Peak Design has evolved from a crowdfunded upstart into a trusted accessory brand for photographers everywhere, and this week it introduced updates to its ‘Everyday’ line of backpacks and bags. These new and improved designs offer stuff that impresses anyone who was previously a fan of Peak’s work, and should also win the company brand new fans, based on my testing of the all-new Everyday Backpack Zip 20L and the updated Everyday Backpack V2 30L.
Everyday Backpack Zip 20L
The Everyday Backpack Zip is a brand new product for Peak, taking a lot of inspiration from the Everyday backpack but opting for a full zip closure in place of the MagLatch that it created and introduced on the Everyday line. Opting to go with a zipper instead of the MagLatch means that the Zip backpack doesn’t have the same capacity expandability to allow you to stuff more… stuff… in the top compartment, but it also offers its own benefits depending on your needs.
First, there’s price: The Backpack Zip 20L I reviewed will cost you $ 219.95, which is $ 40 less than the equivalent Everyday Backpack with the magnetic closure. It’s not a huge gap, but if you’re looking to save a few dollars it’s a good value for what you get. The Zip also comes in a smaller 15L capacity, the smallest size for any of the Everyday Backpacks, and that’s a nice compact bag for anyone with a smaller frame or looking to carry less gear.
The zipper enclosure is also interesting in its own right, allowing you to fully open the back of the bag if you want. By default, there are rigid dividers in the backpack to effectively give it shelves, but should you want to remove these, this makes this the most easily packable Peak backpack in this daypack size range. It’s therefore a great choice for those looking for a backpack to use for purposes other than as a camera bag.
The Everyday Zip also still packs a ton of connection points for you to hook gear to, as well as improved zippers vs. Peak’s original packs. There’s a dedicated laptop sleeve with a tablet pocket that can fit 15″ laptops on the 20L and 13″ laptops on the 15L. The 20L also features the all-new adjustable laptop pocket design that Peak introduced on this generation, which includes an adjustable shelf that lets it more easily hold smaller laptops without them falling all the way to the bottom. It’s also on the standard Backpack V2, and it’s an awesome and easy-to-use quality of life improvement.
Like the Everyday Backpack, the Zip also features a pass-through luggage strap for putting it on a roller while you’re making your way through an airport, and interlocking zipper pulls that can help prevent anyone from quickly tugging open the bag to try to manage a quick pass-by theft. The durable, ripstop fabric exterior is also great for lifetime sustainability.
In terms of capacity, this is a smaller bag but it can still fit a lot of gear – I was able to pack my Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM, Sony 100-400 f/2.8 GM and my Sony A7R IV with the 24-70 f/2.8 GM attached for instance, though fitting all that in with the requisite accessories is probably too tight a fit and merits moving up to the bigger sizes of the V2.
Everyday Backpack V2 30L
The improved Everyday Backpack V2 brings back the MagLatch, with a new design that Peak says is “more ergonomic and sleek.” It definitely stands out less than before, and does seem to be more intuitive to use, which is good news. The sides are again accessible via two zippered compartments (all the zippers are improved and designed for more durability) and the interior is divided by three included velcro, flexible dividers.
The overall look of the Everyday Backpack V2 has been tweaked – and for the better. It was already one of the better looking photo backpacks you could buy, but Peak has made it more rounded this generation, and improved the look of all the seams for a look that just generally projects more quality and attention to detail.
Peak sent the 30L version for me to review, and the capacity difference between it and the 20L Zip allows for packing in way more stuff, including all the various accessories like extra batteries and chargers, mics and more you’re likely to want with you on a dedicated photo or video shoot. I could easily pack the same lens+body combo mentioned above, plus a Mavic Mini and a second Sony A7III body in the 30L.
That height-adjustable laptop sleeve is again present, and makes an even bigger difference on the 30L, since the pocket is deeper to begin with. On my existing V1 Everyday, chasing down the company-issue 13″ MacBook Pro in that cavernous pocket was always a bit like diving deep to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but here it’s really easy and far less likely to give your fingers rug burn.
