HD Video Scuba Mask

I went on a shark dive in the Bahamas, once. It was a thoroughly creepy, but exhilarating experience. There were about five of us amongst twenty or so sharks, and the sharks were much more curious than I would have liked. It was then that I realised that I didn't have a camera. What if someone got attacked? I'd have no way of getting it on video. That could totally boost my ratings on YouTube. What a bummer!

Make sure that you don't miss such a golden opportunity by diving with a video recording scuba mask, like the XSC wide angle scuba mask. It's a bit like the Go Pro, but for scuba divers.

There are a couple of models, including one with an optical zoom and LCD screen.

The mask records HD 1080p at 30fps and 720P at 60 fps, wide-angle (136 degree) video - plus it can take photos at 12MP. The data is stored on a memory card (up to 32GB). Later, when you get topside, simply plug the scuba mask into your computer with a USB cable. Expect to record 30 mins of video per 1GB of memory. It runs off of 4xAAA batteries.

There is also an optional accessory filter kit that improves the clarity and colour of images on deeper dives (not for shallow water use), but it decreases the photographic quality of your photos. You also need to experiment with the different colours, which might be difficult.

Where to Buy:

Click here for a list of Liquid Image Mask products on Amazon USA

Waterproof, Shockproof, Freezeproof Compact Camera – Olympus TG-1

You might think twice about purchasing a rugged camera, until you have dropped your existing one into a swimming pool, or spilled drinks on it, or spent a day with it at the beach. Even everyday use can be rough.

In the past, there were compromises when it came to ruggedness: weight, size, and features. But, now you don't have to "settle" for second-rate to get all the bells and whistles.

The Olympus TG-1 is waterproof to 40 ft, shockproof when dropped from a 7 foot height, crushproof to 220 lbs, freezeproof to 14F and dustproof. And, if that wasn't enough, it comes with a fast 2.0 lens that gets great wide-angle shots at 25mm, a 4x optical zoon, a 12MP chip that can take full HD 1080p videos at up to 60fps, and it can tag photo locations with its built-in GPS. Bear in mind, however, that using the GPS will cut down battery life considerably.

The word on the street is that it's fast. Faster than any other rugged compact out there. Cold boot, start-up time is from 1.5-2.1 seconds. After that, wake-up time is 1.2 seconds. It takes full quality photos at 6-10 frames per second. At 3MP this goes up to 60fps. There is practically no shutter-lag (0.3 - 0.6 seconds depending upon light conditions) and the autofocus works well in low-light conditions.

Photo quality is good for a camera this compact but not out-of-this world amazing. The lens will give you F2.0 when fully zoomed out, which is good for shooting underwater where there is typically less light than the norm. However, there is no RAW format support.

Another nice aspect of the camera is that its lens is mounted in the middle of the camera body, so you can hold it with both hands without getting fingers in the way of the lens. The 3-inch OLED display on the back is larger and brighter than most of the competition, too.

Build quality is reported to be very solid, although there are some complaints that the mode nob and other settings are designed for very small hands.

The camera isn't entirely sand-proof, per se, but you can wash sand out of it - if any gets into the knobs or controls - thanks to the water-repellant coating.

Three negatives, however:

  • (1) it requires a proprietary USB cable for recharging, which means that you are lost if you lose it. The camera doesn't come with an external battery charger, so you are forced to keep this cable safe.
  • (2) Audio quality is reported to be mediocre. This has something to do with the waterproofing of the camera.
  • (3) Panorama feature is cack. Many people have reported having trouble stitching photos together with the built-in software.

There are a bunch of accessories available, including:

  • Fisheye converter lens
  • Tele converter lens
  • Underwater housing to 135 feet

Buy the Olympus TG-1 from Amazon USA or from Amazon UK

Turn your SLR into an Underwater Camera – Aquapac Camera Case

Aquapac SLR Camera Case

The Aquapac SLR Camera Case will allow you to take your camera into wet/rainy/sandy conditions - even underwater - to get the golden shot (or video, as the case may be). Continue reading "Turn your SLR into an Underwater Camera – Aquapac Camera Case"

Opteka Video Camera Stabilizer

Opteka Camera Stabilizer

You upgraded your compact camera to a full SLR and thought you were so cool. Yes, your still photos looked even more awesome with those professional lenses. But your videos look like they were taken by someone with cerebral palsy. Not to mention that it's really hard to keep things in focus when you're moving around capturing video of your cat in motion. You miss your auto-focus.

You could go back to your old compact camera. But, no! You don't want to go back. You have to go forward and make this SLR work. It cost you a fortune and the last thing you want to do is turn it into a digital paperweight. What you really need is a video stabiliser - a Steadicam rig! But then you look at the prices of the Steadicam. Wow. They're even more expensive than your camera.

