China based Meike wants a shot at your iPhone

It has become apparent these days that all people want is to add on lenses to iPhones. Why iPhones? Why not Android devices?

The problem lies with perception.

iPhones are premium items. Meaning people who buy them are either rich or have plenty of extra cash to double down on a seemingly average spec device.

So you have a add on lenses from a slew of manufacturers including Zeiss of Germany. And from China, you have another player who wants to jump in from Meike.

Now, Meike isn’t a global brand and they are selling an iPhone housing that takes advantage of external lenses. Zoom, wide angle and macro are the flavors you can doubld down on but beyond that, it isn’t much different than the rest of the offerings.

Sorry but there are no example photos to show from the site so you don’t know the sort of quality you are getting by buying this. At least Zeiss optical has proven images but for this add on lens from Meike, d’uh.

Meanwhile, LG and Huawei have jumped into the dual lens camera bandwagon. Would this be enough? Only time will tell.

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Mobile Photography Hot Tips: How to Dump that DSLR for a Smartphone Camera?

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Smartphones. They are everywhere. And you can even shoot pictures for microstock agencies right from your mobile! The phenomenal technology that goes into smartphones has made it the go to device for all your pictures moments.

However, for DSLR and DCC camera users, the transition might be a little more disturbing to adapt to as the smartphone camera operates more like a neutered digital compact camera. Many have even heard of the virtues of Smarphone photography that mirrors the capability and even exceeds traditional compact cameras with the use of an app. Here are some tips to transition smoothly from DSLR to Smartphone shooting.

Why no buttons for manual controls?

Android smartphones actually do have manual controls but it comes via a mobile app, you can do this via a playstore app but don’t expect it to be at the same level as a DCC or DSLR. You might be able to choose a variable shutter speed for those action shots with it but much of what it does is still very hardware dependent. For example, shooting at the highest or lowest shutter speed depends on your smartphone camera’s capability. Some devices offer only 1/15 sec of exposure while others can do 1 second. It’s not perfect for low light but tell me, how often do you even shoot in low light unless you were born a vampire and love hanging out only at night?

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Next beef is….few, if any would be insane enough to shoot fast action sports with a mobile device but for slower exposures, it should be possible, except that the sensor can’t possibly hold up to that found on a DSLR. But in daylight, who gives a damn? Even in some low light situations, the HDR+ mode on some smarpthones such as the Nexus 6 uses computational algorithms to get better exposure so turning to manual controls is starting to sound pretty dated.

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Selfie Sticks can be used with Camera Remote

10341774-1Every wondered what to do with your Android Watch…besides telling time? Well you can use that with your Selfie sticked Android device for a better view. Yes, there is an App for Android wear that lets you pair your Android watch to your Andriod Smartphone for use on a selfie stick. Now, we all know that selfie sticks are made for selfies but do you know that you can also use it to aim from a higher angle? Trying doing that with you DSLR!

For this trick, you need to have Android wear paired as a controller and display screen for your mobile device. Once you get the angle you want which you can view on your watch, just hit the shutter button on your Android Watch app and you have your picture.

DNG files from your Android

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DNG support is available for devices running Android Lollipop however to use it, you need to have an app. One of the problems is that DNG support was included in an API which was not widely used by device manufacturers for fear that it would stuff up your SD card or internal storage for photos. Think about it. If you have a 16 megapixel camera, a DNG file could be as much as 16MB…so unless you want it, you have to get an app for it.

DNG is far more versatile for now. Google Photos allows you to upload directly to the Cloud as long as it is below 16MB in file size…for free.

No Aperture settings so there is No Bokeh?

This is true. The majority of smartphones do not have aperture controls. So if you suddenly went manual, to obtain Bokeh blurs, you’d be disappointed. But that’s not to say it is impossible. Devices running Android Lollipop 5.0 have access to Google’s Camera App that gives you Bokeh effects.

