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Archive for October, 2017

Oct
31

Behind the scenes: Capturing creepy Halloween wet plate portraits

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

While most people will be out experimenting with a little chemical called Ethanol on Halloween, at least one photographer decided to use some Ethyl Ether and Silver Nitrate instead. Markus Hofstaetter—whose work we've featured in the past—decided to take a few wet plate collodion portraits this Halloween, and documented the entire process in a creative 360° video.

The main shot Hofstaetter was after is actually not the hard-core looking skull portrait in the GIF at the top. Instead, he wanted to take a self-portrait in the style of Walter White "Heisenberg" of Breaking Bad.

"I feel always like him when I prepare the chemicals for my collodion wet plate process," Markus writes on his blog. He also went for an imperfect look. By not cleaning the edges of the plates after the silver bath and not cleaning the plate holder. "It's not always about perfection."

Here are a few BTS shots, the final images, and a couple of high res crops from the wet plate scans Markus sent over:

Speaking to DPReview, Markus explained some of the particulars of his process:

I like to use trays for sanitizing my plates much more than typical silver bath tanks. That’s because mamut plates are easier to handle, the alcohol (that comes from the collodion coating into the silver bath) can easier evaporate in a tray and it’s so much easier to fill 2 Liters of nitrate back in a bottle with a tray.

All Chemicals I use are self-made and the collodion is typically done on the day before the shooting to get the plates more sensible to light. I make developer and fixer occasionally – these are very stable. The silver bath is Maintained two to three times a year.

As you can see in the video, I forgot to wear my glasses when I put the plate into the silver bath tray the first time – this is very dangerous!!! Because one drop of silver nitrate in your eye will blind you. Never happened before – but I was kind of busy with the 360 cam :(

Normally I wear masks too (the Ether in the Collodion is unhealthy), but I didn’t want to get indents on my face from the mask. You would have seen that in the picture.

To see more from Markus, be sure to visit his website, check out his blog, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Photos, GIF and Video by Markus Hofstaetter and used with permission.

Oct
31

Lexar responds to rumors: will continue making XQD memory cards

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Almost 2 weeks ago, Nikon Rumors reported that B&H Photo had discontinued Lexar's line of XQD cards. In light of Lexar's recent acquisition by Chinese flash storage manufacturer Longsys, people assumed the worst—for once, they shouldn't have.

Yesterday, Lexar responded directly to Nikon Rumors on Twitter, assuring the publication (and everyone else) that the it will continue producing XQD cards, which are currently used by some high-end Nikon DSLRs like the Nikon D5 and Nikon D850. Here's the response in full:

Exactly what Lexar's future looks like, we still can't say. Longsys has been quiet except to say that "the innovative solutions and excellent support that they have experienced from Lexar will continue." For now, that apparently extends to XQD cards.

Oct
31

Leica Q in Silver brings a new look to the compact camera

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Leica has announced a new silver version of the Leica Q camera, giving customers the option of buying a model featuring a silver top plate, baseplate, and silver lens. The back of the new Leica Q Silver model is black, giving the camera what Leica describes as a 'modern take' on the two-tone color arrangement.

This rendition of the Leica Q features control elements that have been given the silver touch, while the lens sports red engraved focal length numbers and distance scale. All of this is rounded out by the same high-grip pattern found on the regular model's black leather trim. The Leica Q in Silver is otherwise identical to the standard model, including its 24MP full-frame sensor.

Leica stores, boutiques and dealers will begin offering the Leica Q in Silver late next month for $4,495 (the all-black Leica Q retails for $4,250).

Press Release

Leica Camera Announces the Leica Q in Silver

A new look for the ground-breaking compact camera complements its innovation and classically elegant style

Leica Camera reimagined the photographer’s everyday camera with the Leica Q, featuring a trailblazing design, full-frame sensor, the fastest lens in its class, and an interface for easy and intuitive handling. Today, Leica Camera announces a new style for the same innovative technology that many photographers now call their favorite Leica camera yet – the Leica Q (Typ 116) Silver Anodized.

DESIGN

A silver top plate, silver baseplate and silver lens create a striking appearance for this new version of the Leica Q, while the rear of the camera is a sleek and refined black – achieving a modern take on the classic silver and black two-tone look. The characteristic, high-grip pattern of the standard Leica Q black leather trim has been maintained, while the control elements are redesigned with a silver finish. Red engravings of the distance (feet) scale and the focal length numbers on the lens add a colorful accent to the classic look of the camera.

