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Author: Pia Lopez

Pia Lopez is a self-taught photographer, architecture student and ArchViz artist. As Editor in Chief of Sleeklens.com, technology and art are two of her passions, which take active part in her professional training. Being an authentic Montevidean, travelling is daily routine; enjoying both the green meadows and urban surroundings as well as the beautiful beaches that are so characteristic in Uruguay's landscape.

FloThemes Cannes WordPress Theme Review for Photographers

One of the biggest projects you can start for next year is getting your own website live to start attracting a bigger audience. Don’t get me wrong, social media does a superb job on this regard, however, social media apps like Instagram process the images so much that the can lose quality and not to mention you cannot customize or brand these social media platforms to match your style. Putting that simple factor aside, a website can also be a platform for getting in contact with potential customers, it can act as a gallery for displaying your high-quality work, sorted by date, event, location or whatever kind of organization scheme you prefer. And if all that isn’t enough, WordPress may also enable us to convert our website into an e-commerce platform with the help of plugins like WooCommerce: the options are endless. WordPress is one of the largest hosts of all websites on the internet today and with that comes a ton of competition of how your website looks. It can be hard to stand out and this is where changing up website themes, or layouts, come in!

In this review, we are delighted to share all of our insights testing the Cannes WordPress theme by FloThemes, and why we believe it’s a quality asset for any photographer or videographer who desires a mixture of efficiency and quality aesthetics. Let’s get started!

 

General Aesthetics

Overall you will appreciate this themes modern feel, with a good typography kit to enforce that feeling and a clean scheme, which allows us to use a photograph as the entire header without covering it with any linear or color element – just clean and elegant.

cannes theme

When using the demo theme we checked that by scrolling down we came across a tile scheme for sorting out the main elements we want to promote. This is an elegant yet functional way to differentiate your website from other competitors.

cannes theme

We can quickly upload videos by URL to be placed on some of those tiles – which they can be watched at an integrated media player – and then also feature links to other pages, like information about sessions made or other relevant content, with the layout of a simple phrase to keep up with the minimalistic/modern approach.

cannes theme

Right below you can appreciate a block structure that works as a quick gallery, quite elegant to be scrolled and we didn’t notice any lag whatsoever despite being high-quality photos. You don’t have to stick with this gallery style either. You can fully customize almost every aspect of the site to suit your needs.

cannes theme

What then follows is an area where you can display brand partnership or any other topic of your business’ interest and the footer area with the same stylish fashion.

cannes theme

The galleries for this theme can be found on the top bar. Neatly packed on a menu that shows as a grey-tinted overlayed area, once you pick a gallery to open you’ll see a slider area where you can upload photos or videos – again, with the same media player structure – and then a bottom area ideal to fill in some description of the event.

cannes theme

The contact page looks lovely. You can appreciate the quality and effort made as, to be honest, it can outlast a good number of homepages for photographer website templates that we can see in the market.

cannes theme

Customization

Switching to the WordPress backend area, we can start to customize this theme to your taste with a fairly easy process. To be honest, not much knowledge on how WordPress work is required, so this theme can fit the needs of beginners that do not wish – or have the budget – to hire professionals to manage their websites.

All the options for customization are placed under the “FloThemes” menu on the left bar. Every single area of the website is easily accessed to be customized, with a preview of how the typography style looks like for the section, but what we loved the most was the fact that they were so kind to include video tutorials on how to customize each area at the “Introduction” tab of each customizable section. That takes the web design learning process to a whole new level, reducing the stress and anxiety it can produce on beginners.

With this theme, you can import content from a previous blog version you had – that’s all accessible at the “Getting Started” tab – and once you switch to “Header” this is where the true customization process begins.

You get 7 different types of Header templates, entirely customizable, where the logo can be typed into its embedded typeface or you can upload a logo image with ease.

Videos are accessed at a different tab, where each video gets its own mini-screen with options for link placement, general formatting options… you get the meaning.

Creating Pages

The theme is entirely accessible when creating new pages, offering not only the learning videos on how to get the most of it but also the options to tweak the page layout directly in the New Page area. Amazingly done to save us a lot of time and effort by scrolling among options!

If all that isn’t enough, once you switch to the “Layout” tab of that “Pages” area you can add blocks to create new sections right from that very place, showing you the different styles provided by FloThemes and you can click and drag the position of the section in a very WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) fashion, undoubtedly user-friendly.

Conclusion

The Cannes Theme by FloThemes may be just what you are looking for. Easy to use, entirely customizable and you will certainly feel the benefits of its tailored design aesthetic on your photography/videography business. This is a theme for those who seek to showcase what they can bring into the market but without bothering to code areas of their website, or in case they are not familiar with the whole website building experience.

Take a look now at this theme or their selection of products at https://flothemes.com/!

We hope you liked this review and see you again next time!

12 Best Laptops For Photo Editing and Photography in 2019

Over the years, I have come to consider myself a little bit of a technology nerd. Perhaps it’s because I tend to spend in front of my PC, which allows me to keep track of the topic which is constantly evolving. If you’re not aware of the latest trends within just a few months, you could feel as if they had happened 10 or 15 years before even acknowledging how many things you missed. In this article, I am going to take you through a series of reviews covering the very best laptops for editing and retouching.

macbook-1001303_1920

When it comes to laptops, finding the best choice for yourself is not as simple as weighing the price vs. configuration and picking the most powerful notebook. The fact that you’re looking for the best laptop for photography helps a little, because you know certain features and criteria that suite your needs, but there’s still a lot more to it. You’ll find many similarly priced laptops that vary in quality. Not to mention the fact that even a certain specific model can greatly vary in specifications. When you’re on a budget, which most of us are anyway, it’s all about detailed research so you can find something that satisfies all your needs without asking you to make (too much) sacrifices. This is possible, but not easy. Usually, if a laptop has a powerful processor and graphics, chances are it’s got weak battery life, or a bad screen, or it is too bulky, or something else that is sub-par and might turn out troublesome in the long run. But the truth is, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that every now and then a company will release a jewel, a laptop that manages to balance its pros and cons incredibly well. Our job is to sort through hundreds of potential candidates and present you with a select list for your choosing. Your job is to act when you recognize one among these that is perfect for you.

I must admit that due to the nature of my work, I am not really known for being a fan of ergonomic laptop computers – given a chance, I think that I would choose a Dell Alienware 18″ or an Asus ROG G752VT over a more practically sized and portable option such as a Macbook Air 13″ or an Asus Zenbook NX500. Working with RAM-eating software such as Photoshop or Illustrator for my photography/design jobs (not to mention my love-hate relationship with 3ds Max for ArchViz works) requires having a system build that can survive the “beatings” of 10-12 hours of work in addition to good performance.

Asus ROG G752VTimg
  • Asus ROG G752VT
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Up to 64GB of RAM
  • Amazing graphics
  • Powerful processor
  • Price: See Here
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MacBook Pro 2017 with TouchBar
  • MacBook Pro 2017 with TouchBar
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lightweight
  • Powerful build
  • OSX
  • Price: See Here
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Acer Aspire E5 – 573 Gimg
  • Acer Aspire E5 – 573 G
  • 3.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Cheap
  • Low end graphics
  • Lightweight
  • Price: See Here
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Many times friends and colleagues have asked for my advice on what would be a proper laptop for “design apps” or “the best laptop for photo editing.” Well, my first question is: “what is the ultimate goal of your work?”

As many of you know, there is a tendency to encompass a wide variety of software under what is known as “design apps“; and such assertion is wrong since despite being related, the demand of each one is actually very different. It is not the same to compare a photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Corel Photo Paint, and several others with software like Adobe Premiere, which is dedicated to video editing. Each software within this “category” has different hardware requirements according to task we want to fulfil – for example: Adobe Photoshop recommends that our system build needs to have a video card which optimizes the display; however, unless we use Photoshop 3D editing tools, we can work perfectly with integrated graphics (the set of instructions applied to a CPU that make virtual RAM available under short spans for compelling graphics-demanding tasks), with the slight risk of receiving a warning or noticing that the user interface does not behave with fluency that it may give if we had a video card in our PC rig.

Dell XPS 15 Choice for Photo Editing in 2017

This can be confusing for many people out there, as it is necessary to define which are the minimum requirements to support a program of this caliber. In my opinion, it’s easier to explain this is through the “price vs. performance” point of view. The greater the budget invested in the PC you want to have, the higher the quality of the parts we buy, and most will keep us from experiencing the “bottleneck” situation we would have if we are “on budget” – It is also important to note that buying high-end parts does not necessarily guarantee powerful performance, unless the user actually takes full advantage of them. Considering all the factors above, I have put together a list of the best 12 laptops for photographers on the 2019 market, followed by a list of key points for any PC/Laptop intended for photo-editing use.

Find the Best Laptop for Photography and Editing in 2019

Microsoft Surface LaptopGo to Amazon
Many have recently said “Microsoft is the new Apple” exclusively thanks to Microsoft’s line of stylish Surface products. They all employ cutting-edge designs with attention to detail and sleekness that put a shadow even over Apple’s MacBook Air. The Surface line consists of premium Windows 10 devices ranging from tablets to laptop-tablet hybrids to laptops. The latter has only one star of the show – the 2017 Surface Laptop.
Overall rating:
93
Battery Life::
0
100
100
Design::
0
100
100
Storage::
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90
100
Graphics:::
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70
100
Speed::
0
100
100
Weight::
0
100
100
Pros
  • Premium slim design
  • Premium build quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • Superb display quality
  • Fast performance
Cons
  • Only one USB port
Click to read the full Review
Possibly the strongest selling point of Surface Laptop is its gorgeous slim design, thin (14.4mm) and light (1.25kg) enough to carry comfortably anywhere. This is perfect for travel photographers who are always on the go. But don’t let that make you think this is a fragile piece of technology. At the same time the Surface is an extremely durable ultrabook thanks to its casing is being built using an aluminum-alloy. This alloy allows for a body that is equally light as tradition plastic/metal laptops, while being considerably stronger and at the same time being more thermally conductive. The moment you see and hold this laptop it immediately becomes apparent that every part of it was built with extreme attention to detail.

One thing that could be potentially worrisome to photographers are the connectivity options, or more accurately, lack of some options. There is no SD card slot and there is just one USB 3.0 Type-A port. Other than that, there is a Mini DisplayPort and the Surface-standard power/docking port.
The new Surface Laptop does away with aluminum keyboard we’ve seen on the Surface Book. This time around we get an interesting combination of aluminum base, enwrapped in premium Italian Alcantara fabric and plastic keys.

The Laptop comes with a 13.5” PixelSense touch-capable Display, 7th generation Intel processors and range of different RAM and SSD capacity combinations.
• Intel Core i5/4GB RAM/128GB SSD
• Intel Core i5/8GB RAM/256GB SSD
• Intel Core i7/8GB RAM/256GB SSD
• Intel Core i7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD

Any combination here will give you enough power for basic tasks such browsing, watching movies, office work and even low-level photo editing. The i5 is powerful enough for virtually any workload, and 256GB of SSD capacity should also be enough storage for your photos, especially if you utilize some sort of external storage via USB as well. But if you are working with large batches of photos or are simply doing detailed photo retouching and editing work, we recommend skipping the 4GB RAM version and going straight for the 8GB version. Overall, the performance of the Surface Laptop is admirable.

Battery life won’t disappoint either, as you will be able to pull off 8-9 hours of moderate workflow without charging. Or If you are extra careful and conserve power, you could probably get away with two days.

Let’s talk more about the display, not just because it is gorgeous, but also because it is perfect for photographers. The 13.5” touch screen holds exactly 2256 x 1504 pixels (201 PPI), has 3:2 Aspect Ratio and is bright enough for outside use without so much of an eye-strain. The screen is covered by Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches. What’s really important here however is the screen’s color coverage, commonly known as “gamut” – in this case covering 95.6% of sRGB color range. On top of that, tests show Delta E of 1.41 – perfect color accuracy. Any photographers that also prints photos will appreciate this as it saves a lot of trouble that comes with inconsistent color accuracy between the screen and a real-world print.

As for the touch-screen part of the display – it performed without any trouble. Its fast and extremely responsive, a real pleasure to use. Even more so if you use the Microsoft stylus pen.

We should note that Surface Laptop comes with Windows 10 S. The 10 S is a stripped-down version of Windows 10, with the main difference being the type of apps you can install. Windows 10 S only allows you to install Apps from Windows Store, which despite major investments by Microsoft still lacks quality apps. Luckily, the Surface Laptop also comes with an option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, very quickly and free of charge. So, while this is an inconvenience, it’s not really an issue.
The Surface Laptop is designed for productivity and performance on-the-go, with extra attention to premium feel and style. It will do a great job as a tool for students and professionals who work with multimedia. The only real downside here is the price – it’s not cheap, especially the non-basic versions.
MacBook Pro 2017 with Touch BarGo to Amazon
The second version of this flagship notebook from Apple. The 2017 version of the MacBook Pro with Touchbar doesn’t seem to be an entire update from its 2016, however, there are some worth mentioning changes to consider.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
93
Battery Life:
0
95
100
Graphics:
0
80
100
Design:
0
100
100
Speed:
0
100
100
Storage Capacity:
0
85
100
Weight:
0
95
100
Pros
  • Mac OSX System
  • Excellent Battery life
  • Clear Retina Display
  • Fast and Reliable
  • Beautiful Design
  • Lightweight
  • Touch Bar
  • Unlock with Touch ID
  • Touch Bar interacts with most software available to date
Cons
  • Expensive
  • ATI Radeon Graphics
Click to read the full Review
Design and Features

Keeping the same sleek attributes from the 2016 model, the MacBook Pro 2017 with TouchBar sits at the same weight and size we’ve seen, but there are some upgrades to mention in what to what’s inside in hardware. It weighs 1.37kg for the 13” model and 1.83kg for the 15” one, with an up to 17% thickness reduction.
Retaining the upgrade from its previous generation, the removal of the traditional USB ports and the MagSafe charging port, replacing them with USB-C and Thunderbolt ports is going to set the new trend for Apple laptops. Fortunately, for music lovers, the 3.5mm headphone jack is still available!
Once again the stellar item of this laptop is the Touch Bar. Sitting as a long and slender touchscreen that is placed above the keyboard, replacing the function keys. Depending on the app running, a wide range of functions and control become available. Fast and extremely responsive, it's a fantastic feature to improve performance with design apps as well as common apps; and saves the user the time to switch between apps with ease. At its right end, Apple added a TouchID sensor for logging to the laptop itself and use other services such as Apple Pay or the iTunes Store.
Rumours say Apple is prone to place the Touch Bar as part of the screen in a close-by future, perhaps after seeing the huge success of the iPhone X models, only time will tell.
The fingerprint login is very convenient when you use your laptop with several accounts, as the system will recognize the user's prints and automatically log into its linked account.
The trackpad size has considerably increased in size, making at least twice the size of the previous generation trackpads. This is not something that amazes me much given my hate-hate relationship with trackpads, but some users may appreciate it. The other notorious improvement is the implementation of Force Touch technology to it, although it's not surprising if we consider that Apple has added it to its entire range of products released last year. For the trackpad, it helps to the feeling of an actual mouse, meaning that when the user taps the trackpad, it won't move, but instead, react like a real click; whereas applying some force will move the cursor around. Depending on the force applied and the movement made, the MacBook Pro will detect a right-click.
The keys of this new model’s keyboard are lower to the surface than its previous release, making a shallower typing experience to the user. Touch Bar helps to improve speed thanks to its QuickType text prediction and auto-corrections that arrived with MacOS Sierra, and have seen considerable revisions with the latest release of MacOS High Sierra.

Performance

The upgrade for this 2017 MacBook Pro has been, fundamentally, internal. Paired with the latest-gen Kaby Lake Intel processors, it was a much-awaited revision from the 2016 model in terms of performance. The Core i5 processor of the 13” model is an i5-7267U, dual core, with 4MB cache and up to 3.5GHz or a Core i7 up to 4.0GHz with Turbo Boost technology, putting it on top of the industry in terms of speed. For the 15” version, the i7 processor is the option to go, with two versions of these Kaby Lake gen processors, in 2.9GHz up to 3.9GHz or a 3.1GHz up to 4.1GHz thanks to Turbo Boost.
16 GB of RAM is still the option to go, as disappointing as it would sound. Don’t get me wrong, it’s more than enough for the average user, and certainly useful for video editing when needed. Adobe has explained their choice by mentioning that a 32 GB RAM config would require them to completely revisit the layout of the motherboard, probably needing to ditch the LPDDR3 RAM in favour of DDR4 RAM sticks, which, in turn, will also affect the overall battery life.
We may still complain over the ATI graphics, though the 15” version has seen a revision of that graphics card, upgrading it to a high-end discrete AMD Radeon Pro 555/560, up to 4GB of VRAM.
Battery life is expected to last up to 10 hours with WiFi – but the use of heavy design apps can reduce that time span to 4-5 hours. Yet the battery life isn’t really bad and certainly is an eye-catcher.
It's a lovely laptop no doubt – I certainly loved the Touch Bar so much that I wish this feature would be available to other laptop manufacturers. The 16 GB RAM max spec is still a nuisance – at least they should go up to 32 GB RAM as some video making apps like Premiere would feel the benefits of the additional RAM. Still, Apple has a long way to go to rival conventional Windows-based laptops but is slowly getting there.

(Images courtesy of Apple.com)
Dell XPS 15Go to Amazon
There’s something to be said about a laptop that doesn’t try to be more than it needs to. Dell XPS 15 is a premium notebook, but it doesn’t have a touchscreen and it’s not a 2-in-1 convertible. And that’s why we like it. The XPS 15 has the same design as previous generations, which is fine by us. It has an edge-to-edge 4K screen, a stylish silver metal (aluminum) finish and a great keyboard. Measuring at 357x235x11-17mm (14.06x9.27x0.45”) and weighing at 2.04kg (4.50lbs) it has a slim, light body. Note that the screen resolution will depend on which version of Dell XPS you choose. For example, the base model has a Full HD 1080p display.
Overall rating:
92
Battery Life::
0
90
100
Design::
0
100
100
Storage::
0
80
100
Graphics::
0
90
100
Speed::
0
100
100
Weight::
0
90
100
Pros
  • 4K edge-to-edge display
  • 188% sRGB coverage
  • Beautiful premium design
  • Kensingston lock slot
  • Very good performance
Cons
  • Price
Click to read the full Review
The thin body doesn’t allow for too much connectivity ports, but you get all the essentials. There are two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, a Thunderbolt 3 port and a 3.5mm microphone/headphone jacks. There’s also a Kensingston lock slot and an SD card reader. A nice touch are the five LED lamps on the right side of the laptop, along with a small button that when pressed indicates how much battery life is left. You can use this even when the lid is closed.

The keyboard is back-lit and feels natural when typing. It is rather narrow so there are no numpad keys. The plate surrounding the keyboard has a soft finish and it provides a comfortable rest for hands when typing.

We’ve already said the XPS 15 has a 4K screen, but we know a screen is much more than the sum of its pixels. Luckily, the Dell continues to impress with other properties as well. It has just enough contrast and saturation to make a very pleasant, vibrant display to look at. It’s perfect for media consumption, but there’s more. Photographers will be happy to know this screen covers 188% of the sRGB color gamut, which makes it the most color-accurate 15-inch laptop on the market.

As far as performance goes, it will heavily depend on which model you buy. The basic variant includes an Intel i3-7100H, 8GB RAM and integrated Intel HD graphics, 500GB Hard Drive plus a 32GB SSD. The top model comes with an i7-7700HQ, 16 GB RAM, 512GB SSD and a powerful nVidia GTX 1050 GPU.

Dell XPS 15 is premium build notebook with cutting-edge display technology. It comes with many different configurations to choose from, with different price tags. This is great as you can control how much money you want to spend but still get a premium build laptop. For photographers, the display is most important, especially the color accuracy, and the XPS 15 shows brilliant results in that department. The market is already saturated with high-end premium laptops which are also tablets with touch-screens. That’s great for people who need these features, but not all do, especially when those raise the price tag into oblivion. To conclude, the Dell XPS 15 has a simple formula that works really well in our opinion: A slim, powerful (if you want it to be) 15-inch laptop that’s just that – a laptop. It will do great for any type of use, be it photo-editing, gaming, multimedia viewing or office work.
Apple MacBook Air 2017Go to Amazon
Apple updated the MacBook Air once again this year in June. We’re talking about some minor hardware upgrades while the Air remains what it always was – a slim and stylish 13-inch Mac ultrabook. The same one you see in student coffee shops and offices all over the western hemisphere. Considering the last time, the Air was updated was two years ago, we were hoping for a more substantial updated for the “new” model. Alas, Apple has slightly updates performance by increasing processor and memory speeds, faster storage and prolonged battery life. The outside, including the screen, remains exactly the same.
Overall rating:
88
Battery Life::
0
100
100
Design::
0
100
100
Storage::
0
80
100
Graphics::
0
80
100
Performance::
0
70
100
Weight::
0
100
100
Pros
  • Slim, portable premium design
  • Durable build quality
  • Retina display
  • MagSafe 2 Power charging port
  • Most affordable Apple MacBook
Cons
  • No major upgrades from previous version
Click to read the full Review
Let’s start with the outside. While the design at this point is somewhat outdated, especially when you look at the screen bezels, the MacBook Air 2017 remains a very portable, lightweight ultrabook that will attract the same users as before. It still durable as ever – using the same aluminum unibody casing that extremely well built. Unlike the new 12-inch MacBook, the Air still employs only one color – Apple’s own traditional silver-ish.

The new MacBook Air has the same screen we’ve seen before – a 13.3-inch LED with glossy finish, and a resolution of 1440x900 pixels (128ppi). It is a Retina display, but not the same one you’ll find on a MacBook Pro. This screen will provide decent sharpness and excellent color reproduction, but it is not nearly as crisp as the Retine we see on the aforementioned Pro models which a resolution of 2560x1600 pixels.

When it comes to connectivity it is again the same old story. On the sides you’ll find a Thunderbolt 2 port which allows you to plug in an external monitor or a hard disk. Furthermore, there are two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. For charging, we have the excellent MagSafe 2 power port which is magnetically attached. Compared to traditional laptop charger ports which easily ripped apart and damaged, the MagSafe 2 is much a safer solution. Wi-Fi in the MacBook Air uses the 802.11ac standard which is the same as the one on MacBook Pro.
The 2015 MacBook Air updates brought in the 5th generation Inter Broadwell processors, and the 2017 June update still uses the same generation processor with a slightly upgraded clock speed – 1.8Ghz instead of 1.6Ghz. While this processor will do more than fine for casual usage, including everyday web surfing, watching high-definition videos and office work, we recommend getting the optional the Intel 2.2 Ghz i7 CPU if you’re going to do heavier Photoshop work. The good news is the Air now comes with 8GB of RAM by default. To be truthful, this specs are somewhat lagging behind modern Windows laptops in the same price range, with one exception. The MacBook Air is still king of endurance. It can go up to 13hours of active use which is very impressive and hard to beat. Obviously, this is great news for photographers who travel a lot to places where power sources are limited – say mountains and wilderness. The GPU remains the same as well as the 2015 version – using the Intel HD 6000 chipset.

While the 2017 MacBook Air lags when it comes to specifications, and partly in design too, the same things that made it a great choice a few years ago are still here – slim, durable premium build, superb battery life and reliable and reasonably fast performance. If we could ask for anything to be rectified it would be the screen – we would love it even more with a sharper, newer display. Despite obvious downsides, the 2017 Air still holds the biggest advantage of all – it is the cheapest MacBook you can buy. For an Apple product, the price tag more than affordable. So, while you can get a faster and more modern Windows laptop for the same price, if you really want a MacBook but don’t want to spend a fortune, the Air might be the perfect choice.
Lenovo IdeaPad 720SGo to Amazon
Think of a laptop that wears a mid-range price tag, but looks and performs like a premium notebook. Sounds too good to be true? Not if you as Lenovo. The IdeaPad 720S strikes the gold spot for photographers who need a good screen that handles colors with accuracy, and is not too big or too small. That’s 14-inch 1080p screen for you. Released in 2017, a successor to award-winning IdeaPad 720S, it comes with Intel’s 7th-generation CPU and a dedicated nVidia graphics card. That’s performance for you.
Overall rating:
80
Battery life::
0
80
100
Design::
0
90
100
Storage::
0
80
100
Graphics::
0
70
100
Speed::
0
80
100
Weight::
0
80
100
Pros
  • Excellent value for the money
  • Aluminum metal materials
  • Good color reproduction
  • 1080p screen
  • 7th-generation Intel CPU
  • Dedicated Graphics
Cons
  • Can be loud under high performance
Click to read the full Review
Why do we say it looks like a premium laptop? It has an all-metal (aluminum), thin body, and an edge-to-edge screen with very small bezels. The keyboard is Lenovo’s standard keyboard for this class of laptops which we’ve had the pleasure of using on more than one occasion. Its back-lit, with short-travel keys which are very responsive. If you’re photographer who runs a blog, you’ll be delighted to use this keyboard.

Though it does look premium, not everything feels that way. After all, this laptop is considerably cheaper than any flagship laptop from Lenovo (or other companies). Namely, it’s a bit thicker and heavier compared to the premiums – measuring 320 x 223 x 15.9mm and weighing 1.55kg.
All of the connectivity necessities are completely covered here – 2x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Thunderbolt and an SD Card reader. As a bonus, there is also a fingerprint reader below the keyboard.

The 14-inch Full HD LCD IPS is not quite on par with the best-in-class laptops, but it is nonetheless very good, especially for photographers. Obviously, you don’t get Ultra HD resolution here, which in this context is excellent news. See, they have to cut some corners somewhere, and we’d rather have them cut the resolution down to 1080p (which provides perfectly decent pixel density for a 14-inch screen) than color performance or viewing angles. The screen on the IdeaPad 720S covers 88% of sRGB color gamut which is very impressive for this price range and has excellent viewing angles. We only regret the screen having a glossy finish which might prove troublesome when using the laptop direct sunlight.
We’ve mentioned the 720S comes with 7th-gen Intel processors. Specifically, you get to choose between an i5-7200U and an i7-7500U. The i7 in this case bumps the price tag considerably while the performance change is not that significant. We consider the i5 version to provide better value for the money.

The model we’ve reviewing comes with a dedicated graphics card too – an nVidia GT 940MX. This is not exactly a high-performance gaming card, but it is several times more powerful compared to the integrated GPUs. In case you’d like to do occasional casual gaming, this is a good thing. Otherwise, the dedicated GPU only adds an unnecessary price bump. Luckily, there are models of this laptop with integrated graphics, so keep that in mind as an option as well.

More important than the GPU however is the presence of the 256GB PCI SSD in there. While not among the fastest SSDs in the market, it is still considerably faster than your average SATA SSD we usually see in budget and mid-range notebooks. The SSD (Solid State Drive) will make your computer generally much snappier, both during boot and general use, and especially when opening and writing files.

So far our review shows no serious flaws with this laptop, and to add icing to the cake, we’re happy to say the battery life does not disappoint either. The 7200U/7500U Intel CPU’s are great power conservers, and it shows. During casual usage, surfing the web and watching video, at medium-high brightness, we’ve been able to pull up to 7-8 hours of consistent use. Furthermore, when tried our standard video-loop test at the same brightness level, the Lenovo 720S ran for 9 and a half hours before shutting down. This is truly impressive battery performance for a laptop in this class. Of course, this is again great news for photographers who work on-the-go. Capturing, editing and publishing photos while traveling won’t be a problem for you.

The Lenovo 720S tries to do everything right – and succeeds. There aren’t any real flaws with this laptop. It provides a solid balance of good build quality, performance and durability. With its features, it sits somewhere between your mid-range consumer laptop and a premium high-end laptop. With a 1080p IPS display with 88% sRGB color gamut and a glossy finish, it’s not quite on par with the best screens on market, but its certainly the best you’re going to get in this price range. The same goes for build, including general build quality, keyboard, touchpad and screen hinge. It’s not as light and sleek as the flagship premium laptops, but it does have an all-metal body which feels really great and is undoubtedly very durable. For a photographer, the 7th generation Intel i5 CPU will do a fine job at Photoshop, Lightroom and similar programs. Its true that you could buy a considerably more powerful laptop when it comes to sheer horsepower, for this money, but we can guarantee you won’t get an aluminum body and a screen with this good color reproduction.
Acer Aspire R 15Go to Amazon
Another laptop that proves interesting to photographers is the Acer Aspire R15. This is a 2-in-1 convertible with an attractive price. It has a beautiful 15-inch touch screen with a 360-degree hinge. It features a fantastic design that is usually reserved for premium-priced class of notebooks. The same goes for build quality, as it is really hard to find a convertible (a laptop that is also a tablet) without sacrificing either display or build quality. The R 15 is here to break that trend.
Overall rating:
83
Battery Life::
0
80
100
Design::
0
100
100
Storage::
0
80
100
Graphics::
0
80
100
Performance::
0
80
100
Weight::
0
80
100
Pros
  • Affordable 2-in-1 laptop
  • Premium build
  • Excellent display and keyboard quality
  • 109% sRGB coverage
  • Back-lit keyboard
Cons
  • No SSD in less expensive versions
Click to read the full Review
The body is made in combination of high quality aluminum with a brushed metal finish, diamond-cut edges around the case and inside the touchpad. It breathes class and quality all over the body.

It measures 370x256.5x20.3mm (14.6x10.1x0.8 inches) which is decently compact and slim for a 15-inch laptop, though it can be a bit too much when used as a tablet. The same goes for weight, it’s not too heavy at 2.15kg (4.74 pounds) but it can get uncomfortable to hold in hands for prolonged periods of time.
The hinge is designed to allow the lid to be set in three different positions. There’s the standard laptop mode, tent mode (both screen and keyboard facing outwards) and tablet mode when the screen is flipped by full 360-degrees.

R 15’s display is one of it’s strong points, despite not having one of those Ultra HD displays we see on high-end laptops. It is a 1080p Full HD IPS touch screen that is beautiful to look at thanks to it’s extremely vibrant colors. Color reproduction is good not only in sense that the colors are well saturated, but it actually covers 109% of the sRGB color range. The 15-inch display also has good viewing angles, and is very bright at 310 nits which is well above the average.
We only have good words for the keyboard as well. Keys feel great when typing as they don’t require too much effort to press but still provide nice tactile feedback. The keyboard in the Acer Aspire R 15 is back-lit with blue LED light. This light is not very bright but it still looks nice and can be useful in dark environments.
The Aspire R 15 won’t disappoint with connectivity options either. There are three USB ports, among them one is USB Type-C for high speed connections and two USB 3.0 ports. There’s also a HDMI port, Kensington lock port and SD card slot. Wi-Fi connectivity this time around comes with industry-standard 802.11ac, unlike the older and slower 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi which came with it’s predecessor.

We’ve been doing office work, multimedia consumption, image and video processing and general heavy-load web browsing with this laptop and we’ve found it performs almost flawlessly across the workload spectrum. However, performance will vary depending on which configuration you opt for. All models have the same screen but vary in all other specs. So, we have:

• i5-7200U, 8GB DDR4 RAM, Integrated graphics and 1TB HDD
• i7-7500U, 12GB DDR4 RAM, nVidia GeForce 940MX 2GB, 12GB DDR RAM and 1TB HDD
• i7-7500U, GeForce 940MX, 12GB DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD
• i5-7200U, 8GB DDR4 RAM, GeForce 940MX and 256GB SSD
• i5-7200U, 8GB DDR4 RAM, GeForce 940MX and 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD

For photographers and photo-editing, we would recommend either of the latter two models. Simply because the i5-7200U and 8GB is a powerful enough combination to handle programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom with some power to spare. Just weigh on whether or not you need a lot of disk space, i.e. would 256GB SSD be enough or maybe you’d like to combine the 128GB SSD with the 1TB HDD.

We see Acer Aspire R 15 as a well-rounded 2-in-1 laptop with great value. You’ll get a beautiful premium-build body with an excellent 15-inch 1080p display, full range of connectivity options including HDMI, USB Type-C and SD card reader, as well as solid performance. You can certainly get a more powerful laptop in this price range, when it comes to pure specifications, but this build and display quality is truly a rarity in this class of laptops, especially when you add in the touch screen/tablet mode.
Samsung Notebook 7 SpinGo to Amazon
We just love when a company designs a laptop that, in a way, does more for the same money. Or, at least gives a feeling of extra worth. You could say companies do this all the time and it’s called marketing. And yes, we see manufacturers flashing all kinds of special features or high-end specs with a low-price tag all the time. More of than not, there’s a trade-off in some form. But occasionally, you’ll find a laptop that really does deliver more. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is one such laptop, at least in our opinion.
Overall rating:
78
Battery Life::
0
80
100
Design::
0
90
100
Storage::
0
70
100
Graphics::
0
80
100
Performance::
0
90
100
Weight::
0
60
100
Pros
  • Excellent performance for the price
  • Very good overall value
  • 1080p HDR screen
  • 2-in-1
Cons
  • Weight
Click to read the full Review
We could say, Samsung’s Spin on the Notebook 7 is that they try to deliver the same feel and style of laptops which are way more expensive, at a very reasonable price.
So, what exactly is the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin? It is a powerful 2-in-1 notebook with a 15.6-inch (there’s also a 13-inch version), 1080p, HDR display and a body made of metal (mostly).
Both the lid and the chassis around the keyboard is brushed aluminum, that feels cool and premium both to look and feel. The bottom plate, however, is made of plastic. This is one example of how they keep the price down, and still deliver (somewhat of) a premium design, and we love it.

Part of the reason we like this design is because it has a full-layout keyboard, with a numpad, parallel with the width of the display. Keys are plastic with a comfortable, soft touch. Beneath lies a large, glass touchpad which is nicely responsive both to single and multi-touch gestures.

The Notebook 7 Spin has a 1080p LED display, with a glossy, but not too-reflective finish. Overall, the display is extremely sharp and vibrant with good color accuracy. It also has an optional HDR mode, though we’ve found it doesn’t as much difference as you would expect.

Being a 2-in-1 convertible, the display is also touch-sensitive and rotatable up to 360-degrees. Once you fold it, you can use it in standard tablet form, although between a 15-inch screen and 2.26kg (5 pounds) it will likely be an uncomfortable endeavor. It can also be used in a tent mode for watching videos, which is more practical in this case.
Connectivity-wise, the Spin will not leave you wanting, with two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port and one USB Type-C port, that’s four USB ports in total. There are also HDMI and Ethernet ports, as well as an SD card slot. As for wireless, you’ll get Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.

The most affordable 15.6-inch version of this laptop comes with the following specifications:

• Core i7-6500U
• 12GB DDR3L RAM
• 1TB 5600RPM HDD
• nVidia GeForce 940MX GPU

More powerful version will land you an SSD and more RAM, but that will of course add to the price. If you would be satisfied with a 13.3-inch screen, a 6th get i5 CPU and don’t need the dedicated graphics for gaming, you can get the otherwise same laptop for less money.

If you are looking for style and performance in a 2-in-1 laptop below the $800 mark, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin wins this contest hands-down. It has a minimalist design with chassis partly built with premium materials. It is blazingly fast for work such as photo editing and graphics design, and will even do good for some light gaming. It’s not all perfect though, as the version with SSD is way above the basic model price tag, and you could get considerably stronger battery life from similarly priced laptops.
Razer Blade ProGo to Amazon
For those who aren’t familiar with Razer, it’s a US-based brand that was founded back in 1998, targeting their market to gamers. And this new Razer Blade Pro takes the experience of the high-end 17” laptop to a much sleek design outcome.
The compact build is the core element of this mode, featuring prime quality elements from the mechanical keyboard to high-resolution 4K display, but there are several elements we need to analyze in depth to reach a conclusion on this laptop.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
93
Battery Life:
0
80
100
Design:
0
95
100
Storage Capacity:
0
85
100
Graphics:
0
100
100
Speed:
0
100
100
Weight:
0
95
100
Pros
  • A truly powerhouse
  • Compact design
  • 4K display
  • Mechanical backlit keyboard
Cons
  • Just 512 GB included
  • Adding extra HDD space is pricey
  • Tends to overheat
  • Noisy fans
Click to read the full Review
Design and Features

You can’t deny that it looks like the most elegant laptop you have ever seen. A black aluminum chassis that barely weighs over 3.5kg, which despite not being labeled as a ultra-portable laptop, it’s lighter than most of the high-end models in the market these days.

