July 5, 2019

Moment’s Slow Shutter modes vs Live Photo’s Blur mode.

3 ways to take motion-blurred-images.

Recently the Moment Pro Camera app added Slow Shutter modes for still photography. While a slow shutter technique can be accomplished with the blur mode in the built-in Camera app’s Live Photos, there are limitations. Moment’s Pro Camera app gives you more control over the blur and and has two modes: Blur and Light Trails, that give you two different blur techniques. (If you’re a serious iPhoneographer, the new modes may help justify the $6 price tag for the app.) This article will help you understand the difference in the Live Photo Blur and the Moment Blur techniques, so you can choose the best one for a specific look or shooting scenario.

Why the iPhone Cam’s shutter really isn’t slow.

Much has gone into the iPhone’s built-in Camera app to keep your images from blurring. It can shoot as slow as half-a-second, which doesn’t work for most creative blur techniques. (The poetic car light trail photos you see in DSLR shots often kept the shutter open for 30 seconds.) Since the iPhone can’t do that, the apps combine a series of exposures to create the effect of blur. All images below were shot on an iPhone XS Max.

Live Photo’s Blur mode.

A Live Photo is actually a 3-second video taken at a choppy 10-frames-per-second. In the Live Photo mode (yellow target icon), 15 frames are taken before you tap the shutter and 15 frames are taken after. You can edit a Live Photo into a GIF-like video, or mix 30 frames into one image to create blur. The iPhone even crops and aligns the images when combining to help compensate for camera movement. To use the Blur mode: swipe up while viewing any Live Photo > choose Blur.

This method often creates incredible blurred images and works well in daylight (something that requires added neutral density filters on a DSLR). But the technique has its limitations. It blends all 30 frames, so if you’re trying to blur a photo of a waterfall and the camera wasn’t held still for that second-and-a-half before tapping the shutter, it can give you to a wonky, mush-of-a-shot. (Tip: For a smoother blurred Live Photo, hold the camera in position for a two-count before tapping the shutter.) Blending 30 images also creates issues with fast movement: If you use Live Photos to shoot cars passing on the expressway, they’ll disappear, since they aren’t in one spot long enough to show. The blurred image will be of empty roadway.

As you can see from the sparkler image above, the iPhone images are short exposures that froze the sparks. The individual white sparks show as gray, since each of the 30 images is dimmed in the mix. Only sparks that overlap show as bright.

Moment Pro Camera app’s Blur mode.

This works similar to the Live Photo Blur mode. It blends a series of images, that have been darkened to create a normal exposure. The difference in look from the Live Photo Blur mode here is that Moment appears to use a longer shutter speed in dim light for each image in the series. The result is a more convincing blur. The images are often dark and require some lightening in your photo editing software.

The big advantage of this method is that Moment gives you exposure options of 4 frames, 8, 15, 30 or Bulb for better control of your blur. The Bulb setting allows you to tap the shutter to start exposing the series and tap it again to stop. (At about 30 seconds, the series will automatically stop.) Like the Live Photo Blur, this technique works well in daylight, since it gives you the option of substantially longer exposures.

Moment Pro Camera app’s Light Trails mode.

Light Trail mode was designed for night photography. It mixes the images in the series at full brightness. So sparks and headlight trails are nice and bright and the background also gets brighter as well. You’ll notice the sparks look more full than in the other two methods since they’re adding to each other with no dimming.

As with the Moment Blur setting, you can choose 4 frames, 8, 15, 30 or Bulb, for Light Trails, but you’ll have to take care to not overexpose.

The three techniques all give different results. The Live Photo Blur and Moment Blur settings offer you a creative blur tool that works well in daylight. The Light Trails mode also works well for any kind of night photography. (Tip: Even when working in daylight, use a tripod to blur the subject while keeping the background still and in sharp focus.)

Interested in Moment lenses? Check out this article. I’m a Moment Ambassador and buying lenses through the link in the article helps support this blog, keep the cost of The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography down and keep those free updates coming. Thanks.

February 24, 2019

Oakley case for your Moment lenses.

