Photowalk With the Asus Zenfone Zoom

Vijay from iClickd had invited us for a Photowalk around Ulsoor Lake a little while back. That was the perfect time to try out the capabilities of the Asus Zenfone Zoom phone with it’s 3x optical zoom. We started off the walk at around 7am, a great time to catch some great photos, the lighting of the rising sun and the looks of a fresh day. During the day, Vijay took us though tips on photography and how to look at the same scene from a different perspective.

Zenfone Zoom

If you haven’t heard of the Zenfone Zoom, it’s an android phone with a 13 Megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization in which they even managed to include a  3x Optical Zoom (and 12x Digital zoom). It’s also got a Laser aided autofocus, which helps in getting a really quick focus on the scene. If you’re looking for the snaps taken with the optical zoom, take a look at the ones with the birds. I didn’t enable the digital zoom option during this photowalk.

Zenfone Zoom Camera Bump

The phone itself features a premium feel leather back, with a bump around the camera at the back. This is probably there to house the optical zoom mechanics.  Asus has managed to do the impossible by adding a the zoom functionality without the retractible lenses, which helps keep the phone’s profile relatively slim.

How does it perform?

Before we go to the Image capture samples, here’s my quick thoughts on the Zenfone Zoom.

  • Great Optics, average execution. While the camera features great optics from Hoya and the optical zoom, I found that the camera’s sensor and the software tuning of the images lacks in quality. This is especially true when you zoom into an image you’ve taken.
  • Hangs at times. During the photo walk I experienced the camera hanging a few times. In some cases, quitting the camera app and force closing it fixed it. Twice I had to reboot the phone to get the camera to work, since launching the camera brought up a black screen in those cases.
  • Slow Camera App in Low Light Conditions. While taking photos in low light conditions, the camera interface starts to stutter and starts acting quite slow in focussing and clicking snaps. You end up missing the subject or the they move by the time the camera gets into action.

Since most of the problem I faced were software based, I’m hoping that Asus brings out an update in the near future to fixe these nagging issues.

Image Samples

Photography, image search and more on apps this week

ProShot

ProShot by Rise Up Games started out a while back as a fully featured camera app for Windows Phone back in 2012. It launched on iOS in 2014 and is now available on Android as well (for devices running 5.1 and up). On compatible phones, it gives you access to full manual control, editable presets, and on Android, RAW support (assuming your phone fully supports the camera2 API. Check the link above for the full feature listing for each platform.

Windows Phone:
Download from Windows Store

iOS:

Android:

ProShot
ProShot
Developer: Rise Up Games
Price: $4.99

 

Image Searcher

Looking for that Gif to send to a chat app? Or an image? Why bother searching and then downloading it when you can do it directly from the media share feature in the chat app? Your preferred chat app doesn’t have such a feature? Try Image Searcher. Just remember, don’t set a default while trying to share an image and it’s all good.

Android:

 

Google Drive on Windows Phone

Sure, Google doesn’t really bother supporting Windows Phone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use certain apps. If you are a Google Drive user, check out the unofficial drive client.. Check out the full review on All About Windows Phone.

Windows Phone:
Download from Windows Store

Polarr

What started out as a browser based photography app has now evolved into a free iOS app (with in app purchases, of course). It’s pretty feature rich and allows you to create and save your own presets as well.

iOS:

 

Google Camera Updated!!

Google has recently updated its native Camera app with a couple of nifty new features. Also, the Camera app will be available on Google Play to all devices running Android KitKat 4.4 and above.

As we all know the Google Camera app comes with the very creative modes like the very much appreciated Photosphere and Panorama.

Up until now Photosphere used to capture 360 degree Panoramas at 8 megapixels, which was really great. Photosphere product manager Evan Rapoport recently announced on Google+ that through this update users will be able to capture 360 degree Panos at a whopping 50 megapixels!!

The already awesome Photosphere just got better.

The new update also brings a new feature, Lens Blur, which as the name suggests allows users to focus on a particular object while blurring out the background resulting in a nice creamy bokeh effect. One can also change the focus subject after taking the shot, just like Nokia Refocus and it works really well.