Functional elements within the Leica Q are designed clearly and logistically, for optimum efficiency. For example, the Leica Q control menu provides rapid access to all essential controls and enables users to program personalized settings.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

The technical specifications of the silver Leica Q are identical to those of the standard black model. Its incredibly fast lens (the Leica Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH.) and full-frame sensor (24 megapixels) make the Leica Q a perfect tool for street photography and low light, as well as architecture and landscape shots. An integrated high resolution electronic viewfinder (3.68 megapixels) offers photographers reliable control of their composition. These features, full HD video capabilities, Wi-Fi integration and more ensure that even the finest details of every subject are captured in a snap, and easily accessible at all times.

The Leica Q in Silver will be available at Leica boutiques, stores, and dealers at the end of November 2017.

Oct
31

Macphun has changed its name to ‘Skylum’ now that it’s not Mac-only

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Macphun—the Mac-based software company that launched about seven years ago—branched out onto the Windows platform this year with the debut of its HDR and Luminar products for PC. In light of that, Macphun has decided to change its name to the platform-agnostic moniker Skylum, explaining in a blog post that, "we think that this name is a better fit, since we’re no longer a Mac-only developer."

The company will fully transition to the Skylum name in early 2018.

Oct
31

Novoflex introduces electronic lens reversing system for Sony E-Mount

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

German accessories manufacturer Novoflex has launched a version of its Retro Reverse Adapters for the Sony E-mount system. The adapter allows users to reverse-mount lenses for macro shooting while maintaining full electronic control of the lens via the body controls.

The system works by using a pair of cable-connected rings that communicate information from the camera to the rear of the lens, even when it is mounted away from the body.

Reversing a lens is a quick way of achieving macro and close-up abilities, but Sony E-mount lenses need to be connected to the camera to operate at apertures other than the widest. This adapter, which has been available for Canon EOS users for some years, allows the lens to be mounted in reverse with no loss of control or EXIF information.

The adapter also allows a bellows unit to be fitted between the camera and any Sony E lens, reversed or not, for extra-high magnification work while still maintaining contact between lens and body.

The Novoflex NEX-RETRO will retail for $440/£309/€350. For more information, visit the Novoflex website.

Press Release

Sony Users Now GO RETRO with NOVOFLEX!

New NEX-RETRO from NOVOFLEX

Allows users with Sony E-Mount cameras (e.g. Sony Alpha 7/Alpha 9 series, Alpha 6000 series, etc.) to reverse mount their existing lenses to achieve closer focus. NEX-RETRO transfers all electronic functions such as aperture control, EXIF data and autofocus, from the reversed lens to the camera body as if it were mounted directly.

Look More Closely

With a 18-105 mm zoom lens in reverse position, you get an image ratio of 1:7 at 105 mm and 2.8:1 at 28 mm expanding the versatility of your zoom lens exponentially. The adapter itself has a 58mm filter thread. Stepping rings are available for other filter sizes.

The Common Thread

In addition to reversing the lens on the camera, NEX-RETRO allows the Sony E-Mount system user to incorporate NOVOFLEX bellows systems for even closer focus and greater magnification ratios.

Highlights

  • Bring to life the finest details: NEX-RETRO allows reverse mounting of Sony E-mount lenses for close focus macro applications.
  • No compromise in flexibility: NEX-RETRO retains complete electronic functionality between Sony E-mount lenses and bodies.
  • Precision engineering: NEX-RETRO is the perfect tool to make the perfect picture even better.
Oct
31

Rylo 4K 360° camera uses a one-tap app to produce cinematic videos

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Launched today by a company of the same name, Rylo is a 360-degree camera that uses some nifty software to produce "beautiful, cinematic video" that is "impossibly smooth." You just focus on shooting, and Rylo can just about handle the rest.

Rylo relies heavily on companion software that makes it possible to transform the raw 360-degree content into smooth videos, including ones that follow specific points of interest or that track a specific object. The camera can also be used to generate stabilized, moving time-lapse videos.

The portable little camera features integrated horizon leveling and stabilization to produce smooth videos in the absence of a stabilization rig, something possible "no matter the conditions," according to the company. To capture the raw 360° video it uses a pair of lenses—one on the front and the other on the back—both with a 208-degree FOV and fixed F2.8 aperture. Content is captured as 4K 360° 30fps footage and can be output in a variety of ways: from 6K 360 panoramic photos, to 4K 360° video, to standard 1080p.

Rylo includes a 16GB microSD card for storage, but supports cards with capacities up to 256GB. Other features include an anodized aluminum alloy body, small OLED display, and a single button for both powering on the device and recording. The internal rechargeable battery supports about 60 minutes of continuous recording.

But the specs aren't the key thing here; Rylo really shines when coupled with its related software and all of the features it enables.

The company bills its product as a way for anyone to shoot and produce cinematic video. "The combination of Rylo's hardware and software gives anyone the confidence and creative freedom to get the perfect shot every time," company CEO Alex Karpenko explained in a press release.

