Here is a little mobile phone photo tip for today. Did you know that many smartphones today have the option to take HDR photos right in the camera app? HDR stands for High Dynamic (or Definition) Range, and if you want to read a little more about the benefits of HDR photography, just do a quick Google search on the topic. I won’t attempt to try to explain the detailed ins and outs of HDR imaging because I can’t, but I can share that it is definitely worth using at times.
I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, which I love, and on our trip last weekend to the canyon, I took the photo below with the HDR feature of my phone camera. I was walking directly toward the sunset, which was breathtakingly beautiful but I also had good golden hour light on the trail, too. I knew that the camera would have a difficult time capturing proper exposures in both areas, since I was pointing right toward the sunset, so I switched over to HDR mode.
By taking the picture in HDR mode, it actually produces two images with one click of the shutter. Here are the images straight out of my phone in the order that they were produced.
HDR seems to work a little photographic “magic” by taking several images with various exposures and merging them into one final image, using the correct exposure for each part of the photograph as best it can. HDR is not a perfect process by any means, but it can help to compensate for difficult exposures at times. While I’m not sure exactly how many images my phone camera uses to produce the final HDR image, my camera gives me what appears to be a normal picture and a HDR picture each time I use that setting, and the pictures have the same file name.
I don’t think that either of the pictures above is a good one. In the first image, the sky was over-exposed and did not capture the beauty of the sunset at all, which is what I wanted to capture the most. However, if I made an in-camera adjustment to the ISO, I knew that the trail area would be overly dark. So, I opted to give the HDR option a try, to see which photo would give me the most detail to work with once I got home and had my regular photo software to make additional adjustments. The HDR photo definitely gave me more to work with, despite the fact that it has a bit of a flat, unnatural feel to it. I was able to make just a few more slight adjustments to get the image to more closely resemble the magnificent beauty that my eyes actually saw that wonderful evening on the trail.
If you haven’t explored this neat feature in your phone’s camera, give it a try sometime and see what results you get. (On my Galaxy S3, this option is found under Settings in the camera app, then under Shooting Mode. That is also where several other helpful modes are found, too, such as Panorama.) I get varied results, depending on the lighting conditions, but often I like to use the HDR image for final processing adjustments. Just keep in mind that your camera is quickly taking multiple images, and you will want to hold it very still until the processing is done. 😉
We are still in the midst of “The Big Chill” here. Saturday’s high… the high… was just 17 degrees, and the low was 12 degrees. Fortunately, we may get above freezing for a little while later today, even though we had another thin layer of ice fall overnight, making the roads slippery once again. If the temperature rises to the predicted 41 degree “heat wave” later today, we will no doubt get out of the house for a while and try to take Girly Girl out for a walk, too. The roads cleared a bit for a few hours on Friday afternoon, which was just long enough for me to slip out to do a little Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, it is supposed to turn colder again tomorrow and remain below freezing once again for at least a couple of days. Brrrr!!!
February 1 was my upgrade day with my long-time cell provider, and I headed out last Friday morning to buy my new phone. I have enjoyed my HTC Evo 4G better than any previous cell phone, for sure, but after two years, that upgrade was just calling my name and had been since Christmas when I started looking at new phones in earnest. Even though I actually debated buying the iPhone 5 for a little while, I gave that idea up after reading several glowing reviews online about the Galaxy S3, especially on its battery life. I still have my iPod Touch of many years, so getting yet another similar Apple device just didn’t seem like a smart thing to do for the money. And honestly, I’m just not all that fond of the Apple stuff, I guess. I started with Android phones when they came out, and I will likely stay with them for the near future unless some significant changes are made to the iPhone offerings. I like to customize my phone in ways that currently cannot be done on an iPhone.
I won’t attempt to go into all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S3, as there are some really nice reviews about the phone online to read (head-to-head iPhone 5 comparison here), but I will just say that after spending some time learning this new phone over the weekend, I am very happy with my decision, at least for now. In fact, I am absolutely thrilled with my choice! Right now, I cannot think of one thing that I am not pleased with on this phone, except the fact that I realized that I need to work on editing and updating my ever-growing Google contact list once again. That certainly is not the phone’s fault. Sigh. My area still does not have 4G LTE either, but again, that is not the fault of the phone. Hopefully we’ll get that sometime later this year.
Here are a few features that I want to mention that I really like about this phone and related Android offerings.
Screen Size – At 4.8 in. (1280 x 720 pixels), this is bigger than the screen on my HTC Evo 4G, and I’m just fine with that. I can still easily hold it in one hand, although I will say that anything larger, at least for me, would probably require me to use both hands much of the time. I also looked at the Samsung Note 2 but decided it was definitely going to be a “two-hands” device for me if I bought it. It is an impressive phone/mini-tablet, but ultimately, it was just too big for me for a phone. I just couldn’t see holding that big thing up to my ear for longer than a couple of minutes at a time. The Galaxy S3 is a great size with ease of handling while also making it much easier to see what is on the screen. My eyes are not getting any younger, and this is such a nice feature. Watching movies and videos is just awesome on that bigger screen, and the HD video quality is great. I took my first video on Sunday afternoon of our big spoiled poodle puppy intently watching the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet… what a hoot and in HD (1080p), too!
