Archive for February, 2019

How to Use Photoshop to Resize and Sharpen Images for the Web

28 Feb

The post How to Use Photoshop to Resize and Sharpen Images for the Web appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter Dam.

Do you struggle with getting your images to look super sharp when you use them online? Do they even look blurry? No matter if you share your images on social media platforms or photo sharing sites like Flicker and 500px, you want your images to look as sharp as possible.

Most photographers come across web sharpening issues at some point. But did you know that most of the web sharpening issues you experience come from the resizing process? Resizing your image can make your image look blurry and a lot less sharp than the full sized image. You might have spent a long time processing your image so it would be a shame that it should end up as a less sharp online version.

In this article, you will learn the common pitfalls to sharpening your images for web use, and more importantly, how to sharpen in a way that gives you both full control and the best results.

However, let’s take a look at how not to resize images for online use before we dig into the best way to resize and sharpen in Photoshop.

Milford Sound Mitre Peak © Peter Dam

How NOT to resize and sharpen your images for online use

To get sharp and great looking images online, avoid uploading a full-sized image and relying on the website to handle resizing for you. You don’t have any control over the amount of sharpening (if any) that a website’s upload function add to your image.

You should also avoid just using the export dialogue in Photoshop. Even though it is good, it is not great. You can still end up with blurry images, especially if there is a dramatic size change. Like if you want to resize a 6000px wide image to being only 1200px.

Also, avoid just resizing in Photoshop and then let the export tool do the rest if you want the best results. Even though you resize the image, you have little control of the sharpening process when you only use the export tool.

How to sharpen your images in Photoshop for the best results

To follow along, open a copy of an image that you have already processed in Photoshop, as we go through the best method for resizing and sharpening your photos for online use.

Note: Make sure you use a copy of the image and not the original because you are going to resize your image to a much smaller version. If you accidentally save the image without renaming and close Photoshop, you can’t recover the image back to its full size.

The Chute © Peter Dam

It would be logical to go straight ahead and resize your image to the output size you want. However, this won’t lead to the best results as it may be difficult for Photoshop to properly sharpen an image that suffers from a quality loss when you resize a lot.

Instead, resize in two steps and sharpen in between the steps.

Let’s go through the process step-by-step using the dimensions from above as an example, resizing from a 6000px wide image down to 1200px wide.

The first step is to resize your image down to approx. 1.6 of the final output size that you want to use online. In this case, this would be 1.6 X 1200px = 1920px.

To resize your image in Photoshop, you should go to Image->Image Size and enter the width.

This gives you an image that hasn’t degraded too much from being resized but is still relatively close to the final image size.

Before resizing to the final output size, you should add sharpening. You do this by going to Filter->Sharpen->Sharpen.

If you like to keep track of what each layer does, I suggest renaming the layer to “Sharpened.”

After applying this first layer of sharpening, duplicate the layer. You can do this by pressing CMD+J (on Mac) or CTRL+J (on Windows).

Then apply another round of sharpening by using the menu Filter->Sharpen->Sharpen. Rename this layer to “Extra sharpening.”

Now you are ready to resize to the final image size. You do this by going to Image->Image Size and enter 1200px as the width.

Now that you have resized the image to the final output size, you should see that the image looks very sharp when you view it at its actual size.

If you think that it looks somewhat over-sharpened, you can easily adjust it by just changing the opacity of the of the topmost layer (the one called “Extra sharpening”). Pull down the opacity to around 60-70%.

Now you are done with the sharpening process. However, you should know that there are additional issues that occur when resizing images.

Sharpening an image also tends to make it a tiny bit brighter. If you want to address this, you should add a Levels adjustment layer and pull the midtone point slightly to the right. Usually changing the midtone point to 0.97 brings back the original brightness level. You can also use an Exposure adjustment layer if you prefer to use that instead of a Levels adjustment layer.

The colors in your image also suffer a bit when resizing and sharpening; however, it is not always visible. If you find that your image looks a bit less colorful now that it is resized, you should add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and add a bit of saturation back into the image. About +5 to +9 usually brings your image back to the level it was before resizing and sharpening.

That is the end of the web resizing and sharpening method used by many professional photographers using Photoshop.

If you are familiar with creating Photoshop actions, you can record the process of resizing and sharpening images to the dimensions you most often use online. This allows you to speed up the process significantly.

Exporting your image

The final step is to export your image. You can do this by going to File -> Export -> Export As…

The setting you choose when exporting your image depends on where you want to upload your image. For some sites, like image galleries or your portfolio website, image quality is more important than the file size. Whereas, blogs prefer to have smaller file sizes, but with a bit lower image quality.

One of the most important things, as discussed in this article, is that the result is a sharp looking image. You already took care of this by following the sharpening and resizing workflow above, where you resized the image to the output size you need. This means that you don’t have to worry about resizing the image or what resample method to use during export.

The only thing to worry about when following this sharpening and resize workflow is choosing the file format you want and the quality to use. The file format is most likely going to be JPG for web use. The image quality settings depend on whether you prefer a really small file size (so the image loads lightning fast online), or whether you prefer to maintain the best image quality possible. Usually, you can lower the image quality to 80% without a visible drop in image quality. This is my preferred personal setting for image quality. You can optimize the file size even more by using a lower image quality. However, I would never recommend going lower than 50% to get smaller file sizes. There are also some image optimizing sites you can use, such as TinyJpeg, that lower your file size without compromising your image quality too much.


Admittedly, it is a lot more complicated method for resizing your images than using the inbuilt Export feature in Photoshop. However, it also leads to much better results. What use is it to put much effort into capturing and processing an image, if it doesn’t look as great as it could when you show it online?

