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You don’t ordinarily think of looking at drones at the Wedding and Portrait Photography International Conference & Expo. However, DJI had a booth there showing off the new Mavic Pro.


At the DJI booth, representative Laura Schutz showed me the company’s newest drone. She emphasized that drones are now simpler to fly. And drones are now much more affordable.

Users have invented innovative ways to use drones for airborne photography. DJI, a pioneer in the industry, recently released the Mavic Pro which builds on the simpler and affordable features.



The Mavic Pro is compact. When not in use, the rotor arms fold tightly against the unit’s body making it easy to store and transport.

Owing to its efficient motors, flying time is up to 27 minutes at 40 mph.

The unit’s remote controller has a range of more than 4 miles. It can send livestream directly to popular smartphones.

Mavic Pro has five built-in sensors that can detect and avoid obstacles during flight. There is also a set of backup sensors that can take over in case one is malfunctioning.


Specifically for photography is a camera that shoots 4K at 30fps mounted on 3-axis gimbal for smooth, jumpfree video. Stills are captured at 12MP.

Its GPS capabilities enable accurate positioning whatever your location.

In “ActiveTrack” mode, the drone follows or flies alongside the subject.

In “Gesture Mode”, the Mavic follows you until you give it the go-ahead to snap your “selfie”.

The “Terrain Follow” mode flies the drone at a fixed altitude above the ground.


This Mavic Pro is taking video footage of me.

The Mavic Pro has many features which set it apart from other drones. The DJI website has many videos that demonstrate these features.


The suggested price of the Mavic Pro is $1000.

For more information about the Mavic Pro, please visit DJI.


 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

Mylio – Organization +

24th March 2015

Organizing your Collections

The proliferation of high quality mobile devices has given professional and non-professional photographers alike more alternatives for capturing, storing, managing and displaying their images. But at the same time using multiple devices has made it more difficult for them to keep their collections orderly.

At the Mylio booth at the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo I stopped to have a demonstration of their software and service that addresses many of the issues that crop up when using multiple devices.

Mylio bills its product as a rich photo management system to organize, edit, synchronize and safeguard a large collection of images.


Harry Wendt gave me a quick demo


Henry showed me that changes to an image on a laptop are immediately synchronized to a second computer, a tablet and a smartphone. You can choose to backup images to the cloud for additional security.

Mylio has three levels of service for $50/year, $100/year and $250/year that let you synchronize up to three, five or twelve devices respectively. The two higher levels integrate with Lightroom and let you edit RAW images as well.

As I was unable to spend more time at the demo, I plan to do a more lengthy review of this service as it seems to include many useful features.


For more information about this service, please visit Mylio.

 
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 


The Consumer Electronics Show – Accessories for Photographers

 

I’ve been attending the Consumer Electronics Show for more than 30 years. This huge expo is the premier showcase for new and innovative products that are slated for homes and businesses this year.

 

While walking the several miles of aisles at the Las Vegas Convention Center, a couple of areas especially caught my attention: 3D printers and drones. You can read my show reports here: 3D Printing Technology and Drones.

 

But as someone who also has a keen interest in photography, here are a few of the photo accessories that stood out at the show.


Hisy and Halo Remotes

 

Here’s are two tiny little accessories for those of you who are fans of “selfies”.

 

Basically the Hisy and Halo are bluetooth shutter release for you smartphone. The Hisy is for iOS devices and the Halo is for Android devices.

To the right is the “selfie” of Jackie and myself that we took with her Android smartphone.

They also have the Wing – a selfie stick.

The suggested price of the Hisy and Halo is $24.99. The suggested price of the Wing is $29.95.

For more information, please visit HisyPix.

 



Nanuk Camera Cases

If you’re rough on your camera equipment, you may want to look at Nanuk’s cases. PlastiCase makes some very durable protective cases.

Below is one of their smaller cases. It’s made of a impact resistant plastic, has sure-lock latches, soft-grip handle and is waterproof. This 903 model easily accommodates one of my mirrorless cameras with an 18-200mm lens attached. I’ve removed the foam padding to show the spacing.

The Model 903 has a very affordable suggested price of $25.

 

PlastiCase makes about two dozen different cases in various sizes. For more info, please visit PlastiCase.

 



EnerPlex Solar

EnerPlex is a manufacturer of a variety of solar chargers.

If you’re shooting out in the field for any length of time and run out of juice, these solar chargers may prove invaluable. They are compact, foldable and ruggedized.

