Thursday, January 16, 2020

How To Make A Powerpano with the GoPro Max


I made a short how-to (in Taglish - a combination of Tagalog, a Philippine language, and English). Don't worry. If you understand only one of the languages, you will still be able to get the gist of what I am saying.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Get your GoPro Max from Amazon here!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The GoPro Max

The GoPro Max is the company’s latest 360 camera. It came after the Fusion, the company’s first attempt at 360 photography and videography.

However, the Max is better in the sense that it only uses one microSD card to record your photos and videos versus the two in the Fusion, one for each lens. And of course, there are other newer features also.

Build quality of the Max is great! It is not meant to be dropped (the lenses are bulbous, therefore are exposed. These kinds of lenses are needed so they can do 360 captures) but it can withstand water dunking up to 5m. As I don’t do much water activities, the water resistance of the gadget is still a welcome feature as I can sometimes be caught in the rain while jogging and biking.

Another new feature for GoPro’s 2019 releases - the mount is now built into the device itself. Personally, I still would have preferred that the mount is on a cage like in the GoPro Heroes 7 or older. Those mounts are more stable than the built-in ones.

The camera has a hypersmooth feature so you won’t need a gimbal to ensure that your video captures are smooth as butter. It can also make timewarps (the so-called time lapse in other cameras) which is a fun feature when you want to speed things up.

But, as primarily a photographer, one of my favorite features is the powerpano where the Max makes, as named, a panoramic photograph. This is a great feature because, instead of “panning” your camera from one point to another, the Max employs both cameras to take one shot of the scene. This prevents ghosting as can be seen in panoramic photos produced by cameras and smartphones.

Compare the photo above to the pano I shot using an iPhone. The cars got squished!

There is also a feature where you can use only one lens making the Max similar to a traditional GoPro. This feature is available in both photo and video captures.

Video and photo quality produced by the Max is great in well-lit situations but they can take a hit once the lighting condition deteriorates.

But, all-in-all, the GoPro Max is a fun camera to have. Even is you are not a hyper sports person who go to extreme adventures, the Max is a nice, a very nice, camera to have in your bag.

Highly Recommended!

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Apple's Beats Powerbeats Pro

I reviewed the Apple AirPods 2. I love it. The fact that it fits my ears well is a very big bonus. Actually, if they didn’t fit my ears, then, really, there is no reason for me to get one. But, since the EarPods fit my ears well, then that was a good indicator that the AirPods will fit my ears too!

And I love them. I love the sound, I love the fit and I love the comfort of wearing them for extended periods. The link to my review can be found here.

However, not everyone is lucky enough to have the AirPods fit their ears properly. For some, even if they only move slightly, the AirPods drop every time.

For those people, Apple has a solution: The Powerbeats Pro.

The Powerbeats Pro is the natural evolution of the Powerbeats 3. For those who are not familiar, Powerbeats has hooks that go around your ear so that they don’t fall off when you do athletic activities. The two ear pieces are connected by a cord that can go behind the back of your neck. I love the Powerbeats 3. It has been my constant companion whenever I do long runs. The battery lasts for 12 hours so I only had to recharge the device once a week. I love its sound, though, as Beats go, it can get a bit bass-heavy.

The Powerbeats Pro is essentially the Powerbeats 3 without the cord. Each earpiece has a hook that can go around the ear so they won’t fall off. Each earpiece has a battery which lasts for 9 hours. This is significantly shorter than the Powerbeats 3. However, the charging case can give the unit 15 hours more for a total of 24 hours. (For perspective, the fastest Iron Man done in Kona, Hawaii is less than eight hours.) Also, if the battery of each piece runs out, you can quick-charge them and get one hour and a half of use for 5 minutes of charging!

The Powerbeats Pro is comfortable to wear for extended period. I just needed to adjust the ear hooks a little and it was good to go. The unit feels well-made as all beats go and it is rated to be sweat and splash resistant. This means the earphones will keep on going even if you get caught in the rain. Or if simply you sweat a lot. Just don’t swim with it… The case also is well made but it is not water resistant. So, if you think that there is a big chance that you will get wet, then make sure you leave the case/charger in the water resistant part of your bag or in a zip lock container.