What method do you use for sharpening your images before using them online? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

The post How to Use Photoshop to Resize and Sharpen Images for the Web appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter Dam.

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CP+ 2019: Hands-on with Nikon Z 14-30mm F4 S

28 Feb

CP+ 2019: Hands-on with Nikon Z 14-30mm F4 S

Announced earlier this year, Nikon’s new Z 14-30mm F4 S is a compact wideangle zoom lens for Nikon’s Z-series mirrorless cameras. We just got our hands on a working sample at CP+. Click through for more details and some initial handling impressions.

Locking zoom mechanism

Shown here on a Nikon Z6 (one of two cameras capable of mounting it, the other being the ergonomically identical Z7) this compact lens weighs just 485g (17oz). Like the Z 24-70mm F4, the 14-30mm is most compact when ‘locked’ (indicated by a white dot on the zoom ring).

Size and weight

Unlocking the zoom ring and moving the ring to the 14mm position increases the overall length of the lens, but this is as long as it gets. When zoomed in toward 30mm, the zoom extension is gradually reduced. Compared to the AF-S 14-24mm F2.8 for F-mount, the Z 14-30mm F4 S is a good deal smaller and lighter, and very nicely balanced on the Z6/7.

We’d expect a degree of size and weight reduction considering its more modest continuous aperture, and for many (probably most) photographic purposes, the more portable form factor, and the option of adding a conventional protective filter, will outweigh the penalty in brightness.

Compared to Z 24-70mm F4 S

Shown here alongside an Z 24-70mm F4 S (on the right) the new lens is almost indistinguishable at a casual glance. The biggest difference – literally – is the 82mm filter ring. While in no way unreasonable for a wideangle lens of this kind, it’s substantially larger than the 72mm ring on the front of the Z 24-70mm F4.

Neither lens features the control ring found on the forthcoming Z 24-70mm F2.8 S, but the focus ring can be customized to provide direct control over various functions if required.

Optical construction and 82mm filter thread

The front element of the Z 14-40mm S is only slightly domed, which is what allows for a filter to be attached in the first place. If you take a look at the reflections in this image though, you’ll see the telltale curves of at least one aspherical element in the foremost optical group. In total, the Z 14-30mm contains no fewer than four aspherical elements, and four ED (extra low-dispersion glass).

Lenshood and coatings

While pleasantly compact overall, the Z 14-30mm S comes with a large, shallow hood to help protect against flare. Inside the lens, Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat provides another layer of defense.

Weather-sealed construction

As with all of Nikon’s Z-mount lenses released so far, the 14-30mm F4 is sealed against dust and moisture. It will be available soon for $ 1299.

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Reverse Lens Macro – How to Make Macro Photos with “Backward Thinking”

28 Feb

The post Reverse Lens Macro – How to Make Macro Photos with “Backward Thinking” appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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Occasionally a little “backward thinking” can be a good thing, especially when it comes to coming up with an economical way to do macro photography. Sure, you can shell out a few hundred dollars for a nice macro lens. You might give extension tubes or bellows a try, or even buy some closeup diopter lenses. But what if I told you how you could use that old film camera lens and an adapter easily purchased for under $ 15 to make some nice macro images? Might that not be a great and inexpensive way to explore the macro world? Great… now get ready to “think backwards.”

Yes, literally… You will need to think backward to take advantage of what is called “Reverse-Lens Macro Photography.” You will be mounting a lens backward on your camera so what is normally the front of the lens is the part that attaches to your camera. Before we look at how to do this, let’s first define “macro photography.”

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The Reverse Lens Macro Technique is a great way to enter the world of macro photography economically.

What is “true” macro?

Many lens manufacturers indicate their lens has “macro capability” and they might even put the word “macro” on the lens. These lenses indeed allow you to focus closely on your subject. However, in the true sense of the term, a macro photo is one in which the size of the image recorded on the camera sensor is the same size (or larger) than the physical object photographed – a 1:1 magnification ratio or greater.

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This might be a close-up, but is not a “true” macro photograph.

Here’s a practical example: A U.S. Quarter is 0.955 inches (24.26 mm) in diameter. A full-frame digital camera sensor measures 24mm x 36mm. So shot with a true macro lens on a full-frame camera, the uncropped image below represents a 1:1 magnification ratio or a true macro photograph. On a crop sensor camera where the sensor is 14.9×22.2mm (Canon) a 1:1 shot of a quarter would more than fill the frame. So, if the lens you’re using cannot focus close enough to fill the frame with a quarter, it might be a close-up lens but isn’t a true macro. Don’t be fooled by cropped images either. An image can be cropped tighter in editing, but that alone does not make it a “macro” photo.

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This is a full-frame shot. Notice the width of the shot is about 36mm, the size of the camera sensor. This is a true 1:1 macro shot.

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I shot this image with the reverse Pentax 50mm lens. It’s not giving “true” macro magnification

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This Is how close I could get with the reversed Vivitar zoomed out to 28mm. Remember, the wider the focal length, the closer you can get to your subject.

Does it matter? No, not really. The fun is getting close to your subject. Close enough to see things you might not be able to see with your unaided eye. Whether it is a “true macro” may not matter unless you are entering a contest where only true macro shots are allowed. How close you can get depends on the equipment you have. How close is close enough? Well, that’s an artistic judgment.

Before we start… some cautions

Anytime you take the lens off your digital camera you expose the sensor and the insides to dust. You will be taking your lens off for this procedure. If you aren’t placing another (reversed) lens onto the camera, use a body cap to keep dust out until you are ready.

