Archive for March, 2019

MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus Review – Taking Control of Your Camera in Ways a Cable Release Never Can

31 Mar

The post MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus Review – Taking Control of Your Camera in Ways a Cable Release Never Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus is a handy device and app to help you take control of your camera in ways a simple cable release never can. Sleek and stylish, the unit sits on your camera’s hot shoe and can provide a variety of functions through the easy to configure app for iPhones or Android phones.

What is it?

The MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus has three main components:

  1. The remote trigger that sits on your camera’s hot shoe
  2. A release cable specific for your camera type
  3. The MIOPS Mobile app

The app works with the unit via Bluetooth, sending and receiving information constantly while in use. It is important to note that the unit can continue on its own, after being sent a command, if you close the app or you lose connection. So if you start a 500 image time-lapse, you can effectively let the unit continue working without babysitting it.

The RemotePlus will set your shutter speed for the various modes explained below, but you will still be in charge of ISO, Aperture, White Balance and any other setting you choose. Some RemotePlus modes work better with Manual mode on your camera while others, such as the Long Exposure Timelapse, will need Bulb mode.

Getting Started

After unpacking the RemotePlus, you’ll need to connect it to your camera’s remote port. This process is different for each camera. Hook the other end of the cable into the side port on the RemotePlus, which has both a receptacle to attach to a camera hot shoe and a standard tripod threaded hole.

The app can be downloaded from either Google Play or Apple Store.

The app has a demonstration mode if you want to download it before you buy the unit to see how easy it is to use.

You will need to register your device with MIOPS if you want to upgrade your firmware. After signing on, you will see a screen like this one:

Choosing the MobileRemote and the app will scan for nearby remotes:

Clicking on the only unit available brings up a full menu of options:

Whoa now! There’s a lot there to parse through, so let’s take them bit by bit.

What can it do?

Cable Release Modes – 6 Varieties

Let’s start with the basics.

While connected to your camera and smartphone, the RemotePlus functions as a shutter release for your camera in six modes:

Cable Release

This mode is straightforward and perfect for those who don’t want to stand with their camera while taking a photo. Pressing the large button on the screen (see below) will trigger the shutter in whatever mode you have set on the camera. For instance, this mode is great for sitting at a campfire while your camera is set to take photos nearby.

Press & Hold

Press & Hold take things up a notch and is perfect to use when you are waiting for some action. It’s the same as pressing and holding the shutter release on your camera in Bulb mode. The longer you press, the longer the exposure.

Results will vary with duration and here is one simple example of eight seconds on a freeway overpass.

Press & Lock

Don’t want to bother holding the button on your screen while waiting? Press & Lock is where it’s at. Same as above, but now you have to tap the main button on the screen a second time to stop the exposure. There is a timer shown at the bottom of the screen for your convenience.

Timed Release

Going one step further, if you know you want a 10-minute exposure, Timed Release is the correct mode for you. Just enter in the appropriate shutter release time on the screen, set your camera to Bulb mode while adjusting the ISO and Aperture to your liking. Once you press start, it’s all taken care of for you.

On the display are places for hours, minutes, seconds and decimals of a second. In this example, I chose 12 seconds for another overpass shot.

Self Timer and Timed Release & Self Timer

The Self Timer mode is just like the self-timer on your camera, but you can set the delay, up to 99 hours in the future.

Lastly, the Timed Release & Self Timer combines the last two sections to allow for a delay and then a long exposure.

In each of these modes the command is sent from the app and then stored in the unit, so you don’t need to be present or within range for the unit to take action.

Timelapse – 4 Main Varieties

While the RemotePlus will not create the final video file for you, it will greatly simplify your ability to create fun and unique timelapses in a few different modes. More information on compiling the timelapse can be found here on DPS.

Basic Timelapse

The Basic Timelapse mode will take care of all your simple timelapse needs. It’s there for you to point, focus, and create with ease.

On the first screen you set the interval between photos, and on the second, you set the number of photos you want to take. It’s that easy! Press Start and away your camera goes.

The two screenshots above show the app screen while the camera shoots. The circle around the interval counts down until the next shot, while the current frame and remaining time display on the bottom. Up top are the overall settings.

The app has a nice feature to help reduce accidental stops; you have to press the lock button before you can click on STOP. It’s possible to still stop the app on accident, but the extra step helps.

It’s up to you to set your camera on your preferred mode. Manual Mode with the White Balance set often gives the best results for consistent image quality.

Long Exposure Timelapse

Long Exposure Timelapse is where things become more complex but also more exciting as far as the results. Here you will again set the interval between shots and the number of shots, but you will also set your camera to Bulb mode and set the shutter speed in the app.

After pressing Start the screen will change, as with the Basic Timelapse, but now two countdown circles will appear.

These circles will show you the amount of time left in each interval and exposure.

You can use the Long Exposure Timelapse for a variety of subjects. Below are two examples I shot of the same subject, but with slightly different settings for varied effects.

The first had settings of ISO 100, f/7.1 and 1/100th (Standard Timelapse Mode) while the second had settings of ISO 100, f/22 and 1/5th (Long Exposure Timelapse Mode). The difference is apparent in how blurred motion from the cars can impart more motion.

Here are three more tests at 1/10th second shutter speed, .6 seconds and 1.2 seconds. All timing set from the app in Bulb Mode.

