Cameras, chargers, cycle helmets and saddles. Yes, it’s another edition of Cult of Mac's Gadget Watch, and again we’re heading outdoors to snap photos and enjoy the sun. Take a look at this week’s death-defying gear.
Nikon’s update to the full-frame D800 is all about image quality. It ditches the anti-aliasing “blur” filter in front of the sensor and adds an option for an electronic first curtain on the shutter, both to increase sharpness. It also adds a new “flat” tone setting that squeezes in the most dynamic range possible. This makes for flat photos, but is perfect for post-processing images later, whether still or video. $3,300
Did you ever fall into a box of drinking straws and marvel at how soft the landing was? Well I have, back when I had a cocktail bar in London, and let me tell you – those suckers are impact-absorbing m*therfuckers. Smith Optics has welded these straws together and fashioned them into an ultralight bike helmet that doesn’t block airflow (straws, remember?). Add in top-line aerodynamics and a slot for keeping your sunglasses safe and you have a sweet racing helmet. $TBA
GoPro’s new Dual HERO packs two lenses instead of one, letting you capture either 3-D footage or simultaneous stills and video. Now when you strap on your squirrel suit, jump out of a plane over Rio de Janeiro and swoop through a gap on top of a skyscraper, your audience will feel the same gut-crushing fear you did. Only they’ll be sitting at a desk eating Cheetos and wearing dorky 3-D glasses instead of, you know, trying to get themselves killed. $200
It’s a towel! It’s a miniature pic-a-nic blanket! It’s a sheet of handy food-photography tips! Yes, it’s the Photo ParTEA Towel from Photojojo, and it puts your food photo tips right where you need them – in the kitchen (or under your picnic). Water-based ink on the flour-sack cotton cloth offers up handy tips like “No flash ever!” (and also dries hands and dishes). The price? $20
Another skid lid for cyclists, although this one almost sounds like a Dickensian stuntman. Made for dorky road cyclists, the Synthe is light, fast and cool. And by “cool” I mean it stops your head from overheating, not that it is in any way stylish. That said, it does feature what Giro calls the Therminator, a special “headform” that keeps you almost as cool as not wearing your helmet. $TBA
One time my dad lent a neighbor his car battery charger and jump cables. I visited the neighbor’s kids and saw that the big dummy had hooked it up all wrong, and was just minutes from inducing a reverse-polarity tragedy of stream-crossing proportions. Thankfully, that’ll never happen with the Jump, an 800mAh battery pack and Lightning cable combined. That’s because a) it can only plug in one way – the right way – and b) my dad no longer lends anything to any of his damn fool neighbors. Especially not his sweet, retro-styled iPhone charger. $50
iPad styluses seem to be making a comeback this summer, just like Birkenstocks and socks with sandals (although when did socks with sandals ever go out of fashion, amirite?). The new Just Mobile AluPen Digital uses power to offer a thinner tip than regular dumb styluses, amplifying your human touch-waves so they still go through its tiny 1.8mm tip. Best of all, this keeps the price down to a reasonable €50.
When you’re camping or bike touring, nothing beats a big backup battery for electronic peace of mind. I should know: I once lost my maps, my camera and my bedtime story because I didn’t charge my iPad properly. The Braven BRV-Bank is a 6,000 mAh battery pack for outdoors. It’s waterproof, comes with a plug-in USB flashlight, charges gadgets with its two USB ports and even has a Bluetooth connection to your phone. This lets you find the Bank when you lose it (and you will, because it’s black) and also connect the iPhone and the battery together as a motion alarm system. $130
The C15 joins Brooks' C17 saddle as a kind of modern update to the fantastic line of leather bike seats. The Cambium saddles look (and apparently feel) like the old B-series, only they’re made from canvas and vulcanized rubber, and constructed in Italy instead of England. The C15 is the sporty version of the comfort-not-speed C17. I’ve checked out (but not ridden) the C17, and I have Brooks leather seats on all my bikes. But I have my eye on this for one good reason: Unlike leather, it’s waterproof, and here in Germany it rains. A lot. $225
This week’s Gadget Watch is all about getting outside. Whether you're shopping, taking photos or traveling, we've got you covered (quite literally, in one case).
From drone-based aerial photography to phone-based iPhoneography, from magnetic notebooks to overpriced tote bags, from stealthy tents to absurd iPhone cases, this week we want to get you out in that summer sun: Take a flight on a plane with a built-in iPad holder, and when you get home you can open your front door with an ultralight bike-chain key holder. Just remember the sunscreen.
They used to be called quadcopters, but now anything with a horizontal rotor blade is called a drone. Photojojo’s Phantom 2 is a drone built for photography. It has a GPS autopilot to float safely and combat wind, a three-axis gimballed mount underneath for super-smooth footage, a six-mile range and a 25-minute flight time. The price? $959 with a GoPro mount or $1,299 with a Phantom Vision+ camera included. Buy from Photojojo.
