Crop vs Full Frame which to buy?

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I have been in the hobby (part time pro at times) for over 40yrs, I have shot medium format, 4×5 format and sold fine art prints at art at craft shows for years (years past that is) that I developed and printed myself. I never wanted a smaller format digital camera but FF was not offered at first and when it was it was very expensive for low MP bodies that would soon be worthless as I knew. I just couldn’t get myself to waste that kind of money at that time only because I was not making enough money from photography to justify it as a business expense as many pros do.

First consider the fact we are only talking about a 1 stop max advantage to FX here mainly because of lenses, then consider how either of these formats are miles ahead of what we had decades ago. I don’t see anyone going back to film to shoot weddings or? except as a novelty anymore. Some of the best wedding albums I have seen (just the photos themselves) were done with a rented medium format film camera and basic 80mm f2.8 lens.  No reason someone with skills can’t do the same today with either Crop or Full frame formats. If your a high end wedding photographer your going to need more equipment and at least one assistant, your probably doing video as well.

I have watched this debate (which is still going on all over the web with probably thousands of articles and videos) from the beginning Back when Nikon had no Digital FX cameras. Even then Nikon did not support pro DX with fast F2.0 lenses to help make up for a lack of FX back when Canon had it first. Nikon defended DX as good enough but with just one f2.8 pro DX lens (17-55) and Nikonians attempted to justify it. Once the expensive low mp FX bodies started to roll out that was it for any pro DX lens support. It’s been a push towards FX ever since. Nikon has considered the pro DX line for use with telephoto lenses for sports and wildlife mostly. Third party lens manufactures have tried to supply DX users with a variety of F2.8 lenses which although nice does not close the gap between DX and FX. No one except sigma has even tried to my knowledge. The question is, will this change anytime soon or will serious DX users be forced to pay up and go FX which I have reluctantly started to do ( I may go back to full DX). Time will tell. Personally I  think mirrorless is the way of the future once the AF is ironed out to match mirrored cameras which it almost is now. The Sony A7R3 is tempting. Big heavy phase detect DSLRs days are numbered. Once larger bodied high performance mirrorless arrives Pros will start to switch over setting the trend for amateurs. I will be glad to be rid of the old phase detect AF systems, AF-Fine tune and focus  re-compose techniques which often cause soft images with larger apertures. No more focus issues with third party lenses as well like we have seen so much of.

Okay I will say this first the best camera for both  DX and FX lens use as a all in one camera at this time IMO is the D850 and perhaps the Sony A73 & A9. Canon’s 50mp bodies don’t have the extra features and AF of the D850 but only if you have a really fast computer as you will have to shoot at the 47mp level and have almost 100 mb files to deal with which are even bigger than the  Phase One IQ180 digital back files ( why?). That’s 3X the size of my 24mp camera’s raw files (30% bigger then I would have expected), that’s a no go for my aging computer. I would have to spend another $1200 at least just to be able to put up with the editing time. My newer laptop can handle it but I don’t use that for serious editing as the screen is a small Gamut LCD with no true reds and not much saturation. You have to pay a lot more to get the better screens. The smaller raw options the D850 offers give soft results at this point so not a consideration at all  for me unless Nikon fixes this. If I had a really fast desktop computer I would want one. So the real price for the camera is close to $5,000 to start not to mention a careful selection of pricey lenses ( there are a few reasonable primes and third party options) So what’s there left to get excited about with Nikon FX? the old consumer build D750 and used D810s that’s it. I see D810s going up in price on the used market after a few months when people realize 100mb files are not fun to work with and decide to go with the D810 or used D8xx bodies until something else come along plus there is a of of D810s on eBay right now right after the release of the D850. If you can live with 12-16mp files then your can find good deals on the Nikon D4S which is a great camera. Canon may have an advantage with a more reasonable line up for most photographers to choose from. There still is an advantage to having a big MP camera even if you don’t need 36+ mp. What’s that? Well if you export from LR to PS or? as a 24mp file (6000 pix on the long end) you will find that you get a sharper image that the 24mp file can’t match. Try it and than do a 200% view and its quite obvious you gain sharpness and acutance this way. Then add a touch of sharpening and  even at 200% it looks pretty good, . Compare it to the D750 this way you will still see the advantage of resolution when downsized, and the noise is about the same as well. This is what I would do with most of my exports.

The only real world differentiation between DX crop and FX full frame (other than the really high MP sensors) is about a stop of high ISO advantage give or take up to 1/2 – 1.5 stops IMO depending on the sensors used and about 1 stop of shallower depth of field for those that want the most blur behind the subject, Plus a bit of DR and maybe color depth, not enough to get excited about.  All this is due simply because the manufactures won’t give DX users the extra stop of speed on DX lenses. We need a DX equivalent of the full frame 24-70 and 70-200 at F2 and sharp wide open. Plus a few fast ultra wide primes. Give us that and there would be no real reason for 99% of us to go with the bigger cameras. Entry level DSLRs could then take the same quality photos as the big expensive pro cameras assuming the shots are within the capability of the camera body. Newer lens designs are getting sharper wide open and in general. In the Nikon camp and others too the nifty 50 needs updating really bad because they don’t hold a candle to the Sigma Art series lens. Plus we need VR in those lenses too.

I should note that Sigma has come close but I just can’t figure out what they were thinking. They have a F1.8 18-35 and 50-100 DX lenses (28-50 & 75-150) which are very sharp but no VR (that is really a bad move IMO) weird focal lengths that just don’t appeal to some of us. I just don’t know what to do with those focal lengths although I could see a DX portrait photographer using the 50-100 if f1.8 if that works for them. Poor design decisions IMO. Also as nice as the ART lenses are from sigma such as the 50 and 85 1.4 I still see a lot of complaints of focus inconsistency (as seen from pros and reviewers) which can not be fixed with AF fine tune or the optional dock. I really hope this gets fixed because I want the 50 and 85 .14 but I really want to wait until I think its safe, I would be hesitant to buy a used one off of eBay because it is more likely to have the issue. If they had been 16  – 50 and 50-135+ with VR and focus consistency  than they would sell as many as they could make. They just don’t appeal to me much as of now, plus the 18-35 does not focus accurately with the outer focus points of some bodies like the D500 so a deal breaker for me right there if I can’t trust using the outer points for vertical portraits. Check the forums on this if your interested as this may get fixed as some point or with other cameras might not be an issue. These Sigma lenses resolve so much more than what we are used to that they open up room for higher MP crop sensors. Lets see other manufactures follow suit not just Sigma. If for example you really want the Nikon 85 f1.4G lens which costs $1599 all you have to do is wait for those short extra 10% off refurbished items at the Nikon Store and get one for $1212 which I have in my cart right now. The 85mm might not always be part of that deal but chances are it will and you get a basically new lens with 90 day warranty from Nikon which will have been checked out and have no issues. This is a much smarter way to get the lens than paying $1,000 -1,275 on eBay for lenses that have probably had a lot of usage (this is a work horse lens for many photographers). Its not worth saving 1-2 hundred dollars to get used. If you want a 5 yr warranty than wait for instant rebates that include that lens. If you need VR with the 85mm lens then your very limited right now. Tamron is probably the choice unless you using Canon or Sony.

As far a the price of FX vs DX here something to consider. You can get the FX body you want used and than get the f1.8 lens which in the case of the 85mm is an excellent lens which can be had used for about $350 then later you can upgrade if you want to. This basically comes out the same as using the f1.4 with DX ( actually f2.2 or so on DX) Remember the only difference between DX and FX when using the same lens is the fact you have to step back with framing your subject with a DX body and this is the only reason DOF is different because your subject is not as close so the background will not get as blurred. If you stood in the same spot the only difference you would see is the image from FX being cropped, the DOF will be exactly the same in the areas you can see in the image.

So the increase in price really only shows itself if you want f1.4 with FX which you can upgrade later as funds allow. plus if you buy used there is only a small difference in price between the higher end DX and FX. Used D500 and D750 bodies are close only a few hundred from the D810 for example. A used or refurbished D7200 / D750 would be the best values. although the D600/610 is cheaper the focus points are too close together IMO and the AF system is good but consumer grade compared to the 51 point system. If you don’t mind being a few generation behind you can save a lot of money on bodies and lenses. Newer lenses though generally show better with the newer high resolution sensors. You clients will never see the difference.

