So, we didn’t get any backers this time around for the Cost-share Product Shoot on KickStarter, and that’s ok. This was always a learning experience in online marketing, and a test of a new concept. I’m still going to do what I specialise in, travel photography, and continue branching into product photography. We have got new leads, which we didn’t have before. We have new marketing tools at our disposal, which we didn’t have before. We also have new contacts, which we didn’t have before. Consequently, despite the zero number posted, there are still big wins for us. In the coming weeks, we will be pursing the new leads we got out of promoting this project.
Lifestyle of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer.
Thanks so much to my models, Eri, Chiaki, and Miyu for keeping the shoot day available, and for their interest to help. Thanks so much to Ksara, my favourite makeup artist, for also keeping the date available, and for her interest in the project. Also thanks to the two house owners (in Yokohama & Nagoya) for agreeing to allow us to shoot in their properties should we make a booking. Also, thanks to my sisters for sharing promotional posts on social media, and their words of encouragement. Also, thanks to my old and new social media followers for your kind words of support, encouragement, and likes & shares.
We are still available for product photography, and to help with product placement imagery. Also, we may give this project a second attempt in the Spring of 2018. We are always available for product photography, just drop us a line.
Way back in July 2015 I heard about Gnarbox and their concept (Kickstarter page). As a travel photographer, it was exactly what I needed. Well, I wasn’t so needing the in-field photo or video editing and immediate social media posting, but the main draw card for me was the quick and simple SD card backup ability. It was only to be 128Gb (barely enough for a trip, but something was better than nothing), but it was supremely portable, and it hit the sweet spot at US$149. If it were much higher than that, I would have balked. I hummed and huhhed at the $149, but considered the project to be back-able. The recommended retail price was to be nearly USD$250, so a discount drew me in, assuming I probably wouldn’t regret getting it. As of 28th Jan 2017, it’s listed at USD$299 on B&H, and as “Coming soon” (B&H).
There are some downsides with the device. Firstly, it is only 128Gb, and so it will be barely enough. Secondly, all technology items at the moment have a useful life of three to five year before obsolescence. The Gnarbox is so far ten months late in delivery, and new cameras include wifi to smartphones, and new smarphones are now able to take amazing photos, reducing the need for a dedicated picture/video device. Thirdly, there is no password or encryption protection, or any kind of security, which makes journalism and cross-border travel risky for some. Fourthly, there is still very little to no independent assessment as to it’s in-field / real world use. How long is the battery life? How long until the batteries deteriorate and need replacing? How practical is it to carry an adapter for people using CF cards? Finally, does it still fit into my workflow?
The Gnarbox page on Kickstarter.
All investments carry risk, “will the creator deliver?”, “Will it be as promised?”, among other concerns. It was my first project to back on Kickstarter, and it was exactly the tool I needed. The device was due to be delivered in March 2016, which means it was intended to be a quick and easy development. Importantly, however, was the detailed information the creators provided on Kickstarter. I was impressed, and especially compared to other Kickstarter pages/projects, these guys seemed to have a clear idea of what needed to be done. So, I threw my hat (and money) into the ring.
Not all projects have smooth sailing, and not all best laid plans go off without a hitch; bumps are expected. In February 2016 the Gnarbox team announced that a deal with a processing chip manufacturer fell threw, and so they had to rejig their development to a new supplier, which meant that delivery was pushed back to September 2016. So far, I was not concerned, and considered it a necessary move.
September 2016 came and went without a word on delivery, which was the first red flag for me. The August update did not mention any problem with delivery deadlines, as shown below.
Gnarbox project update in August 2016.
Then in September they promised to start deliveries on the 19th Sept. The screenshot below shows that even the packaging had been designed and completed.
Gnarbox was apparently ready for delivery in September 2016.
Then in October they stated that they were to do FCC and CE certifications. This meant that they had not gone into production, and were officially not certified for sale or distribution in at least the US nor Europe. Then 27th October they claimed that they will start to deliver in November. That means that they missed their official delivery dates for March and September 2016, and promised a third date: November 2016. A Kickstarter update on November 19 said that there had been problems getting FCC and CE approvals, but things were going well. It also noted that US backers, and US-based pre-orders get the first three rounds of deliveries, and the rest of the world (including me, who invested into the project before US-based pre-order people) get mine in the fourth and final round of deliveries. At this point, of the original 2,988 backers, there were already discontent, and backers were making requests for refunds.
The 10th of December 2016 update in hindsight is very troubling. It focused on the positive in the development. It told what had been achieved – only what had been achieved. It failed to acknowledge that the third delivery promise had been missed, and it did not mention anything about their financial situation as backers were requesting their refunds. It also failed to slate a new delivery date. As the community discussion shows on Kickstarter, there were howls of anger at the lack of information; information that backers actually want. The discontent is understandable and justified.
