October 2018 - Digital Group - Equipment and Mirrorless

Meeting Notes March 2009 to 2018.
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October 2018 - Digital Group - Equipment and Mirrorless

Post by spb » Sat Oct 06, 2018 4:48 pm

The momentous news over the summer break has been announcements from Nikon and Canon that they are launching new full-frame mirrorless cameras with all-new lens mounts.

Both makers are fairly conservative and the move into mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC) is more than ten years behind other brands such as Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and Samsung. Sony are on the third iteration of their A7 series full-frame MILC and the Nikon Z6/Z7 and Canon EOS R are remarkably similar to it. Furthermore, whilst Sony have about 25 of their own compatible lenses and many others from third parties, Canon and Nikon have 4 and 3 lenses respectively and are forcing lens makers to reverse-engineer the mount by not publishing the specifications. Backwards compatibility with existing lenses can be achieved with adapters which must be purchased separately.

A conventional digital SLR uses a mirror and prism to enable the photographer to look through the lens via the viewfinder. Auto-focussing and auto-exposure must also intercept this light path and be positioned and calibrated accurately. To make the exposure, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens then closes and the mirror flips down again rapidly causing a momentary black-out of the viewfinder and significant vibration. The whole shebang is bulky, mechanically complex, expensive and prone to miscalibration.

By comparison, a MILC has no mirror or prism. The light passes through the lens and shines continuously onto the sensor. The viewfinder is an electronic screen, auto exposure, focussing and everything else is processed from the sensor information. To make an exposure the sensor information is simply stored at a given instant (electronic shutter) or a mechanical shutter may close, open and close again briefly to isolate the chosen moment. The mechanical and optical simplicity means that the camera body can be smaller and lighter (although wide maximum apertures and premium glass will keep the lenses heavy). The electronic nature of the camera means that innovations in metering, focussing and shutters are easier, the viewfinder can convey more information and video is easier to integrate. Electronic shutters can have previously unheard-of frame rates and shutter speeds.

Mirrorless is the future.

As well as having a ten-year head start on Canon and Nikon in MILC’s, Sony already lead the market in full-frame cameras in the US and say that they intend to take the #1 spot for all cameras globally by 2021. In other areas their RX100 series of cameras dominate the enthusiast compact camera market and RX10 series are extremely highly rated for enthusiast long-zoom cameras. I wouldn’t bet against them.

A member raised a problem with me. Images of animals in cages were compromised by unavoidable out-of-focus wires creating areas of low contrast across the images.

A bit of experimentation resulted in a pretty good solution; in Photoshop Elements, Enhance>Haze Removal resulted in a surprisingly good result. Second and third applications of the same filter had little effect but further improvement of the blacks where necessary could be achieved with a levels adjustment via layer mask. De-Haze was introduced into Photoshop versions in 2015. In Photoshop CC it can only be accessed in Camera Raw or via Filter>Camera Raw Filter.

Another member asked how to watermark images quickly and routinely with a name or copyright notice.

It is first necessary to design the required copyright message or logo. This should be done in a new Photoshop Elements file a little larger in size than will ever be needed eg perhaps 800 pixels square and purely in black on white. Then Edit>Define Brush to turn this logo into a brush shape. Finally Edit>Preset Manager and drag the new logo brush to the top left hand position to ensure that is always quickly accessible at the top of the brush menu.

To use the brush, open the image to be watermarked, select the Brush Tool, then choose the logo (the first brush shape in Brush Tool Options), adjust the size as necessary and apply it to the image. For a less intrusive look, the logo/brush could utilise a colour picked from the image, be of reduced opacity or utilise a blending mode.

The principle is the same in Photoshop CC and an Action could be recorded to apply the watermark with a single click.

See the updated notes from the Digital Group meeting October 2016.

Adobe software is of excellent quality and dominates the market, so you would think that it would be easy to choose a suitable product from their range. This is absolutely not so. They have a complex and overlapping portfolio of products with misleading names. When starting out, it’s critical to invest your time and money on the right product(s) so I will attempt to demystify them for you;

Firstly and most importantly, what type of photographer are you?

