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.

Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography

The post Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

It’s no secret that smartphone cameras are getting increasingly better with every new release. But did you know that you can enhance your smartphone photography even further with lenses? There are several smartphone lens manufacturers out there, but one of the most popular and premium choices out there comes from Moment. This Seattle-based company offers four lenses that can take your smartphone photography to the next level. I’ve long been curious about these lenses and was delighted to finally have a chance to try them out.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Specs

Currently, Moment has four smartphone lenses on hand: the Superfish (fisheye), Wide, Macro, and Tele Portrait. Each lens ranges in price from US$89.99 to US$99.99. The lenses are attached via a custom Moment smartphone Photo Case, so you’ll need one of them too. Presently, there are Photo Cases for Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, and iPhone. Each case varies in design and price depending on your smartphone brand, but they’re in the US$30 or less range. This test and all resulting images were done with a Samsung Galaxy S8.

Build quality

Physically, each lens varies in presentation, which helps tell them apart at a quick glance. All lenses are made of metal and glass and have some nice heft to them. They also come with rubber lens caps that protect the front element. While there are no end caps to protect the back elements, at least they are small and relatively easy to keep clean and protected if using the included velvet lens drawstring bags.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Attaching the lens to your Smartphone

Lenses attach to your phone via the bayonet-style mount on Moment’s custom phone cases. You simply match up the lens mount to the phone case and twist the lens to lock it into place. It’s relatively easy to do with no added tools required. However, the lens mount is so small that it can take some trial and error to get it mounted. Once locked in place, these lenses are solidly attached to your phone case and it would take significant force for them to accidentally fall off.

Wide lens

Moment’s wide lens is equivalent to 18mm, which is significantly wider than my Samsung Galaxy S8’s 26mm (35mm equivalent) focal length. It’s a rather large lens with a curved, fisheye-like lens. However, there are zero fisheye effects in the resulting images. In fact, there’s no distortion, vignetting, or blurring around the edges.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Superfish lens

This 170-degree Superfish lens offers the widest field of view out of all Moment lenses. It’s rather compact with a flat front-facing lens. However, the resulting image generally takes on a fisheye appearance.

Macro lens

Moment’s macro lens is arguably the best-designed lens of the bunch. It’s also the flattest and most compact lens. Offering 10x magnification, the Moment macro lens comes with a plastic diffuser hood. This hood is very important for helping you determine how close the lens needs to be to a subject (hint: it’s VERY close), but the hood can also be removed. Design-wise, I love how detailed this lens is, particularly on the front element of the lens.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Telephoto lens

While I didn’t get to test the Moment telephoto lens, here’s a brief overview. This 60mm equivalent lens offers roughly double the focal length of most smartphones. Best of all, this lens gives you a telephoto effect without having to use your smartphone camera’s digital zoom, which often degrades the quality of your images.

If you can only buy one lens…

These lenses aren’t cheap, so it makes sense to invest in one or two initially, and then build up your collection from there. Personally, I found the Macro lens to be the most fun. It offers a unique perspective on just about anything and can be great entertainment for all ages. I’d pick the Superfish lens as my next favorite as it also offers a fun and different way to capture your surroundings.

Moment lens accessories

Straight out of the box, each Moment lens comes with a velvet drawstring bag. It’s a thin lens case that is better than having no protection at all, but it doesn’t offer the best padding. As a result, I highly recommend investing in the Moment Lens Pouch. This pocket-sized zippered pouch is nicely padded and has enough room to store two Moment lenses. If you need a bigger carrying case, the Moment Travel Case is a larger version of the Lens Pouch with room for 4 Moment lenses and extra accessories.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Bottom line

If you’re on the hunt for premium lenses to extend the capability of your smartphone camera, Moment offers the very best. Not only do their lenses look and feel professional, but the resulting images are noticeably sharper. Sure, there are much cheaper smartphone lenses out there, but they often compromise on physical quality. You won’t find any compromises if you go with Moment. The only catch is that you have to use one of the high-end smartphones that Moment makes a phone case for.

Moment lens sample photo gallery

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Superfish Lens

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Superfish Lens

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Wide Angle Lens

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Wide Angle Lens

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Camera phone – before the next Macro lens shot.

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Macro Lens – Seashell

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Macro Lens – Coffee Beans

Moment Lens Sample Images_003

Moment Lens Macro Lens – Back of my hand.

Video

The post Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

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

The post Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Fujifilm was on a roll this year releasing a slew of gear including two very popular mirrorless cameras: the Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujifilm X-T3. Released a mere 7 months apart, these two cameras have amateurs and professionals alike wondering which is better suited for their needs.

Key Specs

Fujifilm X-H1 vs X-T3

Fujifilm X-T3

One of Fujifilm’s most popular cameras to date has been the X-T2, so it’s no surprise that many loyalists to the X-T line were awaiting the third generation. The Fujifilm X-T3 is the newest Fuji camera to date, using a brand new sensor and processor. As a result, it has quite a few advantages over all other Fujifilm cameras, including boosted battery life. It continues to enhance photography features with its larger sensor resolution (8% more pixels), 100 more focus points, faster continuous shooting (6 fps faster), and the inclusion of a flash sync port. Fujifilm also added a slew of video features such as 4K60p, higher bit rate (400mbps), and a headphone port. All in all, the X-T3 is made to entice today’s hybrid photo and video shooters.