DX advantages

  1. More reach with telephoto lenses. Fast telephoto lenses are very expensive so getting that extra .5x of magnification is a huge savings. Its even cheaper to buy a D500 than to buy another or longer pro telephoto lens. Which is why most wildlife and sports shooter also have DX bodies.
  2. DX bodies and lenses generally are more compact and lighter.
  3. Focus point spread on newer midrange to pro DX bodies cover way more of the image and is a huge advantage, no more focus and recompose issues with soft eyes on your subject ( as long as the outer focus points are accurate like on the D500 for example). Focus systems should continue to improve as well.  Mirrorless cameras use contrast detect and do not have this issue. I for one do not want to ever go back to doing focus and recompose with mid to close up portraits after being spoiled with a wide spread on DX with Nikons 51 point AF system. This is one reason I have not purchased a D750 this holiday season with the prices at $1495 including a grip or $1995 with the 24-120 lens and grip ( I suspect a D760 is around the corner). Great price. The D750 also has the AF button too far from the right side for comfortable use as a AF-ON button which is the only way I use a DSLR but many folks really like the camera anyway. it also has a  narrow AF point spread as well. The 600 series is narrower and the 800 series is a bit wider. I just don’t find myself getting excited about any of the FX camera bodies at this point except for the D850 as I mentioned above. I currently own a D810 which I may sell at some point and just keep using DX or move to mirrorless. The only issue with the D500 to me is I don’t like the skin tones it produces too much especially at higher ISOs compared with the FX sensors like the d750 and older DX sensors. I like the new Canon EOS 6D2 skin tones. I suspect the D760 will be more to my liking when it comes out next year. When the right body comes along I will get one. If Nikon fixes the mRaw softness I my be interested in the D850 next year. I can always get a better computer later and still use the camera. Now with the latest computer Chip security issues as seen on the news 1/18 my computer will only get slower in the near future and possible by up to 30% since it is of the older generation.
  4. Since the vast majority of DSLRs out there are DX more photographers would be able to take on occasional paid jobs if better DX lenses were available. An advantage for many photographers. A Nikon D3400 (for example) with a F2 16-50 and 50-135 could make the same quality images as a D750 and the expensive pro glass as long as the camera gets the focus right and the sensor tech is similar.

Disadvantages

  1. Less DOF by 1 stop ( or less BG blur). This can be overcome somewhat by stepping back and using a longer focal length lens. On occasion you may want to add background blur in Photoshop on a few images (this takes a bit of work to do it correctly though and skill), this is particularly worth doing if you have just one or two that would really benefit from extra BG blur. You can also increase the soflness of the Bokeh sand reduce the harshness in LR using the adjustment brush with negative clarity and a few other options depending on the scene which gives you maybe 1/2 -1 stop of softer blur. This is important to know about as some lenses have busy unattractive bokeh. I occasionally use both of these techniques and they work really well sometimes. Basically if you really want the most BG blur use the longest fastest lens you can in any given situation with what ever format you have. Also make sure the lenses you use have a soft bokeh quality as that will help make up for the loss of 1 stop vs  a faster lens with busy bokeh in fact a f1.8 lens can look better than a f1.4 if the bokeh quality is better in the f1.8 because it will be softer to start with. Add some post processing and your ahead of the game.
  2. About 1 stop more noise all else being equal.
  3. No true Pro DX lens support by any manufacture in the ultra wide primes and 16-50, 50-135 F2 lenses. f2.8 lenses do not equalize the 1 stop advantage of FX. This could change once profits from FX flattens out and manufactures look for other sources of income. There are a few  14, 20, 21, 24mm FX F1.4-1.8 primes to try that should prove to be tack sharp from corner to corner even wide open ( a maybe on the 14mm). Sigma came close but is not quite there yet.
  4. Pros and advanced amateurs may look down on paid photographers using DX other than for sports and wildlife. Ignore them. Your paying clients don’t care and certainly won’t notice a 1 stop difference in noise or Bokeh (blur) at the sizes they will be printing or view their images at. These are things photographers obsess  about. Put a grip on just about any camera and it will look pro enough to the average person if you feel the need to do so or like the balance the camera has.
  5. Images taken at high ISO may show more / too much noise compared to FX when viewed at 100%. You can export these files to a smaller size so they can’t be viewed at full resolution minimizing the noise seen. Clients don’t necessarily need full 24mp or larger files, maybe you can downsize to 12 or 6 mp. Your can also selectively apply extra noise reduction and selectively apply sharpening. There are tricks to minimize the viewers perception of noise for a few selective images that show too much noise. Sometimes converted to B&W makes a really noisy image acceptable. If your a full time pro then you should be using the equipment that best suits what you do and need.

Recommendations.

You may find your tolerance for noise in your images goes up if you use super sharp lenses, you may even decide then that crop format high ISO quality is plenty good as long as the image stays sharp. Even the new kit lenses (with the P designation from Nikon for example) are way shaper then the previous versions at least in the case of the 70-300 p fX version which has the VR switch on it. The new 16-80 also is noticeable better the 18-140 plus the VR is also better. The best 50mm for Nikon and Canon is the Sigma Art 5mm f1.4 lens, no contest there until we get new updated lenses from them. The best 85mm f1.4 lens for the money is also the Sigma Art lens. Just test for focus consistency.  Remember that photographers have been using the softer lenses all along and clients have not been complaining. Its only at high magnification on our screens that we see these differences, so if you can’t afford the high end lenses don’t let that stop you from making great photos.

I should note that some mirrorless manufactures like Fuji (smaller sensors such as the 4/3rds class ) are making faster glass for their users (really nice ones too like the 56mm F1.2), its mostly Nikon and Canon the big two that want us to upgrade to FX and don’t support pro DX use. Even before Nikon had a full frame camera they didn’t support DX and only made one pro DX lens, the 17-55 f2.8 (still not f2) some might consider the 10mm fish eye and 12-24 f4 lenses to be pro. They have never upgraded that lens in all this time (its not bad but could use an updating). No VR no nothing. VR is a very useful technology and users expect it in new lenses, it would have been so much simpler if all DSLRs had in body VR like sony( there is some advantage to having the latest VR tech built-in to the lenses though). Why not have both? Well some manufactures do put VR into their bodies just not Nikon and Canon and I think Pentax also.

What if you like to make really big prints of just enjoy looking at large files at 100% for fun? (I do) Then you have two choices get a 36-50mp full frame camera body from Canon, Sony or Nikon and excellent lenses or use a panorama head and make vertical images that you stitch together with a DX camera using a sharp but not so wide focal length lenses ( that we have now for DX) to create really big files. The advantage of this is that when you downsize them somewhat you end up with the resolution and sharpness that looks more like medium format images along with a more natural looking perspective. You can of course also bracket your focus on each shot as well. This is a new feature on the Nikon D850 that I would really like to have. Auto fine tune on the D500 and D850 is also something that should come on all new DSLRs from Nikon in the future but I think the dock and programing feature that Sigma offers for some of its lenses is a much better solution even if it can take an enormous amount of time (frustration?) to get it right at different focal lengths and distances. Another reason to dump phase detect AF at some point or combine the two technologies together as some are doing.

Pro photographers don’t want tiny lightweight DSLRs and mirrorless camera bodies because with a flash and large F2.8 zooms on the camera they won’t balance well and will be uncomfortable to hold for hours and might look ridiculous as well in some cases. The only way mirrorless bodies will take over DSLRS is if they make some larger bodied models with grips to hold on to with all the weight. DX sized bodies with a grip can do the job except for the largest of hands. The D500 is a big DX sized body. A Nikon D3400 is a bit small for pro use but could be used in pinch for someone on a budget or for occasional paid jobs. For portraits and general photography smaller cameras and lens combos are fine. The tech used in contrast focusing such as the Sony A9 & A7R3 will eventually be standard and even improved making the somewhat unreliable AF of Phase detect a relic of the past. I look forward to no more AF issues with lenses and phase focus systems and no more AF fine tuning which never takes into account different focal lengths, distances and occasional focus shift from different lighting sources.

Do your own research don’t just listen of what others tell you on forums. Download the RAW comparison charts at dpreview.com for example of different cameras at different ISOs and process them yourself with LR or? and see what the truth really is and what your tolerance is for any given camera body and ISO setting. for example the D500 and D750 at ISO 12800 Look about 1 stop apart but in LR with just a bit of Noise reduction and sharpening the results are closer then you might think. I think at ISO 12800 the D500 pulls ahead of the older DX sensors by about 1/2 stop at least certainly 1 stop from the D7100 sensor at that ISO. The D750 still has an advantage IMO with skin tones, acutance and color. FX is still better obviously and that is why we need a faster lens to equalize things a bit. I imagine FX will continue to come down in price as well as used models and features will continue to improve until something new and disruptive comes along. Sensor tech has reached a point of very small incremental improvements, I don’t expect anything big to happen just improved and added useful features that make the newest and latest something we want to have. If you have something like the Nikon D7200 or a D750, D8xx then your probably good for some time yet. For DX the D7200 is still the best value IMO/ Better skin tones than the D500 IMO also ( which is the same as the D5 by the way) and more resolution. The 500 is better in everyway except for resolution and skin tones (skin tones can of course be adjusted in post), particularly at very high ISOs which do have a bit less noise. Nikon in my opinion should have stayed with a 24-30mp on that body as the newer lenses can handle more mp.

Another thing I would like you to notice with these high MP cameras such as the Nikon D850 is that moiré  (the color can be removed in post) destroys or alters  details. Just look at the old world etching in the comparison chart (mentioned earlier) above the door after you remove the moiré the detail left is not natural in many spots. check  the rest of the scene. Don’t believe me just look at what should be there with the Phase One IQ180. To be fair this is unlikely to show in real world photography 99% of the time.

How about sharpness? I much prefer bodies that have sensors with no AA filter which tends to soften the image in an attempt to reduce moiré. The Nikon D750 has a very weak AA filter that maintains good sharpness, I can  barely see any difference from no AA filter models. All Nikons sensors look somewhat soft at 100% when compared to the D810 & D850 sensor files. I really want to like the D750 but just can’t get excited about it for reasons I mentioned above, but if I really needed a FX body right now for work proposes I would probably get one anyway ( because I already have a Nikon system).