Yes, I said “bag” because the case is big and there is no way you can put it inside your jeans pocket. It “can” fit in the pocket of your running shorts or running jacket but the case is heavy enough to not feel comfortable when you go on a run. Yeah, I personally will not go on a run with the case on my person…

Now, I am not an audiophile so I really cannot tell you if you would like the sound of these pair of Beats or not. Quality of sound is, in my opinion, highly subjective anyway. What I can say is that I love the sound of the Powerbeats Pro. And, surprisingly, this pair is not bass-heavy the way Beats usually sound. Bass is still there but it is not as heavy as the Powerbeats 3 that I still use. The lows and mids are also clear and I appreciate the sound it produces whether it be Hip Hop, Rock or Classical music. And the sound is very good even for watching movies and videos. The sound is well-balanced whether you are listening to dialogues or to the soundtrack of whatever you are watching.

The Powerbeats Pro has a bit of passive noise cancellation, which means it does mute the sound of your environment via the seal of the earpieces. However, it is not sealed enough to completely block out the outside world, which is the way I like it - I still wish to be able to hear my environment especially when I am walking or running outdoors.

To illustrate this passive noise cancellation, you will be able to hear that people are talking on the table next to yours but you won’t be able to tell what they are saying nor what language they are speaking in...

So, all-in-all, using the Powerbeats Pro is a really positive experience.

However, one negative thing about the Powerbeats Pro is the price. It is really expensive and a lot of people will balk at the idea of spending $250 pre-tax for this headset (about 13,000 pesos in Philippine money - not including the extra amount that importing this may incur). The AirPods with wireless charging case is actually $50 less expensive than the Powerbeats Pro. And, there are a lot of other brands that are cheaper but sounds as good, or some may even say better, than the Powerbeats Pro!

So, why would you spend more money for the Powerbeats Pro than a different brand?

For me, it is the H1 chip that Apple has developed in-house. With this chip, pairing the device for the first time seems like magic. When you open up the lid, the Powerbeats Pro will appear on any device you have with you that has an active screen (either an iOS, iPadOS or MacOS device). The chip also makes it much quicker to re-pair the Powerbeats Pro to whatever bluetooth device it is registered to. Also, the H1 chip makes the connection between the earpiece and, say an iPhone, much more stable: music does not easily cut off over an extended distance, call quality sounds better for both parties, though i noticed that I need to pump the volume up for voice calls, and there is no lag between the left and the right units. Trust me, if there is a lag between the left and the right earpiece, it can get really, really disconcerting… (Have you ever watched something where the movement of the mouth of the actors is not in sync to the sound you are hearing? It “is” that annoying!)

So, if you have ears that seem to hate AirPods, if you have the extra cash, and if you don’t mind carrying a huge charging case, then the Powerbeats Pro might be for you!

The Powerbeats Pro is Highly Recommended!

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Fujifilm X-T3 - A Long Term Review

The beginning of a new love affair...

As far as gadgets go, I have two great loves. One is Apple, which started in 2006 when I got my first polycarbonate white MacBook. After that, I haven’t had a computer from another brand. It continued with the iPod, iPod Nano (still one of my favorite gadgets), the iPod Touches, the iPads and, of course, the iPhones. I had several kinds of each, but, my most favorite so far are the iPhone 5s and now, of course, the Xs Max.

My second great gadget love is the one that started just a couple of years ago when, one fateful afternoon, I held my first camera from this brand: the Fujifilm X-T20 (my review here). It was love at first sight.

However, not all loves are meant to last. Because I discovered something that is much, much better than the X-T20. (A newer version, the X-T30, can be viewed in amazon here.)

I discovered the Fujifilm X-T3!

The Fujifilm X-T3 is the epitome of perfection...

That is, for me, my short unbiased review.

Ok, it is not unbiased. I mean, with this camera, you cannot help but be biased... After all, the Fujifilm X-T3 is one of the best cameras out there.

Let me expound on this.

Build Quality

See, online photos cannot justify the beauty of this camera. You have to hold it in your hands, feel the buttons, caress the dials. This camera is meant to be in your hands, it is meant to be touched.

And the moment you touch it, you will feel how high-quality this camera is. It is compact but does not feel cheap. It is light compared to DSLRs but it does not feel less of a camera. And, sure, it is not as light as other mirrorless cameras but the weight feels just right! It does not feel hollow.

