Samsung do it again with the Galaxy S7

Samsung appear to have done it again with their new Galaxy S7, continuing to cut the gap between themselves and Apple's iPhone as the most popular mobile phone on the market when their latest smartphone hits the shelves on March 11. When it comes to Android phones, nobody quite does it like Samsung, and the Galaxy S7 has already been a hit for a host of reasons, from its camera to its memory slot. Both the S7 and the S7 Edge, the slimmer version of the phone, are being tipped to challenge the iPhone 6 at the top of the best selling charts over the next few months, and it's hard to find any real fault in this new release from Samsung.

People want a lot more from their phones than ever before. Whether it's creating high-quality videos for YouTube, checking the latest football scores with ESPN, booking a flight with Skyscanner or any number of modern uses for smartphones, people need their phones to capable of more functions than ever before.

Having placed a lot of emphasis on gamers, with some exciting developments in the pipeline for virtual reality, the S7 is a lot more than just a phone. And for those gaming fans who have an interest in online casinos, whether it’s playing pokies with 32Red or competing in poker tournaments, this smartphone is more than capable of juggling everything a gamer could need to stay on top of all the action. 

But as well as offering users all the latest apps and features, the public want to know the more traditionally important functions of a phone are as important as those new innovations. So, what are the main things we need to know about Samsung's latest product. 

Image Credit:  the Inquirer

Image Credit: the Inquirer

 

Camera: The most obvious improvement with the S7 has to be its camera. With a clear focus on low-light settings, Samsung have reduced the camera from 16 to 12 megapixels, albeit it using bigger pixels that allow 56 percent more light - something that has clearly worked.Boasting a f/1.7 aperture with a rearranged sensor layout for quicker focus speeds, the Galaxy S7 camera could well be one of the most complete on the market. From its colour capture, to its lightning quick shutter speed, if you're only going to get hyped about one aspect of Samsung's latest design, it has to be its camera.

Water Resistant: While there was a lot to like about the Galaxy S6, the fact it wasn't water resistant didn't go down well with those that had become used to it. With an impressive IP68 rating, the S7 can survive a drop in five foot of water for up to time scale of up half an hour. It might not be advised to take the new Galaxy with you on your next scuba diving session, but the fact the S7 is water resistant does make bath-time a little less nervous.

Video Credit: The Verge

24-Hour Display: One long-standing problem when it comes to smartphones has been the quest to provide 24-hour information on a lock-screen display without milking the battery. Samsung appear to have solved this with their energy-efficient AMOLED display and Snapdragon 820 processor, which means the 'Always On' feature can show the time, calendar and notifications on the screen around-the-clock. It might not be the biggest task to check the time without having to unlock your phone, but this is yet another welcome little touch from Samsung that make this phone so impressive. 

Gaming: As well as being able to download your favourite sports and betting apps, such as 32Red or UNIBET, Samsung have placed particular focus on both gaming and virtual reality. When it comes to gaming, Samsung have created TouchWiz, a customised version of Android that comes complete with its own hub. This brilliant feature allows the user to shoot video or voice calls and text into small icons, meaning you don't have to lose your place in whatever game you're playing just to send a call from your Gran to voicemail. 

The Edge won’t frustrate you....as much: The launch of the Edge on the S6 certainly caught the attention of a lot of people, but then it definitely failed to maintain that attention due to a number of reasons. But rather than cut their losses on the feature - allowing users to swipe to favourite apps from the side of your phone, Samsung have upped it a level, adding more panels and even allowing third-party developers to get involved. So, if you're regularly emailing the same person, you can customise your Edge so that a shortcut will automatically open the email with the recipient’s details already included. 

Any good?

Aside from these nice and very welcome features, the real strength from the Galaxy S7 comes from the fact that it isn't a million miles away from the S6 - which was such a hit when it came out last year. 

Why Wouldn't You Share Your Own Videos?

Technology changes very quickly and I remember back to when I published that first video on my YouTube channel recorded with my 4 megapixel Canon PowerShot camera. The video quality in comparison to what is possible nowadays was very poor, but the content was more than acceptable. 

