Apple Watch Review

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Many of my followers told me that when they saw that I was getting an Apple Watch that they “can’t wait to read your review.” Well here it is… At 3:00 AM ET on April 10th my alarm went off so that I could roll over and place my order for my Apple Watch. I was able to get into the site by 3:05 AM and I placed my order for a 42mm Silver Sport Watch. The Silver Sport only comes bundled with a White Band, Blue Band, Pink Band or Green Band. I’m really not fond of any of those colors, but wanted the Silver watch. Therefore I ordered an extra Black sport band (it’s still on backorder). By 3:10 AM I had rolled over and went back to sleep. Because I got my order in fast enough I was lucky to be in one the first shipments. I got my Apple Watch via UPS at about 2:45pm on April 24th. I had already done some research, read other reviews and watched the videos on Apple’s site. Therefore I knew a lot about the Apple Watch before I broke the seal on the box. I knew that the setup process included a fairly long sync process to sync the Apple Watch Apps from my iPhone. The process took about 10 minutes from start to finish. Of course your mileage will vary based on the number of Apple Watch compatible Apps that you have on your iPhone. Right after I got it setup I recorded this video to give a quick video overview of some of the features:

After A Full Day Of Use…

The video above was only after having just setup the Apple Watch. It just so happened that I was traveling on a business trip Friday evening. I got the watch setup in time to head out to the airport and make my flight. The first real world use I got (besides simply seeing the time at a glance – yes it is a watch) was to use the Uber App to summon a car to pick me up and take me to the airport. The next real world use was using the Delta boarding pass that I had received the day before on my iPhone in Passbook. Any of your Passbook passes automatically appear on your Apple Watch. I used it both at the TSA checkpoint and to board the plane at the gate. No problems. I landed and got a notification from the Hertz iPhone app to let me know what stall my rental car was in. I drove to my hotel, checked in and crashed for the night.

Battery Life… The next day (Saturday) I woke up and after showering I put my Apple Watch on. While you’re supposed to be able to shower in the Apple Watch I’m just not ready to take any chances at this point. I’ve seen the video where someone submerged an Apple Watch under water for 15 minutes and it still worked. Apple says it’s not water proof and I’m not ready to push it. I put the watch on at about 9:45am and went on about my day. When I got to my seminar I used the timer app on the Apple Watch to remind me 10 minutes before my end time. The great thing about the Apple Watch timer is that it will give you a taptic response when it goes off. This way I can feel it even if I don’t hear it. I used the Apple Watch as much as I wanted throughout the day and at 9:42pm (about 12 hours later) my battery indicator showed that I had 47% battery left. This was good. I would only be up for a few more hours at the most and this meant that I can easily use the Apple Watch with a single charge each day. As a matter of fact as I write this post on Sunday night and having started earlier today at around 8:30 AM I still have 36% battery life at 12:22AM (Monday morning).

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On Sunday I got up a bit earlier and went on a morning walk along the river. I like the Activity monitor and I was looking forward to the Apple Watch replacing my Nike+ Fuelband and it does so nicely. The Apple Watch allows you to track your overall activity/calorie burn, standing for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours throughout the day and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day.

AppleWatch-activity

What about the Apps?

Reportedly there were at least 3,000 apps available on April 24th for Apple Watch. I know that I was seeing updates on a daily basis. I have 71 Apple Watch Apps myself. After a couple of days of use I have found some apps to be more useful than others and of course some work better than others. Some are simply useless in their current form while others I couldn’t imagine not having. The best ones I’ve seen so far are: FlightTrack, Uber, Keynote (I remote controlled my slide presentation on Sunday via my Apple Watch), Calcbot, Deliveries, Shazam and Weather Live. These Apps are Apps on my iPhone, but work well enough on Apple Watch that I don’t have to pull out my iPhone to use them or see the data that they present. On the other hand there are some embarrassing ones too. The two Apps that have given me the worst experiences so far are the Delta Airlines App and the Marriott App. With the Fly Delta App you’re supposed to be able to see information about your flight before you take off and during the flight the status and count down til you land. The problem is that the app takes forever to load. I mean like minutes! My flight attendant noticed that I had an Apple Watch and asked how I liked it? She seemed really interested in it. I decided to start with the Delta App since we were on a Delta plane. We waited, waited and waited and finally she had to go and work the flight. It did eventually launch and displayed the remain flight time. However, the remaining flight time never updated throughout the flight. This App is seriously broken. The problem with the Marriott App is Marriott’s obsession with making you sign-in with your password every time you want to use the App. This was an annoyance on the iPhone, it’s a deal breaker on the Apple Watch. If I have to pull out my iPhone to sign in, then I might as well continue to use the App on my iPhone.

AppleWatch-Marriott

This is unacceptable! The minute you tell me I have to take out my iPhone, your app has failed.

