A new iPhone release is always fun but as a travel photographer the most exciting aspect is new & improved abilities of the new camera. The 4S was a pretty big upgrade from the 4 and the iPhone 5 has been expected to be an even bigger jump.
We had our hands on iPhone 5s just minutes after their release on Friday… hours later, we were on a flight to Iceland (where we are now) to test out it’s widely-hyped camera upgrades, including it’s all-new panorama feature, low light capability and unbeknownst to us even it’s “dropability.”
After about 48 hours shooting here in Iceland… I can definitely say, it’s a pretty incredible upgrade.
I’ve found the panorama feature works insanely well… almost too good. Panoramic images are going to be the next thing and I predict an Instagram-esque service/app that can features iPhone panoramas will explode. It makes it so fun and easy. As you can see in the image from the plane above, it hands close proximity environments very well but of course any time there are moving objects in your frame there’s going to be trouble (aka people’s faces look morphed.)
It settings like the one below, it works beautifully. This panorama was shot in about 15 seconds, just panning the camera across the landscape as if I was shooting video. The result is a surprisingly sharp, 28 megapixel image.
Holding the iPhone 5 is a tad bit unwieldy to any previous iPhone user… For starters, it’s lighter and just feels like a toy but secondly the taller proportion just feels strange and takes awhile to get used to (haven’t yet.) When shooting the panoramas, the on-screen arrow makes it super easy to stay level and it shows you a live preview of your pano as you create it… a feature I have yet to see in any dSLR. I did find that holding the phone with cold, wet hands it was very difficult to keep images sharp.
Probably the most impressive aspect of the new phone is it’s low light performance. It’s a drastic improvement from it’s predecessor, the 4S. Noise-level are much more subtle and w/ it’s much faster lens it’s ability to focus in near dark is really wonderful.
I did find that the though the panorama feature was able to stitch together an image well in low light, the grain was significantly higher and the image all around darker than a single frame.
Fast Shutter Fire
Shooting speed has SIGNIFICANTLY increased… One of the big bummer with the iPhone 4S was the ability to shoot frames in rapid succession was very limited. With the iPhone 5 I’ve found I can hit the shutter about as fast as possible and it keeps up pretty well. See the series of images shot very quickly below:
Late September in Iceland is not a friendly place for any electronics… this is a time that puts your gear to the test whether you like it or not. Just in the last 2 days of shooting here, I’ve had my iPhone 5 covered in water from shooting near a waterfall and Jordan has dropped his directly in the mud. Both seem to be working fine.
One huge bonus of traveling and shooting with the 5 is it’s “world phone” capabilities… meaning it comes carrier unlocked. We were at Nova shop (major wireless provider here in Iceland) shortly after landing getting new SIM cards. After the staff “ooed and awed” over seeing their first iPhone 5, we had data an voice rockin’ in no time. One minor issue is the iPhone 5’s new Nano SIM but it was nothing a pair of scissors couldn’t fix. After we received our Micro SIM from the carrier, we were able to successfully cut down the Micro and fit it into the Nano SIM slot with no problems.
You might wonder why I even mention this in a review primarily geared toward the camera but I see them as one-and-the-same. The truth is that most images from many photographers, professionals and hobbyists alike, are being seen somewhere on the web minutes after being created. The ability to easily connect your device in a foreign land is huge. It not only means easily posting images to Instagram but also staying in contact with people on the ground and navigating your course of exploration!
I used Snapseed almost exclusively for my iPhone editing. It’s super capable, easy-to-use and fun. On the iPhone 5 I found the Snapseed edits are super fast but a little unstable… not sure if it’s an iOS6 thing or something related to the iPhone 5 itself. Whatever it is, NIK needs to push out a software update pretty quick… some of the glitches are just annoying and others apply weird pixel patterns to images when you save them rendering them unusable.
The era in which people specify “shot on iPhone” is coming to end. It doesn’t matter any more… you can no longer say “look what I did with this crippled device!”… because, well, it’s no longer crippled. In fact, it does things your big fancy SLR can’t. Apple hasn’t let us down with the capabilities of the 5 and I can’t wait to see the images you all create on this thing this next year.
twitter & instagram: @austinmann
travel blog: austinmann.com/trek
video & tons of help from: jor.by
Today is day 1 of 9 of a project I am working on with The Paradigm Project. Today we walked about 11 miles… starting at Sea World and ending on the beautiful UCSD campus. The idea behind this event is to raise awareness about what over a billion people are doing all over the world just to collect firewood. 12 hour hikes, 3 times a week, just to collect firewood and cook are not uncommon.