After capturing footage, the user plugs the camera into the smartphone where the companion mobile app automatically offers one-tap options to edit the video. This process reduces the editing time from hours to minutes, according to the company. Whether that final footage is as good as the footage "hours" would have produced is, of course, dependent on your skill as a video editor.

Here's a quick intro that shows you how this impressive little camera works:

Rylo is only available through the Rylo website in the US for now, but will arrive soon on Amazon. The camera costs $500 USD and will start shipping next month.

Oct
31

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Several years ago as I was just getting serious about photography, my only pieces of gear were a Nikon D200 and a 50mm lens. I was instantly enamored with the lens and almost overnight I stopped taking photos of my family and friends with a pocket camera. Instead, I preferred to bring my large DSLR setup with me everywhere because the resulting images were so good.

However, the more I used it the more I became aware of its limitations and I once told my friend Ryan, one of two people who were instrumental in getting me started on my path as a photographer, that I liked the lens but it wasn’t very well suited to wildlife photography.

He took umbrage with that assessment, and quite rightly so because that lens can be ideal for wildlife photography!

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

As I slowly reversed my position over the years I started to realize that the same principle holds true for all sorts of photography types. The camera gear you have, combined with the skills you possess, can work just fine if you simply adjust your perspective a bit.

Whether you like to shoot portraits, sports, wildlife, astrophotography, nature, still life, or any other kind of images you can probably find a way to make it happen with the gear already on your shelf. The first steps involve some mental adjustments that can be somewhat difficult to wrap your head around but make all the difference in the end.

Here are some tips to help you.

Define your terms

When I made that regretful statement about a 50mm lens not being suited for wildlife photography it was partly out of ignorance because I was a new photographer. But mostly it was because I didn’t understand what was meant by the term wildlife photography.

What I had in mind were images of lions, tigers, and bears set against sweeping African vistas. There was simply no way I could get shots like that with a 50mm lens while living in a small town in the middle of Oklahoma. What I realized over the years was that wildlife photography can mean many things, and I didn’t need to put that term in such a small, limiting box.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

Would you consider a turtle sitting on a rock at the edge of a college campus pond to be wildlife? At first, I did not, but now I most certainly do.

Instead, I decided to expand it to include animals I would encounter in my normal everyday routine and even bugs and insects that were literally in my very own backyard. The simple act of re-defining what I considered to be wildlife photography made all the difference in the world to me and has helped me get shots of which I am quite proud and now find great joy in pursuing.

What does it mean to you?

The question for other photographers in a similar situation then becomes: what does [insert type of photography] mean to you? If you want to start photographing people do you mean close-up headshots? Full-body pictures? Street photography? Parties and weddings?

You can even break this down further by looking at sub-genres and defining those terms to be what you want. When you think of a headshot your first mental image might be that of a magazine cover. But headshots can be any number of things and people can be photographed in infinite ways.

The same thing goes for other types of photography as well. You might think sports photography means prize-winning shots of soccer players scoring a goal. But it might also mean shooting an archery competition or even a chess match. And those require very different skills and equipment compared to a football match.

In short, don’t let your pursuit of a specific type of photography be defined by what you think it should mean or, even worse, what other people say. Let it be what you want it to be, then go out and pursue it.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

Can wildlife photography mean shooting a spider on the side of your house? Of course! There’s no rule that says it can’t.

Know what you’re working with

Along with knowledge of your own perceptions of a certain type of photography, it helps to have a solid understanding of the gear you own and the skills you possess. That way you can play to the strengths of what is available to you while also understanding areas in which you could improve.

As I started using my 50mm lens for more wildlife photography I developed a much clearer idea of what the lens could do and its limitations. That helped me understand the types of animal images I could get with it.

For example, instead of zooming in on animals that were far away I learned to be patient and find ways of physically getting closer to animals. That wasn’t always an easy task, but it taught me a lot about myself and my willingness to get the shot I wanted. It also helped me understand that my humble little 50mm lens was capable of a lot more than I initially gave it credit for.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

The best camera is the one you have with you

Every now and then I would get lucky and have an animal cross my path. Then almost as if it were aware of what I was doing, it would pause and wait for a picture. Of course, this type of scenario is only possible if you have your camera with you instead of sitting on a shelf at home.

No matter what type of pictures you are pursuing, by not practicing and not having your camera with you it will not help you advance. I also learned to conquer some of my fears and do what it takes to get the shot even if it makes me uncomfortable.