If your looking to get started and don’t already have equipment then you have some nice choices. With Nikon you really need to get your brand new equipment around the holidays as the savings can be quite significant. buying used? then timing is important. As is selling your equipment. If buying used make sure the serial number on the bottom of the camera body starts with a 30 and the lenses start with US. Some newer lenses don’t start with US so the only way to know if you getting a gray market or Nikon USA is the warranty card. The warranty is not transferable but at least you know its a USA model and will have better success when you go to sell it. Nikon will not tell you over the phone if its gray market or not.

So should you go DX or FX? that depends on what you have or need and what is available at the time. There is no easy answer. I would say if you not a working pro you could get by with either. If your a portrait photographer that wants the most blurred backgrounds you get get you need to go FF and use the fastest glass you can afford. But, don’t fool yourself into thinking your clients will notice 1 stop of DOF difference. It’s us photographers that care about that. Also don’t think just because you have fast glass that you can go around shooting everything at f1.4 with a shallow depth of field because you will be disappointed with the results in many cases. People in general don’t want to see photos that look out of focus, people are used to that sharp everywhere look from their cell phones and unless you really nail focus on something that is large enough in the photo it won’t impress anyone. At weddings, events with multiple persons in the photos  be careful with your f stops. FX really only wins in cases where  you need the fastest aperture and high ISO. If you don’t shoot weddings, portraits, print large and such then DX may be best for you, and its far cheaper too. Fast glass is not necessarily sharper than a good kit lens or slower primes at F5.6-8 anyway, particularly the newer kit lenses.  Fast expensive lenses usually are faster focusing, built better, sharper in the corners wide open. As far as clients are concerned they generally don’t view the images any bigger than a tablet or phones screen these days or maybe in a photo book. A few will view them on a computer screen from your website before posting them on social media. Even reducing your images to 50% is bigger then most would ever need and at that size there is a lot of room for high ISO use.

If your a Bokeh hound (this is a photographer thing not a client) then you will only be satisfied with the 1.2-1.4 lenses that are sharp and usable wide open, also the f1.8 135 sigma Art and 200mm f2 by Nikon and Canon along with 300mm f2.8s. You can expect a certain failure rate with those small focus planes which appears to be worse with third party lenses particularly some (but not all) Sigma samples at this point but still a little worrisome. Be sure to thoroughly test your lens wide open once you purchase it. Sigma says they will fix any focus issues you may incur.What good is a super sharp lens if you can’t count on almost every shot nailing focus? (assuming technique is correct) Inconsistent focus is a bokeh seekers lens nightmare, it is frustrating and reduces confidence is getting the shot and takes some of the joy from the photographer. That’s why photographers will pay the extra price for the name brands lens in many cases. Do your research and ask your self how much is it worth to me. You will notice that for example the Nikon 85 1.4G lens sell on ebay for just a few hundred dollars less than a new one. This is also a lens you don’t want to buy gray market as you may need after a time to send it in for calibration if the focus start to get off too much or your camera does not have AF fine tune. Warranties are not transferrable but at least Nikon will work on it.

What the best lens? ( Nikon for this discussion) for bokeh? All of the 1.4s but particularly starting with the 85. The 50mms from Nikon and Canon are nothing special at 1.4 and 1.8. The 1.8Ds don’t have as nice a bokeh. Even the f1.2 are too soft IMO wide open for todays high mp cameras. The 200 F2 would be my choice if I could afford it, it would serve double duty as a telephoto with a tele-converter.  Some photographers will use a 300 f2.8 outdoors. Most are using the 24-70 & 70-200 for convenience which perform pretty well for bokeh on full frame but not so much on a DX. If you only have a kit lens use the long end when possible at F5.6. For a crop camera you really want the 1.2 -1.4 to help make up for a 1 stop loss of the format. So shooting at f2 with 50mm on a crop camera will be like shooting 2.8 with Full Frame, you won’t get as close to the good bokeh effect. You need to be at 1.4 minimum. There are many reviews and videos on this subject so you can see for yourself. for many the f1.8 if it has good bokeh quality will be all they need even on DX. If I had a Canon system I would get the 85L 1.4 IS. IS goes a long ways with an 85mm focal length. Nikon please put VR into your next 50-85 lens updates.

For landscapers the Sigma f1.4 primes (maybe not all of them but they are at least cheaper in price than the Nikon versions with some of them being much sharper.

Once you pull up a comparison on your screen there is no going back to the older and soft lens designs of 30+ years ago, think nifty fifties from Nikon and Canon. Even my el cheapo Nikon 35mm f1.8 G lens is way sharper then the 50 f1.8 & f1.4. Best bargain for DX. I only use the 50s because I need the large aperture when I have too  not because they have great IQ with a 24mp sensor.

 

 

 

 

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Combo App Instruction for Mobile Devices.

Posted on Updated on

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Finally a site that shows how to get the results you see many photographers getting using combo apps on their mobile devices. This is the best place I have found to learn how to get similar results.

This guy is quite famous.

http://skipology.com/iphoneography-workflow-gianluca-ricoveri/

All the rest. The menu at the top has other options.

http://skipology.com/genre/

Flickr group on mobile extreme editing. Great for ideas but you won’t get instruction here.

https://www.flickr.com/groups/comboapps

Shooting and Processing with your Tablet or Phone.

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Above image was made with the Snapseed app which is free.  iPad Mini.

With 35% of folks in the US owning tablets and 51% owning smart phones it’s no wonder that far more photos are taken with smart devices than regular cameras these days. Never in human history has it been so affordable to take and create art from photos. People already have the devices, if they want to use the camera it costs them nothing but their time. Processing with purchased apps is very in-expensive with most apps costing around .99 – $2.00 each with many being free. Also people aren’t as intimidated to use their phone cameras in public like they might with a larger camera and other people don’t seem to mind or pay attention like they would if we whipped out  a big DSLR and zoom lens. The bottom line is more people are excited about photography then ever its just that the devices have changed. Absolute image quality was never a concern with most people, it’s the same today. Cell phone camera features and quality will continue to improve as a way to get sales. Current top end cell phones are plenty fast enough for just about anyone, it’s the photo video & software that will give practical improvements from this point on.

At some point in the future IQ will reach a high enough point that larger P&S type cameras will no longer be used by the majority anymore (some say we are there now, I don’t agree just yet). Just us more serious photographers and pros will lug around those 5lb bricks, but even full frame sensor cameras will get smaller in the form of mirror less versions like we have now except  they are still too expensive for the average person. The major camera makers should have gotten their name on cell phones a long time ago to develop brand loyalty. Big names like Nikon are going to be left behind and end up focusing on the mid to pro / high-end of the market which is what they are good at already. Eventually they will make what the market demands even if other brands like Fuji, Olympus & Sony take a large chunk of that market away from them. Canikon will still be around but their offerings will be different from what we see today in the big box stores. Even screen technologies are about to change in the next 3-5yrs

Users are taking their creativity to places they never would have otherwise due to the time and skill it would take to use Photoshop to do the same effects, now in just a few minutes they can mix and match app effects and in some cases control where and how much effect is applied to the image. Once a user gets to know what can be done with various apps then it gets easier to visualize the end result while taking the photo. Creativity is never a bad thing. Say what you want about cell phone / tablet image quality at least folks are having fun and creating some very interesting art with them and that’s what it’s all about not making huge prints and getting paid to take photos. Some Pros look down  their noses at this but it’s a growing trend with no let up in sight so we might as well get used to it, even embrace it. If someone likes the result what does it matter how it got there. Few young people make large prints very often and most don’t make prints at all, it’s all electronic display and web pages now and the small files tend to look much better on the small screens then when viewed at 100% ( very few folks do that with mobile devices). Every one I know with a smart phone is taking and showing photos and that’s not going to end anytime soon. Fact is on those small screens most images look pretty good IMO. Mobile devices all have a long way to go, they need bigger sensors ( or better ones) Optical Image stabilization, and really excellent lenses. Various manufactures have done some very interesting things on the software side but no one has put it all together in a way that gets me excited about a phone’s camera yet. I have no doubt that will happen in the next few years.   Just look at what some cell phones offer in their cameras for example,  They have burst mode, sweep panorama, HDR (that really works without any ghosting), slow motion video, software image stabilization that mixes different parts of images to get a sharp one,  Tap focus instead of the slooooow pan of the focus point on typical P&S cameras, and a ton of apps for specific purposes like motion blur / trails ( slow shutter modes), real-time film effects and filters for example. P&S camera makers don’t have a chance anymore to get sales back. That boat already sailed and it’s not coming back. A few folks are still buying P&S cameras but very few compared to a 5+  years back. Same is happening with PCs now that tablets are being used by over 35% of the US population and increasing by the day. Smart phones are at 51% and climbing. at some point sales will flatten out just like they always eventually do.  Phablets (large phones) will eventually have much bigger screens with flexible folding displays. We have not seen the maturity of tablets and phones yet like we have with DSLRs and lenses. With TVs it’s hard to say due to the high cost with new tech in the first few years. 4K is here and will be priced about the same as current in a few years but screen technology may take a while longer to make any real market disruption.

At another level some folks are using tablets etc. to process images taken on a regular camera. I do some of that because the apps can do things I can’t or don’t want to do on my desktop plus I can work on an image when not at home. The latest iPad for example has plenty of computing power to process a decent sized image. If you use a IOS device forget about using iTunes for image transfer because iTunes will downsize your images and Apple has not provided a way to turn that off (dumb), as a result we need another app to work around that. I use WiFi Photo Transfer, it’s super fast, wireless and easy to use and I end up with full rez images on my iPad. Be carefull that all your apps will save a full rez image as many don’t, or you might have to set them up in each apps settings section to make sure, even then larger files can cause crashes with some. With Android you have more freedom with drag and dropping files compared to Apple’s closed system. I’m not loyal to Apple, when Samsung better meets my needs I will go with Samsung it’s just a tool. All of Apples tablets have the same old iSight camera in them. Not bad but not the latest either plus no flash and no pano or burst mode (iPad Air 2 is an exception).

