Before You Buy 153 (Transcript)

Show Tease: Coming up! We’ve got little mini robots! The review of a home sound system, some action tripods, a new Acer travel mate, and I’ve got a look at the latest Sony Camera. It’s time to watch Before You Buy.

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Before You Buy is brought to you by Jack Erwin. Jack Erwin sells men’s shoes made from the finest materials, at honest prices. And they ship them right to your door! Check out their shoe collections at That’s

Leo Laporte: Welcome to Before You Buy, the product review show on the TWiT network where we get some of the latest and greatest stuff, it’s really just an excuse for us to play with toys, and then we get our staff to take a look at it and get a real world review. Shannon Morse, Snubs, is here.

Shannon Morse: Hi!

Leo: It’s nice to see you.

Shannon: Thank you for paying me to play with these toys.

Leo: Can we announce the new show? Can we announce that? Is it secret?

Shannon: I don’t know, it’s out there.

Leo: It’s out there?

Shannon: Yeah.

Leo: So revision three kind of bailed on Tekzilla, I saw your last episode, I wanted to cry. But good news!

Shannon: Yes! Very good news. Patrick Norton and I are going to be doing a new show called TekThing.

Leo: Tekthing. It’s spelled the same as Tekzilla, but I won’t tell revision three that.

Shannon: Yeah, it is, same as hak in hak as well.

Leo: Okay.

Shannon: Yeah.

Leo: It’s a k show.

Shannon: Yes. So we just shot a promo video for patreon and for our YouTube channel, so we’ll be releasing it soon.

Leo: Where’s the patreon, because that’s how you’re paying for this, with craft money.

Shannon: Yes. We don’t have it set up yet, so as soon as we get it set up we’ll be releasing all the information on it.

Leo: Alright, so this is a little preview before its ready. I’m thrilled to hear that, that’s great.

Shannon: Yeah. You can already find us on Twitter, and Facebook and stuff like that. I’ve already set up all the social networks. So yeah, definitely find us! Tekthing.

Leo: Tekthing, and is that the YouTube channel?

Shannon: Yes it is.

Leo: There are people moving around here, what is this?

Shannon: Yes there are. They’re robots. These are called the Ozobots. You can buy these for $49.99 each, or you can buy them in a double pack, like this one, for $99.99. So each one is about fifty bucks.

Leo: Okay.

Shannon: This one is running away.

Leo: Does it include the cards and this stuff?

Shannon: It does. So you get these little cards that look like, you know, regular 3 by 5 inch cards that you would usually find. You also get some drawing boards, such as this one, a calibration board, that’s where you always want to put it, right before you want to put it on an actual game board. So it can calibrate and find black label lines like this.

Leo: You have to teach the camera what to look for?

Shannon: You do. So when you first turn it on, it lasts for about 40 minutes of playtime.

Leo: Okay.

Shannon: You want to hold down for about 2 seconds and then an LED will start blinking white. You put it on the calibration board and it’s supposed to flash green.

Leo: Oh it’s looking for the edges. I get it.

Shannon: Yeah, it’s looking for the edges, and then it’ll calibrate and flash green. Then you turn it on again, and you set it on your board, and you can start playing with it.

Leo: And what is it doing?

Shannon: So it has a mind of its own. It’s reading the black lines, and it follows those. And every time it runs into a different color, whether that’s green, blue, or red, it’ll read that out as a certain combination that gives it something different to do.

Leo: It’s a command.

Shannon: For example. If I set it on my drawing board.

Leo: You actually made these with dry erase markers.

Shannon: I did. So I set it on here, and if it hits the green, red right there, that means that it’ll win.  And then it starts flashing and runs in a circle. So it knows that it just won at the finish line.

Leo: Is it like a rat your training to run a maze.

Shannon: It’s kind of like a rat, yeah. And you never know exactly what they’re going to do, so it would be really cool to get a couple of these together and do a racing game with another person, like another kid, and see which one ends up at the end of the finish line, because you don’t know where they’re going to end up going if they have multiple places to go.

Leo: You know the technology reminds me a little bit of the on key drive we showed last year.

Shannon: Yeah it’s very similar to that.

Leo: The race track, they followed a virtual track just like this, only it was really color on paper.

