Archive for the ‘Camera’ Category

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So, iOS10 has finally dropped, it has bricked some iPhones but the majority have got away unscathed. We are still trying to decide what we think, but here are the changes this shiny new firmware will bring you;

iMessage – This is probably the biggest update in iOS10 with the ability to be able to draw messages with your finger and send the animation to someone else. You’ll be able to use rich links in Messages. Share a link and, as it would in Slack or Twitter, artwork and a precis of the article may be pulled in, so your friends can get an idea of what they are about to click on.

Bad news for the emoji haters as iMessage will now add emojis into predictive text giving you the option to swap full words for pictures. The death of the English language is nigh.

It has also been opened up to third party developers, meaning that there will soon be apps in the messaging service that can be used to order food, shop, book tickets and send people money within a chat. We are loving the iMessage Super Mario App.

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Voicemail Transcription – iOS is apparently going to put your voicemail into text so that you can glance at it without having to listen to it. It will be interesting to see how accurate this is.

Home App (HomeKit) – Finally the launch of the hotly anticipated HomeKit. Those of you with automated homes will be able to link most devices under one app which has always been an annoying thing with automation. HomeKit will allow you to quickly dim lights, tell Siri to turn up the heating and have access from the lock screen to do all of these. We are especially looking forward to seeing how this feature handles scenes which will allow at a click of a button or a few words to Siri and your room will be ready for movie night with a raft of set processes starting ie lights going off, Apple TV turning on and blinds closing.

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News – Redesigned and now looking simpler, the News app is the go-to for any news. Subscriptions have now been allowed so we assume Newstand will soon disappear. There is also a ‘Breaking news’ notifications from the app. You can toggle the feature from settings and even custom-tune the publications you wish to see pushed to your device.

Photos – Apple says it will use deep learning techniques to analyse faces, places and objects. The app can now draw together photos and videos that are linked by place, people and time and then automatically create reels and trip customisable short clips which Apple is calling ‘Memories’.

Siri – We have seen a deeper involvement with Siri in iOS10 with HomeKit making full use of voice control. But more interestingly it has been opened up to third party developers meaning that soon you will be able to ask Siri to check other apps other than Apple ones. A great step forward.

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Feature Changes; 

•’Slide to Unlock’ has been removed, and instead you’ll see ‘Press home to open’. This will prompt you to enter your pass-code or will unlock the phone if you use Touch ID.

• Deleting Stock apps has been a real issue for some people and now you can delete as you wish. Enjoy the power!

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• Apple will now keep track of where you park your car so you don’t have to bother. Apple maps will detect when you park and automatically drop a pin so that you can find it later.

• Bedtime is the new clock feature which you tell what time you want to get to bed on a given night of the week, and your phone will let you know when the clock strikes that hour to remind you to get some shut eye.

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• The update will bring with it more than a hundred new and redesigned emoji characters with multicultural and gender types.

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Following the successful launch last year, Photofast have raised the bar again with their new CR-8800. The MemoriesCable, for those of you that don’t remember, gave a new lease of life to iOS devices with low storage capacities and provided users – for the first time -with the ability to transfer files between iOS devices and an external storage medium.

The cable could also be plugged into any computer via USB to transfer content to the built-in memory and to be honest, it worked brilliantly. The companion app was a delight to use, with powerful copy tools, backup features and even a built in video player seemingly capable of playing all video codecs.

I couldn’t think of many drawbacks –  it really did bring removable storage to fixed storage iOS devices and it felt ground-breaking.

But there was one drawback.- only made so glaringly apparent by this new unit – and that’s true removable storage. More on that shortly.

Let’s get on with the unboxing!

The unit is very nicely packaged in a clear plastic box reminiscent of CD jewel cases:

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Anybody remember CDs? No? Nevermind…

The unit is absolutely tiny, only a little bigger than the micro-SD cards it uses:

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For comparison, here is the unit next to a 64GB Samsung Micro-SDXC card and adaptor that I bought for testing:

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Once plugged into your iPad/iPhone, iOS will prompt you to download the companion app, or, if already installed, to launch it.