I made this image of a snake after seeing it crawl across the street and into my front yard. Not knowing whether the snake was venomous or not (turns out it wasn’t) I made sure to keep my distance and have an escape plan ready. But I wasn’t about to let an interesting photo opportunity pass me by.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

You’ll learn what gear you need

Several years ago I took the following picture of a spider outside my house and thought it was decent. But it was not nearly as good as it could have been because my lens would not focus any closer. (Are you seeing a theme here? You don’t need to go far to take wildlife photos!)

There were also problems with the picture from a compositional standpoint: the light is too harsh, the subject is somewhat unclear, and it’s not all that obvious exactly what is happening.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

One of my earlier photos of a spider eating on an evening snack. Much like the grasshopper, this picture clearly has some problems.

As I learned more about my gear while refining my skills I realized that I simply didn’t have what I needed to take close-up shots of bugs and insects. So I bought a set of close-up filters for about $35 that allowed me and 50mm lens to get much closer to subjects than before.

I also spent time studying light, composition, mood, emotion, and other principles of photography because I knew I had a lot to learn in those areas. The result is a similar image that I took recently which, in my opinion, is far superior to its earlier counterpart.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

It took several years and hundreds of shots before I was able to get a photo I was happy with.

Use what you have to its potential

The lesson here is that you don’t necessarily need to buy new equipment to get the kinds of shots you want. But you do need to know how to use what you’ve got and what you know.

Are you shooting with the kit lens that came with your camera? That’s fine! Those lenses are great for wide-angle shots and short telephoto images, and you can get fantastic shots especially if you have plenty of light.

Your camera might even have features you don’t know about, like fast autofocus or good high ISO capabilities that would make it well suited for sports or nighttime photography. The more you learn about what you have, the more photographic possibilities you will see open up right in front of your eyes.

Manage your expectations

No matter what type of photography you want to pursue it is essential that you have your expectations in line with the reality of what you are attempting to do.

If you want to take amazing poster-worthy images of basketball players going for a slam dunk, by all means, go for it! Are you looking to capture some brilliant wedding photos and fun memories from the reception afterward? Or maybe you want to do like I did and get into photographing animals and wildlife.

Have patience

Whatever type of photography you want to pursue, know that you won’t get from here to there overnight. Getting the pictures you want takes years of practice, education, and an intimate knowledge of what your photography gear can and can’t do.

Pursuing those photos is certainly a lofty and admirable goal and one that is obtainable given enough time and effort. But when you start out your photos will almost certainly not look like what you might be picturing in your mind.

How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills

Be like this cottonwood borer beetle and reach for the stars! Just know that it might take a little while to get there.

Even if you can clearly define what you mean by portrait, sports, wedding, wildlife, landscape, real estate, or family photography and you have a solid understanding of your camera gear and your own abilities, your initial pictures will probably fall short of your expectations.

That’s perfectly fine, and it’s all part of the process of growing as a photographer. As long as you don’t let your initial shots get you down. Go into it with an understanding that you have time and room to grow. In the meantime, don’t let anyone tell you your pictures aren’t good enough, you don’t have the right gear, or you aren’t as skilled as you need to be.

This photo represents my White Whale: a goal I have been pursuing but always seems out of reach. I always seem to end up with images like this which are almost there…but not quite. Someday I would really like to get a shot of a bee drinking nectar from a flower, and I will keep at it until I finally get it.

Conclusion

What are some of your photography goals, and what are you doing to make those goals happen? Is there a type or style of photography you have always wanted to try but never thought you could do? Leave your thoughts in the comments below–I’d love to hear from the DPS community on this and hopefully help others find some encouragement and inspiration on their photographic journey.

The post How to Make the Most of Your Camera Gear and Skills by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
31

First iPhone X hands-on field test with sample photos

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

iPhone X pre-orders only just started, but our friend Chase Jarvis of CreativeLive somehow got his hands on one of the very first smartphones out in the wild. Naturally, he took this amazing opportunity to run around New York City like a maniac and create the first hands-on field test of the iPhone X!

We spoke to Chase in New York before any of this went public, and he was kind enough to share some sample photos and his just-published video with us first.

Keep in mind that this video and the photos below (more on the CreativeLive blog) are not for pixel peeping or deep technical dives. We'll be getting our own review unit and you can be sure we'll test that stuff with the same technical fervor you've come to expect from DPReview. Instead, what Chase wanted to do was share his first impressions and a few snapshots after using the device for just a couple of hours.

The good news? Those impressions were extremely positive. No device is perfect, but Chase writes time and again that the iPhone X "felt like the future."

The point is simple. Just like the first iPhone helped us see the future we couldn’t quite put into words, so does the X. It’s more than just an incremental upgrade from the previous versions. With the iPhone X you can feel the future again in the smartphone.

