Category Archives: camera

Lume Cube Panel Mini Review



In addition to my writing for Geek News Central, I record the occasional product review video to accompany some of the articles. Over the years, I’ve been improving my equipment – tripod, boom arm, lavalier mic, cage  – and now it was time to improve my lighting. After some market research and a friend’s recommendation, I decide to buy a Lume Cube Panel Mini. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, so let’s take a look at the Panel Mini in more detail.

The Panel Mini is a pocket-sized LED lamp roughly the size of a credit card (90 mm x 55 mm) but quite a bit fatter at 10 mm and it weighs in at 85 g so it’s heavy for the size. The Mini’s case is made of metal in a gunmetal grey with softly rounded corners and it feels like a quality item. In the box with the Panel Mini is a rubbery white softening diffuser, a simple hot shoe mount and a USB C charging cable.

Looking over the Panel Mini, the array of 60 LEDs is visible on the front,  and on two sides there are 1/4″ threads for mounting the light in a preferred orientation. On the third side, there is on/off/select button, a rocker dial and a USB C charging port. Finally, round the back is a small monochrome OLED display showing battery life, brightness and white temperature.

The Panel Mini powers up with a long press on the small button on the top right. Once turned on, the same button toggles between brightness and colour temperature, and the rocker dial is used to control brightness and temp. The brightness goes up in 5% increments and is rated at 550 lux at 0.5 m on 100% brightness. The white colour temperature goes between 3200K and 5600K in 100K increments and allows matching colour temperature to the ambient light.

At maximum brightness, the display shows around 1.2 hours of use: that’s 1 hour 12 minutes. In one test, I got 1 hour 7 mins but as soon as the brightness comes down, the battery life goes way up. The spec says 1.8 hours for recharging and I wouldn’t quibble about that.

I have my Panel Mini mounted onto a SmallRig frame as shown in the picture on the right. In that shot, the light diffuser has been put on. Overall, the Panel Mini works really well both for pieces to camera and for doing product reviews on the bench.

Frankly, the only issue I have is the softening diffuser and there are two problems. First the hole in the rubber is 1/4″ size so when using the supplied hot shoe mount, the retaining wheel slightly crushes the diffuser. It would have been much better if the hole in the diffuser had been a bit bigger. Secondly, the black rubber washer on the top of the mount is discolouring the white rubber. Look closely at the area around the hole in the diffuser in the first photograph and the yellowish fading can be seen.

In terms of price, I paid GB£69 for it at Amazon.co.uk but it’s priced 51.95€ and US$59.95 on Lume Cube’s website so there was definitely a bit of premium added there. Watch out for that and see if you can get a better deal than I did elsewhere. Aim for between GB£50-£60.

There are a number of copycat lights out there with dubious names for half the price and although I haven’t any direct experience of these, my feeling is that you get what you pay for: the Panel Mini feels well made.

In summary, I bought the Panel Mini on the back of four promises: Lume Cube’s reputation, 1+ hour battery life, white colour temperature adjustment and USB C charging. I think it’s been a good call and I’m really expecting the Panel Mini to give my product reviews and presentations a lighting boost. Watch out for more videos coming soon.


Beautiful Tracking Shots with Wiral at CES 2018



Tracking shots have traditionally been the preserve of the professional filmmaker or broadcaster, first with cameras on dollys and tracks, then with  Steadicam and now there are cable or wire systems (SkyCam) that can move in three dimensions to get some really amazing shots. While these are all still expensive, the amateur filmaker can achieve a similar effect with Wiral Lite at a fraction of the cost. Todd hangs tight with Emilie.

The Wiral Lite system consists of a steel cable plus a motorised camera mount – the cable cam – that hangs from the cable and it’s a little like a miniature cable car. The cable is strung between two strong points, say, a couple of trees or street lights, and the cable cam is hung on the wire under tension. It needs the tension so that the rubber wheels can grip on the cable and move about. Cameras up to 1.5 kg / 3.3 lb can be carried by the cable cam so it can easily hold a GoPro. The remote control  moves the cable cam back and forth on the cable with adjustable speed.

The Wiral was successfully funded on Kickstarter in the autumn raising over US$1,000,000 and is now also crowdfunding on Indiegogo. There are currently perks at US$239 with delivery expected in August.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2020 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Product & Services cjcgeek30
$4.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Support the show by becoming a Geek News Central Insider

Clap for Kano’s Camera Kit at CES 2018



Kano‘s mission is to encourage people, particularly children, to see computers not as unchangeable appliances but as tools to be made, shaped, coded and shared. Their kits plug together bits, boards, buttons and cables to make individual and personalised computers. Bruno gives Todd a hand to develop a selfie camera from their new Camera Kit.

Kano’s approach is to challenge each young developer into programming simple apps that achieve technical goals. Using Kano’s development tools it’s really easy to build programs as the tools come with code building blocks for things like taking a picture or responding to noise via a microphone. Consequently, even Todd can code an app to take a picture when someone claps.

The Camera Kit’s not expected until next year but you can sign up to hear the latest news. Expect the price to be around US$99.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2020 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Product & Services cjcgeek30
$4.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Support the show by becoming a Geek News Central Insider

Olloclip Pivot Grips Smartphones at CES



Olloclip is well-known for its clip-on lens system for the Apple iPhone, though new at CES is the Olloclip Pivot, a grip for smartphones, cameras and GoPros. Todd finds out more from Patrick.

