Articles on iPhone related photography and apps.

Product Review: Oowa Lenses

Mobile photography has become so popular within the last few years thanks to the advances in the technology mobile devices use. With iPhones spitting out billboard-worthy photos, there seems to be an ever-growing trend to see which mobile device can capture the best image. Using just the device, however, may have its limitations—and that’s where the accessory industry comes into play. With so many options to choose from though, how are we to know which one is worthy of your money?

Oowa, started as a Kickstarter campaign, and with their lenses created by DynaOptics Ltd., claims they are “revolutionizing mobile photography with free-form optics.” Free-form optics? Here’s what they say about this, taken directly from their website:

“Our patent-pending, free-form technology is uniquely optimized for translating the image circle onto the iPhone’s rectangular sensor. This results in superior edge-to-edge image quality with no dark corners and no color bleeding. Mobile photography will never be the same again.”

Oowa free-form optics technology

In short, their lenses are optimized to the device’s rectangular sensor by way of optimizing a rectangular portion of the image area of their lenses. This sounds fancy and all, so I was excited when I received an email from them to test out their set of iPhone lenses. Are they really revolutionary though? Let’s find out!

Oowa Pro Kit contents

Note: This review isn’t intended to be technical in any way—there will be no studying graphs or charts here. My on-the-field photos are taken and observed as is, giving you real-world examples. While test charts and graphs may prove one set of lenses to be sharper/better than another, seeing things out on the field is how I like to determine the lenses to use for my purposes.

Oowa telephoto lens with lens hood

All sample photos are taken with an iPhone 6s Plus. All sample images have been resized for the web. Other than that, they are unedited images as seen from the iPhone camera.

Oowa wide angle lens out in the field on an iPhone 6s Plus

The Oowa set of lenses that were sent to me have a close competitor to them, called Moment—which also started as a Kickstarter campaign. Where I can, I have compared the photos created with Oowa lenses with those made with the Moment set of equivalent lenses. If you’re interested in seeing my review on the Moment set of lenses and cases for my iPhone, you can read the Moment lens and case review here.

The Pro Kit

The Pro Kit consists of a case for your phone that acts as the adaptor to their lenses: the 15mm wide angle lens, and the 75mm telephoto lens. The telephoto lens also comes with a flare hood, and both lenses come with a lens cap to protect the front glass, and a lens pouch to carry each lens in.

Oowa Pro kit contents

The Case

The Oowa case is simple, minimal, and to my surprise, quite comfortable to hold. It’s sleek and smooth design adds minimal bulk to your iPhone, which is always great. The button openings on the case are big enough for you to access the buttons, but I find that the buttons are inset too much to actually be able to switch and/or press the buttons with ease. Perhaps this is just my bulky fingers, but I find the need to use the tips of my fingers to actually make use of the buttons. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but is just a little inconvenient at times.

Oowa case with button holes

The case is made of plastic, but seems sturdy enough to withstand low-impact moments. The flat back is actually quite slippery to the touch, so I have had instances where it has easily slipped out of my hands. The purpose of the case is to be able to attach their set of lenses on to the iPhone. This is done through the threaded opening surrounding the camera area. There are no markings or anything, which can be problematic to some as I’ll explain further below.

Oowa lens attachment thread on the case

The Lens

15mm

As a photographer who loves taking landscape photos, I love wide angle lenses. The photos that come out of them pull you into the scene and surround you with beauty. At 15mm, this is much wider than the 18mm wide angle lens I was using with my iPhone. How does this compare with the regular iPhone lens? Let’s see!

iPhone 6s Plus Lens vs. Oowa 15mm

You can slide the slider left or right to see the image taken with the iPhone’s native lens (slide right), and compare that with the image taken with the Oowa 15mm lens (slide left).


You’ll likely notice quite a big difference in terms of field of view. The 15mm is significantly wider than the iPhone’s native lens on the iPhone 6s Plus, as can be seen by the extra trees you see. If we take a look at the corner areas, you’ll see that while the iPhone photo has a relatively decent image quality, the Oowa lens tends to suffer a bit. The finer edges of the branches get blurred—especially at all four corners of the image.

Oowa 15mm vs. Moment 18mm

Now, let’s compare this same image taken with the Oowa 15mm wide angle lens (slide right) with the Moment 18mm (first generation) lens (slide left)!


From day 1 I’ve always noticed vignetting and distortion with this lens, as you can see in the photo above. I should mention that Moment just recently came out with a newer version of their wide angle lens, so that may have solved some of the issues that were plaguing this initial version.

Here’s another example where you can see the Oowa 15mm (slide right) has slightly better image quality edge-to-edge, compared with the Moment 18mm (slide left).


If you look closely, you’ll notice how the image quality from the Moment wide angle lens suffers at all four corners, with some light fall-off. Comparing that with the Oowa 15mm wide angle, I would say the Oowa lens has a slightly better image quality, and next to no vignetting, which is thanks to their free-form optics. Way to go Oowa!

iPhone 6s Plus Lens vs. Oowa 75mm

This Oowa telephoto lens zooms, which is 2.5x closer than the standard iPhone lens, can get a bit closer to the subject than my Moment 60mm lens. This is great for when you want to capture the moment but aren’t able to get physically closer. Slide right for the iPhone version and slide left for the Oowa telephoto version.


Similarly to the initial comparison from above, the image quality of the Oowa 75mm is slightly lower than that of the iPhone 6s Plus native lens. This can be seen primarily around the corners where the branches are all blurred together.

Oowa 75mm vs. Moment 60mm

Comparing the same image with the Moment 60mm lens (slide left), I would again agree that the Oowa 75mm (slide right) has a slight advantage with overall better image quality and next to no visible vignetting.


Something Strange

When using the Oowa 75mm lens attachment, I noticed something strange that doesn’t happen with the iPhone nor Moment 60mm lens. Depending on the angle at which I take my photo, the four corners of my image will be significantly blurry. If you look at the image below, it can be seen that a large part of each corner is blurred.

And here too…blurred and coloured corners.

In most cases, I angled the iPhone slightly up from the level position, to see the corner area of my image discoloured and/or blurred. This would likely have to do with the internal lens configuration of the Oowa 75mm but it’s something I would say needs to be fixed in a future version. Given this, I would only be able to use the Oowa 75mm when taking photos level to the horizon.

Here is another example of where this happened, although it may be a little more difficult to tell with all the details. Fortunately this did not happen with the Oowa 15mm wide angle attachment.

Connecting the lenses to the case

This may not sound as important as the quality of the images taken with these lenses, but it’s a functionality issue that in my opinion affects the overall use of the system. I mentioned earlier that there are no markings on the lenses or the case, which makes you wonder, how do you connect the two?