Bulb Ramping Timelapse

Bulb ramping is a manner of shooting while the lighting changes. This is most often performed at sunrise or sunset and can cover an extended period, such as an hour. While the camera is in Bulb Mode, the shutter speed is gradually adjusted to keep the overall exposure consistent, so the timelapse does not change from very dark to very bright.

It’s important here to understand some limits and to plan for them with this mode.

Most cameras are limited to 1/30th of a second in Bulb mode with a cable release. Check with your owner’s manual to see what limits Bulb Mode and using a cable release may put on your photography.

This mode also requires planning ahead to know – or at least make a good guess – which exposure settings to use at the start and end of the ramp. The ramp is linear in its progression, so you will need to choose a time of gradually increasing or decreasing light. If the sun suddenly shines brightly on your scene once above the horizon, but then ducks behind some clouds, the effect might be rather jolting.

To use this mode:

The Bulb Ramping mode has four settings.

The first is the interval between shots. The example below shows 30 seconds.

The second screen sets the shutter speed of the first image. Because I am using a Canon, I set it to 1/30th of a second above (the fastest Bulb will handle, even though the screen shows a decimal of .01, or 1/100th of a second).

The next screen is the final shutter speed. This is where math, planning and scouting help. You will need to calculate how long you want your bulb ramp to run, from start to finish, and know what the lighting will be at the start and finish. In this case, I picked 20 seconds for an end shutter speed (left, below).

The last screen asks for the number of frames to shoot. Here, it will shoot 60 frames, one every 30 seconds.

That will make for a total time of 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s important to plan ahead to make sure these shutter speeds will work for the given lighting. While you can adjust aperture and ISO to help compensate, if the end time of your timelapse is too long, your images will become blown out. Too short and you’ll be left in the dark.

Planning is crucial to this mode.

HDR Timelapse

An HDR Timelapse is the same as a normal timelapse, but the mode does all the shooting for you if your camera doesn’t have this ability built in. It can shoot a sequence of 3, 5 or 7 shots, for each step of the timelapse, but it does have the limitation mentioned in Bulb Ramping above; that you can not shoot faster than 1/30th of a second on most cameras. This does limit its abilities.

The brackets are set around a central time setting, such as one second (in the example below). Below that the exposure shift, in terms of EVs, is set, followed by the number of frames. The unit will keep you in check if you pick settings that won’t work with Bulb mode, such as choosing 1/15th of a second, seven frames and 2-stops of EV shift in each image.

Lastly, set the Interval between shots and the number of frames. If you don’t know the number of frames you want to shoot, simply pick the infinity setting and stop the sequence when you have enough.

More information on using bracketing can be found in this DPS article.

Road Lapse, A Special Kind Of Timelapse

Road Lapse is a fun tool to use, not only while driving but also on a train, boat, hot air balloon or anywhere else you have a GPS signal. The app uses that signal then asks you how often you want to take a photo, be it in feet or meters. You also set the number of photos or just set it to infinity which allows you to stop the Road Lapse when you are finished.

What’s different about this mode as compared to a standard timelapse is there is no perceived slowing and speeding, such as when a car comes to a stop sign. Because the mode is distance-based, a rough calculation can be made with regard to timelapse length when the driving distance is known.

For instance, one mile is 5280ft. If you set the device to shoot every 40ft, that will net you 132 images. At 30 frames-per-second, the timelapse would turn out to be 4.4 seconds long. It won’t matter if it takes you 60 seconds or 15 minutes to travel that distance, the video will be the same length.

It does make things appear sped up. In the examples below, the first shows a regular timelapse in a car at night. The second video shows the Road Lapse. In the second video I stopped at four different stoplights, but you don’t even notice them. I think each mode has its strengths and weaknesses and it matters what you want to create.

For a unique test, I set my camera up on a Washington State Ferry, shooting off the back with the distance set to 40ft.

HDR Bracketing

HDR shooting uses the same functionality as mentioned above with HDR Timelapse. You can take a series of shots, offset by specific stops and then combine them in the computer later for an image with more dynamic range than a single image.

It has the same limitations mentioned above.


The Sound Mode is triggered by sound and you can choose the threshold via the app.

You will set your camera’s exposure either on Manual or another mode of your choice and leave shutter release up to the MIOPS trigger. I made some attempts at dropping (fake) ice into a glass to catch the splash. You can stop any action that makes a loud enough noise in motion with this mode.

The mode can be set to take just one photo or continuous photos until the sound drops below the threshold. You can also input a delay. Activation of the shutter will happen from 10 milliseconds to 99 hours.

A better example can be seen in Erik Lindegren’s photo, highlighted on Miops’ Instagram feed.


Like Sound, Vibration relies on your phone to trigger the unit. And like Sound, you can set the sensitivity so small bumps won’t set off the unit, but large ones will.

Again, a delay can be set and continuous shooting can also be chosen.


Most lightning photos in the past were taken by leaving the shutter open for a length of time, maybe 30 seconds. The overall exposure was balanced for this and fingers were crossed, hoping for great bolts.

The problem with this method is shots during the day were difficult with long exposures without the use of a neutral density filter. Even then, a vast multitude of images had to be taken, and the frame had to be clear of other moving objects (trees, for instance) or they could blur.

