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.
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.
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.
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.
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this one 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.
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.
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.
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 Wide Angle Lens
iPhone 6s Plus Regular 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!
The image above really gives you a sweeping view of the marina. Compare that image with the one on my iPhone 6s Plus, below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Here are some additional photos taken with the LG G5 camera.
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.
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.
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 from https://customwater.com/, my camera cables, and even my 15″ laptop. With all those items inside, it still looks quite small on me, don’t you think?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Moment 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Moment currently has three lenses in their collection: 18mm, 60mm, and a macro lens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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!
Every so often I come across a photography related product that really intrigues me. This was exactly the case when I came across a line of photography bags from Pacsafe, a manufacturer by two Australians who were looking for a solution to travelling around the globe while keeping their belongings safe.
This particular bag, the Camsafe Z25, is an iF Design Award 2015 winner, and packs in a lot of safety measures in a compact form for maximum peace-of-mind. This review is based on the Charcoal Camsafe Z25 that was kindly provided to me for the purpose of this review. But don’t let that fool you—I’ve been using this for the past few months now to really get a feel for its advantages and disadvantages so that I can get you all the details for this post. The bag does have some scuff marks and dirt stains, but that’s all from my outings, and isn’t part of the bag itself!
First Impressions of the Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe
When I first got the bag, I was surprised at how compact it was. I wasn’t expecting a bag so small to be able to carry all of gear that it said it was able to carry: dSLR with attached lens, 3 additional lenses, and a laptop, amongst other accessories!
However, once I put in the gear that I normally take for my shoots, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it fit in snugly, with some room to spare in other compartments. The bag itself is lightweight at just 1.7kg, is made of rugged 600D Poly canvas on the outside making it feel tough, Ripstop Nylon and Polyester Fleece on the inside for great protection of your gear.
You can see from above that I have the following in there: 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, and 70-200 f/2.8, along with my D800, seat-belt strap, accessories, and even an older model 15″ Macbook Pro (not shown)!
The bag itself has several compartments and pockets to help you organize all of your smaller accessories. The cover of the main compartment has a large zippered storage area on the inside, a smaller meshed compartment for your memory cards, and a large pocket on the outside that also houses an RFIDsafe pocket that prevents scanners from retrieving sensitive data on your credit cards, e-passports, and other RFID enabled cards.
The top compartment opens up to reveal even more storage space for your gear, in addition to it being the access point for your laptop compartment.
On the side of the bag is an expandable fly-away pocket that is stretchable to hold water bottles and other deep items.
The main compartment opens on the side allowing for quick access to your dSLR as well. There are two clips that you can use to prevent the zipper from opening up any further than the side opening—although more often than not, these clips got in the way from me being able to open the main compartment with ease. Because of the curvature of the zippers of this main compartment, I find it sometimes difficult to fully open with one hand, like I am so used to doing with my ThinkTank bag. It’s a minor setback, but I sometimes struggle with opening and closing the bag and wish I had the ease of use of my ThinkTank in this case.
The compartment itself is fully customizable with the velcro paddings that you can rearrange to your liking.
The back of the bag is made of quilted fabric that is completely flat. While it is very comfortable to wear even on long treks, I find a little bit of air circulation would help alleviate the heat on very hot days on the job.
Pacsafe has also added two handles for this bag, one on its side, and one on the top. You may think this is excessive but there have been a number of times when I have appreciated the fact that you can easily just grab the bag and go. It’s a nice added touch in my opinion.
They have also added adjustable straps to help carry a tripod on the side of the bag. But if you are carrying something in the side pocket, this will no doubt get in the way of the tripod, making you choose between the two.
Having taking this bag out in a rainstorm, I can attest to the fact that it did a good job repelling water and keeping my gear inside dry, although with an even heavier downpour, I can see the bag itself may get soaked through eventually.
Perhaps the most unique thing about this bag would be the added security features it has added to fully protect travellers from pick pockets, thieves, and other troublemakers that you may run across on your trip. These added security features are well thought out and give you that peace of mind that your belongings are protected from people trying to open your bag while you wear it on your back.
The bag itself is made with their eXomesh Slashguard, which prevents thieves from easily slashing through common areas of a bag (front, bottom, side).
The strap may look normal from the outside, but it’s what’s inside that really makes a difference: stainless steel wires integrated within the strap to prevent people from easily cutting through it. Despite the wires being inside, the straps are very flexible, soft, and comfortable throughout.
One of the straps adds another level of security by allowing you to unhook it from the bag so you can wrap it around a solid object and hook it back to your bag.