Looking at the other side of the Oowa lens there are no obvious markers

The team at Oowa has created a video on this, which explains that you need to align the vertical tabs seen on the back of each lens, with the top and bottom of the opening on the case. You then simply twist clockwise to attach the lens. In theory this works great. But when you’re out in the field, you may be pressed for time, or completely forget about those two small tabs (which I ended up doing when I first went out with the lenses). When you’re in a rush, the last thing you want to do is to stop, look at the lens and carefully align the tabs to the opening. I would love to be able to just swap and go. Traditional SLR lenses—and even other mobile device lens attachments—have markings on both the body and lens (or case and lens), which act as a simple and quick way to properly attach the lens to the body/case. With these Oowa lenses, I can’t do this without having to look carefully and align.

While this doesn’t affect the quality of the image, I find this to be a little cumbersome and hope they fix this in a future version.

Align the top of the case (shown here) to just right of the logo on each lens, and twist clockwise until it attaches

As an alternative, I’ve devised my own way of quickly attaching the lens, as shown above. Align just past the Oowa logo and keep twisting clockwise until the lens locks into place. I’ve had about a 90 percent success rate with this method, and it works more or less with both the wide and telephoto lenses.

Conclusion

I love using lens attachments to expand the photographic ability of my iPhone, but especially appreciate it when these attachments do a fantastic job at retaining image quality. My experience with my first set of lens attachments proved a little disappointing as it suffered from blurred corners and a lot of vignetting. These Oowa set of lenses, however, are a marked improvement over my Moment set of lenses, and thanks to their free-form optics, I am really happy to see that they have done away with vignetting around the corners. The image quality at the corners still do suffer a little, but again, not as much as my Moment lenses.

This strange reflection I got with the 75mm lens, however, is problematic, and I really do wish they fix this in a future version, since this limits the angle in which I can use this lens.

The method of attaching these lenses to the case can also use some improvements so that I don’t have to think about how to go about doing it while out in the field. Every second counts when you’re trying to take photos of sunrises, and I don’t want to miss a moment trying to attach a lens to my camera.

The build quality of these lenses are solid, and I can see them withstanding some heavy use. I’m happy with the image quality coming out of them, but still yearn for the time when we can get very sharp picture quality edge-to-edge.


Disclaimer: These Oowa lenses were sent to me by Oowa for review purposes. Opinions are strictly my own.


Do you have any experience with Oowa lenses, or any other mobile phone lens attachments? Let me know how your experience is in the comments below!

Bonus

Here’s another set of photos comparing the iPhone lens to the Oowa lenses and the Moment lenses.

iPhone Regular Lens

Oowa Wide vs. Moment Wide

Slide right for the Oowa wide angle version and slide left for the Moment wide angle version.


Oowa Tele vs. Moment Tele

Slide right for the Oowa telephoto version and slide right for the Moment telephoto version.


The LG 360 Cam

The LG 360 Camera comes at a time when 360 photos and videos are becoming fairly popular within social media outlets. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube all support these new formats and photographers are just finding out the potential for them. So when I was given the LG 360 Cam from LG Canada, I knew I had to take it for a spin during one of my many outings.

LG 360 Cam

This post will cover 360 photos taken with the LG 360 Cam. I’ll write another post when I have done a few more 360 videos with the LG 360 Cam.

The LG 360 Cam is essentially a self enclosed camera in a bubble gum-sized package with a 180 lens built on either side. There’s one single button that allows you to take a photo with a single click, or start a video with a slightly longer press of the button. It connects to your LG G5 phone, or iOS device via Blootooth and local wifi. Alternatively, you can control the camera via the 360 Cam app.

The LG 360 Cam and its cover detached.

The LG 360 Cam and its cover detached.

It’s worth noting that to use the LG 360 Cam, you’ll need a micro SD card, which isn’t included in the package. Without one inside the camera, you won’t be able to use it. The camera also requires a wifi and bluetooth connection to your LG G5 or iOS device. One finicky part about the wifi that’s required by the phone and 360 Cam is that if your 360 Cam is on, you won’t be able to automatically connect to any other wifi on your phone. It’s an odd setup but as soon as you turn off the 360 Cam, you’ll be able to automatically reconnect to your usual wifi hotspots again.

The cover of the 360 Cam acts as a holder by inverting and connecting to the base of the camera itself. It’s handy and eliminates the need to carry the cover separately, but on my first outing with the camera, I had completely forgotten about this, hence seeing my hand so close in the 360 image.

LG 360 Cam with the cover acting as a holder.

LG 360 Cam with the cover acting as a holder.

Here’s a 360 photo taken on the streets surrounding Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. I was holding the 360 Cam with my hands when I took this shot, so my hands are quite visible if you pan down in the photo. I’ve since discovered that even better than using the cover, a selfie stick does a great job of removing my hands from that position and makes the photo much cleaner.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/20160806_140348.jpg” width=”900px”  ]

The camera itself is relatively simple. It does its job taking 180 photos and shines in particular during the day. Chroma noise does start to enter when the light falls so while it’s still possible to enjoy 360 degrees in low-light, I would recommend using it during the day.

LG 360 Cam on my selfie stick makes for a great partner.

LG 360 Cam on my selfie stick makes for a great partner.

Here’s a 360 photo taken shortly after sunset. While it wasn’t completely dark yet, you can see there’s quite a bit of noise present in the shadow areas of the photo. The low light ability of this camera is unfortunately not as good as I’ve seen from other competing cameras, like the Ricoh Theta S.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/20160807_205634-3.jpg” width=”900px” ]

The stitching of the two 180 degree photos isn’t perfect, with some stitching signs visible throughout—particularly through solid colours like the sky. It’s not too much of a distraction, however, so I don’t mind this imperfection.

Camera Roll

To view the 360 photos and videos that you’ve taken with your camera, the 360 Cam needs to be connected to your phone. When connected, you can go to the Gallery to view all of your media on the 360 Cam. From here, you have the choice of deleting, sharing, or downloading the photo or video to your LG G5 or iOS device.

All the 360 photos and videos on the LG 360 Camera.

All the 360 photos and videos on the LG 360 Camera.

Once you’ve downloaded your 360 photos and videos to your device, selecting the My device option will show you all the media you have on your LG G5 or iOS device. You can then share on any of your social media outlets.

All the 360 photos and videos on your device.

All the 360 photos and videos on your device.

360 Photos Viewed in Camera Roll

When you’re viewing 360 photos in Android’s Camera Roll, you can pan the phone around to view all around the image. It’s a great way to create different angles and perspectives from the shot. In the photo below, tilting my phone while viewing the 360 phone gave this effect. You can see my finger is right by the lens since this is before I discovered the selfie stick method.

Viewing a 360 photo on the LG G5.

Viewing a 360 photo on the LG G5.

And here’s one where I tilted the phone, giving a great angle to a landscape. This almost seems like it was taken with a fisheye lens! This photo was taken with the selfie stick so you can see my finger is nowhere to be found in the image. In fact, you can’t even tell that I’m holding anything at all.

Viewing a 360 photo on the LG G5.

Viewing a 360 photo on the LG G5.

If you choose to view the photo regularly, then you’ll just get this plain view that has a lot of distortion.

A 360 photo viewed normally.

A 360 photo viewed normally.

