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Nikon Z 40mm f/2 review: this cheap, modern ‘nifty forty’ has been my every day lens for over a year and it hasn’t let me down
10:00 am | April 23, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Lenses Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Nikon's Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 is one of two lightweight, inexpensive prime lenses for the Z-mount - the other being the wider 28mm f/2.8. 

At 40mm, it’s currently the closest match to the ‘nifty fifty’ lenses of old, aiming to provide a lightweight lens with a compact footprint, flexible focal length, and a relatively fast aperture. Above all, it’s cheap - really cheap for a proprietary lens sitting at just £259 / $289 /AU$310 new. Compared to the Nikon S 50mm f/1.8 or the S 35mm f/1.8, the 40mm comes in at under half the price while still offering some form of weather sealing and excellent performance.

Optically, this lens has a few idiosyncrasies - namely corner sharpness and coma - but the 40mm is innately usable in a wide range of situations. It’s wide enough for some landscapes and close enough for most portraits. Personally, I find the 40mm focal length more usable than 50mm for a walkabout lens - and f/2 is plenty outside of extreme situations.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 specs

Type: Prime
Sensor: Full-frame
Focal length: 40mm (60mm APS-C)
Max aperture: f/2
Minimum focus: 11.8in / 30cm
Filter size: 52mm
Dimensions: 2.8 x 1.8in / 70 x 45.5mm
Weight: 6oz / 170g

I tested on a full-frame Nikon Z6 but the lens is also compatible with the 'DX' APS-C Nikon Z-mount cameras. In this case, the focal length becomes 60mm. It’s getting into portrait lens territory for APS-C here although it would also be a good choice for a shy street photographer who wants some distance from their subject.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: design

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 features an entirely plastic build that feels well engineered and deceptively robust in the hand. Overall, it’s a solid and well put together lens but the plastic thread and mount do cheapen the overall feel somewhat. You’re never tricked into thinking this is a premium lens, even though its output is excellent. 

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 is, however, extremely light - weighing just 6oz / 170g. Pairing this lens up with my Nikon Z6 results in a package that weighs just over 21oz / 600g, which rivals crop sensor setups for sheer portability. While I’d never call this pairing ‘pocketable’, it’s a featherweight combination for a full-frame system and perfect for every day shooting.

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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)
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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)
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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)

And, I have to say - the 40mm pairs nicely with the Z6’s relatively minimalist, being workmanlike in its design since there are no external AF switches, custom control rings, or any other kind of outward flare to speak of. I'd say it looks decent enough on one of Nikon’s more modern bodies. Is it boring? Maybe, but it doesn't look out of place. 

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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)
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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)
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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)

It’s worth noting here that the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 comes in two variations - the standard version that I tested and a more retro-themed ‘SE’ variant. If you're looking for a prime to pair up with the much more old-school-looking Nikon Zf or Nikon Zfc then you'll want to make sure you're checking out the SE for maximum retro effect.

Neither variant ships with a first-party lens hood but both are dust and drip-resistant, which is a major selling point for a lens this inexpensive. In recent years, third-party manufacturers (most notably Viltrox) have started to offer compelling budget alternatives to entry-level first-party lenses but weather sealing is one area where most are severely lacking. And, I can personally attest that the splash resistance of this lens is fantastic - having been soaked from head to toe on Dartmoor during field testing.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: performance

Thanks to built-in lens corrections on Z-mount bodies, you'll get extremely good results out of camera with the 40mm. For the price, the lens is impressively sharp even at f/2 and exhibits minimal chromatic aberration or vignetting. Flare is also controlled - despite this lens likely not featuring Nikon’s higher-end coatings. 

I’ve shot thousands of images with the 40mm and I’ve come to appreciate how it renders a scene. I've read some describe this lens as 'classic' in character and while its sharpness is certainly more akin to a modern lens, colors certainly do pop under the right circumstances. Bokeh-wise, the 40mm is also relatively circular/puffy in the center but becomes less bloomier and more defined around the edges. 

As with most lenses, the sharpness sweet spot for the 40mm is around f/5 to f/8 but even at these optimal apertures the 40mm is notably sharpest in the centre. Depending on what you're shooting the 40mm will exhibit some softness at the extreme corners - as with this sample image of a dock leaf taken at f/5.6.

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Nikon Nikkor 40mm F/2 sample image of a dock leaf

Full image taken at f/5.6 (Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)
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Nikon Nikkor 40mm F/2 sample image of a dockleaf

Cropped image of bottom left corner (Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)

Despite having a minimum focus distance of 11.8in / 30cm the lens is also quite soft when close focusing. You can narrow down the aperture for more sharpness but you’ll miss out on that creamy DoF (depth of field) up close, which means the 40mm can suffer for specialized applications like floral photography. Just below you can see a specific example of a flower taken at around a foot distance, where the focus point was set directly on the central bud.

Nikon Nikkor 40mm F/2 sample image of a flower

The Nikon 40mm f/2 exhibits some softness up close, even central in the frame. (Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)

The 40mm also exhibits some coma, which can result in noticeably smeared lights during night photography towards the extreme edges of the frame. In real-life testing, I found this to be an incredibly minor issue that only cropped up on a few niche cases such as the attached scene just below. Astrophotographers will likely skip this lens over in favor of the wider (and similarly priced) 28mm but note that this lens does feature some astigmatism if you're deadset on edge-to-edge clarity. 

Nikon Nikkor 40mm F/2 sample image of a skylight

The Nikon 40mm f/2 renders some coma on the extreme edges of the frame. (Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)

That’s where my criticisms end, however. In practical use the 40mm performs admirably. Autofocus is extremely quick and minimal focus breathing means this is a versatile lens that can also handle video. Note, however, that my lens has a slight whirring sound when focusing - an absolute non-issue for me as a photographer but videographers may notice. I wouldn't rule out copy variation here since it's not a widely reported issue, though.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: sample images

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(Image credit: Future / Alex Whitelock)
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Should I buy the Nikon Z 40mm f/2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Nikon Z 40mm f/2

  • Regular use for over a year and counting
  • Used in fair and inclement weather
  • Day and nighttime use

I've had the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 in my kit for over a year now; in which time I've used it extensively for general purpose photography both home and abroad. Subsequently, I've been able to thoroughly test the lens in a variety of situations to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

Since Nikon openly advertises this lens as weather-sealed, I've made sure to test this lens in adverse conditions, particularly in rainy environments. I've also extensively tested this lens at night, making use of its wide aperture of f/2. 

Insta360 X4 review – the best 360-degree camera just got better
4:43 pm | April 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: 360 Cameras Cameras Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

Insta360 X4: two-minute review

The best handheld 360-degree camera just got better with the latest iteration, the Insta360 X4. It builds on the X3, most notably bumping up the video resolution from 5.7K to 8K – and when we're talking about such a wide field of view from twin ultra-wide lenses, resolution matters.

Insta360 X4 specs:

Sensor: Dual 72MP 1/2-inch sensors

Video: 8K 360-degree, 5.7K up to 60fps, 4K up to 100fps, single lens up to 4K 60fps

LCD: 2.29-inch touchscreen

Video modes: Active HDR, Timelapse, Timeshift, Bullet time

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C

Memory card: MicroSD UHS-I

Size: 46 x 123.6 x 37.6mm

Weight: 203g

Battery: 2,290mAh

8K video up to 30fps trickles down improved capabilities at lower resolutions, too, with 5.7K video up to 60fps and 4K video up to 100fps. The single-lens mode also gets a bump in frame rate, with 4K up to 60fps.

Video can be shot in a standard mode with choice of standard, vivid and flat color profiles, plus there's a HDR video option for increasing perceivable detail in bright highlights and dark shadows – something the X4's small 1/2-inch and high-resolution sensor otherwise struggles with.

With its improved capabilities, the X4 feels like a more versatile pocket camera. Like the X3 it offers neat video modes you don't get on the best camera phones, like a 360-degree field of view that enables a shoot-first reframe later way of shooting, and creative effects such as ‘bullet time’ and hyperlapse, but it now also feels like a highly capable action camera, vlogging tool, and – particularly for motorcyclists – dash cam.

Insta360 X4 360 degree camera screen outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Video modes are supported by superb image stabilization that smooths out the shakes in your action footage, plus 360-degree horizon lock, which levels your edited footage when the camera rolls with the action.

Insta360's clever ‘invisible’ selfie stick allows you to film everything around you from a third-person view, whether it's mounted to bike handlebars or in the hand, while the extra-long selfie stick can give you a drone-like perspective. This is also a fully waterproof camera up to 33ft / 10m, so most experiences are covered.

We still get the lovely 2.29-inch touchscreen and simple interface, while a beefier battery has been squeezed into a body that’s roughly the same size as before, albeit around 10% heavier, and gives a huge bump in battery life.

The most capable rivals, such as the GoPro Max, Kandao Qoocam 8K, and Ricoh Theta X, are either dated or pricier – or both – and until they’re replaced, the X4 is 2024's unrivaled 360-degree camera, and could be the one extra pocket camera in addition to your smartphone that you choose for getaways, gatherings, and events. It handles superbly, and captures the kind of video footage you simply can't yet shoot with a phone.

