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Meet Arsenal, the Smart Camera Assistant Review (2018)

Meet Arsenal, the Smart Camera Assistant Review (2018)

For those who have amazing DLSR and Mirrorless Cameras, I think you are going to find the Arsenal rather interesting.  The company’s motto is “The Arsenal, the Smart Camera Assistant”

arsenal smart camera assistant 2018

Unboxing

The Arsenal Package Arrives!

While many Kickstarter folks are waiting for their Arsenals to be shipped out, we got the scoop on what you can expect once yours arrives.

Weight of the Arsenal Package

Weight of the Arsenal Package

The Arsenal came in a small box with some bubble wrap.

The Arsenal came in a small box with some bubble wrap.

The Arsenal main package with 2 extra cords for a Canon and Nikon camera

Arsenal Packaging

Love the pastel seafoam blue/green color on the packaging.

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Comes with a 3 month free membership to 500px.com

The Arsenal comes complete with a USB power cord, a wall usb charger and USB camera cord.

The Arsenal comes complete with a USB power cord, a wall usb charger and USB camera cord.

Weight of the Arsenal with camera cord

Weight of the Arsenal with camera cord

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Arsenal Initial Observation

The initial observation is the power button has been moved to the right of the unit.  Previous photos had the power button on the left side of the unit.

The packaging is really well thought out and super appealing.

Note: The Arsenal didn’t come with any protective case other than the original packaging.  Since the unit is plastic, you may want to considered buying a small pouch to store it in.  Also the unit is NOT weather/water proof, so it’s advised not to use it in the rain, snow and sleet or in pools or other bodies of water.

REVIEW

Meet Arsenal, the Smart Camera Assistant Review

So what exactly is the Arsenal?  It’s a device that you place in a camera’s hotshoe to help intelligently guide it for perfect shots, or at least better shots than most individuals could take by themselves and from what I have seen, it actually may deliver on that.

Arsenal Got It’s Kicks with Kickstarter

Back in 2017 15,766 backers pledged $2,650,310 to help bring Ryan Stout’s Arsenal Kickstarter project to life.

Arsenal Key Features

I had a chance to chat with Carly Wilkins from Arsenal to get some of the lowdown on the Arsenal’s key features and what the Arsenal could do for you.

There are 6 main areas Arsenal is going to help with your photography needs

  • Automated Photo Stacking
  • Automated Focus Stacking
  • Time Lapses
  • Professional camera adjustments with Smart Assistant AI
  • Wireless Control
  • Photo Sharing

Arsenal uses the Arsenal mobile app to control the Arsenal unit.  Connection is made via bluetooth.

Arsenal Automated Advanced Photo Stacking

Arsenal automates advanced photo stacking techniques to help you capture scenes with High Dynamic Range (HDR). In seconds, you can take multiple exposures and merge them into a single RAW or JPG file on your camera—no post-production required.

As someone who used to be a real estate photographer, being able to take HDR images without post processing is amazing.  This alone would have saved me a ton of time.  For those that haven’t heard of High Dynamic Range photography, it’s a rather cool concept.  Usually you take 3 pictures of the same scene, 1 over exposed, 1 normal exposure and 1 under exposed.  When you combine all 3 pictures, shadows and dark areas are lighted and over exposed areas are darkened, giving you a picture that pops.

I found by taking HDR images of houses, they tended to sell better and attract more buyers than your everyday run of the mill images would.

Arsenal HDR Image

Arsenal Focus Stacking

Another cool feature the Arsenal has is called Focus Stacking.  With focus stacking, you can get your entire scene in sharp focus. Arsenal calculates the optimal number of exposures, takes them at different focus positions, and merges them into one crystal clear image.

I am really excited to test this particular aspect out.  I have a Sony A7iii and the auto focus is stellar.  Combining it with Arsenals ability to focus stack, could be really impressive.

Arsenal Timelapse

One of the key features of the Arsenal is the ability to control timelapse footage and maintain proper camera settings as the lighting changes.