When you do put the reverse lens on your camera, know that the back end with its associated controls, connection pins, rear element and such will also be exposed. Use a rear cap on it when you’re not working with your set-up. Practice the same cautions you use with regards to dust and all will be fine.

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Ordinary objects like this set of keys become subjects for interesting photos when viewed as macro images.

Macro options

There are several ways to make macro photos.

These include:

  1. A Dedicated Macro Lens – The easiest but the most expensive
  2. Extension tubes or a bellows which increase the distance between the lens and the sensor
  3. Magnifying lenses (diopters) put in front of an existing lens
  4. Reversing a lens on the camera – This is the technique we’ll be teaching here.

What lenses work?

Almost any lens can work for this technique including those you usually use on your digital camera. Do you want to see? Take the lens off your camera, hold it backward and tight to the camera body, turn on the camera and get close – very close to a subject. Move very slightly toward and away from the subject to focus. The focus ring has little impact.

You can see this technique shown on numerous online videos and while it may give you a macro in a pinch, it’s not very practical. Trying to hold the camera with a loose lens and adjusting focus might be okay if you’re in the field and have nothing better, but it’s hardly optimal.

You’ll also note that once you disconnect the lens from the camera, you no longer have autofocus or aperture control. The camera may show a blank where the f/stop would typically be. I’ve seen the technique where you set the aperture with the lens on the camera, push the depth-of-field preview button and then disconnect the lens, so the aperture stays fixed at that setting. Right… funky at best. Let’s teach you how to do this right.

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Old film camera lenses are perfect for this technique as they usually have an aperture ring on the lens.

Got an old film camera lens?

If you’re an old guy like me, you remember film. You might even have your old film camera and a few lenses for it kicking around. If not, film camera lenses are cheap at pawn shops, online, or even at garage sales. For this technique, lens brand or mount type doesn’t matter since you’re not going to be connecting the lens to the camera in the usual way. Almost ANY lens will work so long as it has filter threads on the front.

The lenses I used with my old Pentax ME Super film camera are a 50mm Pentax lens with a 49mm filter ring and a Vivitar 28-105mm zoom with a 72mm filter ring. The thing to remember when using reversed lenses is the wider the focal length, the closer you can get to your subject. A zoom lens gives you a “variable macro.”

The biggest reason old film camera lenses work best for this is, unlike most digital lenses, they have aperture control rings on the lens. You won’t have aperture control from the camera, so having it on the lens is perfect.

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Reversing rings are what you need to mount your lens backward on your camera.

Setting it all up

Here’s where the “backward thinking” comes in. To mount your lens to your camera you need to attach it backward. You need to use an adapter with male threads on one end and the proper mount type for your camera on the other end.

In my case, I used a Canon EOS mount so I could attach the lens to my Canon 6D. I bought two Reversing Ring adapters, one with 72mm threads on one end and a Canon EOS mount on the other. The second, with 49mm threads and a Canon EOS mount on the other. Mine are cheap Fotodiox rings, at $ 7.95 US each for the 49mm, and 72mm from Amazon. The things to remember when buying these is to get the proper filter thread size and camera mount type.

They are available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Panasonic, and many other camera mount types.

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This, shot with the reversed Pentax 50mm might be a close-up, but is not a “true” macro photograph.

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This is shot with the reversed Vivitar at 28mm giving even more than a 1:1 macro magnification. Note how sliver-thin the depth-of-field is

The mechanics of making your macros – a step-by-step approach to making this work

Mount the lens

Screw the adapter to the lens filter threads and then mount the lens (backward of course) to the camera. Choose the lens you want by considering how much magnification you want – Shorter focal lengths allow you to get close to the subject with more magnification, longer focal lengths allow you to be further from the subject.

With my lenses, the 50mm Pentax prime gave a little more than a 1:1 ratio. The Vivitar 28-105mm zoom at 28mm was almost a 2:1 ratio. At 105, it was more a “close-up” rather than a macro lens and around 70mm was 1:1.

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This is the Vivitar 28-105 reverse-mounted on a Canon 6D.

Use a tripod

The magnification of macro greatly amplifies any camera movement and, with very limited depth of field, trying to work handheld will be frustrating, if not impossible. If there’s any wind, shooting outside probably won’t work either.

Subject Selection

Your depth of field with this technique will be sliver-thin, sometimes only a few millimeters. Beginners might want to start with subjects with minimal depth and shoot them, so they lie in the same “focal plane” as the camera. Stamps, coins, paper bills, or other flat objects are great, especially when you’re learning the technique.


You’ll often be really close to your subject and in your own light. You’ll also be wanting to use smaller apertures to get more depth of field, further reducing light. Get creative with how you light your subject.

Camera settings – Use Manual Mode

You will be able to control ISO and Shutter Speed, but not Aperture. Remember, that’s on the lens ring.

Open the Aperture Ring all the way while you focus. Move the camera or subject in tiny increments to get focus (the focus ring won’t have much effect.) If you’re using a zoom, you can use the zoom feature to help you focus. If your camera has Live View, use that. Use the Zoom feature of Live View to magnify your image and check the critical focus. If not, you’ll have to use the viewfinder. Also, remember that autofocus doesn’t work here and so LCD screens where you touch to focus aren’t going to help.
Stop down the Lens with the Aperture Ring once you’ve focused. Smaller apertures (like usual with all photography) give greater depth of field.

You will usually be struggling to get more depth of field in macro photography! Also know that as you stop down the lens, things get darker. It’s sometimes hard to adjust the aperture ring without bumping the focus slightly, so be prepared to refocus.

