So let me kick things off by stating one thing right from the outset. Believe it or not, the current version of the Arsenal 2 Pro firmware and app combination has marginally improved.
If you want the elevator pitch it's this - the basic functionality is slightly better, but the headline features of the device, the things that people are buying this device for in the first place, yea, they’re still about as useful as tastebuds in your bung hole.
In terms of basic functionality, the last time I gave the Arsenal 2 a serious test it crashed constantly, shat itself mid-operation and failed to choose anything even close to a sensible set of camera settings. And believe it or not, there have been some modest improvements in this area.
For starters, it only crashed four times in the two hours I was testing it down at my local beach. This might seem like a lot, but the first time around it was only successfully completing its shots about one time out of twenty.
In its most basic mode, which is basically just a remote trigger, the app-based touch-screen focus worked correctly on most occasions as long as I didn't push things too far by changing my mind and tapping onto several different areas of the screen. When I did tap around a bit, thereby causing the app to re-focus, it refused to do any more focusing until I restarted the Arsenal and the camera.
It also, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, chose relatively sensible settings when taking photos in the basic Deep Colour mode. The point of this mode is to enable photographic novices to take good photographs. The Arsenal device is supposed to leverage its so-called A.I. in order to select sensible aperture, exposure and ISO settings for that time and location. Previously it would opt for some ludicrous settings such as f/4, ISO6400 and some bat-shit crazy exposure time. This time round, when I tested on the beach in the middle of the day, it opted for settings such as ISO160 or ISO200, f/9 or f/11 and 1/500s exposure.
Don't go thinking this story has a happy ending though.
Unfortunately, Deep Colour mode is still deep doo-doo. Now that Arsenal is selecting better exposure settings, the images taken in Deep Colour mode are not awful, they're just not any better than you can achieve by simply sticking your camera in Auto mode. Once you've taken a shot in Deep Colour, you can preview it and use the slider to 'enhance' the shot. But all this appears to do is add some saturation, a vignette and a bit of clarity, something you could just as easily achieve using any photo editor on smartphone or computer.
In short, Deep Colour is a load of bollocks and if you're looking to get Arsenal primarily for this feature, then save your money and simply stick your camera in full auto mode - it'll do a far superior job.
Focus stacking is a powerful tool for landscape photographers since it enables you to create a blended image which is sharp from back to front. Most decent cameras have a focus bracketing mode built in, but it's not always easy to use. The implementation on my Fujifilm X-T4 is awful and I usually just bracket manually. So I was excited by focus bracketing with the Arsenal 2 Pro.
Unfortunately, this is another deeply flawed mode. Now that the Arsenal's not shitting itself every 30 seconds and is making more logical choices for settings, I was at least able to test this mode properly now.
There are two flaws with focus bracket mode - the settings and the merged image.
The settings for focus bracket mode are controlled by two sliders - one for the number of shots and one for the step size. Unfortunately there's no obvious values to set these to and so you have to spend half an hour fucking about with the sliders until you arrive at something that gets close to the end result you're after. However even if you manage, by sheer perseverance and perhaps some latent psychic abilities, to arrive at values that work, the merged image that Arsenal spits out is, usually, shite.
If there is anything moving in your scene, such as grass, tree branches, water or people then the merged image is highly likely to look awful. You will see ghost elements all over the photo wherever the movement is. And yes, you could always just import the original images into Adobe Photoshop and use its focus bracket feature to blend the individual frames into a single composite, but that's not the point. Arsenal is supposed to do this for you and spit out a good looking focus stacked image. The Arsenal has all the image compositing skills of a confused highland terrier.
There's not as much need for exposure blending these days as most cameras have good dynamic range and you can usually do everything with a single exposure. However if you've got an older camera or are photographing a scene with a crazy large dynamic range, then exposure blending is useful.
Unfortunately, the same issues that affect focus blending, affect exposure blending too. And I use the word 'issues' in the same way that a high court judge might describe the character of an accused axe murderer.
While I'm happy to report that Arsenal did take the required number of shots and while it did choose relatively sensible settings, the resulting exposure blended images are shite. If there's anything moving in the scene then Arsenal will do a woeful job of blending them. And even if by some miracle there isn't anything moving in the scene, the resulting image looks weird and washed out. Like Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense, the Arsenal 2 Pro has a (spoiler alert!) serious problem with ghosts.
The long exposure mode is actually nothing of the sort. It is supposed to use a series of shots, blended together, to give the impression of a long exposure. Unfortunately, photos taken this way usually look terrible, like someone with no clue how to use Photoshop accidentally merged a bunch of images without bothering to blend them in any useful way.
It's possible you might get a vaguely decent looking shot if you were photographing something like a flat body of water with a few ripples on it, but for anything else, it's dogshit.
I have an app on my iPhone called Spectre which uses the iPhone's Live Photo option (basically a short video) to create pseudo long exposures and it does a far superior job to Arsenal for 2% of the price.
Crowd control was one of the only modes that sort of worked sort as advertised when I first reviewed Arsenal. The idea of this mode is to produce a shot of a location with all the humans and/or traffic magically removed. It does this by overlaying a series of images on top of each other and then removing anything that's different between shots, such as a person walking through the frame.
It was choosing stupid settings back when I originally tested it, but it's making more logical decisions these days. This is another mode you can accomplish just as easily without an Arsenal 2 Pro as with it, using a composite averaging mode in something like Photoshop. But this way you get an image with people and traffic removed, delivered straight onto your smartphone. And on that basis, in order to bring a rare glint of light to this otherwise downbeat review, I'll chalk this one up as a win.