Arsenal Smart Assistant AI

One super cool aspect of the Arsenal unit is it’s ability to fine tune camera settings based on thousands of professional photos.   Users can choose from various pictures to replicate the settings for shooting.  The smart assistant is trained on thousands of photos and it will determine and fine tune the optimal settings for the scene you’re shooting.

Arsenal Wireless Control

Arsenal lets you control your camera from up to 100 feet away. Use the smart assistant AI, set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, see a live preview, or trigger the shutter from your smartphone.

Arsenal Photo Sharing

A key feature of the Arsenal app is the ability to review and share images directly to Instagram, Snap, or Facebook right from your phone.

Arsenal Photo Sharing

Arsenal Mobile Application Overview

Like many things these days, there is an App for that.  Arsenal uses a phone application (“Arsenal Remote”) to help guide you through all aspects of the Arsenal settings.  Arsenal uses an intelligent algorithm to suggest settings based on your subject and environment. Then like any good assistant, it lets you control the final shot.

Here’s how it works:

  • Compares current scene with thousands of past images using a convolutional deep neural network. (The same algorithm used in self driving cars)
  • Optimizes settings based on 18 different factors
  • Avoids settings that produce weak images on your specific camera and lens
  • Uses image recognition to identify subject-specific needs (e.g. fast shutter for birds)
  • Shows safe ranges for each setting based on situational constraints (e.g. vibration)
  • Gives you the ability to change the settings you care about most

Getting Started With Arsenal

Setting up the Arsenal requires the Arsenal app called “Arsenal Remote” and a compatible camera.

The Arsenal comes with a USB Controller cable, a USB Charging cable and the Arsenal unit.  Prior to use, you are required to charge the unit.  Once charged, the Arsenal can be placed on the camera’s hotshoe and the controller cable connected to both the Arsenal and Camera.   You will also need the Arsenal Remote application available for either the iPhone or Android.  Once downloaded, you will go through a process on connecting your application to the Arsenal and also uploading any firmware.  After that you should be good to go.

Product Specs

Arsenal Technical Specifications

Arsenal Specs

Software

Arsenal uses a mobile phone application to communicate with the hardware and can wireless transfer photos and videos.

  • Connects to most Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony DSLR and mirrorless cameras. See full list here.
  • Works with any IOS 9.0+ or Android 4.4+ smartphone
  • Smart assistant AI
  • Manual Mode to adjust Shutter, Aperture, ISO, etc
  • Timelapse Mode for advanced control

Hardware

Arsenal hardware consists of Arsenal unit + micro USB cable.

  • Connects to camera via Micro USB cable (included)
  • Powerful ARM processor
  • Weighs 2 ounces (57 grams)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi-enabled
  • Up to 100-foot wireless range
  • Charge while in use (with any USB-compatible battery pack, not included)

Q&A

Has The Arsenal Shipped?

As of today (June 18th) I haven’t heard anyone receiving a unit.  The Arsenal was supposed to start shipping on June 4th, but it appears there may have been a holdup with shipping or people receiving their units are being very quiet.

The main topic of discussion on Kickstarter appears to revolve around shipping.  I believe people were expecting shipping confirmation.  I seemed to remember Arsenal saying that the first units going out would be to the early Kickstarter adopters before the main group.

As soon as I hear anything new I will post.

Do you need a Camera’s Hotshoe or Coldshoe to use the Arsenal?

NO.  A camera’s hotshoe or coldshoe is only used to hold the Arsenal unit on top of the camera and make it more convenient.

What Cameras Are Compatible with Arsenal?

The team at Arsenal have designed the unit to work with many of the most popular DSLR and mirrorless camera models including Sony, Canon and Nikon.  Currently Panasonic, Pentax, and Olympus users are left off the list of supported cameras.  A full list of supported cameras and models can be found by visiting the Arsenal Website.

What Phones work with the Arsenal app?