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Bokeh as rendered on Google Camera App

GPS lets you record metadata into Photos

Mid to high end DSLRs from Nikon, Sony and Canon have built in GPS capability for location tracking but for smartphones, this comes ready built and available with a flick of a switch. For Android devices, you only need to switch this on in your settings menu for GPS to track and embed the location meta data for all your images.

367659129_3e288b81f2There is no need to buy a third party device like the Sony thingy you see here. Geo location can also be enabled with the help of an app on your smartphone should you happen to use a dated DSLR—GPS metadata has to be paired with a desktop app to sync the data. Yes, there is an app for that but these days, why bother when you can shoot directly from your smart mobile device?

Digital Zooming =  Cropping your Photo

These days, who needs a bigger optical zoom when you have the ability to crop an image for composition sake? Imagine this for a moment. The new Galaxy Note 5 has a 16 megapixel sensor, which gives you TWICE the image of that from an iPhone 6 which has 8 megapixels, so even if you crop your Galaxy Note 5 image in half, you still have a 8 megapixel picture! Cropping your photo is like telephoto zooming except that the more you zoom in, the resulting image would be smaller.

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So if you have a Sony Xperia or Panasonic CM1 with a 20 megapixel sensor as your picture canvas, why bother with a telephoto lens? This image capture logic was put to good use with Nokia’s 1020 and 808 smartphones which has 40 megapixel cameras.

Sell what you Shoot instantly!

Say you have a great picture moment and what to sell it online as oppose to attracting Facebook envy when you put it up for all to see, well you can do it directly with apps such as EyeEm, 500ppx, Clashshot, etc, etc. Your device could earn you decent beer money if you are up and about as the Microstock business has all but decimated the stock image library business.

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People want to buy cheap photos, and not pay royalties and where possible, thereby putting professional photographers out of business. There is no business like the stock image business if you want to tip your toes into these waters so why keep those great photo moments when you can sell them with an app.

Postproduction work can be done on your Smartphone

With a DSLR, you have to lug around a computer to do any serious post production enhancements or for that matter, use a tablet computer. But all this don’t make cents when you are not shooting for money. Those casual photos can be easily edited on the fly with a free app like Snapseed on iOS or Android and posted online. When you travel, the extra space you save in baggage handling would be a God send without that Notebook computer!

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Original JPG image from compact digital camera

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Captured on a Digital camera and later edited on AfterFocus Pro and Snapseed.

Why Casual Shooters are Dumping their DSLRs

Casual shooters, you belong to a different class of picture creators. You don’t shoot professionally as quitting your day job just to become a photographer is like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. So why not shoot on the side and sell what you have when there is a market for it? It’s like being a home gardener, when you have more than you need, why not sell those to earn some extra cash?

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First, thinking that you can earn a decent income just by doing what you enjoy doing is a dangerous sport. Those who do are the handful who have built a pool of savings to do what they please in the world so going out to just shoot beautiful pictures is more of a hobby.

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Captured and edited entirely on Android Smartphone

People like Tom Anderson formerly of Myspace and Trey Ratcliff of stuckincustoms.com are exceptions rather than the rule. To make money from photography, you’d need to built up your own fan base and in the process go on lectures and speaking engagements. Selling prints and licensing isn’t a big deal if your name isn’t out there for the world to notice. There rest of the professionals you see in this world who call themselves photographers are an old breed of craftsmen, they make or stage photos for commercial benefit.

Mobile photography frees ourselves from the traditional constraints of photography while allowing ourselves to indulge in our past time whenever and wherever we want.

However there is no curing the gear envy that people have from holding a large camera. If you want to shoot pictures with a hefty DSLR, it better be for professional reasons. Casual shooters who have far less demand on digital imaging would do no wrong to dump that DSLR in this day and age because carrying one can be a real bitch.

Camera Phones or Lens Cameras?

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This is not a weapon. It’s a smartphone with a lens camera!

