The Fuji X-E1 – Some thoughts and impressions

March 13, 2013 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

Last year, not long after it came out, I bought a Fuji X100 because I was intrigued by the promise of a small, rangefinder-like camera with a fixed 35mm lens. I liked the idea of being forced to shoot with a specific field of view; I loved the look and feel of the camera; and it’s hard to beat Fuji’s lens and image quality. What was easy to beat, at the time, was the X100′s autofocus and clumsy menu system. These issues were so frustrating that I sold the camera not long after I bought it. I came to mildly regret this decision as Fuji released firmware updates that addressed many of the issues that had bothered me, but didn’t think seriously about returning to the camera. But with the release of the Fuji X-E1, I couldn’t resist giving Fuji another chance. Here are some of my impressions and thoughts about Fuji’s latest mirrorless camera.

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Alien Skin Exposure 4

November 9, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

To me, one of the most unexpected byproducts of digital photography is that it has rekindled tremendous interest in film processes of one kind or another. Alien Skin’s Exposure 4 plug-in for Photoshop lets you explore all sorts of film processes without ever having to soak your hands in noxious chemicals. I recently spent some time with the latest version, and was pleased to find that it remains an excellent option for users who want either a specific traditional film look, or any kind of analog, or grunge process. You can read my entire review here.

Turning Any Bag Into A Camera Bag

June 18, 2012 by · 9 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

Hi. My name is Ben and I’m a bag addict. It’s true, I have a problem. For years, I was convinced that there was a single, perfect camera bag out there in the world somewhere. So, over the years, I have amassed an embarrassing assortment of bags. A while ago, I came to realize that there is no single camera bag that’s appropriate for every situation, which only exacerbated my problem, because now I have a perfect justification for owning still more bags. Alas, the discovery of Mountainsmith Kit Cube has made the whole situation even worse, because with the Kit Cube, I can turn any bag into a camera bag. This means my bag fetish is no longer constrained to just camera bags!

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iPhoto for iOS

April 6, 2012 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

It’s taken a while, but Apple has finally crafted a version of iPhoto for iOS. Of course, there are already lots of other image editing apps available for both the iPhone and iPad, so where does iPhoto fit in? This detailed review takes a look at iPhoto from the perspective of the more serious, even professional, shooter.

Photoshop Touch 1.0

April 3, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

iPad-toting Photoshop users finally have an actual version of Photoshop for their tablets. Photoshop Touch offers layers-based compositing, masking and retouching tools, and color correction, all wrapped up in a touch-based interface. The question, of course, is what exactly it gets you in the way of a tablet-based post-production workflow. In this detailed review, I take a look at the app from the point-of-view of the serious, working photographer.

Flare: Push-button image editing effects

May 9, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

Whether you’re an experienced Photoshop user, or a casual image editor, there will be times when you want to quickly and easily get a stylized look on an image. The Icon Factory’s Flare 1.0 is an inexpensive, capable little application that makes it easy to get stylized treatments and borders onto an image through a simple push-button interface. Check out my full review here.

nik Silver EFex Pro 2.0

April 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

There are lots of ways to convert color images to black and white. In Photoshop, you can use a grayscale mode change, or convert the image to L*A*B color and then extract the Luminance channel. Or, you can pull a single RGB channel, drain the saturation out of an image or use Photoshop’s excellent Black and White conversion tool. The list goes on and on, but in my opinion, the best way to perform black and white conversion (more accurately called grayscale conversion is with nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, a plug-in for Photoshop, Aperture, and Lightroom.

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Pixelmator 1.6 – Inexpensive Image Editing

August 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Photoshop’s a great image editor, and all, but you need a lot of money to get it. If you’re a Mac-based photographer who’s been looking for a more affordable alternative, and iPhoto is not for you, then you might want to consider Pixelmator, an incredibly speedy Photoshop alternative that offers a fair amount of power at a reasonable price. Read the full review here.

Alien Skin Exposure 3

August 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

A photographer friend recently sent me this extraordinary collection of color images shot during the Depression. One of the things that’s fascinating about looking at them is that we simply are not accustomed to this subject matter being in color. It’s a fine example of McCluhan’s “medium is the message” idea. Your choices of black and white or color, grungy or sharp, saturated or muted – all of these have a huge impact on the reaction the viewer will have. For film photographers, many of these decisions are determined by film choice, and the ability to choose specific films to achieve a particular look or feel is one of the great advantages of film shooting. Alien Skin Exposure, a sophisticated film-simulating Photoshop plug-in, gives this same power to digital photographers.

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Portable Printing with the Polaroid PoGo Printer

June 8, 2010 by · 12 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 
PolaroidPogo

I just spent the last week motorcycling from San Francisco to Oklahoma, (to teach at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute) camping and motelling along the way. As is usual on a motorcycle, I tried to stay on the smallest roads possible, and so ended up in some fairly interesting locations. I was probably supposed to be blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking my exploits as I went, (Karaoke night in Roswell, NM will definitely make you believe in alien visitations) but to be honest, one of the nice things about such a trip is to be out of the media bubble, not engaging in it further. So rather than trying to provide heavy coverage of my trip, I decided to simply enjoy myself. But also, I have a penchant for mail – the physical kind made from crushed wood pulp. Sitting in a forest or remote desert at night, writing letters and postcards, is a pretty nice way to spend an evening, but just because I’m using analog communications doesn’t mean I have to scrimp on imagery. Thanks to the amazing Polaroid PoGo printer, I was able to print images in the middle of nowhere!

