Schlagwörter: Mobile Reporting

Tips: Mobile Journalism with Second Hand Smartphones

 

Bernhard Lill | Tips for Second Hand Mobile Phones

Say, you are on a tight budget, but want to do mobile journalism. Is it worth then buying a second hand Android smartphone? Yes it is. If you choose the right phone and keep a few important things in mind – as I had to learn the hard way.

I get quite a number of mails and messages from people who ask me which Android phone to buy. Mostly, they are looking for a new smartphone in the 250 to 350 Euro range.

The problem with these devices often is the quality of their cameras and that their processors are not so powerful. And that can be a drawback if you – for example – want to use the video editing app Kinemaster. For the developers recommend high end chipsets like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 series for best performance. And you don’t find these chipsets in midrange phones. (Kinemaster is running on these phones too, but sometimes not so fast or not with all functions.)

So I wondered if it wasn’t a good idea to buy a top end smartphone second hand. And if you really want to save some money, it has to be a smartphone that is older than two years. For in the Android world even prices of new phones go down very quickly after some time because there are so many competitors. And used smartphone are of course even cheaper.

These were my thoughts, not necessarily in order of importance, except for (1) 🙂

(1) I really wanted to save money! (For in a lot of countries there are journalists who realize the potential of mobile journalism but don’t have much money to spend.)

(2) I wanted a phone that was once a flagship phone of its company (for the fast processor).

(3) I wanted a phone that was running on at least Android 6 aka Marshmallow (for app compatability and security).

(4) I wanted a phone with an exchangeable battery. For when you buy a second hand phone you never know how good the battery still is. And if you can’t change the battery yourself it’s becoming more expensive again.

(5) I wanted a phone with a decent camera.

(6) I wanted a smartphone with exchangeable SD storage.

After some research I made my choice: the LG G3 seemed to fit this bill. You can find all the specs here. I chose the version with 16GB internal memory and 2GB Ram, simply because it was the cheapest on Ebay and still promised good performance. In February, I got the phone via snailmail for 110 Euro.

And that’s the thing, I’d never do again: order a used smartphone online from a private vendor without guarantee.

I trusted the previous owner when she mailed that it had no scratches. I did have scratches, even on the camera lense. Fortunately, they don’t affect the photo quality. But, worse, apparently the headphone jack doesn’t work properly with external microphones. For every time I plug a mike into the LG, there is some deep humming noise in the recorded video or audio clip.

Okay, that’s it. End of story, right? If the smartphone can’t record properly with an external mike, then you can’t use it for mobile journalism. True.

So here’s the first and most important lesson if you’re going for a second hand smartphone

Inform yourself online about the phone you want to buy, check prices on Ebay or regional/local platforms. Go to a phone seller’s shop, take a microphone and a headset with you and record something. Listen closely. Test the phone thoroughly. If it works fine, buy it, and you can make a bargain.

For the LG G3 is quite a good phone for 110 Euro. Especially, if you compare it with new smartphones which cost the same. (Read my review of the Lenny 3, which also cost 110 Euro when I bought it last year.)

But judge for yourself and have a look at the photos, the video footage and the live stream that I recorded. Also, I’ll mention the compatible mojo apps which I used with the LG G3.

1. Taking pictures

LG’s native camera app on the G3 offers only rudimentary functions (mostly automatic modes) for photo and video production and, therefore, isn’t very useful for mobile journalism:

Bernhard Lill | review LG G3

There’s one video feature of the native camera that I liked, it’s called dual mode and it might come in handy for reporting:

Bernhard Lill | review LG G3 | dual mode

There are, however, several camera apps that work well with the LG G3: I liked Bacon Camera best, because this app pimps up the LG with a lot of manual functions. Other apps I used: Open Camera, Camera FV-5, ProShot, A Better Camera and Adobe’s Lightroom (which actually is an editor with an inbuilt camera). Here are some photos taken with the rear camera, playing with the depth of field. The first two, I shot with the Open Camera, the third with Camera FV-5:

Bernhard Lill | Photo | LG G3 | depth of field

Bernhard Lill | LG G3 | Apple | depth of field

Bernhard Lill | LG G3 | Photo | horseradish

2. Filming and Live Streaming

For filming, I preferred Bacon Camera, because it gives you manual control over EV, WB and Focus. You can also set the video and audio bitrates. (I noticed some minor bugs with Bacon Camera, though, but they weren’t really annoying: once the app didn’t show the footage I had just recorded, but it was visible in the gallery; another time the app shut itself down.) Editing worked well with PowerDirector (first clip), Kinemaster (second clip) and Quik (yes, third clip):

Bernhard Lill | Kinemaster on the LG G3| review

 

 

And finally a Facebook Live with an extremely tired Bernhard. I don’t find the quality overwhelming; I wonder whether it was the stream or the front camera that caused it.

Conclusion

I also used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapseed and other usual mojo suspects and they all worked fine with the LG G3. Only Snapchat’s filters can slow down the phone. But you can still use the app well.

If you keep in mind to test the second hand smartphone before you buy it or if you can get it with a guarantee, you can’t go far wrong. I’d recommend though that you aim for high end phones which are one or two years old, for they have the the most powerful processors and offer you best value for money. – As always, I’d like to hear what you think about it.

Basic Android Mojo Apps (2017)

This is a revised list of apps which I have tested for Mobile Journalism. I used four different Android smartphones to see on what devices the apps work. Fragmentation is still a major problem in the Android world. And you will notice that not all apps are running equally well on any given phone.Therefore you will find in this list always at least one alternative. Please, let me know if I forgot an app that has proven useful to you during your work as a mobile journalist.