I find that my iPad Mini does not have as vibrant of colors as the larger iPads ( the new Mini 2 & 3 retinas are the same way) reds are much more muted than our other devices and I don’t recommend serious photo editing with a Mini. Certain hues of orange / red just don’t look as good as my PC or other iPads. Early indications are that the Mini Retina screen also has a smaller color gamut and that some displays have an image retention issue. Cnet says it has a 63% color gamut which is just plain poor by 2015 standards. If your used to using a wide gamut monitor or a phone with an Amoled screen you won’t like the iPad mini.

Click on the image below and look carefully at the color differences between the full sized iPad and the Mini, in particular notice the color strip that goes to the upper right corner, there is a major color shift as all the red appears to be gone from that color. I should also note that the Samsungs I have done side by sides with have also been off in various ways. The new Tab S is suppose to be the most accurate in the Basic Color mode but I have not had one at home. The units I had to compare with showed the following. Galaxy Tab Pro 10″ = overly contrasty. Tab 3 = over saturated. iPad 4 = slightly under saturated. The apples had better shadow detail with the Samsung Pro having the most black crushing / blocking. Overall I prefer the larger iPad (which has a 100% + RGB gamut). I was comparing images to my calibrated IPS PC monitor (not wide gamut).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m not ready to go Amoled just yet until I see its reliable and without artifacts. So I have upgraded to the iPad Mini 2 until the real upgrade comes out in the Mini 4. I recommend buying refurbished when every possible. I can work around the 63% gamut for a while as I don’t do any serious editing with it anyway. I have to admit the Tab S screen does look impressive at first glance.

 

Android is going to offer raw shooting in a future update as well. The new Samsung Pro models are a nice step in the right direction. FYI Amoleds  have better blacks because Amoleds use individual LEDs to make a color pixel but then don’t last as long and the blue LEDs have about an 800 hr life span? (so I have read) which is not very good, (color shift after a while?) they also can suffer from burn in. A good calibrated IPS LCD can look more natural and last a lot longer in the long run. Phones don’t usually get kept for more than 2 yrs so Amoled is pretty safe there. Be careful buying a used Amoled screened device.

Update: 7/14. I have used  the new Tab Pro 10.1 for some time as I set a few up for some friends. This is a nice improvement all around IMO and I could be happy with this version of the 10.1 with Android 4.4 except for the over saturation on the unit I had. One thing I don’t like much is the camera interface and the flash is almost worthless as it won’t fire a lot of the time unless I force it too. The results with flash are fair at best and it always is in red eye mode so its very slow to take a photo when flash is used. Like I said Almost worthless in some situations. Well at least Samsung included a flash (are you listening Apple?). The next iPad I expect the camera and flash from the iphones to be included along with its slow motion video and such and a display with better color in the Mini then I would upgrade again otherwise I will go with the Air2 or a Samsung ?. Putting aside the pros and cons of both brands I would say the Pro is over priced at retail due to the iPad Air”s superior build at the same price point. At $399 I would recommend the Pro over the Air for most people (I regularly see this price on the 10″). The fit and finish of the  Pro 10.1 I have used is not very good, the silver strip around the bezel is lumpy in areas and the rest is plastic. I also note that all a 3 versions of the pro  10’s I have had seem to be slightly warped when set on a flat surface. The Apple feels like it’s precision made ( I am a machinist so I notice these things). In the end the new Pro Samsungs with a 16 -128 Gig micro SD card is a much better unit for those that like to view and share videos and music.

The bottom line is I recommend you get what your friends have if you’re not a computer person, so basically get what the people who will be helping you with your tablet are used to using otherwise you may run into quite a bit of frustration with either brand. I personally don’t like having to use iTunes or not having an SD card slot with Apple. On the other hand the Apples have much better build quality  as well as app selections ( which are made for tablets).

One thing that is in short supply right now compared to any other well know art form is tutorials (Youtube for example) using multiple apps to create artistic photos. Even the flickr groups don’t really explain how they got the image. but there is one place I know of .  Lots of tutorials here.

http://skipology.com/category/iphoneography-workflow/

I’m way behind on  the apps below

Lightroom Mobile. You need to have a CC subscription to use this app. I find it too slow to use on my iPad mini (same as iPad2) rendering takes way too long when you tap on an image to work with it. I don’t see myself using it even though I have a CC subscription. Very limited adjustments in this first version. I imagine later it will get better. With newer faster quad core tablets it probably works well.

HDR. Not much need  now that IOS 7 has its own built-in HDR mode that works excellent. I deleted HDR Pro as a result. IOS is better with no ghosting. Also gives you cleaner files when high ISO is used. The reason is that all three shots appear to be taken instantly rather than 1 at a time like all other apps do.

PANORAMAS. Panorama 360 is great for in camera viewing and a lot of fun to use but don’t expect to get much from viewing the panos outside of the app they are small & soft looking images but look great inside the app itself. AutoStitch is what you want for high quality panos (18mp limit for Apple). Don’t forget to rotate you device on its axis (the lenses Nodal point) to reduce parallax error on closer objects. You can get a tripod mount for tablets as well. You will also want something like 645 Pro so you can lock your exposure, WB, Focus for better results. Note: Autostitch will not give the same quality results as a dedicated desktop software like Autopano Pro from Kolor. In some cases the desktop SW just blows the  app away.

MEXTURES is a very unique app because of its Guest Formulas which along with your own formulas you can make contain layers that you can go back and change anytime. This one is worth looking into. This app is for phones only at this point but still works on an iPad.

GLAZE turns you photos into oil paintings. Great app for inspiration to making actual oil paintings.

DISTRESSED FX  great app for getting that vintage textured look. The only issue I have with this app is that it is one of two apps I have  that will reduce the file size when saving. This needs to be fixed.

TANGLED FX  Unique effects to your images, nothing else like it. Lots of control over effects as well. Be sure to change back to the full rez from preview mode when saving.

SNAPSEED  This google based app is probably the most used photo  effects app out there and its free now. Used to be $4.99.  Google is really doing well keeping their apps updated, same goes for their desktop collection with the introduction of Analog Efex Pro which is free for existing users of the Google collection. It’s the best vintage camera app I have seen yet (not for mobile devices yet).

DECIM8  This app basically decimates your photos. Be sure to watch the YouTube videos so you can get the most out of it. Works great in combo with other apps. Unique effects you can’t get anywhere else. Usage is limited though. This app is for phones only at this point but still works on an iPad. unfortunately this app is no longer getting updates. Has a lot of potential though. There is no back button so you have to start over if you don’t like the effect. Effects only work if they are highlighted, be sure to turn them off when selecting new ones.

iCOLORAMA This app uses layers. You must hit apply after each adjustment for the brushes to work on the next effect. Lots of effects and color adjustments here.

PERFECTLY CLEAR Simple but effective app that seems to make almost every photo you run thru it look better. This used to cost $200 as  desk top plug-in. A bargain at $2

NOIR I really like this app but it only outputs low rez images so I won’t be using it much anymore. Needs updating after which I would highly recommend it. This is more than just a vignetting app. I would really like to see Snapseed get something like this as one of its features. My favorite vignetting control ever. It’s a shame to see this app go without anymore support. As it is Snapseed does have a vignette control under center focus but it is very basic without any shape control of the circle. You can though use the selective adjustment points under Selective Adjust or Tune Image in the desktop version to get something close.

HANDY PHOTO This has some nice features and filters which you can stack. It’s GUI is also different from any other app I have used.

ALIEN SKY This is a cool app for adds flare, planets, moons etc. to your photos. One feature this app needs is the ability to erase part of the effect so we can put them next to other objects in our images. Otherwise you have to save the image and fix it in layers. Several updates make this an even better app.

LORY STRIPES  Very unique app for adding design with ribbons. Ability to mask and  resize/rotate and much more.

PERCOLATOR  Neat effects that revolve around coffee nomenclature.

Here’s a couple of flickr groups.

Combo apps  Mobile Extreme Editing.   In the discussion section there are new apps that get reviewed. http://www.flickr.com/groups/comboapps

Decim8 group. http://www.flickr.com/groups/decim8

Mobile app group. http://www.flickr.com/groups/mobilephonephotography

Tangled FX app group. http://www.flickr.com/groups/tangledfx

Want flash on your tablet? see this. I want to try one of these.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/search?utf8=✓&term=iPhone+flash&commit=Go

Last but not least here are some reason to steer clear of those bargain priced off brand tablets.

