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Shoot for the stars with the Canon EOS Ra

Canon has produced its first full-frame camera for astronomical photography – taking pictures of deep space and constellations.

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Canon builds on its iconic full-frame range and EOS R System line-up with the launch of the EOS Ra, which is its first full-frame camera for astronomical photography.

The EOS Ra, unlike other full-frame astro cameras, is portable and has no need for external power and connection to a computer, resulting in exceptional image quality of visible reality, but also of deep space photography with a wide range of optical devices.

The camera shares features with the September 2018-launched EOS R. The EOS Ra inherits the camera’s fast autofocus, the ability to focus in light conditions as low as -6EV, a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor with approximately 30.3 million effective pixels and a DIGIC 8 image processor. While boasting this advanced and cutting-edge optical technology, the EOS Ra is a modified EOS model – developed in direct response to the specific needs of astrophotographers looking to capture the vivid colour of deep space and constellations.

Featuring a new infrared blocking filter (IR filter) allowing even higher hydrogen-alpha (Hα) light to reach the imaging sensor, it enables four times as much of this hydrogen-alpha light to be transmitted compared to the EOS R. Photographers can capture, both crisply and clearly, the distinct red colour of nebula – an interstellar cloud of dust made up mostly of hydrogen and helium – impossible to capture on a traditional camera where the UV/IR cut filters block the IR light that gives these nebulae their red colour.

With its mirrorless design and full-frame sensor, the EOS Ra is a camera for photographers looking to capture images of deep space. With no mechanical mirror system, vibrations are minimised ensuring sharp images. What’s more – the high performing Canon-developed sensor offers a mix of high ISO performance, impressive resolution, fast readout and exposure latitude, helping to create interstellar images of exceptionally high quality.  

With Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focus (AF), the EOS Ra features a range of AF and MF focus functions ensuring images are of high optical excellence – including shots captured in low-light conditions. Retaining the -6EV AF from the EOS R, low-light performance with RF lenses and existing EF lenses is possible. When astrophotographers use it with a telescope, focus assist functions like focus peaking and magnification up to 30x – that’s three times more than the EOS R – ensure focusing with any optical device is fast. What’s more, with its 4K movie and 4K time-lapse capabilities the EOS Ra is also the first astro camera on the market with a 4K movie function.

Sharing the same mount as the EOS R, the EOS Ra has been designed to enhance lens design possibilities. The RF lens mount enables a radical new optical design – the 20mm flange back and wide 54mm mount diameter has made it possible for Canon engineers to design new lenses that weren’t achievable before. The camera, and system is also compatible with three lens mount adapters, giving photographers a wide choice of lenses and telescopes to use with EOS Ra.  More than 70 EF and EF-S lenses can be used with Canon’s innovative EOS R System, adding new functionality to existing optics, while maintaining the excellent levels of performance and functionality previously seen with EOS DSLRs. As when attached to an EOS R, the Canon mount adapter enables users to maintain their setup whether using RF or EF and EF-S mount lenses.

The EOS Ra’s compact and lightweight design makes it easier to attach to a telescope – suitable for photographers shooting for long periods of time. Combining existing EOS ergonomics with new controls the camera provides maximum control with familiarity. The Vari-Angle touch screen makes the camera comfortable for photographers shooting in many positions, with the benefit of having up to 30x magnification to check focus. The EOS Ra’s electronic viewfinder means photographers can really shoot what they see, with the ability to view their subjects clearly in the dark.

The EOS Ra, like the EOS R, supports connection via EOS Utility and the Canon Camera Connect application. This allows remote camera control for still and video via USB or via wireless. The software can be downloaded free of charge from the Canon support website – enabling remote shooting, for example from indoors on a cold evening, and time-lapse operation.

For more information about Canon South Africa, visit www.canon.co.za.

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Huawei Watch GT 2: A premium smartwatch for fitness

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is one of the best looking smartwatches on the market, and comes with impressive fitness tracking features. BRYAN TURNER tried it out

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One of the most beautiful smartwatches yet has entered the arena: the Huawei Watch GT 2. It features a vibrant and sharp AMOLED display and some of the best battery life on the market for backlit colour screen smartwatches.

We tested the Watch GT 2 for two weeks, which happens to be just the right amount of time to review this device on one charge. Its major selling point is 2 weeks battery life, and it surpassed that mark for us – although we didn’t use every single feature every single day, as Huawei suggests, for the 2-week battery life.

Out the box, the watch is presented in a premium foam housing, while the disc-shaped charger and larger straps are neatly hidden. The charger has two metal contacts that line up with the bottom of the watch, so it’s not wireless, but is still pretty sleek. The charging-disc also features a USB Type-C port, so only one cable is needed between the latest Android handsets and this watch.