The Olloclip Pivot grip is a bit different from an ordinary handheld smartphone holder as it incorporates an articulating hub which provides 225° of rotation so that the camera can be positioned conveniently to capture the best shot, whether skating, boarding or simply at the beach. The Pivot is water resistant so can be taken swimming or snorkelling.

The Pivot holds smartphones between 4″ and 5.5″ wide, and also takes a GoPro. There’s an integrated cold shoe mount too for lightweight accessories like a light or microphone.  Priced at US$49.99, the Pivot is available now. I want one!

In addition to the Pivot, Olloclip have a new set of lenses for the iPhone 7, including wide angle, fish eye and macro. The core lens set is US$100.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2020 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Product & Services cjcgeek30
$4.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Support the show by becoming a Geek News Central Insider

Thinkware F800 Dash Cam Wins CES Innovation Award



Dash cams are a big growth market at present and there’s plenty of innovation in the space from both established automotive brands to new tech startups. The team at Thinkware have innovated with the new F800 Air connected dash cam, borrowing ideas from the Internet of Things to make a “smart” dash cam.

To start with, the F800 Air can text emergency contacts when it detects a crash or collision, much like some of the manufacturer units. Obviously the F800 can be installed in any vehicle, not just a new one. Next, the dash cam constantly monitors the vehicle while parked and notifies the owner via text if there’s any untoward movement such as a door being dinged. Finally, upcoming F800 features will support geo-fencing and driver assessment, which is perfect for the parent who wants to loan their vehicle out to son or daughter and check that they’re driving safely.

Thinkware stated, “With the innovative ‘connected car’ technologies, the dash cam will take on an important role in providing both driver convenience and safety and the continued evolution of the capabilities of the dash cam seem boundless with IoT.

The F800 Air looks much more stylish too with the camera housed in an aluminium pod to one side. All this tech and good design means that it is a worthy winner of a CES 2017 Innovation Award in the car audio/video category. The dash cam is in the final stages of development and is expected to be available in 2017, but no price has been confirmed.

If you are at CES this year, the Thinkware F800 is at Sands Expo, LV.2 Booth 42572. Check it out.


Bluetooth Versus Wired



Coloud The Snap Active EarbudsFor some months now, persistent rumors have been flying that the next iPhone will do away with the 3.5mm wired headset port. There have been plenty of people arguing both against and for this idea. Some people say that the demise of the wired headset port is inevitable.

As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been using Bluetooth devices for years. To be perfectly honest, the majority of Bluetooth headsets suck, regardless of price. They typically suffer from poor audio quality, especially those intended for phone calls.
I have yet to find a Bluetooth microphone that produces anything approaching acceptable quality for anything other than phone calls.

Bluetooth stereo is great for certain uses, such as in the car or for use with certain Bluetooth speakers intended for casual listening.

With this in mind, let’s examine how a smartphone would work without a 3.5mm wired jack for the way people use these devices today.

I see plenty of people using wired headsets, day in and day out. That tells me that, unlike the floppy drive, which was dropped because most software was being shipped on CD-ROM’s, the wired 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT obsolete. The 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT falling into disuse. There are still millions and millions of people using wired headsets with their smartphones on a constant basis. Wired headset use is NOT dropping off.

Modern smartphones are also extremely good high-definition video cameras. While they have built-in microphones, because of the 3.5mm headphone jack it is also possible to plug in a wired microphone. Wired microphones on traditional consumer camcorders have either been absent or an option for costlier prosumer models. Take the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away and the option of plugging in a superior wired microphone goes away with it.

If Apple takes the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away, it doesn’t matter to me, because I don’t have an iPhone and don’t want one. There will be plenty of remaining Android models to choose from that keep their senses.

In fact, there have already been Android smartphones available on the market that leave out the 3.5mm wired headphone jacks. The Chinese company LeEco released three jack-less phones in April of this year. Ever heard of them? Me neither, until I did a search. I don’t get the impression they are burning down the barn with popularity.

I make extensive use of Bluetooth as well as the 3.5mm jack on my phone. I will never buy a phone that doesn’t offer a 3.5mm jack any more than I would buy a phone that doesn’t offer Bluetooth or WiFi.


Smanos Launches K1 Smart Home at Gadget Show Live



Smanos LogoIn the last of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live, I look at one of the new entrants to the market, Smanos. The Dutch firm announced their new K1 Smart Hub at the show and while it’s a good-looking piece of kit, the K1 is coming into an increasingly crowded space. I chat with Rafael about Smanos and the difference it brings.

Coming from a security background, Smanos has brought its understanding of that space to the smart home. The first iteration of the K1 focusses on security: the starter kit includes a siren, door/window sensor, motion sensor and keypard with the Smart Hub. As might be expected, the devices use Z-Wave for communication and there’s an app for managing and controlling the system, so additional sensors can be added easily.

Smanos K1 Smart Hub

In order to set Smanos apart from the competition, the K1 has well designed sensors that wouldn’t look out of place in a bijoux pad. All white and chrome with surface detail, it’s clear that the sensors are part of a matched set, and not awkwardly thrown together to meet a functional need.

K1 Smart Home

In addition to the K1 Smart Hub (GB£249), Smanos launched the UFO panoramic Wi-Fi HD camera (£149) with a massive field of view, and a smart video doorbell (£159). Both of these look neat.