Moment has some nice case options, but it seemed to me that the four still photography lenses would fit in a neater space than the side-by-side approach. After all, a mobile phone “field kit” should take up minimal space and be pocketable. Provided you have lens caps on the Moment lenses (I also use the Rear Lens Caps) they can stack safely. I started experimenting with a padded PVC tube, which gave great protection, but decided I needed easier access. Emptying the tube to get to the bottom lens took three hands. A clamshell design seemed the best bet.

I’d used the Oakley Small Vault case for sunglasses and found it neatly fits the whole set of still lenses: 58mm Tele, 18mm wide, 170º Superfish and 10x Macro (with diffuser). The case is a clamshell, slightly smaller than a hotdog bun, rigid, with some give at the zipper. It’s great for easy access to your lenses from a case that fits in your pocket. The Small Vault sells for about $20.

If you don’t have all four lenses, there will be some movement inside the case, which can be absorbed by padding the space with a lens cloth.

Get the case on Amazon

Interested in Moment lenses? Check out this article. I’m a Moment Ambassador and buying lenses through the link in the article helps support this blog, keep the cost of the Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography down and keep those free updates coming. Thanks.

February 7, 2019

Mobile lenses 101.

A concise guide to Moment add-on lenses for the camera on your phone.

Why use an add-on lens for your phone?

Every day, more of us are migrating away from DSLR, mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras and depending on the ever-better cameras on the phone in our pocket. That’s because today, there’s not much difference in the two: The big camera manufacturers have shrunk sensors and put controls on the screen, essentially making their mirrorless offerings more like phone cams. Meanwhile, the phone manufacturers like Apple, Google and Samsung have enlarged their sensors, improved image processing and opened up their systems to photography apps that do things big-camera hardware never will.

Why two built-in lenses aren’t enough.

Phone cams have their limitations. Most camera restriction come down to device thickness. The lens bump you see on many phones is a sign that the sensors can’t get any bigger and the lenses can’t get any longer. And even with a two-lens phone with ever-improving digital zoom, those of us who’ve migrated from bigger sensors know there are a lot more amazing photos that could be had if our lenses let us get a little closer, a little farther away or a different perspective on our world. Add-on lenses let our phone behave much more like a big camera.

Why invest in good add-on lenses for your phone?

You’ve likely paid $1,000 of more for your high-end phone and may well have bought it just for the amazing camera. If you’re adding a lens attachment to push your phone cam beyond its limits, it makes sense that you’d pay a few bucks more for the best possible results, especially if those lenses can be used on your next phone and beyond.

In this article, I’m covering Moment M-Series lenses. Full disclosure: I’m a Moment Ambassador. After buying a dozen brands of phone lenses, I gave up on the other brands, since there really is no comparison: Moment lenses remain unrivaled for sharpness, crispness and accuracy.

Mounting your lens.

All mobile lense attachments require some kind of mount to hold them in front of your phone. Mounting brackets and magnetic rings typically don’t work with phones in cases, which is a deal-breaker for those those who want to protect their expensive phone. Moment lenses require a Moment case (available for iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy and One Plus) for mounting. The basic case is a little thick, but offers solid protection and sells for $30. I have no problem pocketing my iPhone XS Max with the case. You can attach a hand strap or neck strap (just like a tourist) which comes in handy a lot more times than you’d think. One big advantage to Moment’s case mount: if you switch brands of phone (or if your significant other does) all you need is a new case and your whole lens collection works on both cameras.

What the different lengths of lenses do.

All the lens types used in professional photography are available for your phone. I’ll cover four of Moment’s M-Series prime lenses that work best for still photography, but these also work for video. (There’s also a Moment M-Series video anamorphic lens not covered here.) These all are for the back camera or cameras on your phone.

Moment 58mm Telephoto: Portrait lens that gets you twice as close. $100

When shooting with the wide lens (or the only lens) on your phone, you may have noticed that a face, and especially the nose, in your portraits looks exaggerated. If you slap the 58mm Moment in front of the wide lens, that face become more attractive with more of a normal perspective. It’s the same view you get with built-in tele lenses on dual-lens phones.

When you place an add-on tele lens over the built-in tele lens of a dual-lens phone, you get the equivalent of about a 116mm lens, which is more like the length of lens portrait photographers use. It has a narrow focus area, so backgrounds get nicely blurred and have a circular bokeh, while the subject looks more crisp. If you shoot a lot of people shots and want more flattering photos, this is a good lens to start with.