Gnarbox on Instagram, and community comments about delivery promises.
Instagram is an important platform for promoting the Gnarbox. The Gnarbox team regularly posted photos and videos as the latest samples from in-field testing from the prototypes. Interestingly, all such Instagram posts include the Gnarbox watermark. However, it is not known if watermarking is possible on their editing software, or if the image was processed on a real computer back at home or studio. On Instagram, there were many backers leaving comments on Gnarbox official sample photos and videos like “Nice photo, would be nice to get my Gnarbox”, or simply “When do I get mine?”. All such comments were plain and civil, including mine. However, I was blocked by them, and it was a shock. To me it was a hostile move by Gnarbox; you should never disrespect the people who give you money, and yet I was treated like a common internet troll. I’m sure this will also count as a blackmark against me in the Instagram system. Also consider that they had missed three delivery deadlines, and there is community discontent, and trust was/is fading.
Gnarbox’s notice of blocking me just days before the CES tradeshow, message via Instagram app.
At the time I was confused and shocked. I had never been treated like this. Then I saw that Lok and Kaiman Wong were about to attend the 2017 CES trade show, and so it made sense. Gnarbox, who were to attend CES, were doing badly, and so they had to censor their social media reputation in the hope that they can draw in more money. However, there were still the howls of rage from the backers wanting updates or refunds, what had happened to the promises of a March, September, and then a November 2016 deliveries?
Gnarbox January 2017 delivery promise.
Then strangely Gnarbox posted their “Jan 4th update” on January 6th 2017, claiming that they had missed only two delivery deadlines, but would deliver in January 2017. Which deadline doesn’t count? The March, September, or November one? Instantly, there were backers saying that deliveries from China are notoriously slow, and this is an important point, as their printed circuit boards are produced there. Also note that 27th January marks the start of the Chinese New Year, when everyone goes on holiday there. Furthermore, there seems to be a rush by backers to get refunds while they can. I don’t know anything about their financial position, nor of their actual production schedule at this point. Gnarbox, since September has been teasing us with “deliveries will be soon” promises, and teasing us with frequent Instagram posts of supposed samples made in the field with their prototypes. These two factors have changed the mood from excitement to insult; here is a product you have invested in, but you cannot have.
At this point, it’s 28th January 2017 and no update from Gnarbox since the 6th Jan. It is 10 months past their original delivery date, and they’ve missed three delivery dates, and it’s almost certain that I will not receive my Gnarbox in the remaining three days of this month. That means that they will have missed four delivery dates, and have a string of broken promises to their investors. Finally, I need to consider if the device will ever be delivered, why I’m last on the delivery schedule (being non-US based, and outside their legal jurisdiction), and if there is any money left should I request a refund. The Gnarbox company will have committed to producing at least 3,300 devices, and the more they can sell at full price rather than at backer discount, the better. Consequently, refunds in fact, can be helpful to them; should I help or await my delivery? Decisions, decisions.
Watch this space, I may post updates below.
UPDATE, 31st Jan 2017: Gnarbox has posted an update. In short, no delivery. It is interesting to see that this update lacks any photos and no videos. Some of their previous updates included a video of the founder, looking a little nervous and shaky, giving a statement on their progress. This time we’re reduced to a short statement, three days after it was promised.
What is telling is that despite the promise to deliver this month, they did not say it directly, but they admit to not having even the first item produced to do quality control testing. It is interesting that they are avoiding stating what happened with the PCBs and the planned production, and that this message arrives on the final day of the month. They also fail to provide a timeline and details of the stage they are at in the manufacturing process. Do they have the PCBs? Do they have the SD, micro SD, USB port components? Do they have the cases? Do they have the rubber doors for the cases? Do they have instruction manuals printed? What has happened with the software development that they explicitly and detailed in previous updates?
It is also interesting that three days ago they asked in what form the community would like their customer support, and that question was answered with silence. Finally, and disturbingly, the Gnarbox team said that future communications will be taken off of Kickstarter and done via their email address; that is, away from a publicly viewable record.
Update 8th Feb 2017: Two things happened. Firstly, on the 4th Feb Gnarbox sent out an email to confirm delivery addresses. This was on the same day as they announced this in the comments section, “@all – First article inspection is complete and a pass. Shipping confirmation sent out.”, meaning they made their first Gnarbox, tested it, and it didn’t fail. This is unusual to me, as they successfully made exactly one successful item (no announcement on how many failed), and suddenly they are asking for delivery information. To me, you’d only ask for address information if delivery is imminent. People like me are way down the list for delivery, and they are hoping that I will still be at this address when they finally get around to sending mine out. Some backers have said that they might not be reachable in March or April. Let’s face it, Gnarbox have missed their March, September, November, and January deadlines. It’s likely mine will arrive in March, making it a full 12 months late.
