News aggregator

Red Chair Redux

The Online Photographer - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 18:35
Hard rain squalls yesterday had the creek roaring all night. Today along came glorious weather—cooler, drier air, brilliant clarity, and magnificent skies. For regular readers who remember "the red chair" from last Winter, I thought you might like to see... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Steve McCurry Defends Himself, Sort Of

The Online Photographer - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 13:02
You probably remember the discussion about famed photojournalist editorial photographer visual storyteller Steve McCurry's overuse of Photoshop cloning, which provoked heated debate here and elsewhere. Steve McCurry today addressed his critics—well, sort of—in an exclusive article published this morning at... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Asus announces Zenfone 3 Deluxe with stabilized 23MP camera

DPReview News - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 09:04

Asus has launched three new models in its Zenfone line, out of which the Zenfone 3 Deluxe is arguably the most interesting to mobile photographers. It comes with an impressive camera spec sheet that includes a 23MP 1/2.6-inch Sony IMX 318 sensor, F2.0 aperture, 4-axis optical image stabilization, electronic video stabilization in video mode and an AF-system that combines contrast-detect, phase-detect and laser technologies. At the front there is an 8MP sensor with F2.0 aperture but video shooters will have to make do without a 4K mode. 

Under the hood the Android OS is powered by a Snapdragon 820 chipset and up to an enormous 6GB of RAM. Storage ranges from 32 to 128GB and is expandable via a microSD slot. A fingerprint reader, 3,000mAh battery with QuickCharge technology and a Type-C USB connector are all features you would expect on a current flagship device although the 1080p resolution of the 5.7-inch display cannot quite keep up with the Quad-HD displays of most competitors. All the technology is nicely wrapped up in a full aluminum unibody with "invisible" antenna lines that don't disturb the overall design language. 

Along with the Zenfone 3 Deluxe Asus has also launched the standard Zenfone 3 that comes with a less powerful chipset, a smaller 5.5-inch display and a 16MP camera. The Ultra model ups the screen size to a massive 6.8-inches and features the same camera as the Deluxe. No information on availability has been released yet but the Zenfone 3 will cost you US249, the Ultra will set you back $479 and the Deluxe is the most expensive new model at $499.

Press release:

Taipei, Taiwan (30th May, 2016) — ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih took the stage today during the Zenvolution press event at Computex 2016 to unveil Zenbo, the first ASUS robot, along with a stunning portfolio of third-generation mobile products designed to provide users with revolutionary functionality for pursuing their passions. The incredible line-up includes the all-new ZenFone 3 family, featuring ZenFone 3 Deluxe, the new flagship ASUS smartphone with advanced camera technology that takes mobile photography to the next level; ZenFone 3, a feature-packed smartphone that brings premium design and empowering performance to users; and ZenFone 3 Ultra, an incredibly powerful smartphone with a 6.8-inch Full HD display that excels at entertainment. Also announced were ZenBook 3, an ultra-sleek and lightweight notebook with a premium aluminum design, along with ASUS Transformer 3 and ASUS Transformer 3 Pro, the world’s most versatile PCs that feature an unrivalled combination of mobility, convenience, and expandability.

While revealing ASUS Zenbo, Chairman Shih said, “For decades, humans have dreamed of owning such a companion: one that is smart, dear to our hearts, and always at our disposal. Our ambition is to enable robotic computing for every household.”

Joining Mr. Shih on stage, Intel’s Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Client Computing Group, Navin Shenoy said, “For nearly thirty years, Intel and ASUS have been collaborating to bring some of the most innovative PCs and devices to market. We are excited to continue that collaboration on the new ZenBook and Transformer 3 family powered by Intel Core processors, and we look forward to working closely with ASUS on expanding beyond traditional clients into new, emerging markets like robotics.”

ASUS Zenbo, the ZenFone 3 Series, the ASUS Transformer 3 Series, and a line-up of other all-new ASUS products are on display at the ASUS showroom at the Nangang Exhibition Hall at Taipei World Trade Center. Visitors to Computex 2016 are invited to visit the showroom to experience the revolutionary functionality of these latest ASUS innovations for themselves.

ZenFone 3 Deluxe — World’s First Full-Metal Smartphone with Invisible Antenna Design

ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the flagship model of the ZenFone 3 family and the ultimate expression of ASUS smartphone design. It is constructed with a strong and light aluminum alloy unibody, and has a rear surface free of unsightly antenna lines and an ultra-thin 4.2mm edge.

ZenFone 3 Deluxe features a 5.7-inch Full HD (1920 by 1080) Super AMOLED display with a gamut of over 100% NTSC color space for rich, vibrant colors, even in harsh, outdoor lighting. An ultra-thin bezel gives ZenFone 3 Deluxe a 79% screen-to-body ratio for a maximized display in a compact package. Inside, ZenFone 3 Deluxe has a powerful Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 Series processor, Adreno™ 530 GPU, and integrated X12 LTE modem, as well as up to 6GB RAM to deliver the best performance and fast connectivity for demanding apps, games, and media.

ZenFone 3 Deluxe raises the bar for mobile photography with its incredible 23MP camera featuring the latest Sony IMX318 image sensor, a large f/2.0 aperture lens, and 4-axis optical image stabilization for high-resolution, blur-free, and low-noise photos in almost any lighting condition. It also features 3-axis electronic image stabilization for steady 4K UHD videos. Coupled with an ASUS TriTech autofocus system that automatically selects 2nd generation laser, phase detection, or continuous autofocus to provide accurate and nearly instant 0.03-second focusing and subject tracking, as well as exclusive PixelMaster 3.0 technology, ZenFone 3 Deluxe captures truly stunning photos and videos.

ZenFone 3 Deluxe has a built-in fingerprint sensor that's perfectly positioned on the rear of the phone to sit underneath the user's finger and unlocks the phone in just a fraction of a second. Quick Charge 3.0 technology reduces battery recharge times and a reversible USB 3.0 Type-C port that makes connecting charging and accessory cables effortless.