Check out a few sample photos from Chase below, and then head over to the CreativeLive blog for more of his thoughts on the phone and a few more photos.

Oct
31

Sony a7R III dynamic range improved, nearly matches chart-topping Nikon D850

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Sony has claimed 15 EV dynamic range from its newest ILC iteration: the a7R III. Is it true, or is it like Sony's odd claim that the a7S had 15 EV dynamic range? Turns out: Sony has some strong footing in its claim here.

The Sony a7R III retains its dynamic range even in bursts. That's a big deal for a Sony ILC

At the launch event in NYC, we were able to gather enough data to measure the 'engineering dynamic range' of the a7R III.* And boy is it impressive. Possibly even more important: for the first time the a7R III retains this dynamic range even in continuous drive. That's a big deal for sports and action photographers. But how true is Sony's claim?

The Sony a7R II already had impressive Raw dynamic range, with the ability to expose short enough to keep highlights from blowing, but with low enough sensor noise to lift shadows without too much noise. The a7R III improves on this.

Oh and think this image is too dark? Wait till you view it on a HDR display, which is another can of worms altogether the stills industry should be discussing.

Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Sony has found a way to reduce shadow (or 'read') noise in its files such that the final output has higher dynamic range, and cleaner shadows if you need them, than files from its predecessor. To summarize it in a number at base ISO: 13.6 EV at the pixel, or for a 42.4MP file. Or 14.8 EV if you like to compare to DXO numbers (and only generate 8MP images from your 42.4MP camera). Either way, that's a nearly half-stop improvement over its predecessor. See our table below, which also compares the a7R III to the full-frame chart-topping Nikon D850, ranking based on highest performer:

Pixel Dynamic Range 8MP 'Print' Dynamic Range
Nikon D850 (ISO 64) 13.78

15.03

Sony a7R III 13.63

14.84

Nikon D850 (ISO 100)

13.27 14.53
Sony a7R II 13.21 14.41

While the Nikon D850 is the top performer here, its important to note that this is only the case if you can give the D850 the extra ~2/3 EV light it needs at ISO 64 (which you often can if you're shooting bright light or a landscape photographer on a tripod). At ISO 100, the a7R III dynamic range actually exceeds that of the D850, thanks to incredibly low read noise. That's impressive for a camera constantly running its sensor in live view.

At ISO 100, the a7R III dynamic range actually exceeds that of the D850... impressive for a camera constantly running in live view

Keep in mind, though, that if you can give the D850 the extra exposure to take advantage of its ISO 64 dynamic range, all tones in your image benefit from the higher signal:noise ratio—even midtones and brighter tones will be more amenable to post-processing and sharpening thanks to being more 'clean' and less noisy to begin with. The D850 is able to tolerate as much total exposure as the medium format Fujifilm GFX 50S, as we showed here. That's what allows one to get unbelievably crisp, 'medium format-like' like files from a Nikon D810 (just zoom in to 100% on that shot and tell me you're not impressed).

But the Sony a7R III gets you nearly there. While in some circumstances the Nikon D810/D850, or medium format, may afford you slightly cleaner more malleable files, the a7R III takes a significant step at closing the gap. And that's nothing short of impressive for a mirrorless ILC constantly running its sensor for a live feed (and all its benefits).

As for Sony's marketing, it sounds like the claim of 15 EV is believable, but only technically if you consider how your images look when shrunk to 8MP files. To be fair, there's some benefit to comparing dynamic range figures after resizing camera outputs to 8MP, since it's a common basis for comparison that doesn't penalize cameras for having higher resolution (and therefore smaller pixels).

In depth vs. a7R II

Let's take a deeper dive. Here are our 'engineering' dynamic range measurements of the a7R III vs. the a7R II. 'Engineering' dynamic range means we are measuring the range of tones recorded between clipping and when the shadows reach an unacceptable noise threshold where signal is indistinguishable from noise (or when signal:noise ratio = 1). Have a look (blue: a7R III | red: a7R II):

The a7R III shows a 0.42 EV, or nearly a half a stop, improvement in base ISO dynamic range over the a7R II. That's not insignificant: it will be visible in the deepest shadows of base ISO shots of high contrast scenes. How did Sony do this given the already low levels of read noise its known for? Possibly by going to better or higher native bit-depth ADCs, something Bill Claff had suggested based on our largely 12-bit findings of the Sony a9's output. But let's save that for the PST forums.