The app used is the same, excellent One app from Photofast, first seen on the TechSpy in our MemoriesCable review:

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The same functionality is here as before, and I’m not going to go through all the features again, as we already have it in detail.

 

So what does the CR-8800 bring to the table over the MemoriesCable ?

True removable storage.

In my review of the Mio MiVue 518 dashcam, I had to use a USB card reader and a laptop to view the recorded videos on a larger screen. It was cumbersome but how often would I need to do that anyway?

The GoPro use case is much clearer. Let’s say I’ve gone out for a day mountain biking and I’ve recorded footage of my exploits on my GoPro. In the past, I would have had to finish for the day, go home and put the SD card into my computer before I could select and edit the clips.

Now I can do the selection and editing without a computer. Armed with just the CR-8800 and an iPhone / iPad, I can spend all day biking and recording, instantly discarding bad shots and editing good ones in the field (so to speak).

Other more mundane uses include DSLR video imports and AVCHD camcorder video imports, neither of which are possible using Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter.

At only £32 at the time of writing, the CR-8800 is a steal. It’s well designed and comes backed with an established app with an extensive features list.

The CR-8800 is available now on Amazon

The Tech Spy rating:  9.5 /10

As an exclusive offer, The Tech Spy readers can get 15% off using the code: tts15off

 

Hot off the heels of the Mio 658, we now have the pleasure of testing the Mio 638 Touch which is equally as impressive as its bigger brother.

In my last review I started off by not being that persuaded by the whole dash cam revolution. After testing the 658 and now living with the 638, I am a dash cam believer.

I strongly believe that these will either be part of future cars or be something that will be required by law or at least your insurance company.

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Let’s start off with the fact that these Mio devices are so easy to set up. I literally took this out of the box, plugged it in and stuck it on my windscreen and I was away. Of course you do need to plug in a micro SD to get going and maybe tweak a few of the settings, but apart from that their is nothing else to do.

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The 638 looks to be exactly the same body as the 658 but with a few different features. This model has two micro SD card slots allowing for a capacity of 128gb (class 10 recommended). I will say that you do not need two SD cards for this to function as we have also tested with just one. When I first looked at the technical spec I thought this would be for huge capacity but this is not the case and really would not have been necessary for this reason. Instead the second slot is for backup, taking footage from the first just in case. I suppose its bigger brother does this via WiFi straight to the phone which is a very cool feature, but we won’t always have our phones at hand in the car or connected, so this way probably makes more sense for most people.

The Full HD 1080p camera records your journey as soon as you start the car. It takes a few seconds for the GPS to pick up satellites but this wasn’t an issue at any point.

The 638 has a button on the side of the screen very much like the majority of Mio devices. When pressed it takes a copy of the latest event, storing it for you under the “Events” folder for later viewing in the software. The filesystem is very easy to understand separating all necessary events into folders.

This dash cam comes with speed camera notifications which others in its field do not include so it is a welcome addition. The camera itself sits on the windscreen, best placed under the rear view mirror. When recording the screen shows your current speed instead of what it is recording in front of you. I have seen other comments on the web with people saying they would have liked to have seen the footage and cannot understand why you would need a speedometer when you car has one already, but I think that seeing what I am recording in front of me would just be off-putting where as not a lot of people know that the speed shown by GPS devices is actually more precise that your cars own.

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The speedometer can be changed from kilometers to miles but the 638 does seem to suffer with the same software issue as the 658 along with its very own. Firstly shared with its bigger brother is the fact that for some reason when a speed camera notification is displayed on screen it shows 2mph lower than the actual limit. For example, if I was driving up to a speed camera in a 30mph zone, the 638 shows a big traffic sign on screen with 28 in it…I really am perplexed as to why the devices are doing this.