Making your shots

Shoot, “chimp,” adjust exposure, and repeat. To control exposure typically adjusting shutter speed on the camera should be the easiest. Expect to make LOTS of shots, making adjustments as you go to get that “perfect shot.” Macro photography can be “fiddly,” so get used to it.

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A focusing rail, like this one from Neewer, can greatly aid you in making very fine focus adjustments.

Taking it to the next level

If you decide you like macro photography and want to make things a little easier and more precise, you may want to invest in a Focus Rail. Mount this device to your tripod, and mount your camera to it. Using a system of fine gears and adjustment knobs, you can move your camera in tiny increments. Macro is a game of millimeter movements and obtaining more precise control can be a huge help. Taking it up even more, one can buy very sophisticated rails, some with motorized, computer-controlled movement. If you’re ready for that, you’re not as likely to be using the reversed lens technique. I’m quite happy with my Neewer Macro Focusing Rail which cost under US$ 30.00.

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Even at f/22, the depth of field is very limited. Focus stacking would need to be used to get this whole image in focus.

Focus stacking

Sometimes more is better, right? When you can’t get enough depth-of-field with one shot, taking multiple shots (each focused to a just slightly different point), and combining them in editing to get a front-to-back depth of field, may be the answer. Photoshop has focus-stacking capabilities and for a beginner is a good place to start. When you’re ready to dive deep into focus stacking, programs like Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker are what the pros use.

I have a friend in our camera club who decided to pursue macro photography in a big way. He purchased a motorized, programmable focus rail, a nice macro lens, bellows, extension tubes, and then uses Zyrene Stacker to assemble what are often dozens of images into a single spectacular macro. I’m happy at the moment to use my reverse mounted film camera lenses, (though I did purchase a dedicated Tamron 90mm macro lens too).

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A member of my camera club made this shot using the technique of focus stacking. This shot, razor sharp through the shot, (tough to do in a macro image!) is actually 118 shots combined with the program Zerene Stacker. This online image doesn’t do it justice. As a print, it is absolutely stunning! – Photo by Robert Riddle.


One of the attractions of photography is that it teaches you to see and then share through your photos, things people don’t ordinarily notice or see. Macro photography takes that a step further, opening up a tiny and incredible world of detail. The reverse lens macro trick is one that allows you to get a glimpse into this new world with minimal expenditure. I hope you’ll give it a try!

The post Reverse Lens Macro – How to Make Macro Photos with “Backward Thinking” appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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Review: DJI Mavic Air

28 Feb

The DJI Mavic Air is a compact, foldable drone and is the smallest member of DJI’s Mavic family of products. It offers high image quality in a travel-friendly size, as well as a solid obstacle avoidance system and powerful automated flight modes. It can shoot 4K/30p video at 100 Mbps, but uses Wi-Fi for connectivity instead of DJI’s more robust Lightbridge or OcuSync signal transmission systems, both of which perform better over long distances.

The Mavic Air is a compelling offering, positioned between the consumer and professional-grade drones that DJI currently offers. When used correctly, it can produce content difficult to distinguish from its professional-grade cousins. If you’re in the market for a drone that delivers features close to the Phantom 4 Pro or Mavic 2 series while keeping size and cost factors in check, the Mavic Air is the perfect aerial companion for you.

Key Features:

  • 1/2.3″ 12 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 3-axis stabilized gimbal
  • 85 degree FOV (24mm equiv)
  • Lightweight, 430 grams (15 ounces)
  • 21-minute flight time
  • Top speed of 68 km/h (42 mph) in sport mode
  • DNG Raw support
  • 100 Mbps 4K video up to 30 fps
  • Forward and rear-facing APAS obstacle avoidance
  • 8GB of internal storage
  • New intelligent flight modes

The DJI Mavic Air is in some ways an evolution of the DJI Spark, but also borrows liberally from DJI’s Mavic series of drones. The Mavic Air has a smaller footprint than the Spark when the legs are folded and the drone is in travel mode. On top of that, it also includes 4K video (the Spark maxes out at 1080p). The Air also offers DNG Raw stills, longer flight time, D-Cinelike color profile in video, and upgrades the gimbal from two to three axes of stabilization. The use of Wi-Fi for signal transmission matches the Spark, which keeps this small-but-mighty drone beneath the more robust transmission offering of the Mavic and Phantom series.

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The Mavic Air has an improved obstacle avoidance system, which protects it from objects in front, behind, and beneath its flight path. Additionally, DJI’s Active Pilot Assistance System, or APAS, also helps the drone avoid obstacles intelligently, by moving around them, instead of just stopping when it encounters them. It has many features that make it suitable for new and experienced drone pilots alike. It’s a near-perfect travel drone for hobbyists and creators of all levels.

The Mavic Air shoots high quality video at resolutions up to 4K/30p, but not without a few compromises. Read the video quality page to learn more. Video by Kjell Redal

How it compares

Learn about new features found on the Mavic Air, and find out how it compares to other DJI models, including the original Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum.

Read more

Aircraft, Camera and Controller

The Mavic Air’s incredible portability may be the best part if its design. We take a closer look at the hardware, and explain a few of the compromises that come with its small size.

Read more

Is it right for you?

We’ll help you figure out whether the Mavic Air is the right drone for you based on how you intend to use it.

Read more

Photography Features and Image Quality

The Mavic Air’s camera is capable of capturing some very high quality images – as long as you’re aware of its limitations.

