Gadget Watch: Tar, totes, tarmac and notes

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Gadget Watch: July 5, 2014

Load up your manly new leather tote with dreamy camera filters, stick a handmade lens on your Leica, slip into a hideous, advertising-overloaded shirt from Rapha and jump on an outrageously expensive bike that’s unique selling proposition is its paint job. What could be more fun this July 4th weekend?

Tar Field Notes

This is basically three of Blackbird's Pitch Black Field Notes notebooks, stuck together at the spines with real tar and wrapped with a cord that has had its tip dipped in yet more of the special Field Notes tar formula. If it sounds like some kind of Clive Barker-esque nightmare, that’s because it is. Don’t write the names of any loved ones in this book. Just in case, you know… $24

Franklin Tote

I tote-ally want this bag for the summer. It’s a carry-all version of WaterField's Rough Rider messenger bag, fashioned from the same tough leather with colored panels and pockets. Nonslip shoulder grips and interior pockets organize your gear, and a big central chamber will swallow all your other crap. $289

Lee filters for GoPro

Got a GoPro? Want to add some sweet filters in front to pep up your pics? Then you need Lee’s new Bug Action Kits. There are two kits: one for underwater and one for everywhere else. The underwater kit slips green or blue color-correction filters in front of the lens in a special mount, and the dry-land (and air) kit features a polarizer and neutral-density filters, for amping up saturation or cutting out excess light. They’re reasonably priced, too, starting at around £45.

Perar 24mm ƒ4 for Leica M

Still got money left over after wasting ten grand on a Leica M? Then you might want this handmade Perar 24mm ƒ4 pancake lens to go with it. The millimeters-thick sliver features a 10-blade aperture, full manual focus and rangefinder coupling, and can even be converted to fit other cameras. Around $660

Rapha Team Sky jersey

Rapha makes lovely clothes for cyclists that don’t make you look like a dork when you’re off the bike. Usually anyway – the Team Sky jersey is not only as dorky as can be, it is also plastered with logos, so you are effectively paying the $225 asking price to become a human billboard. But you’ll be a very comfortable human billboard, with mesh fabric, angled rear pockets and a full-length zipper. I’ll stick with my merino wool.

S-Works McLaren Tarmac

Not long ago, anyone could buy the best bike in the world. Whichever bike that might have been, it would have been affordable to Average Charlie with maybe just a bit of saving up. But then things got ugly. Take the S-Works McLaren Tarmac, a bike as useless to the non-team rider as an F1 car is useless on the road. This carbon-fiber princess costs $20,000, and its prime feature is that it is painted in the “same location where the $1.2 million McLaren P1 supercar is painted.” If you like, you can read the specs with a calculator close at hand and tot up the weight savings – 30 grams here, 10 grams there. Then you can chuckle to yourself that the dentist who buys this bike will add all that weight back with a single hamburger.

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Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve

Strictly utilitarian, the Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve will carry your notebook plus anything else you need to take along with it. Carved from a block of 900-denier polyester canvas, closed with YKK zippers and trimmed with “military grade” webbing, the pouch and pockets keeps your MacBook, power supply, trackpad and other essentials all together. Not that you ever actually need a power supply with today’s MacBooks, but you could always stow a delicious sandwich in there instead. $60

Nissin i40 Micro Four Thirds flash

The Nissin i40 is billed as a flash for Micro Four Thirds cameras, but it’ll work just fine with anything that has a hotshoe up top. The MFT part really refers to the size – it’s small enough not to look ridiculous mounted on a tiny camera body.It also has two sweet clicky dials on the back so you can easily set the output power (for manual use) and select the auto-modes if you hate having control of your own photos. $269

Photojojo Dream Scope

It’s Instagram IRL, for your iPhone or other cellphone camera. The Dream Scope clips onto the iPhone and an adjustable filter mount can be finagled into place over the lens. The filters themselves are graduated circles of color, clear at one side and red, blue or yellow at the other. Use alone to hop up the hue of a dull scene, or combine to get totally psychedelic. Best of all, the whole shebang costs just $30, and nobody will be able to snoop your metadata and call you out as a #nofilter faker.

Xistera crams every iPhone photo accessory into single awkward package

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The Xistera crams everything into one accessory. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Homely multitool Xistera packs many iPhoneography essentials into one pointy package. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Take the Xistera out of its box and you’ll be disappointed. It’s ugly as hell, like a cheap corkscrew, and it looks like it won’t really do much. But hidden in those graceless curves and eye-gouging corners is what a lazier journalist than me would call a “Swiss Army knife of iPhoneography.”