Apart from this, the View Finder has been improved to eliminate Dropped Pixels, which means what you see on the screen is what you get in the image. The Panorama mode has also been updated to offer more resolution and detail.

There are a couple of drawbacks though. For instance, the camera shoots only in 4:3 aspect ratio, the timer option is gone and so is the white balance settings. But going by Google’s reputation these options should be back soon.

As mentioned, the new Google Camera will be available on Google Play and is compatible with all phones and tablets running Android KitKat 4.4 or above. So head over to Google Play and start clicking!!

Google Camera
Google Camera
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Nokia Refocus – Focus Later – Coming Soon to a Lumia Phone Near You

How many times have you had taken snaps where your subject was out of focus? Well even the best of us have done that at some point or the other. Now how about having your phone take a picture which you can review later and then change the focus? Pictures speak louder than words, so try this out. Click on the wall on the left to focus there, or the street to focus on that.

Impressed?

This was taken using the Nokia Refocus app. Nokia Refocus essentially does some *magic* maths and creates a depth map on the scene you are trying to photograph. When you click the photo, the app then goes and takes multiple photos at varying levels of focus and saves a composite image which you can later open up and adjust the focus on. The app works well when you’re trying to capture a near by object along with objects further out. Awesome work from the Nokia team, who excel in mobile camera phone technology.

Can’t wait to get it?

According to the Nokia Connects team, the app should hit the Windows Phone store in the coming weeks. So keep an eye out on the Nokia Collections section of the Store.

The bad new? Not all Lumias get this.

Only the following phones are capable of running this app as of now:

  • Lumia 920
  • Lumia 925
  • Lumia 928
  • Lumia 1020
  • Lumia 1520

Check out more Nokia Refocus Sample Snaps

Lumia 720 vs Nexus 4 [Camera Samples]

Having the Lumia 720 for review for a while, I decided to take the camera features of the phone for a spin. Since I have the Nexus 4 also, I took comparison shots to see how the camera on the 720 holds out.

All the images are unedited and straight from the camera. These are just some ramdon shots taken over two days at various locations, all taken at the default camera settings in each phone. I’ve placed the images side by side with the Nexus 4 first in each set followed by the Lumia 720 on the right, so you can see how each one turns out to be. You can click on each image for a bigger version of the image. I didn’t upload the full resolution photos to this site, but you can take a look at those at this Flickr set.

I’ll be adding more photos to this post as I take them over the next few days.

Overall, in low light snaps, the Lumia 720 seem to do a better job at White Balancing, giving a more natural whiter snap compared to the Nexus 4’s yellowish ones. The opposite happened in the day time backlight photo of the bottles. Both performed equally in the evening snaps.

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Nexus 4
Lumia 720[divider]
Nexus 4
Lumia 720[divider]
Nexus 4
Lumia 720[divider]
Nexus 4
Lumia 720[divider]
Nexus 4
Lumia 720[divider]
Nexus 4
Lumia 720[divider]

Nokia Launches a Slim Aluminium Bodied Lumia 925

In a press event yesterday in London, Nokia announced the latest entrant into the Lumia family, the Lumia 925. Apart from being slimmer than the Lumia 920, this device also features sobered down colors unlike the others in the Lumia Family – white, grey or black. Also notable is that Wireless Charging on the phone has been removed but you can snap on a Wireless Charging Case to bring back that functionality.

Quick Specs of the Lumia 925

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  • Processor: 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon
  • Dimensions : 129 x 70.6 x 8.5  mm weighing 139g
  • Display: 4.5-inch AMOLED WXGA (1280×768) with Gorilla Glass 2
  • Memory: 1GB RAM, 16 GB user memory – not expandable
  • Camera: Rear Camera – PureView 8.7-megapixel with OIS, Autofocus, dual LED flash. Front Camera: HD 1.2MP wide angle
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, BT 3.0, NFC, WiFi, Positioning via A-GPS and Glonass, 3.5mm audio connector
  • Battery: 2000 mAh
  • Wireless Charging: Only via a charging case.
  • Networks: GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900, WCDMA, 2100, 1900, 850, 900, LTE 2100, 1800, 2600, 900, 800
  • Audio: -IHF speaker, 2 microphones, HD voice compliant, 3.5mm AV connector
  • Expected Price :  469  Euros before taxes and subsidies (approx Rs. 34,000 in India )

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What’s different from the Lumia 920?