The Lightning trigger simplifies capturing images and can offer better exposures of daylight and dusk images. Your camera will need to be in Manual Mode where you can set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to your liking. Compose the shot with anticipation of where the lightning will strike.

You will set the sensitivity, and that’s it. A higher sensitivity number means any small flash will trigger the unit, while a lower number means much more light (larger bolts) is needed.

Then press the “Go” button and sit back to enjoy the show while your camera does all the work.

As luck would have it, a thunderstorm rolled by in the distance while I had the unit for testing. The lightning was about 10-12 miles away, and I ended up using a 10-22mm lens, with some cropping for the final images. All images shot at ISO 800, f/5, 1.3 second and 22mm.

TIP: If you are curious about where the lightning is striking and which way a storm is moving, check out for real-time updates. While watching this storm, I found the delay from the time of strike to it showing up on the map was about 5 seconds. Often the map would update before the thunder made it to me.


Switching to Motion requires the use of your phone as the ultimate trigger. You can make the settings for your camera manually, or in any mode you desire, while the shutter will trigger when the view from your phone’s camera notices motion.

The advantage here is that the phone can be set up remotely from the camera (within Bluetooth range, however) and made to cover a specific area.

In this example, I set my camera on a tripod with a long lens to capture birds coming to my bird feeder. I prefocused on the feeder and then moved the field of view just off to the side. I then switched to manual focus to lock focus.

I set the camera with a fast shutter speed and the ISO with a shallow aperture so I could capture the fast movement of the birds (ISO 1250, f/7.1, 1/1250th). I then set up my phone with an adjustable, gripping tripod, on top of the feeder, looking down. The field of view of the phone would cover the side of the feeder, where my camera was focused.

That’s the view on the phone screen while setting up the shot. As you can see, much like other modes, you can set a delay after the app notices movement (handy if you put the phone somewhere on the approach to your camera) and the number of frames the camera will snap each time.

Below the screen is the Accuracy Rating. Moving it left means any little movement will set off the unit while moving it right requires a lot of movement before triggering.

The results, as you can see, were easy to capture while I sat inside enjoying the action.

If the rains hadn’t started, I would have captured more. While I could have taken the shots above manually, more birds showed up when I went inside and let the camera do its thing. For skittish subjects, the RemotePlus is a definite benefit.

You can use Motion in this manner for any number of moving subjects where their path is predictable. It will be a drain on your phone’s battery, though, as the camera and screen are on the whole time.


The Laser trigger mode is handy if you have a laser and expect the beam to be broken at a precise location. You will need a laser source, but just about any constant-on laser can be used, such as a presentation pointer or even a laser level.

Point the laser at the sensor on the front of the RemotePlus, and set your camera’s focus and mode accordingly. It’s similar to the motion feature above, but a bit more specialized for more precision.


This review was harder than I believed it would be because of the number of features packed into the small unit. Also, during the review, I had access to MIOPS staff for questions and found them not only responsive to feedback but updating the app as I wrote. In a company and product, I like to see that nimbleness and desire to improve.

After the testing I put the Miops Mobile RemotePlus through, I would purchase one for my own photography. While it had some room for improvement (the manual sometimes lags behind the quick pace of upgrades, and the Motion feature does have a limit when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity, but that is inherent in the protocol.), I do enjoy updates of the unit, both software and firmware, regularly.

The two big plusses for me are the timelapse features (including the HDR one in specific cases) which add timing capabilities that my current Canon intervalometer lacks, and the lightning shooting, especially for daytime shots.


Disclaimer: MIOPS is a paid partner of dPS

The post MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus Review – Taking Control of Your Camera in Ways a Cable Release Never Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

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CP+ 2019: Zeiss interview – ‘Let’s do something new’

31 Mar
Elliot Shih, Senior Product Manager of Zeiss, holding the ZX1 at the CP+ 2019 show in Yokohama, Japan.

Zeiss is preparing to launch its first camera for more than a decade, in the form of the ZX1 – a high-end, Android-powered compact, with a full-frame 37MP sensor and premium lens. We caught up with Senior Product Manager Elliot Shih at CP+ recently to learn more.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and flow.

When did the concept for this camera come about?

We started about four years ago, but we have always been interested in thinking about where and when to return to the camera market, because the last time Zeiss made a camera was the Ikon film rangefinder, in around 2004. Ever since then we’ve been thinking about how and when is the tight time to return to the camera market.

Also a lot has happened in the industry – as background we’re seeing higher penetration of smartphones with more capable cameras, and people are adapting to use the cameras in their phones. On the other hand we saw there is a demand among photographers for more serious photography tools.

If we’re going to make a new kind of camera, it doesn’t make sense to copy something that’s already on the market

The rise of the smartphone has had an impact on the point and shoot market, but there are a lot of benefits and things we can learn from such a different world. So the thought that came into my mind was – well, if we’re going to make a new kind of camera, it doesn’t make sense to copy something that’s already on the market – let’s do something new.

The development of this camera wasn’t quite linear, compared to other consumer electronics products. In the beginning we went quite slowly, but now we’re at the materialization phase, and things are moving quite fast. Now every component we need is working, and we’re starting to see that this is becoming a camera that could work quite well.

The ZX1 isn’t the first Android-powered camera, but it is the first aimed at enthusiast and professional photographers with money to spend on a premium full-frame sensor and lens.