Shannon: Now these come with these as well as a couple little charging cables. They charge with micro USB. Takes about 40 minutes to charge and then 40 minutes of play time. You get a couple of carrying cases with them, an extra little rubber case to put on the top, in case you want to change its color. And these are separate. These are the kind of Crayola crayons you want to use with it. It can recognize these colors, the lines have to be very thick, if you want to draw your own. It won’t recognize a very thin line, so you have to make sure you draw it nice and thick. Now one really cool thing, and this is my favorite part, is there’s a couple of applications you can use.

Leo: I see you brought your iPad.

Shannon: My IPad yes.

Leo: Are they IOS only, these apps?

Shannon: Actually I’ll show you this one last. They’re Google play and IOS. Now one is where you can just draw your own board on an IPad.

Leo: So you drew this track?

Shannon: Yeah.

Leo: That’s kind of neat.

Shannon: So the first thing you need to do again is calibrate it, so I’ll go back here to the main website and I’ll click on, let’s see, tune up, there it is. I want to calibrate my sensor, so I will turn it off again, do the two second hold, LED turns white, put it on here, and then it calibrates.

Leo: Oh that’s nice. That was easy. Okay.

Shannon: And then I’m going to go back to the main page. Yeah, really easy to figure out.

Leo: And you recommend doing that each time? But you don’t have to do it each time.

Shannon: I would recommend doing it if you’re switching from paper over to IPad, or IPad to paper, because it’s not going to recognize back and forth. It gets a little confused whenever you want to do that. So now I drew this one. I saved it. So I can just turn it back on.

Leo: But you don’t know what it’s going to do when it sees red green, or blue.

Shannon: You don’t know what it’s going to do. You can stick it on here.

Leo: Can you learn? Does it learn? Can you say, ah, I see what it does with this one?

Shannon: It automatically knows what the codes are. For example blue, black, blue, which means that it’s going to go really fast. This is a zoom mode, so it’ll speed through that real fast. This one right here, this green, red, or red, green, red. That’ll throw it off, make it go a confusing place. And this one at the end, is a U turn. So It’ supposed to turn around.

Leo: So you learn actually what the robot might do. Because it knows but you don’t know.

Shannon: You learn with it.

Leo: That’s interesting. So you’re the rat in this maze.

Shannon: The last thing that’s very fun to do with it, and that’s called Ozo Groove. It’s another IPad app, as well as Google play. Unfortunately I found that this, the Ozobot app is not available for the Note 4. So I could only use it with a tablet, on Google. But it available for the IPad as well. So I’m going to hit dance for this one. And then what I can do is tap to activate. And I’ll turn you back on. And I’m going to load my Ozobot. Guess I should select a dance first.

Leo: A little country music, alright.

Shannon: Okay, so I’m loading my Ozobot.

Leo: Oh! What’s it doing? What’s it doing?

Shannon: This takes a little bit of time.

Leo: It’s programming, it actually sends it code!

Shannon: But I could set up to 5 Ozobots on this one dance floor, so I can set this one up with it. And once it’s completely ready to go, I can hit dance and it’s going to dance to the music. So if I turn this up all the way you can hear this really horrible music that’s logged into the program. It’ll dance to the music.

Leo: Wow.

Shannon: It’s cute!

Leo: So what is the game play value of this thing? I mean, do you think, and what ages you think? Obviously you enjoyed it.

Shannon: I enjoyed it, but I’m a kid at heart. I recommend it for kids that are young teens or 7,8, 9 years old. Nobody younger than that because it is a little confusing to calibrate it every time and they might get frustrated with that. This would be really fun to learn some code examples, if you wanted to play with that.

Leo: Because you are programming it once you learn what these colors do.

Shannon: You’re programming it, you’re making your own games. So this gets kids creative and gets them to learn with each other. So it’s a very, very fun way to get techy with people if you want to.

Leo: Interesting.

Shannon: yeah.

Leo: Pros and cons.

Shannon: Pros and cons. So on the pro side, its very fun. I liked the little designs, and it’s a good price. On the con side, you have to calibrate it every time, and the battery life is not that great. But even so, I still give it a buy because they’re so cute, and they’re really fun. I think it’s a cool thing to give a kid. Especially as a gift.