With a maximum space usage, the display looks breathtaking. 4K resolution with Adobe RGB color support and IGZO technology for a more vivid display experience; we just need to add the G-Sync technology by Nvidia, meant to reduce screen tearing, and we end up with the perfect quality/portability relation that market has seen so far.

A mechanical keyboard helps users to broaden their experience with laptop interaction, as anti-ghosting features act to avoid keystroke issues during gameplay and provide a fast, satisfying receptive experience. Each key is individually illuminated via LED outputs so that you can customize it to your needs with a large scale of tones and effects thanks to Razer’s software Chroma.

What we might find odd – in particular, I didn’t enjoy it myself – is the touchpad location. Okay, maybe because I’m old-school myself and tend to see touchpads as nothing more than a decorative item (try to draft blueprints in Autocad with a touchpad and you’ll meet the definition of nightmare as detail scale keeps increasing), but the thing behind Razer’s innovation relies to a gamer-induced mindset: having a mouse right next to your keys, so your gaming experience get smoother. Photographers can find this as an improvement after of course getting used to this new keyboard layout, as we can add parameters and keep moving the cursor with minimum hand movements – much appreciated for speeding up Adobe Lightroom performance.

The touchpad itself feels soft, resistant and receptive, with an also adjustable LED frame via Chroma. Right above the touchpad, there is a scroll located (cool, right?), where you can quickly adjust the volume but also mute it by pressing the scroll.

Its dual speakers produce a high and clear audio output, which doesn’t suffer any distortion at max volume setting. Two modest stripes at each side of the keyboard are the location of the speakers for this model; and even if I highly appreciate this unlike the MSI GE72 config, I still find it odd that they aren’t placed right on top of the keyboard.

Data storage is an issue to consider, as prices tend to scale up amazingly by replacing the 512 GB unit to 1 or 2TB offers. Yes, it’s an SSD drive with all that means, but still not worth the investment.

We can count on with 3 USB 3.0 ports at the left side, right next to an Ethernet port and the headphone jack. On the right side, another USB 3.0 port, an HDMI entrance, SD card reader and USB-C port for Thunderbolt 3. This laptop also features Bluetooth 4.1 and KillerDoubleShot Pro technology for improving Ethernet performance and wireless with 802.11 ac protocol.

Performance

Here is where we can label the Razer Blade Pro as a high-end machine. An Intel i7-6700HQ processor with 2.6GHz speed, graphics by Nvidia with the Pascal GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5 beast and 32 GB of RAM. Apt to compete with the Asus G752 or the MSI newly released models no doubt; however, the sleek design proves to be a downside when heating becomes an issue.

Since there’s no space for creating the proper ventilation to this machine, it tends to overheat. And overheat only means two things: unexpected shutdowns and internal damage. Its vents are noisy and not able to deliver refrigeration in time, so instead of being advisable, getting a Fan Base is a requirement if you desire to get the most of this laptop.

Its battery life lasted for almost 4 hours, impressive no doubt, and shows as a major upgrade since the previous model.

Conclusion

This laptop features some amazing elements while paired with an elegant design. However, the heating issues are surely a killer. I don’t want to be carrying around a Fan Base around wherever I go to avoid fuss with my laptop, and for a desktop replacement solution is just too pricey for what it offers. There’s room for improvement, and I’m confident that Razer will surprise us pretty soon.
HP Notebook 15-ay011nrGo to Amazon
The HP’s Notebook 15-ay011nr is 15.6-inch Full HD laptop that is situated at the lower end of the mid-range class of notebooks. It is a very affordable, well-rounded laptop that will allow you to do a lot for very little money.
The Notebook 15 series comes in many different variants. They all share similar screen and design, but vary a lot in specifications. We’ve choses this particular version (Notebook 15-ay011nr) because we think it features a well-balanced set of components.
Overall rating:
73
Battery Life::
0
80
100
Design::
0
70
100
Storage::
0
70
100
Graphics::
0
70
100
Performance::
0
80
100
Weight::
0
70
100
Pros
  • Well-rounded laptop
  • Good price
  • 1080p display
  • Full connectivity options
  • Solid performance
Cons
  • Weight and thickness
Click to read the full Review
Specifications:

• Intel Core i5-6200U 2.3-2.8Ghz
• 8GB DDR3 1600Mhz RAM
• 1TB 5400RPM HDD
• 15.6” 1080p backlit LED display
• Windows 10
• Optical Drive (CD/DVD-RW)

Although it has an average quality plastic build, as expected in this price range, we have to say at least it looks nice. This in part in thanks to the brushed metal-like finish of the lid and the top deck. It measures 254mm x 383mm x 22mm (10” x 15.1” x 0.9”) and weighs 2.14kg (4.73 pounds). As you can see, it’s a little chubby for modern standards, but nothing you can’t fit and carry in laptop backpack.

The Notebook 15-ay011nr has a solid quality 15.6-inch Full HD display, about as good as you could expect in this class. With 63% of sRGB gamut range the colors won’t be particularly strong or accurate, but we’ve seen many pricier laptops that have even lower percentage of color coverage. An average user is unlikely to even notice this, as the screen looks sharp at 1080p and has solid viewing angles. It could only be an issue if you’re color-grading photos for print, in which case you’ll be in for some trial and error until you hit the right color balance.
The keyboard quality is better than expected, with a nice tactile feedback and short travel time in keys. It’s useful that it also has a full Numeric pad. You can even get an optional back-lighting for the keyboard for a little extra money.

On the right side you’ll find a USB 2.0 port, SD card reader and an Optical drive. Moving to the other side there is another USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI and Ethernet ports. There’s also the standard microphone/headphone 3.5mm jack.

Performance in day-to-day use is very solid, as you would expect from the specs on paper. The 6th generation Intel i5 6200U CPU along with 8GB of DDR3 RAM can handle a lot of multitasking. This means you can have multiple tabs open in browser, along with music playing in Youtube and even doing some Photoshop work at the same time. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Of course, at this point you’ll be hitting the laptops limit so don’t expect instant-speed, but the experience is certainly satisfactory. It only slows down when you’re relying heavily on the Hard Drive, which is pretty slow at 5600RPM. So, expect some waiting time when transferring and reading large files. On the positive side, the HDD does come with 1TB of space, so you won’t have to worry about filling it up anytime soon. Intel HD 520 graphics scores well for an integrated card, but don’t expect anything but don’t expect anything more than casual gaming.
The HP 15-ay011nr has everything you would expect or need from an average, mid-range laptop. While the screen is not spectacular, we’re happy to see a sharp 1080p panel here. You get a full range of connectivity options with three USB 3.0 drives, HDMI and Ethernet ports and even an Optical Drive, if you need one these days. Considering the price tag, we are very happy with the performance.
Alienware AW17R3-4175SLVGo to Amazon
When looking for a good laptop, you can’t miss the opportunity of having all the power of a dedicated desktop rig on a desktop replacement laptop!

Yes, the size of its screen and weight, it’s a big set off for ultrabook lovers, however, this is greatly compensated by featuring such power: with the combo of a hybrid drive + good amount of DDR4 RAM, you will feel like a true lord when operating this build.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
86
Battery Life:
0
85
100
Design:
0
85
100
Storage Capacity:
0
95
100
Graphics:
0
95
100
Speed:
0
90
100
Weight:
0
65
100
Pros
  • Fast Processor
  • Top Graphics Card
  • No issues with overheating
  • Made for intensive editing/gaming
  • Big & Fast Harddrive
Cons
  • Wifi Disconnect Issue
  • Expensive
Click to read the full Review
Moving on to our 2nd dedicated gaming laptop in the list. The alienware brand has been around for a while and possesses some very admirable qualities. The laptop is available in two variants. The primary variation being the quality of the display. It’s time to run through some of the pros and cons of owning an Alienware AW17R3.

Features

Performance: This laptop is primed for a single purpose and that is to deliver the best gaming experience with maximum possible graphics at the maximum possible speed.

Speed: The core i7 6700 is utilized here much like every laptop in this list. The performance takes off thanks to a super-fast 16GB of DDR 4 RAM coupled with a significant SSD. The quad core processor is a 6th generation product and is tailor made for multitasking. If you are in a situation where you are performing an intensive editing operation using a powerful program and you feel like relaxing and gaming for an hour or two. You can simply minimize the editing software and start the game rather than having to close one to maximize performance.

Graphics: The presence of the NVidia GTX 980M takes the gaming quality experience to a whole new level. A top of the line card delivering high end performance will make you feel like you own an entire gaming rig. This card is much faster than two NVidia 8 series cards used together in an SLI setting. So viewing and editing photos videos are a synch. You can comfortably work with a VR and 3D environments also. You can definitely test the limits with this device. You will feel like a god when using this laptop and can channel your inner beast thanks to how amazing it appears and performs.

Display: The 17.3 inch display is standard on both variants but the nature of the screen is not. One offers an output for 1920 x 1080 screen resolution whereas the other is a 4K model with a whopping 3840 x 2160 pixels. The price difference here is a massive $500. (Approximately) So if you are the type that definitely needs pixel perfect videos and imaging tech then go for the higher end display. If you not we strongly recommend the normal display cause the amount you save can quite substantial.

Physical Characteristics: The attributes we spoke about so far are some of the major positives. The physical characteristics on the other hand are a bit of a mixed back. The silver chassis and the clunky appearance are sort of an alienware signature design. Whilst this laptop looks amazing and cool it can be pretty heavy to move around. The laptop weights at 8.3 pounds making it the heaviest device on the list by far. So if you are looking to travel around a lot then forget about taking this laptop with you. The 17.3 inch screen coupled with the 1.4 inch thickness makes it very hard to fit it into most backpacks and can be a pain to carry around even for short distances. The Alienware symbol engrained on the case is something that is quite spectacular and the brand offers you a sense of pride as a gamer.

Connectivity: You get 4 USB 3.0 slots which is quite sufficient to handle multiple devices. This is key because we think this unit is going to be spending more time on your desk than in a backpack. In an era where everyone is evolving to sleeker and smaller devices this solution is a great choice for those who think differently. The laptop does not have a DVD or blu ray drive. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the performance features do take up plenty of space within the casing. The Wi-Fi connectivity is also quite good and there might not be a need more an Ethernet options even if you are gaming constantly. There have been Wi-Fi connectivity issues we have noticed. A number of other users have also mentioned this in the reviews but it can be fixed by keeping your card constantly updated using the drivers offered by the company. A card reader is also present. The Bluetooth is ties to the wireless card. If you are making use of a Bluetooth mouse of headset then this should be perfect for you.

Storage: This laptop utilized a hybrid design for storage. You get an amazing 256 GB solid state drive which is a sizeable amount that is perfect to install multiple programs and your operating system too. You can achieve read speeds of about 1400 MB/s and write speeds of 280+ MB/s which is quite mind blowing. The 1 TB is of course similar to other devices out there and offers similar benefits to what we have mentioned before.

Battery: The battery life is quite decent you can easily get a few hours when you are not busy gaming. You can always choose to use the power save mode in windows 10 to eke out some more time if needed.

We think this is a fantastic unit for any gaming enthusiast. It is a must have in our opinion especially if you frequently buy the latest games that come out every week on steam. The options are a plenty and we would have given this laptop an even higher score than the 85 if the casing was a bit smaller. Then again it is also a signature Alienware look. The overheating issues are non-existent with these units. They are crafted with precision and the drivers and hardware combinations are extremely stable. To get the best intensive gaming or editing experience of your life. We recommend you not play around with the settings too much. This device can handle whatever games or intensive processing software you throw at it and perform admirably. Compared to some of the other laptops we have seen earlier with a similar ~1500 price range, we think this would be your best option. This would be a great device for you to get your 1st experience of high end computing.
Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLKGo to Amazon
Stunning design and unique features at a great price. One of those surprises on the market because of it's Intel generation core i7, 960 M (medium-range) range GTX video card and a decent amount of RAM. The only downside is the touchscreen display.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
85
Battery Life::
0
80
100
Graphics::
0
95
100
Design::
0
82
100
Speed::
0
85
100
Storage Capacity::
0
85
100
Weight::
0
85
100
Pros
  • High End Graphics Card
  • Fast Processor
  • Good Price
Cons
  • Small SSD Drive
  • Touchscreen
  • Battery Life
Click to read the full Review
The Dell Inspiron i7559 is a high end dell laptop which amazing processing power. Its versatility is something that really caught our eye. Unlike other dell laptops of the past this particular model has a lot to offer especially if you are unclear about what you intend to use your laptop for. In the following article we are going to delve into the specifics of why we have given this laptop an 8.5/10 rating. So let’s get to it.

First and foremost, we have to mention the processing power. This particular Inspiron is packing a healthy i7, capable of 2.6 GHZ of processing power. This is ideal especially if you are accustomed to multitasking and using high end editing and designing software. The Quad core i7 is tailored made for multitasking at a very high level. You can quite comfortably run Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator with multiple tabs and the laptop wouldn’t slow down much at all. Processing power is backed up by the amazing NVidia GeForce GTX 960M, a medium - high end graphics card that even avid gamers would endorse. The graphics ram itself is a whopping 4GBs. These elements coupled with the price is a major bonus.

Moving on to another positive, the battery life. The battery life according to the manufacturer is on average 10 hours. Significant developments in lithium ion technology is key. However when using this laptop we found that it is more in the 8-9 hour range when not utilizing too many graphic intensive tasks. When the NVidia takes over and you open up a high end game, the battery tends to drain much quicker. Playing the latest games is quite easy as long as you provide an additional level of cooling to extend the life of the laptop. If you live in a hot country it might be better to purchase an additional cooling device.

We mentioned versatility earlier and this laptop has quite a few features that embody that. Firstly, the hard drive is a strange one. The storage capacity is an amazing 1 TB but it is a hybrid hard drive which has a small 8 GB embedded flash cache. You can think of the flash cache as a tiny SSD that speeds up the performance of existing programs once it is called up. So if the terminology confuses you, just think of it as a tiny SSD that complements the 1 TB hard drive. It is quite a nice idea but we think that programs are getting so much bigger the 8 GB is too much of an in between solution. We feel the better solution might have been to include a small SSD of 64 GB even though the cost goes up slightly the performance benefits increase to even rival some major gaming laptops.

Second, the presence of a touch screen/ normal screen option. You get this laptop in 2 models essentially with the non-touch full HD screen priced at $869 and the UHD touch screen proceed at $1256. The price is extremely affordable considering the specs on offer. You typically find NVidia 960Ms housed in $2000 plus gaming laptops. So from that point of view it is a freaking steal. If you are looking for something really different and are very comfortable with using the touch screen for majority of functions then the UHD might be the way to go. These offerings are not something you typically see in laptops or even gaming laptops for that matter. It is probably more of a sign that dell intends to explore the Ultrabook space in the near future. . If you are at any point uncertain about the touch screen, we would recommend choosing the normal option. The laptop touch screen is not as smooth as a tablet or phone. Even the positioning can be a bit annoying to use.

The trackpad similar to Acer models is not very centred, which could be a pain to get used to. The exterior is not something that is very special also with a standard finish to the design. The product dimensions are pretty standard but it is extremely light for the features it is packing. This device weighs a mere 4.6 pounds. The exterior is a matte black finish features elements of red. The device comes with Windows 10 pre-installed and much like all windows laptops the specs can vary a lot in regional models. The presence of USB slots, Media card readers and Bluetooth capability are standard additions which are present. A proper backlit keyboard might have added to the experience even more.

Other issues are something that is probably standard for any dell user, heating for instance. Even though the laptop does possess adequate air vents it is better to clean and maintain the laptop on a fairly regular basis in order to extend its life. If you are an avid gamer, it might be better to buy a cooling pad or a suction cooling device to remove all the hot air from within the casing. Overheating issues must not be ignored and should be addressed as soon as they arise if you want to keep you laptop functioning in a healthy fashion for a very long time.

Despite these small issues, the laptop does perform admirably and we have given it healthy 8.5+ all across the board. Especially if you love photography and editing this laptop from dell is ideally suited for those tasks.

If you have been reading through and are still a bit uncertain, then all you have to do is figure out exactly what you will be using the laptop for. If it’s primarily for work and photo editing then this laptop is a very affordable high end option. If you are uncertain and you have the habit of lending it to your kids to play games or watch movies occasionally then this laptop is the perfect fit. The versatility takes over thanks to its immense processing power and your kids can experience high end gaming on the go
Lenovo Y70Go to Amazon
Lenovo’s Powerhouse! With this laptop, Lenovo stomps on the competition, putting it right up there with the most powerful rigs from ASUS with its GTX 860M; although it is not an equivalent to the all-powerful GTX 980M, the monetary factor is something to consider if compared with any Asus models previously cited in this guide. This Laptop can usually be found for less that 1150$
Watch video review
Overall rating:
82
Battery Life:
0
89
100
Storage Capacity:
0
80
100
Speed:
0
80
100
Design:
0
90
100
Graphics:
0
80
100
Weight:
0
70
100
Pros
  • Fast Laptop
  • Great Graphics Card
  • Anti-Glare Screen
  • Light compared to it's specs and size
  • No overheating issues
Cons
  • Screen is not as big as it could be
  • SSD Storage is too small
Click to read the full Review
The second Lenovo on our list has received a great number of positive reviews from users all around the globe. We take a look at why. This gaming hybrid is priced at $1489 approximately. A competitive price for a 17.3 inch laptop. This device is also a touch screen, full HD anti-glare display. It ships with windows 8.1 with a full free upgrade to windows 10 on offer as well. The laptop is marginally heavy weighing at 7 pounds.

The design of the laptop is quite good with the sleek black finish and smart edges. The laptop is just about an inch thick which makes it a very slim design and gets our nod with a 9/10 rating in this department. The overall dimensions are 16.5 x 11.4 x 1 inches. The design is thicker towards the back and tapers to the front unlike other rigs that are pretty flat throughout. We feel this adds to the comfort level a lot.

I had the advantage of testing this laptop for a long enough time to have form clear opinions regarding its performance, and on first instance, the main flaw I found was the lack of storage capacity. In my personal experience, the laptop which I used carried only a 512 GB SSD, agile and powerful enough to boot an operating system. However, for my work I have a minimum requirement of 1 TB disk to install all programs of the operating system and partition while maintaining enough space to contain my entire library of graphic resources, as my aim is to avoid being constantly connected to an external drive. Yes, some may say that a NAS is a more efficient solution to such a situation, however a NAS is not always a cost-benefit solution, mainly by the fact that you need to constantly dependent on the internet for data transfer connection.

Moving onto the processing specifications. This laptop was designed keeping in mind that the average user might want to take a step up and perform more powerful editing operations. Hence Lenovo have gone for a more conservative 4-th generation Intel i7 - 4720HQ processor. With each core clocking about 2.6 GHZ. The RAM is an ideal 16GB. It’s not the fastest of machines but it’s no slouch either enough for us to give it an 8/10.

We particularly liked the battery life on this laptop as it is one of the very few 17.3 inch laptops than can boast a life of over 5 hours on average. Lenovo have gone for a less power hungry NVidia 860M card instead of the 960 or 980 seen on other models in this list. This helps the portability aspect significantly. You can download most games on steam in 2016 and run them with ease. You might not get the desired 60 FPS on all graphic intensive games but you can definitely run the more cutting edge ones on a slightly lower setting. Although don’t expect the battery to last very long when you do play. You need to make sure you are next to a power supply. If you have a call of duty for instance and what to play it on ultra-settings you most definitely can but you need to stay plugged in otherwise the battery will drain in a matter of minutes.

The display resolution caters to 1080P output for videos and games. You can run an illustrator, Photoshop and a light room application at the same time without the laptop slowing down. The touch screen is also quite good and very responsive unlike other laptops in the market. Lenovo have really made an effort to make sure you have a great touch screen experience rather than the tech present just to fill up the feature column. It was quite refreshing to see this in action. There is also a HDMI display port present in case you want to shift your work to the big screen.

The screen with the help of the NVidia 860 is able to display dark and light colours very well and the richness is stunning. Ideal for any editor or developer. A good gaming experience often requires a sound set of speakers that are capable of immersing you into the action. Whilst it’s very common to use headphones you will still need a laptop capable of delivering a surround sound experience and this does just that with ease. The JBL stereo speakers are definitely very good for the price you pay for the model. To top this off, a Dolby sub-woofer is also present to complement the sound. You can comfortably watch

The best part about the machine is that it looks so very smart and professional. You can easily take this laptop into a board meeting and it will fit right in with any sleek looking Mac or Asus. There are sufficient connectivity solutions like card readers and 3 USB ports to ensure you can switch data and displays easily.

The backlit keyword is a treat especially if you are working at night whilst sitting on a beach. The cooling systems are quite good with plenty of air vents present under and on the side of the machine. The black metallic and red finish gives this laptop a very elegant look. To keep the battery life stable in this kind of laptop make sure you drain it completely before charging instead of plugging the laptop in when it’s at 40 or 60% charge. This tends to degrade the battery quicker as it was designed to be drained completely and then charged.

Even though the device is set to be a 17.3 inch display. We feel like it could be a bit bigger. Meaning the edges around the actual screen are quite large. The design could have been better if these borders were better made. Other than this there are not a lot of cons for this laptop. It is a laptop aimed at a very specific low-end gamer market and delivers excellent performance for that target. The 860M also has 4GB of RAM and rarely has to break a sweat to run most games that are online today. If you are looking for a sweet deal and want to buy something that is not too over the top with over clocked processors and graphics then the Y70 is an ideal machine for you.

Agile, efficient, and very silent, you won’t regret acquiring this “on-budget” option.
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501Go to Amazon
Innovative design and sleek comfort for a gaming-rated beast laptop. Is there anything else to add for a laptop that can certainly help us to build both a photographer and videographer career these days?
Overall rating:
87
Battery Life:
0
50
100
Design:
0
95
100
Storage Capacity:
0
80
100
Graphics:
0
100
100
Speed:
0
97
100
Weight:
0
98
100
Pros
  • Slim-design
  • Powerful processor
  • Good RAM capacity
  • Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card
  • Excellent IPS display
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Great quality speakers
  • Quiet cooling
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Absurd battery life
  • Keyboard can feel odd or tiring due its lack of palm resting area
  • No SD card slot
Click to read the full Review
Design and Features

The Asus Zephyrus GX501 doesn’t just have a fancy name to define it, it’s, in fact, a huge revolution for the industry that creates a hybrid between a powerful Behemoth of considerable size in the size and portability of a common laptop, without chopping its performance.

Though it may rival some Ultrabook, it’s not as thin as those for obvious reasons. The design is absolutely unbeatable, pairing up a Nvidia GTX 1080 in a 1.79cm-thick laptop, being it slimmer than the Dell XPS 15 reviewed in this guide. Though you may be worried about the cooling efficiency of this laptop, Asus covered their backs by redesigning the airflow with a bottom drop panel shaped like a ramp, which creates a 6mm gap that works with the help of that height difference in moving the considerable heat from the graphics chipset to the outer part of this laptop. On top of that, the ramp is absolutely stylish, paired with red LEDs to reinforce the industrial look of this model.

The back cover has a brush aluminium finish in a diagonal two-direction cut. With the Asus ROG logo in bold red with a noticeable bevel, this laptop is certainly fashionable for those who consider themselves tech-enthusiasts.

Like some other competitors as the MSI GT83VR Titan or the Razer Blade Pro, the cooling system has been moved to the rear and the inputs to the front. The keyboard may seem a little tight at first glance but it’s actually roomy, with keys being close enough to give the user freedom for rapid typing or to ace keyboard shortcuts in their preferred software while increasing the efficiency. This layout comes with the downside of not having a palm rest area, which Asus provides an extra rubber wrist accessory whose appearance might be somewhat disappointing (too prone to catch dirt).

You may wonder where is the calc placed on a large sized laptop that it is. Well, the touchpad area shows the calc in a bold red LED display whenever it’s needed. At the same time, this touchpad, small worth to be mentioned, is quite capable of holding up many multi-touch gestures to help users to avoid the mouse usage at all. In my opinion, let me stick with my loyal mouse, as Photography editing requires precision above all things.

Performance

Like we mentioned before, it’s a powerful laptop. That’s no joke. Paired with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H, it can reach clock speed up to 4.1GHz – not as powerful as what we have seen with the MacBook Pro but yet impressive. The 24GB Max RAM is definitely a plus for this laptop, featuring DDR4 2666GHz sticks.

Its highest efficiency point is the Nvidia GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X VRAM, while at the same time featuring Intel HD Graphics 630 for the modest-performance mode. The advantage of this laptop against its competitors is the Nvidia Max-Q technology, meant for running this graphics card at lower wattage and clock speed. Why is that? Well, simply to avoid heavy battery consumption, though you cannot expect this laptop to be long-autonomy one.

The speakers are absolutely breath-taking in both quality and size. You will even feel sorry to plug your headphones when it’s such a pleasure to listen to music with them.

Considerable expensive, we would have hoped for some bit more than just 2-hours of battery life, which will obviously vary depending on the apps you use. Despite turning off the fancy LEDs in the keyboard or killing apps in the background, the battery life won’t improve, so for tasks as video-rendering or such, don’t be that much trustworthy in this model battery life and actually plug it just to be on the safe side.
As you could see, any of these laptop computers meet our desired criteria for a future laptop that has a useful life greater than about three years. In principle, the investment may seem expensive, but if we look at it as a tool for performing efficient work, the value is significantly amortized such premise.

Well then, what are the key points that define this list? What do we have to look at when searching for the best laptops for photographers?

Must-Have Accessories For Your Photo Editing Laptop

If you want to take your editing capabilities even further with software tools and laptop models presented here, do not miss the chance to add these accessories to your arsenal!

Western Digital My Cloud NAS StorageGo to Amazon
Because storage is everything, especially if we happen to have a large amount of data, this is a way to safeguard your work and share it among multiple PCs at the same time!
Overall rating:
84
Setup:
0
80
100
Features:
0
90
100
Technical Support:
0
70
100
Overall Performance:
0
95
100
Pros
  • Remote File Access
  • Fast Speed Transfer Rate
  • Simple Setup
Cons
  • Requires Internet Access in order to work
Click to read the full Review
NAS disks, like the one shown here, are external storage systems that emulate your system "On the Cloud" of many servers online, with the quick convenience of knowing that you don't need to pay for hosting on a server, and that your data is secure because only those who are authorized can access it.

With capacities of up to 16 TB (on dual drive storage mode), this incredibly powerful disk will only require access to the internet via WiFi connection, which can be easily adjusted to the router in your home or office. With an intuitive and easy-to-configure user interface, you no longer have to worry about not having enough storage for retaining copies of your work - Western Digital makes it quick and effective.
Wacom Intuos ProGo to Amazon
The difference between an amateur editing process and professional work may be determined by fantastic accessories like this one.
Overall rating:
91
Customizability:
0
95
100
Ergonomic:
0
85
100
Pressure Control:
0
90
100
Accessories Available:
0
95
100
Pros
  • Ergonomic solution for long editing sessions
  • Includes wireless accessory kit
  • Several nibs to test and try like real brushes
  • 8 buttons to store most frequently used commands
  • Three Sizes
Cons
  • Pricey
Click to read the full Review
As a Wacom user, let me assure you that while the investment is large, it is worthwhile. Rather than tiring our hands with so many hours of using a mouse, performing sometimes simple enhancements of details, Wacom offers a convenient solution which works similar to drawing on a piece of paper.

The tablet format emulates a full-monitor display, which, unless you decide to invest a good amount and buy a Wacom Cintiq (which shows what happens on the monitor in real time), you will have to get used to drawing on the surface while you look the monitor to see what happens.

Software like Lightroom 5 are not able to take maximum advantage of this hardware, since they are not compatible with pressure controls, but with Lightroom 6/CC, such problems were corrected.

With 8 buttons, you can quickly store shortcuts of what you use most often, by software commands. And as if that weren't enough, try different types of stylus' or nibs - the Airbrush stylus deserves its own post to explain all the benefits of working with it, but that's for another time perhaps.

Add a Wacom tablet to your workflow and reduce your editing times in Lightroom and Photoshop by more than half!
Logitech Anywhere MX MouseGo to Amazon
Using a quality mouse is something essential in any design task. What defines the quality of a mouse goes from the materials that was built, its precision (defined in DPI - Dots per Inch), and ease of handling or ergonomics, which is the comfort that we feel in our hand when working with the mouse.
Overall rating:
89
Ergonomics:
0
100
100
Battery Life:
0
80
100
Impact Resistant:
0
80
100
DPI Precision:
0
95
100
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Can work under any kind of surface
  • Laser sensibility: Small Sized
Cons
  • Pricey
  • May appear as discontinued on some markets
Click to read the full Review
Different types of mouse can be classified as: scroll, optics, mechanical or laser. In the majority of cases, the laser mouse is the top of the industry in regard to accuracy, but a problem is to find a mouse with laser precision that is able to work on any surface.

Logitech offers us a solution to this problem in a portable format, thought at work with laptops for business people who need to move constantly. Its laser technology allows you to operate up to even on glass surfaces without any problems with its performance.

Although it is a rather expensive mouse, it is a device of high quality and durability, so it's an investment with a future course.
Cooler Master NotePal X3Go to Amazon
With a striking design, Cooler Master introduces this cooling pad, ideal to keep our laptop at desirable operational temperatures.
Overall rating:
83
Ergonomics:
0
80
100
Cooling Performance:
0
95
100
Durability:
0
75
100
Noiseless:
0
80
100
Pros
  • Noiseless fan
  • Exceptional cooling performance
Cons
  • Doesn't allow to change the position angle like many other models
Click to read the full Review
For many who may ignore this information, any laptop that reaches a temperature of 90° C  will turn off automatically. It may seem like a crazy temperature; However, it is very easy to reach such temperatures depending of factors like the operating environment (if there is dust, etc.), the age of the laptop, ability of the ventilation system, seasonal temperatures (during summer it is easier to reach these temperatures) or even the application that you are using at the time.

This laptop cooling pad has a performance aimed at gamer laptops, with high demand for cooling, which makes it ideal for laptops with long periods of photo editing or 3d design.

Processor

The brain of your computer, the processor. And perhaps the piece that tends to suffer the most damage without us even noticing (hello overheating!). To explain this in a few words, processors are classified under two main parameters: number of cores (physical or virtual) and their frequency in GHz.

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Speaking of cores, we refer to them as the first parameter for measuring its calculus-power and capacity to perform tasks simultaneously or “multitasking.” Physical cores are those who actually determine the working capacity of the processor and allow us to quickly classify them regarding a number of cores they have. These classifications are cataloged in:

  • Two Cores
    • Intel Celeron
    • Intel Pentium Dual Core
    • Intel Core2Duo
    • Intel i3 series
    • AMD Athlon II
    • AMD Sempron
    • AMD Phenom II
    • AMD Phenom II X3
    • AMD Phenom II X4
    • AMD A4 series
    • AMD A6 series
  • Two Cores with Four Virtual Cores
    • Intel Core2Quad
    • Intel i5 series
    • AMD Phenom II X4 Black
    • AMD Phenom II X6
    • AMD A8 series
    • AMD A10 series
    • AMD FX 6000-8000 series
  • Four Cores with Eight Virtual Cores
    • Intel i7 series
    • Intel i7 Extreme series
    • AMD FX 9000 series
  • Six Cores
    • Intel i7 series
    • Intel i7 Extreme series
    • Intel Xeon series
  • Eight Cores
    • Intel Xeon series

Note that for most laptops, the top performance you may come across is a system-built with a 4-core Intel i7 Extreme series, as systems built for more performance are meant only for desktop pcs, being Intel Xeon series used for server builds, mostly on clusters for advanced calculus.

As we see, Intel has the distinct advantage in the processor market, and one of the main differences I’ve noticed between both brands (when working with them), is that AMD processors tend to operate under higher temperatures, as well as leading to higher energy consumption. Independently of the absence of processors that can compete with the range Intel i7, AMD produces cheaper processors than Intel; however, most of the updates featured for design software are meant to optimize the performance of codes of instructions for Intel processors.

RAM memory

Since the old times of the SIMM memories have been gone quite a few years; at the present moment, we can say that, as very old, we can find on the market PCs equipped with DDR3 memory, since new trends are forced toward the recently built DDR4.

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The RAM memory is in charge of storing the entire set of instructions given by a user to the operating system. For example, it is very common to say that our PC works slowly if it has a low RAM, as this will limit its ability to perform several tasks simultaneously. If a PC has no free RAM available, a crash with memory dump might happen (also known as BSOD, which can also occur by energy problems or hardware conflicts). In minor cases, low RAM can cause the programs that consume more working memory to close unexpectedly. Another scenario that can occur when the system has no RAM available, is system freeze that will require a manual restart. RAM memories are sorted by frequency (in GHz) and by latency.

As a starting point, any current PC dedicated to designing applications must have a minimum of 8 GB of RAM for optimal performance.

Graphics Card

Another of the important aspects to consider are video cards. In general, when speaking of them, we tend to think that they are responsible for making everything work when in reality its function is to allow the visualization of detailed graphics or facilitate movement in the work interface (under the mode of viewports). As previously mentioned, in specific programs like Adobe Premiere it is a must to have video cards; However Photoshop or Lightroom does not demand it except for advanced tasks, although the performance of these two programs is clearly benefited by adding a video card to the team.

This also showcases the war Intel vs. AMD, where Intel also takes the lead as CUDA-powered video card processors enable an optimized use of system resources.

Regarding this, we can say the better the quality of the card into processing graphics (higher clock frequency, memory bandwidth and a number of cores), the better their performance will be. In the case of Nvidia cards, we have two clear ranges: conventional users and enthusiasts.

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Old line GT cards are practically obsolete for high-demanding task or processing multiple images at the same time; and in the line of the GTX, from series “X60” onwards are considered video cards for enthusiasts (or gamers), with the highest rate of benefits but higher price, while previous models are used for conventional users.

Example: a GTX 950 is a card for a conventional user, while a GTX 980 a card is high end.

The difference lies in the software architecture of both cards, being the series exceeding 60 designed for PCs with high demand for labor.

There are also cards designed for Workstations, labeled as Nvidia Quadro or ATI FirePro respectively. Although they are designed for professional work, we can certainly see a great benefit in CAD applications or Computer Graphics visualization; There is a discernible difference in the case of photo editing. So, going to a comparative cost-benefit, it is better to acquire a video gamer card since Workstation video cards have a base price stipulated in $200 when its performance is the same as a card for $60 if we don’t use those applications mentioned above.

amd_radeon

Considering all these factors, you can now have an easier understanding of what to look for when deciding to get your next laptop. By favoring some factors over others (for example the amount of RAM, as most laptops offer us the possibility of expanding it later on or the quality of the graphics card), we can save some money while getting a powerful system build. The same rules apply for desktop system, although when it comes to a static computer, you also need to consider the power consumption (for getting the proper power supply unit), to project its future lifespan (then again, PSU capacity), and also its cooling system (if you can, please do yourself a favor and get a liquid cooling system).

We hope that this guide has been to your liking, and see you next time!

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Vincov Calgary Bag for Photographers: A Detailed Review

Hello dear friends! Today we are delighted to share with you the experience we had with a quality camera bag from Vincov, the Vincov Calgary Bag for photographers.

Why is it important to understand the quality built of our camera bags? Well, putting aside the obvious fact that it happens to be the medium for carrying our precious photography gear around, it is true that the latest trends set us as photographers not just as artists but also as influencers – hence we have to take care of our personal style as another venue to market our work –  but in case all that wasn’t enough, ergonomics do play a key role when it comes to carrying our gear, especially for those who consider traveling photography as their lifestyle. Let’s check why this camera bag should become one of the options to include in your potential photography wish-list for what’s left of 2018!

