November 16 Update
Hey everyone, Ryan here with another update.
It’s been about a month since our last update, so this one will be a bit longer. Going forward I intend to continue with these types of updates, talking about new releases, bug fixes, new features, and general company updates. I expect the frequency to be about monthly, perhaps a bit more if needed.
Eventually we envision app releases will be on a similar monthly schedule. However, in the short-term as we continue to address bugs, add features, and add support for additional cameras, we expect the app releases to be on a more frequent schedule. When updates are available we will post the app release notes in the Release Notes section of our Support pages as well as an announcement and link to them on our Facebook page.
Software Update/Next Release
On October 29 we released app version 0.9.21, which had a ton of improvements in it (in case you missed it, see the release notes). While I know Arsenal still has improvements to make, the feedback on this version has been much closer to what I envisioned when I started Arsenal. The team and I have really been encouraged by the positive responses to the latest build. If you still are having any issues with Arsenal, please send our support team a note (email@example.com) and let us know the problem you’re facing. We’ve resolved a significant number of issues already, and many have been driven by user feedback. Even if we already know about an issue, knowing the frequency at which it happens and the different use cases in which it occurs can help tremendously.
Going forward, we have another iOS and Android released planned for the week of November 19, and another for about two weeks after that. We’re doing some testing currently and not 100% sure which features will be in each release, but here are the big items being worked on for this release or next:
Firmware File Size/Software-Only Updates
First, we recognize that our firmware updates can take some time to install. The reason for this is that our current firmware update files are very large. They contain everything needed to run Arsenal (Linux, drivers, firmware, software, machine learning models, etc.). Up until recently, most updates have included changes to Linux, drivers, or machine learning models so the full update was required.
Ben, one of our engineers, is currently working on our new "software-only updates" feature. If the device software is the only element requiring an update (since your last full firmware update), a quick (approximately less than 1 minute) update will be triggered automatically when you first connect to Arsenal after your app updates. These new software-only updates will be bundled in the mobile app, so they will not require your phone to have internet access.
While there will still be a need for occasional full firmware updates in the future, we expect these to be much less frequent. The new software-only updates should allow us to continue to push features quickly without the hassle of downloading/installing full firmware updates. Software-only updates will not require internet access to connect to an Arsenal on an older firmware version.
There are a few instances where Arsenal toggles a camera setting to a new value before taking a shot, then toggles it back after the shot. Currently if something happens to the camera or Arsenal before Arsenal has a chance to toggle the setting back, the setting will remain toggled. To handle this situation, we added a tracking system that changes the settings back when Arsenal reconnects to the same camera. After this release, if you think Arsenal has changed a setting other than ISO, aperture, shutter, or exposure compensation, you can reconnect Arsenal to your camera and your previous settings should revert back.
New Stacking Menu
Currently the Arsenal app has a triggers menu at the bottom of the screen. While we plan to add more triggers, we realized that having fast access to the stacking options is a more frequent need. We've moved the time delay trigger to the settings menu and moved the exposure bracketing, focus stacking, and long exposure stacking to its own quick menu at the bottom of the screen. This will also let you see what stacking options are enabled before taking the shot without the need to check the settings menu. New
There's quite a few different messages that Arsenal needs to display to the user. The original messaging system was a bit limited in how and when we could display messages in-app. The new system does a better job of handling these necessary messages. In the new system, error messages and important notifications have a "dismiss" option to ensure you don't miss the message if you aren't looking directly at the app.
Vibration Detection Improvements
In some wind conditions, Arsenal's vibration constraint can be too sensitive. We're out in the cold here in Montana doing some field testing to better tune the vibration constraint (strangely, it hasn’t been very windy lately, which is normally a welcome change but has limited our ability to test this feature). This mostly involves adding filtering to higher frequencies that the accelerometer can pick up, but don't affect the sharpness of the photo.
Future Software Improvements
After this release, our first priority is finalizing support for a few cameras that have to date proven troublesome. Those are the Fuji X-T1*, Fuji X-E2, Nikon D3100, Nikon D3000, Sony SLT-A99, and Sony SLT-A77 II. In addition, there are some camera-specific bugs we’re still working through: for instance, the 7D and 5D Mark II have a similar freezing issue and the Sony cameras that connect via Wifi have a similar issue with multi-point and focus stacking that we’re working on. If your camera is experiencing any issues, drop us a note (firstname.lastname@example.org). Lastly, we'll also be working to support some other camera models that didn't see as much demand during our Kickstarter campaign.
*The Fuji X-T1 has some improvements in it for the next release. We’re still working out handheld mode and a few other things, but would be interested in feedback from those that have it.
Our second priority is saving stacked images back to the SD card. Users can currently share a JPEG image from their mobile app, but the final stacked image is not available on the SD card. We are hoping to add this to all cameras; on some it has worked smoothly, but on others we are still working on solutions and doing more testing. Those are both significant endeavors and will be our major focus for the next few releases.