Insta360 X4: price and availability

  • Launched worldwide in April 2024
  • Costs $499/ £499 / AU$879

The Insta360 X4 is available worldwide now following its April 16 announcement, and costs $499.99 / £499.99 / AU$879.99 – that's roughly a 10% markup from 2022's X3. Given inflation and the new camera’s improved capabilities, that price increase seems fair, although the X3 has fallen in price since its release, and will likely drop in price further following the X4’s launch, and is a compelling cost-effective alternative.

There are a host of optional accessories in the Insta360 ecosystem, including various selfie sticks (one of which is designed to enable you to capture ‘bullet time’ effects), mounts, and an underwater housing. In the box you get the X4's new detachable lens protectors (replacement protectors are available separately), while you'll need a microSD memory card to store photos and videos. At the time of writing it's unclear if the X4 will be available in different kits – visit the Insta360 store to see all the accessories on offer.

Insta360 X4 360 degree camera mounted to a selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 X4: design

  • Slightly bigger and heavier than the X3
  • Similar X3 design includes large touchscreen and 1/4-inch threaded port for a selfie stick
  • Waterproof up to 10M
  • New screw-on lens guards

The stick-like design of the Insta360 X4 is very similar to the X3, and that's a good thing, because the X3 is one of the most user-friendly 360-degree cameras available. Its grippy exterior is easy to hold, or you can attach one of Insta360's invisible selfie sticks using the threaded mount point on the bottom.

Twin bulbous ultra-wide lenses cover the entire 360-degree field of view – these are the part of the X4 that really needs protecting, and to that end the camera comes with ultra-light clear lens protectors that can be screwed on and off, whereas the X3 uses non-reusable sticky lens guards.

Build quality is superb: the camera is fully waterproof up to 33ft / 10m, with all ports rubber sealed (though I haven’t had the opportunity to test the waterproofing out properly, yet). You’ll know if the seals aren't fully locked, thereby compromising waterproofing, as the orange coloring inside the catch will be visible – a neat bit of design.

You get a USB-C port for connecting and charging the camera, plus a hefty 2,290mAh battery that can record for up to 135 minutes – that's a huge increase from the 81 minutes provided by the X3's 1,800mAh battery.

The X4 records onto microSD memory cards, and naturally, because of the waterproof design, the card slot is inside the camera's battery compartment rather than directly accessible outside, as is the case on the less-robust and action-averse DJI Osmo Pocket 3.

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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera side view outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera side view outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera in the hand outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's a slight increase in size from the X3, though it’s barely noticeable, plus a 10% increase in weight – the X4 weighs in at 7.16oz / 203g, and feels reassuringly solid for its diminutive size.

There are four direct physical controls around the camera: robust power and quick menu buttons on the side, plus shooting mode and record buttons under the generous 2.29-inch touchscreen. Most of the action happens through the responsive touchscreen.

By default the customizable options displayed on screen for quick access include the shooting mode and resolution settings, the lens, plus the lens perspective. At a push you can switch between viewing 360-degree footage from the front or rear lens (in the single-lens mode, this option selects the lens you're recording with).

The user interface is simple and quick to navigate, though a little keen to go idle – I've needed to reopen the menu many times to confirm video mode selections.

Physical controls are hard to access when the camera is out of reach on a selfie stick, and that's where voice and gesture controls come in. You can command the X4 to start and stop video recording – which proved super-handy when I had it mounted three meters above my head on the extra-large selfie stick, while a peace sign gesture will trigger the timer for taking photos. The mixture of audible and visual commands covers you in most scenarios, including underwater.

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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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USB-C port of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera with lens protectors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera with lens protectors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Lens protector mounted on the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera without lens protector

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera emerging from the supplied soft case

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's more to dig into by swiping the touchscreen. Flicking from right to left reveals exposure settings including color profile, while swiping left to right opens up your photo and video gallery for playback, and during playback you can swipe the screen to move around the 360-degree perspective.

Swiping down from the top of the screen opens up the main menu, through which you can activate and deactivate a number of controls such as gesture and voice commands, and connect to compatible Bluetooth-equipped devices such as headphones and remotes. You can also adjust the screen brightness here.

Explanatory on-screen text appears for most of the operational controls and shooting modes, which is super-handy when you’re getting started, especially for getting the most out of the shooting modes.

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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera in the hand alongside selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera mounted to a selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick seen from way below

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background, recording video

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick recording video

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick recording video

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The X4 is designed to be used in vertical orientation, and as such your handling and viewing experience is largely in the 9:16 ratio. You can record in horizontal format using the single-lens mode, and there’s also a multi-aspect FreeMe mode where you can choose the aspect ratio, but overall the user experience is geared to content creators and mobile users familiar with the vertical format.

During recording, the X4 can get warm quickly, especially in the power-hungry high-resolution video modes. If you're using the X4 for shooting action, your movement will go some way to cooling the camera down, but if you're recording while largely stationary or in particularly warm environments, things can get moderately warm.

Overall, the X4 handles superbly for users of all experience levels and abilities.

Insta360 X4: features and performance

  • Huge 135-minutes of recording time 
  • Especially capable image stabilization
  • Intuitive mobile editor
  • Decent range of shooting modes

We're currently updating our Insta360 X4 review.

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Battery of Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Battery of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

MicroSD card in the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background on a selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 X4: image and video quality

We're currently updating our Insta360 X4 review

Should I buy the Insta360 X4?

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Insta360 X4: Also consider

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

If our Insta360 X4 review has inspired you to think about other options, here are two more cameras to consider…

How we tested the Insta360 X4

  • Sporadic use over a few weeks
  • Bike rides and vlogging in various lighting conditions
  • Bullet time, hyperlapse, and regular video recording using a variety of color profiles and resolutions

We had our hands on the Insta360 X4 for several weeks before its official launch. Sadly we've not used it for the kind of adrenaline-filled extreme sports that you see in the launch videos, although it's still had extensive real-world testing. 

We've run it in 8K capture for long periods to test its power and stamina, used it for vlogging on the move, and for moderate sports such as road biking. We've tried out the various video resolutions, color profiles and HDR video capture to see how the small 8K sensor copes in bright and low light. 

The various video modes have been played with too, including bullet time and hyperlapse, plus we've taken still photos in the various options. 

First reviewed April 2024

Nons SL660 review: an instant camera photographers will fall in love with
12:00 pm | April 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Gadgets Instant Cameras | Comments: Off

Nons SL660 two-minute review

As TechRadar’s Cameras Editor I see all kinds of weird and wonderful devices for capturing stills and video, but just when I thought I’d seen it all, the Nons SL660 popped up in my YouTube feed and piqued my curiosity. It’s an instant camera, but not as we know it, being an angular hunk of metal – an SLR with passive Canon EF lens mount, that captures to readily available Fujifilm Instax Square film.

Nons makes two lenses that are directly compatible with the SL660’s Canon EF lens mount – a 35mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.8 – plus a range lens adaptors for other popular SLR lens mounts, including Nikon F and Pentax K. When I requested a loan sample from Nons for this feature, I asked for the Canon EF to Nikon F adaptor because I own a few excellent Nikon lenses, including the full-frame Nikon 20mm f/2.8D AF.

There’s also a Nons SL645, camera, and the key difference between that model and the SL660 is that it records onto Instax Mini film instead. Personally, I much prefer the size of Instax Square prints (and the larger-still Polaroid film even more), so the SL660 was the obvious choice for review. 

Nons SL660 instant camera

The 'correct' orientation to shoot with the Nons SL660. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Unlike most simple point-and-shoot instant cameras that only offer auto exposure, the Nons SL660 is SLR by design, and entirely manual in operation. You’ll need to select the shutter speed and lens aperture, with an exposure meter above the lens telling you what aperture to use with the selected shutter speed. Your frame is viewed through a pentaprism viewfinder, focus is manual, and you even have to manually eject the print when you’ve taken the shot – a feature that enables multi-exposure shooting. 

This is truly a photographer’s instant camera, and to that end you can swap lenses to mix up the type of shots you can make. It’s also one of, if not the most, expensive instant cameras available. It’s pricier because it’s made of tough metal and in smaller batches versus the standard plastic used in most other mass-produced instant cameras like the Fujifilm Instax SQ40; the Nons SL660 is an altogether different camera to those, and the high-end build quality goes some way towards justifying the significant outlay. 

The SL660 is a bulky and heavy instant camera, and the image quality it's capable of producing is ultimately limited by the Instax Square film it uses – you will, for example, need an ND filter in bright light. Despite its constraints, I'm charmed by it, and I suspect that of all the best instant cameras you can buy, the Nons SL660 is the one that photographer me will come back to again and again. 

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Nons SL660 instant camera alongside the Nons 35mm f/2.8 lens

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Nons SL660 instant camera on a mahogany table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Nons SL660 instant camera with instant print ejected

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Close up of the Nons SL660 instant camera's wooden grip

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Nons SL660 instant camera's shutter speed dial

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Close up of the Nons SL660 instant camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Nons SL660: price and release date

The Nons SL660 camera alone costs $599 / £603 from the Nons website or from Amazon, and with its passive Canon EF lens mount it's best suited to manual-control Canon EF lenses. If you use modern Canon EF lenses you might sacrifice aperture control (if your lens doesn't have an aperture ring) and even manual focus control ('STM' lenses). You can also purchase the SL660 as a bundle with the 35mm f/2.8 lens for $709 / £717, with the 50mm f/1.8 lens for $649 / £660, or with any one of a number of lens adaptors for $609 / £615. This high-end pricing pits the SL660 firmly against the Polaroid I-2 – the two cameras are in a different league to point-and-shoot instant cameras. Pricing for the Nons SL645 starts at $539 / £541. We'll update this review if and when pricing and availability for Australia are confirmed.