Read more

Video Features and Quality

The Mavic Air boasts some impressive video capabilities, including high quality 4K/30p capture. Find out how it performs and whether the camera’s small sensor comes with any limitations.

Read more


Our overall impression of the Mavic Air, as well as some alternative models you may want to consider.

Read more

Review Publication History
February 28, 2019 Review published

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CP+ 2019: Zeiss ZX1 – hands-on with the full-frame Android camera

28 Feb

Hands-on with the Zeiss ZX1

We’ve seen Android-based cameras before, we’ve seen primarily touchscreen-based cameras before and we’ve seen full frame compacts with built-in 35mm lenses, but we’ve never seen anything that combines them, which is essentially what Zeiss’s ZX1 does.

Zeiss’s first entry into the digital camera market has echoes of the touchscreen-based Leica TL, it also can’t help but conjure-up thoughts of Sony’s RX1 cameras, which are also built around 35mm F2 lenses on full frame chips. What it doesn’t feel like, though, are Samsung’s erstwhile Android-based Galaxy cameras or Nikon’s Coolpix S800c, which felt like smartphones with a lens glued onto the front.

We got the chance to handle and explore a pre-production ZX1 at CP+ in Yokohama. Zeiss isn’t yet giving a release date for the ZX1 so it’s difficult to know how close to finished it is, but the camera seemed stable and to have most features in place, so we can at least describe how it’s going to work.

ZX1 Physical controls

There are only five physical control points on the camera: dedicates aperture, shutter speed and ISO dials, a solitary function button and a sprung switch at the base of the shutter speed dial. Everything else is controlled via the touchscreen.

All three dials have ‘A’ positions, if you want to hand-off control of their function to the camera. The shutter speed dial only goes up to 1/1000 sec since that’s where the camera’s leaf shutter tops-out. You’ll also notice there’s an ‘H’ position, though. This switches the camera over to electronic shutter mode, to access shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec, via the touchscreen. At the other end of the scale there’s a ‘L’ setting for shutter speeds longer than a second. There are Low and High positions on the ISO dial, too.

ZX1 power switch

But before we get into the details of the touchscreen, we should take a closer look at that sprung switch. At first glance, this little nub looks like a power switch, but it’s not quite that simple. Although it is the way you turn the camera on and off, this three-position switch provides access to the ZX1’s video shooting mode, too, and it’s also how you put the camera to sleep.

Because it’s an Android device, the ZX1 doesn’t just leap into life when you flick the power switch forward from being off – it starts to boot up, which just like a smartphone, takes a little while. To avoid you having to go through this ordeal every time you want to take a shot, pulling the switch back doesn’t turn the camera off: instead, like a smartphone it just sends it to sleep: powering down the sensor and screen. Pull the switch back for three seconds and it’ll completely shut the camera down. Push it forward while shooting and you enter video mode. We’re told that in ‘sleep’ mode, your battery should only drain by about 10% over the course of a day.

The function button can be reconfigured. With the current firmware it’s an AEL button but you can also get it to control a couple of other functions, including AFL.

ZX1 Swipe bar

The first thing you’ll notice about the ZX1’s touchscreen is that it’s not flat. Instead there’s a distinct crease (but a lovely, smooth one that we suspect must be quite costly) around 1.5 cm in from the right-hand edge. This angled strip of screen is home to a series of icons, which are used for controlling everything else on the camera. In stills mode they’re displayed on a black background but in video mode they’re overlaid on the preview, which expands out to use the full 16:9 expanse of the screen.

There are four icons to a page and swiping your finger up or down along the control strip scrolls through the available options. The top option on the strip is exposure compensation and tapping it brings up a vertical slider so that you can swipe-in the amount you want to apply. Most of the other options work in the same way, popping up a small virtual slider to adjust the setting. Some options also present three dots in a circle, giving you access to a menu with more detailed settings.

Menus, playback and the Android homescreen

What’s not quite so obvious is that there’s another, un-indicated swipeable region along the right-hand-side of the screen. Swipe up and you’ll enter the camera’s main menu, swipe down and you’ll enter playback mode. Left and right swipes change the level of information shown on the screen.

Only if you swipe down do you get a a little 3-dot icon that then finally lets you see the homepage of familiar circular icons that belie the camera’s Android underpinnings. At present, the available apps are locked-down, for security purposes but will be opened up somewhat when the camera is finished. We doubt that Zeiss will simply allow all Google Play apps to be accessible, though.

ZX1 battery and battery life

All the extra processing to run a more complex operating system has the predictable effect on battery life. The ZX1 packs a pretty sizable battery pack that offers around 3190mAh. At present Zeiss is discussing a figure of around 250 shots per charge when tested in a manner comparable with the CIPA standard. We’ll see whether this improves at all with the last bits of fine-tuning of code, prior to launch.

This image gives you a better idea of the angled right-hand portion of the rear display, which follows the angle of the body shell. It really is beautifully done.

ZX1 construction

Back on the physical side of things, the camera has a solid-feeling metal body. The right-hand edges are wrapped with a thin rubberized coating, which means it feels surprisingly secure in the hand. I found myself rotating my hand to the right to adjust my grip whenever I held the camera, but I’m not sure if this was a conscious attempt to more comfortably reach the shutter button or an unconscious attempt to access a front control wheel that doesn’t exist.

The top left of the camera is the only other non-metal body panel: a plastic cover that looks for all the world like it should conceal a pop-up flash but is actually a ‘window’ in the camera’s metal shell to allow the Wi-Fi to communicate efficiently. Given the large files (~70MB per uncompressed Raw), the Wi-FI needs to work as effectively as possible.

