22 March 2012

Photoshop CS6 beta available

Today Adobe announced the availability of a public beta for the next version of their flagship image editing software, Photoshop. You can download the free Photoshop CS6 beta directly from adobe labs. The beta is available both for Windows (1.7GB zip file) and Mac (984MB disk image file).

Photoshop CS6 contains a host of new and improved features. A new version of Adobe Camera Raw (version 7), a new and improved look and interface (darker grey), much improved and expanded video editing capabilities (and you'll love this: these will be present in the standard edition too, not only in extended!), improvements to content-aware fill related tools, all new content-aware patch and move tools, etc.

The Photoshop CS6 beta is compatible with Mac OS 10.6.8 or later, and Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7 SP1. Update (24/03/2012): Windows Vista is indeed not officially supported!
Please note that the beta contains the full functionality of Photoshop CS6 Extended. While this allows you to play with the Extended-only features such as 3D image editing and quantitative image analysis, the final shipping Standard Edition will not contain these capabilities!

Some details on the more pronounced new features and improvements:

New look – Photoshop is now darker and follows the more “modern” look of e.g., Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. If you like you can still choose the the old look or even two other levels of grey.

Preset migration – Yes! Finally CS6 allows for the (automatic) migration of presets from previous versions of Photoshop.

Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine – Performance improvements by making (more) use the GPU (graphics processing unit). Speed improvements will leikely depend on your GPU's specifications, and some GPU-enabled features are not supported on Windows XP.

Adobe Camera Raw 7 – Incorporation of most (all) of the changes and improvements currently present in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. Improved and redesigned tone controls, better shadow and highlight recovery, additional local editing brushes for white balance, noise reduction, and moiré removal (especially useful when you have a camera without an Anti Alias filter, e.g., the D800E).

Background save and auto recovery – (finally) you can save your large, multi-layered images in the background while continuing to work on another. New is also Photoshop's ability to save auto-recovery information while you work.

Video editing – Photoshop's video editing capabilities have not only been greatly enhanced and expanded, you'll also love the fact that now both the extended and the standard version of Photoshop incorporate them (previously video editing was only present in the more expensive extended edition).

Content Aware – CS5 gave us Content Aware fill, CS6 extends and improves this further and now also includes Content-Aware Patch and Move.

Blur Gallery – A tool for artificially creating lens blur, tilt-shift blur, and other blur effects.

Crop tool – The crop tool has been much improved, especially in the area of rotating and straightening.  

Graphic design – Several improvements in this area, including the ability to add dashed lines and gradient strokes.

3D – A number of new 3D editing features have been added to Photoshop CS6 Extended (only).
    >60 “Just Do Its” – A number of smaller feature enhancements and other improvements (many of which originate from user requests).

    Have a look at the Adobe Photoshop YouTube Channel for Russell Brown's 6 favourite new features or some of the other informative videos.

    19 March 2012

    New Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/15 lens

    Carl Zeiss, know for its very high quality lenses, has announced a new super-wide-angle lens, the Distagon T* 2,8/15.

    The Distagon T* 2,8/15 is a 15mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. Mounted on a “full frame” body it will give you an angle of view of 110°, large enough to capture huge vistas, even when in tight places. The lens is available in two mounts, ZE (for Canon cameras) and ZF.2 (for Nikon cameras).

    It will be very interesting to see how this lens behaves compared to other similarly wide lenses (e.g., the Canon or Nikon 14/2.8, or the Nikon 14-24/2.8 zoom). Price wise it already is a clear “winner” with an estimated retail price around $2950 it is far more expensive than any of its alternatives…

    Delivery of the first Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/15 lenses is to be expected in May.

    Focal length15 mm
    Aperture rangef/2.8 – f/22
    Focusing range0.25m – infinity
    # elements/groups15/12
    Angle of view diag./horiz./vert.110° / 100° / 76°
    Coverage at close range340 x 221 mm
    Filter threadM95 x 1.0
    Dimensions (with caps)ø 103 mm, length 132mm (ZF.2) / 135mm (ZE)
    Weight730g (ZF.2) / 820g (ZE)
    Camera mountsNikon F Mount (ZF.2) / Canon EF Mount (ZE)

    Manuals for Nikon D4 and D800/D800E available on-line

    Nikon has posted the manuals for their latest D4 and D800/D800E DSLR cameras on-line. So if you want to know all about these great cameras before you go and buy them (or just want to see what they're all about). Be sure to have a look at these manuals.

