Sony’s a5100 camera: the height of lightweight photography?

a5100-frontcropped

Japanese tech company Sony’s next shot into the smart-camera fray is on the horizon with the upcoming release of their a5100 camera. It promises to be an extremely lightweight, pocket-sized solution to photography needs, boasting a huge 24.3 megapixels and the ability to shoot full 1080p video. Sony promises “Crisp, blur-free action shots and soulful portraits. Smooth, cinematic Full HD movies. Better-looking selfies.” While this may be quoted, is this really going to be the go-to lightweight camera we’ve all been waiting for?

The company sure seems keen to advertise one of this camera’s key aspects – its strengths in video shooting. The camera will feature “Fast Hybrid AF with huge 179 focal plane phase-detection AF points for reliable tracking autofocus plus touch focussing and touch shutter release”. This means the camera is able to constantly focus and refocus an image during filming – resulting in a crazed pet, a photo finish or the winning penalty shot all recorded in crisp 1080p with no blurring in the image during filming. Touch shutter release will allow you to use the rotatable camera screen to take photos without the need for the shutter – touch a location on the screen and the camera will make it the focus of the image.

According to TechRadar, The screen is also bright and clear, and responds quickly to touch.”  The screen can be flipped up 180 degrees, making selfies easy to capture.

a5100-screencropped

The camera is palm-sized and lightweight – weighing in at just 283 grams you could easily forget it’s in your pocket. It also has similar dimensions to a smartphone, making it easy to carry and serving, according to Sony, as “the serious choice for anyone who’s moving up from their smartphone’s camera or point-and-shoot compact snapper.” So if you’re looking for an upgrade on your smartphone’s camera but don’t want to restrict bag or pocket space, this could be a great choice.

The selfie lovers among us will have plenty to like here too. The company is quick to advertise the camera’s selfie-taking abilities, stating:

“Flip the large LCD screen through 180° and hold the ergonomically-styled camera body comfortably at arm’s length. Frame yourself with the conveniently positioned zoom lever: then release the shutter for great selfies.”

With the selfie trend showing no signs of slowing down, it’s clear that Sony want to make this aspect of modern photography easier for its consumers – all the more reason to want one of these cameras. Cnet were also keen on the camera’s selfie abilities, stating: “interface optimizations make Sony’s cameras stand out for selfies”

The a5100 also has Wi-Fi built in. This is a feature that has been under some debate – more serious camera makers have often opted to avoid building Wi-Fi into their cameras, while others, like Sony, see the potential here. The a5100’s wireless compatibility will allow seamless sharing of photos and video with others and storage devices – syncing your work onto a computer is easier than ever.

a5100-camera

The camera will become available in mid-September 2014 and has an RRP of £420 for just the body, £550 with a 16-50mm lens kit, or £760 for both the 16-50mm lens and the 55-210mm lens kits.

For more information visit Sony.

Lytro: Light Rays and Living Pictures

Lytro-

Photography – especially the mid-range point and click market has been in trouble for some time now. People, for the most part, love to take pictures but a quick glance on Facebook or Instagram shows that they don’t always care about the quality. And when the camera bundle with your phone is “good enough” then why shell out for a “real camera”. What can camera manufacturers do in a world where people are willing to take pictures on iPads?

Enter Lytro – a radical new way to take an experience photography. Lytro brings light field technology to consumers and changes perceptions about what cameras can be. For a start Lytro doesn’t look like a camera (although I’m guess to someone under 14 a camera must just look like a phone). To my eye Lytro looks like a rectangular torch – or a mini telescope and the sleek design features just two buttons – power and shutter – which is a far cry from the knobs and dials of cameras of old. This is not to call Lytro simple – the touch screen controls are intuitive and enable all sorts of control over the images you are taking.




Of course Lytro’s headline feature is a light field sensor that collects the colour, intensity and the direction of every light ray flowing into the camera, capturing fundamentally different data from the scene. What this means is that you can refocus one a photo is taken and shift the perspective in a scene. Lytro excels at taking these sorts of image, although it’s not the best camera for taking a wide range shots.



