Photokina 2018: Sony interview – ‘I don’t care about competitors, I care about customers’

Kenji Tanaka, VP and Senior General Manager of Sony's Business Unit 1, Digital Imaging Group, pictured at the Photokina trade show in Cologne, Germany last month.

At last month's Photokina trade show in Cologne, Germany we made time to speak to senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Sony. In a broad-ranging conversation, Kenji Tanaka talked to us about competition in the full-frame mirrorless market, the value of APS-C, and future plans for the a7S lineup.


Is there a customer group that you feel you could reach more effectively?

There are many customers in the field of photography, and we want to create products for all of them. Recently, we launched products for sports photographers. That’s just one example. One by one, we want to expand.

What is Sony doing that’s unique?

We are the world’s largest manufacturer of image sensors, and have developed many unique sensors. Looking at the Alpha 9, the stacked CMOS sensor is a good example of both a unique and innovative product. These kinds of things are a strength compared to our competitors.

But the stacked image sensor in the Alpha 9 is kind of like the engine in a formula 1 car. If you only had the engine, the car wouldn’t work. You also need good tires, a good chassis, and a good driver to control the machine.

Our vision is [...] to expand the market

How do new competitive full-frame mirrorless cameras affect your planning?

I welcome the shift in the market. Our vision is not to move the customer [from DSLR to mirrorless], it is to expand the market.

I don’t know what the impact of [Canon and Nikon entering the full-frame mirrrorless market] will be but we remain focused on creating new customers. That is our priority. Honestly speaking, I don’t care about competitors, I care about the customers. If customers need more functionality, or more quality, we’ll try to do it.

The Sony a7 III is a high-performance full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera aimed at enthusiast photographers and videographers. According to Mr Tanaka, Sony is more interested in expanding the market than in responding to what his competitors are doing.

Is there anything that surprised you about the announcements from your competitors?

No, not really. I already predicted that Canon and Nikon would join the market, and even Panasonic. It wasn’t a surprise to me. But thinking about innovation in cameras, every company should join the mirrorless market, as this is where there is the most opportunity to innovate.

There are five fundamentals to mirrorless - lens, image quality, speed, battery life - some of our competitors especially struggle with that one - and compactness and light weight. These are areas that everyone is trying to improve, but right now I think Sony is in a good position.

Do you see any customer demand for sensors larger than full frame?

Right now there are a lot of things still to do with full-frame sensors, so at the moment I don’t have any ideas about starting work on new larger imaging sensors.

Sony's 24mm F1.4 G Master is an impressively compact, but stunningly sharp full-frame wideangle prime lens. On Sony's APS-C cameras, it offers an equivalent focal length of 36mm.

We’ve been enjoying using your 24mm F1.4 G Master lens. Do you have plans to create more, smaller, lenses in this lineup?

Of course, yes. Some customers want small size as well as high quality, so that’s one of our targets.

Do you have any plans to release new APS-C lenses?

Yes, APS-C is a big market for us. Recently most of our new lenses have been full frame, but APS-C remains a key target.

What are the advantages of APS-C?

Mobility, and ease of use.

The APS-C market is very important for us, [...] but we need to ask customers what kind of models they want.

What is your long-term strategy for APS-C and will we ever see another NEX-7 equivalent camera with dual dials ?

We have to get customer feedback. The dual dial on the NEX-7, some customers appreciated it, but some customers didn’t. The APS-C market is very important for us, so we will create new models in the APS-C market, but we need to ask customers what kind of models they want.

Do you think APS-C could be a professional format for Sony in the future?

Professionals have many cameras. Of course, full-frame is usually their main camera, but for a long time, they’ve also used APS-C as their second camera, so of course, APS-C cameras for professional use must exist.

Will we ever see another 'professional' APS-C camera from Sony, in the mold of the erstwhile NEX-7? According to Mr Tanaka, the strengths of APS-C are size and weight, and ease of use. But professionals do use APS-C cameras as 'second' bodies.

Do you have a different design approach for APS-C and full-frame lenses?

No. Our strategy is unique - one single mount. For example, future APS-C customers might use our G-Master 24mm F1.4. So our lens design should be consistent for all types of models.

Do a lot of your APS-C customers buy full-frame lenses?

Yes.

