mode from the phone only and moved to the controller once I was comfortable. Beginner mode reduces both the distance and speed the Spark can travel. It’s perfect for learning the ropes.

There’s one thing I will stress. Compared to toy drones, the Spark almost flies itself. It makes me regret not getting a proper drone sooner. However, those toy drones did give me more confidence in flying. If you’ve been holding out and just want a drone with a quality camera for basic photography, this is the one for you.

Issues

Are there any issues with the DJI Spark? Yes. I’m happy enough to use JPEG and there are exposure controls available, but there is one thing that I’m not happy about, sharpening issues. In-camera sharpening on the files is horrible. I’m sure they would print fine, but looking at the files at 100%, it’s just horrible. There’s no way to turn it down either. Obviously, DNG would be better, but that’s a selling point of the Mavic Pro.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

100% view showing the weird sharpening and artifacts with the JPEG.

The flight time for the Spark is quite low in comparison to its older siblings. It’s quite long compared to toy drones though and comparing battery sizes, it’s not a wonder. For the size of the drone, the flight time is acceptable.

The App

The DJI Go 4 app is easy to use and contains all the information you need while flying. High wind warnings, along with information on the home point and general flying information show on the screen as you fly. Height, distance and velocity show on the bottom of the screen. There’s a compass in the bottom left. Always check the direction the drone is facing before take off so you can align the drone if it goes out of visual range.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Gesture Control

The big selling point in DJI’s advertising is Gesture Control. To use this, you power it on (single tap, then long hold on the power button), then tap twice. If the sensors pick you up, the props will start to rotate and the Spark will take off.

A series of gestures control the device and placing your hand under it will make it land on your palm. Does it work? Yes, it does. Is it a gimmick? Yep, it’s fun, but only up to a point. Flying with the controller is the only way to go. You get bored with the Jedi palm control rather quickly, though most people find it really impressive.

Sport Mode

In the center of the controller is a button marked sport. This removes the handbrake and turns the Spark into a fun monster. It isn’t immediately obvious that you don’t need the app to fly the Spark. Turn on the controller, then turn on the Spark. Once connected you can fly the Spark directly from the controller with Sport mode on.

I found that it wouldn’t fly for me without Sport mode on. Aim the two joysticks in and down to start the propellors, then throttle to take off. Enjoy! It’s fast and furious, but watch out with braking as it needs room to stop or reverse even.

Verdict

The DJI Spark is a great starter drone with a usable camera. It’s fun to use and easy to fly. If you need 4K and DNG, don’t even look at it, go for the Mavic Pro. If these aren’t an issue, you’ll love the Spark, but save yourself some pain and get the kit version.

Pros

  • Small size.
  • Stable even in high winds.
  • Good mix of control options.
  • Beginner mode useful for learning to fly, as is the in-app Flight Academy.
  • Fun. It’s just loads of fun, especially in controller only Sport mode.
  • Controller flying is great.

Cons

  • JPEG only, with terrible sharpening.
  • 1080p with only 30fps. Obviously, a tactic to upsell to one of the big brothers.
  • Low flight time; acceptable, but still a con.
  • Needs controller for best use, but the kit is a great value.

The post Review of the DJI Spark Drone by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Review: Affinity Photo 1.5.2 for desktop

21 Sep

Affinity Photo for desktop (Mac + PC)
$ 50 | Affinity.Serif.com | Buy Now

Usually, the price of software comes at the end of the review, but with Affinity Photo 1.5, the image editor for Mac and Windows, the price is the starting point, along with a prominent qualifier from the product’s website: ‘No subscription.’

Key Features

  • Professional editing tools for almost anyone who needs to manipulate images
  • Edits are mostly non-destructive
  • Windows and Mac support
  • Inexpensive, with no subscription required
  • Batch processing

Affinity Photo’s developer, Serif, knows its audience. When Adobe shifted Photoshop and nearly all of its other products to a subscription model in 2013, it prompted an outcry from customers who didn’t want to be locked into a perpetual fee. Four years later, despite the move being apparently successful for Adobe, subscription pricing continues to be a point of contention for many people, turning into an opportunity for developers like Serif.

If you’re already familiar with Adobe’s flagship, it won’t take long to orient yourself in Affinity Photo.

However, simply offering a less expensive image editor isn’t enough. We’re beyond the point where photographers will put up with limited software to save a few bucks, and with Affinity Photo, we don’t have to. You won’t find some of the specialized features Photoshop includes, such as its 3D tools, but most everything else is there – sometimes to Affinity Photo’s detriment.

Getting Started

Affinity Photo’s personas break up the editing experience into five main categories.

Software should be evaluated on its own merits, and for the most part I’m looking at Affinity Photo through that lens. How does it perform for photographers? Does it get in the way when handling familiar operations? Does it improve the editing experience? Comparisons to Photoshop inevitably come up, and I’ll refer to them when needed, but this isn’t specifically a comparative review between Affinity Photo and Photoshop.

That said, if you’re already familiar with Adobe’s flagship, it won’t take long to orient yourself in Affinity Photo. If photo editing beyond the basics is new to you, it’s easy to pick up.

Working modes, aka ‘Personas’

Affinity Photo is built around four working modes, referred to as “personas,” each of which contains its own specialized tools. These personas include: Photo, Develop, Tone Mapping and Export.

The Photo persona is the main editing interface, with adjustments, layers, masks, and the like. The Liquify persona is a playground for distorting areas when retouching (creating an editable mesh of the entire image and then pushing and pulling the pixels to do things like make areas seem slimmer or to correct distortion). The Develop persona kicks in when opening a raw file for pre-processing, akin to Adobe Camera Raw. The Tone Mapping persona is exclusive for working with HDR (high dynamic range) effects, which can apply to single images as well as several merged shots. And lastly, the Export persona provides tools for creating versions of the image outside the application, from specifying file types and compression levels to preset slices.

You’ll also find tools for painting and drawing, including extensive controls for creating and manipulating brushes, but for the sake of brevity, I’m looking at the application in terms of editing photos.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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