My first YouTube camera … the Canon PowerShot A80

My first YouTube camera … the Canon PowerShot A80

That was over eight years ago and the advancements in technology, during such a short time, is simply quite amazing. I experienced compact cameras that gave us 720P video, soon followed by the same small photo snappers delivering 1080P video. Conventional camcorders giving up the ability to not only record in full HD, but also in 3D. Tiny little action cameras, that one could mount to a car, surf board, your body or even your pet dog. If we fast forward to the current day, all of these wonders of technology can now dazzle our visual senses with even more detail in 4K resolution. 

Throughout my journey of creating visual content to share online, I have helped many others with questions and product recommendations. One of the most common questions, or for want of a better term, "excuses" is that many people want to create videos, but use their lack of "expensive" camera as an excuse.
Emails I receive are often like this (what follows is part of an actual email I received)… "Hello Dave, I really want to start my YouTube Channel but need an amazing camera and microphone setup. Can you suggest something around the £1,000 to £1,500 mark. Once I have saved enough money I can then start producing videos like you". 
The perceived need for the so-called "best camera" could not be further from the truth. Look at how I started … with just the family point & shoot compact camera. Also, consider how smartphone technology has also evolved, with many capturing awesome 1080P and some even managing to deliver a crisp 4K experience too. So why wouldn't you share your own videos. Now is the time to use the technology you already have in your pocket or bag and share your story. We can no longer make the excuse that we do not have a great camera, 

Throughout December, Intellicig are running a competition to give away a £200 Red Letter Day experience for two. Check out their #WhyWouldntYou campaign here.

Written in collaboration with Intellicig.

Will the Lytro Illum Succeed?

You’d be forgiven if you perhaps hadn’t heard of Lytro before now. A relatively new company in the world of photography, Lytro manufacture consumer targeted - and indeed relatively affordable - light-field cameras. 

Lytro’s first camera, the aptly named ‘Lytro’, perhaps didn’t generate the sales and reaction the company were hoping for. Liberties with the camera’s design, ostensibly to allow the light-field technology to work, didn’t endear consumers to its merits. 

Their second camera, the ‘Lytro Illum’, has seemingly remedied this issue with a much more conventional and arguably user friendly design. A traditional style lens sits on a compact form factor body, making it strikingly similar to the Sony Alpha series. The only indication that the Illum has anything groundbreaking to offer is its awkwardly angled body - something which has potentially been avoided by other manufacturers for good reason. 

That being said, the Illum packs a rather unique punch. The Illum (and the initial Lytro) use modified CMOS sensors and some clever physics to create a ‘light-field sensor’ instead. So what on earth is a light-field sensor and how is it different to a CCD or CMOS sensor? We’ll start with old money: the CCD.

A CCD, or Charge-Coupled Device, is a sensor comprising an arrangement of pixels in rows and columns. As an example, open a spreadsheet and imagine the spreadsheet itself is the camera’s sensor (a CCD in this case). Each cell of the spreadsheet is a pixel in the sensor. The megapixel count of your camera is related to this. A 20 megapixel camera would have 20 million pixels on its sensor. In the case of the spreadsheet example, it would contain 20 million individual cells - that’s a big spreadsheet! 

Each pixel is essentially a bucket that collects light incoming from the camera’s lens whilst the shutter is open. When light strikes a pixel, it generates a small electrical charge in that pixel (for the real world analogue, it begins to fill the bucket). Once the shutter has been closed, the sensor is ‘read’ so that the amount of charge (or water in the bucket) in each pixel is analysed. At this point the camera’s processor interprets the information it has read and turns this into an image which is saved to the storage unit. 

Most smartphone, tablet and indeed DSLR image sensors are not CCD based. They are in fact CMOS, or Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor sensors. The CMOS style of sensor is, essentially, a more technologically sophisticated version of a CCD that uses a different process to read each pixel. The process uses transistors mounted to each pixel making CMOS sensors much more cost effective, as well as more efficient, hence their uses in devices that need to use power sparingly like smartphones and DSLRs. Telescopes, interestingly, use CCDs. 

Regardless of sensor types discussed, the images they produce will always be 2-dimensional. Whilst we may perceive depth in the image, that depth is manufactured and interpreted by the brain and not embedded within the image. To understand why some theory is required.