Some Sony shooters tell us they want improved weather-sealing. Is that something that you’re working on?

Yes, of course. We’ve heard from many customers. We’re trying.

Someday the a7 III will come down in price and it’ll be easy to buy for anybody

Do you think the price of full-frame mirrorless cameras needs to come down, to make them more accessible?

I can’t speak about pricing strategy, but if we want to increase the number of customers, of course some will accept cameras in the $2000-3000 range, but others won’t. Recently, our a7 II was priced at around $1000. So I think our customers are pleased with our wide price range in full-frame.

Someday the a7 III will come down in price and it’ll be easy to buy for anybody. A lot of customers want the a7 III, but it will take time.

Why is Sony sticking to SD memory cards?

Memory card performance is related to image processing speed. Right now, processing speed is slower than SD UHS-II, so using SD is OK. But in the future, for example in any camera with 8K/30p video, SD won’t be enough. But for right now, SD is OK. Recently we announced SD ‘tough’ cards, for professionals that need more durability.

Why do your cameras use two card slots?

There are a lot of use cases for dual card slots. For example using one card as backup, or one for JPEG and one for Raw. Dual card slots are very useful to the customer, we think. Some customers are OK with just one card, but from our research we think that many people will want two slots.

The Sony E-mount is 'open', to the extend that other lens manufacturers can apply to use the standard. Sigma's 70mm F2.8 Macro is one of a growing range of FE-mount lenses from third-party manufacturers.

How important are third-party lens manufacturers to your long-term growth?

As you know, the E mount is an open mount. And of course competition will happen. If the customer can choose between many high quality lenses, that is a good thing.

Can you describe your relationship with third-party lens manufacturers?

We have a contract, and if a lens manufacturer wants to create an E-mount lens, they apply to Sony. Then we disclose the specification to that manufacturer. Sony does not approve lens designs, we just disclose the mount specification.

We’re planning a future a7S model right now, but it will take time.

4K is becoming a standard across all categories now, and the a7S II is getting rather old. Are you still interested in this market segment?

Of course, yes. Our a7S II customers want to create many things, and to meet their demands we are thinking about creating a successor model. But the next model should of course be more than they expect. So we’re planning a future S model right now, but it will take time.

What do your existing a7S II customers want to see improved?

They want 4K/60p, 4:2:2 10-bit, and of course more battery power, increased AF accuracy - many things!

The Sony a7S II is aimed at videographers, but in the three years since its release, its capabilities have in some respects been superseded by more conventional a7-series cameras, and the a9. According to Mr Tanaka, an a7S III is on its way, possibly offering 4K/60p, but 'it will take time'.

Do you think it’s necessary for the a7S II successor to be a hybrid camera, or could it be a dedicated video model?

In my personal experience, the a7S II is a good stills camera. The pixels are very large, so the dynamic range is very wide. There is demand for still camera features I think.

You’ve said that artificial intelligence will play more of a role in future Sony cameras. Can you elaborate on that?

I can’t give you an exact answer, but we feel that AI is useful for many customers. Currently we’re planning upgrades to existing models, and of course future models that will contain new AI features.

Cameras should support creators. Focusing on eyes or focusing on other shapes is a very complex action. Photographers just want to think about composition, or capturing a moment. So I want to remove the need for focus manipulation, or other manipulation. When it comes to autofocus, Sony is very dedicated to developing AI.


Editor's note: Barnaby Britton

Our meeting with Mr Tanaka last month followed Canon and Nikon's long-awaited entry into the full-frame mirrorless market, after five years during which Sony effectively had the field to itself. When I spoke to him in Japan earlier this year, Mr Tanaka predicted that both companies would make the leap before the end of the year, and it doesn't sound like he was surprised to see Panasonic joining in, too. Either way, in his own words, 'I don’t care about competitors, I care about the customers'.

The a7 III isn't going to become a poor camera once a future Mark IV version comes out

That should be encouraging news for users of Sony's well-established a7-series and a9 cameras, who might be justifiably interested in what Canon, Nikon and Panasonic have to offer in the coming years. Also encouraging, for consumers willing to wait a couple of years before buying into new technologies, it seems that Sony will continue its strategy of keeping older models on the market at reduced prices. The last-generation a7 II is a bargain right now, and the a7 III isn't going to become a poor camera once a future Mark IV version comes out, even if future AI-assisted cameras make photography even easier than it is now.