A Travel Companion

When we decide to get a camera bag, ensuring that our gear can withstand any mean of transportation becomes essential. Of course, we do not expect a camera bag to behave the same way a camera trolley bag would do, as they are intended for different purposes, but to be able to pack our gear around in a comfortable, safe and, why not, fashionable way. Vincov, a manufacturer of camera protection gear, undoubtedly succeeds in bringing photography transportation gear a step closer to what one can dream of the so-called “photographer style”; yes, that very same fashionable look we can check at our Pinterest boards from time to time.

vincov calgary

The Calgary Bag will certainly remind us of those old school bags. Sturdy, made from canvas with leather straps and metal clasps – something that I would like to highlight as I loved this config; you have no idea how many times I ended up frustrated when lovely bags I used to own had their plastic clasps broken, rendering them almost useless due to that single fact. Yes, this is a bag that takes usage into consideration, so we users can feel the benefits of a quality built out of it.

vincov calgary

As opposed to what we are used to seeing in camera bags, this stylish bag can not only be used as a camera bag but also allows us to pack many different elements as a laptop up to 14″ size, clothes, documents and many other etcéteras that can come across without compromising the safety of the user – something we cannot guarantee in other bags that tend to explicitly broadcast that we are carrying expensive gear with us. In fact, unless you are carrying a lot of weight with you, most people won’t even acknowledge that this backpack is a true camera bag: you may come as a university student traveling abroad with a good fashion sense. Once again, incredibly useful if we travel to not-so-safe destinations.

Carrying Capacity

The Vincov Calgary Bag has two main storage areas. The first one is your average bag pouch, accessible from the top after flipping over the cover – which is secured by both buckles and snaps – quite easy to tie and untie whenever needed. As the top cover protects the pouch you won’t be risking your gear in what regards to unwanted access to the pouch. This part of the bag can hold up many elements, but mainly we tested this part with gear as external flash units, laptop battery chargers, documents, books… you get the point. I wouldn’t advise carrying a camera lens in this part of the camera as it doesn’t come with an extra cushion protection – that we will see on the bottom part of this backpack – so it’s mostly intended to be an easy access pouch for those things we need to pick up in a hurry.

vincov calgary

The bottom part of this backpack is a zipped-sealed section with a removable cushion protection for our cameras. It only includes two removable dividers, allowing us to have three different areas to carry gear, and depending on the size of the gear you carry you can pack up to three camera bodies (two DSLRs and one Mirrorless/Compact for example), but that won’t give you extra space for the camera lenses unless you don’t mind to pile them up your camera bodies (something we don’t advise to do so). That may be seen as a drawback if not for the bag to feature spare pockets on its sides to carry the lenses. Yes, it’s not as spacey as other bags you can check in the market, although those ones are way bulkier than what this particular bag happens to be.

vincov calgary

The two pockets on the flipable cover are small, intended to be used for carrying small accessories, whereas the two side pockets are more shallow – meant for camera lenses for example. The other front pocket is not also much bigger, but we can use it to pack many small-sized accessories that can take away room from the main storage areas. Do keep in mind that this extra front pocket comes sealed with velcro: ideal for protecting sensitive material.

vincov calgary bag

The Outdoor Experience

One question that can come across when talking about a canvas bag is what happens when it rains. Yes, some harsh climate conditions can be enemies for canvas not only for the bag but for the gear that’s carrying. Vincov thought about this and included an extra safety protection on the bottom: a zipped pocket, right at the bottom, that stores a rain cover for the bag. We haven’t tested it with snow yet, but for rain, it certainly does a fair job, and the best thing is that it comes almost unnoticeable.

As the bag comes in two colors, khaki and light brown, it’s entirely up to the user which one may suit you best not only from a color scheme point of view but also which one resists more to dust and dirt without becoming too noticeable. We tested the light brown version, and yet despite using it in beach or forest scenarios, we didn’t notice it caught that much dirt in contrast to what other bags may do, especially for a light color.

Conclusion

All in all, this is a bag that comes to change the average photography bag experience. It’s not the usual black, extra cushioned bag that screams: “hey, there are a camera and lenses in here!”, which we truly appreciate as it makes the risk of getting mugged way less probable. It’s versatile, as you can pack a change of clothes, a laptop, documents or any other small-sized element you wish to carry around.

There are downsides, however. Firstly, as it’s canvas-made, you cannot overload its carrying capacity. Also, linked to its material built, it won’t hold up for rain or snow, though it packs a weather cap in a quite convenient way. In my opinion, I wouldn’t risk the chance of damaging the gear weather cap or not. It’s not a bag to carry around on a bad weather day.

The other thing we missed with this bag is a dedicated area to carry a tripod without it being uncomfortable. Some bags do feature an extra strap on the bottom or at one of its sides. That’s not the case for the Vincov Calgary backpack.

Vincov Calgary Bag
Storage Capacity
Design
Weather Resistance
Portability
Material Quality
Price
Our Score
4.1

We hope you liked this review and be sure to take a look at this awesome bag. See you next time!

4K HDR – Is it worth it?

When it comes to digital photography and videography, the industry trends change faster than a blink of an eye. The smartphone we bought yesterday today may be outdated if a new model happens to be released; and with each update, exciting new features show up to set the bar even higher in the ongoing competition of which brand delivers the greatest innovation to the market. But what if technology goes way too far that we need to catch up with the new terms that come as a consequence of it.

Many of you may be aware of the advantages of working with 4K video format, especially for professional work. Accepted these days as the industry standard, and even cringing over the fact that 5K technology is building up its niche, 4K videography still has a path to trace if we consider that HDR technology is the new element worth to be checked by any up-to-day artist.

4k hdr

The hype of 4K imaging

When Full HD technology was still building its path over some markets, 4K imaging was game on for both the European and the US market, not to mention Asia. In the consumer and television media, 4K format translates into 4K UHD, which gives a resolution of 3840 × 2160. That value is the one we come across many times when picking televisions or monitors to work with. On what matters to pixels, it refers to 4000 horizontal pixel count, contrasting with the often heard 2160p resolution, that can also apply to 5K technology displays as it only measures the vertical pixel count.

So, why does 4K imaging made such an impact? A quick answer may be related to the rapid adoption of the format by YouTubers and the television industry. When compared with previous results made in Full HD quality, the footages recorded in 4K quality were significantly finer in details, allowing us to get a more real feeling of the scene captured, not to mention some advantages worth to be mentioned:

  1. You can apply crop, tilting and zooming configurations to your photographs without compromising the image quality by reducing the pixel density – as it happened with Full HD.
  2. 4K footages can give you still images up to 8MB file size, with the resolution expected for that filesize. A huge leap if in contrast to the 2MB files you can get out of Full HD footages.
  3. Looseless edit when applying Image Stabilization algorithms inside video editing software like Adobe Premiere. The overall process ended up in downsampling the original footage to make it look as if taken with a Steadicam.
  4. For photography green screen, the chroma keying process (combining a subject into a different background) happens to be way easier the more pixels the file has.

4k hdr

Why consider HDR imaging as a plus?

HDR effects are one of those tricky things in photography that when done in excess produce nasty effects. We’re all familiar with those photographs that look way too overproduced, with fake tints out of HDR presets and effects, but what’s the logic behind this?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range imaging. To resume it in quick words, whereas a conventional photo is the result of one image taken, HDR images are the product of at least 3 images with different exposure values. The reason for this is by merging different exposure values taken of the same scene, the dynamic range expands as you get both lighter and darker values for the information available in the scene. That, when used with knowledge, produces absolutely stunning and vivid images, as the vibrance is considerably higher, not to mention that unique color punch that can be obtained out of them.

4k hdr

These effects, which instead of getting the neglected place of becoming a trend in photography, in fact, they managed to build their own niche, with tons of photographers – amateurs and professionals – seeking to convey the best results out of HDR techniques for their work, building breathtaking portfolios – especially in landscape photography – and developing the technique way further than just a simple feature coming out from your camera.

As the industry kept its steady growth, the communities of HDR photographers emerged. Social media felt the effects of this renewed hype with users emulating the effect through apps and filters, so why not make it a native effect? That’s exactly the path photography and videography are walking right now.

How 4K HDR Imaging sums up for the consumer industry?

By taking into account all the aspects mentioned above, the evolution of LCD displays into LED and OLED technology made the leap into building HDR technology for screens a much easier task. If we say that we can visualize amazing images straight out of the display of our phones, or our computers, then something had to be done for the bigger market: televisions.

With 4K technology built into televisions, detail enhancement became a reality. Many people say they enjoy sports events way more at home thanks to the outstanding quality their televisions can produce and the comfort of being in your house rather than staying out in the cold at some winter game. But 4K technology isn’t enough, as the increase in pixel density doesn’t solve the common enemies of digital images: dull tones and muted ambiances. That’s where HDR technology set the bar higher by introducing a well-loved color punch to the images being streamed through media services, bringing in a vividness that can only be rivaled by the nature of the human eye when it comes to appreciating color and beauty. If to that unique combo we add the benefits of 60fps recording, the results are mouth-watering.

4k hdr

In order to get the most out of these conditions, photography and videography had to implement these standards to work. That led to another race: the development of gear capable of meeting the 4K HDR standard.

On this behalf, both smartphones and video cameras are doing a superb job about it, but let’s not forget about some high-end DSLR cameras that happen to meet the standard. Whereas cameras and video cameras can match the 4K HDR standard, visualization doesn’t come as easily. Then… what to do about it? Introduce smartphones that feature 4K HDR displays and are able to create native 4K HDR footages. An example of this is the new Sony Xperia XZ2 lineup. And that’s a market that will keep its expansion, now building its presence for drones as it was highly demanded.

Is 4K HDR technology worth the investment?

Yes and no. How so? Let’s put it like this:

  • If you happen to be an amateur who loves HDR effects and constantly applies it to the work you do, the technology leap to work on 4K HDR standard isn’t worth the lack of revenue you won’t pursue out of it. Why? Because with a smartphone able to record such format isn’t enough, and social media platforms – whereas some can stream that format – the larger audience won’t be able to notice any substantial difference than with 4K format due to their devices not being apt to go higher than Full HD.
  • If you are a professional, then you need to consider the nature of your business and the market you work with. If where you live & work is a place that your peers work under a less high-end standard, then perhaps the difference isn’t in a technology leap but in expanding your portfolio, networking, pursuing new challenges. If, in turn, you desire to work for the bigger leagues, then, by all means, consider the investment, as you are paying your way into tomorrow’s accepted standard.

Well, I hope this article can make you consider some aspects of the 4K HDR format and its side effects. See you next time!

iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max & iPhone Xr: What Apple has to say to 2019

After so many rumors, leaked images, and expectations the new iPhones are here. Apple decided not to bother too much with the naming process, something that has surprised us all as we weren’t expecting this new path, but truth be told, these new phones aren’t just an iPhone X renamed but a new concept that will pave the path for the future of smartphone photography.

In this article, we will discuss the new Apple phones and their key role to any serious smartphone photographer.

iPhone Xs

As expected, Apple decided not to confuse users on which is their newest phone by sticking to the numerical model and the X version phones, so we can consider this phone not only as a successor of the iPhone X but as the evolution of the iPhone 8.

The phone itself feels as a natural upgrade of the iPhone X. Powered with a new A12 Bionic chipset and taking its storage offer all the way up to 512GB, this massive powerhouse still fits our hands comfortably. Following the trend used by Apple to their updated phone versions, the Xs is what we could expect from the iPhone 6s in relation with the iPhone 6: improved specs, more reliability, a more powerful unit overall.

iphones

Image courtesy of Apple

Its weight sits stable at 177g, with a 5.8-inch screen. Bezels, like with the iPhone X, are non-existent and the phone retains the notch in which nests the required elements for the Face ID recognition system, an important part is the True-Depth Front Camera. In our analysis the area remains the same but it seems somewhat stronger, most likely due to the switch to an OLED display, as it’s a vital part of these phones since the Home Button is long gone and there’s no other way to unlock the device rather than to use Face ID – Yes, fingerprint scanner remains as a pending issue for these new Apple phones, despite how practical it can be.

The glass front and back cover remain, making it look as one of the most outstanding smartphones in the market. Though we can find ‘lookalike’ phones in the Asian market, what makes the iPhone Xs unique is its quality build, making it feel like a sturdy, high-end phone in our hands.

The iPhone Xs follows the trend that can be traced back from the iPhone 7, ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of the Lightning port, but like we saw with the iPhone 8 Plus, you can find the 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter in the box, a plus as we don’t need to buy a much-needed accessory.

The button scheme remains the same, not that Apple will change that in short term. Volume buttons on the left side, the lock/Siri button on the right side.

On what regards to general aspects, this phone counts with IP68 rating for water-resistance, meaning that you can immerse this phone for up to 2 meters in clean water for 30 minutes – ideal for those phone addicts that need their devices even under the shower 🙂

Another impressive aspect is the speakers, which are dual-speakers and placed both on the top and bottom. More speakers, more volume obviously, but Apple has also taken care that audio quality won’t suffer any consequence.

Screen

For this phone, we can appreciate a 5.8-inch OLED screen, inherited from the iPhone X with an outstanding color reproduction and contrast ratio. Dynamic range has been improved for this unit, with more compatibility with Dolby Vision and true HDR colour scheme.

iphone xs screen comparison

Image courtesy of Apple

Though it was experienced last year with the iPhone X, watching HDR videos is obviously still a novelty for the market. Overall, it won’t change much to the average user and remains to be seen over time how it will impact battery health, but we can say it’s a lovely feature to have.

Camera

This, despite the storage upgrade, can be labeled as the biggest feature of this new phone. Now the common-sized versions of the iPhone will feel the benefits of the dual camera layout.

We count with a rear double camera with 12MP sensors on them, both with optical image stabilization – something that not the iPhone X nor the iPhone 8 Plus had – with one being a wide angle camera whilst the other remains as a telephoto lens with good zoom.

iphone xs camera

Image courtesy of Apple

When the Portrait mode is enabled, both lenses will operate to create softly blurred backgrounds. Impressive bokeh effects can be achieved, and even changed after the picture is taken, if you know your way around them. Also, you can change lighting effects by selecting your preferred light setup in Portrait Mode.

iphone xs

Image courtesy of Apple

The new A12 Bionic chipset also improves the speed of the camera app, especially to prevent lag when capturing movies. In our opinion, these new additions can certainly help a camera that’s slowly defeating multiple compact camera models – not to mention it can shoot in RAW and now Apple Photos app will allow RAW editing in this upcoming release of iOS 12.

iPhone Xs Max

For the bigger sized brother of the Apple family, the option was to ditch the ‘Plus’ nomination in favor of ‘Max’ – quite convenient if you consider that in fact, it is a boosted version of the conventional iPhone Xs.

In comparison with the iPhone 8 Plus is not only a revisited design of the iPhone X, but also boast more power and a bigger battery. It’s worth mentioning it has all the same features as the conventional Xs, including the dual SIM card support (for one nano chip SIM card and an eSIM card). Now, though being a recent iPhone 8 Plus user I still don’t consider these new “upgrades” to be worth the effort of switching between smartphones.

iphone xs max

Image courtesy of Apple

The A12 Bionic processor and the revisited lenses are certainly promising, and no doubt an OLED display makes the difference in comparison with the LCD one from the iPhone 8 Plus and even the newly announced iPhone Xr, but truly, is it worth it to spend that much amount of money in a smartphone? We are talking about a phone that’s almost as pricey as a DSLR camera body, and not a beginner model, but a mid-range for sure. Not to mention how fragile these new smartphones prove to be not only for the bigger screen but also for the rear glass cover – you feel as you need to run to get a case before an accident happens.

iphone xs max

Image courtesy of Apple

Apple seriously needs to revisit their price strategy as rather than dominating the market the new iPhones are becoming a restricted offer, as many people do wait until a new phone is released to get the previous one for a considerably reduced price – yeah, not their best shot. Not to mention the issues one can get if there’s no Apple Store around the area or in the country where you live and you have to rely on the service of “official authorized service”, which is 2x or 3x the amount of what the service would cost in an Apple Store.

This gigantic 6.5-inch display phone is breathtaking on sight, however, unlike previous versions, there’s no change in specs between the common sized version and this one if not for the battery capacity and the screen size. No new technology as introduced in the iPad Pro for a more fluid UI response is included, which renders out as a big disappointment.

iPhone Xr

And finally, it’s time to check the ‘cheap’ offer from Apple in this new phone range. The iPhone Xr comes as the price-wise option for iPhone lovers, following the trend set by the iPhone 5C. Though it retains much of the aesthetic of the iPhone Xs, there are changes to be noticed with this phone.

First and foremost, you won’t get the dual cameras as with the other two models. As disappointing as it may sound, the ‘conventional’ camera reduces prices a great deal, but still, we would have expected a dual-camera config in a cheap version to set this phone as a killer for the cheaper Android phones we can find these days.

It has a thicker design in comparison with the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, and the back cover remains as glass, though you won’t get the same high-end feeling with this phone as with its bigger brothers. The display size is 6.1-inch, retaining a resolution of 1792x828px, half of what you’ll get with the iPhone Xs. The display is also different as it boasts a new LCD material named Liquid Retina rather than the OLED display used by the other two phones.

iphone xs comparison

Image courtesy of Apple

It’s surprising to find that this phone is actually larger than the iPhone Xs (5.8-inches vs 6.1-inches), and it may come as a test drive experience for Apple to see if they can engage their large customer base for phablet format; perhaps a warning that upcoming iPhone Xs Max successors may offer a larger screen as well.

There’s no fingerprint reader, nor a Home Button with this phone, and it’s expected to sell the 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter as an extra accessory rather than including it in the box, to reduce prices.

iphone xr

Image courtesy of Apple

The camera for this phone is, as we mentioned above, a single lens one. One 12MP wide angle lens in the back, and the usual 7MP True-Depth camera in the front. Though users may feel disappointed on the lack of a telephoto lens or not being able to create bokeh effects, Apple claims that they can create a ‘fake bokeh’ effect thanks to its Focus pixel technology. It’s not something new in the market – the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is capable of doing that – but we would like to check how Apple manages to create this effect with convincing results. Smart HDR is also available for this phone.

It is expected to pair at least 1GB less of RAM, and the maximum storage for this phone will be 256GB – no 512GB option, to keep prices at bay. Given the fact it doesn’t come with fancy features like the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, the battery may last longer, but it’s also rumored that the battery doesn’t have as much capacity as the other two. Only after testing what iOS 12 has to offer will wel be able to see some results.

We hope you have liked this guide and see you next time!

Best Gimbals for DSLR Cameras a Photographer Can Get

How many times have we felt frustrated after a potentially perfect photograph happens to suffer from blurredness or shaky areas? For some, this can add realism to the scene as shows the effort made by the artist to capture the scene; for others, even the slightest movement is entirely unacceptable and proof of amateurish job. Now, such discussion renders us to a very fragile area: what happens if movement should be part of the process?

You may say then, ‘how can movement be a part of my job?’. Well, for videographers, this is the reality in which they live they work, but photographers can also learn way much from handling movement in order to properly take scenes as action photography or motorsport photography.

In this article we’ll talk about the different options we have when it comes to gimbals for both DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras, with a brief mention of models that can work for smartphone photography and action cameras as well.

DJI Ronin-S 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal StabilizerGo to Amazon
One industry giant who knows what needs to be done to keep their users happy. Yes, DJI has quite the good experience with gimbals thanks to its popular OSMO lineup; but the bet is way higher for the Ronin products and we’ll check the reasons why!
Overall rating:
80
Design:
0
95
100
Price:
0
40
100
Weight:
0
89
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
96
100
Pros
  • Sturdy
  • Excellent build quality and ergonomics
  • Mobile app compatible
  • High loading capacity
Cons
  • Batteries not removable
  • Connectivity features not compatible with all cameras
Click to read the full Review
Considered a much awaited release after the Ronin-M went available for sale, the first thing that can astonish us is show sturdy it feels. With a heavy handle wrapped in rubber surface, the grip is truly comfortable for your hands as it also has a slight indentation for your fingers. It’s not a cylindrical rod but rather more rectangular that also helps to improve the grip.
With a 7-pound loading capability it gives plenty room for packing powerful cameras and more than decent lenses. In short words, more than the average need for DSLR cameras, not to mention mirrorless ones.
We are not impressed that we can’t remove the batteries, so that implies a recharge time which is handled via USB-C port in 2.5 hours. The operative time is expected to be about 12 hours.
What we love, besides how much resistant this gimbal happens to be, is the good amount of control it features. Fully compatible with Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras, it is also compatible with the Panasonic Lumix GH5 and the Lumix GH5S, but we would love to see more models to be compatible with this complete gimbal.
The bottom legs act like a tripod, giving a good stability if you happen to need to leave the unit solo and keep recording at the same time.
The smartphone app will be your tool to go to control this gimbal, as we can adjust not only the operative mode but also settings from the camera as to enter the sensor type, focal length, and other interesting settings for scenarios as panorama mode, giving the user plenty freedom of movement to capture insane scenes.
Do keep in mind that you need to learn your way with the controllers as bad settings can result in an increased noise coming from the motor.
Pilotfly H2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal StabilizerGo to Amazon
Why rely on software to remove unwanted effects such as blurriness, especially when it’s hard to create realistic results, if we can prevent them beforehand? If you don’t trust us, then take a look at this 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer.
Overall rating:
84
Design:
0
91
100
Price:
0
78
100
Weight:
0
80
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
86
100
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Sturdy
  • 5 Pre-configured modes
  • Stylish
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • None
Click to read the full Review
This gimbal combines not only the two-hold layout thanks to its accessories but also the versatility of the single grip as a powerful team-member to consider whenever the opportunity of travelling arises.
The Pilotfly H2 gimbal isn’t only just lightweight, thanks to its CNC aluminum alloy built, but also able to nest cameras up to 5 pounds of weight to pack a versatile range of cameras we can use for both hobbyist or professional work. Despite all concerns, big full-frame DSLR cameras can fit and so does most of the lenses available on the market.
The dual IMU sensors do help a lot in the performance of this unit as well as the Triple MCUs. Thanks to this improved system we can get a 360-degrees rotation and also a roll axis rotation of up to 180-degrees.
Its operative time stands up for 26 hours, with a LED indicator for its battery life.
Zhiyun Crane 2 Handheld Gimbal StabilizerGo to Amazon
Impressive, a much-awaited release for the industry. Though it should not be confused with the Crane V2, we will check up why this Zhiyun Crane 2 has this increasing reputation among videographers.
Overall rating:
79
Design:
0
81
100
Price:
0
72
100
Weight:
0
80
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
82
100
Pros
  • Sturdy
  • Silent motor
  • OLED display
  • Top-notch quality
  • Multiple control options (Canon cameras only)
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Only compatible with Canon cameras when it comes to camera controls.
Click to read the full Review
If you happen to be a 4K video enthusiast, you certainly acknowledge how much the stability can bring to the recording to be made. Zhiyun agrees with this statement, hence the reason why the Crane 2 gimbal is way more than just a revised version of the Crane V2.
Pairing a bigger mount platform and longer arms, there are very little difference between these versions if we are too critical; however, the mounting platform is now a quick release mounting platform, something that we, as users, been expecting for a while to reduce the workflow time.
Despite being made from resistant aluminum alloy, the Crane 2 can support up to 3.4 pounds of weight, something that makes this gimbal able to pair some of the finest cameras available in the market without much effort – at least from their side 🙂 Yes, it would have been amazing to count with a bulkier two-handle version of this gimbal, as heavy cameras plus the weight of the gimbal itself over prolonged times can cause certain arm fatigue.
Its motor is not only faster than the Crane V2 but also considerable quiet. And if autonomy is something that makes you skeptical about these devices, do keep in mind that not only you can use it for up to 18 hours, but also you can charge your cameras with the microUSB included port. It is also compatible with smartphone app.
Unlike some other models we’ve checked, this gimbal showcases professional controls and an OLED tiny display to give us information not only on the mode that’s operating but also battery life. This curious display is also handy to operate the camera as it can control the motor speed, gyroscope sensitivity, and also camera settings as ISO, shutter speed, aperture and exposure for Canon Cameras.
It is expensive no doubt, but what else can you expect from a quality product like this one?
Glidecam iGlide II Handheld Video Camera StabilizerGo to Amazon
Another popular choice among videographers. Easy to use, easier to pack. This stabilizer is meant for the photographer on the move with a small budget and lots of creativity.
Overall rating:
83
Design:
0
84
100
Price:
0
74
100
Weight:
0
87
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
86
100
Pros
  • Durable
  • Pocket-sized
  • Aluminum-built
  • Big plate for placing cameras
  • Strong connection points
Cons
  • May take a while to get used to it
Click to read the full Review
Coming up as the smallest stabilizer for this Brand, the Glidecam iGlide stabilizer is a promising product for any photographer or videographer. Lightweight, compact, this product has, first of all, a convincing design made out of quality material – we are thankful for that, especially when it comes to its locking points, as it helps to ensure the secure feeling for our beloved cameras and lenses.
Despite how pocket-minded it looks, this brave stabilizer is able to hold either GoPro cameras, Mirrorless/Bridge cameras, compact cameras and some lighter DSLRs. It’s entirely built on aluminum, requiring very little effort not only to set our cameras but also to switch among them if required.
It is able to hold up to 3 pound cameras and the counterweights can also be set by the user.
Ivation Pro Steady DSLR Rig System with Shoulder Mount For Video StabilizationGo to Amazon
It may seem bulky, it may seem uncomfortable but this gimbal is top notch for a more than incredible price. Take your work to the next level with this gimbal we’re going to review here!
Overall rating:
79
Design:
0
64
100
Price:
0
92
100
Weight:
0
74
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
86
100
Pros
  • Meant for professional work
  • Comfortable to use
  • Sturdy
  • Cheap
  • Can work in multiple positions
Cons
  • May be a bit bulky to carry around
  • Folding takes time to get used to it
Click to read the full Review
This gimbal was meant to be used by professionals. That doesn’t mean hobbyists can’t feel the benefits of this device, but it will take some training to get used on how to get the most out of it.
First of all, it’s made out of a strong metal rather than the conventional cheap plastic, though some users have reported issues – probably lead by mishandling of the unit or dropping it. The entire set of grips is covered in a rubbery material that’s a bit more resistant than the average foam, with metal being displayed out in the open for the fingers to increase the grip.
Though it’s held by its two arms there’s an extra extendable rear arm that allows us a better grip and increases the stability of this gimbal. It can be used in multiple positions but mostly with the grips facing up – for a low-angle shot – or facing down – for a normal angle shot.
Do keep in mind that you can adjust the height of where we are using the gimbal – as it is handheld – to match any kind of shooting scenarios we need. It does, however, lack of controls for operating the camera remotely.
The unit is entirely foldable, a process that can take some minutes more than we would have liked for the average usage of this product. It does come in four different colors: red, cyan, gray, and black.
Neewer Carbon Fiber 24"/60cm Handheld StabilizerGo to Amazon
Neewer is a well-known brand for us photography lovers. This time we’ll be reviewing their option for a handheld stabilizer that comes in two options: aluminum alloy and carbon fiber. Since the carbon fiber option stands out both for its considerably reduced weight but also for its increased support capacity, let’s check now what this handheld stabilizer has to offer.
Overall rating:
91
Design:
0
94
100
Price:
0
92
100
Weight:
0
97
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
80
100
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Stylish
  • Quality-built
  • Sturdy
  • Portable
  • Holds up to 7 pounds
  • Adjustable height
Cons
  • None
Click to read the full Review
Another interesting product courtesy of Neewer. This handheld stabilizer comes up to address two issues: one, portability, which is solved thanks to its carbon fiber rod that also grants sturdiness to this device. The second would be portability, a crucial factor for many photographers – if not said every single one of us, while remaining below the $100 price range.
Yes, the price is unbeatable and Neewer also does a great job reminding us that only the rod is made out of carbon fiber – which certainly reduces the production costs without compromising the quality, as the rest of this unit is made out with high quality aluminum alloy.
This handheld stabilizer allows us to adjust it to heights ranging from 15” to 24”, matching a good number of scenarios in the process. Also, in comparison with its Aluminum Alloy counterpart, it can hold up to 7 pounds of weight (the other version only resists up to 3 pounds).
The grip is comfortable to use. Stability for this device is handled by counterweights on its bottom plate, freeing up the space on the top plate to match any kind of compact, mirrorless or DSLR camera with lens. The grips are also made out with a very high quality plastic material to ensure its continuous usage.
FLYCAM HD-3000 Handheld Gimbal StabilizerGo to Amazon
This gimbal may stand out from the crowd as it happens to be somewhat different than other models. At first sight, it resembles a tripod. But there’s way more to discover so let’s start!
Overall rating:
74
Design:
0
40
100
Price:
0
90
100
Weight:
0
90
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
75
100
Pros
  • Aluminum built
  • Foam cushions in the handle grip
  • Lightweight
  • Cheap
Cons
  • Doesn’t seem secure as other models
Click to read the full Review
When it comes to picking a gimbal many users may feel intimidated as, in fact, gimbals imply movement. But what if we take the most of gimbal lock technology and apply it in a very, well-known, tripod layout? Well, that’s where the Flycam HD-3000 comes.
Aluminum-made, this gimbal stabilizer is one great choice for professionals who happen to look for quality gear while remaining on budget. The combination of a sturdy built with a lightweight portability allows us to carry it around throughout the day without even noticing it.
This gimbal features a micro balancing technology which grants a quick mount for the camera and frustration-free methodology. Such approach is granted thanks to a broad top plate that can be adjusted for X and Y axes, allowing both movement or positioning regardless of the movement you desire to make.
Allowing us to mount cameras up to 7 pounds, you can even use heavy lenses with your DSLR camera that this lightweight gimbal can hold up the experience. Also, the handle grips are very cushioned, reducing any kind of friction to the user. The foam protections are also meant for travel, though its carrying case comes with extra foamed protection to avoid any damage.
The free clamp featured by this unit is meant to be used to secure the device when working under tricky angles.
Beholder DS1 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal StabilizerGo to Amazon
This gimbal may resemble more of a selfie stick rather than the usual bulky gimbal. Able to hold up cameras as the Nikon D810 or the Canon 5D Mark IV, we can’t go wrong with this professional gimbal.
Overall rating:
81
Design:
0
77
100
Price:
0
60
100
Weight:
0
95
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
92
100
Pros
  • Quick to replace cameras or lenses
  • Comfortable joystick with good grip
  • Compact design
  • Multiple modes available
  • Extremely light
Cons
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Doesn’t have a long battery life
Click to read the full Review
With a release baseplate, this gimbal makes the camera switching process extremely easy without risking our gear, but also, it’s quite Handy when it comes to switching between lenses.
The Beholder DS1 Gimbal may not seem strong enough at first sight, and certainly, it’s limited up to 3.8 pounds of weight, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do a superb job when it comes to having a firm grip for the gear to be used.
There are both pan and tilt controllers on its joystick handle that allow us a 45-degree roll and 90-degree tilt. More than enough for the average user. What makes this model shine is the built-in USB port, meaning that if you pair this gimbal with a smartphone or camera you can charge it whenever it’s needed.
There are three different operative modes for this gimbal. The first one is lock mode, where the camera will stay fixed on its position regardless of your movements. Then it comes the inverted mode, that allows the camera to be turned upside down and follows your movements. The briefcase mode let us hold the gimbal close to us, making it ideal for low-angle camera shots.
Glide Gear Geranos 3 Axis Gyro Motorized Gimbal StabilizerGo to Amazon
For those who enjoy videomaking with your DSLR cameras you may have noticed how hard is to avoid shaky images. If you don’t like bulky gear to stabilize your shots, then the Glide Gear Geranos is what may best suit your work.
Overall rating:
80
Design:
0
75
100
Price:
0
68
100
Weight:
0
85
100
Freedom of Movement:
0
91
100
Pros
  • Able to be used as selfie stick
  • Can hold up DLSR cameras and mirrorless ones
  • Compatible with Smartphone app
  • Controls the camera shutter speed
Cons
  • A bit pricey for what it offers
  • Not available for all markets
Click to read the full Review
First of all, this gimbal stabilizer is low-profile, meaning that you won’t get a very bulky gear as, in fact, it’s not much bigger than a quality selfie stick. If that doesn’t sound convincing enough, this gimbal is more than capable of holding up a DSLR camera + a big sized lens.
The floating point algorithm used by this gimbal gives the user a great range of accuracy, whereas the camera control interface handles the shutter speed. With up to 360-degree rotation, this gimbal adapts to our needs, lasting up to six hours of operative time on a single charge.
There’s also an option to mount to a vest and arm system for a more comfortable and reliable experience, plus it helps to reduce arm fatigue. The good thing is that this mount is easy to detach, helping us to switch between systems when required without losing much time.
With the Dual IMU Sensors used by this gimbal, the angular velocity, linear acceleration and acceleration are measured. In turn, it helps the camera settings to match the best conditions for the scene you happen to be taking part of.
Do keep in mind that this stabilizer is able to support cameras up to 6.2 pounds in weight.

Selection Criteria

For us to come up with this selection of products there have been some considerations that we would like to explain over here.

Price: Keeping the budget under control is a serious task for any photographer. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the increasing amount of products available for us, but in this case, we tried to bring multiple products with the price-range below $200. Obviously, we included some pro-options for those users whose work require that extra punch, but that increases the price considerably.

Brand reputation: Like with any photography product, the tradition and expertise of the brand for producing the products speaks lengths. And who doesn’t buy products after checking the online reviews? Also, brand reputation takes a good part when it comes to acquiring replacement parts, as given the investment to be made with these units.

Material quality and overall stability: If we consider we’re pairing our camera and lenses with these devices there’s no room to compromise them if the gimbal doesn’t feel secure enough.

Weight: It’s all about the comfort for the user who has to operate these devices. And yet when the aim isn’t to use cheap plastic to reduce weight, as it would compromise the security of the camera + lens, there are carbon fiber options that can do us a great good to use them.

Availability: Not all the products are available for all the markets, so we wanted to list out the products that, in general, can be accessed without much hassle.

Freedom of Movement: If the aim is to improve our recording performance, then the gear itself shouldn’t impose and restrict our movements because of how bulky it feels or how many time it does take to switch between cameras when needed.

FAQs

Is it essential to count with a gimbal rather than a tripod?

In most scenarios it doesn’t apply, as gimbals happen to be intended to improve performance for video recordings rather than to still shots; however, gimbals are fun to use and can bring much to photography as they restrict the unwanted movement while allowing us to walk around the scenes. Ideal for candid photography, isn’t it?

Should I take into consideration the motor noise?

If your purpose is to work with video footages, certainly. Some gimbals can be quite noisy and it’s not our intention to need to remove sound with software later on, and certainly not if the product to be released is a live video.

Carbon Fiber or Aluminum Alloy?

If you can afford the carbon fiber option then go ahead, you won’t regret the option. Not only it proves to be lighter but also considerably increases the amount of weight to support.

Two handles or a single handle?

Two handles give us more comfort to work, as the weight of the camera + lens is distributed into two support points. Some heavy gimbals can add an unwanted arm strain if the recording time is prolonged.

Removable batteries or not?

That’s entirely up to your working conditions. If you prefer to pack an extra set of batteries, certainly having a fixed battery config will restrict your work, but do consider that some fixed battery config does show better lifespan than other models.

BenQ SW320 31.5″ 4K UHD HDR Monitor Review: A Dream Come True

There won’t be any better feeling for a photographer than to have a spacey area to be editing your work while at the same time you can keep an eye on previous edits, add resources from external software, or start the layout process for albums, cards, etc without losing time at all. What would be the perfect companion for such a dream scenario? A big-sized monitor of course.

