Author: Jason Lykins

Jason is a Photographer and all around tech guy. Jason is also the owner of Jason Lykins Photography. Follow him on Twitter @JasonLPhoto or on Facebook.
GoPro App

GoPro App that is as Good as the Camera it Controls

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Last winter I was preparing for a trip to the Keys of Florida with some friends for some much needed relaxation.  The plan was to do some scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating and me being me, I decided that I needed to have an awesome camera to take some photos of it all. Up until this point I didn’t have much experience with underwater or extreme sports cameras but my buddy Frank had a couple of GoPros so I figured I’d start there. After doing some research I decided to pick up a GoPro Hero 3 Black along with all of the accessories that go with it. I figured that this camera would be fun to take along when I was doing something that chanced breaking a normal camera. What I expected was an average camera that took decent quality photographs and would work well enough to capture some crazy activities. What I GOT was a camera that is capable of some amazing photography and equally amazing video. With the ability to shoot 12mp stills and 4k video, these little things pack a punch! When I realized that I could control the GoPro with an App on my iPhone and iPad, I was hooked. I have since bought 2 more and use these things for everything from Wedding photos, to crazy extreme activities! Since we’re just talking about the App here, suffice to say that this is a camera that you SHOULD have. They are awesome and if you love taking cool photos you need this camera!

 

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What It Can Do

 

Really we should list what it can’t do because that would be the shorter list. Let’s back track for a second and talk about why you would want this App. First, the interface is a little cumbersome on the GoPro itself. It’s easy to switch between modes but when you dig into the menu systems it’s a bit tedious to change things especially if you go past what it is that you’re trying to adjust because the menu system makes you circle all of the way back around to get back to it. With that being said, the App is AMAZING at picking up where the camera interface falls short. You can adjust any setting withing the GoPro from your iOS device. Want to change from video to stills? Done. Want to adjust the resolution of the video from 720 to 1080, easy. Want to set the camera to do a time lapse with photos every .5 seconds and then start the time lapse? Done and done. The GoPro doesn’t come with an LCD to frame your shots (that’s optional) but you can use the FREE iOS App to frame, preview, and watch right through your GoPro! How cool is that?!

 

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But that’s not all it can do! GoPro just announced a MAJOR update to the App itself. They’ve made it faster, and added functionality to it. Now you can copy images and video strait from your GoPro to your iOS device in either low resolution or high resolution quality and share it RIGHT FROM THE APP! Now you don’t have to wait until you get home to pull your cards from the GoPro to see if you have the shot that you wanted. You don’t have to wait until you get home to upload the images to Facebook or Instagram. Do it right from your iPhone.

That’s still not everything that this App can do. Want to watch the GoPro video of the day? It’s in the App. Want to check out the GoPro photo of the day? Guess what? Yep, it’s in the App!

 

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Viewing Your Photos

Once you’ve taken a bunch of photos and video with your GoPro, you can view them right on your iPhone or iPad. To do this you attach to the camera with your iOS device by turning on the WiFi on the GoPro and selecting your network name. Once connected, you will see the preview show up on the screen along with some options below. The box that looks like a small grid of squares is to see your captured video or stills. Selecting this will bring up a grid display like you see above. From here you can select the image to make it larger. Photos load quickly here. There is little to no lag and even the video is surprisingly fast to load. I was very impressed with the way that this App performs in this area.

 

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Frame Your Shots

 

Like I mentioned before, the GoPro doesn’t have a LCD on the back of it so sometimes it can be hard to frame the shots. With the App you can not only frame the shot, but you can start and stop the video, snap the still, or begin and end the time lapse. I have some temporary house guests in the form of kittens right now. These kittens are cute, adorable, and easy to startle. I have tried to do a few photos of them but they don’t like the camera too close to them and while I could just put a long lens on my D4, I thought putting a GoPro up next to them and snapping photos remotely would be more fun! I attached an Icelight to a Manfrotto magic arm and suspended it out over them on my bed. Then I put a GoPro on a small GorillaPod near them. I just let them do their thing (which was mostly sleep) and I snapped some stills, and took a little video. All of this without touching the GoPro or disturbing their slumber!