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Secondly, although I have changed kilometers into miles in settings and it happily shows me my speed in miles on the main screen, when the safety camera notification comes up it insists on telling me in kilometers and I see no way of changing this. I am sure this can be easily fixed via a software update…..come on Mio pull your finger out.

Although the safety camera alerts need a few little tweeks, this doesn’t stop them from being a seriously good feature of this device. Not only will it alert within a certain distance which you of course can amend, you can even add cameras that you come across to the database so that it will come up in future for you.

The dash cam can be used to take pictures at any point by touching the little camera icon on screen. This would primarily be used to take pictures of your car when damage has occurred or while mounted on the windscreen if you want to take a picture of anything in front of you.  Here is an example of the picture quality at night.

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Night picture

 

Along with the GPS, Mio have included a G-Sensor inside to pick up any collisions or hard braking that may occur. I tried with a little bit of emergency braking and the system worked well. The device notified me with a “ting” sound that it had saved that recording to the SD card for me to look at later.

Now I know if you are reading this then you are technically inclined and would want this stuffed with every bit of tech available to man, but really their is no point to this camera if the footage is not very good, so here it is in full glory;

Day Footage:

Dark Footage:

 

The device allows you to decide whether you want sound recorded in the car, we have toggled this feature off.

I do like this camera and think that pretty much everyone will get on with it. The instructions are not the best, but we come across a lot of devices like that nowadays. This wouldn’t sway me from recommending it or buying it as it is so easy to set up out of the box.

If Mio can sort out the software issue concerning speed units, then we will have ourselves an almost perfect dash board camera.

If you are looking for a Dashcam for your car, this is one of the best I have reviewed.

TheTechSpy Rating: 7/10 (8.5/10 if they get the units updated)

Currently around £149 in the UK.

 

 

Following on from our review of the D-Link Smart Home Plug, we have decided to take a look at the other products in the ‘mydlink Home’ range. In this review, we’ll be looking at the Monitor HD video camera.

The PIR Sensor will be covered in an upcoming review.

Introduction

The Monitor HD is a 720p video camera that can be used anywhere in the home. The camera has night capabilities with IR LEDs capable of illuminating  up to 5m, and so for the purposes of this review, I will be installing it in my nursery as a baby monitor.

First impressions

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It’s a nice looking camera with a gloss white finish which should compliment most interiors. On lifting it from the box, the first thing that hit me was just how incredibly light it is. This may sound odd, but before I even start to use it, I want to weigh the thing down!

Setup

Sure enough, after plugging the mains cable in and positioning the camera where I wanted it, the slight curvature of the mains cable angled the camera away. It took a few attemps to get it to sit still in the right direction. Fortunately you can mount it on a wall using screws and D-Link kindly provide a drilling template in the box should you wish to go down that route.

As with the other products in the range, the camera has a WPS button on the side which when pressed in combination with the WPS button on your  router, will connect to your home Wi-Fi network.

D-Link advertise the camera as for use exclusively with it’s mydlink Home app (available on iOS or Android). Indeed, for most people, this will be what they use and it will be more than satisfactory. However, after digging a little deeper I discovered that it’s capable of operating as a standard IP camera over HTTP/S, RTSP and UPNP. It’s worth noting this as I don’t think D-Link are doing themselves any favours by ignoring traditional IP camera sales when it works so well.

So just to reiterate, you can view the video/audio stream in the mydlink Home app, or any IP camera app. The initial setup of the camera and any firmware updates will need to be done in-app though.

Firmware updates are applied in-app, automatically…

 

 

Performance

Here is a full colour daytime shot taken from the nursery window:


And a full colour daytime shot in the nursery:


This is a split view showing the D-Link DCS-935L operating as a traditional IP camera alongside a Foscam IP camera on the fantastic LiveCams Pro app.

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Top: D-Link DCS-935L (IR LED on). Bottom: Foscam 9804W  (IR LED on).