Nons SL660: design

Images of the Nons SL660 online didn’t prepare me for what I set my eyes on when unboxing the gear – this looks like no other instant camera. It’s a love it or hate it brutalist block of aluminum with defined features: a genuine wooden grip, a crank to engage the viewfinder, a pronounced shutter button, and striking shutter speed dial. 

There’s an optical viewfinder with through-the-lens display, so the perspective is correct to the attached lens. The display is dim, but I like its grainy filmic quality. There’s a portion of your instant print that you don’t see through the viewfinder display – when shooting with the thick border at the bottom of your Instax Square print, the unseen section is to the left. It takes a couple of shots to get used to this, and thereafter you can factor this in to make the best possible composition.

To shoot the ‘correct’ way, with the thicker border positioned at the bottom of your print, you need to flip the camera 90 degrees with the grip at the top – vertical if you will – otherwise the thick border will be on the left-hand side of your print, which looks weird unless that’s your intention.

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Nons SL660 instant camera in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Nons SL660 instant camera in the hand, no lens attached

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Rear of the Nons SL660 instant camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Nons SL660 instant camera's viewfinder

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Top view of the Nons SL660 instant camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of Nons SL660 instant camera shutter speed dial

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The Nons SL660 is powered by an internal battery topped up via USB-C (using the supplied USB-C to USB-A cable, not just any USB-C cable) and is rated for around 100 shots on a full charge. A tiny top LCD displays battery life along with the number of prints remaining in the inserted film pack (the shot counter failed in my review sample after a couple of packs of film), plus the aperture setting needed on your lens to get the correct exposure for the selected shutter speed, based on the camera's exposure metering.

If you're shooting in bright light you'll need an ND filter for your lens, or else your shots will be overexposed – a 3EV to 7EV variable ND is perfect. The Nons 35mm f/2.8 lens I had has a 52mm thread. Because the exposure meter is separate to the lens (ie., not TTL), you'll need to calculate the exposure settings based on the strength of the filter, or place it in front of the meter to get the reading first, and then attach it to the lens. The 'reflective' exposure meter calculates an evaluative reading for the whole frame.

By today’s standards the Nons SL660 is awkward to hold, and by heck is it chunky, primarily because it needs that extra depth for the Canon EF-mount flange focal distance. This is no pocket camera. It’s also a paradox – a custom-made one-of-a-kind feel, yet it captures onto the most popular and accessible instant film. I had several packs of regular Instax Square film for this review, and there are a few readily available alternatives, like a monochrome film, too.

Stylistically I like the pronounced shutter button. However, it’s all too easy to press it unintentionally, which results in a wasted print. I almost lost that screw-on button, too, as it unthreaded itself more than once. The reason that the button is detachable in the first place is to allow you to swap it out for a cable release for hands-free operation, which is neat, but a tighter thread is needed for a secure fix.

Nons SL660: performance

Long before I'd received the Nons SL660 or taken any shots with it, I had formed a certain expectation regarding the quality of instant prints it could make. After all, it comes with a proper Nons lens, plus, in my case, I can use it with some excellent Nikon lenses. Rival instant cameras like the Instax SQ40 are restricted to a built-in, low-cost lens. 

Surely, then, the instant photos made with the Nons SL660 would be superior to anything else before it? Well, yes and no. Despite the superior optics, we’re still shooting onto the same film type – an ISO800 stock with limited dynamic range. Also, the print area of Instax Square film only measures 62mm x 62mm, and so it’s hardly big enough to really show off lens quality. 

Flat lay of six instant prints taken with the Nons SL660 instant camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Rather than outright image quality, the real appeal of the SL660 over cheaper and simpler rivals, besides its unique design, is that you can swap out lenses and therefore mix up the focal length and perspective of your shots. Unfortunately, my telephoto macro lens for Nikon F-mount lacks an aperture ring, and I was unable to get a good shot with it. Get the right manual lens, however, and great fun can be had.  

Almost all the instant photos I took with the SL660 for this review were taken with the Nons 35mm f/2.8 lens. For full exposure control when adapting an alternative lens, like I did through the Nikon F-mount adaptor, you need a lens with aperture control. That counts out most modern DSLR lenses from Canon, Nikon and Pentax. When using a Nikon lens without an aperture ring, the aperture is automatically set to its smallest setting, while some Canon lenses are set to their widest aperture setting. (I also had a great struggle removing the adaptor ring from my Nikon lens after use.) Besides Nons' own lenses, an old Canon EF lens with aperture ring makes the most practical sense. 

To get prints with the correct brightness, I needed to experiment a little to understand the behaviour of the SL660’s auto-exposure metering. If you follow the suggested aperture settings to a tee, then prints tend to come out a little dark for my liking, but when I increased the exposure by around 1EV, by opening the aperture up or halving the shutter speed, the results were better. 

Nons SL660 instant camera with instant print ejected

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Apply this knowledge about the camera's exposure metering and most your shots will come out fine. However, alternatives like the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ40 shoot in auto-exposure only, with a built-in auto flash, and with those cameras you'll get fewer wasted prints. 

You also need to understand the limitations of Fujifilm Instax film. It has an ISO 800 sensitivity rating, which is bang on with the fastest possible 1/250 sec shutter speed and f/4 aperture (approx) when shooting in cloudy weather, but when the sun comes out you need to stop the aperture right down, to nearer f/22 or even beyond the limit of the lens.

I prefer the look when shooting with a wider aperture, not least to make subjects stand out better, but also in this case for a brighter and clearer view through the viewfinder (it gets dimmer as you reduce the aperture size), and so a ND filter is a must-have accessory – otherwise the SL660 is practically unusable in bright light. 

There’s also a hard limit on the dynamic range of the film – if you shoot scenes with high contrast, like a backlit portrait or a white overcast sky, you’ll need to choose between a brightness for highlights or shadows; you can’t have both. An ideal scenario is even lighting: soft sunlight on your subject and background, or at least a darker background so the subjects pops.

Flat lay of six instant prints taken with the Nons SL660 instant camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's a standard hotshoe to attach an optional flash. Nons doesn't sell its own flash, nor did I use the SL660 with a flash for this review – that's a whole other creative technique I look forward to exploring with this camera. I’ve complained about certain Fujifilm Instax cameras with built-in flash in the past because some models auto-fire the flash for every photo you take, whether you need it or not. However, that’s a better option than the SL660, which has no built-in flash at all – at least you can cover an Instax camera's flash with your finger when it’s not needed. 

Once your shot is ready, you hard-press the eject button and out pops the print. This manual-eject control also enables a multi-exposure function. You’ll need to recalculate the correct exposure for each shot depending what’s in each frame, and the results can be excellent if you know what you’re doing, or at least be prepared to waste a print or two experimenting. For example, I shot a self-portrait silhouette against a bright sky in one exposure, and then another one of closeup details of flowers that visibly populates the silhouette –  a classic double-exposure effect. 

Overall, if you’re using the Nons SL660 with the 35mm f/2.8 lens without ND filter or flash, it’s fairly limited as to what scenes it's suitable for. But if you're equipped with accessories and willing to experiment, great results can be achieved. 

Should I buy the Nons SL660?

Nons SL660 instant camera on a mahogany table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Nons SL660

Nons SL660 instant camera in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

I had the Nons SL660 SLR instant camera for a couple of months, and I went through a fair few packs of regular Instax Square film. For the majority of the review I used the Nons 35mm f/2.8 lens, although I did adapt a couple of my Nikon F-mount lenses with mixed success. 

Testing the camera in a variety of lighting conditions that ranged from sunny weather to indoors, I experimented with various shutter speeds and lens apertures, and took both single-shot and multi-exposure photos. I've not used the Nons SL660 with a hotshoe mounted flash, nor used the bulb mode or attached a cable release. 

First reviewed April 2024

DJI Avata 2 review – FPV flight has never felt more immersive
4:00 pm | April 11, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Drones Gadgets | Comments: Off

DJI Avata 2: two minute review

FPV (first person view) drone flight has taken the world by storm. Something that started more than 15 years ago as very much an underground hobby requiring ingenious and determined pilots to source parts, and build and repair their own drones, has now well and truly established itself as a mainstream pursuit that’s available to more people than ever before – and that’s thanks in no small part to market leader DJI.

What DJI offers is a straight-out-of-the-box solution for those who want to fly drones using immersive FPV goggles (and therefore see what the drone ‘sees’) without the difficulty and steep learning curve of flying traditional self-built FPV drones. 

Once you buy the Avata 2 you can then decide how easy or difficult you would like it to be. At the novice end of the scale, you can fly easily and stress-free in Normal mode, using the intuitive DJI Motion Controller 3 and all the built-in assistance DJI provides including automatic takeoff, obstacle avoidance sensors, and automatic return to home. This means anyone, regardless of prior experience, can enjoy the thrill of immersive flight while capturing photos or video – although really, FPV is more about the flight experience and videography.

If you feel more confident you can switch to Sport mode, which allows for more speed and control. Finally, you can opt to disable all flight-assistance features, and fly in full manual using the DJI Remote Controller 3 – but beware, this is not for the faint-hearted and, and unless you put in sufficient practice hours first in a simulator you’re without doubt going to crash and damage your new Avata 2, which is not built to withstand multiple heavy collisions.