This is not the first time that someone has loaded a mobile operating system into a camera – what makes the ZX1 different?

With regard to earlier products, I think the mobile platform itself, as a technology enabler, is capable of also being the backbone for an imaging system.

The fundamental difference is that instead of trying to make a smartphone in the form of a camera, we’ve tried to make the ZX1 work as a camera, and be positioned as a camera, and as a tool for photography. So, for example, when you first turn it on you should see the live view, not the launcher screen with all its icons. It should be a camera from inside out. That’s why we took open-source android and used it as a technology enabler, but in terms of interaction and user experience, we completely wrote everything and developed everything from scratch by ourselves.

Read about what the Zeiss ZX1 is like to operate

The camera operates using what we call a ‘vertical logic’. You’ll see there’s a slight bend on the rear cover glass, which provides a natural separation between the live view area and the toolbar area, to the right. You can [vertically] swipe on the toolbar area to select different tools, while on the left you can swipe to switch between different modes, like image review, where you can use all the familiar gestures you’re used to from smartphones.

What are your goals for the camera, in the marketplace?

As you can see, the ZX1 is a different kind of product. We’re focused on addressing the target group, and offering something different to today’s digital photographers. So we’re aiming at photographers that need a fast workflow but at the same time superb image quality, which our sensor and lens can deliver.

This is our first attempt, and most of the focus is to build up our competence in terms of image processing. We’re still on the learning curve, for example when it comes to the autofocus system and the image processing pipeline. For a 37.4MP sensor its more than 70MB for each DNG file, so we have a lot of data to handle.

Have you partnered with any other companies on the ZX1 or is this an entirely in-house project?

The design and development are completely in-house. We’re using some external partners to support certain functions, for example the realization of the industrial design, and the design of the user experience.

The square panel on the upper left of the ZX1’s top plate is a plastic cover for the WiFi antenna – not a flash, as we originally thought when we picked the camera up.

Previous attempts at this kind of product failed for a lot of reasons – how have you addressed the weaknesses of those earlier cameras?

Well first let’s talk about optimization around Android. There’s a fundamental difference to how this system works compared to a proprietary system [that you might find in a smartphone]. There’s a different architecture and we made a lot of effort to take out some of the elements of Android that we didn’t need. Most of the algorithms are designed for smartphone usage and not all of those are capable of running inside a device with a larger camera sensor, and much more information to handle in the imaging pipeline. That’s the part that we’ve spent substantial effort on, to optimize in order to make the camera more responsive.

We also made a lot of effort also to maintain Wi-Fi performance. There is a lot of data to transfer with this camera, so if we want the feature to be really functional we have to make sure that the Wi-Fi performance doesn’t struggle. That’s why we have a plastic cover above the Wi-Fi antenna on the [metal] top plate.

We’re very conscious of battery consumption [and] a lot of photographers are very sensitive about battery usage

In terms of boot up time, the ZX1 works the same way as a smartphone. But we’re very conscious of battery consumption. A lot of photographers are very sensitive about battery usage so a lot of the time when they’re not shooting they simply turn the camera off.

The very first boot up sequence takes a while, but when the camera is up and running, a single push of the dial sleeps the camera, but doesn’t turn it off. So the sensor is not running, the screen is off, and very little power is being used. But when you want to take a picture you just nudge the switch again and it wakes up. You can also use the switch to toggle between stills and movie mode.

What kind of battery drain should people expect when the camera is in sleep mode?

I think in sleep mode, during a whole day you can expect something like 10% battery drain. We do have a large battery in the camera, it’s 3190mAh, which is very substantial. In this camera a fully charged battery should last about 250 shots.

Is that a CIPA figure?

No, but we’d expect that to be accurate by CIPA test standards.

Do you have an idea yet of how much the ZX1 will cost?

Pricing is not yet decided but I think given the performance of the lens and the sensor, plus the solid build of the body and the built-in 500GB SSD, I think it will occupy a more premium price band. It will be in the same range as [the Leica Q, Sony RX1R II].

What was the logic behind deciding to give the ZX1 aperture, shutter speed and ISO dials but no exposure compensation dial?

That’s one of the most frequent questions we’ve been getting. One thing we learned is that photographers are more and more conscious of stripping away features that they don’t need. So we wanted to keep the purity of the design, while still making sure this is a serious photography tool.

One of the things that characterizes serious cameras are dials which provide the opportunity to control exposure directly. So we decided OK, we’ll keep the three – shutter speed, aperture and ISO as the only hardware controls. Everything else is built into the digital interface. If a photographer is manually controlling shutter speed and aperture, then the only way they have of further affecting exposure is ISO. So they can use the ISO dial as exposure compensation, effectively.

Does this camera use a leaf shutter?

Yes, it’s mechanically controlled up to 1/1000, and electronic will let you go to higher shutter speeds, using the toolbar [on the rear screen].

Because it’s powered by a full mobile operating system, the ZX1 is a ‘one stop shop’ for the photographer. From image capture, review, rating, editing and uploading, everything can be done on the camera, if you wish.

You really seem to want photographers to do everything on the camera itself – shooting, reviewing, editing and uploading. Is that correct?

For this concept, yes. A photographer might still carry a more capable DSLR for an assignment, but when they are going out for a weekend trip, this is one camera that you can do everything with.