Or if you really stretch things out, you can be on top of the world.

On top of the world...or farmer's market!

On top of the world…or farmer’s market!

Here’s the 360 view of the farmer’s market, where all of these screen captures were taken from.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/lg360cam-9-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

Time Lapse on the LG 360 Cam

If you’ve updated the firmware on the 360 Cam after July 2016, LG added the ability to capture time lapse photos. You should have a new icon in the Mode menu when you’re in the camera mode.

The time lapse feature is new since the latest firmware update.

The time lapse feature is new since the latest firmware update.

Select the new icon and you’ll get the current interval setting. To change it, simply select the option and choose a different interval for your time lapse.

Setting the interval for the time lapse feature.

Setting the interval for the time lapse feature.

It’s a great feature that I’m super happy about. The camera will continuously take photos at the interval that you specify until you tell it to stop. You then take all the sequenced images that are in your Gallery, and import them into a third party program that will create your time-lapse movie for you. I have yet to use this, but I look forward to using this feature soon. Perhaps that will be another post as well!

Overall I’d say the LG 360 Cam offers a lot of fun in such a compact camera body. The photos that come out of it may not be high quality images similar to what you get from a dSLR, but it serves its purpose for a 360 image and it can be lots of fun to view them afterwards. The addition of a time lapse feature only makes this camera even better.


Have you played with the LG 360 Cam yet? Do you have another 360 camera with similar features? Do tell in the comments below!

A closer look at the LG G5

LG’s newest flagship smartphone is the G5, with its modular accessories—otherwise known as friends—that replace one another by removing the bottom portion of the phone. It’s been a few weeks now since I received the LG G5 so I thought this would be a good time for some comparisons of the smartphone with my iPhone.

A closer look at the LG G5

A closer look at the LG G5

Disclaimer: This LG G5 was generously provided by LG Canada for me to test out their phone and wide angle lens on my landscapes—this blog review was not a requirement for me to receive the phone.

The G5 is LG’s latest flagship model, which comes in a modular format, where the bottom portion of the phone can be removed, and replaced with various accessories. It’s a great concept and I’m looking forward to testing this part out in the coming months.

LG G5 and its home screen.

LG G5 and its home screen.

As this is my very first Android device, I needed some time to get familiar with the operating system. I found it quite easy to learn, and even started using one of LG’s own stock apps, their Health app, which keeps track of how many steps I’ve taken each day. There’s just something fulfilling about learning each day that you’ve surpassed your step goal. As a side note, this just goes to show that presentation makes all the difference—my iPhone has captured my step count since day 1, however, I just never used the Health app on it because it didn’t present the data in any way that was easy to understand in a glance.

The LG G5 (left) is a little narrower than the iPhone 6s Plus (right).

The LG G5 (left) is a little narrower than the iPhone 6s Plus (right).

Likely the most noticeable feature about the LG G5 is its dual lenses on the back of the phone. This is what I’l be concentrating on the most for this blog post. The main lens provides a typical high-end smartphone field of view of about  78 degrees with an aperture of f/1.8, producing 16mp images. The second lens—which is most desirable for me as a landscape photographer— provides a field of view of about 135 degrees at f/2.4, producing 8mp images. The front-facing camera has an aperture of f/2.0 yielding an 8mp image.

The primary rear lens offer optical image stabilization. There’s a dual LED flash located between the rear lenses, and there’s also a laser sensor for auto-focus.

The LG G5 is a little narrower and shorter than the iPhone 6s Plus, making it just about the right size for my hands. It feels comfortable holding it in my hands whereas I have to admit the iPhone 6s Plus can be a bit too large at times to handle with just one hand.

The LG G5 (right) is a little shorter than the iPhone 6s Plus (left).

The LG G5 (right) is a little shorter than the iPhone 6s Plus (left).

The LG G5 with the iPhone 6s Plus in the background.

The LG G5 with the iPhone 6s Plus in the background.

Camera App

The stock camera app that comes installed on the LG G5 has three different modes, allowing beginners and advanced users to fully take advantage of its features. This is a good thing since unless other camera apps allow you to select which lens you want to use on your camera, you’re bound to using this stock app from LG.

These modes are accessed by the three horizontal dots on the top right corner of the (portrait-oriented) screen.

LG G5 camera mode selection.

LG G5 camera mode selection.

The “Simple” mode has just two functional buttons to choose from on the screen—and neither of them are the shutter button: Regular or Wide Angle lens. In this mode, you can press anywhere on the screen for the camera to take the photo.

LG G5 Simple camera UI.

LG G5 Simple camera UI.

The Auto mode, which most users may find useful, gives additional buttons on the screen, allowing users to change from photo to video mode, and has an additional four icons added to the screen. The Gear icon changes many of the settings from on-screen display, activating stabilization, enabling voice-activated shutter release, timer, filters, and crop. The HDR mode is useful, but keep in mind that it is only available in Auto Mode.

LG G5 Auto camera UI.

LG G5 Auto camera UI.

The Mode icon is where you can take advantage of all the lenses at once, with modes like Multi-view and Popout. Your advanced features like Slo-mo, Time-lapse, and Panorama modes are also located in this menu.

LG G5 Mode selections.

LG G5 Mode selections.

The Multi shot view takes a photo from all three cameras, and arranges them in a collage, like below. It’s a neat feature but I don’t know when I would actually use it myself.

LG G5, multi shot mode using all three lenses

LG G5, multi shot mode using all three lenses

The popout effect takes a photo from the regular camera, and puts it against a photo taken from the wide angle camera. You can have the background blurred, vignetted, or in monochrome.

LG G5, popout effect with blurred background

LG G5, popout effect with blurred background

The Flash icon is grayed out in this mode as it will turn on when needed.

The Manual mode, which I find the most useful, is where all of these settings and more, are manually set by yourself. So if you don’t know your aperture from shutter speed and ISO, then it’s best to stick to the Auto mode, unless you love to experiment.

LG G5 Manual camera UI.

LG G5 Manual camera UI.

This mode adds a whole set of new icons on the left side of the screen in portrait mode, and bottom edge in landscape mode. What’s peculiar about this mode is that these new icons (and the status bar that appears on the right side of the screen in portrait mode, and top edge in landscape mode) don’t change orientation when you switch from landscape to portrait mode. They are fixed in their landscape orientation while all other icons on the screen change. One would only assume that LG thinks you will be using the phone in Landscape mode if you’re an Advanced user.

Taking a look at the status bar, there’s a live display of the histogram, which can come in handy. It’s small, but this gives you a great idea of how much shadow and highlight areas there are in your photo at any given point. The exposure meter gives you an idea of an ideal exposure, and all the pertinent exposure details are right there at a glance.

When in landscape mode, the bottom row of icons provide the manual settings for you to change the exposure. When each one is tapped, a dial overlays the screen on the right hand side, as seen above.

Native LG G5 camera app in Manual Mode with thumbnail of photo just taken.

Native LG G5 camera app in Manual Mode with thumbnail of photo just taken.

