The Arsenal Photography Assistant

Some of you may have seen the advertisements for the Arsenal Photography Assistant on Facebook or other venues. There are many claims made for what this small piece of equipment is can do for tricky lighting situations and focusing problems. I pre-ordered one last October and would like to relate my experiences.

The first thought is the logistics problem with the company. The equipment was estimated to be shipped the las week of October, but in reality, I finally received the unit shortly before Christmas, missing two photography excursions that I wanted to try it out on. Understanding that this is a start up company, I remained patient, and after several emails were exchanged, all promising the unit would be shipped the following week, I finally had equipment in hand and could start studying before taking it in the field.

The instructions for the unit are video based on the internet and are vague at best. An instruction manual or more detail for the processes would be very helpful. I hope these are coming in the future. After a week of playing around with the unit, setting it up and connecting it. I was ready to go. The unit is controlled by cell phone and was very easy to set up. The interface on the app is exceptionally simple once you understand each screen and what they control.

Among the claims made for the Arsenal is the ability to take bracketed images for HDR images that the Arsenal combines and writes to your SD card in your camera. Unfortunately, this does not seem to work with my Nikon camera, therefore it cannot be reviewed at this time. I am told there are updates to the software coming to allow this. The ability to stack images focused on different points in a scene does not work either for the same reason. Hopefully in a future update I will be able to show you results from my efforts.

What I have explored so far is the exposure and control abilities of this unique tool. There are two ways to photography using the Arsenal. Smart Mode, where the camera is controlled completely by the assistant, and Manual Mode. I have tried both modes and find the Manual Mode to be to more to my taste. Both modes allow the Live view, projecting the image you are photographing to the cell phone used to control the camera. This is incredibly useful in seeing the image with the exposure that will be used for the final image. The app shows the shutter speed, f stops and ISO used for the image. Even in smart mode you have some control over these options. In manual mode you have total control.

Small waterfall in forest stream

Viewed the image on my cell.

Manual control with aperture set to allow a slower shutter speed for the silky appearance of the water. You are able to adjust the EV (exposure value) to control the final result in the raw image.

Stream in the forest

Another image of water from a different day. Silky appearance to the water with control of the aperture on the app given priority and correct EV set by viewing the preview of the image

Sunset over the Ohio River

The Arsenal seems to simplify tricky lighting situations by allowing you to see the final image on your cell phone.

Dove at red bird feeder

An added bonus. I set the camera up and framed on the bird feeder, went inside and watched the scene on my cell. At the right moment, the shutter was triggered.

It is impossible to cover all that this unit will do in a short blog. I have yet to explore all the possibilities. In closing, a friend of mine said it will take the art out of photography. I couldn’t disagree more. The Arsenal allows me to concentrate on the artistic part of photography and does a lot of the technical work for me. It is not for every situation but does simplify the more difficult situations of lighting and focus. I have covered very little of the possibilities and will be exploring more options in the near future. Hopefully I will be able to give you an update in the near future.

Photo credits: David Coleman.

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