Zippers can be an easy target for thieves so I really do like what Pacsafe was trying to do here with their zippers. The back pocket is protected as the zipper puller loops into a concealed clip that hides neatly within a tab. This makes it really hard for anybody to even try and open that pocket.
The top and main compartments are protected by an extra measure that is unique to Pacsafe as well. The two zipper pullers interlock with each other allowing you to loop them into what is called a Roobar, which locks with a twist. Add a padlock to this Roobar for maximum protection of your gear, preventing anyone from opening these two compartments.
The uniqueness of these zippers can be its main advantage, but also one of its main disadvantages. Since these zippers are proprietary, if they were to break at one point, you will be left with no choice but to go back to the manufacturer and hope that they can fix this. Each of their bags come with a 5 year warranty which is great, but after the 5 years, what will happen? I wondered about this because at times I felt the zippers may be its weakest link. With its thin loops at its end, and its intricate designs that allow for interconnectivity, there may be a chance for it to break off out of sheer use, which happened with one of my older bags from Crumpler.
Another point to note about the zippers is the fact that they are not flat. This may not seem like a big deal, but the triangular shape of these zippers actually made it slightly difficult for me at times to grab and zip on the go. There were times when I had a hard time grabbing the zippers and zipping up the compartment with ease.
Camsafe Z25 in the Field
I’m including some photos of the Pacsafe Camsafe Z25 bag out in the field, while I was in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta. I found it to be a very good companion to my gear, although the canvas material did get scuffed up with dirt and mud, fairly easily.
You can see the size of the Pacsafe Camsafe Z25 in comparison to my full-sized Gitzo Explorer tripod.
The bag sits comfortably on your shoulders despite all the heavy gear inside of it.
When I’m shooting on the go, I sometime hang the backpack on one shoulder like in the photo above. The compact size of the bag makes this feel comfortable. With the main compartment half open, I easily have access to my gear in this position as well. Just don’t forget to close the compartment once you flip the bag back on to your shoulders!
The bag did a good job keeping my gear dry in rain, although the canvas material did get wet in some areas, which took some time to fully dry up. The bag did not come with a rain cover like some others do, but this is not a make-or-break deal in my opinion—more of a wish-list item. Overall though, I have to say there are many great features of this bag that I like. The compact footprint is a big plus for me, as it still allows for lots of storage. The security features are a great peace-of-mind when travelling as well. The laptop compartment is neatly hidden in the top compartment, although at times I wished I could easily access my laptop with one quick unzip. While the zipper design may be my one concern with this bag, I wouldn’t let this be your deciding factor.
This Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe is a refreshing bag from all the ones I’ve used in the past, and one that I could recommend to those who worry about protecting their gear while travelling. This is the first Pacsafe bag that I’ve had my hands on, but now that I’ve seen this one, I’m more curious to see what other goodies they have in their lineup. Be sure to include a Pacsafe bag in your lineup if you’re looking to buy a new camera backpack.
You can find more details on Pacsafe on their website: http://www.pacsafe.com.
Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive
I’ve had the Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive camera bag for almost two years now and have put it through its paces. It has gone all around the world from here in Toronto to Japan to Fiji. It’s a bag that’s as rugged as it looks. And it has yet to disappoint.
The great thing about this bag is its slim footprint, which allows you to walk around without having to worry about your bag possibly hitting something on its side. At just 11.5″ wide, it holds all my gear in place, yet doesn’t bulge out on either side. At just 8.5″ deep all around, it allows for full gear storage wherever you want inside the bag. This is a little different than other typical camera backpacks that may taper at the top, preventing you from storing larger items near the top of the backpack.
This rectangular size of the bag may be a little bulkier than those tapered backpacks, but I prefer to have this added space for the sake of functionality.
The inside of the bag is completely configurable to your liking. It comes with enough padding to suit most people’s needs. As seen below, here’s a typical configuration that I use for whenever I go out to shoot local events and festivals here in Toronto.
I always have one of my lenses attached to my camera. That lens would be the one that I would be using the most of, for that particular day. The photo above shows the 24-70mm f/2.8 with an ND filter attached. I would carry the rest of my lenses in their respective areas. I have the 14-24mm f/2.8 on one side, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 just below the camera. My accessories fill in the rest of the available slots.
The cover also has compartments and pockets that makes it easy to carry pens, batteries, memory cards, and other camera essentials. One section is water resistant, allowing you to keep important documents or other paperwork if needed.
If I need to bring a flash or two along, I would simply replace some of my accessories, and put them in the other pockets all around the bag. To get a better idea of the contents of the bag, here’s a flat lay of everything that went inside the bag, pictured above.