An interesting addition to this camera (compared to that of my iPhone) is the floating thumbnail of the photo you just took. Tapping that puts you directly inside the Google Photos app, allowing you to edit the photo immediately after.

Normal vs. Wide Angle

The dual lens of this phone is what truly excites me. In the camera app, there are two icons that dictate which lens you would like to use. Switching is as easy as tapping the appropriate icon. The transition between the two is somewhat seamless, as the image on the screen blurs, zooms in, and pops into the image of what you see with the new lens.

While the normal lens offers a typical field of view from most other smartphone cameras, it’s the wide angle that does a great job of differentiating itself from the pack. This lens is so wide that I often get my fingers in the frame! You really have to hold the phone carefully so that your knuckles or fingertips don’t get caught on the edges of your images. There have been many times when this happened testing the wide angle lens out.

My hands in the frame while using the wide angle lens.

My hands in the frame while using the wide angle lens.

And here…

Thumb makes its way into this photo too.

My finger makes its way into this photo too.

And this one too!

My finger makes its way in the picture here too.

My finger makes its way in the picture here too.

To get a better idea of how the two lenses differ, here are some images to compare the two lenses, followed by the same picture taken with my iPhone 6s Plus.

LG G5 Normal Lens, HDR Mode

LG G5 Normal Lens, HDR Mode, 16:9 crop

The unedited JPG image, above, is taken with the normal LG G5 lens. The HDR mode was automatically implemented to brighten up the shadow areas on the bottom right of the frame. The image below shows the picture taken standing in the exact same spot, using the wide angle lens of the LG G5.

LG G5 Wide Lens

LG G5 Wide Lens, 16:9 crop

You can see in the image above that the wide angle brings in much more of the image on the top and bottom. The CN Tower that was visible in the centre of the frame in the initial image is now so far away in the image above. The HDR mode was not used in this image, which can be seen in the foreground shrubs that seem to hide in the shadows.

The same view taken with my iPhone 6s Plus is seen below.

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

If you look at the CN Tower in the iPhone 5s Plus camera image, above, and compare that with the LG G5 regular lens photo, then you’ll notice they are the same size. You just see less in the iPhone image since the crop is 4:5. HDR mode was not used in this case either, as the foreground shrubs are quite dark.

Here’s another set of images to compare the LG G5 regular lens, wide angle lens, iPhone regular lens, and with the Moment wide angle lens attachment on the iPhone 6s Plus.

LG G5 Regular Lens

LG G5 Regular lens.

LG G5 Regular lens.

LG G5 Wide Angle Lens

LG G5 wide angle lens.

LG G5 wide angle lens.

iPhone 6s Plus Regular Lens

iPhone Regular lens.

iPhone Regular lens.

iPhone 6s Plus with Moment Wide angle lens.

iPhone 6s Plus with Moment Wide angle lens.

The 16:9 Crop

While my iPhone uses a 4:5 ratio for its image dimensions, the LG G5 has an option of setting which ratio I use for each image. The default is set to 16:9, which is the same ratio as a movie theatre screen. Although I can switch it to a 4:5 ratio, which is what I’m more comfortable with, I leave it at 16:9 because it makes for some sweeping epic landscapes, especially when I use it with the wide angle lens!

LG G5 Wide Angle Lens, 16:9 crop

LG G5 Wide Angle Lens, 16:9 crop

The image above really gives you a sweeping view of the marina. Compare that image with the one on my iPhone 6s Plus, below.

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

The difference is quite noticeable, don’t you think? That wide angle lens in a 16:9 crop makes a significant difference in how we take in the image. To further compare, the image below is taken from the same place, but with the regular lens on the LG G5, using a crop of 16:9.

LG G5 Regular Camera, 16:9 crop

LG G5 Regular Camera, 16:9 crop

Even this image manages to engulf the viewer since it contains a lot more of the marina compared to that of the iPhone. The sailboats actually seem a little smaller here than in the iPhone photo, which means the regular lens on the LG G5 is actually slightly wider than the lens on the iPhone 6s Plus.

RAW vs. JPG

The LG G5 has the option of shooting photos in DNG RAW format. This is great for advanced users who wish to edit their images to their own liking, rather than allowing the camera to edit the image. When in RAW mode, the camera will automatically take both a RAW and JPG image and save it to your camera roll. You then later have the ability to edit the RAW image in any app. If you want to transfer this RAW image to your desktop, though, you’ll have to use the File Manager to select the DNG file and upload it to your computer or to the cloud.

The LG File Manager utility.

The LG File Manager utility.

If you enjoy editing photos on your phone, there are a limited number of apps that currently allow editing of RAW files. My go-to app right now is Google’s Snapseed. Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile also allows for RAW editing.

In low light, I find that noise creeps in quite a bit, even in the DNG files. Applying a certain amount of noise degradation will get rid of it, but also lessen the detail in other areas. At the very least, we get this option with the RAW file. To better illustrate the difference, here’s a photo I took during a sunrise. The sun hadn’t risen above the horizon at this point, so you can see chroma noise in the shadow areas, particularly in the rocks in the foreground. This first image is the unedited DNG image.

LG G5 DNG unedited image

LG G5 DNG unedited image

You can see the chroma noise in the rocky beach area. The next image is of the same picture in JPG. The LG G5 automatically takes a JPG and DNG image at the same time, when you use the RAW mode.

LG G5 JPG image

LG G5 JPG image

The rocky beach area has no chroma noise, is much lighter, and the bright yellow in the sky is significantly diminished. To see how much I can get away with, I edited the DNG image using Adobe Camera RAW and came out with the following image.

LG G5 DNG edited image

LG G5 DNG edited image

The above image isn’t a significantly edited image, but I balanced the colours in the sky, and diminished the chroma noise in the shadow areas.

I should also mention that the images coming out of both lenses on the LG G5 tend to be on the sharper side compared to those from my iPhone 6s Plus. This was immediately noticeable—at first, I thought it was a little too aggressively sharpened, but I have since gotten used to the characteristic of the images coming out of the LG G5, and sometimes makes me feel that my iPhone 6s Plus images are not sharp enough.

Conclusion

The LG G5 with its dual lens system provides an excellent way for avid mobile photographers to get the most out of their phones. The added wide angle lens does a great job in capturing the environment, setting itself apart from other high-end mobile phones. The ability to shoot in DNG mode is also a great addition for advanced users who enjoy post-processing. The native camera app on the LG G5 has plenty of features suited for beginners to the more advanced. With its manual capabilities, even allowing for long exposures, it may be the only camera app I need right now. As far as I’m concerned, as of this writing, there are no other camera apps that allow you to change which rear lens you are shooting from, therefore, it’s a good thing the LG stock camera app is fully featured.


Do you have any experience using the LG G5? Let me know in the comments below!

Gallery

Here are some additional photos taken with the LG G5 camera.

LG G5

The wide angle in portrait mode gives the horizon a little curvature.

LG G5

The wide expanse of this wheat field is a perfect place for the wide angle of the LG G5.