We live in 3-dimensional space. Things have height, width and depth. Light is similar, only it is has many more dimensions. It has the 3 spatial dimensions (height, width and depth) but also further dimensions that describe associated quantities that make up the literal light-field. A conventional CCD can only capture information based on height and width as the CCD’s pixels all lie on a flat surface, hence why the image it produces is also flat (2-dimensional, as it lacks depth information). The Lytro’s light-field sensor cannot directly detect depth information as, much like the CCD, its pixels are once again on a flat surface. It can, however detect further information from the light-field that it then uses to ‘fake’ depth in the image using both clever hardware and clever software.

In terms of clever hardware, the light-field sensor uses an array of incredibly small lenses (Lytro market this as a microlens array) in front of the pixelated sensor so that the incoming light is broken up into individual light rays. This allows the sensor to analyse individual, rather than multiple, rays of light as would have been the case with a CCD. The microlens array also allows the camera itself to take images through each individual microlens, therefore generating information about each megaray. As a consequence of this Lytro market their cameras with a ‘megaray’ value rather than a ‘megapixel’ value. The megaray value is the number of individual light rays the sensor can process and doesn’t necessarily correspond to the megapixel value of the sensor. As such the Lytro could use a relatively small number of megapixels but still generate a fairly high megaray value. 

In terms of the clever software, the light-field engine does something quite spectacular. Because a traditional camera cannot detect depth information, it relies on its user to define the position of the focal point prior to taking the image. The Lytro Illum has a fixed focal length and aperture (resulting in an f-number of f/2) so its focal point cannot be manually defined by the user. Thanks to the information that the light-field sensor captures however, the light-field engine can combine each microlens image and adjust the focal point and aperture after the image has been taken. On the topic of focal points, the Lytro Illum does allow the user to change the focal point using the integrated touch screen. The user simply taps the location of the desired focal point and the light field engine mimics the change in focal length required.

The light-field engine does not output standard JPEG or RAW files, preferring a proprietary file type called LFP: Light Field Picture. Through Lytro’s desktop application, Lytro Desktop, these files can be read and edited to allow the full functionality of the Lytro to be realised. These images can then be uploaded and shared through Lytro Web (https://pictures.lytro.com), Lytro’s web interface to allow rich interaction with its unique images.

All of this technology comes at a price, and a fairly hefty one at that: $1499. Moreover the sensor, although advanced, is limited to an effective resolution of 4 megapixels meaning that the dimensions of a conventional format Lytro image are small in comparison to its competition. Whilst bigger doesn’t always mean better, the rather limited functionality outside of the Illum itself and Lytro Web mean that your interaction with Lytro images is severely restricted. Coupled with the small image size reducing the likelihood that Lytro image JPEGs would appear in print format, the Illum may just be another expensive novelty item. It deserves to be more, but only time will tell if it gets what it deserves.

Author: Tomas James - Twitter

The Samsung Galaxy K zoom

Okay so what’s the difference between a camera-phone and a phone that’s a camera? Well Samsung seems to think they found the answer to that question. Yes the Galaxy K zoom, Samsung seems to think that putting an actual camera on a phone is “proactive” I guess you could say. So is it really? Well read along and we’ll find out together.

Announced April 29th 2014 and expected to be released Q2 of 2014, this phone quite literally brand new. Last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom wasn’t the most popular due to its awkward build and just not needed at the time. But here we find ourselves in 2014 with the likes of the Lumia 1020 and other phones with amazing cameras it comes as no surprise Samsung decided to keep the Zoom lineup. So how do the specs look?
Samsung made this phone to hold its own and it certainly does. An Exynos 5 Hexa system chip is pretty good. Along with a 6-core, 1700 MHz, ARM Cortex-A15 & ARM Cortex-17 processor ( geek talk for pretty fast). Not the fastest phone on the market but again this isn’t meant to be flagship internals. The 8GB built in storage isn’t much; thankfully it does have support for a microSD card slot. The 2430 mAh battery will get you through the day. Plus we have the newest version of Android KitKat 4.4.2 on top of Samsung’s TouchWhiz OS.
 