On top of that, most families are cooking inside a hut which quickly fills with smoke. We are in the middle of a cooking demonstration inside a custom built hut to share with people what it’s like during cooking… These demonstrations are happening RIGHT NOW!
Tonight I experimented with a few different techniques in shooting fireworks… looking to create some more unorthodox pieces, rather than your traditional fireworks images… visual push-ups if you will (thanks Jay Maisel)
Happy 4th of July, enjoy!
Wow — it’s been a wild last week and a half! We have been all over southwest Ethiopia and had a really great time! TK and I have remained healthy for the most part and have had a blast hanging out with Trent & Tabby and their family.
Internet/communication has been COMPLETELY down/unavailable…sorry for the lack of updats!
Right now I am writing from a little PC laptop connected on a pretty crazy dial-up connection with a crazy antenna (powered by generator.)
I’ve got tons of image I can’t wait to share but internet is too slow to upload anything…
Will have to look for updates when I get back to Addis on the 11th! Tomorrow we get on the chopper to head to Taposa and a couple of other regions near the Sudanese border. Can’t wait!
Thanks for all your prayers and hope to be updating soon!
I’ve officially left on my next TREK… This time I am headed into various regions around southwest Ethiopia near the Omo valley and along the Sudanese border. These areas are very remote and are home to some of the most interesting tribes in the world (Mursi, Bana, Hamer, Bode.)
A group called Service in Mission (SIM) is bringing me over for a couple of different missions. SIM has been working in SW Ethiopia for some time now and for the first week and a half or so I plan to be documenting some of those projects. I’ll be working very closely with Trent and Tabby Cox, both veterinaries that spend a lot of their time caring for cattle and livestock in the area. Most if not all the tribes in this area are pastoralists, meaning they live off the land and their livestock. Therefore, the well-being of the livestock is directly related to their own well being. I know Trent & Tabby have had a huge impact in this area and I can’t wait to share some of what is going on in there. You can see the current info video about Trent & Tabby’s mission here by clicking here.
The second part of this project will entail going into a few even more remote areas, regions in which few if any outsiders have ever even briefly passed through. SIM has chartered a helicopter flight to get us in here because it’s not accessible by land, boat or any other method. My mission here will be to shoot a series of images that effectively share with the viewer the needs, if any, of the people living here. I’ll be working to help Trent to provide him with rich media to powerfully convey the needs to potential donors and ultimately raise the money to address them.
Quite a few fantastic photographers have been in and around the Omo Valley and the images they have come out with are nothing short of stunning. Some of the finest portraiture I’ve seen come out of here comes from Joey Lawrence (he shot the image above,) if you haven’t seen his work yet, you should definitely check it out here. (Click Personal and then Absynnia.) Another compelling series of images comes from Phil Borges, click the link and be ready to be blown away!
In the end, it’s my understanding that SIM would like to establish long-term projects and build relationships here, with the ultimate goal of sharing the Gospel. As Trent told me via email, “Our mission is to get the Gospel into the ends of the earth, and this, is pretty much the end.”
As this trip developed, I increasingly saw a need for motion picture. Although I’m capable of doing motion work, and often do, I really prefer to focus on stills and let someone else that is passionate about the motion handle it. This is where TK McKamy comes in the picture. TK is joining us in tonight and I’m super excited about it. In the past 6 months, TK and I have done quite a bit of work together in Dallas, creating short highly-styled pieces for a Dallas-based media company. He’s a fantastic shooter, editor and all-around stellar guy and I’m super jazzed to have him helping me out. He’ll be assisting me here and there but mostly I plan for him to be leading the attack in telling this story through film.
Now I’m in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia and tonight I will be picking up TK and then heading south to meet up with Trent & Tabby. We appreciate any prayer! Please pray specifically that God will lead us to capture the stories He wants to share with the world, for safety in travel and that lives will be impacted, both ours and also those we’ll be visiting.
After spending time with Trent & Tabby I’ll be heading north near to Lake Langano where my good friend Aaron White is getting married. Aaron is a director of project development for Samaritan’s Purse in Addis and has been living here for about 4 years. He’s an awesome dude and I’m having fun catching up with him right now in Addis. After the wedding, I plan to head north to Gondar and possibly Axum where I will meet up with another friend Lane Davis, a photographer beginning a photographic journey around the world with a church based in New Zealand. His work is fantastic as well and can be seen here. I’ll spend a few days exploring with him and then plan to head back to the States around the 18th of April.
I’ll be out of internet access completely, possibly for 2 weeks but will be sending updates here if at all possible. So check back soon for updates!
Here’s a few super hi-res textures for you to download. Feel free to use them for any media projects… can be awesome for video background, photo overlays, web interfaces etc… If you use them, the only thing I ask is that you show me how! Would love to see –