Secondly, one of the backers shared this video by former DigitalRev wideo guy and presenter Lok, on the comments forum on Kickstarter. For me it’s infuriating, as this happy, positive promotional video was recorded just days after Gnarbox went through their Instagram posts and deleted all the late-delivery comments and blocked concerned backers/investors like me in their social media censorship.
It seems the delivery address email did it’s job in keeping the natives content, as it has so far stopped people from making more announcements of wanting their money back. Further, this video is the first real evidence I’ve seen that the product is real, and becoming real; albeit, 12 months later. Thanks Lok.
UPDATE 5th March 2017: Still not received my Gnarbox. My suspicion that they sent out the address confirmation three weeks ago may have been a stalling tactic seems true. In fact, nobody has seen or heard anything from the Gnarbox folks since the 16th February, and this is a moment when they claimed that people would have already started to receive their Gnarboxes. The backers’ comments on Kickstarter are basically calling for updates and confirmations that the company hasn’t done a runner. I think this is a moment where Gnarbox has seriously hurt their own reputation, as it will be hard to trust their claims in the future, especially because of this three week period of radio silence.
Also note that this month commemorates one year since they missed their first promise of delivery.
Update 16th March 2017: This is so significant that it needs its own blog post. See here.
Small businesses, startups, and KickStarters we can shoot your products with a cost-share photo shoot. Limited time left to opt in, and we need just 10 to get started! Details: http://kck.st/2wVXEef. Also see “Updates” on the KickStarter page to see what prizes you can win.
Photo shoot services for lifestyle and product placement for social media.
I don’t normally do such a catch up like this, but it’s been a terrible week, and so I’m using the weekend to do office stuff. In my previous blog post I said that I’m considering selling on a lens I don’t use anymore (the Sony SAL 70-300mm G), if you know someone who might like it, please tell them to get in touch with me. I also received the Dobot Rigiet gimbal for shooting videos on my smartphone. I hope to take that out to play tomorrow.
Also in the news, I’ve been in the news! Yay! News about my Kickstarter project has been distributed through a network of news outlets. The cost-share photo shoot is a new concept and an experiment, and I had no idea how it will go. Hopefully being in the news will help spread the word to small companies and startups who would benefit most from this. Anyway, it has made it in the news at Arizona News Online, Colorado News Desk, and other places. Yay!
There are just six days left, and I hope to get just ten companies who might be interested involved. This afternoon I’ve been reaching out to mainly small fashion brands telling them that I can help. I hope to get at least ten! I hope that this can be a success, and so I can repeat this and help these brands and others again in the future. Also, to sweeten the deal, there is a prize for the first company to get on board, where they can win a website (domain and webspace). Details: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/japanesephotos/cost-share-a-product-shoot.
Photo shoot services for lifestyle and product placement for social media.
There’s two things that have got me down this week, but at the same time two things more than make up for it. Let’s start with the good, and I promise to end with a funny comment.
As readers know, this week has been a busy one for me. I’ve continued to set up and added to the new Patreon.com/ablyth page, and I’m preparing the 52 Week Japan Photos project (a full weekend and then some is still required). The first patron exclusive photo went out on Friday night. The other good thing is I’ve submitted a proposal to KickStarter, and hopefully they will understand it and approve of it. If not, I’ll find new ways to promote the cost-share product shoot.
The first thing that has let me down also relates to Kickstarter. I supported the Rigiet smartphone gimble. It was meant to be delivered in June, however, at time of writing, I’m still waiting. I got the delivery tracking number at the end of July, but still no movement. Apparently, the company that makes it chose a bad shipping company and had “problems” (as they vaguely described). However, in the last few days people in the US and Europe have been saying that they’re getting theirs. Another, “however” is that it doesn’t work properly. They are reporting that it is so bad it’s unusable. There appears to be no Android app, it doesn’t calibrate, batteries are faulty, and the motors don’t seem strong enough to support the iPhone. Other people are reporting that they didn’t get the GoPro mount adapters they also ordered. Most disconcerting of all is the lack of communication from the Rigiet company. They are reactionary in their communication, but also they do not respond to many people’s requests for refunds.
The Rigiet gimble, apparently DOA.
The company that should be doing it right is Amazon Japan. My old external drives started to act unreliably, and with 17 years of data and photos stored on them, it’s time to upgrade. So, I recently ordered and started to set up a RAID storage system. The latest step was to add an 8Tb hard drive to the system. This is a very important step, as it would be a backup drive for what is already set up, and allow me to reorganise all my current storage systems so it all is consolidated. However, this morning my joy sank immediately on opening the box.
The 8Tb Seagate hard disk drive was only protected by bubble wrap and box of bran flakes.
