Friday 18 August 2017

Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets

Nikon D500
Nikon D500
Dyson 360 Eye
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Our Technology Editor reviews the Nikon D500 and the Dyson 360 Eye robo-vac.

Nikon's robust D500 a quick-fire winner

Nikon D500  

Price: €2,329  

Rating: 4 Stars

If you're into sports photography or anything that requires quick reactions, Nikon has one hell of a new camera out. The D500 is one of the most impressively put together DSLRs I've ever handled. It's a consummate working tool, with no space wasted and perfectly situated shortcut buttons for all the things you'd want (ISO, video, light adjustment, white balance, focus adjustment and more).

This is no compact model, mind: it's as big and bulky as most high-end professional DSLRs. Despite this, the 21-megapixel camera is quite comfortable in hand. It's weather-sealed and can withstand bumps and knocks, making it perfect for regular outdoor use in busy conditions. It has professional-grade connections (mic, earphone, HDMI, USB), including dual memory card slots (SD and XQD). Other little pro touches include a micro-shutter that comes down over the viewfinder. This thing is built to work.

The D500 shoots video in 4K with plenty of other high-resolution options. And unlike most pro-DSLRs, it has a flip-out screen for better video shooting angles.

One of its biggest attractions is speed, both in the number of frames per second shot and autofocus. It shoots at a blistering 10 frames per second with a (relatively) huge buffer. Anyone photographing a sports event will see the obvious attraction here - you'll capture moments not possible with most other cameras. And if you want to use this feature at a wedding (for example, when the bride is walking up the aisle), it's a bit quieter than other cameras I've tested which also boast such rapid-fire shutter speed. (Although it's nowhere near silent.)

Allied to this is the D500's autofocus speed, another of the camera's relative strengths. It really is very quick, although this obviously depends a little on the lens you're using. (The lens I had with it was Nikon's super-versatile Nikkor DX 16-80mm (f2.8-4.0), which has the equivalent of a 24-120mm focus. It's relatively new (€1,100) and kept up with everything the D500 asked of it.)

All that said, bear in mind that this is a DX-format ('cropped frame') camera, meaning that most Nikon lenses will be magnified by about 1.5. Lastly, its new Wi-Fi-compatible app for your phone, Snapbridge, is superb. It's an 'always-on' system rather than an 'on-off' one.

Great robo-vac can clean up while you're at work

Dyson 360 Eye

Price: €999

Rating: 4 Stars

There are quite a few robot vacuum cleaners about. They broadly perform the same function: to clean your floor while you do something else.

Dyson's first attempt at the genre is impressive, albeit slightly pricey. The rounded 360 Eye gets around on tank-style wheels (like a Caterpillar machine), which help it to move over things like cables and the edges of rugs without being blocked.

I found that its scaling and navigation abilities were the 360 Eye's strongest points. We have quite a few rugs at home and the little robot made it up and on to all of them. It even climbed on to the base of the cat-scratching post, which is about an inch high. Its cleaning prowess was also fairly flawless. Dyson claims that it's twice as powerful as any other robot vacuum cleaner. Most of the detritus on our floors consists of animal hair and small particles of food. The vacuum didn't run into much trouble with any of this.

It typically went for around 30 minutes before needing a recharge. In that time, it hoovered the kitchen and about half the hall, an area of around 25sqm. After returning itself to its dock for a recharge, it set about on its way again to finish the hall, go into the bathroom and then the living room. In this context, it takes a while for the 360 Eye to complete the entire downstairs of a typical house. But then you remember: it's doing the thing itself. Who cares if it takes twice or three times as long? Especially if you let it do its thing while you're out at work. To get the most out of it requires downloading the Dyson Link app. The biggest features here are the ability to see a map of where your robot vacuum has cleaned and also to schedule or program it for regular cleans.

Its 0.33-litre bin isn't as large as some competitors' and is about enough for two medium-sized rooms with moderate dust, hair and other micro-detritus. (We have a dog and a cat at home, so most of the robot cleaner's capacity was actually taken up by their discarded hair.)

It did seize up a couple of times with blocked airways. This generally happened when it got full. It's also a little louder than I would have thought, but not as loud as a regular vacuum cleaner.

Other than that, this is a really nifty labour-saving device that may be worth the money for time-poor workers.

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