I imagine that the apps will get better now that developers actually can get Apple Watches to test with. I expect this market to continue to grow.

The Built-in Apps are Good

As you might expect the built-in apps are generally better, more stable than the 3rd party Apps. I’m sure Apple’s engineers had complete access to the hardware to play. I really like the Messages App, Passbook, Weather,  the Phone app, and the Timer.

It’s all about “Glances”

I’m finding that while you can have up to 20 Apps with “Glances” that fewer “Glances” are better. By the time you have to swipe left or right 10 times to find the Glance you want you could have just as easily found and opened the App itself. Today I removed all but the few glances that I will use the most. By the way a “glance” is when you swipe up from the bottom to get to things like battery life, current stock price of your favorite stock, current weather etc. When you swipe up you see the last glance you used. To switch to a different glance you either swipe left or right to navigate them. Having too many will defeat the convenience of glances.

Apple Pay is the Killer App

One of the things I was looking forward to with Apple Watch is actually Apple Pay. The idea of not only not having to take out my wallet at the register, but not having to take out my iPhone 6 Plus is very appealing. I’m happy to report that Apple Pay rocks on Apple Watch and is definitely the fastest way to pay for things. See it in action in this short video I made:

The Bottom Line

Every time I mention Apple Watch I always have at least one person questioning why anyone would need it? Apple Watch is an extension of your iPhone on your wrist. There isn’t anything that you can do on Apple Watch that you couldn’t do on your iPhone. I remember the same arguments that surfaced when the iPad was released. There was nothing that you could do on iPad that you couldn’t do on your laptop. If you’re in that mindset then you’re right Apple Watch is probably not for you. For me it’s about seeing information at a “glance” and not having to always pull out my iPhone 6 Plus. The same way the iPhone allowed me to do things without always having to pull out my MacBook Pro. If the Apple Watch did nothing but displayed the time, weather, date, another time zone of my choosing, gave me my Passbook passes and Apple Pay it would have already been all that I wanted. However, the Apple Watch offers so much more. For a 1.0 product the hardware seems solid. Once the 3rd party apps are refined a bit, Apple will have another healthy new product line on their hands. I’m happy with my purchases and look forward to continued updates, apps and other 3rd party accessories.



F.J. Westcott Flex LED Light Review

FlexLED

I remember when I first saw the above photo on Westscott’s website, I immediately and without hesitation said “WOW!” I love continuous lighting and the thought of having an LED light panel that would be easy to travel with was intriguing. I recently put the 10×10″ model to the test. Here’s a short video of my setup:

The Flex LED is 5,600 daylight balanced. The Flex™ 1-Panel Daylight kit includes a mounting bracket and a 1/4 stop diffusion panel. The dimmer goes from 5% to 100%. The panel is water resistant and the kit also includes a 16′ extension cable.

Here’s a production shot from my test shoot:

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The mounting bracket includes a “clip” style mount instead of a traditional light stand mount. That’s both a plus and a minus. However, since the panel is so light you should be able to attach it to any light stand or any other suitable stand. I also clipped it to a chair back at one point to light the background. In the picture above I simply clipped it to the light stand holding my Westcott Skylux LED and Rapid Box Octa XXL softbox which was powered off at the time.

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The above shot was captured with my Nikon D810, 70-200mm VRII f/2.8 lens at ISO 200, 190 mm, f/3.5 1/80 sec. Although I prefer bigger, softer main lights for portrait work I was impressed with this light for its size and incredible amount of output. It was soft enough with the diffusion panel on front.

The Bottom Line

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The Westcott Flex LED is another great tool in my lighting arsenal and it’s probably the first LED light that I feel very comfortable in traveling with and knowing that it won’t take hardly any room in my carry-on luggage. The “clip” means that I can probably get away without having to carry or find a light stand too. While the price may seem relatively high, it’s actually on par with high end name brand speed lights from the top camera manufacturers. However, the fact that it’s continuous lighting means that I can also use it for video recording too making it more flexible than a speed light.

You can get the details/order the kit here.



I have Gogo Wi-Fi on my Long Haul International Flight – Finally!

 

  

I’m headed back to Atlanta from Amsterdam today. The flight time is just over 9 hours. I did my usual downloads from my TiVo DVR the night before so that I would have some shows to watch and of course I have my MacBook Pro so that I can get some writing done. The last thing I expected on this Delta flight was to have WiFi internet all the way home! Sure I get my hopes up each time I board an international flight by looking for the familiar WiFi stickers found on 99% of all Delta domestic flights and like always there were no stickers present on this flight. However, once we got up to 10,000 feet I noticed that my phone was asking me to login to my corporate IPASS account (a roaming partner of Gogo). I just figured someone on the plane was faking a Gogo hotspot. However, it worked! I was blown away because I figured I wouldn’t see this until at least 2016. I asked the flight attendant just to make sure and she confirmed that “some” planes have it now and that we were “lucky” today. Lucky indeed!