    You can download the English version of the manuals directly from the Nikon US website here:
    Or you can go to your local Nikon support site and download the localised manuals from there.

    14 March 2012

    Nikon releases IPTC Preset Manager software for the D4

    One of the interesting features of the D4 I hadn't yet mentioned in my hands-on report, is the fact that it has built-in support for 14 of the more important IPTC fields. Support for IPTC in-camera is particularly interesting as this is a first for a (Japanese) camera manufacturer (Japan doesn't really use the IPTC standard…)

    Now with the delivery of the first D4s already occurring, Nikon today has released it's first version of the IPTC Preset Manager software. With the IPTC Preset Manager you can manage the 10 available in-camera IPTC slots and give them meaningful content in an easy way (certainly more easily than on the camera).

    The D4 and the IPTC Preset Manager software support the following IPTC fields:
    • Caption
    • Event ID
    • Headline
    • Object Name
    • City
    • State
    • Country
    • Category
    • Supporting Category
    • Byline
    • Byline Title
    • Write/Editor
    • Credit
    • Source
    You can download the software from your local Nikon support site, or directly using this link. The software is available both for Windows and Mac OS X.
    Note: the software requires the latest version of Microsoft's Silverlight (version 5).

    13 March 2012

    Getting the most out of your camera (part 2)

    This is the second part of simple tips on how to get the most out of your camera equipment, using the right techniques.

    While quality gear may help in getting good pictures, it certainly is no guarantee. The right technique (and a good eye for composition) gets you much further. Even with “mediocre” equipment, a point well proven by Chase Jarvis in his book “The Best Camera Is The One That's With You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis.” While all photos in this book were taken with a meagre 2 MegaPixel iPhone camera, they still look great…

    Here are some more tips:
    • (Always) use a lens hood. Lens hoods are designed to keep out stray light from entering the lens and influencing your picture (e.g., lowering contrast, producing flare, etc.). If you're looking towards the sun, you use your hand to shield your eyes too, don't you? Well, the lens hood does the same for your camera. And while the effects of stray light are most obvious outside on a sunny day, stray light can be everywhere. So, better to always use your lens hood to prevent possible problems. Besides, a lens hood provides great protection for when you accidentally bump your lens into something.
      Note: Sometimes the lens hood alone isn't even enough to keep out the stray light. In this case use something else to shield the light (e.g., your hand, a piece of (black) board, etc.)
    • Use the best possible lens for the shot. Know where your lenses perform at their best (e.g., focal length and aperture). Especially if you have multiple lenses with overlapping focal ranges, knowing where each of these performs best, helps in choosing the right lens for the shot. Note that the best lens needn't always be the most expensive one. For instance, on a full frame body, the relatively cheap 70-300 Nikkor lens has better corner sharpness than the first version of the much more expensive 70-200/2.8 (note: the new VRII version of this lens has solved this issue). The quality and feel of the unfocussed parts of your image (bokeh) is different for each lens too, again something to take into account when choosing lenses.
    • Be aware of diffraction. Diffraction is the phenomena where light waves hitting a small object can actually bend around the object, instead of going straight., This can result in lost image sharpness. The effect gets stronger, the smaller the aperture you use. So instead of closing down the aperture to its maximum (e.g., f/22) to get the biggest depth of field and sharpness, you may actually reduce overall image sharpness. Diffraction kicks in at different apertures depending on the lens and body (sensor pixel size) used and sometimes sacrificing a bit of overall sharpness in favour of depth of field, may be better too. But as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn't go beyond f/11 on a crop body and f/16 on a full frame body (f/11 on a D800 and similarly high resolution cameras).
    • Don't use filters, unless you have to. Every filter on top of your lens potentially degrades image quality and increases the chances of lens flare and unwanted reflections. With digital this problem is even bigger than with film as the sensor unit is much more reflective than film. Lens designers take great care to prevent (internal) reflection and lens flare problems, so don't throw away their efforts by adding a filter!
      Luckily in the digital era there isn't much use for most filters as their effects can be (better) accomplished in post processing anyway. Noticeable exceptions here are the Polarising filter and Neutral Density filters. Note though that Gradual Neutral Density filters are mostly obsolete now as there are better alternatives in post processing (e.g., HDR or manually merging two exposures).
      When you buy filters, get good quality (coated) filters; these considerably reduce chances of flare/reflections when compared to the cheaper, uncoated, ones.
      Personally, I don't believe in using a “UV” filter for protection either (I use the lens hood and lens cap for this). Unless I'm shooting in really adverse conditions (e.g., on the beach with lots of sand blowing around), that is; then I would certainly think of adding a protective filter. Talking about filters for protection, by the way. Modern cameras already block UV light, so adding another UV blocker really has no added function. Therefore, instead of buying a UV filter for protection, you may be better (cheaper) off to buy a simple, but high quality, clear filter (e.g., a Nikon NC filter).
    • Instead of taking a single shot with wide angle lens, consider taking multiple shots with a longer lens and stitching them together. This will leave you with more, and better quality, pixels to play with. (Note though that the depth of field changes too when you use a different lens)
    • Use the right camera settings. This means exposure (expose to the right, part 1), aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur), ISO (as low as possible, part 1), and, (especially) if you're shooting JPG, White Balance, and Picture Control (Nikon)/Picture Style (Canon) settings. Getting these settings wrong at time of shooting either means having lost the shot, or having to perform quality degrading post processing to correct the mistakes.
    • Block the viewfinder when not looking through it. On most modern cameras, light hitting the viewfinder eyepiece, influences the light meter. So if you've determined the correct exposure (compensation) while looking through the viewfinder and then, when taking the actual shot(s), you do not look through the viewfinder any longer (e,g, when using the self timer, cable release, etc.), the camera may in fact be using a different exposure than you set up for (unless you were using manual exposure of course). To prevent this, simply cover the eyepiece before taking the shot.
    • Keep your equipment clean. It's simple: clean equipment works better and more reliable. Dirty lenses or a dirty sensor can ruin your pictures, dirty contacts can prevent your gear from working at all (for instance, most complaints about non functioning lenses are in fact caused by dirty contacts, not by a broken lenses), etc. So at the end of every shoot, simply check and clean your equipment.
    Previous episode: Getting the most out of your camera (part 1)