 

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Another example of framing the shot up. I was walking around a local car show a couple of days ago and decided to use the GoPro as to not stand out too much. I can hold the GoPro in my hand with relatively no “camera” visible and snap away on my iPhone. But it’s not just for snap shots…

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Not Just for Snap Shots and Extreme Sports

 

I wanted to test what a GoPro could really do so about 6 months ago I started using them at weddings. This is a shot from a recent wedding where I took the bride and groom out at sunset to to enjoy some golden light. I used a Sunbounce Pro 4’X6′ reflector to light my couple and again, used my GoPro App to frame this up for a great sunset shot. Besides shots like this, I use the GoPros for remote cameras mounted above where the bride and groom stand, behind the unity candle, and more! These things do such a great job that I use them wherever and whenever I can!

The Bottom Line

The performance of the GoPro camera is second to none, but more important for this review, the GoPro App is also second to none. I can’t think of anything that I would add to the App that isn’t already there. The only little thing that I could nitpick would be the 3-4 second lag of the preview. When you move the GoPro or the subject there is a delay before you see it on the App preview. I can’t recommend this App or these cameras enough. If you don’t have a GoPro, you should get one! If you’re going to get one, this is where I got mine.

 

Get the GoPro App for your iOS device from the App store for free here: iTunes

Get the GoPro Hero 3 from Amazon HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

iOS 7 and my top 10 Favorite Features!

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After spending more than 24 hours with the new iOS 7 I have to tell you that this is the best iOS yet! It’s fast, nimble, and even more intuitive than previous versions (if that’s possible). The interface adds a sleek new minimalistic look all while including a ton of new features that really sets the iPhone apart from the competitors again!

Top 10 Features of iOS 7

 

Here are the Top 10 things that really make iOS 7 awesome (in no particular order).

 

The Design:

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I think this is the first thing that hit me about iOS 7. Apple has gotten away from the aging icons of previous versions and gone with a minimalistic look. The App icons are translucent to allow for a “there but not there” feel. This also aids in viewing the background a little better than before. Along with the translucency, the way apps open and close has a smoothness to it. It’s something that you obviously can’t see on a picture but the way Apps open and close, the way the phone locks and dims, the way you shift from page to page… All of it just has a smoothness to it.

 

 

Control Center:

 

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It seems to me that with every new version of iOS, Apple takes away a few more reasons to jailbreak your iPhone. iOS 7 is no different. With the launch of Control Center, I see no need for SB Settings (a popular jailbreak App). With a quick swipe from bottom to top you gain access to Airplane mode, wifi toggle, bluetooth toggle, do not disturb, screen lock, brightness, audio control, airdrop, airplay, and a few quick Apps that are used a lot. Being able to control my bluetooth without having to dive 3 menus deep into the settings App is a welcome addition. Also added within this section is the new Flashlight App that’s built in from Apple. This negates the use of a third party flashlight app that is more than likely (and annoyingly) supported by Ads.  Control center is a really useful tool for any iPhone user but especially power users like the readers of this site.

 

Camera:

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Camera… There are so many camera Apps out there that it takes a LOT to impress me when it comes to the camera. What Apple has done with the built in camera app is not only impressive, but it’s amazing. It is HANDS DOWN the fastest iOS camera App available. There use to be a lag when taking a photo. The screen would flash and the live view would come back. Now there is no lag, or time between pressing the shutter button, to when the camera is ready to take another photo. It’s instantaneous. Also added in iOS 7 to the camera is the ability to view your images in “square” mode. People who use Instagram often, will love this feature.

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Along with the added features, the interface change to the Camera App makes it a lot easier and faster to access all of the controls. Switch from standard photo to square mode, to filters, to pano quickly and easily with the new layout.

 

App Folder Redesign:

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12. That was the number of Apps that used to fit in an iOS folder. NOW, Apple has redesigned the folders so that you can have as many Apps as you would like. 9 at a time display for each page and you swipe side to side to access the rest. Again, Apple has reduced another reason to Jailbreak. To have this ability before, you would have to jailbreak your phone and install Infinifolders. No more. Apple has it baked right into the OS!

