Category Archives: Smartphones

Feiyu Tech SPG Plus Smartphone Gimbal First Impressions

Just when I thought I’ve seen every small handheld gimbal that’s out there, along comes the Feiyu Tech SPG Plus 3-Axis gimbal for smartphones. With it’s two handed operation, it resembles the style of traditional gimbals but in a smaller, more compact frame. It’s perfect for content creators who share their videos directly on social media.

One cool feature is that the SPG Plus can automatically alter between horizontal, vertical and upright modes using a specially designed altitude sensor. The gimbal also offers 360 degree panning, tilting and rolling. Combined with it’s structural stabilization, the SPG Plus makes it easy to take perfect panoramic shots with your smartphone.

In addition, the SPG Plus also has a sliding arm on the roll motor side to easily fine tune the balance of just about any phone, even with accessories like lens clips or filters. With foam spacers, the SPG Plus is also capable of flying action cams like the GoPro or Xiaomi Yi.

Accessory wise, the SPG Plus features 5 1/4-20 threads – three on top and two on the bottom of the handles for attaching a top handle, lights, mics or other accessories. Feiyu Tech also released a companion app which allows you to initialize gimbal calibration, update the rig’s firmware and customize settings. The SPG Plus is powered by a massive 22650 Li-Ion battery that offers up to eight hours of shooting.

Recently I’ve become pretty gimbal weary, especially for mobile phone or action cams but I was pleasantly surprised by the SPG Plus. With it’s sleek two handle design, and auto balancing features, it’s truly a unique entry in the crowded world of lightweight gimbals. If you have any questions about the Feiyu Tech SPG Plus, hit me up in the comments below.


Feiyu Tech SPG Plus Gimbal Rig for iPhone

How I turned my Ztylus iPhone into a DSLR Killer

Ztylus has been releasing some of the best iPhone accessories for quite some time and their latest product, the premium Z-Prime Lens Kit is no exception. The Z-Prime claims to be a professional grade solution for serious photographers. But I’m mostly into video so in the clip above, I pair it with the Varavon Birdycam Lite to see if a Ztylus equipped iPhone could produce professional DSLR-style results. In short, I was blown away.

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Ztylus Z-Prime Telephoto Lens for iPhone 6

Both the wide and telephoto lens contains 5 glass elements in 4 groups that enable corner to corner sharpness with ultra low distortion. Packaged with the two lenses is the iPhone Metal Series Case, a lens carrier, a pouch and lens cloth. Once again, Ztylus has reinvigorated the power of the iPhone. Be sure to click the banner below to receive 25% off all Ztylus products with our special RUNPLAYBACK referral code.

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Ztylus Z-Prime Lens Kit for iPhone 6

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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Custom Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter Base

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WF717 Replacement Quick Release Plate

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

LanParte HHG-01 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal – NAB 2015

Our 2015 NAB Show coverage continues with a look at LanParte’s HHG-01 3-axis handheld gimbal for a smartphone or GoPro camera. With a simple touch of a button it takes about 2 seconds to calibrate. The camera has a default follow mode and you simply use your wrist to control the pan and tilt. The LanParte HHG-01 3-axis gimbal is very lightweight and incredibly stable. For more further details about the features of this gimbal check out Cheesycam’s NAB coverage below.

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HH-01Handheld Gimbals for smartphone and GoPro

Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Unboxing + Test Video

At NAB 2015, we stopped by the Ikan booth where we tested the Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer. Several manufacturers have been creating smartphone gimbals including Shape and Lanparte. Retailing for about $350, the Ikan Fly-X3 seems to hit the right price point for a small 3-axis gimbal.

As smartphones continue to advance their video recording capabilities, they will eventually begin to crop up in more and more professional shoots. Take for example the recent Sundance hit “Tangerine” which was shot on a few iPhone 5’s with stabilizers.

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The Ikan Fly-X3 Plus comes in a durable hardcase bag with nylon straps, a charger, one battery, and counterweight for large phones. For a few more dollars you can get the GoPro mount attachment for flying the Hero 3/4. The grip has a comfortable rubberized coating and the gimbal itself has a sturdy, metal construction that feels like just the right amount of weight for flying a smartphone. Design-wise it would have been nice if Ikan had included some 1/4-20 threads on the grip both on the sides and below for mounting accessories.

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Filmic Pro for iOS

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Cinema FV-5 for Android

After unboxing the Fly-X3, I immediately paired it with both my Apple iPhone 6 and LG G3 smartphone. In order to move in and out of different lighting situations, I wanted to have more control over the manual settings. So I did some research on the web and discovered the two best mobile video apps for each platform – the $7.99 Filmic Pro for iOS and the $2.49 Cinema FV-5 for Android devices. While both apps theoretically do the same thing, the iOS Filmic Pro is able to record in 60p for slow motion in addition to manual control of the shutter angle. Unfortunately for the Android Cinema FV-5, the camera drivers on Android phones do not provide developers access to shutter control.