Extras

Audio is provided via a built-in microphone, but there’s no 2-way baby-soothing audio functionality.

Summary

As a starter camera, I can honestly think of nothing  better due to its integration with the mydlink Home app and the provided setup wizard.

It really is the kind of thing you could buy for your grandmother and she’ll be able to configure it for herself. Dig a little further though and D-Link have provided the features to make this a good investment as a standalone IP camera too. It’s a product that will grow with you if you’re new to this sort of thing.

 

TheTechSpy rating: 8/10

Fresh in for review today from Satechi is the Bluetooth Button Series.

The series consists of three buttons, the Shutter Button, Media Button and Home Button.

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The Shutter Button, as you might expect, is for taking remote photos on your smartphone and is ideal for tripods.

The Media Button allows you to control your smartphone video or music apps.

The Home Button is simply a clone of your home button.

All three of the devices have a solid industrial design with what looks like brushed aluminium edging.

So, let’s get on with the review…

Shutter Button

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This will probably be one of the easiest things I’ll ever have to review. By pressing the button when you have the camera app open on your phone, it will take a photo for you. Simple and effective. It’s also responsive enough for you to hold the button down and take burst photos.

Media Button

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The Media Button is what had me most excited. It’s a simple enough device, using the Bluetooth AVRCP protocol to access Play/Pause, Previous / Next track and Volume Up / Down.

Many devices have the same AVRCP functionality as the Satechi but nearly always as part of an audio receiver set. What I mean by this is that audio is redirected over the Bluetooth A2DP protocol away from the source device, usually to a headphone socket on the media remote.

Take a look at the Sony SBH-20 which at first glance looks like a competing product. It has the same media controls but the unit is both an AVRCP and A2DP device using what’s called a ‘Bluetooth Audio Sink’. This means that all audio is redirected to the headphone jack on the SBH-20 the moment you press a button.

The thing that gets me about the Satechi Media Button is that this kind of device is so rare and yet it’s perfect for parties. Let me explain:

Let’s say you have a few friends over for a BBQ.

You have an iPhone connected to your home stereo via a headphone > auxiliary connection, a couple of the speakers placed near the windows and you’re playing your favourite music through Spotify.

You’ve started playing a playlist and left your phone in the house with the stereo out of harms way.

You could take the Media Button out into the garden with all the food and drink and just leave it on the table. Skip a track? No problem. Turn the volume up? You got it.

You cannot do this with something like the SBH-20 or any other AVRCP device I’ve found online for that matter. The second you press a button, the music from the stereo would stop, re-routed to a device that nobody is listening to.

It really is as far as I can tell, a unique product.

The price of it also means it’s not the end of the world if your mate knocks his beer over it. Until all phones are waterproof, I’d much prefer this scenario.

Home Button

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The Home Button is simply a remote ‘Home’ button. On my test iPhone 6 Plus, it does exactly what the normal home button does – a short press exits applications, a long press activates Siri. Double tapping takes you to the app switcher.

The only use I’ve found for this is in my car. I mounted it to my dashboard using the supplied adhesive pad and can now dictate to Siri and keep my eyes on the road. For this one purpose, I’ve found it invaluable.

The Shutter Button and Home Button are normally available for £19.99 at Amazon, with the Media Button priced at £23.99.

However, Satechi have provided Amazon discount codes of 15% for readers of TheTechSpy, valid until 24/07/2016.

Media Button: 88EWX7F8 
Shutter Button : X9E6I4CR
Home Button : Z7HQ2TVZ

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So, the long awaited Doorbot arrived at TTS Headquarters just before the holidays and we could not wait to get this bad boy out to start reviewing it.

Let’s be clear here, from the second it is pulled out of its courier parcel, you do not think “Crowd-funded” product. This device would look completely comfortable sitting next to the first class products you ordinarily see in an Apple store.