Through the course of this article, we will be analysing in detail the BenQ SW320, the big brother of the latest BenQ monitor lineup targeted to photographers. Coming as a high-end professional-grade monitor, there are many expectations for this unit from the market in general; thankfully BenQ seems to know exactly what their audience needs and how to deliver a quality product without lifting the price range way too high. Ready? Let’s get started!

Overall Features

This monitor comes up as one promising beast. With a 31.5” 4K display, there’s nothing much to add on professional photography work, but if we count with HDR colour rendering as well, the bar goes up much higher in what image quality refers, as it can help an immense deal to those videographers who now enjoy the benefits of 4K HDR video footages either from high-end smartphones or enthusiast video cameras.

It does keep the same viewing angle as the SW271, 178-degrees, and also inherits the 16:9 aspect ratio. For such a big screen, glaring can come as an issue which BenQ has sorted out thanks to a matte finish anti-glare coating.

The panel works with IPS technology with a 10-bit colour reproduction and 350 cd/m2 brightness; native contrast ratio is 1000:1. It does feature a wide colour gamut, going as far as to count with a 99% AdobeRGB accuracy and 100% Rec. 709. The 14-bit 3D LUT can also be truly appreciated by experts when it comes to professional work.

Like what we have seen with the SW271, the Hotkey Puck also makes an appearance for this monitor, something we valued a lot given its practical use to improve workflow speed when switching colour spaces, and also we do get the shading hood that works both for landscape and portrait orientation despite the massive size of this unit.

benq sw320

When it comes to image calibration, this device also includes the BenQ Pallete Master Element software for easy calibration process, and it’s compatible with calibration devices as the xRite i1 Display Pro or the Datacolor Sypder5. This monitor comes factory-calibrated, but you need to acquire either one of those calibration devices to ensure the proper functioning of this monitor for the investment made.

Key Features Resume

  • 31.5-inch 16:9 matte screen
  • 3840×2160 (4K UHD) native resolution with HDR support
  • 1000:1 native contrast ratio
  • 350 cd/m2 brightness, 5ms response time
  • DisplayPort 1.4, and HDMI 2.0 inputs
  • BenQ Palette Master Element colour calibration software
  • Black-and-White photo mode, Darkroom mode
  • Wide Colour Gamut (99% AdobeRGB, 100% Rec. 709)
  • 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT)
  • “Hotkey Puck” Remote Control
  • Shading Hood, with an opening for a calibration device
  • USB 3.1 hub, Headphone jack
  • Landscape / Portrait orientation
  • 3-year warranty

Design Highlights

The first thing we noticed with this monitor is how bulky it can be. It’s clearly not intended for a multiple display setup, so being entirely honest it wasn’t the wisest decision to test it with an iMac 5K 27-inch computer (we thank you a lot desktop for surviving the experience!). Its size is considerable, plus the monitor with the shading hood looks truly sturdy. If your aim is to acquire one of this monitors, do yourself a favour and consider your office layout first.

If we gave our compliments to the SW271 vertical handle, this one certainly gets all the rewards due to being able to support an almost 19-kilos monitor without much effort. The same support system is used for this monitor, placing a sturdy plate on the bottom of this monitor where also the Hotkey Puck is nested; the routing hole makes an appearance as well to ensure the minimalistic approach in such a big-sized monitor – believe it or not.

benq sw320

The rotation angle is set to a 45-degree swivel to either left or right for the selected orientation, and as you all have expected, it does allow – despite the massive size – to change the orientation to portrait mode. A word of warning: it’s one of the most outstanding monitors you will see in this orientation not only because of the massive size but also for the clear sharp details of the 4K HDR screen.

benq sw320

Bezels are a bit more pronounced than what we can find in both the SW271 and the SW240 – perhaps because of the weight of the screen itself. On the bottom right part, you will see five buttons that, from left to right are:

  • Buttons 1-to-3 for changing colour modes, entirely customizable
  • Button 4 for the adjustments menu
  • Button 5 to exit the menu
  • Button 6 – power ON/OFF

Built-in colour modes for this monitor are as follows: AdobeRGB, sRGB, B&W, Rec. 709, DCI-P3, HDR, DICOM, Darkroom, Calibration 1, Calibration 2, Calibration 3, Custom 1 and Custom 2.

benq sw320

For this big-sized monitor, it’s a bit disappointing to count with just one HDMI monitor on its input ports area. It’s an HDMI 2.0 input, and we can also find one DisplayPort 1.4, a Mini DisplayPort 1.4 and a USB upstream input (for the USB hub) besides the headphone jack for 3.5mm audio and the Hotkey Puck input. It comes as a surprise not to find a Thunderbolt or a USB-C input. For us, it meant using a Thunderbolt to DP adapter, which can affect the overall image quality a bit. Considering the fact that the SW271 and the SW240 both count with those inputs, why not include them in their flagship unit? A mystery to be answered no doubt.

benq sw320

There’s an SD card reader and a USB 3.0 hub on the left side of this monitor for easy access – not so easy in our opinion given the size of the monitor, it would have been best to place it on the bottom tray.

Performance & Calibration

This monitor is, no doubt, targeted for the enthusiast/professional audience given both its size and specs. Price range is a big question for users over if it’s worth it to start working under 4K mode. If we take in consideration that full-frame cameras are now going beyond the 50MP line or that 4K video footages start to push as the trend to follow for professional videography, there are more than enough reasons to acquire a 4K monitors.

Unlike some other units that are available in the market, the SW320 answers the issues that the very first 4k monitors used to show: poor refresh rate and unwanted glares. The matte finish does a superb job for managing accurate results in both colour calibration and also for reducing eyesight strain on prolonged usage. If we compare the quality of the image reproduction between this monitor and our iMac 5K 2017 Retina display, no doubt this monitor is the winner thanks to its precise details and better gamut.

Obviously this isn’t a monitor to consider in a side-to-side battle against insanely priced units as the NEC PA322 – there’s a reason why the NEC one is over the $3k price range –  but still this monitor does have plenty to offer and no user would find easy to complain about the reliability or the image quality offered by this monitor.

benq sw320

Conclusions

In general, this is a monitor that still has room for improvement. First of all, the lack of some connection inputs is disappointing, as there’s a big market in the Mac side of the industry – this monitor almost seems as if was meant for a Microsoft Windows user – so be sure to acquire the needed cables for this monitor prior to getting ready to set it up at home.

As what usually happens with monitors over 27-inch size, the space they demand is considerable. This monitor can actually take as much room as two 24-inch displays in multi-screen setup if the SW320 is using its shading hood; so, perhaps, you won’t find this monitor to be the best tool for your studio if you work at a truly restricted area.

The image quality is more than you would have imagined from 4K HDR resolution, making it look perfect for videographers or even computer graphics artists.

We truly hope to see an upgraded version of this flagship monitor that can fix all the issues mentioned, as it’s far much practical to work with one big monitor than several mid-sized ones – it’s a matter of personal preference of course.

And that would be all for this guide! See you next time for more exciting gear reviews.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus: Reflecting on Apple’s Evolution

One of the most questionable aspects that have been arising so far regarding Apple is their, apparent, lack of innovation when it comes to their smartphone line. Memes all over the internet show the evolution of Apple phones as a mere stretching of the previous model, perhaps thinning it in the process, but truth to be said, Apple goes way beyond that. What we know as the iPhone is more than just a smartphone: it’s a flagship, an icon for a company that regards both design and reliability for their users. Yes, it’s true that Apple phones tend to be pricey in comparison to the current market of Android phones, but the whole idea backing the reason of Apple’s approach to technology – the hardware being optimised by a tailored-made software – is definitely worth the investment.

As an Apple user myself, I have resisted until the very last minute to upgrade my smartphone – an iPhone 6 – for a newer model as, as far as I considered it, my iPhone 6 gave me more than what I could ask for a smartphone, even if we are talking about a phone that is about to be 3.5 years old in my ownership. Unfortunately, battery life drastically changed my plans, so an upgrade was the only viable way to solve this (yeah, for some markets, replacing your battery in your Apple phone can become as pricey as USD 300, fee I consider to be insane). Therefore, my go-to options were the iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus and the newcomer iPhone X. In this guide, I’ll be reviewing the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, plus telling you which phone I managed to get and the reasons to do so.

iPhone 8: More of the same thing?

The iPhone 8 comes as an attractive option for Apple users. Though the design remains the same from the 2014 Apple iPhone 6, the upgrades in hardware are noticeable.

iphone 6

Speaking about tech details, the iPhone 8 boast the same heavy bezel finish, now replacing the aluminium finish used up until the iPhone 7 for a new rear finish made with glass – a must-have considering the move towards wireless charging, which in turn makes the handset considerably more fragile than what it used to be. Its size remains almost the same as the iPhone 7, just a tiny tad bigger, but the iPhone 7 cases work for this device as well. The glass finish also adds some weight to the unit, but not something that feels too heavy if we are honest.

The fact that this phone has taken the leap towards glass finish is a plus, but in all honesty, you will be likely running all the way to the next cell shop to get an iPhone 8 case as, yes, the rear case replacement for this unit is considerable pricey and your device won’t hold up a drop from your hands while standing without suffering a considerable damage.

Whilst users may complain the iPhone 8 is merely an iPhone 7S, in fact, there are some pretty noticeable changes that one can appreciate after using it for a while. First and foremost, the minimum storage has been upgraded to 64GB. The other option to get is a 256GB – ideal for those video lovers who want to feel free of any constraint to experience life with their phones. The design has some very subtle changes – which we will review later on – and also both processor and battery differ considerably from the iPhone 7. Before dwelling on the camera or other aspects, it’s time to explore how design and performance have changed for this unit in comparison with its predecessors.

Design

Though the iPhone 8 takes the prize as the rebel smartphone when it comes to design, the truth is that not many things have changed for this cellphone than the essentials to ensure wireless charging. Like we mentioned above, there’s a switch to a glass rear body, which also makes the phone 0.2 mm thicker, 0.2 mm wider and 0.1 mm taller than what the iPhone 7 happens to be. You won’t even notice these subtle differences, nor the extra 10 grams this device has, and you can even use your iPhone 7 case without much trouble.

Apple seems to have played with both sides of the market when it came to releasing this unit as a bezel-loving phone if we consider how close the bezeless iPhone X was released. Almost as if they were trying to point something to their users on which trend should they follow for their phones. What had happened is that users fell in love with the futuristic iPhone X, but the lack of a home button and the price increase has rendered many users to stick to what they are confident about rather than innovating.

The camera bump is still there. In fact, I noticed that it’s slightly more pronounced than what my iPhone 6 used to show – probably due to the camera upgrades – but not something that reinforces the sleek glass finish on its back (Samsung has done a far much better job in that regard).

iphone 8 side

The button layout remains the same. And, for being the last model to boast a home button, users will have a hard time saying goodbye to that usage workflow if Apple decides to finally ditch it in favour of the all-clear display design that has been introduced with the iPhone X.

What doesn’t feel safe about this design is how slippery the glass rear side happens to be. I have to confess I did not have any accidents (thanks lord) with my phone yet, but I immediately went to acquire both a protective glass for the screen and a silicon impact-resistant case to be on the safe side. It isn’t a phone that will inspire any confidence to you, and trust me it’s worse for the iPhone 8 Plus. Your local store may even offer you an extended warranty for a fee to cover any kind of accidental damage to it, so yes, these things happen.

iphone 8 back

The colour options we do get for this device are the traditional Silver, and Space Gray, plus a Gold version (not rose-gold though remains somewhat peachy), and the RED version of course. Long gone are the antenna bands – hooray to that! – and there’s no return of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Before you start to complain, do keep in mind that Apple now includes a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter in the phone’s box.

Display

At first glance, there’s no noticeable upgrade between the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8 as they both pair a 4.7-inch IPS display with 326ppi pixel density. The resolution remains the same at 1334x750px, way too disappointing when we see smartphones of about the same size coming up in Full HD, but the ambient lighting does help to compensate that a bit.

iphone 8 display

Ambient lighting can be regulated by the user, and it does help to calibrate the screen to suit the lighting conditions of the room – or outdoor place – you happen to be in. In turn, the colour and contrast improvement makes the screen look considerably better than its predecessors. This technology was introduced with the new iPad Pro and it’s named TrueTone. Yet, it fails to meet the standard of a QHD+ AMOLED display used by the Samsung Galaxy S8, not to mention the 4K HDR display of the Sony Xperia XZ2 or the 4K display of the Samsung Galaxy S9.

I managed to notice that the screen activates when you move the phone towards you. That did not happen with the iPhone 6, and despite the extra battery used with that feature, it’s something worth to be used.

Autonomy

One surprising aspect with the iPhone 8 is that the battery happens to be smaller than what the iPhone 7 paired; now we have an 1822 mAh battery in contrast with the 1960 mAh used by the iPhone 7. Yes, it’s true that the new hexacore processor that this iPhone 8 boasts makes it more efficient in battery life, though we would have expected a bigger battery to hold up heavy usage, especially if we take in consideration that the battery is sealed with the case, so only professional service can replace it when worn out – hence the reason why I replaced my phone lol.

Under heavy usage, you can be sure that you won’t need to switch to power saving mode for at least 5-6 hrs. The camera does take a lot of the battery life, and, surprisingly, apps like WhatsApp do as well. I haven’t tested these iPhone 8/8 Plus devices with battery-hungry apps like Waze to give a full rapport on that, but for the light user who enjoys music streaming, some social media and casual emailing, you can certainly go through the day and get about 30% of battery life remaining by the time you go to bed.

belkin boost up qi charger

Belkin Boost Up Qi Charger for iPhone

The wireless charging was something to be expected considering the trend in the industry and also the feature to be available for the Apple Watch 3. With Qi wireless technology supported, the charging pad isn’t included, but there’s a huge range of models worth to be explored. Do take into consideration that for using the wireless charge you have to remove your phone case, as silicon cases do interfere with the wireless charge procedure. Though we can see many many charging pads, the ones supported by Apple (from Mophie and Belkin) will give you some extra power as they feature higher voltage than the average options available.

Camera

Once again, there’s no big improvement for this device in comparison with the iPhone 7. It pairs the 12MP rear camera with f/1.8 aperture, 5x digital zoom and optical image stabilization. Live photo mode works as well, something that yet hasn’t managed to convince me of the utility of it.

Where it does shine is on video recording. This iPhone 8 is compatible with 4K video recording at 60 fps, and also allows us to record slow motion videos at 240 fps in Full HD quality (whereas for the iPhone 7 it was limited to 720p).

The camera app interface isn’t different at all. There are no new options, nor the front camera has been changed much whatsoever. We count with an 7MP front camera without any extra effects – all efforts on front cameras go to the iPhone X with its TrueDepth camera – but there’s still room to talk about it.

iphone 8 sample

Photo courtesy of Tommy Reeves

The photos taken with this phone look vivid, punchy, with a good amount of detail and a carefully thought balance in between saturation and definition than what previous models used to show. Though Apple has restrained themselves to abuse of the deep saturation used by brands like Samsung or heavy HDR effects as with Sony, the iPhone 8 features more natural-looking photos than its competitors.

iphone 8 sample

Photo courtesy of Nima Malek

The Auto-HDR mode can be turned off if the user desires it, and also we can preserve the images taken to made up the HDR photo if we want to. It’s among the many aspects that we can tweak from this phone camera.

Details can come clear sharp, and though it’s no match to the iPhone 8 Plus quality, it does a superb job under daylight conditions, with a somewhat noticeable lag and subtle noise during low-light conditions. It does take its job for this phone to focus under low light conditions, but you will get used to it.

iphone 8 sample

Photo courtesy of Alain Durand

Flash for this phone seems, in a personal opinion, better balanced than what we have seen with the iPhone 7, as in fact, photos do look better when using it. It’s worth mentioning that, like the iPhone 7, selfies do feature a flashlight: the entire screen flashes when the flash is turned on for a more pleasing selfie experience under low light conditions. Imagine my joy as the iPhone 6 didn’t have any of these features and the upgrade with the selfie camera from the 1.2MP front camera to the 7MP version of this phone.

The 4K video recording does take some storage. It’s estimated to take about 400MB per minute of footage under 4K resolution, so in case you do acquire the 64GB version and happen to be travelling a lot, you can quickly run out of space. Yet when that can be solved by acquiring some extra space through the iCloud storage, it can become a nuisance as you all know how expensive roaming can turn to be. My advice would be to offload unused apps prior to travelling abroad, and remembering to download photos and videos as soon as possible.

Performance and UI Experience

The iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X all use the same A11 Bionic processor, claimed to be the most powerful processor known to date by Apple phones. They do differ, however, in RAM offer: the iPhone 8 comes with 2GB of RAM whereas the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X both feature 3GB of RAM. And yes, the performance difference is quite noticeable.

In case you don’t fancy smartphone gaming (like me) or if you don’t multitask a lot, you won’t notice that much difference when it comes to usage – especially if you are upgrading from iPhone 5S or iPhone 6. There is, however, a noticeable difference when it comes to video recording, as the extra RAM prevents lag.

The processor upgrade for this phone is, perhaps, the biggest feature it can offer, as it now boasts a hexacore processor rather than the quadcore introduced with the iPhone 7, and certainly noticeable from the dual-core used with the iPhone 6. iOS 11 is the native software version for this phone, so you won’t also notice any significant downgrade in battery life as it has been reported by both iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 users (and believe me, it was noticeable). There’s AR support for this phone.

Stereo quality has been improved as well, with the same dual speaker used with the iPhone 7. The quality is expected to be 25% better than the iPhone 7, and if you come from previous models you will certainly love the dual speaker layout – it is powerful! Call quality is clear sharp, noticeable upgrade as well.

The iPhone 8 Plus Experience

Yes, you are right. I did manage to get an iPhone 8 Plus phone. Why choose such a significant upgrade if coming from an iPhone 6? Let me state my reasons for doing so:

  • The rear camera made about 80% of my decision: The iPhone 8 Plus features a dual-camera, to which I will review in detail, that is not included in the standard version of this phone.
  • The extra RAM, as the iPhone 8 Plus does have 1GB extra of RAM.
  • The battery life: the iPhone 8 Plus offers a 2675 mAh battery, quite contrasting to the 1822 mAh from the iPhone 8.
  • Believe it or not, the screen size. Though impressive at first glance, the iPhone 8 Plus does feel comfortable to use, and as you are extra careful with it, it is less prone to accidents as the iPhone 8 would seem – at least to me! There’s a quality jump with the screen in the iPhone 8 Plus, now offering a 2436 x 1125px resolution, with a 458ppi pixel density.
  • Price: Originally I wanted to invest in the iPhone X. Price was a huge set off for me (for some markets, the iPhone X can be as pricey as about 2k dollars on its 256GB version), but also the whole FaceID technology didn’t seem to cut in for me, not to mention the lack of the home button and how fragile does the screen look (imagine if it would break!)

So yes, I managed to get an iPhone 8 Plus and rushed to acquire the protective gear I mentioned above. It is huge in size. My first phablet phone so far and I instantly felt as if I would drop it if not careful enough. Its size difference is noticeable from the iPhone 6, which doesn’t differ that much in size from the iPhone 8.

There’s a lovely UI experience as the phone seems to flow between app and app. I haven’t felt that experience since I upgraded from my previous phone to the iPhone 6, and yet I remember that there was a not-that-noticeable lag when switching between apps. Now, if I have any lag, I ought to blame it to the network connection 🙂

iphone 8 plus UI

Design and colours remain the same, inheriting as much as possible from the iPhone 8 but with the Plus config, as expected. Fortunately for me, my father has an iPhone 7 Plus, so I made the instant comparison between both phones and the surprise was great. The iPhone 8 Plus beats the iPhone 7 Plus by all means. It’s not just a mere update between versions but a significant change in hardware when it comes to the camera. The added RAM and improved battery life is also a blessing for users and, to be honest, my father’s phone is about to be 2 years old, with a good amount of daily usage, and still lasts the entire day without needing to recharge the battery.

The iPhone 8 Plus Cameras

For the iPhone 8 Plus, we can expect an evolution from the iPhone 7 Plus cameras. The frontal camera does a better job when working under low-light conditions, using the Auto-HDR mode as well, which I fancied quite a bit and haven’t turned it off yet. The camera flash for the frontal camera is faster than what I have checked for the iPhone 7 Plus, and there’s a significant noise reduction as well.

Where this phone shines is when it comes to the rear camera. The powerful dual-camera config consists of a dual 12MP cameras, the first one with a wide-angle f/1.8 aperture, and the second one a telephoto with f/2.8 aperture. Optical zoom is available, and we can reach up to 10x digital zoom. The camera happens to be exactly the same as the iPhone X one except that the telephoto lens for the iPhone X is f/2.4, which means does a better job in low-light conditions.

What can I say about the camera? It is outstanding. In fact, I became truly surprised to test such a powerful camera inside a phone. The optical image stabilization did not strike me very much – the iPhone 8 Plus is one big-sized phone, which requires users to use both hands to take pictures most of the time, otherwise, results can be somewhat shaky. My current tripod did not fit the phone, nor the selfie stick so, later on, I plan to include an update on how does it behave with one.

iphone 8 plus sample

One cool feature introduced with this phone is the Portrait mode – which has a somewhat beta version in the iPhone 7 Plus, but nowhere as powerful as this one. The portrait mode allows the users to create clear sharp portraits, with a soft blurry background and beautiful bokeh effects. That, with the added value of the Portrait Lighting options, which allow you to pick from Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light (it turns everything around the subject to be black), and Stage Light Mono. This Portrait Mode is amazing. To be honest, I instantly regretted not picking the iPhone X as I suspected such feature would be available for that phone’s frontal camera – it isn’t for the iPhone 8 Plus. Though we can take selfies with the rear camera – with practice of course! – it is worth to be mentioned that the Portrait Mode applies a zoom to the photo, and it warns users to position themselves about 2.5m from the subject for accurate results.

I managed to test this Portrait Mode multiple times, and for macro photography it does wonders!

iphone 8 plus portrait mode sample

 

Other than that, the extra features this model has on video recording are mere options to be tested when performing footages, as the Loop mode. In general, there aren’t differences between the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus for video recording.

Another thing worth to be mentioned is that zoom remains to be improved for the iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus. The digital zoom isn’t convincing at all, whereas the optical zoom does a fair decent job.

iphone 8 plus zoom sample

The Downsides

Of course, there’s room for improvement for these phones, but which are potential downsides for them? Time to explore these flaws!

  • Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus seem fragile to the average user, especially the iPhone 8 Plus. It’s extremely advisable to get a protective case and a tempered glass at the moment of purchase as like expected, replacement parts can be quite costly, not to mention that only authorised Apple service should do the fixes.
  • The battery for the iPhone 8 remains unimpressive. One can expect a bigger-sized battery if following the trend set up by both Sony and Samsung with their flagship phones.
  • This may come as a user complaint, but seriously Apple, why do we have to go to Settings, then Camera to finally be able to tweak-in basic camera options? Wouldn’t it be nice to offer a comfortable button during an upcoming iOS update?
  • Though RAW shooting is supported for both models of this phone, you won’t be able to access it through the native camera app. As surprising as this may seem, you need to get paid apps like ProCamera or Manual to be able to shoot in RAW.

iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, which one should I pick?

In case you are still debating on which model you should get, here are some quick comments that can help you decide.

  • If you are looking for budget-options: Pick the iPhone 8, no questions asked.
  • What if you crave power? The iPhone 8 Plus comes as the obvious option, and in comparison with the iPhone X there’s no difference between both models.
  • You are looking for a high-end camera: Here this depends on how much of a selfie fan you happen to be, and if you can live without the home button. The iPhone X beats both these phones on what photo quality respects for its frontal camera, and also for its better battery management. Take into consideration the, at least, $200 price difference between the Apple iPhone 8 Plus 5.5 and the iPhone X.

We hope you have liked this detailed review about the current Apple’s flagships and see you next time for more gear reviews!

BenQ SW240 24.1″ IPS 99% Adobe RGB Monitor Review

When it comes to picking monitors for photography one of the things we will immediately notice, unfortunately, is how expensive they can turn out to be. You can blame such disheartening scenario to the trends of this industry, on the availability of products for certain markets, or on the technology that was used to craft them. Yet, hope is not lost for those who are desperate for quality budget-friendly options at the time of building up your own business or if you are still unsure if it’s worth to spend over 1K dollars in a peripheral.

Today we are delighted to introduce the BenQ SW240 monitor, a budget-friendly monitor for photographers that preserves all the high-quality features we can find in high-end devices in the industry. Would this monitor cover all the aspects that your work requires? Let’s find out!

Overall Features

The BenQ SW240 sits as the new mid-range monitor aimed for photographers and other media artists. You can also use it if you are an amateur as, trust us, it’s one of the best monitors around for the value. With its 24.1” display, it features a FullHD resolution with superb colour accuracy thanks to its IPS technology. You can enjoy 99% accuracy of AdobeRGB colour space and 100% for sRGB.

benq sw240

As what can be expected from a 24-inch display, this monitor won’t take much room in your desktop, so it’s ideal for those who look to pair it with your 15-inch laptops, or for those who happen to be lacking many area to acquire a 27-inch display.

Like we have seen with the BenQ SW271, this monitor seems to work with the same vertical stand to support the screen, which obviously is way lighter, so we get the same routing hole system for pushing our cables through – ideal for a tidy, minimalistic approach – but you won’t see fancy features as the Hotkey Puck for this unit.

On its back side, there’s a small connection bridge for USB slots and SD cards, though you won’t find ant USB-C cable within this monitor, so for Mac Users, this is a con.

benq sw240

This monitor is also compatible with the detachable shading hood, although it’s sold as an accessory rather than being included in the bundle. That, along with the special features that this monitor doesn’t include can explain the substantial difference in price between the SW271 and this monitor.

Key Features

  • 99% Adobe RGB Color Space with IPS technology
  • 24.1 Inch FullHD (1920×1200) Resolution
  • Hardware Calibration With Palette Master Element Software
  • Colour Mode Hotkey
  • Optional Accessory: Shading Hood (SH240)
  • USB 3.1 Hub / SD Card Reader
  • Landscape/Portrait Orientation
  • Headphone jack
  • 250 cd/m2 brightness, 5ms response time
  • 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT)

Design Highlights

For this monitor, we find a very minimalistic design with a low-profile bezel placed around the screen, thanks to which we can be sure it won’t take much of our workspace.

On its bottom right side, we can find seven physical buttons, to which the first button is labelled as “Colour Mode Hotkey” – allowing us to switch between the different colour modes with just pressing it (available colour modes are AdobeRGB, sRGB and B&W). The other three buttons are meant for tuning up the monitor, and the final button on that row is the power on/off.

benq sw240

Like what happens with the SW271, the placement of the SD card slot + USB hub wasn’t made considering the multiple screen factor, otherwise they would have noticed that not only it comes as unpractical such placement, but also risky, as we need to pivot the position of the monitor to be able to plug/unplug connections.

The shading hood, which may be included depending on whether you purchased your monitor for the offers that you can come across, isn’t exactly vital if your office counts with a well-conditioned place to work, in terms of outdoor lighting. Too much natural sunrays or a badly placed lighting setup may be the reasons for requiring this add-on. It’s entirely up to you.

One thing to acknowledge is that BenQ seems to have thought of users who do prefer a multi-monitor setup, which could also explain the reason for sticking with a thin bezel config for this unit, as the 24-inch size makes it ideal for such an arrangement. During our tests, we managed to check that the monitor can perfectly adapt to those working conditions, unlike what happens with bulkier units, though only one unit is capable of using the SD card reader slot and the others were under slave-mode for that purpose.

We can quickly tune it up for a portrait orientation mode, which we found to be ideal for photo editing, especially when paired with the multiple photo editing modes this unit happens to provide on what refers to colour rendering. And, as expected, the 24-inch display does not put too much strain on the vertical mount when doing the tilting movement, something that left us to wonder when working with the SW271 if that was a long-term practice.

benq sw240

Performance & Calibration

This monitor truly stands out from its competitors’ thanks to its versatile photo editing modes. The black & white mode is something that, if the monitor is properly calibrated, photographers would consider a blessing to work with.

We have tested this unit by pairing it with a 2017 iMac 5K Retina computer, so the quality between both monitors isn’t comparable as it would be unfair for the BenQ SW240 – it’s not a 4K unit to start, but also the difference in size also renders it to be a monitor targetted for a different use. Response time is quite good, and that happened to be reassured when pairing it with a laptop – as you know, some models aren’t precisely HDMI-friendly – so for those who crave for a solution for either 15.6-inch laptops or even tinnier models, this happens to be your option to go.

The 4K resolution is something to consider. In case your work is mostly done as still-photography, with a not-so-high-end-camera, then it’s not worth to consider investing the extra money in a 4K unit as, really, your final work won’t be that different than when working in FullHD. The point in which becomes crucial to count with a 4K unit is if we happen to be videographers. The quality leap between 4K and FullHD for footages is pretty noticeable, and for working with editing software like Adobe Premiere or After Effects you surely want to check that your work does reflect your intention prior going live. This monitor won’t be precisely the option for videographers or even action photographers, but mostly for the budget-intended photography studio who seeks a partner for a lifetime.

benq sw240

Profile Calibration is an easy process to explore. The provided software by BenQ does wonders, and when considering the fact that you will also need to pair an external calibrator as the xRite units or Spyder ones, the entire process is much more friendly, as you can sync settings easily between monitors for a preferred look or when using multi-monitor configurations for your studio.

The calibration software is ideal for new users. You can start with the basic mode and let BenQ do the job for you, or simply tune-in advanced options for a better outcome. Do keep in mind that the monitor comes factory-calibrated, but it’s a good practice to check the calibration once per one-two months if working full-time.

Like mentioned, there’s no Hotkey Puck for this unit, unlike its bigger brothers, so you will have to work the old-fashioned way of editing photographs. The buttons can help, no doubt, but they aren’t as handy and configurable as the extra features the Hotkey Puck does provide.

Conclusion

What can we say, overall, about this monitor? Mostly, that is a monitor targetted not for heavy studio work but for hobbyists, who don’t do many gear upgrade over time and won’t mind at all not counting with the 4K quality for their work. That being said, the BenQ SW240 surely knows how to set the bar for the 24-inch monitor market by being a reliable unit for long-term work.

The IPS surface is almost flawless. You can only experience some slight comfort if you need glasses when working with screens, as DPI ratio won’t be affected by your glasses unlike what users seem to notice with other monitors. Also, the matte finish is ideal for reducing almost to none the extra glare we can surely become – unhappily – accustomed to depending on our studio lighting configuration (something that those who love natural lighting would love).

benq sw240

To count with an SD-card reader for a 24-inch monitor is a surprise. That’s something you can expect from a high-end device and not from a budget option. BenQ has outdone themselves on this regard, considering their popularity in the photography industry as a reliable source of computer gear. We would have loved, of course, to be more practical, so we don’t need to turn around to either plug-unplug USB units or, mostly, for the SD-cards.

All in all, this is a monitor you won’t regret buying at all, quite the opposite, a partner to work on multiple venues for ages.

Sony Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Compact & XZ2 Premium: Three Flagships with Attitude

Hello everyone! Today we’re truly excited to review the latest by Sony in regards to smartphones: the Sony Xperia XZ2, Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact, and Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium. Unlike the battle between Apple vs Samsung, Sony decided to take a shift in their approach to the smartphone market, offering one of the most reliable Android-based devices available in the market. Let’s explore what makes these smartphones to shine!

Overall Specs

The most noticeable feature this smartphone has is the capability of recording 4K HDR videos, becoming the world’s first smartphone to be able to do so. Though we can enjoy these incredible footages either in monitors/TVs with 4K HDR resolution or the phone itself, in general, it won’t make a difference for users across social media as there aren’t other smartphones capable of streaming the content on its full quality yet.

Dynamic Vibration System (DVS) is introduced in this model as well, reminding users of the DualShock controllers from the PS4. This is a feature most gamers are thankful for, but for other apps, it just feels plain odd. When watching videos, the DVS makes vibrations only for off-screen sound effects instead of situations that would demand it for like collisions or battles, and for music playback, the phone will start vibrating according to the beat.

Though you can control these vibration levels with ‘mild’, ‘normal’ and ‘powerful’ setups, in general, it doesn’t pay the battery drain it does to the unit – at least it won’t in long-term.

sony xperia xz2 vibration system

That being said, no doubt it’s an interesting feature for those passionate for gaming with their smartphones, as experience will become undoubtedly more accurate to what you can feel when playing console games.

The other aspect in which this smartphone does shine is their Full HD slow-motion video recording, with 960fps frame rate, something that though being first introduced in 2017, Samsung decided to game on this competition with their 720p super-slow motion in their Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. Sony leads the market on this behalf for absolutely stunning super slow-motion videos, and the quality of its camera works best for natural daylight setups.

Design

In comparison with its predecessor, the Sony Xperia XZ1, the XZ2 has a significant upgrade in both size and overall look. With a more curved rear and curved edges, the smartphone sits more naturally in our palm, whereas the camera, flash, and sensors have been moved to a vertical column on the back – following the trend that brands like Sony and LG.

sony xperia xz2 rear

The rear is made from a high-quality glass, making it look absolutely stunning, but has two major downsides: becoming a fingerprint magnet and, as expected, being fragile when it comes to accidents. Now, we cannot expect other materials finish these days with the hype of NFC technology and wireless charging, and both Samsung and Apple have targeted their flagship handsets to meet this standard, but in general for the user this requires to pair a protective case to prevent the impacts from accidents, losing the premium-quality feeling of the metal frame running around the device. And, do keep in mind, it can be somewhat slippery if not being paired with a protective case.

sony xperia xz2 front

Bezels were also reduced in the front of this device, now sporting a cleaner look for a high-end smartphone. In size terms, with its 153x72x11.1mm the Xperia XZ2 still comes as bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X for featuring a 5.7-inch display, whereas these other two phones have settled for the 5.8-inch one. It is also heavier than the aforementioned rivals, weighing 198g. You can get the Sony Xperia XZ2 in the following colors: Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, and Ash Pink.

samsung xz2 colours

The fingerprint scanner, though placed correctly following the vertical line set up by the camera and flash for this unit still feels somewhat low on its placement. We would have hoped it to be closer to the camera as it leads to a more natural motion when using it. However, the introduction of biometrics for this scanner is a blessing, something that was a long to-do for the Japanese giant brand. Perhaps it would help the feeling for the user to make it more noticeable to not mistake it for the camera lens – and avoid fingerprint smudging due that, but that’s something that users with protective cases don’t have to worry about as there’s a special care in most producers to make a noticeable difference between the two features on the back.

KuGi case for Sony Xperia XZ2

And personally, I love this whole navy look for such a stylish smartphone!

As usual, the power/lock key is located on the right side of this device, with the volume controls on top of it and a dedicated camera key below – ideal for us photographers. SIM card tray can be found on top of this unit and, with the removal of the headphone jack, we are welcomed by a USB-C port on the bottom.

Yes, Sony joins the trend of ditching the headphone jack to favor digital audio, but they do keep in mind their music-lover users with older generation headsets to include an USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter in the box.

Thankfully this premium device does come with an IP65/68 rating, ensuring both dust-proof and water-resistant capabilities, meaning that you can ensure the safety of your device under rain or tiny accidents, but it’s not waterproof, it won’t hold seawater exposure or chlorinated water (swimming pools), neither the spilling of liquids as soda drinks. If you want to take this cool phone for some underwater experience, a waterproof case is mandatory.

Display

For a smartphone that has much to offer to the user, the display can be somewhat disappointing. Sticking with a 5.7-inch FullHD+ LCD display, Sony does not have enough power to catch up with competitors boasting QHD displays with AMOLED technology. That being said, the adoption of the 18:9 is more than welcome, giving a pleasurable experience when using the phone in landscape orientation for video streaming, and more vertical area for placing apps. The color pump given by the HDR capable screen would have been incredible if paired with an OLED QHD screen!

The HDR capable screen unlocks content on service providers as Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Netflix, etc. A great deal to use your phone as one media streamer for your video subscription services. But in fact, where it shines, is for both gaming and photography/video recording.