    8 March 2012

    iPhoto for iPad/iPhone available & other updates

    Coinciding with the announcement of the new iPad, Apple also released iPhoto for the iPad/iPhone. The other components of the iLife suite (iMovie and GarageBand) as well as the complete iWork Suite (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) have been updated as well and have been adapted to take advantage of the new high resolution screen and 1080p full HD video capabilities of the new iPad.

    With iPhoto for iOS, Apple brings its popular iPhoto photo editing and browsing tool to the iPad/iPhone. The new app takes full advantage of the intuitive Multi-Touch gestures on iPad and iPhone as well as the high resolution of the new Retina displays.

    Using simple gestures you can select and compare images. Editing capabilities include auto-enhancements such as straightening photos and fixing exposure, contrast, and colour. Editing tools such as red-eye removal, lighten, sharpen, soften, and darken are also present; simply use your fingertips as brush to paint in the effects. iPhoto can handle images up to 19 megapixels.

    Posting photos to Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter is easy and you can also send photos between your iPhone and iPad, stream photos and slideshows to an Apple TV with AirPlay, and use iCloud to publish photo journals to the web to share them with friends and family in a whole new way.

    Photo, iMovie 1.3 and GarageBand 1.2 are available for only $4.99/€3.99 each in the iTunes App Store. Keynote 1.6, Pages 1.6 and Numbers 1.6 are slightly more expensive, but still cost only $9.99/€7.99 each in the iTunes App Store. (Updates are free to existing customers)

    New iPad and Apple TV

    Apple just announced new versions for the iPad and Apple TV. The “iPad 3” (unofficial name, officially it is called “the new iPad”) was highly anticipated for a while now, but the announcement of a new Apple TV came as a bit of a (welcome) surprise.

    The most welcome update of the new iPad would certainly be the improved resolution of 2048x1536 pixels, great for showing off your photos to others! The support of full HD on the apple TV, will be welcomed by many too.