Leo: It is a little pricy. 50 bucks each, but the apps are free.

Shannon: Yeah, the app are totally free, and you can even plug in your own music if you wanted to.

Leo: So it sounds like you’re giving it a…

Shannon: It’s a buy!

Leo: A buy!

Shannon: I liked it!

Leo: Shannon Morse, Snubs, you can see her at hak5 and the new TekThing soon. Look for her on Patreon. We’ll give you a plug once you get the patreon set up.

Shannon: Thank you.

Leo: And a buy for the Ozobot. There was a page, I saw a Tekthing page.

Shannon: Yeah, my twitter, with one message on it!

Leo: Well now you’re going to get a few more. Thank you Shannon, I appreciate it.

Shannon: Thank you.

Leo: Now let me show you my shoes. Let me ask you, I’m asking all the young ladies here at the TWiT brick house. You’re married now, but when you were dating, maybe the first time you met your husband, did you look at his shoes? How important are his shoes?

Shannon: Yeah, I did. And I hated it, because he wore sandals to a bar, and I was like why would you? So tacky!

Leo: See guys, we don’t’ think about this stuff!

Shannon: You don’t wear sandals to a bar! No!

Leo: Why Not? They’re so comfy.

Shannon: Because you’ll get drinks on your shoes, or your toes. Gross!

Leo: That’s why, I’m telling you jack Erwin for the holidays. Jack Erwin is, these are, you know what Shannon, I’m going to share these with you, I’ve not worn these, and you’re safe. These are Jack Erwin shoes, those are the loafers. I’ve got a bunch over here. I think everybody I’ve shown these to really like these. These are the…

Shannon: Mmm, they smell good!

Leo: Aren’t they nice?

Shannon: I don’t know why I did that, I was just trusting you with that.

Leo: I do it too! These, Jack Erwin shoes are made with the best leather from Italy and France. Hand made in Spain, you can see leather soles, hand sewn, and very high quality. Now if, you don’t buy men’s shoes, but women’s shoes, if you saw a shoe like this at a fine, like a Nordstrom, you’d probably be saying 7 or 800 bucks for a pair of shoes like these.

Shannon: Real stitching, yeah!

Leo: It’s really well made, they’re never going to wear out! Jack Erwin saves you a lot, about a third to a quarter of the cost at the big stores. I think these are 200 bucks. Because… somebody stole my boots! My shoes have been stolen, everybody wants my Jack Erwin’s, because they sell direct to you. I want you to go to You can see my picks. I am never wearing any other shoes again! I’m telling you, these are gorgeous shoes! Beautifully made. Now when you order guys, I want you to remember to order one size smaller. They’re made big. So if you’re a size 10, order the 9s. Okay? They’re made big, but you’ll like that, you’ll like that there’s a bit more room. Those are the boots right there on the site.

Shannon: I like the boots.

Leo: See every women I show this to, the boots. I’m not a boot guy, but…

Shannon: I want the boots.

Leo: They’re just good looking. The holidays are here, just up your game a little bit. If you’re not looking for money, you don’t go to adventure capital in Birkenstocks. You’ve got to wear the nice shoes folks. These polish up beautifully, and you know what? They’re so well made, they’ll last a lifetime. And that’s important too. Centuries old tanneries in Italy, and France. Artisans in Spain. No retailers, that means it’s direct to you. That saves you money. Shipping is free, and by the way, easy to return so if the size isn’t just right. This is what I want, driving moccasins. Driving Moccasins! Oh look at those! Those are 95 bucks, that’d be a good gift! Get your guy kind of started to wear nice shoes, right?

Shannon: He needs it!

Leo: He does! And then he’ll say, oh this isn’t so bad! I thought these would be uncomfortable, these are really comfortable. And you’ve got him! You’ve got him hooked. Alright now I have to put my shoes away. We have a review from Bryan. Bryan Burnett, is our technical director and, you know, we like to, people always want to hear the home theater stuff, so we have to spread these reviews out. There’s like a competition, who gets to review it? We just got these in the ZVOX SoundBase 570. Home theater sound system, not expensive, but do they pass the Burnett boy test. Let’s find out. Bryan has the review.

