CES 2020 – Look Ma, No Wires!

This year at CES we saw so many earpods, headphones, and wireless chargers, the market is so crowded, and you have to figure out what to get. And you know that in a year there will be better, faster, smaller. So what do you go for now?

Let’s start with the wireless charger category. Does this scene look familiar, when you travel, or even at home?

When I land at a hotel, I unload my Peak Design tech pack, and get the multi hub block set up, then attach all of the charging cables for my devices. 2 phones, watch, extra battery charger, headphones (not shown). A real mess.

Enter the wireless chargers!

Mophie Wireless Charge Pad

You know how they work: a coil is set inside a platform, and the phones. or devices that can, get recharged, just by being placed on the platform. No cables.

Here is a basic rundown: there are the simple circles for a single device, then the multi chargers that currently handle 3 devices. OK, yes, saw one at CES that handled 6 devices, but it was not something you travelled with. Twas heavy and expensive, about $250. And not available yet.

In the single circle versions for one phone or AirPods, the brands you love have a version: Mophie, MyCharge lead the pack. One thing to remember is that due to current technology, the device has to be in direct contact with the circle to charge.

Not a big deal, unless you use some sort of pop-socket, or a rig to help you hold onto your phone. It the raises the phone off of the charging base, which means no direct contact, and no charge.

Pop-Socket, who has a massive following, introduced a wireless charger with a circular opening well, to fit the pop-socket while on the case, allowing your phone to have direct contact with the charger! If you are a pop socket person, you need to get this charger. It has some weight, so maybe just for home/office, but they heard the fans, and created the right product.

Winner! No more having to take off your case to enjoy wireless charging! Whew! BTW, just had a look and the charger is sold out, so get on that list of you are a pop socket fan!

And that mess of wire at the top of the post? How do you take care of that?

Satechi has currently won the war for this multi device, perfect travel charger. Lightweight, small footprint, and critical point here: retracting Apple Watch charger! And about $110 after the on-site discount code.

There are a few companies that showed products that were not ready for market.

Ampere shared a folding charging unit (above) with some cool new designs coming. This unit is available now. Like so many things about this design, but the weight and bulk kinda stuck with me. Since this is designed (I think) to be a travel unit, that became part of the assessment. As a home unit, just fine.

Eggtronic had a multi unit with retracting watch charger, than will charge faster. coming soon.

Mophie has a perfect 3- device solution, which is great for the home, but the watch charger doesn’t retract, so a tough call for travel. I’ve been using this one on my nightstand.

So for my money, the Satechi is the current travel champ, and will be coming with me on the road .

After all, who needs that rat’s nest of wires on you bathroom counter??

NB: all of the current tech call for a 2-3 mm max height diff for contact between device/charger. Coming tech will be a 12mm clearance allowing more grips on the back of phone cases to be used.

Silly stuff? Maybe, but when you get hooked on the wireless charge, you want it to work in all facets of your life. And it will keep evolving: design wise, power delivery, and then that whole ” no need to be in direct contact” tech.

Best Travel Accessory!

So you just got those amazing BT earbuds/ headset, and you not only sound good, but you look good, too!

Now you are starting some travel, maybe for business, maybe for vacation, and it would sure be cool to use those sweet wireless headphones on your flight.

But if you are getting on a plane, you either need to hard wire your over-ear headphones, or not watch an airplane movie with ear pods.

OK, found a great solution that I had to use a few times before recommending: AirFly by Twelve South, a blue tooth transmitter!

It’s a simple deal: pair your head set or AirPods, plug the Air Fly into the headphone 3.5mm jack on the plane, push a button, and Voila! you are wireless! Good for about 20 hours with the pro.

Thankfully, Delta has a USB port at your seat, so I could charge my phone while flying.

The true story is that I was on my way to a much needed vacation, and was struggling with my Air Pods, and a video on my phone. Yep, it was not a great combo. As people in my row started to get up, the AirPods got loose and flew around the plane. I resorted to the crappy airline wired earbuds, and had to keep unplugging them as my row-mates got back to their seats.

I was determined to find a solution, and still be wireless.

Enter the Air Fly and some sweet over ear headphones. All charged up, I plugged in, pressed the button and the rest of the cross country flight was sorted from an audio perspective!

For you audiophiles, you may ask about latency. For the rest of us, that means a delay between the sound from the source to the headphones. With movies, no issue. Once I used DirectTv which is a kind of live feed for news, it was a bit more apparent. Truth is after a few minutes, even that minor deal went away. maybe the brain just adjusts.

If you fly, this is one heck of a great item to pack. I keep it in my headphone case to make sure I have it. And if you are looking for a cool gift, this works.

Even the Apple store sells it, so it had to pass their test as well.

I have not had a extremely long flight, like NY to Asia this year, yet, but I will have it with me on that when i do.

You can also get a version that allows 2 people to use the same audio feed.

Need to charge?

Uses the new standard of USB C cable.

I did make sure my headset and air pods were paired before I took the trip. Did a test on the laptop. Then once airborne just pressed the button on the AirFly and it was good to go.