As you can see, the ¥27,000 (about $300) Seagate 8Tb hard drive was not in a normal protective packaging, but in bubble wrap, thrown in lose with the breakfast cereal. The most crucial element of a storage and RAID system is the trust you have that it will not fail; at least it should last a few years. However, this HDD was simply sitting on the floor of the box, sandwiched between the corn flakes and spacer paper added. Hard disk drives cannot be bounced around, and they cannot suffer hard jolts from being on the floor of a delivery truck. Added to that, there are people on Amazon.jp saying that their devices failed within months (1-star feedback). I cannot risk having a system failure, and I cannot risk losing 17 years worth of data on a very large disk, where one small bit of damage can undermine the whole system. Consequently, I’m returning it. I hit the return button on Amazon within 10 minutes of receiving it.
As you can see in the images above, the boxes were damaged, and one was partly open, allowing the world to see what brand of laundry detergent I use.
However, simply returning items to Amazon isn’t simple. There are reports of people being banned for returning too many faulty or problematic items (The Guardian). I worry that this may affect my standing with Amazon, but Amazon isn’t the only online marketplace… though there is no comparison.
In any case, I got my bran flakes delivered for me. Yay! I love the twenty-first century!
Japan has a great reputation for quality products and manufacturing; have your products appeal enhanced by being seen in Japan. Give your product an international feel, and a look that seems accepted and normalised in Japan. On the 12th or 13th (and may be 14th) November 2017, my skilled models, makeup artists (mua), and I, hope to shoot a bunch of products like yours. However, we have only limited spaces available. Contact us now if you’re interested.
A cost-sharing shoot is where we have the location, scene, models, and MUA, but need a group of companies to supply the products and the funds to pay for the location, models, mua and me. This means, you share the cost of a shoot, which normally starts at about USD$2000 (AUD$2600), but you save lots of money (about 90% of the cost). This is ideal for small companies, startups, and low-cost products. We cannot do any “explicit” or illegal products.
Photo shoot services for lifestyle and product placement for social media.
The scene: Inside a traditional Japanese (or modern style house, TBC), with a young female adult model. If stretched financial goals are achieved, then we can include a male or another female model. These extra models may be mixed-race or expats.
Theme: Lifestyle & product placement.
Photos intended for: Social media, Amazon, your website, billboards, fliers, brochures, your Kickstarter or other crowd-fund-sourcing page, advertising materials, anywhere.
Getting set up for a shoot in an old style Japanese house in Yokohama. (Photo taken on iPad)
Photo licence: World wide, unlimited-time, unlimited prints, non-transferable (cannot be given to other companies to use, except for media-promotional uses).
Benefits: Low-cost semi-exclusive shoot. You get ten web-sized and ten full-sized photos, and two videos of about 5 to 10 seconds each (intended for Instagram use). Photos will be delivered in jpg, and videos in avi, mp4, or mpg formats. Your product will appear international and normalised in an authentic domestic scene. Japan has a reputation for excellence and quality products, have yours associated with this.
Makeup artist preparing a model for a lifestyle shoot in an old-style Japanese home.
Buy-in: Early-bird sponsors (the first ten): USD$200 (AUD$260; which is only 10% of the normal price of a similar style shoot, ie: a 90% discount) per product (maximum five similar models or prototypes of an item). Second group (next 10): USD$250 (AUD$315), and then the third group: $300 (AUD$380). Limited spaces. We are using KickStarter, and so pledges & payments may be available via Kickstarter; for more information contact us.
Currency: I am Australian, and my PayPal account is Australian, and so the currency for this campaign needs to be based on the Australian dollar. For referential purposes, equivalents are posted in US dollars based on the conversion rate on 19th August. Models and makeup artists will be paid in Japanese yen.
What kinds of products? Anything (that’s legal). Example: cosmetics, shampoos, watches, books, bags, cups, Kickstarter prototypes, clothes, small electronics, small furniture, sports items, whatever.
Where: A house in Nagoya or Yokohama in Japan, which will be similar to the samples on this page.
Final decisions of: Participating models and location.
Products to arrive by: Friday 3rd November (Japan time)
Shoot date: 13th November (Japan time).
First photos of some products shown on social media: Day of shoot.
Photo deliveries: One to five weeks after shoot (post-processing takes some time)
What will the money pay for? The model(s), makeup artist, shoot assistant, me. Our time, cost of materials, transport, minor props, post-processing, other shoot related incidentals. If stretch goals are achieved, then a second model can help. If further stretch goals are achieved then additional models may be required, and a second shoot day.
Eri making paper cranes in a Japanese tatami room.
