I got the opportunity to review the 2017 DSLR of the Year. It’s the Nikon D850. This camera is so hot that it’s still in short supply several months after it’s release. When Nikon offered to send me one for review (full disclosure, it was a loaner and has been returned. This was NOT a paid review. P.S. I don’t do paid reviews), I jumped at the chance. I wanted to do something beyond just listing specs and showing sample photos. I wanted to do a LIVE shoot, but let YOU the user experience the entire video in 360°. Here’s how it came out:
If you watch the above video you should be able to pan around in a 360° space and watch anything you want when you want. As far as I can tell, this is the first review of the D850 of this kind. If I’m not the first to do it, it’s still a first for me 😀
It’s that time a year again and I know I’m late to the iPhone X (pronounced 10 as in Roman Numeral X) review party. This is the first iPhone in 10 years that I didn’t receive on release day. I did place my iPhone X 256GB Black order just after midnight Pacific Time on Friday October 27th, but my ship date was immediately given as November 17th – November 24th (2 weeks after the first shipment). I did receive it a few days early last week on November 14th. With that out of the way let’s get on to the review.
Wow! Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the first iPhone. I have done a review every year and it’s fun to go back through the years and see how much has changed. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can see my first iPhone review here. A lot has changed since 2007 and while many iPhone versions (like the “s” models) have been evolutionary, the iPhone X does feel like a brand new iPhone. It’s the first iPhone in 10 years to ditch the home button and this may surprise you, but…
Ever since I received my Sony A7RII Review unit, people have been asking me what I thought about it. I didn’t want to jump to any quick conclusions, so I decided to really put this camera though its paces, traveling with it and using it in one of my studio shoots. Let me start off by saying that this IS an AMAZING CAMERA. There’s no question that Sony got a lot of things right with the Sony Alpha A7RII. I’m a Nikon shooter and have shot primarily with Nikon DSLRs since about 2006. However, I’m not a zealot when it comes to Nikon. I love my Nikon bodies, lenses and accessories, but not to the point that I refuse to look at anything else. In fact I have Nikon DSLRs, another older Sony Mirrorless camera, Canon Point & Shoot and Canon and Sony video cameras. Every manufacturer gets most things right and a few things not so right. Also I’m not paid by any of them so my opinions can be as unbiased as they can be.
I’ve been an Apple TV user since the first model and have owned each one. The 3rd generation (1080p) model definitely became one of my favorite gadgets of all time. I not only used it for iTunes movie rentals and TV shows, but also largely to stream my own content from my own movie library. Apple TV is also great to be able to stream just about anything from your iPhone or iPad. I mirror my iPhone often to watch things like Periscope broadcasts on the big screen. It has been rumored for a long time that Apple was coming out with a “TV” and I never put a lot of faith in those rumors because I simply didn’t see what Apple could bring to the table that would make consumers want to take their existing TV’s off the wall and put up an Apple TV. It’s much smarter to make a box that connects to the TV of your choice and get all that Apple has to offer that way. The 3rd generation Apple TV was getting long in the tooth, but via all the software updates along the way it has really become a nice little full-featured box. So what could Apple do with the 4th Generation Apple TV?
My initial setup didn’t go as smoothly as I thought it would
If you’re an Amazon Prime member then you were probably given the chance to order an Amazon Echo early and for the introductory price of $99. I took them up on their offer and ordered the Amazon Echo a few months back. I wasn’t really sure what it would do for me or if it would be worth it. I received my unit and went through the setup process using the iPhone app. It was pretty easy to setup, connect it to my WiFi network and configure it with my Pandora Radio and iHeart Radio accounts. From that point on I could just say “Alexa” and ask it pretty much anything that I wanted to know. Rather than write about it I decided to give you a video demonstration:
I gotta say that I’m pretty impressed with it and especially the accuracy of the voice recognition. I use it for music the most. It’s cool being able to say play songs by _______ or have it play any of my Pandora Radio stations. I don’t have a daily commute, but if I did it would be great to say “what’s the traffic look like?” and have it give me current traffic conditions from my home to my work place. To answer the question, YES the Amazon Echo was absolutely worth the $99 special price. Now the question is is it worth the current price of $179.99? I would say mostly yes for the music aspect of it and the home automation potential. It’s also cool that new capabilities are being added to it on a regular basis. It works as advertised. One way to justify it is to keep in mind that there are bluetooth speakers out there that cost just as much and do a whole lot less. The sound coming from Amazon Echo is as good if not better than most other “dumb” speakers out there today.
