Gadgets & Gizmos

Many productions made by photographers ignore location sound because it is so difficult to do correctly – and a much easier solution is to add music or narration later during post-production.

This approach works just fine for doing little arty pieces, but what happens when you have people talking to the camera as part of your storyline? What happens if you want to interview someone on camera?

Professionals use a number of different approaches, depending on the location, the budget and other considerations. One of the most popular is to use a wireless lavalier system. A small microphone is attached to the person talking, connected by a cable to a transmitter which goes into their pocket or attached to a belt out-of-sight. A receiver is attached to your camera or sound recorder and away you go. And if you have two people speaking, you need two set-ups!

So here's another, inexpensive solution that will fit in a pocket: the RØDE Mobile Interview Kit. It includes two smartLav+ lavalier microphones (they are connected by cables, not wirelessly) and an SC6-L connector for an iPhone or iPad. To use, plug one or both lavalier mics into the iPhone via the connector, attach the lavalier mics to the people you are filming, and launch the RØDE Reporter app. Your iPhone or iPad records the sound and then you simply export it and drop it into your video editing software.

The smartLav+ is a 4.5mm miniature mic made with omnidirectional condenser capsules and Kevlar reinforced cable. The SC6-L is a simple input/output breakout box with a Lightning connector to connect directly to iOS devices. With two TRRS inputs and one stereo headphone output, the SC6-L connects to any TRRS device, including the two supplied smartLav+ microphones. And with the RØDE Reporter app, you can alter boost gain and choose between summed stereo and dual mono.

RØDE is an impressive company, producing a range of products that are useful for photographers dabbling in the world of audio visuals and video productions. They also have a range of camera mounted mics that do a stellar job – and an even better job if you learn a little about sound recording before you use them!

For full details, visit

Will the editor replace a plane and helicopter with a new drone? Just maybe! Better Photography recently borrowed a DJI Mavic Air, a small drone with a built-in camera and a remote control. And there are a lot of things to like about this little package, especially if you're new to aerial photography and wanting a drone that is easy to fly and operate.

To begin, the drone itself is small and compact, especially when folded up and stored in its carry case. It will easily fit in your camera bag instead of a 70-200mm zoom, for instance. You no longer need a large, dedicated hard case to transport it around (although they are still needed for larger drones, of course).

The remote controller works in tandem with your smartphone, the latter giving you a live video feed of what your drone is seeing from up above. All you need to do is download the DJI Go 4 app, plug your phone into the controller and you're ready for flight.

Now, you can't just fly anywhere, of course. In Australia, there are CASA rules and regulations that you need to be aware of and abide by. Our office just happens to be in a drone friendly area, but you need to check this yourself – and this is easy to do by downloading another app called Drone Complier.

Making sure the batteries are charged, start up the remote control, start up the drone and follow the instructions online. The DJI Go 4 app will even point you towards some introductory videos to help you make your first few flights and we can report that if our editor can do it, anyone can!

When folded, the Mavic Air measures 168x83x49 mm and weighs 430 g. It has a maximum flight time of 21 minutes (with no wind). The camera only has a tiny sensor with 12MP resolution, but it has a 3-axis gimbal and can shoot stills, 4K video and 32MP sphere panoramas. This camera might not be the answer for professional producers, but for the enthusiast looking for a different angle on the world, the quality of its images is very good.

And importantly, the Mavic Air has lots of cool new features, like SmartCapture, meaning you can launch and fly the Mavic Air using hand gestures and then take photos and videos as you like. No doubt this will have a lot of appeal to photographers and video producers who like to be in the picture themselves! RRP $1299.

For more information, visit

One of the challenges of using super-telephoto lenses is their size and weight. Even with weightlifter arms, holding a 400mm f2.8 or 600mm f4 for long periods of time gets pretty tiring, so much so that many photographers have opted for the lighter 100-400mm and similar zooms. While these zooms are remarkable for their size and price, they don't quite provide the sharpness and clarity of a super-telephoto.

So, what if someone could design a super-telephoto that is a lot lighter? Would that solve the problem? You bet!

Canon has released not one, but two lightweight super-telephotos, the EF 400mm f2.8L IS III USM and the EF 600mm f4L IS III USM. Both are claimed to be the world’s lightest in their class, making them ideal for action and wildlife photography.

In addition to weight, super-telephotos have to be kept incredibly still to ensure sharp images – or you use fast shutter speeds to compensate. Then again, the five-stop Image Stabilizer (IS) technology in these new lenses will let you shoot hand-held, as camera shake is significantly reduced.

So how light are these lenses? When we handled the 400mm, we wondered if it were a mock-up! The EF 400mm f2.8L IS III USM’s weight is 2840 g (previously 3850 g), and the EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM’s is 3050 g (previously 3920 g). These are really significant weight savings!

Sporting the familiar white finish that Canon L-Series super-telephoto lenses are known for, the light colour acts as a thermal insulation coating to ensure the lenses operate consistently in all temperatures. The protective weather sealing guards against dust and moisture, while inside, fluorite lens elements virtually eliminate chromatic aberration, boosting resolution and contrast, according to Canon. The Air Sphere Coating (ASC) is designed to reduce flare and ghosting and both lenses have a nine-bladed diaphragm, producing a pleasing 'blur'.

The lenses incorporate a ring-type USM autofocus motor which, along with a high-speed CPU, enables fast and quiet focusing. And when shooting video, the lenses provide pull-focus effects with power focus controls and focus presets. Instant adjustments can be applied via the full-time manual focus control and focusing speed can be customised with electronically-controlled manual focus for extreme precision.

Two preprogrammed focusing positions can be recalled instantly with the twist of the preset ring. Controls for focusing mode, focusing range, focus preset recall and IS are all conveniently located for seamless control.

For more information, visit

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