Storage, image management and output

What you can’t see on the ZX1 is that it has no memory card slot. Instead it has a vast 500GB SSD built in. We weren’t told exactly how much of that space is taken up by the operating system, but that’s still a ridiculously large amount of space. To sensibly manage such a large drive, the ZX1 lets you shoot what it calls ‘collections’. Essentially these are image folders on the camera’s internal drive, so that you can easily find the images to took on a particular shoot. They appear as separate folders if you connect a device to the exposed USB C socket on the left-hand side of the camera.

Interestingly, because it has an onboard operating system the ZX1 can act both as a slave device (effectively a computer will see it as a massive memory card, as you’d expect from a conventional camera) or a host device that can read a USB memory stick or hard drive plugged into it. This means you can transfer images from the camera to an external drive without ever having to connect to a computer.

Summing up

One advantage the Zeiss has over previous attempts at Android-based cameras is that it’s not trying to compete on price with less-sophisticated mass-market models, meaning (in theory) fewer corners should need to be cut in terms of processing power or memory.

The company say they’ve also stripped the Android implementation back to the bare essentials and focused on building a camera interface, rather than trying to use any of the operating system’s built-in camera capabilities. And even in this non-final form, this decision appear to have paid-off, with the interface working smoothly.

If anything, it’s Zeiss’s decision to include an ISO dial, rather than an exposure comp control (or an unmarked dial to let you choose which you want access to), that took us longest to adapt to in our brief time with the camera. Zeiss believes that a lot of people will manually set exposure, leaving ISO effectively playing the role of exposure compensation. I guess we’ll see how that feels once we get our hands on a testable camera in the coming months.

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CP+ 2019: Hands-on with Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S

28 Feb

CP+ 2019: Hands-on with Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S

At the annual CP+ photography show in Yokohama, Japan, Nikon has been showing its new Z 24-70mm F2.8 S. The Z 24-70mm F2.8 S sits above the Z 24-70mm F4 in Nikon’s new mirrorless lineup, and offers a native mirrorless alternative to the company’s AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 for its DSLRs. Promising to be smaller, lighter, and sharper than its forebears, the new lens has been keenly awaited by professional and enthusiast Nikon photographers.

Smaller and lighter than F-mount 24-70mm F2.8

Compared to the AF-S 24-70mm F2.8 for F-mount, the new lens is 25% smaller and 18% lighter. This size comparison shows the difference pretty clearly. Even without the FTZ adapter, it is obvious that the older 24-70mm (top) is a larger lens.

Among the many differences between the two lenses is the zoom ring of the newer zoom, which is much slimmer. in the hand, the weight difference is also obvious. The new lens is a noticeably lighter bit of kit than the older F-mount equivalent, which is a welcome change.

New optical formulation

The optical formula of the Z 24-70mm F2.8 S is totally new, and comprises 17 elements in 15 groups. Two of the elements are Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass, and four are aspherical. As well as Nikon’s Nano Crystal coating, the 24-70mm introduces a new ‘Arneo’ coat, which is promised to further reduce flare and ghosting.

Fluorine coating

Fluorine coating on the front and rear elements is designed to help make it easier to clean oil and moisture from the outer surfaces of the lens. As you can (just) see in this image, like the older AF-S 24-70mm F2.8, the lens extends when zoomed – taking the hood mounting ring with it.

Control ring

A customizable ‘control ring’, closest to the lens mount joins focus and zoom rings to provide direct control over various functions. Some photographers might find it useful for direct control over aperture, or exposure compensation. There’s potential for the ring to be accidentally bumped, and if this is an issue, the ring can also be disabled.

OLED display

Joining the control ring and customizable ‘L-Fn’ button is an OLED panel, which can display various information, including focal length…

OLED display


OLED display

And focus distance.

‘Multi-Focus System’

A new ‘Multi-Focus System’ has been included in the Z 24-70mm F2.8 S, which appears to be designed along the same lines as recent high-performance Sony GM lenses. In the Z 24-70mm F2.8 S, two autofocus actuators move two focus groups at once, enabling the lens – in Nikon’s words – to “achieve critical focus rapidly from nearly any distance, including close-up shooting”.

Our very limited use of a what judging by the very early serial number we assume is a pre-production sample at the Nikon booth indicates that focus is, indeed, quite fast and responsive in favorable light. More or less comparable, in fact, to the older AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8. In lower light, and with a bit less contrast to bite onto, autofocus response appears very similar to the Z 24-70mm F4 S when mounted on a Z7.

The new Z 24-70mm F2.8 S will be shipping soon, at an MSRP of $ 2299.

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Fujifilm XF10 review

28 Feb


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No Award

Overall score

The Fujifilm XF10 is a stylish, compact, well-priced pocket camera that will take great photographs courtesy of its 24 megapixel sensor and 28mm-equivalent F2.8 lens. But while it looks good in pictures, and its pictures look good, the XF10’s overall performance may be a let-down, including for those users coming from smartphone cameras.

Key specifications

  • 24MP APS-C sensor with a traditional Bayer color filter array
  • Fixed 18.5mm (28mm equiv.) F2.8 lens
  • Fujifilm ‘film simulation’ modes including Classic Chrome, but missing Acros
  • 91-point hybrid autofocus system (phase and contrast detect)
  • New ‘snapshot’ snap focus modes
  • Up to 6fps burst shooting
  • 4K/15p or 1080/60p video capture
  • Fixed rear touchscreen, autofocus joystick
  • Wi-Fi + Bluetooth LE

The XF10 offers really solid image quality and is essentially a cut-down Fujifilm X70, which was itself Fujifilm’s take on the Ricoh GR series, though it shared some design philosophy with the company’s successful X100 series that uses a less-wide-angle 35mm-equivalent lens.