Picturelife 3 should be your new super-awesome online photo library

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The iPhone version is one of the best photo apps I've used. Screenshots Picturelife.
The iPhone version of Picturelife is one of the best photo apps I've used. Screenshot: Picturelife

Remember Picturelife? It was one of our top picks for online photo storage when Everpix bit it, and now it has been upgraded to version 3.0. The highlights are a new $15 per month unlimited plan, which is really truly unlimited and can be shared with up to three other family members, plus an all-new, redesigned iOS app.

Things in the online photo world are definitely heating up again. iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite will bring exciting new features for photographers and a recent update to Adobe Creative Cloud gives shutterbugs even more options for editing and storage.

But Picturelife has some pretty cool tricks up its sleeve to make it a worthy competitor to the big guns. Here’s why it deserves a shot at becoming your new super-awesome online photo library.

Picture-perfect strategy: Why killing Aperture means Apple will rule the cloud

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An aperture. Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Apple and Adobe make major moves to change the way we manage our photographs. Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Ubiquitous cloud storage and editing solutions for your photos are like buses: You wait ages for one, and then two come along at once.

Both Apple and Adobe are going all-in on allowing you to view and edit your photos on any device. Adobe has done this by bringing its Lightroom desktop app to mobile. Apple is doing it by ditching iPhoto and Aperture and starting again with the upcoming Photos app for iOS.

While the approaches are different, they both look rad. And they’ll drive a fundamental shift in the way we manage our photos.

Snappgrip iPhone camera grip fails to deliver on great idea

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The wrist strap is the best part of the Snappgrip. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
The wrist strap is the best part of the Snappgrip. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The Snappgrip is a fantastic idea, with not-too-bad hardware to back it up. It’s an accessory grip for your iPhone that adds a Bluetooth shutter release, zoom buttons and control dial to the phone’s camera, as well as a wrist strap and a handy handgrip.

But in practice, you’ll be better off with the iPhone’s own volume switches if you want a hardware shutter release. Which is a shame, as I was super-excited to try the Snappgrip out.

Gadget Watch: Keyboards, skateboards, duck heads and drones

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Gadget Watch: June 20, 2014

A bamboo bay for your Beats by Dre? A cellphone-charging carabiner? A creepy drone that follows you around? What about an iPhone case that looks like a (tiny) broken skateboard? If you were looking for any of these, you’re in luck.

AirDog Drone

‘sup dawg? No – literally. What’s up? Dog? This is the AirDog, a drone/RC ‘copter that follows you around. Hang a camera from the mount under the hovering doggy and strap the AirLeash to your wrist. Sensors beam info to the drone and it will follow your exact trajectory, only up in the air. Launch and landing are automatic, and an iPhone app can be used to tweak the flight path for, say, a continuous loop. $1,195

Beats by Dre Station

Possibly most notable for introducing the term “DreStation,” this bamboo stand is much more affordable than the headphones it holds. And you don’t even have to use Beats cans – any over-the-ear headphones will hang just as easily from this dumb wooden desk tidy.

It’s not all good though: The lack of a hole on the base means you can’t charge the iPhone or iPod while it stands in there. $40

Nomad Clip

Who doesn’t love a carabiner? And who doesn’t find themself in need of a Lightning cable from time to time? Nobody, that’s who. And that’s who will buy the Nomad Clip, a carabiner that unfurls to become a charger for you iDevice. Made from steel and polycarbonate, and not suitable for climbing, you can also choose a microUSB version. $39

Adonit Jot

If you like the look of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud apps Sketch and Line, but don’t fancy buying the $200 official stylus to use with them, you should pick up Adonit's new Jot Touch instead. It has a tiny “Pixelpoint” tip instead of a disk or fat rubbery point, and it works just like Adobe’s Ink stylus, letting you copy and paste to/from the Creative Cloud as well as access files and Kuler color palettes. Best of all, it’s just $120.