Speaking of AI, this particular comment is highly significant and worth quoting again in its entirety:

"Cameras should support creators. Focusing on eyes or focusing on other shapes is a very complex action. Photographers just want to think about composition, or capturing a moment. So I want to remove the need for focus manipulation, or other manipulation. When it comes to autofocus, Sony is very dedicated to developing AI".

Mr Tanaka also had good news for fans of APS-C camera users, and users of the video-oriented a7S II. On the APS-C side, he admits that full-frame has been a major focus recently, but " APS-C cameras for professional use must exist" and "APS-C remains a key target".

Mr Tanaka's list of customer requests serves as a strong hint at features that could make it into an a7S III

The a7S II is a highly specialized camera, intended to satisfy the needs of enthusiast and professional videographers. It's been due for an upgrade for a little while, and Mr Tanaka's list of customer requests serves as a strong hint at features that could make it into a Mark III version. Perhaps at next year's NAB show in spring? Here's hoping.

How Google developed the Pixel 3’s Super Res Zoom technology

In a blog post on its Google AI Blog, Google engineers have laid out how they created the new Super Res Zoom technology inside the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Over the past year or so, several smartphone manufacturers have added multiple cameras to their phones with 2x or even 3x optical zoom lenses. Google, however, has taken a different path, deciding instead to stuck with a single camera in its new Pixel 3 models. Instead of deploying an optical tele lens, Google is opting for a single-lens setup and a new feature it is calling Super Res Zoom.

Unlike conventional digital zoom, Super Res Zoom technology isn't simply upscaling a crop from a single image. Instead, the technology merges several slightly offset frames to create a higher resolution image, similar to the super-resolution modes on some DSLRs. Google claims the end results are roughly on par with 2x optical zoom lenses on other smartphones.

Compared to the standard demosaicing pipeline that needs to interpolate missing colors (top), gaps can be filled by shifting multiple images one pixel horizontally or vertically. Illustration. Google

The Google engineers are using the photographer's hand motion - and the resulting movement between individual frames of a burst - to their advantage. Google says this natural hand tremor occurs for everyone, even those users with “steady hands”, and has a magnitude of just a few pixels when shooting with a high-resolution sensor.

The pictures in a burst are aligned by choosing a reference frame and then aligning all other frames relative to it to sub-pixel precision in software. When the device is mounted on a tripod or otherwise stabilized natural hand motion is simulated by slightly moving the camera's OIS module between shots.

As a bonus there's no more need to demosaic, resulting in even more image detail. With enough frames in a burst any scene element will have fallen on a red, green, and blue pixel on the image sensor. After alignment R, G, and B information is then available for any scene element, removing the need for demosaicing.

For full technical detail of Google's Super Res Zoom technology head over to the Google Blog. More information on the Pixel 3's computational imaging features can be found here.

PhotoDirector 10 released with AI styles, new layer features, and tethered shooting

CyberLink has released PhotoDirector 10, the newest version of its PhotoDirector image editing and design software. The latest installment brings a number of new features, including tethered shooting and an AI Style Engine. CyberLink has also made a number of improvements to layer editing.

PhotoDirector 10 brings users workflow improvements, according to CyberLink, that are designed for "advanced photographers." The inclusion of tethered shooting enables users to directly connect a camera to their PC, shoot images, and instantly preview them on the computer.

The newest upgrade also brings Soft Proofing for previewing a printer's tone and color rendering, as well as improvements to layer editing. The latter change includes the ability to add empty layers to projects, use clipping masks, and group layers together.

Other features include the addition of integrated Express Layer Templates, additional template packs that can be purchased through CyberLink Store, AI Style Packs that use deep learning to be "more than just photo filters," one-clicked keystone correction, advanced layer text editing, adjustment layers, and content-aware editing for moving, removing, and copying image elements.

PhotoDirector 10 is available now from CyberLink's website for $99.99 USD for new customers, or starting at $69.99 USD as an upgrade for existing customers.

Don’t wait for Holga’s, you can get this battery-free Instax printer today

Toy manufacturer Tomy has announced the KiiPix, a battery-free smartphone printer that's remarkably similar to the one Holga has been promoting through its Kickstarter campaign. The biggest difference between the two is that you can get the KiiPix today, rather than having to wait for a Kickstarter.