Its top resolution is 2160×1080, able to bring sharp images at 424ppi. We can also say it’s a very bright device with a luminance value of 535cd/m2.

Autonomy

The Sony Xperia XZ2 includes a 3180mAh battery, absolutely great that can warrantee a whole day of heavy usage with just a single charge. On this regard, Sony does position themselves way better than Samsung (with a 3000mAh for their flagship Samsung Galaxy S9) and Apple (with a 2716mAh for their flagship iPhone X), and it’s 100% worth mentioning given the fact how quickly do batteries wear out given heavy usage with apps and video recording.

That being said, the battery is able to hold video streaming sessions with ease, Spotify streaming services, social media apps, emails and phone calls + camera usage without much trouble. We haven’t tested in detail battery-draining apps like Waze to give you a full report on that behalf, but our estimations are that this smartphone is well-suited for the power user on the move.

However, if your intention is to use your phone mainly as a video recording device we advise you to pack a power bank with you or a spare charger; the 4K HDR video recording or HDR movie playback is the worse battery drainers for this unit.

This smartphone also supports wireless charging via a charging pad that’s sold separately. For those interested in this gadget, the charging area is located a tiny tad below the center on the rear side of the smartphone, so you need to place it a bit off-centered for the wireless charging pad to recognize the device.

Power saving modes are also introduced to the handset to last longer. The standard is the Stamina mode, automatically triggered when the battery hits below 15% – you can set it manually if you prefer. What this mode does is reducing background app activity, reduces screen brightness and limits wireless connections to preserve the remaining battery life. The other power-saving mode is labeled as Ultra Stamina Mode, which renders the unit to only use basic features: calls, messaging, web browsing and notes; the color scheme is displayed in black and white, so the battery usage is heavily reduced. Users can find this mode ideal when the battery drops below 10% and you are still on your way home.

Camera

Here’s the biggest highlight for this unit. The Sony Xperia XZ2 is paired with the new 19MP Motion Eye camera, granted for top-notch quality photos and 4K video recording. This new camera boasts a Sony G Lenses, the Exmor RS sensor (mobile version of it), and the usual Bionz image processor that Sony cameras pair, but in the mobile version as well. That combo came as a surprise as, though the milestone for leading the market in what smartphone photography respects is truly a well-high cliff, Sony decided to take the bet higher and bring in their expertise in their professional photography division to this smartphone.

sony xperia xz2 sample

Predictive capture and autofocus burst are also available in this unit, an inheritance from the Xperia XZ1, which improves the low-light shooting conditions and helps with targets on the move – ideal both for candid photos and action photography.

Like we mentioned before, the 4K HDR video and Full HD super slow-motion (960fps) are among the biggest pros of this smartphone. The interface for setting the video recording quality has significantly improved from the previous devices, now with a slider in video mode to set the resolution (by default is settled for Full HD). Super Slow-Motion has not support for 120p and 240p continuous recording.

One thing worth mentioning is the warning that this unit does show when accessing the 4K video mode for the first time, which we will copy below:

“Note

If the device temperature rises, the app may close during use.
Your recording will be saved automatically”

Whereas is good to count with such warning prior ranting for odd behavior, in general, we didn’t experience any of these downsides during our recording experiences in Denmark summer. Yes, it may be an issue for a warmer place, and the reason is that Sony has featured a security measure to avoid processor overheating, so we would expect that future updates can lessen the overheating issues for such a quality phone. In case you are wondering what can happen when the device starts to overheat when recording, you may experience issues in keeping the same framerate, or a non-desired lag in the controls shown in the display. Once again, it didn’t happen to us.

Unfortunately, the display isn’t capable of showing the true beauty of these videos recorded while doing a playback. The reason obviously lies on the lack of a 4K display for this phone, but with the HDR capable screen, it does look great for a handset streaming.

Still-Camera Performance

Moving on to photography itself, by default we work with an intelligent auto mode, something inherited from the compact camera series which photography amateurs will love.

The rear camera is truly amazing. With a sharp lens (25mm wide G Lens F2.0) and a 1/2.3” Exmor RS mobile sensor it is able to render a high level of detail and colour in daylight and artificial light conditions, but do not be fooled as its low light performance is undoubtedly clear and less noisy than previously seen on Sony phones.

There’s a tiny lag between shooting and saving the image – about half a second – that can be a bit frustrating until you get used to it. Can it be something inherited from the compact cameras? We don’t know for sure.

Do keep in mind that this smartphone works with a single lens, something surprising given the trend of dual camera setups to quickly switch from Wide to Telephoto mode. Yes, it’s a huge downside if you already tested handsets with this unique camera setup; if not, then you won’t find this camera that limitation. Sony has fixed this issue though with the release of the Xperia XZ2 Premium, which we will discuss later on in this article.

The native aspect ratio for the camera app is 16:9, which renders a 17MP image as a result. That can be changed to unleash the camera full performance at 19MP photos with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

We are truly impressed by its x8 digital zoom, which brings in detail without adding noise in turn (something quite frequent in smartphone photography as lenses do not work with optical zoom). Natural-looking colors are also warranted with this camera, either in normal mode or zooming in.

The front camera is disappointing though. 5MP selfies aren’t enough for a trend that came to stay with us. We would have expected at least an 8MP camera for this unit, paired with extra features as exclusive portrait modes, or an improvement on the front camera lens that can manage the difference between foreground and background with much expertise.

Working in Low-Light Conditions

Noise reduction is handled with care, something that does tell us the experience Sony has when it comes to photography, and though we can appreciate noise at high ISOs values, there’s a huge improvement from the XZ1 unit. The f/2 main aperture for this camera won’t work as precise for low light conditions as f/1.5 lenses used in smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S9, so do take that under consideration when planning your outdoor photography sessions as nature details as vegetation won’t look sharp as tack as what we can get used in daylight conditions.

sony xperia xz2 sample

One way to counteract that is to work with a tripod. Manual camera controls allow the user to work with shutter speed values from 1 second to 1/4000s, which can do wonders to improve the quality of the taken images. For very dim settings you won’t have much luck than to rely on flash usage, as the slowest shutter speed is limited to 1 second.

Exposure and Metering

Sony experience in photography is once again noticeable when it comes to getting accurate values for Exposure and White Balance when working in auto mode. Whereas manual mode gives you full control over ISO, shutter speed and white balance – no aperture control as it is a fixed lens – the Superior Auto mode come as a blessing for newcomers in photography.

sony xperia xz2 sample

When using Superior Auto mode, a complex computational algorithm performs the calculations needed to adjust the camera settings for the best outcome. This can bring a minor lag, but the Superior Auto mode is capable of identifying different planes for sharp details and proper DOF calculations in both portrait and macro photography, framing movement for pet photography or action shots and bringing in every detail in landscape mode for both outdoors and architectural scenes.

Dynamic Range and HDR Photos

The reason behind this hype for HDR technology in smartphones is no other than the limitations provided by the small 1/2.3” sensors used within the smartphones’ cameras. The limited dynamic range has to be compensated somehow, though HDR was the answer by combining multiple exposures to bring in enough highlights and shadows for sharp as tack details.

sony xperia xz2 sample

For the Sony Xperia XZ2, the addition of a 4K HDR Camera is no other but a step ahead in this direction. The results do not look oversaturated as a beginners’ image would look under HDR-style, quite the opposite. Colors remain natural but boosting in vividness for the appreciator’s eye. Highlights do not clip for extreme lighting conditions, which we thank, and detail quality is also preserved when zooming in.

When working under the Superior Auto mode, the camera will automatically determine if the scene demands HDR usage or not. Manual mode usage requires the operator to activate it manually as, by default, the setting for HDR is turned off.

Autofocus, Predictive Capture, and Autofocus Burst

Autofocus was greatly managed by the Sony Xperia XZ2. While we cannot expect the same results as with a larger sensor camera given the fixed lenses, this smartphone boasts face recognition algorithms to ensure that the camera tracks the subjects, putting them in priority mode while the background is softly blurred. When it comes to common photographs, you will certainly notice a difference in highlights for the objects in the foreground. The background remains in good quality but the illumination is somewhat reduced to help the image depth effect that Sony decided to use.

Predictive Capture works in a similar mode to the iPhone’s Burst Mode: it captures a sequence of images, storing them in the internal memory as a temporary file, then the user needs to pick one image from that sequence – which in turn deletes the others – or preserve the entire capture sequence.

Autofocus Burst, on the other hand, creates a sequence of photographs of a moving object. You can get up to 100 images in full resolution so it’s ideal for action photography. All it requires, after activating the Autofocus Burst mode is to hold the camera dedicated button to capture the action while at the same time tracking the subject manually.

Camera App Features

Like any other Android camera app, the layout is really compact, with tons of options available for the user to tweak, but not scary enough for beginners to mess up with the settings unexpectedly.

Grid lines are disabled by default as well as the sound for the shutter – which we recommend to turn off to be able to capture images wherever we like without bothering at people turning to look at us.

When switching to Manual mode the options for Autofocus, Shutter Speed, ISO, EV and White Balance are shown in a bar below, that we can quickly tune with the provided slider.

Special shooting modes as Bokeh and Panorama are only accessible through downloadable apps named AR Features. It’s limiting and something we didn’t appreciate as it requires an extra step, not to mention losing time to change among effects, and also reminds us of the failed attempt of the PlayMemories apps from the Alpha-series mirrorless cameras. Instead, Panorama mode could have been added as another option in the camera slider – as iPhones do – whereas Bokeh could have been implemented as a Macro Mode or an extra feature in a potential Portrait Mode – again, iPhone reference here. The worse part of these apps is that not only Bokeh results are not accurate due to the phone single wide-angle lens, but also the photos experience a downsizing to 8MP – a truly killer for the astonishing quality this phone can bring out.

We advise users to keep the images in either internal storage (64GB) or to get a hold of a high-class microSDXC card to avoid camera app freezing or lags when saving the files.

The Downsides

Are there disappointing aspects for this camera? Unfortunately, yes. As we been seeing through this review the camera freeze issue is noticeable when working under certain conditions. We can take preventing measures to avoid this, but overall it’s something that should be fixed with the upcoming software updates.

RAW shooting isn’t supported as well for this device, extremely disappointing for us. With the upcoming release of Lightroom Presets for the Lightroom Mobile app, one would have expected to see RAW support for a flagship device. In turn, we get a JPEG image output with a fair compression rate.

Super Slow-Motion for this handset is entirely manual, and you will require some time to get used to the procedure. For daylight outdoors, the results are absolutely breathtaking when the procedure is mastered, but interior slow-motion footages will struggle to meet clarity details out of them as the camera cannot adjust its exposure that quickly to keep the same quality output. And, like we mentioned before, the 120fps and 240fps continuous modes for Slow-Motion recording aren’t supported, not even in 720p recording quality.

The AR Apps should be removed the sooner the better, revisiting the camera app to include both Panorama and Macro Photo modes. Do not expect quality bokeh effects from this camera given the single camera setup.

Performance and UI Experience

This smartphone speaks lengths on what regards to its power. Packed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset and 4 GB of RAM that’s more than enough to run any app you can consider.

Benchmarks for this handset give an average score of 8420 for the CPU Multicore Geekbench test, that places it among the mid-point of the flagship products with the Samsung Galaxy S9+ (QHD+ version) as the top choice at 8923 and the Google Pixel 2 XL on the bottom at 6291 scores.

Running the Android 8 Oreo OS, the factory tune-ups made by Sony are not as heavy as previous OS versions, meaning you will get a more “Android feeling” plus a better management of the included resources. Some of the pre-installed apps are truly not needed, as music, video and email apps – as most users tend to use Gmail app these days for emailing and YouTube + Spotify for entertainment, not to mention that Amazon Apps as Kindle and Prime Video may not be suited for every market. Even though you cannot uninstall them you can get them disabled and hidden from view, but overall we would have valued the extra storage space that’s taken by unneeded apps.

Internal storage is really good, meeting the 64GB standard and allowing users to expand it to 256GB with the microSD slot. An ideal device for both newcomers and power users.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Power in a Pocket Size

The Sony Xperia XZ2 family does offer three phones: The standard XZ2, the XZ2 Compact, and the newly-released XZ2 Premium. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is a phone that keeps size in high regard, aimed to those users who do not like those bulky 5-inch+ screens, or for those with smaller hands who do not feel comfortable to operate such a big phone. However, despite preserving the power that its big brother the XZ2 does the design does not please the user. It looks way too fatty – perhaps as it needed to pack all the specs of the Xperia XZ2 in a much-reduced size – feeling cheaper than it actually is for a smartphone with great potential.

The bezels are more noticeable than with the Xperia XZ2, something that does not help the clear-screen feeling. You cannot consider this phone as a second-rate buy as the iPhone SE was intended to be, though it’s this unit’s main competitor in both size and price range. The Xperia XZ2 Compact is intended to be a pocket-sized version of the Xperia XZ2 for those who are still not ready to switch to the 5-near-6-inch screen new standard.

With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, the same 4GB of RAM and equal camera to the Xperia XZ2, this pocket high-end phone is also capable of playing HDR video, though the screen quality will not help the users to notice its top recording quality – it inherits the same 18:9 Full HD+ HDR LCD display, only in a 5.0” format.

The camera scheme was altered, now with the camera, flash and sensors being placed on a straight line on top of the unit, and the fingerprint reader way down below the camera location. The clear glass material finish is definitely ditched for this pocket phone, sticking to a plastic back cover that makes it look cheap, but in general, helps to keep resistance for this phone in what accidents refer. Colour options for this unit are Black, White Silver, Moss Green, and Coral Pink.

sony xperia xz2 compact colours

The battery used for this unit is a 2870mAh, a bit bigger than the 2700mAh used by its predecessor the XZ1 Compact. Seems big for a phone of this size – considering that the iPhone X uses a battery with almost the same capacity, but in fact, it has a huge drainer in its display. You can go through the day with this phone in more than average usage, but do not consider that given its small size it will last more than a day; you will have to charge it overnight. Also, this phone does not support wireless charging. There’s an option for a fast charger but has to be bought as an extra accessory.

Like what happens with the Xperia XZ2, the headphone jack is removed, favoring a USB-C port for digital audio, though you will get a 3.5mm jack adapter to USB-C input.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium: The Much-Awaited Update

Roughly three months after the release of the Sony Xperia XZ2 its upgrade, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is announced to the market. Yes, the July 30th of 2018 is the announced date for the release of this new handset to the US market, and it comes to fix up everything that we did not find to our liking with its little brother.

First of all, the screen is revisited. Now adopting a 5.8-inch LTPS IPS LCD display with 4K HDR quality, the Xperia XZ2 Premium takes a huge leap in quality. The pixel density moves up to 780ppi against the 423ppi that the standard Xperia XZ2 had, so the upgrade is no other but noticeable and also helps users to fully acknowledge the potential of the camera they have in hands.

The Xperia XZ2 Premium is 38g heavier than its little brother, and given the fact that it boasts a 16:9 display, the bezels are more pronounced, especially to the top. It pairs the same clear glass finish in two colors: Chrome Black and Chrome Silver.

sony xperia xz2 premium colours

The most noticeable change is the incorporation of a dual camera on its back. The main one has an upgraded f/1.8 lens in comparison with the XZ2 f/1.2, helping the phone in low-light conditions. The new second rear camera is a 12MP paired with a f/1.6 lens. ISO is boosted to ISO 51200 for still images and ISO 12800 for video from the previous ISO 12800 for photo and ISO 4000 for video. The focus seems to be targeted into fixing the Xperia XZ2 low-light performance but we have yet to check what the actual performance in bokeh effects and quality for this new dual camera scheme turns out to be.

Another interesting update is with the front camera, replacing the unfitting 5MP camera for a 13MP f/2.0 camera. Yet again, we are anxious to check its performance in selfie mode or if it’s planned to contribute in new login interface following the example of iPhone with FaceID technology.

On what regards to hardware, the Xperia XZ2 Premium sticks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, but now gets a boost of RAM going up to 6GB. Thanks to that, the battery had to be upgraded so we will see a 3540mAh battery for this device, though given the new display technology only time will tell if there is an actual increase in the autonomy for this device in comparison with the Xperia XZ2.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Family Lineup: Which one to pick?

Having seen the options that the Sony Xperia XZ2 family has to offer here comes a big question: which one should I pick as a potential customer? Well, thankfully there are several answers to that question.

  • If you are considering budget-options: Go for the XZ2 Compact. It will offer exactly the same as the XZ2 but in a cheaper build finish and without the wireless charging feature. Also, it pairs a smaller screen that can be attractive for some.
  • If you are considering power: The XZ2 Premium, as it has an upgraded RAM which will grant more performance, especially for video recording.
  • If you are considering a good camera but do not care about high-end specs: Go for the standard XZ2. The camera won’t be as great as the XZ2 Premium but you will also save a good amount of money for those not-so-techy specs. The average user won’t feel that much of a difference to use a 4K display in contrast with a Full HD+ as the differences are noticeable when putting the device to test for professional work – as photography. Also, if you don’t count with a 4K HDR monitor or a 4K HDR television there’s no point on the extra investment right now.
  • If you are a tech-lover that wants the ‘ultimate’ photography experience: Hold on until the XZ2 Premium gets to the market. The dual camera setup is divine, bringing a much purer experience for photography lovers as you will reduce the gap with actual DSLR cameras. Also, it is expected that the XZ2 Premium can work with RAW format. Low-light performance is significantly improved for this device as well, and the dual camera allows you natural bokeh effects. If all that isn’t enough, the Front Camera is game-on for quality selfies, something the standard XZ2 performed very poorly.

We hope this article can give you a good insight on what these new Sony phones have to offer for us photography lovers. Stay tuned for upcoming gear reviews and see you next time!

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Samsung Galaxy S9 & S9+ Review: Samsung’s latest flagship

As everyone knows, there’s an ongoing battle between Samsung and Apple – to which we won’t dwell in – on who happens to be the best producer of smartphones these days. Thanks to that we can credit how fast we acquire new smartphones with ever-surprising features, design revisions, memory upgrades and a long list of etcetera’s – even if smartphones are intended to last between 2 to 3 years before the deterioration rate affects the battery life significantly.

One of the most awaited news for 2018 was the release of the latest flagships by Samsung, namely the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, raising the bar in this ongoing competition, plus setting a new standard in what quality respects for android users. Excited about seeing what these cool phones can bring to our work as photographers? Time to get started!

Overall Specs

At first glance this Smartphone looks like a carbon copy of the Galaxy S8, and to be honest, Samsung hasn’t upgraded that much their smartphones in what respects to aesthetics, focusing instead on giving users a more powerful experience in both camera and performance.

If we flip to the back side we will immediately notice one of the biggest updates of this smartphone, the camera layout, taking the quality of Samsung smart photography to a whole new level – we’ll talk about that later on this review.

One of the most significant upgrades for this mobile phone was the introduction of a new processor, being either the Snapdragon 845 or an Exynos 9810 – depending on the market – which, in turn, helps users to get better autonomy with this device. At the same time, the claims made by users about audio seem to have been heard, with Samsung opting to include a second speaker on the upper part of the screen. This makes the sound not only to become louder, as one would expect from a quality smartphone but also to help sound quality thanks to stereo separation. There’s support for Dolby Atmos with these speakers – something that music lovers or those who prefer streaming movies in their phones will adore – but still, we can acknowledge that the leading option in sound quality for the industry happens to be the iPhone X.

AR Emoji has been introduced with this unit, a clear attempt to keep the competition engaged with Apple and their Animojis, to which users can create 3d avatars using their front camera, allowing to customise some aspects like hair, skin colour and the outfit to be worn – to keep in mind that, at the current moment, the options are quite limited. We can say that it’s not a feature that can catch our interest, but truth to be said it’s a growing trend for the smartphone industry that seems to remain for a good while with the optimizations made to biometrics technology.

Speaking on biometrics, this Samsung Galaxy S9 has made some improvements that, yet, don’t seem to satisfy their users’ pool. The reading accuracy for the Face and Iris Scanner are, by far, much better than what we have seen with the Galaxy S8, though it’s disappointing to still be left with a 2D facial scanner instead of a 3D one, especially when considering how easy it happens to trick a 2D facial scanner. The fingerprint scanner, on the other hand, is the safest option to use for unlocking our device or protecting our data. It’s easier to reach it now, and unlike the Iris Scanner, it doesn’t rely on the lighting available in the room to work properly. The fingerprint scanner is something we praise for this unit as other brands like Apple have ditched it in favor of the 3D facial scanner; not even considering how convenient it happens to be for users.

The Samsung’s assistant, Bixby, has also seen an upgrade for this new flagship phone. The user-AI interaction is considerably more accurate, though it remains somewhat slow to catch up, especially if you have set your phone to another language that isn’t your native one. It does, however, offer a promising translation service that travel photographers might want to consider.

Design

Inheriting the design from the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Samsung Galaxy S9 isn’t much of a game changer. The curved edges remain, giving users a sleek transition between screen layout or app interaction, not to mention a very pleasant feeling when holding it with our bare hands.

On what regards to its screen, Samsung opted for a Gorilla Glass 5, making the device more resistant to drops and potential damage, though the template glass cannot be ruled out as a protection.  As with the Galaxy S8, aluminum was used with this phone, but with an increased resistance to avoid bending.

samsung galaxy s9

The fingerprint scanner has been moved right below the camera, making it become more accessible to users as we are preventing potential camera smudging, and also helps the natural motion in which our fingers will reach for the sensor rather than forcing us to do complicated maneuvers.

One thing that music lovers will also adore is that this phone is, perhaps, the only high-end smartphone these days that still offers a 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, that’s right, you can use your beloved headphones with this unit without running out of batteries (thanks to Bluetooth!).

samsung galaxy s9

The Bixby button remains on the center-left side, below the volume buttons, which may lead to some confusions for users. Another thing worth mentioning is that, like most smartphones these days, it is a device quite prone to get fingerprint smudges – that’s the price we pay for having a glass rear case that not only beautifies this phone but also helps when it comes to wireless connections. The phone is available in colors: Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue, Titanium Grey and, soon to be released, Sunrise Gold.

Screen

The screen has been revisited for this phone, which now is labeled as DisplayMate, becoming the least reflective smartphone display you can find these days. Of course, it is not digital ink as you can find on devices like Amazon Kindle, but in practice, this will help users not to lose comfort when working under extremely sunny conditions.

Retaining the Super AMOLED technology, the color reproduction and brightness has also been improved. Details are sharp as ta ack, setting the bar even higher than what the Samsung Galaxy S8 has managed to do.

samsung galaxy s9

Auto-brightness still shows some issues from the previous model, though we cannot render it to be as extremely inaccurate. The phone will eventually learn your preferences after using it for some time, mimicking some of your settings depending on usage, the apps you are running and ambient lighting as well.

HDR content streaming is also available with this unit, though Samsung still remains careful not to make promising advertisement in this regard that may lead to customer complaints. Most likely we can expect a 100% HDR display coming up next for the Samsung Galaxy S10 (or the name Samsung decides to pick for this future phone).

Autonomy

Here comes, perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of this powerful mobile phone. The battery remains the same from the Galaxy S8, a 3000mAh one, and though the processor is way more efficient, the power demanding Android 8.1 Oreo won’t be giving a helping hand to considerably extend the battery life.

Roughly, we do get about eight hours of battery life prior to hitting the 50% remaining battery mark. Those values can obviously vary depending on the combo of apps running in the background, but yet somehow one would have expected a better autonomy from this phone. True to be honest, Samsung has made some tweaks when it comes to video playback, reducing the battery drain significantly, but still doesn’t meet the standard set by the Apple iPhone X.

Camera

This is the biggest highlight for this smartphone. The single-sensor 12MP camera that comes with the Samsung Galaxy S9 is simply outstanding. Aperture range now goes from f/1.5 to f/2.4, which significantly improves the capability of this device to shoot in low-light conditions, but that’s not everything this smartphone has to offer.

samsung galaxy s9

There has been a revision of the sensor on when it comes to mode scene prediction, making it faster than previous models – no doubt inheriting technology from the professional photography products Samsung has to offer to the market – therefore, beginners can feel the benefits of the smartphone tweaking adjustments automatically to match the best conditions for the scenes they are facing.

Daylight photos can surprise us for the amount of detail they can capture; it would be far too easy to mistake them for compact camera ones if not for the EXIF data. Tones are not as vivid as we can get with the Sony Xperia XZ2, but yet the work on reducing noise and aiming for higher brightness is worth to be mentioned.

Samsung has opted for natural-looking tones, instead of going with the uprising trend of HDR photography effects. As a result of that move, vibrancy won’t be as noticeable as we can see with some competitors, but that also helps beginners to know when to apply certain adjustments instead of relying solely on HDR effects to make their images stand out – you know the saying, sometimes too much is just too much.

samsung galaxy s9 sample photo

The shutter lag does worry us a bit, as for scenes like candid photos or action photography it does come as a huge setback. Also, there can be noticed some issues when too strong light sources show up in the background – the phone takes an extra effort to make a good focus, which can lead to washed hues. Though the background lighting issue can be fixed by switching to expert mode, we could have expected a better performance for Auto Mode considering the large pool of users that won’t go much further than that.

samsung galaxy s9 sample photo

When it comes to the front camera, the 8MP resolution seems to be somewhat conservative given the latest releases on the market. It does handle low light fairly well, but the field of view is limited – just 80 degrees, with a f/1.7 aperture. Samsung has decided to award their users with a new panorama mode for selfies that help us to add more people to the image we are taking (imagine that famous Oscar selfie taken by Bradley Cooper on 2014!), or if you want to go a bit wacko, you can add multiple versions of yourself on that pano selfie… seems odd, right?

The front camera also allows a portrait mode, blurring the background to sharpen details, something that we often do when focusing with DSLR cameras, but it won’t have that ‘studio shot’ effect, that’s for sure.

Video Recording

For the Samsung Galaxy S9, we won’t get results as outstanding as we can see in the iPhone X or the Sony Xperia XZ2, though we cannot say it’s a bad camera. 4K video recording at 60 fps is the top quality we can aim, though Samsung offers some extra surprises.

There’s a super slow motion mode at 960 fps with a top quality of 720p, standard slow motion works in 240 fps with Full HD resolution. Hyperlapse video works with Full HD resolution as well, and for all these modes we do get the support of VDIS technology – Video Digital Image Stabilization. We do suggest, however, to rely on tripods for tricky scenes. Surprisingly, we can take up to 9.1 MP still-photos when recording 4K videos, extremely handy if you ask us.

Brightness can come as a challenge for super slow motion mode, it’s best to work with it manually but it will require some practice. The auto mode for brightness in super slow motion doesn’t seem to be truly calibrated for action scenes, which can become somewhat frustrating.

Another feature we loved about this phone is their video composition mode. It’s a thing quite easy to play with for beginners, which allows us to add labels, frames and geotags on the videos we have made to come up with truly interesting footages – and it does allow to create footages out of still photos. Most likely this comes as a way to put the phone closer to social media, but for travel photography, it does come out amazingly for creating lifelong memories of our adventures with ease.

Performance

The processor upgrade for the Samsung Galaxy S9 does bring more power to this unit, but it isn’t that much of an upgrade considering what’s coming up next for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

We’ve been surprised to see a feature that emulates iPhone’s 3D Touch for the home screen, meaning that if you hold-press an app, you will access a menu with certain options depending on the app, increasing the efficiency in which we work with them.

You do get 4GB of RAM for this phone, which is more than enough considering the demands of current apps – even for video gaming is more than fair, this isn’t a console. Another thing we noticed is that the keyboard can be inaccurate, especially when multiple apps are running on the background or after performing tasks that demand quite the RAM usage (Skype video calls, WhatsApp video calls, etc.). That’s a thing to be fixed with upcoming software updates.

So, What’s with Samsung Galaxy S9+?

That’s quite the good question. The Samsung Galaxy S9+ isn’t simply just a big-sized version of the Samsung Galaxy S9; it’s, in fact, the first Samsung phone to offer a dual-camera layout, with the same SuperSpeed Dual Pixel 12MP camera from the Galaxy S9, offering a FOV of 77-degrees and aperture range going from f/1.5 to f/2.4, and a second lens, coming as another 12MP camera with a FOV of 45-degrees and a fixed aperture of F/2.4 to act as a telephoto lens.

samsung galaxy s9+

As expected, this can render out beautiful bokeh effects to our photos, not to mention improving the performance of the camera for scenarios like landscape photography. The position for the camera remains the same as in the S9, with the wide-angle camera going a bit above than what we have seen with the S9 version, so that way the fingerprint scanner didn’t have to be moved –a smart move no doubt!

The size, as expected, is bigger, coming up to 6.2 inches for the Samsung Galaxy S9+ against the 5.8 inches of the Samsung Galaxy S9; it does change the feeling for those users with smaller hands, but it doesn’t feel like a fragile phone in comparison to the feeling between iPhone standard versions vs their Plus counterparts.

 

RAM has been increased for the Galaxy S9+, going now up to 6GB in comparison with the 4GB sported by the Galaxy S9 standard version; the battery is also bigger, going for a 3500mAh one – an expected move as the bigger screen does consume more battery.

Conclusions

The Samsung Galaxy S9 phone does come as a natural upgrade of the Samsung Galaxy S8. Not many surprising features were seen with this phone, being the Samsung Galaxy S9+ the one that comes up to play the bigger bet on what photography and performance respects, though it’s a phone worth to be acquired by any user.

Should you upgrade if…

  • you happen to be a Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ user? Probably not, as your current phone has still had the juice to offer. The dual-camera layout of the S9+ is tempting no doubt, but Samsung will raise the bar soon with upcoming phones.
  • you happen to be a Samsung Galaxy S7/S7+ user? Tempting option. The S9/S9+ is pricey compared with the initial price of those models. If you can hold on until the S10 does come up to the market, then better. The upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will also be tempting as well.
  • you happen to be a Samsung Galaxy S4/S5 user? Undoubtedly yes! There are many upgrades that can help you feel the power of a flagship smartphone, not to mention that your battery is probably worn out at this current moment and you won’t get new fancy features as Android won’t likely offer many updates for your current phone.

We hope you liked this review and see you in upcoming guides!

BenQ ScreenBar LED Computer Monitor Lamp Review

How many times do we suffer the struggle of nasty glares during night work? If you can relate to the group of work owls, then you are obviously aware that inadequate lighting layout in your office can lead to unwanted reflections over your working surface, especially when talking about screens and monitors, hence the reason why architects suggest to their clients to place furniture accordingly to a carefully planned lighting layout; yet somehow, we still manage to find ourselves in situations where the outcome is either: a) rearrange the furniture/lighting or b) deal with it.

You can say then: yes, of course, I can change the lighting or move the furniture to improve the situation. That’s not always the best option for some when working in reduced spaces, or if you have fixed luminaries in your office. Deal with it? Better no, as continuous exposure to bad lighting situations can accentuate eyesight strain, leading to a huge list of side effects ranging from constant headaches while working to requiring prescription glasses to work.

So, how can we solve that kind of situation if our work depends exclusively on digital imaging? BenQ seems to have found the answer to that question with their latest innovation to the market: The BenQ ScreenBar.

screenbar box

For those unaware of what we are talking about, BenQ has managed to arrange a kit of LEDs of 800lx intensity in an 18-inch wide aluminium tube, whose section is ¾” in diameter. That interesting LED tube is held by a counter-weight mounting system that has to be attached to our monitor or display, and also allows a slight tilting for this bar to improve the lighting conditions of the user whenever needed.

screenbar side

Sounds interesting? Let’s keep discussing some cool features about this new gadget!

Design Highlights

The BenQ Screenbar stands out not just for being an innovative answer from a leading brand in the industry, but also for its minimalistic design. The bar will show up a bit on top of your monitor as it was the best way to allow the tilting angle for the bar to be put in action, and that very clawish system used to hold the bar is placed at the centre of the screen bar itself.

screenbar back

From behind, the power cable is plugged at the rear part of the connection between the mount and the lightbar, setting the cable direction to be placed on top of the mount and going under until it reaches the most proximal USB connection to be powered. The cable length is 60-inch long, with a MicroUSB to USB-A connection.

Though the Screenbar does not come preassembled with the monitor mount, users have to do it manually. Do not fret as the process is absolutely simple and guided with clear instructions; it won’t take more than some seconds to get everything to work.

The aluminium alloy finish comes as an added value, as one can expect this kind of product to be produced in a glossy plastic finish, which, fortunately, isn’t the case. Not only it’s easier to clean it with the usual electronic appliances cleaners, but also adds in what resistance respects – this is a product to be used for long-term and also targeted for those users who value design above all things thanks to its minimalistic profile.

screenbar front

Performance

First and foremost, you need to take into account the size. By being 18-inch long, this screen bar is best suited for monitors of 23” size onwards. It won’t fit your laptop’s 15” display, and for those using 17.3” laptops, it would look somewhat odd, as the bar will go further than the display’s size. Actually, this is a product intended for desktop computers, with bulky monitors that can also support the added weight of the bar – which isn’t that much, a bit over one pound. It does work for curved monitors, but overall, it won’t stick just to what’s in front of your display but also cast direct illumination over your desk working area – something that we just loved!

screenbar front

There are four buttons on top of it, easy to access as there is a pronounced bezel around the area, plus that part comes flat unlike the rest of the bar. The buttons are a manual dimmer, hue adjustment, auto dimmer and, obviously, the power button. These buttons are touch-sensitive, and to enable the hue adjustment mode or to dim the brightness you just have to tap and hold the button for a brief moment.

There’s an auto dim button as we mentioned, which works with the ambient lighting sensor paired with this unit. When enabled, the auto dim button will set the brightness and a green LED will power on below the button to let the users know that the auto dimmer is turned on.

Another cool feature of this ScreenBar is the ambient lighting, which by using the aforementioned sensor will adjust the brightness and colour temperature accordingly to your room’s condition to reduce eyesight strain from prolonged computer use – by far much better than sticking to third-party software to reduce blue light emission. The ambient lighting is limited to a 500lx.

The ScreenBar, thanks to its mount, allows a tilting angle of 20º either backwards or forward. By tuning-in your preferred angle, the ScreenBar can easily replace your usual lighting layout as, believe us, the light intensity provided by this bar is considerable.

screenbar on

We can also adjust the lighting temperature for the emitted light thanks to being built with two types of LEDs: cold-light and warm-light. The temperature range can vary from 2700K to 6500K; and if you prefer to go to one extreme, let’s say 6500K cold lighting, the warm-LED is turned off to avoid wasting energy and overheating. For a device that works with a 5V USB Port connection with a power consumption of 5W, it’s quite impressive as it’s extremely cost-benefit for us users to stick to it. If, in turn, you desire to set a custom value in lighting temperature, both LEDs will mix to give you the desired white balance you prefer.

Conclusions

For us, this was a truly pleasurable product to test. Overall, it does what it promises and much more; you can easily get accustomed to the lighting it emits, and for prolonged use, it’s best to pair it with dedicated computer glasses as it’s the case of Gunnar Optiks eyewear products or similar if your intention is to reduce eyesight strain and end eye irritation symptoms.

The weight is something to take in consideration if working with multiple monitors, or if you already own a very bulky unit with a not-so-reliable mount. For BenQ monitors, it’s fair to say that you won’t experience any issue at all as it was designed with their usage in mind, but it can perfectly fit other units as we tested with an iMac Retina 5K 27″ display.

All in all, it’s a gadget worth acquiring if you are either a professional working in photography/videography or computer graphics with long nights of work to put ahead, or if you are a college student that requires long hours of studying and note-taking. It certainly improves the experience and gives an well-spread lighting for your working area.

We hope you’ve liked this product and see you next time for upcoming gear reviews!

BenQ SW271 27” 4K UHD Monitor Review: A Monitor for Photographers

Many tools aren’t as useful and essential for photographers these days as it is the case with monitors. Why? There’s a simple way to answer that question: the natural workflow that photography requires these days. Back in the old days, darkrooms were ‘the thing’ as analog photography required that specific chemical method for developing images. With the introduction of digital technologies over two decades ago, it seems unreal to stick to those procedures, so the industry has taken digital postproduction as the workflow to follow in regards to getting the most out of the images that come from our cameras.

