A review of photography- and iPhoneography-related products, apps, and more.

A Moment with the Nikon Z7

Nikon’s latest series of digital cameras—the Z series—is history in the making. Building a camera from scratch is no easy feat that requires countless hours of research, development, and testing. So when Nikon finally announced their Z 7 and Z 6 full frame mirrorless cameras to the world on August 23, 2018, the photography industry was watching closely. To announce something of this magnitude can only mean you are going all-in with mirrorless technology, and you are committed to building this new platform, without alienating their existing dSLR users.

Last month I was given the opportunity to test out a pre-production model of the Nikon Z 7—the camera that was just released today—September 27, 2018. It was an honour to be one of the very few photographers to be able to handle and see the camera, and to offer my thoughts on it to Nikon Canada.

Preproduction Nikon Z 7, 1/200 sec., f/8, ISO 64, 70-200mm f/2.8 at 70mm with the FTZ adaptor.

This blog post isn’t a review per se, since I wasn’t handling the final released version of the camera. I also won’t go too technical since there are already other posts that deal with the technical specifications of the camera—I hope to just offer some of my thoughts during my two days with it. The photos in this post are either JPGs, or lightly edited RAW files using the Nikon Capture NX-D software, which was released in mid September.

Once my production copy of the camera arrives and I have used it in the field, I will provide an update to this blog post.

Handling

I was told that when Nikon initially went out to produce a new mirrorless camera, they did a lot of research into what would make this the most ideal mirrorless camera. This resulted in a flange distance of 16mm (distance between the rear glass element of a lens to the sensor in the camera), and a mount diameter of 55mm. Everything else was built around these two specifications while trying to consider what made the most ideal mirrorless camera.

The preproduction Nikon Z 7 with the new 24-70 f/4.0 S line lens.

As a result, I feel Nikon did a great job with this. When I first picked up the camera, I immediately felt comfortable with it. It really did feel like a Nikon dSLR, just in a smaller form factor. My fingers were snug on the grip, and it just felt like I instinctively knew where to press to get the job done. Coming from a D800, the weight difference was substantial. I can only imagine the difference between the new mirrorless cameras and the D5s.

The 24-70mm f/4.0 S-line lens at the 70mm focal length. The protruding grip makes all the difference in comfort.

Handling mirrorless cameras from Sony and Fuji, I have always thought them to be very fragile—one single knock against the wall and I felt like something would get loose or even break. It felt like a very fragile piece of electronic that I would have had to take extra care in handling. However after holding the Z 7, I felt none of those feelings and was comfortable in treating it just like I would my dSLR (not to say I treat it badly!).

The grip on the Nikon Z 7 feels so comfortable in the hands.

There are two function buttons between the lens and the grip (seen below), which are completely customizable to perform what you want it to do. I did have to shift my grip slightly to be able to get to these buttons, but it’s not something I would be overly concerned with.

The front of the Nikon Z 7 mirrorless camera.

As for the overall button placements, they all felt fairly natural to me. There are a few key differences like the addition of the joystick and the buttons on the left of the monitor being replaced by the cluster of four buttons on the bottom of the camera. The buttons are all the same size as that on the dSLR, which adds to the natural feel to this. That joystick placement is new to me, so my thumb automatically went for the AF-ON button thinking it was the joystick. This will require some further training to get right.

The back of the Nikon Z 7 full frame mirrorless camera.

The new “i” button below the joystick displays a set of customizable menu options on the screen or viewfinder. It comes in handy when you need to make changes quickly. I do like the fact that the “i” button is customizable in that you can choose which options to see on screen.

When you press the “i” button, a set of customizable settings appears on the LCD screen or the viewfinder.

The Dial

The dial on the left of the camera is comparatively simplified. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, the User 1, 2, and 3 settings offer quick changes in different camera settings, replacing the somewhat confusing menu bank system of the D800 and beyond. I can definitely see myself using this feature, setting 1 to landscapes, 2 for event photography, and 3 for low-light scenarios.

The new info. screen on top is bright and clear. The dial on the left now has three user-defined preset settings.