The shoulder straps on the Everyday V2 are also improved, and they do feel more comfortable based on initial testing. They also now have embedded magnets that connect to the back of the bag when you’re not wearing it, which is actually wonderful for when you’re stowing the bag in an airplane overhead compartment, or putting it through the scanner at the airport security checkpoint. It’s a small detail, but then again Peak’s whole rep is built on it including small details, like the various stowable straps, that remain out of the way until needed and then really deliver awesome convenience.
Just like the originals, Peak has delivered what are likely the most thoughtful, carefully designed photography backpacks available on the market with their V2 range. The fact that Peak as a company is now also focused on ensuring they can build and deliver their products in a way that has a neutral impact on the climate is just an added benefit of its ability to engineer and deliver high-quality, functional gear.
Peak’s stuff is not for everyone – you can definitely get totally fine photo gear for less money. But it’s a category-leading choice for anyone with the means and a great value if you’re looking for a long-term, modular solution that you can go everywhere with.
Accessory maker TwelveSouth has a solid lineup of gadgets, many of which fill a niche that their products uniquely address – and address remarkably well. The AirFly Pro ($ 54.99) is a new iteration on one of those, providing a way to connect Bluetooth headphones to any audio source with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s being sold at Apple Stores, too, as part of its launch today – and there’s good reason for that: This is the ideal way to make sure you can use your AirPods Pro just about everywhere, including with airplane seatback entertainment systems.
The AirFly Pro will work with any Bluetooth headphones, not just AirPods Pro – but the latest noise cancelling earbuds from Apple are among the best available when it comes to both active noise cancellation and sound quality, both great assets for frequent travellers and people more likely to encounter an in-flight entertainment system. But the AirFly Pro has additional tricks up its sleeve that earn it the ‘Pro’ designation.
This is the first version of the product from TwelveSouth that offers the ability to stream audio in, as well as out. That means you can use it with a car stereo system that only access auxiliary audio-in, for instance, to stream directly from your iPhone to the vehicle’s sound system. The AirFly Pro can also serve that function for home stereo sound equipment, speakers or other audio equipment that accepts audio in, but not Bluetooth streaming connections.
One other neat trick the AirFly Pro packs: Audio sharing, so that you can connect two pairs of headphones at once. This is similar to the native audio sharing feature that Apple introduced for its own AirPod line in the most recent iOS update, but it works through the AirFly with any audio source, and any Bluetooth headphones. That’s yet another great feature for when you’re traveling with a partner.
I’ve had a bit of time to spend with the AirFly Pro, and so far it’s been rock solid, with easy pairing and set up, and a convenient keychain ring/3.5mm connector cap for making it easier to keep with you. It charges via USB-C, and there’s a USB-A to USB-C cable included, too. The on-board battery lasts for 16 or more hours, which is more than enough time for even the longest of flights, and again you’re getting that audio sharing feature which is super handy even around the house for just checking something out on the iPad on your couch.
Alongside the AirFly Pro, TwelveSouth also introduced new AirFly Duo and AirFly USB-C models. The difference is that neither of these offer that wireless audio input mode – but you get up to 4 more hours of battery life for the trade-off. The USB-C model also offers USB-C audio compatibility, for connecting to devices that use that connection for sound instead of 3.5mm, and both of these still also offer dual headphone connectivity, for $ 5 less at $ 49.99 each.
GoPro’s first foray into the 360-degree action was the GoPro Fusion, and while it was a strong first offering, the new GoPro MAX ($ 499) is a very different – and much improved – immersive action camera that has a lot to offer experienced videographers and voices alike. To be sure, the MAX has trade-offs, but taken together, it presents arguably the best overall combination of features and value for travel and adventure vloggers who don’t want to break the bank or haul a huge amount of kit while they get out and explore.
It’s hip to be square
The new GoPro MAX’s form factor is both familiar and different for fans of the company’s Hero line. It’s almost like you stacked two Heros on top of each other, with a square box instead of a small rectangle as a result. The design helps accommodate both the dual optics that GoPro uses to achieve its 360-degree capture, as well as the built-in touchscreen display that can be used as a selfie viewfinder, too, when operating in Hero mode.