But compared to the X70, the XF10 brings simpler controls, an even more compact build, and unfortunately, a step backwards in both autofocus and general speed of operation that may be be off-putting to anyone used to the fluidity of a modern smartphone experience.

The XF10 serves up plenty of detail and tasty color without requiring any fancy setup.
ISO 2500 | 1/80 sec | F2.8
Photo by Wenmei Hill

And let’s not forget that even a reasonable price of $ 499 can be a lot to ask of people who may already have an expensive smartphone that, in many cases, will offer ‘good enough’ image quality to go along with more responsive performance. Crucially for this crowd, the XF10 is yet another item to carry in your pocket or purse.

We’ve now had the chance to put our champagne-colored XF10 to the test (it also comes in a stealthy black color) – follow along and see if the XF10 is the right fit for you.

What’s new and how it compares

With a new sensor, new focus modes and a handy square mode for Instagram enthusiasts, the XF10 has plenty of new features under the hood.

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Body, handling and controls

With twin dials, a touchscreen and an AF joystick, the XF10 handles equally well for new users and those wanting to take more control over their photography.

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Image and video quality

We never tire of Fujifilm’s gorgeous film simulations, most of which are present in the XF10. But how does it look in our studio scene?

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Autofocus and performance

Though the XF10 has a hybrid autofocus system with phase detection, we weren’t blown away by autofocus accuracy. Or speed, for that matter.

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Conclusion and sample gallery

The XF10 can take great images, but operational quirks significantly dull the experience of shooting with it.

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Check out our full spec list for the XF10.

Read more

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Hands-on with the Sony 135mm F1.8 GM

28 Feb

A relatively lightweight lens for portraiture, weddings, sports

Sony has just announced the FE 135mm F1.8 G Master (GM) lens, its 9th GM lens and 31st native full-frame E-mount lens. According to Sony, the GM line promises both ‘high resolution and exquisite bokeh’, and our initial impressions after shooting with the lens are certainly positive.

Sony tells us the design of this lens is new, and entirely different from the A-mount Sonnar 135mm F1.8 ZA lens. At 950g (2.1lb), it’s 280g (0.62lb) lighter than the Sigma Art 135mm F1.8 lens, which – at 1230g (2.7lb) – weighs 30% more than the Sony. That’s a significant weight difference, and the 135mm GM balances reasonably well on an a9 or Mark III Alpha-series full-frame body.

The relatively lightweight and portable nature of the lens will be appreciated by its target audience: portrait, wedding, and sports shooters looking for subject isolation and fast autofocus performance.

Optical design ensures smooth bokeh, minimal aberrations

Comprised of 13 elements in 10 groups, the Sony FE 135mm GM features an XA (extreme aspheric) element, an ED (extra-low dispersion) and Super ED element. The Super ED and ED glass used in the front element groups replace traditional large and heavy negative elements commonly used to suppress longitudinal spherical aberration, which is most often seen as purple and green fringing in front of and behind the focus plane, respectively. Sony claims this combination of a Super ED and ED element ‘compensate for axial CA, minimize color fringing and maximize overall resolution.’

Onion-ring bokeh is non-existent

Meanwhile, the large XA element mitigates spherical aberration, and helps maximize sharpness. Sony’s 10 nanometer mold precision and other recent improvements ensure that onion-ring bokeh is non-existent. In addition, each XA element produced is individually inspected to ensure smooth bokeh and an 11-blade circular aperture ensures circular out-of-focus highlights even at F4 and beyond.

Flare resistance and ergonomics

Sony’s Nano anti-reflective coating is used to reduce flare and ghosting, which can be particularly problematic when shooting backlit portraits. A fluorine front element repels fingerprints and water.

There’s an aperture ring with 1/3EV increments, as well as two custom ‘Focus Hold’ buttons that can be assigned to any one custom function (they can’t be assigned to different functions). The locations make them convenient to access with your thumb in either landscape or portrait shooting orientation. An AF/MF switch makes quick work of choosing between auto and manual focus.

Fast to focus

The 135mm GM has a close minimum focus distance of 0.7m (2.3ft), offering 0.25x magnification. A focus limiter switch allows you to optimize focus for your shooting situation such that if you’re shooting mostly distant subjects, you can ensure the lens never hunts to a nearby distance. You can also choose a range from minimum focus distance to 2m (6.6 ft) if you’re only shooting close-up portraiture. With the right setting, you’ll almost never experience hunting to extremes, which can otherwise slow down shooting on such a shallow depth-of-field prime.

Two focus groups can move independently of one another in a ‘floating’ design for fast, accurate autofocus

Speaking of focus, four XD (‘extreme dynamic’) linear induction motors replace the previous piezoelectric design of Sony’s ‘Direct Drive SSM’ system. These motors are capable of moving larger, heavier elements, and it’s Sony’s first lens to feature four of them driving two focus groups. The two groups – one in the front and one in the rear – can move independently of one another in a ‘floating’ design, yielding fast, accurate and quiet autofocus (and we can confirm that in our experience, it’s the fastest focusing lens of its type). A new control algorithm helps ‘maximize control response and ensure quiet, low-vibration AF’ – we assume this is at least in part related to the lens’ ability to receive and execute instructions at the high rates the a9 is capable of (60 instructions / second).

