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Que Audio IQ Rig Review...

I always love getting calls from the folks over at Roberts Camera here in Indy because either they have something very exciting to talk about that I likely don't understand, or they have a product they want to send with me into the field to either evaluate or break. Despite the fact that the aforementioned breakage has in fact happened, to a point where I was offering to buy the equipment within an hour of having the beta units, this trend still continues because either they like my writing style, they like my opinion, or usually the way the items break is generally entertaining to say the least. That said, this last time they called was because of a new product coming out geared at Newspaper photographers and reporters everywhere named the Que Audio IQ Rig.


(Photo Courtesy of Robert's Camera's Website)

First off I need to say that I am not being paid to do this review (or any of these reviews) so any difficulties I have with an item out of problems with construction or just my sheer stupidity I'll tell you all about. That's what makes these fun. Why is this important for newspapers? Before I left the Indianapolis Star I went through training classes with the editorial staff on conducting interviews and editing the video with the iPhone's iMovie application. The newspaper had several "rigs" for the staff's provided iPhones to record the information usually including some kind of shotgun mic, an obscure wide angle lens adapter and generally shaped to look like an Indycar Steering wheel with a iPhone as most of the display information. This is great for if you are walking around as it gives you a good handhold on your phone, but not a whole lot of stability right? This is where the folks over at Que Audio have decided to come to the rescue with their IQ Rig, which frankly if I still worked at a newspaper I would probably use incredibly frequently.




The rig itself is pretty self explanatory. It's essentially a cell phone holder like you would find in a car except with a base with some rubber feet on it. The base is well thought out as it's got a mount to put the rig on a Tripod for on location when something like a table isn't an option. It's a beautifully simple "well duh" design that just works in that you put the phone on it, back it up to the appropriate distance and rock and roll. The important part of the IQ Rig is the Microphone which is something the iPhone (or Android phones) don't do well for interviewing applications. The iPhone's microphone is Omnidirectional, meaning it just picks up everything it can hear from everywhere. This way if you do an audio interview you can set it down on a desk between two or three people and get ALL of the conversation. This is great for audio interviews, but not for video interviews. To test this out I took the IQ Rig to a restaurant here in Indianapolis and attempted to do an interview with my friend Paul D'Andrea of PDA Photography here in town. My goal was to do a short interview of Paul and his journey of going from web developer to self employed photographer. Attempted is the key word because either the IQ rig is more complicated than I had thought, or something wasn't quite working right with my copy..... I was having a terrible time getting the microphone splitter to work through my headphones and eventually gave up meaning I have no interview of Paul. It was great to catch up with him, but I also wanted to have a bit more of his story on video. As you can see the recorder worked without the headphones working, but I didn't know that at the time. Either way it makes a great sample of a with and without in a busy place. More information after the clip.

So yea the real issue wasn't the noise in fact the Que Audio IQ rig microphone really knocked down a lot of the ambient. I was impressed to say the least. In retrospect it would have been a solid idea to listen to the video at the restaurant and just see, however after several minutes of fumbling we decided just to enjoy lunch. I only learned later that the rig did it's job, and I just gave up early. Live and learn. After this, I tried to use 4 different sets of headphones, and none of them registered with the IQ rig's splitter to let me hear the audio while being recorded. I could hear the tappity tap tap of the phone's controls as I punched them through the headphones while connected to the rig, but when video was recording it was silent as though I was just wearing my headphones to avoid having to talk to folks in a busy place. Always fun, but not always what you're looking for when wearing headphones; especially with a piece of gear like this. Again I did try 4 pairs of headphones, so I'm just assuming that the copy I had was just malfunctioning OR it could be that the jack is only used to listen to audio during playback without having to unplug the rig completely, but why would you not be able to listen to the audio? It is just splitter right? With all of that out of the way, I need to reiterate that the device really did record great audio as you can see of my interview with my friend Brad here in the video below. The interview I did with Brad was basically asking him what he thought of the IQ rig, which he had never seen before and whether or not he though it was viable in his line of work. (UPDATE: I talked with Mark over at Que and he informed me that monitoring audio via the headphone jack is app dependent, and in most cases does not work due to latency issues. Kind of like watching a dubbed movie. He did say that it was easy to test the mic by whispering into it at about an inch away from each side to determine it's effectiveness in every direction would greatly help you understand what it was capable of also.)