The ruggedized case can survive submersion in water up to 16 feet deep, and it’s splash proof as well. There are additional protective lenses for the two dome-shamed cameras in the box, as well, which GoPro advises you use in potentially messy environments to protect the optics. Both front and back sides of the camera also feature grills for microphones, which can capture 360 immersive audio when the camera is operating in 360 mode, or act as truly impressive directional shotgun mics when vlogging or working in Hero mode.
Like the new Hero 8, the MAX has built-in GoPro accessory mounts, that fold out of the body on the bottom. This ensure you won’t have to pack the MAX in an external cage to attach it to the wide range of available GoPro mounts that exist out there, cutting down on bulk and the amount of stuff you need to pack when you take it out on the road.
The rubberized coating ensures you can keep a firm grip on the camera when you’re using it without any accessories, and GoPro’s easy to access and prominently placed external buttons mean that you can control shutter and power while you’re using it in even the messiest circumstances. Removable batteries mean you can charge and keep a few on hand to ensure you don’t miss an opportunity to get some great footage.
360 or not to 360
The MAX is a very capable 360-degree camera, on par with some of the best in the market. It handles stitching automatically, and when paired with the MAX Grip + Tripod, it’ll even get rid of any awkward stitch lines where you’re gripping the camera. Using their software, you can then use the 360 footage to create a lot of compelling effects during edits, including panning and transitioning between views, zooming in and out, and basically pulling off final edits that you wouldn’t even be able to get with a few different cameras and shooters all going at once.
That said, there are some limits to the 360 shooting: You can see where GoPro’s software has stitched together its two wide angle captures to achieve the effect, for instance, even if only slightly. And while the tools that GoPro provides for stringing together edits are surprisingly user-friendly, you will need to spend some time with it in order to make the most of the tools available – novices can easily create somewhat disorienting cuts before they get there bearings.
The beauty of the MAX, however, is that 360 is just one of the capabilities it offers – and in fact, that provides the basis for much more interesting things that most users will get plenty more value out of. Foremost among these is HyperSmooth, which, when combined with MAX’s exclusive horizon levelling feature, makes for some of the smoothest, best quality stabilized video footage you can get with any camera without a gimbal.
By default, horizon levelling on the MAX will work in both landscape and portrait modes, and switch between those orientations when you turn the camera 90 degrees. But if you lock the orientation to landscape, you can rotate the MAX freely and the horizon stays level, with footage staying smooth and stable – to an almost spooky degree.
There can sometimes be a slightly noticeable fuzziness when you pivot from one orientation to the other in captured footage, but it’s barely detectable, and it only happens if you rotate fully 90 degrees. Otherwise, the horizon stays look and footage stays smooth, regardless of how much movement, bounce or jitters you have holding the camera. It’s amazing, and should be experienced in person to truly appreciate how much tech went into this.
The perfect run-and-gun mix
That is one reason that this is the camera you want with you when you’re out and about. But it’s not all the MAX offers in this regard. GoPro has made use of the 360 capture to implement so-called ‘Digital Lenses,’ which change the field of view, and adjust distortion to get at final results that can really change the look and feel of the video you capture. There’s a new ‘Narrow’ mode that’s even more constrained than the typical ‘Linear’ mode GoPro offers, and a new Max SuperView mode that pushes wide beyond previous limits for a really dramatic look.
Because the camera is capturing 360 content at 6K, you don’t get 4K resolution when it’s cropped down to Hero mode. But you do get up to 1440p as well as 1080p options, which are plenty for most vlogging and travel log purposes. This is one area where there’s a compromise to be made in exchange for some of the flexibility and convenience you get from the MAX, but in my opinion it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
As mentioned, you also get a ruggedized camera that can even snorkel with you in the MAX 360, as well as a selfie screen and highly capable microphones built-in (in the video above you’ll notice that there is some deterioration in sound when it detects water). It really seems like GoPro did everything they could to ensure that if you wanted to, you could easily just grab the MAX and get out there, without worrying about packing any accessories beyond maybe their Shorty tripod or that MAX grip I mentioned.
GoPro’s Fusion was a compelling camera for a specific set of users, but the MAX feels like it might be flipping the script on the whole GoPro lineup. In short, the MAX seems like a great default option for anyone new to action cameras or looking for a comprehensive all-arounder that’s easy to learn, but becomes more powerful in time.