Maybe it doesn’t always make sense to connect the camera to your phone using a hotspot and try to synchronize let’s say 300 Raw files on the road, but let’s give people the choice. We’ve spoken to a lot of photojournalists and they told us that sometimes they just have to rely on what they have. Sometimes they only have a phone, and with this camera they can bring everything they need.

What’s the quickest way of getting images off the ZX1 to a computer or to a harddrive?

In terms of transfer speed, the fastest way is the USB-C connection. With a speed of 5GB/s you’ll be able to export pictures pretty fast. What’s a bit different is that because we’re using Android, the system works like a mini computer, so we can use both master and slave mode for the USB connection.

Whereas other cameras, when you connect over USB, the camera is seen as a drive: it’s in slave mode. But with the ZX1 if you plug in a USB C drive or a memory stick the camera recognizes the storage and you can select the images you want to transfer straight from the camera. The USB C connector is the only interface, so to connect to a TV, or plug in a microphone for example you’d need adapters.

Can users download their own apps or extensions to the ZX1?

At the moment, no. For security reasons its a closed system. We will only support selected applications that we’re working on with partners like Adobe.

Editors’ note: Barnaby Britton

Well; it’s real, and it works. The Zeiss ZX1 is a fascinating camera, and even from our brief time with a prototype model I’d be fairly confident in saying it’s the most convincing Android-powered camera we’ve seen yet. Of course it’s also likely to be the most expensive, by far. If Mr Shih’s estimate of a price comparable with full-frame compacts from Sony and Leica turns out to be true, you can expect the ZX1 to cost somewhere in the region of (at least) $ 4,000, which unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Cameras, will put it well outside of the impulse-buy range for most photographers.

But that’s the future. For now, the ZX1 looks really nice. We don’t know how well the sensor or lens will perform, but it’s a safe bet that image quality will far exceed the abilities of even the best smartphones and likely also popular sub full-frame compact cameras such as Fujifilm’s X100-Series and Ricoh’s GR line.

It will also work differently – very differently – to those cameras, thanks to its integrated Android operating system, which essentially makes the camera into a mini computer. Do you need half a terabyte of built-in storage? Probably not, most of the time, but assuming you can keep the battery charged, this kind of storage capacity could be appealing to photographers working remotely or on long assignments away from home. In some areas of the world, where cellphones provide the only reliable access to the Web, the ZX1 might end up being right in its element.

A shot of the ZX1’s unique ‘swooping’ rear display, and its large-capacity Li-Ion battery which – unlike the camera’s storage – is removable.

If you’re interested in the ZX1 solely as a camera, and you don’t need the ability to run processing apps, you’ll have a harder decision to make. The ZX1 definitely presents an unusual handling experience, but it’s not completely alien. The decision to omit an exposure compensation dial strikes us as a bit odd, but Mr Shih is correct to note that for manual exposure work, the ISO dial does just as well. For A / S-priority shooters things might be a bit confusing at first, but the ZX1 is likely to be perfectly usable, notwithstanding a moderate learning curve.

Speaking of curves (sorry) the swooping rear display is quite something. The ZX1 employs what Mr Shih calls a ‘vertical logic’ to separate access to features and controls from the live view display, and it seems to work. We didn’t get to try full-on image editing on the ZX1 that we saw in Japan, but I can envisage Lightroom Mobile running perfectly well, for those who need to edit ‘on the go’.

When the ZX1 was first announced, a lot of commenters dismissed it preemptively as ‘vaporware’ – a flashy distraction that would never make it to market. It seems that the naysayers were wrong (it’s nice when that happens, isn’t it?) but whether the ZX1 will be a success – or lead to more Zeiss camera development in future – remains to be seen.

In one sense, given how long it’s been since the company last made a camera, it could be said that Zeiss has nothing to lose. But in real terms, the ZX1 represents a substantial R&D investment, and one which Zeiss will be keen to recoup. For now, Mr Shih and his team deserve credit for doing something bold and unusual.

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Sigma 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 Sport sample gallery

31 Mar

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The Sigma 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 Sport is quite the beast, and will likely appeal to those looking to photograph wildlife, airshows and all manner of distant subjects. We’ve discovered that it’s actually quite a handy lens for casual, everyday shooting – if you’d like your photographic pursuit to double as an upper body workout. Take a look at how we’ve been getting along with it.

See our Sigma 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 Sport
sample gallery

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9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits

31 Mar

The post 9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Good environmental portraits tell a story. At a glance you will know something about the person in the picture. The best environmental portraits will provide a lot of visual information.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Kebab Chef in Istanbul

Kebab chef entertaining passers-by with his constant banter. Istanbul, Turkey. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Here are 9 tips to help you create more illustrative pictures of people in their surroundings.

1. Do your research

Know your subject well. Not just who they are, but what they do. If you know who you’re going to be photographing, do some research and become informed about what they do.

At least have a conversation and show interest in them by asking questions. This will not only gain you insight, but your subject will appreciate you are showing interest in who they are.

Where they are located is important too. Know about the surroundings. If you’re not sure, ask questions. Hearing the answers, you may be surprised and learn things you didn’t know. Even if you are familiar with the area.

Copper Craftsman 9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits

Copper Craftsman finishes a new piece as his father proudly looks on. Istanbul, Turkey. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Be aware of the environment

Have all your senses working. Listen and watch what’s happening around. You may see things you want to include or that you don’t want in your pictures.

