Friday, May 8, 2015

Review: A7 Sports Action Cam via Lazada.com.ph

4 Days later


Not sure how I should begin the little review... no, I'm sorry. I know how: You get what you pay for.

Ok. Granted I paid just Php 1,199. For that amount, I was promised the following:
1) A portable yellow Action camera with
2) 5MP still photo capability, and
3) HD video recording
4) A waterproof case with different mounts

Given that there were at other similar cameras on offer for at least 3x the price (the SJ4000 for example costs roughly Php 4,400 ), I thought I'd take the risk and buy this cheap little thing fairly conscious of potential trade offs. I conditioned myself to expect the worst. In that regard, I guess I wasn't disappointed, though not fully so.


The Good: 


The A7 looks a lot like the GoPro and some other Chinese made action cams (like the SJ4000 as previously mentioned). Unlike the GoPro, it comes with a built in LCD with which you can see what you record. The water proof casing it comes with is indeed waterproof, though I have yet to test it at depth. The basic mounts it came with would allow me to mount it on a bicycle (if I had one), and on my helmet (which I did). Instead of going ahead and buying a new microSD, I opted to try it with my class4 16GB extra, which worked (and saved myself at least 900 pesos too).


The Bad (and not so bad):


Are you familiar with the term "interpolated"? It seems like the sensor itself isn't truly HD, nor is it truly 5MP. So while the final image and video may have the dimensions published in the manual and in the settings, what you get is a stretched image of whatever passes for the raw size. Photo samples below (click to enlarge).

5MP

2MP

The camera actually takes photos, with burst mode and, supposedly, time-lapse. Technically, it IS capable of producing 5MP (2592x1944), 3MP (2048x1536), 2MP (1600x1200), and 1MP (1280x1024) images. But like I said, interpolated. Click the above images to compare quality when enlarged.

Color quality isn't all that hot, under some fluorescent lighting.

Video recording works as well. Technically, the video dimensions are 1280x720 and 640x480. 640x480 recording isn't bad at all. Acceptable in bright light, passable in the dark (though I heard the same could be said of most action cameras). "HD" however, well, that's another story.


video
 640x480


video
1280x720

Above videos are meant to be video size comparisons.


One of the features on the camera is called "Loop Video" which basically means it cuts a video into 5 minute clips making the file size a little smaller. 640x480p recordings are cut into 350MB chunks in sunlight, and 250MB night time recordings. "HD"

I think I need video editing software. Those file sizes are crazy.

The Verdict:


Alright, so the moral of the story is "keep expectations low, and you won't be disappointed." Or is it "You get what you pay for?"

While the A7 does look a lot like its more expensive brethren, it doesn't perform nearly as well. I keep coming back to the price to justify it's performance. Considering that I paid Php 1,199 (it's now selling via Lazada.com.ph at Php 1,299), did I get my money's worth?

I got a camera that can go under water, capture decent 640x480 video, and usable stills, that I can mount on my helmet to record maybe an hour plus worth of video.

I think I'll reserve a more serious and definite verdict until I get to bring it underwater and test the casing for depth. On paper, it says 30meters. We'll see. I'll post more photos taken by the A7 and Video from under water by June, or on the road within the month.


Should YOU buy it? Maybe if it was your first action cam, and you don't have any lofty plans for the video it will take, and just wanted a toy for 1.2k, why not?

But if you're willing to pay a little more, you could probably go with the 8ten SDV-5271 Action Cam, or if you're willing to pony up upwards of 4400 pesos, you might go with the SJCAM SJ4000.


UPDATED:

I've finally been able to test the action camera at depth. The rear cover actually compressed deeper into the body int he middle of the dive. And yes, the casing held and kept the camera dry. Mostly. After our first dive, it became apparent that there was moisture on the front of the body, near the on and off switch. I'm guessing the seal wasn't quite as water tight as I'd hoped. Not that the casing flooded though. Kept it dry enough to survive 3 dives at Apo Island.

video

As you can see, the videos do turn out super blue as there are wavelengths of light that doesn't penetrate to those depths, particularly reds. The challenge for these cameras would be not having underwater dive filters built for the underwater case, or at least I haven't encountered any.

Underwater Use Verdict:

Did it work?  -- Yes. Just keep its limitations in mind and don't expect too much from these Go Pro Clones and you'll be fine.