Bringing smartphone innovations to regular cameras, Lytro also comes with Living Filters, giving one click access to 9 interactive filters. And there is also an app that enables anyone with an iOS device to experience “living pictures”.



Availability and Price
The Lytro camera is available in July through UK distributor Softline, in retail stores Dixons Travel, Harrods and online at John Lewis priced at:
• Graphite, Electric Blue, Moxie Pink: 8GB Lytro Camera- £399.00
• Red Hot: 16 GB Lytro Camera- £469.00

CineLite: Great Mobile Tracking Shots

CineLite-Slider

A great dolly shot is an essential weapon in a cinematographer’s arsenal and Vacion brings this range of movement to mobile videography with the CineLite camera slider.

Much like the full-size sliders used by video professionals, the CineLite allows for incredibly smooth tracking shots. Fitted with self-lubricating Drylin bearings, using the slider felt comparable to shooting on much larger (and considerably more expensive) systems.

CineLite sliders are drilled and tapped so it’s easy to fit to a standard tripod – I attached mine to a Gorrilapod at all sorts of crazy angles. Each rail is supplied with a moulded foot at each end so you can also just lie them flat on surfaces for stable shots. The slider uses a hard anodised rail using a 5mm wide runner with a 30mm pitch.

A mobile phone mount for the slider is included that fits most “normal” sized smartphones – if you’ve gone the phablet route you will struggle here. The clamp is very firm and held my iPhone 5 tightly – even with a case, Olloclip lens and Blue Mikey attached.

Out of the box the slider is 500mm, although you can order custom rail lengths if you need a little extra. This is longer than the most obvious rival for this product, Glidetrack’s Mobislyder (which clocks in at 430 mm). The look and feel is also a bit more professional/duller than the Mobislyder depending on how you view these things. The somber greys and blacks aren’t as fun and playful as the Mobilslyder’s bright green design but the construction feels much more solid and reliable. More importantly the camera grip is much more solid than the Mobislyder so minor wobbles don’t creep into your shots (the whole point of having a stable dolly system in the first place).

If you’re getting creative with your mobile photography it’s definitely one to look out for.

CineLite is out now from Vacion for £125

Olloclip Quick Flip Case Review

Olloflip-Case

I love my olloclip but I also love my iPhone not being smashed into a million pieces so I often cover it with a protective case. Like an overprotective ex-lover this gets in the way of my love for my olloclip as I often have to pop one off to pop the other on (if you’re lost in this simile, don’t worry so am I).

The clever folks at olloclip know this is the case and have come up with a great compromise – the olloclip Quick Flip case.
The Quick Flip has a special hinge that reveals a corner of the iPhone where you can pop on the olloclip. My immediate concern was that the hinge would snap off within minutes of being in my bag, but the robust construction and clever design make this unlikely.

Even cleverer, the corner that flips over becomes a trigger for the shutter release (the volume up button) so you take much more stable photos, reducing camera shake.

The olloclip Quick-Flip case is made of polycarbonate material and as a case it’s functional and merely ok – I’ve a range of amazingly well designed cases to chose from. But the ability to quickly step into the world of more creative photography is worth the sacrifice.

The included Pro-Photo Adapter has two standard tripod mounts and a cold shoe for attaching photographic accessories such as tripods, video lights or microphones. There’s even a special adapter, which allows the olloclip case to be used with the iPod Touch 5th generation.

The olloclip Quick-Flip case for the iPhone 4/4S and 5 comes in white or translucent black and retails for £39.99. The olloclip 3-in-1 quick-connect lens for the iPhone 4/4S currently retails for £59.99 and olloclip 3-in-1 quick-connect lens for the iPhone 5 is available on the market for only £69.99. The olloclip Quick-Flip case and olloclip 3-in-1 lens can be purchased individually or as a bundle at olloclip.com and through major retailers including Apple, Best Buy and Target.

Best iPhone Photo and Video Accessories

RotoLight-iPhone-

As the old adage goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. And more often than not these days that will be your smartphone. Pretty much all modern smartphones have great cameras. That’s a given. And there are a range of amazing apps out there on all OSs to enhance your photography, as well as a range of retro filters if you value pretension and inauthenticity. What gives iPhone users the edge is the wonderful 3rd party ecosystem of accessories that help you take your photography and film making closer and closer to a professional standard.