The KiiPix is designed very much like the Holga version, other than the pull-up bellows, and uses the same principles for copying the screen of your smartphone onto Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film.

To make a print, users are encouraged to turn up the brightness of their screen and place the smartphone face down on a frame supported by a fold-out stand. The shutter is tripped using a nearly identical side-lever mechanism as the Holga Printer, and a winding crank draws the film from the cassette through the exit slot to trigger development.

The only thing the KiipIx needs to print photos is a steady supply of Instax film. It collapses down to 135x55x175mm/5.3x2.1x6.88in to stow away easily in a bag for carrying around. The printer has been available since August, and retails for$40/£39. It comes in a range of colors depending on your region. For more information see the Tomy website.

PRINT PICTURES ANYTIME, ANYWHERE WITH KIIPIX

KiiPix from TOMY is the new and innovative smartphone printer that instantly prints your favourite photos straight from your smartphone to create lasting memories.

Unlike many instant cameras or photo-printing devices, KiiPix does not require batteries, an app or Wi-Fi to use; simply open up the device, place your smartphone on top, press the button and rotate the dial to print out your photo. KiiPix’s compact design means it’s easily portable so you are ready to print photos anytime, anywhere. It comes in three colours: cherry blossom, sky blue and jet black and at an affordable price point of £39.99 is guaranteed to appeal to the masses.

As the revival of retro inspired products becomes more prominent in both the fashion and technology industries, Kiipix is tipped to be the must-have lifestyle product for millennials, students and young women in 2018. From fashion, to gaming systems, to food, consumer trends show that nostalgic brands are resonating with millennials as they embrace old favourites.

There has been a huge surge in the popularity of instant photography in the last number of years as consumers turn to analogue camera equipment and discover the joy of print photography in this digital age. KiiPix combines both the new and the old, as users can capture and modify photos on their smartphones before instantly printing, retro style.

Kiipix will be supported with a strong digital and social media campaign, as well as being present at experiential consumer events; influencer marketing will also be central to the product launch.

KiiPix – SRP: £39.99
The innovative KiiPix device is light and compact, and collapses into a peggable closed box making it easily portable measuring at 135 mm x 55 mm x 175 mm. KiiPix comes in three colours, cherry blossom, sky blue and jet black. Available in August 2018. Suitable for 10 years plus.

All TOMY toys are cleverly designed to develop children’s core skills whilst they play. Manufactured to the highest standards, this collection of reliable toys continues to be a family favourite, building on the heritage and core values, which parents associate with TOMY. For more information on TOMY please visit www.tomy.com, become a fan at Facebook.com/tomy.toy.uk or follow us on @TomyToysUK.

Photographing a ‘First Look’: The Pros and Cons for Wedding Photographers

The wedding timeline can be different for every couple. That’s why you need to learn to ask important questions, such as whether they’ve considered a ‘First Look’ or would rather keep it traditional. This simple decision can change the entire course of the day in terms of taking portraits.

Let’s dive in and look at the pros and cons of having the couple see each other before the wedding ceremony.

What is a ‘First Look’?

Traditionally, the bride and groom don’t see each other until the bride walks down the aisle. It’s thought to be good luck, and keeps in line with centuries of tradition.

A ‘First Look’ is where a couple decides to see each other either before the wedding ceremony or before the important events  begin. This new concept is growing in popularity, with many couples opting to go for the first look rather than keeping the ceremony traditional.

Sometimes, as is normal with weddings, other factors will determine whether keeping it traditional or doing a first look is best in terms of both the photography and the day’s timeline.

The pros of having a first look

One pro of having a first look is when the wedding day timeline calls for it due to a schedule that might interfere with the bride and groom portraits. For example, if there isn’t enough time to take portraits after the ceremony because the couple would rather attend their cocktail hour, doing a first look earlier in the day will give you enough time to capture the couple. (Click here for other tips on overcoming common wedding day setbacks).

Another example is if the sun sets early on the wedding day and you’re not sure you’ll have enough light to take the couple’s portraits. This is where a first look can let you choose the best time during the day for the portraits.