And here you find the equivalent for iOS, courtesy of Matthias Süßen:

Can you do mobile reporting with a 111 Euro smartphone?

Journalist Bernhard Lill testet that Smartphone Lenny 3.

Intro

When journalists talk about mobile journalism or mobile reporting, they mostly talk about Apple devices. The iPhone is their tool of choice. And no doubt it’s a very powerful smartphone.

However, for the last years the top Android phones have caught up and offer an interesting – and often less expensive – alternative.

But what about cheap Android phones? There are lots of them around. And I wondered: is mobile journalism at all possible with a phone that costs around a 100 Euros?

I went into the next store and bought a Lenny 3, which is designed by the French company Wiko and assembled – like most other phones – in China. I had done a bit research beforehand. And the specs of the Lenny 3 looked alright at first glance:

Android 6 aka Marshmallow, 16 GB ROM (expandable via SD card up to 32 GB), 1 GB RAM, rear camera 8 MP, front camera 5 MP, exchangeable battery. Not a high flyer, but, hey, we’re talking about a hundred Euros here. And better than those other cheap smartphones with Android 5.01 and 8 GB ROM.

And isn’t that an intriguing thought: If your office is running on a tight budget, you could equip eight Mojos with a Lenny 3 for the price of one iPhone.

So does the Lenny 3 qualify for mobile reporting?

The answer’s a definite „not really“.

Here’s the summary of the pros and cons first:

+ fairly current Android version (few phones are already running on Android 7), + dual sim, + expandable storage, + exchangeable battery.

– slow with more complex apps like Snapchat, – rather mediocre camera, – sometimes insensitive touchscreen (appears irregularly)

To be sure: in this price category, the Lenny 3 is certainly not bad. But if you want to do professional mobile journalism, this smartphone won’t suffice.

Details

In the following, you won’t find a test with benchmark results, charts and tables. Rather, I’ve tested how the Lenny 3 was performing at the several tasks for which a mobile journalist would need the phone: that is

• taking pictures and editing them on the phone.

• filming video and edit the footage on the phone.

• using the phone for reporting, live streaming via social media (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.).

• recording audio and edit it on the phone.

1. Taking pictures

The native camera app has a clean cut user interface, and you can switch from normal (aka point-and-shoot-) mode into what is called Professional Mode:

Bernhard Lill testet die Kamera-App des Lenny 3.

In that mode, you can manually set for instance ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Light Metering Mode. So there’s no immediate need for a third party camera app as long as you only want more manual control. The app has also different programmes: Panorama Mode, Night Mode, HDR Mode and one for sports images. The HDR one overdoes it a bit, so the image looks rather artificial.

As far a the hardware is concerned the camera of the Lenny 3 performs better at close ups than at landscapes:

Bernhard Lill testet the Kamera des Lenny 3 - Nahaufnahme.

Bernhard Lill testet die Kamera des Lenny 3.
When you blow up the photo, you’ll notice that the trees in the far background look rather washed out, they lack texture.
Mojo trainer Bernhard Lill is testing the Lenny 3.
Same view, but taken with the camera of an LG G4.

Also interesting: the Lenny’s colours are much warmer. But it could be that I had forgotten to set the Lenny’s White Balance back to auto. The LG G4’s image is closer to the truth.

For editing images I used Snapseed, and it worked well and quickly.

2. Filming and Live Streaming

For filming video footage, the native camera app is too rudimentary and does not offer manual settings. I tried FilmicPlus and Cinema FV-5 instead. FilmicPro is out of range for the phone. The Lenny 3 didn‘t work well with FilmicPlus: if I set for instance the frame rate to 24 (25 is not supported), the Lenny would record it with 10,25 fps. Why? No clue. Also, while playing the videos, I noticed little stops in between. The video was not playing smoothly.

With Cinema FV-5 it was different. I could manually choose 25 fps, though I don’t know whether the apps really recorded it at that speed. However, the videos looked alright.

The problems began when I edited the footage. Although Kinemaster and Videoshow did work with the Lenny 3, the result was not convincing:

Result of video editing on a Lenny 3.
After editing the footage with Kinemaster, the cobblestone of the pavement is almost invisible.

And here you can see the short video clip:

When I tried live streaming on Facebook, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I was standing on a field in the middle of (almost) nowhere, but the signal must have been good enough. And remember, I was filming the broadcast with the 5 MP front camera:

bernhards-live-stream

Here you can watch my live stream. I think it’s not bad for such an inexpensive phone, especially as I didn’t use an external microphone.

A Periscope live stream the following day didn’t achieve the same image quality, while I think that the sound is still pretty good:

3. Recording audio and editing it on the phone

I used a Røde Smartlav+ and the app Audio Evolution Mobile to record and edit the sounds. The app worked alright with the Lenny, altough editing longer packages with different tracks might become cumbersome because of the sometimes insenitive touchscreen. In the following example, I used only two tracks: one for my voice, and the second for the sounds:

Conclusion

To be fair: the Lenny 3 doesn’t cost much, and for about a hundred Euros you can easily record and edit audio on the phone and use it for live broadcasts. You can also use it in social networks for reporting. Although Snapchat’s filters can slow the phone down pretty much. Where it really falls short is the image quality when you film with third party apps and edit the footage.

I don’t mind having the phone as a back up, especially as it has a dual SIM card slot. But in general I can’t recommend it for mobile reporting. My recommendation: If you’re on a tight budget and you want to use Android phones, go for last year’s champion or have a look at the second hand market. It’s worth a try, especially if the phones have an exchangeable battery.