The bag has two very deep zippered pockets, one on each side of the bag. I love them because they’re capable of fitting in so much. I usually carry my iPhone accessories in one pocket while holding other necessities in another. Just outside these pockets are “ultra stretch pockets” which allow you to put in whatever you need to readily have access to.
The shoulder straps of any backpack are a crucial component as it is what holds all of your gear on your back. Thankfully, I find this Think Tank Street walker HardDrive strap one of the most comfortable straps I’ve tried so far. With thick cushions and padding throughout, it makes carrying a heavy load for an extended period of time very comfortable. Some days I find it hard to believe that I’ve been carrying so much all day long.
The chest strap is small, but don’t let that fool you. It makes a big difference in weight distribution easing some of the stress off your shoulders. There’s also a waist strap that can be easily hidden within the bag itself, or taken off when not in use. This helps the bag from swaying left and right when you’re on the go.
The bag also comes with a removable seam-sealed rain cover, which does a great job of keeping your bag and contents dry. And for those days that you don’t have that cover on—and there will be those days—be assured that the bag itself has a water-repellent coating that will keep your gear nice and dry.
If you like to carry a tripod with you, like I do, you’ll be happy to know that there is a dedicated tripod pocket to this bag as well. The outside pocket opens up to carry the legs of your tripod. If you have a larger tripod, inside the pocket is another pull out pocket that drops down. These come in real handy, freeing your hands from carrying the tripod everywhere, like I used to with other bags.
I can attest to the effectiveness of the mesh back lining and airflow channel that this bag has as I tend to get very hot during the summer months when I shoot many events. They keep the back of this bag (and your shirt) from getting all wet and sticky. And who wants that?!
And finally, this bag is big enough to fit a 15″ Macbook Pro with room to spare! I love the fact that it has its own zipper and the Macbook Pro just slides in with ease.
Just about the only thing I don’t like about this bag is the fact that it fits so much of my gear! In fact it may fit too much that I end up packing way too many things, making it heavier than I may need it to be in some cases. Apart from the straps that dangle about, the footprint of this bag is compact and tidy.
All smaller pockets are zippered with a fabric pull, making it easy to pull and perhaps even making it a little lighter?! I will note that there have been several cases where I wonder what happens to these pockets when I wear it outside in crowded areas. ie. There’s no easy lock that will thwart thieves from trying to pickpocket you when you least expect it.
I somewhat recall my Crumpler backpack had zipper covers to hide the zippered areas, which may/may not have been too effective in deceiving thieves. Nonetheless, it’s a bag that has protected my gear well up to this point, even in the worst of weather like during a freezing rain storm. And that’s what you buy a bag for!
Slow Shutter Cam app for iOS is the long exposure app that you’ve been waiting for. It does it all, and produces sharp results in an easy-to-use interface.
True long exposure photography on a dSLR opens and leaves the shutter for as long as you indicate. On an iPhone, however, it wasn’t until recent updates that the shutter speed could be manipulated at all. This left developers to create apps that mimic the effects of long exposure photographs by combining multiple photos together. Slow Shutter Cam is one such app.
There are many camera apps that provide the slow shutter capability. It was only by chance that I happened to download this particular one a few years back when I first started experimenting with long exposure photography on my iPhone. Even after trying a few other apps, I still kept to this one, which means, it must be doing some things right.
Slow Shutter Cam app allows for long exposure photography on your iPhone in an easy-to-use and fun package.
The app is made to do long exposure photography, and does this well, in addition to adding a few other features that come in handy as well. There are three different capture modes in this app: Motion Blur, Light Trail, and Low Light.
While I don’t use the Low Light option in this app too much, I do use the other two quite frequently. The Motion Blur capture mode allows you to edit the blur strength from 1 to 7 (Min-Max), in addition to allowing you to change the capture duration from minimum (1/8 sec.) to unlimited. This mode is great for creating blurred motion behind (or in front of) the subject, much like you see when doing a long exposure on a dSLR.
The Light Trail has a Light Sensitivity option from 1/128 to Full (1), and the same Capture Duration setting as the Motion Blur. This option is ideal for creating light streaks behind a subject, much like you see with the headlights of a car as it goes by the camera.
Low Light allows for a boost in exposure and Capture Duration changes as well. This option is used for taking photos in low-light situations. I don’t really use this option as I tend not to take photos in low-light situations. You can read here why I don’t really shoot in low-light with my iPhone.
With all of the options, you can create a number of special effects by simply changing the capture duration, blur strength, and light sensitivity. The great thing about this app is that it allows you to see the first frame and last frame while allowing you to scroll through in-between the two. I use this option a lot to select which photo I want to use for my final edit.