On the right, you can see solar chargers built into backpacks. EnerPlex has two backpack models: Packr Executive $130 and Packr Commuter $100.


Kickr IV+ on left produces 6 watts nx Kickr II in center produces 33 watts

Commander-XII produces 19 watts for laptops and tablets

For more info, please visit EnerPlex.

 



Thule Camera Bags

Thule is probably best known as the maker of the well-built and ergonomic car top carriers.

This Swedish company also has a stylish line of camera bags and backpacks.


I found their line of bags to be both attractive and practical.

Their new Legend GoPro Backpack was introduced at the show.

Designed and built for rugged outdoor use, you can mount two GoPro cameras directly to the backpack – one forward-facing the other backward-facing. The outermost compartment has die-cut foam insert for GoPro accessories. It’s lightweight and crushproof (EVA shell) and has several other padded compartments for safe transport of camera accessories, hydration reservoir and smartphone.

Thule tells me that the Legend GoPro Backpack will be available in May. Suggested price is $199.

For more info, please visit Thule.

 



Meikon Diving Equipment

For divers and shooters needing protection against water, Meikon had a large array of waterproof housings and accessories for many popular camera models.

On display were housings for Sony mirrorless, Nikon D7000, Canon 5D, Canon M, Canon T2i, T3i, T4i, T5i, Panasonic GF2, GF3, GF5 and GF6.

Meikon also has a nice selection lighting equipment and brackets.

For more info, please visit Meikon.

 



 
 

This concludes my reports from CES.

As usual, I’m excited when I return home from CES. Maybe a few of my finds will get added to my wish list for this year.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
Updated 02/20/2015
 
 


 

CES 2015 – The Drones

24th January 2015

The Consumer Electronics Show – Drones

 

For more than 30 years, I’ve started the New Year with a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show. CES is the premier showcase for new and innovative techie products that are in line to hit the store shelves.

This year I notice the proliferation of 3D printers and picture-taking drones at the show.

Earlier, I wrote a short article about 3D Printing Technology that I saw at CES.

There’s plenty of controversy surrounding the use drones for commercial purposes, manufacturers from around the world are gearing up for battle as they try to outdo each other on features, price, and speed to market. This article presents several of the picture-taking drones that I saw at the show.


Robotix Ghost+

This is the Ghost+ quadcopter.

Its payload is a GoPro camera mounted on a controllable gimbal and has a GPS receiver, gyroscopic controller for smooth flight, retractable landing skids and can stay airborne for 18 minutes.

The WiFi module lets you stream the video remotely to a smartphone and/or tablet.

The suggested price of the Ghost+ is $1300.

For more information about the Ghost+, please visit Thunder Tiger Group.

 


DJI Inspire 1

This is DJI’s newest model – Inspire 1. It has a bult-in gimbal-mounted 4K video camera that can be remotely positioned, real-time feed to the controller and automatic takeoff and landing.


while in the air, the landing pods fold into the “up” position for obstruction-free video recording

Price is $3400 with dual remotes – one for flight control and the other for camera control.

For more info, please visit DJI.

 


Proto-X FPV

The FPV quadcopter is equipped with a 1280 x 720p video camera.

Notice that the controller has a built-in video screen that displays the captured video in real time. It is gyro stabilized for steady movie.

The suggested price is $350.

For more info, please contact Hobbico 


Zano – the nano drone

Zano calls itself a “sophisticated nano drone”. It’s so small that it fits in the palm of your hand.

Your smartphone or tablet is the controller. Simply tilt your phone left, right, forward or backward and the Zano follows. Other onscreen icons control the altitude, rotation, capture, etc.

This is a prototype model and Zano tells me that production begins in July 2015. Price in UK Pounds £170.

For more information, please visit Zano.


 

As a former participant in the flight simulation industry, I’m in awe of the drone “landscape”.

As I watch these new models flying at CES, I am amazed at how quickly the technology surrounding drones has progressed. In addition to highly competitive prices, these devices are much easier to fly – many with auto takeoff and auto landing capability – and features such as gimbals, streaming and navigation are truly impressive.

Written by: Arnie Lee


 

For Movies on the Move

For several years now, GoPro has demonstrated the overwhelming popularity of action videos. They have built an empire of a business around its brand.

Sony’s HDR-AS100V and newer, yet slightly smaller HDR-AZ1 cameras are the center of their video system for recording action in the field. Both units pack lots of features into a very compact space: 1080p with image stabilization, stereo sound, high speed recording, 170-degree view, interval recoding, and WiFi and NFC equipped and GPS (AS100V only).