For those very reasons, counting with quality gear becomes essential. Not only a decent DSLR or Mirrorless camera are the standards for photography these days, but also postproduction software, a good computer or laptop, and also, a high-end monitor that grants us the reliability over the hues and tones we’re working with.

In this article, we will talk about one of the most outstanding monitors we have checked so far, the BenQ SW271, a 4K Monitor with HDR technology and 99% AdobeRGB fidelity. Excited about this review? We are as well! Let’s get started.

Overall Features

Like any quality gear, this monitor allows the user to adjust its height thanks to an adjustable stand, that works for both landscape and portrait orientation. Also, it’s worth mentioning that cables are taken in consideration for this potential position switch by the user, featuring a route on the back side, as well as a socket for the remote control included with this unit on its bottom tray. Do keep in mind that the remote control isn’t a huge device as seen with other graphics display gear as Wacom tablets, but intended as a hotkey command – BenQ even labels it ‘Hotkey Puck’ due to its circular shape.

benq sw271 hotkey puck

As image calibration is a must for these monitors, BenQ has decided to pair this monitor with its BenQ Palette Master Element software to allow users to calibrate this unit, though you will need to use calibration devices as the Spyder5 or the i1 Display Pro. Take in consideration that the monitor comes with a calibration config made in-factory, but it’s a good practice to calibrate the monitor at least once every two months – especially if you happen to work with multiple monitors setup.

For this monitor, we will count on an IPS panel, with a max viewing angle of 178 degrees. The monitor has a 10bit color reproduction technology and its maximum brightness is rated on 350 cm/m2, offering a contrast ratio of 1000:1.

benq sw271 side

Response time for this monitor is 5ms grey-to-grey, more than enough for video as 8ms is considered a standard in the industry. With this monitor, you will also get two HDMI 2.0 inputs, DisplayPort, one USB-C port, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader. We will now cover other aspects that make this unit so special, and for reader’s information, we tested this unit as a second monitor using an iMac (2017) as the main computer.

Key Features Resume

  • 27inch 16:9 matte screen
  • 3840×2160 (4K UHD) native resolution
  • 1000:1 native contrast ratio
  • 350 cd/m2 brightness, 5ms response time
  • DisplayPort 1.4, and HDMI 2.0 inputs
  • BenQ Palette Master Element color calibration software
  • Black-and-White photo mode, Darkroom mode
  • Wide Colour Gamut (99% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB)
  • 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT)
  • “Hotkey Puck” Remote Control
  • Shading Hood, with an opening for a calibration device
  • USB 3.1 hub, Headphone jack
  • Landscape / Portrait orientation
  • 3-year warranty

Design Highlights

Like any other monitor meant for professional photography work, the SW271 won’t disappoint its owners in what regards to design. Minimalistic no doubt, it has a sleek business-style embedded on it, with flat bezels that go all around the screen. Like what happens with big sized monitors, weight is something to consider, and though 16.4 kg is quite the weight to support, the stand is strong enough not only to hold it but also to allow adjustments as tilting, orientation change or height.

benq sw271 bezels

Cables are an issue, especially if you consider yourself a cleaning maniac, so BenQ has decided to place a routing hole through the stand, with a vivid blue cover, to let them through in an organized way. By doing so, they are also reducing the overall space this unit may take in our desk, and also competing with other displays that work with a minimalistic profile as the latest Asus monitors released to the market, or all-in-one pcs as the iMac.

benq sw271 routing hole

Rotation angle for the selected orientation is a 45-degree swivel to either left or right. Not that it’s the most user-friendly when it comes to sharing your work with a colleague nearby.

benq sw271 portrait

There are five buttons on the bottom right part of this monitor, plus the on/off monitor. Buttons 1 to 3 are entirely customizable to your preferred colour modes, button 4 is the option list for adjustments, and button 5 to exit the options menu. The built-in colour modes are as follow: AdobeRGB, sRGB, B&W, Rec. 709, DCI-P3, HDR, DICOM, Darkroom, Calibration 1, Calibration 2, Calibration 3, Custom 1 and Custom 2.

benq sw271 buttons

Given its weight, BenQ had to stabilize this monitor as the vertical handle isn’t enough, so a strong plate was added at the bottom of the vertical holder, which also acts as a docking point for the Hotkey Puck.

Among the ports listed for this monitor, we notice that there’s no option for VGA input, which means this monitor isn’t compatible with an old graphics card. Consider this monitor as an option for a new computer rig or if your current computer has less than 2 years, otherwise your graphics card may not be able to work with this monitor.

benq sw271 connections

We value a great deal the headphone jack, as it can be amazingly handy for film production when we are testing different sound effects, and it’s way more comfortable than lengthy cables coming from the pc. The connectivity bridge included on the left side of the monitor is truly practical unless you are working with a multiple-monitor config. If that’s the case, then you will experience some struggles with plugin and unplugging devices – mostly the SD Cards. Perhaps this tray could have been placed at the bottom tray of the monitor for easy access, that’s something entirely up to the user if it’s comfortable for them or not.

benq sw271 sd card reader

Performance & Calibration

The first impression we got by testing this monitor is that it comes as a powerful and reliable unit to help us in our daily work. Colour rendering is superb, and both brightness and details can astonish the most demanding user without any inconvenience.

One of the main advantages of being a 4K monitor is that we can work with 4K video and high-resolution photos in real size, but if that isn’t enough, the HDR mode can take the post-production experience to the next level when it comes to working with video footages made in 4K HDR quality as is the case of the new Sony Xperia smartphones. You will also get a 60Hz refresh rate, which is acceptable as an industry standard for a photographer’s monitor, though not surprising for a device of its price range.

benq sw271

Also, by pairing a matte screen surface the reflections are kept to a minimum; this comes extremely handy for those office areas in which we don’t count with the proper lighting setup, or for reducing screen glare from window natural light.

The calibration software included with this monitor may remind you of the X-Rite i1 Display Pro, with more basic performance, but yet powerful enough to provide what this monitor needs.

Conclusions

We truly loved that this monitor is capable of working under HDR mode, as it’s the latest trend for videography and smartphone photography thanks to the introduction of dual lenses for these devices. Though the refresh rate could be better, most users won’t notice the difference on such aspect – the included calibration software is more than enough compensation for us.

What we didn’t consider to be well-thought was the placement of the USB connections and, mostly, the SD card reader. Though headsets are, often, left untouched once plugged, SD cards and USB devices are things that we constantly carry around, so moving such a big monitor each time we need to pair the monitor with our gear is, undoubtedly, unpractical – not to mention that some may freak out on the mere thought of damaging the monitor in the process if an accident happens. Instead, a placement on its bottom tray would have been advisable.

The Hotkey Puck, despite being so practical, may go unnoticed by beginner users. Perhaps it would have been best to include something more interactive for the user, as not everyone is so well-versed in technology, yet this monitor is targetted mostly to advanced users.

The visor is extremely handy and helps not only to keep reflections at bay but also to enforce the whole “work-style” of this truly fantastic monitor.

We hope this guide has given you an insight on one of the newest monitors released to the market and keep in touch for upcoming gear reviews. See ya!

Best Smartphones Reviewed for Photographers on the Move

Why is it that we often seek for new methods or, better yet, tools to accommodate our photography workflow? As photographers, such statement can be linked to a constant pursuit for improvement, for lessening the gap between technology and technique. Yet, somehow, not all the available gear in the market can provide a clear answer to this question.

From complex DSLR cameras to high-end mirrorless models or mid-format cameras, for those brave enough to test them, photography has experienced an evolution in its core and what it can provide to our needs. We no longer need to work with chemics or have a physical room to develop the images we take, but we need a quality pc or laptop and enough knowledge of graphic design techniques and computer software to get the most out of our work. So, what’s left for improvement then? In short words, portability.

As cameras became bulkier and heavier due to their specs to get the finest quality work within our range, companies also considered the other side of the story with almost flat-like compact cameras. However, in some scenarios where discretion is required to work, or simply in the day-to-day life, that method does not provide what’s needed to perform our job. Advancements in the mobile phone industry lead to the creation of smartphones: portable computer-like devices where we practically live our lives through technology either in social media, photography apps, chat clients, games, etc. Hence, if old-version (circa 2004) mobile phones already sported cameras (the old VGA ones whose noise was to be remembered), then we cannot expect cameras in smartphones to be neglected as simple accessories.

Cameras for smartphones play today a huge role. From outstanding back cameras that can outcast some compact cameras to the selfie-loving front cameras, there’s a wide range of devices to pick. Are you sure you know everything that’s to acknowledge when talking about the best smartphones for photographers? Let’s state some facts.

Is it a phone or a camera?

The short answer would be neither. Smartphones, yet despite proving to be extremely reliable tools cannot be considered as substitutes for DSLR cameras these days, and probably won’t in a close-by future. The reason? Image sensors.

Though we don’t talk as fluently about this regard on smartphones as we would do with common cameras, smartphones can be labeled under the so-called half-inch format. In comparison with full-frame cameras, there’s an obvious difference in what regards to the crop-factor, but also in the overall quality of the image as users tend to mix up quality with the number of Megapixels.

The best way I can point out this topic is by telling you a bit about my transition from Android to iPhone. Yes, yes, I know there’s an eternal debate on this behalf, however, the point is worth it. I used to have a Samsung Galaxy S3 – I was in awe of the quality of its camera to the point that I ditched my loyal Panasonic Lumix compact camera and stored it in a safe drawer. Well, after 3 years of almost happily ownership my smartphone was to be considered old. So, what options did I have? Yes, back then the Samsung Galaxy S6 was the hype, though label it as a hunch or curiosity on my behalf to see why iPhones were so popular. Some friends had their iPhone 4 smartphones in much better shape than my own phone, and I always considered myself a careful user. Well, iPhone 6 was released, and I gave it a go, though I had my concerns regarding the newly released Samsung Galaxy S6 camera, with its 13 mpx resolution and the 8 mpx the iPhone 6 offered – with was just what my Galaxy S3 had. Let me tell you; I never regret the choice I made.

iphone x sample

iPhone X photo sample courtesy of michael_jeddah

The quality that the iPhone 6 offered in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S3 was mesmerizing. I couldn’t believe that the camera specs, out of marketing, sounded almost equal and there was such a huge gap between them. Then, after proper research, I learned the difference was in the quality of the image sensor (don’t blame me, I wasn’t that much of a well-seasoned photographer back then), and I realized that the whole megapixel thing was no more than a scam. How? Simple. Megapixels can be digitally increased by software, either in-terminal or through software like Photoshop, to give the impression of a better-built camera or produce larger sized images to print, however, the general quality of the image would remain as flabby as it originally was.

Moving on, lenses for smartphones are fixed. We cannot exchange them for our convenience as we do with DSLRs or some mirrorless models, but also we count with a fixed focal length.
Most smartphones range in the wide-angle lens spectrum, with values circa 24-30mm, which makes them ideal for Landscape Photography but fail to perform on telephoto or for Portrait setups unless you know your way around.

There was a considerable evolution on what comes to image sensor technology in these last 5 years, allowing manufacturers to build terminals with bigger-sized megapixels – which regarding performance let the user get more stunning results in low-light conditions as larger megapixels can store more light – but also to further develop the tech aspect of the smartphones’ sensors. Almost all high-end devices feature what’s known as BSI sensors (Backside Illumination sensors), where the photodetectors required to work are placed above other layers as transistors or multiple electronic components to reduce the reflectivity, resulting in a better light capturing ratio.

Smartphones and their limitations

Like with any other piece of technology, smartphones have their proper downsides. For instance, they cannot be used as some fancy compact cameras with underwater capabilities – though smartphones aspire to become fully waterproof, there’s not enough solid proof of that to risk your gear under those conditions. Yet, despite high-end iPhones and Samsung Galaxy products promise just that, if I were you I wouldn’t pack my phone anywhere near a kayak adventure to be honest.

Another downside of smartphones in comparison with cameras is the fact that they don’t hold up for as much time as common cameras do. Their batteries are by far smaller, with less capability to stand up for long shooting sessions, and also they tend to wear out as time goes. Though you can put some services on hold to prolong the battery life – as turning off the internet, GPS, Bluetooth, etc. the camera app of your smartphone will undoubtedly eat up the battery in less than you desire it to happen.

huawei mate 10 pro sample

Amazingly sharp details with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Photo courtesy of Chris Cope

In most cases, accessories are required to achieve some interesting effects or to improve the general quality of our photos, like some clip-on lenses or tripods to reduce image shaking. Although we need to consider that, unlike camera version, these accessories cannot be expected to be of professional quality except for quite the reduced list of accessories to consider.

The Best Smartphones of 2018

Well, now that we have exposed the pros and cons of working with Smartphones it’s time to come up with the list of the best models available in the market for photographers. We took into consideration, not just brand reputation but also a good amount of factors that will be explained below this list.

Apple iPhone XGo to Amazon
The iPhone X sets a new era for Apple. A long-awaited smartphone, get to know why this device might be your best choice for 2018!
Overall rating:
91
Design:
0
100
100
Camera Quality:
0
98
100
Features:
0
94
100
Price:
0
70
100
Pros
  • Superb camera quality
  • Face ID
  • Most powerful processor available in the smartphone industry
  • Clear sharp details
  • Beautiful colour rendering
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Fragile
  • Interface can be awkward at the beginning
  • No microSD slot
Click to read the full Review
Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple decided to reinvent themselves with this eye-catching device. With some of the finest aesthetics seen on the market, this smartphone has all that’s needed and more to become an iconic device.

Take into consideration that, compared with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8+, this iPhone X has a significantly higher price. We’re not talking about an upgrade from the very iPhone 8 but an entirely new concept, so well, it justifies, sort of saying, the price increase. Though that doesn’t imply, it’s a smartphone worth the value it’s being sold.
Its bigger attractive is the screen, something that old-fashioned iPhone 4S lovers may complain about on the premise of being fragile. The new display eliminates the traditional frames along the screen, which hosted the camera and the Home button, for an all-long screen setting – much in the fashion of Samsung devices, while eliminating the Home button under the same move. That’s precisely why some iPhone users may hesitate about when deciding to pick this model, as the natural workflow when using an iPhone is severely Home-button dependant.

Despite some remorse on the fingerprint scanner, Apple decided to ditch it altogether in favour of their new Face ID technology. These radical changes will require you to learn new gestures and also become somewhat Siri-dependant.

Talking about its design, the iPhone X comes in two possible colours, Space Grey and Silver, though it’s entirely possible that new colours may be released as is the case of Pink Gold or the well-known RED version. There are no bezels on the front screen, so the frame – in stainless steel - also matches the colour of the rear glass panel. Concerning weight, it’s somewhat heavy, but not so much to be uncomfortable – rest assured that weighs less than the iPhone 8 Plus

One of the advantages of the glass rear cover is the implementation of the Wireless Charging system, though it ends up making the device slippery and prone to shatter, despite Apple stating the opposite. A protective glass for the screen and a cover for this device it’s not just an option for aesthetics but a necessity if you don’t wish to throw almost $1k to the trash bin in less than a week – accidents happen everywhere.

The Super Retina Display screen is a 5.8-inch matching the Samsung Galaxy S8, without the curved edges of course. It has a 2436x1125px resolution at 458ppi, with immediately sets it to be the crispest iPhone ever. The Super Retina Display is nothing more than an OLED display, which means that iPhone ditched for once and for all the LCDs being used in their other devices. Apple’s True Tone allow us to automatically set the colour temperature, something quite handy to count with and a clear opposite to what happens with the Google Pixel 2 devices.

The aspect ratio for this screen is relatively unusual, being it 2.17:1, meaning that not all the apps are optimised to be displayed in full-screen setup. Not that we exactly mind it, but it will take some time to get to the idea.

For unlocking this phone, now that the Home button is gone, you can either click the side button (which I must confess is a habit for me to do with older iPhone models) or simply tap the screen and Face ID will request authentication to unlock. We won’t talk much in detail about the gestures as some of them are quite confusing, but a word of advice: be patient.

Face ID is amazingly precise. It will recognise your face even in low-light conditions, and take for granted it won’t be fooled in case of twins 🙂 However, if you don’t like Face ID, there are also some other alternate security methods.

The A11 Bionic processor used with this device is the top-notch reference for the industry at the moment. With six cores, two for performance and the rest for efficiency, the iPhone X gets a well-needed power increase from its predecessors. It pairs 3GB of RAM and storage setups are ranked in 64 GB, 128GB and the impressive 256 GB device (remind you of the ole iPods, right?). Also, this smartphone is the first device with an Apple GPU, which happens to be tri-core. In general, a wild beast for a smartphone, being capable of overpowering some laptops.

For the camera setup, the rear side is much similar to the iPhone 8 plus with the dual camera config, albeit arranged in a vertical array – much more effective if you ask me. The secondary camera works as a 2x telephoto lens with the main one remaining as wide-angle. The most considerable upgrade is that now both cameras offer OIS for sharper photos and reducing shaking in videos. The larger aperture value at f/2.4 allows about 30 percent more light, ideal for night photography or low lighting conditions.

Video recording can now meet the standard of 4K 60fps, and Full HD slow motion at 240fps – not enough to beat the Samsung Galaxy S9 line, but enough to do fairly decent work.

The most significant upgrade came with the front camera, which some of you may remember the 5Mpx cameras. The iPhone X now offers a 7Mpx TrueDepth camera. It works by combining a dot projector and an IR camera for creating a depth map of your face. Even in the dark, this system works thanks to the IR LED lights.

Both cameras support the new Portrait Lighting, which adjusts the tone mapping to match different kinds of studio lighting setups. The front camera with its Depth Effect mode can produce selfies with incredible DOF effects.

Focusing performance is improved, and in general, it’s the best smartphone you can choose for both photography and video making industry.

It packs a 2716mAh battery, significantly less than Android devices, though you may know how well Apple happens to manage battery usage.
Apple iPhone 8 PlusGo to Amazon
The bigger-sized solution from Apple. For some, the device they were looking for to ditch Android; for loyal iPhone users, a 50/50 feeling on if it's too big or not. Ladies and gentleman, the iPhone 8 Plus.
Overall rating:
87
Design:
0
87
100
Camera Quality:
0
91
100
Features:
0
89
100
Price:
0
80
100
Pros
  • High-quality 5.8-inch screen
  • Wireless charging
  • Touch ID
  • Portrait Lighting mode
  • Big storage capacity
Cons
  • Fragile
  • Can seem big for some users
Click to read the full Review
Severely under close examination thanks to the release of the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 Plus has plenty stuff to offer to its happy owners, so don’t take it that lightly.

Significantly cheaper than the iPhone X, this model is a well-intended revision of the iPhone 7 Plus, which was a huge success for Apple. There aren’t any changes in the design, as it retains the aesthetic from the first Plus model released, the iPhone 6 Plus, except for the static Home button and some subtle tint changes for their current colours: Silver and Space Gray remains the same, but Gold sits between Gold and Rose Gold. The special RED edition was also released.

The rear cover is now a glass cover, which is the most significant change since 2015, and rather than being an aesthetic change it was a requirement to fit the wireless charging system on this device. Thankfully, Apple considered the size of this phone and the glass surface isn’t as slippery as other devices of similar sizes happen to be. A case for this device is more than just recommended; it becomes a necessity due to the sky-high price to replace either the screen or the glass rear cover.

The 5.5-inch LCD display is quite vivid, with a Full HD resolution (401ppi) and 1300:1 contrast ratio. The technology previously tested in the iPad Pro known as True Tone is also available for this device, making automatic adjustments to the display to match the ambient lighting.

This device also features the same processor and RAM config that the iPhone X: An A11 Bionic and 3GB of RAM, in the well-known 64GB/256GB internal storage options. What it lacks is the high-end GPU used by Apple for the iPhone X, though it can still manage to perform smoothly without it.

Battery life for this device is somewhat average, with a 2691mAh battery, downsizing the one from the 7 Plus in favour of a better software/hardware optimisation.

The cameras were upgraded, now it offers dual 12Mpx cameras, the main one with a wide-angle lens at f/1.8, the secondary a telephoto at f/2.8 aperture. The photos taken with this device are undoubtedly fine quality, with crisp details and vivid colours. Low light performance isn’t as neat as with the iPhone X but significantly improved from the iPhone 7 Plus.

Portrait Mode is revised, with the addition of Portrait Lighting, which works in the same way as we mentioned for the iPhone X – emulating studio lighting setups for your portrait photos.

The front camera is a 7Mpx with an f/2.2 aperture and capable of recording Full HD videos, ideal for selfies, whereas the video recording specs for the back camera are 4K video at 60fps and Slow Motion at 120/240fps.
Samsung Galaxy S9Go to Amazon
The first new flagship smartphone of 2018, the Samsung Galaxy S9 has come to raise the bet in the eternal Apple vs Samsung competition.
Overall rating:
89
Design:
0
92
100
Camera Quality:
0
90
100
Features:
0
87
100
Price:
0
85
100
Pros
  • Curved edges
  • Super AMOLED screen
  • Iris scan
  • Super Slow Motion recording at 960fps
  • Impressive 400GB storage max capacity
  • microSD slot
Cons
  • Poor battery life
  • Slippery device
  • Curved edges make it prone to crack
Click to read the full Review
The price has been slightly increased in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S8, which was to be expected considering the technology upgrade made with this product. Only time will tell what Apple will do in contrast after they release their new phones by the second half of this year.

Retaining much of the aesthetics of the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy S9 would be considered more to a revision of the S8 than a new phone on its own – much like Apple does with their S version of their flagship phones. The bezels have been reduced in size for a much sleeker design, and though it’s a tiny tad shorter in size than the S8, it’s actually thicker and heavier, but nothing the average user would happen to notice at first sight.

The fingerprint scanner has been moved to a clear position below the camera, becoming much easier to use but also helping in the design process. Do not worry about smudging the camera, almost every single high-end phone places the fingerprint scanner just there now, it’s a question of habit.

One thing we noticed is that it happens to be more slippery than the S8 due to the glass rear cover. Thanks to its curved edges in the front glass, it’s quite susceptible to cracks, so a case can be the best investment to protect your phone. Colour schemes for this phone are Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Titanium Gray and the new Lilac Purple.

The screen size remains in a 5.8-inch format with the Infinity Display for a curved look. Quad HD+ resolution in Super AMOLED display, this model sticks to the 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Colours are vividly rendered in this screen, which happens to be one of the best options available in the market, and like with previous models, you can experience the benefits of the Edge screen in what comes to swipe between panels, pages, apps and more.

This new device comes with an Exynos 8910 chip – an octa-core chip with four 1.7GHz cores and four 2.7GHz cores. Keep in mind that some markets may feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor instead. For this model, you will get the 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage setup as average build, but you can also opt for the 256GB storage option. Max storage capacity can be ranked as high as 400GB via microSD card slot.

Speakers were significantly improved, though still not matching what iPhones can offer. With high volume values, you can experience some grinding noise, but the optional Dolby Atmos mode is eye-catching for many.

Fingerprint scanner, as we mentioned above has been revised. Not only the position was changed but also improved for giving users a faster performance – though still not the fastest in the market. Iris scanner, unfortunately, hasn’t seen any improvements so far, but one thing worth checking is the new Intelligent Scan option, which combines facial and iris scanning for a secure login method.

Cameras have been improved. There’s no question in this regard. Remaining with 12Mpx and OIS, there’s an adjustable aperture that can switch between values f/2.4 and f/1.5 depending on the scene’s conditions. Lenses have also been reduced in weight, which is something we should take into consideration. Burst shot mode has moved from 3 shots to 12 shots thanks to the Super Speed Dual Pixel technology.

On what regards to videomaking, Super Slow Motion can now reach the astonishing framerate of 960fps for incredibly high-quality results. The auto-detect function is amazingly handy: you just need to indicate where the phone should watch for movement, and then the software will handle the super slow motion recording.

Front camera remains at 8Mpx with a f/1.7 aperture, also featuring the new AR Emoji for creating your very custom emojis based on your real-life appearance.

Unfortunately, Samsung decided to keep going with a 3000mAh battery, and despite having fast charging via USB-C port or wireless charging, it’s still not enough – mostly if we consider how quickly Samsung devices tend to show Android worn-out symptoms.
Samsung Galaxy S9 PlusGo to Amazon
The bigger-sized counterpart of the Samsung Galaxy S9, let’s get to know one of the most impressive smartphones available in the market to date, the Samsung Galaxy S9+.
Overall rating:
92
Design:
0
92
100
Camera Quality:
0
97
100
Features:
0
90
100
Price:
0
87
100
Pros
  • Curved edges
  • Super AMOLED screen
  • Iris scan
  • Super Slow Motion recording at 960fps
  • Impressive 400GB storage max capacity
  • microSD slot
Cons
  • Slippery device
  • Curved edges make it prone to crack
Click to read the full Review
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ has been one of the most awaited phones in the market. Got an idea why? Well, given the success of the Galaxy S8+, users expect this model to fix any potential bugs they came across while revisiting design flaws. Fortunately, it’s exactly what they’ve got.

Putting aside the price increase we also mentioned in the common sized version of this smartphone, the main price difference between the S9 and the S9+ is that you pay for the dual camera setup, a larger screen, larger battery and, believe it or not, more storage.

Consider this smartphone as a well-intended revision of the Galaxy S8+ for its specs, design and build. There are four colour setups: Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Coral Blue and the new Lilac Purple.
Like the S9, it sticks to the Infinity Display, though in a much-larger sized version. There’s now a matte finished metal frame, though the glass rear cover and curved edges make it be a slippery device – be warned to acquire a case when using this phone to avoid accidents. The screen is a 6.2-inch Quad HD+ with Super AMOLED technology, giving the 18.5:9 aspect ratio a new meaning when it comes to crisp details.

Offering IP68 waterproof rating, this device is meant to be an adventure partner, the perfect companion not only for your DSLR camera but, thanks to its big screen, to a drone.
Powered by an Exynos 8910 processor, it’s one of the fastest smartphones available in the market, though not beating superb iPhone X processor. Keep in mind that some markets may offer this model with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. Device config is set to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of Internal Storage – which also can be upgraded via microSD card to 400GB.

Fingerprint and Iris scan systems are the same as the common-sized S9, so no point in reviewing it again. What’s worth mentioning is that it includes dual-band 11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and GPS technology, something that the S9 also does, but as a personal experience I found the plus versions of these devices to provide a more reliable performance.

The Samsung Galaxy S9+ camera is one of the best smartphone cameras available on the market. Rear Super Dual Pixel camera sticks to 12Mpx for both cameras, but the mechanical aperture system can be compared to a DSLR one. Thanks to this, the aperture can be automatically adjusted between f/2.4 to f/1.5 depending on the scene’s illumination conditions. Noise reduction has been considerably increased, and Samsung estimates that the new camera can hold up to 28 percent more light than its predecessor. The secondary camera is also a 12Mpx, being, in this case, a telephoto one (the main one is a wide-angle camera), with a f/2.4 aperture.

Amazingly stunning results can be achieved with this camera in terms of sharpness and vividness. It almost feels as if we are working with a DSLR camera, but what’s even more impressive is the Super Slow Motion recording at 960fps – in 720p quality – which we also highlighted for the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Video recording for this smartphone is set, by default, to Full HD, although you can switch it to Ultra HD at 60fps if needed, with the only downside of being able to record for only five minutes.

The front camera is, no doubt, selfie-friendly. 8Mpx at f/1.7 paired with Samsung’s latest development, the AR Emoji.

Battery life for this model is increased, reaching up to 3500mAh which is fairly decent. It’s expected to last for an entire day for average users. Charging options are via the fast USB-C charge or Wireless Charging.
Google Pixel 2Go to Amazon
Considered to be one of the best Android phones available in the market, the Google Pixel 2 has many things to promise to its potential new owners. In this review, we’ll cover every aspect of the tiniest detail.
Overall rating:
71
Design:
0
64
100
Camera Quality:
0
76
100
Features:
0
70
100
Price:
0
72
100
Pros
  • Great resource management
  • Neat interface
  • No artificial look for images
  • Nice grip
Cons
  • No microSD slot
  • Not many effects for the camera
  • Display colours aren't adjustable
Click to read the full Review
Known as the second attempt from Google on creating their Android “iPhone”, this smartphone is a true competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S8. The key point of this phone is the management of resources on relation with the Android OS, maximising the possibilities for any user to experience a high-end device at any time, rather than to suffer the usual Android worn-out syndrome.

In general, the Google Pixel 2 feels entirely different to any other Android phone. Constructed entirely of aluminium, the rear cover has a stone-like finish, harsh and textured with three different colour options: Just Black, Clearly White or Kinda Blue. It may seem odd in the first impression; however, it does wonders for hand grip as the device won’t get slippery or leave any fingerprint behind. The glass shade above the metal covers the camera sensor and flash, just like it happened to its previous model. Despite being an extra design feature to contrast with the metal plate, it also hosts the cellular and Wi-Fi antennas. Thanks to this, the signal is boosted as no antenna bands are placed elsewhere.

Putting aside all the notions for an old-fashioned look, the Pixel 2 has an IP67 rating for water resistance and, like many other models in this review, ditched the 3.5mm headphones jack to favour a USB-C connection.

The 5-inch screen is a Full HD AMOLED panel. For those unaware of what it means, these screens have better contrast, more saturated colours and perfectly rendered blacks in comparison with the common LCD counterparts. Please consider that, unlike some other vendors, Google doesn’t allow you to adjust colours on the Pixel 2 display.

Using a Snapdragon 835 Processor with 4GB of RAM will put this device on the same level as all the high-end smartphones released in 2017; however, as we stated above, it’s on software management where differences can be appreciated, especially over time.
There are two versions available for this device in what comes to storage, 64GB and 128GB, with no microSD expansion slot. Yes, exactly like iPhones, though with the 8 and X lineup of Apple’s phones you can also get a 256GB version. In here, the more is, the merrier. You may say 64GB of ram is plenty, however, do take into consideration the amount of pictures and videos in 4K quality you may be available to store in the 128GB version. Ideal for making your phone a loyal companion to your camera in outdoor adventures.

Speakers have improved since the first Google Pixel smartphone, though don’t expect any high-end sound as the dual front-facing speakers still produce some low-quality sound in comparison to other smartphones around.

This unit is paired with a 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera, including optical stabilisation for sharper shots. By widening the aperture, you can store more light in the sensor, meaning that those low-light situations will undoubtedly feel the benefits of these improvements. The sensor isn’t as sharp as the Samsung Galaxy S8 (not to mention the S9) or the iPhone 8 (same with iPhone X) – as it doesn’t handle colour reproduction in the same way. What you may lack in vividness you counteract it in realism from a lifelike camera.

One of its most valued assets in what regards to the camera is the capability to capture details. Images from this phone can be labelled as ‘sharp as a tack’, and you can certainly crop in on the desired picture without suffering unwanted noise in the process. The only downside we found is the Auto-HDR+ mode enabled by default, which requires the user to surf a bit to disable it. Let’s face it: not everyone likes the HDR feel, and for some pictures, it makes the scene looks truly unrealistic. Such approach from Google is just a demonstration that they want to compete with Samsung’s camera vividness by rendering a colour-saturated result, but, as I said, it may not be the thing for everyone around.

Video recording can be made either in 4K 30fps and 1080p 60fps, being the latter the better option if you are handling scenes in urban places with lots of motion.

Battery hasn’t seen many improvements since the previous model, though we can safely say it can last for a day. Of course, this will depend entirely on you, as it’s related to the usage you give to the terminal, but for the price, you cannot expect much more.
Google Pixel 2 XLGo to Amazon
The bigger brother of the Google Pixel 2, this XL version will put efficiency at its best. Come and check if this device is your one true match.
Overall rating:
69
Design:
0
60
100
Camera Quality:
0
76
100
Features:
0
70
100
Price:
0
68
100
Pros
  • Great resource management
  • Neat interface
  • No artificial look for images
  • Nice grip
Cons
  • No microSD slot
  • Not many effects for the camera
  • Display colours aren't adjustable
  • Poor battery
  • Prone to produce eye strain due blue light
Click to read the full Review
Following the lines of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 8, Google Pixel 2 XL is more than just a counterpart of their smaller sized brothers, fixing certain issues under the same process.

This device features a 6-inch QHD+ P-OLED display and, like the LG V30, it ranks in the 18:9 ratio with rounded corners, just with a prominent bezel that makes it feel bulky. In a mixture of glass and aluminium, the Pixel 2 XL retains the stone-like feel from the Pixel 2 version, with two colour schemes: Just Black and Black and White; and most importantly, the added grip to hold such a big device.

It has an IP67 water-resistance rating, which is a big aid for shooting scenes outdoors.

Colour balance for the screen of this device is often nearing colder values, lacking pure whites as it’s frequently mixed with grey. Why is this worth mentioning? Because over time you will likely experience some eye strain as a result of such increased exposure to blue lighting. The worst part is that, like the Pixel 2 common version, you cannot alter the display colour. Tilting the phone to any side will render some ugly tints from the viewers’ point of view, which tell us that Google failed to compel a good job on what screen refers.

We cannot say there’s much difference between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in terms of performance. The resource management is top-notch, and keeping a Snapdragon 835 Processor and 4GB of RAM makes it a better choice in performance in comparison with direct competitors as the LG V30.

One drawback we noticed is that the display isn’t optimised for the applications used, as most Android apps are designed for 16:9 displays. In general, that would mean a good amount of black bars to fill the empty gaps, but overall, these things should have been fixed beforehand.

The camera is exactly the same as the Pixel 2 model, though the software has improved some of its flaws, like introducing a Portrait Mode or having a finer OIS setup.

Battery life is quite inadequate for such a big sized screen, as we consider 3520mAh isn’t way enough to get through the day, despite all the fancy resource management exposed by Google.
LG V30Go to Amazon
With a much-awaited revision of their V-series line, LG has definitely shaped an upgraded G6 model with their LG V30.
Overall rating:
71
Design:
0
74
100
Features:
0
65
100
Camera Quality:
0
75
100
Price:
0
70
100
Pros
  • Good low-light performance
  • 3.5mm Headphone included
  • Wide angle camera
  • Dual camera setup
  • 4K video recording
Cons
  • Average battery
  • Poor front camera quality
Click to read the full Review
Released in the early second-half of 2017, this smartphone can be appreciated in two formats: LG V30 and its AI technology counterpart, the V30S ThinQ.

Its current price tag makes it a lot cheaper than rivals as the Galaxy Note 8 or the HTC U11+ which we will review below. Though that doesn’t mean it lacks any capability than its rivals may offer.

On what regards to its design, the V30 is quite similar to the G6 except for the metal frame and the glass rear cover. Though being bigger than the G6, users won’t feel the size difference thanks to this phone being thinner and lighter. As a personal note, I would have invested more time in do a consistent revision of the G6 design rather than just replicate it with minor adjustments; it does not do justice to the device to neglect it to the shadow of the G6.

The device retains the IP68 from the G6, meaning you can submerge the phone up to 1.5 meters in clear water for as long as 30 minutes, which in the end is pretty handy for outdoor conditions. In general, it looks sturdy and durable, which could be either for its Gorilla Glass 5 display or the H-Beam metal frame. To prevent overheating issues, LG added a heat pipe and a cooling pad, which is expected to prolong the processor’s lifespan.

The 6-inch Quad HD+ screen (1440x2880px) is clearly crisp, fixing many issues found in the G6. Why did that happen? Well, thankfully LG decided to ditch the IPS LCD screens for a P-OLED one, and though P stands for plastic, there’s nothing you should worry about when it comes to quality.

The brightness and colour reproduction are nice in the normal mode setup, and you can switch the values as when you change to other modes, it’s entirely up to you.

The V30 gets an updated processor, being the Snapdragon 835 the one to go with this terminal, though it cannot rival the iPhone X performance. With 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, this smartphone can be labelled as mid-range for what comes to the performance combo, though you can upgrade the storage thanks to the microSD slot.

