Category Archives: Point and Shoot

LG G4 Unboxing and Camera Review

Last year’s LG G3 was a great travel companion for a recent trip overseas. And with the brand new G4, LG has once again raised the stakes with smartphone photography. With it’s 5K resolution, 16 megapixel camera that can shoot both JPEG and RAW, 5.5″ Quad HD LCD display, and Ultra HD (4K) video recording, it’s easy to see why the G4 has been getting massive media attention. Similar to my LG G3 review, I’ll focus mainly on the G4’s camera as rumors have been floating around that this device is a “DSLR Killer”. While it’s not quite there yet, the future looks incredibly bright…for stills anyway. For video? Not so much.

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The LG G4 has a design that’s almost identical to the G3 which is a good thing. The lightweight, minimalist aesthetic of the G4 makes it a very reliable device on a shoot. It’s curved back and faux-metal backing makes one handed shooting a breeze. It feels slightly heavier than the G3 which is a good thing since I like to throw it on my Ikan Fly-X3 Handheld Stabilizer that works best with heavier phones.

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Like other Android phones, the LG G4 has a removable battery and microSD card slot that can hold up to 2TB. When I’m shooting with an action camera or a drone, it’s vital to have some kind of playback device when I’m on the field and don’t have access to my laptop. The G4’s microSD card slot and ability to playback footage on a crisp 5.5″ Quad HD display make’s it another great tool for filmmakers who like to travel light.

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So what’s up with the LG G4 camera? As a stills camera, it’s incredibly feature rich and a powerful creative tool. But as a video camera it is frustratingly handicapped which I’ll explain in a moment. But first let’s talk about those stills. Bottom line, the LG G4 is a professional photographers dream come true. With it’s 16 megapixel sensor, f/1.8 lens, manual controls for ISO, shutter speed, white balance and JPEG and RAW capture it has just about everything one would expect from a high end point and shoot. “DSLR Killer” is a nice marketing idea but it’s more of a “Point and Shoot Killer”.

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LG G4 Raw DNG

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LG G4 Raw DNG Graded in Adobe Raw Filter

If you asked me last year if editing a raw DNG image that came from a smartphone camera would be possible I’d call you crazy. This year I’d shake your hand. The LG G4’s RAW files are saved as 20mb DNG’s which can be easily brought into Adobe Photoshop for grading. I was shocked at the amount of dynamic range that is possible with the G4. I’d say there’s at least 10 stops of dynamic range which opens up all kinds of creative possibilities for smartphone photography. This is a game changer for sure and the G4’s stance on empowering photographers will only grow from here. Like I said, the future is looking very bright.

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LG G4 Raw DNG

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LG G4 Raw DNG Graded in Adobe Raw Filter

Now on to the bad news – that video camera. As a filmmaker, I was really looking forward to the LG G4’s manual controls that all the press has been touting for months. Mysteriously, I couldn’t find anything that dived into the video specs other than it could shoot Ultra HD 4K. Once I got my hands on the G4 and realized that none of the game changing manual controls for stills were completely ignored and seemingly left out on purpose for video, my heart sank. You can change resolution but that’s about it. It doesn’t even tell you framerates because you can’t even change that option. Why did LG do this? Sure the average consumer is fine shooting video in auto mode but why is the love for photographers not the same for filmmakers and videographers? What are we, chop liver?


LG G4 Ultra HD 4K Test Video

But I digress, the video I shot above came out great despite auto white balance, auto shutter speed and moire issues. Maybe LG will one day unlock the manual controls for video in a future update but I still can’t shake the feeling that it was done on purpose. Sure there’s Cinema FV-5 for Android but since the LG G4 is too new, the software simply crashes. I’ve reached out to Cinema FV-5 for some updates but haven’t heard back. I’ve tried every other manual camera app in the Google Play Store and nothing seems to unlock the manual controls on the G4. I have no doubt someone will create something soon but I’m not quite sure how long I’m willing to wait when I can just pick up my Panasonic GH4 and shoot.