The moment I held the X-T3, my fingers already knew where to go. My hands and fingers and the X-T3 are meant for each other.

The camera has a fair share of knobs, dials and buttons. These are what make it, and most Fujifilm cameras, great. The buttons are a throwback to the bygone age of film but they are also a very nice bridge to the digital age we have now. The buttons are a great departure from smartphone photography where you do not have much control, if at all. With this camera, you can be as deliberate or as slow as you want - you can adjust the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO and the exposure compensation separately with just a turn of each respective dial.

Or, you can set everything to “auto” and do your photography like what you have on your smartphone. You will just have much better photos because the T3 has a much bigger sensor compared to any smartphone on the face of the planet.

The camera is weather-sealed so it will be able to survive rains and splashes and sand. But of course, you need to pair it with a weather-sealed lens also (like this one).

Camera connections

And speaking of smartphones, now, you can connect the camera to your smartphone via Bluetooth. This feature is a long time in coming and I am just happy that it’s now in the X-T3. With Bluetooth, you can geotag your photos so you will be able to remember where exactly you took your photos. You can also use your camera as a remote release, something that is very useful when you don’t want to touch the camera to take pictures.

The X-T3 also has wifi on board. With it, you can browse the photos in the camera and download them to your phone if you so choose. With wifi, you can also use your phone as a remote control!

Now, you may ask, what is the difference between the “remote release” and the “remote control”? Well, in the former, you cannot see the thing you are shooting on the phone; you would have to rely on the camera for all the settings. In remote control, however, what the camera sees is displayed on the phone screen. You can even change the aperture opening, the exposure compensation, white balance, and film simulation. You can even use your smartphone to trigger video shoots.

Another thing you can do with the camera’s wifi antenna is you can connect the camera to your home WiFi and auto-upload the photos to your computer.

In my previous Fujifilm camera, the X-T20, connection to the smartphone is done only via WiFi. That system works but, after some time, the phone turns off the WiFi antenna and disconnects from the camera and you will then need to re-pair the two if you want to be able to do some of the features I mentioned above.

With Bluetooth, the two are always paired (provided they are separated by no more than 30 feet; or if there are no walls between them) so you can confidently rely on the fact that all your photos will be geotagged. And since the X-T3 uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), you don’t have to worry about your battery getting drained by the connection in either the camera or the phone.

Not so great battery life though...

However, taking pictures or shooting videos actually drain the battery of the T3. Who knew?!?

The battery of the X-T3 is a small one and is actually the same as the one used in the X-T2, X-T20, etc. Maybe Fujifilm, the company, was thinking that, so as not to ostracize users of the older cameras, they decided to use the same old battery. I am all for backwards compatibility but this is where I disagree with the company. The company rates the NP-W126S to last for 390 shots. I still would have to reach that number of shots on a single charge of the battery... I feel like I can only get about 250 shots on a single charge. Definitely less than 300 shots. So, spare batteries are a must. If you plan to do a whole day photo walk or if you are gonna shoot a whole day event like a wedding (all the way to the reception and party), then you must have at least 5 spare batteries. And you need to charge the used ones once they are depleted just to have some kind of insurance.

You can also charge the camera via USB-C! So, if you have a power brick with you for your smartphones or tablets, then you can also use that to charge the X-T3. However, you cannot use the camera while it is charging. This is a shame... If you want to do a long time lapse photography, then you will have to contend with missing some of the shots while you change batteries. This seems like a wasted opportunity… With such a small battery, I was hoping that Fujifilm will let us use the camera while the battery in the camera is being charged. Or bypass the battery all together while the camera is connected to an external source via USB-C. You will just need to contend with the heating though.

I wish the wall charger can be connected to a battery pack also. This will prove useful if you do not have a wall outlet nearby and you have a battery pack knocking around in your bag.

A good-looking camera is nothing if it does not take great photos!

And the Fujifilm X-T3 does!

I’ve had the camera for several months now. But I didn’t want to write a review of the camera when I have experienced it for a couple of weeks only. I wanted to really use the camera before I give it a proper assessment.