Depending on your phone, the Ikan Fly-X3 can have either very sharp and quick moves or more natural, fluid moves. As you can see in the video above, the iPhone 6 moves at a slower, more steady pace due to the aluminum Ztylus case that helped add some weight to the Fly-X3. The LG G3 is a very lightweight phone so the moves feel a little more abrupt and sudden. With a metal case to help add weight to the Fly-X3, the LG G3 should fly more fluidly. A heavier and larger phone like the Samsung Note 4 would probably require the counter balance.

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Shooting outdoors on an Android phone without shutter control created a staccato-like effect. To solve this I made a DIY ND filter by taking a pair of plastic sunglasses, popping out the lens and gaffing it to the front of the G3 lens. While it isn’t pretty, this helped to bring down the shutter angle and create better exposure.

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While shooting on a smartphone gimbal can feel a little weird, it’s much easier to get smooth, candid tracking shots in public places as it attracts very little attention. Most people think its just a holder for a smartphone. And because of it’s size, you can come up with some really inventive one take shots where you can fly it through small spaces and do hand offs. If you have any questions about the Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis smartphone gimbal, hit me in the comments below.

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product information button runplayback Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Kit with GoPro HERO3/4 mount

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

Flying the iPhone 6 with Ztylus Lens on a Varavon Birdycam Gimbal

So after unboxing these Ztylus iPhone lens accessories, I wanted to take it out on the field for some test shooting. And for the sake of overkill, I mounted an iPhone 6 with Ztylus smartphone case and the 4-in-1 Revolver Lens onto the Varavon Birdycam 3-Axis Gimbal using a Custom Fancier 717 Adapter Base and the Dot Line SMARTBracket Smartphone Adapter. The combination of all these parts gave the iPhone 6 just enough weight to fly on the Birdycam.

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Ztylus Metal Series Camera Kit for iPhone 6

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Varavon Birdycam2 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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Custom Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter Base

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WF717 Replacement Quick Release Plate

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Fisheye Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Fisheye Lens for iPhone 6

Next we shot some stills using the 4-in-1 Revolver. First we used the fisheye lens which captures a hefty 180 degree field of view.

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Wide Angle Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Wide Angle Lens for iPhone 6

The wide angle lens is great for capturing that extra field of view without having to stand across the street.

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Circular Polarizer Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Circular Polarizer Lens for iPhone 6

The circular polarizer lens cuts glare and reflections from the sun to allow natural colors to show along with great saturation.

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Macro Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Macro Lens for iPhone 6

My favorite is the macro lens as everything looks fascinating when its macro right? Stay tuned for the next part where we’ll try some night shooting with the Ztylus LED Ring Light Attachment. If you have any questions, hit me in the comments below!

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Ztylus LED Ring Light Attachment

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Ztylus iPhone 6 Case + Revolver Lens + Ring Light Unboxing

Back in October, I had the chance to preview the Ztylus smartphone case with 4-in-1 Revolver Lens as well as a prototype of their LED Ring Light. I finally received the final retails versions and I must say they look and feel way better than the prototypes at PhotoPlus.

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The case provides full body aluminum protection and includes an integrated foldable aluminum kickstand to allow you to position your phone in a variety of positions for optimal viewing.

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Ztylus Metal Series Camera Kit for iPhone 6

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The kickstand can be removed to attach a revolving 4-1 lens accessory that includes a polarizer lens, wide angle lens, magnetic macro lens and an extreme fisheye lens. With the flip out design, it makes it easy to choose a lens and lock it into place for those spontaneous picture moments.

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The LED Ring Light is my favorite accessory as it allows you to illuminate your subjects in extremely low light situations. Additionally, it can be detached to give even more options of lighting your subject to create some really advanced smartphone photography. With adjustable temperature controls, 1/4-20 thread mount and various diffusers, this is definitely a useful accessory for multiple shooting environments.

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Ztylus LED Ring Light Attachment

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Stay tuned for Part 2 where I take the Ztylus out on the field for some run and gun, videography and photography. Also click the banner to receive 25% OFF ALL ZTYLUS PRODUCTS with our special RUNPLAYBACK referral code. Hit me in the comments if you have any questions.

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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!