Was it worth it?  -- Yes. Even if the dive case did eventually fail, I wouldn't have felt quite as bad if I had lost the camera compared to possibly losing a GoPro.

Should you buy it?  -- I leave that up to you.

Techlust: A7 Sports Action Cam via Lazada.com.ph

It's been awhile


I can't believe that it's been nearly 2 years since I last took the time to blog about anything, much less anything related to Photography. I sincerely hope that, with this new toy, I will remedy that.

A7 Sports Action Cam


I haven't been able to take a good underwater shot for a long time, since my old Olympus C5000z retired. Since action cameras have been making waves lately, and because of Lazada.com.ph's flash sales, I thought I'd try one out. I thought I'd try out the A7 HD sports cam. Bought the item last April 25 and the waiting began.



(photos from the Lazada page)

Lazada promised that it would be delivered by May 4 or 5. Low and behold, it arrived!



I present to you the A7 HD Sports Cam:



If looks are any indication of performance (yes, judging the book by it's cover), the A7 promises to be all that they say and more. Honestly, for how much it cost, I didn't hope for much. Looking at it now, seems like good bang for the buck.



It comes with the following in the box: The Action Camera with battery, a water proof case, an open open case with top and bottom tripod um... nuts, Helmet / curved surface ount with 3M double sided adhesive, bicycle handle mount, a couple of velcro straps (to help mount the curved mount to a bike helmet I assume), and a micro USB cable for power.

It's basically another GoPro Clone, albeit a rather low end one. According to the specs, still photos top out at 5MP (like the GoPro), but I doubt anyone will be using this thing just for stills. Video recording is available in either VGA 30fps or 720p 30fps. Storage is microSD, and it can accommodate from 4GB up to 32GB class 10 cards (which reminds me that I now need to purchase one of those too). No Wifi on this model as this is my first action cam and I opted not to splurge.

Here's a link to the Lazada item page.


Let me test it out and then I'll give a short review, and then feedback on the Lazada page.

*Note - I wrote this up the day I got it. Just posting it today. :-P Review to follow. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Techlust: Wifi SD Cards for Tetherless Tethered Photography

I've long been aware that tethered photography was a thing. It's basically what makes those photobooth services work. However, in my line of work, a cable is just another accident waiting to happen specially if you've got hyperactive kids in the studio. I'd tried searching for Wireless Tethering online and I'd seen several products that plug into the USB port of your camera and usually ride on the hotshoe on top (Cameramator and Camranger specifically). There have even been some DIY solutions to the problem, but they're all pretty bulky. The commercial ones seem to be pretty pricey. Imagine my delight when someone pointed me towards these new WiFi SD cards.

Imagine taking a shot with your DSLR (or any SD capable camera for that matter) and being able to share it straight on any device with a wifi connection. It's a feature available to several cameras that recently came out, but it's also something you old camera can do if it had one of these:





As far as my google searches have turned up, it seems that only the Trancend Wi-Fi cards and slower older versions of the ez Sh@re are available locally. I'll have to look around a little while longer. Additionally, I'm not immediately sold on it yet. I can't exactly use it on my Oly E 410, seeing as it's neither an XD or a CF card. However, I might be convinced to change my opinion if I get to try it out with a CFII adapter.

We'll see.



Monday, February 4, 2013

Getting Back into the Swing of things: Macro Dalek and Tardis

I've been out of commission in terms of personal photography and blogging for quite awhile now. Seeing as I've gotten a new lease on life, sort of, I'm going to try getting back into the swing of things. And swing I will.

I've to get back to my roots. I've to remind myself about the passion and wonder I have for this craft.

And I shall. But for now, I will post some impromptu macro work with a sheet of short bond, the DIY ringlight, and the nifty fifty (ish)...



A Blue Dalek Necklace

The Tardis Necklace

The jewelry above is of clay, handmade by a friend.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Subject of Opportunity: Kermit

I haven't been posting any of my personal photography lately. Most of the photos I've been taking have mostly been via phone and none really stand out. Tonight however found me nearly face to face with an invisible subject. Invisible because it was dark, and it was only by chance I saw him move.

Say hello to Kermit.

He was just sitting on the rebar minding his own business. 

He makes a farely decent ringlight subject too. Big eyes. 