Rotolight OWLE
I shouldn’t have to say this but lighting is one of the most important elements of recording visuals. You’d be shocked at how often people forget and you wind up with terrible, terrible looking footage or images that are either too bright or too dark. The OWLE HD VIDEO KIT for iPhone 4/4S adds some serious clout to your mobile cinematography. It comes with the award winning Rotolight RL48-B HD LED Ring light and a range of filters so you can create perfect soft fill-in light. This alone is a great addition but the OWLE also includes a custom 37mm wide angle / macro lens, high quality 180 degrees adjustable Vericorder microphone and tripod mount threading on all 4 corners so it’s the most versatile high-end tool on the list.

When I spoke to Rotolight at the Gadget Show they promised an iPhone 5 version was coming. Still no word on when.

£215.99
Find out more: Rotolight

Joby GripTight GorillaPod
Joby-Gorillapod-GripTight

Shaking hand syndrome ruins so many videos and almost every photo I’ve take would have been better had I used a tripod. Hence the Joby GripTight GorillaPod – a tripod and clamp system that helpful works with most modern smartphones and folds up neatly into your bag when not in use. I have one in my bag right now. And obviously the upside of the GorillaPod is that it’s not just a regular tripod and seems at times almost infinitely versatile – you can manipulate the legs into numerous combinations that enable you to capture more exciting shots.

£25
Find out more: Joby

olloClip

OlloClip

The olloClip is an old favourite and one of the earliest to the iPhone lens game. The pocket sized, high quality three in one lens, including a Fish Eye, Wide Angle and Macro lens, simply pops on to the edge of your phone. However, this does mean that olloClip does not play nicely with iPhone cases, and it does feel a little exposed at times filming with an iPhone in its naked state. The fisheye lens captures approximately a 180° field-of-view, the wide-angle lens nearly doubles the iPhone’s normal field of view and the macro lens applies roughly a 10X magnification.

Find out more: OlloClip
£69.99

mobislyer

MobiSlyder

Sadly for videographers only the mobislyder allows you to take smooth tracking shots that can breath life into your cinematography. The mobislyder is developed by the world’s No. 1 camera slider company, Glidetrack, so it’s has some fairly substantial clout behind it. It’s incredibly sturdy, with an articulated mount and there are all sorts of amazing shots you can pull off once you have one (there’s also the incredible temptation to go a bit overboard).

http://vimeo.com/31045367#

Fortunately the mobislyder is compatible with all sorts of hand-held camera devices, including the iPhones, Android, compact cameras, small DSLR cameras and small camcorders.

Find out more: MobiSlyder
£75

Cameramator: The Photographer’s New Best Friend

If tethered photography is getting you down, Cameramator could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Currently in the developmental stages, this new technology takes tethered photography to the next level, and turns it wireless.

Cameramator

When in use, Cameramator will allow you to control your DSLR and preview images directly from an iPad or iPhone without any wiring. It provides photographers with a range of new possibilities, making it possible to preview and share photos outside of the camera’s viewfinder. Tethered photography usually requires photographers to connect their camera to a device, such as a laptop or tablet, using USB or firewire. Cameramator ditches the cables, reduces the fuss, and lets you get on with the job.

When launched, Cameramator founders expect users to be able to utilise the following features at a minimum:

  • Photo sharing
  • Self-timer
  • Camera control
  • Instant image review
  • Intervalometer
  • HDR Bracketing

The Cameramator package will consist of a Cameramator unit and an app for iPhone and iPad. The unit attaches to a DSLR camera and lets you control the camera through the iOS app. The only requirement is that both the Cameramator unit and the device are on the same wireless network.

Using the app, you can edit images as soon as you’ve captured them, speed up a photoshoot, and obtain hard-to-shoot images with more ease. In a nutshell, Cameramator helps save photographers time, money and effort.