ZenFone 3 Deluxe also excels at audio with its powerful five-magnet speaker and NXP smart amplifier that provides clear, defined sound and also protects the speakers from damage. When listening over certified headphones, users can enjoy Hi-Res Audio (HRA) that provides up four-times-better sound quality than CDs. 

ZenFone 3 — Agility, Beauty, and Clarity

Winner of a Computex 2016 d&i Award, ZenFone 3 is a feature-packed smartphone that brings premium design and empowering performance to everyone. Built around a gorgeous 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 by 1080) Super IPS+ display with up to 500cd/m2 brightness, ZenFone 3 delivers an incredible visual experience that makes apps, videos, and games look their best. With a narrow bezel, ZenFone 3 provides a 77.3% screen-to-body ratio for a maximized viewing area in a slim and compact body. The front and rear of the phone are encased with scratch-resistant 2.5D Corning® Gorilla® Glass that gently curves to make the edge of the phone completely smooth.

ZenFone 3 is equipped with a 16MP camera with ASUS TriTech autofocus that automatically selects 2nd generation laser, phase detection and continuous auto focus to achieve precise focus in just 0.03 seconds, resulting in sharp images in any condition.

ZenFone 3 is the first smartphone worldwide to be powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa‑core processor — the first Snapdragon 600 Series processor with 14nm FinFET process technology, an integrated X9 LTE modem, and 802.11ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity — PC-grade graphics and up to 4GB RAM that together deliver outstanding mobile performance with improved efficiency and battery life. ZenFone 3 has a built-in fingerprint sensor that's perfectly positioned on the rear of the phone to sit underneath the user's finger and unlocks the phone in just a fraction of a second. 

ZenFone 3 Ultra — Unleashed, Unlimited, and Unrivaled

Winner of a Computex 2016 Best Choice Golden Award, ZenFone 3 Ultra is a smartphone designed for multimedia lovers, featuring a 6.8-inch Full HD (1920 by 1080) display with a 95% NTSC color gamut for rich, vibrant images even outdoors in harsh lighting. It is the world’s first smartphone to have ASUS-exclusive Tru2Life+ Video technology, which harnesses a high-end 4K UHD TV-grade image processor to optimize every pixel in each frame before it is displayed, resulting in superior contrast and clarity. ZenFone 3 Ultra also excels at audio with its two new powerful five-magnet stereo speakers and a NXP smart amplifier that provides clear, defined sound and protects the speakers from damage. When listening over certified headphones, users can enjoy Hi-Res Audio (HRA) that provides up to four-times-better sound quality than CDs and the world’s first smartphone with virtual 7.1-channel surround sound with DTS Headphone:X.

Like ZenFone 3 Deluxe, ZenFone 3 Ultra has an incredibly slim and elegant full-metal unibody chassis — the world’s first to have no antenna lines. An ultra slim bezel gives ZenFone 3 Ultra a 79% screen-to-body ratio, maximizing the viewing area while minimizing its overall size and weight. ZenFone 3 Ultra is equipped with the same high-resolution 23MP camera with ASUS TriTech autofocus system as ZenFone 3 Deluxe. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor, Adreno 510 graphics, and up to 4GB of RAM, ZenFone 3 Ultra delivers outstanding mobile performance. A built-in fingerprint sensor is perfectly positioned on the front of the phone beneath the user's finger and unlocks the phone in just a fraction of a second.

ZenFone 3 Ultra also has a high-capacity 4600mAh battery for long-lasting performance and Quick Charge 3.0 technology for rapid recharge times. ZenFone 3 Ultra even works as a power bank with 1.5A output for quickly charging other mobile devices.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Photo Essay: Air Force One

The Online Photographer - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 05:10
Senator Bob Dole, his wife (and Senator-to-be) Elizabeth Dole, and President Gerald Ford disembark from Marine One in 1976 A random photo essay this time, instead of a single picture. Popular Mechanics has a nice feature called "A Visual History... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

To St. Helens and Back: Olympus TG-Tracker Shooting Experience

DPReview News - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 04:00

Olympus has been in the rugged camera business for a very long time, with its first model, the Stylus 720SW, released way back in 2006. Ten years later the company has made the leap to action cams. 

The TG-Tracker is a camcorder-shaped device that can capture 4K/30p and 1080/60p video as well as timelapses. The F2 lens has a whopping 204° field-of-view 'on land' and 94 degrees when you take it diving with its included underwater lens protector. It features a 7.2MP, 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor paired with the company's latest TruePic VII processor. (If 7.2 Megapixels sounds a bit low for 4K, you're right - the camera has to interpolate in order to produce 4K as well as 8MP stills.)

The TG-Tracker captures every data point you could possibly want from an action cam.

Design-wise, there are two things that stand out. First is the camera's flip-out (but non-articulating) 1.5" LCD, which is mainly used for menu navigation. Second is what Olympus calls a built-in 'headlight,' capable of projecting up to 60 lumens of light.

What really makes the TG-Tracker unique, as its name implies, is tracking. It records location, altitude or water depth, temperature, orientation, and acceleration. All of this data is shown on graphs in the app, allowing you to see the pictures you took at a certain altitude or in a specific area of the map.

There are two other neat tricks the camera can do thanks to all these sensors. First, if the accelerometer detects a sudden change in equilibrium, it will put a chapter marker in your videos. Also, the TG-Tracker can detect when the camera goes underwater and switch the switch to the appropriate white balance setting.