Rapper Sammy Adams Reacts to Virtual Reality for the First Time

As the Samsung Gear VR continues to dominate the mobile virtual reality experience with recent sightings on Jane Fonda, the Superbowl, and Qantas Airlines, we had the opportunity to demo the Gear VR with rapper Sammy Adams. As this was Sammy’s first experience with virtual reality, the results were, as usual, hilarious. Sammy also gives some insight on how VR could benefit artists and musicians. As many of us eagerly await the launch of affordable 360 cameras, we can at least start brainstorming concepts that can push this technology to the mainstream.

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Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition

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

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

Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition First Impressions

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I recently took the plunge into the virtual reality scene with the much buzzed about Samsung Gear VR paired with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Moga Pro Bluetooth Game Controller and the Icon Q Boundless H3 Bluetooth Headphones. After reading all of the hype and anticipation about the first mobile virtual reality system, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this thing. Here’s my first impressions…

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Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition

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Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Frosted White 32GB (AT&T)

First off, the Gear VR is actually the Gear VR Innovator Edition which means it’s not available at any electronic big box store. It’s available online for $200 at the official Samsung Gear VR site and works only with U.S. carrier Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphones. I was able to get an unlocked Sprint Note 4 on ebay but you should definitely browse this forum thread first to view Note 4 model compatibility should you choose to buy one.

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Moga Pro Power Bluetooth Game Controller

Once I ordered the Note 4 and Gear VR online, I wanted to prepare for their arrival by gathering some must have accessories. Due to poor reviews of the Samsung Game Controller, I picked up the Moga Pro Power Bluetooth Game Controller instead which is available at most retail stores. The Moga Pro has a full set of console-style buttons like dual clickable analog sticks, L1/R1 shoulder buttons, L2/R2 shoulder triggers and a D-pad. It also comes with a tablet holder, a 2200 mAh internal battery and fold out smartphone holder that fits the Note 4 like a glove.

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For audio, I used the Icon Q Boundless H3 Bluetooth Headphones which I recently reviewed here. The Boundless H3, with it’s polished glossy white finish, matches the Samsung Gear VR perfectly. To the untrained eye, the H3 looks like it’s part of the actual headset. As someone whose big on wearable technology, it’s important that whatever crazy contraptions I’m strapping to my face has some kind of style coordination.

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Icon Q Boundless H3 Bluetooth v4.0 NFC Headphones

I’m happy to report that performance wise, the Boundless H3’s Bluetooth connection to the Note 4 has no latency when pairing with the Gear VR. Curiously, the performance and frequencies of the H3 performed much better on the Note 4 than on my iPhone 6. The bass hit where I wanted it to hit, voices were clear and the overall sound quality assisted my immersion into a virtual world. I would highly recommend a wireless Bluetooth headphone connection for the Gear VR. I tried using the 3.5mm cable and it was really annoying. Nothing pulls you out of virtual reality like a cable that constantly slaps against your shoulder. Go for the full experience of mobile VR and try to be as untethered as possible.

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The Note 4 fits seamlessly into the Gear VR headset with a retractable micro USB port. There’s also a lens cloth, a removable foam liner, a focusing dial for the lenses, internal tracking sensors that aid the Note 4’s accelerometer and gyro sensors and an automatic on/off sensor that calibrates once you put the headset on. It also comes with a microSD card loaded with videos, a cosmetic visor cover and a really high quality hard shell case with a divider space to hold a game controller. The Moga Pro fits perfect. Be sure to adjust the headstraps for optimal comfort. This is important as it’s easy to get VR sickness if there’s too much pressure on your head and if anything appears blurry. If you want to perform quick demos of the Gear VR to others I suggest taking the straps off and covering the on/off sensor with black tape. This will allow others to jump out of VR if their senses get overwhelmed. Lens fog is a big issue since your face is completely enclosed in the headset and your body temperature can quickly moisten the lens which can literally dampen your VR experience. Oculus God John Carmack recommends getting the Clarity Defog It Reusable Wipes which is serious military grade stuff.

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Clarity Defog It Dry Anti-Fog Cloths

Let’s go back to VR sickness for a minute. Personally, I’ve had some pretty sensitive inner ear issues all of my life which require me to take Dramamine whenever I travel by air. If you’re anywhere near my level of sensitivity I would definitely urge you to take precautions with some of the VR experiences in Gear VR. Seriously, unless you are a tech geek or an action sports junkie, this can be a huge turnoff for most people. Any games or experiences that create a forward movement can confuse the brain because it detects moving forward but you aren’t physically moving. Stationary experiences where your head is moving in 360 space is fine because the tracking is fast enough to fool your brain but trying to lean forward or walk around is asking for trouble. I believe this will eventually be solved by positional cameras but for now, anything that involves walking forward or backward with a controller is an utter nightmare. I lasted maybe 30 seconds in Temple Run VR, Dreadhalls and even Matterport VR before ripping off the headset and laying down for about an hour. Seriously Oculus, if you expect mobile VR to be accessible for the masses, VR sickness has gots to go. So now let’s get to the good stuff.