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  • Build – The 925 features an Alumium body with a Polycarbonte  back, while the 920 is a fully polycarbonate.
  • Screen – The 925 comes with a AMOLED screen vs the IPS one on the 920. Also the 925 features Gorilla Glass 2 vs the original Gorilla glass for the predecessor.
  • Better battery – According to the specs the 925 has a maximum talk time of 12.8 hours on 3G compared to the 10.8 on the Lumia 920
  • Camera – The 925 has upgraded optics ( a 6 lens optic ) for better low light snaps, and Nokia Smart Camera. The 920 will receive the Smart Camera app in a future OS upgrade.
  • ISO ( Camera’s Light Sensitivity): The Lumia 925 has a max rating of ISO 1600 compared to the 920’s ISO 800
  • Wireless Charging – The Lumia 925 requires a Wireless Charging case if you want to charge wirelessly, where as the 920 comes with that built into the device itself.

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Camera – Nokia’s Claim to Fame

1200-nokia_lumia_925_back

As with most of Nokia’s flagship devices, the Lumia 925’s claim to fame is also the PureView camera which is bundled along with the phone. This device comes with 6 piece lens optics from Carl Zeiss, with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and  a light sensitivity rating of ISO 1600, which is double that of the Lumia 920. This combination makes for better night and low light snaps on this new flagship.

Nokia’s latest camera software lens dubbed the Nokia Smart Camera adds more features to the camara software on Windows Phone 8, allowing a more creativity in the images shot using the device. The main features –   Best Shot, Action Shot, and Motion Focus allow you to choose the best photo in a group shot and remove moving people or objects from a snap, create action shot with multiple images superimposed on each other to show the subject multiple times in the same snap, and adding motion blur while focusing on the subject accordingly. Here are a few sample snaps using the Lumia 925 and Nokia Smart Camera. (Images courtesy Nokia)

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Oggl with Instagram Sharing Announced

Nokia, during their launch, announced Hipstamatic’s new app, Oggl, which allows users to take pictures apply filters and share it with other users on the Oggl network or to Facebook, Twitter and wait for it …. Instagram. Even though an official Instagram app is still not forthcoming, users can now share to Instagram officially using Oggl, since this not via a hacked API unlike another app on the Windows Phone Store.

Windows Phone Amber coming in the next month or so

Nokia also announced that an update dubbed “Windows Phone Amber” will hit existing users of Windows Phone 8 devices which will bring the  Nokia Smart Camera along with a few more goodies to our existing phones as well. Here’s a list of features we’re aware of which should be coming in:

  • Nokia Smart Camera App.
  • The ability to choose which app to start-up when the camera button is pressed.
  • FM radio is one of the features which will get turned on once the upgrade happens. Unfortunately the Lumia 620 it won’t get this feature it seems.
  • Tap to wake, featured on the 925, will also be available for the users of the Lumia 920 & 820 phones.
  • International Podcast Support
  • CalDav and CardDav support for Windows Phone 8 which allows better sync with services like Google

 In Short

Nokia’s Launch of the Lumia 925 is an attempt to augment the Lumia family. The Metal body design and sobered down colors will attract some more folks ( probably the corporate types) who were wary of the bright polycarbonate bodies of the older devices.  The phone being slimmer and lighter also helps, since quite a few people I know were complaining about the size and weight of the Lumia 920. Unfortunately, to make it so, Nokia removed the native ability to charge the phone wirelessly, and requires a special charging case of you wish to do so.

I’m still not sure of how much better this device’s camera fares compared to the older 920, but the specs do show that it is more capable in low light situations.