All of this metadata is viewable in the Olympus Image Track app, which is where you can preview your photos and videos and then transfer them to your mobile device (save for 4K video)

To see how the TG-Tracker functions in the real world, we sent it to Mount St. Helens, an 8363 foot-tall stratovolcano most famous for its major eruption in 1980. But before we get into that, let's take a look at the design and what it's like to use this action camera.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Never miss a video: Subscribe to DPReview on YouTube

DPReview News - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 03:00

We've been producing more video content than ever before, including tons of content from our last year's PIX show, our ongoing series of long-form Field Tests, overviews of the latest cameras and lenses, as well beginners' technique guides and interviews. We post videos right here on our homepage when they're first uploaded, but the best way of not missing anything is to subscribe to DPReview's channel on YouTube.

We've organized our content into playlists, so you can head straight for the stuff that most interests you, whether that's long-form gear reviews or interviews, short overviews of the latest cameras and lenses, or beginners' technique guides. 

Categories: Photo Gear News

Open Mike: Your Belief System (OT)

The Online Photographer - Sun, 05/29/2016 - 07:10
(for K.M.) Everybody has a belief system. It's just sometimes difficult to make out what it is. The simplest and plainest choice is religion. I don't say that in a denigrating way; it's just that religion offers itself up specifically... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Looking Sharp: A focus stacking tutorial

DPReview News - Sun, 05/29/2016 - 04:00

This was taken in the deserts of Southern Utah at Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, Utah. 

 Photo: Chris Williams Exploration Photography

Background: Understanding the Process

One of the questions that I receive quite often from beginner photographers is “How do I produce tack sharp images from front to back in challenging shooting conditions or in cases where the foreground fills up nearly half the frame?” The answer in short is to utilize a process known as focus stacking. The answer is simple but the process can be very labor intensive from a shooting and processing standpoint.

Even when working with a large depth of field there may be occasions where you still have to take more than one image due to low light, wind and or large foreground subjects. Most technique books will tell you that this is easily accomplished by stopping down to a very small aperture such as F22, focusing on a set focal point at about 1/3 of the way into the frame or determining the spot from your hyperfocal distance (the distance between a camera lens and the closest object that is in focus when the lens is focused at infinity), focus at that spot and take your image.

Here's one of the images that I used during focus stacking.  This was shot at 35mm and at f/2.8 due to conditions at the time of shooting.  As you can see it was impossible to achieve sharp focus throughout the image.

In principle this sounds like a very quick and easy fix to a somewhat complex problem that plagues most landscape photographers. In practice, however, it comes with a couple of big issues. Not only can using an aperture this small decrease image quality due to diffraction, it doesn't actually deliver the maximum possible depth of field. That's where stacking comes in. In the digital age we can now improve upon this technique and produce higher quality, tack sharp images from the front to the very back of the frame.

Before diving into this process I should mention that you may not always need to use this technique and this process is really up for interpretation in regard to what you define as a ‘sharp image’. The lens quality and aperture play a huge role in whether or not you wish to go through the work of focus stacking an image. In general, I always use this process now as I want my images to look tack sharp even when printed at very large sizes.

Selecting the Aperture

Choosing the aperture is an important first step to this process. I always try to choose an aperture in the ‘sweet spot’ of the lens. This is a bit of a loaded term; you have to decide whether you are after maximum resolving power or greater overall focus in your image. These differences may be subtle in some cases, but regardless I always try to choose optimal sharpness over depth of field in an individual image, bearing in mind that I'm going to be stacking multiple images. I would rather take a few extra shots to ensure that the RAW files are of the highest quality I can achieve given the conditions.

Generally speaking, the sweet spot of a lens is about 2.5 to 3-stops from the maximum aperture. This does vary from lens to lens however; for example, I normally shoot between f/8 and f/11 when possible on my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L ii to achieve the sharpest results possible (which I know is a few stops greater). The bottom line is to get to know your lens! You can even run it through an aperture progression and compare the images to find that coveted lens ‘sweet spot’.

Behind the Lens

Focus stacking can be very tricky when you’re out in the field. I use the following steps to ensure that I don’t miss a focus point and to make adjustments on the fly in changing conditions such as light, wind and rain.

  • Find your desired composition and make sure that your tripod is in safe position that won’t allow for any movement or shifting while you’re performing the in camera focus stacking.
  • Place your camera on your tripod, turn on live view, switch your lens to manual mode, make sure that your camera is set to manual and dial in your composition.
  •  Once you have the composition dialed in lock your camera down on your tripod and make sure that your ball-head or camera mount is completely locked down so no movement can occur during this process (if some movement does occur you can try to correct this using Auto-Align in Photoshop, but I always try to avoid this to the best of my ability).
  • Use either your camera’s in camera timer (set for 2-10 seconds) or use a remote shutter trigger to avoid any camera movement issues.
  • Once you are 100% sure that you’re happy with the composition it’s time to adjust your settings; I always fire a few test shots to ensure that I can freeze the foreground subject (flowers etc.) and to see what I can get away with in regard to ISO/Aperture/Shutter-speed while still yielding an acceptable result with respect to proper exposure and the signal to noise ratio.
  • This may sound trivial but play with your settings a bit to find the right exposure/sharpness balance; aim to keep the ISO at base and the aperture as close to the ‘sweet spot’ as possible (f/8-f/11 in most cases) this may not be possible depending upon conditions, so make adjustments as you see fit.
  • Adjust your CPL or lens filter (ND etc.), if you're using one, to give the foreground more pop etc.
The Progression

Now comes the fun part: how do you make sure that you have everything in focus and that you don’t miss a focus point? There’s definitely more than one way to go about doing this, but I generally focus on the foreground elements that are closest to the lens; normally near the bottom 1/3 of the frame in live-view.