LG G5

When you tilt the camera up or down a little, the horizon will curve accordingly.

LG G5

The wide angle gives more focus to the sky than the sailboats.

LG G5

The wide angle right above the water makes the marina look quite large.

LG G5

An evening photo with the wide angle lens of the LG G5. It is a little noisy in the sky.

LG G5

The wide angle works well with many landscapes.

LG G5

The wide angle encompasses an almost 180 degrees here. HDR mode captures a little more detail in the shadows, and doesn’t blow out the highlights.

Sunrise, Seagull, and Spring

You would think that with the arrival of Spring, we should expect warmer temperatures, but that was hardly the case when I went out to shoot the sunrise on the first day of Spring. With temps nearing -10C, it was far from the Spring weather we are more used to.

With each sunrise shoot I go to, I always make it a point to come out with at least one decent shot that I’m happy with. If I come out with more, that’s a bonus. That morning the skies were relatively clear with just a spotting of clouds here and there. Overall, this didn’t make for any particularly interesting display of light.

A sunrise with clear skies and few clouds.

A sunrise with clear skies and few clouds.

This particular morning my interest quickly turned from the skyline to the seagulls that just wouldn’t go away. There were a number of them flying about where I was stationed (perching myself and my tripod on top of one of those corrugated steel pipes may have piqued their interest), while one particular seagull decided to show me what it could do.

Seagull flying with the sunrise colours in the background.

Seagull flying with the sunrise colours in the background.

In a display of pure wilderness, it eyed beneath the water and once it saw something, it quickly flew up and nose-dived into Lake Ontario, coming back up with its prize.

A seagull nose-dives into Lake Ontario in search of food.

A seagull nose-dives into Lake Ontario in search of food.

His first catch was a crayfish of some sort, although he soon realized with its hard shell, it would require much more work for a tasty breakfast.

A seagull catches a crayfish from Lake Ontario.

A seagull catches a crayfish from Lake Ontario.

While I was surprised to see a seagull capture this, I was even more surprised to learn that we had living crayfishes in Lake Ontario! After capturing the crayfish, it flew back onto the pipe I was standing on, trying to get at the crayfish. It picked and picked to no avail and eventually let it wash away into Lake Ontario again…but not before showing me who was boss.

Seagull grasping a crayfish in its beak.

Seagull grasping a crayfish in its beak.

The seagull’s second round under the water yielded in a small fish, which I’m sure he was able to enjoy much easily. Unfortunately the only photo I have of this was blurry as I was focused elsewhere at the time.

Seagull captures a fish in Lake Ontario.

Seagull captures a fish in Lake Ontario.

While I was following the seagull’s adventure, another photographer approached me and asked if he could take my photo silhouetted against the rising sun. He later emailed me the photo, as seen below. It’s a great shot since you can see where I was standing, and it includes the seagull I was eyeing all morning.

A silhouette of Taku taken by photographer David Allen

A silhouette of me taken by photographer David Allen, with his iPhone 5c.

You can check out David Allen’s site here, where he’s accumulated quite the collection of photos from High Park.

The above photo was taken shortly after I took the skyline photo below.

Orange and blue on a clear sky.

Orange and blue on a clear sky.

It wasn’t the most dramatic of sunrises, but I’m happy to have come out with some interesting shots of the seagull and its breakfast adventure. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from shooting sunrises for the past two years, it’s that you can never predict how things will turn out. And if the sunrise turns out to be a dud, then you’re better off turning your attention to something else that may make for a more fruitful photoshoot.

A victorious seagull cries.

A victorious seagull cries.

Product Review: Moment Case and Lenses

Moment Lenses and Case Review

Lens additions aren’t new to mobile photography. There’s plenty of choices out there from generic third party lenses to more notable ones like Olloclips. But when I came across Moment’s lenses and case Kickstarter campaign in 2015, I couldn’t help but get behind this piece of glass.

Product Review: Moment Case and LensesMoment first released their lenses in 2014, however, I only came across them from their second Kickstarter campaign, which was a companion case to their lenses. I’m never a fan of buying things that are made specifically for a device, since I’m prone to changing/upgrading my iPhone every year or two. However, I went ahead and ordered the case, along with their wide angle 18mm and telephoto 60mm lenses.

Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses with case.

Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses with case.

I received my case and lenses in December 2015, just in time for the Christmas holidays. Upon opening the packages, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the case and lenses. Let me start with the case, since that’s their latest campaign.

The Moment Case

The moment case comes in a few different colour combinations: black on black, wood on black, and white on black. I chose the latter for my iPhone 6s Plus, and I really like the little bit of white on top, as it adds a little contrast to the rest of the case, which is quite large.

Moment lens attached to case.

Moment lens attached to case.

The case—apart from the white top, which is plastic—has a really nice feel to it: it’s firm yet has a rubbery felt-like feel to it, thanks to the custom TPU material that they use. It provides just the right amount of friction for a secure grip, and as the folks at Moment says, it’s “not so grippy that it gets stuck in your pocket.”

Moment lenses and Moment case.

Moment lenses and Moment case.

The case is tapered, offering a thicker grip, which allows for better handling of your phone in landscape mode. This thicker area is also where the circuit board and battery resides. The battery lights the LED light that shows when there’s a connection with the Moment app, and also sends information to the app when you press the shutter button.

Moment case from bottom of iPhone.

Moment case from bottom of iPhone.

The bottom of the case is open, so you won’t have any problems with inserting anything in the earphone jack or lightning cable port. The added aluminum bar acts as a neck strap hook and is a nice touch as well, although this piece on my case is a little wobbly upon touch.

Why is this case special?

Apart from adding another level of protection for your iPhone, the case acts as an interface to the collection of Moment lenses that they offer. Their proprietary interface is embedded within the case so all you need to do is twist the lens on to the case. The interface is well built and twisting on the lens is a breeze. There’s no click to lock the lens in place like you see on a dSLR, but I feel confident that the lens won’t easily twist off.

More importantly though, the case allows for added functionality when shooting with your iPhone. By adding a shutter button to the case, you’re now able to use that button to hold focus (by half-pressing the button), while we swipe on the screen to fine-tune adjustments like exposure. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of this as I wasn’t used to half-pressing and swiping at the same time. But once you’re used to it, the feature becomes quite handy.

Lens attachment

The case recognizes when you attach a lens to the case. While initially (if I remember correctly) the idea was that it automatically knew which lens was attached. The way it is now, you have to tell the Moment app which lens you have just attached. Moment says this “unlocks advanced software features” specific to each lens. What these features are, I do not know.

Moment camera app screen capture.

Moment camera app screen capture.

Note, if you don’t have the case, Moment sells a stainless steel mounting plate that you can stick to any mobile device, allowing you to use any one of their lenses.

The lens cap and magnet

The two lens caps that came with my combo does a great job in protecting the front element of the lens. It’s not flimsy by any means, and has a protective foam layer on the inside. There’s a small magnet hidden inside the lens cap so it can conveniently attach itself to the Moment Case, which also has a magnet on the top of the grip. It’s their way of making sure that you don’t lose the lens cap when you’re using the lens.