They are ruggedized and are waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof without having to purchase additional accessories.

This AZ1 which is 2/3 the size of the AS100V, is mounted on a drone. Using an optional Live-View Remote (RM-LVR2V) which straps to your wrist you can control the AZ1, change settings and view the playback from afar.

The included Action Cam Movie Creator software lets edit your footage into complete, quality movies using the special recording features e.g. high speed recording, merging multiple clips into a single clip, etc.

 
 
There are a whole host of accessories for the Action Cam system including various camera mounts and straps for bicycling, surfing, boating, diving, snow sports and skateboarding.

List price for AS100V is $279 and for the AZ1 is $249. For more information, see the Sony ActionCam webpage.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

Removing the Shakes

30th March 2014

Stabilizers for Shooting Video

As I was making my way through the 300+ exhibitor booths at this month’s Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo I was reminded how important video has become to this part of the photo industry.

For quality smooth videos, photographers rely on stabilizers to remove the shakes. At the lower end of the spectrum is the iPhone and GoPro. With proper stabilization, these cameras are capable of shooting very decent videos.

Tiffen has two accessories: one for iPhone and another for the GoPro Hero: the Curve and the Smoothee.


Tiffen Smoothee
Tiffen Curve

The “Smoothee” is for an iPhone

The “Curve” is a lightweight stabilizer for the GoPro Hero

The Steadicam Smoothee is a small single handle device with a quick-release mount for the iPhone. It sells for $150. For more information, please visit Steadicam Smoothee

The Steadicam Curve is specifically designed and balanced for the various models of the GoPro Hero. The price is $100 and is available in four colors. For more information, please visit Steadicam Curve

Both the Smoothee and the Curve are lightweight and allow the photographer to easily move alongside the subject while recording smooth videos.


For larger cameras, a solid tripod with a robust fluid head is most often used. But for hand-held applications, photographers will want to turn to a portable video rig.

One such rig is the Comodo Orbit.


The “Orbit” stabilizer from Comodo is designed for much larger cameras.

This is a lightweight, hand-held gimbal rig built for DLSRs

The twin grips make the rig easier to handle especially when shooting for extended periods of time. The grips also double as a floor stand. With its gimbal mount, the camera is free to pivot to its stabilized position. The Orbit sells for $1500. For more information please visit Comodo.

 
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 


In Search of Nemo

11th June 2013

Underwater Photography – Blllllrrrrrpppp!

For those of us who spend their winters in the frigid cold, surrounded by ice and snow for months at a time, a visit to the tropics is a blessing. To me, the mention of the tropics brings warmth and water to mind. And that’s precisely what we were after when we booked a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.

The weather there is predictably warm so it’s easy to pack: a couple of bathing suits, a few pairs of shorts and several shirts. And don’t forget the snorkeling equipment! As an avid picture-taker, my luggage also includes a camera or two so that I can record the events that we may encounter.

The least enjoyable part of the trip is getting there. It’s an all day affair starting with a short hop from our home in Grand Rapids to Chicago followed by a very long, 9-hour flight from Chicago to Honolulu.

Clouds covered most of the flight path to the islands. These sparkling beaches of Oahu (to the right) are about the only sites that we see along the way and this only upon leaving Honolulu on a 45 minute connecting flight to Kona.

And owing to a six hour time difference, we arrive in time for dinner.


Being in the middle of the Pacific, there’s water galore everywhere. The next morning, with our snorkeling gear in tow we head down to one of the local beaches.

For this trip, I’ve taken a camera that can be used underwater. I’ve never invested the thousands of dollars needed for a “real” underwater outfit, but this Olympus Tough 6000 will do the trick.


The Big Island is surrounded by shallow reefs lined with coral. Many of the popular beaches attract bathers for this exact reason. The coral is teeming with tropical fish and wildlife just a few feet below the water’s surface.

Without heavy scuba equipment and expensive deep water photo gear, my small, relatively inexpensive camera makes it possible for me to record these amazing wonders of the ocean. Here’s some of my “catch” made simply by gently kicking my flippers, goggles and snorkel facing downward and camera in hand.






Colorful sea anemone among the coral.

We even spotted this mermaid among the coral!

Big Island Turtle – my wife captured this short video of a turtle that was swimming nearby.

A lovely sunset on the Big Island

 
So I returned home with a slight tan, a relaxed body and a nice set of photos of some spectacularly colorful fish. Of course these photos aren’t of the same quality that you’d expect from a full-blown underwater outfit. But I’m happy just the same having recorded some of nature’s gorgeous water landscapes with a very affordable camera.
 
