Category: Mobile

Down Dog App: Your Mobile Yoga Studio

Down Dog app review

Have you ever wanted to try yoga and feel somehow intimidated by the atmosphere inside a yoga studio? The good news is, there’s a mobile app that brings the studio yoga experience wherever you are. Down Dog is an IOS and Android yoga app that brings a studio-like Vinyasa yoga experience at the comfort of your own place. If you have a space for your yoga mat and a comfortable environment then fire up the app and begin your yoga journey.

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Hands-on | Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Shoots the PyroMusical Olympics

Hands-on Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

It’s the age of dual-lens cameras on smartphones and there’s a good reason behind it. Much like our eyes, dual-lens delivers better autofocus, bokeh, sharper details and clarity. Photography-focused smartphones have already arrived from several manufacturers and Asus won’t be left behind. Their Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is their 12MP dual-lens cameraphone with more than enough shooting power coming from its high capacity 5,000mAh battery. I had the chance to use the ZenFone 3 Zoom last week to shoot the final day of the PyroMusical Olympics. I thought it was an opportunity to test out the capabilities of the Dual-lens especially on low-light. See below out of the camera photo and video samples.

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Field Test | ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 Camera and Video Sample Gallery

Shooting with the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5

As a travel photographer, I’m more inclined to smartphones with exceptional camera and lasting battery life. The new iteration of Asus max series of phones, the Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL) seems to be going to that direction. I had the first generation Zenfone Max and to compare, the new ZC553KL looks thinner and sleeker. The improved design incorporates a new 16MP F/2.0 rear camera, Android 6 Nougat with ZenUI 3 and 4,100 mAh battery. Let’s find out on how it fares on real world use as I take the ZC553KL with me on my recent travels. This first of a two-part review of the Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL) tackles on the camera performance. The images used here are straight out-of-the-camera and the only processing done was the watermarking and resizing.

PixelMaster Camera modes
PixelMaster Camera modes

Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 and PixelMaster Camera

The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 Camera is a 16MP shooter that utilizes TriTech AF technology – Phase Detection AutoFocus, Laser AF and Continous AF. It guarantees ultra fast autofocus at 0.03s and a bright lens aperture of f/2.0 on the rear camera. The front facing camera shoots 8MP and has an aperture of f/2.2. The camera can shoot videos up to [email protected].

The PixelMaster Camera is the main app for shooting with the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 Camera. The version 3 has improved a lot since the previous version making it look more user-friendly and cleaner in terms of interface. Various modes are available including Manual Mode. Here I look into the HDR Pro, Super Resolution, Low Light, Night Mode, Panorama and TimeLapse.

Excellent detail on good light. 100% crop below
Excellent detail on good light. 100% crop below

AutoMode and AutoFocus

I think most of the times, people who use smartphone cameras are on Auto mode for quick shooting. The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 does produce pleasing colors outright but not too saturated as I like. Despite the Tritech AF system, I find the focusing a little erratic and doesn’t focus where I want at times when left on its own. Touching and specifying where to focus helps. I do hope this is just a software issue that can be resolved. Shooting on good light and properly focused, the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 does resolve very good details with its 16MP sensor. Pixel peeping to 100%, I’m quite impressed with the level of grains on the details.

Extreme close-up to capture details
Extreme close-up to capture details

What I’m also quite impressed is the close-focusing distance of the camera. The PixelMaster doesn’t have a dedicated Macro or close-up mode but it can focus up to 2–3cm close.

What the camera struggles on though is in the dynamic range department. High contrast images would either clip the highlights or drown in the shadows.

Manual controls for the PixelMaster Camera
Manual controls for the PixelMaster Camera

Manual Mode

Like the other ZenFone in the series 3 line, Asus packed a comprehensive manual control in the camera. It is very similar with the ZenFone 3 Laser I used for shooting astrophotography. The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 however could only go up to ISO 1600. Everything else, it could shoot from 32 seconds to 1/1000 for the shutter speed, White Balance from 2500k to 6500k, 2 stops EV and Manual Focus. Levels and histogram are also on screen.

HDR Pro sample (Auto Mode above, HDR Pro below)
HDR Pro sample (Auto Mode above, HDR Pro below)

HDR Pro

The HDR Pro mode seeks to address the dynamic range issue of the camera. The HDR Pro output looks okay for me though I wish there are available controls for the intensity. There’s a few seconds processing time as well when shooting.