  • Announced: September 2018
  • Fujifilm X-Mount
  • Comes in black or silver
  • 26MP – APS-C BSI-CMOS Sensor
  • No Anti-aliasing (AA) filter
  • ISO 160 – 12800
  • 3.2 Tilting Screen
  • 3690k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 20.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4096 x 2160 video resolution
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 539g. 133 x 93 x 59 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

Fujifilm X-H1 vs X-T3

Fujifilm X-H1

Brand new to the Fujifilm X-Series lineup is the X-H1. It is the first X-Series camera to have in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is essential for shooting more stable handheld video and lowlight photos. This is the main advantage that the X-H1 has over the X-T3.

  • Announced in February 2018
  • Fujifilm X-Mount
  • 24MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • No Anti-aliasing (AA) filter
  • ISO 200 – 12800
  • Sensor-shift Image Stabilization
  • 3 Tilting Screen
  • 3690k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 14.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4096 x 2160 video resolution
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 673g. 140 x 97 x 86 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

3 reasons to pick the X-H1 over the X-T3

1. Built-In Image Stabilization (IBIS)

As mentioned above, the X-H1 is the only Fujifilm camera to offer in-body stabilization. This means that even your lenses without Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) will be stabilized by the camera. With that said, if you use an OIS lens on the X-T3, you can still get a degree of stabilization even without IBIS.

2. Top LCD

The X-H1 physically resembles DSLRs in several ways, namely via its top LCD. This can be helpful for viewing and changing settings in the dark, and also for seeing your battery levels without turning the camera on.

Fujifilm X-H1 vs X-T3

3. Larger overall footprint.

Overall, the X-H1 is physically larger than the X-T3 and is closer in looks to the Fujifilm GFX camera line. The X-H1 is about 134 grams heavier and has a noticeably larger right-hand grip. While many people purchase mirrorless cameras with the idea of having a smaller, more compact camera, you may prefer the X-H1’s larger size if you have big hands or tend to use Fujifilm’s large red badge lenses.

4 reasons to pick the X-T3 over the X-H1

1. Enhanced Autofocus

Fujifilm made significant autofocus improvements to the X-T3, now offering 425 hybrid autofocus points. That’s 100 more autofocus points than both the X-T2 and the X-H1. Additionally, both face and eye detect have been enhanced and they are much more responsive and accurate on the X-T3 than on previous Fujifilm cameras. I will say, however, that Sony still leads the pack in terms of face and eye detect in particular.

Fujifilm X-H1 vs X-T3

2. Faster continuous shooting

The X-T3 also ups the ante in continuous shooting. Now able to shoot 11 frames-per-second (fps) with the mechanical shutter, 20 fps with the electronic shutter, and 30 fps in 1.25x crop mode with the electronic shutter. In comparison, the X-H1 also shoots 11 fps mechanical, but only 14 fps with electronic. If frames per second and continuous shooting are of importance to you, the X-T3 is your best bet.

3. Higher quality video settings

Despite the X-H1 being intended as Fujifilm’s video-oriented mirrorless camera, the X-T3 doesn’t skimp on video features. In fact, the X-T3 outperforms the X-H1 when it comes to bitrate (400mbps vs 200mbps), and its ability to shoot at 4K60p (compared to the X-H1’s 4K30p). Also, the X-T3 has a headphone jack to monitor audio–this is a feature you can only get on the X-H1 if you use the accompanying battery grip.

4. Lower price point

In addition to a new processor and sensor, the Fujifilm X-T3 also boasts a lower price point of $1499 versus $1899 for the camera body only. That’s a $400 difference that could be put towards a new lens or camera accessory.

Fujifilm X-H1 vs X-T3

Common ground – X-H1 and X-T3

Both the Fujifilm X-H1 and X-T3 have many features to make them viable competitors in today’s hot mirrorless camera market. Here’s what they have in common:

  • Wireless and Bluetooth connection
  • Smartphone camera control via an app
  • Articulating rear touchscreen LCD screens (but no selfie flip out screen)
  • Timelapse recording
  • 2 SD card slots
  • Ability to shoot in RAW and JPG (for stills) and f-log (for video)
  • Fujifilm’s famous film simulations, including the newest Eterna
  • Firmware updates that are actually helpful — Fujifilm is known for listening to its customer base and releasing significant firmware updates for cameras and lenses.

In Conclusion

As a newer camera with more photography and video features AND a lower price point, the Fujifilm X-T3 will probably be the camera of choice for most people. Even Fujifilm seems to have realized this as the X-H1 has dropped in price to be very competitive with the X-T3. However, if you’re a serious videographer who isn’t in a hurry to get a new camera, it is probably worth waiting to see what Fujifilm does with the next generation of the X-H1: the X-H2. Although nothing official about the X-H2 has been announced yet, Fujifilm is famous for taking customer feedback seriously and many Fuji enthusiasts believe the X-H2 will be the ultimate video camera. We’ll wait and see!

Video with sample images and footage

Most comparisons were done in video form, so please check out the video below to see X-H1 and X-T3 sample video and photos.

The post Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test

The post Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Lensbaby has always been a niche company, offering lenses that help photographers put a creative, untraditional spin on their images. This year, the Portland, Oregon based company released the Lensbaby Sol 45. At $200, this is their least expensive lens yet, making it an attractive way for photographers to enter the creative effects world of Lensbaby. We got to test out this new lens and found it to be great for unlocking new creative angles. Read on for more thoughts on the lens and our ultimate recommendation.