Bryan Burnett: This is Bryan Burnett from Before You Buy and TWiT, and today I’m taking a look at the ZVOX SoundBase 570 home theater sound system. And, as the name would imply, this is a bass that goes underneath your TV or in the case that I’m using, a computer monitor. And the dimensions for it are 30 inches wide by 14.5 width and its 3.5 inches tall. So it’s big enough for most TVs to fit comfortably on top of. On the front of the panel you have your push buttons for volume, and power. And also a 3.5 millimeter stereo panel, front jack for plugging in your phone or laptop. On the rear you have two analog stereo inputs, two optical digital inputs, and one co-axle digital input. So pretty much everything you’d need to set up for your living room, or home theater system. As far as design, the ZVOX keeps it pretty simple. It’s definitely feels really sturdy and weighs about 19 pounds. But it feels well made. Also on the front panel is a digital reader that looks pretty good, and is easy to read from a distance. Included with the ZVOX is a remote that has all the options for changing input, and for a change this remote doesn’t feel really cheap compared to a lot of other sound systems that I’ve played with. As for sound, it is really good. It comes in strong, the bass comes in strong, and it does get really loud without any distortion. Definitely one of the biggest pros of this is the sound, which, obviously should be since it’s a sound system. Another pro is how easy it is to set up, really all you have to do is plug it in and one cable or two cable and you don’t have to deal with a bunch of wires for your entertainment system. An added bonus is that the sound bass comes with Bluetooth, so you can connect to your digital mobile device of your choosing. As far as cons, the only one I could really come up with is price. It comes in around 400 dollars and compared to some competitors, it is a little bit higher. But for the relatively small size of this sound bass it does have really good sound, and it’s very easy to setup. And I’d have to give it a buy. So if you’re in the market for a simple to use, simple to setup sound bass that you want for your living room, or bedroom, this, you couldn’t go wrong with the ZVOX sound bass 570. T His has been Bryan Burnett from Before You Buy. Thanks for watching.

Leo: The Burnett boy gives it three thumbs up, give me your thumb. Three thumbs up! On the ZVOX SoundBass 570 Home Theater. $399 for a whole system is great and yes, games do sound better! What do you think that is? Look at this. Clamp, like that, and then we’ve all seen these JOBY, great JOBY gorilla pods. Here’s one. Oh, it just stays there forever. Actually it’s great for motorcycles. These are action mounts from JOBY. And we thought we’d give them to Chad Johnson and get his review. Here’s the old redhead with a look.