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

You needn’t panic if you accidently delete your photos from your memory card.


You probably move (or at least you should move) your important photos regularly from your memory card to a safer and more permanent location. But what can you do when the original images stored on your memory card never make it to your computer?

What can you do besides PANIC if you accidently delete or format the memory card before you’re able to move the photos?

This can happen to anyone at anytime (usually the wrong time). The good news is that you may be able to use recovery software to recover some, and hopefully all, of the deleted photos from your memory card – SD, CF, MMC, and most other cards.

Photo recovery software is designed specifically to recover deleted photos. You can find many affordable recovery programs on the Internet (usually from $19 to $39). All of these programs have similar features and the good news is that none require expert knowledge to use. Most programs have a trial version that you can download and install. You install the software, connect your camera to your computer (or insert your memory card into a card reader connected to your computer) and run the recovery software. This lets you run the program first to test whether it can recover any missing photos.

The program then displays thumbnails of the files it can recover. Then you have the option of buying a registration key for the program and recover the files. If you purchase a registration key, select the thumbnail image(s) you wish to recover and save them (for obvious reasons) to a new location.

One important note is that Windows unfortunately may not recognize your camera as a drive, which is what happened with my Canon XSi. If so, you’ll have to use a memory card reader but they’re not very expensive ($10 to $20).

Make certain to set aside enough time for the program to work. It depends, of course, on how many files are on your memory card but it took some of these programs thirty minutes or so to check out my SD card.
(more…)

Extreme Sports Camera

06th April 2011

Review of the Eagle Eye

 

From the title, you might think that I participate in extreme sports. Hah, this is far-from-the-truth. Instead, the title is to let you know that there’s a camera that is rugged enough to be used by enthusiasts that do in fact participate in extreme sports.

Let’s move on. In a few days, I’ll be off to the Sierra Nevadas for some easy and leisurely Spring skiing.

In the past, I’ve always lugged a camera around to capture the action. This year, I’ve decided that I would try a different tact.

My goal was to find a small camera that lets me easily record the action. I wanted one that lets me move around “hands-free” like a skier instead of a photographer. So I did a little online research and decided to pick up an Eagle Eye HD sports camera.

The Eagle Eye is a compact video/still camera that comes with a bundle of accessories.

There’s both a 110 volt and an automobile adapter for recharging the battery in-camera; a second lithium battery; two adapters for mounting on different size straps; another adapter for mounting on handlebars; several adhesive cushions for mounting on a helmet; a USB cable and a mini-HDMI cable.


The Eagle Eye doesn’t look like a conventional camera.

It’s shaped like an oversized mobile phone from ten years ago. The outside case is completely rubber coated, making it less likely to injury should it take a fall.

On its face is a small 1-1/2″ LCD for and menu buttons for entering camera settings. The LCD is tiny but is a welcome feature since it lets you review your photos and videos in the field.

The menu functions are similar to most point-and-shoot cameras: set video resolution; white balance; contrast; exposure compensation; power-saving features; format the SD card; internal clock.


On top are two buttons that each have two functions.

Left: when held down for two seconds, powers the camera on/off the camera; otherwise is the shutter release for still photos.

Right: when held down for two seconds, puts the camera into review mode; otherwise is the shutter release for videos.


To make it less susceptible to water damage, the back cover is securely held is place with a tight fitting lock. You’ll have to use a bit of pressure to open the interior compartment.

Inside is the lithium ion battery and slot for a standard SD or SDHC card.

There are also two connectors: one a USB cable and the other a mini HDMI cable.


Here, I’ve used one of the included mounts to attach the camera to my ski goggles.

Given that it weighs only 6 ounces or so, it is comfortable to wear and is not obtrusive.


I took a few stills and videos to make sure that it was working.

Without further testing, I don’t think you’ll want to use this for taking those all-important wedding photos.

Here’s a still taken indoors which I’d rate as just “acceptable”.


However, I am more impressed with the test HD video video. The resolution is a full 1920 x 1080 pixels. The faces are totally in focus and the action smooth.

 

 


My experience with Eagle Eye HD so far is based on an hour or so of becoming familiar with its use.

I’ll complete the review of this camera after I return from my ski trip. I hope to have the results in ten days or so. As already mentioned, since I’m not an extreme sportsman, I may have my two expert-skiing sons help with the review.