I normally zoom in to my area of interest in Live-View and dial in my focus point using manual focus.  After taking the image I repeat the process for my next focus point.
  • While in live-view, zoom in to the bottom most portion of your foreground subject and manually adjust the focus until everything is sharp and adjust your settings depending upon conditions (wind etc.)
  • To find your next focus point stay in live-view, zoom in to the same area you just photographed and move up in the frame to find your next focus point
  • Repeat this process until you reach the background elements in your image and take your final exposure.
  • You may want to bracket your last exposure to keep the highlights and shadows from clipping or to catch a sunstar; if you’re shooting on a camera that has a great deal of dynamic range (like a Sony a7r/ii or Nikon D810) then you may be able to do this with one exposure; it’s completely up to you

The toughest thing about focus stacking in the field is dealing with changing conditions such as wind, rain and light. When wind is an issue I always run through at least two or three focus stacking progressions to ensure that I have a sharp frame at each focus point. Even in perfect conditions I still run through a focus point progression at least twice to ensure that I haven't missed a point. There's nothing worse then getting home after a long day of shooting only to find that you completely missed a focus point.

Once you take your camera off of your tripod or move your tripod, it will be a huge pain to get everything lined up again and you may not even be able to in most cases. Double and triple check your exposures to ensure that you’ve got all of your focus points nailed down before moving your camera and packing up your gear.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Next Book Sale Starts Next Thursday at 11 am ET

The Online Photographer - Sat, 05/28/2016 - 04:40
Our next book sale in cooperation with the Nelson-Atkins Museum will begin Thursday, June 2, at 11 am Eastern U.S. Time. We will be offering four brand new photography books that are "new old stock" (NOS) and have been in... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Huawei P9 camera is nice, but it's still a smartphone camera

DPReview News - Sat, 05/28/2016 - 04:00

To dismiss the Huawei P9's imager as 'just another smartphone camera' would be unfair. Its dual 12MP cameras aren't your average dual cameras – Huawei claims that by using one monochrome and one RGB sensor, the camera is 100% more sensitive to light than your standard smartphone camera. It offers Raw capture, full manual exposure control and laser-assisted autofocus. Oh, and Leica had a hand in designing the module. All-in-all, there's plenty going for it camera-wise. 

We approached the P9 eager to give it a try, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. And keeping our expectations measured, we were pleased by the Huawei P9's results. For one thing, shooting with it is a nice experience. There are multiple grid overlay options, a level gauge (praise hands emoji!) and you can easily toggle between full manual and full auto shooting. It's also possible to shoot exclusively with the monochrome camera, which opens up other creative possibilities.

The P9 offers many of the comforts of an advanced point-and-shoot. So how's the image quality? It's pretty much as we expected. Good light JPEGs look just peachy on phone-sized screens, but at 100% they don't look exactly '100 emoji' 100. Grass turns mushy and halos start appearing around high contrast edges. Things obviously get quite noisy by the time you get to ISO 3200.

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But wait, there's Raw! You can see some of the benefits in terms of detail retention in the studio scene widget$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2550").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2550); }); }), but definitely check out the difference it makes in some of our real-world samples. It should be noted that Raw capture is only available in Pro mode, and can't be used when shooting with the monochrome camera.

TL;DR, I'd be pretty happy if the Huawei P9 camera was the camera I had with me all the time. But the dual camera system hasn't solved the low light troubles inherent to small sensors.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Novoflex releases Canon EF electronic adapter for Leica SL

DPReview News - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 10:18

Just bought a Leica SL but can't afford to buy a Leica lens to put on it? Don't worry - German manufacturer Novoflex has just the thing for you.

The new Novoflex SL-EOS adapter allows certain Canon EF lenses and teleconverters to be used on the Leica SL, with support for several functions including autofocus. 

Novoflex has launched its new SL - EOS electronic adapter which, according to the manufacturer allows 'around 30' Canon EF lenses to be used with the Leica SL camera. The adapter transmits focal distance and aperture EXIF data, has an AF/MF mode, and supports autofocus, aperture control, and depth of field indication. According to Novoflex, ‘around 30’ Canon EF lenses and teleconverters work with the adapter, and image stabilization is not supported.

The SL-EOS adapter is currently listed on Novoflex's website for €499 (~$555)

Categories: Photo Gear News

Time for Change

The Online Photographer - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 08:57
All things considered, human culture has adapted with remarkable swiftness to vast technological change in a short period of time. I still think that the single most remarkable fact of human history from a technological standpoint is that there were... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Dual-cam Duel: Sony and LG Innotek rumored to be competing for Apple orders

DPReview News - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 06:22

Judging by the number of rumors buzzing around the internet it seems almost certain that at least one version of the upcoming iPhone 7 will come with a dual-camera setup. Word on the street until now has been that in addition to the standard model Apple is planning to offer a premium version of the larger 'Plus' model with a dual-cam designed by Linx, an optical engineering company that was bought by Apple last year.

According to new information this might be, at least partly, incorrect. Financial publication Barron's quotes Citi Research in saying that all 5.5-inch iPhone models coming this fall will have dual-cameras on the back, not just a premium model.

Barron's also quotes Chris Chan of Asia-based financial services group Nomura:

'We think Sony may not be able to deliver its full share of dual cameras to Apple due to: (1) lower-than-expected yield, and (2) damage to its production facility from the April earthquake in Kumamoto. As a result, we think LGI will gain majority share of the initial dual camera orders from Apple...'

Looking at the amount of information out in the open there is almost no doubt that whatever the manufacturer of the modules, we'll have a dual-cam iPhone to play with in September. The question is if the dual-lenses will be used for optical zooming, as on the LG G5, or to enhance image quality and simulate a shallow depth-of-field, as we've seen in the Huawei P9.  We'll only have to wait a few more months to find out...

Categories: Photo Gear News

Critical eye: Picturesqe aims to highlight your best frames and throw out the worst

DPReview News - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 04:00

Picturesqe is a software application that’s designed to speed up the process of selecting the best image from a sequence of frames and the most successful pictures from a day’s shooting or a project. Load your images into the program and it applies artificial intelligence and machine learning to pick the best shots based on its own criteria and common preferences in photography.