I think the most important thing here is that you try out the camera for yourself in store, and see how you like the feel of this camera. If you’re already shooting with a Nikon dSLR, chances are, you’ll feel right at home with a Nikon mirrorless.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

One of my main concerns if I were to move to a mirrorless camera was the electronic viewfinder (EVF). I am so dependent on the viewfinder—even with live view availability on my D800—that I wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable while looking through it.

As soon as I looked through the viewfinder on the Z 7 though, I noticed its brightness and clarity. It was a great experience overall. What’s even better is the fact that you have so many different options for viewing additional information inside the viewfinder. You can even review images that you took, and change menu settings without having to remove your eye from the viewfinder.

The LCD screen on the back displays a lot of information, including a histogram.

An EVF, however, will never be the same as an optical viewfinder (OVF). There was a time when I panned quickly from left to right, and noticed a considerable lag of tall buildings as it curved its way through the viewfinder. However, an interesting note here is that when I saw a demonstration of the camera at an event a week later, I didn’t notice this lag as the photographer demoing the unit panned left to right.

All the information on the LCD screen can also be seen in the viewfinder.

The use of an EVF also requires a different way of thinking from an OVF. When I started taking photos at dawn, looking through the viewfinder gave me a pitch black image. At one point, I checked to see if I had the lens cap still on! I had forgotten that an EVF only shows the image with the current settings in place. So if I my settings didn’t reflect the low-light at dawn, I wouldn’t see any details. My OVF, however, would have at least shown me some things in the dark, allowing me to compose the shot immediately. It’s just something you need to get used to when using a mirrorless system.

Dual Card Slots vs. Single Card Slot

According to Nikon, the size of the body was created based on the flange distance and width of the new Z mount. All the features they wanted to put in this camera, needed to fit in this body size that was created to be an ideal size for a mirrorless camera. This in essence was one of their deciding factors in putting a single card slot in the camera.

The Z 7 comes with one single XQD memory card slot.

I’ve seen many sites arguing about this, and heard many people saying this was a mistake on Nikon to offer only a single card slot, but I personally don’t think it’s that big of an issue. My current camera, the D800, has dual SD card slots, but I have only ever used the second slot as an overflow. It has served me well over the last six years of using it, and I have no complaints.

Someone online made a very valid point regarding this (I don’t recall which site this was, but it was someone who had also used the preproduction model of the Z 7), that I thought was worth mentioning here. Files are most susceptible to corruption when they are written on to the memory card. If the writing speed is quick, this will reduce the chance of files getting corrupted. The reading and writing speeds of XQD and CFexpress (to be compatible in the future with a firmware upgrade) cards are so quick that it will more than likely reduce chances of any corruption, which is likely why there have been very few known cases of any XQD cards failing since its arrival to the market several years ago.

Battery life

During the first day of using the Z 7, my fully charged battery lasted about 600 shots. This, however, included some extensive time on the rear screen, scrolling around each menu item to see where things were. I also had the rear screen and viewfinder both operating, automatically switching between the two as I was shooting. I have a feeling that during normal use, and with the viewfinder only operating (as this is what I would rely on the most), I would be able to get a lot more shots out of a single charge. I have heard of others getting as much as 1600 shots in one charge, which is right up there with battery usage on a dSLR.

The EN-EL15 batteries that came with the D8xx series cameras are compatible with the Z 7, which makes this very convenient. There are slight differences between these batteries though:

  1. Only the EN-EL15b that comes with the Z 7 can be charged inside the camera via a USB cable—camera cannot be used at the same time.
  2. The EN-EL15 (Li-ion01) batteries that were purchased/came with cameras between 2011 and 2013 have lower power outputs than their current counterparts, so performance will be lower when put in the Z 7.
  3. The EN-EL15 (li-ion20) and EN-EL15a batteries that were purchased/came with cameras from 2013 onward have the same power output as the newer generation batteries, however, cannot be recharged within the body of the camera.

To find out which battery you have, check the underside of your battery and look for the model number.

See the official Nikon article here for a more detailed explanation.

