Product Review – Veho MUVI HD NPNG Action Camera

MUVI HD NPNG EditionHaving not particularly been in the market for an Action Camera, I seemed to have stumbled upon a bit of a bargain and now find myself the proud owner of a new Veho MUVI HD NPNG Edition cam.  So in this blog I hope to give those interested a quick run-down of the product.

I hadn’t particularly researched action cameras much, primarily because it seemed there was only one product dominating the market and this product was I felt a little bit expensive (when you added the accessories) for what it actually did.  I’m obviously talking about the GoPro Hero 3+ which admittedly produces stunning video for such a small device and lens but you are looking at spending the best part of £300 for a kit with a limited number of accessories although this does include the waterproof housing, £360 if you want a remote control for this.  The other problem or perception I had was that the competition up against the GoPro firstly didn’t match the video quality offered by th
the GoPro and secondly were priced quite highly also.

I then fortuitously stumbled upon what looked like a great offer for the Veho MUVI HD NPNG.  A full HD 1080p action camera and a tonne of accessories in their No Proof No Glory bundle edition.  Total cost, £109 from Amazon.co.uk (it is still on offer!!) saving £110 on the £219 retail price and probably well over £200 cheaper than the equivalent kit via GoPro

MUVI HD NPNGAs you can see from the picture, the NPNG Edition Bundle comes supplied with enough accessories to get you out there taking video footage of all your adventures.  You have pretty much everything you would need straight out of the box although my first observation would be that it takes a little time actually working out what all the various bits are for.  The only accessory missing for me was the Suction Cup mount which allows you to mount the camera on a window or other smooth surface e.g. windscreen, car bonnet but this as an accessory is again priced very competitively when compared to a GoPro equivalent.

So what about the camera itself.  An extensive list of specifications can be found on Veho’s website, however the stand-out specs are as follows:

  • Video Modes: 1080p 30fps, 720p 60fps & 30fps
  • Bit Rate: 16mbits @ 1080p 8mbits @ 720p
  • Fixed Aperture f2.5 with 170 degree field of view
  • x3 Digital zoom when recording in 720p mode
  • Built-in LCD for playback on the device
  • 4 hours battery life – Veho claim 3 hours but if turn off the LCD you can squeeze extra out
  • 8mp, 5mp, 3mp Photo Modes
  • x4 exposure modes
  • Continuous Photo shooting mode (a great way to setup multiple shots for time-lapse)

The things I would have liked to see included in the camera are a removable battery and the ability to accept lager microSD cards, the limit on the MUVI HD is 32Gb.

First thing you will notice about the MUVI HD is it is designed to be held upright like a Smartphone, the difference being that it is capturing the video in the correct landscape orientation.  This has some benefits as your grip actually feels sturdier in the hand, however it still feels a little unnatural.  The supplied remote is something I really like and of course is an optional extra on most GoPro kits.  Remote operation is simple, press the record button to record video, stop button to stop recording and the capture button to take a photo, the range of the remote is about 5m.  Note the remote is not waterproof.

The supplied Waterproof casing feels very well made and is rated to survive depths of up to 60m for 60 minutes, another great feature of the waterproof case is that it is compatible with the various mounting options either via use of a standard tripod-screw mount (another fantastic provision) or by a back plate adapter that allows you to attach belt mounts, clothing clips etc.  When the camera is the case it is very solidly housed and video record operation is via a single external button.  I would have liked to have seen the ability to capture a still photo when the camera was housed but sadly this is not possible manually, although you could set-up a delay timer but this would have significant limitations.

Watch in HD for best results

In terms of video quality the MUVI HD produces some great results.  In good lighting conditions the output is crisp and the colours look natural, video can show some noise when used in lower light conditions and I think this is one area where the GoPro really beats the competition, however output in low light situations generally is of a better quality than a high-end smartphone.

Still picture quality capture is also better than I expected there are elements of fringing in certain situations however being a DSLR user I wasn’t expecting DSLR levels of still quality.

