10 Cheap Photography Accessories that will Make Your Life Easier

The post 10 Cheap Photography Accessories that will Make Your Life Easier appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Camera gear is notoriously expensive, but there are some cheap photography accessories out there. Here are 10 affordable gadgets that you should seriously consider adding to your camera bag, no matter what kind of photography you do. They can help make your photoshoots run smoother and your workflow more effective.

1. Camera cleaning supplies

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No matter how careful you are with your camera gear, it is bound to get dirty. Thus, it is essential to always have your camera and lens cleaning supplies on hand. Luckily, these items are pretty cheap, so there’s no excuse for not having them around. Here are a few cleaning tools in particular:

  • Lens cloth: microfiber cleaning cloths remove dust and smudges from filters and the front of your lens.
  • Rocket blower: also known as a bulb blower, use this rubber device to blow the dust off your camera sensor and the front of your lens. If using it on your camera sensor, be sure to point your camera downward so the dust will fall to the ground.
  • Lens pen: these have a similar function to lens cloths, but they are easier to keep clean and target problem areas.
  • Lens cleaning liquid: when a lens cloth or pen isn’t doing the trick, cleaning liquid will often give you the best results.

2. Rain sleeve

Even though many cameras and lenses are touted as weather-resistant, it’s still a good idea to carry rain gear with you. This is helpful not only for downpours but for shooting in other wet conditions such as riding on a boat or sitting in the first row at Sea World.

There are all kinds of rain cover options out there, including regular plastic shopping bags and Ziplock bags.

If you have a relatively small camera, a DIY home version might be just fine. But for those with larger cameras and lenses, it’s best to invest in dedicated camera rain sleeves, such as these made by OP/TECH. They are pretty cheap and reusable, and they have custom sizes to better fit your camera setup than what a regular plastic shopping bag can offer.

3. Foldable reflector

No matter what kind of photography you do, you should own a reflector. These flexible devices are great for adding a kiss of light to any scene. Reflectors come in many sizes and shapes.

The most versatile ones are 5-in-1, offering white, silver, gold, black, and translucent surfaces.

The latter surface is one that I use often to filter light and make it softer. This is where the LED flashlight can come into play if you filter its light via the translucent part of the reflector. Size-wise, reflectors can be pocket-sized, or human-sized. Get the size that makes the most sense to you or stock up on multiple ones.

4. Bubble leveler

Although many cameras have built-in digital levelers, sometimes it is easier to have a physical bubble leveler that you can always refer to. These cheap bubble levelers fit on the cold shoe mount of your camera and help you get a straight and level shot.

As an added bonus, you can also use these to level other items such as prints of your pictures when mounting them to a wall.

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5. Battery holder

Most photographers have several spare batteries for their cameras. But do you have a method for keeping your batteries organized? If not, you need a battery holder. Think Tank makes battery holders for different capacities, such as 4 spare batteries or 2. They even have one for AA batteries. When I use these battery holders, I put them in facing the same way and replace them upside down as they drain and need to be recharged. That way, I know not only where all of my batteries are, but which ones need to be charged.

Cheap camera accessories

6. Memory card wallet

Similar to battery holders, it’s also a good idea to have a memory card wallet.

When I first started out in photography, I was a staunch believer in having as few memory cards as possible so that I didn’t accidentally misplace them. While this might be an okay practice for some, the truth is that camera file sizes keep getting larger. That means you’ll likely need to carry more memory cards.

If you use more than one memory card, you should have a system for keeping them organized. That’s where a memory card wallet is helpful. Use them not only to keep track of your cards, but also to know which ones are empty, and which are full (i.e. by turning them upside down when full).

Cheap camera accessories

7. Silver Sharpie

Have you ever noticed that a lot of camera gear tends to be black in color? Everything from batteries and memory cards, to camera bodies and lenses, they all seem to be the same color. This can make it tricky for labeling them with your name or indicators to tell them apart. Enter the silver Sharpie.

This is one of those tools I never knew I needed until I started using it. The main thing I use it for is to write my name and a unique number on each of my memory cards. I have 13 of them, so I need a way to tell them apart. I do the same for my camera batteries, external hard drives, and all kinds of items.

8. LED flashlight

This is an item that is so small and easy to slip in your camera bag that you might as well carry one. Portable light sources have a variety of uses, namely helping you find gear in your camera bag in dark lighting scenarios. Flashlights can also help you make a creative image via light painting, or adding a bit of extra light to a scene, especially when paired with the next item on the list.

9. External battery pack

These last two items might be arguable in terms of their “cheapness,” but they have a relatively low investment price considering how long they can last. An external battery pack is especially helpful today since many modern cameras can be charged via USB input.

You can also juice up your cell phone on the go, which is probably very helpful for photography since there are many smartphone camera apps out there to help you take better photos.

I’m a fan of Anker battery packs, such as the Anker PowerCore 10000, which goes for about $30.00 USD. I’ve owned the previous version of this battery pack for over 5 years, and it is still going strong.

Cheap-photography-accessories

10. Joby Gorillapod

These flexible tripods have been around forever and they are still incredibly useful. Think of those awkward places where a regular tripod won’t quite fit, and the Gorillapod is your answer for anchoring your camera to grab those unique shots.

Admittedly, Gorillapods aren’t the cheapest accessories out there, but it does depend on which size you buy. Smaller Gorillapods (for smaller cameras) can go for under $30 USD, but the larger ones will go for upwards of $40 USD. This may seem cheap to you, or it may seem expensive.

Either way, know that these Gorillapods are built to last. I have one that is over 7 years old and it still holds up both my Canon DSLRs and Fujifilm mirrorless cameras just fine.

Cheap camera accessories

Over To You

There you have it – 10 (relatively) cheap camera accessories that all photographers should have.

Would you add any items to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

 

10-cheap-photography-accessories

 

The post 10 Cheap Photography Accessories that will Make Your Life Easier appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The Sony 100-400mm Lens Thoughts and Field Test

The post The Sony 100-400mm Lens Thoughts and Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens was announced in 2017 along with the Sony A9. Both the camera and lens were highly anticipated by many professional photographers because they offer features that were long lacking in the Sony E-mount lineup. In particular, this lens with its far-reaching focal length appeals to sports and wildlife photographers. But with a price tag of just $2,500, this lens is pretty accessible to amateur and hobby photographers as well. In this post, I’ll give an overview of specs for this lens plus my thoughts after using it to photograph birds.