Move around and take photos from different places so you get alternative backgrounds.

Try to avoid any bright lights or other distractions within your composition. It’s important to fill the frame only with what is relevant to the story you are telling.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Mandalay Market Vendor

A vendor at Mandalay’s Ghost Train Market, Myanmar. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Tell their story

Once you’ve chatted for a while, or at least observed keenly, tell their story.

Concentrate on what will communicate most visually about the person, where they are and what they are doing. This is the whole nature of environmental portraits.

Are they a quiet and reserved kind of person? Or are they a loud and boisterous character? Some people change when they get in front of a camera.

If they’ve been chatting away in an animated manner and freeze when you point your camera at them, it’s your job to help them relax. Frozen is not who they naturally are.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Tricycle Taxi Rider

Tricycle taxis in Thailand are called Samlor, which translates as ‘three wheels. The riders enjoy the camaraderie the job brings. ©Kevin Landwer-Johan

4. Connect with your subject

I know this is difficult for many people. The more you can connect with your subject, the better photos you will get.

Pleasant conversation builds confidence in people you want to photograph. They will be more interested in what you are doing and compliant if you show interest in them.

Sometimes you’ll want to give your subject some instructions to help the composition. If you’ve already connected with them they will be more receptive to your ideas.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Moken Sea Gypsie

This Moken sea gypsy was telling us stories of how he lost part of his arm in a fishing accident in the south of Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Know your camera

Your subject is likely to lose interest in what’s happening if all they see is the top of your head as you peer down at your camera.

Preset your camera so you know the settings will be right. Do this as soon as possible so you will have time to concentrate on communicating with your subject and other important things.

Check that you have the best lens for the job on your camera ready to go.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Hmong Amputee

Hmong hill tribe man who is an amputee after having his leg blown off by a land mine on the Laos/Thailand border © Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Make a deliberate choice of lens

Showing the surroundings is important. So is communicating with your subject while you are working.

If you have a telephoto lens on your camera, you’ll have to position yourself a long way from your subject to include enough of their environment.

With a medium to wide lens on you can be close enough and also include more of the setting. I love using my 35 mm f/1.4 lens on a full-frame body for environmental portraits. It allows me to be close enough to converse comfortably and still show a decent amount of background.

Be careful if you are using a lens much wider than 35mm as you will be at risk of distorting your subject.

Shan Waitress 9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits

Shan waitress poses for a portrait at the entrance to the small roadside restaurant she works in near Mandalay, Myanmar. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Control your depth of field

Making sure there’s sufficient detail visible in the composition is important.

If you’re a fan of taking photos with your aperture wide open, you may not make the best environmental portraits. Blurring out the background too much will not help you convey information.

Choose an aperture which provides a balance between too blurred and too sharp and distracting. Avoid extremes. This will help keep the main focus on your subject and enhance the story with what else is around them.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Akha Coffee Harvest

Akha woman harvesting coffee in north Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

8. Make good use of props

There’s not always an opportunity to make use of props, but if you can they can make a big impact.

Having your subject hold something significant can add to the story.

This Lahu man is a fabulous subject on his own and I have photographed him many times during our workshops. He likes to smoke tobacco in his bong, which adds even more visual interest and tells us more about him.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Lahu Smoker

Lahu Ethnic Minority man enjoys smoking tobacco in his bamboo bong near Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

9. Write good captions

A good caption will provide added detail that you may not be able to clearly convey in your photo. Informative captions help hold people’s interest by further stimulating their imaginations.

Offer a little more information about the person. This is another good reason to engage with them while you’re photographing them.

If you’re not clear on what to write, search the internet.

Recently I watched this documentary about the photographer Dorothea Lange. She is most well known for her work in the midwest USA during the Great Depression. The documentary emphasizes the need for the well-written captions she provided with her photographs.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits Sea Gypsy

Moken sea gypsy fisherman biding his time on the bow of his boat waiting for a catch. © Kevin Landwer-Johan


Not all of these tips may be relevant each time you make environmental portraits. Make use of as many of them as you can to enhance your photography experience.

Make yourself a checklist with these tips and any others you can think of. Consult your list as you prepare to make your next series of portraits. This will help you grow as a photographer.

If you have any other helpful tips to offer about taking great environmental portraits, please include them in the comments below.

The post 9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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Kim Jong-un allegedly fires personal photographer over ‘damage to Supreme Dignity’

30 Mar

North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un reportedly ‘purged’ his personal photographer, referred to only as ‘Ri,’ after he violated two rules related to photographing the dictator and briefly blocked a crowd’s view of him. In addition to being fired from his role as photographer, Ri was allegedly banned from the Workers’ Party of Korea.

News of the event first surfaced from Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website from Unification Media Group. The report claims Ri was punished for causing damage to Kim Jong-un’s ‘Supreme Dignity’ while photographing him on March 10 in the No. 10 election district.

In addition to blocking his neck from view with a camera flash, Ri allegedly violated two rules that barred photographers from capturing images and video directly in front of and within 2m / 6.5ft of Kim. The Korean Art Film Studio under which Ri had worked (and from which he was subsequently fired) edited the video to delete the scene featuring Ri and the ‘damages’ it caused to Kim’s ‘Supreme Dignity.’