Okay, you need a poor man's steadicam. You search the Internet in vain. You keep finding these flimsy, cheapo rigs. Even though they are advertised by attractive women in fluorescent T-shirts doesn't hide the fact that they are lame.

Stop. Your search is over. Opteka make a DSLR camera rig for less than $200. And they're pretty good looking to. Well made. And they won't require another suitcase to take with you on vacation. You won't need to dress like a navy seal to carry one around either. They fit in your hand and are really lightweight.

Go to Amazon now and get one.

Swivl Virtual Camerman for iPhone and Flip – follows your every move

tracks your every move

Now, this is truly a breakthrough product. You don't know that you want it but you will!

It won't be for everyone but for those who need to film themselves and don't have a pair of extra hands, this is a handy tool.

First, you dock your iPhone into the Swivl mount, then pop the wireless marker into your pocket. Then, no matter where you go, the Swivl will pivot 360 degrees on its lazy-susan style base and track you in order to keep you within frame.

The wireless market also acts as a wireless microphone, so if you hang it around your neck it will capture your voice and people close to you.

Why would you want to do this? Well the Swivl video (below) does a pretty good job of selling the idea for how it can be used in everyday life:

  • film yourself while you move around the room during a FaceTime video conferencing session
  • film you and the kids playing around
  • film yourself giving a lecture while you move between whiteboard and desk
  • solo filmmakers can shoot tracking scenes without a cameraman

There is also an iPhone App that allows you to remote control the device, such as remote start/stop, and the Swivl unit can be mounted on most standard tripods.

If you don't have an iPhone, there are adapters to support other types of devices, such as the Flip.

Where to Buy:

Direct from Swivl

Airstash – WiFi Flash Memory Stick Targets iPad

Airstash for iPad/iPhone

[UPDATE: This article was modified on April 12, 2012 to correct some errors after we received and tested our own AirStash]

[also, check out our post on the iUSBPort and how it compares to the Airstash]

Given that Apple refuses to allow users to easily attach flash memory to upgrade the storage capacity of its products, there have been many work-arounds. For example, the Kingston WiDrive, Seagate GoFlex Satellite and the Hypershop Hyperdrive. Up to now, our favourite was the Kingston WiDrive - read this to find out why. For DIYers there is also a way of connecting an SD Flash card to the iPad via the Apple Connection Kit. However, it's not particularly user-friendly.

Our favourite device is now the AirStash. The A02 is the second generation model. Wearable, the manufacturers of AirStash, has learnt some valuable lessons from their competition - particularly from Kingston. Whereas the Kingston is a large, flat WiFi flash drive with only a 4 hour battery life, Wearable (distributed by Maxell) has put theirs into a much smaller form-factor (a chunky stick) and given it a battery life of 7 hours (up to 9 hours reported by some users in the field - depending upon usage). The rechargeable battery inside the device takes 2 hours to fully charge from USB power.

upload camera photos via Airstash SD port

Like the Kingston, the Airstash is based on flash memory and uses an App on your iOS device to stream movies, or upload documents and photos. It also uses WiFi and its App to get around Apple's restrictions. Unlike the WiDrive, the Airstash uses removable SD cards as its storage medium. This gives you maximum flexibility, as you can easily swap out cards with different amounts of storage. In other words, the AirStash storage capacity is unlimited.

As an added bonus, you can plug your camera's SD card into the back of the Airstash and immediately upload your photos to your iOS device. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal - especially when Apple provides the Camera Connection Kit with SD card reader for the iPad. However, the Apple Connection kit only supports SDHC cards (which currently go up to only a 32GB capacity). By contrast, the Airstash supports SDXC cards (see below), which currently come in 64GB & 128GB capacities. This means you can use your high performance SDXC card in your camera and still use it on your iPad via AirStash.

The AirStash is compatible with Android and, indeed, with any device that has a browser. Once connected to the AirStash WiFi network, pointing your browser to the following URL - http://airstash.net - will list the contents of the AirStash with clickable links.

A nice feature of the Airstash is that it has a USB connector which has dual-use: it can be used to recharge your Airstash's built-in rechargeable battery and you can drag-and-drop content from your computer to the Airstash, so it will become available to your iOS device. Unfortunately, when it is plugged into a computer it cannot be used as a WiFi server at the same time. You must choose between flash disk and WiFi iOS storage modes.

If you've never used a WiFi storage device with your iPad or iPhone, this is how it works:

  1. Turn on your WiFi storage device.
  2. Wait a minute, then open your 'Settings' App. Go to the WiFi section and connect to the device's SSID (this effectively connects you to the WiFi drive's network, disconnecting you from other networks)
  3. Open the special streaming App on your iOS device. Once it finds your WiFi drive, click to play/view content

At the moment, we can confirm that the AirStash can be used to store iTunes DRM content that you have purchased from Apple. When you click on a DRM item within the AirStash App, it opens the content in Safari - which handles the DRM authentication. We have not yet tested this with rented DRM content. We are assuming that this will work but we'd like to know if you can do so while not connected to the Internet. This is something that the Kingston WiDrive cannot do.