When turning it on, the first striking detail of this watch is its stunning AMOLED display, which is super bright – making it ideal for outdoor runs in full sun. 

The display is also pretty big, at 46mm at 454×454 pixels, while not feeling like a bulky display on one’s wrist. The bezel doesn’t rotate, but at least it looks good and doesn’t get in the way of operating the watch.

Two buttons on the right side of the watch work in-tandem with taps and swipes. It does take some getting used to, because the top button is supposed to be a back button but sometimes takes the user completely out of the app. The bottom button is customisable but launches workout mode by default.

The device pairs with the Huawei Health app, which is available on both Android and iOS. The setup process is far easier on Android than iOS. On a non-Huawei Android phone, one must download Huawei Health and also get Huawei Mobile Services (HMS). On iOS, only Huawei Health is required, but not without head-scratching as to why it won’t pair on the first few attempts.

Once it’s paired, it’s smooth sailing. It makes use of Bluetooth 5.1, which keeps the watch connected with virtually no power consumption. This, combined with the super-efficient Kirin A1 chip, gave us over 2 weeks of battery life with regular use – which consisted of checking the time occasionally, with a 30-minute workout a day.

The watch is packed with a bunch of sensors ideal for the fitness-minded user who wants to know as much as possible about their workout. These include an always-on heart rate sensor, gyroscope, GPS, accelerometer, and an air pressure sensor for elevation detection.

It features 16 common workout modes for tracking users, including GPS-tracked outdoor running, cycling, open water swimming, using a rowing machine and an elliptical. Although Fitbit and Apple Watch have far more workout modes built-in – like yoga or boxing – the less niche fitness user will be fine with the Watch GT 2.

One of the nicest features for runners is the music sync functionality. The watch can pair to wireless earphones, and one can go for a run without taking a smartphone along. It can also store around 500 songs. The only catch: it’s MP3s only, like it’s 2002. Huawei will likely add third-party streaming services like Deezer and Spotify to the watch, though nothing has been confirmed yet.

Answering calls on the Watch GT 2 is also now possible. While it’s useful to talk to one’s watch like James Bond when one’s phone is nowhere to be found, it’s pretty gimmicky and gets old quickly on any smartwatch.

There are some pretty limiting features for iOS users. The watch comes preloaded with 14 watch faces but, if you want more, you’ll have to pair to an Android phone – Huawei Health for iOS doesn’t do that. Pairing a headset to the device is possible, but only through an Android phone with Huawei Health. In short, iPhone users are better off sticking to Fitbit or Apple Watch.

That said, it hits the nail on the head for a beautiful fitness-style crossover.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 retails for R4,999 at Total Sports.

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Infinite Power makes USB rechargeable batteries

One of the most underrated accessories to make our gadgets work – batteries – have just gotten much cooler. BRYAN TURNER reviews a battery with a micro-USB port.

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It’s 2019 and so many accessories still take batteries. In the office, we find we need AA or AAA batteries for some of the coolest tech. The only drawback is: batteries need to be thrown away after they’re flat. Not only is it a nuisance to pick up a gadget to find its batteries are flat, but it’s pretty bad for the environment if one’s feeling lazy and throws the dead batteries in the trash.

Then there’re rechargeable batteries. I’m a huge fan of rechargeable batteries because they’re far more environmentally friendly and, after a few charges, they’re more cost effective than non-rechargeable batteries. One issue with them is: finding the charger. It’s often the case, when it comes time to charge the batteries, that the proprietary charging device is missing. Thanks to batteries lasting so long, the charger gets deeper and deeper into the back of a drawer that’s not opened.

Enter Infinite Power by Charged Power. It has created a pretty nifty rechargeable battery that has a port directly on the battery. The port is also a standard micro-USB port, which many smartphones still use. Out of the box, we got four rechargeable batteries, and a single USB-A to two micro-USB charging cable, in case one wants to charge two batteries simultaneously. We can tell that the cable is a bit too specialised and will probably get lost in a cable drawer. That said, the batteries don’t take a proprietary port, which is a huge plus.

They come in AA and AAA variants, which are 1000 mAh and 450 mAh respectively per battery. The batteries also feature a soft button, which indicate charge level. From flat, they take around 5,5 hours to charge. The last depending on the device they’re put into. Remotes may last for months, while toys that draw a lot of power may last a few days. Charged Power says the batteries last for 500 charges.

Overall, these makes for practical stocking stuffers in the festive season. For more information, visit chargedpower.co.za

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