Low Light mode
Low Light mode

Low Light and Night Mode

The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 may not have the same Sony sensor of its brothers like the ZenFone 3, Laser and Deluxe that enables them to shoot ISO 3200, it does have a Low Light mode to help brighten up the scene. It does crop the resolution to 2316×1302. The Night Mode is best used with a tripod or held steadily as it slows down the shutter speed to bring in more light.

Super Resolution sample and 100% crop
Super Resolution sample and 100% crop

Super Resolution

One interesting mode for me is the Super Resolution which stacks up multiple photos to create high resolution photos. The resulting file doubles up and increase dimensions up to 9216×6912 px which is quite huge and maybe good for print. Pixel peeping though, I find the details a little washed out. I prefer the normal mode that has finer details.

Super Resolution sample
Super Resolution sample

Video samples, summary and more image samples on the next page.

TimeLapse and Video Modes

Timelapse mode in the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is one of my favorite modes. Asus made available six intervals (1s, 1.5s, 2s, 2.5s, 3s and 5s) for extensive control of timelapse.

The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 also shoots full HD at 1080p. The 3-axis (6 direction) electronic image stabilizer (EIS) only works on 720p. Video quality suffers with the same dynamic range problem similar to still images. And I’m not a fan of the EIS as the

Panorama mode sample
Panorama mode sample

Summary

Shooting with the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 felt very responsive. PixelMaster Camera app starts up fast and the autofocus is snappy with a few issues on focusing. Image quality is a little above average with good color rendition and excellent detail but suffers from poor dynamic range. The close-up focusing was plus feature for me. The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 camera is good in general shooting conditions but if you are really bent on better shooting experience, I’d go for the Asus ZenFone 3 line which uses the Sony sensor.

The ZenFone 3 Max (ZC553KL) is available in four colors Sand Gold, Titanium Gray, Glacier Silver and Rose Pink. It currently retails at Php 11,995 and Php 10,895 at Lazada

Sample Gallery

Fresh catch
Fresh catch
Low light morning
Low light morning
Scarecrow dance at the bambanti festival
Scarecrow dance at the bambanti festival
Sunflower closeup
Sunflower closeup
Corn on the wall
Corn on the wall
Cafe wall decor
Cafe wall decor
Jeron Teng, Michelle Gumabao and Eric Tai for Asus Max Challenge
Jeron Teng, Michelle Gumabao and Eric Tai for Asus Max Challenge
Kiko, the lab and chow chow mix
Kiko, the lab and chow chow mix

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Traveling with the Asus ZenPower Pro Power Bank

Charging with the Asus ZenPower Pro

It was so timely that I got a new Asus ZenPower Pro power bank as I was shopping around for a new power bank to use for my travels. We won the prize when our group got 3rd place overall in an event. On paper, it fits the criteria of what I was looking for – high capacity at 10,050 mAh, handy credit-card size, functional with two USB fast-charging ports and an extra LED light for emergencies. Looks like a sweet spot for power banks but does it perform as it says. Brought it for a week long trip up the Cordilleras to find out.

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Asus ZenFone 3 Laser Smartphone vs DSLR on Astrophotography

The realm of digital astrophotography used to be exclusive to large-sensor interchangeable lens cameras. But it seems that with the advancement of mobile imaging, smartphones are quickly narrowing the gap. Recently, Asus Philippines invited a few media influencers from tech, lifestyle, photography and travel to try out their new ZenFone 3 line of smartphones. And I must give them credit for choosing Batanes as the destination. There’s no better place to try astrophotography as the province has little light pollution in addition to the stunning landscape. I was handed a ZenFone 3 Laser to play around with during our photo tour and one of our challenges was to capture a galaxy or the night sky. I thought it was a good way for me to assess how far mobile camera imaging has gone by pitting it with the quality of my own DSLR, the Nikon D7100.

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Starmobile Play Plus: What a Php 2,290 Smartphone Brings

The Starmobile Play Plus

While most people would drool over the latest high-end smartphones in the market, there is still a segment for budget and entry-level buyers. People would buy mobile phones as a transition phone, temporary device while traveling in the country, or a phone for frugal people who are simply concerned about its basic use. The Starmobile Play Plus is one of the very affordable smartphones in the market for Php 2,290. Its specs is a far cry from the Starmobile Knight Spectra I reviewed before. The Starmobile Play Plus with its modest specs of Android Marshmallow 6.0, 5” display and 1.2 Ghz Quad-core processor was able to pull-off some surprises.

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