One of the modes that created a lot of interest in Arsenal 2 Pro was the so-called 'smart' timelapse. Timelapses can be a real pain in the arse to shoot because you rarely get from one end to the other without having to change the settings. And when you render your timelapse this can result in an unattractive flickering effect. So Arsenal is supposed to intelligently transition from one setting to the next in such a way that flicker is, if not removed, then greatly decreased.
The most difficult timelapse of all is the so-called 'holy grail' timelapse which involves transitioning from day to night. I tested the Holy Grail timelapse mode for an hour around sunset on my Canon 550D. I set the camera going 25 minutes before sunset and left it running for more than half an hour afterwards.
The timelapse that Arsenal produced suffered badly from flicker, but at least it didn't shit itself during the hour in which it was running. However if we take a look at the EXIF settings that Arsenal selected for this timelapse then we can see that it's up to its old tricks.
For an opening aperture it decided that f/25 was the best bet. I didn't even know the aperture on the kit lens on my old Canon 550D went that small. In fact I had to double-check the camera because I thought it was a mistake. But no, f/25 is, apparently, a thing - and Arsenal decided it was a great choice. It wasn't a super bright sunset by any stretch of the imagination and pretty much anything other than f/25 would have been a better option. It stuck with f/25 for the next 20 minutes slowly increasing the exposure time before suddenly deciding to fuck f/25 off, in favour of f/13. And it stuck with f/13 until the bitter end, by which time the exposures had stretched to one and a half seconds.
Now there are sliders in the app that enable you to restrict Arsenal to a specific range of apertures, exposures and ISOs. But I wanted to give it free rein because this is a device that's pitched at people who don't know much about photography and who probably wouldn't have a clue what to set those sliders to.
And just because I tell the Arsenal that it has the entire aperture range at its disposal, doesn't mean it should gleefully accept and choose an aperture with a diameter smaller than a dust mite's dirt box. It's supposed to leverage machine learning for this stuff and not perform a stress test of the camera lens.
Last time I put the Arsenal 2 Pro's night mode to the test it didn't even make it past the calibration shots. This time around I am happy to report that it did make it past the calibration shots. Once. I couldn't quite believe my luck. But can you predict what happened next? That's right - it shat itself, again. In an hour's worth of testing I managed to get it take one single shot. Unfortunately this was before I picked a target star for the app to focus on and so the shot's a blurry mess. When I did pick a target star to focus on, the Arsenal shat itself, disconnected the app and dropped me back to the connect screen.
I did take notice of the settings the app chose when it was hyping itself up to take that single shot and they were actually good settings - f/3.5, ISO1600 and six seconds. If the Arsenal could hold itself together long enough to successfully take a shot, it might have even turned out okay. So, to summarise - it's not so much night mode, as shite mode.
One of the reasons I've been holding off writing this longterm review was the possible release of the Arsenal's pano mode. At the very start of October, Ryan Stout said in the official Arsenal blog that, "As far as launch [of pano mode], we’re looking at mid-to-late October to be fully productionalized and released to the general public". So, I sat and waited and here we are in the second week of November and still no sign of the fabled, the legendary, the rarer than rocking horse shit, pano mode.
Arsenal 2 began shipping in early January and so we find ourselves, nearly a year after release, with no sign of one of the marque feature modes of the device. The no-show of pano mode is a load of bollocks, but at least it's in keeping with the consistently miserable experience of using this god awful gizmo.
So, seven months on, has the Arsenal 2 Pro improved? Yes.
Is it worth buying yet? Absolutely not.
Will it ever be worth buying? I highly doubt it.
As a remote trigger Arsenal works okay and having a preview on your smartphone can be useful particularly if the camera is positioned some fairly inaccessible, such as very low down to the ground or up a pole or something.
The Deep Colour mode is pointless and you can achieve similar results by simply sticking your camera in full auto mode and then cranking the saturation slider up to 100 on your photo editor of choice.
The stacking modes are let down by the merging software which does simply not have the computational chops to do a decent job. 9 times out of 10 you will end up merging the individual shots from an Arsenal created bracketed sequence yourself using third party software. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of the Arsenal 2 Pro.
The timelapse functionality is flawed on two levels - the Arsenal makes bad choices for camera settings - and the resulting merged video file suffers from distracting flicker.
So my advice is this.
If you want to take great photographs and share them immediately to your social media, get an iPhone 14 Pro Max, an S22 Ultra or a Pixel 7 Pro. These smartphones can take impressive photographs and you won't have to dick about with a bulky camera and an add-on gizmo. Google, Samsung and Apple have the budget to ensure that their cameras' machine learning technology works reliably.
If you want to get serious about Timelapses and want to automate the process, then get an LRTimelapse PRO Timer 3 intervalometer. They're not cheap, but they do have the advantage of working.
If you want to take long exposure shots, just buy a good ND1000 filter and knock out 'fine art' shots of wharfs, piers and lonely trees on the water's edge, to your heart's content.
If you want to take better night sky photos and you keep ending up with blurry shots, then get yourself a sturdy tripod and either a Bahtinov Mask or a specialist accessory such as the Focus on Stars filter. The latter costs about $125 and enables you to take tack-sharp night sky photos.
Alternatively simply switch to video mode, turn the ISO right up, ensure autofocus is disabled, press the zoom button and then focus manually with the focus ring, before switching back to photo mode.
So that's it. As the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
The Arsenal 2 Pro is a tempting device to anyone looking to improve their landscape photography, but it is, unfortunately, a deeply flawed device that fails to deliver on its marketing pitch. It's more stable now, but the inherent flaws of the device - specifically its lack-lustre ability to merge photos - are unlikely to ever improve substantially. There's no magic bullet to taking better photographs and very few shortcuts. You'd be far better off spending the cost of Arsenal 2 Pro on a lesson with a landscape expert or putting it to the cost of a new lens or a photo bag or a filter or literally anything fucking else in the universe.