Currently both Apple iOS (9.0 or newer) and Android (KitKat 4.4 or newer) smartphones are compatible

What comes with the Arsenal?

The Arsenal currently ships with the following:

  • 1 Arsenal hardware device
  • 1 USB cable for connecting to your supported camera
  • 1 USB charging cable
  • 1 USB wall adapter for charging (USA-style plug)

How long does the battery last?

You can expect 4 to 5 hours of usage out of a single battery charge.

How do you charge the Arsenal?

The Arsenal uses a micro USB port for charging and a second USB port for connecting to the camera.  The Arsenal can be charged while in use.  Arsenal supports USB IQ for fast 2-amp charging from a USB battery pack or computer (not included) — or from the included USB wall adapter if you have AC power handy.

Can you shoot Handheld?

YES.  When shooting handheld, Arsenal disables certain settings that require a tripod. These include:

  • Exposure stacking
  • Focus stacking
  • Long exposure stacking
  • Mirror lockup
  • Refocus before shot

Do you need a Tripod?

Certain functionality of the Arsenal will require you to setup a tripod or stable platform.  This includes

  • Exposure stacking
  • Focus stacking
  • Long exposure stacking
  • Mirror lockup
  • Refocus before shot
  • Timelapses

Can you shoot video with the Arsenal?

YES.  You Enable Live View the the Arsenal Remote app, compose your shot, and set your focus point(s).   To start recording video, you will the tap the shutter button. You can stop recording by pressing the shutter button a second time.

Sample Shots

Colin Bryson and I had a chance to play around with the Arsenal (6-23-2018).  We each had a unit.  Colin was using a Canon 6D Mark II and I was using a Nikon D810.

The shot below is on the Nikon in full automatic and the Arsenal in Smart mode.  As you can see the Arsenal did a better job at adjusting the camera than using the camera’s auto mode.  The Arsenal adjusted the camera’s aperture and shutter speed to create a cleaner crisper image.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to test a lot of the Arsenal’s functionality due to firmware bugs.  The With Arsenal teams is looking into the problems we found and others they may have found and will be releasing new firmware updates accordingly.

Hi Sign Brewing Company

Austin Texas WithArsenal

Straight off the Arsenal, 3 shot exposure stack…so good! Shot with a Canon 6D Mark II

You can see more images that Colin Bryson took with the Arsenal

Arsenal – Bottom Line

First impressions are always important and my first impression of the Arsenal is it sounds and looks amazing.

Whether the Arsenal lives up to the hype at this point anyone’s guess, but from the footage I have seen thus far, it looks like a winner.

I know a lot of Kickstarter folks are anxiously awaiting their units and are just waiting shipping confirmation.

Check out the Arsenal (https://witharsenal.com/) and see if it is right for you.  The retail price is going to be around $250.

UPDATE: 7/6/2018
I have been waiting to test the Arsenal with my A7iii and haven’t been able to test it yet due to Arsenal software issues.

I was able to borrow a Nikon camera from Precision Camera and test the Arsenal, but most of the cool Arsenal functionality that was supposed to work, didn’t at the time, so my testing pretty much ended with not much to show.

I am currently in a holding pattern until the Arsenal team resolves the A7iii issues, which would then allow me to continue testing.

The Arsenal team has been working on bug fixes and new updates are being pushed on a weekly basis. For those that backed the Kickstarter, shipments of the Arsenal units have been slowed down so that the company can get a handle on the various bugs people are finding.

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About The Author

Tom Crandall

Tom has been writing about photography, cycling, running and fitness since 1988, covering everything from the product reviews to the latest in fitness trends. Tom is the Editor-in-chief of GearMashers.com, 10KstepsDaily.com, EndTheTrendNow.com, AntiqueOutings.com, MiniatureReview.blogspot.com and a few other publications, he began racing in college while getting an Information Resource Management degree at George Mason University. Based in the photography and cycling-crazed city of Austin, Texas, with his wife Kathleen and pug Olaf, Tom enjoys running, walking or riding most every day.