Are you;
- an ‘In-camera’ photographer – wanting only to adjust or ‘develop’ an image for best presentation? You need an Image Manager/Developer.
- a high volume photographer – wanting to organise and adjust in bulk? You need an Image Manager/Developer.
- a creative photographer – wanting to go beyond the viewfinder to combine images or make major changes to single images? You need an Image Editor.

For Image Management and Development I would strongly recommend Adobe Lightroom.
For Image Editing I would strongly recommend Adobe Photoshop.

Now, each of the above products come in two flavours;
- Adobe Lightroom Classic CC (Creative Cloud) is the flavour of Lightroom for most people, whilst Adobe Lightroom CC is a cloud-based mobile version with less functionality but more capability across multiple connected devices. The key way to distinguish them is the word; CLASSIC.
- Adobe Photoshop Elements is for most people, whilst Adobe Photoshop CC is the professional version with more functionality.

Secondly, it’s also important to think about your attitude to computers and software. Are you enthusiastic about what they can do and quick to learn, or are you continually frustrated by them and find learning new software difficult? In the former case, Lightroom Classic CC has a relatively shallow learning curve and a logical progressive user interface whereas Photoshop is simply a box of tools with no obvious path and hence a steep learning curve. However Photoshop Elements is aimed at the enthusiast and does come with about 50 Guided Edits that lead you by the hand and also some quick adjustments. Photoshop CC takes no prisoners and although it is superficially the same as Photoshop Elements it provides no help at all.

You could, of course employ more than one of these products at once but the two flavours of Lightroom do not operate together and the two flavours of Photoshop overlap to the point that using both would be pointless. Images can pass between Lightroom and Photoshop but the integration is poor and they look and operate differently.

Photoshop Elements is available as a one-off license (£70 Win/Mac) so if you want an Image Editor, it’s an easy decision. However if you want an Image Manager/Developer the only option is a subscription (£10 pm from Adobe or £100 pa from Amazon) which includes both flavours of Lightroom and also Photoshop CC. if you want, say, Lightroom Classic you may be misdirected to install the mobile version, Lightroom CC, because of it’s bizarrely similar naming. If you are then tempted to dabble in Photoshop too, you will inevitably load Photoshop CC, because you have paid for it, but this is the much harder version to learn.

You could reasonably ask, ‘Adobe is a multi-billion dollar company how did it get into this mess?’ Well, the products came from different sources and different software teams. Adobe dominate the global market and are so financially successfully that they haven’t needed to get their act together. We are left to sort it out for ourselves.

So let’s summarise;
Choose Adobe Lightroom Classic CC for the in-camera photographers and those who seek a shallower learning curve.
Choose Adobe Photoshop Elements for the creatives and those who are not put off by the thought of a steeper learning curve.
*You only need the other versions of Lightroom and Photoshop if you know why you need them*.

Image organising and viewing is another important consideration;
Sophisticated database/organisers are an inherent part of Lightroom and an ‘Organizer’(sic) is bundled with Photoshop Elements. These provide the capability to manage, compare, select, keyword and present images but require a high level of commitment. You must also do all of your subsequent organisation and filing from within your chosen program or they will lose their database integrity and require you tell them where the images have gone.

Simple free image viewers such as Faststone (PC) , XnView (PC/Mac) and Adobe Bridge (included with a Creative Cloud subscription), allow a more casual directory browsing approach which can be combined with a simple program-independent folder-based hierarchical filing system. Recently I have been finding XYplorer Free (PC) to be a powerful casual image browser cum Windows Explorer alternative.

Personally, I am interested in creative photography and distrust databases so my photographic needs are entirely met by Adobe Photoshop CC and Faststone although if I was starting again I would be entirely happy with Photoshop Elements (and Faststone).

Of course I should say that many other editors and a few other organisers are available. All are cheaper but largely inferior to the Adobe products above. In the club we get huge benefit by choosing the same software and sharing our experience of it. Serif Affinity Photo (£49 Win/Mac) might be the one editor to challenge Photoshop or at least give it good cause to get it’s act together.

Cheers, Steve.

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