What will happen: Once the shoot is confirmed to go ahead, we will email you with postage details, and shoot related questions. After confirmation, cancellation is not possible, and so immediately send your products with any artistic shoot suggestions. We will try to follow your shoot suggestions the best we can, but may not be able to use the scene to recreate precisely what you describe. We will of course do our best to deliver high quality photographs that you will want to use. We also hope that you will be so pleased that you will want to tell your friends about us, and use our services again.
During the shoot we will try to show your products in the most naturalistic of settings. We want to avoid kitsch, unnatural, and forced poses; so each shoot will take a little bit of time to plan and prepare, and shoot. After the shoot day(s), there will be thousands of photos for us to process. We will select the best looking photos of your product, process them (with minimal adjustments), and send them to you at the earliest possible time.
Postage of items/products: The items must arrive by the deadline before the shoot. If the items fail to arrive on time they will be returned unopened and we will not be held responsible for delivery delays. Refunds cannot be issued. Also, tell us if the items/products you sent need to be returned after the shoot; bear in mind that you will pay for return postage. The product(s) must arrive by the 3rd November, so that we can organise and plan. It’s strongly advised that you post early, in case there are delays or issues in the shipping process. Any customs fees must be paid by you. We cannot be responsible for products seized by customs authorities; please confirm the legality of your product in Japan before backing this project. Additional customs and delivery charges must be settled by bank or PayPal transfer.
Legal: All items must be legal and legal in Japan too. Japan Customs usually restrict imports of seeds and nuts, and adds tariffs to electronic items. Prohibited items, more info.
Eri enjoying an ice cream on a window sill.
Social media & additional promotion: If requested, your products will be shown on JapanesePhotos.Asia Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr accounts; also on our blog. Send us links to your website and the social media accounts you want in the descriptions or comments. We’ll also follow you, and include your @accountname if possible. The model may also include his/her name and may also share it in his/her account (depends on the model’s own pre-existing contracts). In most cases, JapanesePhotos.Asia will keep the photos on display in our social media feed and will be persistent.
Delivering the photos: This will be done via the cloud. You will get a link and password, and so you can download them all. First deliveries will be within 24 hours, and most will be completed in one to five weeks after the shoot.
Finally, we will be very grateful for your support in this project, and we hope you will be pleased with the results.
I’ve written about the Gnarbox Kickstarter campaign as a backer. It was the first time for me to support such a campaign. I don’t want to delve into all the drama (really the word “drama” is the appropriate noun to use), but after continual delays, broken promises, and constantly updated delivery schedules, it was delivered 14 months late, and instead of 4Gb RAM, we got 2Gb. I got it as a travel back up storage device. The chief problem I have with it is that there is no security installed other than your wifi access password. I don’t even know if the connection is encrypted. However, most people won’t need that review, but what they will need is this review.
Using the Gnarbox for the first time in a cafe in Nagoya Japan.
The main selling point of the Gnarbox is the in-field back, editing, and preparation for immediate posting to social networks. There have been some big name vloggers like Peter Mckinnon and Lok Cheung who have “reviewed” the Gnarbox, and have said wonderful things about it. They are vloggers, they make a portion of their income from YouTube videos, so they have their vested interests. I’ve now seen them in a whole other light, and now I do not trust these promoted “reviews”, and probably will always be skeptical and untrusting of such “reviewers”. Their reviews say essentially the same thing, but both are from the video maker’s point of view.
Both McKinnon and Lok tout the Gnarbox for all the key sales points the Gnarbox company have carefully crafted. However, some serious short comings slip through. The Gnarbox was tested mostly in the winter in the snow resorts in California. Which means, serious issues like the super hot top surface is missed in the field trials, and perhaps the significance is overlooked in the design studio. How hot does it get? Literally: untouchable.
Battery life is also an issue. The Gnarbox tauts a 4-6 hour battery, but it seems mine will struggle to make it to 3 hours. The image below shows both my iPad Mini and Gnarbox battery levels, but both started equally at 100% (though my iPad was taken off charge 8 hours earlier, but not used until this test). As you can see, the iPad used not only wifi, but also had to power the large, energy hungry, touch screen, and be monitoring updates for messages, Twitter, Instagram, and other apps. At the same time, the Gnarbox only had to power the processor and wifi. The iPad used only 6% of it’s total battery capacity, whilst the Gnarbox chewed through 31%. I’ll let you judge the in-field practicality of this.
Both my iPad and Gnarbox started with 100% battery, and in the same period of time the battery remaining are quite different.
The other key point is the ability to edit raw files in the field without a laptop, just use your smartphone instead. I’ll admit that I use my iPad Mini instead, as I’d rather see the details, or rather, as much as I can. I’m editing full sized 24mb Sony Alpha files from a Sony a99, which are billboard sized images if printed fully. However, there’s no way to zoom in to see the details. Secondly, if it’s for posting to social media, then why is there no means to save smaler low-resolution versions of the images. There’s no means to add meta data like captions, titles, keywords, copyright info, etc. In fact, against EU laws, the metadata created in camera, is stripped from the exported image. Yes, it is illegal in the EU to strip metadata from digital files.
