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It is not easy to impress me

19 September 2019

We're all used to seeing technology (especially technology based on electronic devices) getting smaller, faster, lighter and cheaper.

Moore's Law continues to defy the doomsayers who, for quite some time now, have predicted an end to its reign. It seems that every time we approach some kind of barrier, new ways of reducing the size of transistors or ways of stacking them more effectively are rolled out.

Of course all these smaller, more highly integrated devices have created a flow-on effect that has seen the products on which they're based also become smaller, lighter, more powerful and (usually) cheaper. Perhaps smartphones are the only exception because, although they're more powerful, it seems that bigger (screen-wise) will always be better and if the new iPhone is anything to go by, cheaper they are not!

However, I want to talk about something that is enjoying huge benefits from all this technological advancement.

Yesterday I went out and did some videoing.

My usual camera is a Sony HD with super-clever image stabilization thanks to the gimbal which supports the "steady shot" lens assembly. Although it's now several years old, this camera can still produce pretty acceptable footage -- although it lacks the dynamic range and ability to produce a nice shallow depth of field that more professional gear can deliver.

I often use this camera in "point and shoot" mode where its autofocus, auto exposure and image stabilisation allow me to get pretty good footage without too much effort or planning.

When it hit the stores, this camera was about $2,500 -- relatively expensive for the consumer market sector -- but then again it was pretty feature-filled and very capable. I've been considering upgrading to the 4K version and was delighted to see that it can be had for as little as $1,300 these days. Quite a price drop!

Yesterday however, I used a different camera to collect my 4K footage.

The results were pretty impressive for a $1,300 camera.

But it wasn't a $1,300 camera.

It was a $100 camera and even better -- it was a flying camera.

Yes, I'm talking about a drone... but not your regular lunch-box-sized white cross with a camera hanging below it like we're used to seeing.

This was a new class of drone referred to as a CineWhoop.

The whole thing, all loaded up and ready to go, weighs in at an amazing 115 grams and fits in the palm of your hand.

Despite this incredibly small size, it delivers stunning 4K footage from almost any vantage point you'd care to imagine.

I spent a good part of the day flying this thing -- not over, not under, not around -- but through the blossom-laden branches of trees at the park.

Now I've used cheap 4K cameras before (including on drones) and although some do produce a sharp image, they've always been rather lacklustre in respect to their dynamic range and light-handling. This one was way, way better!

As I sit here reviewing the video footage, I am gobsmacked that this glorious imagery was produced by such a small and inexpensive device. Given that reviewing such things is my job and I'm often underwhelmed by the actual results a product gives when compared to the manufacturer's claims, that's quite an achievement.

I also look at the camera tech that is now going into smartphones and am gobsmacked at what they produce. The latest iPhone is a perfect example... having not one but several cameras packed into its slim form. What's more, these cameras all produce stunning images and video of a quality that would, just a few short years ago, require very high-end gear costing orders of magnitude more than this (admittedly expensive) phone.

Damn the future is exciting and as they say in the clickbait headlines, "you won't believe what happens next"

Hands up everyone who has given up using a "real" camera in favour of using their phone to get holiday snaps, short videos and other stuff?

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