On opening the box I was surprised to see the care that has been taken with this device. Firstly, not only are you given a screwdriver handle which also includes a screwdriver bit  to help you fit the device, but they also include a liquid level and drill bit with all wall plugs to ensure this can be fitted right from opening the box.

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Fitting is remarkably easy. Even those less DIY savvy of you will have no problem getting the device in place. The instructions show all the different places you may want to attach it to with a step by step guide and the camera can be angled quite freely to deal with most front door situations . We have ours directly connected to our old door bell wiring to power it but also wanted to have the door bell still chime inside when the Doorbot is pressed which is not actually functioning. We are currently waiting on the guys over at Doorbot to address the situation.

Once installed, setup was again very easy. It uses your smartphone app or can be accessed online via a laptop. My only gripe with the setup is that it only supports 802.11b when you would expect it to at least be N graded. We had trouble connecting the Doorbot to our Wifi and to get it to work we had to move the router much closer reducing the distance away from the router from 15 metres to 5 metres away (although the app still shows a very low signal).

After setup has been completed, using the device is relatively straight forward. The button is pressed and you get a notification on your phone. In this case we are using it with an iPhone so the notification is like all others and once opened you get the choice whether to answer the call seeing who is at the door (this took about 7-10 seconds to appear). We especially liked the walkie-talkie type push button to talk so that you get complete privacy inside the house when talking to someone at the door, but was not that impressed with the low quality video which is delivered to your device. We think this should be either your choice as it depends on your internet speed and wifi connection or an auto function depending on your connection.

All in all, this is a good product. The Doorbot team need to address a few issues which I am sure can be fixed in future updates delivered direct to the device. On viewing comments online their support is a little to be desired at the moment, but it will take them time to catch up with all support related issues as we cannot forget this is a small start-up which do not have the comfort of a whole department just to answer technical issues.

The Doorbot is an awesome product when you think of its roots, but they already have competitors close on their tails. Get yours for $199.

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With the advancement in the smartphone industry, we are quite rapidly seeing the quality of pictures from our phones getting rather close to our point and shoots. With sharper images, high res displays and millions of pixels being packed into a device that basically is a computer, why would you want to carry anything else.

As we have seen, the demise of the SatNav market due to GPS becoming a strong feature in pretty much every phone, will we see the likes of Canon and Nikon having to collaborate with firms like HTC, Apple and Samsung as the navigation industry has had to do?

Personally, I think photography has a few more strings to its bow than this and will survive the onslaught, but they will have to change strategy to ensure profits stay alive and the industry continues to flourish.

Canon have already started to bridge this gap. Today we see the launch of the PowerShot N, which brings this company closer to the mobile industry.

The metal bodied camera is compact as you can see and features a 12.1 MP CMOS sensor, Full HD movies recording on a micro SD, 16 x zoom, 28mm lens and a 7.1 cm touch screen to see your images.

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The gap is bridged in a number of ways. Firstly we see the inclusion of Creative Shot, the creation of 6 images from the original shot to satisfy the Instagram generation. The camera still includes the normal scene modes to aid shooting.

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Secondly it’s all about connections. Along with USB, we have WiFi which works to connect to the internet and Via a dedicated Facebook button, publishes your photos direct to your profile. Obviously this relies on the fact that you can get a connection as no 3G/4G chips are included. You can tag your shots automatically via its GPS feature to track where you are taking your photos around the world.

To make this more familiar to the mobile generation, Canon have thrown in the whole zoom and shoot feature which most people are used to and of course the “any way up” feature which allows you to operate the camera at any angle. Angles of photos are taken care of as the display is a tilt-up screen which I have to say works very well when taking some photos.

This is a very nice camera and is aimed at a particular group of people, but I think more importantly we see here how the industry is having to adapt to an ever changing future to survive. But the problem is, at £270 I don’t think this group will carry this along with their phone…..sorry Canon, back to the drawing board.

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