Sony-100-400mm-lens-with-Sony-A7rIII

Lens Specs

The Sony 100-400mm lens is a variable aperture lens for Sony full-frame cameras. You can use it on Sony crop-sensor cameras, but its physical size might make it awkward to shoot with, especially if used on a tiny camera like the Sony a6000. There is optical image stabilization (OIS) that provides a degree of stability when shooting handheld photos and videos with this lens.

Size-wise, it has a diameter of 3.7 inches and a length of 8.07 inches. The lens weighs approximately 49.2 ounces or 1395 grams. If those numbers don’t mean much to you, the 100-400mm is a very similar size and weight to the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8. Some might consider this lens to be big and bulky, but for the focal range, I think its size is reasonable and comparable to similar lenses made by other manufacturers.

One thing is for sure: you’ll get the best quality if you use a monopod with this lens.

In terms of physical buttons, there are two that are particularly helpful. One button is a focus range limiter that restricts the range of distances the camera will attempt to lock focus on. This boosts the speed of focus as well as focus accuracy, preventing focus hunting. The other feature is the ability to adjust zoom smoothness to prevent the lens from sliding out when carried.

Sony 100-400mm Lens

Best uses

With a variable aperture of f/4.5-5.6, this isn’t a particularly fast lens, so it is best used in ample lighting conditions. Think broad daylight scenarios such as sports, nature, and wildlife. Portraiture may even work well with this lens, although most swear by the 70-200mm f/2.8 for people shots.

For the field test, I paired the 100-400mm with the Sony A7rIII. Using a camera with more resolution (42.4 megapixels) is especially beneficial as the extra megapixels allow you to crop in. You can also take advantage of shooting in APS-C mode on the camera, which effectively doubles your focal range. The A7RIII can also shoot at up to 10 frames per second, and has the newly added animal eye autofocus tracking, making this camera very ideal for wildlife photography. Both the camera and lens have weather sealing. However, I did not test this feature on this shoot.

Sony-100-400mm-lens-with-Sony-A7rIII

Size comparison of the Sony 100-400mm to the Fujifilm 100-400mm.

Lens alternatives

If you plan to shoot in low lighting, the Sony 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 lens will be more appropriate. However, those lenses are $5,800 and $12,000 respectively, so you’ll need deep pockets. Considering these prices, $2,500 for the 100-400mm is quite reasonable. You may even want to consider the newly announced 200mm-600mm f/5.6-6.3 lens, which is just $2,000, but considerably larger in size.

So how was it?

I took the 100-400mm on a weekend trip to go birding in Eastern Washington.

Birds were aplenty, and this lens excelled at shooting them in daylight conditions at every focal length. Its size and weight made it possible to shoot handheld. But for extended periods of time and for optimal performance, it was best used when mounted on a monopod.

Performance-wise, autofocus was fast and accurate. Animal eye autofocus (new to the Sony A7RIII and several other camera bodies) was hit or miss for birds, but I’ve heard that it currently works best on dogs and cats.

Would I buy this lens?

If I was an avid wildlife and birding photographer, I absolutely would. The price of $2,500 is more than reasonable for a lens with this focal range. Although, third-party lens makers such as Sigma and Tamron are producing some stellar pieces of glass lately and I would love to see them make a version of this lens for Sony E-mount.

Sample images

Image: 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

Sony 100-400mm on Sony a7riii

1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

Sony-100-400mm-lens-on-Sony a7riii

1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

Image: 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 800 at 139mm (in 35mm: 208mm)

1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 800 at 139mm (in 35mm: 208mm)

Image: 1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 500 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 500 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

Sony 100-400mm on Sony a7riii

1/2500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 at 100mm

Have you used this lens? If so, what are your thoughts? Please share with us in the comments below.

 

Sony-100-400mm-Lens-review

The post The Sony 100-400mm Lens Thoughts and Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Don’t Lose Your Photos – How to Store Photos While Traveling

The post Don’t Lose Your Photos – How to Store Photos While Traveling appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Travel photography is one of the most fun and rewarding things to do while away from home. But whether you’re a hobbyist or pro, it’s important to have a solid backup plan for your photos. After all, it’s all fun and games until someone loses a memory card; or has a camera stolen; or accidentally formats a card. Catch my drift? There are countless ways to lose your images while traveling. In some cases, there’s a chance for data recovery, and in other cases, it’s pretty much hopeless. So it’s best to plan ahead for the worst case scenario with a backup plan.

How to store photos - travel photography workflow backup

Having just returned from several international trips that involved both travel photography and videography, I have a workflow that has kept my data safe. In this post, I’ll share how to store photos with my travel photography workflow.

It’s worth noting that I was traveling for a paid job that lasted three weeks, and I used four different cameras, so my workflow may seem like overkill to some.

However, consider this: there are a plethora of camera devices out there, such as drones, smartphones, mirrorless cameras, and waterproof point-and-shoots. Thus, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that some of you might also travel with multiple recording devices, even if just for a vacation.

What I bring with me

Memory cards

You can never have too many memory cards. Some photographers advocate for bringing one memory card for each day that you are traveling, but that can be tough if you’re away for more than 2 weeks. My rule of thumb, especially if I’m recording 4K video, is to bring enough cards to fill my memory card wallet. In my case, I use a Pelican 0915 case that holds a total of 12 SD cards, so I bring 12. When one card is filled, I have the label facing inwards so I know not to use it. If I can help it, I never format or delete a memory card when I’m on the road. Thus, my memory cards are one layer of data protection.

Two portable hard drives

I also bring at least two portable hard drives with me. One is a 1TB Samsung SSD hard drive, which I consider my secondary backup. It’s a bit pricey as far as hard drives go, but considering that it is a compact SSD hard drive, it is fantastic for doing photo and video editing on. I also bring a 4TB LaCie rugged hard drive. Its high capacity storage means I should never run out of space while on a trip. Also, in the case of both the SSD and rugged drives, they can take a bit of a beating, which is also important for travel. Don’t skimp on quality and bring a non-rugged hard drive with you. All it takes is a light blow to destroy them.

how to store photos - backup drives

Laptop computer

Try as I may, I can’t find a viable travel photography workflow that doesn’t involve bringing a laptop computer, especially if I’m shooting for a client. It’s too important to be able to carefully review all of my work each night and sometimes churn out quick edits on the go. However, if you’re dealing with smaller files or simply lower volumes of media, an iPad could work for you, as long as you can connect your hard drives and memory cards.

Why multiple hard drives?