 

So what does it cost to enjoy this international benefit? Since I have a corporate plan from work that covers Gogo InFlight WiFi I didn’t even think that about a cost difference at first, but as I started writing this I figured my readers would want to know. I went back to the regular logon page and the prices are high indeed. $19.95 for one hour and $39.95 for the whole flight. While I appreciate this  being a work perk, I gotta say that I would gladly pay $39.95 for WiFi on this 9 hour flight. The amount of stuff that I can get done (including this blog post) is worth it to me. The next question is how fast is it? Gogo inlfight wifi in the states uses a celluar system (plane to ground) and from I can see it’s based on 3G technology. When it first came out the speeds were decent, but lately they have been slow to almost unusable. Still slow is better than nothing, so I use it all the time. 

 

Since connecting to the ground over the ocean is not feasible, any plane offering international service requires satellite connections instead. One of the first thing I did was run 4 consecutive speed tests to get an average speed and while it’s not screaming fast, it’s faster than the domestic service. I’ll take it!

 

 

The Bottom Line

I remember wishing for WiFi on long haul flights for years. It almost brings a tear to my eyes to see it finally making its way into my life and I commend Delta for making these investments to make air travel a little less painful. 

See You At Professional Imaging

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Looking forward to seeing many of you at Professional Imaging in the Netherlands this weekend. Should be a lot of fun and a lot of great information passed on from the very talented list of instructors. I’ll be teaching my photography workflow using Lightroom and Photoshop CC. If you attend the show be sure to stop by and say hello. Also if you have any “must shoot” location recommendations be sure to leave a comment below.

You can register here or simply find out more.

 



Netflix vs. Hulu Plus: If you could only have one?

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I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years and I have also tried a trial subscription to Hulu Plus. The thing that turned me off of Hulu (and still does) is that you pay the monthly fee ($7.99) and yet they still play ads. Also not to mention that during my trial period all the ads were bought out by the presidential candidates of 2012. I just couldn’t take any more. Three years later I’m willing to try Hulu Plus again, but is it worth it? I’d gladly pay more per month to eliminate the ads. Many of you have Hulu, Netflix or both. Tell me why?

What if you could only have one. Which would it be Netflix or Hulu Plus? Also now that HBO Now is coming soon, would you pick HBO over Netflix or Hulu?

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See the results here.
Check out the new lower price on the Apple TV here.



Use the Simplicam to monitor your home or office

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WiFi connected webcams are nothing new. When someone enters this category I quickly look to see if they’re adding anything new or if it’s just a me too product. In most cases there isn’t a whole lot that’s new, but companies do sometimes find a way to improve on an already crowded product category. The Simplicam + Closeli is a standard WiFi connected webcam with a nicer design than most. It has a well thought out base/stand as well as things like a 10 foot “flat” USB cable so that you can more easily hide it in your home. This camera can be monitored from your iPhone, iPad, Android device or web browser.

The setup process is pretty straight forward. Just plug the supplied “short” USB cable into your Simplicam and the other end into your Mac/PC. The software mounts in a volume on your computer that you can run from there. Once you’re in the setup utility you’ll use it to connect the Simplicam to your WiFi network. You’ll also create an account on Closeli.com where you’ll get a year of included cloud recording service. Closeli like others has different plans so that you can go back and review footage from your camera based on motion and sound detection. They also bring “face” detection to the table to distinguish between someone actually entering the room vs. the cat running by. You can get push notifications of any of the aforementioned types of activity. You can also schedule times when notifications need not be received (you’re home) or when the camera should be off. Notifications or not you can see what’s going on in the room on demand by just firing up the Closeli app on your mobile device or logging in with your web browser on your computer. You can export clips or still grabs as need. If you need to talk to the people in the room remotely you have two way audio. Yes there is also night vision.

Here’s a video review of the product.

The Bottom Line

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While I haven’t reviewed any of the newer cameras in this category lately, I would say that just looking at the specs alone Simplicam brings at least two things to the table over the competition and that’s face detection (a beta feature, which can also be set up to recognize specific faces and can tell you when an unrecognized face enters the room.) and a lower priced cloud storage/recording service. The 720p 107° view camera is also better than my older cameras.

You can get Simplicam HD + Closeli here.

My take on the NEW MacBook

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Yesterday when Apple announced the new MacBook I was mildly interested. After all my 2nd computer is a MacBook Air. I’m always attracted to electronics that are thinner and lighter in weight. However, as they started to reveal the specs I quickly began to realize that this wasn’t going to be a product for me. I also had to remind some of my friends that not every product created is for every user. This is why Apple now has three different products in their notebook lineup (MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro). I’m mostly a pro user and this is NOT a pro machine.