Lensbaby Sol 45

Lens specs

Design

Announced on August 7, the Lensbaby Sol 45 is a fixed 45mm f/3.5 lens with an unusual lens design. Relatively compact at just 5 ounces, this lens looks normal until you twist the front to unlock it. When in the unlocked position, this lens can bend in just about every direction. It does this via its “bokeh blades” that rest on the lens hinges. When unlocked, these blades can be moved around to alter the quality of bokeh or image blur.  The result is an image with textured bokeh and custom edge blurs that can’t be achieved with “normal” lenses. It’s a very specific creative look that may or may not appeal to you.

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Build

Despite being one of Lensbaby’s cheapest lens, Sol 45 feels very well built. The exterior is mostly metal and has a solid feel in your hands. Perhaps the only thing to note is that the lens’ moving parts could potentially get stuck or broken, so it’s important to keep the lens in a locked position.

Lensbaby Sol 45

Compatibility

The Lensbaby Sol 45 is a full-frame lens, but it can also work on crop-sensor cameras. Currently, the lens is available for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A and Sony E, Pentax K, and Fujifilm X mounts. For Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Sol 22 is available with an equivalent focal length of 45mm. For this article, Sol 45 was used with the full-frame Sony A7rIII.

Lensbaby Sol 45

The shooting experience

Besides its unusual design, Lensbaby Sol 45 is also a manual focus lens (as are all other Lensbaby products). This means that in addition to manually altering the bokeh blades, you also have to manually set your focus point. Depending on your subject, getting a tack sharp image can be challenging. If your camera has manual focus peaking, this can greatly help with correctly setting your focus, so take advantage of it!

Lensbaby Sol 45

Fun for closeup shots

The lens has a minimum focusing distance of about 1.1 feet. This means you can get pretty close to a photo subject and isolate it with a nice bokeh background. Even though most photographers likely use this lens for still photos, it also made for creative video shots.

Lensbaby Sol 45

Lots of moving parts

I used the Lensbaby Sol 45 on a Sony A7rIII. As someone who rarely uses manual focus, shooting with this lens took some getting used to. For one, it’s a process just to set the bokeh blades since you have a wide range of positions to lock them in. After setting the bokeh, you then have to tinker with the front element of the lens to set your focus point. With focus peaking enabled, it was a breeze to shoot with this lens. But if I didn’t have focus peaking, I could see this shooting experience getting frustrating very quickly. In general, this lens isn’t the best choice if you’re shooting a moving subject or need to capture your shot quickly.

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Should you get this lens?

The Lensbaby effect is a specific, very unique look that won’t suit every taste. It also shouldn’t necessarily be applied to every photo, so it’s very much a specialty lens. But what’s great about having a unique look is that it may appeal to you in surprising ways. Although it took a while to get used to handling the lens, I eventually found it to be a delight for viewing the world from a very different perspective. It became a novelty that unlocked a creative side of my brain that I hadn’t used before. Sometimes, this is what creatives need if they’re stuck in a rut or simply need a new form of inspiration.

Bottom line

If you’ve been curious about Lensbaby products, Sol 45 is a great lens to get started with. It has a low price point, and the lens itself is very compact and easy to travel with. While untraditional in many ways, this lens is great for offering you a new perspective on photo subjects if that’s something you’re seeking.

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

 

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Lensbaby Sol 45mm Tilt Shift Lens

Have you used the Lansbay Sol 45? If so we’d love to hear your thoughts and see you images in the comments below.

The post Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Gear Review: Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

The post Gear Review: Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

One of the biggest questions all Fujifilm X-Series users have to contend with is, “which telephoto zoom lens should I buy?” Luckily, there are three great Fujifilm X telephoto lenses to choose from:

Fujifilm Telephoto Lenses: 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

All three lenses are fantastic in their own rights, but which one is best for you? In this article, we’ll take a look at two telephoto lenses in particular: the 55-200mm and 50-140mm. Why these two? Because they’re intended to fill the role of the standard 70-200mm zoom lens, an important tool in every professional photographer’s gear kit. If you’re unfamiliar with Fujifilm, note that all X-Series cameras are crop sensors, so these lenses have a 35mm equivalent.

Specifications

Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8R LM OIS

  • Released in June 2013
  • Price (MSRP): $699 USD
  • 35mm Equivalent: 83.6-304mm
  • Aperture Range: f/3.5-4.8
  • Dimensions: 75mm (diameter) x 118mm-177mm (length)
  • Weight: 633 grams (with hood and caps)
  • Image Stabilization (OIS): Yes
  • Weather Sealed: No

Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS

  • Released in November 2014
  • Price (MSRP): $1599 USD
  • 35mm Equivalent: 76-212.8mm
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8
  • Dimensions: 82.9mm (diameter) x 175.9mm (length)
  • Weight: 1,184 grams (with hood and caps)
  • Image Stabilization (OIS): Yes
  • Weather Sealed: Yes

1 - Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

Specs Summary

Based on specs alone, there are big differences between these two lenses. The 50-140mm is much larger, heavier, and more expensive. Although, it doesn’t even cover nearly as much range as the 55-200mm. What gives? For starters, the 50-140mm is one of few Fujifilm lenses to receive the Red XF Zoom Badge. It’s similar in concept to Canon’s L-lens designation, indicating that red badge lenses are more premium and geared toward professionals.

