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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
 
 


A Walk around CES – Part 2

14th February 2012

More “goodies” at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

(more…)

This article is a followup to Part 1 in which I describe a few of the photographic items that attracted my attention as I was scouring the venues of the Consumer Electronics Show. In this Part 2 article, I’ll show you some of the other items that I found interesting at this year’s record breaking CES.

I’m a geek at heart. And since I like touching, feeling and learning about devices and gadgets that perform some kind of magic, the miles of aisles taking up some 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space -are a playground for me. Apparently there are a few others that feel the same way; attendance at the show was north of 150,000.

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

 


Unique Features of the Sony Alpha A55

The Sony Alpha A55 has a long list of features – some of which you may find in a few other cameras and others that are unique only to the A55. But taken together they they make the A55 a very compelling piece of equipment.

In Part 1, I talked about the “standard” features of the A55.

In this part of the review, I’ll key in on several of these features that are both unique and innovative.

The first three features are possible because of the A55’s translucent mirror.


Electronic Viewfinder

The first time I used the A55, I was surprised when I put my eye up to the viewfinder. In place of a conventional reflex viewfinder used in DSLRs, the A55 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The resulting image is somewhat similar to what I might see on a miniature television.

A big advantage is that the image in the EVF can be overlaid with a variety of information as you can see below.


viewfinder displaying the level gauge in the center


viewfinder displaying histogram at bottom right

viewfinder showing changeable settings

Having used a dozen or more DLSRs extensively, it took me about a week to get used to the EVF. As a wearer of eyeglasses I was able to set the built-in diopter adjustment correctly for my vision. The image is bright and clear owing to the 1.1 megapixel viewfinder screen, a high refresh rate (60fps). The EVF also has 100% field coverage. I especially like the level gauge that helps to align the horizon.

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