So photography is going mobile, and what’s your weapon of choice? We all know that the mobile phone’s camera is just too small to support quality imaging in low light, so what’s your plan? Since Christmas is round the corner would you want a DSLR, or would you consider something simpler, like maybe a lens camera? The Lens Camera, a camera system pioneered by Sony with its QX series didn’t quite shine as brightly as people thought. But the concept was a hit and there are so many pretenders from China emulating the lens camera that sells for as little as 100 bucks online. However if you want the real deal here are three to consider.

DxO One

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DXO One Taking a cue from the Olympus Air, the DxO One is the lens camera that is built especially for the iPhone as it uses a dedicated lightning connector to bridge its control and imaging capabilities. The cost of DxO One cost in the ballpark of US$600. Sensor size is as small as the Nikon System 1, probably smaller is good but not the sensor. With 20 megapixels at your disposal, the iPhone 6s won’t be a competitor. DxO captures both RAW and JPGs so it will be a useful fit. Unfortunately it does not support 4K video capture.

Aside from this, connectivity is only through the lighting port for iPhones only. Sounds like a dumb idea but hey, Android devices are already hitting the 16-20 megapixel output mark and the only brand that needs a camera upgrade comes from Apple.

Olympus Air Lens Camera

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Retailing in the ball park of about US$400 with a 14-42 kit lens, this baby is really a m4/3 camera that takes in any m4/3 lens. That means the sensor size of this baby is 16 megapixels but with a much larger sensor than that found on the DxO.

By now, you’d realize that there is a heck of a lot of great lenses on the Olympus Air since it shares the same mount as the ones used by its mirrorless cousins. You have a wide choice of lens, including pancake type fixed lenses so there is no mistaking the quality you’d be getting from it.

The m4/3 platform has a lot of supporters, including lens mounts to use Leica lenses. So if you have an M mount lense, just get an adaptor for the m4/3 and you’re ready to go.

The downside is that video capture is restricted to 1080p so it’s no big deal here. Works for both iOS and Android.

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Sony was the pioneer but sine the Q1, they have asserted that what you need is really an E-mount camera lens that will take in all of Sony’s NEX camera lenses. Sensor size is APS-C, so this is one big baby with 1080p video capture. The lenses are not as compact of small as m4/3 but big sensors need big lenses. Again, you can buy lens mount adaptors to fit Leica M lenses if you so desire so this won’t pose a huge problem should you want a jump in imaging quality. This QX1 cost in the ballpark of US$550.

Photography is Mobile

In the age of the budget airline, you are encouraged to travel light. Gone are the days where you pack a whole bag of lenses along with the DSLR with a tripod in tow. Having a modular lens camera is really the way forward as you only need a small bag to contain three lenses along with a Gorrilapod tripod for those low light moments.

Image quality is subjective as it really depends on you, the user. If you are happy with the quality after checking out those images posted up on Flickr, then you’d be quite satisfied with the money you are parting with.

Video capture is still stuck in the 1080p era but that’s not a bad thing is it? Those wanting 4K output would be better off shooting with the Galaxy S6 stock camera…instead of a lens camera.

The lens camera is centered around still photography and for those looking for something affordable without compromising their E mount, M mount or m4/3 mounted lenses, your choices are all here.

The Lens Camera habitually co-exist with your mobile device, without it, photography would be meaningless as you can’t perform image compositions. This is probably one gadget that will grow in years to come as people ditch their hefty DSLRs for something smaller to carry about.

Digital imaging and digital photography will in time get even cheaper and those with their foot in the door with a Lens Camera will be ahead of those without a similar product.

SnapSeed adds DNG RAW file support with Android Caveats

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Apple’s iPhone may have fallen off a cliff recently with their new iPhone 6S camera but to add insult to injury, it still hasn’t figured out if DNG file support is warranted even though Snapseed is already supporting it natively on Android.