The project’s founder, Usman Rashid, was inspired to create the Cameramator during a trip to Florida in 2011. While there, he tried to connect his DSLR to his iPad and transfer his images in real-time, but discovered there was no way to do this. In February 2012, he exhibited at the WPPI LaunchPad event, and became convinced that a device like the Cameramator was a much-needed addition to the photographer’s toolkit. In collaboration with another developer, Rashid now has a prototype that works with all major cameras and is ready for production.

For more information on Cameramator’s technology, check out their website, or view details of their Kickstarter campaign. The campaign has a $80,000 goal to reach by 5th September 2012.

Vtec iPhone camera lens cases

As the old saying goes, the best camera is the Canon 7D. But after that it’s the one you have on you. And more often that not that’s your smartphone. Smartphone cameras are getting better and better and are the camera of choice for most uploaders on Flickr. Purists can turn up their noses all they want. Someone will probably take a picture of them doing it and whack it on Instagram.

Vtec-iPhone-Wide-Angle

Fortunately we’ve moved beyond the dark days of the megapixel wars and average camera-savvy consumer knows that you can get amazing images with a good lens. But what if you want to extend your photographic horizons and take slightly more varied shots – from far away or up close and personal. Well there’s a new system for expanding your photographic palate on the iPhone from Vtec.

There have already been a number of attempts to bring various lens to the iPhone, most notably the 3-in-1 OlioClip which I’ve lusted after for some months but have been unable to muster up the courage to order online. Unlike the OlioClip which daintly pops on the edge of an iPhone, Vtec’s lenses go all out with a built in case and screw in lenses.

The CAM-1209 Aluminium Telephoto Lens offers 12x zoom quality without image distortion. The Telephoto Lens has a manual focus ring and comes with its own tripod, which attaches to the lens to steady the phone when capturing shots.

For bargain hunters, the Wide-Angle and Macro Lens come as one kit, with the Wide-Angle screwing onto the front of the macro lens. Just to hip you to some knowledge as the kids never say, wide-angle lenses increase the angel of view by 45%, whilst a macro lens enables you to get up close and personal with subjects – being a petal, insect or in my case a ruptured tea bag.

The Fish-Eye Lens offers circular 180° fish eye magnification, giving effect to any image taken. This lens is great for fun, quirky shots and also gives each image a circular black border.

The image quality of the lens we played with (Wide-Angle and Macro Lens) was pretty great for the price and it opened up a lot more photographic options. However there were one or two drawbacks. For one the case didn’t play nicely with the flash, leaving the screen bathed in light. And the cash made it hard to use the iPhone with my second-favourite photography accessory – the Glif, although you could sort of jam it in if you are daring. But if you want to have one up on your Instagram buddies, or just fancy getting a bit more creative with your smartphone photography then the Vtec lens add-ons are pretty amazing.

Vtec website – www.vtec.co.uk.
Pricing:
CAM-1209 12x Telephoto lens: SRP £34.99.
Wide-Angle & Macro Lens: SRP £24.99.
Fisheye Lens: SRP £24.99.

Photography Related Christmas Gifts

Now it is so easy to take great digital images, and to manipulate them as we want, one of the simplest ways to create truly personalised gifts and cards for the festive season is to use an online photo service. And there are so many to choose from. Here’s a selection of new services, along with a few older favourites:

Blurb
Blurb Facebook

Note that last order dates for the services vary depending on products and delivery options, but tend to be around December 12-16. Please check before ordering!

Nero Kwik Media Software

Nero has added a new photo service to its free Kwik Media software. This lets you design and print your own customised calendars, cards and photo books – show off your holiday snaps, print a ‘boast book’ for grandma or send a family calendar to an aunt who lives abroad.

Great for showing off your holiday snaps, creating a gift for the grandparents or sending a family calendar to Mum for her birthday.

With Nero Kwik Media, the user can complete a high-quality, ready-to-order photo book, calendar or greeting card in minutes. Photos can be tagged and filtered using facial recognition so they can found quickly.  Also the pre-configured background themes and layouts can be edited and changed to make your project completely personal to you.

The free Nero Kwik Media software lets you manage, sync and share photos, videos and music across PCs, Android smartphones and tablets.  There are also tools to edit and enhance photos, create slide shows, burn your content to DVD and Blu-ray, and post photos and videos to social networks.