The idea is that the program analyzes the pictures as you import them, highlighting some and rejecting others, in an automated process that takes the strain out of determining which are the frames to use. All you have to do is review those Picturesqe selects and chose the best of three, for example, instead of the best of the 26 you shot in that sequence.

I have to say at this very early stage that I’m not very keen on a machine making artistic decisions for me. It’s enough to battle the wants and tastes of a pushy modern camera without then allowing a canned algorithm to replace the subtle process of appreciating line, form, focus, light, composition and atmospheric exposure. That is quite a lot to expect a computer program to do, no matter how ‘intelligent’ it is. Nevertheless, I endeavored to give Picturesque a shot.

What it does The beginning of the process involves importing your images into Picturesqe, which sends thumbnails to its servers to create groups and then determine which pictures are the best of each group.

Picturesqe is a desktop application that runs on PC and Mac platforms, using support from the cloud to run its more power-intensive tasks. Once installed the program invites the user to import images either from an external source, such as a memory card, or from files already stored on the hard drive. As images are imported they are analyzed so that they can be formed into groups of similar-looking images and then arranged in order so that the best frames of each group are positioned at the top left of the screen.

The process of grouping and ordering is done via an algorithm that exists in the cloud – or Picturesqe’s servers – so thumbnail images are sent from your machine for inspection and the information gleaned returns to Earth to inform the arrangement of images in the Picturesqe user window.

The import process doesn’t actually copy files from the memory card onto your main desk drive but acts as a filtering system in between the two – a sort of staging post – so that you'll eventually only have to save the best of your images. This way you'll stop clogging your machine with pictures that will never be used and never seem to get deleted.

Does it work? I imported the contents of a memory card into the software and it sorted the 460 image into groups according to content and what it determined would be the pictures I would want to choose the best of. Pictures it couldn't find groups for, and lone images, are left floating freely. While most grouping exercises go well there are exceptions, such as this group in which the images clearly do not belong together.

I found the results of an import and a dose of analysis to be a little mixed. At first I was impressed that Picturesqe was able to divide the contents of a memory card that contained street images, portraits and product shots into a number of mostly sensible groups. Images that feature the same color in about the same place get grouped easily, and those that contain the same objects in approximately the same composition are also bundled together with a decent degree of accuracy. Pictures that fall between stools are left ungrouped for us to leave floating on their own, to manually delete or to add to the group we think most appropriate.

Opening a group reveals what the program thinks of your pictures, as it orders them according to its perception of their merits and labels those it doesn’t think much of with a waste paper basket. Those with a sensitive nature should avoid this stage, as the program’s mathematical opinion will not necessarily reflect everyone’s perceptions of their artistic brilliance.

I had to remind myself that it was a machine I was dealing with so I didn’t have to take things personally

In some instances I was glad of Picturesqe’s help in selecting the best frames from each group, but in others I was left slightly mystified by the way my images had been treated – like entering a camera club competition. Pictures that I thought were the better of the group were often not placed ahead of others I thought less pleasing. On more than a few occasions pictures I had previously selected for printing were marked out for shredding by the algorithm in the cloud. I had to remind myself that it was a machine I was dealing with so I didn’t have to take things personally. I hope Picturesqe has good insurance to pay for user’s trauma therapy. 

I wouldn't have grouped all of these images together as, while they are all from the same shoot, they represent the pool from which I'd hope to pull three quite different pictures. It doesn't make sense, to me at least, to group uprights and landscape format images together.

The criteria for the grouping process is a little more open than I’d like as, for instance, it doesn’t seem to take into account the orientation of the image. When shooting a portrait, for example, I’ll shoot poses and locations in upright and landscape formats, and generally edit to offer the sitter one of each. To me then it doesn’t make sense to group uprights and landscape format images together as though you’d pick one or the other instead of one of each. On the whole though the grouping process does a pretty decent job of working out which pictures belong together, and will only rarely drop an odd frame into a group in which it clearly doesn’t belong.

Groups can be edited, of course, once the program has made them, and we can reject individual images from the group so that they float free in the main browser window. A process of drag-and-drop then allows us to manually create our own groups by bunching images together.

This is how the images look when they are first imported into the program - as they should. Picturesqe though then drops the camera-dictated color, contrast and styles for a much more 'Raw' looking image. Removing image characteristics doesn't make picking a winner easier.

The application works with Raw and JPEG files, and I was impressed it is able to display the latest Raw files from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80/85 even before Adobe can. It does it though at the expense of any in-camera processing settings so we see the Raw ‘Raw’ data with distortions that are usually corrected before we get to view the picture. Anything you’ve shot in black and white using Raw will also be displayed in color, though for a short few seconds images are shown as we intended before Picturesqe renders them flat and with native colors. Thus we have to make our judgements without a good deal of the qualities we might often weigh-up when selecting the best of our images – such as color.

I found this quite irritating. JPEGs are rendered just as they should be though, but when fed simultaneously-shot Raw and JPEG files we only get to see the Raws but with the rendering of the JPEGs – though I found the relationship between what I’d shot and what was displayed a little inconsistent across camera brands. If you only shoot Raw though you get to look at slightly flat and unsharp images.

Judgement Day It seems that the 'best' picture (top left) has been selected by the software because the subject is quite central in the frame. The picture the software likes least (bottom right) shows the subject against a distracting background.

It’s not completely clear on what grounds the program and analysis makes its judgements as it orders our images from good to bad. I spotted that it seems to like a subject that’s in the middle of the frame, and one that sits on a third, and that it can tell within a group when the subject is against a clear background and when it’s against one that’s a bit distracting.

Magnifying the eye of the sitter from this group of portraits makes it clear that the software doesn't place sharpness at the top of its list of priorities. The sharpest picture (bottom center) is actually marked with a waste paper basket, indicating that that Picturesqe thinks I should dump it. The shot it recommends is a good deal less focused.