There are two qualities in particular that make the 50-140mm more premium: weather sealing, and the constant f/2.8 aperture. Both features make this lens more flexible in terms of shooting in bad weather and in low lighting conditions. Both important features for professional photographers. Unfortunately, that also means the price is much higher with the 50-140mm costing more than double the 55-200mm.

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Build quality

Specs aside, let’s talk about how these two lenses compare in terms of handling and physical construction.

Buttons and rings

Both telephoto lenses are made of a combination of metal and rubber. There’s a rubber ring to control the zoom and another rubber ring for manual focus. The lenses also have Fujifilm’s signature aperture ring that allows the user to twist to select the aperture. There’s a key difference in that the 50-140mm has a marked Auto Aperture ring, whereas this takes the form of a switch on the 55-200mm. Both lenses also have a switch to turn OIS on or off.

3- Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

Zoom

Another big difference between these lenses is how they zoom. The 55-200mm has an external zoom, which means it extends as the zoom ring is turned. When fully extended, the 55-200mm is nearly the same length as the 50-140mm. This can be positive in that the lens ends up being quite compact when not fully extended. However, when fully extended, there’s an added risk of damaging the lens. On the other hand, the 50-140mm lens zooms internally, meaning it physically remains the same length even as you zoom in and out.

Lens Hoods

Both the 50-140mm and 55-200mm come with plastic lens hoods. The 50-140mm’s lens hood is scalloped and has an opening allowing easy access to lens filters (ie. circular polarizers).

4- Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

Tripod collar

Likely due to its size and weight, the 50-140mm comes with a metal tripod collar. This allows for the lens to be mounted to a tripod, rather than the camera body, resulting in better overall balance. The tripod collar has several knobs that allow it to easily be turned in any position, or removed altogether. Compared to other telephoto zooms such as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, Fujifilm’s tripod collar is much lighter and easier to remove. Overall, the tripod collar seems to be one of the best and most surprising features of this lens.

The 55-200mm lens does come with a tripod collar.

Lens performance

Let’s start with the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 lens as its price point and size makes it the easiest to add to your kit. Overall, the lens performs extremely well. Images are sharp and in focus. Even when shooting at 200mm f/4.8, image bokeh is smooth and there’s a good separation between the photo subject and background. However, it’s still a variable aperture lens. When shooting in low lighting or needing to isolate your subject with creamy bokeh background, this lens is blown out of the water by the 50-140mm.

5- Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

The 50-140mm at f/2.8 performs incredibly well in low lighting.

Moving on to the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens. This lens is definitely much beefier and you’ll need more room in your bag to lug it around. Its size can make it an awkward match for some of Fujifilm’s more compact cameras such as the X-E bodies. If your camera comes with an optional battery grip, using it can help the lens and camera feel more balanced. Personally, I had a hard time turning the aperture ring with the tripod collar attached, although the collar did help hold the lens steady.

In terms of image quality, the 50-140mm offers sharp, crisp images at all focal lengths and apertures. It has an obvious upper hand when it comes to low light shooting and bokeh with that f/2.8. However, if you’ve gotten used to shooting with the 55-200mm, you might miss that extra zoom range that you can’t get with the 50-140mm.

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55-200mm at 55mm f/3.5

8- Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

50-140mm lens at 140mm f/2.8

Conclusion

So which of these two Fujifilm telephoto lenses is best for you? It’s hard to say. If you’re on a budget, don’t want a bulky lens, or don’t shoot in a lot of low lighting scenarios, the 55-200mm is a great deal that will still give you sharp, clear images. However, if your budget can stretch a bit and you really value having a constant f/2.8 aperture, splurge on the 50-140mm. Despite being larger, pricier, and offering less range, the 50-140mm is a sturdy, reliable lens that will last you a long time.

Video

 

9- Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

50-140mm lens at 140mm f/11

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55-200mm at 200mm f/11

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55-200mm

12- Gear Review - Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm

50-140mm

Have you used either of these lenses? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Gear Review: Fujifilm 50-140mm vs 55-200mm appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

The mirrorless camera wars are heating up with the announcements of the Nikon Z7, Canon EOS R, and Panasonic full-frame. If you’re entering the world of mirrorless with the idea of making videos, you’ll need to consider a host of accessories to add to your camera kit. Here are some essential videography tools to add to your kit to help you make stellar videos on your mirrorless camera.

Mirrorless Cameras for Making videos

The Fujifilm X-H1 (left) and Sony A7rIII.

Camera

This article won’t deep dive into recommended cameras and lenses for filmmaking, since there’s a wide range of options out there. These days, you can even use a smartphone to shoot quality video. Also, the exact video specs needed will vary from person to person. But generally speaking, you’ll want to consider cameras that have these features:

  • Some form of in-body-image-stabilization (IBIS) to help reduce shake
  • The ability to shoot in at least 1080p, or ideally 4K resolution
  • The option to shoot in log (the video equivalent of RAW files), which give you more color grading options

Currently, the most popular mirrorless cameras for video are the Panasonic GH-5, Fujifilm X-H1, Sony A7sII, and A7III. The new Nikon Z6 and Z7 also look like promising full-frame mirrorless video camera alternatives.