The settings screen gives you some very useful options as well. The self-timer option with a value of 1, 3, 5, and 10 seconds is very useful in reducing any camera shake from when you press the shutter button on the screen. You can also edit the Picture Quality to give you the best quality for motion blurs, or for reducing noise in low-light captures.
Prior to this app’s update release in early January 2015, the resulting image quality from this app had never been the sharpest. Whether this is just a limitation of the app, or if it’s caused by the layering of several images, it’s quite evident when comparing an image shot from the native camera app to one that’s been taken with this app.
Now, however, the results are as sharp as if you took the photo with the native camera, and I couldn’t be happier with this app!
The camera interface is pretty straightforward with a large shutter button, and zoom slider that allows for digital zoom. The standard options of flash, and auto focus and exposure are listed on top, in addition to being able to lock the latter two options.
There’s nothing too confusing about this interface, which is likely why I kept with it. After you take the long exposure, the app allows you to change additional settings like Saturation, Hue, Brightness, and select which frame you would like to keep.
The navigation is smooth, responsive, and works well for as long as I’ve been using this.
This has always been—and will continue to be—my go-to app for long exposures on an iPhone. It’s clean interface and efficient workflow makes it just the right app for my workflow. And now with even better quality images coming out from the app, it really is the only app that you may ever need for long exposures on an iPhone.
Here’s just a sample of some long exposures that I’ve done with my iPhone and the Slow Shutter Cam app.
Snapseed for iOS is a versatile image editing app with all the features an iPhoneographer would want, packed into a user-friendly and easy-to-look-at UI.
Snapseed for iOS is a great app for editing images, and many photographers (including myself) went to it for their quick edits. The latest update came not too long ago on Dec. 15 and brought it some behind-the-scenes tweaking with no visible changes.
So what’s up with Snapseed for iOS? Will it ever be updated for the larger screens of the iPhone 6s? The app’s functionality hasn’t changed since it added the HDR Scape and Shadow feature (in Tune Image) a while back.
Snapseed for iOS was a photo editing app released by Nik Software Inc. in 2011. It used their U-Point technology that enabled quick local editing capabilities.
Nik Software was purchased by Google in late 2012, creating outcry from photographers all over, worried about the fate of the great products by Nik. In 2013, Snapseed for desktop ceased production, while Google claimed the mobile apps would remain.
Fastforward to present day, and we see that Snapseed for iOS is still here—albeit with no new functionality or UI changes from its time in 2013.
What I really like about this app is its effective tools done very efficiently. Passing a photo through Snapseed takes little time and within seconds, my editing can be completed just the way I like it.
When selecting an image to edit, the app defaults to previewing the photo before importing it in tis workspace. This was a new feature that I personally didn’t like as it added one extra step in the workflow. I didn’t know until much later, however, that you can turn this feature off by going into Settings > General > Snapseed > Show Image Preview and turning it off.
I use this app for primarily these features:
- Selective adjust is a great tool when you want to adjust only a certain part of your image. You’re able to boost the area’s brightness, contrast, and saturation.
- Within Tune Image lays a number of creative options: Brightness, Ambiance, Contrast, Saturation, Shadows, and Warmth. Which option I use depends on the photo I’m editing. Ambiance does a great job at increasing the overall saturation of the image in an even and subtle manner. Shadows does a great job at opening up the darker areas of your photo. With Warmth, you can control how cold or warm you want the photo to look.
- Details gives you the option of changing the Sharpening and Structure of your image, with the latter option giving you more definition/depth to objects in your photo.
- The Drama filter has always been a favourite amongst many people ever since it was released. It heightens up features within your photo and gives it a look of greater contrast within details.
- HDR Scape produces HDR-like photos using one exposure. I normally don’t like overly HDRed images, but a real subtle application of this option can create that extra special touch to your images.
Open the app and you’re confronted with all of your imaged editing options on the bottom. Scroll through and you’ll see everything from Selective adjust, Tune Image, Crop, Details, Black and White, Vintage, and more.
Select one of these options to reveal more finer editing controls that can transform your image into exactly what you’re looking for. If you scroll up or down on your image at this point, you’ll be able to see the editing options for that specific tool. Scroll left or right and you’ll change that option. It’s that easy.
What I find really useful is the icon of the mountain on the top right of each editing screen (see screen capture below). Once pressed, you can immediately see the “before” image to see exactly how much you’ve changed the image from before you entered that editing tool.
It’s not certain what Google may do with Snapseed’s fate, but until it decides, myself—and thousands of other photographers—will be sure to keep using it while we still can. I love it because it’s efficient to use, and produces great results in each of its settings.