Things that humans might take into account though the software doesn’t seem to – such as exposure, over-powering flash, focus and whether there are distractions in the background. It can work out when eyes are closed though, and it knows the difference between someone facing the camera straight on and someone at an angle – but it always prefers face-on as though that’s the safe formula for a ‘good’ picture. It can’t tell an unflattering angle from a complementary one though, and doesn’t distinguish between a well-lit subject and lighting that makes a nose look big.

The zoom feature identifies the part of the subject that you want to inspect and just magnifies that bit. The clever bit is that it doesn't just magnify the same area of the frame of each picture, but actually identifies the part of the subject – wherever that subject is in the frame.

A very nice feature is the synchronized zoom that is great for checking focus across a number of images at the same time. With a collection of portraits, for example, you can zoom into the eye of one frame and the eye area of all the other frames get magnified along with it. What is particularly clever is that the eyes don’t have to be at the same coordinates in the picture for the program to magnify them, as it can identify similar objects in the images across the series.

This feature worked brilliantly for portraits, allowing closed eyes and missed focus to be spotted easily and early on, and on occasions it worked even when the images weren’t all in the same orientation. The success rate is reduced for landscapes and more general scenes where the element you want to inspect isn’t as distinct or as obvious as an eye, but the application can concentrate on rocks, trees and buildings so long as the object you are checking has reasonably powerful edges and outlines.

When the images are less regular, such as in these street pictures, the software finds it more difficult to identify the subject. Using the zoom feature didn't allow me to compare the sharpness of the subjects in the street pictures, even though they have similar outlines and contrast in each frame. Export

Once you have whittled your selections down to the best images in each group, or to the better groups in the collection, you are ready to export the pictures to their final destination. The editing process involves deleting the images that aren't wanted – not from the card or from their home on your hard drive, but from the imported collection. No files are actually deleted.

To do this you'll have to click on the trash can icon on the image. And that will have to be done on every unwanted image. So, if you have shot a sequence of 100 images and only need one you have to delete 99. You can attend to each frame individually and delete each one in turn, or you can select them all and use the delete key on the keyboard.

I’m a little unhappy about the solely subtractive nature of the process and feel I’d rather just select the best frame and export that without having to deal with the wreckage of the frames that didn’t work, but the truth is it's more of a big deal in my head that in reality. Clearing away the duds doesn’t take that long.

Images can then be exported to a chosen folder on your hard drive or directly into Adobe Lightroom for editing. 

The research program

At the export stage the first option in the navigation is to send the images to Picturesqe’s research program. The company wants users to send images that have been rated by humans so that it can compare the ‘right’ ranking and grouping with the way the software performed. The idea is that the company can study the differences and similarities and develop algorithms that select and grade more like the user does.

The uploaded images, we are assured, will never be used for anything other than research, and the company takes only a 1500x1500 pixel thumbnail that is studied by a computer and not by a human. The idea is to build a database of how images are selected to allow the software to learn and get better at its job.

In this example the software has compared a Raw file with a JPEG I processed from that same file, and has concluded that the Raw file isn't just weaker than the JPEG, but that it should be deleted. Had I used the software to select which Raw files I would save for processing in the first place, this one wouldn't have ever got to the black and white JPEG stage. Conclusion

So, Picturesqe isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot, in fact, but it gets enough right that shooters who work with long sequences of the same subject will find it useful. In more general work it is not much of a chore to compare three or four frames to select which is the better, but if your photography involves long bursts of action or multiple frames of the same thing, then what it does will be enough to make it useful and to save you time. As the engineers seem to have prioritized portraiture it makes sense that this is the area in which it works best, and for which I’d most recommend it, but motor sports and general action would suit it too.

The company doesn’t claim that Picturesqe can make judgements of taste

As the selection process tends to judge on more formulaic principals you’ll have more success with images that are more about content than artistic ideals. The company doesn’t claim that Picturesqe can make judgements of taste, but that it uses math and obvious standards to rank images, and that is exactly what you get.

There is a good deal of potential to make this a very powerful program for factual photographic subjects and the learning element of Picturesqe promises great things. Right now it needs a bit more work to make it of a standard that the majority of photographers will find it useful, but it is an interesting idea and even as it is will be useful for a good many.

Fortunately we don’t have to take its advice completely, and when you work together with the program, combining its literal mind with your own taste and style, it can work very well if you shoot the right sort of subject.

What we like:
  • A great concept
  • Easy to use
  • Very good for comparing magnified views 
  • It does have some success
  • Good for factual images
What we don't like:
  • Success rate just isn't high enough yet
  • It doesn't sort by orientation
  • Doesn't seem to take focus into consideration

Interview Q&A with Picturesqe CEO Daniel Szollosi

We got some time with Daniel Szollosi, the CEO and founder of Picturesqe, and questioned him about the way the application works and some of the issues we picked up during the review process.

DPReview: The process to get to the pictures photographers want to save and work on means they have to delete those that they don't. So, in a collection of 100 pictures to get to one you want to keep you need to delete 99. Is there a way to just export the one you want instead of going through the process of deleting the 99?

Daniel Szollosi: We realize it is not a perfect workflow concept, you are totally right. Originally our primary goal was to get rid of the digital trash - so image deletion was the main focus. Since then we have come up with a new workflow, which directly helps the selection of top quality photos. The new workflow is going to be released in the next version of Picturesqe.

DPR: Raw files don't always look the way they were shot - when they are supposed to be black and white, for example. Does that only happen when there is no simultaneously shot JPEG imported with it?

DS: We know about this bug. It’s related to white balance, we have problems with setting the right value yet. 

DPR: Your program displays Raw files from cameras that are new and which Adobe can't display yet. How does that happen?