Comparing preview and editing views of the Gnarbox app. The lower images are unedited previews, whilst the upper images are also unedited, but moved to the editing module of the Gnarbox app. As you a red tint / hue is added to the image prior to editing.
However, here is the biggest concern and worry. Here is what makes the Gnarbox useless for the job the makers intended. It cannot successfully edit files; it especially cannot be used for portraits even if they’re intended for social media publishing. The raw file looks nice out of the camera in the preview module. However, the astute photographer knows that a photo always needs some tweaks. Typically I add a little contrast, vibrance, a touch of saturation, and some nudges on the tone curve. Also, I do colour calibration where possible with a Spyder Colour Checker 24. Enter the Edit module and immediately the image goes from nice to a weird red tint or hue. The skin colour changes badly, and something terrible happens to the gamma channels. I never needed to do anything about gamma, and so I know very little about it. However, as you can see, the transition from the skin tones to highlights is simply appalling. Consequently, photos require work on especially the colour temperature first, then tint, then whites, midpoint, and then blacks. However, it seems no amount of work can ever rescue the poor transition from the poor skin colourisation to highlights. Additionally, I don’t know of any means to perform colour calibration with the Gnarbox app. It seems the Gnarbox app cannot handle these key points at all.
Below are different images processed differently. As you can see, the best thing is to import the image direct from the Gnarbox onto your device, and then edit with the Adobe PhotoShop Express app.
Image copied off Gnarbox onto iPad Mini.
Image edited on the Gnarbox app. Note the problems with the transitions from skin tones to highlights.
It is possible to just copy images direct from the Gnarbox onto your device, via “Share”.
Image processed with Adobe PhotoShop Express on iPad Mini.
This is the final selected image processed through Adobe LightRoom on a real computer. The colours below are actually truer to real life.
I tried to share the images with the model via Gnarbox. As we were walking back to the train station, she downloaded the Gnarbox app on to her Android phone, I gave her the password to access my Gnarbox, and she did so successfully. However, the connection kept dropping. She gave up and I shared a handful of images by another means.
The Toshiba Wifi SD Card is a good subsitute for in the field work; however, there would be no backup options.
Which should you get? Toshiba offers a wifi capable SD card. The wifi SD card works when you leave the camera on (to supply electricity), connect your smartphone to it (via wifi), then download the photos you want onto your device. After that, edit with a purpose made app like Adobe PhotoShop Express. Of course, this only works with jpegs, but you will get better results. Consequently, I strongly recommend that you download images direct onto your device (from either your wifi SD card, or Gnarbox) and edit outside of the Gnarbox app.
Some people will want to know about video editing with the device. I’ll admit this skill is something I’m weak on. I’ve tried it, but I couldn’t do it. Perhaps I need better training, or the app is problematic; I don’t know. I’ll stick to VSDC on my laptop for now. However, TJ Davidson, a famous vlogger, has done his review of the Gnarbox from a vloggers perspective. His conclusion is about the same as mine: negative and saying the Gnarbox is problematic. I really appreciate his skepticism and honesty; however, I can’t help but feel that he didn’t learn more of how to use the Gnarbox first.
The Gnarbox is meant to be an in-field device that lets you do things without a laptop. It costs about USD$300. However, there’s the $100 Raspberry Pi, and now this tiny Ockel computer too, for USD$200. If I had to choose again, I’d look at how I could have a small touch screen on the Ockel.
Should you invest in the Gnarbox? I don’t know. What do you need it for? Will I use mine again in the future? I’ve already invested in it, so… some times. It probably will never be a part of my workflow: either full file or for social media. I think it will always be as I intended it be, as an in-field backup device.
The Gnarbox was a Kickstarter project, and it is an in-field storage and back up device. It also lets you edit and post pictures without a laptop, and do it away from your office. I pitched in on Kickstarter paying USD$149, and it now retails at $299. It has a capacity of 128Gb, and a claimed battery life of 4 to 6 hours (a wide error of margin) with 4,000mha capacity. It can connect to your smarthphone or Android or iOS tablet via wifi and the Gnarbox app.
Sony a99 with Sony 70-300mm G lens, Gnarbox, iPad Mini 4 with Gnarbox app in index view. (photo taken on iPhone)
The Gnarbox arrived and it sat doing nothing for about two weeks. It was already obsolete by the time I received it. It was originally meant to be delivered in March 2016, but finally came in May 2017. My previous blog posts describe the ordeal of waiting for the Gnarbox, the constant new promises, and missed delivery deadlines. There were constant complaints by Kickstarter backers near the end of 2016 and early 2017. For me, by the time it arrived it was already replaced by a Toshiba wifi memory card. Also consider that most new cameras now include wifi connection to your smartphone, too. Anyway, I paid for it (back in July 2015), and it’s finally just arrived. On Sunday just gone, I went shooting at Arimatsu. They are known for their cloths and tie-dying industry; no, not hippy tie-dying, but the kimono type, as you’ll see below. So, I thought it would be a great chance to do a real life test of the Gnarbox.