Moschino, the fashion choice for lottery winners and Russian gangsters, will sell you this McDonald’s-a-like french fries case for just $85. Yes, it probably comes from the same Chinese factory as the $5 cases in your local mall, but at least you can repurpose this as a SpongeBob case with a few licks of paint. $85
Notebook too thick? Or too thin? What if you could take that weighty-but-comprehensive paper pad and split it into smaller sections as needed? That’s the Magnote, a set of three paper notebooks that combine – Transformers-style – into one big book using magnets in their spines. What’s more, those notebooks can contain day-planner pages, plain, ruled or gridded paper, and they’re the same size as an iPad mini for perfectly pairing paper and pixels. From $29.
U.K.-based budget airline Monarch has a new plane seat. It doesn’t recline (thank God), and offers more space for passengers. There’s also a bungee-cord pouch instead of those filth-harboring pockets, but the best part is the tablet holder up top, so you can slip in your iPad for in-flight movies on a Retina screen. Monarch
Add a proper shutter button to your iPhone with the snappgrip, a Bluetooth-enabled controller that slots onto an iPhone 5/s and adds not just a shutter release, but a pair of zoom rockers and a mode dial. The USB-charged gadget has it’s own companion app, and lots of third-party apps work with it. $70
Braven makes some of my favorite Bluetooth speakers, and the Mira looks like another winner – 10-hour battery, built-in speakerphone, proper control buttons for play/pause and volume, and splashproof. But the really neat part is the fold-out hook for hanging it up in kitchens, bathroom, gardens and workshops. The hook also doubles as a kickstand for safer spaces. $99
Canvas and leather, brought to a carry-anything tote bag. The Cube Tote gets its name from the magnetic closure that gathers its flaps together and tidies them up top, but the bag opens out to carry your groceries, your BBQ gear or — well, or anything: It’s a big, open-topped bag. The best part? Those wide straps that sit comfy on your shoulders. $340
Lightweight, good, inexpensive. Pick two. Wait, no – pick three. The £150 Stealth from Trekkertent is like a luxury tarp. It weighs just 590 grams (20 ounces). Packs to a 30 x 10 cm roll (a foot long, like a fat sub) but includes a flysheet (that can stand alone) with sit-up room plus an inner mesh tent with "bathtub" base. $252
Yes, a keychain made from a bike chain. An actual bike chain. The TIK takes links from a Yaban SLA, a chain with “hollow, chromium carbide-coated steel pins and cro-moly steel plates,” and grafts your keys onto its pins. The result is a set of keys that weighs less than the keys alone.
You select the correct key blanks when you buy a set, and then head down to your local locksmith and have her dupe your own keys onto them. Or you could just grab a Dremel and make your own today. From $35
710 byBraven Category: Speakers Works With: Anything with Bluetooth Price: $170
Braven’s 710 Bluetooth candybar speaker has a lot going for it. It’s the same size as my favorite pocket speaker ever, the Braven 650. It’s made of aluminum, it has the same battery-sharing tech as all the other Bravens, and it even fixes some of my complaints about the 650 – it has proper buttons for volume and play pause.
Hell, it’s even waterproof. But there’s one thing that isn’t quite so good. It doesn’t sound as good as the 650. Not by much, but enough that you should still buy the 650 – unless you want to use it in the shower.
Cult of Mac favorite Braven is showing off a wireless speaker at CES this year. It’s totally not what you’re expecting, though: The Vibe System is a range of hybrid Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speakers that can be used individually – hooked up to your iDevices – or in multiroom concert, Sonos-style. And being from Braven, it all runs away from mains power.
The Braven 650 is one of the best portable speaker I’ve tested. It’s small, tough, light and it sounds great. It even manages to include a remote play/pause function, although you have to be in on the secret. And now Braven has come out with the 710, an update which adds a whole bunch of neat extras.
855s by Braven Category: Speakers Works With:Anything Price: $299
Braven’s 855S is the companion speaker to the 850. The internals are much the same, but the cases are as different as can be, with the heavy, rubberised 855S looking more like something you’d find in a military tank rather than on a tasteful shelf next to your fish tank.
That said, it looks and feels great. But how does it sound?
The Braven 855s is pretty good for barbecues, or what some folks call “grills.” How do I know? I tried it last night. And even when I spilled cow’s blood on my un-dyed leather loafers, the music kept on going. And it sounds pretty good too.
The little drilled aluminum Braven 650 is one of my favorite portable Bluetooth speakers – it’s small, it’s light and tough and it sounds great. Plus, it’s a lot louder than the Jambox, and it has a USB port so that you can recharge your iPhone from the speaker’s battery.
So I have high expectations for the new 850. If the 650 was a competitor to the Jambox, the 850 is a rival for the Big Jambox
BRV-1 by Braven Category: Speakers Works With: Anything Price: $179
Say hi to the little Braven BRV-1. Take a while to get acquainted… You’re going to be spending a lot of time together this summer. Why? Because not only does this little fella sound pretty good, he can follow you almost literally everywhere you might go – beach, biking, even boating – without stopping.