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Create a Backup Today! Here is Why and How

30 Mar

The post Create a Backup Today! Here is Why and How appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Are your files protected?

Insurance policies. We deal in them every day – car, home, life, renters, medical and more. The list goes on and on, but what are you doing to ensure your photos are insured against loss? The loss comes in many ways entirely out of your control – hardware failure, theft, or calamity. This article is your wake up call to consistently backup your work.

I am writing it because 5 months ago when my house burned I had my wake-up call. Don’t worry, my wife and I are fine, and there was no loss of life – only property. Why am I telling you this very personal bit of my life? Simple. Catastrophe can come in any form and at any time. Learn from my mistakes and back up as soon as you complete this article.

Fire, House, Pictures, Backup

This picture of my house burning is meant to convey reality. Calamity can happen at any time. Do you have a backup solution to protect your files in the face of disaster?

Let me take you back to six months ago because it is likely my backup strategy may reflect your own. I am a pretty serious photographer and create much content of professional and family-related photos.  I had a 24tb server backing up my files with redundancy. From the server, I kept an off-site backup of files by copying to a hard drive and then storing it. As I’ll highlight later, that way of doing a backup is adequate as long as you stay up on it.

Unfortunately, I had not completed an offsite backup for two years! Consequently, ALL of my professional work and memories during that time were vulnerable as my living room went up in flames and the water from fire hoses quenched them. One of the first things I thought when I arrived to see my house spurting 20-foot flames from the roof was, “what about my server?”

Backup, Failure

Your computer is fragile, but yet we trust them to hold a lot of incredibly important information. Whether its fire, theft, water, or failure, be sure your backup solution protects you. Establish one today!

Backup strategies

It may seem intimidating to back up your work, but thanks to the advances of high-capacity, affordable hard drives there has never been an easier time to do it! Once you have a system in place it becomes even easier. Digital Photography School has published several articles on the subject and most advocate for the “3-2-1” strategy.

This means :

3: Have three copies of your data.

2: Keep them in two separate places.

1: At least one must be offsite.

If this sounds like it is too hard, fear not, and do not tune out yet! I’ll outline three strategies to back up your work in easy to understand ways that serve both beginner and professional photographers. To help show off the strategies I’ve created some schematics (hopefully entertaining and fun ones) to show you how each system works.

Back up to a hard drive

Hard drives are cheap. A quick search shows you can purchase a 6TB (terabyte) hard drive for $ 125! Before you think to yourself “I can’t afford $ 125,” consider it is cheaper than any insurance policy you currently pay for, and if your photos are like my photos, it is an insurance policy protecting your memories and business.

Purchasing and rotating two hard drives consistently allows you to keep a backup of your work current. You may want to consult these guidelines for purchasing a hard drive.

Most major hard drive brands come with built-in software to automatically backup your files for you. This makes it incredibly convenient to back up your work. You can use two hard drives (“#1” and “#2) to  adhere to the 3-2-1 rule by:

  • keeping a copy of your files on your computer
  • using the hard drive’s software to back up to hard drive #1
  • taking #1 offsite to a place such as your office or your extended family’s house
  • setting up a new backup on #2
  • rotating hardrives #1 and #2 periodically. Your backup software will update the files each time you re-attach the hard drive. I recommend doing this at least every two weeks, but you can choose an interval that works for you. Once you choose an interval set up a repeating reminder for yourself on your phone.
Backup, Hardrive, shematic

Use these easy steps to establish a back-up system using two hard drives.

This solution is your cheapest option and requires the most work on your part. As long as you set up the backup using your hard drive’s software, it will automatically backup your files to hard drives #1 and #2 as you rotate them on and off-site. This system will FAIL if you do not adhere to rotating the hard drives consistently!

Backup to the cloud

Cloud services have become relatively cheap (about $ 100/year or less) and perform backups of your images with the caveat that you have a regular internet connection. Most cloud services can back up local files and files on attached external hard drives. You can adhere to the 3-2-1 rule by:

  • Keeping a local copy of files on your computer
  • Using the backup service provided by the hard drive to back up to a hard drive
  • Using a cloud service to back up the hard drive
  • Storing a hard drive off site
Backup, cloud, pictures, computer

Use this simple system to backup your files to a hard drive and to the cloud.

This is a pretty good option depending on how much content you are creating. If you are generating hundreds of gigabytes of content regularly or if you live in an area of slow internet this may not be feasible for you. Cloud services work best if the file structure doesn’t change. Moving files to new folders create a duplicate and the need to upload more data to the cloud. This option is middle-of-the-road for the expense. It is necessary to pay for a hard drive (or two) and a cloud service for a total of ~$ 300 annually.

Maintain a server

Servers (refer to NAS Servers) are arrays of hard drive that give you redundancy in case of hard drive failure. Housing all of your images on a server and backing them up from there is a great way to establish a relatively low-maintenance backup of your files. To adhere to the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Have a copy of your images on a server
  • Backup the server to the cloud, a hard drive for off-site storage, or mirror the server to an offsite storage site.
Backup, solutions, nas, hard drive, cloud

Having a server may seem complex, but can be the backbone of the rest of your backup system. This is the system I advocate for your if you are able to afford it!

This is the most expensive solution, and will likely cost $ 1,000 or more to set up. However, that cost becomes distributed over several years since you no longer need to purchase several individual hard drives. This system is overall the most reliable and requires the least amount of work on your part once set up.