 

Air Drop:

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Taking a cue from OSX Mountain Lion, iOS 7 adds AirDrop natively. If you’re on the same network as someone else that is running iOS 7 you are able to send and receive photos, videos, files, and more, very quickly by selecting the item to share and tapping the person to share it with! Within the Control Panel, you’re able to select who can see and send you files. The options are Everyone, Contacts only, and Off. Right now with the Beta 1, there is a bug that is preventing people from seeing their contacts so unless you have “Everyone” selected, you might not be able to see the other person. I expect that this will be fixed before the public release. Even with that bug, this feature is amazing!

 

Photo Sorting:

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I’m sure this will come as no surprise to the readers of the Best App Site, but the iPhone has become the most popular camera in the world. Take that in for a second. Not Nikon, not Canon, Not Leica, or Fuji… With all of the years that those brands have been in existence, they can’t compete with the ease and portability of the iPhone. Because of the convenience of the iPhone many of us have accumulated thousands upon thousands of photos in our camera rolls (Kylie Wilkerson I’m looking at you) and we need a way to quickly and efficiently sort through our photos. Apple has provided a tool for us to do just that. In iOS 7 Apple has included sorting by logical events and years. But what does that actually mean? Well at the root level is Years. From here you can select the year in which to start your search through images. Drill down one level and you will find collections. Collections can be anything from dates, to event titles, to locations. For example within 2011 I have “Orange County Convention Center” from April 1-April 4th. This houses all of my 2011 Orlando Photoshop World images. This makes it super easy to quickly get to a set of photos or a time frame to search for a particular photo.

 

Multitasking:

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Multitasking is nothing new to iOS. We’ve had it since iOS 4, BUT with iOS 7 Multitasking has received a beautiful makeover. No longer do you just see the icon of what is running when you double tap the home button. Now you see a preview of what’s actually running. This gives you a quick view of what’s going on inside of the Apps that allows you decide if you really want to kill the App. This is very similar to the way that multitasking shows your windows on a Mac.

 

 

Today Mode:

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One thing that has changed with iOS 7 is the ability to see the notification center from the lock screen. With a quick top to bottom swipe you get to see your notifications but with a new twist. Now instead of seeing all of your notifications, you have the choice of selecting missed, all, or my new favorite, Today. Today shows you just what’s going on today From the day, date, appointments, weather for the day (mine isn’t showing here because my weather App is broken, more on that later), and a quick view of tomorrow’s day. This is a really nice, quick way to see what’s going on during that day.

 

Automatic App Updates:

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With iOS 6 Apple changed things around a little bit for App updates. No longer did you have to type your password just to update Apps that you already had on your phone. With iOS 7 Apple has taken it one step further and completely automated the App update process. No longer do you even have to go to your App store to download updates, your iPhone does it automatically. To see which Apps have been updated, you simply launch the App store and select updates. You will see a list of the Apps that have been updated and the word open next to them. This feature is of course selectable. If you don’t want your iPhone to automate this process for you, you are able to turn it off in the settings.

 

Block Calls:

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Do you have certain numbers that make you cringe when they appear? Marketers that somehow avoid the “do not call” list? In-laws perhaps? Apple has added a “Block this Caller” option to the contacts section. This is pretty strait forward. Open or create a contact for the number or person that you don’t want to receive communication from, and tap “Block this Caller” at the bottom. Easy as that. No more annoying calls or texts from that person. Oh just in case you are wondering that’s the local Apple store so I won’t be blocking that one ;)

 

Better Every Time

Is this the perfect OS? Nope. No OS or product for that matter is. It’s getting pretty freaking close though! Keep in mind that this is Beta 1. The actual release of iOS 7 to the public isn’t until the fall. There are certain things that don’t work quite right just yet (remember the weather App) for some people. There are also certain features that need tweaking. For example currently iTunes Radio is a great concept, BUT NONE of the Apple stations play explicit content. The stations that you create yourself sporadically will play uncensored songs, but they are few and far between. There needs to be an option to select inclusion or exclusion of this content. I for one will not be listening to iTunes Radio much until this is fixed. There are tons of other little things that aren’t right just yet but again this is Beta 1 so by the time the public gets their hands on it, iOS 7 should be bug free (or close to it) and ready to perform! As it stands it’s very, very close to public ready so be excited for what’s coming! As always we’ll keep you updated as the new features roll out within iOS 7 as well as when the bugs are fixed. Keep checking back to the Best App Site for all of the updates!