For users of the Lumia 920, the minor upgrade in the specs really don’t shout out to me to go upgrade immediately, since the  Windows Phone Amber upgrade will bring the software goodies into our devices as well. But I think for first time buyers the 925 will be a better buy than the 920 is.

Photosynth finally arrives for Windows Phone 8 users. Hurray!

Finally my favorite Panorama app arrives for Windows Phone 8. I’m a long time Photosynth user, way back when Windows Phone 7 didn’t even exist. In fact most non-iDevice users may not know that Photosynth from Microsoft was first released for the iPhone way before Windows Phone was even released. My complaint last year was that Microsoft was dragging their feet while getting Photosynth for Windows Phone 7 and this year that Photosynth was notably missing from the Windows Phone 8 yet again!

Finally Microsoft has announced that Photosynth is now officially available for WP8 users through the Windows Phone Store. For those of you who haven’t yet tried it or know about the app are advised to first go download it!

Capturing a scene using Photosynth

 The app allows you to create immersive panorama spheres which you can later explore by scrolling both sides and even up and down. It’s almost like being there. The best part is that it’s quite easy to capture the photo. All you need to do is to keep moving your camera around and up and down to capture the entire scene, while the app guides you and auto clicks the scene. Once you’ve captured the entire site, the app stitches up the entire scene allows you to preview it and save it to your phone. You can then share it from there with your friends through Facebook, Twitter and Email. To give you an idea of how the final image comes, here’s one I captured quite a while back with Photosynth.

Do keep in mind that Photosynth like most panorama captures work well when you’re not trying to capture very near by objects, but from a distance.

The Photosynth blog also mentions that the new features for Windows Phone 8 are:

  • Camera lens integration – Quickly capture and view panoramas by launching Photosynth directly from the built-in camera app
  • View shared panoramas – View panoramas shared with you via email, Facebook, or Twitter directly on your mobile device
  • More camera controls – Adjust for various lighting conditions by using new exposure and white balance locking options

Download Link

 

 

via: Photosynth Blog

Nokia 808 PureView – Reviewers workshop, Mumbai

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Nokia reviewers workshop in Mumbai thanks to Bloggers’ Mind and Nokia India where i got up close and personal with the Nokia 808 PureView. With us at the event were Vesa Jutila, Head of Symbian Product Marketing and Ari Partinen, Senior Camera Design Engineer from Nokia Finland.

Now we’ve already covered most of the details of this gorgeous 41 MegaPixel camera phone since its announcement at the MWC ’12 so do check out our earlier posts. For those of you who haven’t heard of the Nokia PureView 808, here are links to some of our past coverage of the Monster Camera Phone – Camera Samples from the 808 both Photos and Videos, pics of the Nokia PureView 808 phone.

Here are the device specs –

  • Display: 4″ nHD (640×360) Clear Black AMOLED
  • Processor: 1.3GHz Single Core
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM, 16 GB on-board storage, Expandable via Micro-USB upto 32GB
  • OS: Nokia Symbian Belle
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi b/g/n, USB OTG
  • Battery: 1430 mAH
  • Imaging: 41MP Nokia PureView Pro imaging technology and Carl Zeiss optics,  Xenon Flash, Full HD Video Capture

The 808 is all about the whopping 41 M camera thats built around 3 key elements –

  1. The high performance imaging sensor
  2. Nokia’s proprietary imaging algorithms
  3. The high precision Carl Zeiss optics & lenses

We’ve already saw the awesomeness of Carl Zeiss optics right from the days of N73 till the N8 and now we have something that beat them all – The PureView 808 (5 lenses stacked on each other)!!

Here are the main features outlined by Vesa at the event –

  1. ND filter – The 808 uses the Neutral Density filter which reduces the intensity of colors so that there’s no change in the hue of color rendition of the image. It gives the user the comfort of setting aperture, exposure times and motion blurs of the subject to be photographed in different situations.
  2. ISO settings – The 808 has ISO settings from a low 50 to the top value of 1600!
  3. Zoom – The zoom option on the 808 is quite different in that there’s no actual zooming happening. Instead of zooming the camera crops our the live finder to show you exactly what you want to capture.

