Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Wedding at Okinawa Center

 The weather was overcast, which is perfect for photography! The Okinawa Center has a large lawn area with a little waterfall and pond, and huge banquet halls for the reception. A good venue for a big wedding like this one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Review of the Feiyu-Tech G4 Stabilizer for GoPro Cameras

There are a lot of reviews on the web about this device, but I want to focus on some aspects of it that I haven't seen discussed.

First, the good: This 3-axis gimbal works amazingly well, as long as you keep in mind its limitations. For example, it's not going to eliminate the up and down movement you get from walking. So you need to practice your "duck walking" to get the best results when moving around with your camera. But if you are standing still it's almost as steady as a tripod and you can get great, smooth-as-silk tracking and dollying shots by just moving your arms. Practice with the different settings, because which one is best depends on what kind of shot you are doing. For example, for a "sliding" kind of shot where you move laterally, the setting that locks down everything (hold the button for about one second and release) is usually best, while for a point-of-view shot as you film yourself walking around, the default setting that locks tilt but not pan might be better. For most shots, allowing both panning and tilting (press button twice)is best. Other good things are the pretty good build quality, the long battery life and the light weight. You can use this forever without your arm getting tired!

The bad: This stabilizer has several design features that make it less user-friendly than it could be. For one thing, you attach the camera to the stabilizer with a set of screws, which means that you can't quickly put on or take off the camera. Event videographers always want to be able to quickly remove cameras from a mount, so the 20 seconds or so that it takes to take it off or put it on is a significant issue for me. Secondly, unless you mount the camera in such a way that you have to take off the mounting screws completely to remove it, you can't access the button on the side. So if you want to change a setting such as the frame rate or resolution, you have to turn off the stabilizer, loosen the screws and slide the camera to the side, and then slide again, tighten, and turn it back on, again losing precious seconds. Thirdly, the on-off button is inside the bottom of the handle, when what should be there is a tripod screw hole. There is no easy way to mount this to a tripod or anything else. Also, having the on-off button where it is means that if you want to use the extension poles that are available, you have to take them off each time you want to turn the stabilizer on or off. More time wasted. And finally, when you turn off the stabilizer there is no mechanism to lock the mount in place. So, if you are carrying your G4 in a backpack when not using it, the mount could swing around freely as you walk if you aren't careful how you pack it, which could cause the wires inside the unit to get twisted, or your camera to get damaged if you leave it on the stabilizer. Furthermore it makes it needlessly difficult to have the G4 slung by your side for quick access, and it also means you can't use the G4 as a selfie stick for the GoPro (for example, if you want to take photos) when it is turned off. All of these design features should be easy to change. Feiyu-Tech did make a number of improvements to the G3 model in response to competition and and customer feedback, so hopefully the G5 will feature at least some of the changes I'd like to see.

If you have a GoPro, is it worth the $320 or so to get this stabilizer? Well, I'd say you should check out the competition first. The main competiton for the G4 is from the comparably priced brands Lanparte and Zhiyun. Based on what I've seen of the sample videos online, the stabilization performance is about the same, so the main thing you would want to look at are how user-friendly they are. But definitely, a stabilizer of this type seems worth it to me. It really makes a huge, huge difference in how smooth your videos look.