Could it be an upgrade for my MacBook Air Mid 2012?

My 2nd computer that I use mostly around the house is approaching the 3 year old mark and that’s like 3 hundred years old in computer years right? My MacBook Air currently has 8GB of RAM, a Core i7 processor, 512GB SSD and a 13″ display. I always said that I would upgrade it the minute Apple created a 13″ MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM. That day still hasn’t come yet and the New MacBook isn’t an upgrade for me either, so I continue to wait. First off, I don’t want a smaller display. While I don’t connect a lot of peripherals to my MacBook Air on a regular basis it’s still good to know that I can easily connect an external display/projector, Wacom tablet and Thunderbolt hard drive and insert and SD memory card without any fuss.

Then who is the new MacBook for?

When I think of the New MacBook I immediately think of students and perhaps office workers/managers. These are folks who primarily use web based apps (so the browser is their main app) and productivity Apps. They do email, they write, they store things in Dropbox and they move around from location to location, classroom to classroom, meeting room to meeting room, a lot. However, most of those users will still tell you that they need to plug in an USB thumb drive from time to time.

The Bottom Line

If you’re disappointed in the specs of the new MacBook, remember that this is Apple’s “low end” notebook. It’s probably not for you and never was intended to for you. You walk past things in the mall every time you go there that aren’t for you, but you don’t complain you just keep walking. This is no different. This NEW MacBook feels more like an upgrade to the iPad user that’s hit the wall. If you think about it, it’s like an iPad with a keyboard/trackpad instead of a touch display, that can run Mac OS X instead of iOS. It has a 12″ display instead of a 10.1″ display. Yep, it’s an upgrade to the iPad in almost every way. Feel better now? :-)

In the meantime I’ll keep working happily on my MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

Find out more about the new MacBook here.

Also the good folks over at Mashable had a good article about 5 things that Apple didn’t say about the new MacBook. Definitely worth a read.

In other news

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Apple dropped the price of the Apple TV to $69! It’s still one of my favorite gadgets of all time.



Poll: Will you be getting the Apple Watch?

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Now that we have all the details of the Apple Watch including the “all day” (18 hour) battery life and pricing, I’m curious as to how many of my readers will be getting the Apple Watch. This will also help in determining the level of interest in 3rd party apps?

Please take a moment to answer my one question poll:

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See the results here.

Tripod Mount for your Smartphone

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I’ve reviewed tripod mounts for smartphones before, however the good ones I’ve looked at in the past were fine as long as you only wanted to mount your smartphone horizontally. Horizontal mounting is desired by film makers for sure. There are times when you may want a vertical mount especially if you’re shooting stills or time lapse. For this I turned to the good folks over at Arkon (the makers of mounts for just about any device) and sure enough they had one that was exactly what I was looking for. It had to be able to rotate between horizontal and vertical orientation and it had to be big enough to accommodate my iPhone 6 Plus (with my clear case).

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The Arkon Universal Smartphone Holder Tripod Adapter fits the bill nicely. Not only does it rotate between horizontal and vertical orientations, but it also pivots more like a ball head. As you can see in the above photo it also works great if you have a GorillaPod tripod. The Arkon Universal tripod mount for your Smartphone is great option to have in your camera bag or your computer bag because you never know when you want to shoot something that will be difficult to shoot handheld.

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If you’re alone and need a wireless remote for your smartphone, I’ve had good luck with this bluetooth one. Technically all it does on the iPhone is press the up volume button wirelessly which as you probably know snaps a photo.

Get the Arkon Universal Smartphone Holder Tripod Adapter here.

The Logitech Type+ for iPad Air 2 is Just Right

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This is probably my third or forth Logitech keyboard for iPad and this one by far is the closest one to being perfect. The Logitech Type+ is a both a bluetooth keyboard and protective case. What makes this one better than the previous models is that Logitech made it even thinner so that it doesn’t add much bulk to your nice new iPad Air 2.

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The keyboard layout is also better. With the previous mode I was constantly hitting the  the home key (returning to the home screen) when trying to type a 1. They moved the home button up to the row at the top on this layout (thank you!). Lastly I love the way that they integrated the ability to lay the iPad flat over the keyboard when you just want to use the iPad without using the keyboard without having to remove it from the case.

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Actually the keyboard is activated when you put the iPad in the “stand” position where it magnetically held in place right above the keyboard. The only thing keeping this case from being “perfect” is that you cant’ use it if you want to stand your iPad up in the vertical position. Sure you can hold it vertically, but you wont be able to stand it that way.

logitech-type+flat

If you have an iPad Air 2 this is the best keyboard case I’ve seen. You can get it here.

If you have the original iPad Air, then I’d recommend this one.



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