Now, the picture quality of the Fujifilm X-T3 is one of the best! I don’t even shoot RAW photos anymore with this one. There really is no need unless you are the type of person who likes to make a lot of changes to their photos via Photoshop or the like. I am not that kind of photographer right now. I only, most of the time, just adjust for cropping and fixing the horizon. Other than that, I mostly just leave my photos un-retouched. However, for professional photographers, like wedding or portrait photographers, just to cite examples, shooting in camera raw is available as an option. With it, you can edit to your heart’s content without degrading the quality of the final print.

Shooting with high ISO isn’t a problem with the camera. Even at ISO 12,800, photos come out clean and there is not much grain. I have shot with this camera in almost dark conditions and yet the grains in the photos are still acceptable. The sensor in this camera is a beast!

Fujifim produces some of the best photos out there! And the X-T3 is one of the best. And, for me, color rendition straight from the camera is best with the Fujifilm-branded cameras. (Note: the following three photos were post-processed using the app Snapseed.)

And as I’ve said, you can be as deliberate with this camera as much as you want. You can enjoy the scenery, take it all in with your own eyes, then maybe take a couple of shots, take a breath. Change ISO, change aperture - you can be as slow as you want.

Or you can be a speed demon with this camera also! Like in sports where most things happen so fast! 30 frames per second fast!!! However, I am, as a photographer, of the former camp. But, if the need arises, I will be able to capture life as it happens - fast but still deliberate. If that makes any sense!

A Love Affair That Will Last A Long Time

So, I feel that I have already expressed my long-lasting love for the Fujifilm X-T3. Paired with the Fujinon 23mm f/2 lens (review), this is the lens-camera combination that I carry with me in my many adventures. I love that both are weather-resistant. I love that the combination is not that heavy compared to DSLRs and their prime lens counterparts. I love the feel of the X-T3 in my hands. I love the way that it looks. I love everything about it.

For me, the Fujifilm X-T3 is the perfect camera!

If it is not yet obvious to you, for me, the Fujifilm X-T3 is Highly Recommended!

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL

I would have wanted to buy the iPhone XS Max Smart Battery case. However, when the wife and I and a friend went to the Apple Park Visitor Center, there wasn’t any unit available. Actually, as I write this (July 31, 2019) the soonest that a Smart Battery Case would be available is on September 3. 2019! Apple needs to step up its supply chain game when it comes to the Smart Battery Case!

So, I decided to look for something else, something that will extend the battery life of my iPhone XS Max without the need for a wall outlet.

I looked for a similar thing, a battery case that can attach to my iPhone. However, there wasn’t one that was able to satisfy completely what I was looking for. And also, I had to consider the fact that I have other devices that I have to charge, not just my iPhone XS Max!

So, I decided to get a power bank instead, one that will be able to charge my iPhone, but also my other devices as well.

I decided to get the Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL.

The Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL has a rating of 10,000 mAh. This means it can theoretically charge my iPhone XS Max less than three times over from empty. However, real-world usage for me meant that I can charge my iPhone at the most 2 to 2.5 times.

As the name implies, this battery pack can charge my iPhone and a lot of newer Android phones wirelessly. It is a convenience that I have grown to love ever since I owned my iPhone XS Max. I rarely charge my phone via wires these days.

However, wireless charging is still a really slow process so, if I want to charge my iPhone quickly, I had to rely on the 2.1A USB port. The good thing? I can actually do wireless charging and wired charging via USB at the same time! This is a boon if you drain two devices at the same time, albeit the wireless charging will be slower…

The Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL can roughly charge my iPhone XS Max wirelessly 25% after an hour of charging with the screen turned off. If the screen is turned on while it is charging, the process will be significantly slower. A small LED light turns on to tell you that your device is charging. Four LED lights also tell you how much power is left in the battery - four LED lights will tell you that the battery is full, while one LED light means there is only 25% power left.

The Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL has a pretty design and it feels hefty in the hand. However, the plastic that coats the housing of the battery pack tends to attract a lot of lint. This can be a distraction if you are bothered by such things. Well, I am. A bit. Ok, not a bit…

The battery pack can be fast-charged via USB C. And the good thing, it can bypass charging the battery pack if you have something charging on it - this means that, say you are charging the battery pack while you are charging your Android phone on it, the battery pack will charge the phone fully first before it charges the battery pack. This can save you having to look for another socket while you charge two devices!

I made a great choice when I went with this battery pack.

The Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL is Highly Recommended!

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

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