Audio capture as expected isn’t the greatest but is passable.  To be honest nobody has managed to get sound capture right with this type of camera and why should they!! They are designed to be used is pretty “different” scenarios where audio is pretty extreme so for me at least audio capture wasn’t a high priority.

The built-in LCD screen makes operation and set-up of the camera very easy.  You can use the LCD to frame your shot or video and navigating set-up menus is much more intuitive.  Again this functionality is not possible using a GoPro without buying an optional extra or using another device such as your smartphone which means you need two hands to operate.  Once you have set your framing you can turn off the LCD screen to save on battery.

Watch in HD for best results

I mentioned the continuous still shoot mode above as being good for time-lapse, and it is a great feature.  Essentially the MUVI HD allows you to set-up the camera to take a still photo continuously at intervals of 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 and 60 seconds.  It will happy sit there taking snaps of a scene until either you run out of capacity on the card (unlikely) or when the battery runs out.  My linked You tube video above shows the results of a 4 hours continuous shoot test which equated to one full battery charge.

Verdict

Overall and considering the current offer price you can not beat this little camera especially as it comes supplied with almost all of the accessories you’d ever need.  Whilst in terms of video quality it is not as good as the GoPro Hero 3, which can now support 4k video capture, it offers a very good level of video quality.  However the main selling point for me is it also offers some great additional features above the GoPro such as the built-in LCD screen, longer battery life and that continuous shooting mode which make the device more usable, accessible and fun.

So if you are in the market for an action cam and can’t justify the expense of investing in the GoPro camera plus the additional expensive GoPro accessories the MUVI HD is a great proposition.

 

Links:

Other Video Footage Examples:

 

 

 

 

 

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The Wedding Photographer

Just over 12 months ago I broke one of the cardinal sins for a photographer.  On a trip to my homeland (the great North West of England) and in a slightly drunken yet elated state I offered to take the photographs for two very good friends of mine who had recently announced the date of their forth-coming wedding.

The next morning, slightly hung-over, I recalled my “generous” offer and hoped that the couple to be might have suffered a greater alcohol induced memory haze than myself.  I’d returned back to London and nothing had been mentioned for at least a week, “phew that was a close shave” I thought and then, that fateful email pinged into my Inbox.

“were you serious about taking the pics for the wedding Andy?”

“yes no problem, call it my wedding present to you both…..”, hmmmmm mistake number 2.

Registry Office So I was now well and truly committed.  I’ve taken snaps before at many weddings but never as the “official photographer” so the pressure was on to deliver the goods, plus I was also a guest at the wedding which would include a large group of some of my very best friends… we don’t often get the chance to all get together so I didn’t want miss a great opportunity for a catch-up.  I had 5 months to prep myself (plenty of time) the only other additional complication was the wedding was to be held in Spain!!! To be more accurate the ceremony in Gibraltar and the reception later in the day at a Villa on the Costa Del Sol.

So with a few weeks to go I thought it might be prudent to read-up on the subject and take-in the do’s and don’ts.  I’d also need to confirm the finer details with the bride and groom e.g. timings locations and logistics.  Logistics, I found with research, would be important especially given we would drive down in the morning to Gibraltar for the ceremony at 11am.  This would mean having to deal with the border crossing from the Spanish town of La-Linea into Gibraltar and the notorious traffic queues caused by the overzealous Spanish border officials.

With Flights and Car hire booked, my camera kit packed and a memorised (backed up with paper) list of MUST HAVE shots I set off for Gatwick Airport bound for Malaga on a late night flight that would get me to the Villa a couple of days before the wedding.  Those 2 days prior to the wedding were great, I had to chance to have a few beers with the lads and tease more details out about the ceremony and reception which helped me plan in my mind how I’d tackle the task at hand.

The LadiesDay of the wedding, and a early start.  I was responsible for making sure the groom was up and ready in time for the best man to collect us from the Villa where we would drive south to Gibraltar.  This meant I’d have to be up even earlier to get myself suited and booted and make sure all my kit was ready to go.