Speed – So, so, so fast! The difference between the speed of this phone and my HTC Evo 4G is definitely noticeable – and very impressive.
Play Music – I am now sold on Google’s new music platform, even though I will still keep my songs in iTunes, too. (I still have my iPod.) Before I bought my new phone last week, I knew very little about Google Music. But after reading about it a bit more, I am now happy to say that all of my music is uploaded to Google Music, just under 4000 songs. Even though I could just stream my tunes from the Google “cloud,” I also put my favorite playlists on my phone for convenience and times that we are out of cell range when we travel. Oh, I forgot to mention that I added 32G of memory to the phone, too! 😉 That should easily take care of my songs, photos and videos for quite some time, especially since the phone also has 16G of internal memory. The 32G Sandisk card was about $20 at our local Radio Shack – not a bad price at all. I also like the Play Music player a little more than the stock player, but I will probably go on the hunt for some other players to try out, too.
S-Voice – This is similar to Siri on the iPhone. I’ve never “talked” to Siri, but I’ve been talking to S-Voice a bit and with good results. It is a feature that seems to work very well for me at this point, and it has not missed a voice command yet. S-Voice is a feature that I need to consciously start using more, since the accuracy seems to be really good and much faster than typing out a message or search myself. I visited with a friend this morning who has a new iPhone 5, and we had a bit of fun talking to our respective phones and comparing results. (I won’t even mention a few of the strange looks we got from some of the other customers at Starbucks either.) Siri is a little more fun on occasion, but S-Voice gets the job done, too. So, I’m good with that. I really don’t think I need that many conversations with my phone anyway. 😉
Lighter Weight – This phone is lighter than my previous phone, and that is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Some reviewers thought the plastic rear cover gave it a cheaper feel, but I beg to differ. Here’s why. How many people carry their phone around these days without a protective cover? I honestly cannot think of one person. I purchased the metallic blue phone and found a nice metallic blue case to match, and with the case, it looks very elegant and has a perfect weight in my opinion. It is also well-protected with the case on it, and I likely won’t even see the phone’s back again until I need to get to the battery or the storage card. If I want extra weight to lug around, I’ll just fire up my old Evo. Not. Lighter is good.
Display – Stunning! Just stunning. 😀 Yes, it is. This makes me happy, happy, happy!
Battery Life – This feature is blowing my HTC Evo 4G out of the water. Even though I recently replaced the battery on my Evo, the battery life was just terrible. Battery life was always a pretty big issue with my Evo, but the Galaxy S3 battery life seems pretty amazing at this point. Even playing with the phone a lot right now, the battery is holding up well. And, if necessary, the battery can be removed and replaced with a fresh one. Right now, I’m thinking that battery issues are hopefully not even going to be an issue going forward. Hurray!
Hand Gestures – I’m still learning some of the commands through hand gestures, but right away, I figured out how to take a screenshot, something that I have not been able to do on my previous Android phones. A simple swipe with the side of my hand across the screen captures the screenshot. This is a fun, if not sometimes extremely helpful, thing to know.
Fonts – I can’t say for sure, but I don’t recall being able to change the phone’s font on any of my previous phones. While this isn’t a must-have feature for me, I must say that I’m really enjoying the new font that I downloaded for free. It’s called “Percirk,” and it has a slightly rounded appearance. When I think about spending the next two years with this phone in my hand, the ability to change things up and refresh them keeps the experience fun and interesting.
Swift-Key Keyboard – I installed the free version of this keyboard to try for 30 days on the recommendation of one online reviewer, and I like this keyboard a lot! At the end of my 30-day trial, I will definitely pay the $2.99 to buy this one. You can visit their website for more information.
Price – As I mentioned, my upgrade date was February 1. I was well prepared to pay up to $199 for this phone on that day, since most stores were offering it for that price at the end of January. I opted to go to Radio Shack to do my upgrade this time because of their more affordable storage card and the fact that I had some other errands to run in that area on that day. To my happy surprise, though, the price had dropped that very morning to just $99! My final price with the 32G memory card was only $129, too. That is a total of 48G – for $129. What a deal! I know the next Galaxy is due out in short order, but after having a not-so-great experience with a brand new phone on the market three upgrades ago, I’m just fine in going with one that already has the initial bugs worked out.
I could go on about some other little things here and there, but these are the highlights for me. If I had to pick one primary reason for selecting this phone over others on the market right now, it would be the battery life. It really is impressive and nice to have for a change.
I’m off to clean out kitchen cabinets now. I would much rather be playing with my new phone. 😀