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Gear Review: NstaJam Bluetooth speaker

I’m always jealous of those photographers who are also musicians — and there are many of them. Me, I can’t carry a tune in a camera bag and I’m practically tone deaf. But the power of music is undeniable and it’s a wonderful tool for sculpting the mood while making pictures. Most studios have music going all the time, and people like Matthew Jordan Smith testify that music is an essential part of a great shoot.

But what about when you’re not in the studio?

I’ve seen people using smartphones with the volume turned all the way up in order to get a little music on location. I’ve seen people carry their iPhone docks or big Bluetooth speakers. The phones are inadequate and tinny and the bigger stuff is just big. I’ve already got enough tools to carry on location with me without adding a speaker to my bag, too.

But, I just received this NstaJam speaker for review. It’s very small, but the audio quality is surprisingly rich. Not only does it sound good, but it’s also tough and waterproof. It connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth and has a USB-rechargeable battery and comes in a variety of colors.

Usability

This is a surprisingly useful little tool. It has a subwoofer and the bass is pretty good. I’m no audiophile, but it’s the best speaker in this size I’ve experienced. And it’s loud. Uncomfortably loud if you’re right next to it. It’s got a strap so you can hang it on a light stand or wherever your subject can hear it.

It’s easy to connect to your mobile device or computer — just hold down the power button. You can skip, change the volume, play/pause and answer calls.

The battery life is good. I don’t know what it’s rated for, but I’ve used it for about three hours on a charge.

It’s IPX7 rated waterproof, which means it can be submitted in up to one meter of water for at least 30 minutes without damage. While that means I could use in the bath, it also means I don’t have to worry about it when the weather turns inclement.

It’s even got a mic built into it so you can answer calls when you’re not next to the phone. I like that for when I’m cooking with messy hands, but I’m not sure when it’ll be useful on shoots — unless it’s food photography, of course ;)

(They advertise it as being great for hiking and fishing, but I’ve got to tell you that there’re few things as aggravating as waking before dawn and spending all day climbing a 14,000 foot-tall mountain only to get to the top and be subjected to someone’s music playing on a Bluetooth speaker. Please respect others’ use of public places and keep your music to yourself — and stay off of my lawn! Sheesh, I’m getting old.)

How big is it?

It’s smaller than my 15mm Leica lens. It’s smaller than six AA batteries, only slightly larger than four. It’s small enough to fit in an empty corner of your bag — that spot left open by the fold in your speedlight, for instance. It’s conveniently small. It fits inside my fist. There’s always this much room available in my bag, and its weight is negligible.

Should you buy one?

I think that for $29.99 it’s a pretty good buy. It’s a great idea for a small holiday gift, and it won’t break the bank for most budgets. Check it out on NstaJam’s fully-funded IndieGoGo page.

My favorite thing about this speaker is that I can justify it as a photography expense, but it’s going to see lots of use outside of business hours. We’ll use it in the yard, in the kitchen, in the car for the video player, and I’m sure we’ll find other places to use it, too.

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