I chose to interview a non professional photographer to go with this interview for a few reasons. Pro photographer has certain pre conceived notions about iPhone photography as well as they look at this and immediately think newspaper. Brad, while owner of lot of Nikon lenses and a Nikon D800, also is the general manager of his company Ultrasun USA. Brad stated this would be great for employers to be able to record job interviews as well as folks that go to trade shows often to be able to get testimonials of their customers and clients unobtrusively as lets face it; cell phone's do a pretty decent job with photos and videos these days and the IQ rig isn't all that scary looking. I know I even I don't feel like having my video taken or done by anybody with a scary looking device and I carry scary looking devices!


IMG_6184(Brad holds his iPhone 5s up to the fully extended IQ Rig)


As you can tell from that image the device can hold almost any sized smart phone even with the case on it assuming that the headphone jack is accessible. Overall I would have to say I was greatly impressed by the Que Audio IQ rig. It really held its own in terms of recording very useable excellent audio with a device that just about everybody carries in their pocket and has with them every day and everywhere from in the car, to the office to in the bathroom. I think my only complaint as a professional is that there is no way to visually monitor the audio coming in through the microphone on the phone's screen. I'm sure there are video apps out there that do that, however I was just using the standard camera app on the iPhone and as you can tell from the video above Brad's audio is a bit quieter than mine. I left it that way to demonstrate that you do need to be careful when recording your audio that you keep it consistent, because while some things can be fixed in post it's better to not have to do that. The punchline here is that I'm more impressed than I thought I would be. As far as phone accessories go this one is pretty solid. Something I didn't even touch on is that the rig was customizable and that you could even easily pan and tilt the phone and the microphone during recording to maximize your video's audio and visual potential. If you're looking to make the most of your iPhone or Android Phone's video and audio capabilities I think that this is a must have in your kit. It's light weight, and small. It uses a couple of tiny special batteries in the microphone, but they looked like the ones you find in hearing aides that generally come in 20 packs from the local Drugstore. Plus it is relatively small so it can easily fit into a backpack, or messenger bag to take with you as you travel as Brad pointed out. As always if you're looking to buy a Que Audio IQ Rig, do it HERE, or call the folks at Roberts Camera here in Indy. They are very knowledgeable and will even let you come in and play with one before you buy. I promise you, if you shoot a lot of video with your iPhone and you think the audio is lacking? this will solve your problem. More Soon


ICC Profile For Soft-Proofing Our Wide Format Printer

Good news for all you fans of our Photo Lab! We have just today re-profiled our Epson 7880 with our preferred Epson Premium Luster today! That's the combo we use for many of the larger prints that go out to satisfied customers. And, with the new profile fresh in hand we're going to make it available to all of you looking to do a little color calibration and soft proofing before sending your images over. For now this only applies to photos printed 11x14 and over on luster (obviously), but, if you're all digging it we might maybe try some for our small format printer and its two papers as well.

If you're not sure why this is awesome, having a printer's calibrated profile around will let certain programs like Adobe's excellent Lightroom 5 "soft proof" an image for printing. That is, it will simulate for you what an image would look like coming out of our printer on the luster paper so you can make any perceptual tweaks you want to knowing the final you see will be really darn close to what the print comes out looking like (accounting for things like ambient lighting and such).

As seen on screen (left) versus soft-proofed for our printer (right)

As seen on screen (left) versus soft-proofed for our printer (right). Note how the right side shows a decrease in brightness and contrast.

You download the profile here:

To install, try the following:


Download the file to anywhere you can find, right click on it and choose Install. Windows makes this pretty easy, actually.


In theory, you should just need to copy the file into /Library/ColorSync/Profiles for it to be usable by all users in all apps (you'll need admin access to the computer).

You can also install it just for yourself by using your personal library instead in /Users/[your_user_name_here]/Library/ColorSync/Profiles

If you're trying to use it in Adobe on a Mac and it's not showing up despite being installed in one of those two folders, you can copy it directly into Adobe's folder and solve that tidily: /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Color/Profiles/Recommended


DxO Examines A Slew Of Lenses On The Nikon D600

In fact, there are only a few lenses that deliver higher sharpness mounted on the Nikon D800 and even then the best performing lenses provide just 12% higher sharpness from a 30% increase in Raw file size. Given the price, this all makes the D600 look particularly attractive.

Now there's an interesting factoid for you, and from a source as empirical as DxO it's one that carries a lot of weight. Read more about that as well as which lenses from a selection of seventy perform the best on Nikon's newest generation of high-resolution sensors via the external link. The results are often about as you'd expect, but there are some real surprises in the list (such as Nikon's 24-70 and Tamron's 24-70 coming in at a draw, for example).