Focusing

The Nikon Z 7 sports 493 focus points, covering 90% of the frame both vertically and horizontally. This is a much welcome addition to my comparatively paltry 51 focus points on the D800. Getting to each one of these points, though is another story. If you’re using the joystick, you’re able to move the focus area point by point. My only critique with this is, I wish the joystick was more responsive/quicker in moving from one side of the screen to the other. There is a little bit of a lag before the focal area starts moving a little faster—much like you have on your live-view focusing on a Nikon dSLR (but not as long of a lag as on my D800). If you want immediate focusing, you’re able to touch the LCD screen on the exact area you want to be in focus, and the camera will focus and optionally take the photo immediately afterward.

Because the Z 7 uses on-sensor phase-detect autofocusing (PDAF), it now has four different focusing modes, which are slightly different from what Nikon dSLR users are used to. The welcome addition to this is the new Pin-point focus selector, which really helps in nailing that focus point on someone’s eye. Gone are the days of d9, d25, etc., which have been replaced by the likes of Dynamic autofocus, Wide-S, and Wide L.

The new autofocus settings on the Nikon Z 7.

Because I was more focused on landscape imagery during my time with the Z 7, I did very little testing of face detection autofocus (achieved through the Auto-Area focus mode). From my time with it, I do recall that it was able to track the face that I locked on, quite well, however, if the face was obstructed for a split second, the focus would be lost. If I remember correctly, there is a menu setting that allows you to select how long this obstruction can last before the focus is lost—I left this at its default. Overall, I didn’t have any issues with my focusing and found it to be quite responsive and quick, even when I was using the FTZ adaptor.

We lose out on some dSLR favourite focusing modes like 3D tracking, but we gain in other areas like pin-point auto focus and face-tracking. These new modes may require some time getting used to, but hopefully with that time, we will grow to like it just as we did the modes for dSLRs.

FTZ Adaptor

The FTZ adaptor is what allows Nikon’s F-mount lenses to be used on their new Z-mount cameras. It’s created to be an extension to the mirrorless cameras and because of this, feels solid and reliable. Even with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on the mirrorless, it didn’t feel like the adaptor was even on the camera. There is no glass within the FTZ adaptor so there really is no image quality loss that I was able to see. The bottom of the adapter has a 3/8″ thread to allow for a tripod plate attachment. One problem I might see here is that because this thread is so close to the thread on the bottom of the mirrorless camera itself, having tripod plates attached to both of these threads at the same time may hit each other, potentially causing a problem—unless you’re using a plate with a very small footprint.

If you look at the photo below, you’ll see my tripod plate connected to the bottom of the mirrorless camera. When it’s inserted into my tripod, the base of the FTZ adaptor sits a mere few CMs away from the tripod itself—not to mention the plate almost hitting the protruded section of the FTZ adaptor. Why is this an issue? This means I’m unable to already have a tripod mount on both the mirrorless camera and the FTZ adaptor at the same time.

The FTZ adaptor that connects the Z 7 and Z 6 camera bodies to any F-mount lens. Notice how the tripod plate on the body is very close to the protrusion of the FTZ adaptor.

As a photographer who loves to take landscapes, I have a tripod plate attached to my camera at all times so I can easily attach it to my tripod on demand. My L-bracket on my D800 is on my camera 100% of the time. I anticipate a plate or an L-bracket to be on my mirrorless camera too. But if I were to use the FTZ adaptor, I would only be able to attach one tripod plate to either one of these threads, possibly throwing off the balance of the system on the tripod itself (the weight of the lens and the FTZ adaptor could be too front-heavy) if I were to leave the plate on the camera.

The Nikon Z 7 with the FTZ adaptor and an F-mount 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached feels solid in the hand.

This is more of a nuisance than anything since long lenses tend to have their own tripod threads. The only lens I would be worried about with this FTZ configuration would be my 14-24mm f/2.8, which has an ND adaptor ring on it, making it even heavier at the front.

The protruding eyepiece on the Nikon Z 7 is the kind of small detail that Nikon has carefully thought of. It makes a world of difference believe it or not.

If you have any Nikon glass, it will be a wise choice to get the FTZ adaptor as well. Considering you can get this discounted by about CAD$130 when you buy it with the camera (before the end of October 2018), there’s even more of a reason to get it.