Another pro of the first look is that when a couple sees each other before the ceremony it can calm their nerves and help them relax for the portraits. A first look can also act as a seamless transition into the bridal portraits without anyone else being present or having to wait for guests to move to the next event.

The first look will usually give you more time for bridal portraits. After the ceremony, many of the guests will want to congratulate the couple, which can eat up your precious time. They may also want photos taken of them with the couple, cutting further into your bridal portrait time.

A first look can make the transition to the couple’s portraits smoother on a wedding day.

I tell couples that the first look is usually the only time during the entire day they’ll be completely alone. This helps them savor each moment and really lean into each other during the photos. Since the first look typically lasts about ten minutes, it’s easy to transition into portraits of the couple. This works in your favor, as you get to spend more time with the bride and groom capturing real emotions before you seamlessly transition into the couple’s portraits.

A first look can bring out a lot of those nervous emotions and relax the couple before the day unfolds.

The cons of having a first look

One major con of doing a first look is it usually happens in the hottest part of the day or when the sun is at its brightest. First looks are typically done between 11am and 3pm. Photographing in the midday sun has its challenges, and the harsh direct light can sometimes mean changing locations for the bride and groom portraits.

Try to find a covered walkway, or somewhere that keeps the couple out of the sun. Look for large trees with lots of shade, but be aware of spotted light. In direct sunlight it may be easier to find big natural reflectors that bounce light back onto your subject. You can also help fill the shadows with flash or a photo reflector.

Another con to the first look can be the couple needing to get ready much earlier than anticipated just to fit it into the day’s schedule. Be sure to communicate with the couple so everyone knows the best time to photograph the first look and how long it will take.

How to photograph a first look

You can set up the first look in many different ways. A common way is to place the groom in a position where the bride comes come from behind and taps the groom on the shoulder. The groom then turns around and faces the bride. This is where emotions run high, and you can photograph from all angles so they can enjoy the moment.

The best angle is to photograph the groom facing away from the bride as she comes behind him. Then switch to the other side to get the groom’s reaction of seeing his soon-to-be bride in her dress. If you have an assistant photographer, place them at the opposite end of where you are so you can cover it from all angles.

Give the couple time to take in the moment and simply enjoy it.

Another way to do the first look is to have the groom facing the same direction the bride will be walking from. This will give you an instant reaction to them seeing the bride in her dress, so be ready to photograph all of those real emotions.

When you place the groom, take some solid portraits of him to help him relax before the bride walks into the scene. Talk to him, making sure your tone is soft, positive and excited. 

Tell the couple that it’s their time, you don’t exist, and that they should just enjoy the moment. Let them know that kissing, hugging and looking into each other’s eyes is what the first look is all about. 

Once the couple has relaxed and finished with the first look, move right into the portraits by taking them to the location you’ve scouted (if it’s different from the first look location). 

In conclusion

A first look helps you get the most out of your wedding timeline for bride and groom portraits. It also helps the couple relax and feel even more excited about walking down the aisle. Having this beautiful and emotive experience will create more authentic photos, and give you more time to create them.

Ask your next client if they’d like a first look, and refer to these tips when answering their questions. You may be able to help make their special day even more special.

Have you ever photographed a first look? Let us know in the comments.

The post Photographing a ‘First Look’: The Pros and Cons for Wedding Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sony users are reporting issue using 128GB SanDisk Extreme SD cards with a7 III

According to multiple users on the Sony Alpha subreddit, Sony's a7 III camera is having issues with a particular SanDisk SD card.

Reddit user "shadyashell" originally made a post regarding an issue they were having with their Sony a7 III camera and SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB SDXC UHS-I Card (Class 3) memory card. In the text of the post, they wrote:

"Everytime I insert the card into slot 1 [I get] the error message 'Unable to read memory card. Reinsert memory card. Slot 1' appears. I've reset the camera multiple times, formatted the card both on slot 2 and my laptop. Any advice on solving this issue?"

Not long after posting, other Reddit users chimed in and echoed that they too had experienced an issue. Reddit user 'iamtridluu3' said "I'm having the same issue. All six cards. Identical 128gb Extreme Pro. I could use it in slot 2 fine. Just slot 1 of both my a7 III and all six cards. Something is wrong with these cards."

