Tag Archives: test

Review: the best drones for travel video

2015-11-12

Drones are one of the hottest product categories in photography and video recording at the moment. As consumer products, drones are still a new gadget category that is going through an extensive technology development phase. Two major technologies require development: image quality and ease of steering. Are any of the most popular drone brands ready for the big time? Here is a review.

Le Monde picked up four popular consumer drones that are available in the US, Europe and in other regions: 3DR Solo with GoPro camera, DJI Phantom 3 Standard, Parrot Bepop and Xiro Xplorer Vision.

dji phantom 3 drone

DJI Phantom 3


Le Monde tested the drones for steering, reliability and safety, quality of images, stability of images, automatic flying capabilities, flying indoors, ease of use and price. After tallying up the scores for the tests, the winner drone was DJI. Based on technical features and usability, here are the best drones:

1. DJI Phantom 3 Standard, score 79 (price in Euros 820)
2. 3DR Solo with GoPro camera, 75 (price 2200)
3. Xiro Xplorer Vision, 74 (price 1000)
4. Parrot Bepop, 63 (price 460)

What is the best drone for shooting travel video?

It is not necessarily the same one that won the test because other factors come into play. When we travel, we have to make choices what we can take with us. It doesn’t matter if we fly, travel by train, by car, by motorcycle or by bicycle, the space for clothes, supplies and electronics is always limited.

The size and the shape of the drone is a key factor for determining if it can be taken along for a trip. DJI Phantom, for instance, is relatively large and shaped in a way that makes it very difficult to pack it in a backpack or in any kind of bag. The dimensions of the DJI Phantom are 18 x 13 x 8 inches / 46 x 33 x 20 cm.

parrot bepop drone, blue

Parrot Bepop


Parrot Bepop, on the other hand, is relatively small and it has a low profile which makes it easy to carry along in a bag. Additionally, the drone is designed to be disassembled for transportation. Its dimensions are 28 x 32 x 3.6 cm without the hull and 33 x 38 x 3.6 cm with the hull.

Parrot Bepop can be complemented with an app titled Flight Plan that runs on smartphones and tablets. The application lets you create a route that drone must fly and camera angles that it must use to take still images and shoot video.

View sample videos for each drone and plenty of useful details (in French) at Le Monde.

The best smartphones for serious photography according to lab tests

2015-10-15

Every smartphone manufacturer believes the camera on the company’s high-end product is the best in the market. Image quality is, however, very difficult to prove. Countless camera tests among the top smartphone brands have been published, but because people tend to favor different attributes in images, tests conducted by asking viewers’ opinions don’t produce an unambiguous winner. When image quality is technically measured in a lab, we get some interesting results.

sony xperia z5 camera

Sony Xperia Z5

At the moment (in the second half of 2015) the best smartphone for photography is the Sony Xperia Z5. The Samsung S6 Edge is the second best and the Google Nexus 6P the third. The tests have been conducted by DXO in a laboratory using measuring instruments.

Here is the top 20 list for the best smartphone cameras:
1. Sony Xperia Z5
2. Samsung S6 Edge
3. Google Nexus 6P
4. LG G4
5. Samsung Note 4
6. Moto X Style
7. Sony Xperia Z3+
8. Apple iPhone 6Plus
9. Apple iPhone 6
10. Apple iPhone 6s

samsung s6 edge camera

Samsung S6 Edge


11. Samsung S5
12. Sony Xperia Z3
13. Sony Xperia Z2
14. Google Nexus 6
15. Nokia 808 Pureview
16. Sony Xperia Z1
17. Apple iPhone 5S
18. Samsung S4
19. Lumia 1020
20. Nokia Lumia 925

Sony and Samsung have a large selection of smartphones, and these two brands performed well in the tests. Sony acquired Konica Minolta camera business in 2006, so it is not a surprise that its camera know-how shows in smartphones as well. Apple and Nokia have performed well in camera tests where human eye has determined the result, but DXO test system gives different results.

google nexus 6p camera

Google Nexus 6P by Huawei


Years ago, when tv monitors still were CRT tubes, a tv manufacturer advertised that it has the most natural colors. Lab tests showed that it was not the case, but it didn’t matter: people bought the product anyhow. The tv monitors were adjusted to please the human eye. Who knows if Apple and Nokia have adjusted their imaging algorithms to please the human eye?

In a digital camera, multiple components, like the lens, image sensor (that captures the light), software algorithm (that transforms the light into image data), stabilization mechanism and speed of hardware affect the image quality. The company behind the lab tests, DXO, has developed a system known as DxoMark for testing and ranking camera test results. DxOMark measures camera sensors for:
– ISO sensitivity (speed)
– Noise (standard deviation, signal-to-noise ratio, dynamic range, and tonal range)
– Color sensitivity
DxOMark measures lenses (mounted on cameras) for:
– Resolution, derived from the MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) measurement
– Distortion
– Vignetting
– Light transmission (T-stop)
– Chromatic aberrations

A video from DXO lab shows how a smartphone test is carried out:

Before booking a hotel room for your next trip, check out its Wi-Fi speed

2015-07-14

Practically every hotel and hostel advertises that they have a wireless Internet connection (Wi-Fi, WLAN) available for free or for a small fee. Sure, but does the wireless access really work? Is it fast enough for web browsing, watching news from home, or even for games? Now, there is a way to find it out in advance.

hotelwifitest screen shot

We have been disappointed so many times to the speed of our Wi-Fi connection in a hotel or apartment we have rented during our journey. Any information or service that hares information about the real in-house situation will increase competition among hotels and improve connection speeds with time.

Here is a story what happened to us two years ago. We were staying in a hotel by the Mediterranean Sea in Catalonia, Spain. Wi-Fi worked pretty well in the morning and in the afternoon, but at five o’clock, the signal almost died. On the second day, when it happened again, we realized that something had to be wrong. We decided to find out where the Wi-Fi hotspot was. We learned that the hotel’s broadband connection was in the back office, and that’s where nearest Wi-Fi access point was supposed to be as well.

The back office was closed, and we had to wait until next morning before we could talk to the people working in the office. Sure enough, we discovered the Wi-Fi access point in the office. The wireless connection worked fine. Why? Because the back office door was open during the day. It was a metal door.

We managed to convince hotel management to move the Wi-Fi access point outside the metal door. In addition to us, many other hotel guests were happy about that small change in hotel’s network configuration.

In any case, you can check out the speed of wireless connection in a hotel you are planning book here: Hotelwifitest.

Travel guides that show you the essential sights, cultural destinations and activities in your destination available for download here.