The thing about hard drives is that they will inevitably crash on you. Sometimes, it’s for an obvious reason (ie. dropping it), and other times it will happen for seemingly no reason at all. Plus, there’s also the danger of losing a hard drive or having it stolen from you. Thus, you want to have at least two hard drives, each with a copy of your photos and videos on it. When traveling, put the hard drives in different bags. That way, you’ll still have a copy if a bag goes missing.

how to store photos - travel photography workflow

My travel photography backup workflow

Before shooting

I almost always use multiple cameras these days including my primary Fujifilm X-T3, DJI Osmo Pocket, GoPro Hero 7 Black, and Samsung Galaxy S10. All four of these devices are capable of capturing high-resolution photos and videos, which is both a blessing and a curse. They all take the same type of memory card (SD card, or microSD with SD card adapter), so the first thing I do is label each memory card with a silver sharpie. I write my last name and a number so I can tell each memory card apart.

I also go into each camera device and make sure the date and time are accurate and synced across all devices. This is especially important if you are on a long trip and are shooting with multiple cameras. If my camera allows for it, I also customize the folder name where the media is recorded to. This helps for distinguishing what media comes from which camera at the end of the day.

how to store photos - travel photography workflow backup

After shooting

At the end of each day, I sit down with my laptop and review the day’s media from each camera. I create folders on both hard drives and name the folders based on the date of the shoot, what camera the media is coming from, and how many total items there are (ie. 30 May_Fujifilm XT3_130 Items). Folder name structure is again very important if you’re shooting with multiple cameras on multiple days. It helps you keep your media organized and easy to find.

Going over this process is helpful not only for feeling more inspired to keep shooting, but also to ensure that my gear is clean and working properly. You can only see so much detail from a camera’s LCD preview screen. I make sure that if one memory card is full, I place it label facing down in my memory card wallet so I don’t delete it.

travel photography workflow backup

What about cloud backups?

I know some of you will wonder about backing up your photos to a cloud service, and this is certainly a possibility. However, this is highly dependent on two things: 1) what format are you shooting in and how large your files are, and 2) how fast is your Internet upload speed? Personally, cloud backups are not reliable for me mainly because I shoot RAW photos and 4K video. Each is too large to upload to the cloud unless I happen to have ultra-fast Internet speed. However, in a perfect world (i.e., my Gigabit Internet that I have at home), I do cloud backups of my photos and videos on both Google Photos and SmugMug.

In Conclusion

The key to the best photography workflow is to have one in place and do what works for you. Mine is based on my particular needs and shooting style, but it doesn’t have to be what you choose. What’s most important is to recognize that things do go wrong and it’s incredibly easy to lose your photos or videos.

So make sure you have a backup plan in place both on the road and when at home.

What does your photography workflow look like? Let me know in the comments below!

 

how to store photos while traveling

The post Don’t Lose Your Photos – How to Store Photos While Traveling appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

6 Ways to Save Money on Camera Gear

The post 6 Ways to Save Money on Camera Gear appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

It’s no secret that camera gear is expensive, but there are several very easy ways to save money on gear. So before you buy your next camera body or lens, read up on these money-saving tips.

save money camera gear

1. Look for discounts or deals

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but always be on the lookout for sales or discounts. Follow photography blogs or websites such as Canon Rumors or Nikon Rumors (or whichever Rumors sites corresponds to your camera brand of choice). They will often alert you of upcoming deals on camera gear and accessories. Another tip is to wait for holidays such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. These are holidays that almost always result in massive gear discounts.

2. Study camera product cycles and buy just before or after a new release.

Most camera manufacturers have a fairly regular product release cycle. For example, the Fujifilm X-T series releases every 2 years, the Canon 5D series every 4 years, and GoPro Hero every year. Purchasing a camera right after release to the public won’t save you money. However, you could look at buying the previous model since there are likely to be many camera owners selling theirs, or camera stores looking to empty their stock.

Depending on how well a new camera sells, you could wait six months to a year after its release and start to see deals come up. Not only will the camera price likely drop, but camera stores are also likely to add product bundles that throw in extra goodies such as Adobe Photoshop subscriptions, memory cards, camera bags, and more.

save money camera gear

3. Consider third-party options

This tip applies mostly to camera lenses and accessories since there aren’t many “third-party” camera body brands out there. For a long time, third-party lens options were looked down upon as inferior products. However, companies such as Sigma and Tamron have really upped their game and are producing high-quality lenses that are starting to rival the price and quality of those made by original camera companies. So the next time you’re looking for a new piece of glass for your camera, definitely consider any third-party options out there to save some money.

4. Buy used or refurbished

Cameras and lenses are made to last. As long as they have been cared for, they hold their value and can sell easily.

If you’re on the market for camera gear, definitely consider buying a used or refurbished product. This process can seem intimidating, and there are several ways to go about it with varying degrees of risk.

One option is to buy locally via an online marketplace such as Facebook or Craigslist. This is the riskiest option since you will have to evaluate the product in person and there’s often little chance of a refund if the product is defective. However, this method also gives you the most wiggle room for negotiating a lower price.

save money camera gear

Another way to buy used or refurbished is to do so via an official online store. Nearly all major online camera stores such as B&H Photo, Adorama, and Amazon have a Used section with discounted gear. There are also websites such as Keh.com that specialize in only buying and selling used gear.

The benefit of using a site like this is security. In most cases, your purchase is covered by the store, and you have some reassurance in terms of returning the item in case of a defect. However, there’s no room for negotiation, so the price you see is what you’ll have to pay.

5. Rent gear

Before you buy your next piece of camera gear, ask yourself, “do I really need to own that?”

If the answer is no, it could be more worth your while to rent the gear temporarily.

This is especially true for specialty lenses such as super telephoto zooms that retail for upwards of $10,000 to own.

Look around for your local camera store and see if they offer gear rental services. Or there is also Borrow Lenses, a website that specializes in renting out camera gear in addition to selling used gear.

save money camera gear

6. Use credit card rewards

If you’re diligent about paying off your credit card each month, consider getting a credit card with a good rewards system. There are camera-specific credit cards such as B&H’s Payboo that reimburses you for sales tax. Or there are more general credit cards that allow you to get points or money back on a wider variety of purchases.

Personally, I’m a fan of the Amazon Prime Store card that gives you 5% back on all purchases, plus the option to finance big purchases (ie. cameras!).

Either way, do your research to find a card that suits you and be sure to pay it off, otherwise, it’s no longer a money-saver.