Reddit user 'dany74m' claims to have contacted Sony and been told that "[Sony] officially recognize[s] the problem" and "the camera or the card are not defective [it's] just an incompatibility with the SD extreme V.30 128GB." Reddit user 'dany74m' added "[Sony] said they are aware and they are working to fix the issue with a firmware update in few weeks."

DPReview contacted Sony regarding the issue. A spokesperson for the company kept it short and vague, saying "our team is currently investigating the claims." We will update this article if any new information becomes available.

How to Improve Low-Light Performance by Increasing Your ISO

Low-light Images often have noise issues, particularly in the dark areas.

So you’ve decided to take night time photographs. But the light is so low you’re worried about noise. You want the image sharp and the blacks to be black. And noise reduction reduces sharpness, so it’s going to be a problem. (Noise is always a problem with low-light images.)

In these situations you should always shoot at your camera’s lowest ISO setting and increase the duration of the exposure, right? Well, maybe not. The counterintuitive solution might be to increase the ISO and take multiple images of the same subject.

Single image at ISO 1600 and cropped showing lots of noise.

Increasing ISO Increases Noise

Hang on a minute. If increasing the ISO increases noise, how will reshooting the scene at a higher ISO improve low-light performance? Won’t it just increase the noise?

Conventional approaches to noise reduction reduce the sharpness of the image, making them soft or blurred. And blending multiple images won’t reduce the noise. Or will it?

Cropped image of stacked and blended images at ISO 1600.

Some Low Light Images Need Short Exposures

The other potential problem is that long exposures don’t always work. Some night photography involves taking images of objects that move, and shorter exposures can help control that movement.

Low-light image at ISO 1600 (single image).

Photoshop to the Rescue

Adobe Photoshop has powerful tools that let you blend multiple images, but most of these blend modes won’t help. However, there is a way to blend images in Photoshop to reduce noise. The key to shooting with a higher ISO to improve low light performance is to shoot multiple images of the same scene using the same settings (i.e. white balance, focus, aperture and shutter speed).

While the technique is fairly straightforward, it does take some discipline.

Stacked and blended image of six images at ISO 3200.

Understanding Noise

The key is understanding what causes noise. In general there are two types of image noise – chromatic and luminance. Chromatic noise is color aberrations where there are none, while luminance noise is variance in light levels where there is none. Both are instances where the sensor has registered some data that isn’t there. (It’s common in sensitive electronic equipment such as digital sensors.)

If you take a single image, the noise is part of that image. But if you take a second image in the same location, chances are the noise won’t be in the same spot (unless you have a bad sensor). The noise actually moves around.

If you think about exposure in simple terms, it’s the amount of light that hits the sensor or film. Changing the aperture from f/4 to f/2.8 doubles the amount light hitting the sensor. Similarly, if you decrease the ISO from ISO 400 to ISO 200 you need twice as much light for the same image.

But taking a properly exposed image and then blending a second properly exposed image doesn’t actually improve your exposure. Is there another way?

Cityscape at ISO 400 (single image).

Noise Moves

The short answer is “Yes”. This technique relies on the fact that the noise moves around on the sensor. You can take one image at ISO 400, or you can take two images at ISO 800. As long as the total length of exposure (assuming the same aperture) is similar, while the noise will have gone up you’ll effectively have the same image. That’s because you’re simply doubling the amount of light on the sensor at ISO 800, and there’s a proportional increase in sensitivity. Similarly, if you take four images at ISO 1600 you should end up with the same exposure.

But what if I use ten images?

Ten images at 1600 blended.

You may be thinking, “So what? At ISO 1600 I now have ten noisier images than my image at ISO 400. How does it improve my camera’s performance and reduce noise?”

The answer is to stack them, and then blend them together using a particular method in Photoshop.

Multiple Images Can Overcome Noise

By importing the images as a stack of layers in Photoshop and blending the stack together, you can improve your image quality. Using my earlier example, if you use ten images at ISO 1600 you effectively have an image comparable to an ISO 400 image.

Single image at ISO 400 with a tight crop.

 

Ten stacked and blended images at ISO 1600.

As I said earlier, while this technique is pretty straightforward it’s not exactly obvious. Following the steps is critical.

You don’t get extra resolution. But you do get less noise, and the image seems sharper.