Lens

As for ideal filmmaking lenses, this is also a highly debatable topic. However, it’s best to use lenses that have some form of stabilization. The exact terminology depends on the lens brand, but examples include Sony’s Optical Steady Shot (OSS), Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR), and Canon’s Image Stabilization (IS). Also, size matters when it comes to filmmaking lenses, so smaller tends to be better, especially if you plan on doing a lot of run-and-gun shooting. Personally, I’m able to pull off a majority of my video shoots with the Sony 24-70mm f/4, a moderately fast mid-range zoom with OSS that doesn’t break the bank.

Sony OSS -Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

This Sony lens has OSS (Optical SteadyShot) which gives it optical image stabilization.

Camera and Lens Cleaning Kit

Compared to still photos, it is significantly harder to remove dirt and dust spots from videos in post-production. As a result, it’s essential to carry a camera and lens cleaning kit when shooting video. At the very least, have a lens cloth and rocket blower with you.

Extra Batteries

Recording video takes much more power from your camera, so you’ll want to carry multiple batteries with you. Or consider investing in a battery grip to enhance your camera’s video recording life. Some cameras such as the Fujifilm X-H1 even offer more features (an extra audio socket) when using the optional vertical battery grip. If your camera has the ability to charge via USB (ie. Sony cameras), carry an external battery pack such as the Anker PowerCore 10000.

Microphone

While mirrorless cameras have decent built-in microphones, it’s always best to bring your own sound equipment to capture the best audio. Shotgun microphones such as the Rode VideoMicro are the most straightforward option. This ultra-compact mic is powered by your camera battery, so all you need is the included microphone, windscreen, and connection cable. Simply plug them in, and you’re ready to go! If your camera has an audio jack, also consider using headphones to monitor the audio while you’re shooting.

As you advance in video making, you may also need to add the following sound equipment to your gear kit:

Rode VideoMicro - Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Fujifilm X-T3 with the Rode VideoMicro microphone and windscreen.

Camera Stabilizer

It used to be essential to use a stabilizer of some sort when shooting videos with older camera models. Thankfully, most mirrorless cameras are shipping with some form of in-camera stability. Some cameras (Fujifilm X-H1, Sony a7III) have in-body stabilization (IBIS), and many camera brands offer stabilized lenses. When using a camera with IBIS and/or stabilized lenses, you may be able to get away with shooting video without any extra stabilization. However, if your camera doesn’t have IBIS or you need absolutely smooth footage, you may want to invest in a couple of stabilization accessories.

The cheapest and most straightforward option is to use a tripod or monopod with a video head. This is great if you plan on remaining relatively still while shooting video. However, if you plan on walking or moving while capturing footage, a gimbal is an essential tool. The Zhiyun Crane V2 is a great option, as is the DJI Ronin S. Gimbals can be fussy and difficult to set up. If you’re on the market for a gimbal, be sure to do your research to understand how gimbals work and make sure it’s a good choice for you.

Zhiyun Crane V2 gimbal - Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Fujifilm X-T3 mounted on the Zhiyun Crane V2 gimbal.

High Capacity Memory Cards

Modern mirrorless cameras are currently letting you record up to 4K video resolution. This is fantastic for getting crisp, details footage, but it can put a strain on your wallet. If you choose to shoot video in 4K, you’ll need memory cards with a fast enough write speed to ensure smooth video recording without dropped frames.

Additionally, it’s best to invest in large capacity memory cards since video takes up a lot of space. Personally, I never shoot with an SD card with less than 64GB, ultimately preferring 125 GB when possible.

External Hard Drives

Speaking of storage, fast hard drives are also essential to edit and store your video footage. You’ll run out of external hard drive space quickly as you shoot video (especially in 4K resolution). Thus, it’s a good idea to stock up on the largest capacity hard drives you can find. Per the 3-2-1 backup strategy, it’s best to have 2 but ideally 3 copies of your data, so multiple hard drives are always a good idea.

Thankfully, hard drives have dropped in price and are relatively inexpensive. I use these Samsung SSD hard drives for editing on the go. I also carry a couple of Lacie Rugged hard drives as secondary and tertiary backups.  When editing at home, I back everything up on Western Digital MyBook desktop external hard drives.

Memory cards - Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

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

Video Editing Software

The professionals’ choices for video editing are Adobe Premiere, Final Cut X or Avid Media Composer. However, another option worth investigating is DaVinci Resolve. There’s a free version of Resolve that offers enough tools to pull off a majority of the video editing techniques you’ll need, and the paid version unlocks even more features. Like Final Cut, Resolve is a one-time fee, unlike Adobe’s monthly or annual subscription model. Video editing software can be expensive, but it’s absolutely worth the investment for serious filmmaking.

In Conclusion

If this sounds like a lot of gear to invest in for making videos, don’t be overwhelmed! The good news is that modern mirrorless cameras make it easy to start making videos without too many extra gadgets. All of these accessories can definitely be acquired over time as your interest in video grows.

Do you have any other tools to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Thoughts and Field Test: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 for Sony E-Mount

Sigma recently announced nine prime lenses coming to their Art lens lineup for Sony E-mount shooters. We got to test out the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, an update to the previous Sigma 50mm f/1.4 released in 2014. Here’s what we thought.