It keeps the headphone jack, to which audio lovers will say ‘yay!’ but it’s a true shame the speaker sounds that much average.

The camera setup was definitely updated. The rear camera is a 16Mpx one with an f/1.6 aperture, which will help to store more light than previous models. The Optical Image Stabilisation system is a genuine improvement for low-light conditions. The second rear camera is paired with a 120-degree angle, which no doubt beats its rivals in many aspects. It was upgraded from its previous 71-degree and 8Mpx in the G6 to the 120-degree and 13Mpx current config, with an f/1.9 aperture to help the f/1.6 main one. Being honest, this wide-angle camera approach is by far more useful than the telephoto alternative, thus becoming a serious option to consider for any travel photographer. The front camera is really poor with a 5Mpx resolution and lack of a decent sensor. A shame if considering the importance of selfies these days.

For videomaking, the 4K resolution is handled quite efficiently, and it records footage in a LOG format, allowing us to colour-grade it later on, but also to do it via phone.

When it comes to battery, we can check a pretty standard 3300mAh battery, which we thank can be charged wirelessly or via USB-C port.
Huawei Mate 10 ProGo to Amazon
The Chinese-giant, Huawei has been one of the brands with the steadiest growth in the past decade, up to a point to be considered a real rival for both Apple and Samsung. Leaving behind sponsorship deals with world-class stars, let’s get to know what the Huawei Mate 10 Pro can offer us!
Overall rating:
88
Design:
0
84
100
Features:
0
91
100
Camera Quality:
0
93
100
Price:
0
84
100
Pros
  • Superb camera
  • Dual camera config
  • Longlasting battery
  • AI capabilities
Cons
  • There are still some bugs to correct regarding AI usage
  • Poor audio recording quality
Click to read the full Review
With a sleek design that makes you feel like a tech-lover, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro has more to offer than just its elegant looks. Coming up in five different colour schemes in glass format – Titanium Grey, Diamond Black (Porsche-exclusive Edition), Mocha Brown, Pink Gold and Midnight Blue – this device hosts a 6-inch OLED screen with a Full HD+ resolution (1080x2160px). Why not pair the unit with a 4K display? Simple: to keep the battery life at bay. There’s an accent line with a darker tone to distinguish the rear camera area.

This device happens to be waterproof as well, offering an IP67 water protection rate and also being labelled as dust resistant. So far, it’s the first model from this brand to come up with this technology, and its Mate 10 counterpart cannot say the same.
Again we see a fingerprint detection hardware placed on the back to favour a clean screen layout. The only downside I consider on this behalf is that due the glass back cover of this device, fingerprints can be visible if not properly cleaned; something I, personally, wouldn’t want to have in a sleek glass-covered high-end smartphone.

Built-in storage is as high as 128GB may sound, but in case you are wondering that you need some extra storage, microSD card slot is up there for you as well. The headphone jack is also gone for this unit in favour of the digital sound output provided by the USB-C port.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro sports a Kirin 970 chip, whose AI handling capabilities will place it on top of its competitors as response time is considerably increased. Also, Huawei considered their gamer-focused users with a Mali-G72 graphic processor, packing 12 cores in its GPU. Though that setup is intended to give the most into intense gaming apps, we, as photographers, can feel the benefits of this powerful graphics processor in long sessions of videomaking or even to render out post-processing in the terminal without any lag.

Why is it important to consider the AI features this phone has to offer? Well, putting aside the fact that Artificial Intelligence is the next market to explore for the technology industry in general, this smartphone will constantly be gathering data on your personal workflow for certain apps or your routine, thus improving the response time and, in turn, avoiding one of the most significant drawbacks that Android users tend to experience as the device moves from the ‘brand’-new label to ‘worn’.
The AI capabilities do not limit to just applications and overall performance but also take a huge role on the camera. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has a camera capable of recognising the kind of scene you are taking, hence adjusting the settings to achieve the best result available. Have no doubts about the reliability of these AI-ruled settings as you can amaze yourself on how accurate they can perform. The 4-in-1 auto-focussing system is composed of laser focus, phase detection, depth and contrast focus. What does that mean for the user? A zero-second lag photo performance.

The camera is a masterpiece on its own. Provided by Leica, it sports a 20Mpx f/1.6 aperture as the LG V30 does, being capable of capturing impressive bokeh effects. The rear camera config is made up with two cameras, being the second one a monochrome sensor which can be used individually to take incredibly stylish black and white images whose detail and sharpness levels cannot be reproduced by any other app available in the market.

Video recording looks great enough at 1080p 60fps, but for 4K it can be only described as decent, as you have no stabilisation to improve the general quality. Audio recording does not feature noise reduction – a huge drawback in my opinion – and some videos may struggle to be recognisable in what regards to their audio recordings. Perhaps investing in a spare microphone could be something to consider.

Slow motion video is available, and you can also access to Pro Mode for photos, being able to control shutter speed, ISO, metering, white balance, EV correction and focus points. What got us impressed is its Light Painting Mode, which can be incredibly fun to play with long exposures and get light trail effects or, as the mode itself says, Light Painting portraits. Portrait mode looks fine enough to the most demanding user, so in general, no complains here sans for a bit of awkwardness when it comes to detecting hair (but that is only noticeable if you zoom in).

Being paired with a 4000mAh battery is a definition of long-lasting adventures. Huawei’s SuperCharge technology certainly delivers back efficiency, but also do not forget the role the aforementioned AI capabilities show in this regard.
HTC U11+Go to Amazon
The latest smartphone released to the market by HTC is, undoubtedly, their best effort ever. Aiming to compete with both Apple and Samsung, we considered to review this HTC U11+ model rather than its common sized counterpart as the price tag difference was almost non-existant for the increased specs offered by this model.
Overall rating:
80
Design:
0
76
100
Features:
0
80
100
Camera Quality:
0
78
100
Price:
0
87
100
Pros
  • Very good camera
  • Great Storage
  • microSD card support
  • Large battery
  • Loud speaker
  • Great sound recording
  • 8 Mpx Front Camera
  • Good low-light performance
Cons
  • Screen can be hard to see outdoors
  • Lacks dual cameras
  • Lacks Portrait Mode
Click to read the full Review
On what regards to design, the device still pairs the same Liquid Surface curved glass on its backside, allowing the customer to pick from Ceramic Black, Amazing Silver, Solar Red or Translucent Black options. Out of the four, the Translucent Black can be significantly interesting as the translucent colour will enable us to see the metal coil that happens to be used for NFC technology. A much-intended gamer approach, though it’s not available for all markets.
Unlike some other devices, the fingerprint sensor is placed on the back of the phone. The reason behind this decision is to leave room for a more significant sized screen.

The waterproof rating of this unit is IP68, meaning you can put your phone under fresh water up to depths of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. Though that’s not entirely advisable, as photographers we are we can enjoy the benefits of being able to shoot under rain conditions without worrying about our phone.

Like iPhone models feature, there’s a pressure sensor that triggers different commands. HTC labelled this technology as Edge Sense.

The screen used for this device is a 6-inch one with an 18:9 aspect ratio, featuring Quad HD+ resolution (2880x1440). Though some of us expected HTC to ditch LCD displays to favour LED technology, the screen itself still renders bright with fine details, so in general, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Featuring a Snapdragon 835 processor with two different configs, 4GB RAM/64 GB storage, 6GB RAM/128 GB storage it’s impressive on its own, and also there’s room to add a microSD card if you genuinely need more storage (ideal for videomaking or travel photographers).

As other recent models have shown, the HTC U11+ does not offer a headphone jack, favouring digital audio output instead through USB-C interface; something to consider at the time of pairing some headphone or extra audio-enhancer accessories for videomaking.

Jumping to the juicy part of the review, HTC equipped this unit with a 12Mpx f/1.7 UltraPixel 3 camera, with an excellent performance so far. The front camera is an 8Mpx f/2.0 one with an 85-degree FOV.

Both cameras feature quick autofocus and really sharp results; the back camera also offers the HDR Boost feature to produce outstanding HDR images without requiring any extra software, whereas the front camera, though lacking extra lenses for fancy effects, can astonish us with its beautiful selfies. The back camera also allows us to jump into what HTC calls Pro Mode, which in few words is just manual settings for giving the user more control on exposure and aperture as some paid apps do as well. The optical image stabilisation also gives room to produce really neat night photographs, as this device performance in low-light conditions is more than just acceptable.

You can record videos up to 4K 30 fps quality with both front and back cameras, with very clear and sharp details and thanks to its four built-in microphones you can get a realistic audio surround effect (or 3d sound, as you prefer to name it).

To sum up, we would like to talk about the battery. HTC claims their 3930mAh battery can hold up to 25 hours of talk time and over 24 hours of usage. It doesn’t allow wireless charging – as some high-end devices do – and you also need to consider the OS degradation on battery performance. Yet, latest Android updates seem to be more stable in that regard, so unless you have used the phone for 2 years+ it shouldn’t give you any problem.

FAQs

Which accessories are essential for a high quality smartphone photography workflow?

Well, we listed down a series of suggested accessories in this article on Smartphone Accessories, but to give a brief answer, mostly a quality tripod or gimble, a sturdy case to protect your phone, and some lens kit if you desire to venture into creative effects.

Is it important to count with an IP68 rating?

Yes and no. Keep in mind that any device can suffer a water-related accident, and the IP68 rating only ensures the device will hold up to 1.5m depth in clear water conditions for 30 minutes, which unfortunately isn’t the most common scenario when accidents happen. Although it’s a good measure when taking the phone outside for a session under the rain.

Can I swim with my smartphone?

In swimming pools yes, in sea/oceanic water a huge no. Salty water will instantly kill your device, so for those scenarios is better to pick an underwater camera or a high-class waterproof case.

Is a glass screen protector a necessity?

In my opinion, yes. It not only prevents ugly scratches but also protects or smartphone from common bumps. Take in consideration the overall quality of the glass screen protector, as it also interferes with the front camera in most cases, but also because some models offer interesting coatings as the matte ones, ideal for preventing sun glaring.

Android or iOS?

I wouldn’t like to enter this eternal debate. Used both OSs, and right now I happen to be an iPhone user though I would say Huawei devices are tempting and that the Samsung Galaxy S9+ camera is absolutely amazing. It’s entirely up to you what you think suits best your interests.

Is it true that iPhones suffer from battery-related issues?

Unfortunately yes. Though batteries last much longer than their Android counterparts, after 2-3 years of usage, you will notice the decline, and only authorized service or users with professional knowledge can replace it. Don’t ignore what I’m saying here; it’s not an easy process to rip off your iPhone to replace the battery as it could remain badly sealed – thus exposing the electronic circuits to climate agents or permanently damaging the screen (which is truly expensive to repair)

Do Android devices wear out their OS?

That’s another unfortunate yes. Due to a lack of common agreement on software/hardware management, Android devices suffer a considerable decline in performance after a year of heavy usage. For those who wonder what it can mean, picture a Windows computer with a 3-4 year OS install. Bugs are to be expected; the device performance will be significantly reduced in both speed and reliability. Thus you can experience – in rare cases – battery issues as well.

Are there some other considerable mentions to include in the rank?

Yes. For instance, the Sony Xperia XZ2, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the Huawei P20 Pro, the Honor 10 View, the OnePlus 5T and the Razer Phone.

Selection Criteria

What parameters did we consider for this review? Take a look below!

Brand Reputation: Like it or not we, as customers, get our primary reference from brand reputation. Leading actors in the industry of smartphone devices are Apple and Samsung, followed close by Huawei these days, and perhaps, a little bit behind, Google or HTC. Sony phones are absolutely excellent (we’re currently testing some models so watch out for this article to be updated) and I’ve quite the fond memories from my old Sony Walkman series phones to their most recently released models, whereas LG isn’t the exact definition of reliability for heavy usage. And before you ask Nokia? No thank you, I had way too many, and I refuse to use a Windows-powered phone. Sorry, personal opinion here but in all honesty, my experience with Windows Mobile was far from best.

Camera Quality: We’re not talking about the Mpx (s) uniquely here, but also how the sensor behaves regarding low-light conditions, color reproduction, sharpness, speed, etc.

Screen Quality: For some, it may not seem important, but believe us when we say it’s imperative as we, as photographers, express our thoughts through visual arts. The more reliable the screen happens to be, the best chance you have to connect with your audience.

Price: Let’s face it, smartphones are prone to accidents or worse, get stolen. While I don’t think you wish to carry a $2k phone around, there are other options whose price make it inaccessible enough for some.

Features: Have you considered how cool is to have tools that make our job easier? Well, the more features a smartphone wish to dwell in, the better for us as users, right?

Size: Again, a thing of personal choice. Only you can decide how much does a smartphone fit your hands and your means to carry it everywhere next to you.

Design: Who doesn’t love an elegant smartphone? As photographers, we’re constantly linked to the concepts of beauty, authenticity, and many other etcéteras that can shape our mindset. So yes, we took the guidelines that back design as part of the selection process.

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How to Properly Backup Your Data With an External Hard Drive

As photographers, these days, one of our major concerns is to define the final outcome of the work we produce. Either via printing files, sharing them through social media platforms or build a digital portfolio, these outcome mediums share one aspect: the success of this outcome depends, entirely, on how we manage the storage of our digital files that come straight from the camera.

By saying that I’m not referring to the eternal discussion on how much post-production work should we do to an image but how to store the pictures after they are ready to be released as, like we all know, accidents are prone to happen or clients can ask for copies of the original files.

How can we efficiently keep copies of the work we have done? Is there a method to follow? Let’s get to know this process in detail!

Tales from a Well-Known Past

Not so long ago the film was the only medium to work as a photographer. That being said, getting printed photos out of film cameras was a process that required many stages ranging from the way we stored the negatives to the chemistry procedure involved in processing them. Obviously, this implied a broad knowledge on the subject: it was the exact opposite to photography these days as only people trained on these procedures was able to deliver the final files, rather than what we see today as photographs through the internet.

So, if for these vintage photographers keeping the negatives was imperative in order to recreate the images again – as paper could get the colours altered over time – their storage method was carefully planned so light could not fade those negatives, planning the way we keep digital files on our computers equals the importance of that process… perhaps even more if we consider the threats we face nowadays with malware, hackers, etc.

old photos

New Times, New Methods

In the era of digital photography, talking about photo storage implies memory cards, computers, and mostly hard drives. There’s no one else to blame than yourself in case something happens and you don’t have an extra copy of your work as it’s entirely cost-free to do it. “Accidents” that can put our work in jeopardy can be classified in:

  • Malware: Viruses, ransomware, malware in general. PCs/Laptops running under Windows OS are more susceptible to experience this.
  • Corrupt data: This can happen to both memory cards (quite common due usage/plug-unplug) and hard drives (either by factory failure or being worn over time).
  • Hardware conflict: Sometimes a hardware conflict between drivers require the OS to be reinstalled, hence if you keep your files under the same partition drive as your OS, the photos/files are likely to get wiped in the process.
  • OS-related issues: Similar to the case above, those using Windows can certainly relate to the times when Windows does not properly complete an update, thus requiring to be reinstalled (in the worst of the scenarios).

So, what’s the potential solution for keeping our files safe? There are multiple options:

  • Create a spare partition for the files
  • Add an extra hard drive for the files
  • Own an external hard drive
  • Upload your files to the Cloud

Obviously, all these methods have their pros and cons. Creating a spare partition can protect us from the scenario in which you need to reinstall your OS, but won’t keep your files safe if the hard drive itself starts to malfunction or if a virus goes to the root directory of the drive. Add an extra hard drive may certainly work unless your PC gets stolen (unfortunately that’s a risk to face when working with Laptops). External drives are the best option to go as they are relatively cheap these days unless you want to buy a bulk solution (over 4 TB of storage) or fancy options like NAS drives.

On this regard, NAS drives to experience the same issues as uploading the files to the Cloud: you ought to have an internet connection to access your files. So consider the speed of your network connection and the overall accessibility to it prior picking this method as your way to go.

contemporary photography

Organization is the Key

What’s the point of owning an extra drive to store your files if it looks like a freaking mess? Not only it’s a stressing factor but also you’re likely to misplace your files and later on take them as deleted/missing.

Decluttering is a practice that not only comforts the soul but also it’s absolutely effective. I tend to do a digital decluttering every once in a while as one tends to keep unnecessary files after some time. For this, the organization is the key to success! Take, as an example, this file structure for sorting your photography work files:

Your drive: Let’s name it Data (D:)

Inside that Data (D:) drive there should be these folders:

  • Camera_Name_RAWs
    • Place folders inside with the date + name of the session you made
  • Camera_Name_JPEGs (in case you shoot in JPEG)
    • Place folders inside with the date + name of the session you made
  • Camera_Name_Videos (for either DSLRs, action cameras or camcorder videos)
  • Documents: This folder should include contracts or any other kind of important document related to your photography business
  • Finished Work
    • Place folders inside with the date + name of the session you made
    • For random work, you can name the folders inside as portraits or after the place you visited
  • Resources
    • Business: Business cards, brochures, etc.
    • Lightroom Products
    • Photoshop Products
    • Graphic Design stuff in general
  • Work In Progress: Once again, stored by folder following the method used above

It’s up to you if you want to store books or video tutorials as well in this drive, as it’s also up to you if you want to encrypt this drive with a password or make a non-visible partition – for both approaches, I’d recommend you to use the software as Veracrypt.

folders

Which Kind of Hard Drive Should I Pick?

When it comes to picking a hard drive there are many things you need to consider:

  • The type of drive you’re picking: If it’s a NAS, an SSD drive or a SATA internal or external drive.
  • The hard drive’s operation speed: 5400 RPM is the standard, but if you can get a 7200 RPM drive or, better yet, an SSD drive, then yay!
  • Buffer: Also known as the internal memory of the drive, it affects how smooth the information flow keeps running. On this, the more the merrier, and best values available in the market to date are 16 MB, but hard drives with 8 MB of buffer size can perform well too.
  • Connectivity: Over this I’m not implying if you require internet access, as that only affects NAS and media drives, but the interface for USB the drive uses (USB 3.0 and newest USB Type-C are the go-to options to pick) and if the hard drive requires AC connection (quite common for external hard drives over 2 TB).
  • Size: Think of this if you require a portable drive or a workstation solution. In my opinion, you should have both.

How many copies should I keep off my work? Well, that’s up to you as well. In my case, I rely on one copy of my hard drive besides the one I have on my laptop (which are the “workable” files) – this copy is updated on weekly basis.

In case you still don’t feel secure enough you can add the important documents and finished sessions to a Dropbox drive, as you get 1 GB for free. Please notice that I prefer Dropbox rather than Google Drive or MEGA as it’s much easier to share links for clients to download the files if required, and also it’s safer. Google Drive also shares that drive space with my mailbox attachments, which isn’t convenient, and MEGA has the MAJOR downside that you cannot recover the account if you lose the password.

hard drive

Well, I hope this guide can help you to build more effective copies of your work. See you next time!

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The Importance of NFC Technology in Smartcameras

As photographers that we are, one of the most common – yet tiring – tasks to perform is the moment where we import the images from our camera to a PC for post-production. Not that we can complain that much if we take in consideration that just 20 years ago photographs weren’t as common as they prove to be today, requiring the services of professionals in the field for processing the negatives in a darkroom, but yet still some people do struggle with this process if we talk about a bulk number of images to import.

During these past years, we went from analog images that, as we mentioned before, required special chemical procedures to be visible, to downloading the photographs from our camera to a PC using a USB cable. SD cards also prove a valid point in this so-called search for workflow efficiency, although users still complained over the fact that SD cards could get damaged in the process, stolen, that their PCs didn’t have SD-card readers and a long list of etceteras that we can sum up. So, considering all these things, which would be the natural path to follow if efficiency is our endgame? Wireless technology.

laptop

Long gone are the days of infrared technology and its massive use with primitive smartphone models for data transfer. High-sized files require not only a stable medium for exchanging data but also speed: something that, in either one point or both, Bluetooth technology does not satisfy.

WiFi was a good path to explore for camera makers if we ignore its natural downside: the dependence of an internet service. Therefore, as we cannot trust internet providers to do an outstanding performance, it was needed to explore other solutions that can not only meet up with the expectations of customers but also be innovative and reliable. This is where the NFC experience makes its move.

Known as Near Field Communication, NFC technology works by detecting nearby compatible devices to allow data transfer without requiring an internet connection. But what’s the hype with this technology and how can we be certain it will beat previous technology as Bluetooth or even WiFi?

An insight on NFC Technology

NFC operates in radio frequency thanks to an integrated chip stored in the device in question. In order to transfer content from one device to another, users need to place the devices within a couple of centimeters of distance between them. Without requiring any kind of external id, the data transfer starts to process in a much energy-efficient way than other technologies known to date.

Truth is that NFC technology development is opening the gates to multiple scenarios worldwide, from sensitive data transfer to online payments, as this advancement happens to be implemented on most high-end smartphones available in the market these days. Despite how good this may sound, there are some drawbacks that we ought to mention to get a clear picture of if this technology may benefit us or not.

Not everything is as smooth as it seems

NFC technology is quite new, and despite being considered since the early 90s its implementation on mobile devices can be tracked to the second half of this last decade, where brands as Nokia and Samsung did an especially good advertisement campaign for promoting the benefits that NFC offered. However, there’s a major downside with this: computers are not natively compatible with it.

nfc

Desktop builds are no way compatible with NFC technology unless you use an adapter – the same case can be said for most laptop brands except those recently released from 2016 onwards, so the alternative is to get an NFC adapter for these devices. In my opinion: not the best way to secure a workflow as those adapters can experience odd behavior patterns due to long usage and devices that may interfere nearby.

Therefore, what could be the alternative? Using NFC technology to transfer images from the camera to our smartphones/tablets. This may seem as an extra step, although data synced by this procedure can be stored via cloud storage apps as Dropbox, to which we are also making a backup of the session under the very same procedure.

It should also be noticed that devices with Android/iOS as OS can experience some struggles to establish an NFC bridge with a laptop in comparison with what happens with devices running under Windows Mobile. As a technology in constant development, the struggles are expected to be fixed in short term.

Does NFC technology justify the extra investment?

Now, this is a good question. If you happen to be a photographer on the move, who needs to share images with your crew members or send it to a client quickly prior doing the post-production work, then yes! It comes really handy as you can send high-quality images through your smartphone and skip the PC in the process.

Will NFC eat the battery life of the camera? Not really – this technology is meant to be energy efficient, something that we cannot say for Bluetooth.

If, on the other hand, you don’t have that little time-span for sharing images, then NFC technology may not be suited for your interests as you’ll be paying some extra money for something that, most likely, you won’t even use. Also please consider that, as what happens with every single data exchange scenario, your work might get exposed to unrequested access, so it’s best to use this data transfer method between trusted devices to avoid further inconveniences.

Well, I hope this article can bring some light on whether you should get a camera with NFC technology or not. See you next time!

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Adobe Lightroom Classic vs Lightroom CC: Which One to Pick?

One of the most interesting surprises this year had for photographers all around the world was the announcement of a new revision of our ever-beloved Adobe Lightroom – revision which came with a two-path option: Adobe Lightroom Classic and the new Adobe Lightroom CC. So, what’s the hype and why do we need to choose between these two versions? Let’s talk a bit about this.

Defining Requirements

After more than ten years of the release of the world’s most acclaimed tool for digital post-production, Adobe thought it was the moment to explore different solutions in a pursue of bringing users closer to their mobile solutions. For this reason, they decided to create two different suites:

1) Adobe Lightroom Classic: Keeping the attributes of the legacy Lightroom versions up to date, this release includes a series of tools meant to speed up the process of creating complexly detailed edits. We’ll discuss these new tools later on.

2) Adobe Lightroom CC: This new version of Lightroom has a revisited layout that, at first glance, might remind you of some Mac OSX software due to its extreme visual and intuitive layout. Truth is this layout solely inspired by mobile versions of Adobe Lightroom, and for a beginner, users may be the option to start exploring if not for some noticeable drawbacks.

Hence, was it indispensable to release two versions of this versatile editing software or is this a commercial strategy prone to confuse users? As a personal opinion, I’m most inclined to the second option. There was no special need in designing another version just for the mere fact of enhancing touch screen display interaction or providing a wider range of options for easily upload your photos to social media networks – those same features could have been added to Lightroom Classic instead of releasing a different version.

Introducing Lightroom Classic

In addition to the usual update of camera/lens profiles and faster workflow performance as we are used to with every update of Lightroom, Lightroom Classic is one tricky beast to tame.

lightroom claasic

The first thing we need to take in consideration is the Catalog. The update of Lightroom’s interface required an upgraded catalog format, meaning that you cannot easily roll back to the previous version you used after accepting the upgrade to Classic’s compatible version. As a word of advice, do keep a copy of your current LR Catalog saved somewhere else, just in case you decide Lightroom Classic isn’t your thing and you decide to roll back to Lightroom 2015.

Adobe opted for a method in which culling process can be done in a much faster wait. The new Embedded Previews can save tons of valuable minutes – and most importantly drastically reduce RAM requirement to compel the task. The option isn’t active by default, so you need to activate it through the File Handling’s panel in Lightroom whilst the Import dialog box is opened.

lightroom classic

But it’s in the introduction of the new Color Range Masking and Luminance Masking tool where the magic for this new version begins, as we can create much-stylised masks for HSL adjustments or go into deep detail without needing to add Photoshop to your editing workflow for such tasks. Huge improvement indeed, and we can be expectant for further updates that will turn Photoshop into just a tool for doing massive photo manipulation edits rather than a necessity for the sake of some common editing procedures.

Color Range Mask works by selecting an area based on the sampled colors we’re taking – exactly the same way this tool works for Photoshop, and Luminance one uses the pixel brightness instead. To make these new adjustments mode active we must work with the Gradient or Adjustment Brush tools, selecting one of the modes we wish to include, but consider that for improved accuracy you need to click and drag rectangles around the areas in which you desire colors to be sampled. In the case of the Luminance Range Mask, we can work with the Feather slider to smooth the falloff for the selected luminance range.

Finally, some considerable improvements have been made in terms of speed & performance, mostly in the time needed to switch between Library and Develop modules, something much appreciated indeed. To take a look at the new cameras supported by this update regarding Adobe Camera Raw, we suggest you take a look at this link.

The Cloud-Based Solution: Lightroom CC 1.0

Don’t get confused for my previous comments on the need of releasing a new software, I’m pretty much loving this new Adobe Lightroom CC UI: the sleek appearance, the way photos are previewed, a much simpler Import Dialog option and a more visual Library Module really almost made my mind about switching to this version instead of having two different software for the same purpose. That was until I noticed its major drawback: brushes.

lightroom cc

Yes, as you heard, Adobe Lightroom CC isn’t compatible with third-party brushes, nor with your own settings for brushes as you can store them but not export them – extremely unpractical if I wish to store a backup of the settings I made instead of relying on the so-called “Cloud System”. So then, my brushes cannot be used with Lightroom CC – meaning that I need to use Lightroom Classic for portrait editing and all those scenarios in which I require to go into detail.

Other tools such as sliders have a significant revision, making them look more visual and sharing the Lightroom Mobile UI – indeed catchy for new users – and Presets work almost perfectly if we do not count the lack of tools it has in contrast with Lightroom Classic.

lightroom cc

Since images are automatically uploaded to Adobe Cloud service, the upload process for Social Media is way much faster, making this workflow interactive for new users who wish to share their edits to Facebook for their friends to check it – other platforms aren’t supported yet.

Lightroom CC or Lightroom Classic: Which one should I pick?

The first milestone to make this decision is if you have a reliable internet connection. If the answer is no, then don’t even consider Lightroom CC as an option as it’s entirely internet-dependant.

The other aspect you need to consider is if you are willing to pay a subscription fee for this software. Even if this applies to both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic, Lightroom 6 users with perpetual licenses won’t find too many changes if they already have a Lightroom + Photoshop workflow for their work. Adobe Subscription system, which in my own personal opinion ends up becoming expensive in long run (compared to perpetual license fees), does not consider budget outside the US. Therefore, for a beginner photographer whose business isn’t giving much income or even for a hobbyist, the investment is something to consider on year basis if you don’t live up to this. In some cases, you are almost paired with the price of a lens for your camera after paying the subscription for a year… I’m sure you get the point.

Adobe released two different Photography plans for Lightroom – the usual Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which now includes Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic, plus Photoshop CC and 20 GB storage, and the Lightroom CC Plan, which only includes the aforementioned software and 1 TB storage space in the Cloud.

Also, please notice that some of Lightroom’s most popular tools aren’t available for Lightroom CC: Tone Curves, Split Tones, Local Adjustment Presets, you cannot store images in folders, you cannot rename files, and the list keeps growing.

lightroom cc

So, why should you pick Lightroom CC? If you are just taking your first steps in photography and wish to count with a tool for editing your images, Lightroom CC is no doubt the best way to approach this discipline as a hobbyist; that if you don’t wish to use brushes in a close-by future.

In general, I see the lack of tools from Adobe Lightroom CC 1.0 as a drawback, especially when clients consider this an upgrade from perpetual license versions and find out this software isn’t suitable for their needs. Tone Curves, Split Toning and Local Adjustment Presets are must-have elements in the editing workflow of photographers, thus Adobe would do good by taking notice to include these tools in a close-by update.

I hope this article can bring some light regarding this new Lightroom scheme, and see you next time!

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Sleeklens Podcast #1 – Welcome to Our Photography Podcast!

Welcome to the very first episode of Sleeklens’ photography podcast. This is a weekly podcast where we will be talking about everything photography including Photoshop, Lightroom or anything you can think of. It does not matter what style you shoot; we are still going to talk about it in this podcast. We will go with the flow of the podcast, and you can see what to expect going forward and what we will be talking about in the next few podcasts.

Remember you can stream our podcasts as simply as to click here 🙂

I am going to go through a popular topic which is about Photoshop vs Lightroom, which is a very popular topic when it comes to a lot of beginner photographers out there. Basically, we are going to look at the flow of the podcast going forward. But before then, just a little bit about me as a person. My name is Jordan Younce, a real estate photographer from the United States where I do a lot of real estate stuff. I’ve done a lot of other styles of photography, but I’m kind of concentrating in real estate now. This is a really cool topic and journal to concentrate on now. That just shows you that you can start with one style of photography and then move on to a different one, and in the process, you might find one that you love better than the one you originally planned on starting out with. That’s something you might need to keep in mind. I also do a lot of video content on Sleeklens YouTube channel. You can go to YouTube and search for Sleeklens and you will find a lot of videos to help you with photo editing, shooting or anything you can think about including all about the Sleeklens’ workflows, Photoshop actions, Lightroom Presets and all other stuff and I can help out with that if you need help as well. So be sure to send me anything you want to see in this podcast, any ideas, and I will be happy to help you with that. You can send those to [email protected]. Anything you would like me to help or any questions, just send them my way, and I will be glad to help.

photography

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the podcast going forward. This is going to be a weekly podcast and is eventually going to be moved to a weekly live show on YouTube. If you don’t want to be on a live show or don’t have the time, don’t worry. We are still going to take the audio from there and release it as a podcast. So, even if you subscribe here, you still will be able to get all the episodes so you can follow along with us.

In this weekly podcast, we’re going to talk about news, general topics for the episodes, and recent articles which are posted on Sleeklens.com website, and there is also going to be a featured item of the week. This is going to be some fun little things such as Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, gear or any kind of a thing you can think of that is photography related.

To show you our appreciation for listening to the podcast, we are also going to offer a coupon code which you can use at the Sleeklens cart. If you add something that you want to pick and then enter the coupon code “sleeklenspodcast”, it’s going to take away 10% off anything on the store. So, make sure to check that out if you’ve been looking forward to buy anything from the site. That is the basic flow of how this podcast is going to be laid out; it’s a really fun podcast and cool environment to have all photographers out there listen to. I did mention that I’ll be talking about a topic on this episode, but this is an introductory topic which is very popular when it comes to beginner photographers out there. This has to do with the program one should use to edit my photos? Should I use Lightroom or should I use Photoshop?

The quick answer to this question is that there is no magic answer, but it depends on the kind of style of photography that you’re shooting and what you want to do with your photos. Both programs have their pros and cons. I’m going to look into that in in-depth. So, let’s go over Photoshop first and start by the pros of using this program.

lightroom

What one of the main things that Photoshop does but Lightroom cannot do is to use Layers. A layer allows you to put an edit on top of an edit that you can do in Photoshop. This does a non-destructive editing of your files. It also allows you to do tons of stuff more than I can cover in this podcast. Being able to do a lot of stuff on your photo non-destructively is important because you don’t want to mess up with your original file but want to keep it intact and in its original form. Photoshop also has what we call ‘Actions’ and Sleeklens sells a bunch of actions out there to do certain effects to your photos, and these are like presets (if you are familiar with Lightroom). They allow you to take one effect and apply it to your photos with one click and it automatically does all these types of effects to your photo. This allows you to do all kinds of editing. You can do color adjustments, visual effects and other fun stuff with a single click using the actions.

Blending and compositing is another really important Photoshop feature that you can do to your photos. What I mean by this is that, let’s say you’ve gone out for landscape shooting and you have this really amazing scene and you take a picture but realize that the sky maybe just a little boring and you don’t like the way it looks. But earlier on you had taken a really nice sunrise or something similar to that but with a very impactful sky. What you can do is take that sky out of one photo and put it in the other photo and blend them together thus giving you a very to scene by replacing the blurry sky with the better one. Photoshop can do that, but Lightroom cannot get any closer to something like that. That’s kind of an advanced editing technique that Lightroom can’t do. So, Photoshop is another reason for you to use layers as they allow you to do that as well but Lightroom cannot get any closer.

Photoshop also has a ton of tools that you can use. Lightroom has a little bit of what Photoshop has, but the latter can do almost everything. One of the tools that many people like to use and they think they can do the same in Lightroom but they cannot is actually the Liquify tool. A lot of people are familiar with that tool and what that tool does is that it allows you to whoop your photo to make it better looking. What I mean by that is that, let’s say you took a photo of somebody, but they are concerned with the weight or something like that. You can actually slim them down using the Liquify tool. You can take a really cool facial portrait of somebody and enlarge their eyes a little bit to make them appealing. You can do stuff like that. You can make them smile if they weren’t smiling when you took the photo. Photoshop has some really awesome tools and a large variety of things you can do to your photo. So, basically, anything you can imagine is possible to do to your photos using Photoshop. It might take a little bit of time, but you can actually do it in Photoshop.

Even though Photoshop has a lot of high points when it comes to editing photos, there are also many low points or negative aspects that some people cannot get around. One of the major ones is that it has no image management. Once you drag a photo into Photoshop for editing, you have to save it just as you would a doc file. You have to figure out where you want that image to be saved while in Lightroom, you can put them in a catalogue, you can organize them and open them in Lightroom, and your file management is basically Lightroom. But in Photoshop, you have to save the photos in your hard-drive or file structure that you specify, and you can lose files just because you do not know where you are saving them. Thankfully, Lightroom has a better file organization, and that one is a major con when it comes to Photoshop.

photographer

The next one is that it has no built-in raw support. You might be asking yourself, why you have been able to edit raw photos in Photoshop before. Well, technically you haven’t but what you have edited your photos in is what we call ‘camera raw’ which is a small separate program from Photoshop. This is not really a big deal because camera raw is updated to edit raw files from almost any camera. However, you are not editing your RAW photos in Photoshop but doing it in camera RAW. So, when editing your RAW photos in camera RAW, you basically need to have all your main adjustments done before you bring them into Photoshop because you are not going to have that leeway to edit your photos later on. You will lose some of the information when they go into Photoshop, and that is kind of a negative thing but again you can edit your RAW photos in Camera RAW but can’t do it in Photoshop.

One of the last negative points with Photoshop is that it’s hard to learn and we all know this. It is a little hard to get accustomed to the Photoshop interface, and if you are not familiar with it and you happen to open a file, it is still going to be overwhelming when you do it in Photoshop. It takes a lot of time to learn Photoshop while in Lightroom, you can almost jump in there and start editing your photos right away. That is one major con of Photoshop.