DS: We’re using a 3rd party library for decoding Raw camera images. Another advantage of this library is that the user doesn’t need to install any kind of camera drivers. 

DPR: The program doesn't always detect when images are out of focus - is it supposed to or is that something you are working on?

DS: We are definitely working on it! In the next version we expect a really big improvement regarding focus detection. We have developed a technology which seems to be better than the current state-of-the-art regarding local sharpness/blur evaluation. 

DPR: Picturesqe seems to prioritize images where the subject is in the centre of the frame, or on a third. Is that part of the analysis? What other factors are taken into account?

DS: We do take into account composition factors, like rule of thirds. The quality factors we take into account are:

  • Location of visually attended area
  • Exposure (globally and in the visually attended area)
  • Focus (global blur, wrong focus localization)
  • Lighting distribution
  • Color harmony
  • Composition
  • Optical distortions
  • Visual noise

DPR: In some cases the program recommends deleting a Raw file but promotes a JPEG processed from that file to the top of the stack. Why does that happen?

DS: Thanks for mentioning this, we have not thought about it. We resize the images to a smaller size when evaluating the quality and aesthetics and on this scale Raw information does not exist anymore. We can easily implement a filter which prioritize Raw images when compared to its JPEG descendant.

DPR: Does Picturesqe assess exposure and the content of the background?

DS: Semantically we do not interpret the content of the background, but visually we assess the background and the foreground separately. The quality attributes calculated from the foreground have more weights.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Western Digital acquires SanDisk as more data moves to solid state memory

DPReview News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 11:50

Hard disk drive giant Western Digital has completed its acquisition of flash manufacturer SanDisk in a deal that will create a partnership that WD hopes will help it leap into the future of computer memory. The company announced plans to buy SanDisk last fall.

Western Digital’s reliance on spinning disk technology in a world that is swiftly moving towards solid state drives has been a cause for concern for the company that currently claims 44% market share for HDDs. Acquiring the world’s largest producer of NAND flash memory should settle some nerves.

Western Digital is said to be interested in cloud storage and computing solutions as PC sales continue to decline, so SanDisk’s know-how in flash data center technologies that provide more capacity in a smaller space, with less heat and faster communication have proven attractive. 

All told, the deal cost Western Digital $17 billion in cash and shares, $2 billion short of initial estimates. The company expects to be able to make significant savings through economies of scale, expecting combined revenue of almost $20 billion with a better position to compete against Samsung and Micron.

For more information visit the SanDisk and Western Digital websites.

Press release:

WESTERN DIGITAL COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF SANDISK, CREATING A GLOBAL LEADER IN STORAGE TECHNOLOGY

Western Digital® Corporation (NASDAQ: WDC) today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Western Digital Technologies, Inc. has completed the acquisition of SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ: SNDK). The addition of SanDisk makes Western Digital Corporation a comprehensive storage solutions provider with global reach, and an extensive product and technology platform that includes deep expertise in both rotating magnetic storage and non-volatile memory (NVM).
The Company also indicated that the debt financing associated with this transaction has been consummated and that the previously obtained funds from this financing have been released from escrow to Western Digital Technologies, Inc.

“Today is a significant day in the history of Western Digital,” said Steve Milligan, chief executive officer of Western Digital. “We are delighted to welcome SanDisk into the Western Digital family. This transformational combination creates a media-agnostic leader in storage technology with a robust portfolio of products and solutions that will address a wide range of applications in almost all of the world’s computing and mobile devices. We are excited to now begin focusing on the many opportunities before us, from leading innovation to bringing the best of what we can offer as a combined company to our customers. In addition, we will begin the work to fully realize the value of this combination through executing on our synergies, generating significant cash flow, as well as rapidly deleveraging our balance sheet, and creating significant long-term value for our shareholders.”

The integration process will begin immediately through the joint efforts of teams from both companies. As previously announced, Steve Milligan will continue to serve as chief executive officer of Western Digital, which will remain headquartered in Irvine, California. Sanjay Mehrotra, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of SanDisk, will serve as a member of the Western Digital Board of Directors, effective immediately.

“As a combined company, we will be best positioned to address the demands for data storage, which is growing exponentially every year,” said Sanjay Mehrotra. “Growth and change go hand in hand, and we couldn’t be happier to grow and change together with Western Digital. I look forward to contributing to realizing the potential of this combination as a member of the board.”
Under the terms of the transaction, each outstanding share of SanDisk common stock was converted into the right to receive $67.50 per share in cash and 0.2387 shares of Western Digital common stock.

SanDisk shareholders looking for information with regard to the payment of the merger consideration should review the Public FAQ available in the Investor Relations section of our website at investor.wdc.com or click here.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Unfade for iOS scans and restores old prints

DPReview News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 11:13

The team behind the document scanning app Scanbot has used its smartphone scanning expertise to create Unfade, a new app for the iPhone that lets you scan old photos and restore their color using automated filters.

The app has been designed with ease-of-use in mind and works almost fully automatically. You simply need to hold your smartphone camera over a photo print and it will be scanned. The app then detects faded colors and presents the option to restore them using a filter function. Once images have been digitized and restored they can be sorted into albums. On the Unfade website the team also says that a range of new features are currently in the development pipeline, including editing features, image presentation options and sharing tools. 

Unfade requires iOS 9 or later and is compatible with the iPhone 5s and newer models in addition to a number of recent iPad models. The app is currently available at a 40% launch discount but will still set you back $4.99 in the Apple App Store.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Content-aware cropping coming soon to Adobe Photoshop CC

DPReview News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 09:54

Adobe Photoshop CC will soon offer content-aware cropping, the company has announced. The feature, as demonstrated in a video released today, will allow Photoshop users to automatically fill any white space around an adjusted photo with content that matches the original image. The tool can be used to add content (to change the aspect ratio, for example), or to fill in gaps that result from rotating or repositioning the image.