Suffice it to say the a7R III improves on low ISO dynamic range, without sacrificing anything on the high end

It's worth noting our a7R II figures are higher than DXO's published 12.69 EV (13.9 EV 'Print') figures, possibly because they tested an older unit prior to uncompressed Raw and improvements to Sony's compression curve. We retested it literally today with the latest firmware, and get figures of 13.2 EV or 14.4 EV normalized for 'Print' (Bill measures 13.3 EV, which you can see by clicking the camera name in the legend). See our 8MP, or 'Print' normalized, dynamic range figures below. These are more comparable to what DXO might report, for the benefit of your own comparative efforts (blue: a7R III | red: a7R II):

You can see the Sony a7R III encroaching on the ~15 EV rating of the Nikon D850 at ISO 64, but at ISO 100 on the Sony, thanks to lower read noise. Impressive, though keep in mind again that the overall image quality improvement of an ISO 64 file from a D850 is due to total captured light (and it's all about total captured light, which you can read about here).

Independently, our friend Bill Claff has tested the a7R III and also shows a similar 0.3 EV improvement over the Mark II (you can see the dynamic range numbers by clicking on the relevant camera in the legend at the upper right). He also shows the slight advantage of the Nikon D850 over the a7R III, which comes in at 13.7 EV vs. the a7R III's 13.6 EV at the pixel level.**

Sony: a job well done. And all this at no cost to high ISO performance (we have comparisons coming showing parity between high ISO a7R III and a9 performance). Now please offer us visually lossless compressed Raw so we don't have to deal with >80MB files for no reason. :)

ISO-Invariance

A camera with such great dynamic range performance suggests it's probably fairly ISO-invariant, but is it?

Well, yes and no. It's ISO-invariant in exactly the way it should be, but not so in the ways it shouldn't be. Confused? Read on.

The a7R III, like many Sony predecessors, has a second gain step at the pixel level that amplifies signal, at the cost of higher tones, to preserve higher signal, and less noise, in dark tones. But it does so at a higher ISO—640 to be exact. At this point, the camera has amplified its signal in the analog domain so much that any remaining noise barely affects it.

That's why the camera shows no difference between amplifying that ISO 640-amplified signal digitally (in-post) or in the analog domain in-camera. While we'll have a more rigorous and controlled ISO-invariance test coming soon, you can see even in our cursory test at the launch event below that comparing ISO 6400 vs ISO 640 shot at the same exposure but raised 3.3 EV in-post to maintain the same brightness as ISO 6400 shows no difference at all in noise performance.

What's the advantage to the latter? 3.3 EV of highlights you otherwise lose by amplifying to ISO 6400 levels in-camera, but that you don't lose if you ask ACR to digitally brighten 3.3 EV in post (anything that gets blown from that 3.3 EV push can easily be recovered in ACR since it's there in the Raw file).

Below ISO 640 there's some extra noise to, say, shooting ISO 100 and boosting 6 EV in post as opposed to shooting ISO 640 and boosting 3.3 EV in post. But there's simply no excuse to the camera's traditional ISO 6400 method of shooting ISO 6400-appropriate exposure and then boosting the analog signal 6 EV in post to get ISO 6400 levels of brightness; instead, 2.7 EV of that push could be done in the analog domain by switching dual gain to ISO 640 levels, but the remaining 3.3 EV push should be saved for Raw conversion in order to retain 3.3 EV (or more) of highlight detail. Indeed, this is easily seen in Bill Claff's 'Shadow Improvement' graphs that show little to no benefit to analog amplification above ISO 640 on even the Sony a7R II (or ISO 400 on the Nikon D850). And only a highlight cost of stops, upon stops, upon stops, since tones get amplified above the clipping point of the ADC at higher ISOs.

I'm going to use this as an opportunity to ask manufacturers like Sony, Nikon and the like: please accept the digital revolution that even your video departments have accepted (in their 'E.I.' modes). Please stop throwing away highlight data for almost no shadow benefit to ostensibly stick to poor antiquated 'film' analogies, or to work around CCD/CMOS read noise limitations that no longer exist. We've been singing this tune since 2014 when we designed our ISO-invariance test, and it's even more relevant today with dual-gain architectures. ACR understands digital 'push' tags and you can brighten the image preview (and JPEG) as necessary. This is not to single out Sony: Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic are just as easy to blame, if not Canon of late after having modernized its sensor architecture to catch up with the rest.

-Rishi Sanyal, 2017


Footnotes:

* Sony's claim that the a7S had 15 EV dynamic range was patently false, as even the a7R II which has been measured to have less than 15 EV dynamic range performs better. But since there's not standard for dynamic range measurement, it's hard to say whether or not anyone's claim is right or wrong - manufacturers can claim whatever they wish.

** But again, that's not the whole story until you consider the higher signal:noise ratio of all tones at ISO 64 on a D850 compared to ISO 100 on any other full-frame at ISO 100.