Features video shooters will love

The dedicated aperture ring is ‘de-clickable’, making smooth changes to depth-of-field in video possible. The focus ring offers a linear response in manual focus mode, making focus pulls easy during video shooting. The linear response will also be appreciated by stills shooters accustomed to the focus response of traditional DSLR lenses.

Magnesium alloy chassis, dust and moisture resistant

Sony claims the 135mm GM lens has a similar kind of internal construction as on the FE 400mm F2.8 GM lens. It has a magnesium-alloy chassis, and Sony claims dust and moisture resistance. A rubber gasket around the mount helps keep water from entering your camera internals.

The FE 135mm F1.8 GM will ship in late April for $ 1900 USD / $ 2600 CAD. If you haven’t already, you can view our sample gallery here to get a better idea of what this lens is capable of.

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Italian photojournalist has a Leica camera to thank for saving his life after being hit by an RPG

28 Feb

Editors note: Although no injury is shown, there is visible blood on a Leica camera in an embedded image below.

Italian photojournalist and co-founder of the Cesura Lab photographer collective, Gabriele Micalizzi, has a Leica camera to thank for saving his life.

On February 11, 2019, while covering conflict between the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Baghuz, Syria, Micalizzi was hit with shrapnel from an IS-fired rocket propelled grenade (RPG).

In the above video, shared by YouTube channel Gli Occhi della Guerra, wherein Micalizzi recounts the attack. The interview is in Italian, but closed captions can be turned on for an auto-generated English translation.

In speaking with Italian news outlet Corriere della Sera, Micalizzi recounts the incident, saying:

I can tell you the story now, in a corridor of San Raffaele hospital, [thanks to] those who did everything for me. The Kurdish military, the American doctors, the Italian embassy. My Leica camera, too. If I hadn’t been holding it in front of my face, I wouldn’t be here to talk about it: in the impact [the Leica] damaged my eyes, but it served as a shield.

Gabriel Chaim, a CNN visual journalist who was with him at the time, also spoke on Micalizzi’s brush with death with the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Micalizzi was hit by shrapnel from the RPG in his head, his left eye and ear, and different parts of his body. I was a meter and a half away from him and got hit by the blast.

The below image and accompanying caption was shared on the Cesura Instagram page.

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Following the recent events regarding our photographer, co founder, friend and brother Gabriele Micalizzi in Syria, we would like to update you on his conditions. Gabriele is currently in Baghdad’s military hospital and is being carefully looked after by their medics for his lesion on eyes and arms. Yesterday we talked with Gabriele on the phone and he confirmed he is feeling fine, he is able to stand up and can see from both his eyes even if blurry. We are extremely happy to be able to dispute the recent news about the loss of his left eye which the media published without the necessary fact checking. Gabriele, the Micalizzi family and cesura would like to thank the people who very quickly and efficiently helped to rescue and evacuate him from the area of the accident. We would like to thank the Farnesina Crisis Unit and Italian diplomatic network for quickly jumping to action, keeping us constantly updated and for organising Gabriele’s return in italy. Furthermore, thank you to the whole medical team at the American hospital in Baghdad who took him in and with great dedication is taking care of him. We would also like to thank the journalist Fausto Biloslavo, @francesco.semprini and @gabrielchaim for the support during the evacuation operations and lawyer Alessandra Ballerini for the constant and precious help. Thank you to all the people who helped us handle this emergency situation in the best way possible. We will still have to wait a few days longer to see Gabriele in Italy again and hug him but the operations to bring him back home are already under way and the hospital ready to welcome him. We are waiting for you Never never never give up Cesura

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Micalizzi’s work has been published around the world, with his credit line appearing in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and more. You can keep up with Micalizzi’s recovery on both his and Cesura’s Instagram profiles.

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NASA Astronaut Drew Feustel explains how he captures racetrack images from space

28 Feb
Photograph of Drew Feustel taking a photograph outside the International Space Station while on a space walk mission.

NASA astronaut Drew Feustel has detailed his love of cars and racing in a new interview with Hot Rod Network, as well as his work photographing racetracks from space. Feustel has shared a number of these images on social media, each providing a unique look at racetracks around the world.

The images were captured from the International Space Station, where Feustel served as commander from June 2018 to October 2018. During the interview, Feustel explained that he would work with mission control ground support teams to coordinate times when he could attempt to capture the images.

German GP at Sachsenring Circuit — MotoGP

Feustel shot the images during his free time in space, where he’d plan ahead to capture the racetracks as the ISS passed overhead. The photography project ‘wasn’t a trivial thing,’ he said during the interview, explaining that he’d have to consider whether the conditions would be clear enough to capture the images and how he would get them.

Feustel said:

The photos were taken in my spare time—nights or weekends, or middle of the night or whenever, basically when I knew I was going to be flying over a track I would plan ahead for the day so that I had some free time to use the 5 minutes that I had to catch a track as I passed overhead, and then get back on with my work—I managed to capture all of them.

German GP at the Hockenheimring — Formula 1

The images were taken using a Nikon D5 camera with an 800mm lens and a 2x converter. Locating the racetracks from space was tricky and, in some cases, didn’t pan out:

When I looked out in the lens you could probably fit 30 tracks into the area, I couldn’t see them with the naked eye, usually, but if I pointed the camera in the right place, I could see them through the viewfinder. There were a lot of times where I couldn’t see them, and entirely missed a track because I pointed the camera in the wrong spot.

The ISS’s high-speed travel through space — it travels approximately 28,000kph / 17,000mph — compounded the difficulty, giving Feustel less than a minute to capture the racetrack before the window of opportunity closed.

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The effort paid off, however, resulting in dozens of images of racetracks located around the world. The public can view Feustel’s images on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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