First logistics success was the decision we’d taken NOT to attempt to drive over the border into Gibraltar.  On arrival in La-Linea the expected traffic queues materialised so we decamped on the Spanish side of the and hot-footed it over the border, which for those that have not experienced this before means about a mile walk through the border, across the runway of Gibraltar’s International airport before you can grab a short bus ride into town.  This wouldn’t have been too bad if it wasn’t for the heat combined with the weight of my kit and the full suit I was wearing.  After a quick hydration stop we arrived in good time outside Gibraltar’s tiny registry office.  This gave me a chance to get the groom and his family shots in before the bride and her bridesmaids arrived as well as the much welcomed opportunity to cool down in the shade.

The bride arrived a little late, as is permitted (and expected) which gave a great opportunity to grab shots of her and the bridesmaids walking up, reservoir dogs style through, the narrow cobbled street that approached the registry office.

To describe Gibraltar’s registry office as small would be an understatement.  There is about enough room for the Bride, the Groom and registrar plus about 7 guests – it is literally an office!!! So not too good for shots other than then obligatory signing of the register and the happy couple together.

Post the ceremony we took a stroll towards the Marina to celebrate with a quick mid morning glass of champers and the route there gave me ample opportunity to grab some shots amongst the old town walls of Gibraltar, coincidentally right next to Gibraltar’s own Photography Club.

The early afternoon would see us all drive back north towards Malaga where a humanist reception amongst the remaining guests and friends would await us.  This is where it would get difficult as many of my friends would be gathered there and in no time the drinks would be flowing whilst I had to keep on my game for the remainder of the day.  I’d previously promised myself that I’d only partake in a couple of drinks on arrival and through the meal, setting myself a cut-off time post the bride and groom’s first dance, then I could put the kit away and play catch-up.

The BrideAll went smoothly, corralling the guests for pictures was easier than expected primarily because my friends were assisting in ushering people together and as I think everybody knew I was also a guest I got more opportunities to blend in and get some great documentary shots which really helped to tell the story of the day, and true to my promise I put the kit (well most of it) away after the end of the first dance.

The day was a great success – I was running on adrenalin (more like beer) at the end of the evening and was really happy with the results.  To top it all I was showered with compliments from the Groom’s father, a man when growing up, I had greatly revered and knew that such compliments were never given easily.

So what lessons did I learn?  Planning is key.  Knowing in your mind the types of shots you are aiming to get before the day, helps massively.  Chat with the bride and groom about the sort of shots they are after and write a list of the “banker shots” that every wedding should have.  Pre-scout the venues and locations to get an idea of nearby places that could offer good photographic opportunities, use Google Earth and Flickr to help you out with this.  Build rapport with the bride and groom to put them ease… in this instance this was easy for me as they had been lifelong friends.  Don’t be afraid of getting into the best position for a shot especially post reception and ceremonies when you’ll have competition for good pictures from the guests.  HAVE FUN and most of all don’t worry too much about breaking that rule e.g. don’t be the photographer for a friend’s wedding.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.  After the event I compiled the pictures together and sent off the shots to be published as a photo book.  Having been a guest at many weddings I can honestly say that being a guest and the photographer was an honour.  Witnessing and sharing in such a big event in peoples’ lives is one thing, but knowing you have helped to document this event and that for years to come my friends will be able to look back at the photo’s I’ve taken and remember their special day fills me with pride.

Lightroom 5 + Morganti Training = Flickr Explore and loads of views

Following on from my previous blog I thought I’d update you all on an early success.  I mentioned that I’d recently transferred across to using Lightroom 5 from DPP to be at the core of my workflow and was getting used to using Lightroom by watching the immensely helpful video tutorials provided by Anthony Morganti via his YouTube Channel.  Well I’ve been ploughing through some of my back catalogue to see if there were any previous shots that I’d overlooked for publication that could be “bettered” using my new found skills, then publishing on my Flickr Photostream to gauge interest.

I started to publish a few shots this weekend and struck gold today with a shot I’d taken back in early 2012 at Stone Henge in the UK.  So starting with the shot below.

Stonehenge Ancient Landscape

I added a few tweaks using the techniques I’d learned recently (thanks again Anthony Morganti) and ended up with this shot

  The net result was nearly 7300 views and 140+ favourites in less than 24 hours via a promotion to Flickr’s Explore page.