There is a big CES wrap-up, with insights and some gadgetry coming, but waiting on some samples to add in.

Lot’s of wireless chargers, ear pods, headphones, security, phone cases, some cool lighting, and the biggest news is that the previously talked about developed tech, is coming into AI play and into your life.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019 – Part 2 – Can You Hear Me Now?

I’ve said it before: Audio is 50% of your video. Unless it’s bad, then it’s 80%!

It’s true that people can consume marginal video if the  sound is good. If sound is bad they are gone. Solid gone.

This part of the gift guide has some options you should consider to increase the peace on your video’s sound.

Rode has become quite the player in the easy to manage mic choices.

This year they introduced the Rode Wireless GO mic system which makes a wireless recording so easy, you can’t ever leave home without it.

With a 2 small footprint modular system, you only need to simply pair once to get a wireless lav system in production.

Designed like 2 squares about an 1 inch each, they easily attach to the subject, which could be you narrating, and the mic input on your camera. Or with some adaptors, your smartphone.

No question, this has become the go-to solid consideration for your vlogging needs.

If you don’t want the wireless option, yet still require the lavalier, the RODE SmartLav (with adaptors not included-keep all of it in a small bag), works great on smartphones, and hard wired into you camera.

Below is an older vid, check the connectivity, but still gives you a good idea on the how to use the mic. A great option, even with a DJI Osmo 3 Gimbal as you cover events.

And this mic, the Rode VideoMicro is always in my bag, as it plugs fast into my camera and give a higher quality directional mic-ing, and gets that nasty on camera noise out of the picture. A great compact solution.

You can use it with the above system, and honesty get a more discreet mic-ing option.

For monitoring all of your video need there is no need to break the bank as the Sony professional over ear headset is only about $100. The choice of pros, these deliver a flat sound, not colored by bass or high end to give you the best, honest, depiction of the sound you are gathering.

When you do start to go higher end on your audio capture, one of the best new mixers out there is from CEntrance. Whether you are podcasting, want cleaner audio on your DSL or Mirrorless, this unit is super clean and the design is minimal, so the rig you build is manageable.  The Mixerface R4 has a microSD slot so you can get the insurance of another copy of the record. I always want the insurance. You get 2 XLR inputs, and super easy connection to a smartphone

For microphones, I prefer the Sanken COS 11D for a lavalier, and an Audio Technica for the shotgun. You should listen for yourselves at a brick and mortar to ensure you are getting the sound you like. And if you order the Sanken, make sure the plug is right for your wireless system, and you can handle phantom power with your rig.

Then you have another higher end wireless options for more professional work. After years of rocking the Sennheiser G2 system, I moved to the Sennheiser AVX system and it integrates perfectly with the CEntrance mixer. I have purchased addition batteries, as depending on the event length, you may burn through them, Always have extras! Yes, it comes with a lav in the kit, so maybe you now have a spare. I’m still in the Sanken camp.

The next step is the mounting to a camera.
I would suggest researching which fits your camera system, and you mic system of choice. I found a half circle solution, but your choice may vary.

Once you have recorded the flat “raw” sound, perhaps a gift of tutorials on basic sound mixing will make your productions gain that extra quality to send it over the top.

 Heck, we go to Dolby movies for a reason, right?

OK, maybe went off on an expensive tangent here, but sound is very important to all of us.

The next Gift Guide will go a little simpler.

And the deals are still coming into my email, so there is still time.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019 #1 !

Black Friday has come and gone, Cyber Monday is in the rearview, Green Monday is a recent memory.

 The deals will continue, however, as there is a shortened shopping season.

So, let’s start with some ideas for your photo video gift giving, or your end of year purchases for you self. Self Santa, as it were.

First up is a product from Peak Design that should be in every photographers check list:

The Tech Pouch has been been one of the best designed travel accessory bags I’ve used in the past year. OK, ever!

With multiple pockets, pouches, and great overall design, this bit of kit will keep all of your cables, cards, readers, adaptors, etc, all in one place, and organized. I even add a little Lexon Bluetooth speaker to get my Spotify playlist going as I prep. and affordable at about $60. USD

Next up is another product from Peak Design, and that is the Everyday Sling 10L.

With a bit of structure, this bag holds just the right amount of gear fro a great walkaround for the street photographer. A couple of design notes that I think are particularly useful, are the zipper opening TO the body, instead of AWAY from the body (more secure), and the battery pouches in the lid. Those even have a discreet color code so you can divide full and used batteries at a glance. I have even put an iPad with keyboard in this. Pencil goes in zipped pouch. Plus straps on the bottom let you carry a travel tripod, or, as i mainly use it for, a compact umbrella! Only $120 at Amazon!

Here is a full link of camera bags that honestly haven’t changed much from last year. You can never have too many camera bags! But you knew that.

For some fun right out of the box:

DJI Osmo Mobile 3, for some smooth smartphone footage. Now that it folds, there is no reason not to have it with you at all times. Others have a bit of an issue with the length. Nice solve, DJI!