After that, we’re focused on video mode, holy grail timelapses, and adding support for additional cameras, particularly newer models that have come out recently. Some of the more popular cameras we will work to certify are: Nikon Z6, Nikon Z7, Canon EOS R, Fuji X-T2, Fuji X-T3, and Panasonic GH5.
We’ve shipped an additional 20,000+ units over the last few weeks. As of today, everyone that pre-ordered by September 1, 2018 has shipped, with a few known exceptions (late confirmed order details, camera not yet supported, shipping exceptions). We’ve had a few delays with the September orders, but they will be going out this week or worst case next, along with any orders from October. If you placed an order in November, these orders will be shipping out before the end of the month. If you ordered before September 1, 2018 and haven’t received a shipping notice yet, please send our support team an email at email@example.com.
Canada Postal Strike
Also, you may have heard about the postal worker strikes in Canada, which are having an increasing effect as the strike goes on (you can see updates here). I read yesterday they have a backlog of 500 trailers of packages that need to be sorted/processed. Our fulfillment center has suspended all shipments that involve the Canada Post as a result, a step others have begun to take as well. While we had changed the overseas portion of Canada shipments early on in Arsenal’s launch, the last mile was still being done by the Canada Post. We are looking for alternative options currently, and should have a resolve on this in the coming week. Be advised that shipments to Canada may be delayed in the interim.
We still have a few orders with errors or issues in the “ship to” address. Some of the issues we encountered are:
-Missing name from the “ship to” field (we have to address the package to an individual or company name; we cannot ship to an address without a recipient name)
-Incorrect postal codes
-Missing or incomplete phone numbers
-Non-English characters in the shipping address or name
If you have not received a shipping confirmation, please take a moment to review your order confirmation email and verify that all of the required (and correct) information is listed in the shipping address section. If it is not, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can update the information on your order.
Future Shipping Approach
Starting in the next two weeks, we will move to an on demand shipping model. Due to the pre-order nature of the product, prior shipping events happened in large batches of orders and took quite a bit of time to process. However, going forward we will be sending out shipping details to our fulfillment center on a daily basis, and they will use an expedited ship process for the smaller daily quantities. Orders placed after we move to this model will ship out in 1-4 business days, with the standard 7-17 day transit times applying once shipped. This is especially helpful if you’ve changed cameras and need a new cable, or are trying to get an Arsenal in time for a birthday or holiday.
The holiday season is also coming up quick, and we’ve started to get more questions around delivery timeframes, etc. We have some announcements coming in that regard in the next week as we finalize a few key details. In the meantime, I’ll share what I can.
As for holiday shipping timeframes, the above move to an on demand shipping model will help greatly. However, we strongly recommend you place your holiday orders as early as possible to allow for the current transit times and international customs processing. Particularly for customers in Europe and South America, the customs processes can add length to the delivery and at times may require you to pick up a package.
We will be announcing deadlines for guaranteed delivery by the Christmas holiday in the coming two weeks. Unfortunately, and largely due to the above customs processes, this will only be available in a few of the larger countries we ship to. The full list of countries and exact dates are forthcoming. That said, orders on Black Friday/Cyber Monday will be shipped the following week and thus will arrive well before Christmas.
New Demo Videos
We are currently working on a series of Arsenal Demo Videos (handheld mode, exposure stacking, constraints, etc.). We are excited to release those in the next week. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified when they are live.
As some of you experienced, as we continued through launching Arsenal the support queue became backed up quite a bit. We had discussed some ways we were working to make that better in prior updates, inclusive of greatly expanding the size of our team. With those improvements, I’m happy to say we’ve finally caught up with the technical support queue (it sits at 2 tickets as I write this). There’s some backlog still on order exceptions, but we’ll be caught up there in about a week. As a result, response times have been much shorter recently and will get even better after the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.
Given the speed we were putting out releases in during the launch, I had to disengage a bit from the personal comments here on Kickstarter. I’m really sorry I couldn’t keep up with them; it was a hectic time and I/we needed to focus on software updates. Before then, I had a policy of responding to every comment, publicly or in a private message. After this next release, I plan to engage more fully again and get back to responding to individual comments/messages.
It took us longer to get here than I had hoped, but I’m really happy now with Arsenal as a product. We’ve got a lot more improvements that are beginning to shape up nicely. We’re almost through our backlog of bugs/camera issues. We should be caught up soon and we’ll start releasing new features (I know the dev team can’t wait).
Over the next few months, you can expect to see continued bug fixes, UI improvements, release of delayed features, new supported cameras, and new features. On the business side, I think we’ve finally gotten our shipping/logistics infrastructure where we want. We’ve also doubled our customer support team (again) and we expect to be back to 24 hour response times in the next month.
Thanks to everyone for the patience as we built Arsenal as a company and a product. We’ve got some big software updates planned in the next few months that I think everyone is really going to enjoy. As always, thanks to the Arsenal team for all of the hard work and long hours.