Over to You

There you have it! Six ways to save some money on camera gear and accessories. Do you have any tips to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

 

6 ways to save money on camera gear

The post 6 Ways to Save Money on Camera Gear appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Food Photography – When to Use Natural Light (and When Not To)

The post Food Photography – When to Use Natural Light (and When Not To) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Food photographers, professionals and amateurs alike, know that natural lighting is among the best tools to take drool-worthy photos. However, there’s a time and a place to use natural lighting, and times when you won’t want to. In this article, we’ll discuss what natural lighting is and how it affects your photos – for better or for worse.

What is natural lighting?

Simply put, natural lighting is light produced by the sun. Another related term is ambient light, which refers to the available light in an environment. Ambient light could also be considered natural light if the photographer’s equipment is not producing it. In most parts of the world, natural light is abundant and can be used at no charge. This is one of many reasons why it is preferred by many photographers.

Two types of natural lighting

Generally speaking, there are two different kinds of natural lighting that you might want to utilize for photography. If you plan to utilize natural light for photography, it’s wise to learn about the different patterns of sunlight. Depending on where you live, you might have more of one than the other. You may have to adjust your style accordingly.

Direct light

Natural light - direct light

Direct sunlight that results in a look with harsher shadows.

A cloudless environment with full sunlight in the middle of the day produces direct light. This light is very intense, resulting in high contrast and very sharp shadows. The color of the light will vary depending on the time of day. In midday, it will be a neutral white color and a warmer tone of gold in the late afternoon. Depending on your photography style, you may prefer direct light if you wish to emphasize dramatic shadows and high contrast.

Diffused light

In a cloudy or overcast environment, natural light will appear diffused. This results in a soft, low contrast look with little to no shadows. Most photographers tend to prefer this lighting as you can make just about anything look good with it. If you have lots of direct light, you can also turn it into diffused light by using something like a shoot-through reflector.

Natural light_Food Photography 01

Natural sunlight that has been softened with a diffuser.

What about artificial lighting?

The opposite of natural lighting, artificial lighting is produced by gear such as speed lights or strobes. If the idea of flash photography intimidates you, consider this. Most forms of artificial lighting strive to recreate natural lighting. For example, a bare flash with no diffuser is akin to direct light, while a flash with a softbox results in diffused light. Even if you plan to use artificial light, it helps to understand natural light and how it affects your creative style.

Natural light_Food Photography 01

Natural light or artificial light? This is natural…

Natural light_Food Photography 01

…this is artificial light. It adds some dimension to the background but isn’t drastically different than the naturally lit image.

When to use natural light for food photography

Before determining what kind of lighting to use, consider your intended creative output. Do you want food photos with punchy colors and clearly defined shadows? If so, you want direct light and a cloudless, full-sun day is what you want. But if you want soft, diffused light for an evenly lit photo, a cloudy day will suit you best (or a sunny day with a reflector).

After you figure out your preferred creative style, take a look a the weather. You may have to plan your photo shoot around weather patterns if you want a particular quality of natural light. Alternatively, you’ll have to bring extra gear with you to compensate for it.

Natural light_Food Photography 01

Food photographed in natural light during the daytime, when the light is neutral in color.

When you may not want to use natural light

There are two times of the day when natural lighting may not be your best friend. Those are the blue hour and golden hours of the day. These times of day are cherished by landscape photographers as they provide the most dramatic lighting in the sky. However, this may not be ideal for food photography. That’s because both blue and golden hours emit different colored light. A dish shot at blue hour may have more blue tinges to it, while the golden hour will cast it in a warmer tone. Some of this can be fixed in post-production, but most food photographers prefer shooting with neutral daylight so that the food retains its natural color.

Natural light_Food Photography 01

Food photographed in natural light during blue hour, just after sunset. Natural light at this time of day distorts colors all around. Great for landscapes, not for food.

In Conclusion

Generally speaking, using natural light is the simplest solution for photographers. It’s rather straightforward to use natural lighting, although adding tools to your kit such as reflectors and diffusers will help you take it to the next level. Also helpful is a general knowledge of lighting patterns throughout the day so that you don’t end up planning a natural light shoot during golden or blue hours (unless you want that colored light!).

What do you think? Are you a natural light photographer, or do you prefer artificial light? Let me know in the comments below!

Food Photography Light

The post Food Photography – When to Use Natural Light (and When Not To) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

5 Camera Accessories You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap

The post 5 Camera Accessories You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

With each passing year, it seems that camera gear and accessories get progressively cheaper. Third-party brands now offer everything from lenses and flashes to batteries and tripods. This gear is typically priced at a fraction of the price of name brand manufacturers and the quality is often on par. Photographers have often said that “you get what you pay for” when it comes to camera gear, implying that cheaper goods offer less quality. But is that still true today?

In this article, I’ll highlight 5 camera accessories you shouldn’t buy cheap and should consider paying full price for. This isn’t to say that there aren’t cheap, third-party brands offering solid quality for less. But these are items that you’ll want to research extra hard to make sure you’re buying the best product for your camera.

Camera Strap

1. Camera strap

All cameras come with a stock camera strap that you can use to secure your camera on your shoulder. However, the quality and long-term durability of these camera straps are often questionable. Thus, it’s becoming more commonplace for photographers to purchase their own camera straps. Peak Design and Black Rapid are two popular brands offering sturdy and stylish camera straps. These straps are on the pricey side with the Peak Design Slide coming in at $64.95 and the Black Rapid Breathe at $68.99. Each strap also attaches to your camera differently, but their main benefit is being able to detach on demand if you need to remove the strap (ie. for use on a tripod or gimbal).

Are there cheaper camera strap alternatives? Certainly. But consider the fact that you are trusting the camera strap to hold hundreds or thousands of dollars of equipment and be sure to buy a camera strap that you can trust.

Manfrotto tripod

2. Tripod

Along the lines of keeping your valuable camera gear safe, it’s also wise to invest a little extra into a high-quality tripod. I’ve spent years buying cheap, compact tripods for travel only to have them fail on me sooner than expected. As a result, I’ve amassed a pile of broken tripods. Last year, I finally took the plunge and bought a more expensive Manfrotto tripod. Solid and reliable, I now wonder why I didn’t just buy this tripod in the first place.

When purchasing a tripod, it’s also important to buy a quality tripod head. Ball heads are popular and are often the default tripod head that you’ll receive. However, they tend to loosen over time. Luckily, there are many other tripod heads out there that offer more stability and precise control over your camera movement. My personal favorite tripod head is the Manfrotto MH804-3W, which I now use for all of my architecture and real estate photo shoots.