Eventually I took one shot too many and he decided he'd had enough of a glamour shoot for one day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Helpful Hints and Other Sites: Buyer's Guide (ver 1.1)

Ok, I'm pretty sure someone out there has somehow compiled a list of websites from which you can get the best deals from. If no one has, well, I hope this particular entry will be it. 

For everyone who's ever been interested in photography, or have declared their passion for the art, I think it's common knowledge that it's a pricey endeavor. Every now and again you're tempted to buy new gadgets, be they bodies, lenses, or off-camera lighting equipment, or even little bits to build your own stuff. Every now and again I write an entry regarding a piece of equipment I myself have purchased or tried out and link you to some websites where you can buy them from. However, I have yet to come up with a comprehensive list of websites and links in one entry, so here we go...


The Philippine Photographer's (not nearly comprehensive) BUYER'S GUIDE (working title): some of the best places online to buy your photography equipment (list will evolve. watch this link).

1) Tay Hua Trading Corp. -- Sells different kinds of accessories. No cameras. Online purchase available, though payment is through bank deposit and G-Cash. They accept credit cards but only in-store. I've purchased my Starving-Student Off Camera Light Kit and Yong Nuo-560 from this store. I actually made the trip to Binondo for the former and had the latter shipped via courier. Personal store review here

2) DP Online Store -- Sells Cameras, Lenses, and accessories, big and small. You can get a whole studio set-up from this store. They also have different branches around metro manila, one of which is JT Photoworld along Pasong Tamo in Makati. I purchased my Spirit Pop-Up Flash Diffuser as well as Single Q Strap Curve (lets describe it as a China-made blackrapid-copy, except with different tripod mount and octopus-like friction pad on the strap) from Fotohub, their branch located in Il Terrazzo along Tomas Morato in Quezon City.

3) DB Gadgets -- Sells different gadgets, like cameras, lenses, mobile phones, tablets, gaming consoles, and other accessories. So far, as far as the prices go, it's the place to get your equipment for cheap. If I were so inclined (and financially able) to jump from Oly to Canon, I think I'd get my first Kit from them. (edited 09.14.13)

4) Filters Exchange -- Despite its name, the website sells a whole slew of photography equipment other than filters, which it does carry. The company has gotten it's own .net domain since my last update. Still haven't purchased from this site. :-) Haven't purchased from this multiply-based Sulit-based site either, but it seems that they've gotten a lot of positive reviews. (edited 04.13.15)

5) Echo Store Ph -- located along P. Burgos off Gil Puyat Ave in Makati, the EchoStore is open from Monday to Friday, 10AM to 6PM, by appointment on Saturday and closed on Sundays. And hey, they seem to be on sale. Not to be confused with echostore.ph, which does not promote photography in any shape or form.

6) Kimstore -- What used to be a multiply based online store, they're a GoNegosyo Young Starpreneur Awardee for 2011. According to their site, they're the most successful online store as awarded by Multiply and GoNegosyo. They sell a lot of gadgets, aside from cameras and accessories. They don't seem to carry Canon though. They accept payment via credit card and paypal so that's something. Since multiply closed down, they've since opened their own dot com dot ph site. Link has been edited.   (edited 09.14.13)

7) TipidPC -- This forum cum swapmeet slash online trading site has many deals to offer for the person who knows what he's looking for. If you don't mind buying preloved equipment, or want to get brand new ones, you can check this place out. People sell computers, parts, accessories, cameras et al. If you're looking for phones though, check tipidcp.com.  I sold my old C-8080WZ and bought my Olympus e410 dual lens kit here. (added 04.25.12)

8) Photozuela -- I forgot to include this site in my initial versions as I'd never really checked it out. I only remembered them after a cousin and co-photographer pointed it out. They also happen to appear in some of my adsense ads. They carry a brand of hotshoe flash I haven't seen in any other store, be it online or physical, the Montana C600. This flash in itself is interesting, what with a GN of 38, option for external power and pc connection, and metal hot shoe, for the price of 2,500. They offer a Strobist Starving Student kit with said flash, on sale now for 3,500. Damn.  (added 04.26.12) As of this edit, I've purchased several AC type radio triggers and receivers from them for work. So far, quality is acceptable. It's easy enough to get to their office in The Fort. Just keep your receipts. (edited 09.17.13)