DJI Avata 2 FPV drone contents in case

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

DJI Avata 2: Release date and price

  • Available from April 11 2024
  • DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo start at $999 / £879 / AU$1,499
  • DJI FPV Controller 3 sold separately at $199 / £139

The DJI Avata 2 is DJI’s third FPV-focused drone. It was announced on April 11 2024, with immediate availability from the DJI website. It’s the successor to the Avata, which was released back in August 2022, and the DJI FPV launched in March 2021. It’s available as the Fly More Combo with one battery for $999 / £879 / $1,499, or with three batteries for $1,199 / £1,049 / AU$1,839. The Fly More Combo includes the drone, the new DJI Goggles 3, and the new DJI Motion Controller 3, with everything fitting neatly into the well designed included black bag. 

If you prefer to fly using a gaming-stye controller, the DJI Remote Controller 3 is available for $199 / £139 / AU$229. It appears to be the same design as the DJI Remote Controller 2, except that the previously foldable antenna is now encased within the controller. 

The DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo is reasonably priced considering what’s included in the package – notably the Goggles 3, which, paired with the O4 camera and transmission, result in excellent image quality with a far better dynamic range than the Avata, the DJI FPV, or the O3 Air Unit that’s commonly used on self-built quadcopters. Shadows contain more detail, and are better balanced with the highlights. Fly More combos come with one or three additional batteries, a carry bag, a charging hub and other useful accessories, and offer value if you see yourself requiring extra batteries anyway.

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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone goggles

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone controller

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone controller on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone camera closeup

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

DJI Avata 2: Design and controller

  • Complete redesign of the Avata with extended wheelbase and lower center of gravity
  • DJI Motion Controller 3 included and DJI Remote Controller 3 sold separately
  • Weighs 1.06oz / 30g less than the previous Avata

The DJI Avata 2 is a complete redesign from its predecessor, with a longer wheelbase, dimensions of 7.26 x 8.35 x 2.52 inches / 184.5 x 212 x 64mm, and a flatter frame for improved aerodynamics. DJI claims the Avata 2 offers better durability and power that its predecessor, while weighing 1.06oz / 30g less. Without a battery it’s surprisingly lightweight, and how well it can withstand repeated crashes remains to be seen, although such mishaps can be largely avoided by opting for to use the built-in obstacle detection and avoidance. It’s perhaps worth saying that this was never designed as a freestyle FPV drone – it remains a cinewhoop with ducts.

In the UK the Avata 2 can be flown by the operator using HD goggles as long as they have a spotter with them who can keep visual line of sight of the drone at all times. Our article about where and how you can fly FPV drones explains more, or you can refer to the CAA website for more information on UK drone laws, the FAA website in the US and the CASA website in Australia.

The Avata 2 is powered by a 2150mAh battery that allows for up to 26 minutes of flight when slowly cruising on a windless day; should you fly manual and perform loops and rolls on a more windy day, your flight time will be reduced considerably, although endurance is still good. This is particularly useful for those using this drone commercially, as it allows them to concentrate on the task at hand without having to constantly worry about battery exhaustion and fear of missing that key moment.

Two controllers are available: the new DJI Motion Controller 3 is included with the Fly More Combo, while if you prefer a gaming-style controller the DJI Remote Controller 3 is available separately.

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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone controller on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

The DJI Motion Controller 3 is an intuitive way to control your drone, and allows users with no experience to immediately fly in a reasonably precise and controlled way. For more experienced pilots, though, this can feel like a less attractive option than a gaming-style controller, which offers full control in manual mode to let you execute aerobatics. Which you choose will depend on your level of skill and experience, and how adventurous you feel, as well as the applications you plan to use your FPV drone for. For example the DJI Motion Controller 3 could prove very useful for flying in confined environments, such as for indoors real-estate tours.

DJI has added ‘Easy Acro’ to this controller, a simple solution for anyone who’s less comfortable with aerobatics that enables them to perform flips and rolls at the push of a button. It’s a feature that should particularly appeal to novice pilots.

Unfortunately, the design will frustrate left-handed users – it’s built for right-handed users, and it’s impossible for a left-handed person to press the record buttons while flying.

The DJI Remote Controller 3 replaces its predecessor, but unfortunately its ergonomics are not the best for anyone flying in manual mode – if you’re a pilot who ‘pinches’ the gimbals on the remote to control your drone, the handling is quite awkward and distracts you from the task of flying. 

DJI Avata 2: Features and flight

  • Downward and backward visual positioning
  • Lighter and less noisy than the previous Avata
  • O4 ultra-low latency video transmission system

Like its predecessor, DJI Avata 2 brings FPV flight to the masses, allowing everyone to enjoy this normally very challenging and technical hobby. You can now start flying straight out of the box after a quick setup process, and be immersed in your flight thanks to DJI Goggles 3.

So what else makes this new iteration worth buying? 

First of all, the full redesign compared to the first Avata means this drone is quieter – while not quiet, it will still attract a lot less attention than the ‘screaming’ Avata did. It also features a longer wheelbase (frame size) and a more aerodynamic / flatter design, which results in better flight performance.

One of the main reasons to buy the Avata 2 over its predecessor is the huge jump in video quality. Until now, whether you flew the Avata or the DJI FPV, the video lacked dynamic range, with very dark shadow areas lacking detail. The O4 ultra-low latency video transmission system proves to be a huge leap not only for the footage captured, but for the footage displayed in the new DJI Goggles 3. It’s very crisp, and not only does it look good, it helps greatly when it comes to avoiding hard-to-spot obstacles such as thin branches and power cables.

The DJI Avata 2 features three flight modes which can be selected through the DJI Motion Controller 3 or the DJI Remote Controller 3:  Normal, Sport, and fully Manual (which is only available when using the DJI Remote Controller 3).

Normal mode selected on the DJI Motion Controller 3 offers the most safety, and most relaxed flying experience. You can fly with extreme precision, and even reverse, which is not common in the FPV world. It’s perfect for beginners – in fact, someone who’s never flown a drone before should be able to start flying in this mode immediately with minimal help. This is the mode you’ll likely want to use for flying indoors or in very tight spaces. 

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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone propellor closeup

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

Sport mode is for those who want to feel more of the thrill of FPV flight, with higher ascent, descent and forward speeds, and no obstacle avoidance.

Then there’s full manual mode, which is only available with the DJI Remote Controller 3 (sold separately), and is only intended for trained FPV pilots, as it removes all flight assistance and stabilization. You’re fully in control, and are free to fly, dive and perform aerobatics like a bird. If you’re not flown in this way before you’ll need to spend some time using an FPV flight simulator, otherwise you will most certainly crash at the first attempt.

The video in this article was filmed in full manual mode, in a single flight without cuts, so that you can get an idea of the Avata 2’s potential when unleashed. Acceleration, deceleration, flying high but also at very low level, flying through tight gaps, performing loops and flips… you can do it all. This is not a freestyle drone, but it’s fun to see how far it can be pushed.

What I’ve learned from flying FPV drones is that it’s about compromises, and establishing what you want from a drone, and choosing the one that’s right for you. It’s similar to choosing a car in some respects – one person might prefer a model that’s safe, solid and dependable, while another may feel the need for speed. 

The first DJI FPV was released in 2021, and it was the drone that got me into FPV flight. I’m thankful that DJI introduced it, giving total newbies the opportunity to try FPV and see if it was for them. However, after learning to fly in full manual I quickly decided that I needed a more robust carbon fiber frame and ‘traditional’ DIY FPV, because I like to perform some level of freestyle aerobatics which inevitably lead to crashes – and some very hard crashes. I must have crashed 200 times in the past year with minimal damage to my quadcopter, and I also think such drones fly better.

Having been flying self-built quadcopters, I have to say that I don’t have as much fun when returning to FPV DJI products – they don’t fly as well, and they won’t survive multiple crashes. In fact, when I flew the Avata 2 in full manual mode it felt like I was constantly fighting the drone – it was not tuned as well as I’d like, and compared to my daily carbon fiber FPV quadcopter I found the flight more stressful.

DJI Avata 2 FPV drone controller

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

But as I’ve said, FPV is all about compromises. Does my FPV quadcopter have GPS? No it doesn’t. Does it have obstacle avoidance? No it doesn’t. Does it offer generous flight time? Nope. Does it return to home at the press of a button? It doesn’t.

The FPV world is diverse, and this allows people of all aspirations and skill levels to find what’s right for them. I’m constantly tinkering and repairing, soldering components onto my FPV quadcopter; it can be a real headache, but it’s also part of the fun. However, that’s not something everyone wants or has time to do, and that’s the problem DJI solves.

So while the Avata 2 may not be for the most advanced FPV pilots, it’s fabulous for those who want the safety of the GPS and return-to-home functions, object avoidance sensors, and the safety of the ‘panic button’ which immediately slows the drone to a hover if things get too hairy or overwhelming. It has long flight times, allowing you to explore more and immerse yourself deeper, thanks also to the stunning O4 video transmission paired with the Goggles 3.

Did I also mention that it’s cheap? The price is incredible considering that you get everything you need to fly, and the drone, goggles, and remote are the latest technological advances in the drone world.