Photo products typically ship within five to 10 business days.

Go to: http://kwikmedia.nero.com/eng for details.

Snapfish

A favourite of many of my mum friends is Snapfish. As well as offering bargain prices for photo printing – especially if you have a big batch to get printed, Snapfish also offers a number of personalised gifts.

A customised calendar or mini photobook, for example, each come in at less than £15. Or how about getting your own image on the stamps you use to send your Christmas cards? They cost from £7.80 for a sheet of 10 x 1st class stamps.

You can capture your special moments in a personalised photobook – choose books of up to 150 pages – plenty of room for all your family and friends from over the years to be included in a memory book for a partner or best friend. Soft cover book prices start from a stocking filler price of £2.99.

I have just used Snapfish to create a magic mug (the pictures appear as you fill it with a hot drink) for my husband from my little boy. You can squeeze up to 15 pictures onto a mug – a great gift to keep at work. Plus a calendar for Nanny, filled with pictures of her grandchildren – a whole year of lovely images for £14.99.

www.snapfish.co.uk

Blurb Facebook

My favourite pics tend to go up on Facebook, so rather than go back and trawl through the hundreds of images I’ve taken this year, it would actually be easier to take them off my Facebook page.

The people at Blurb have obviously had the same thought because they have just launched a new bookmaking flow that lets Facebook users turn their album photos into professional-quality books.

The Blurb photo book flow for Facebook lets you use your Facebook photo albums, along with their captions and comments into quality photobooks. The resulting  7×7 inch square format books, start at £7.

To create a book, sign into your Facebook account on the Blurb website. Once the albums are selected they will then autoflow into a Blurb book and a personalised cover will be automatically chosen.  Photo comments and captions associated with a picture are also captured.  You can buy or edit your book using Blurb’s online bookmaking tool, Bookify.

The images are automatically optimised to high print quality and there is an option to share and sell your book from the Blurb.com bookstore, as well as to create an ebook for iPad.

Books are delivered in seven to 10 days.

More at www.blurb.com/apps/facebook

Jessops

Jessops has long been a favourite with photographers and it also offers an online service with a wide range of photo gifts.

One of our favourites are the Skins, which can be personalised with your own image for iPhones, iPads and PCs.

If you’re on a budget there are mugs, jigsaw puzzles, mouse mats, gift wrap and cards, snow globes, stationery sets, cushions, key rings and lots more, whether you’re looking for stocking fillers or something a bit more substantial. Keen chefs could even be unwrapping their own personalised apron on Christmas morning.

Until December 6 2011, Jessops is offering 50% off its photo calendars – use the code XMASCAL.

Go to http://photo.jessops.com for more details.

Bonusprint

Trawling through a huge box of old family photos recently, I came across piles of Bonusprint envelopes filled with badly-dressed people with questionable hairstyles – and yes, many of them were me. It’s hardly surprising, as BonusPrint has been around 1979.

However, there’s’ nothing old-fashioned about the service it now offers online. BonusPrint has all kinds of personalisd photo gifts for you to choose from, from Photo Cards and Photo Books to prints, calendars and diaries.

As my small boy has come home from school several times with some other child’s Ben 10 lunchbox, being able to personalise a child’s lunchbox is absolutely inspirational – and at £9.99 it’s pretty much on a par with the prices charged for your average character themed box.

For someone who loves their kitchen, or who has just moved into a new home – how about a personalised glass chopping board or glass placemats?

There are loads more ideas – head to www.bonusprint.co.uk for all the details.

Photobox

Finally, Photobox is another favourite in our household. On our first wedding anniversary, I was struggling to come up with a clever paper-based gift until I logged on to Photobox and found their beautiful collage photo posters – I grouped together some favourite photos of our time together for a truly unique gift.

As well as the usual posters, calendars and photo books, Photobox has also introduced Christmas photo baubles this year – great as gifts for grandparents, or for a baby’s first Christmas, or even as a lasting reminder of a loved one who has passed away.

Also new this year at Photobox are the personalised photo snow globes.

Head to www.photobox.co.uk, where new customers can get 30 per cent off their first order using the FIRST30 code.