Review: Garmin Virb Ultra 30

 Action cams, Cinematography, Gear  Comments Off on Review: Garmin Virb Ultra 30
Sep 032016

Must be action cam season again. The recent Yi 4K camera—which is about as capable as a GoPro Hero4 Black for only half the price—really impressed me. While we’re all waiting to see how 800-pound gorilla GoPro will respond to that threat, Garmin has stepped into the game. Clearly, the company is swinging for the fences.

Garmin Virb Ultra 30



Innovative features like voice control and excellent case-on audio quality set it apart from a crowded field. Same resolution, framerates, and shooting mode as its competition. On-board sensors let you incorporate ride/stunt/adventure data into your videos. Works with most of the common mounts and accessories on the market.


Battery life is only meh. Image stabilization feature fails to impress.

The Virb Ultra 30 is the latest in Garmin’s Virb line of action sports accessories. There have been Virb-branded action cameras before, but the Ultra 30 represents a thorough rethink. It’s Garmin’s attempt at a kitchen-sink style, high-end action camera, and for the most part it really succeeds. Its resolution and speed reach up to 4K at 30 frames per second, or 1080p at 120fps, just like GoPro’s Hero4 Black. In fact it looks almost identical to a GoPro. Like the Yi 4K (another GoPro dead ringer) it also has a touchscreen on the back—something which the Hero4 Black lacks, but the mid-tier Silver edition has.

Remarkably, you can continue using the touchscreen even with its case on, which is waterproof to 133 feet. But that’s not the most notable thing about the case; Garmin specially designed a mic port for the waterproof case, and you may not believe it, but the sound is just as clear with the case on as it is with the case off. Crazy, I know, but watch the video comparison and you’ll see what I mean. It’s totally unprecedented in the arena of action cams, and its audio quality blows the doors off everything else.

Another terrific idea Garmin has implemented is voice control. You alert it by saying “OK Garmin…” and then “start recording,” “stop recording,” “take a photo,” or “remember that” (to add a tag to that part of the video). I tested it thoroughly while mountain biking some singletrack in the badlands of North Dakota, and I quickly grew to love the feature for one very important reason: It meant I didn’t have to take my hands off the handlebars. It’s always the dodgiest moments that you want to capture, which are the exact moments you really shouldn’t be letting go. Obviously, this applies to many different sports. It certainly doesn’t work perfectly, and your videos will always end with “OK Garmin, stop recording,” but true hands-free control is a major advantage.

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The Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR

 Cinematography, Gear, virtual reality  Comments Off on The Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR
Mar 312016

Palmer Luckey has never used an Oculus Rift.

That’s what the founder of Oculus keeps telling himself as he unboxes the commercial version of the virtual reality system he invented. Opens the package. Takes out the few elements—the headset, the single cable that connects it to a computer, the small cylindrical infrared camera that tracks it in space. Runs through the setup. And finally puts on the headset and takes stock of his surroundings.

Luckey has been doing this same thing over and over and over again, on different computers in different rooms on Facebook’s campus. He’s spent days repeating the sequence, putting himself in the shoes of a customer who has just received a Rift.

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Sony’s New Sensors Are More Exciting Than Its New Cameras

 Gear, News, Technique  Comments Off on Sony’s New Sensors Are More Exciting Than Its New Cameras
Jun 122015


The influence of Sony’s imaging sensors extends far beyond its camera lineup. Some of the biggest names in tech use Sony sensors: The iPhone 6 camera has a Sony sensor, as does the Samsung Galaxy S6, Nikon DSLRs, and Olympus mirrorless cameras. All told, nearly half of the image-sensor market is dominated by Sony. The company’s three newest cameras are intriguing in their own right, but it’s their brand-new sensors that will likely have a real impact on the entire photography industry.

But first—the new cameras in question. The marquee new camera is the Sony Alpha A7R II, a full-frame follow-up to the A7R. With sensors, you usually have to choose between resolution and low-light performance—bigger photosites on the sensor translates to better light-gathering capabilities at the expense of megapixels—but Sony claims this new camera’s sensor is the first to offer “higher resolution without compromise or tradeoff,” according to Mark Weir, senior manager of technology at Sony Electronics. “Photographers are no longer forced to choose between resolution and sensitivity.”

Here’s what that means: This is a 42.4-megapixel CMOS sensor with backside illumination—the first full-frame sensor of its kind, according to Sony. Normally, all those megapixels would generate a pock-marked mess at high ISO levels. With this camera, you’re able to jack the ISO up to an insane 102,400—which you may want to do if you use its top shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second—and Sony claims the images still look sharp at the upper reaches of that range.

The A7R II is likely to be a go-to camera for filmmakers, too. Manual exposure controls are enabled in video mode, where the camera captures 4K video using a full-pixel readout from the large sensor. Sony says this is another first, and the sample videos the company showed at the launch event were jaw-dropping. This is essentially a professional 4K video camera shrunken down into a DSLR-sized body.

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Rare, Revolutionary Photo Book Is Back in Print

 News, Technique  Comments Off on Rare, Revolutionary Photo Book Is Back in Print
Mar 312015


SOMETIMES YOU NEED to  break the rules. Henri Cartier-Bresson was a legendary rule-breaker, and his discordance with photography’s stymied role in culture changed the medium forever. His book The Decisive Moment, recently republished by Steidl, was groundbreaking when it was released in 1952 and still inspires photographers everywhere.

“The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimeters—small, small differences—but it’s essential,” Cartier-Bresson said in a 1971 interview.

His book was filled with examples of that crucial moment, juxtaposed with delicate geometry and a deep sense of humanity. It was produced, start to finish, in just under six months in New York and France under the title Images à la Sauvette.


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NEW Nikon D4S

 Gear  Comments Off on NEW Nikon D4S
Feb 272014


Nikon’s New Flagship DSLR Is a Supercharged Low-Light Champ | Gadget Lab |

Read the full article at the link above. 

“If only the highest-end DSLR will do for you, you’ll be happy to know there’s a new flagship full-frame Nikon camera at the top of DSLR mountain. The newly announced Nikon D4S is a successor to the venerable D4, and comes with a host of improvements, including better autofocus capabilities, enhanced low-light shooting, and speedier data handling.

While the two cameras have the same megapixel count and sensor size — a 16.2-megapixel full-frame (FX format) imager — the sensor tucked inside the D4S is a newly developed chip, and the camera offers a newer image processor in the form of Nikon’s Expeed 4.”

Tim Moynihan|

Nikon D4s