Oct
31

How to use Macphun’s Luminar for Beginners

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

If you haven’t used it before, your first question might be what exactly is Luminar? Simply put, it’s photo editing software designed by Macphun (available soon for Windows – download the beta version to try it here).

It might differ a little bit from other photo editing software that you’ve used because it is a photo editor only – it does not include an image cataloging component. It is also a one-time purchase rather than a subscription-based product. Luminar’s workflow focuses on very easy-to-use presets that literally enable you to press one button and completely process your image, ideal for beginners.

Luminar for beginners - white hibiscus

Cropped and edited in Luminar using Mild Image Enhancer Preset at 85 opacity, plus a white balance adjustment.

In this article, I’ll upload some images and take a whirl around the user interface so that you can understand where all the tools are, and what they do. After that, we’ll dive in with some basic editing techniques. In just a few paragraphs, you’ll have some great ideas on how to use Luminar to edit your own photos.

Starting in Luminar Stand-Alone

To start, click on the Luminar icon. The initial screen asks you to Open Image. Click the blue button to open a Finder  (or Explorer) window, navigate to your chosen image, select it, and click open. Your image opens in Luminar.

Luminar for Beginners - Start

Opening in Luminar from Lightroom

If you prefer to start in Lightroom, right-click on your image, select Export > Luminar > Open Original Image. Your image opens in Luminar. Note: you can also select Edit in > Luminar.

Luminar for Beginners - Lightroom

If you made adjustments to your image in Lightroom such as lens corrections, cropping, straightening, spot removal or noise reduction – instead of choosing Open Original Image, choose “Use .TIFF with Lightroom Adjusters”. Or select Edit in > Luminar and choose “Edit a copy with Lightroom adjustments” from the options.

The Top Toolbar

Let’s take a quick look at the top toolbar inside Luminar. We’ll discuss where everything is and what they do but, just in case something doesn’t make sense, and you’re not sure what each icon does, hover your cursor over it. A tiny pop-up will appear and you can confirm that you’re looking at the right tool.

Luminar for Beginners - top toolbar

Luminar’s top toolbar.

Side Panel

Starting in the far right corner of the Top Toolbar is an icon that allows you to open and close the Side Panel, which is where you add Layers and Filters to make adjustments to your image. I prefer to work with the Side Panel open but if you need to see a larger version of your image, click this icon to toggle it off and give yourself a larger workspace. Click it again to toggle it on.

Luminar for Beginners - Side panel open

Here the Luminar workspace has the Side Panel toggled on. Note that if the icon is white, it is toggled off; if an icon is orange, it is toggled on.

Preset Panel

The icon for the Preset Panel is one to the left of the Side Panel one. Again, click the icon to toggle this panel on and off.

Luminar for Beginners - Preset Panel

When activated, the Preset Panel runs along the bottom of the Luminar workspace, giving you a preview of what each will when applied to your image.

Layers and Histogram

The next icon is the Layers panel. It looks like two sheets of paper in a stack. Because the focus of this article is on beginning techniques, we’re not going to talk about layers here. Just make a quick note of where this icon is so that when you’re ready to give it a go, you know how to find it.

To the left of the Layers icon is the Histogram icon.

Luminar for Beginners - histogram icon

The Histogram icon is highlighted here in red, the Layers one is just to the right of it. Currently, Layers are turned off so it is gray.

The Histogram itself has two triangles that can be clicked on and off as well. Solid orange triangles indicate this feature is on. When these alerts are on the triangles indicate if your image has any blown highlights/whites or blocked up shadows/blacks. If it does, they’ll be called out in red or blue respectively on the image.

Luminar for Beginners - highlight alert

The bit of red “paint” on the petal all the way to the left indicates blown-out whites.

History

Click the little clock icon to pull up the history of all the changes you’ve made to your image. If you’re not sure you like what you’ve done, click on any of the previous steps to get back to a point that you do like.

Luminar for Beginners - History Icon

Undo

The curved arrow to the left of the History icon will undo the last step that you’ve made.

Compare

Possibly one of my favorite Luminar features, Compare is the little icon just to the right of the eyeball. Once you activate the comparison frame, you can slide the before/after line back and forth over the image to see how your adjustments are affecting it.

Luminar for beginners - compare icon

Preview

The eyeball icon can be toggled on and off to quickly show you your original versus your edited image.

Luminar for beginners - preview icon

Zooming Icons

There are four zooming icons. You can toggle between 100% and Fit to Screen or make incremental size changes by using the + (plus) and – (minus) icons.

Luminar for beginners - zoom icons

Side Toolbar

Running down the right-hand side is a list of tools that are mostly more advanced so we won’t be addressing them gere. However, the Crop Tool, a scissors icon, is part of almost every workflow.