A very important question on everyones mind there was of course – Will we see PureView techonolgy on the Windows 7 phones?? The 808 was under development for almost 5 years says Vesa Jutila and  right now, they just want to explore all possibilities he said deftly steering away from the question. Incorporating this on the WP7 phones is something that we hope to see in the future.

 

Cell Phones that will ‘See Through’ Walls

Cell phones are now used extensively for various other reasons in addition to the basic telephone services; take the Camera as an example. In fact, the camera on a mobile phone is one of its main selling points.

A new technology, Superman’s X-Ray Vision (no, not really) could deliver new functionality to the mobile phone’s camera.

This new technological innovation at the University of Texas, Dallas gives an insight that we are not far from the day where we will be able to see through the walls by using our camera. The innovation comprises of two significant advancements in research. Scientists will be able to reach this new milestone by utilizing the unused electromagnetic spectrum and by utilizing the brand new consumer grade microchip. Till now, a terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum was not accessible by chips used in consumer grade gadgets. Terahertz band lies between the microwave and infrared rays, and has the capability to penetrate through physical objects much in the lines of X-Rays.

Signals that travel through mobile phone will also bounce back and these bounced back results will be tracked by CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) based processors. In fact, CMOS processors are the most widely used processors in any consumer grade electronic devices. The sensor present in the chip will be able to remap the image based on the signal that it receives. The advantage with terahertz based processors is that you will be able to generate images with few numbers of lenses. As the number of lenses is less, the size of the camera will be less and it will be easy to implant in a mobile phone. It is also feasible to manufacture cameras in a commercial point of view.

The technological capability to see through walls can also be extended to other kinds of useful applications. There is a possibility to replace traditional X-Rays with Terahertz band. The new technology can also be used to detect fake currencies. As with any new development, there is scope for it’s misuse (we wouldn’t want people to be walking around peeking through walls would we?). The team working on this technology is trying to restrict the usage so that users will not be able to “see through” obstacles if  they are four inches away from the objects. On the other hand, the new technology should be very much appreciated for its unique advantage to explore things in new ways.Take Non-destructive testing as an example; not having to use X-Rays to image objects could have huge health and power usage benefits.

 

Image Courtesy: Cirris

[Photos] The Nokia 808 Pure View

The phone which really blew me away during MWC 2012 was the Nokia 808 PureView with its 41 Mega Pixel sensor! The first monster camera phone announced in Nokia’s new PureView range of phones.

The 808 with its massive image sensor and Carl Zeiss optics is it self capable of taking great snaps. Nokia has also added their PureView software on top of this bundle so that pictures you take at 5 and 8 megapixel come out crisp and clear, even in low light conditions. This is done using technology called Pixel Oversampling where the information from many pixels (or dots in the image) are used to calculate one single pixel. This greatly improves the end quality of the image removing those white grains you see when you take pictures in low light. To read more about this technology, check this White Paper from Nokia explaining the PureView technology.

If you are wondering how big the Image Sensor on the Nokia 808 really is, check out the image on the right. As you’ve probably guessed, the one on the lower left side of the image is the sensor powering the 808’s camera. The one in the middle is a standard 8 Megapixel sensor. So the bigger the sensor, the more information about the photo it’s able to capture.

Apart from the Sensor and PixelView technology, the Nokia 808 is quite fast in switching to the Camera mode and clicking a snap. From the Lock screen, clicking on the Camera button got me to the camera in just a second and just over another second to click a snap. So in just over two seconds, your phone can go from the Lockscreen to actually taking a photo. I’m impressed.

The pictures and videos from the Nokia 808 were quite good for a camera phone. The phone excelled in the night shots pretty well. If you haven’t seen the sample pics and videos taken on the 808, head over to our previous post with the samples. Of course the folks from Nokia had stated that the phones we had to play around with were prototypes and not the actual devices slated for release, so they’d be tweaking the camera software a lot more before it’s launch around May.

The phone itself looks pretty good, check out the gallery here with the Nokia 808 posing for us.

What are your thoughts about the 808? Let us know by leaving us a comment below.