Chad Johnson: Hello! My name is Chad, I’m with TWiT and Before You Buy and today I’m reviewing three different products from JOBY. JOBY, you may know them as the people who created a few different tripods that used these articulating pod arms. These can easily wrap around pipes or various things to get a really good shot because they have a tripod mount on the top. Now this one is a very short version of that, it’s not intended for that, but that’s probably how you know of JOBY, and JOBY products. These are three different things to mount different products on. You can use it for either something that has a tripod mount, or you can also use an action camera. These came with an action cam mount, which you’ll see on a GoPro hero or a few different camera products, small camera products use this action mount. So each of these that I’m about ready to show off come, basically it’s four different products, but they come, and they come in four different packages. So let’s take a look at just a few of them, first is the suction cup. This cup, when you put down and turn it right, it will suction on to a surface, a very flat and smooth surface, and then you can rotate it and it pops off. Now this table is made out of wood, and is pretty porous. It has a pretty good stay on just this table, you can see that I’m moving it quite a lot, but something like glass, or the surface of a car would be the perfect mount for one of these suction cups. Next is the action clamp. This action clamp has rubberized pads, and sort of a locking mechanism so that once it locks, and you put pressure it will not move forward after that. But if you kind of move it smoothly up and down, you can move that. As well as a clamp to really tighten that down. On the inside there is a groove, which makes this really perfect for adding to mic stands. This is sort of the perfect accessory if you wanted to get a really good shot of someone maybe using this mic no matter where they move it, the clamp stays together. So that is number two out of the four products. The next is the articulating arm. This is the locking arm, and this product has two tripod mounts on either side and if you unlock it, it can articulate in any direction. So this would be added to the top of either the suction cup, which means that you can move, you know, your thing all the way around, just like that. Or it can be added to the top of the locking arm as well. The top or bottom, it has mounts for both. And then finally, is the GorillaPod arm, which is sort of the classic JOBY product, which has, like I said, mounts for tripods on both sides and will rotate so you can really rotate this around. This is just kind of preference. Now I said they come in four different packages. Basically you can buy a suction cup with either the articulating arm, or the GorillaPod arm, or the locking arm. A locking arm configuration is ten dollars more, or you can buy the locking clamp, which in this configuration is $29. And in this configuration is $39. So that’s the four different packages that JOBY is offering. All of those packages do come with the action camera mount as well. The pros are that I really like the groove at the top of the locking arm, and this suction cup really does work well. We can put it on metal, it locks really solidly, and, I mean, you just really feel like it is just super-duper solid, and you could add it to a car, you could add it to a window and it is a very solid, solid hold. So that’s another pro. And then finally I really, really did like the locking arm here. It really did feel secure when you lock this down and have it pointing in the direction that you want. As far as the cons, not many cons at all. These, like I said, range from 29 to 39 dollars, and basically whatever configuration you want, it’s a strong recommendation, a buy. Now I said I had one more JOBY product, and I’ve been using it right here for my phone this entire time. This is the GripTight Micro stand, and it’s really awesome. First, let me show it to you all folded up, you basically wouldn’t even think that it’s a professional tripod stand, but this is what it is. It can fit in your pocket. Let’s just kind of go over a little bit of the hardware. It folds out, and it also has, this is in two pieces. First is the mini tripod, which will unfold, just like this, and does have a head on top, which will articulate and it’s difficult to articulate without the actual other piece on top of it. But this tripod will basically work in conjunction with the other mechanism. This, right here, when you unfold one side and the other side, will lock on to a phone. And this is the six plus, so it’s a very, very wide phone, and it fits just fine. Now this adds a tripod mount to the bottom of your phone, and in conjunction with the little teeny tiny tripod works as a really great stand, so when I want to articulate this in, I just added it so I just need to lock that a little bit more. Once I add it, you can articulate this. It’s really nice, I’ve got to say, this is perfect for a desk, for presentations. I know that Alex Lindsay uses it at Pixel Core for all their notes and making sure you can see messages, and that your phone isn’t in your pocket. So once again, that’s the GripTight Micro stand. This costs 30 dollars, $29.95 on JOBY’s website. I’ve got to say, it is really, really cool. The pros are that, I’ve got to say, this rotating pivot point that you get on this stand is really tight, and I really do feel secure with that. It’s also super tiny and compact. It can really, I mean, why wouldn’t you carry this? It’s not taking up any room at all, and super convenient. For the cons, every once in a while, because there is this folding mechanism on the back, you’ll try to maybe tilt your phone down and you’ll start to sort of fold it back in on itself. And you’ll have to really kind of grip both edges of the phone to make sure you can articulate that pivot point around. So that can be difficult, and that’s about the only con that I can think of. Once again, I’m going to give this a buy, it only comes in at 30 bucks, it’s a nice little accessory to throw in your camera bag if you need it. Especially if you’re doing some sort of live production, which we are doing all the time. So two buys from the JOBY products that I have here at TWiT, and Before You Buy. See you next time.

Leo: You know I didn’t… thank you Chad, I did not know this, but I guess Chad mentioned it, the JOBY folks are in town. So they stop by all the time with Tripods and stuff, they give us stuff, suction cups, that’s really cool. That suction cup, by the way, I put it on the table, I couldn’t get it off! It’s strong! Chad Johnson, he’s the host of course the GizWhiz on this network, you see him on almost every Before You Buy. You can catch his Patreon, he still does his omgCraft, mine craft show on YouTube. His patreon, if you’d like to help him out, OMGchad, or craft? Omcraft? Chad? You know what, try both. Mike Elgan is here, he’s out news director. Host of TNT Monday thru Friday. 10 AM pacific, 1 PM eastern time. Your daily dose of tech news. And we’re seeing now a lot of inexpensive, small windows 8.1 laptops.

Mike Elgan: That’s right.

Leo: And this is the Acer TravelMate.