Super easy to use, and now you will have those tracking shots you always hoped for.  Perfect for vlogging, This unit will also quickly go from horizontal to vertical for fast social posting. And classic DJI simplicity of operation. Only $120! Check it out-

For the more serious filmmaker, I’d suggest Filmic Pro app as a great addition. DJI has excellent software, but this app is a step above for mobile filmmakers.

Back to DJI, the Action Cam, which is now getting heavily discounted to compete with GoPro is a solid action cam, with a built in FRONT Monitor!!  So, that’s what I look like!

Add on a cage from PGYTECH, an audio adaptor for an external mic, the Rode video micro mic (and you will use this mic on your other cameras, trust me), and you have a portable communication unit in you hand. Uses all GoPro standard mount connectors, so easy to find a variety of mounting options.

Just used this for some 4K slo-mo (8x) on holiday, in the ocean, and the footage was pretty sweet. About $300

This is not a commercial for DJI, but they just make solid products. The Pocket Osmo is an interesting entry, as it’s a one piece, # Axis gimbal camera system, that is tiny. It’s fun, easy to use, and can be operated remotely with an added Bluetooth base. I know , once i had this, I added filters, holders, extension poles, etc,. See how it feels for you and how you use it to know what accessories you may want. Also, about $300 for the basic unit.

For all of the gatherings you will be attending, nothing beats instant photos that can be handed out. Best cameras out there come from Fuji, and the are the Instax series. Covered here before, here is that link again.

One of the biggest surprises for me this year was the HoldFast Moneymaker strap system.

An issue I always had with BlackRapid camera straps was the movement and hang of the cameras when going for a 2 camera shoot, (which is most events). Even when I had a single, I found there to be too much slide on my body.

At PhotoPlus Expo this year, I tried on the HoldFast MoneyMaker strap, and fell in love. The best fit, great design, quality leather build, and it looked good. Highly recommend, just make sure you look at the site and check for the correct size. One size does NOT fit all. And that’s a good thing.

And when you are on the road, in the mountains, are going light, you now have 2 choices to back up your media cards on the trails, without needing a computer.

A name you know and love, LaCie, introduced the Boss recently, and I’ve taken it for a test run. A full review is coming, but this SSD portable back-up system saved me a few times on my past trip. The ability to not need a computer to copy and back-up my media cards, view and edit them with my smartphone if need be. Even copy off to another drive, or flash drive. Sounds simple, but it needs to work and be foolproof.

This comes with all cables needed, even if you use a iPhone, or Android device.

1 TB unit is about $450. on Amazon

Another player in the field is Gnarbox. Now on V2, this does the same actions, and has a more futuristic body covering. At almost twice the price, this is another option for your on the road backup. About $900 at Amazon

For you, or your giftee, this is another tool in the bag that may not bring experience right out of the box, but in use will prove it’s value.

Stay tuned, more holiday gift guide coming!

Yes, a lot of links to Amazon. I do get a tiny bit of you shop through these links. Same price to you. And usually the best price.

Pre Gift Guide: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Photo-Video Deals

We all have year end buy targets for what we love, and tools we need. I know some things I usually look for are deals on media cards, SSD drives, bags, maybe some glass, and usually something that may just be for fun, but may spark some new ideas.

As i said, will be adding new Black Friday ads when they come in.

Some pretty sweet camera bags from Peak Design, one of my daily go to bags. From the Messenger to the Sling, these are part of my life. And brand new ones, that are unfortunately not on sale.

Before going through the multiple days of the annual Holiday Gift Guide, you have a little more time to shop before year end, and just want to share some Black Friday/ Black Week/Cyber Monday links that may be of interest to you.

BTW, this years gift guide will have some real world reviews after using products for a year, and what may be worth your investment.

So……..

First up is a software package you probably use everyday, Adobe Creative Cloud. At a 40% discount til 11/29, you may want jump on this. Honestly ,don’t use it all of the apps, but use enough to make it the best investment for your workflow

Then here are some great brands with deals this week:

Lume Cube– small powerful LED lighting system, also has deals today. Good news is that it’s also new product, not just clearing old stock.

Adorama– you know, you love em.

B&H Photo/Video – they have the goods as well!

MagMod Light Modifiers – Silicon, magnetically connect, nice soft light

Tether Tools – 2 main things here- all of your tethering needs from stands, tables and cables, and a must have is the Case Relay Power System. 1st stop for all tethering good.

And of course Best Buy, Amazon (have found good deals on card readers, sometimes media cards, hard drive, minor accessories for mobile vlogging), MACSales for, well you know, MAC stuff. And RAID drives, refurbished computers. Sometimes NewEgg for your computing needs as well. Manfrotto, who has been scooping up so many companies, will be having deals on a lot of the brands that they own.

DJI is having a great sale on a few items, although some are discontinued items. Most times, the biggest deals aren’t on the latest gear, but this one has ActionCam, which I love, and some Mavic-ness, although the new Mavic-Mini (not on sale) seems to get in under FAA regs, weight wise, so could be useful.

I’ll keep adding as I see them, and the holiday gift guides are forthcoming!