Camera batteries

3. Camera batteries

When buying a new camera, it’s always important to budget for a few extra camera batteries. You’ll always want spares just in case, and authentic spare camera batteries are generally not cheap. For example, a spare Sony Z-battery for the A7III costs $78. Similarly, a spare Fujifilm battery is $65. Third-party brands such as Wasabi Power offer cheaper battery knock-offs, but there’s a risk in using these.

Battery knock-offs may or may not offer the same amount of power as the original batteries. I’ve used third-party batteries for certain cameras such as my Canon DSLRs and not seen any difference in their power. However, camera brands are getting smarter and will sometimes detect knock-off batteries. For instance, my Fujifilm X-T3 flashes a warning sign if Wasabi Power battery is inserted, and it definitely does not last as long as an authentic Fuji battery.

It’s also said that using third-party batteries can void your camera’s warranty. I’m not sure how the camera brand would know if you were using a knock-off battery, but it’s still something to look into.

Memory cards

High-megapixel cameras come at a price as they eat up storage on your memory cards and hard drives.

4. Memory cards

All of your photos and videos are recorded onto memory cards, so it is very important to select quality memory cards. SanDisk is one of the biggest and most reputable memory card makers. There are other brands such as Lexar and PNY that also make quality memory cards. But I’d be wary of buying memory cards made by any other brands. With that said, even the most reputable memory card brands tend to fail and malfunction, so also be sure to use multiple memory cards if your recording device offers multiple card slots.

Hard drives

5. Hard Drives

Related to memory cards, hard drives are also important for storing and backing up your photos and videos. If you’ve ever had a hard drive fail, you know the importance of choosing a quality hard drive and making sure you have a backup for your backup.

Similar to memory cards, even the most high-quality hard drives can fail, so the best brand names are up for debate. Western Digital and Seagate are generally good hard drive brands, even though I’ve experienced hard drive failures from them both.

Lately, I’ve had the best luck with Samsung SSD hard drives. I use a 1TB Samsung T5 as my main working hard drive and a 4TB LaCie Rugged Mini as my secondary backup. This combo is great for working on the road, as well as in the office.

Conclusion

There you have it – 5 camera accessories that you’ll want to consider splurging for because in some cases, you still get what you pay for. Are there cheaper, high-quality alternatives for these items? Certainly. But when it comes to these 5 items, take the extra time to read customer reviews and make sure you’re buying the best gear for your camera.

Would you add or remove any items from this list? Let me know in the comments below!

The post 5 Camera Accessories You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Which Crop Sensor Sony a6000 Series Camera Should You Buy?

The post Which Crop Sensor Sony a6000 Series Camera Should You Buy? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

If you’re on the market for a high-quality compact camera, you can’t go wrong with the Sony a6000 series. Ever since the original a6000 debuted, this camera has topped multiple best-seller lists and remains popular among enthusiasts and professionals alike. With the recent release of the Sony a6400, there are now four cameras in this series to choose from. This article will explain some key differences between all camera models with recommendations on which camera is best for you.

Sony a6000-Which Camera-01

History

Sony debuted its first high-end mirrorless camera in 2010. However, 2014 was the year that the Sony a6000 was introduced. This compact crop sensor mirrorless camera has been a hit among consumers and professionals alike. Over the last few years, Sony has released several updated versions of this camera that include features such as 4K video recording, IBIS (5-axis in-camera image stabilization), and better low light performance. Interestingly, Sony has not discontinued any previous models. So right now, as of early 2019, you can still buy any of these cameras brand new, directly from Sony.

What’s the same

Despite some key differences, these four generations of Sony crop-sensor mirrorless cameras have a lot in common. Namely, they have almost the exact same camera bodies. There are a few minor differences in size and weight, with the a6500 weighing the most at 16 ounces. All four cameras also come with a 3-inch LCD screen and a 1-centimeter OLED viewfinder. All cameras capture images of approximately 24-megapixels in size at 11 frames per second. Finally, battery life is also about the same, lasting about 300-350 shots.

Still photography differences

We start to see noticeable differences when looking at key photography specs such as:

ISO performance

With every new release, Sony ups the limit in terms of ISO range. The a6000 has the smallest range of ISO 100-25600, while the a6400’s high range ISO is the most at 102400. Both the a6300 and a6500 have the same ISO range of 100-51200.

Sony a6000-Which Camera-02

Sony a6300 shot at ISO 3200

Autofocus Points

Another key difference is in the number of autofocus points. The a6000 sits at the bottom of the pack with 179 phase-detection AF points and 25 contrast-detection AF points. Both the a6300 and a6500 have 425 phase-detection AF points with 169 contrast-detection AF points. Finally, the a6400 offers the best autofocus with 425 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points.

Silent Shooting

One of the biggest perks of shooting with mirrorless cameras is silent mode shooting that truly is silent. When enabled, silent shooting allows you to shoot stills in stealth mode without the telling snap of the shutter going off. It’s an ideal feature for shooting weddings or events that frown upon extraneous noise. Silent shooting is a feature lacking on the a6000. The a6300 and a6500 can shoot in silent mode at up to 3 frames per second (fps), while the a6400 is at 8 fps.

Video Features

Which camera should you buy?

Best for beginner photographers on a budget

If you’re a beginner photographer on a budget, the Sony a6000 is still a fantastic deal. For about $500 for the body-only or $600 with the kit lens included, you can get one of the most popular mirrorless cameras on the market. The main features you’ll be lacking are ultra fast and accurate autofocus, the very best low light photo performance, and key video features such as 4K video recording and in-body stabilization. However, you can still shoot up to 1080p video if you choose, and the still images are decently crisp. Bottom line: get this camera if you are a casual still photographer on a shoestring budget.

Sony a6000-Which Camera-02

Best for intermediate photographers or budding videographers

If you happen to have the extra budget, consider the Sony a6300 as the ideal intermediate camera of the bunch. There are many improvements for both photography and videography. This camera got a major sensor upgrade with faster and more accurate autofocus including 425 phase detection points. Low light photos and videos are also vastly improved.

Video features also got a major boost with the ability to record in 4K, or 120 fps for 4x slow motion at 1080p. The a6300 also allows for shooting in S-Log, a flat video profile that allows for easier color grading in post-production.

Finally, the a6300 also debuted with a more solid, magnesium alloy camera body as opposed to the a6000’s mostly plastic build.

Bottom line: there are big autofocus and low light performance enhancements to make this a much improved still photography camera. But the biggest reason to buy this camera over the a6000 is if you’re in need of modern video features.