Mike: That’s right. The TravelMate B, 115. This is, of course, a windows 8.1 device. Its $379, so not as inexpensive as most of the others in the category.

Leo: But you compare it like an Apple laptop, and 379 is cheap!

Mike: It’s very cheap, but you know, it is a new world of these windows machines, and there’s actually a lot coming out these days. This is a 1366 by 768 and 11 inch screen.

Leo: That’s kind of what you sacrifice. You probably aren’t going to get a 1080P screen at that price.

Mike: That’s right. It’s under 3 pounds. It sacrifices power generally speaking in favor of battery life. So it gets 10 hours of battery life. That’s a plus, that’s really good feature right there.

Leo: Is it touch screen?

Mike: It is a really good touch screen. That’s nice.

Leo: Angle is pretty good too, I can read it from the side.

Mike: It’s not bad, but you see how shiny it is, and you also see how washed out the screen is. I was really disappointed in this screen. There are others in this category that have better screens that come at a lower price. So that was one of the disappointments of this machine. It comes with 4 gigs that’s expandable to 8. It has a 500 gigabyte good old fashioned spinning hard drive.

Leo: So it is slow.

Mike: Yeah, it’s very slow. The performance is not good at all. Now let me show you something truly horrible. This has an HD webcam but let’s take a look at how…

Leo: But for one thing you’re not moving. Oh there we go.

Mike: But you look at that, it’s just horrible. It’s absolutely horrible. You know, the screen is bad, and also the camera is bad. And so this is not a good experience. It comes with some of the Acer software, Acer backup, Acer E-recovery, Acer Office manager, and so on.

Leo: I could do without that stuff.

Mike: Yeah, I don’t need that stuff, but that’s one of the differentiators it comes with. It does support HDMI, so you can do HDMI out to a TV. It does support Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0. It has two USB 2.0 ports as well. And wow, it looks better on, it actually looks better on our monitors.

Leo: It’s well lit, but it’s funny, there’s something about it, the colors don’t look as good in person as they do on our TV. I don’t know why that is.

Mike: Our technicians are so brilliant they’re able to take a lousy image and make it look good. And so that’s another thing. There are two pros to this essentially. The battery life…

Leo: Very glary screen.

Mike: Very glary. It’s great as a vanity mirror, you can put your face on in the morning with this thing. It’s silent and fanless, which I really like, I hate the whine of a fan, so that’s a really good features. But there are so many cons. Look at the smudges on the outside of this thing. I’ve barely touched it.

Leo: Yeah, I see your fingerprints.

Mike: It looks awful, it’s got a shoddy fit and finish. Let me show you another horrible feature of this device. Press down on this touchpad, it feels like it’s broken, but that’s how it...

Leo: Oh yeah, it’s like it’s loose.

Mike: yeah, it just feels awful. Its bad fit and finish. Sometimes a keyboard simply doesn’t work, you type and nothing happens on the screen, sometimes there’s a delay of like a second, and then the letters come rushing in. I’ve had trouble connecting to WIFI, the screen is awful, as I said. The sound is loud, very loud but it sounds tinny.

Leo: You don’t hear any sounds because there are no fans, but the speakers are tinny?

Mike: The speakers are tinny. And you know, again, they’re loud, if you want to watch a movie it’s going to be loud enough, but it’s a conspicuously low quality audio experience. In short, the laptop feels, looks, and sounds terrible. All the time, inside and out, and so this is a problem because it’s way too expensive. You look at the competition. The Asus EBook X205, is 214 dollars. Right, that’s a Windows machine. The Acer Aspire E11, is under 200 dollars. Even the HP stream 11 is $279 and this is $379! So a hundred dollars more than the HP, this whole category is supposed to compete with Chromebook’s, you can buy two Chromebook’s for the price of this!

Leo: Do they bundle someone drive in, like HP does?

Mike: They do bundle some of that stuff, but almost all the stuff they bundle is something you have to go to the traditional windows desktop and download it from there. It’s like the whole out of the box experience is really low quality.

Leo: We’re not connected to the internet, no wonder. Alright.

Mike: It’s really a disappointment. This is definitely a don’t buy. You can do much better at a lower price. I don’t know what they’re doing here. I recommend you buy the two chrome books actually.