DJI Avata 2: Image and video quality

  • O4 Video transmission system with improved dynamic range
  • 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor
  • Up to 4K 60fps video

I tested the video quality, and I can say that it’s as good as it gets, and the best you can currently get within the FPV world without having to rely on GoPros or external cameras. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t provided a set of ND filters for my review testing, so keep that in mind when viewing my footage, as ND filters are key to obtaining smooth footage with the right amount of motion blur, especially on bright sunny days. I still think the quality of footage is fantastic, though, especially the dynamic range and the balance between dark shadow areas and brightly lit skies.

The ability for the camera to be tilted during flight is another advantage of choosing DJI’s drones for FPV flight. The Avata 2 can be tilted from -95 to 90 degrees, allowing the user to look up or down, and anywhere in between.

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Aerial images of rural UK village and fields on an overcast day taken with the DJI Avata 2

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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Aerial images of rural UK village and fields on an overcast day taken with the DJI Avata 2

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)
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Aerial images of rural UK village and fields on an overcast day taken with the DJI Avata 2

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

The Avata 2’s 1/1.3-inch image sensor offers 12MP of effective pixels at a fixed aperture of f/2.8, and with a field of view of up to 155 degrees it supports standard, wide-angle and super-wide-angle modes. While you can take perfectly good photos with the Avata 2, it remains a drone focused on video, and those who only intend to shoot photos may want to consider one of DJI’s camera drones instead.

The DJI Avata 2 shoots up to 4K at 60fps, all the way down to 1080p at 120fps, at up to 130Mbps. You can shoot footage in standard mode if you want to use it immediately, or D-Log M if you want to capture more detail and have the ability to color-grade your footage in editing software for more control over the final look of your footage.

DJI Avata 2 Video sample

The Goggles 3 provided in the Fly More Kit are mostly excellent – they fit very well, with minimal light leaks, and they’re comfortable, light and compact. Equipped with dual 1080p Micro-OLED displays boasting a refresh rate of up to 100Hz and certified for low blue light by TÜV Rheinland, they offer vivid colors and detail.

Yet I feel DJI has missed a trick here. It has incorporated two tiny lenses at the front of the goggles, enabling users to switch from what the drone camera sees to what those two lenses see in front of you with a simple double tap, without the need to remove the goggles. I doubt this would legally remove the need for a spotter as you still can't both fly your Avata 2 and look at your drone from afar as a spotter would. Unfortunately the angle of view is not the same as human vision, and it makes it awkward to do anything without removing the goggles anyway.

DJI has incorporated a new forehead support linked to the goggles via a small hinge. Initially I thought: “This is genius, I can now flip the goggles up using the hinge without the need to remove the goggles altogether”. Sadly, though, this hinge only allows for small fit adjustments, and not a full lift of the Goggles, which would have been such a useful feature.

Should I buy the DJI Avata 2?

DJI Avata 2 FPV drone with controller and goggles on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the DJI Avata 2

DJI Avata 2 FPV drone on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future | Nico Goodden)

I tested the DJI Avata 2 over the course of a couple of weeks, starting by flying in Normal mode with the DJI Motion Controller 3, then moving onto the Sport mode, and finally – and my personal preference – flying in fully manual mode using the DJI Remote Controller 3. While this is not a freestyle drone, it is considered a cinewhoop, and I wanted to test its ability to perform light freestyle maneuvers, from very low to the ground to high up, and from flying fast to slowing right down, and testing the ability to fly through various gaps, all in an environment I’m familiar with and in which I’ve flown many other FPV drones.

Testing was done on private property with multiple spotters, away from people and buildings, and in compliance with local aviation laws and restrictions to ensure that all flights were safe and legal.

I’ve been flying camera drones since 2014, and since 2022 I’ve been flying FPV quadcopters, which has been incredibly fun and very challenging. I fly a multitude of different drones, from sub-100g tinywhoops to carbon fiber freestyle drones, but also camera drones for the variety of creative opportunities they offer. I fly four leading brands of drones, and have no affiliation to any of them, so I’m able to produce impartial reviews to help others make informed buying decisions.

First reviewed April 2024

Akaso Brave 8 LE review: super-affordable GoPro and Insta360 alternative
10:00 pm | April 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Action Cameras Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

The Akaso Brave 8 Lite is a stripped-back version of the Brave 8. No surprises there. For a saving of $90 / £50, you'll have to trade in the 1/2-inch sensor for a 1/2.3-inch alternative, and accept a drop in resolution from 48MP to 20MP. 

As a result, this camera's video and image quality are inferior to not only the Brave 8's but that of other flagships such as the GoPro Hero 12 Black and the Insta360 Ace Pro. This is particularly noticeable in low-light conditions, a scenario that introduces so much noise that the footage oftentimes becomes unusable.

Before you rule out the Brave 8 Lite, though, you'll actually get a range of features that are not available on the more expensive Brave 8, including HDR video, a longer runtime, and Hindsight. The last of these enables additional recording time prior to pressing the record button, just in case you were too late to start shooting.

I love the rubber casing on the body, something that not only makes the camera easy to grip but is also pleasant to handle. This finish is let down, though, by the cheap plastic port hatches, which feel like they're going to break every time you open them. You'll also have to be especially dexterous to figure out a way to open the microSD card hatch with only one hand.

Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)

The Brave 8 Lite is one of the smallest action cameras available, and will fit neatly into any bag or pocket. The abundance of additional cases means you can mount the camera on any surface, including a tripod, bike, or helmet. The metal case is particularly handy when you know you're going to struggle to keep the camera free from knocks, although you can't replace the battery when using this case.

There's no shortage of creative shooting modes, such as timelapse, hyperlapse, slow motion, and HDR video. Not all of these are available at 4K, though, and the resolution must be dropped to get extreme editing capabilities with regards to slowing down and speeding up the footage.

All in all, the Brave 8 Lite is a very capable action camera that performs as well as most flagships did two or three years ago, and at a more affordable price than the Brave 8 it's a great entry level choice.

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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)
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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)
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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Akaso Brave 8 Lite: price and release date

The Akaso Brave 8 Lite is available for $199.99 in the US or £189.99 in the UK. This makes it $90 / £50 cheaper than the fully fledged Brave 8. 

The Lite version has a smaller resolution, a slightly smaller sensor, and inferior slow-motion capabilities. On the flip side, over and above the full version you'll get longer runtime, and HDR video functionality. If you're happy with 20MP photo resolution and inferior low-light performance, the Brave 8 Lite is well worth the savings.

Akaso Brave 8 Lite: design

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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)
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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)

The Akaso Brave 8 Lite looks much like most other action cams, and the fact that it's almost identical to the Brave 8 is to be expected.

The body measures 2.5 x 1.75 x 1.4 inches / 64 x 45 x 35mm. This makes it smaller than the likes of GoPro Hero 12 and Insta 360 Ace Pro, both of which are around 6mm larger in both width and height. The small body results in a very light overall weight of 4oz / 114g (including battery).

This lightweight body is wrapped in grippy gray rubber, which ensure that it stays securely in the hand, and also affords a reasonable degree of protection from knocks and scrapes. 

Unfortunately, the hatches are of plastic construction, and they're very flimsy. Even in the short amount of time that I was testing the camera I noticed that I was visibly damaging these parts, even with careful handling. The microSD card hatch is also incredibly difficult to open, and despite trying numerous times I couldn't find a way to open this hatch with one hand. 

The front of the unit is taken up by the lens and front-facing screen. The lens is prominent and aesthetically pleasing, with a removable guard that provides access to the lens itself for cleaning purposes.  The 1.22-inch front screen is perfect for vlogging, but it isn't large enough to provide much feedback on images beyond basic composition. It also lacks touchscreen functionality.

The rear 2-inch touch screen is adequate enough for cycling through settings and getting a rough idea of what the sensor is picking up. There's room for a larger screen, though, which would really help, especially for reviewing footage and photos. For comparison, the GoPro Hero 12 has a 2.27-inch screen, which provides a much more pleasing experience.

Every action camera needs to be waterproof, and the Brave 8 Lite is rated to a depth of 33ft / 10m. That's fairly typical, with the main outlier here being the Osmo Action 4, which is rated down to 60ft.

The camera's interface is very easy to use, with the responsive touchscreen making it a joy to move through the menus. You're not able to zoom into photos in review mode, however, which is a shame given the small screen size.

Akaso Brave 8 Lite: performance

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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)
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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)
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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)
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Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)

The Akaso Brave 8 Lite performs as you'd expect for a sub-$200 action camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor, and despite the inclusion of the aforementioned additional features over and above the Brave 8, in terms of video and image quality, the Brave 8 Lite doesn't match up to more expensive models.

Its 4K video footage looks pretty good when captured in ideal lighting conditions. Colors are vividly and accurately reproduced, although images are unnecessarily high in contrast. The lens and sensor begin to struggle when filming scenes that have extreme light and darkness, and the camera fails to capture the full dynamic range of such challenging scenarios.

This is not a camera that's made for filming in low-light conditions. An abundance of noise is introduced to dark areas, and while much of this can be removed in post without affecting image quality, the added step is a little annoying. 

The wide-angle lens keeps distortions to a minimum, although as soon as you begin using the digital zoom you'll notice a reduction in the image quality, especially in terms of noise levels. The maximum zoom setting, named 'narrow angle' in the camera introduces so much noise that, in my opinion, the footage becomes unusable.