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Photoshop CS5 Full Review

May 12, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Photoshop CS5 has been shipping for a couple of weeks now, and if you follow such things, you’ve probably already heard about its new features. Photoshop serves many markets, from photography to graphic design to movie and web site production, so determining an overall assessment of the program can be tricky, as different markets have different needs. For photographers, though, Content-Aware Fill and the new Camera Raw are reason enough to upgrade. Many other features abound, and you can read about them in my comprehensive review.

Wacom Cintiq 21ux

May 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

As I’ve said before, anyone who performs a lot of image editing needs a pressure-sensitive tablet, and no one makes better tablets than Wacom. A lot of people, though, don’t like the coordination of drawing in one place while looking at another. For these people, Wacom has long sold the Cintiq line of screen/tablet combos. These are LCD screens that have a built in pressure sensitive tablet.

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Topaz Labs Photoshop Bundle

March 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Topaz Labs has been producing Photoshop filters aimed at photographers (as opposed to design-oriented plug-ins) for a while now, and – for good reason – their collection has developed a good reputation. For adding "punch" to an image, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a simpler solution than Topaz Adjust. But one of the most impressive features of the Topaz Labs plug-ins are their very low price. For only $179 you can get a bundle of five plug-in packages that provide everything from color and tone manipulation to sharpening and stylizing. However, the trick to getting good results from these plug-ins is knowing their weaknesses, and learning when enough Topaz is enough. To learn more, and to see some examples, check out my detailed review.

Some new photo gadgets

March 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

As many of you probably know, it isn’t easy being a nerdy gearhead. Oh sure, exploring and mastering a new gizmo isn’t too hard, but keeping your gizmo fix satisfied is not only expensive, but time consuming. Fortunately, with the recent spate of photo-related trade shows, there are a number of cool new photo gadgets to consider. Here’s a quick look at seven photo-related hardware accessories that you might want to consider.

Choosing a tripod

March 4, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

You may think you’re a camera geek, but if the thought of a new tripod or head doesn’t get your palms sweaty, then you still have a ways to go to plumb the true depths of your photo-related nerd potential. Personally, I have two tripods, a couple of heads, and a fairly large assortment of smaller stabilization gizmos, and yet it’s always hard to walk past the tripod section at the camera store without stopping to feel the weight of this tripod, admire the new composite material of another tripod, or test the latest locking levers on still another tripod. If you don’t have a tripod fetish, then choosing a tripod might be something of a mystery, as it may seem like little more than three sticks joined at the top. But oh, a tripod can be so much more.

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The Mac Netbook Revisited

January 30, 2010 by · 13 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

With Apple’s announcement of the iPad, there’s a lot of talk lately about the "death of the netbook." But for the photographer, a netbook is still a much better alternative to any other portable option. Smaller, lighter, and cheaper than a typical laptop, a netbook provides plenty of storage for offloading images, but can run the same software that you use on your everyday computer. In addition to replacing your digital wallet-type device, having a real keyboard and connectivity options make netbooks capable terminals for the traveling photographer. If you’re a Mac user, though, you won’t find any netbook options from Apple. However, it’s now easier than ever to hack certain netbooks to run the latest version of Snow Leopard.

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Luma Loop – A Radical Camera Strap Re-Design

January 20, 2010 by · 40 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

You wouldn’t think that there’s much you could do to change the design of a camera strap. Oh sure, you can build it out of better materials, and make the strap easier to attach or detach, and maybe make one strap that’s more fashionable than another. But actually creating a truly different strap, one that functions in a different, better way? That’s a tougher call, because a camera strap seems to be a fairly basic piece of gear. But, Luma Labs has proven that even something as seemingly simple as a camera strap can be given a radical new spin, and dramatically improved. For your consideration: the Luma Loop.

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Make Your iPhone Into a Better Camera

December 21, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

I like having a camera on my phone, and the iPhone camera is surprisingly good. (In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that the iPhone is a much better camera than it is a phone.) However, when you’re used to a "real" camera, with a certain level of control, switching to the iPhone camera can be frustrating. Similarly, if your photo process routinely involves a trip to an image editor, then you might find yourself frustrated with the iPhone’s lack of editing capabilities. Here are ten iPhone applications that will give you more shooting control, and the type of editing power that you’re used to having on your desktop. From color and contrast control, to panoramic stitching, and retouching, these apps turn your iPhone camera into a very useful photographic tool.

Panasonic Electronic Viewfinder for the GF1

December 8, 2009 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

While the Panasonic GF-1 Micro Four Thirds camera is a great option for SLR or point-and-shoot users, photographers who are used to an optical viewfinder – especially those shooters coming from an SLR – might find themselves frustrated by the camera’s LCD-only viewfinder. For these users, Panasonic has created a clip-on electronic viewfinder that serves as a credible replacement for a quality optical viewfinder, though with a few caveats.

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Panasonic DMC-GF1

December 1, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: General, Reviews 

Panasonic’s DMC-GF1 marks the company’s first release of a compact Micro Four Thirds camera, and a direct competitor to Olympus’ E-P1. Offering SLR quality and power in a package that’s close to point-and-shoot size, the GF1 (and Olympus’ E-P1) defines an entirely new class of camera. Bridging the market between high-end point-and-shoots, and SLRs, the camera will appeal to beginning shooters who want to expand their capabilities, and high-end shooters who want a second camera that’s easy to carry. Read my Panasonic GF1 Review.

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