I’ve been doing iPhone reviews since the 1st one back in 2007 (if you want to see how far we’ve come, go back and have a glance at that one). So it’s become a tradition here on my blog and many of my friends and followers patiently wait for my take on the new mobile device. Normally I have these reviews done by the 1st Monday following the Friday release. However, my iPhone didn’t arrive until the following Wednesday (last week). I pre-ordered mine on day one, but apparently I didn’t make the 1st cut. Nonetheless, it did arrive a few days later and I wanted to have a few days with the new larger device anyway. The last couple of iPhones have been evolutionary with the things we’ve come to expect such as better cameras, faster processors, more memory and a design tweak here and there. Let’s face it, the original 2007 iPhone pretty much nailed it when it comes to form factor, size and functionality at that time. As a matter of fact the iPhone was blasted by several “industry experts” for it’s initial design by being a “touch screen” phone with no physical buttons. Seven years later all of the smartphones now look and act this way. However, this is not a comparison review of other devices. It never is! If you have a competing device and you’re happy with it, no need to read any further. Enjoy your _____ phone. Have a nice day. For everyone else, the question that we are always asking is “is this new iPhone worth upgrading or switching to?” That of course will always be up to YOU. I can only tell you what I’ve experienced with mine. So here goes…my iPhone 6 Plus review…
Which one did I get?
I went with the iPhone 6 Plus 64GB Gold Contract Free T-mobile version. This is the way to go even if you’re not a T-Mobile customer (I’m on AT&T) and you want an unlocked, contract free phone that will accept any GSM nano-sim from any carrier. I debated between the iPhone 6 vs. the iPhone 6 Plus and 64GB vs 128GB and I decided that it was time to try a larger iPhone. I could always go back down to a iPhone 6s (assuming that Apple sticks with the same naming convention for the next iPhone) next time if the iPhone 6 Plus was too big. Also I upgraded from 32GB to 64GB going from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s and that was the right amount of storage for me. If I didn’t have an iPad, then I definitely would have gone with 128GB. However, the iPad Air serves as my entertainment device for movies and other large file tasks, so 64GB was plenty. Also all of my iPhones to date have been black/space gray. I wanted gold with the iPhone 5s, but they were sold out of that color when I got mine back then. This is my first white iPhone.
Yes it’s BIG!
I gave my 1st Impressions last week. The first thing I thought when I took the box out of the shipping box was “wow, it’s big!” That was before I opened it. Luckily for my hands and pockets it’s not too big. I had no problems with putting it in a front pocket of my jeans. I was also pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too bad in a shirt pocket either. Now keep in mind that the weight (which is pretty light for a device this size) will probably make your shirt sag a bit, but still in a pinch it’s not too much. Let’s see some comparisons
Hopefully the photos above will answer your questions regarding the size compared to other devices 🙂
Ergonomics, fit and feel
I’m happy to see Apple return to curved edges. It just feels better in my hand, especially for a larger device. It does take a little getting used to having the sleep/power button on the right side now instead of the top. For the first couple of days I was instinctively reaching for the top of the device to wake it or put it to sleep. When taking landscape screenshots I always hit the volume buttons by mistake. However, now I’m used to the new location and it isn’t a big deal. I would have expected the home button to be slightly larger, but it’s the same size as the one from the iPhone 5s. The touch-ID (fingerprint scanner) works flawlessly and now that iOS 8 opens it up to 3rd party apps, I’m using it all day long. For the first few days I used it without a case waiting for mine to arrive. This means that I was more careful than usual as I didn’t want any scratches. I did drop it once on a carpeted floor at home and it survived with no scratches or damage. As others have indicated, the camera lens does protrude from the back a little. This is the price we pay for a thinner iPhone.
However, had I not read about that first I’m not sure that I would have really noticed. Some are complaining that this prevents the iPhone from lying perfectly flat on a table. I agree, but once you put a case on it that problem goes away as your case is more than likely going to protrude out more than the camera does. My only problem to date with the new larger form factor is the width, not the height. Even with my large hands it’s difficult to thumb reach the opposite side of the screen if the icon or button I ‘m trying to reach is always up higher on the display.
Apple includes a “reachability” mode that you can access by double tapping the home button (not pressing it, but double tapping the touch sensor). This makes the whole screen slide down so that you can reach icons that at the top. Even with reachability it can be a stretch reaching the other side of the screen.
The Bigger 5.5″ Retina Display
It’s gorgeous and probably the single biggest reason for going with an iPhone 6 Plus over an iPhone 6. Crisp, clean, high definition, 1920×1080 401 ppi of awesomeness. There are some exclusive features in the iPhone 6 Plus that aren’t on any other iPhone. The first one is a landscape home screen. While you’ve always been able to rotate your iPhone to see apps in landscape mode, the home screen was locked in portrait mode. Apple has finally freed up the home screen to have a landscape view on the iPhone 6. There is one choice you have to make. When you setup your iPhone 6 Plus for the 1st time you’ll be given a choice of Standard vs. Zoomed (yes you can switch it later). I chose Zoomed because it looked better to my eyes. However, with Zoomed enabled you don’t get the landscape home screen, extended landscape keyboard or the two column mail view. Also switching modes requires a reboot. I’m not happy about giving up Zoomed display for the other features I wanted. This is something that I wish Apple would address in the future. Perhaps a middle choice that gives a little more zooming AND the other landscape features.
Older apps on the bigger display – When Apple rolled out the iPhone 6 the promised that it had a very good “scaler” in it for apps that hadn’t been updated to the larger display sizes. Well I have to hand it to them. They did a MUCH better job than I expected. Keep in mind that iPhone apps zoomed up on the iPad kinda suck at the “2x zoom” and iPhone 4 sized Apps on an iPhone 5/5s just appear letter boxed in the middle of the display. However, older apps on the iPhone 6 Plus look, well, really good, especially by comparison. Sure Apps like CNN that have been updated look BETTER, but I don’t hate seeing the older Apps on the newer display at all.
There is a mobile device user on the planet that wouldn’t welcome longer battery life. So when it was rumored that the iPhone 6 Plus had longer battery life than previous models, I said bring it on! After the 6+ was released and people started doing tear-downs of them it was shown that the iPhone 6 Plus battery is almost as large as the iPhone 5s itself, it was definitely a good sign that battery life would be good. I’m happy to report that I’m easily seeing 25%-40% better battery life over that of my iPhone 5s. While not a totally scientific test, I base this on the percentage of battery life that I have left at the end of the day. On Saturday I unplugged my iPhone from the charger at around 10 AM. I used my phone as I normally would throughout the day (social media, texting, phone calls and apps). At 4PM I noticed I was still at 82%. At 7PM I noticed I was at 72% (even after leaving the screen on for a while while taking the size comparison shots above). Finally at 10PM (12 hours later) the iPhone 6 Plus was at 57% battery life. My iPhone 5s probably would have been at around 20%-30% after 12 hours of use.
Keep in mind that there are many factors that affect battery life and I’m not saying that tomorrow that it won’t drain faster or last longer, it just depends not only on what you’re doing on the iPhone but also where you are. For example, if you’re in a 4G LTE area then it will probably drain faster. If you were in a 4G area but left it set on 4G LTE then it would drain even faster while searching for a 4G LTE signal. Screen brightness is another big factor. I keep mine down to around 30% on average. Making the display faster will definitely drain the battery faster. So your results can certainly vary. Y.M.M.V.
Yep is faster! We expect that each iPhone will faster than its predecessor. The iPhone 6 Plus is no different. It sports a new multiple-core A8 chip that’s faster than the A7 before it. Upgrading from the iPhone 5s to an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus will be a noticeable speed bump. However, upgrading from an earlier model will be even more noticeable. Apps launch faster and perform better. The biggest and most noticeable speed difference for me though is actually the WiFi performance. Since the iPhone 6 Plus supports 802.11ac and I have an AirPort Extreme Base Station that supports 802.11ac I can really really really see a big difference in internet speed and file transfer speeds.
I have 500 Applications on my iPhone 6 Plus and some of them haven’t had updates in years, yet the work fine. Some glitches in a few, but that’s no different than any other OS or phone upgrade that has ever happened.
Phone calls and Bluetooth Audio? Oh yeah, it is a phone too. Yep I’ve made and received them with no problems. I would say the only thing that took a little getting used to was center the speaker on my ear. At first I couldn’t hear the caller as loud as I was thinking it should be. Then I moved the iPhone 6 Plus over a little and bam, the sound was perfect. I paired it with my Jawbone bluetooth headset and the bluetooth built-in to my car and no problems with phone calls. The only App that doesn’t seem to work with bluetooth audio in my car is the Waze Social GPS navigation App. Both Apple Maps and Navigon give turn-by-turn directions over the bluetooth just fine. However, when Waze goes to broadcast a direction the music mutes and nothing else can be heard then the music comes back on. Hopefully Waze will address this as it seems to be the only one of my GPS apps not working. I deleted the pairing and set it up again and still Waze was a no go.
While I don’t expect the iPhone (or any smartphone) to replace my DSLRs and professional lenses anytime soon, iPhone photography is here to stay. The best camera is the one you have with you and I always have my iPhone with me.
Therefore it’s probably my most used camera. If I want to capture a scene or movie, I pulling out iPhone and take the shot. Especially if I want to then turn around and share that photo on social media or via text.
Therefore, ANY camera improvements are always welcomed. The iPhone 6 Plus sports an 8MP, f/2.2 aperture camera. It shoots 1080p video at 60fps and 240fps slo-mo as well as a new time-lapse feature.
It also has Optical Image Stabilization. The big new thing here is faster autofocus for stills and continuous autofocus when shooting video. You should also get better selfies and Facetime with the new sensor allowing 81% more light.
Also now that iOS 8 opens the door for manual control over the camera it’s even more useful. There’s even a new App called “Manual” that let’s you have complete manual control over ISO, shutter speed and manual focus.
What could be better?
Apple doesn’t get everything right. Remember Apple Maps? The super buggy iOS 8.0.1 debacle was a recent reminder of this fact (iOS 8.0.2 came out afterwards and this review is based on that version). Most of my complaints are minor, but no device is perfect and the iPhone 6 Plus isn’t perfect either. The things I wish were better to fixed have more to do with long standing issues I’ve had with iOS vs the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus itself. For example, it’s 2014 and there are still several inconsistencies in iOS that continue to bug me. For example, I can setup groups of contacts in the Contacts app on my Mac. Those groups sync over fine to the iPhone and are even recognized throughout the OS like in the Do Not Disturb feature. Yet there still isn’t a way to create a group in iOS or manage the ones you already have. While I’m on my annual Group rant, there is still no way to assign a ringtone to a group of contacts. If we are truly in a PC Free era, then Apple needs to make have feature parity in iOS 8 for these kinds of features. Another one that bugs me is the lack of a “Select All” in many areas throughout the OS. For example, now in the Messages App you can tap on the “Details” for any conversation. You can see all the attachments that are still in that conversation. GREAT! Now lets say I want to keep the conversation text, but delete ALL of the images/videos. I have to tap them one-by-one to select them and then press delete. Why not let me select all? There is no warning when I tap delete. They’re gone. So if safety is the reason, then give the standard “are you sure?” a few times If I select all. Hell, even make me enter my passcode to confirm the deletion of lots of media at once. Speaking of deleting, now in iOS 8 when you delete pictures from the Recent Activity (formerly the Camera Roll), they aren’t deleted YET. They go into another album called “Recently Deleted”. From there (yes you guessed it) there is a “Delete All” button. I definitely want to turn this idiot proof feature OFF. If I delete a picture or video, I’m sure! Photo management is a mess. Photo albums that come from your computer can be viewed in iOS but not edited. Really? Why not allow me to rearrange/delete/add photos to these albums and have them sync back to my computer? If I do create Albums on my iPhone and add photos to them I must also keep those photos in the Recently Added album too. Delete them from Recently Added and they are deleted from the custom albums too. Another inconsistency has to do with the “Open In” command. If I receive a photo via text message I can tap the Share button on that photo and open it in any other compatible App on my iPhone. However, if I save that picture to the “Recently Added” album and then access it from the Photos App, sorry no way to access it from Apps that haven’t been updated to be added to the new Share sheets. Thankfully I can use Lightroom Mobile for my photo management needs and I don’t have to rely as much on the built-in Photos app.
It would also be nice to hide (if not delete) built-in Apps that we don’t use like Game Center. Yes I know it can be buried in a folder, but why not allow it be turned off completely?
As far as the iPhone 6 Plus hardware goes, I really don’t have anything to complain about. Everything from the fit and finish, to the curved case, to the buttons, to the Lightning port, to the speaker, to the cameras are really good to awesome! It’s not too heavy or too big for my day to day use. While no device is perfect, nothing comes to mind to complain about hardware wise.
When Apple introduced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus they also introduced Health Kit, Apple Pay and Hand Off. Because of a bug, Healthkit didn’t get turned on for 3rd party App support until iOS 8.0.2. I have one of my Apps to date that has been updated with Healthkit support. I’m waiting on Nike+ Fuelband, Withings Health Mate and Lose It to take advantage of it with updates hopefully soon. Apple Pay is slated for an October debut. While Apple may turn it on in October, it will still take a while for all the merchants out there to offer it at the register. Lastly iOS 8 offers the ability to hand off things that you start on one device to the other. For example, now when my iPhone 6 Plus rings it will also start ringing on my iPad. I can answer my phone with either device. However, the feature I was looking forward to the most is SMS messages (those green bubble friends) showing up in the Messages app on other devices. That feature has been held back until October as well. Most of the joy of working between your iOS devices with iOS 8 and your Mac is on hold until Apple releases Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite. This includes the new iCloud Drive. Again Apple has really missed the mark on this one. Unfortunately software is ready when it’s ready and trying to coordinate TWO major OS updates is no small feat. This is the case with Mac OS X 10.10. Apple hasn’t said when it will be released. However, until it is the hand off features between the two OS’s won’t really be realized.
The Bottom Line
The iPhone 6 Plus is definitely a great upgrade from the iPhone 5s with a faster processor, bigger, sharper display, faster WiFi, thinner, and much better camera. With over 10 million sold (iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) in the 1st weekend breaking sales records across the board, Apple has another hit on their hands. As I was writing this close I asked myself “ok, now that you’ve had the iPhone 6 plus for a few days, if you could do it again would you still go with the iPhone 6 Plus or would you go with an iPhone 6?” The answer is YES, I’d get the iPhone 6 Plus again. Is the iPhone 6 Plus worth upgrading to if you’re still under contract with an iPhone 5s? Probably not. I check the status of my sister’s contract and if she were to upgrade now it would be an extra $250. However, if she waits until 10/8/2014 then she can upgrade at the regular prices. She has an iPhone 5 and I can imagine that the iPhone 5s would be a similar situation. If you’re on an iPhone 5 or below and you’re eligible for regular upgrade pricing then this iPhone is a no brainer. It should be better in just about every way over your iPhone 5, iPhone 4s or iPhone 4. To decide whether or not to go iPhone 6 Plus vs. iPhone 6, you really need to hold them in YOUR hands and see which one feels best for you. The larger iPhone 6 Plus is not for everyone. I’m sure Apple will sell more iPhone 6’s than iPhone 6 Pluses.
I like clear cases that offer scratch protection and basic protection from occasional drops, but still show the beauty and color of the device. I know that many of you need more protection, screen protectors, water protection, etc., however to date I’ve been pretty careful with my iPhones and have never broken a screen or severely damaged one. However, they can get scratched and that is something I look to prevent. This case does that for me.
I like these two car mounts (both will work even with a case on your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus)
If you’re looking for a dash or windshield mount, the good folks over at Akron have you covered with this one. Unscrew the cable guide on the side and you get a standard tripod mount for photography/videography!
If you’re looking for a vent mount, then the only way to go is the NEW Kenu AirFrame+ (yes I said +). This is definitely my favorite mount for travel and regular use when a dashboard or windshield mount doesn’t do it for you.
My Favorite 3rd party Lightning cables at different lengths
While this really has nothing to do with the iPhone 6 Plus itself, I think I finally found a DURABLE 3rd party Lightning Cable. I have been frustrated by the quality of 3rd party Lightning cables to date. They either don’t work out of the box, stop working after a while or worse they start to fall apart where the connector connects to the cable. NewerTech makes this cable and I ordered a couple of the 3 meter version. I’m impressed with the way they are constructed. Definitely the best I’ve found so far.
I just bought 3 of these for use around the home and home office. So far they’re working out GREAT! Unlike most power strips/surge protectors this one has a longer than average 6 foot cord. It has a lighted power switch as well as 2 USB ports that can provide up to 2.1A of power, which is enough to charge an iPad. Also the fact that it’s a surge protector as well doesn’t hurt. The only downside is that the 2.1A is shared between the two ports. This means that you can charge two devices or one device at the full 2.1A speed. Yes, you can charge an iPad (or other tablet) and iPhone (or other smartphone) at the same time, just not two devices that both require 2.1A each.
If you’ve followed my reviews you probably already know that I’m a fan of TiVo and Apple TV. Between the two devices I pretty much have all my TV watching needs covered. TiVo is definitely the best DVR experience for recording and watching TV shows and Apple TV is great for streaming all my media content, watching Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, iTunes rentals, podcasts, etc. With Apple TV I can even stream/mirror any content from my iOS devices OR my Macs. The latest Macs and Mac OS X has AirPlay built-in. Even with all these capabilities I was intrigued by Chromecast. The low $35 entry price was low enough to give it a shot.
Chromecast is a small “dongle” that attaches to your TV via HDMI. However, don’t let the picture deceive you as it did me. You not only connect it to your TV via HDMI, but you also need to supply power to it. You can either use the supplied power adapter and plug it into the wall or you can use the USB cable and plug into an available USB port on or near your TV for power. This freaked me out at first because my TV is on the wall and I didn’t want any wires hanging down. However, I was lucky to have a USB port on my TV right next to the HDMI ports in the back. I was able to plug in the Chromecast and power it right off the USB port on the TV as well. No visible wires!
Once it’s plugged in and you turn your TV on to that HDMI input you’ll be presented with a setup screen. Head over to your computer and download the setup app. You computer should see the Chromecast wirelessly. During the setup process you’ll give it access to your WiFi network and enter your WiFi password. Mine needed to download a firmware update then I was up and running. After the Chromecast install on the TV, you’ll need to download (Google Chrome if you don’t already use it) the Chromecast extension for Chrome. This extension lets you broadcast from any browser tab you have open in Google Chrome to your TV.
How is this better or worse than Apple TV?
First off it’s not direct competition to Apple TV. Apple TV does way more and costs more. Chromecast only works with whatever you can display in Google Chrome or from a Chromecast compatible app on your computer or mobile device. So no streaming of other things on your computer unless they are Chomecast aware. However, that’s probably the one thing I like about it over Apple TV. While I can use AirPlay to stream ANYTHING from my MacBook Pro to my Apple TV, it’s a direct mirror. I cant’ say stream a slideshow in Lightroom and then go work on another photo in Photoshop. It’s a mirror of whatever I’m doing on the computer. (UPDATE – with Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks you can AirPlay to an Apple TV and use the Apple TV as a second display/extended desktop and NOT mirror.) However, with Chromecast I can stream content from one browser tab and go work on anything else while that browser content is streaming in the background. That’s what I like about it most and I think that’s what people that are trying to cut the cable/satellite bills out of their lives will like too. You can stream Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube or any other site to your TV while not tying up your whole computer. There are times that I watch my Slingbox via my web browser. Now I’ll be able to stream that content to my TV.
What about audio? This is the tricky part. If your content is either Flash based or coming from an App that is compatible with Chromecast then your audio will also stream to your TV. However, if the content is not Flash based then the audio will play through your computer.
The Bottom Line
If you want to stream content from the web to your TV, this is your easiest most cost effective way to do it wirelessly. The playback rate is “decent”, not great or perfect, but certainly watchable without dropping too many frames. The picture quality was very good. It’s a one time cost with no monthly fees. I’m tempted to get another one for travel/hotel room use. You can get one here for $32.88. If you want to MORE, then I’d still recommend getting an Apple TV.
Having been an iPhone user since the 1st iPhone back in 2007, I’ve grown accustomed to Apple’s annual release cycle and the evolutionary nature of the iPhone updates. Apple typically does a redesign and new form factor with each major number iPhone 3g, 4, 5, etc. and under the hood update with the ones that come out in between such as the iPhone 3GS, 4s and now the 5s. Therefore I was not expecting any major changes in the 5s. Apple did most of the work on this model under the hood. As a matter of fact the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 have the exact same form factor. iPhone 5 cases should fit perfectly on the 5s. However, under the hood the iPhone 5s sports a new A7 chip and 64bit processing. In layman terms the 5s is MUCH FASTER than all previous models of iPhone. Also as with all 32bit to 64bit transitions, the applications have to modified to take advantage of the new speed/pipeline. You’ll notice the new Apps in iOS 7 that are built-in will run faster. I was blown away by how fast Safari runs on the iPhone 5s. I may use it more than I used Chrome on the iPhone 5.
Like I said above most of the work went into the inside of the iPhone 5s. On the outside you’ll have three new color choices: Gold, Silver and Space Gray. I had always gone with a Black iPhone and this time I was looking forward to getting the Gold one. However, Gold sold out instantly and by the time I got a chance to get mine it was Space Gray. The Home button is now a finger print scanner as well as a physical button. The little white iconic square on this button is gone now. The only other thing you’ll notice on the outside is the new dual LED flash near the camera on the back. More on that in a moment. I opted for the 64GB model as I was constantly running out of room with my 32GB iPhone 5. As a matter of fact I was looking to upgrade regardless of what the new features were just to get the higher capacity. I have over 400 Apps, thousands of photos and other content. On the inside you’ll find the speedy new A7 processor as well as the new M7 motion co-processor to offload a lot of graphic work and battery saving techniques from the main processor. Lastly the other major improvement is the iPhone 5s camera.
How’s the speed?
The speed is noticeable throughout the phone. You’ll feel the difference right away in all the built-in apps. However, third party apps will really need updates before they feel faster. Aside from third party apps, everything else seems instantaneous.
Does the fingerprint scanner really work?
There were two things I was most interested in besides just having more capacity (64GB vs 32GB). The first one was the new camera and the other one was the new fingerprint scanner. When you set up your iPhone 5s you’ll be prompted to set up the built-in fingerprint scanner to recognize your fingerprint/thumbprint. You can configure up to 5 different finger/thumb prints. The process is very easy and it records your fingerprint at multiple angles so that you don’t have to place your finger/thumb on the sensor at the same spot each time. Once you have it set up, you will then be able to unlock your iPhone 5s just by holding your finger/thumb on the sensor for a couple of seconds. There’s no need to even swipe to unlock. You can also use your finger/thumb print for iTunes purchases. No need to enter your Apple ID password. I have to say that I’m really impressed with just how well it works. I had to record one of my prints over again, but after that it works every single time now. People ask me things like what if you have a cut on your finger? Or your finger is wet, dirty, etc? Keep in mind that you have up to 5 fingers to use. Lastly if all else fails you can simply enter your passcode. So to answer your question, does it really work? The answer is YES! It works great! Better than I expected and better than other fingerprint scanners I’ve used in the past.
How’s the new Camera?
The iPhone is the most popular camera in the world! There are more images posted online that were captured with iPhone than any other camera. As a photographer I’m always taking pictures with my professional Nikon DSLR bodies. When I have my pro gear I use it. However, there are many more times that I’m out and about and the only camera I have with me is my iPhone. The camera on the iPhone 5 was already pretty good, so any improvements are/were welcome. The new iPhone 5s camera features a lower f/2.2 aperture. It has the same 8 megapixel resolution, but it also has larger pixels 1.5µ in size. While there are smartphones out there with more megapixels, most photographers know that more megapixels don’t automatically equal better quality. There are several factors and Apple gets it. The new f/2.2 aperture and larger pixels means better low light performance. Couple that with a industry first of a dual LED flash that flashes warmer or cooler depending on the lighting conditions of the room and you have the potential to have better photos from here on out. The new iPhone 5s camera also features both a burst mode (thanks to iOS 7, yes it works on the iPhone 5 as well) that can shoot up to 100 stills by simply holding down the shutter button and a new slow motion video capture feature.
Here’s a sample I captured using the slow motion feature:
The iPhone 5s comes in the same 3 capacities of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB and is available on all the major carriers in the US starting at $299.
What are my favorite features in iOS 7?
Even if you’re not getting a new iPhone, you can still benefit from upgrading your current iOS device (if it meets the minimum specs) to iOS 7. See My 7 Favorite iOS 7 Features here.
The Bottom Line
As with every iPhone review I do, at the end I tell you whether or not the new iPhone is worth the upgrade? You should be used to hearing this by now, but here goes. If you’re currently on an iPhone 5, especially if you’re under contract, you can probably sit this one out and wait for the iPhone 6. Yes the iPhone 5s is better than the iPhone 5, but not enough to spend more than you have to to upgrade. Now if you’re on a 4s on down, then yeah it’s time! The iPhone 5s is leaps and bounds better than the iPhone 4s or iPhone 4. You may also be wondering about the iPhone 5c. I have to admit that other than knowing that it comes in colors and it’s cheaper than the iPhone 5s, I really don’t know much about the 5c. I saw it and knew that it wasn’t for me so I didn’t spend any time checking the features of it.
I held my Master the Shoot Digital Photography Workflow Workshop this past Saturday in my studio. We had a great turnout and a great time shooting and exploring my digital photography workflow. During the workshop and on our third shoot I decided to give the Priolite MBX500 a shot. I had just received this kit to review and quite honestly after setting it up and testing it only to make sure it fired, I hadn’t actually used it in a real shoot yet. I figured what better real world testing than during a live shoot in front of a room full of other photographers. Yeah the pressure was on, but as I always say it will either work or it won’t. It worked!
What’s a Priolite MBX500?
The Priolite MBX500 looks like a standard studio strobe at first glance. What makes it special or different is the fact that it has a removable/exchangeable battery pack built right in! That’s right, you can go completely wireless. This means that these are not only great studio strobes, but they also double as on-location lighting.
What I liked
The Priolite MBX500 strobes are very easy to set up. I didn’t receive a manual with my review units, but I was able to figure out everything I need to know on my own.
They were easily adaptable to my existing softboxes with the supplied speed ring.
Having full powered strobes that run on a removable/exchangeable battery is KILLER
Not having a battery pack dangling from them is also great.
Being able to leave them plugged in while in studio means uninterrupted shooting.
The LED modeling light is another nice benefit
What I wasn’t thrilled about
It’s really hard to find anything wrong with this solution, but here are a couple of things that I wish were better.
The strobes are larger/heavier than the average strobe. Not the end of the world and that battery has to go somewhere.
The only other issue for some will be the price. They are a bit pricier than other studio strobes, but if you were to combine both on-location lighting and studio lighting, then you’d probably come out ahead with the Priolite MBX500 kit.
Would I recommend them?
Absolutely! Here’s the real kicker. For anyone looking to make an investment in quality lighting gear, it’s hard to go wrong with the Priolite MBX500. The reason is that you’re getting two lighting solutions for the one price. You’re getting a great studio strobe AND you’re getting location lighting too. Having paid for BOTH studio strobes AND on-location lighting I can testify that I spent more than the Priolite kit costs.
I use both standard studio strobes AND continuous lighting. I pick and choose between the two depending on what I’m lighting and what I think will do a better job. For my continuous lighting I have relied on the Westcott’s Spiderlite TD5 and TD6. The TD6 has really served me well with a better overall design over its predecessor. As nice as the Spiderlites are the one thing you’ll never hear anyone say is that they are “easy” to travel with! With the TD6 you have a fairly large head and 6 individual bulbs that need to be unscrewed and packed in a way that they won’t break. Clearly studio strobes and speedlights have the advantage here. So Westcott thought outside the box and combined the two
The NEW Westcott Skylux
The Skylux is an LED continuous light in the form factor of a regular studio strobe. This is smart for a few reasons. First off they are smaller and MUCH EASIER to travel with. Set up is also faster as it’s just a matter of putting the light on a light stand and attaching whichever modifier you prefer. Speaking of modifiers, that’s the next advantage. You can use virtually ANY light modifier you want. There’s a built-in umbrella mount and you can use a Bowens S-Type Mount Speedring to adapt any of your existing softboxes.
The Skylux puts out a 1,000 watt equivalent of soft beautiful light. This puts it on par with the TD6. It also has a dimmer on the back to dial it up or down to give you a 30%-100% range.
The Skylux is 5,500K daylight balanced just like the Spiderlites. This is something that a lot of people take for granted and sometimes go with cheaper solutions only to find out that the color temperature of some of those cheaper products can vary over time.
Small compact design that fits right in with my strobes
Lightweight and easy to travel with if need be.
LED light is cool (low heat)
Great for both still photography AND video
Low fan noise which is crucial for video
Easily adaptable to various modifiers
The “Could Be Better”
Like any product the Skylux is not perfect and many of you know that I try to do fair and balanced reviews so here’s the areas where the Skylux could be better:
Like the Spiderlites, the light output is good, bright and soft, but strobes will give you more light. This means that in certain situations you’ll either need to lower your F-stop, slow your shutter speed or increase your ISO to expose the shot the way you want. With most modern day DSLRs you can usually go up to 800 ISO without batting an eye, but I like to stay at 200-400 ISO as much as I can.
There is a power switch on the back of the Skylux head AND on the power brick. However the dimmer is only on the back of the Skylux head. I’d love to see one on the power brick as well.
Speaking of the power brick, it is a BRICK and large. In studio this is no big deal at all, but on the go it does add weight and little more bulk.
The Bottom Line
Westcott is no stranger to LED continuous lighting solutions. See the Ice Light below. The products are great and provide great professional results. I have no problem recommending. However, like most newer technologies there is a price to pay and the cost of LED continuous lighting may be price prohibitive to some. What helps me justify the cost in my head is knowing that these solutions can not only be used for still photography, but also for video work. Since every DSLR being made today does both still photos AND video, video lighting is something that more and more people will want to have. I welcome the Skylux to my arsenal.