  1. Custom Android OS’s that may not work the same with  your apps or an app someone else is using. Some new tablets are still using the old Android 4.0 which is really outdated  and can’t be updated without hacking the system and even then you may be able to. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is the oldest I recommend and what most folks I know are using. 4.4. Kit Kat is the latest and my favorite so far and is available as an update to Tab 3s so far.
  2. Slower processors means laggy response compared to the latest tablets. Are you patient? it’s the same with your desktop or any other device.
  3. Poor batter life / quality, some only give you about 90-120 minutes of real world use, or don’t last too long. Once you get used to getting 10+ hrs. there is no going back. Using max brightness  outdoors will drain your battery even faster. Off brands may advertise 3- 5hrs or even 8 in a few but don’t count on it. It’s a real pain to not make it thru the day before running out of battery power. You will soon be spending money for a better tablet mark my words. Buy once not twice.
  4. Poor reliability and short warranties. your on your own once the warranty expires and no one would spend the money to fix it. Samsung gives you 90 days but has excellent reliability, Apple gives 1 yr. again with excellent reliability. This is a good reason not to go cheap. If you looking at $50 – $75 maybe but not $100 – 150+  for a tablet. Plenty of refurbs from Samsung to choose from now that are very affordable.
  5. Touch screens that are not too responsive to finger touch but work find with a stylist. Very frustrating.
  6. Most come with only 8 gigs of memory, make sure there is a slot for an Micro SD card so you can add memory. Apple does not provide these unfortunately.
  7. LCD screen that have low resolution and typical narrow viewing angles before color shifts and brightness changes occur.  Not good for sharing what’s on the screen with others standing at an angle to the screen or outdoors when you need max brightness.
  8. Some screens may have low max brightness levels which is very bad for outdoor use.
  9. Wi-Fi reception may not have very good range. That’s very important too and you can’t tell that from the specs, only from professional reviews or from the public if it’s even mentioned.
  10. When reading text in ePub or PDF format you may find scrolling and text rendering to have noticeable lag (slow to catch up with you).
  11. Poor camera and video performance.
  12. Poor resale value, but than again hopefully you didn’t pay more than $75 to start with. Just pass it on to a friend or relative.
  13. These units often get far more 1 star ratings then 5 star.  Some folks may get a good one and are relatively happy for the time being. Be sure you buy from a place that you can easily return the unit with no hassles.

Corel’s Paint Shop Pro as an alternative to Photo Shop

Image Posted on Updated on

Update: 3/2017. We are now up to X9 and although it is a bit better then X7 the performance is still the same as it has been for years. PSCC is way faster and smoother when using a lot of layers with 24mp files. I use PSCC now plus PSPX9.

http://www.corel.com/corel/product/index.jsp?1=1&skuId=PK_ESDPSPX6ULMLUGAM&ym_mid=1493812&ym_rid=90933969&promo=5071&dcs_action=applyCoupon&url_coupon=5071&onyxcampaignid=5071&countryCode=US&pid=prod5130100

With Paint Shop Pro’s X6 64 bit version now available there’s even less reason for most photographers to have to pony up almost $700 for PSCS6 which won’t be updated anymore according to Adobe (at least with new features) or to pay a monthly charge for using the latest version for the rest of your life. At a retail of $79 or $59 (I paid $29 on sale without the plug-in. $39 with the plug-in) to upgrade for the ultimate version of PSPX6 which comes with the excellent plug-in called Perfectly Clear makes this is a very well priced software. Check out the mobile version of Perfectly Clear at only a couple of dollars, I think you will be impressed at how often you prefer the output of the app compared to your own or the camera’s editing, I know I was. Even if the effect is subtle It’s often  better. You won’t get it in the free trail as  you have to purchase the Ultimate edition and get the extra download to use it. There’s not a whole lot new from X5 in X6 except for some performance updates. You also can drag and drop images into layers now instead of the time consuming copy and paste method. The Speed performance is just noticeable and not a huge step up.

 

Update #1: Someone has made a script that allows PSPX6 users to use the whole Google Collection (Nik) of software. Works great. http://forum.corel.com/EN/viewtopic.php?f=56&t=51492#p275433

If you already have X5 installed with NIk’s Color Efexs Pro 3 installed X6 will see that plug-in if you get the 8bf file out of the X5 folder and put it in your plug-in folder. Although it will only be usable in the 32 bit version (you install both just like Photo Shop).

There are a lot of angry fans of Adobe these days and X6 is probably looking pretty good to these folks. There’s still a long way to go IMO but X6 64 is a step in the right direction. If you have a raw convertor like Adobe Lightroom or?  then PSPX6 makes a really nice compliment. For raw shooters I don’t really recommend PSP as a one stop solution. Most of your plug-ins will probably work with X6, all of mine do except for the ones mentioned above. In fact  many of the higher end features found in PS can be accomplished with plug-ins if not with X6. Higher end pro photographers already used to using PS and actually making a living with photography will probably go with CC or just keep using what they already have but a whole new generation of users will probably bulk at the Creative Cloud commitment and long term expense and go with PSP X6 or?. Actually there’s no reason that PSCS6 can’t be used for the next 5+ years unless some SW conflict arises or some new “I can’t live without it” feature comes out in a future CC version of PS. If money is an issue X6 should suffice, if you can afford it go for the CC  Photo Shop only solution which will cost you about $20 month annually or $30 on a monthly basis.

Corel’s PSP is just on the edge of being a true replacement for PS for the majority of photographers but there’s still work to do. Many of the filters need to be reprogrammed to respond much faster like the Adobe versions do now that we have all these high mp cameras. More tools need to work in 16 bit mode. Some kind of Auto Align would be nice too. The selection tools could still use some Adobe PSCS6 type of advanced capabilities. A version of Lab mode would be nice too. More options for text shaping like CS6 has and Better utilization of multiple cores. PSP is not that far from being a true competitor. Certainly Corel is capable of  bridging the gap some more. The question is why aren’t they doing it? They could certainly charge a bit more as well. Maybe have 2 versions of PSP, a standard Pro version and a Elite / Ultimate version that means more than just including a plug-in. I suspect there is a long range plan for PSP by Corel and it involves a limited budget each year for development. I expect version 7 to be a bigger jump though. At least the upgrade costs are just a fraction of what Adobe charges for each PS upgrade. I typically pay $39 for the ultimate version every year (regular version is $29 on sale) and each version is better IMO except for X3.

Update: . PSCC  is $9.99 a month as a regular price not a special deal.

Update: 9/14 I have been using PSCC for the last 6 months or so and can say that he speed and smoothnees of using layers and brushes really outshines PSPX6 in speed. PSPX6 just can’t handle 24mp files smoothly using layers and large brushes for example ( actually on my 4yr old quad its almost unusable). PS on the other hand hardly bats an eye so full size files are no longer problem for me. Corel really needs a performance boost that uses all cores and a Graphics card memory etc. Corel really hasn’t done all that much with PSP except add more features and make a 64 bit version. They really better be working on a faster version and some more updated selection tools etc to take advantage of PSCC and appeal to the more serious photographer that wants out from Adobe.

Nikon D7100 And The New 24mp sensors

Posted on Updated on

img_05The entire line of DX Nikon cameras are now at 24mp so what’s the deal with all those pixels?  I’m going to talk about the Nikon D7100 a camera that I own. first off you might want to see my post on dealing with High MP camera files. I really don’t notice any difference in LR between 12mp and 24mp as far as processing speed (except for importing and exporting). When I export I usually downsize to 12mp so no problem there as well, I do this because 24mp is just too much with my computer and Paint Shop Pro when using layers. Compared to a Full Frame camera the D7100 is still noisy at higher ISOs  even if it can in the right conditions almost match the D700/600 for example with some noise reduction but as soon as you start processing the image (increasing  the exposure or lifting the shadows) noise starts to increase at a higher rate than the FF files. Even though most folks don’t need 24mp we really don’t have much choice  these days but we still have an advantage with these sensors when the file is downsized or viewed at normal screen sizes. Now, my D7100 is a little cleaner up to ISO 3200 then my D90 (only goes to 3200) when viewed at 100% but when I downsize the 24mp file to 12mp then I realize a nice improvement in noise and to some extent sharpness as well. The AF on the D7100 is much better as well so having sharply focused images is the most important thing we have, there is not much that is worse than a high ISO image that is out of focus. The lack of an AA filter does make for improved sharpness at 100% on screen viewing and to a lesser extent improved local contrast with most lenses and particularly with primes. I think the Sony sensor from the D7000 is a better sensor overall (better balance of mp and noise + lack of any banding and color casts) and better suited to todays DX lenses, I would rather Nikon had used that one without an AA filter and maybe some tweaking here and there. There really has not been all that much progress in Cmos sensors since the D3s, just more MP and a bit of tweaking. The Sony sensors are still the best. The D5200/7100 use a Toshiba sensor. The bottom line is that the D7100 is all I need to take and create images for some time. Would I like to have a few FF cameras and the best lenses? Oh Yeah, but that costs a whole lot of money and chances are viewers wont’ notice any difference in my output anyway.

Update: Now that I am using PSCC I find that I can use the full 24mp files without any noticeable lag using layers and brushes which is a problem for Paint Shop Pro (layers and a large brush is almost usable on my 4yr old quad computer).

Remember that a 24mp printed image is only 40% bigger than a 12mp printed image in linear dimensions. How is that? well if a 12mp files makes an 8×10 (example only) then you would need 4 8×10 images to fill the space a 16×20 would take. S0 to get a print double the size of your 12mp camera you would need 48mp! 40% is not that much of a gain. The higher the mp the greater the gain to go bigger again. So if you have a Nikon D800 (36mp) and want a 40% bigger print from it you need 72mp! that’s right 72 mp. Going from 6mp to 24mp actually gives you a print double the size. So the next time you start dreaming about going to 36mp from  24mp consider that there is only about a 20% gain in print size. A real wake up call. Also for each increment in mp the gain is smaller as it becomes a smaller percentage of the overall size, for example going from 12-24 than to 36mp then to 48mp with the last 12mp jump yielding about a 22% jump in linear dimensions  (my math might be a bit off).