Leo: yeah, or $379, buy an HP stream. We’re going to have the HP stream review next week. Chuburt will be doing that. Everyone who has used the stream, and that’s 200 to 250 bucks says it’s fine. And this is disappointing.

Mike: It is disappointing. There’s just no reason to buy this device because you can do better elsewhere. So this is a definite don’t buy.

Leo: Do not buy for the Acer TravelMate. Alright, I am, I’m embarrassed to be doing this next review. I have a little bit of a problem.

Mike: Do you?

Leo: I keep buying cameras. In particular, I keep buying Sony cameras. As you know I am an avid camera buff, a hobbyist. And for years I carried around a big DSLR that my favorite, the Canon 5D, heavy, but I had a lot of lenses and I could get great shots with it. Primarily because it had a full frame sensor. So I was really interested when we started to see first smaller cameras that were mirror less in design. They didn’t have a big prism to move out of the way, so they could be more compact. And eventually Sony came out with a full frame mirror less camera. The A7, they followed quickly on with the A7 R, which was 36 megapixels, full frame, and really an amazing camera. With a couple of little quirks that I just had to downgrade it for. But I liked it enough to keep buying them. Then I bought this, this is the A7S. 12 megapixels, silent mode. A really great street shooter, because it’s so compact, this is with a 35 millimeter Sony lens. It’s so compact, and yet because it’s full frame, you’re getting great images. Also with 12 megapixels, and I did review this, as well as the A7R earlier, with 12 megapixels you’re getting great low light performance. Well Sony just came out, and literally it started to arrive in peoples stockings in the last few days, with this. This is the Mark 2 version of the a7 II. And Sony has listened to what enthusiasts have said about the a7, and they’ve responded with a really, an improved camera, a more graceful and more elegant camera in a lot of respects. And you can see immediately, do we have, we don’t have an over the shoulder, where’s our closest shot? There it is. Okay, so you’ll see immediately if I compare, this is the layout on the a7S, the most recent one. That silver button is the button to take a picture. On the new one, they’ve increased the size of the grip, a little bit. And that’s because it’s got something inside that is really exciting. And they’ve moved the shoot button. Here I’ll turn it around so they can see it. That’s a little bit better shot. They’ve moved the shoot button to the front, which is much easier, especially with this improved grip, to grasp, it’s a little ergonomic things like that, that can make a big difference in how much you like a camera. But what’s really interesting about this, it’s a 24 megapixel full frame shooter. What’s really interesting about this a7 mark II is they’ve put image, optical image stabilization into the body. And it’s not just two way or four way, its five way optical image stabilization. There’s the full frame sensor, you can see it right there. So this camera, with the body alone, will compensate for shutter or movement in the pitch and the yaw, as well as the X and the Y axis. So it handles five different kinds of handshake. What that means is you can shoot at lower shutter speeds, in darker situations, and get better shots. And I have to say, having had this only for about 24 hours, it’s absolutely true. I’ve been able to get some amazing shots, I’ve put them up on smug mug, Bryan, so you can see. These are fairly low light situations. This is using the 55 millimeter f1.8 Sony lens, which I quite like. It’s a really nice lens. And even though we were in handheld situations, this is a dark, this is my darkened office. Never would I see any motion blur, any shaking visible. It really handles, it quite well. And that’s pretty impressive. This is the first mirror-less, in fact, I think one of the first cameras ever to have five way image stabilization built into the body. Now some of the Sony lenses have their own optical image stabilization in the pitch and the yah, and if they do they’ll turn that off in the body, but it’ll still work, which is great. I mean, this camera is really rock solid. Particularly useful, by the way, that’s a very low light picture. I’m hand holding that, I’m not sure what the shutter speed was, but it’s very slow, and you can see the detail, and the light is fabulous. That’s the back of my dogs head.

Mike: I love the shallow depth of field in that lens.

Leo: Yeah this lens is great.

Mike: Usually in low light photography you don’t normally get this kind of shot.

