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Fujifilm creates pro-level Instax pictures with Mini Link

Fujifilm’s Instax instant cameras have taken an interesting turn: Fujifilm dropped the camera and kept the printer. BRYAN TURNER reviews the latest instant printer.

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When one thinks about the Instax brand, instant cameras come to mind. While these high-quality cameras have gone from shoot-and-print devices to being able to print voice notes, one factor has been constant. The device one generally uses for pictures is a smartphone. 

Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Link printer changes that. It provides Instax style printing that’s linked to a smartphone, instead of a dedicated camera. This way, users can print out photos that they’ve taken with their smartphones on an Instax print.

With smartphones having advanced features like bokeh depth effects and high colour accuracy, the images that are produced are visually stunning. Making these pictures ‘immortal’ by printing them does them the proper justice of appreciating their beauty. What’s better is that this camera prints in 12 seconds, so there’s virtually no wait time for printing.

The printer weighs around 200g and is smaller than most smartphones, while being quite a bit thicker to fit the film cartridges. It’s highly portable and can fit into a handbag or medium-to-large-sized pocket.

The app and device link fairly easily: one has to download and open the app, then turn the Instax Mini Link on and wait for it to appear in the app. Thereafter, one can select photos to print from the camera roll or using the Instax camera app function.

One of the more interesting features is motion control. Putting this printer in different positions performs different actions: flat, standing up, or holding it upside down. Moving around the printer also changes the mode within the app.

To activate Print mode, one must put the printer upright. This offers a straightforward printing experience where one can select Simple Print for picking a photo and printing it, Video Print for selecting a frame from a video to print, or Instax camera for lining up a shot within a virtual Instax print.

The Instax Camera can be controlled with motion control as well: tilting the camera forward zooms in, while tilting it backwards zooms out. Pressing the Instax button will take a picture, where a user can review the picture and optionally add filters before printing.

To activate Fun mode, one must set the printer flat. This offers a more creative printing experience. One can select Frame Print to put a sticker on photos before printing, and Collage Print which allows several frames to appear on a single print out. Match Test is one of the cooler modes, which uses a photo of two people and asks questions to see who well they match.

The user must hand the smartphone over to the other person who answers questions, and then the user is tested to see if they can get those questions right. Thereafter, a printout with a score is done with a photo of the friends together.

If several smartphones in the same area have the Mini Link app, they can use Party Mode. This mode accepts several photos from various phones and prints out a surprise collage photo at the end.

The printer takes the same Instax film cartridges as the Instax cameras, so finding replacement film won’t be difficult. It charges via micro-USB and claims to do 100 prints on a single charge. While this may be possible in a single mode, we found after printing 20 shots and using the printer as a remote for about an hour, it was down to 60% battery life. That said, it still offers great battery life for such a small device.

Overall, we were extremely impressed with this device and its brilliant quality print-outs. Even its more gimmicky features were charming and add to the memory-making experience.

Product of the Day

Huawei P40 Pro gets best camera score

Independent camera benchmarking company DxOMark has given the Huawei P40 Pro its highest rating yet. Read about what makes it better than the competition.

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The Huawei P40 Pro is the manufacturer’s latest high-end smartphone. It features the Kirin 990 5G chipset, a 6.58-inch Full-HD+ OLED display with rounded edges, and dual front camera. Huawei tends to use the P-series models to showcase the company’s latest mobile camera technologies, and its P-series flagship device for 2020 is no different. 

DxOMark provided the following summary of the camera’s latest features and what they mean for the device’s performance: 

Main camera 

The primary camera comes with a very large 1/1.28″ 50MP Quad-Bayer sensor that produces 12MP image output. As with other devices with similar sensors, it uses pixel binning to increase dynamic range and low-light capabilities. The lens features an f/1.9 aperture and nominal 23mm-equivalent focal length, however, Huawei crops the field of view to a more conventional 27mm. This decision was presumably made in order to design a thinner camera unit, but it should also help with reducing such artifacts as corner softness and distortion. Optical image stabilization, which can be challenging to implement on such large image sensors, is on board as well. 

Ultra-wide camera 

Like with the Mate 30 Pro, Huawei implements a large and high-resolution image sensor (40MP 1/1.54″) in its ultra-wide camera, which combined with a fast f/1.8 lens, should make for excellent low-light image quality. The downside of such a large sensor in the ultra-wide is lens design. It’s a challenge to design a lens that provides a very wide angle of view and still fits into the thin body of a high-end smartphone. Therefore, Huawei settled on a compromise at 18mm, which is noticeably wider than the main camera, but not as wide as that of some competitors, such as the latest Samsung devices and iPhones, which offer 12mm and 13mm lenses, respectively. 

Tele-camera 

The P40 Pro’s tele-camera comes with similar technology to last year’s P30 Pro. The module is optically stabilized and uses folded optics to achieve a 5x optical zoom factor (125mm equivalent). 

“Field-of-view fusion” zoom 

The P40 Pro doesn’t rely just on hardware alone for zooming, however. Like the P30 Pro, the P40 Pro uses software systems which Huawei calls field-of-view fusion and AI RAW, a combination of optical and algorithm-powered digital zooming that adapts to the chosen magnification factor. Only the primary camera is used for up to 2x magnification; the tele-camera takes over from 5x and longer. For intermediate zoom factors, the P40 Pro uses a fusion algorithm that combines image data from both cameras, merging several RAW frames from the main and tele cameras into one high-resolution frame, which is then cropped for zooming. 