18 Comments

  1. Torben Dybdahl

    Hello
    I’m one of many who backed Ryan Stout on The Arsenal. Shipment has been postponed several times and as of yet there are no solid evidence of a single unit been shipped and received. As this is a new article I would like to ask the journalist behind (Tom Crandall) if he have seen and tried the Arsenal?
    Looking foreword to your response.
    Sincerely
    Dybdahl

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Hi Torben,

      I haven’t tried the Arsenal yet. We are expecting 2 units to arrive later this month or early next month. I spoke to Arsenal directly and had a pretty good conversation about the Arsenal and what to expect from the unit. Once we have had a chance to play around with the 2 copies, I will be updating the article with a more in-depth review and analysis.

      I asked Arsenal about why they weren’t supporting Panasonic, as I had a GH5 and knew there are a lot of people who use that camera. The response I got was they simply hadn’t had the time to work with Panasonic and chose to work with Sony, Nikon and Canon. I could easily see sometime down the road that it will also work with at least some Panasonic cameras.

      We will be using 2 Sony A7IIIs for the testing.

      Reply
      • Tom

        How have you given this 4 out of 5 stars when you’ve not even used it? Do you rate things in their marketing or something?

        Reply
        • Tom Crandall

          Hi Tom,

          The rating is based on users rating the product. If you look below the article there is a section where you can click a rating from 1 to 5 stars.

          Reply
  2. Tom Crandall

    A lot of people, namely Kickstarter folks have been complaining that no one has received any shipping confirmation or received an actual Arsenal unit. The main topic of discussion on Kickstarter appears to revolve around shipping. I believe people were expecting shipping confirmation. I seemed to remember Arsenal saying that the first units going out would be to the early Kickstarter adopters before the main group.

    If I hear of an actual confirmation of someone receiving a unit, I will post it here.

    Reply
  3. Ryan

    This is a preview of Arsenal and not a review!

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Tomayto Tomahto.

      SEO wise people don’t search for Preview, they search for Review.

      Reply
  4. Dt

    So far, Arsenal has been nothing but missed timelines and over-promises. It was supposed to ship in January. Timelines slipped many times since then, and still nothing. With all the problems, I don’t have have expectations for the device itself.

    Reply
  5. sylvester gayao

    Hi Tom please send us your sample photos on your arsenal you use it will be great! thanks

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Hi Sylvester. Will do. As soon as I have time to take it out around town I will be posting pictures.

      Reply
  6. BG

    Seriously backers on Kickstarter complaining on here. You really need to stick with Retail in the future. Better to wait and get a great product than have a less than acceptable product sent.

    Stick to your whining at home !!!!

    Reply
  7. Dennis Bickers

    Tom, I’ll be looking forward to some sample photos I’m using a Nikon 750. Can’t wait to improve my shots and save time doing it.

    Reply
    • Tom Crandall

      Hi Dennis,

      I am waiting on another firmware release to come out. Much of the testing I did on the Nikon resulted in me reporting bugs and things to the Arsenal team. At the time of my test, the Arsenal had a ways to go before I would consider it a polished product. Too many bugs.

      Reply
  8. Ryan Walter

    I can’t wait to see the actual review on this. I have a Nikon D7500 and use SnapBridge quite a bit. Wondering how this will compare to that and if it’s worth it.

    Reply
    • Ryan Walter

      Are you thinking of doing a review on the aurga which is similar to this?

      Reply
      • Tom Crandall

        Hi Ryan,

        Based on what I am seeing on the Kickstarter page for Aurga, people are having issues with it. Seems to be sort of in the same state as the Arsenal with lots of firmware bugs being addressed and new updates being put out.

        Reply
  9. Billy Wheeler

    It’s been a few weeks now. Do you have any pictures to post? Your pet, car, tree in your front yard?

    Reply

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