Luminar for beginners - crop tool

Luminar for beginners - pink hibiscusCropped to a square and processed using Quick and Awesome Workspace in Luminar.

Filters

Now that you know where all the tools are, let’s talk about how to use them to make adjustments to your image.

Luminar calls each set of adjustments a Filter.  For example, the Tone Filter contains sliders that adjust Exposure, Contrast, Whites, Blacks, etc. Some filters, like the Polarizing filter, contain only one adjustment.

Luminar for beginners - filter panel

To add additional Filters to your image, click the + (plus) sign to open the flyout menu, scroll through it, select the filter you need and then adjust the slider.

Luminar for beginners - Filter flyout menu

Note: if you click the name of the filter it will be added and the flyout menu will close. But if you want to add more than one filter just click the little + at the end of the filter name and it will add that filter and keep the menu open so you can add more.

Workspaces

Luminar offers quite a few different Filters and as you are learning the program you may not know which is the best set of Filters to add to your image. One of the ways that Luminar helps you narrow things down is by giving you Workspace options. For example, let’s say your image is monochrome (or you want it to be). You can choose the B&W Workspace as a starting point. If it’s a landscape, choose the Landscape Workspace.

Luminar for Beginners - Landscape workspace

Luminar’s workspaces make it simple to use.

The Filters included in each Workspace have been selected to enhance just the type of image you’re working on. The adjustment of each slider is left to your discretion.

Luminar for beginners - wild horses

Cropped and edited in Luminar using the Landscape Workspace.

If you haven’t used Luminar before (or have, but not successfully), start with the Quick and Awesome Workspace. With some images, applying the Accent-AI Filter is all you may need to do. Activate the Compare feature so that as you adjust this Filter, you can see what it is doing. Add Saturation, Clarity, and Vibrance as needed. How do things look? Do you still need additional adjustments but are not sure which ones to apply? Now is the time to try Presets.

Presets

Presets are similar to Workspaces because in each Preset includes a select group of Filters. However, in Presets Luminar adjusts the sliders (or pre-sets them, get it?) to create a unique look. Usually the name of the Preset will give you a good idea of the look that Preset will create.

Luminar for beginners - preset applied

One of my favorite parts about Luminar Presets is that I can adjust the Opacity of them. In the photo below, the Image Enhancer Preset looks just a tad too strong. Dragging the Opacity Slider to reduce it to 65 was a perfect – and easy – solution.

Luminar for beginners - wild horses

Cropped and edited in Luminar using the Image Enhancer preset at 65 opacity, with no other changes.

Four favorite Presets

If you’re not sure where to start, or which Preset to choose, here are four of my favorites:

  • Happy Memories in the Travel set.
  • Warm Sunset in the Travel set.
  • Bright Day in the Outdoor set.
  • Mild Image Enhancer in the Basic set.

To locate the Presets, click the Preset Menu icon in the lower right corner of the interface then click through the choices in each category. Once you find yourself using the same Presets over and over, add it to Favorites so that you can locate it faster. Just click the star on the preset to add it to your Favorites list.

Luminar for Beginners - preset menu

Applying Presets using Compare

To choose the right Preset for your image, scroll through them with the Compare preview panel turned on. As you click on each one, you’ll see both your original image and how it will look after applying the Preset at 100%. That will help you learn how each Preset affects your image and eventually, you’ll find your own favorites.

Luminar for beginners - bright day preset

Fine-tuning Presets

If the Preset you chose for your image looks good but not perfect, remember they can be used as just a starting point. Once you apply them you can decrease the opacity. You can also adjust individual sliders or add and delete Filters in the Side Panel.

Luminar for Beginners - St Johns NL

Cropped and edited in Luminar using the Bright Day Preset at Opacity 80, Vignette adjusted to -25, Blacks adjusted to +10.

Saving your image

If you started in Luminar, have completed work on your image, and want to create a JPG, Select File > Export to image then select the correct folder and rename the file as appropriate.

If you plan to continue to work on the image, or might want to make changes in the future, select File > Save As to create a native Luminar file, then select the correct folder and rename the file as appropriate. That will retain any Layers if you used that feature as well as the History.

Saving your image to your Lightroom Catalog

If you started in Lightroom, it’s a snap to save your image. After you finish processing your image in Luminar, click the Apply button in the upper left corner of the interface. This saves your image and also catalogs it in Lightroom in the same folder as your original image.

Your Turn

Hopefully, you’ve been following along and processing a few images in Luminar as you were reading. Now take a minute to upload your best image for the dPS community and tell us about how you created it in Luminar. Which are your favorite Luminar presets?

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

The post How to use Macphun’s Luminar for Beginners by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.