What’s in the Box

Like all Sigma lenses, this one comes packed in its own zippered carrying case. It also comes with front and end caps and a lens hood. It’s ready to use right away, although you may want to buy a 77mm UV filter to protect it while in use.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Specs

This E-mount lens is designed for full-frame format Sony mirrorless cameras. However, it can also be used with APS-C models (although it will slightly crop the resulting image).

The lens has an aperture range of f/1.4 to f/16. When shooting at the maximum aperture of f/1.4, it produces a shallow depth of field with smooth bokeh, making it great for portraiture.

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens is made for several camera mounts including Nikon and Canon DSLRs, Sony A-mounts and Sony E-mounts. This lens we tested was made for Sony E-mounts and used with a Sony a7R III.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Look and Feel

Sigma designates this lens as part of its Art series, which means it’s designed for high optical performance in a range of shooting environments.

Off the bat, the lens has a high-quality look and feel to it. Comprised mostly of metal, this lens is big and bulky. While that may be great for those with bigger hands, having a big and heavy lens that only covers a single range may be an issue for some.

Autofocus Performance

This lens worked so flawlessly with the Sony a7R III that it felt like a native lens. With a clear, contrasting point the autofocus is fast and responsive. Sometimes the lens was slower to focus in low light scenarios, but never in such a way that made it unusable. If you need to focus manually, simply flip the switch from AF to MF and use the large focusing ring near the front of the lens.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Image Quality

Images captured with this lens are crisp with excellent, well-saturated colors. Even when shooting wide open at f/1.4, photo subjects are sharp with buttery-smooth bokeh in the background. There isn’t a lot of vignetting either.

The lens appeared to hit critical sharpness at f/8, although shooting at f/2 provides a nice balance of image sharpness and bokeh.

If all third-party lens mounts worked this flawlessly, I doubt photographers would even bother using lens adapters.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

What About the Sigma MC-11?

If you’ve recently switched from a DSLR to the Sony mirrorless, you’re probably familiar with the Sigma MC-11 lens adapter. It’s a popular way to use existing DSLR lenses (i.e. the Canon 50mm f/1.4) on Sony cameras. But while the MC-11 has been popular, Sigma is pushing for photographers to adopt native lenses for their camera mounts, including Sigma’s lens options.

Why go for a native mount?

  • You can tune the lens to work with each focal length you’re shooting at.
  • Focus hunting is minimized.
  • Better autofocus including continuous AF, eye AF and face recognition.
  • Native mounts work better for video AF.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Why This Lens May Not Be for You

Overall, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a winner when it comes to build and image quality. But here are two reasons why it may not work for you.

Expensive

Firstly, there’s the price. At $949 this is an expensive 50mm lens. By comparison you could get a Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 for $248 or a Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro for $498. But fast Sony Zeiss 50mm lenses always come at a high price. The Sony Planar T FE 50mm f/1.4 costs $1,498, while the Sony Zeiss 55 f/1.8 is priced at $998.

So depending on your needs, you may need to budget quite a bit of money for a fast Sony prime lens. But if you’re in the market for a basic nifty fifty, there are much cheaper options.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Large

Secondly, there’s its size and weight. At 1.8 lbs it’s large and bulky, comparable in size to the Sony 24-240mm and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. By comparison, the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is only 0.62 lbs and is more compact and portable.

If you’re looking for a compact prime lens that’s easy to travel with, this Sigma lens probably isn’t your best bet.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Lens size comparison. From left to right: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, Sony 24-240mm, Sony 24-70mm f/4, Sony 55mm f/1.8

In Conclusion

For photographers set on having a fast 50mm prime lens, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens is a great choice. It’s smaller and more reasonably priced than the Sony 50mm f/1.4 lens, and produces crisp and beautiful images.

However, photographers with a smaller budget, or who want to carry smaller lenses, may want to consider other 50mm options at lower price points in more compact packages.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens at f/11

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens at f/8

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens at f/4

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens at f/2

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens at f/1.8

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens at f/1.4

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Sony E-Mount

Sony 55mm f1.8 at f/1.8

The post Thoughts and Field Test: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 for Sony E-Mount appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review: Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L

If you’re on the hunt for a stylish camera backpack, look no further than the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. Peak Design is well known for supplying photography accessories that not only look good but function extraordinarily well. The Everyday Backpack is no exception.

Despite being designed for photographers, the Everyday Backpack doesn’t look like a camera bag. This acts as both a deterrent to potential thieves, but also makes the backpack great for use even if you’re not intending to fill it with camera gear.

There are many reasons to use the Everyday Backpack, but unfortunately, it’s far from perfect. In fact, there are some quirks that could make an unideal bag for you. Read on for my take on what’s great about this bag, and what needs to be improved.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag - woman with backpack on

Why the Everyday Backpack?

First off, here’s how this backpack ended up in my camera bag collection. I’ve spent 7 years carrying my camera gear in a Think Tank Retrospective Messenger Bag and hauling a separate laptop bag. It was a lot to carry, and I wanted to consolidate my gear into a single bag. A backpack was key to balance weight, but most backpacks are too bulky.

Until recently, the InCase DSLR Pro Backpack had been my camera and laptop backpack of choice. It’s incredibly comfortable and spacious and was great when I was shooting primarily with Canon DSLRs. But when I switched to Sony mirrorless cameras, I wanted a smaller backpack. Enter Peak Design!

Here’s a quick video overview.