9) Lazada Philippines -- It's funny where I find these sites. I found the link from my iGoogle homepage. Probably targeted me because most of my widgets were photography related. This local version of an inter-asian site (seems that are available in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia) advertises itself as the largest online shopping destination in the Philippines. They carry a lot of cameras (no Oly sadly) and other goodies such as books, home appliances, sports equipment, toys, etc... They offer Free Nationwide Delivery, COD, and 14 day money back guarantee. Unfortunately their "Cheapeast Price in the Philippines, Guaranteed!" Tagline doesn't hold true. DB Gadgets still seems to be the cheapest option (compare their price for the 60D body vs. DB Gadget's offer). They're still worth a look though. (added 05.08.12)

10) Extreme Deals -- I came across this site as I was going through facebook pages as an ad on the sidebar. It's a multiply based site that ships free within Metro Manila. Their Starving Students' Strobist Kit sells for 2000 pesos, with a 2 in 1 umbrella (shoot through and bounce), though price-wise it's comparative to Tay Hua, there's the free shipping to consider. They sell the YN-560 at slightly cheaper too at 3,500. They only carry Canon and Nikon DSLR accessories though (like batt grips, TTL flash cords etc). (added 05.13.12)

Other Sites worth the visit:

> CDR King -- Ok, you don't really need to go online to buy from them. They have a store practically everywhere. However not all stores are equal. Some of the bigger ones are more complete with regard to the stuff they sell, however they also seem to be as busy and less likely to accommodate. Best to check out Podium branch (as they hardly get any costumers, but they don't have the most complete selection) and if you're in Meycauayan, check out the branch in Supima Square (Big branch, rarely full). If I were to go back to film, I think I'd buy me on of their negative scanners. I've purchased all of my Gorillapod-like tripods from them. They also sell filters and vertical grips, but sadly none for Oly.

> Deal Extreme -- This company's not based in the Philippines, and it doesn't exactly cater predominantly to Photography (though they do have a lot of stuff for sale, like Flashes, accessories etc.), however they do have a lot of other things for sale. You can build your own LED Ringlight with the Halo LED rings originally meant for automotive use (one of which I'm expecting in the mail any day now). 

That's it for now. If I can recall or think up any new sites, I'll add to this post. If you happen to know any websites of companies based in the Philippines that sell quality stuff for less than mall price, please hit me up in the comments. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DIY Ring Flash DIY PVC handle / Grip

The People of DIYphotography.net have a couple of offerings for us folks with limited budgets that help improve our photography. Aside from reader inputs and actual DIY stuff, they've been selling a DIY Ring Flash which you assemble yourself, and a dual flash bracket. I've purchased the former, as you've seen in previous posts, and I've successfully used it at several events with a pseudo-gorilla-pod from CDRKING as a makeshift handle. While that works, sometimes it needs a bit of re-adjusting, and the legs don't hug the flash as tightly as I'd like it to. So a couple of nights before going out clubbing with my cousin, I decided to create a make shift handle out of PVC. 

I don't have a detailed step-by-step because I was mostly winging it. Just cutting to test. Photos from my phone next. 


seen as mounted on a tripod 


it's basically 2 T joints, a couple of lengths of pipe, and an elbow. The first T joint has a hole drilled / melted through the top to be able to thread a screw in. Size unknown but it fits in the tripod socket.
 

Length of the pipe depends on distance to the flash underneath I think. Specially since there are several recommended lengths at which to bend the flash bracket depending on your camera.


2nd T joint attaches to the back of the flash with a rubber band / bungee. 


While I initially used to use a PT-04 trigger, I find that this set-up takes out the possibility of running out of batteries out of the equation. Finally have a use for a not really TTL cord.


The pipes I used were actually part of my PVC light tent. Since I don't really use that anymore and it was just lying around gathering dust, well, here it is now.


Over all it gives me a bit more rigidity to the whole set-up. It's a bit thin, as a grip I think, so I might fatten it up with neoprene if I can find a source, or something to recycle it from. I haven't really been able to use it in the field, aside from taking shots of my officemates. I intended to use it at a foam party, but since that was going to be in a dark place, and since the E410 isn't equipped with a focusing beam, I decided not to use it. Next time perhaps.