Content-aware cropping has been a frequently requested feature, says Adobe. The company will include the new cropping tool ‘as part of an upcoming major release,’ though it doesn't specify whether it will be the next major update or a later one.

Via: Adobe

Categories: Photo Gear News

ZTE Axon 7 features 20MP Samsung ISOCELL sensor

DPReview News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 09:41

Chinese smartphone maker ZTE has announced its latest high-end device, the Axon 7. It comes with an impressive camera specification that includes a 20MP Samsung ISOCELL sensor, fast F1.8 aperture, a sapphire glass lens front element, optical image stabilization and on-sensor phase detection autofocus. A dual-LED flash helps with illumination in dim conditions, and in video mode the camera is capable of recording footage with 4K resolution. The front camera comes with an 8MP sensor. 

The other components of the device match the camera's high-end specifications. The Axon's aluminum unibody houses a 5.5-inch AMOLED panel with 2560 x 1440 Quad-HD resolution that is covered by 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 4 and the Android OS is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset. In terms of memory consumers get to choose between a version with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage or a 6GB/128GB premium model. There is also a microSD-slot for expansion. A hearty 3140 mAh battery supports the Quick-charge 3.0 standard. There are also a dedicated audio chip, dual speakers, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C connector.

The Axon 7 will be launched in China first in July and make its way to international markets at a later stage. Official pricing will be revealed closer to launch, but is expected to be below $500 which sounds like an interesting offer for such a well-specified device.

Categories: Photo Gear News

A Comprehensive Warranty / Repair Database?

The Online Photographer - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:22
Regarding warranties, repairs, and relocation issues with cameras, it would be great if somebody would build a comprehensive database synopsizing all the policies of the various camera- and lensmakers. It would help people make buying decisions based on their own... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Lens shootout: Sony RX10 III destroys the competition

DPReview News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:00

When the RX10 III was revealed as the 'top secret' Sony product launch in San Francisco earlier this year, I felt a bit cynical. 'Another RX10, Sony? Really?' I cried, along with a few bored commenters. 'The last one is hardly a year old!'

Then I saw some telephoto sample images and was immediately impressed, wondering if I had been underestimating the 1" bridge camera segment. Then Barney described the RX10 III to me as 'magic', which is high praise indeed and warranted further investigation. Which is exactly what we've done, below. Note that our results here are only indicative of the one copy of each camera we have on hand, some of which appear to be slightly decentered.

The Shootout

Starting at the wide end, which is around 25mm for all the cameras tested, we see in the center of the image (where our RX10 II appears to perform as expected) improvements over the RX10 II aren't incredibly pronounced. Other areas$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2506").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2506); }); }) of the scene show the advantage of the RX10 III, especially when it is stopped down from its maximum aperture of F2.4 to F2.8$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2507").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2507); }); }). Its performance is definitely a step up from the Panasonic FZ1000$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2510").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2510); }); }), and is miles ahead of the Canon G3 X$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2511").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2511); }); }).

Where crazy zoom lenses like these typically struggle is in the extremes$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2513").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2513); }); }) of the frame, with neither the RX10 III or the FZ1000 being an exception. The sharpness fall-off is less severe$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2515").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2515); }); }) with the RX10 III, though, and all in all, the RX10 III is the best performer on the wide end.

$(document).ready(function() { ImageComparisonWidget({"containerId":"reviewImageComparisonWidget-52426208","widgetId":359,"initialStateId":null}) })

Moving on to 400mm$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2517").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2517); }); }), the maximum focal length for the Panasonic FZ1000, we see a similar amount of detail between the Panasonic and Sony near the center of the image. Sharpness and resolution change for both throughout the frame, with the Sony showing a slightly iffy left side$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2523").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2523); }); }), and a better right side$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2524").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2524); }); }). Through most of the scene the two are practically neck and neck, with the G3 X turning in comparable performance as well, but let's not forget the Sony and Canon still have more zoom range to go. 

The RX10 III's 24-600mm lens isn't only useful for distant details.

The real reason people consider bridge cameras is for the reach, and Sony extended the RX10 III's reach by a full 400mm over the RX10 II. That means it now offers the same amount of reach as the G3 X's 600mm$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2516").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2516); }); }) equivalent maximum focal length. The RX10 III's lens is clearly sharper, but it has another thing going for it: its faster maximum aperture helps it combat diffraction. Remember that F4 and F5.6 on 1"-type cameras are equivalent to F11 and F15, respectively. Both cameras are limited by atmospheric distortion at these focal lengths (hence the drop to 'print' resolution in the previous comparison link), but it's clear that the RX10 III exceeds the G3 X's performance, while offering just as much zoom versatility. The Canon PowerShot G3 X's trump card has been trumped.

Even at 600mm (equiv), the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III's lens delivers sharp results.

In all, it seems the RX10 III does offer a bit more than similar 1" bridge cameras from other manufacturers. It exceeds, or at least matches, the competition with respect to zoom range, while offering sharper images, and brighter apertures than all but Sony's own RX10 II. Importantly, sharpness performance appears to be maintained throughout the zoom range, from wide to tele, which cannot be said for any of the other cameras in this test. Feel free to explore through these images and post your own findings below.

Things to Consider

As you look at the comparison widget, bear in mind that It appears our copy of the RX10 II appears to be slightly decentered$(document).ready(function() { $("#imageComparisonLink2509").click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2509); }); }). This isn't really noticeable in normal shooting but it's obvious in a controlled test like this. 

The second caveat to these results is the weather. Light varied over the course of the test, and had darkened so much that the Panasonic, the final camera tested, needed 2/3rds more exposure to produce a comparable image. All the exposures were processed in ACR with default sharpness and the 'Adobe Standard' profile used across the board.

We'll be adding the RX10 III to our standard database of studio test images very soon - watch this space!

Categories: Photo Gear News
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