A big criticism in photograhy is “you’re not close enough.” But in people shots, we tend to stand a little further away so we don’t intrude into the scene or invade personal space. Whether in front of your phone’s wide or tele lens, the 58mm gets you twice as close, while standing in the same spot. A tele lens compresses a scene. Shoot a skyline and the buildings will look closer together.

A few cautions: With the 58mm in front of a built-in, dual-lens tele, you can start seeing camera shake in video and blur on stills in low light. A good monopod will help stabilize. Also, both the iPhone and Galaxy dual-lenses do some trickery in the camera app that can default to the wide lens at 2X digital zoom when you think it’s using tele. The easiest way make sure you’re actually using the camera’s built-in tele is with Moment’s free camera app, which uses the lens you tell it to.

The closest focusing distance of the Moment 58mm is about a foot with the built-in wide and four feet with the built-in tele.

Moment 18mm Wide: The landscape and architecture lens. $100

As pointed out in The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography, architecture is the urban and indoor landscape. The Moment 18mm gives you the perspective of being twice as far away, while standing in the same place. It makes buildings look taller, rooms look bigger and lets you to shoot a wider view in confined spaces. It’s the lens real estate photographers use to make houses and interiors look so impressive. When used for traditional landscape photography, the 18mm captures the expanse of land or the massiveness of the sky. It can show the bigness of our world and the smallness of us humans in it.

The Moment 18mm is a rectilinear lens, so the lines in your photos remain straight, though the vertical lines can tilt in when your view is tilted up or down. If using a dual-lens phone, you’ll likely want to use the Moment 18mm over the wide lens for maximum effect. The closest focusing distance is about two inches.

Moment 10x Macro: Revealing a world of microscopic proportions. $90

Macro is a world in itself that’s too small to see with the naked eye. But with a macro lens, you can create an intimacy (just like the “enlarged to show texture” photos on the cereal box.) The Moment Macro is useful for shooting bugs, flowers, stamps, anything you need to close for.

The Moment Macro comes with a diffuser hood that will put you at optimal focusing distance of about an one inch. As with all macro lenses, the focus area is very narrow, so if you want more of a subject in focus you’ll need to shoot it flat, not at an angle. If on a dual-lens camera, the Moment Macro is best used over the tele lens. There can be some vignetting on the phone’s built-in wide, depending on model and manufacturer. As noted above, you’re best off using the Moment app to access the built-in tele lens.

A caution: Macro photography puts your lens so close that your head and your phone can block out light. Shoot near an open window where the light is coming in from the side, or get a selfie ring light. These sell for about $15 and fit over the macro lens to create a shadowless light. You’ll also find a monopod helpful for holding the camera steady at a magnification level this high.

Moment Superfish: Mind-bending reality. $90

Fisheye lenses warp reality, putting what’s in the center of the lens closer and what’s at the edges of the lens further away. This exaggeration and bending of lines can seem unrealistic and comedic, but can be a powerful tool for storytelling in photography. The tradition fisheye lenses used in DSLRs give you a round image with black edges, much like when you look though your door viewer. On the Superfish, Moment chose to keep the warp within a useful range with a 15mm-equivalent, 170º-view that shows the image full frame, without the cliché and off-putting circular vignetting. Another nice features that makes the Superfish more useful is (differing that wider fisheyes) the center of the image looks much more normal, without excessive bulging.

The Moment Superfish can capture the maximum expanse. It bends buildings in, makes reality loom. If shooting a group portrait, slap the Superfish on at the end to take the goofy fun shot. The view of this lens is so wide that it’s easy to get your feet in the image. The Superfish is best used on the wide lens.

Where to begin your add-on, mobile lens collection.

If you look at starting a quality lens collection as an investment, you’ll not only get more use out of it and get better photos: you’ll ultimately spend less. I’ve bought many other brands of lenses over the years that are now useless because they were only designed for one camera model, their mounts are no longer made or the new bigger, built-in cameras and sensors have rendered the old lenses blurry. That’s not to mention that the original quality never stacked up to what Moment’s achieved.