Next, we look at Lightroom….

One of the main pros if Lightroom is that it does has Built-in RAW support. So, when you import your photos into Lightroom and you keep making adjustments to your files, you are constantly making your edits on that raw file rather than a compressed file format of that raw file or any other type of file and all the edits are non-destructive. Anything you do to your files can automatically be reset and you get back to the way it was when it came off that camera. That’s really important if you are someone who goes back and edits photos regularly because you have that raw file to fall back on.

Like I mentioned in Photoshop, Lightroom has a major file feature and optimization. You can organize your files greatly. I know in my case when I go shooting in a home, I always put them in an individual folder in Lightroom and that way if someone wants to see the files for any particular house I can pull out the specific file where I put the files and export them and send them their way. This is very easy and it is very easy to organize your files in Lightroom.

Again, as I mentioned, Lightroom is very easy to use. You have your modules on the top-right hand side of the Lightroom window and these are self-explanatory. Your library is where you keep all your files, your develop module is where you edit the files, map shows exactly where your photos were taken at if you have GPS location just among many others. It is a very easy file structure or file management window to allow you to edit your files in. the develop module is also very straightforward with the correct labels such as basic adjustments, tone curves, Split toning details and all that stuff. It is very easy to understand and all of them are in one place.

photographer

Another major pro when it comes to Lightroom are the presets. Presets are fantastic and you can use them in almost every photo because not only do they allow you to do your edits quickly, which is a major thing when it comes to photographers who put out a lot of work all at once, but you can also apply almost any effect that you can ever think of. For example, if your photo is very much underexposed, you can apply a certain effect to bump up the exposure but it doesn’t mess up with certain highlights of your exposure. It only brightens up certain spots on your image. Sleeklens has a ton of presets which you can use in almost any situation from landscapes to real estate to drone photography, to visual effects and if you want to look at these effects you can visit the site and look up the collections available. Again, presets are fantastic as they give you some ideas on effects you want to apply to your photos. You can also create your own presets if you know there are certain effects you apply in almost every photo thus making it a really awesome feature to have in Lightroom.

Let’s now look at the cons when it comes to Lightroom…

First, Lightroom has no advanced editing tools. What I mean by this is that as we were talking about Photoshop when it comes to compositing and replacing the sky and stuff like that, you can’t do that at all. Basically, you have to go into Photoshop to do that. Let’s say you have a portrait of someone who may have some blemishes or something like that, you have the spot removal tool and you can take those out, you can have the healing tool to help you take that stuff out that way. You can remove some simple stuff from your photo but as far as doing any major adjustments that you might want to do, you must do it in Photoshop.

Again, as mentioned under Photoshop, no “layerability”, meaning you can’t do stackable presets which is mainly what the Sleeklens’ presets are which allows you to stack on top of each other until you have the desired effects. You do not have the ability to do layers in Lightroom and that can be a drawback for some if you really concentrate layer editing.

One of the last cons when it comes to Lightroom is that it’s only for photos. You might be asking, ‘isn’t Photoshop also just for photos?” But actually, this is not the thing. A lot of people don’t know that you can actually edit videos in Photoshop. You can edit your videos as you would an image by opening it in a Camera RAW filter once you import it to Photoshop and edit all the same features, all the same sliders that you are used to in Photoshop. It’s probably not the best video program out there but if you are doing simple video adjustments and are not used to any other video editing software, Photoshop will definitely help enhance the video quality. It also does have a timeline and so you can make that as your video editing suite. However, I would recommend looking for some other type of video editing program. Although you can edit your videos in Photoshop, importing the same into Lightroom doesn’t allow you to do much but you can catalogue it in order to save it but you can’t really view it or edit it. That’s one real drawback for someone who wants to edit or catalogue video because you will have to come up with your own file or structure for that as well.

That is the main topic of this episode and hope you enjoyed it. Just some quick information for beginners out there who are trying to find what editing program is best for them, I personally use Lightroom 99% of the time but there is something we have to dive into Photoshop to kind of fix or correct but for the main part, Lightroom is the main go-to tool when it comes to editing.

Featured item of the week

The featured item for this week is a brand new collection when it comes to Sleeklens’ Lightroom workflows and that is the Visual Noir Collection. This collection is really great and focuses on cinematic film presets effect. If you’ve ever wondered how to get that cinematic effect look on your photos, this collection is probably the one you want to look out for.  You can actually go to Sleeklens YouTube channel to see some great videos showing you some really awesome effects that you can apply to your photos using the Visual Noir Collection. To see these effects, just go to Sleeklens.com and checkout the Visual Noir Collection. Just look at the before and after photos for how great results you can get using the effects. Remember to use your coupon code ‘Sleeklenspodcast’ to get 10% off that collection.

Best 7 Monitors for Photography Work in 2019

Though many people have ditched the desktop format for the ever convenient laptops, truth tells us that having a spare monitor around the house or office isn’t a bad investment, quite the opposite!

Along with this guide, we will explain the reasons why owning a monitor can benefit your work, plus also review the best 10 models available to date.

Reasons for Buying a Monitor

For many users, it may seem enough to work with their current gear in what respects to cameras, laptops or monitors. However, when we decide to take the leap towards professional work, quality gear defines a milestone between amateurish skills and seriousness.

The first reason why you should buy a quality monitor is that of its color rendering capabilities, also known as Colour Gamut. As photographers we are, the image is everything, so the most accurate results we get in image reproduction quality, the closer we will get to predicting the outcome of our work in case of digital mediums or printed images.

There are three common formats of Colour Gamut for handling our files:

  • sRGB: Most common format used by monitors all around the world; it is also the smallest in what regards to color information. Widely used by cameras, scanners and monitors, it’s the default used by websites for browsing any kind of media file. Since it has a limited color range, you are losing tons of valuable information data for your files whilst working under this mode. The end result? The totally different print outcome as you cannot predict the final quality of the printed file.
  • Adobe RGB (1998): Introduced by Adobe to encompass commercial printing processes, this format features a wider range of colors than sRGB, and up to these days several monitors, cameras, and scanners work natively with this format, as well as some professional quality inkjets. It’s a popular format for photographers as photo libraries are often synced with this format.
  • ProPhoto RGB: A format meant for professional work in image development, the huge color gamut of this format can handle almost any kind of digital or printed image. The downside of this format is, as it has such a broad color range, that you ought to work under 16-bit image format to visualize noticeable changes between hues that prove to be too similar.

The second reason why you should get a monitor when working as a photographer is due to comfort, as for many of us we can find one of these scenarios:

  • Not having enough screen resolution: Software like Photoshop, Dreamweaver or After Effects require higher screen resolution values for optimal work. In general, consider 1080p as the standard these days for quality work.
  • Not having enough space to properly visualize your work: This is linked to the previous point, as monitors with less than 15.6” don’t have enough capabilities for reaching higher resolution values, thus, screen layout tends to feel a bit zoomed.
  • Getting more comfort for showcasing your work: With two monitors, you can simply turn the spare one to show your clients your work without needing to move your entire computer setup for that work.

Either way, working with more than one monitor, or just investing in a quality one is a life-changer decision to make the sooner the better. Next, we will talk about the importance of calibration for these devices.

Calibration – Yes or No?

Even if we can say that as human beings we are we tend to look at things differently, another story is when we talk about digital images, where we can find a broad range of possibilities ranging from extreme brightness, different vividness, worn out displays, etc. Whereas old monitors could feature issues as noticeable tonal changes due to worn out bulb lights, LED and OLED monitors also suffer a similar performance impairment, though since the lifespan of a LED light is estimated in about 11 years, we don’t have yet enough facts to make strong comments on this behalf.

Therefore, what’s the importance of calibrating your monitor every once in a while? First and foremost, getting an accurate value of your hues when working with digital media. The reason for this is that we can work with multiple monitors at the same time and get different results due to their manufacturing. On this regard, monitor calibration lessens this inconvenience by setting a sort of “standard” value for visualization, where you won’t get noticeable changes besides brightness or other variables directly associated with the physical aspects of your device.

x-rite

However, the most important reason for calibrating your monitor is, by far, to get optimal results when printing media. If, by chance, we don’t feel satisfied with the results we are getting when printing photos, besides the obvious mistake of printing under RGB mode instead of CMYK, then probably there’s a misunderstanding between what we are seeing and the actual values for the printed outcome.

There are several different devices we can use for this process. Most awarded products happen to be X-Rite i1 Display Pro (my preferred choice), Spyder Pro and Color Munki – it’s up to you to choose which one suits better your needs, and you should check your calibration values at least once each two months. That will set a noticeable difference in the quality of your final work.

Best Monitors of 2017

Now that we listed the reasons why we should get a good monitor, it’s time to take a look at the most outstanding models available in the market to date.

Samsung UE590D 23.6″Go to Amazon
We start this list by talking about a professional Ultra-High Definition (UHD) monitor in a 32-inch format – quite big you may say, though Samsung takes its stakes towards professionals that need a high-performance device with plenty room to accommodate this expensive masterpiece.
Overall rating:
69
Design:
0
80
100
Price:
0
40
100
Image Quality:
0
86
100
Features:
0
70
100
Pros
  • Clean Design, Sharp UHD image
  • Accurate color performance
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t feature many color management settings
  • Huge Footprint
Click to read the full Review
With a carefully crafted design in brushed-silver and matte black finish, the U32D970Q can be considered one high stake by Samsung to enter the professional market, though it’s a huge monitor to handle, weighing over 11 kilos. The long handle may seem imposing, though it allows a range of 60 degrees of swivel, plus 25 degrees of tilt. The monitor also allows to rotate its orientation to match a portrait mode, which paired with the included software Samsung MagicRotation, the screen will also change its orientation to match the desired layout.

Paired with two DisplayPort inputs, an HDMI outlet, dual-link DVI input, headphone jack, one USB 3.0 port (upstream) and four downstream USB 3.0 ports, we now no need to rely on our computer to plug devices such as cameras, tablets and mostly graphic tablets (Wacom users can hail up on this point).

The variables we can adjust through the buttons provided are Picture Mode, Audio Volume, Brightness, Contrast and Sharpness settings, as well as Gamma, Color Temperature and Black Point. Though we can access to nine preset picture modes, there aren’t many advanced settings offered by other similar devices.

In general, we can say this is a monitor with a solid colour performance, with a bit of lag in time to react to a controller command – not noticeable unless you happen to be a professional gamer, though its price considerable puts this device down in the ranking of outstanding products. The NEC MultiSync PA322UHD is also a big-sized UHD monitor, but featuring tons of advanced colour settings for demanding users, yet $1k more expensive than this Samsung solution.
NEC MultiSync EA275UHDGo to Amazon
Talking about NEC MultiSync line of monitors is defining outstanding performance in short words. In this case, we are reviewing a 27-inch display with UHD definition and IPS display.
Overall rating:
80
Design:
0
76
100
Price:
0
80
100
Image Quality:
0
83
100
Features:
0
80
100
Pros
  • Excellent color performance
  • 4K Resolution
  • Sharp display
  • Wide viewing angles
Cons
  • Doesn’t have many advanced color adjustments
  • Ports can be troublesome
Click to read the full Review
Despite looking like a common monitor device, this unit is paired with a lower bezel with an ambient light sensor and a presence sensor on its left, quite the accomplishment for a unit below the $1k price range. Right next to these sensors we can find five touch buttons, which help the light sensor to adjust the Auto Brightness settings to the required values of the user itself. The presence sensor introduced with this unit is mostly used for power saving settings, as the monitor enters in standby mode when no movement happens to be detected.

The rear part of this monitor hosts one DVI port, one HDMI 2.0 port, one DisplayPort 1.2, one upstream USB 3.0 port and two USB 3.0 downstream ones, as well as the audio input and two ControlSync ports for syncing our settings from the master monitor up to five additional monitors connected with these very ControlSync settings – ideal when we desire to save up time in monitor calibration.

Seven Color Presets plus six Picture Presets are available with this unit, though this shouldn’t be considered a monitor for Gaming performance. Black point performance is handled to excellence, giving rich values for those extra dark black hues we can find, as well as some interesting tonal range for gray values.

An ideal choice for those who seek a great quality-price balance without compromising much budget in the process, though we can also explore other interesting options through this list.
ASUS Designo MX27AQ 27″Go to Amazon
Though we can find many 27-inch monitors available on the market, Asus takes the challenge to a new level, crafting a design masterpiece with its MX27AQ monitor.
Overall rating:
88
Design:
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97
100
Price:
0
93
100
Image Quality:
0
84
100
Features:
0
76
100
Pros
  • Frameless monitor
  • High-quality speakers
  • Excellent image quality
Cons
  • Limited height adjustment options
Click to read the full Review
Available in two resolution formats, WQHD and 4K, the ASUS Designo MX27 is one promising piece of gear every professional ought to consider when buying a new monitor. Its sleek design, with a frameless format and a well-crafted bezel can convince the most demanding users thanks to a modern appearance; though such advancements and design decisions also inflict a damage in performance usage as this unit can only be tilt forwards and backwards, as there’s no height adjustment.

We count with a 100% sRGB colour reproduction, all of it paired with a 178-degree viewing angle and promising features such as VividPixel for incredible sharp images.

About its connectivity performance we can find one DisplayPort connector, three HDMI ports with MHL support for mobile devices. Though we won’t find features like USB ports or card readers in this unit, we can be thankful for a curious app called QuickFit, which using the monitor’s display provides a digital grid with most common paper sizes for resizing your images when needed, not to mention high-end speakers make this product irresistible for its price.
BenQ SW2700PTGo to Amazon
An interesting piece of gear no doubt, but with a promising performance for professional photography work. Let’s meet the BenQ SW2700PT, a 27-inch monitor you won’t regret to acquire.
Overall rating:
63
Design:
0
50
100
Price:
0
74
100
Image Quality:
0
76
100
Features:
0
53
100
Pros
  • Accurate colour rendering
  • Variated image settings
  • Wide colour gamut
Cons
  • No HDMI 2.0 ports
  • No ECO modes
Click to read the full Review
Featuring a 27-inch WQHD display, this monitor does not work under IPS technology but on AHVA one, which doesn’t mean it cannot meet up with the standards of rich, accurate colours with pronounced details in wide viewing, quite the opposite. The 14-bit LUT allows a precise control in colour management, with hardware calibration on the very same device, though not as precise as dedicated monitor calibration hardware.

Undoubtedly, the shading hood this monitor features is one distinguishing value this product has, which helps to reduce potential glare under certain conditions, though it cannot be used when pivoting this device to its portrait mode. Talking about pivoting, this monitor allows 23.5 degrees of tilting range, plus 70-degree swivel.

About its connectivity, we can find one full-sized DisplayPort input, an HDMI 1.4 one, and a DVI dual-link input. Also, we can find one USB 3.0 upstream port, a mini-USB port for its On-Screen Display (OSD) Controller, two USB 3.0 downstream ports, an SD Card Reader – quite handy! – and the ever-known headphone jack.

10 Color Mode settings are available for this unit, plus three calibration settings for Color Temperature (5.000K, 6.500K and 9.300K). Hue and Saturation can be fine-tuned with sliders per each tint value, as well as black point adjustment. The colour rendering capabilities are perfectly aligned with the ideal CIE coordinates, which translates in excellent colour accuracy without needing any extra features.

Does this unit have a downside? Yes, and it’s linked to its power consumption rate, estimated in 43 watts, a bit higher in comparison with other industry competitors, not to mention the lack of ECO-saving modes.
ViewSonic VP2780-4KGo to Amazon
Having a 4K monitor is always a plus, but if we pair that with a moderate price for a 27-inch displays then we talk about irresistible gear to consider. This top-notch monitor by ViewSonic isn’t often valued for what it has to offer, but let’s open our mind to meet a powerful device.
Overall rating:
77
Design:
0
60
100
Price:
0
84
100
Image Quality:
0
93
100
Features:
0
70
100
Pros
  • Sharp 4K display
  • Interesting Features
  • Fool-proof color and grayscale performance
Cons
  • No advanced control settings
Click to read the full Review
Keeping the same layout as their usual products, this ViewSonic monitor is considerably lightweight for the size it bears, with a range of 120 degrees of swivel, 28 degrees of tilt and 90 degrees of pivot.

Thankfully it features a wide range of connectivity ports: two DisplayPort in both formats, one HDMI 2.0, two HDMI 1.4 ports compatible with MHL devices, five USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack. The bottom bezel showcases five touch-sensitive buttons to access the settings menu, plus turning the monitor ON/OFF. Please be warned that you need to be extra careful when handling them as they can become too sensitive over time and present erratic behaviour.

This monitor offers seven picture presets, ECO power-saving modes and five Gamma adjustment presets; although, we cannot alter parameters as 6-axis Hue or 6-axis saturation as we can do in other competitor products available in the market.

The colour rendering performance is acceptable, for most tints we can enjoy rich, saturated tones with an outstanding grayscale performance. Though not as impressive as NEC products, we can enjoy some unique features as a Blue Light Filter for reducing eyesight strain.
Dell UltraSharp U3415WGo to Amazon
Were you considering a curved ultra-sharp LED monitor to help you with your work? Now those thoughts can easily become a reality thanks to this high-end product courtesy of Dell.
Overall rating:
85
Design:
0
92
100
Price:
0
76
100
Image Quality:
0
80
100
Features:
0
91
100
Pros
  • Ultra-wide Format
  • Powerful Audio
  • Accurate Color Rendering
  • Extreme Sharpness
Cons
  • Expensive
Click to read the full Review
Curved monitors are still resisted by many users worldwide, though they prove to be the latest hype in what image quality refers.

Keeping up with a sharp, elegant aesthetic, the U3415W makes the dream of having a 34-inch monitor a less “bulky” experience, merging high industry standards in a valuable design solution.

The first thing we notice about this quality product is its delicate matte-black finish, with a silver stand mounting arm that allows up to 60 degrees of swivel and 26 degrees of tilting capabilities. Helping its curved format, this Dell unit is also paired with non-reflective, anti-glare coating, something that long shifter users will undoubtedly thank.

Connectivity for this device is something we should take for granted as it pairs two DisplayPort connectors, one mini-DisplayPort input, two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one MHL input for quickly charge devices like smartphones and tablets, six USB 3.0 ports and the audio outlets. Its powerful built-in speakers almost give us room to believe we do not need any extra speakers – unless, like me, you happen to be music-lovers.

Another interesting aspect to explore is the vast range of user settings organised in a user-friendly scheme to alter Brightness, Contrast and Gamma settings. Colours are rendered in high-quality values and, like it always happens with IPS panels, they have outstanding saturation and richness in what respect to its tones. You won’t find any complaints on what regards to its grayscale performance, with sharp values for covering the entire spectrum of values.

With a quick response feedback, ghosting is kept to minimum, though do not consider this unit as a multitasking device: all the units listed on this list aren’t meant for heavy videogaming sessions.
NEC MultiSync PA322UHDGo to Amazon
Reviewing up next this NEC MultiSync monitor unit, we can talk about the bright star of the PA series, a flagship for the company thanks to its outstanding quality in color management and grayscale performance.
Let’s meet this 32-inch device, ready to deliver extreme quality work.
Overall rating:
79
Design:
0
76
100
Price:
0
64
100
Image Quality:
0
87
100
Features:
0
89
100
Pros
  • Excellent color performance
  • Wide Viewing Angles
  • Long list of calibration settings
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Bulky
  • Hard to Handle
Click to read the full Review
Undoubtedly one big and bulky display to consider. Weighing over 15 kilos and measuring 32-inches, it also tends to impose with its overall depth in a matte-black cabinet format.

Like the other NEC model we reviewed before, this monitor also features an ambient light sensor paired with some option monitors for getting the best values on image brightness. Auto-rotate function handled by both software and the mounting hinge allow us to quickly change the conditions to meet a portrait orientation layout – visually appealing for studio work under certain circumstances.

Thanks to its built-in KVM switch, we can control two computers while using one keyboard and one mouse in the two upstream USB ports this unit features. Plus to that, we have four HDMI inputs, one DisplayPort input, two DVI inputs and two downstream USB 3.0 port, not to mention the headphone jack which is a must-have classic.

One of the most promising features this unit has is the advanced picture settings we can control. We can alter Hue, Saturation, Brightness for each tint, while also adjusting Gamma values in what regards to the grayscale brightness levels. The Picture Presets allow us to quickly change from sRGB mode to Adobe RGB, as it happens with most NEC units, but we can also experience other interesting modes worth checking.

Impressive no doubt, this kind of device is what we have in mind when we define the word “investment”, for which graphic industry professionals can value its broad range of settings for coming up with the best results we can imagine.

Selection Criteria

Color Gamut

– Monitors with a wide-gamut range allow you to visualize billions of colors, a must-have feature for a photographer, which takes vital importance when working with 14-bit or 16-bit RAW files to catch the subtlest details for your work.

Screen Size – On this regard, the biggest the better, though you ought to consider how many hours do you work with your pc and your ambiance for reducing eyesight strain.

Resolution – Once again, the highest the better; therefore, aim for monitors with certification for 2K or 4K resolution whenever it’s beneath your reach.

Connectivity – DisplayPort proves to be a standard as HDMI ports, but some devices may also feature Thunderbolt connectors, USB 3.0 ports or DVI.

Integrated Calibration Tools – As many users may not have or want to buy a dedicated monitor calibrator, here’s where these tools can pay their price in gold. Beware of the fact that they aren’t as precise as dedicated hardware, but they work for calibrating your monitor every month or when required.

Finish – Matte displays show more accurate calibration values than high-glossy ones which also help our perception of the real values of the hues we are working with. Moreover, you won’t be dealing with as many reflections as expected on an LCD or LED device.

FAQs

Which size should I get for professional work?

With monitors, anything above 23-inches is acceptable for professional quality work. By breaking the 23-inches barrier you will be getting higher resolution values plus also a comfortable workspace than what happens with 15.6″ laptops or similar, but do also consider your workspace area as units tend to be bulky.

Is it extremely necessary to tilt my monitor for work?

Not at all, it all depends on your personal comfort.

Is it important to count with matte-finish or anti-glare coating?

Yes, especially if your office area is constantly in presence of outdoor lighting or strong artificial light sources. By doing this, you are reducing eyesight strain.

Are 3D monitors worth the investment?

In my opinion no, and though I happen to work with 3D visualisation software, 3D displays aren’t a thing to consider unless you desire to expend extra money without a valid reason. They also tend to be more fragile and thicker than common monitors and, for most cases, require you to use 3D glasses to visualise what’s going on 3D space.

Are Computer Glasses worth the investment?

Undoubtedly yes, especially if you work for longer shifts as its anti-glare properties do wonders for our eyesight health. Please consider getting these glasses from respected brands such as the case of Gunnar.

SaveSave

23 Best and Cheapest SD Cards for Photographers

Updated 05/08/18!

One of the tools that we use the most, in our daily lives as photographers, which we certainly tend to take for granted are the memory cards. Why are they so important? Without them, it would be impossible to store the photographs we capture, given the fact that, in the best of cases, cameras have just 32 MB of internal memory… Which actually translates into 5 or 6 pictures, depending on the quality of the image.

There are certain parameters that we must take into account when choosing an SD card model:

a) Type: can be SD, micro SD, CF, M2 (Sony cameras; but the SD is mainly used as a universal format.)
b) Data transfer speed: Crucial for action pictures or shooting in burst mode
c) Price
d) Capacity: Namely, how many GB of storage we can count on.

Our Top 3 Picks

 
Samsung Pro Plusimg
  • Samsung Pro Plus
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 4K Video Capable
  • Price: See Here
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SanDisk Extreme Pro
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Large capacity
  • Price: See Here
img
Transcend SDHCimg
  • Transcend SDHC
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Built-in ECC
  • Price: See Here
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The main difference between a Micro SD card and an SD is the size for which they were designed, the first being only suitable for mobile devices such as Smartphones or similar small devices; however, many Micro SD cards actually come with SD card adapters.

trascend sd card

Data transfer speed affects two fundamental aspects: reading and writing data. While many fall under the premise that it is much better to have a high reading speed, the truth, which also applies for DVD recorders, is that the value that matters is writing speed, since it is the task that requires more resources to be used for both the camera and the process of developing your files to function properly. As a general trend, manufacturers tend to show the value of reading speed, whereas the value of the write speed will be something that you have to find out on the website of the manufacturer.
According to their reading speeds, SD cards were categorized into ‘Classes’

1) Class 2 – 2 MB/s
2) Class 4 – 4 MB/s
3) Class 6 – 6 MB/s
4) Class 8 – 8 MB/s
5) Class 10 – 10 MB/s

This classification applies only to simple models of SD cards, not being applicable to some SDHC/SDXC models, since they use a system known as UHS, which guarantees higher data transfer speeds, making them ideal for HD footage. (Rates of transfer in these cases are 10 MB/s or 30 MB/s)

sd-1138076_1280

As minimum capacity, we should now consider that 16 GB is the minimum that a photographer should use to start working. Smaller capacity cards will tend to create more work and take more time spent on changing cards, especially if we work in RAW format; still recommended to utilize cards with a minimum capacity of 32 GB, if we jump to Full Frame. In my personal case, when I travel, I usually pack several SDHC class 10 cards, each with a capacity of 32 GB stored comfortably in my SD card holder.

After exposing the main elements of which to consider, let’s take a look at the very best 21 SD card models that are available in 2018!

SD vs. SDHC vs. SDXC

This well-known system rating is the way in which the market defines the storage capacity in GB of each memory card.
SD (Secure Digital) cards are the oldest, discarded by the current market but still worth to be mentioned to understand the denomination of these current models. These cards were limited to just 2GB of storage data.

By the year 2006 SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards came into the market, lifting that restriction to now 32GB of storage data.

The first SDXC card was introduced in 2009. Going now from 32GB to 2TB, they are the current go-to option for any professional photographer and, mostly, videographers who want to work in 4K video.

Best 21 SD card models

 

Samsung Pro PlusGo to Amazon
For demanding photographers, nothing like a memory card able to accompany them on any adventure! A unique model from Samsung, listed as the best on the market (UHS Grade 3, Class 10 Card). With its 64 or 128 GB capacity, you can store thousands of photographs without needing to worry about when to download them to your PC.
Overall rating:
87
Pricey:
0
60
100
Speed:
0
100
100
Performance:
0
100
100
Pros
  • Reading Speed
  • Brand's popularity
  • Storage capacity
  • 4K Video Capable
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Pricey
Click to read the full Review
Samsung Pro Plus is one of the top rated microSD cards designed for high end mobile and digital imaging devices. The Pro Plus MicroSD card offers high standard performance as an upgrade of the previous products released by the Samsung company. The Pro Plus microSD card from Samsung is also available at a great price, something that gives value for money especially when you consider the features and specs.

The Samsung Pro Plus is suitable for power users and photographers especially if you are the kind that likes engaging in massive photography and seeking to keep great memories. The Pro Plus MicroSD also helps store 4K UHD videos recorded from smartphones, high-end DSLRs, modern action cameras and tablets.
It is able to support videos filmed in 4 K - is actually optimized for such tasks - with a 90 MB/Sec write transfer rate

The card also incorporates durable technology which protects it from magnet, water, shock, high temperatures and X-rays. This helps guarantee that your images and videos are safe always. Among its most outstanding aspects we can highlight is its ability to resist up to 3 days submerged under water, something which can be very beneficial for landscape photographers. Its tolerated temperatures range from - 25° C to 85° C

Verdict

Despite the price, the Samsung Pro Plus MicroSD is a great investment especially if you are a heavy photographer seeking for impressive storage, read and write speed. Its performance is well-matched for the price.

SanDisk Extreme ProGo to Amazon
If you are looking for an SD card with a crazy amount of memory capacity (and you are actually willing to pay the price) then SanDisk is your brand! Able to offer a 512 GB SD Card for the "small" fee of $345, undoubtedly, it is one of the few cards on the market, by its performance, capable of competing with the Samsung Pro Plus.
Overall rating:
84
Price:
0
60
100
Speed:
0
98
100
Performance:
0
95
100
Pros
  • Capacity
  • Speed
Cons
  • Price
Click to read the full Review
SanDisk Extreme Pro is one of the bar setting SD disks in the market today. It is an ideal SD Disk if you are looking for superb memory capacity and extremely high speed. The card isn’t called Extreme Pro for nothing considering that you can enjoy faster transfer speeds in the region of 275MB/s. This means that your videos will be easier to transfer not mentioning that the available USB 3.0 reader makes your transfers even more convenient. With the SanDisk Extreme Pro, even the huge files such as 4K UHD videos become an easy task.

Extremely fast transfer speeds

With its 95 MB/s reading speed, it's faster than many cards on the market, however, the behavior of such speed will depend mainly on the camera which is being used. As a quick example: with a Nikon D500 the value was 84.3 MB/s, but while using a Nikon D3100, that value decreased to 52.9 MB/s (on tested cameras).

Full video capture

While the huge 512 GB capacity may be tempting, it is not something that, in a cost-benefit evaluation, would end up being worthwhile if we are just photographers. The case would be much different if the reality of our work required us to film in 4K, but as photographers it is more cost convenient to have several smaller SD cards than to take the risk with a higher capacity card which may be prone to failure in the same proportion of their storage capacity.

Conclusion

Despite being expensive, the SanDisk Extreme Pro guarantees great value for your money. It is an ideal investment if you are into serious photographing and will always help ensure that your videos and images are safe and easy to transfer when necessary.

Transcend SDHC Write 60Go to Amazon
A good choice for those photographers "on Budget", I have tested several models of Transcend and my experience has not been bad with cards up to 32 GB. It's one of the "traditional" brands used by many photographers due to its reliability.
Overall rating:
84
Price:
0
100
100
Speed:
0
70
100
Performance:
0
82
100
Pros
  • Built-in Error Correcting Code (ECC) to detect and correct transfer errors
  • Supports Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM)
  • Price
Cons
  • Write Speed
Click to read the full Review
The Transcend SDHC Write 60 UHS-1 SDXC Memory card has 64GB capacity and allows you to record 4kVideos thanks to its Class 3 Ultra High Speed support specifications coupled with a minimum of 30MB/S write speed. The 64BG card has a maximum 95MB/s data read speed thus making data transfer faster and more efficient. Additionally, it comes with improved data transfer rates and built-in ECC (Error Correction Code) thus making it possible for the card to detect and correct any transfer errors.

High data transfer speed

Data reading speed is high; However the write speed is situated in the average range with a value of 60 MB/s. You can find better performance in writing speed (but at also a much higher price) with the Transcend SDHC Write 180 (180 MB/s of writing data speed).

Improved camera response

It features an Error Correcting Code (ECC), as well as many RAM memories, as a way of preventing corruption of data with constant use.

Content Protection for Recordable Media works via a hardware-enforced encryption which prevents users from deleting, copying or moving content from the storage device - A pretty handy tool for protecting your work from those who want to credit it as their own, or even damage the work you have done.

Conclusion

The Transcend SDHC Write 60 is worth investment for any photographer seeking quality results in the field. Its fairly priced and has great features.

PNY Elite PerformanceGo to Amazon
One of my favorite brands, not only for its performance, but also for its reputation. For technology enthusiasts, PNY is synonymous of "elite" material, and it's not without reason that they assign that name the SD Card.
Overall rating:
99
Price:
0
100
100
Speed:
0
97
100
Performance:
0
100
100
Pros
  • Price
  • Capacity
  • Performance
Cons
  • None
Click to read the full Review
For a photographer looking for a good SD Card, PNY Elite Performance will count as a great option to consider. The 32GB SD card has read speed of up to 90MB/s but the write sped is a little bit lower than the company’s precious version. The Elite Performance UHS-I is shock proof, magnet proof, waterproof and temperature proof but this is common with many SD cards in the market today. But what might give buyers confidence of the card’s quality is the 5-year warranty and lifetime warranty offered by the manufacturer in Europe and the USA respectively.

Fast speed

The PNY Elite Performance promises to give you great speed if that is something you are interested in. the SDHC memory card has a blazing 90MB/s for write speed and is UHS-1 rated. It works great if you want to shoot continuously from a HD/3D and DSLR camcorder thus making it easy to capture your videos in more fps. Writing values run in the vicinity of 60 MB/s

Good capacity

The PNY Elite Performance SD Card has great capacity that allows you to store your data without any stress. You can store different types of data without worrying about space.

Models available are 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 and 512 GB, with its top price rated in $199 for the 512 GB model - Nearly half the price of SanDisk's model.

Conclusion

The SD card offers great value for the money you spend on it. It will make for a great companion in your photography and other storage needs.

SanDisk Extreme Plus[]Go to Amazon[]
[]
Another model from SanDisk, Although in this case a lower line of quality to the Extreme Pro, but with same problem as mentioned above: the price.
Overall rating:
66
Speed:
0
97
100
Price:
0
20
100
Performance:
0
80
100
Pros
  • Speed
  • Reliability
Cons
  • Capacity
  • Price
Click to read the full Review
For professional photographers who want to capture more action without being restricted of storage capacity, the SanDisk Extreme Plus 32GB microSDHC memory card is a good option to consider. The spacious SD card offers you the chance to record more of your 4k Ultra HD or Full HD ready videos using your camera or Android gadget with ease. This beautiful Extreme Plus from SanDisk is built to last longer even when subjected to tough environmental conditions.

Compatibility with multiple devices

The Extreme Plus is designed to work with different devices that have microSDHC slot. This means you are not limited in any way whenever out there taking your great shots. The SanDisk Extreme Plus also comes with an adapter for select SDHC/SD/SDXC devices.

32GB storage capacity

The 32GB storage capacity offered by the Extreme Plus microSDHC memory card means you can store a wide variety of data including videos and images.

UHS and Class 10 performance

The SD Card offers high performance full HD5 (1080p) and 3D video recording. This is great for different cameras including action cams especially because it also comes with a 95MB/sec transfer speed which makes transmission efficient.

Conclusion

The SanDisk Extreme Plus SD Card isn’t that bad if you are not interested in a lot of storage space. With other cards offering higher capacity, it might be elbowed down the line but this does not make it a bad choice. The brand is reliable.

Transcend Ultimate 633xGo to Amazon
A micro-SD card model that I would love to have in any action camera, drone or Smartphone, and whose sole drawback is in its maximum storage capacity of only 64 GB.
Overall rating:
92
Price:
0
95
100
Speed:
0
95
100
Performance:
0
87
100
Pros
  • Speed
  • Waterproof
  • Shock proof
  • Temperature proof
  • Static proof
Cons
  • Capacity
Click to read the full Review
Transcend Ultimate 633x is SD card designed to deliver UHS-I performance with a read and write speed of 95MB/s and 85MB/s respectively. The 64GB microSDXC card has a rating of U3 and therefore guarantees a continuous write speed of 30MB/s for 4k video recording.

Durability

The Transcend Ultimate 633x is durable as it is made using MLC NAND flash chips which are suitable for action cameras. Even in tough conditions, the flash chips are able to provide great endurance and consistent long-life. It also has an integrated Error Correction Code which is capable of detecting and correcting any transfer errors.

Compatibility

The Ultimate 633x memory card from Transcend is compatible with multiple devices including smartp[hones, car video recorders, digital cameras, tablets and digital recorders. You can use it to record your photos and high resolution videos.

The Transcend Ultimate 633x is capable of withstanding harsh conditions since it is waterproof, shock proof, temperature proof (between -25° to 85°C) , static proof and x-ray proof.

A version of this same card with a larger capacity of 256 GB would be the ideal complement for any drone that aims to have a greater degree of autonomy.

Conclusion

The Transcend Ultimate 633x is a good microSD card if you are looking for speed. However, there are other high capacity cards available and this slightly disadvantages it if you are looking for more storage space.

Toshiba ExceriaGo to Amazon
When I first saw this card could not believe the price that was looking at! A 64 GB card for just $19 was more than an opportunity to take advantage of.
Overall rating:
80
Price:
0
100
100
Speed:
0