Moment case with cap magnetically attached.

Moment case with cap magnetically attached.

The magnet isn’t super strong though, so just be careful when you’ve got it attached. Your hand will cover the lens cap when holding the phone and if you’re not careful, you can easily knock the lens cap right off the magnetic spot with a quick swipe.

The Lenses

The Moment currently has three lenses in their collection: 18mm, 60mm, and a macro lens.

Moment 60mm and 18mm lenses.

Moment 60mm telephoto and 18mm wide lenses.

My Kickstarter package came with the 18mm and 60mm. Similar to the Moment case, as soon as I handled these lenses, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. Gone are the days of cheap, plastic lenses with clip-on attachments. These are heavy-duty lenses made with quality glass, multi-element designs, and aerospace-quality stainless steel. When you pick one up, you’ll notice this quality instantly. It’s solidly built, and looks terrific.

Moment lenses in carrying sacs and lens covers.

Moment lenses in carrying sacs and lens covers.

18mm wide

As a landscape photographer, I immediately drew my attention to the 18mm wide angle lens. I love the added focal length this gives me. The large landscape coverage gives me that same feeling as when I shoot with my 14mm on my Nikon D800. You can see how much more coverage the lens gives you, below. The iPhone camera without any attachment has a focal length of approx. 29/30mm (35mm equivalent). The 18mm is much wider as you can see.

Moment 18mm lens attached to Moment case.

Moment 18mm lens attached to Moment case.

I’ve noticed a slight vignetting with this lens (see sample photos below). It’s nothing I can’t live with though. On the Moment lens website though, it says “clear edge to edge.” From my test samples below, I’m not so sure I can agree with this. If you look at the sample photos, you’ll see the corners and edges are a little blurry, which is a shame. I could live with the vignetting, but I would have loved to have edge to edge sharpness, as mentioned on their site.

60mm telephoto

The telephoto lens does a terrific job at getting you that much closer to the subject. Forget the digital zooms on your iPhone as that just yields in poor quality images as a product of digital extrapolation. Having an optical telephoto lens means you’ll come out with top quality images that you’ll be surprised came out of a mobile device.

Moment 60mm lens attached to Moment case.

Moment 60mm lens attached to Moment case.

Looking at the images below, you’ll notice how much closer the subject is (two times closer). Of course, a steady hand will always help more with any telephoto lens, so be sure to hold it steady, or use a tripod like I always do.

Do I Really Need These?

If you love taking photos with your iPhone or mobile device, the Moment case and lenses won’t disappoint. Apart from the slight vignetting and distortion that I saw with my 18mm lens, I have to say it’s the best lens addition to my iPhone that I’ve ever seen thus far.

These are by no means a necessity for any iPhone user, but more so an added benefit to being able to take extra wide and telephoto photos. The interaction with their app adds a nice touch and really enhances the picture-taking experience on a mobile device, which ultimately has given me even more of an excuse to go out and start shooting again.

Moment 18mm attached to Moment iPhone 6/6s Plus case.

Moment 18mm attached to Moment iPhone 6/6s Plus case.

Sample Photos

To better compare the results, here are a couple sample landscapes that I took with each of the lenses, along with the shot taken with the regular iPhone 6s Plus camera for comparison. These images have been resized and saved for web; apart from that, no editing has been done.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus shot.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus shot.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

If you look at the top left corner, you’ll notice that the finer tree branches are not as clear as the rest of the branches surrounding them. And if you compare these branches to those in the iPhone 6s Plus photo, you can really see that the quality has dropped a little with the lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Now, look at the top left corner of this photo. It’s slightly blurred along with the rest of that left side. In fact, all corners are slightly blurry if you look closely.

Test Photo 2

Regular iPhone 6s Plus Landscape.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus Landscape.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Looking at the top corners (left and right), you’ll see there is slight vignetting. It’s harder to see on the bottom corners, but it’s there as well.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

The top right corner is slightly darker here as well. And again, you can notice that the entire left side of the photo is slightly blurred.

Bonus

And if you’re curious, here are a couple photos I took with my Nikon D800, where I changed the focal length until I matched the composition that I took with the Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses. The first photo turned out to be 19mm, which is pretty close. The second photo turned out to be 58mm, which is also pretty close. This test doesn’t really do much except tell me that I did a pretty good job matching the composition between the two cameras.

Nikon D800 at 19mm.

Nikon D800 at 19mm.

Nikon D800 at 58mm.

Nikon D800 at 58mm.

If you’ve taken great photos with Moment lenses, feel free to comment below and let me know!


For more information on the Moment case and lenses, head over to their website at http://www.momentlens.co.

2015 Year in Review – iPhone Photography

While it was difficult to pick my 2015 Year in Review for my Nikon photos, believe it or not it’s even more difficult to do the same for my iPhone Photography.

2015 Year in Review: iPhone Photography

My iPhone is always with me and that’s one reason why it’s easier to take priceless moments when they arise. Furthermore, there’s really no setting up when it comes to taking pictures with your iPhone: as soon as I open the camera app, I’m ready to take a photo. That being said, there’s a certain amount of foresight involved with iPhone Photography as well.

My favourite iPhone photography for 2015 are below, and indicates a wide variety of photo genre and editing styles, as experimentation is always in order when it comes to iPhone photo taking and editing.

Fiery sunrise over Lake Ontario.

Fiery sunrise over Lake Ontario.

This photo is similar to the one I took with my Nikon, but the editing was a little different, producing another moody photo to one of the most vibrant sunrises I’ve ever seen in Toronto.

Long exposure sunrise using Slow Shutter Cam app.

Long exposure sunrise using Slow Shutter Cam app.

I’ve always been a fan of long exposure photography, and doing these on an iPhone is super-easy with the Slow Shutter Cam app. I always make it a point to carry my mini-tripod with me so that I can produce long-exposures in moments where I least expect to. This one was taken during the sunrise hours where the reflection of the light on the serene lake made the moment extra special.

Beached in Hamilton

Beached in Hamilton

This photo above was taken on the shorelines of Hamilton where I decided to come on a whim. With the cold temps, strong wind, and open area, I hoped to capture the essence of the moment. The purple colour was added from a filter, but represented the subtle colours that were present in the early evening hours.

Ice climbing in Hamilton.

Ice climbing in Hamilton.

Here’s a moment where I lucked out by coming to the waterfalls when a group of ice climbers were having their weekend lesson. I wasn’t the only photographer there, so I managed to get some tips from a veteran ice climb photographer. The race to the top yielded in this perfectly timed shot where the climbers themselves formed a mountain!

Swirling Jet Skiers at Scarborough Bluffs

Swirling Jet Skiers at Scarborough Bluffs

Here’s where I was fortunate enough to be at the Scarborough Bluffs, where a group of jet-skiers came zooming into the scene as they held a meetup on the beach. I captured them having fun in the water as they twirled around as if they knew I was taking their photos.

Quintessentially Rocky Mountains.