The Brave 8 Lite offers a range of other shooting modes, including timelapse, hyperlapse, slow motion, and HDR video. The slow motion functionality is only available at 2.7K resolution and below, and the fact that it's not available at 4K is disappointing. At 2.7K it's possible to slow footage down by 4x, while reducing the resolution to 1080p makes it 8x slower.

Like several other action cameras, the Akaso Brave 8 Lite features a hyperlapse mode that enables you to create high-speed timelapse sequences. Footage can be sped up by up to 30 times, which allows for a flexible level of creativity.

Photo resolutions of 20MP and 12MP give users the ability to manage their storage space, but the larger size option falls some way short of the 27MP of the GoPro Hero 12 Black.

Stabilization of footage is where the Brave 8 Lite really struggles, as can be seen in the clip below. The clip was shot a bumpy road, and the camera seems unable to provide anywhere near enough stabilization to make the footage usable. This is less of a problem with slow-motion or hyperlapse footage, but if you want a more reliable setup then you'll need to opt for something like the DJI Osmo Action 4.

Almost every action camera struggles to maintain a meaningful runtime, especially at 4K, and the Brave 8 Lite is no different, with the advertised runtime of 150 minutes only being available at 1080p. The battery is the same as the one in the Brave 8, so if you have both cameras, you'll be able to swap batteries between them.

The Akaso app is far easier to use than the on-board interface. The menus are more streamlined, and the higher resolution video display makes it possible to get a clearer idea of what you're filming. I prefer not to rely on an app when capturing footage, but for this camera, it became something of a necessity.

Should I buy the Akaso Brave 8 Lite?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Akaso Brave 8 Lite

Akaso Brave 8 Lite

(Image credit: Future)

I tested the Akaso Brave 8 Lite during a range of activities, including walking, running, and biking, capturing both stills and video in a variety of locations.

The Brave 8 Lite comes with a wide range of different shooting features, and I made sure to test every single one of them. This took a fair amount of time, but it was interesting to see where this camera excels and where it struggles. 

One of the things that sets action cameras apart is their ability to handle low light, so I was also keen to put it through its paces when faced with both ideal and less-that-ideal lighting conditions. 

First reviewed April 2024

DJI RS4 review: a great gimbal for vertical shooting
4:00 pm | April 9, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

DJI RS 4: two-minute review

The RS 4 is the latest in line of handheld gimbals to demonstrate why DJI is the biggest name in this market. Gimbals can be a nuisance to use, taking too long to set up and being given to outbursts of freakish behavior in polite company, which is why many videographers try to avoid using them whenever possible.

DJI, however, has recognised and acknowledged this common perception, and has continuously worked to iron out the many niggles the plague gimbal users, and the RS 4 is its next step is the process of making the operator-gimbal encounter stress-free. DJI had gone quite a long way on that journey with the Ronin RS 3, but this new model brings a host of changes that make life a quite a bit better.

DJI RS 4 gimbal with Focus Pro system and Panasonic mirrorless camera on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)

One thing that all videographers will appreciate immediately is the Teflon coating on the arms of the gimbal. Along with the micro-adjustment knob on the camera mounting that was introduced in the RS 3, this makes balancing and rebalancing the gimbal much easier. The Teflon surfaces enable users to make tiny shifts of the axis mounting points with less effort, instead of having to put lots of pressure on the arms to overcome inertia, only to find the shift has gone too far. Thanks to the large locking clasps on the arms, what might seem a minor change actually makes a big difference, and I had the gimbal balanced with my camera very quickly. I also was quite happy to add extras to the camera after balancing, as I knew it wouldn’t be a huge drama to rebalance the system. 

On the subject of balancing, the RS 4 has a longer tilt-axis arm than its predecessor, which makes it possible to add more accessories to the camera without running out of arm to balance it all. The arm is 8.5mm longer than the arm on the RS 3, which is enough to allow the user to add microphones on top of the camera and/or a pile of filters on the front of the lens. In total the Ronin RS 4 can carry up to 6.6lbs / 3kg, which is the same as the capacity of the RS 3, but the new arm means that weight doesn’t necessarily have to be placed right around the center of gravity of the camera.

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DJI RS 4 gimbal in vertical and horizontal setups on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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Closeup of DJI RS 4 gimbal balance system on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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DJI RS 4 gimbal on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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Closeup of DJI RS 4 gimbal balance on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)

The other big difference in this model compared to the previous one is the way you can shoot vertical video. With the RS 3, you needed to set Portrait mode in the PTF settings, but with the RS 4 you just unclip the camera mounting plate and stick it on the other way. The camera mount has two connection points – a regular one on the end and one underneath – and a quick-release button. You simply unlock the plate, release it, and reattach it using the connection point underneath so that the camera is held in the vertical position. It’s very quick to do, the camera doesn’t need rebalancing, and you have the full range of follow modes available, as well as the movements you can create via the joystick. It feels like a much more satisfactory solution. 

Another important upgrade is the introduction of a 4th-generation stabilization algorithm that not only improves stabilization in horizontal orientation when things are bumpy, such as when you’re running, but which is also better optimized for vertical shooting.

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Close up of DJI RS 4 gimbal mount on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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DJI RS 4 gimbal controls closeup on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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DJI RS 4 gimbal with Focus Pro system connected to cine lens on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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Closeup DJI RS 4 gimbal Focus Pro system on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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DJI RS 4 gimbal on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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DJI RS 4 gimbal camera mount on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)
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DJI RS 4 gimbal on a off-white background

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)

If you go for the RS 4 combo kit you’ll get the lens control motor in the box. The Focus Pro Motor can be used to turn zoom rings as well as focus rings on your lens, and can be controlled either via the joystick for zooming or the front dial for focusing. This new version of the motor is 30% faster than the previous model, but still offers users the chance to adjust its speed, torque and direction via the menu. 

As before, the gimbal’s control buttons and dials can be used to control certain elements of compatible cameras, so you can stop/start recording, take a photo, and adjust some exposure settings. Depending on the model of camera, these things can be achieved wirelessly via Bluetooth or via a USB connection to the body of the gimbal. 

The DJI Ronin RS 4 is not entirely without its complexities, but so long as you dedicate the time and effort to familiarize yourself with its workings it will reward you will good faithful service. In the past I’ve often felt I was working harder than the gimbal I was using, but in the case of the Ronin RS 4 that balance is switched – the gimbal is definitely putting in a good shift and working hard to make the life of the operator a lot easier. 

Of course footage is smooth when walking with the head in the standard position, but anyone can do that. What counts here is that you can throw the camera around, take it high and drop it low, and the motors can cope – even when you’ve added a load of extras to the lens or the hotshoe. 

Fast walking and running scenes are also very well compensated for, but it is the Ronin’s ability to make all the same right moves in vertical mode, with a 10-second adjustment, that marks it out for me.

DJI RS 4 price and availability

The DJI RS 4 is available now standalone for a pricy $549 / £469 and includes the gimbal, battery grip, USB-C cable, lens-fastening support, extended grip (plastic), quick-release plate, multi-camera control cable and screw kit. The Combo kit costs $719 / £619 and adds Focus Pro Motor, Focus Pro Motor Rod Mount kit, Focus Gear Strip, additional Multi-camera control cable, briefcase handle and carrying case. 

If you have a weightier camera and lens combo then you'll need the RS 4 Pro instead, which is available for $869 / £749 (standalone, with a metal extended grip rather than plastic) or $1,099 / £949 in the Combo kit. 

In addition, the DJI Focus Pro system can add superb manual focus assist tools including a LiDAR powered autofocus system for manual focus lenses. The All-In-One Combo costs $1,849 / £1,449 although items such as the Focus Pro LiDAR / Focus Pro Motor can be purchased separately. More details on the DJI website.

Should I buy the DJI RS 4?

DJI RS 4 gimbal on a off-white background no camera attached

(Image credit: Future | Damien Demolder)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the DJI RS 4

I used this gimbal with the Panasonic Lumix S5 ll and the Lumix GH6, and fitted both cameras with a variety of big and small lenses, including some heavier manual-focus anamorphic lenses, to see how it performed in a range of situations. And I found that it performed very well – it’s easy to adjust when you’re changing lenses and cameras, and when adding extras on top.

I’ve used a lot of gimbals, and find that I often want to revert to my shoulder-mount rig because it’s less hassle to operate, but this model has me convinced that the right gimbal can offer similar stability and ease of use.

I’ve been working as a photography journalist for 28 years. I experienced the advent of handheld stabilization devices as they were conceived, and I’ve followed them closely as they’ve evolved, and become smaller, stronger and very much better. 

First reviewed April 2024

Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium review: superb value
3:00 pm | March 17, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium: two-minute review

Coming in at the cheaper end of travel tripods, the Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium is a budget option that does exactly what it’s designed for with a no-frills approach. I can appreciate that this may make the MII sound a little lacklustre but in all honesty, for the modest sum of just $155 / £109 / AU$259 at the time of writing, it’s undeniably great value for money that makes it an attractive travel tripod for beginners and those on a budget.

Not everyone has a huge budget for photographic accessories after buying expensive cameras and lenses. Not to mention, for many photographers, a small and fairly lightweight travel tripod that provides standard camera support is more than enough, making additional features superfluous. The great thing about the MII is that you get a basic and inexpensive tripod from a well-respected manufacturer.