A kimono on display blowing in the midday breeze at Arimatsu. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.
To prepare this blog post, I’m using the WordPress app, the Gnarbox with my iPad Mini 4, the Gnarbox app, and an ice-cold Chocolista from my favourite cafe in Japan. Firstly, the wifi connection doesn’t show in the top bar of the iPad, and so I thought it wasn’t connected. After five minutes of trying different things, I thought I’d just try the viewer. Lo and behold, it was connected. It was showing 40% battery. Then I realised it didn’t automatically import the +300 photos from my SD card. It took a slow 5 minutes or so to do the job. In the meantime, it was sucking the battery dry.
From left to right. Sony A99 camera with Sony 70-300mm G lens. Gnarbox first generation (128Gb capacity). Apple iPad Mini 4. Tully’s Chocolista Tall size.
Additionally, the top surface of the Gnarbox was getting too hot to touch. A point of no concern for their snow-based “real world” testers. It seemed like they really did most of their testing in the Californian winter alps (just check their Instagram feed). I mention this, as I’ve not seen any other sample images and videos from the Gnarbox Instagram account. Previous blog posts describe how I was blocked by Gnarbox after complaining about yet another missed delivery date, and the social media censorship that coincided with the start of the prestigious CES exhibition. They obviously wanted to hide their missed deliveries and angry customers.
Editing view of the Gnarbox app. It’s simple compared to the Adobe PhotoShop Express app, but it can do raw files.
A young lady in a kimono at the Arimatsu festival. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.
There are good points and bad points. Mixed in with this are the two facets of the Gnarbox, the box and the app. The box itself is heavy, but feels quite sturdy and rugged. The data connections including card slots are protected with environment proof flaps. In the app, the thumbnail display didn’t complete loading, and so I sat there waiting using up valuable battery life. I eventually found the refresh button; a problem I probably won’t have again. The main concern I noticed right away with the app was the skin tones; the gamma levels seemed off. Also, it doesn’t seem to be able to manage the transition from highlights to normal very well. I’m certain this isn’t a lens or sensor issue. Admittedly, no one wants to shoot in the midday sun, which of course contributes to the problem, but the point of editing software is to reduce this issue, which it failed. However, I do love the “punch” slider. I’m not exactly sure what it does, but I do like the outcome. It is probably like the vibrance slider in Lightroom. It does manage recovering details from dark areas wonderfully. The app seems good, but lacks a range of features when compared to the older and more mature Adobe Photoshop Express. However, the Gnarbox app can manage full resolution images, in raw format and video.
Two men sitting in front of a store at the Arimatsu kimono and cloth festival. The man on the right is wearing a summer kimono known as a yukata. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.
Other issues aren’t major ones. My camera was set to raw + jpg, as it is the only way for the Toshiba wifi card to work and connect with my phone. However, Gnarbox can work with raw files, no jpgs needed. However, the index view doesn’t indicate which is raw and which is jpg. Furthermore, as nice and neat as it looks, the cropped images make it hard to choose which photo is worth editing at a glance. You have to tap on one, check, then flick through and find out which you want the hard way.
The index view of the Gnarbox app. Using square cropped previews is nice, but which one will you want to edit? Which are raw and which are jpg?
Different tie-dye cloths on display at the Arimatsu festival. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.
I don’t do much video editing, and so I probably struggle to use this feature. Which may explain why I couldn’t figure out how to stitch two separate videos together (if it is indeed possible). It is said that the Gnarbox comes with some basic music that can be overlaid into your in-field created video, and you can add more sound tracks to the box yourself. The video colour editing function didn’t work. The error message said something about a firmware update is needed first, something not possible while working on the fly.
The Gnarbox battery went from 40% to 9% within 45mins, which hints that the claimed 4-6 hours might not be possible on this particular unit. It was at about 50% when I opened the box minutes after receiving it from the mail man. There were issues regarding battery life reported online; I hope mine isn’t one of the affected ones. Some buyers have had to return theirs and get a replacement. The Gnarbox took some hours to charge, it was charged overnight, and so I’ll now have the opportunity to test the full battery life in the future.
Women demonstrating creating feature patterns that are unique to Arimatsu. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.