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ball Pool™

Fill Your Pool Need Right from Your iPhone

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I’ve always had a love for pool. I’ve never been particularly good at it, but that hasn’t stopped me from spending countless hours racking, breaking, and putting a little “English” on the cue ball. Recently a friend of mine told me that he has been absolutely addicted to this pool game that he put on his iPhone. I’ll try any App once so I downloaded it and man was he right! I haven’t been able to put this game down! Any free time that I have I’ve found myself grabbing my phone for the next challenge. With multiple “billiards”, people from around the world to play with, and the ability to challenge your friends 8 Ball Pool will keep you playing and coming back for the foreseeable future.

 

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How It Works

8 Ball Pool uses an in depth yet easy to understand system to make game play lifelike. You start at a level 1 player meaning brand new to the game with no experience. The game gives you a set amount of coins, which are the virtual currency used to buy your way into rounds and thus becoming half of the prize winnings. As your play increases, and as you win more games you advance your ranking. On top of advancing your play and coins you also gain new “billiards” to play at (requiring a higher buy in) allowing you to play against more advanced competitors. The points, and wins add up quickly as you make your way through the billiards from London, to Moscow, and beyond.

The competitors come from all over the world. When you select to play a random person you are given the luck of the draw of competitors. You may be a level 5 player playing a level 15 player or higher. The game syncs real time with it’s servers so you have to have an internet connection of some kind.  Additionally you can challenge friends however this really works best when the friend is with you because the game has a time limit (we’ll get to that later) and you both have to be active.

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Game Play

Who breaks is randomly decided unless you rematch an opponent in which case you take turns. After the break whoever puts in the first ball decides who will get what set of balls to shoot for. The game is played by moving the virtual pool stick around the screen to get the proper shot of the ball you want. Once the proper angle has been obtained force for the shot is controlled by “pulling” down the pool stick on the left side of the screen. The further down you pull it, the harder it will get hit. “English” is applied by tapping the white cue ball in the upper right corner of the game and then placing the red dot on the cue ball appropriate to where you want your English applied. Be careful to monitor the green ring that is slowly disappearing around your name when it’s your turn. This is your timer. If you don’t shoot the ball before the green ring runs out, your forfeit your turn and your opponent has “ball in hand” which means that they can place the cue ball anywhere on the playing surface that they would like for their next shot. All of the normal rules of pool apply to this game. You have to hit your own ball first when taking a shot (stripes or solids), the 8 ball is shot last, and you don’t want to “scratch” or put the cue ball in a pocket. Because of the timer game play moves fairly quickly and the quick tempo keeps the game fun. I sometimes wish that they would have given a little more time on the timer but I think that’s to be expected.

 

The Bottom Line

This is a very, very addicting game, especially if you enjoy pool at all. I think I have spent quite a few hours playing this game already and I’ve only had it a week or so. The challenge of winning the games, advancing your player ranking, and unlocking new billiards makes for an exciting and rewarding game that will keep you coming back day after day.

 

You can get 8 Ball Pool for your iOS device from the iTunes store for $.99 here: iTunes

 

Epic Rap Battles

Epic Rap Battles Of History!

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Today’s post is going to be a little more light-hearted. Today’s App is one that isn’t necessarily one that I NEED but I sure do love having it! For some time now I’ve subscribed to the Youtube channel ERB which is produced by Nice Peter, EpicLLoyd, Dave McCary, and Maker Studios. These guys are some of the funniest I’ve ever seen on Youtube so I watch them whenever I need a good laugh. Up until a few weeks ago I was logging into Youtube on my phone to get my ERB fix but recently they released an iOS App that makes it a whole heck of a lot easier to keep (almost) all of my favorite videos in one spot. (NOTE: Some of the videos, actually ALL of the videos are NSFW due to language)

 

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What it’s all about

So the basic premiss behind ERB is that they “match up” two of history’s most unlikely adversaries in a “rap battle”. For anyone that doesn’t know what this is, it’s where two rappers get the same beat to “freestyle rap” or come up with a rap in their head on the fly dissing the other rapper. So they make fun of their looks, their height, their intelligence, etc. It may not sound funny, or interesting but trust me, it’s the best 2-3 minutes that you’ll have today using your phone! As you can see in the screen shot above they have some hilarious videos. Babe Ruth vs Lance Armstrong, Tesla vs Edison, Ghandi vs MLK jr. but I think the one that has to be my favorite in this group is Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates! Hilarious work! What I really like about these videos is that they aren’t just on the fly and poorly done. They spend a lot of time, and a lot of money to make these videos very, very good.