Quintessentially Rocky Mountains.

My trip to Alberta also produced some of my favourite images from my iPhone. This one, just off the Bow Valley Highway to me, seems like the perfect Rocky Mountain scene, which had some great wispy clouds to add even more interest to the landscape. The railroad cutting through the trees is a great guide to lead the eyes from one side of the image to the other.

On the lookout at Mt. Norquay.

On the lookout at Mt. Norquay.

I normally don’t have people in my landscapes, but this moment was too good to pass up. As my wife stood there admiring the view from the Mt. Norquay lookout, I stepped back and quickly took this with my iPhone as I loved her stance, her hat, and the background. It just all fit perfectly.

Winter shoreline in black and white.

Winter shoreline in black and white.

While I normally edit in colour, on occasion when I see the opportunity to make a great monochromatic image, I go for it. This image was just the case where the long exposure of the lake played well with the ice- and snow-covered shoreline. This shot would have been difficult on a dSLR if I didn’t have a ND filter.

The sun rising above Lake Ontario.

The sun rising above Lake Ontario.

This may be one of my favourite iPhone sunrise photos as the colours were just so brilliant. The fog hovering over Lake Ontario makes this extra moody and I’m glad my iPhone was able to capture this mood so well.

As you can see, there’s a variety of shots from my iPhone, and that’s to be expected. It’s a great camera to have in your pocket. I hope you enjoyed this round-up of some of my favourite iPhone photographs of 2015. I don’t know what 2016 will bring me, but I do know that with my newly acquired 18mm wide angle and 60mm telephoto lens from Moment, I will be sure to have even more fun the next time I go out.

Don’t worry, a review of these Moment lenses will come soon!

Product Review: Livestream Gear

With Periscope having the honour of being the App of the Year (in the United States) for 2015, and being the runner-up in Canada, the live-streaming world will only become bigger and bigger. There is also an increasing number of accessories available to help you with your live-streaming adventures.

When the fine people at Livestream started to promote their live-streaming gear, they kindly sent me a package for me to test out as I used Periscope. This review is based on this package, which included the Gooseneck Chestmount, and the Exstream Sportsmount.

Product Review: Livestream Gear

Gooseneck Chestmount

This chestmount, as you can see, is a harness that wraps around your shoulder that stretches generously. With a clip that wraps around your waist, it fits snug against your body. The gooseneck is attached to the harness through a plastic plate that is centred on the harness. The gooseneck functions well as it’s easily adjustable to what you’re doing. It moves freely up and down, to either side, and you’re also able to adjust the clamp that holds your phone on to the neck. But be aware that if you move the gooseneck too far away from your chest, the weight of your phone will make the bottom of the centre plate dig into your chest.

The Gooseneck attached to the Chestmount.

The Gooseneck attached to the Chestmount.

My initial thoughts on using this Chestmount was to be able to walk around while having my hands free to do other things, like take pictures with my dSLR. I soon realized, however, that I wouldn’t be able to use my dSLR without the gooseneck being in the way of my camera. If I moved the gooseneck so that it wasn’t hitting my camera, then my phone would be positioned in a way that wasn’t so practical for live-streaming.

My iPhone 6s Plus weights down the Gooseneck attached to my Chestmount, digging the bottom part of the plate into my chest.

My iPhone 6s Plus weights down the Gooseneck attached to my Chestmount, digging the bottom part of the plate into my chest.

So, scratching that off my list, I used the harness as I walked around, showing people the area I was in. Because of the elastic nature of the shoulder straps, I found that the gooseneck actually bounces quite a bit as I walked around. While the clamp is big enough to fit my iPhone 6s Plus with a thin silicone case, the added weight of my phone actually stretches the straps, forcing it to go down. I would think with a lighter phone, this may not be an issue.

The Gooseneck moves well, but needs a little support from your hands for heavy phones.

The Gooseneck moves well, but needs a little support from your hands for heavy phones.

Thoughts

The chestmount and clamp are built reasonably well for the price. It’s sturdy plastic that is capable of moving in many directions for your live-streaming needs. The combination works well, although if you clamp a heavy phone on to the end of the gooseneck, it may weigh everything down to the point that you can’t see what you’re live-streaming about.

I believe if the elastic shoulder straps were replaced with a buckled strap that you can manually adjust, then the gooseneck may not fall down as much, allowing you to use it in more scenarios. For light usage though, this can be a pretty handy thing to have as you live stream from your phone.

Exstream Sportsmount

The Exstream Sportsmount is a suction-cup based mount that straps all around your phone, ensuring that it will not fall off wherever you are mounting in on to. It can be very handy for people who want to provide a first-person perspective of the extreme sport they are doing. I can see people skydiving, bungee jumping, parasailing, etc. with this sportsmount. Before mounting it on to anything though, you place the suction cup against the screen-side of the phone. You then wrap the velcro strap all around the phone until it reaches the velcro on the back-side of the suction. You can then mount this sportsmount on to pretty much anything that is compatible with this mounting system. For example, it will fit on to the Chestmount, above, if you take the gooseneck off.

The Exstream Sportsmount that will mount to the Chestmount.

The Exstream Sportsmount that will mount to the Chestmount.

The mount can be adjusted vertically but not horizontally. But if you have this strapped to your chest, then all you really need to do is twist  left or right to get the right angle.

Exstream Sportsmount mounted onto the the Chestmount.

Exstream Sportsmount mounted onto the the Chestmount.

Thoughts

This is a pretty sturdy mount where you can be assured that your phone will not fall off during your wildest adventures. The only downside is that because you have a large suction obstructing the screen of your phone, you’re no longer able to see what you’re live streaming, nor are you able to ready any of the comments that come up during a Periscope broadcast.

Sideview of Exstream Sportsmount mounted to the Chestmount.

Sideview of Exstream Sportsmount mounted to the Chestmount. Can be mounted so rear-facing camera faces outwards instead.

I can see this combination coming pretty handy since in all honesty, reading Periscope comments is probably the last thing you want to be doing as you skydive or parachute off an airplane!

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List…Twice

Before I delve into the details, let me clarify by writing that this post isn’t about promoting my Instagram account, nor about boasting about what happened to my account. I’m writing this post to be an informative one for those wondering what exactly happens when a user gets on Instagram’s Suggested Users list. The Suggested Users list is a list of users on Instagram that are recommended to be followed, and is presented to every new account upon creation. For those of you who are wondering how one gets on the Suggested Users list on Instagram, don’t hold your breath—nobody really knows how one gets on the Suggested Users list, so I will merely give my thoughts below, on how this can be done. Now, let’s get to the details.

Thoughts on being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Thoughts on being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List the First Time

This section will explain what happened to my account when I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list the first time. I don’t have any screen captures of this event, so this will be a recollection of what I remember. On May 29, 2014, at 12:29pm, I received a Direct Mail from Instagram congratulating me for being put on their Suggested Users List. That DM looks a little like this:

Direct Message from Instagram

Direct Message from Instagram

To see if they actually respond to their DMs, I decided to write back to them and thank them for putting me on. This dialog went a little like this:

Response from Instagram.