Duck Head Saver

What’s a duck head? It’s the little interchangeable block of power plug prongs that slots onto every Apple power adapter from MacBook Pro to iPad. And the Duck Head Saver from DenVog is a widget that sticks onto the side of your AC adapter and adds a prong onto which the unused duck head can slip whenever you use a foreign duck head or the long adapter cable. $35

Timbrr

The cedar used to make the barrel of the Timbrr stylus contains lots of natural resins. Not only will this make it smell as good as a humidor full of Cuban cigars, but that resin also helps conduct the special human waves that are required by a capacitive screen to detect a touch. Otherwise the Timbrr is a regular ol’ stylus, with a rubber tip and a fat, easy-to-hold barrel. $34

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Belkin wired iPad keyboard

How about a nice safe wired keyboard for your iPad? This Lightning-equipped number from Belkin doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t even require that Bluetooth be switched on on your iPad. It’s also thin, Apple-certified and comes with all the usual media keys for controlling your tablet. And with the wired connection, nobody can snoop on the keystrokes you’re sending over the airwaves. $60

Bowerbag modular bag

Can’t decide what kind of bag to buy? Then buy the Bowerbag, a modular system that takes five (5!) separate sacks and joins them together with a modular system. Each bag, complete with its straps, connects to all the others in a huge compromise of buckles and webbing. Who cares how much it weighs? You have choice! $360

Skate Deck iPhone Case

It’s an iPhone case. It’s fashioned from silicone. It looks like somebody snapped a skateboard in half. What’s not to like? Apart from the fact it won’t ever fit your pocket thanks to those wheels sticking out the back? Or the fact that you can’t reach the iPhone’s power button? Nothing, that’s what. Oh, maybe the price tag: $45

Shoulderpod’s chunky S1 grip makes iPhone camera far easier to use

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One handed-selfies are now even easier. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
One handed-selfies are now even easier. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Do you like to wander the streets, camera in hand, ready to catch an amazing shot? Have you ever missed that shot thanks to the time taken to fumble your iPhone from your pocket and fire up the camera? Even if the answer to these questions is “No,” you should probably take a look at Shoulderpod’s S1 anyway – it’s not only a great camera grip, but also the best value you’ll get spending $30 on an iPhone accessory.

Use these apps to get iOS 8’s great new photo features now

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iOS 8 packs in a bunch of great new photo features, in both the Camera app and the Photos app. You now get a lot more control over your photography at the front end, with manual exposure and even a time-lapse mode, and you can edit and find your photos with a little more precision than before.

iOS 8 is still a few months out, but you don’t have to wait: Use these currently available apps to add all these new functions to your iPhone (or iPad) today.

Top iPhone photos show waning app addiction

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Edward Adams

@Edward Adams, courtesy IPPA.

Julio Lucas, IPPA photographer of the year.

@Julio Lucas, courtesy IPPA.

Athena Tan

@Athena Tan, courtesy IPPA.

Coco Liu

@Coco Liu, courtesy IPPA.

Craig Harvey

@Craig Harvey, courtesy IPPA.

Sofija Strindlund

@Sofija Strindlund, courtesy IPPA.

Lee Atwell

@Lee Atwell, courtesy IPPA.

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Michael O'Neal

@Michael O'Neal, courtesy IPPA.

Gerard Collett

@Gerard Collett, courtesy IPPA.

Danny Van Vuuren

@Danny Van Vuuren, courtesy IPPA.

Brandon Kidwell

@Brandon Kidwell, courtesy IPPA.

Cocu Liu

@Cocu Liu, courtesy IPPA.

Kenan Aktulun founded the iPhone Photography Awards (IPPA) the same year the smartphone launched, when the idea that taking great pics with a camera phone was still pretty optimistic.

Seven years later, iPhone photography has developed to the point of documenting New York Times war coverage and tops four out of five of the most-used cameras on Flickr.

This year’s IPPA winners cover a suitably broad range of the world (54 photographers from 17 countries) and topics ranging from kids and architecture to landscapes and food.

Add GPS to your dumb camera photos using your iOS device

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Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apart from letting you quickly edit and share photos (and always sitting, ready to go, in your pocket), the iPhone camera has one other great feature: It geotags every photo and video you shoot with the place you captured the imagery. You might not care about that now, but in the future when you wonder, “Where did I take that naked self-portrait?” or decide to take a look at your old vacation snaps, you’ll love geotagging.

Hell, half the time I use a map to find a photo — I can usually remember where I was better than when I was.

Lack of geotagging is perhaps the main reason I don’t take my regular camera out as often as I’d like, so I decided to do something about that. I’m using a combination of the iOS GeoTagr app on iPhone and iPad, plus a Fujifilm X100S camera and a Garmin EDGE 500 GPS bike computer.

Let’s take a look.