Okay so here are my thoughts on some issues and observances. This is not a review.

1. Buffer size: this is really not the issue people have made out of it.

FYI. Going from a 45MB/s card to a 95MB/s card makes a big difference and I assume that even faster future cards will add even more shots to the D7100’s high-speed continuous shooting before slowing down.  With a 45MB/s card the camera literally stops shooting after the buffer fills up and you have to wait several seconds before you can shoot again. With the 95MB/s card you go from 6 fps to 2.5 or so fps in DX  mode @ 14bits, this is totally workable for me. Jpegs of course give  more shots before the buffer fills and will allow you to use a slower card.

If you need more speed note the following info. Once the camera slows down you get better than 3 fps in 1.3 crop mode.

 A DPR poster posed his tests results.

” I’ve received the SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s  today (16Gb) :

Rate + number of pics before slowing down (with card empty, just formatted) :

1.3x, 12bit, compressed : 7fps / 19-20 pics
1.3x, 12bit compressed lossless : 7fps / 15 pics
1.3x, 14bit compressed : 6fps / 15-16 pics
1.3x, 14bit compressed lossless : 6fps / 9 pics”

www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3481042

Things really aren’t as bad as it first seemed and is likely to get better with future generations of cards. 7 fps is quite fast. Many folks do quite a bit of cropping for sports and wildlife shooting so the 1.3 crop mode should not be much of a problem in many situations.
I would assume this info applies to the FF camera bodies as well, particularly the ones with a DX crop mode.

Note: there are other brands besides SanDisk I’m just not sure about the speed comparisons.

2. Banding from pushing shadows and crushing blue continuous tones.

You may get horizontal banding in some situations if you push your underexposed shadow areas enough.  I don’t see this with D90 or S800 files so this seems to be another short coming of the Toshiba sensor in the blue channel. Note: you may never notice this in real world shooting unless you do some unusual processing. This artifact is the same (with slight variations) in a variety of convertors from ACR / LR 4-5 / PSPX5-6 / View NX. Also there are reports that this sensor may not be the  best choice for night photography due to the higher incidence of banding particularly at higher ISOs, on the other hand some folks who do night photography have reported not ever seeing any banding.  The banding is not much of an issue at all except for a rare few but even then the banding can be removed with software.

Note: Shadow banding is easily fixed with the De-banding tools found in Topaz De-noise or Nik’s Define 2. You do not need to have any noise reduction applied to use the De-banding tools. In extreme cases you can run the image thru more that once. You can expect 90-100% reduction of banding from the first pass in most cases. Now with that out of the way the D7100 has very good DR and you can push the shadows quite a bit. 14 bit raws give the cleanest shadows.

Sky banding (posterization) is not fixable to my knowledge so avoid heavy processing of clear blue skies (blue channel) or pick days with less clear skies for your projects. I have only  gotten this a few times in the last 2 years , the conditions have to be just right. Again this has only happened twice to me and this included a gray background in studio use but for that it only happened on one shoot and I have no idea why. Raw – 16 bit tiffs. Ligthroom 4-5 and PS CC or PSPX5-6. The only factor I can think of was the use of a high speed card I have for sports. I have not seen it since changing cards but don’t see any reason why that would be the case. Posterization is not a known issue for this sensor so I would not worry too much about this.

3. Color Casts within pushed shadows.

It’s there but in real world use its has not been an issue for me, and if it is I know how to fix it. Here’s what I found.

ISO 100, a touch of green in shadows.

ISO 200, the highest green of any ISO.

ISO 400, the most neutral of any ISO.

ISO 800, from here purple starts to get progressively worse as does noise and reduced DR.

4. Photos have yellow or green tint.

I’m not talking about the LCD screen which when new may have a bit of green cast until the adhesive cures just as it does in iPads. All the newer generation of Nikon Cameras seem to have less magenta then the D90/300/3 generations of sensors. You can adjust the camera’s WB in more depth by going to WB in the menu (not the info area) and getting to the color grid then adjusting all four parameters compared to just two in the WB from you Info button. If your still not satisfied you can make your own profile using the free DNG profile editor or just make some presets using the HSL tools. Another quick fix is to just apply a bit more magenta with the tint slider. Your raw converter may vary here depending on which one your using (Nikon Veiw and Capture NX don’t have this shift), and there could also be some updates or tweaking later on that will refine the color even more.

5. The lack of an AA filter makes this a much sharper camera.

Sorry that’s not as true as some are making it seem. Yes at 100% viewing with the best lenses at the right aperture will make for some amazing detail ( some what sharper) but once you leave those parameters the difference is lost compared to another camera with a weak AA filter like the D5200 with the same sensor that has a weak AA filter. Still there seems to be a sense of increased local contrast and acutance (is it real?). Both cameras can show excellent sharpness.

6. There are no lenses that can resolve 24 so why bother.

That is very true at the wider focal lengths there is not anything at 10-18mm that can do even 15mp justice at the edges or corners let alone the center. The Nikon 14-24 will come closest at the wider end and maybe the Zeiss 15mm. We really need some decent wide primes and updated ultra wide zooms. The Tokina 11-16 F2:8 or 12-24 mk2 seems to be the best at the moment from what I can see (I don’t own it though). From 18mm up we are doing better and with the current generation of primes we have really excellent IQ. Even kit lenses are starting to get better with the introduction of the 18-140 vr and new 18-50.  any lens will benefit from higher MP sensors even though they can’t resolve all the MP of the sensor. They will show better detail or a least a better larger file then you could get with the smaller MP camera and uprezing, and once you downsize the file the IQ tends to increase compared to just shooting the image with the lower MP camera. You will however notice more lens flaws at 100% viewing. Keep in mind that 24mp in DX is the same as 54mp in FF so there is more stress on the lens which is why wide angle has such a hard time (wide angle has always been difficult to get right). With the wider end of zooms your likely to notice the areas within the image that are not sharp, this is normal for zooms and may change somewhat with every shot as you move the lens and change focus and zoom with distance. A whole new generation of zooms need to be made for DX now. My Nion 12-24 does well at close distances with 24mp but not for landscapes I see just too much softness in the edges and corners for my taste. Downsizing to 12mp shows what I got from a 12mp camera which was never excellent IMO. If you can afford it FF is the better deal long term unless you need the crop factor or are good with what you get now. Don’t count on Nikon or Canon to supply you with more pro grade DX primes or zooms they want you to upgrade to Full Frame.

7. The build quality is much better then previous Nikon DX cameras.

Yes is does have better weather sealing and internal build quality but from just handling the camera I can’t tell the difference, they all feel like a light  plastic camera to me. It’s just the shape and weight that I notice. Did you notice that the weakest part of the camera is still not magnesium ( bottom of built-in flash in front and part of the main body).

8.  Pro AF from the D300 is much better than other consumers bodies.

Yes this time I do agree that the AF is much better than my old D90. Add fine tune and you can use large apertures with consistently sharp images at the point of focus. The AF/AE button is much better positioned to be used as AF-ON which pro bodies have a dedicated button for. Many pros only use the AF-ON button rather than use the shutter button for focusing.

9. Video is soft according to some reviews.

Maybe compared to the best but you can be sure that overall you’re going to get better video than older camera bodies. If your really into video you need a real video camera to which there are many larger sensored versions out there now. I have also read that some think the Video is better than the D600. The D4 had terrible video when it first came out (might be better now). The D800 is probably the best DSLR from Nikon for video.

10. Instant 100% viewing on the LCD.

This is one feature that I don’t want to be without now that I have been using it. You just program the Okay button to show a 100% view for instant feed back of focus. No more pushing the + button 6 times. Saves you time and folks don’t see you spending so much time checking (more professional). All cameras should have this feature.

11. Dual cards slots

Although I have never had a card fail on me in 6yrs I can see the value of two cards slots. You can also use the second slot for added capacity instead of back up. It probably cost Nikon $1 to put this in so I feel all mid range and up cameras should have this.

12. 24mp files slow down post processing too much.

Believe it or not that’s untrue. if you shoot Jpeg then you can just change the size of your Jpegs anyway.  For raw processing your making changes virtually (Jpegs as well) and not actually affecting the image itself so with LR I really don’t see much if any difference from my 12mp files. Now as always with LR you want to make sure you leave the lens corrections off until last or it will really slow processing down, particularly with the adjustment brush. I can have over a dozen layers on an image and not have any problems with my 4 yr old quad core  machine and 8 gigs. You can make exporting presets to resize if you want for Photoshop work or to access plug-ins from within LR after exporting to another folder or back into the same folder as 16 bit Tiffs. That takes a bit more time but not much. If your only working on a few images than you can just leave it full size. Once you go to export than your going to have to wait longer for the 24mp files. With one of the newer fast computers you shouldn’t have any issues with 24mp files.

13. Flash Misfires.

I have noticed this on 3 bodies and others are reporting this on forums. This seems to be some compatibility issue with certain flash units. What happens is occasionally you will get a low output flash pop in TTL mode only. I never  get a misfire with my SB800s but with an SB910 I did notice it on almost every shoot. Some others are saying the SB600 does this also.  I suspect this is something that most folks would not necessarily notice unless they were looking  for it. At first I though it was just the flash unit. I wouldn’t worry too much about this but it is worth testing for if you purchase a D7100. If your D7100 does this and you really want to keep it then concider changing flash units until this gets taken care of.