    Specs for the new iPad:
    • Retina display, with a resolution of 2048×1536, 3.1 million pixels at 264ppi
    • A5X Processor, quad-core graphics
    • 5 megapixel iSight camera
    • Full HD (1080p) video recording
    • Voice dictation, similar to Siri
    • 3G & 4G LTE connectivity
    • 10 hour battery life, 9 hour battery life when on 4G
    • 9.4mm thick, weighs 1.4lbs/635g
    • Pre-orders start TODAY, available on March 16 (in the US)
    • iOS 5.1

    16GB Wi-Fi – $499/€499
    32GB Wi-Fi – $599/€599
    64GB Wi-Fi – $699/€699
    16GB 4G LTE – $629/€629
    32GB 4G LTE – $729/€729
    64GB 4G LTE – $829/€829

    Specs for the new Apple TV
    • Full HD (1080p) support
    • New user interface
    • Further integration with iCloud; no need to store your (purchased) content locally any longer
    • Airplay streams video from iPod/iPad/iPhone to your TV

    AppleTV – $99/€109

    6 March 2012

    Adobe releases Lightroom 4

    After a two-month period in which you could freely beta test the application, Adobe has now released Photoshop Lightroom 4, the all-in-one raw converter, image editor, and photo management application.

    Some of the top new features include simplified and improved control, enhanced highlight and shadow recovery, more local editing controls, extended support for video files, etc.

    People will welcome Adobe's step to halve the price as well. You can now get Lightroom 4 for only $149/€129. As always, students/teacher get an even better price.

    Lightroom 4 adds support for the following new cameras:
    • Canon EOS-1D X
    • Canon PowerShot G1 X
    • Canon PowerShot S100V
    • Fuji FinePix F505EXR
    • Fuji FinePix F605EXR
    • Fuji FinePix HS30EXR
    • Fuji FinePix HS33EXR
    • Fuji FinePix X-S1
    • Nikon D4
    • Nikon D800
    • Nikon D800E

    2 March 2012

    Canon 5D Mark III announced + comparison to Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D800

    Today Canon announced the successor to their hugely successful Canon 5D Mark II. The Canon 5D Mark III is a big improvement to the previous model and contains numerous features of both the new 1D X and current 7D.

    The following table contains a comparison of some of the key features of the new Mark III to both the Mark II and the Nikon D800.

    Canon 5D II Canon 5D III Nikon D800
    Estimated price of body $2,499 $3,499 $2,999
    Sensor size (MP) 21.1 MP 22.3 MP 36.8 MP
    Viewfinder coverage 98% 100% 100%
    LCD 3” 3.2”
    1.04M dots
    921K dots
    Memory card CF CF+SD CF+SD
    Popup Flash no no yes
    Autofocus points 9 up to f/5.6 61 up to f/5.6 51 up to f/8
    Face Detection yes yes yes
    ISO Range 50 – 25,600 50 – 102,400 50 – 25,600
    AE Bracket 3 frames 3, 5, 7 frames 2, 3, 5, 7 frames
    Continuous shooting 3.9fps 6fps 4fps (FX)
    6fps (DX)
    Buffer size ? 18 raw 16 – 21 FX raw
    Multi-exposure no yes yes (?)
    Timelapse support no no yes
    HDR in camera no yes yes
    Horizon level no dual axis leveling dual axis leveling
    GPS location external device external device external device
    Shutter life 150,000 150,000 200,000
    Quiet shooting
    (mirror delayed)
    no yes yes
    Silent shooting
    (no mirror)
    no ? yes
    Ethernet port no no no
    Video (1080) 30, 25, 24 30, 25, 24 30, 25, 24
    Video (720) n/a 60, 50 60, 50, 30, 25
    Video (640) 30, 25 30, 25 30, 25
    Longest clip ±12 minutes 0:29:59
    (split into 3 clips)
    Headphone Jack no yes yes
    Audio level control yes
    yes + while recording yes + while recording
    Video autofocus no no yes
    Dedicated Video button no yes yes
    Video Recording format H.264 H.264 H.264
    Video compression IPP IPB or ALL-I MPEG-4 AVC
    HDMI out no yes
    Aperture control in video no no yes
    Histogram in video no yes no
    Time code support no Rec Run +
    Free Run
    (can set markers)

    1 March 2012

    Firmware v2.1.2 for Canon EOS 5D Mark II now available

    Canon has released a new firmware for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

    Version 2.1.2 improvements:
    1. Optimizes the camera’s performance when using certain UDMA 7-compatible CF cards released in February 2012 or later.

    For completeness, I've included all the improvements in previous updates here as well (if you haven't already applied them).