The display looks to be great. At 4.8 inches it can compete with the best of them. A resolution of 720p and 306ppi isn’t the greatest, but does get the job done. Plus it’s a Super AMOLED which is always looks great on any phone. It feels great in the hand at 7.05 oz (200 g) and it looks like they finally figured put a camera on the back without making it uncomfortable for the user. This brings me to my next point: The camera
At 20.7 megapixels this thing packs a punch. An LED flash does the trick and has all the features in the world, such as; ISO control, face detection, smiles detection, Optical image Stabilization just to name a few. It has a focal length of 24-240mm, now I’m not a camera expert by any means (we’ll leave that for Dave) but I’m thinking that’s pretty good. It also can capture 1080p video recordings and has front facing camera of 2 megapixels, which isn’t that much.
 
So all in all what do I think of this phone? Intriguing is the word I would use. I like the idea; especially in the age of social media cameras are important. It will be interesting to see how this phone sells. I think that even without the best specs, this phone seems to be a viable companion in your pocket for the next two years. Stay tuned to our full review coming soon and as always, be sure to leave a comment and tell us what you think.
 
By: Ben Smith - Twitter

Google releases standalone Camera App

You may have noticed that Google has been slowly moving many of the core apps and features from Android into separate apps available in the PlayStore. A good example of this was the Google Keyboard which was made available for anyone to download. Today Google has released the Android Camera app to the PlayStore as a standalone app simply titled 'Google Camera'.

There are a number of improvements and refinements in the Google Camera app from that found in Android KitKat firmwares. The new app introduces a much cleaner interface with a more prominent shutter button.  Also present is a brand new Lens Blur mode which promises to produce SLR quality photos and a shallow depth of field. A detailed list of features are listed below:

• Photo Spheres for immersive 360º views

• Lens Blur mode for SLR-like photos with shallow depth of field

• Panorama mode with high resolution

• 100% viewfinder for getting the maximum resolution from the sensor (no dropped pixels)

• Updated UI that gets out of your way and is centered on an extra large capture button

• Works on phones and tablets running Android 4.4+ KitKat

The new Google Camera app is available to download now from the Google PlayStore to anyone running Android 4.4 or above (KitKat). Whilst the camera apps found in flagship devices such as the new HTC One (M8) or the Samsung Galaxy S5 are pretty decent anyway it never hurts to have more options available.

 

Nokia Launches Lumia 925 Advertisement Bashing iPhone Camera

Nokia has taken a page from Microsoft's advertising book and has today launched (via UKMR) a new advertisement comparing the company's Lumia 925 to the iPhone 5. 

The ad focuses on the phone's photographic capabilities and is based on Apple's well known "Photos Every Day" commercial, which began running back in April. It uses a similar voice over and style, focusing on Lumia users taking photographs with their devices...

Read the full story here... Source: Mac Rumours 


iPhone 5S Front-Facing Camera Leaks Again

Just last week we published a story that included photos of several alleged parts of the iPhone 5S. Now, NoWhereElse has published a new image that reportedly shows us a glimpse of the front-facing camera module. The photos apparently first surfaced on a Japanese retailer’s website, and NoWhereElse says the part design “differs greatly from that of theiPhone 5.”

That could suggest that we’ll see a different industrial design with the iPhone 5S, although history tells us that it will maintain the same exact body as the iPhone 5. It’s possible that Apple’s just tweaking how it lays out the innards of the phone, perhaps to make room for other hardware changes.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Analyst: iPhone 5S Will Have Larger Camera, New Fingerprint Technology, Same Screen Size

Topeka analyst Brian White today issued a new research note summarizing his thoughts on the phone he calls the iPhone 5S, expected to be released this summer. Most notably, he seems to have reversed his prior assertion that the next iPhone will have multiple screen sizes, noting that at a trade show in China there was a consensus amongst his sources that the screen size will be unchanged from the iPhone 5. 

He claims the left side volume and mute buttons will be arranged differently, in line with a parts leak from yesterday, and says the rumoredfingerprint technology will be the differentiating feature for the 5S, like what Siri was to the 4S.

White also shares some additional thoughts about the rumored cheaper iPhone he expects this summer:

Strangely enough, the lower-priced iPhone is still being called the "iPhone mini"; however, the general consensus (albeit a few disagreed and expect a slightly smaller screen) was that this new device would actually have the same screen size (i.e., 4-inches) as the iPhone 5. However, the "iPhone mini" will have a curved back casing made of colored plastic and will be thicker than the iPhone 5. We also learned the pricing could be a bit higher than our recently raised expectation, reaching as high as $400.