So far I’ve only found one downside to this App and that is it only contains season 2 episodes of ERB. There were some very, very funny videos in the first season and after you watch season 2 found in the App, you should search them out on Youtube and check out season 1. It’s worth the watch!

The Bottom Line

If you love funny, short videos, then you’ll love Epic Rap Battles of History! These guys do an awesome job with the matchups, the video production, and the App. Since it’s free from the iTunes store, it’s definitely worth downloading!

 

You can get ERB from the iTunes store for the iPhone and iPad free here: iTunes

Marksta

Watermark Your Photos Right from Your iPhone

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It seems like just about everyone has an iPhone these days. Everywhere you turn you see someone texting, chatting, facetiming, and yes, taking pictures with their beloved iDevice. With the awesome camera on these things, along with all of the amazing Apps it seems that everyone is (or thinks) that they’re a photographer. “First kiss” photos from weddings are uploaded, tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagramed before the couple walks back down the isle now. With this increase in the number of photos taken come with an increase in the number of people that want to watermark their images. Whether it’s because they’re afraid that people are going to steal their images and use them without permission, or just because they want to attach their photography information to the image, people enjoy watermarking. The traditional way of watermarking an image is taking it into the computer, loading it into an image editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom, and adding the overlay there. This process takes time and also prevents people from uploading and sharing at the time that the image was taken. Marksta fixes ALL of that. With Marksta you can watermark an image with text OR a graphical overlay right inside of your iPhone or iPad and upload the image immediately!

 

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How Marksta Does What it Does

Marksta is a very unique and well laid out App. Upon launching the App you can provide images to be watermaked in two ways. You can either us the camera function (built into the App) or you can import images from your camera roll/folders. Once the image is imported you simply tap the screen where it says “Tap Here” to display the text.

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This brings up a box that allows you to input your information. From here you will either type whatever it is that you want to say on the screen (I used “Jason Lykins Photography”) or you can add a graphic watermark if you already have one saved in your pictures by tapping the small picture icon to the right of the text box. once you have added your text/picture you simply tap the screen to hide the keyboard. From here you can position the watermark wherever you would like on the screen. (A quick tip: if you want to resize your text, while the keyboard is still showing use a pinching motion to increase or decrease the size).

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Next we can tap the small painter’s pallet at the bottom of the screen (second from the left) to bring up the opacity sliders for the watermark. Most people don’t like to do in your face full on opacity watermarks, rather they’d like to have about a 35%-50% opacity setting so that you can see it still but it doesn’t take away from your image. Here is where you would go to do that. From this tab you can also change the watermark hue and shade.

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The next tab we come are the heavy controls. By this I mean from here you can add a drop shadow to your watermark, you can make the watermark (if text) act as a boarder and go all of the way around your image, you can left, right, and center justify it, as well as a few other specialty options. This is where you would go to really tweak your watermark and how it interacts with your image.

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The next important tab is (to me) the coolest thing about this App. The third tab from the right indicated by three small lines is the layers tab. This tab will let you undo or remove certain parts of your watermark. For example, if I added text, then an image, and decided that it looked too cluttered (because it would) I could go and delete just the text and leave the image overlay completely alone. This is cool! It’s non destructive watermarking for your iPhone!

The Bottom Line

If you like to post images to the internet from your iPhone or iPad, and you want to watermark them, there is no better way to do that than with Marksta. About the only thing that I would like to see added is the ability to batch watermark images from my camera roll, but that’s just nitpicking.

 

 

You can get Marksta for both the iPad and iPhone for $1.99 from the iTunes store here:     iTunes

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