The MII is undoubtedly well-made and can’t be faulted in this respect, although being a budget model it’s not made to the same standards as more expensive travel tripods. However, a sensible quality / value balance has been struck. As the name suggests, the MII is made of aluminum, which is a heavier material than carbon fiber so despite its compact size it weighs 3.4lbs / 1.55kg.

Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium carry bag on floor

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Its weight is mid-range for travel tripods, so it’s not a dealbreakingly heavy and fairly light considering it’s an aluminum tripod. Plus, the slightly more expensive carbon fiber version only weighs 7oz / 200g less. 

Adding further metaphorical weight behind the MII, it’s fairly compact when folded at 16.5 / 42cm with an impressive maximum height of 63in / 160cm with the center column extended, and a minimum height of 17in / 43cm.

You can also shoot at lower levels than this by removing the screw-in bung / hook at the bottom of the center column and inserting it into the legs upside down. The center column hook is an extremely useful accessory, particularly with lighter travel tripods, because it allows you to hang your kit bag from the hook to increase stability when required, such as in windy conditions where the tripod may otherwise get blown over.

The maximum payload of 17.6lbs / 8kg comfortably supports a camera and a 70-200mm lens. You wouldn’t want to push too far beyond a camera and lens combo like this because the ball head can slip with heavier set-ups. 

Looking at the design of the MII, it’s fairly basic with just two leg angles available using twist lock mechanisms unique to Manfrotto at the top of the four section legs. Otherwise, there's no particular additional features or functionality to speak of

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Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium leg locks

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium leg twist locks

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium folded on the ground

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium at minimum height

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Simplicity may sound like a negative and, of course, additional features are always welcome in any tripod to increase its effectiveness in a wider range of scenarios. But simplicity when combined with the effectiveness of support in a compact and lightweight travel tripod can be a huge positive. The MII is quick and easy to use, and this ultimately comes down to the simplicity of the design and features.

The MII can’t be faulted in the support it provides in a lightweight package, and it packs down small for transportation which is exactly what most people want in a travel tripod. There is a small amount of flex in the legs when at their full extension, but the M11 maintains adequate stability and depending on your preference, it’s available with red, blue or black graphics on the legs.

Moving on to the ball head – this is a small and lightweight option that fits the overall size of the tripod perfectly, but it can be swapped if you need to use a different type of tripod head for any reason. The overall design of the head is simple with just the pan control and a main knob for adjusting the ball mechanism.

Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium tripod head in front of a brick wall

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The ball head isn’t as robust as the heads that come with more expensive travel tripods and can’t support as much weight. In its favor, it uses the popular Arca Swiss-style plate compatible with L brackets – impressive for such a budget model – while some other Manfrotto tripods use a less versatile Manfrotto 200PL Quick Release Plate that can't be easily used with an L bracket.

Overall, the Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium is a great travel tripod at the budget/beginner end of the market and is well-made for the low price. It’s never going to be as effective as more expensive alternatives, but its simple design and functionality is sufficient for lighter camera and lens combinations – fulfilling its fundamental task admirably.

Should I buy the Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium?

Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium at minimum height

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium

The Manfrotto Element MII Aluminium was tested over a period of time using several different camera and lens combinations to test how the tripod stood up to standard use in travel-oriented scenarios. Cameras used included a premium compact, an APS-C mirrorless camera and a full-frame mirrorless camera. The tripod was also carried around with other photographic kit in my f-stop backpack to evaluate performance over longer shoots such as landscapes.

With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve been covering photographic accessories such as tripods for many years. As a professional photographer, I frequently use a range of accessories to enhance my photography and bring my real experience of using these to reviews where I can consider how effective photographic accessories are from both a professional and an enthusiast point of view.

First reviewed March 2024

Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L review: one for the road
4:00 pm | March 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L: two-minute review

If you need a high-quality bag that can be worn comfortably and can hold lots of modern camera gear, clothes, a large laptop plus everyday essentials, then Gomatic believes it has the answer – the Gomatic McKinnon camera pack 35L. 

Combining forces with YouTube influencer Peter McKinnon, Gomatic (under the site Nomatic , in the US) has created a large camera pack that presents plenty of neat design features such as magnetic clasps and an expandable compartment, plus it's compatible with a host of accessories to further increase its versatility. 

This is a luxury camera bag designed for travel. If you're after a large day bag purely for camera gear for a long shoot and / or large telephoto lenses, offering quick access to gear, then look elsewhere. But if you need space for weekend supplies as much as you do camera gear, then this could be the bag for you – if you can afford it. 

Gomatic makes high-end camera bags – certainly, if price is anything to go by – and the McKinnon range, which also includes a 25L pack( $299 / £309), will set you back $399 / £369 for the 35L camera pack. However, to get the most out of what Gomatic calls a "travel system", you'll also want some of the optional accessories – which also cost a fair sum. 

For this review, for example, the 35L camera pack arrived with the Camera Tech Organizer ($70 / £52). While the McKinnon Cube pack 21L ($130 / £109) wasn't supplied, it looks like an excellent addition. It's a neat, collapsible day bag with lower compartment for a camera and lens that can slot inside the 35L camera pack for you to use once you're out and about on location, assuming you don't want to lug the 35L camera pack with all your gear and clothes on day trips. 

To offer an idea of how the cost of such a camera pack with accessories can stack up, although not available any more, the Gomatic McKinnon 35L Ultimate Travel Camera Bundle Pack that included numerous accessories cost twice the price of the 35L pack on review! 

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Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Tripod in the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Laptop compartment of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Water bottle holder of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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The main internal compartment filled with camera gear of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Clothes stowed in the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)

I used the camera pack as my main carry-on luggage during a week-long trip overseas. It's slimline, tucking nicely into the body and I experienced no issues stowing it in the overhead compartment on a plane.

For the trip, I used the main compartment for two mirrorless cameras, three lenses –one of which was a 70-200mm – plus a ring light and all the necessary chargers and accessories, making use of the Tech Organizer, slotted in between the durable dividers.

Note that the Gomatic bag's slim form factor and interior design restricts the size of camera gear it will hold. For example, while this is unlikely an option for sports photographers with large DSLRs and monster telephoto lenses, those with compact mirrorless cameras such as the Sony A7IV, lenses and consumer drones such as the DJI Mini 4 Pro should be just fine.

The velcro fastening of the dividers is secure, and feels as though it will remain so even after prolonged use. After one month and numerous configurations, going on various shoots, commuting and travelling, they appear as strong as they were on day one. You'll need to spend a while configuring the dividers. For one trip I needed to pack an awkward-sized ring light; an unusual setup of horizontal dividers did the trick, protecting the ring light during transit.

There's a side access pocket straight to your main camera, which works fine, even if the velcro divider sticks to it – that feels like ill-fitting design. Indeed, the design leans more towards opening the camera compartment in full when the bag is off your back and lying flat on a surface. 

I've not used it, but I prefer the look of the Camera Pack 25L in the same McKinnon range. It has a separate top-loading pocket into which you can put a camera and open separately without exposing the bag's entire contents.

I don't feel like this 35L version is designed for regularly taking out and stowing away gear, or perhaps it just takes a little getting used to. Nevertheless, on more than one occasion I was caught out moving the bag with the main zip compartment open – fortunately, no camera gear was damaged falling out.

The bag is listed as accepting 16-inch laptops, but my 17-inch MacBook Pro slotted snuggly into the compartment that sits nearest to your back. On the front end is an expandable main pocket designed for clothes, with a strap to hold them in place, and once expanded the capacity increases to a generous 42L. I'd say you could cram a few days worth of clothes in there.

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Hand grasping the top handle of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Shoulder straps of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Side pocket open of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Closeup of the zips of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
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Close up of the branding of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)
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Close up of design touches of the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)

Then there's all the features you'd expect from a high-end camera bag: comfortable back padding and adjustable shoulder straps, a removable waist-support strap, a pouch that can hold a water bottle or tripod, that neatly stows away using a magnetic clasp – clever. There's also an internal magnetic pocket for valuables such as keys, a wallet or passport.

I particularly love the top padded handle plus additional slimline handles on the top corners of the bag's exterior, which make lifting the fully loaded bag up to your shoulders as easy as can be. And with a rigid underside, you can confidently stand the bag upright on the ground without it toppling over.

In terms of quality, I have no complaints. The pack has a slick-looking and durable weather-resistant exterior, while all zips are weather-resistant and glide easily, too. All the materials are superb and I'd expect to comfortably carry a heavy load with this bag for years to come.

It' isn't the best camera bag for gear-minded pros, nor those who want quick access to gear; but for camera enthusiasts wanting one bag for a long weekender, you'll struggle to find better, even if the price is high.

For alternatives, check out our best camera bags guide.

Should I buy the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L?

Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L

  • One month of regular use
  • International travel
  • Multiple purposes including travel, commuting and photoshoots

I had the Gomatic McKinnon Camera Pack 35L for over a month, during which time it was my primary camera bag. It was my carry-on bag for overseas travel, my commuter bag, plus a bag for shoots. 

I've regularly switched up the gear stowed inside and the internal divider configurations, packing various mirrorless cameras, accessories, lighting and more, as well as everyday essentials.