However, the Airstash cuts you off from the Internet when you connect to it - unlike the Kingston WiDrive which prevents this from happening by letting you program it to act as a pass-through router. In effect, the WiDrive connects to the Internet, so that when you connect to it you don't lose your Internet connection. Wearable claims to be working on a patch/upgrade to resolve this problem (see the comment below).

We ordered a 16GB Airstash for the office, which came with a 16GB SD card. The amount of storage that the AirStash can hold, depends upon the technology of the SD card itself. Here is what the manufacturer claims:

At the moment, however, it seems that the AirStash can only support FAT32 which has a max file size of 4GB. This is unfortunate, for instance, if you have very large video files which you want to play via a multi-format Video App like AVPlayerHD. In particular, if you have a library of DVD .ISO files (which typically run around 8GB in size), you will not be able to store them on the AirStash card. Videos will need to be transcoded down to a smaller size.
The new A02 model is smaller than the A01. Here's a promotional video for it:

For more information, check out the Airstash Website.

Where to Buy:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Photomojo iPhone SLR Lens Mount

Okay, now this is guaranteed to make you look like a dork. Nevertheless, you'll have the best pics from the party.
According to PhotoMojo - the manufacturer - their iPhone SLR mount accepts both Canon EOS and Nikon SLR lenses and by using a special iPhone sleeve, connects them to your iPhone 4.

The focus will be manual, so you'll need to be able to look at your iPhone screen closely when taking a picture. Apparently, you can use your camera strap to hang this contraption around your neck. Weird but wonderful.

It costs $249 USD (which seems like a lot) and can be purchased directly from PhotoMojo.

GoPano 360 Degree Video Recording for iPhone

The GoPano is essentially a curved mirror that clips onto your iPhone lens in order to shoot 360 panoramic video. What? How does that work?

Well, the magic takes place within the GoPano iPhone App which converts the video you shot into something that you can watch later. What you'll see when you start your video clip is a single viewpoint but drag your mouse around the screen and the viewpoint changes - in real-time. This appears seamless and effortless. It's really difficult to describe but the effect is fascinating.

Check out this clip to see what I mean

The video quality of the clips on display over at the manufacturer are not astounding. I suspect that has something to do with a lot of image being pushed down to an 8 megapixel imaging chip in the phone that wasn't designed to cope with such a volume of data. Perhaps, as the iPhone camera evolves, things will get better.

The build-quality of the GoPano itself is not reported to be very good and some users say that it's easy to dislodge if the camera gets jostled around.

Still, this is a great way to capture lots of surrounding action and recreate a feel for the place that you are filming in.

 Where to Buy:

Amazon (USA)

Amazon (UK)

Direct from manufacturer

Optrix iPhone POV Water Resistant Mount

If you like shooting POV during extreme sports (and I can hear the porno industry giving a collective orgasmic sigh of relief), then this is the mount for you.

Water resistant and vibration stabilising, this mount sticks to most surfaces with adhesive tape (supplied). Just don't try sticking it to your private parts, though.

There are two mounting 'sleds' - one for iPhone and one for the iTouch.

You can purchase it directly from Optrix. Their info page impresses you with lots of features that are already built into the iPhone. Frankly, this is a water resistant case with some anti-vibration elements. Nothing more, nothing less.


Snap on Lenses for iPhone

Fish Eye Lens for iPhone

The iPhone's built-in camera isn't bad. Certainly, it's very useful for capturing events on the spur-of-the-moment. But the more you use it, the more you wish it could do. Zooming, cropping, framing in-camera isn't as easy as it could be.

However, this trio of lenses - fish-eye, telephoto and macro - make up for the iPhone's deficiency. Ingeniously crafted, they are magnetic and, so, can be easily snapped on and off to give you a more professional image.

Whether capturing the kids, or birds, or landscapes, or even garden furniture is your thing - these lenses can easily accommodate. I found them quite useful when travelling to hotels, when I wanted to get shots of the entire room in one photo - without having to stitch several shots together.

I only wish they came with some kind of bag to carry them in. Otherwise, they jangle around in your pocket.

According to the manufacturer, they can attach to any camera phone. This might be true but I cannot confirm it.

Where to Buy:
3 in 1 Camera Lens Kit for Apple iPhone 4 iPad (Fish Eye Lens, Wide Angle + Micro Lens) from Amazon USA
3-in-1 Lens kit from Photojojo