Do you really need a Gnarbox? For day trips, it’s probably not needed. Just use a $50 wifi SD card and the Adobe PhotoShop Express app (set your camera to raw + jpg). For extended trips, as a backup device in case you lose your memory cards, for some people it’s good to have. For immediate social sharing it’s a must have (if you can’t or don’t want to use a wifi SD card). For an overseas jaunt, it’s perhaps quite under capacity at a mere 128Gb. An hour or so of shooting at Arimatsu created 198 photos taken at raw & jpg, which created a 5.92Gb folder. Plus two short videos at 100mb (1:09min) and 35mb (0:24min). I usually take about 300 plus photos at an event and more video. So, I typically walk away using about 12Gb of storage space on memory cards. Consequently, for a trip away, I think the last few photos won’t be transferred onto the Gnarbox. For videographers and vloggers, you might want to wait and see if Gnarbox creates a second generation product with more capacity. Of course, this is my own take on things on its first outing, and as based on my needs and uses. You may see advantage in it, or not. Overall, I will use it, but not as often as I might have 22 months ago. Would I buy one now? No. I’ve never lost a memory card, and my next camera will probably have wifi built in anyway. I have to say this once more, the Gnarbox app does a great job of recovering details in the dark areas, and the punch/vibrance slider is awesome.
Women at the Arimatsu festival posing next to a banner that says “Arimatsu” in Japanese script.
To summarise, in July 2015 I got all excited when I discovered the Kickstarter project Gnarbox. It was due to arrive in March 2016 (Gnarbox). There were in fact multiple delays, multiple promises of delivery, and multiple broken promises and missed delivery deadlines. Fourteen months after it was first due to arrive… it arrived. However, trust had diminished increasingly as each promised delivery came and went. Additionally, there were problems when they claimed to be delivering in late March 2017; people got shipping notices but still nothing arrived by late April. More trust was lost. Consequently, I cancelled my order. However, this is the series of events:
29th April 2017: Request made to cancel order, and receive refund by Kickstarter messenger. Picture 1 below.
Gnarbox interaction 20th May
4th May 2017: Delivery / shipment notice delivered by email.
6th May 2017: Gnarbox acknowledges cancel request via Kickstarter messenger.
19th May 2017: Gnarbox arrives! (shortly before 7pm), and I had to pay ¥900 for duties.
20th May 2017: I contact Gnarbox to ask what now.
22nd May 2017: Gnarbox gives a convoluted response, which hints at no desire to actually communicate, and is laced with assumption that I’d keep it anyway.
Reply from Gnarbox 22nd May 2017
23rd May 2017: PetaPixel does a story on this device, claiming they started delivering in November 2016. In fact, the first deliveries were to their friends in February or early March 2017.
28th May 2017: I still haven’t used it. There literally is dust on the box, which had only been opened once. I’ve been using my iPhone or the Toshiba wifi card instead.
A 32Gb Toshiba wifi card is available for about 5,000 yen or USD$50.
Will I use my Gnarbox? Why did I get it? For one main reason, and one lesser one. For in-field back up, and perhaps for direct to social media posting. Now, I’ll probably use it very little as memory cards are very reliable, and I’ve never lost one (yet). It’s already obsolete; 128Gb capacity is not very much, and now very small for videographers. Additionally, I was never really into social media until recently, but the quality of my new iPhone is really good and perfect for shoot-direct to social media. Finally, I now have a wifi SD card which does the job lighter, cheaper, and easier, and my next camera will probably have wifi built in. That leaves the elephant in the room remains; the Gnarbox photo & video processing. I mainly use Adobe PhotoShop Express on both my iPhone and iPad, which is a more mature product than the Gnarbox editor. Consequently, in 2017 the Gnarbox is a waste. If it were invented ten years ago, then absolutely it would have been used to death.
On Sunday I gave up. All the comments on a kickStarter were saying that only Americans and Germans were getting their Gnarboxes. There were some comments on technical issues including batteries not recharging, failed updates turning devices to bricks, and some SD card slots not working (it’s essential for them to be functional). The device is now totally 14months overdue, and despite delivery notices, weeks later, devices were not arriving still. So I gave up and requested my money back on Saturday.
On Sunday, I bought a cheap ¥5,000 ($50) wifi capable memory card, which does half of the job of the Gnarbox. The other half of the job the Gnarbox does is backs up memory cards, which I’ve never lost or had damaged.
Toshiba FlashAir wifi capable memory card
Then today (Thursday) I get this notice, which means, they either didn’t look for my request or ignored it.
Gnarbox Delivery Notice
So, what should I do? Return it or keep it? I’ll probably keep it, as an in-field backup device. I’ll see how it goes. It wasn’t a huge outlay of money. Unfortunately, Gnarbox decided to use USPS as their courier, which means poor tracking. I have no idea where the package is, nor its estimated delivery date. It could arrive next week, six weeks, or lost in customs.