Now let’s not blame Tim Cook for this oversight, after all, the iPhone isn’t a serious mobile camera to begin with as it is used for casual shooters and will continue to appeal to casual shooters. Neither is he to blame for the fall from grace from the DxO lab ratings for the iPhone 6S as doing so, would mean you’re accusing him of first degree murder for running over a cat.

The iPhone, like the cat, will spring up once again thanks to its many lives so don’t go pronouncing its doom as yet. Sure it’s got a measly 12 magepixels but hey, the once mighty Nikon D700 also had a 12 megapixel sensor so don’t knock it.

So I digress, let’s get back to Snapseed support for DNG files. Yes, it is finally here but no, it’s not as easy as you think.

Snapseed Caveats Explained

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Snapseed is awesome. When Nik Software first released it, Mac and iOS users paid good money to get its tools on the desktop as well as on mobile. Google then bought it out. Apple users around the world cursed Tim Cook on why he didn’t see that opportunity first, well you can’t blame him. He was focused on getting profits and not on making users happy. Can you blame him?

After it was acquired, Google made some changes, including releasing it for free as an app for mobile and killing the Mac desktop version.

When Google announced that it was going to support DNG file formats, everyone went WTF?

DNG files are massive. They can easily be 20mb a piece or more.

Now for casual photographers who shoot selfies and post to Instagram and Facebook, there is nothing to worry about since there is no need for DNG as part of your digital imaging workflow.

DNG was a file format invented by Adobe that has gone open to allow some form of portability of RAW format image files to exist indefinitely. One of the problems of native RAW files taken from cameras is that it is proprietary. Once support for that particular format goes defunct, there is no way to open that file in eternity. So Adobe figured that if you convert the native RAW format to a DNG Raw format, with all the data intact, you could allow that file to exist forever.

To date, very few mobile devices shoot with DNG in mind. Android has one paid app, Camera FV-5, which allows you to shoot and save in DNG format. The Leica M9 shoots in DNG too but not a whole lot of other cameras do. One reason is that converting native Raw files to DNG takes some heavy lifting on DSLRs and it is ill advised.

So getting back to the Mobile camera of choice, why would you want to shoot in DNG?

For one, DNG format these days are as good as having a second back up camera to your DSLR if you’re a pro. The merits of having a good RAW file should your DSLR suddenly found its way into a Craiglist advertisement as a stolen artifact is a good reason to have a backup camera as a sound investment.

Think about it, if you had a backup photo residing on your mobile device capture with a 16 megapixel sensor, it could save your day. Unfortunately, there are some caveats to using RAW editing on Snapseed which has yet to be sorted out.

DNG will not load from Gallery App

If you had DNG files stored on your phone, the only way to retrieve it is through a file manager. For Galaxy Note users, please do not rely on My Files app that comes with your mobile device won’t recognize DNG as well. What you need is a third party File Manager from the Playstore such as File Manager HD, which is free to use.

With the file manager, you go to your desired folder with the DNG files and get that to open in Snapseed.

You can also use this method to open files in the cloud to Snapseed. For example if you had a folder on Dropbox where you store all your DNG files, you can the mobile app for Dropbox to open the file in Snapseed.

DNG is still not a recognized format for External Cameras

Besides the Leica M9, and probably a few of the other Leica cameras that has since arrived in stores, you need to be able to convert those native RAW files from Olympus, Nikon and Canon all on your own and store them in a place where you can reach them. Cloud storage is probably the best way to do this but I hate to think what would happen to your mobile broadband bandwidth once you start pulling down 40mb files from the cloud to edit on your Android device.

For me, I have a dedicated folder in the cloud where I processed these native RAW files into DNG format. This means that should a client suddenly need a file and want to pay for it, you could of course download it, process it the way they want and send the file to them.

DNG isn’t perfect, at least for now but it sure gets the work done. For the rest of you who are already shooting DNG on mobile, Snapseed is a god sent.