Response from Instagram.

With two emojis, this conversation ended before it actually began.

My Instagram account at this time was strictly photos taken with my iPhone, or my iPhoneography. Before being put on the list, my follower count was approximately 1100. I didn’t know what would happen so I decided to just enjoy the ride to see where this took me. Within minutes I started getting followers. My activity list was just a list of messages stating xxx started following you. At one point, I was receiving more than 1000 new followers per 12 hours. This barrage of new followers continued steadily for the next 14 days.

By the end of the 14 days on the Suggested Users list, my total followers count was somewhere in the upper 20,000s. What’s one to do with all these followers? Not to worry because as weeks went by that number started to diminish little by little. There’s a number of reasons why you may start to lose followers:

  1. People who initially followed you no longer had an interest in your account.
  2. Spam accounts who automatically follow people on the Suggested Users list may unfollow you just as quickly.

In fact, I remember even months after being put on the Suggested Users list, I was still losing a small number of followers. It wasn’t until months down the road where my total followers finally settled down to the low 20,000. Fast forward a few months later when Instagram decided to purge inactive accounts or those that they found to be spam, and I found myself with even fewer followers afterwards. My total follower count after this purge settled to be around 18,600. From then on, my follower count fluctuated somewhat but was always around the 18,500-18,600 mark.

Here’s a summary of the roller coaster ride my follower count went through the first time on Instagram’s Suggested Users list on May 29, 2014.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Who Are These Followers?

Now that’s a good question. The Suggested Users list is shown to all new users who create an account for the first time. You can also get to the list through your settings pages. And more recently, when you follow an account, a list of three other similar accounts will be suggested for you at that time as well. Whether the people on this list come from the Suggested Users list though, I do not know for certain.

I would gather that many of these followers are people who created an account out of interest and curiosity. These people may not necessarily continue to use the app and therefore will likely never engage with you on your account. So although you may have a large number of followers, those who actually engage with you may only be a fraction of those followers.

Instagram Followers

Instagram Followers

It’s important to note that just because they don’t engage with you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t see your photos. I’ll talk a little more on this below.

So How Did You Get Put On The Suggested Users List?

There are a number of sites out there that will tell you how to get on the Suggested Users list. While these techniques may be valid, there really is nothing proving that they work. The first time I was put on though, I was consciously following those very tips:

  1. Post regularly good quality photos.
  2. Engage with your followers by replying back to their comments on your photos.
  3. Visit your followers stream and engage with them on their photos.
  4. Visit other non-follower’s photos and like and comment on them.

So, is that what I should be doing with my account?

The whole point of social media platforms is to connect with other like-minded individuals. If your goal is to meet new people and connect with them, then yes, doing the above will likely get you further than if you were to simply ignore those steps. Don’t forget, joining contests and doing collaborations will also get you noticed by other members, increasing your chances of gaining new loyal followers.

Being On The Suggested Users List The Second Time

The second time I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list, it happened a little differently so this intrigued me quite a bit. On October 19, 2015 at 2:31pm, this time I received an email from Instagram congratulating me for being on the Suggested Users list. That email looked a little like this:

Mail from Instagram.

Mail from Instagram.

This took me by surprise though, since this came at a time where I was only sporadically posting at best. There were times where I wasn’t even posting, commenting, or liking, for five- or six-day stretches. I was certainly not following any of the four points mentioned above. My followers count was roughly 18,500 on that day. And this time, Instagram put me on their Suggested Users List for three weeks.

I decided to do things a little differently with my account this time. For the longest time I prided myself in uploading only my iPhone photos on my Instagram account. This time, however, I decided to now include my Nikon photos to my account. The difference in quality is still very much noticeable and so I decided to up my account to the next level along with my follower count.

So how was I put on the Suggested Users list the second time?

If you look at the email above, they gave you a link to click to suggest other users. If someone else was put on the Suggested Users list and got this same email, perhaps they remembered my account and decided to suggest me at that point, regardless of how often I was posting, commenting, or liking.

This would show that Instagram does listen to what other users are saying by taking their suggestions. It’s just a wonder why I was never presented with this option the first time around.

So what does this mean?

This means, you’re still better off cultivating a loyal base of followers by connecting with them through comments and likes. The more top-of-mind you are to other people, the more you’ll likely be suggested by another user to be on the Suggested Users list.

Here’s a graph of my follower’s numbers from the time I was put on, on October 19, 2015, to the time I was put off the list, exactly three weeks later.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

The increase in followers this time was incredible. At one point I was getting almost 700 new followers an hour. November 6 had an increase of about 7,000 new followers over the course of only 12 hours as well. I really don’t know where all these people are coming from!

At the end of being on the Suggested Users List, my follower count was roughly 153,600, an increase of 830 percent!

Engagements, Follower Count, and Likes Oh My!

With such an increase in number of followers, you hope you will get an increase in engagement as well. My likes and comments have increased a lot, but my posting dSLR photos have definitely made a difference in this as well. My engagement and like levels may not have increased by the same amount as my follower count had, but I have noticed more interaction from my users.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

You can see here that seconds after I posted a photo to my account, people will immediately start to like it.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

While being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List, I would still be getting followers while people would be liking my photo that I just uploaded seconds ago. Notice how there aren’t any comments though? Liking only requires a double-tap while commenting requires more effort and time.

With a large amount of followers, how come engagement isn’t as high?

There could be a number of reasons for this. I mentioned above that many of these followers may be new to Instagram and therefore may not use the app on a regular basis. These people may not engage with you as much as someone who loves photography and goes on the app several times a day. I believe this reason alone yields in an imbalance between follower count and engagement.

What about impressions?

Impressions are a metric for marketers to measure the success of a social media post. For example, YouTube views can be equivalent to its impression figure. The number of open e-blasts may also be used as an impression.

Instagram can be a little different though since you never really know who may or may not have seen your image. For example, if your follower count is 100,000, then your potential impressions may be 100,000 as well—although this is likely never the case. People who don’t necessarily like or comment on your photos may still see your photo, which will count as an impression because down the road, those people may still very well remember your photo.

The takeaway to this is your photos may still get a large impression because of your follower count, but your engagement may not be as large because of their decision to not like and/or comment on your photo.

Does Any Of This Matter?

This is a question you’ll have to ask yourself. To some people, these are just silly numbers. To others, they mean more potential for partnerships and collaborations with brands. Whether this matters, depends on what you want out of your Instagram account. I welcome new experiences and opportunities so I’ll see where this takes me—if anywhere. If I continue to post high quality photos and be inviting to my followers, I hope to cultivate a loyal following where people will want to come back to my stream for more of my photos.

Personally I am very thankful for being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list twice, as I enjoy engaging with new people around the world. If I am able to show my photography to more people, I will be more motivated to continue and learn the craft to better myself as a photographer, all the while making friendships around the world.


Have you been put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list? Do you even care about any of this? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear what you think about all of this.