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Maybe we aren’t ready for full manual controls for video on smartphones. Maybe there are those who think shooting video on a smartphone is a novelty, best reserved for home movies and Instagram posts. But there is a small but growing group of filmmakers like myself who are eager to use smartphone video technology to tell stories and create an emotional connection with our audience. Overall the LG G4 is an impressive, game changing smartphone best served for amateur and professional photographers alike. But once you get the urge to shoot 4K video, it may be best to use the right tool for the job and perhaps wait for the LG G5. But by then, it might be too late.

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product information button runplayback LG G4

Shooting with the Panasonic GH4 and LG G3 in the Dominican Republic

A few months ago I had the opportunity to shoot overseas in the Dominican Republic for Project Picture Day, a non-profit organization that creates school pictures for children in under developing countries. The clip above chronicles our journey through Cienfuegos, Santiago.

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos

The Panasonic GH4 and LG G3 became my tools of choice for the portability. For a more detailed explanation on how I used the LG G3 on this shoot click here. I realized early on that it was best to travel as light as possible and to only bring the essentials to avoid attracting too much attention. According to our local hosts, DSLR-style cameras are common items targeted by opportunists on motorcycles.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

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product information button runplayback LG G3 32GB Smartphone (Unlocked, Metallic Black)

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos

For on camera sound I used the Rode VideoMic and for the interviews, the Aspen HQ-S Stereo Lav Mic and Zoom H1 were a perfect combo. Everything was contained in my Lowepro Pro Runner which fits into most carry on compartments and can handle a lot of abuse.

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product information button runplayback Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone

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AspenMics Lavalier Microphones

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product information button runplayback Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder

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product information button runplayback Lowepro Pro Runner x450 Rolling AW Backpack

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos

Since our goal was to capture candid moments with school children, I wanted to appear as if I was just another photographer shooting stills. The GH4’s built in EVF is surprisingly sharp and detailed and was perfect for shooting in the carribean climate of Santiago. Without the need for a huge rig or a field monitor, I could quickly and easily build out my camera to shoot spontaneous moments.

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Campos

I’m really pleased with the work we accomplished in the Dominican Republic. To shoot for a positive cause that can directly influence or inspire children is a feeling that’s very different than any other job and I look forward to doing it again. Please visit the Project Picture Day website for more information and hit me up in the comments if you have any questions!

LG G3 Camera Review

Recently, I had the chance to test out the LG G3 4K camera in Santiago, Dominican Republic for Project Picture Day, a group that creates tangible memories for families and children in developing countries through organized picture days. To travel light and quick I brought along my shoulder mounted Speedbooster GH4 as my A camera. For shots that had to be fired off quickly or in tight spaces I used the LG G3 for it’s QHD (2,560×1,440-pixel resolution) display, as well as it’s laser-guided autofocus.

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The LG G3 is surprisingly lightweight and one handed operation is a breeze with it’s smooth, glossy finish. The power button and volume rocker are located in the rear with no buttons visible on the sides or front of the phone. While unusual at first glance, the minimalist design makes it perfect for run and gun shooting. By double tapping the screen and swiping across the camera icon, I was able to access the camera with no fuss whatsoever.

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I also utilized the Dot Line Smart Bracket which is a universal smartphone mount that I attached to my GH4 cage via standard 1/4-20 screw. The Smart Bracket is made of heavy duty metal but contains soft rubber lining which gripped the G3 securely. This setup was incredibly helpful for popping off stills or video while shooting simultaneously with the GH4. As a one man band, I was able to capture so many more candid moments with this rig than if I used the cameras separately.

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The G3, with it’s 13-megapixel camera and laser-guided autofocus captured highly detailed stills especially in natural daylight. Video wise, the G3 performed admirably in the right conditions. Natural daylight was optimal as low light situations lowered the shutter speed way too much to be useable. Additionally, artifacts would appear during fast motion scenes. Minimizing camera shake and auto exposure was also important for getting the right shots. While the freedom to shoot 4K on a phone was liberating, I still found myself using it like my GH4. Having the camera weighted down on a rig brought a sense of self control that helped me compose and frame my shots. Had I wielded the G3 around “selfie-style”, many of my clips would have looked like obvious smartphone footage.