Flickr StatsSo a lesson to all when it comes to Lightroom, do your homework before you dive headlong into the product in order to reap the benefits.  Keep an eye out for more of my back catalogue appearing on my Flickr Photostream and Website, can’t wait to see what other Nuggets I can reclaim over the coming weeks and months only problem is I’ve barely taken my Camera out of it’s bag these past few weeks.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week.

Macro Photography on the Cheap.

I mentioned in my previous blog entry that I’d go in to some detail about achieving good quality macro photography on the cheap e.g. without having for dish out for a dedicated macro lens.

I discovered my interest in macro or close-up photography last year when I was undertaking a 365 Project and was looking for a different challenge, something I hadn’t attempted before.  A few macro pictures grabbed my attention and I thought why not give it a try.  Unfortunately however I didn’t have the spare cash to shell out for a dedicated macro lens so was forced to do a bit of research on the subject to see what I could achieve without the expense of a new lens.

What is Macro Photography? Essentially macro photography is termed as extreme close-up photography or where the subject in the image projected on to your camera sensor or film is larger than the actual subject.  Where the image on the sensor is the same size as the subject you’re achieving a reproduction ratio of 1:1.  A reproduction ratio of 1:1 or more is classed as a macro photograph.  To make this a little simpler, but more generic, some categorise an image as macro where the vertical height of the subject shot is less than 24mm.

The Macro Conundrum As macro photography requires close-up, high detail images, a number of challenges become apparent which you need to deal with in order to get the best shot.  Two main issues impact the macro photographer, Light and Depth of field.

As you need to get close to the subject of your shot the amount of light entering the lens is less.  Traditionally if shooting in Manual or Aperture priority you could widen the aperture (decrease the f number) on the lens and let more light in… or increase the ISO on your sensor.  However opening the aperture wide narrows the depth of field e.g. the amount your subject is in focus across the depth of the image.  When shooting small subjects using macro the depth of field will equally be reduced meaning you could have a lot of your image out of focus if your aperture is wide open.

So the trick or balancing act is to maximise the depth of field across your image subject whilst trying to get as much light in as possible.  You’ll see later how this often results in having to use a slow or long exposure shutter so a tripod is a necessary item to get macro shots correct.  The use of a dedicated macro lens will ease the balancing you need to achieve and give you more flexibility but overall whether you use a dedicate lens or an alternate method the challenges above are still an issue.

How to do it on the cheap  There are a number of different methods for achieving macro images without having to use a dedicated macro lens on your DSLR.  I use fully manual macro extension tubes and I’ll discuss these in more detail but you can also use macro/close-up filters which magnify the image at the end of the lens (image quality can suffer using this method) or lens reverse mounts which allow you your flip your lens around on your camera.  All methods including dedicated lenses aim to extend the distance between the end of the lens and the sensor in order to increase to magnification on the sensor.

Extension Tubes What are extension tubes I hear you ask? Well they are and do as described.  They are a set of tubes of varying length that when placed between the lens and the camera extend that distance and achieve greater magnification of the image on the sensor, hopefully getting you a reproduction ratio of 1:1 or greater.

You generally get two flavours of macro extension tubes.  The expensive ones such as Canon’s EF 25 II Extension tube which retails at over £140 ($90) for a single length tube and the dirt cheap ones which can be found all over Amazon or ebay for less than £10 ($6).  So what is the difference?

Most importantly there will be no difference in image quality between the two different types, spending more in this instance doesn’t get you better image quality.  Extension tubes contain no glass elements, they are a tube, so despite the engineering and optical excellence of Canon and Nikon etc none of them can improve the quality of the air between your lens and camera.  The main reason you pay more for a branded set or single extension tube is they maintain the direct connection of the lens to the camera to support the use of auto focus and/or aperture control.

In my opinion it isn’t worth paying the extra as firstly you will in most instances need very fine focus control when shooting macro so would most likely need to use Manual Focus and secondly with a little bit of knowhow you can retain control of the aperture without the lens being electrically connected to the camera.