In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)

I have always wanted in-body image stabilization (IBIS) in my camera, so this is a very welcome addition to the mirrorless system. It makes so much sense too as it now allows for smaller form factors in lenses, and adds vibration reduction capabilities to non-VR lenses.

The IBIS is a five-axis stabilization system, and works in conjunction with all of your lenses. Connecting a VR lens to the camera simply means you get an additional three axis of stabilization to what your lens already offers. You don’t need to turn off the VR on your lens to use it on the Z 7 as the two “magically” understands each other.

Even if you add the FTZ adaptor, the IBIS works seamlessly with all of your lenses.

Final Thoughts

After two days of using it and seeing the images coming out of it, I can comfortably say that I really do like this new system and the benefits it offers. The wider Z-mount means more lens variations are possible in the future, and the mirrorless technology means silent shooting, viewfinder options, and so much more in a solidly built body that I can handle like a normal dSLR.

It is truly an exciting time for photographers with so many options to choose from now. I firmly believe that while cameras may simply be a tool to get the job done, there’s no denying that the latest technology in these systems can offer substantial benefits in improving one’s workflow…and who wouldn’t want that?!

Additional Photos

The gallery contains additional photos taken with the preproduction Nikon Z 7. With the exception of the first two photos, all other photos are unedited JPGs taken straight from the camera and simply resized for the web.

A Look at the Huawei P10

Advances in smartphone technology has been phenomenal over the last few years. From larger screens to dual lenses on the back, every manufacturer from Samsung to Apple to LG has been pulling out all the stops to attract new customers and gain more market share. So wouldn’t you think it’s crazy for another manufacturer to try and compete with the already well-established brands? Why did an unknown manufacturer like Huawei enter the very competitive North American mobile phone market now of all times? While Huawei may not be a familiar name to folks living here in North America, it is actually one of the top three largest manufacturers of mobile phones in the world. That’s why.

Their latest flagship phone to hit the North American market is the Huawei P10. This beauty of a phone sports a 5.1″ IPS-NEO LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution, their Kirin 960 chipset, and the feature that I find the most attractive: dual Leica lenses on the back (20mp and 12mp f/2.2 lenses with optical image stabilization).

Before I delve into the details of the camera and lenses, I should let you know that this review isn’t meant to be technical by any means. I won’t go into details about the phone’s specifications, the Android 7.0 (Nougat) operating system it came installed with, nor anything else apart from the camera and lenses that I was most intrigued about.

This demo unit was provided to me by Bell Canada and Huawei Canada as I worked with them on a social media campaign over on Instagram. You can check out the video they made of me here. This blog post wasn’t a requirement of the social media campaign, so I’m really just doing this for my own purpose. Also, I did give back the phone, so I no longer have it in possession unfortunately.

So now that we have that taken care of, let’s begin!

The Look

At first glance it may look like just an ordinary smart phone, but when you feel it in your hands, you’ll notice something a little different about it. Before I was even told about it, I noticed the smooth feel and finish to the matte look of the black version of the phone that I received. I was told the blue micro-textured phone feels even better in your hands!

The front of the phone comes with an anti-scratch protector that is already on when you receive your phone. You can take this off if you really don’t like it, but I’ve heard the glass underneath can scratch easily if done so.

The dual Leica lenses on the back of the Huawei P10.

The Camera

The Huawei P10 sports two Leica lenses that are optically stabilized on the back: One 20mp monochrome optic and another 12mp colour optic, both at f/2.2. Combined, they give you a lot of options when taking photos with it. The front facing camera is an 8mp f/1.9. So what does this mean? According to Huawei, it provides better low-light capabilities, clearer images, and great colour rendition.

The dual Leica lenses on the back of the Huawei P10

I love testing the limits of camera phones, so I took the camera and shot several shots during sunrise and sunset hours, where light is low. Let’s see how it did, compared to my iPhone 6s Plus, and my Nikon D800.

The native camera app has a lot of information readily available on the screen. This information is quite handy to have at a glance, letting me know what settings I’m currently shooting at.