14. Odds & Ends.

Lock button on the program dial now prevents accidental changes. U1  & 2 is handy if you have never had it. New i button give short cuts  to some features. Controls for video exposure now located on the LCD.

Grips are so overpriced that I decided to try out a cheaper after market one (Meike) I had to send it back as the top mounting plate is too thin and flexes so much that with very little effort you can slip a dime into the area between the camera and grip. I wouldn’t trust hanging my camera from a Black Rapids strap using that grip at this time. So I may just wait for the price to come down some and get the Nikon or maybe  try another higher end after market version (yes there are higher end version for some cameras with magnesium in them, look at Phottix).

I think grips are really under utilized. Just think of all the options a grip could offer that the camera does not have. The camera would have to have the ability to communicate with the grip though.

For example:

Remote control capacity.
GPS
Increased buffer capacity?
Increased frame rate?
Wireless image transfer/ tethering
Other connections found on pro cameras.
Video options for better microphone and sound control.
Options for more custom user data banks like U1-2.
USB connect for auto updates.
Better fit with the camera so the grip looks more like its part of the body instead of an after thought.

You can probably think of a bunch more.

Actually if you consider how much Nikon charges for a built-in grip the screw on types are really a bargain, even the $450 D800 version.

D700 -D3 almost $2500 for that grip.  Same 12mp sensor and features. Only the D3S had a real world advantage. D3X (24mp version of D3) was way over priced, and still is.
D800 -D4 almost $3000 for that grip.  36mp vs 16mp. 36mp is cheaper. Big profits for those grips.  You could say the bodies cost more due to lower manufacture volume but that is only because Nikon jacks the price way up for the privilege of having a built-in grip. there should only be a $300 premium for those that want a full sized body with built-in grip, anything over that is just making lots of profit. Think about it, the grip is nothing high tech at all, it just holds batteries and has a switch or two and maybe another small LCD info window.

Other than the grip the cameras are not that different in the cost to produce.

Flashlight photography & Videography

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This may sound like a funny concept but it is effective and costs a lot less than the normal photographic lighting used for video and Stills. Plus you see exactly what you get before taking the shot or video. This will be more attractive for videographers on a budget and  who likes having a few nice flashlights around. Even just one setup  can go a long ways plus you get a great flashlight to use when you need it.

I have used flashlights to take lots of photos and really like the lighting effects I can get with them. If you do  long exposures you can lightpaint with just one flashlight. The photo above was done by light painting while taking a long exposure with the camera on a tripod. It was a dark auto mechanics garage. Many photogs use flashlights for photography particularly when traveling, camping, hiking etc.

Fenix and Maglite both offer large D cell sized flashlights. The Fenix TK series offers diffusion caps while the Maglite  offers filter holders and longer shaped diffusers made more for traffic directing. There are many brands of higher end flashlights but not many have larger models. You  can of course get by with small ones as well they just won’t last as long on high power and the light source is smaller.

TK lights can be about 4x brighter than the maglites but also cost up to 4x more.

You can use the TK diffuser on a Maglite if you fill the gap on the cap with a spacer or some sort.

These new very bright LED flashlights have long run times at full power. The Mags go for 8-9hrs at full power. The TKs vary, about 2hrs at a much higher power level but have other power level options. If you use high quality/ capacity  rechargeable batteries you can get 2-3x more life than your typical alkaline battery.

It would be best to use the same units for most of  your lighting (I have mixed with good results though) as the LED color varies between them. Color can be corrected with color gels you cut yourself then using the filter holders or make one your self. Even the same chip seems to give slight different color from when used in different flash lights. Not that be a deal though. You can just bouce the light off anything you bring with you or an object nearby.

Fenix’s smaller lights (which put out a lot of  lumens but for a shorter time) have all the filter diffuser accessories you need. You can also get brackets to hold them on light stands if you want. Although the light source from these lights are small ( makes for hard lighting) you can put them into a softbox or bounce them off a reflector or wall to soften the light.

How bright are they?

Your typical modern D cell sized maglite flashlight with the newer Xenon gas bulb probably put out about 100 lumens of light (older versions would be under 80 lumens and cheap lights under 60).   New  Maglite LEDs flashlights with the latest versions of the chip put out about 134 lumens. The Fenix TK 40 and up models put out anywhere from 285 – to over 2000 depending on the model. Even the smaller models can do up to almost 800 lumens of light output. Maglites newer small LED XL200 and Mini Maglite do 180 & 245 lumens. If you have never seem how bright 200 or 800 lumens is just think about those big 40,000 candle power flash lights you may have had and imagine that kind of light but in a smaller ray of light. My last big light which died had a 6″ diameter head and produces a lot of heat when on but didn’t last too long. that light probably put out about 4000 lumens but was way too bright for anything indoors Bouncing off a wall outside for photos was fine.

Watch out for those cheap LED flashlights you see in the stores for $10 they might seem bright when you look at the light but when you get home and compare with your older xenon Mini Mags you will find the Mini Maglites blow them clear out of the water, no comparison. Try going out side with one of those cheapos and you will see they don’t do anything. almost worthless except at close distance inside the home. We have a few of the cheapys at home which I intend to throw out soon after I fix up a few of my old Mini Mags ( I have 3 of them). You can get parts for them or other models here. You can keep your Maglites going this way. A clear lens and reflector along with the newest Xenon bulbs helps a lot.  http://www.zbattery.com/2aaparts.html

For self-protection these little flashlights are so bright that they will blind an attacker at night and leave him without sight for a few moments while you get away. something to think about for night use. Many are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. These small tactical sized lights are often used with a small bracket on weapons. When you point it at someone they can’t see who you are due to the brightness. Military and law enforcement / security etc use these.

At any rate they make some cool flashlights.

http://www.fenixlights.com/fenix-tk.html     $85 – 129 typical prices. More pricey models as well.

http://www.maglite.com/productline.asp     $32 – 39   typical prices.

Other makes. Mostly small powerful tactical style lights. Use a lot by law enforcement. There are a lot of these companies.

http://www.nitecore.com/productList.aspx?cid=19    The Tiny Monster (2000 lumens), amazing little light. this will really blind an attacker and leave him helpless for a few moments.

http://www.jet-beam.com/links/default.aspx

Maybe you prefer a spot light style.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001DRLIOQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=modesurvblog-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=B001DRLIOQ

Be carefull that you don’t end up with something too  bright to use because it does not have a low enough power  setting for normal everyday uses.

If you just want to upgrade your Maglite Mini mag AA flashlight here is a 140 lumen link for $14.99. Saves you $15 over a new one. The is a good power level for a light with no power options other than on or off. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000B868MK/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&smid=AD6RFAAQRI8WI

Below is a recent shot using two flashlights, one Mini Mag held in my free hand and another larger 6″ Celestron Power tank on a stool, batteries were a bit low which was good because  that unit is way too bright for direct light indoors. An otherwise boring photo made better with interesting light. lighting, mood, color, expression are often what makes a photo interesting. I tried to find some portraits but couldn’t be sure if I had used flash or a flashlight on some so decided to wait until I take some more.

Right now I feel Maglite is a bit behind the times and could use a few more upscale models. Mag still make good value flashlights for the masses  while the high-end brands are for enthusiasts willing to spend more. You can get knock offs made in china off Ebay & Amazon for much less but you may find that although they are bright, reliability might suffer due to cost cutting. Typical problems people run into are 18650 rechargeable batteries with protection circuits that cut off after a few seconds of high current draw from the flashlight, they then blame the light when its the cheap batteries at fault. For small high power lights that use special batteries and you decide to get rechargeable versions make sure you get some good ones. Other issues may be overheating while on high power for a few minutes. You sometimes get what you pay for. That does not mean there aren’t some good knock offs out there, for example I have one of the knock offs I got off Ebay (get one from the US not China as the delivery times are way too long from China, and if you have a problem the resolution times are too long) and it seems fine to me, as a machinist I think its worth every penny of the $13 it cost. Time will  tell if its reliable or not. It’s plenty bright. Comparing it to my friends 1000 lm Surefire light its a bit brighter. This light  absolutely blows the Maglite Mini and 3 D cell versions away in terms of brightness. Compared to my other cheap LEDs its as if they don’t have any output at all compared to the new one. LCD technology has certainly moved ahead with these new high output versions. By the way there is only one LED in this light. Here is the one I purchased as an example. Ebay has models that go all the way up to 8500 lumens (That should impress your friends). http://www.ebay.com/itm/221055934101?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649   I choose that one because it has a bigger reflector. It is a bit bigger then most folks would want to carry around in a purse or pocket. Here’s a smaller version http://www.ebay.com/itm/UltraFire-5-Mode-1000Lm-CREE-XM-L-T6-LED-Compact-Flashlight-Torch-WF-501B-/320883836062?pt=US_Flashlights&hash=item4ab62ac49e  The smaller one is actually better than the big one for photography as it is almost as bright but has a warmer color balance and a larger diffused light spot then the tighter spot of the bigger one. I will be getting a 2nd one of the smaller versions. Also its a better house light where as the larger one is best for longer distances due to its tighter spot. Most of these Cree type lights have the new CREE LED XM-L T6 . Here is a link to a Cree search on Ebay, try to get one that is shipped from the US not China. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1311&_nkw=cree+led+flashlight&_sacat=0  You can also do the same search on Amazon. I may be purchasing some more. Warning you don’t realize how bright these lights are until you point it at your eyes and see spots for quite some time. If you have a ranch or some property. One these would be a good tool to carry around at night. Once you get used to some real output you will never go back the old style 2 D cell flash lights that we all had in the old days.