So what do you need? Apart from a DSLR and the aforementioned manual extension tube set you’ll need a lens and a Tripod and if you want even greater focus control I’d also suggest a macro focus rail.  Cheap adequate rails ones can also be found on Amazon and eBay for under £10 ($6).

In my setup I generally use.

I already had the camera and tripod so for a total of £97 ($60) I have myself a little macro rig and a decent fast 50mm prime… everybody should own a nifty fifty, for the price you can’t beat them.

By comparison the cheapest Canon Macro lens which is capable of achieving the all important reproduction ratio of 1:1 is the Canon EF-S 60mm f2.8 which retails at £365 ($230) and this won’t fit a full frame DSLR!!  The next cheapest is Canon EF 100mm f2.8 which retails for £429 ($270).  Also be aware that some lenses like the Canon EF 50mm f2.5 are marketed as being a macro lens but they don’t hit the 1:1 reproduction ratio so whilst they can get close they don’t go close enough.

Setting Up (Canon) When using an extension tube set the general rule is the longer the tube or the more you stack the tubes the greater the magnification.  Getting a eye for the correct amount to use comes with practice but in short the setup is a follows…

  • Set desired aperture with just the lens on your camera (see tip below on how to do this)
  • Remove lens and add required extension tube(s)
  • Re-attach to camera and shoot away.

Macro extension tubes basically fit between your lens, in my case the EF 50mm f1.8 and your camera.  However before you go running off to fit your tubes to the lens and the lens to the camera STOP!!! When using manual extension tubes we need to think about how we are going to set the aperture of the lens, without that control from the camera provided by the more expensive branded extension tubes.

TIP There are two methods that can be used to set the aperture on the lens before we connect the extension tubes, each method requires the lens to be connected to the camera and setting aperture as desired before removing the lens with the camera power remaining on.

A common method I’ve seen used by many on YouTube is to set the aperture whilst in Live View mode before removing the lens, with the power still on.  The second method, and my preferred because it reduces the exposure of the sensor to the elements when removing the lens is to use the little DoF preview button that is found on either the right or left side of the lower part of the lens mount on your Canon DSLR.  If you press and hold this button you’ll notice that the camera sets the aperture as desired so you can preview your shot through the optical view finder.  If you remove the lens whilst pressing and holding the DoF button you can effectively set the lens aperture without the mirror being locked up exposing the sensor as would be the case if you did this using the Live View method.  It can be a bit fiddly but practice makes this quite easy.

Once you have removed the lens you can power off the camera before attaching the lens to the extension tubes and then everything back on the camera.  That’s it, you are ready to shoot.

Things to consider As I mentioned above, normal depth of field reduces when using extension tubes so in order to get an image where you maximise the amount of subject in focus you’ll need to go for a small aperture (larger f number).  I find I shoot with nothing less than f7.  However using smaller apertures obviously means that less light is getting to the sensor so shutter speeds will be impacted.  Therefore in order to get a well exposed image you are more than likely going to need to either increase ISO or use a tripod to keep everything solid, unless you have a LOT of light available e.g. shooting outdoors on a bright day.  I’d stick with a low ISO and use a Tripod in order to maximise image quality but this is less useful if the subject can move e.g. an insect and you have long shutter times.

Lastly you’ll also notice that focus range becomes very short and focus adjustments become much more sensitive using macro tubes.  The slightest move of focus can have a very large impact which is why even when using the more expensive macro tubes and dedicated macro lenses most opt for manual focus to get that fine control.  The best method to get pin sharp focus is to shoot in Live View mode and use the screen magnify function to check everything is sharp before taking the shot.  For even finer control of focus, mount your camera onto a Macro focus rail then on to a tripod, this makes the whole focussing process much easier especially when you’re mounted to a tripod and you want to move your perspective around and take a shot from multiple angles.

So in a nutshell that’s Macro photography on the cheap.  Pop over to my Website and Flickr pages to see a selection of Macro examples all of which have been achieved using macro extension tubes.

Thanks for reading and in my next blog I’ll be reviewing the Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC HSM “Art” lens.