The Gallery app on the Huawei P10 is your standard photo browser. One thing I did notice was that it was not able to render RAW files very well. For one reason or another, any photos that were taken in RAW (dng format), were slightly blurred when seen in the Gallery app.

At first, I thought to myself that I was taking way too many blurry shots, and started deleting them from the app—only to realize later on that I was actually deleting the RAW files, which were perfectly in focus when viewed in other editing apps. This needs to be addressed in an update, if it hasn’t been already.

The Gallery app on the Huawei P10.

Different Shooting Modes

The Huawei P10 comes with several shooting modes built in right inside their native camera app. Now that’s convenient since you don’t need multiple apps to do multiple things, much like you need with the iPhone. A look at all the options reveals several modes including monochrome, Time Lapse, Long Exposure, and more. As a sucker for long exposures, I just had to test this out. I will note that one of the disadvantages of using any of these additional shooting modes is that the camera will no longer capture these images in RAW format. As soon as you use these modes, it will automatically create a jpg for you.

The many different camera modes on the Huawei P10.

Long Exposure Mode

Long exposures on mobile phones are done quite differently from dSLRs. The exposure time is actually not the time the sensor is exposed like a dSLR, but is rather the total time of the video it takes. The camera app then super-imposes the multiple frames it caught within the video, into the still photo to mimic what a traditional dSLR creates. This has some pros and cons to it, like anything else.

The advantage is that you will likely not get many over-exposed images, much like you may with a dSLR. Any stationary objects will be sharp, while any moving objects will be detected by the camera and appropriately treated to mimic a long exposure. This actually works really well—I tested this out when I went camping and I was amazed at the results.

Taken with the HDR mode on the Huawei P10

And the same photo taken with my Nikon D800, edited in Lightroom, which changes the tones quite a bit from the Huawei P10 version.

Sunrise taken with my Nikon D800.

 

Low-Light Mode

In Low-light mode, the camera will take multiple photos in a span of 30 seconds. It then combines all photos to retain details in the low-light areas, and produces one solid image with some impressive results.

Taken at sunrise with the Huawei P10

And as a reference, here’s a photo taken at the same time without the use of the low-light mode, also taken with the Huawei P10. You’ll notice there is a lot more grain visible in the photo.

Single-shot photo taken in normal shooting mode.

And here’s a photo taken at the same time with my Nikon D800, and edited in Lightroom with my standard editing. It’s not as sharp as the low-light version taken on the Huawei P10, but that can be changed in Lightroom.

Photo taken at sunrise with my Nikon D800.

Here’s another set taken with the Lone Exposure mode on the Huawei P10, compared to one I took with the Nikon D800. I find that a lot of noise reduction happens on these images from the P10, which smooths out much of the detail in select areas.

Photo taken with the Long Exposure mode.

And the version from my Nikon D800, taken with a 70-200mm f/2.8.

Long Exposure taken with my Nikon D800.

I don’t have this version taken with an iPhone 6s Plus, but I can say that it would be very difficult to get similar results to what I got from the native camera on the Huawei P10.

Monochrome Mode

The monochrome mode strips any colour information out of the file, leaving you with a black and white image. The 20mp sensor it uses is pretty nice. I love shooting in monochrome as it enables me to concentrate on different aspects of a scene, like textures, patterns, and composition without any colour information to distract me.

Taken with the Monochrome mode on the Huawei P10, and edited in VSCO.

Another example of how sharp images turn out on the Huawei P10.

Taken with the Monochrome mode on the Huawei P10.

Conclusion

Overall I really liked the camera portion of the Huawei P10. I can’t attest to the phone’s capabilities as a phone since I rarely used it as such. But with advanced shootings modes, RAW capabilities, and two dual Leica lenses, this camera packs a punch and is a great contender to other mobile phones out in the market right now.

The Huawei P10 compared to the iPhone 6s Plus.

While the standard HD screen resolution is nothing to write home about, it is sufficient for everyday use, and I don’t find it to be too much of a negative aspect for this phone. The screen is bright enough to use on a sunny day outside, and the slim bezel looks great—although I will admit that my fingers had inadvertently touched the screen on the side on more than one occasion.