The picture around this summer's iPhone releases should continue to come into focus as we see more hardware leaks and get closer to the expected launch.

[Source: MacRumors]

Nikon Coolpix A: Point-and-Shoot Body With DSLR Dreams

The Nikon Coolpix A looks like any old point-and-shoot: compact, attractive and handy as a possible vacation camera. But this is far from your typical shooter, and in fact further blurs the line between gear for professionals and the average consumers—at a cost, both in literal and figurative terms.

In the Coolpix A, Nikon managed to cram a DX-format sensor—16.2-megapixel APS-C—inside of a 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.6-inches body. Consider, if you will, how large a comparable professional DSLR is, and there’s reason to scoop this up for casual street photography, or maybe some easy landscape shots. The results, as you can see below, look pretty fantastic, showing off the Coolpix A’s range in different lighting situations.

The first downside is that the 18.5mm (equivalent to 288mm on a full frame) lens is fixed, and doesn’t zoom. That might not jive in a lot of shooting scenarios, but it’s a sacrifice. The max aperture of f/2.8 will be great for low-light situations when coupled with an ISO range of 100 to 25600. That black and white profile is an example.

Users will get plenty of advanced settings and manual modes, including a manual focus ring and multiple Scene Modes. There’s also a 4 frame-per-second burst mode to better capture action, and a dashboard menu on the LCD, along with additional body controls.

There’s no optical viewfinder, interchangeable lens support or zoom, but it’s compact, produces high quality results, and creeps toward what you’d expect in some of today’s entry-level DSLRs. But it’s also $1,100, which is a hefty price tag for something that sacrifices on features for size. Look out for the Coolpix A when it grops next month.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

BlackBerry Issues Update for BlackBerry 10 with Battery Life, Camera Improvements

BlackBerry announced on Friday that it published its first update for the company’s newBlackBerry 10 operating system.

Build 10.0.10.85, a 150MB download, includes several enhancements, including improved performance for third-party applications, a fix for Gmail calendars, improved call-log tracking in BlackBerry Hub, camera enhancements for low-light shooting, performance enhancements within the browser for handling video and improved battery life.

BlackBerry Z10 owners can apply the update by navigating to settings > software updates> check for updates.

[Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Is this the first 'ultrapixel' photo from the HTC M7/One?

The HTC leaks continue. Just yesterday, we heard the forthcoming HTC M7could be known as the HTC One when it goes on sale, and now comes what could be the first photo taken with the device's camera.

The snap was uploaded to Flickr and linked to by Twitter account @evleaksPocketnow reports. It's listed as being taken with the HTC One, though it could have been cropped and compressed for uploading to the web.

According to the Exif data, the aperture is f/2.0, with a focal length of 3.6mm, and ISO speed of 103.

HTC has said it'll "kick off a new sound and camera experience" this year, which many think is a reference to the new imaging skills of the forthcoming flagship. Earlier in the week, Pocket-Lint claimed the new handset would ditch megapixels in favour of ultrapixels. Sources told the site that the device's camera would be made up of three 4.3-megapixel sensor layers that would combine to give a single image. Which would yield better results than just shoving a 13-megapixel sensor into the mobile.

The sources said three lots of data would combine to make a crisper, cleaner image, with more accurate colours.

The HTC One/M7 is due to be announced at an event on 19 February. HTC head honcho Peter Chou has already showed off the device at a company knees-up, where he whipped it out and started snapping away. He also led a chant with the crowd. "M7! M7! M7! HTC One! HTC One! HTC One!"

[Source: CNET]

HTC promises 'new sound and camera experience in 2013'

Normally I avoid infographics like the plague. They're basically free advertising, and baby needs a new pair of shoes. But HTC just published one on a "Brief history of photography." And tucked down at the bottom is the following line:

HTC kicks off a new sound and camera experience in 2013

That's very much in the same ballpark as the supposed "ultrapixel" sensor Pocket-Lint reported will be used in HTC's next round of phones.

Only a couple weeks until HTC's Feb. 19 events in New York and London, folks. We're getting close.

[Source: AndroidCentral]