By the way at 10ft my little Cree 1000 lumen light is brighter than the headlight of my car, when I shine the light into the spot the head light makes I can clearly see my flash light over powering the head light. Try that with your flash light. I can just imagine what 8500 lumens would do , I certainly don’t have any use for that much power but it’s kind of cool just like having 700 hp in your car. I can just see all the guys at work comparing flashlights now. Flashlights with multiple Cree LEDs in them may put out more lumens but the brightness and reach won’t be much difference just the amount or diameter of the beam (which  does light up a bigger area) unless the LED draws more voltage which some might just do, that will create a lot more heat and shorter battery life unless the flashlight holds more batteries (these guys put out some heat). It’s like holding 3 or more smaller units together as one light, you get the point. For search and rescue   using the larger ones make more sense. for most home owners a single LED flashlight with a reflector that meets their needs is probably best.

Update: November 2012. After have owned both  the Crees for a few months I would say I like the smaller one the best. I also just brought a set of 3 Cree XPG LED flash lights at Costco, although not quite as bright as the 1000 lumin versions they are not too far behind and at $19 for 3 including batteries ( 3 AAA for each light) its the best deal out there at this time and plenty bright enough for most folks. You don’t need a special battery for it or a charger. The light is almost as bright because the light is more focused than the bigger Cree chips. For $19 you get 3  lights to play with, can’t beat that.

Other brands here:

http://www.thrunite.com/en/Default.aspx

http://www.surefire.com/

http://www.sunwayman.com/html/index2.html

http://www.skilhunt.com/product_view.asp?id=22

http://www.olightusa.com/

http://www.jet-beam.com/links/default.aspx

http://www.nitecore.com/    Look at the “Tiny Monster”

http://www.fenixlights.com/fenix-tk.html

http://www.wolf-eyes.com/

http://www.coastportland.com/led-flashlights/

One thing you may not like about the newer flashlight controls is  the fact that some are a pain to use as you have to click thru all the differenct modes to get to what you want.  If your buying one for protection to flash at a perp your going to want a model that is always on the bright setting when you turn it on. The larger Cree I brought does this but the smaller one is always the next click when you first turn it on, in otherwards it does not remember what you used last. They are all a bit different so look closely at the details and ask questions before buying if that’s important to you. Personally I like it to be on high when I turn it on, I also would rather have a seperate control for the modes. Some have this.

How To Deal With High Resolution Raw Files.

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Update: 3/2017. As memory continues to get cheaper and new computers are coming with 8-16 gigs or ram memory and a 1tb + HD memory and storage is not an issue anymore. With the newer generations of processors along with SS HD and better preforming standard HD + upgrades to PPCC we now see that larger files don’t have near the slow down effect they did some years back.

24mp -36mp sensors are here to stay so we might as well get used it. Right now though you might cringe at the thought of how long it will take to process all those huge Raw files. If you are a Jpeg shooter you have options for smaller file sizes so this probably does not affect you much, Raw shooters on the other hand do worry about dealing with such large files. Well things are not really that bad and are likely to get even easier as software like Adobe Lightroom comes out with more import options for us. In the mean time I suggest you download sample images (raw) from some of these cameras and see for your self. Right now unless you upgrade you computer etc you will see an increase in import and export times into and out of Adobe Lightroom but since LR applies virtual adjustments and does not actually apply the changes until export you will hardly notice the difference in using the software. If you need to use an external editor like Photo Shop you can choose to export the file as a small size. For example you can export a file as a 16bit Tiff and dimensions to match a 12mp camera file so that you won’t notice any difference when working in PS. The only issue here at this point in time is that LR does not have editing photos in a plug-in (exporting to) setup to allow you to change the dimensions, so you have to export to another folder and access the plug-in from there, not a big deal with PS but for some other editing software that might pose an issue for you. What you can do is export all the shots you want to edit at smaller sizes back into the working folder, then you can send to an external editor. The point is, it does not take 3x longer to process a job with a Nikon D800 36mp camera than it does with a 12mp camera except for the import export times (just go get a cup of coffee or do something else). Of course upgrading your computer will make the transition that much easier. I would like to note that I have at times experienced slowness with using LR but it does not seem to matter what the file size is, I have had small web sized files give me a lot or trouble when large Panoramas have not. Again you will notice a large increase in importing times and some increase in preview rendering, otherwise you shouldn’t notice any difference using LR4. I would suggest though that lens correction profiles be added last in your work flow and that adjustment brush usage be done just prior to lens profiling/correction. Faster computers may not have any issues here but some slower computers will benefit from an altered work flow.

Lightroom 4 also has a nice option right now for raws imported as DNGs (which I am not a fan of doing) and that is the ability of the DNG to be read as sections / tiled so the computer can process it using multiple cores/threads, this should greatly speed up the responsiveness of the larger files, see the article here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-57371809-264/adobe-offering-new-reasons-to-get-dng-religion  Nice but not really the solution I want.

Update: I have been using a Nikon D7100 for about 3 weeks and except for import / export I really don’t notice much difference in processing my photos in LR. Plug-ins take a bit longer but not too bad and if I export to PS or PSP I can downsize to what ever size I like. So 24mp is not bad at all. Just don’t apply the lens corrections in LR until your done editing.

I expect to see more import options for Raw files in future LR updates to address the large MP issues,  this makes more sense then having the options in camera as we could decide later what files need to be larger and which ones to import as 12mp files or what ever we need. We could  save a copy of the originals as well in case we need more resolution later. If done smartly importing to a smaller file size should give the benefits of sharper images and less noticeable noise in the files. I’m sure the software engineers at Adobe have already been discussing or working on this. These types of import options will really take care of any complaints we might have now. More import option will probably become common place eventually.

If your only using something like Photo Shop without the latest ACR or Paint Shop Pro it is going to slow you way down unless you run a batching program to reduce the file sizes. With modern Raw converters like Adobe Lightroom and  Capture 1 pro 7 (which is said to be much faster than LR) its going to be easier than you think. Try it yourself, download some raw files and duplicate them to match the number of files you might have for a job and then put them on a card and start out like you would with any photo job and see how much longer it actually takes, then you can make an informed decision.

As time goes by and computers get faster and faster and the software gets improved this file size issue will be put to rest and those using the D800 will be glad they have that camera. Dealing with high MP files is not that bad right now if you use the right software and have a recent computer chip. I use a 3yrs old quad core which works fine (could be faster of course).

The cropping possibilities, Higher DR at base ISO, higher resolution , better high ISO and apparent sharpness when downsized makes the new high MP sensors like the one in Nikon’s D800 & D5200/7100 open new possibilities for our photography. This next generation of 24+ DX and FF sensors should provide enough IQ benefits to entice many folks to upgrade.   Even Jpeg shooters will benefit using smaller files sizes ( as long as the in camera processing is good enough). If you’re a diehard low MP fan and don’t want video then you can just continue to use your current gear or other last generation camera bodies for many more years, even when the shutter wares out it can be replaced. To increase your DR you can set your in cameras settings (for Jpeg) to Portrait mode and contrast/brightness to minus 1 just for those times you have really high contrast scenes.

By the way if you just occasionally need high MP/resolution files you can try stitching together multiple shots like you would with making a panorama. You need to know what you’re doing to make it work well though. Or you could just rent a high MP body. Or you could pick up a Nikon D3200 24mp camera for low to medium ISO use, in that case there is a definite increase of usable resolution.

Another option is to use software like www.Photoacute.com  with this software you take several photos exactly the same with a tripod then the software increases resolution by a form of stacking, see the examples they really do have more resolution. These files will taking uprezing far better then without. These option can of course be applied to high MP files to get even more detail or print really large while retaining most of the detail that would have been lost otherwise. With stitching you don’t lose any detail except for a small amount from lens geometry corrections on some areas of the file while stitching.

Personally  for me,the biggest temptation for newer sensors is the Dynamic Range. The difference of 2-3 stops of the newer sensors over previous models is a huge improvement that will be noticed by all who use one. It must be seen to be believed, see this link http://www.fredmiranda.com/5DIII-D800/index_controlled-tests.html . Now that you see the advantage DR can give you your going to want the D800 or D600 or in the case for DX shooters the D7000/5200/7100 for certain types for photography like Real Estate..   I also think 24mp is the current sweet spot for file size for a high rez work flow on your average modern quad-core computer, 36mm is pushing it a bit unless you have the latest in speed. Get the free Geekbench computer speed score app and see where you stand. My current rig scores about 4,600 while high-end systems get close to 18,000. My 10yr old laptop scored under 900 (now that was slooooow).  http://www.primatelabs.com/geekbench/  if your rig scores below 3,000 you might need something faster for a high rez work flow..

So for large MP files your best performance is probably going to be Capture one Pro  7 and PS CS6 and as fast of a computer as you can afford. Older conputers and software will frustrate you. Even 24mp files will slow you way down if you don’t reduce the file size for PS work or layer work.

 

Note: If you find your cameras sensor gives banding or pattern noise when pulling dark shadows you can get rid of then using Nik’s (Google now) Collection of plug-ins, specifically Define 2 or Topaz’s Denoise 5 both have debanding tools that don’t require you to apply any noise reduction.