The MAX’s amazing stabilization is also probably better suited to vlogging and social video than it is to the actual action camera set, because it’s so smooth and refined. You can alter to what extent it triggers, of course, but overall MAX just seems like a device that can do magic with its built in software for aspiring content creators who would rather leave the DSLR and the gimbal at one – or who never thought to pick one up in the first place.
One of the world’s most static technologies may be the humble mug, but startup Ember decided it was time for a change when they introduced their temperature-controlled smart mug to the market in 2016. Now, the company has launched its Ember Mug 2 – a follow-up that keeps the concept and design intact, but that improves the lineup in some key ways.
There are two separate new second-generation Ember mugs – the Ember Travel Mug, and the Ember Mug designed for home and office use. Both add extended battery life, thanks to swapping its old battery technology with “the most advanced battery technology on the market,” and both gain new redesigned charging coasters, while the Travel Mug 2 gets a new control interface for adjusting the temperature of the beverage within, and it’s a bit lighter while holding the same volume.
Ember Mug 2 (from $ 99.95)
This sequel to Ember’s home mug comes in black, white and copper versions, as well as in two sizes: 10z and 14oz. Like its predecessor, it features an internal heating element and battery, Bluetooth connectivity for smartphone control from the Ember app, and a durable ceramic coating.
The Ember Mug 2 has a customizable LED that shows you when it’s working, and that you can change to whatever color you wish, which is handy if you have a couple of these in use in one household. It comes in black and white (as well as the pricier copper edition) in order to set your desired temperature, you pair it with an app on your phone (a quick and painless process).
Ember will send you notifications when the liquid within reaches the desired temperature. I’ve long used one of their first generation products, and the one thing I found was that on my three-a-day coffee schedule, sometimes my third cup would end up cold, because the battery, while decent, would run out before my appetite for caffeine did.
Enter the sequel, which offers up to 50 percent better battery life than the original version. It’s hard to quantify, since the speed with which I drink my coffee differs day to day, but I will say that in testing I haven’t seen the low battery warning before I was long done actually drinking coffee for the day. In short, if you make sure to pop the mug back on its charging coaster every evening, you should have plenty of juice for a full day of use the next day without any sense of mug range anxiety.
Ember Travel Mug 2 ($ 179.95)
The Travel Mug 2 gets a slight redesign as well as battery improvements. Whereas Ember used a physical dial to control temperature adjustments without requiring you to use your phone on the last generation, now there’s a touch sensitive area on the cup just above where the body expands out towards the top. You can slide your fingers around this to increase or decrease the temperature of whatever you have within.
This tweak is likely what allowed Ember to slim down the design while keeping the internal volume (12 oz) the same, so that it’s a bit more lightweight and travel friendly than before (while also offering as much as three hours of battery life). Ember also took the auto sleep and wake features that it introduced with the original Ember ceramic Mug and brought them to the Travel Mug 2, meaning that it’ll turn itself on and off automatically depending on whether it detects liquid inside. or motion from being picked up, to extend battery life even further.
The design of the Ember Travel Mug 2 is top-notch, with a smooth matte surface and hand-friendly design, along with clear, easy to red LED displays that just disappear when not in use. The bottom display shows current temperature, as well as an indicator of remaining battery life, and you can add a custom name to show for avoiding confusion if there are multiple Travel Mugs in use.
Ember’s follow-up hardware to its initial lineup isn’t a dramatic change – but the collection didn’t need a major overhaul because it gets so many things right. The added battery life in the new generation is great, and the appeal remains the same: If you’re a coffee or tea fanatic and don’t love returning to a lukewarm or cold cup, then this is the stuff for you.
Could you opt for a vacuum-walled mug or travel tumbler? Absolutely, and the Zojirushi line-up of insulated travel mugs will keep liquids hot for days. But Ember’s home mug is without peer for actually keeping things hot in an open-top design, and the Travel Mug’s ability to actually adjust and increase temperature on the fly is also a unique value proposition that can’t be matched by any passive insulation.