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Overall, I’m pleased with the G3’s performance, especially in run and gun conditions. Paired with the GH4, it became the ultimate accessory as a low maintenence B camera. I’m looking forward to using the LG G3 in a more controlled environment and attached to a camera gimbal for steady tracking shots.

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product information button runplayback LG G3 32GB Smartphone (Unlocked, Metallic Black)

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

How to Transfer Ricoh Theta 360 Photos to the Samsung Gear VR

Previewing a 360 photo in virtual reality is a truly immersive experience that transports you back to the moment of capture. After my review of the Ricoh Theta 360 camera, I’ve been asked the exact method of transferring 360 photos immediately into the Samsung Gear VR. Here’s a quick video tutorial to show you how.

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product information button runplayback Ricoh Theta m15 Spherical Digital Camera

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Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition

Hands on with the Ricoh Theta m15 360 Spherical Camera & Samsung Gear VR

After experiencing 360 photography in the Samsung Gear VR, I began to research 360 photo and video production. Although there are 360 video rigs in the market, most of them are either too expensive or require an ample amount of post to stitch the footage together. As we all wait for the next generation of 360 cameras to crop up later this year, I decided to experiment with the Ricoh Theta m15, an extremely compact 360-degree spherical camera with dual fish eye lenses that are automatically stitched together when capturing photos. There’s also an option to shoot 15 fps video but the workflow and quality is not worth recommending. But as a still camera that weighs only 3.3 ounces, this is something I wouldn’t mind traveling with.

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As you can see from the above picture, the Ricoh Theta was designed to be extremely portable and at just over 5″ long, it’s shorter than an iPhone 6. On the bottom is a standard 1/4-20 socket to attach to a pocket camera tripod or a Joby clamp. Two 180 degree fisheye lenses sit on both sides of the camera which literally captures everything in the vicinity including it’s body which is really just a small sliver of space that doesn’t even look like a camera.

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The Theta has a three main function buttons: Power, Wifi and a Shutter button to capture images but the best way to use a 360 camera is wirelessly. Fortunately, the Ricoh Theta has a free app available for both iOS and Android which make remote shooting a breeze. There’s also an option to shoot in intervals to do some very interesting 360 timelapse shots. The app connects through Wifi but Bluetooth capability is preferred. Curiously, all the data is captured internally with only 4GB of storage. A microSD slot for better storage options would have been more useful.

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Once connected to the app you have the choice of shooting on Auto, ISO Priority or Shutter Priority. After capturing a photo, the app automatically stitches it together which then opens into a preview window that you can explore by swiping and pinching on the touchscreen. Because it’s 360 degrees, you can literally see every angle possible. If you’ve ever wished you could reframe a fisheye shot, the Theta makes it happen.

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The Theta images look great when viewed on a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or iPhone 6 but once downloaded to a computer, are excessively noisy. Even at ISO 100 with natural sunlight, and a 2048×1024 resolution, the images are very fuzzy. When viewed in the Samsung Gear VR, the noise and fuzziness is even more apparent since the pixels are significantly magnified.

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What the Ricoh Theta m15 lacks in image quality, it makes up for in user friendliness. The speed it takes to capture a 360 photo, auto-stitch, drop into the 360 photo folder in my Note 4 then load into the Gear VR for a virtual reality preview is blazingly fast. The ability to do a virtual location scout by the touch of a button is pretty amazing. Ricoh definitely laid the groundwork for portable 360 shooting and I can’t imagine needing a camera any smaller than this.

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Although it’s slightly handicapped by noisy images and even worse video that fall apart at moderate sensitivities, future versions of the Theta could gain massive popularity with the advent of mobile VR. I wouldn’t mind a slightly longer auto-stitch time or larger size if it meant higher quality images. At just over $300, the Ricoh Theta is priced just out of range for the casual consumer. Without the app, a 360 enabled web viewer or a virtual reality headset, these pictures look like glorified fisheye shots. It’s only a novelty for most. But for early adopters of VR technology and 360 photo enthusiasts such as Equirectangular, this is a great camera to hone your 360 photography skills.

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product information button runplayback Ricoh Theta m15 Spherical Digital Camera

Joby Action Clamp GorillaPod Arm
product information button runplayback Joby Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm