Last week I mentioned I got the Spark remote from Alpine Labs as a Kickstarter reward. And now, since I had time to play with it, I will share with you my thought about it. So here goes.

What can the Spark remote do?

Alpine labs is a company specializing on camera accessories. There are the makers of Radian time lapse device and few others. Spark remote, their latest product, is a camera remote. It’s can work in three different settings.
Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review

1. As a wireless infrared remote

It can work as a standard infrared remote, but with one special function. In the app, you can select what camera brand you want to control, so it works on all of them.

2. As a wired remote

Secondly, you can attach it to a camera directly by a cable, and use the button on it as a standard wired remote.

3. As a app controlled remote

Lastly, if you connect it to the camera by cable, you can pair it with the provided app, so getting advanced function. This can be used to take photos, do long exposures, HDR, Photo booth mode (similar to timelapse) or control multiple devices at once.

Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review
Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review

How is it to use the Spark remote?

The remote on it’s own is very simple to use. For the wired control, you just connect it to the camera and it works. For the wireless one, you fist have to go into the app, and set the correct camera model. You have to do that only once, as the remote remembers what you set.

For all else you have to pair the remote with the app, and use the build in function. They are all very simple to use, and offer all the functions you may need. The only one I could not find was bulb ramping, which should be possible here. Maybe after an app update.

Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review
Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review
Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review

I took me seconds to get all up and running, as it is just so straightforward. You connect the Spark remote to the camera, open the app, wait until it’s connected (if its not, you can go into settings and choose the remote to connect) and choose what you want to do. It’s all connected with a Bluetooth, so the range is quite good also.

Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review
Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review
Spark remote by Alpine Labs - review

Conclusion

The remote is small, works well, the app offers many functions. Alpine Labs states up to 2000 hours of work on one battery and replacing it is quite easy. The ability to work in multiple modes is quite handy. Sometimes one needs just a wireless remote, sometimes app control is needed. I like that you can have it complex or just completely simple. Overall I quite like it and it will have a permanent spot in my camera bag from now on.

You can find Spark remote by Alpine Labs on their Kickstarter site. Other Alpine Labs products on their official site here.

I posted many posts recently edited with the Plotagraph Pro, and today I wills share with you my thoughts on it, and if it’s something you may consider purchasing.

Plotagraph Pro

Plotagraph ProSo what is Plotagraph Pro? It’s software, that allows you to animate your images, adding repeating movement into them. It’s more of a service, than software, as it completely works online. Plotagraph Pro can be accessed through your browser, or dedicated program (that also just shows the browser version), and while all editing is done locally, all calculations for the results are done on the companies servers. So everything you do is stored there. You first upload the photos, and then download the results as gifs or video files.

More information and examples on their official site here www.plotagraphpro.com

Ease of use & interface

Plotagraph ProPlotagraph Pro is focused whole on a single result, so the interface is quite simple. On the left side you have all the tools you need to start animating (and in a logical order) on the other side you have finishing touches, like brightness/contrast, crop, watermark and similar. Most of the editing is just switching between the brush and animation points anyway.

Plotagraph ProAll tools have their shortcuts, but to tell the truth, I can’t get over that Space is not pan, but it starts the animation. It’s just so learned from Photoshop, that I keep on triggering it each time I want to pan (and I can’t find the pan shortcut, just the switch to the hand tool :/)

One can get started really quickly. There is a tutorial video on first start (or from the menu) and that explains all the basics. Or you can check out my guide here. There is a bit of a learning curve between the first animation and the first good looking animation, but with a bit of experimenting it’s not so hard getting there.

Speed

Plotagraph ProIn editing process, the software reacts quickly, just the masks take a few seconds to redraw. As I mentioned, the rendering is done on the server. So when you hit play, it takes mostly around 10-20 seconds for the preview to start (at the highest quality). It is faster if you lower the preview quality of course.

When you want to export a result, it goes into a separate rendering list. Here it can take quite longer for your result to be ready. Depends a lot what format you want, how long the duration is and whats the resolution. Still, most of my exports were ready within few minutes.

Results

Here are few results I got from using Plotagraph Pro. It works wonderfully on clouds and water, or any similar organically occurring structures.

(if you are on mobile or use an older browser, you may only see static photos here)

Pricing

Plotagraph ProThis is the biggest gripe everyone has with Plotagraph Pro, because as it’s a service, you can’t just buy it outright. When they first offered it, they only had a full year price (297 USD), and that discouraged even me from giving it a try. But after few months they introduced also quarterly (79 USD) and later also a monthly pricing (29 USD), so now it’s much easier and cheaper to just pay for a month, to try it out.

Is this for you?

That’s a hard question to answer. It can create some were beautiful results with little work. The repeating videos look great shared, like I do here, or for instance on Instagram. On the other hand, it’s not really cheap, and you have to keep the subscription if you want to continue to use it.

But I would suggest giving it a try. The monthly subscription is affordable enough to try it out, to see if you find use for it.

VFFOTO

VFFOTO is a smaller manufacturer of photo filters, based in the Czech republic. They mostly specialize on circular filters, but offer also some square ones. They kindly provided me with two filters from their range for a test. The GS ND 1000, which is a 10 stop ND filter, and the GS ND 2000 which is a 11 (!) stop ND filter. Both circular, in the 77mm size.

You can see their products on their official Czech site www.vffoto.com.

VFFOTO filters
VFFOTO filters

I tried both on the Canon 24-70mm F2.8 lens with the Canon 5D mark IV. I also took the same shots with the Formatt Hittech firecrest 10 stop ND filter, for comparison.
VFFOTO filters

VFFOTO GS ND 1000

So let’s first start with the GS ND 1000 filter. This is a 10 stop circular filter. The build quality looks great and it has a very thin profile, to avoid vignetting. Here you can see how it performed compared to the Formatt Hitech firecrest square filter. All photos have the same ISO, aperture and white balance. The only change is the exposure time. The first one, without any filter has an exposure time of 1/30 of a second. The filtered ones are both at 15 seconds.

Here is the first series of photos:

No filter photoNo filter
Formatt Hitech photoFormatt Hitech
VFFOTO filters photoVFFOTO ND1000

And here a second one, focusing more on the water.

No filter photoNo filter
Formatt Hitech photoFormatt Hitech
VFFOTO filtersVFFOTO ND1000

As you can clearly see, there is quite the difference. Where the Formatt Hitech pushes the color quite a lot towards blue/green, the VFFOTO has a much smaller effect and the final color is more towards yellow/purple. The VFFOTO is also much more closer to the no filter exposures. On the other hand, the VFFOTO filter introduces more vignetting, but I presume that is due to the difference in filter types (square filter is bigger, therefore less vignetting).

When looking at sharpness and chromatic aberrations, I can’t really say I seen any difference between the no filter shots and the ones taken through the filters. It looks about the same in all of them.

Overall I think the result from the VFFOTO filter is quite good. It needs a bit of tweaking, as with all ND filters, but it’s quite close to how it should be.

VFFOTO GS ND 2000

This is a more unusual filter. Most companies darkest ND filter is a 10 stop, not a 11 stop one. One tends to stack the filters to get them as dark as this one. As I did not have a second one, I had no filter to compare it with. So what I did, I took the exact same shots as with the 10 stop filters, but of course with double the time. Here you can see both of them, both taken with a 30 second exposure. The results came out very similar to the 10 stop ones.

VFFOTO filters
VFFOTO filters

The color cast, sharpness and chromatic aberrations look all the same as with the 10 stop VFFOTO GS ND1000 filter. It is really impressive how much you can stretch the time with a filter like this. From 1/30th of a second, to full 30 seconds, without the need to change any other settings. It makes for some buttery smooth photos. And to show you that, I tried one at full 4 minutes. To be exact, I did it twice, one at ISO 100 and one at ISO 400 to get a +2 EV exposure. And here you can see the final blend. It was not a very colorful evening, but it does show how nice and smooth everything is.

VFFOTO filters, long exposure, Bratislava, Slovakia

Overall, both filters create some very nice results, and I can’t wait to use the more, once the weather get a bit better.

As I mentioned in my article on Kickstarter, I back quite a few projects this year. And just yesterday, one of the project delivered. This one are the new products from Peak Design and since I got three of them, I will share some of my first impressions and some photos of them today. So here goes.

The Everyday Backpack 30L

I’m alway on the lookout for a good backpack, so this time I got the new one from Peak design. This is the 30l version, as the smaller 20l looked very small for my needs. The look and feature here are very similar to the last years Everyday Messenger bag, with the same use of materials.

The bags from Peak Design are probably the only ones where you need a manual when you get them. There are so many things hidden around the bag, small detail, straps, usage improvements, that it takes a while to find everything.