Pros

Stylish Design

True to its name, this backpack is full of stylish design touches that truly stand out. Composed of several different materials including leather handles, anodized aluminum clips, and weather-resistant fabric, there is lots of visual appeal to the Everyday Backpack.

During my one month of traveling with this backpack from California to Florida, I’ve had multiple people stop me on the street just to inquire about the bag.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Sturdy, weather-resistant material

The Everyday Backpack is composed mainly of a weatherproof nylon canvas shell. It’s a nicely textured fabric, and it’s available in four different colors (black, tan, ash and charcoal). The two zippered side pockets are also reinforced with weatherproofing material, preventing liquid from entering. As a result, this bag is reasonably weatherproof without having to put a protective coat on it.

Flexible dividers for safely stowing gear

Inside the backpack are three of Peak Design’s FlexFold Dividers. These unique dividers aren’t flimsy like the ones you find in most camera bags. Instead, the FlexFold dividers are quite rigid, giving you peace of mind that your gear is being protected and not rattling around when being transported. Best of all, these dividers can also fold down to secure your gear and give you an added layer of space for stowing extras such as a small monopod or tripod.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Side zippers for easy access to gear

Unlike conventional backpacks that only give you access from the top, the Everyday Backpack gives you three points of entry. You can access your stuff from the top via the MagLatch flap, or from the two zippered side flaps.

This helps you better organize your gear and find it without having to rummage through the entire bag.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Lots of pockets for stowing gear

Besides the main compartment, the Everyday Backpack has several extra internal spaces. Each side flap is lined with a spacious internal pocket for storing small accessories like batteries and memory cards. Within the MagLatch flap, there’s also a small magnetized pocket that’s the perfect size for sticking your keys or wallet (be careful you don’t demagnetize your bank cards though!) for quick access.

On the outside, there’s a separate laptop compartment and two expandable side pockets. Finally, the back panel slightly detaches to allow for the backpack to slide easily onto a luggage handle, but I like using this area to secure bulky items like a reflector.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Discrete carrying straps

Thankfully, the Everyday Backpack comes with straps to help you carry heavy loads or bulky items. Specifically, there is a chest strap, waist strap, and tripod straps. All the straps are quite thin and easily tuck into the bag’s external pockets when not in use.

In practice, the chest strap does come in handy, but the waist straps are too thin and not padded, making them uncomfortable. The tripod straps are quite sturdy and reliable, but I find very few instances when I want to add the weight of a bulky tripod to this bag. More on that below.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Zippered pocket inside the side panels, very handy for small items.

Cons

All in all, the Peak Design backpack looks great and functions really well. But there are some problems that arise mainly when the bag is packed to capacity.

No wiggle room for extra gear

If you’re like me, your camera bag is often stuffed to the seams with gear. Most camera bags are built with expandable sections so you can add a few extra items to your bag. This is not the case with the Peak Design bag. It’s designed to snugly hold a set amount of gear.

From then on, there’s really no room to throw in extras. This is due mainly to the fact that the bag’s material is really rigid, probably to add support and protection to your gear but at the expense of flexibility.

The backpack is really uncomfortable when too heavy

At the expense of looking pretty, the Everyday Backpack fails at one basic thing: making the back panel and backpack straps consistently comfortable. Both the back panel padding and straps are rigid and they cut into your back and shoulders when the bag is heavy.

This isn’t a problem if the bag isn’t weighed down with tons of gear. But it’s unwearable for long periods of time when filled with too much gear.

Compromise – use this backpack with a belt pack

Since the backpack is comfortable when not packed to the brim, my compromise has been to use the backpack in conjunction with the Think Tank waist pack. The belt pack is typically what I’ll wear during shoots anyway, so I stick my extra lenses and flash in the belt pack.

My camera body, laptop, and computer accessories go into the Peak Design bag. I simply carry them both to shoots. So far it’s been a much more comfortable way to carry my gear without feeling too bulky or weighed down.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Zippers tend to slide open if not secured

Another problem that results from the backpack being too full is that the side zippers tend to slide open. Luckily, Peak Design did supply a solution. All zippers are equipped with little black loops that can connect to each other and prevent accidental spills.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Not possible to lock or secure bag when not in use

One of the key points of the Everyday Backpack is the “revolutionary closure system” called the MagLatch. According to Peak Design, it is the only bag closure system that is “no-lock, one-handed, quiet, and secure.”

In practice, the MagLatch is a unique way to quickly access to the top section of the backpack. But the fact that the MagLatch doesn’t lock makes the bag questionably secure. I wouldn’t leave this bag unattended since there’s nothing to prevent a thief from reaching in.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack Camera Laptop Bag

Expensive

At $259.00 a pop, there’s no denying that this a pricey purchase. Compared to the myriad of comparable camera laptop backpacks out there, this backpack might seem too expensive. However, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack truly has a standout design and high-quality design touches that could justify the price.

In Conclusion

The Peak Design Everyday backpack is a truly stylish bag with some great features. I use the backpack often when carrying mirrorless camera gear around and absolutely love it. But if you plan to carry heavy camera gear or stuff this bag to capacity, consider another backpack such as the Incase DSLR Pro Pack for a more comfortable experience.

The post Review: Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

In case you haven’t noticed, smartphone cameras keep getting better and better. Not only do they take better still photos, but they also record high-quality video. Many latest generation smartphones are equipped with image stabilization, focus tracking, and the ability to shoot in 4K.