Backup now!

I hope my story of personal loss is compelling enough for you to start researching backup solutions immediately. Do you have a story of image loss you are comfortable sharing? Leave it below to add to the mounting evidence of the need for future readers. My story has a surprising ending because my server survived and I was able to recover the files. There is almost no chance I’ll ever be that lucky again. As I always say, “Pixels are cheap.” I say that at the end of all of my articles. However, just because they are cheap, doesn’t mean they are not emotionally or economically valuable. Please back your pixels up today!

The post Create a Backup Today! Here is Why and How appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

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DPReview TV: ‘Wooden Niccolls’ with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

30 Mar

A ‘Wooden Niccolls’ is an episode in which Chris and Jordan bring together a film crew to recreate a scene from a Hollywood movie, all while testing a piece of gear. In the first Wooden Niccolls for DPReview TV, their team used the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC 4K) to recreate a scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

But wait – there’s more! You’ll go behind the scenes to see how the scene was shot, meet members of the crew, and learn a bit about rigging the BMPCC 4K. Will Chris win the Oscar for his portrayal of Kate Winslet in a dramatic role? Will Jordan’s touching performance bring you to tears? We look forward to critics’ reviews.

If there’s a movie episode you’d like to see our dynamic duo recreate, tell us in the comments!

Get new episodes of DPReview TV every week by subscribing to our YouTube channel!

  • Introduction
  • Blackmagic Raw
  • Interview with camera owner Phil Bowen
  • Meet Director Chris Dowsett
  • Location
  • Costumes
  • Shooting for post-production
  • Editing in DaVinci Resolve
  • The overhead shot
  • Disclaimer
  • The scene
  • Wrap-up

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Instagram appears to be testing new video control feature

30 Mar

Nearly six years after launching video sharing on its platform, at appears Instagram is finally working on adding the ability to fast-forward through videos in your timeline.

Discovered by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, the new feature makes it possible to skim through videos in your timeline. Until now, videos in your timeline timeline would simply play from beginning to end and repeat themselves. Now, it’s possible to effectively fast-forward through videos with a little swipe of your finger, as seen in Wong’s GIF below:

It’s perplexing it’s taken this long for Instagram to implement an otherwise common feature, but that seems to be the ongoing theme for Instagram.

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Copytrack report claims 2.5 billion online images were stolen per day in 2018

30 Mar
Illustration showing copyright infringements by continent, used with permission

Image rights enforcement company Copytrack has released its new Global Infringement Report 2019 study detailing the current state of unauthorized image use around the world. According to the company, it performed a statistical analysis of more than 12,000 Copytrack user profiles as part of its new report, which details the number of ‘potential copyright violations’ the company dealt with from December 2017 to December 2018.

Based on its analysis, Copytrack estimates more than 2.5 billion images are stolen every day with potential daily damages estimated at up €532.5 billion / $ 598 billion. Due to the vast number of images used daily, the company found that most photographers and agencies were unaware of many instances of image infringement.

Illustration showing the top 20 most image infringing countries, used with permission

The study found that the majority of copyright infringement cases originated from North America at 33.90%, with Europe coming in second at 31.40% and Asia in third with 29.38%. The company isn’t able to answer why Asia had lower rates of infringement than NA and EU regions but speculated it may be due, in part, to the percentage of regular Internet users in each continent.

Looking at infringement numbers by country, Copytrack found the US had the highest percentage at 22.96%, followed by Panama at 6.76%, China at 6.57% and Germany at 6.32%. The percentage drop quickly from there, coming in at 3.75% for the UK all the way down to 1.25% for Switzerland, 1.16% for the Netherlands and 1.05% for Vietnam.

Below is the report in its entirety:

Of the infringing use, Copytrack found Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution images were the most commonly used. Most unauthorized use involved images with 3:2, 2:3, and 1:1 format ratios, as well as 640 x 400 and 800 x 800 resolutions. Copytrack concludes its report, stating, ‘This problem will most likely continue at a similar rate until major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and the like figure out a way to reliably identify the authors of images posted online.’

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Beaches

30 Mar

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Beaches appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

This week’s photography challenge topic is BEACHES!

Ethan Robertson

Your photos can include anything that has beaches or beach elements. It can be long exposures, details, waves, beach towels, seashells on the beach, people on the beach, minimalist, color-based, or anything really! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


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A post shared by @billywillgo on


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A post shared by Shad Giordano (@elementalscape) on


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A post shared by Patrick Noack (@patrick.noack) on


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A post shared by Jared Jeffs (@jaredjeffsphotography) on


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A post shared by Angela DiLoreto (@angelamdiloreto) on


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A post shared by 3 Brothers | Hawaii + Travel (@threeifbysea) on


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A post shared by nature_treasures (@nature_treasures_ok) on


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A post shared by Bronfer (@bronfer) on


Check out some of the articles below that give you tips on this week’s challenge.

Tips for Shooting BEACHES


Step-by-step Guide to Long Exposure Photography

A Guide to Shooting Long Exposure Landscape Photos

How to Shoot Long Exposure Seascape Photography

5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

4 Tips for More Dramatic Beach Photos

Beach Photography and Digital Camera Maintenance


Weekly Photography Challenge – BEACHES

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSbeaches to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Beaches appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

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