Best for intermediate photographers or advanced videographers

A few months after the a6300 came out, Sony pulled a strange move and released yet another camera: the a6500. This camera is essentially the a6300, but with 3 key new features. First, they added 5-axis in-body camera stabilization. Also known as IBIS, this feature stabilizes the a6500 so you can shoot steady handheld video or low-light photos no matter what lens you are using. In contrast, the other a6000 cameras offer only 2-axis stabilization when using a stabilized lens. Unfortunately, battery life shrinks when IBIS is on.

The a6500 also adds a touch screen rear LCD and slightly faster in-camera image processing.

Bottom line: If you absolutely need IBIS for video or ultra-fast image processing for say sports photography, get this camera. But if you don’t need either of those features (and most hobbyists or beginning photographers won’t), save the extra cost and put it towards a lens instead.

Sony a6000-Which Camera-01

Best for Vloggers or pro videographers

This year, Sony pulled another strange move by releasing the a6400. It sits right in between the a6300 and a6500. This camera features a new image sensor and processor that work together to enhance autofocus performance and speed. There are also significant upgrades in video. The a6400 allows for high dynamic range capture, plus interval recording for time-lapse video. Also, Sony finally delivered a rear LCD screen that can flip up 180-degrees. This is ideal for vloggers or those who want to monitor footage while in front of the camera.

However, there are a couple of flaws with the a6400. First, the flip screen stands directly in the way of the hot-shoe mount. If you’re trying to use the flip screen with a light or microphone on the camera, forget it. Second, the a6400 omits 5-axis in-body camera stabilization (IBIS), offering only 2-axis stabilization if you use a stabilized lens.

Bottom line: The a6400 offers a new sensor, processor and other features. But these things are more important to professional photographers and videographers. Unless you need IBIS, a flip screen, or ultra fast camera performance, you’re better off with another camera in the a6000 line.

Sony a6000-Which Camera-04

No matter which camera you choose…

Remember that any of these cameras can be purchased used or sold if you decide to upgrade in the future. If you take care of your camera gear, these cameras retain their value and are fairly easy to sell.

The post Which Crop Sensor Sony a6000 Series Camera Should You Buy? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Thoughts and Field Test: DJI Osmo Pocket

The post Thoughts and Field Test: DJI Osmo Pocket appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

In December 2018, DJI released a revolutionary product: the Osmo Pocket.

DJI basically took the same camera sensor found in their popular Mavic Pro and Mavic Air drones and put it in the Osmo Pocket. The result is a tiny, pocket-sized camera that can capture high-quality 4K video and 12-megapixel still photos. Given the presence of the 3-axis gimbal, this camera is widely marketed as an ideal compact video camera. But how is it for still photography? Read on to learn more!

DJI Osmo Pocket

Video features

Standing at just about 4.8 inches (12.19 cm) tall and weighing 4 oz (113.4 g), the Osmo Pocket looks more like a toy than a camera. This makes it ultra stealthy. Despite its size, this camera comes packed with pro features. The tiny camera sits on a full 3-axis gimbal to give you stable video. You can shoot at up to 4K 60fps, remarkable for its 1/2.3-inch sensor. There are dual built-in microphones with noise canceling to capture high-quality audio.

The Osmo Pocket has many more video features including ActiveTrack to follow subjects, FaceTrack to automatically recognize faces, Slow Motion shooting, Timelapse and Motionlapse.

Photography features

Based on features alone, this is clearly a camera for those interested in shooting video. But there are notable features for still photography as well. The camera has a fixed lens of about 26mm (35mm format equivalent) and a fast f/2.0 aperture.

It also has panorama photo mode, which is brilliant on a camera with a built-in gimbal. When shooting a panorama, the camera automatically pans and shoots 4 images in sequence. This is much more accurate than precariously handholding your camera while panning or having to lug a tripod around. The only downside is that the camera won’t stitch the pan together automatically unless you shoot with a cell phone attached (more on this below).

DJI Osmo Pocket

Osmo Pocket LCD screen

A camera this tiny has its challenges, especially when it comes to seeing what you’re shooting. The built-in LCD screen is tiny and can be quite hard to see if you don’t have the best eyesight. I found it a challenge to not only compose my images but also to see if my shots were in focus. Luckily, DJI has a solution.

There’s a port next to the LCD to connect a smartphone via USB-C (or Lightning connector for iPhones). When using the free DJI Mimo app, a connected smartphone becomes an extension of the LCD screen.

This makes shooting with the Osmo Pocket an entirely different experience. It is much easier to compose your images and even unlock more photo and video features, such as stitching panoramas together automatically.

However, this makes the camera rig significantly bigger. It’s also much harder to shoot one-handed with a cell phone precariously attached to the Osmo Pocket via a USB-C connection.

Shooting with the Osmo Pocket

Using a camera this small is fun, but challenging. Its design is very different than cell phones or traditional cameras, so that can take some getting used to. When using the Osmo Pocket by itself, it is a one-handed device. There are just two buttons and a tiny touchscreen LCD that you swipe up and down to control the gimbal, and left and right to activate various features. Attaching the phone turns the Osmo Pocket into a two-handed camera, which can feel more ergonomic and natural.

When shooting with the smartphone, my instincts were to use the device as I would a smartphone camera. Instead, I had to use the DJI Mimo app, which has a very different interface than most smartphone apps. It also doesn’t let you zoom, and you instead have to physically move forward to zoom in.

Also, it was difficult to remember where my camera was. I usually shoot with my smartphone cameras on the left, and in this case, the Osmo Pocket camera is on the right since it is plugged into the phone’s USB-C port. This made composing images a challenge as I struggled to remember my main camera location.

DJI Osmo Pocket

Osmo Pocket photo quality

If you’ve shot photo or video with DJI drones, the photo quality that comes out of the Osmo Pocket is very similar. Colors are pretty natural, and the images are sharp (almost too sharp, depending on your taste). While the fixed lens is definitely not a macro, you can get reasonably close to your subject and capture photos with pretty good bokeh. Osmo Pocket is slow to focus (tap on the LCD to focus), which can be frustrating if you’re trying to shoot action.

Who’s this camera for?

Osmo Pocket isn’t aimed at a professional crowd, although it certainly could be used by a pro to capture B roll (supplemental footage). However, the size of this camera plus some of its limitations suggests that this is for casual camera users.

If you’re wanting to dabble in videography without investing in large and expensive camera stabilizers, the Osmo Pocket is a great option to consider. Keep in mind that it isn’t waterproof and definitely not a tough action camera like the GoPro; in fact, this camera is somewhat fragile given the loose nature of the gimbal.