First reviewed March 2024

Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod review
6:35 pm | March 13, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Travel tripods typically follow a fairly standardized set of features, with simplicity, size and weight at the forefront of designers’ minds. The Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod bucks this trend with a feature that’s much more common in larger full-size tripods – an articulating center column. This undoubtedly makes the tripod stand out from the crowd, but it also carries a compromise or two if this is a feature you need.

Having an articulating center column is far from a negative. It’s a huge positive, because of the versatility it provides for macro photographers and anyone who often shoots subjects in awkward positions, and incorporating it into a travel tripod could be a masterstroke from Vanguard, because you’ll struggle to find another travel tripod like it.

In the past few years or so Vanguard has been innovating with its tripods, and the huge leap in functionality and build quality can't be ignored. The VEO 3T+ 234CB continues this trend, and is essentially a smaller and lighter version of the VEO 3+ 263CB. It’s still a bit of a beast for a travel tripod though – weighing in at 4.4lbs / 1.98kg it's one of the heavier travel models available. The tripod kit costs $330 / £320 / AU$500, making it a mid-range option price-wise.

Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod carry bag

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The 234CB offers a maximum height of 57.5 inches / 146cm, with a minimum height of ground level thanks to the articulating center column. The maximum height is average for a travel tripod, and will be sufficient in many cases, while the folded length is slightly longer than average at 18.1 inches / 46cm. That may sound long, and combined with the weight could suggest that the 234CB is heavy to carry; but in practice neither spec is an issue, unless you’re looking for an ultra-lightweight travel tripod.

Aside from the obvious advantages of the articulating center column, a feature that’s unique to Vanguard tripods is that the 234CB comes with a VEO+ MA1 Multi-Mount Adaptor. This slides onto the end of the center column, and can accommodate a tripod head or be used to mount accessories such as video monitors, phones, tablets or lighting. It’s a simple yet clever feature that can be extremely useful, and if you need more than one you can purchase additional Multi-Mount Adaptors separately. There’s also a hook that can be screwed into the bottom of the center column, for hanging a photography bag when required to increase stability.

The build quality of the 234CB can’t be faulted, and the twisting leg locks come apart easily for cleaning, which is essential after shooting at the coast, where sand and salt water will damage tripods unless cleaned off. This is a feature that's sometimes overlooked, but it’s especially useful for landscape photographers, who typically need to clean their tripod often to maintain smooth operation and to increase the lifespan of the legs.

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Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod articulating center column

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod folded on the ground

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod twisting leg lock

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod main leg lock

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod at minimum height

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The four-section carbon fiber legs are sturdy, and while there’s a small amount of flex at full extension this doesn’t affect stability. Plus, one of the legs can be unscrewed for use as a monopod, which is another handy feature alongside the leg locks and articulating centre column. The kit also comes with spiked feet, which can be swapped with the rubber feet when required.

In operation, I found the 234CB to be smooth and reliable, and the articulating centre column, despite the additional weight it undoubtedly brings, is both useful and surprising for a travel tripod; it adds an extra level of versatility for photographers, thanks to the ability to position the camera practically at ground level – perfect for macro photography.

Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod  ball head

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Like most travel tripods, the 234CB comes with a fairly simple ball head, but the VEO BH-110S Arca Compatible Dual Axis Ball Head does have one advantage over the competition, and that’s the panning mechanisms at the top and the bottom of the head. Being able to pan the top of the head just below where the tripod plate sits is useful, as once the camera is level it can be rotated to adjust composition and remain level. Having the panning mechanism at the bottom of tripod heads is useful, but this doesn’t guarantee that the camera will remain level when rotated unless the legs are 100% level.

If the weight of the 234CB is something that doesn’t bother you, and you feel you'll benefit from all of the other features including the articulating center column, then it’s a great option worth consideration. It’s easily one of the more versatile travel tripods available except for the maximum height. It provides a user experience akin to that of a full-size tripod, and it comes with a well-made carry bag with handles and a shoulder strap, so you can either use this or attach the tripod directly to your backpack.

Should I buy the Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod? 

Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB travel tripod at minimum height

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB

The Vanguard VEO 3T+ 234CB was tested over a period of time using several different camera and lens combinations to test how the tripod stood up to standard use in travel-oriented scenarios. Cameras used included a premium compact, an APS-C mirrorless camera, and a full-frame mirrorless camera. The tripod was also carried around with other photographic kit in my f-stop backpack to evaluate performance over longer shoots such as landscapes.

With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve been writing about tripods and other photographic accessories for many years. As a professional photographer, I frequently use a range of accessories to enhance my photography and bring my working experience of using these to reviews, gauging how effective particular accessories are from both a professional and an enthusiast point of view.

First reviewed February 2024

Gitzo tripod Traveler series 1 review
2:30 pm | March 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Gitzo tripods need no introduction as a premium option, and the Gitzo tripod Traveler series 1 (4 sections) being reviewed here is a travel tripod made for professional use thanks to its excellent build quality, tall height and light weight. This is one of those tripods that doesn’t look remarkable in any way, but as soon as you use it the smoothness of operation alongside the quality materials used identify it as a high-end travel tripod.

With this in mind and before we get into the specifics, the Traveler series 1 is expensive at $680 / £539 / AU$1,154.95. But this is a tripod that could easily last a lifetime thanks to the build quality and the availability of spare parts if something needs to be replaced. Spare part availability isn’t unusual in the tripod world, but when you’re paying this much money for a small tripod it’s reassuring to know that you can replace parts as and when required.

Despite the high price, this tripod doesn’t include a carry bag or case which some photographers may miss. It’s not a major downside because in reality, many photographers simply attach their tripods to a backpack while walking or carry them in their hand, and the Gitzo does include a well-made shoulder strap which is extremely useful.

Gitzo tripod Traveler series 1 tripod on grass with camera supportee

(Image credit: Future)

Gitzo tripods and heads have some, well, utilitarian naming conventions and the official name of the Gitzo tripod kit Traveler, series 1, 4 sections is the GK1545T-82TQD which is a Traveler tripod/head kit that includes the GT1545T Tripod and the GH1382TQD Center Ball Head. I’ve only outlined these names to make it easier to find the kit we’re looking at here because retailers title the kit differently based on their own naming styles.

The Gitzo Traveler Kit is incredibly well made and oozes quality alongside providing stable support up to 64.4in / 163.5cm with the center column extended. This provides a maximum working height comparable to some full-size tripods, which is impressive for a travel tripod that’s just 16.7in / 42.5cm long when folded with a weight of 3.19lbs / 1.45kg. 

The minimum height is 12.8in / 32.4cm, although you can get lower with the short plastic center column that’s included with the legs splayed out flat, or by inserting the standard center column into the legs upside down.

Going with four section rigid carbon fiber legs rather than five sections improves overall stability. This, of course, results in a slightly longer folded length, but the positive trade-off here is the additional stability fewer leg sections naturally provide because this means that the sections have a larger diameter. 

The maximum payload is 22lbs / 10kg, so the tripod can support a wide range of camera and lens combinations although Gitzo does recommend that 200mm is the maximum focal length that should be used with the tripod and head.

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Gitzo tripod Traveler series 1 tripod supporting a camera with center column reversed

(Image credit: Future)
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Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1 leg locks

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1 twisting leg lock

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1 folded on ground

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1 at minimum height in front of brick wall

(Image credit: James Abbott)

You could undoubtedly go beyond this given the maximum payload, but travel tripod heads are typically smaller than those designed for full-size tripods. So, even when they can accommodate longer focal length lenses, it’s often not going to provide the most reliable shooting experience. 

The head itself, like the legs, is exceptionally well made. There’s no friction control for the ball mechanism, but the main locking control provides this depending on how loose it is and a pan lock controls the stiff yet smooth panning movement.

It's a simple ball head, but it does everything you need and does it smoothly. The plate used is also Arca Swiss compatible so you can use plates from other tripod heads and L brackets. The head can also be tilted over 90 degrees for portrait format shooting with one notch that allows this. This is ultimately a head where the adage ‘less is more’ is at play, but it does what it does well and can’t be faulted for this.

Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1 tripod ball head

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Twist locks for the legs and control knobs on the ball head and the centre column feature a rubberized grip that is comfortable to use, effective and doesn’t require too much twisting to lock and unlock. This doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re adjusting a tripod, speed and comfort can make a huge difference over a long day of shooting.

It feels almost strange to enjoy using a tripod – camera supports are hardly glamorous, they simply need to hold a camera securely. However, the level of quality and the smooth and positive level of operation afforded by the Gitzo make it a premium option worth considering if your budget stretches that far. 

It may be is expensive, but it’s far from being one of the most expensive options available. Believe it or not, there are tripods available that cost upwards of $1000 / £1000 so in this context, the Gitzo is arguably well-priced.

 Should I buy the Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1? 

Gitzo tripod Traveler series 1 tripod on grass with camera supportee

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Gitzo tripod kit Traveler series 1

The Gitzo tripod Traveler series 1 was tested over a period of time using several different camera and lens combinations to test how the tripod stood up to standard use in travel-oriented scenarios. Cameras used included a premium compact, an APS-C mirrorless camera and a full-frame mirrorless camera. The tripod was also carried around with other photographic kit in my f-stop backpack to evaluate performance over longer shoots such as landscapes.

With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve been covering photographic accessories such as tripods for many years. As a professional photographer, I frequently use a range of accessories to enhance my photography and bring my working experience of using these to reviews where I can consider how effective photographic accessories are from both a professional and an enthusiast point of view.

First reviewed March 2024

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