 
The build quality and material are excellent as usually, but I so would wish they checked the bags for loose threads, it just looks so cheap on otherwise quality product. I tried to fill the bag up, with two cameras and 6 lenses (from 50mm to 70-200mm) and it all fit in well, with quite a lot of space left (even with the top flap closed for minimal size). There is also a space for a laptop and also for a tablet, so you can really fit a lot here.

 
I tried to wear it for a while, but I’m not so used to backpacs, so can’t tell yet if it’s good or not. But one thing, when you have the bag straps tight, it’s hart to get to the inside of the bag while having it on one shoulder. Will try to use this bag on my next bigger travels, when I need to take a lot of stuff, to see how it works out. First impression is good, but the question is how comfortable it is.

The Everyday Sling

Also I got the smaller sling. First impression of it is even better than the backpack. It sits well over the shoulder, fits a full frame camera with two lenses easily, and will probably be my goto bag for short trips around the city when I don’t need much gear. Actually the only thing I did not like is that the bottom is not flat, so it does not sit well when placed down.

 
Same as with the backpack, you can expand the sling partially, the front pocked to be exact. I don’t think that it’s something I would use that much, as it involves loosening the two front buckles. But it can be useful sometime. The sling also has a space for a tablet, and I actually tried to stick the Surface Pro 4 in it, and while it’s clearly not meant for a tablet that size, it still fits and can be closed.

Range Pouch Medium

Lastly, I took the Range pouch. This is a lens pouch, you can use to store and also to carry a lens in multiple ways (on the belt, with a strap and similar). The medium one is perfect for a 24-70 f2.8 lens, but not much bigger. I got it more to use inside of the backpack, to house smaller lenses. Will see hot that works out.

Overall the first impression is very positive, let’s see how they stack up over time. I will do a review, but later one, when I had time to use them more. For more info on Peak Design products, please visit the Peak Design website here.

I do have reviews of quite a lot of professional software on this blog, but today, lets have a look at something focused more at the beginners and those, who don’t want to spend long time to learn how to do quick edits.

What is Fotojet?

Fotojet is an online photo editor and a collage maker. It works completely in your browser and you don’t have to install anything. You just upload your photos, do changes and download them back to you PC through your browser.

What can you do?

There are three main parts. Collage maker, Graphic designer and Photo editor. Each one is for when you are trying to do something a bit different.

Collage maker

As the name suggest, here you can make photo collages. You can choose from many basic layout and tweak them, or choose one of the more elaborate ones with photo backgrounds. Adding photos is easy and immediate, you just upload them from the PC or Facebook, and then just drag and drop them into the collage.

Graphic Designer

The Graphic Designer part is for creating posters, cards, promos and similar, already form predefined presets. It’s again as easy as drag and drop. You just choose the design you want, drag the photos into it to replace the example ones, and change the text and colors. That’s it.

Photo Editor

As the name suggest, this is the place to do photo editing. It goes from basics like Crop and Resize, up to Dehaze and Sharpen. You can also use the tools from the other two parts, and enhance the photos with Text, Clipart, Overlays and more.

 
All these parts are separate, so you can have a different photo opened in all of them at once. Also, If you want to be done quickly, you can use and auto-fill option for the collage and designs, that will just use random photos from the one you uploaded. Photojet allows to save your results in jpg or png file format.

Strangely I could not find how to add masks to images. You can use the ones that are already part of the presets, but you can’t make any new ones (or I really missed it somewhere).

Free vs. Paid

You may have noticed some small crowns on the screenshots. That marks the premium/paid content. Fotojet can be used completely for free, but some of the presets in collage and designer, and some of the advanced edits are limited for the paid customers. Still, especially in the collages and designer, you can do a lot for free. You pay only if you want any of the premium features.

How is it and when to use it

Fotojet is simple to use and easy to learn. The tools just popup by your cursor when you select something to edit, and while it offers quite a lot, it’s quite streamlined and not hard to get the hang off. It can take only seconds to create a new collage, or a new promo poster for you Facebook page.

I would not use it for some crazy elaborate photo editing, but if I had to suggest an easy way to create for instance blog banners, promotions, quick photo effects for someone with a blog, who is scared of Photoshop, I would show them this. Or if you just want to give a bit of flair or retro style to you Facebook posts. I even seen similar result to the ones I got here around the web, so it’s probably used a lot this way.

You can check out Fotojet at fotojet.com

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