DJI is slowly releasing accessories to add on to the Osmo Pocket such as 3.5mm external microphone adapter, mount, extension rod, and WiFi module. There are also polarizers and ND filters that you can get to mount to the front of the camera. These little accessories add to the cost of the already pricey camera and also point out some of the seemingly basic features that are missing from this camera.

Bottom line

If you want an ultra compact and stealthy camera for capturing smooth, high-quality video footage, the Osmo Pocket is a great option to consider. However, in most cases, this isn’t a do-all camera and is instead a supplemental device for capturing very specific footage.

Sample Photos

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

DJI Osmo Pocket

Video

The post Thoughts and Field Test: DJI Osmo Pocket appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

What’s the best vlogging camera for 2019? That’s a tough question to answer given the wide variety of cameras on the market. In this article, I’ll talk about traditional vlogging camera rigs. I’ll also introduce three non-traditional cameras that also serve as modern vlogging options. Which is the best for you? Read on for some ideas, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

best vlogging camera

Traditional vlogging cameras

Before we go any further, let’s define vlogging as a video blog. The traditional way to film a vlog is to point the camera at oneself, while also inserting B-roll (supplemental footage). Thus, most modern vloggers need a camera that allows them to film themselves, and also gather alternative shots.

Popular vloggers such as Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon use traditional vlogging tools: a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens and shotgun mic, all attached to a Gorilla Pod. This is a tried and true vlogging rig, but it can also be modernized or made simpler by switching out the camera. Mirrorless cameras such as the Panasonic GH5 and Sony a6400 offer a slightly smaller footprint while also giving you a flip screen to monitor yourself. Or you can opt for even smaller point and shoot cameras such as the ever-popular Canon G7X or Sony RX100.

Modern vlogging cameras

While the traditional vlogging cameras mentioned above are still ubiquitous among vloggers, there are newer, more modern cameras worth considering. Here are three fairly new cameras that might fit the role as best vlogging camera of 2019.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

Contender #1: GoPro Hero 7 Black

GoPros are traditionally known as action cameras. However, many people use GoPros for everyday usage, including vlogging. This actually makes a lot of sense given GoPro’s tiny footprint, and its wide-angle lens that is perfect for capturing the first-person perspective. The brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black also adds several new features that work in a vlogger’s favor.

HyperSmooth and Timewarp

First, HyperSmooth. GoPro claims gimbal-like stabilization when HyperSmooth is in use, and it’s hard to argue. When shooting in HyperSmooth, bumpy footage is nearly completely eliminated. This means you can walk, run, drive, or perform just about any movement and get buttery smooth video. You can also shoot at up to 4K 60 frames-per-second with HyperSmooth enabled. Second, Timewarp. This is basically a timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied, resulting in a stabilized moving timelapse. It’s perfect for shooting B-roll and transitional scenes for a vlog or video.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

Vastly Improved Sound

GoPros have always had atrocious sound quality. For a long time, this was due to the fact that GoPros had to be put into a plastic cage to become waterproof. All of this changed with the Hero 5, which was the first GoPro camera to be waterproof without the cage. The Hero 7 Black is also waterproof without a cage, and it adds much-improved sound. There are now 3 microphones dispersed throughout the camera, and they do a pretty good job at picking up voices. The Hero 7 Black is still without a built-in microphone jack, but if you really need one, GoPro sells a (rather ridiculous and expensive) mic jack adapter.

Contender #2: DJI Osmo Pocket

Brand new to the camera world is the DJI Osmo Pocket. Made by the same manufacturers of DJI drones, the Osmo Pocket employs nearly the same camera found on the Mavic Pro drone. The camera has just a 1/2.3-inch sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. It can shoot at up to 4K/60fps at 100 Mbps. It can even shoot 12-megapixel photos. Best of all, the camera comes mounted on a 3-axis gimbal so that you can record buttery smooth footage.

There are a host of other features worth mentioning about the Osmo Pocket. But two features in particular that relate to vlogging are FPV and Active Track. FPV allows you to quickly reorient the camera to face yourself, while Active Track is intelligent in-camera tracking. Both of these features are incredibly handy for vlogging. And just in case the Osmo Pocket screen is too small for you, you can also plug in your phone for a much bigger touchscreen interface.

best vlogging camera DJI Osmo Pocket

Two Downsides

There are two major downsides to the Osmo Pocket as they relate to vlogging. The first is that the built-in sound quality is bad. No matter what side of the camera you’re on, it doesn’t pick up voices very well, especially if you’re filming in a noisy area. Currently, there are also no adapters or ways to install a microphone to enhance the sound. The second downside is the Osmo Pocket’s fixed 24mm camera lens. While 24mm is great for taking more cinematic footage without distortion, it’s not the best focal length for vlogging. You have to hold your arm out pretty far to get yourself in the frame, and even further if you have a buddy.

Contender #3: Modern Smartphone

A third camera to consider using to vlog is any modern day smartphone. Phones today are jam-packed with impressive camera specs with both front and rear-facing cameras. Many phones such as flagship Apple and Samsung phones also have in-camera stabilization, and the ability to shoot 4K video. They also have superior built-in sound since they are still phones, after all. You can also purchase a few accessories to take your smartphone photography and videography a step further. Investing in a smartphone gimbal gives you added stability, while Moment lenses increase image sharpness and offer wider angles.

The only real downside to using your phone to vlog is that you can’t use your phone to do other tasks while filming. Smartphone videos can also take up tremendous space on your phone, eating into your storage.

best moment lens for smartphone review

In Conclusion

So what is the best vlogging camera? It comes down to your shooting preferences. Personally, I find myself oscillating between the GoPro Hero 7 Black and my Samsung Galaxy S8 with a fisheye Moment Lens. These two cameras are so compact and easy to take anywhere, and they have been great for spontaneous vlogging.

If you’re looking for the best vlogging camera in 2019 and beyond, the good news is that you have lots of options. You can opt for tried and true DSLR or point-and-shoot rigs. Or you can look at modern, super compact options such as the GoPro Hero 7 Black or DJI Osmo Pocket. Or you can use the camera you have on you – a modern-day smartphone – and buy a few extra accessories to make your phone a pretty awesome vlogging rig. The choice is yours!