The red power button on the side of the Huawei P10.

The Huawei P10 is a great phone with an exceptional camera and lenses. But I find that even with this, it’s probably not enough for me to retire my iPhone 6s Plus for this particular model. Already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem with an iMac, a Macbook Pro, and an iPad, the phone that takes me away from all of this will have to be truly special.

For those that are not already invested in any particular ecosystem though, I would definitely recommend taking a closer look at this phone for your needs.

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.


Product Review: Sleeklens Workflow

One of the best things about post-processing may also be the worst thing about it. We have so many choices these days—which is great—but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can easily get overwhelmed by the plethora of choices you have in front of you.

Read more

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 Quick Look at Instagram Insights

Instagram Insights

Instagram Insights

Back in May of 2016 I read that Instagram was testing out analytics features for Instagram business users. At the time I didn’t think anything of it since my account is not recognized as a business. The feature was to give marketers a more accurate view of their followers’ behaviour, so that their brands can accommodate accordingly.

Instagram Insights for Regular Users

This was great for businesses, but what about the regular users? I believe it was a month or so ago that I believe I passed by an article somewhere on the Internet stating that Insights was slowly rolling out to all users. I have no idea where I read this but I figure if I didn’t see any changes on my Instagram account, then I was not affected by this.

I completely forgot about all of that, until today. Today I finally got my notice saying I was able to get more insight into my followers by clicking on a new icon that is now on the top right corner of my profile page. If you don’t have that icon yet, I’m sure in due time the rollout will come to your account too. Just be patient. Alternatively you could convert your account to a business account, in which you’ll automatically get this feature added in as well.

The new icon is located right beside the Settings icon on the top right.

The new icon is located right beside the Settings icon on the top right.

Having a quick look into Instagram Insights, it’s a relatively straightforward feature that even has explanations as to what each graph means. The layout is clean and easy to read, and gives you the data upfront.

Front page of Instagram Insights.

Front page of Instagram Insights.

My data currently only shows insights for the last three photos that I uploaded. But as time progresses and I upload more, this data should be updated to reflect this.

60 percent of my followers are males!

60 percent of my followers are males!

I can readily see that of my 132k followers, 60 percent are males. The majority of my followers lay in the 18-24 age range, and come from the United States.

Instagram Insights

Why I don’t have followers on Tuesday or Wednesday has yet to be found. I do know for certain that I’ve had engagement on those days. Perhaps the data only pulls for the last 5 days and that blank on Tuesday and Wednesday refers to last week? Today is a Tuesday after all. And the top city that my followers are from…are from Riyadh? Where is that?

Instagram Insights

It also looks like I should be posting pictures right around 1pm, where the majority of my followers are active on Instagram.

I should be posting right around 1pm to get the attention of most of my followers.

I should be posting right around 1pm to get the attention of most of my followers.

What marketers may be most interested in is your Impressions, Reach, and Engagement. As stated right on Insights, Impressions is the total number of times your post has been seen, while Reach refers to the total number of times your post has been seen by unique visitors. Your Engagement level combines your Likes and Comments (you can see separate statistics for Likes and Comments as well).

Instagram Insights

Filter your results by Impressions, Reach, and more!

It’s no secret the engagement level on my Instagram account isn’t very high, but I knew that this wasn’t reflective of how many people actually saw my photos. The Impressions and Reach stats prove this and I’m happy to see this kind of information on each of my photos.

Impressions and Reach are available for each photo!

Impressions and Reach are available for each photo!

These stats are available through the Insights button, or there’s a convenient Insights link under each of my photos when you view your photo. At the time of this posting, I can only see Insights for the last three photos I’ve uploaded.

Instagram Insights

View Insights for each of your photos!

You can see the Insights without having to leave the page, which is pretty convenient. I can see this being useful if a marketer wants to view their insight for a particular photo that has been uploaded during a campaign.

Instagram Insights

Your Insights are populated without leaving the screen. Convenient!

All of these insights will give me a good idea of what type of photos people generally like, are more prone to engaging with, and will tell me when I should be posting if I care for any of these statistics.