Leo: Well I’m, it’s wide open, and of course, the ISO goes up pretty high, but it’s not grainy. If you zoom in on these, and you can see them at my smug mug page. The images, even at higher ISO’s really look fantastic. Sony has some nice features built into this. Including a 50 megabit video Kodak. You’ll have to have very, very fast SD cards to take advantage of that. In fact, mine, the class 10 cards I use, were not fast enough. So I’ve had to buy two new, somewhat more expensive SD cards for this camera. So I can shoot this super high quality video. It also supports Slog 2, which means we get high dynamic range video. This is going to be a great video camera, as well as a still camera. It is very compact. They have made some wonderful improvements. One thing I like about all of the Sony A7s is the customizable buttons. They’ve moved these to make them more accessible on the top, we’ve got C1 and C2, C3 is here on the back, and C4 is overloaded, it’s the trash icon, but it’s also there. So I’ve got four customizable buttons, which I use all the time. One of the things that really is great about all the a7 cameras is the manual focal capability. You can use an automatic focus, which I do. And, by the way, Sony says, and I’d agree, this focus is about 40 percent faster than the previous a7 camera, and then you can fine tune it by just twisting the ring here. And I use one of these buttons to zoom in and it really does a great job. Another thing they’ve significantly improved is startup time. We’ll just show you here, I’m going to flip it on right now, and it gets ready, and is ready to shoot literally within a couple of seconds. That’s a significant improvement also, over previous A7 models. 1,700 dollars body only. The real negative continues to be there aren’t very many dedicated lenses for this camera. The Sony E mount, their special FE lenses, their full frame E mount lenses for this camera, and really there’s only 3 or 4 lenses out there. More to come, the road map is quite extensive. But the good news on these cameras, and a lot of camera buffs, including my friend tray Radcliff, it’s easy to get an adapter for almost any kind of lens on here. A lot of people are using Lika lenses on these Sony bodies. And getting amazing results. Having the optical image stabilization in the body, means that even if you’re using a manual focus lens from Lika, Nikon, or canon, you’ll still get the OIS from the body, and that is a significant improvement. So 1,700 dollars. That’s the same price as the original a7 was. Same number of megapixels as well, but considerably improved. They’ve dropped the price of the A7 by several hundred dollars. So I still would recommend the a7. The A7R is the priciest of the bunch at 36 megapixels, it’s also the most sophisticated. But it’s slow focused, it’s slow to operate, it’s a little finicky. I have to say, of all of them, I’m a big fan of the a7S for its 12 megapixels super low light shooting. And I’m very excited about the new A7 mark II. Sony is showing they’ve very committed to this line, and they’re going to continue to make this, in my opinion, the best full frame camera out there. Just a remarkable buy, and a very compact body. So a definite buy on the Sony a7 II. If you haven’t purchased an a7 yet, this is something to look at, they’ve just done a stellar job. This camera feels good. It’s a little heavier, it’s about, oh I don’t know, 10 ounces heavier than its predecessor, but that just makes it feel more solid. It’s by no means heavy when you compare it to a Nikon or a canon.

Mike: It looks cool too.

Leo: Yeah, doesn’t it look good? The thing is you can carry this around and not be intrusive. Especially if you put the 35 millimeter Sony lens on there, they just don’t, they look like tourist cameras, they don’t look like professional cameras, but all you have to do is go to Trey Radcliff’s stock and customs website and take a look at the amazing pictures, high dynamic range pictures he’s shooting with his Sony a7s, and I think you’ll see these are absolutely professional grade cameras. Alright, that’s it for Before You Buy, I want to thank our reviewers. Mike Elgan, Bryan Burnett, Shannon Morse, Chad Johnson. Thank you for joining us. We’ll be back next week. As I said, Cheeburt is going to give us a review. I’ve been waiting for this, the HP stream, if you have an idea for something you’d like to see reviewed, you can email us, that’s our email address. You can also catch this show in a variety of ways, ways we don’t normally make twit shows available. Of course, it is on our website, But we also put it on YouTube, And not just the whole show, but also individual reviews. So if you’re particularly interested in a product we’ve reviewed, you can get just that review, share it with friends and family. That’s at the YouTube channel. Of course, you should subscribe in your favorite pod catcher, that way you’ll get each and every episode. Thanks for being here. We’ll see you next time. And remember, you’ve got to watch Before You Buy! Bye, bye.

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