 

Coincidentally, I purchased the Eagle Eye from Stuntcams.com. They are located in Grand Rapids only a few miles from our offices where Mike gave me the run-down on this camera. It sells for $249. Stuntcams.com also sells many other sports cameras.

 

Please note that Stay Focused has no connection to Stuntcams.com.

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 


A Look at the Panasonic Real 3D W3 camera

 

I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t particularly interested in 3D photography and video until I took a walk through the aisles of CES this past January.

Among the major television makers LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Sony all had huge displays demonstrating some very impressive 3D capabilities.

From the fanfare that they were lavishing on their new equipment, it appears that the major electronics manufacturers are counting on 3D to be a big part of their revenue in the next few years.

Here’s an audience of viewers at the Panasonic booth being wowed with a wall-sized 3D movie.

To use any of the new 3D televisions, you’ll need those cool 3D glasses to watch the new content but not the glasses which sport the cheap bi-color lenses; instead you’ll need to use battery-powered glasses that must be matched to the television manufacturer.


Here’s a set of battery powered glasses for my Panasonic 3D television.

As I understand it, a 3D television image is displayed as an alternating pair of left eye/right eye images. So the left eye image appears each 1/60th of a second and the right eye image the next 1/60th of a second.

Each lens of the glasses contains a shutter. The shutter covering the left-eye opens each 1/60th of a second and the shutter covering the right-eye opens alternating 1/60th of a second. At this rate, the brain sees the alternating images as a single one in 3D.


Several companies are already producing 3D capture devices.

Panasonic is taking steps to support 3D with this stereo lens set that fits on their Micro Four-Thirds cameras.

This has two separate lenses that produces a set of digital image that can be displayed directly on their 3D television.


I stopped at the Fuji booth to watch a demo of their 3D camera.

Well, after a short ten minute introduction, I was hooked. After the show, I ordered one to try out the 3D features for myself.

This is the Fuji Real 3D W3 camera. You can see its two lenses are spaced apart about the same distance as your eyes. When you press the shutter, it captures two simultaneous images from slightly different viewpoints – left side and right side.

In fact, each lens is a 3X optical zoom that can also record a 10-megapixel image independently of one another. But when in 3D mode, the lenses are set to work synchronously.


On the back is a oversized 3.5″ LCD. But unlike a standard LCD, the one lets you view the 3D image without the need for special glasses.

In playback, the camera combine the two separate left and right images and displays them on a high resolution, 1.1 megapixel lenticular lens system to simulate the 3D effect and minimizes flickering and crosstalk (double exposure).


This picture of me is the closest that I can come to showing you how a 3D image looks on the W3’s LCD.

If you were viewing it on the W3, you’d see that my outstretched hand is clearly in front of my face and the gentleman behind me is very distant.

When viewed live, the 3D images are very impressive.


Likewise, you can just as easily capture and playback 3D videos with the W3. Press the video button and it’s ready to record 720p HD movies when you press the shutter.

To view the video on a larger screen, you’ll have to connect the camera to the 3D television with an HDMI cable. My Panasonic 3D television has an SD-slot so I can just insert the SD-card from the camera, precluding the need for the HDMI cable. Playback on a 3D television is very cool. In 3D video mode, the W3 truly gives you the Avatar-like effect.

Although designed especially for 3D photographs and video, it’s also a very capable and unique camera for “normal” 2D photographs.

Three different modes let the W3 capture two images at different zoom factors; two images with different ISO sensitivities; or two different images with different color attributes (black and white; chrome) all with a single press of the shutter.


3D photos and video are cool. But to really take advantage of the impact of 3D, you’ll need a 3D television – something that is bound to slow the adoption of cameras such as this.

As a side note, I’ve used the Sony Alpha A55 extensively and one of the features that it offers is one called 3D Sweep Panorama. Activate this feature, press the shutter and pan the camera (in a sweeping motion) and the camera automatically captures a 3D panorama image. While you cannot see the 3D effect in-camera, you can display it on a 3D television. Sony has several other less expensive compact cameras with the 3D Sweep Panorama feature so 3D is definitely on the minds of camera manufacturers.


In the short amount of time that I’ve spent exploring 3D, I’ve found that the Fuji W3 is a relatively inexpensive yet exciting way for me to add this new dimension.

 

I purchased the Real 3D W3 in February at a cost of just slightly over $300. For more information about the W3 visit Fujifilm.

For more information about the 3D stereo lens set contact Panasonic.

For more information about the 3D Sweep Panorama feature contact Sony.

 

Please note that Stay Focused has no connection to Fujifilm.

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 


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