To begin a collection, I’d recommnend you start with one lens that suits your style of shooting. If you shoot a lot of people shots, the 58mm tele will get you compliments on your portraits. If you hike and want to share the vistas you witness, the 18mm wide is a good bet. If the macro world fascinates you, start there. You may find that one lens fills your needs. Or if you’re used to a DSLR, you may find the flexibility a whole set really frees your creativity with your whole lens kit weighing half a pound and costing substantially less.

Interested in Moment lenses? Check out this article. I’m a Moment Ambassador and buying lenses through the link in the article helps support this blog, keep the cost of The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography down and keep those free updates coming. Thanks.

A note about Moment Series M and Series O lenses. It’s best to buy Moment lenses new to make sure you’re getting the current Series M mount. When Moment lenses were first created in 2014, the iPhone 5S was the current model with one, 8mp, rear camera (and not a camera bump in sight.) But phones changed: Within a few years the sensor was increased to 12mp, the wide lens got bigger to let in more light and the second lens was added. The results were that the original Moment Series O add-on lenses started vignetting and the optics were no longer optimal for new, bigger, built-in lenses. In 2017, Moment introduced the Series M mount with new lenses designed to give exceptional results with most high-end phone cams. Will there be a need for V3? We’ve reached a stabilization point dictated by physics: we can’t fit a bigger, better camera with traditional glass optics into a phone this thin. Moment’s V2 mount and lenses could be around for quite a while.

January 17, 2019

So I got my first endorsement. Sort of.

REVISED 5/16/19 Sadly, Moment has cancelled the 10% discount on Moment Lenses I was able to pass on to you. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Yesterday I got an email from the Moment Lens Co inviting me to join the Moment Ambassador Program. It was a bit of a thrill. Not because the company that produces the best iPhone lenses thought I had influence in the iPhone photography world, but because I was asked to endorse and promote a product I already use pretty much every day attached to the back of my iPhone. I bought my first Moment lens five years ago when they were first released and own all 4 lenses in the original set and (so far) 3 of the 5 lenses in the v2 set (as well as other Moment gear.) Since then I’ve recommended Moment Lenses in this blog and in my book The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography Many of the images on my Instagram and those I have for sale on Twenty20 were shot with Moment lenses, so I feel I qualify as an avid user.

The fine print.

I have a personal policy on endorsement that’s a bit of a reverse on Michael Jordan’s: I’ll only endorse what I use, not use what I endorse. (Or maybe Michael doesn’t even wear Air Jordans.) My method seems an honest way to avoid shilldom. Since I pay full price for all lenses myself, I’ve stopped recommending most other brands for two reasons. First: It’s too costly to keep investing in the stuff that’s proven to be lesser versions of similar lenses. Second (and more importantly): I’d rather steer you to what I’ve found to be the best stuff, since a good lens kit is a big investment and your dollars are as precious as mine.

So what do I get out of this Moment Ambassador deal? I get is a 10% commission on Moment products you buy through my links. As Moment has sales, I’ll keep you notified of those so you can get a discount as well.

If you’re not familiar with Moment, they’re a little company in Seattle that’s produced the top-ranked mobile lens attachments from cinema glass since launch five years ago. They have a tele, wide, fish, macro and anamorphic video les. Their stuff is for serious iPhoneographers (did I just commit an oyymoron?) but it seems that most of us since we’re all leaving the big camera behind and depending more on the phone in our pocket to capture the spectacle of life. If you find yourself like me (shooting more and more on your iPhone) and wanting to get a little closer, a little further away, or a different perspective than your dual lenses let allow, Moment is worth investigating.

If considering buying any Moment products, please buy though this link. It helps to support my working bettering mobile photography. Thank you.

Want more on mastering your iPhone camera? Get The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography

October 20, 2018

Infinite Jets how-to: Repeater.

Works like a delay on the Hologram Infinite Jets Resynthesizer, but rhythmically repeats the sample instead of echoing it. For this effect, set the following:

  • Voice to Glitch A
  • Env Shape to square
  • Env Time to infinity
  • Dimension to 5p
  • Trigger to Mono
  • Dry to @2p

Dimension speeds up the repeat. Choke your strums and the repeats sound like a piano.

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