For optimal detail, the 5x tele-cam records image data at the centre of the frame; it uses AI-refined image data from the primary camera to fill in the “missing” image areas around the edges. A deep learning algorithm improves detail on fine patterns and textures—quite an impressive feat, considering that autofocus, white balance, and other image parameters of both cameras all have to be in perfect sync for good results. 

At the long end, the camera is capable of achieving a 50x zoom factor using a combination of optical zoom and super-resolution processing that stacks multiple RAW frames from the tele-cam. 

Improved bokeh mode with AI RAW and super-resolution 

While the P30 Pro used AI RAW only for zooming, the P40 Pro now applies the technology to most camera modes, including bokeh. This means that as with zoom shots, bokeh images from the new model offer a wider dynamic range. The camera uses the 50MP high-resolution sensor and an AI RAW-powered super-resolution algorithm to generate an image with a 54mm-equivalent focal length and very good detail rendering. Data captured by a time-of-flight (ToF) laser measures the distance to objects in the scene, and is then used to confirm and fine-tune the initial depth-map that the primary and super-wide cameras generate. 

Improved white balance and colour rendering with multispectral sensor 

The P40 Pro also comes with a new white balance system that uses a semantics-based neural network and data-driven methods for more accurate white balance. The system also gets help from a multispectral sensor that can measure specific colours more accurately than the image sensor. 

Autofocus with dual phase detection on all sub-pixels 

The new autofocus system comes with dual phase detection on all sub-pixels and can use all pixels for autofocusing. In low light, the system also makes use of subject distance information that the ToF laser sensor captures. 

Key camera specifications: 

  • Quad camera setup, including ToF sensor 
  • Primary: 50MP 1/1.28″ sensor (12MP output), 23mm-equivalent (1x defined as 27mm) f/1.9-aperture lens, full-pixel Octa-PD, OIS 
  • Ultra-wide: 40MP 1/1.54″ sensor, 18mm-equivalent f/1.8-aperture lens, PDAF 
  • Tele: 12MP 1/3.56″ sensor, 125mm-equivalent f/3.4-aperture lens, PDAF, OIS 
  • ToF 3D depth-sensing camera (78-degree FOV) 
  • LED flash 
  • 4K video, 2160p/60fps (2160p/30fps tested); default is wide-angle camera 1080P/30fps 
  • Multispectral colour temperature sensor 

Please note: The Huawei P40 Pro was tested with European firmware which by default has AI set to off. In other regions the feature is activated by default. The camera firmware used for the DxOMark tests is not yet currently available to consumers. Huawei will make it available as an update in the near future.  

To read the full camera test, visit DxOMark’s website

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Huawei unveils Watch GT 2e

Huawei has unveiled a new addition to the Watch GT 2 lineup, called the Watch GT 2e. It features 100 workout modes, ranging from traditional sports to new forms of exercise.

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The Huawei Watch GT 2e forms part of the Watch GT 2 line, which has already delivered an impressive wearable with a 2-week battery life. Huawei has introduced a blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitoring feature. This goes along with precise heart rate monitoring, abnormal heart rate notifications, and sleep monitoring features, which allow users to understand their health status. 

The smartwatch comes in two new colour variants: Mint Green and Lava Red. It is equipped with a 1.39-inch AMOLED high precision touch display, supporting a Retina-grade resolution. With this vibrant display, users can view information even if they are outside in bright sunlight. 

“Like the previous Huawei Watch GT products, the Huawei Watch GT 2e will continue to bring reliable fitness and health management experiences to consumers,” says Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business.  

“Huawei places huge importance on fitness and health functions. Since we are upgrading the All-scenario Seamless AI Life strategy in 2020, fitness and health will become an essential user scenario. As technology products are more interconnected with consumers’ lives, Huawei will continue to drive technology advancement, improve software and hardware ecosystems, and innovate in wearables to bring smarter fitness and health management experiences driven by technology.” 

The watch comes in four colours of Graphite Black, Lava Red, Mint Green and Icy White, with the strap made of a soft and comfortable fluororubber. The dual-colour, breathable TPU material completes a unibody design.    

It supports 15 professional workout modes including eight outdoor activities (running, walking, mountain climbing, hiking, trail running, cycling, open water swimming, triathlon) and seven indoor activities (walking, running, cycling, pool swimming, free training, elliptical machine, rower).  

In professional workout modes, it provides comprehensive monitoring that can track 190 types of data – to help the users to get the most out of their workout. The smartwatch can also automatically detect 6 professional workout modes, offering a smarter sporting experience.  

The GT 2e also supports 85 customised workout modes that cover six categories of sports: extreme, leisure, fitness, aquatics, ball games and winter sports. The activities range from street dance to parkour, rock climbing to yoga, and ballet to boxing.  

It has a large internal storage that can store around 500 mp3 songs. With Huawei Music and Bluetooth headphones, users can enjoy their custom exercise playlist during their training.  

Beginning from April, Huawei Watch GT 2e will be available in Huawei Vmall and Huawei Authorised Retailers, for a recommended price of R3864 and Huawei Watch GT 2 42mm will be available for a recommended price of R4424 (Frosty White) and R4810 (Chestnut Red). 

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