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There are far too many apps and games to cover but my most favorite Gear VR experience by far is the Oculus Cinema app. Essentially, it’s like having your own private 80 foot theater complete with photorealistic objects like movie chairs or a projector, popcorn, and even light reflections from the film bouncing off the different environments. I immediately tested my own videos in Oculus Cinema and this will now be the main way to screen my video work that I truly care about. Without the threat of texting, less than ideal screening conditions and real world distractions, I can instantly transport someone into my own private virtual theater. I can see this being a major tool for digital filmmakers who can now screen their films for potential investors or producers without the need for renting an actual theater which is always expensive. In fact, because the Galaxy Note 4 has a Super AMOLED high resolution screen, the quality is surprisingly high because the video isn’t being stretched to it’s maximum resolution. Instead it’s condensed into the screen which packs the pixels together. It’s like watching an HD YouTube video in the player without maximizing the screen, it appears sharper with more clarity. Even watching some of my older films in Oculus Cinema has gotten me inspired. It reminds me why I love movies so much. To be able to instantly capture that immersive theater experience makes the Samsung Gear VR one of the most important technological achievements of the decade.

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zarkana

Wow that’s a bold statement, but damn if it isn’t true! Another big revelation to me were the 360 videos, some of which were pretty cringe worthy and others, most notably, Strangers with Patrick Watson and Cirque Du Soleil’s Zarkana were totally on the ball. A Canadian production team called Felix & Paul Studios seem to be the front runners of premium VR content using proprietary hardware and software. But more importantly, these guys are obvious storytellers and their ability to capture an immediate emotional connection to another world is pretty impressive.

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I think we’ll be seeing a lot of people just planting 360 cameras anywhere and just calling it a day. But there’s more to it than that. It’s not only about being tech savvy (yet it kinda is) and it’s not only about being a great storyteller (but wait, it is). I envision a new generation of filmmakers who will grow up understanding video as a natural 3D canvas who will able to write and direct without the limitations of 2 dimensions, 24 frames per second, wide, medium, closeups and all of the cinematic language we’ve been tethered to for over a century. As mobile phones and wearable tech continue to invade our real world, for better or worse, it’s ironic that Oculus and Samsung have made me feel something I haven’t known since I was a 9 year old kid watching Die Hard, my first R rated movie theater experience:

Unbridled Enthusiasm.

Shooting the new LG G Watch R with Eric West

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with actor, artist and musician Eric West on a promotional series for the new LG G Watch R smartwatch. Composed of 3 short episodes, Eric and I made our way through Brooklyn and Manhattan, capturing his day to day activities and how wearable technology seamlessly integrates into his life.

The LG G Watch R has a lot of cool features such as voice recognition – great for hands free texting and emailing, fitness tracking with a built in heart rate monitor and a high resolution circular POLED display where you can customize the watch face with a large variety of colors and designs.

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product information button runplayback LG G Watch R

I shot Eric with my go-to Panasonic GH4 and Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster setup along with a Canon FD 20mm f2.8 and a Canon FD 35-105mm 3.5 for macro shots of the G Watch. For exterior shots I used a Tiffen 77mm ND 0.9 filter and also placed Sensei 72-77mm step up rings on both lenses for convenience. It was a fun, easy shoot and capturing Eric as he discovered the benefits of wearable technology in real-time was inspiring.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster GH4
Metabones Speedbooster Canon FD Lens to M43 Adapter

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product information button runplayback Tiffen 77mm Neutral Density 0.9 Filter

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product information button runplayback Sensei 72-77mm Step-Up Ring

Ztylus Smartphone Case + Revolver Lens – PhotoPlus Expo 2014

Here’s more PhotoPlus Expo 2014 coverage with a very cool product for those looking to take their camera pics to the next level: the Ztylus smartphone case with a revolving 4-in-1 lens accessory that includes a polarizer lens, wide angle lens, magnetic macro lens and an extreme fisheye lens. The case is made with polycarbonate plastic and aluminum and includes a foldable aluminum kickstand. We also get a sneak peek at the Ztylus LED Ring Light prototype (dropping mid-November) which is a pretty cool albeit “extreme” accessory. I can only imagine the looks I’ll get when taking LED Ring Light Instagram pics of my Delmonico Ribeye at Ted’s.

We spoke to Ztylus’ Inventor and Founder, Tim Hsu for an in-depth demo.

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product information button runplaybackZtylus Zip-6LB For iPhone 6 4.7(Lite)-Black

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product information button runplaybackZtylus Revolver 4-in-1 Lens for iPhone