 

You may also find this articles helpful:

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera

The post GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is hands down the best action camera on the market right now. With meaningful updates such as incredible stabilization, improved built-in sound, and better app integration, GoPro makes a compelling case for even its most loyal user base to upgrade to the latest model. If you’re on the market for an action camera, read on to find out 5 big reasons why the GoPro Hero 7 Black is the best one for you.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

Specs

GoPro released three new action cameras in September 2018: the Hero 7 Black, White, and Silver. The Hero 7 Black is their most premium model at US$399, with the other two being stripped down versions. GoPro’s mid-tier camera is the Hero 7 Silver. Priced at US$299, the Silver has most of the features of the Hero 7 Black minus Hypersmooth; it’s also capped at taking 10-megapixel photos compared to the Hero 7 Black’s 12 megapixels. GoPro’s new entry-level camera is the Hero 7 White. At US$199, you get the same 10-megapixel sensor as the Hero 7 Silver. Most features are retained except for the ability to shoot in 4K video.

Besides the price difference, the Hero 7 Black is also the only model to receive three new key features: HyperSmooth, live streaming, and TimeWarp video. More on all of these features below.

Look and feel

The Hero 7 Black retains the same rubberized design that was first introduced with the Hero 5 Black. Side-by-side, it looks almost identical to the Hero 6 Black. Both cameras have the same 2-inch touchscreen, button placement, and the same ports (USB-C and micro HDMI). They even use the same replaceable batteries.

Before you gripe about GoPro retaining the same camera design, consider this: reusing old designs means you can keep using the same GoPro accessories. This is key as GoPro, and many third-party manufacturers such as Joby have created some truly helpful accessories to get more use out of the camera. So if you have mounts, cages, or adapters for the Hero 5 or 6, rest assured that you can use them all with the Hero 7 Black as well.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

5 things I love about the GoPro Hero 7 Black

1. Hypersmooth

Hands down the best feature about the GoPro Hero 7 Black is Hypersmooth. GoPro claims it is the very best in-camera video stabilization on the market, adding gimbal-like stabilization to video footage. After profuse testing, it’s hard to argue. Shooting with Hypersmooth enabled does indeed produce ultra-smooth footage akin to what you would get if you used a gimbal. In turn, this seems to kill the GoPro Karma Grip gimbal as it seems the Hero 7 Black can record video just fine without it.

You can shoot in Hypersmooth even when shooting at 4K 60fps at full resolution. Just be mindful that Hypersmooth can’t be enabled when shooting in 4:3 aspect ratio, and also when shooting in Full HD at 240fps and 120fps.

2. TimeWarp

Also new on the Hero 7 Black is a feature called TimeWarp. In a nutshell, this is timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied. The resulting effect is being able to capture timelapse videos that are ultra stable. This is key for time-lapsing anything with movement, such as driving, hiking, walking, running, or biking. When using TimeWarp, you have the option to record at several different speeds including 2x, 5x, 10x, 15x, and 30x.

3. Same form factor as Hero 5 and 6

On the outside, GoPro made almost no change to the Hero 7. It looks exactly the same as the Hero 5 and 6, and even uses the same batteries. This is actually a good thing. If you’ve invested in GoPro cages or batteries before, you can reuse them with the Hero 7. Also, many third-party companies have created accessories for the Hero 5 and 6. You can use these just fine with the Hero 7.

One design change I’d love to see in future GoPros: a camera that comes with its own mount and doesn’t need to be put in a cage.

4. Touchscreen with revamped UI

While GoPros have had touchscreens for several models now, the user interface has been revamped in the Hero 7 Black. Key information such as resolution and framerate are condensed at the bottom of the screen, while battery life and remaining memory card space are in the upper portion of the screen. Portrait mode has also been added, allowing you to shoot vertical photos and videos for platforms such as Instagram Stories or IGTV.

Speaking of social media, the Hero 7 Black now allows for live streaming. Using WiFi or cellular service, you can conduct a 720p live stream on Facebook. At this time, live streaming to other platforms (ie. YouTube) isn’t yet enabled.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

5. Seamless smartphone integration

One of my biggest gripes about modern cameras is how terribly unreliable their smartphone integrations are. While most cameras offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for remote control via smartphones and easily transferring images, it’s always hit or miss whether or not these features will work. With the GoPro, connectivity is the most responsive and reliable I’ve ever seen on a camera. This makes it very easy to use your smartphone to control the GoPro and review photos and videos immediately after capture. Well done, GoPro.

5 things I dislike about the GoPro Hero 7 Black

For all of the things that GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, there is still room for improvement. Here are 5 features in particular that I would like to see refined and improved in future generations.

1. Unresponsive screen

While the Hero 7 Black’s touchscreen is largely improved, it has one major shortcoming: it’s not very responsive! This problem also extends to GoPro’s other two buttons. In general, it’s hit or miss whether the GoPro will react to buttons being pushed or the touchscreen being swiped. This can be very frustrating, especially when trying to shoot spontaneously.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

2. Voice commands are unreliable

Another feature that is hit or miss is voice control. New on the Hero 7 Black are two voice commands that can control the GoPro: “GoPro capture,” and “GoPro Stop capture.” While useful in theory, these voice controls seem to work about half of the time.

3. No mic jack

In the past, GoPro was notorious for having awful built-in microphones. All of that changed with the Hero 7 Black, which offers remarkably improved in-camera sound. However, there are still instances that require enhanced sound capture via a lavalier (lapel) microphone or shotgun mic. Unfortunately, GoPro has withheld the mic jack from the Hero 7 Black, opting instead to give us USB-C and micro HDMI ports. GoPro does offer a solution in the form of a mic jack adapter. However, it is bulky and expensive, and you must use GoPro’s adapter (other brands will not work).

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

4. Battery life

Of all the things GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, one thing that remains unchanged is battery life. It’s hard to give an estimated battery life as it depends on how you are using the camera. But in general, one battery lasts about an hour when shooting in 4K. Luckily, all three Hero 7 models come with a USB-C port to allow for charging via a wall socket or external battery. However, it is still a wise idea to carry several spare batteries with you.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

5. Low light performance

All three Hero 7 models have an f/2.8 aperture. This means they are decent at shooting in low light, but the video and photo quality still leaves room for improvement. In the case of the Hero 7 Black, it also seems that HyperSmooth is automatically disabled in low light conditions, further worsening the low light performance. In general, you’ll get the best photo and video performance out of your Hero 7 if you use it in daylight or good lighting conditions.

In Conclusion

Despite some shortcomings, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is easily the best action camera on the market right now. GoPro made significant and actually useful improvements on this camera and it is worth using not only for action scenarios but everyday use as well. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below!

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

 

You may also like these reviews from Suzi:

Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography

Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You?

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

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