An Interesting Interview About Developing Tamron's 24-70mm VC


Call me biased (because I am), but I actually really enjoyed reading this interview with the people at Tamron who helped develop their new SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens, the first image-stabilized 24-70mm. Those of you who've only ever shot Nikon or Canon might not understand the appeal of such a thing, since their company line has always been that at shorter focal lengths and f2.8 stabilization isn't need, but any of you who've had a system with in-body IS will likely know just how handy it is even on fast standards. But, making one work for full-frame was apparently an endeavor, and the developers talk about shrinking the VC unit and giving it more power, developing their own USM focus drive, figuring out an optical formula to keep the lens shorter, and more. It's a good read, especially for what's proving to be a gray and chilly Indiana Friday out here. Read it yourself via the source link.


Nikon Provides Document For Understanding Wireless Trigger System

We just got a nice update from our Nikon rep regarding their ever-expanding and increasingly-complex wireless trigger system. In his words:

As you know, the Nikon remote control system is one of the more versatile systems on the market today.  From the enthusiast level ML-L3 to the recently introduced pro level WR-1 - Nikon has got its DSLR, COOLPIX and Nikon 1 customers covered.  This system is quite extensive and can sometimes be confusing – the questions usually start at: "what remote do I need for my camera?"

To answer this question and help you suggest to your customers the correct accessory, the web team along with technical managers have produced a Nikon Remote Control Compatibility chart that includes the newest released accessories; WR-1, WR-T10/WR-A-10 and WR–R10. It even includes the new COOLPIX cameras announced just last night.

It's a pretty handy document, and, until the Nikon link goes live we've uploaded it to our own server so you can reference it if you need help puzzling it all out. Grab it at the link below.

Nikon Wireless/Wired Trigger Guide


Panasonic Invents Technology That Could Improve Low-Light Performance A Full Stop


I was just reading a neat article on this new technology that Panasonic has invented which replaces the traditional Bayer RGB color filter with a layer of micro-prisms. They're promising up to a stop of better sensor performance due to the fact that light transmission is almost 100% through the prisms, instead of closer to 50% through the dyes of the traditional color filter. It's all very interesting stuff, if you're into the technicals of modern imaging. If it sounds like your cuppa, hit the external link to go read DPReview's full coverage of it. It's worth it.


iFixit and Chipworks' Tear Into a D600, Reveal Guts and Sensor Origins


Just a quickie here, following up on the post the other week about who's sensors are made by who, but DPReview has just linked to both iFixIt's teardown of the D600 and Chipworks' analysis of its sensor. I'll save you all the suspense and let you know Chipworks concluded it's a Sony-made chip, but for the rest of the ooey-gooey tech-porn goodness you should hit up the source link and hop over to DPReview.


A Look At Sensor Fabs and Tech, For The Full-Frame Crowd

Cross-Section of D800 Sensor, by Chipworks

This is for those of you who are into the nitty gritty of how your camera works, and where the actual components that make up their ooey-gooey insides come from. For example, the sensors. Like LCDs, sensors are an electrical component of some great complexity, and are often sourced from outside vendors or fabbers, either off the shelf or to a manufacturer's unique spec. Nikon cameras, especially, since the dominance of their full-frame low-light shooters have often been surrounded by speculation about whether or not rival and undeniably-skilled chip-maker Sony has been providing the hearts of Nikon's well-received shooters.

Enter Chipworks, a Canadian-based company that performs forensic analysis of, well, chips. They've been tracking the sensors inside  full-frame cameras for a decade now, and they know the list of suppliers and fabbers who can make such devices and how products from them look. Which means they can make some pretty intelligent guesses as to exactly where that sensor in your camera came from, and end the guessing games. They also have some thoughts about the tech being used by different makers, and a few loose speculations about what the future might focus on. But I'm pretty sure you're just interested in seeing where your Nikon and Canon FF chips are from. So, I'll let you go now. Hit the external link below and check out Chipworks' blog for the answers.


SanDisk Creates 128-gigabit Wafers with 3-bits Per Cell

We don't often talk memory on here, but considering most of our cameras would be pretty well just really high-tech paperweights without modern NAND memory technologies, we thought maybe we'd stp and talk about SanDisk's new breakthrough. Notably, they've found a way to make a smaller, thinner (and we're talking "thinner" for something that already has to be defined in nanometers here) wafer that's smaller than an American penny but can hold 128GB and stores 3-bits per cell instead of the usual two, making it possibly the highest specced NAND of its type announced right now. Why do you care? Some analysts are saying it might only cost $0.28 per gigiabyte to manufacturer these new wafers, which means the progress of larger cards with faster speeds for less money is continuing unabated, that's why. And, that's gotta make you happy, right?

Press release after the jump, for all the nerdy details.

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