Do you have Instagram Insights on your account? Do they reflect what you thought about your Instagram photos? Do you even care about Instagram Insights? Let me know 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.

Product Review: The North Face Recon Backpacks

Not too long ago, I won myself some great gear from The North Face, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on these very versatile backpacks. While I got these backpacks at no cost to me, this review wasn’t required for me to get these items, so don’t let that fool you. As a photographer and outdoor enthusiast, I’ve always been a fan of The North Face products, so I was happy to see that these backpacks had lived up to the standards that I remember them by.

Whether it’s a daypack for hiking, a knapsack for school, or just a pack to carry your goods around town, you can’t go wrong with a backpack from The North Face. Even though these aren’t geared towards photographers, they still proved to be handy to carry my photo accessories for the day.

Product Review: The North Face Recon BackpacksThe North Face Recon Backpack for Men

The Recon line of backpacks from The North Face comes in a variety of designs and colours to suit anybody’s desires. The ones that I got were the yellow and black for the men, and the light purple and turquoise for the women. These 31L backpacks may look small at first, but these can carry a lot more than you think they can. They’re comfortable and water resistant, making it an ideal bag for the outdoors.

DSC_9541

I took these out for a spin on one of my sunrise shoots and a short hike. They carried anything and everything that I thought I would need, which included blankets, water bottles, my camera cables, and even my 15″ laptop. With all those items inside, it still looks quite small on me, don’t you think?

DSC_9587

The laptop stores in its own compartment that is lined by a layer of fleece that does a great job in protecting the content and warming it as well. The two side pockets stretch and are perfect for water bottles.

DSC_9585

The outer pocket folds over to reveal even more pockets to carry all of your smaller items. It has its own dedicated tablet compartment, again lined with fleece, extra pockets for cables, my iPhone, and camera accessories like my battery charger.

DSC_9584

The double zippers make it really easy to zip open and close each compartment. The outer shell is water repellant, but I wouldn’t say is waterproof.

You can see the two different compartments in their empty states in the photos below. You can see the fleece-lined compartments that protect your electronic gear, in addition to all the other pockets inside.

Inside compartment of The North Face Recon

Inside compartment of The North Face Recon

Inside pocket of The North Face Recon

Inside pocket of The North Face Recon

The North Face Recon Backpack for Women

What distinguishes the women backpacks from the men’s? The colour and design is one obvious answer, but the real difference is in the straps. The Flexvent straps are contoured in a way that is specifically suited to match the shorter spinal curve for women, allowing the bottom of the backpack to rest right above the hip. This essentially makes wearing the backpack a lot more comfortable, especially over an extended period of time. The Flexvent (also on the men’s version) is comfortable, flexible, and keeps the air circulating throughout, which is great for long treks.

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The backpack is still large enough to fit everything you would want to fit in there, like a laptop and tablet. The exterior mesh pocket on the back is large enough to fit a pair of shoes if need be.

Northface Recon for Women

The inside is pretty much the same design as the men’s version with plenty of space for extras. The fleece-lined pockets are also included.

Northface Recon for Women

The zipper on the outer flap opens up to another fleece-lined pocket which is perfect for smaller fragile items like your sunglasses. I love details like this that The North Face put into these backpacks. The zipper pulls are large, and also come with an extended pull to make it easier for you to grasp and zip the bag.

Overall Thoughts

Overall both these backpacks carry so much more than you can throw at it. The Flexvent straps are contoured specifically for men and women, and are very comfortable even in heavy loads. The pack is quite versatile allowing you to use it for as a daypack on a hiking trip, or just a pack on a day out in the city.

The little details like the fleece-lined pockets, and the extra large zipper pulls are a great touch that adds to the benefits of these packs. These packs come in a number of different style options so if these particular ones aren’t to your liking, you should be able to find another one that is more to your liking.

Northface Recon for Men and Women

The North Face Recon for Men and Women

The North Face Recon backpack retails for US$99, or approximately CAD$109.99.


For more information on The North Face Recon backpacks, head on over to their website at https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/recon where you can see all of their design and colour options.

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.