The Setup

Pick a subject (not the night sky) that’s under low-light conditions and take multiple images of the same perspective at a higher ISO than you’d normally use – 1600, 3200 or even 6400. (Don’t use ISO values in the extended range because they’re not native to your camera’s sensor.)

Manually set your focus so it doesn’t change between shots. You should either shoot the images in RAW format or make sure all the White Balance settings are the same. Using RAW lets you edit the white balance later, but fixing it before you taking the shots will also address the issue. Take one image at a lower ISO value (probably with a long shutter) and many at the high ISO value. This will allow you to compare the results.

The Process

Step 1: Ensure all the images have the same White Balance. (You can correct RAW images together if you shoot in RAW.)

Use a RAW Processor to match the White Balance and Exposure

Step 2: Import the images as layers into Photoshop. (Bridge and Lightroom both can do this).

Step 3: Highlight all the layers in Photoshop.

Step 4: From the Edit menu, choose Auto-Align Layers.

Align the images.

 

Auto-Align works well.

Step 5: Crop the image to eliminate any missing parts of the image.

Sixth step: Highlight all the layers, and then from the Layers menu choose Convert to Smart Object.

Convert the Layers into a Smart Object

Step 7: Click on the Smart object, and from the Layers menu choose Smart Objects -> Stack Mode -> Median.

Use the median stack mode to blend the layers.

Step 8: Look at the result. (It’s pretty dramatic.)

Single Exposure at ISO 1600.

 

Stacked images at ISO 6400.

 

Cropped image at ISO 1600.

 

Cropped image at ISO 6400 (stacked).

What just happened?

Photoshop blended all the (now aligned) layers together, looked at where most of the images showed the same data and decided that data was correct. It then discarded any data that didn’t match. Because chromatic and luminance noise varies from image to image, blending multiple images like this eliminates the pixels showing incorrect color or luminance.

Stacked and Blended Evening Image

As you can see, it significantly reduces noise without losing sharpness or introducing unwanted artifacts. So the next time you’re shooting in low light, why not give this technique a try?

The post How to Improve Low-Light Performance by Increasing Your ISO appeared first on Digital Photography School.

VSCO adds new ‘Preset Views’ to its Android and iOS apps

Today, VSCO introduced Preset Views, an interface change within its mobile application that makes it easier to see how presets look on your photos.

The new feature provides three new viewing options when adding presets to your photos. In addition to the standard view, VSCO now lets you see previews of each preset in various sizes, from small thumbnail to full-width photos.

"The feature is designed to help creators continue to evolve their creativity by encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zones and experiment with different presets," says VSCO.

VSCO also added a new grouping function that makes it easier to see what presets work best with certain types of photo. Until now, presets were only grouped in the various collections VSCO introduced. You could rearrange them as your needs desired, but it's a time-consuming process. And you still have to know what presets work best for various types of photos.

Now, you can get a better feel for what filters work best for portraits compared to those more suited for landscapes or urban environments. It also includes groupings of filters such as "monochrome" or "vibrant" for images that would look better as black and white or those that could use a little saturation.

The new features should be live across VSCO for both Android and iOS smartphones. If you don't have VSCO, you can download it for free for both Android and iOS.

TinyMOS unveils ultra-portable NANO1 astrophotography camera

TinyMOS, the company behind the TINY1 astrophotography camera introduced in 2015, is back with a successor. The newly unveiled NANO1 is only one-third the size of the TINY1 and offers multiple improvements over the original model, including greater portability, increased resolution, and a dual-mount lens system.

The NANO1 is highly portable, weighing in at less than 100g/3.5oz with a size considerably smaller than the TINY1. Despite the size reduction, the NANO1 astronomy camera will offer triple the resolution of the original model, featuring a Sony BSI sensor capable of capturing 12MP still images and 4K Ultra HD videos.

TinyMOS packed a dual-mount system into the NANO1, one capable of supporting both "very small" M12 lenses, as well as larger C-mount lenses. Users will be able to control the camera using an iPhone or Android smartphone running a companion app. The apps will also support downloading and sharing images.

Joining the NANO1 camera will be a product line of accessories designed to pack flat, according to TinyMOS, including a miniature Z-tripod mount. The new astrophotography camera model will be launching this fall with deliveries expected to start in April 2019. The NANO1's price hasn't been revealed, but interested buyers can sign up for future news about the model here.

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