Smartphone video accessories 03

This is especially notable with the recent release of IGTV and social media platforms encouraging more video creation. With that in mind, it’s worth investigating how to use your smartphone to take better smartphone videos. As usual, it comes down to the tools you use. Here are several accessories worth investing in to take your smartphone videography to the next level.

A Way to Secure Your Phone

Equipment List for Making Better Videos With Your Smartphone - image on a cell phone

Smartphones today are being built tougher, but they still have a sleek body that makes them easy to drop. To keep your phone more secure, consider getting one of these accessories. This will help you take sharper and better videos.

Pop Socket

In case you’re not already hip to the Pop Socket, here’s why they’re so popular.

Image courtesy of Pop Socket.

These little devices look deceptively simple. They’re just a plastic backing that sticks to your phone and pops out to give you a better grip. This helps you hold your phone with one hand while taking selfies or shooting tricky angles. They are especially helpful while shooting video.

But there are some problems with the Pop Socket. For one thing, they’re bulky. Even when retracted, the Pop Socket sticks out just enough to make it a hassle to stick your phone in your pocket or put it into your car’s cell phone holder.

Secondly, Pop Sockets look about as cheap as they cost, at least in my opinion. This can ruin the aesthetic of the pricey phone you’ve invested in. Finally, these suckers are pretty permanent. Once they’re attached to your phone, they’re useless if you remove them. For that reason, I prefer using the next accessory to keep my phone secure.

Black Rapid WandeR Bundle

Image courtesy Black Rapid.

Black Rapid is known for their camera straps, but they also have a cool new product for smartphones. The WandeR Bundle is a nylon tether wrist strap that attaches to your smartphone’s case (above).

You can also use the included TetheR-Clip to secure your phone to a bag or camera strap (see below). It’s a simple concept that is very well executed and will make it hard to drop or lose your phone again.

Image courtesy Black Rapid.

A Smartphone Tripod

Like any other camera, there’s a time and a place to use a tripod with a smartphone, especially when creating videos. The good news is that you don’t need a giant tripod for your smartphone, although you can certainly adapt any basic tripod for use with a cell phone using an adapter (more on that below).

But if you want a more compact setup, consider getting a dedicated smartphone tripod. The Manfrotto PIXI EVO  is a popular option, as is the JOBY GorillaPod Hybrid Mini. Both are small, yet sturdy enough to hold a smartphone or even a small mirrorless camera if needed.

No matter what kind of tripod you end up with, make sure you get a cell phone tripod adapter to properly mount your device.

Equipment List for Making Better Videos With Your Smartphone - Smartphone mounted on a tripod

External microphone

Most smartphones have pretty good built-in audio recording features. But sometimes you need an enhanced audio solution. Note that for both of these microphones, you may need a smartphone audio jack adapter if you have a phone without a traditional audio jack.

One of the best smartphone microphones out there is the Rode VideoMic Me microphone. It’s very compact and comes with a fluffy windscreen (also known as dead cat). To use it, simply plug it into your smartphone’s audio jack. It worked well with my Samsung Galaxy S8 but didn’t work at all with the Google Pixel.

The reason is the location of the audio jack. On the S8, it’s located on the bottom of the phone, on the opposite end of the cameras. The Pixel’s audio jack is located on top, next to the camera. Thus, the microphone was in the shot both with and without the windscreen. So check the audio jack’s proximity to your camera before investing in this mic.

Another type of microphone you may need is a lavalier (or lapel) mic. It is placed in close proximity to the speaker’s mouth to isolate their voice from environmental noise. Lavalier mics are generally wired, meaning they can be difficult to use when plugged directly into your video recording device.

So the most convenient setup is to record your visuals with one camera, and record audio with a lavalier mic plugged into a smartphone. You’ll need an audio recording app to do this. A top of the line lav mic option is the Rode smartLav+, or the more affordable Stony-Edge Simple Lav. Note that sound quality typically corresponds with price, but it truly depends on your budget.

Rode mic on a smartphone - Equipment List for Making Better Videos With Your Smartphone

Smartphone gimbal

Many smartphones come with built-in stabilization that will help minimize or remove shake from your videos. However, you still need an extra tool if you want buttery smooth, cinematic video footage. The simplest video stabilization tool is an electronic handheld gimbal.

There are two main gimbals out there worth considering, and they’re very competitive in terms of features and price. One is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, and the other is the Zhiyun Smooth Q. I’ve been using the Smooth Q for the past few months and have been blown away by how much my smartphone video quality has improved.

Best of all, a gimbal is easy to use and quite affordable for the features it offers.

girl using a gimbal smartphone stabilizer

Extra Power

While smartphone battery life keeps gradually improving, it’s still a good idea to bring a portable cell phone charger with you.

There are tons of external batteries on the market, but Anker is by far one of the more reputable brands. In particular, the Anker PowerCore 10000 is a compact, efficient, external battery. It can charge either your smartphone or electronic gimbal or both at the same time. Just be sure to charge the battery ahead of time and bring the right cables.

Over to You

In short, you don’t need a lot of tools to start using your smartphone to make better videos. However, if you add these tools to your kit, you’ll be well on your way to producing more professional-looking videos.

Do you have any smartphone video accessories? Let us know your essential tools in the comments below!

The post Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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