Edited by Georg...
Sep 18, 2012
Published: Aug 01, 2012
Every year the Technical Image Press Association (TIPA), a worldwide association of photo and imaging magazine editors, meets to pick the Best of Class in a wide range of photo categories. As the sole US member of the association, Shutterbug joins editors from Europe, Asia, and Africa in the nominating, judging, and selection process. One of the most exciting aspects of photography today is the constant advancement of technology and design, and this year’s Top Products reflect that spirit and those accomplishments, including new categories of Video D-SLR and Mobile App. Editor George Schaub joins all fellow TIPA members in congratulating those selected to receive the prestigious TIPA award. (To learn more about TIPA, please visit the website at: www.tipa.com.)
There’s no question that do-it-yourself photo books have captured the imagination of photographers, from pros to those who simply want to create a remembrance of a journey or to gather family photos. While just about every imaging software and online picture service, from iPhoto to Shutterfly, offers quick and easy bookmaking, there are some companies dedicated to serving the higher-end market, generally pros but also including every photographer who wants a stylish, custom-designed book. Software to help design the book is a key ingredient, as are options for book materials and binding. And in the end, the quality of the images reproduced, and the facility of ordering and making images ready, is what makes the bookmaking process a creative, fun project that will result in a book that will be cherished for many years.
One of the most common complaints about digital imaging is the lack of consistency when going from one device to another—most commonly screen to print. Dark prints are the typical complaint, but color shifts are also a contributor to choice language and lack of hair. Yes, we tweak the image until the sky is that perfect hue of blue, or the skin tones have just the right amount of warmth and vibrancy. When it’s all done, the image is posted online or printed and it looks nothing like what we expected. The image is too dark, skin tones are too red, any number of problems. Where did it go wrong?
In almost all cases, the culprit is an uncalibrated display. Back when CRT displays were the common screen type, color could be wildly different and it was usually pretty easy to detect when the display was at fault. With modern LCD displays that isn’t necessarily the case—color is often close to correct in hue, but luminance, or brightness, is where the problem usually lies.
The question is—does anybody really know what a given image would look like if they shot it on Kodachrome 25, or Fuji Acros, or some obscure color negative film that even in film’s heyday was little used or appreciated? Perhaps the more pertinent question is—how many people have made photographs using film? But film references are what a number of so-called film emulation software programs use for describing presets that can be applied to a digital image. Half academic and half nostalgic, the programs use film brand names to describe saturation, contrast, color nuance, and grain structure variations that are then applied to an image. Perhaps using film names is better than poetic fantasy terms, like “misty blue dawn,” but then again entirely subjective descriptors, rather than supposedly clinical ones used in these software programs, might be just as handy for today’s photography crowd. In any case, I recently tested one such program, DxO’s FilmPack 3.1, to see if it offered up creative variations that could be used as is or as foundation images when interpreting subjects and scenes.
Attempting to make the HDR process more user-friendly, the newly updated HDR Expose and Photoshop-dedicated plug-in 32 Float, now both in Version 2, largely share the same features and enhancements. As I see it, the improvements center mainly on workflow—reason enough to upgrade, in my opinion, and reason enough to consider these as serious tools for HDR work. Both are available from Unified Color Technologies.
CES is not a big imaging software show as evidenced by the short list of new products, though we did find a new camera profiling tool, updated monitor calibration tools, an old favorite Raw converter brought back to life under a new name, and software for editing on the fly and sharing photos.
ArcSoft introduced a Mac version of Perfect365. This software uses advanced facial recognition technology for one-click portrait touch-ups, letting you effortlessly adjust up to 21 individual facial features. Perfect365 allows you to add creative effects such as eye shadows, blushes, lipsticks, colored contact lenses, under-eye circle removal, and blemish removal. The software is available as a free download (www.perfect365.com) or in a premium edition ($39).
The most recent speed gains have been in SD format cards, making us wonder about the larger CF card. But that concern has been to an extent dispelled by some of the recent developments in this very fast-changing field. One of the newest developments unveiled at the show was a card that sits between those two sizes, the XQD card. The first camera to accept the new memory card is the Nikon D4, although the D4 also features a CF slot.
XQD has a smaller form factor than CF, so they’re not interchangeable. Sony, the company that introduced the world’s first XQD card, notes that you can record up to 100 Raw image frames from continuous shooting mode using the card and obtain 125MB/sec read/write speed when using a PCIe port; new XQD card readers are available as well. The casing around the card is “robust,” with contact pins inside the casing itself, which Nikon says helps eliminate problems in the field.
Tiffen’s Dfx 3.0 offers photographers software that can make their images stand out from the crowd. The bundle is a digital emulation of 2000 of the company’s glass filters that for convenience uses the same names of the company’s Soft/FX or Pro-Mist filters, so those who’ve shot with their filters in the past know exactly what to expect when applying their digital equivalents. For those who haven’t, rest assured that the company who made their name in filters knows their stuff. As a bonus, the software also includes effects created by lenses, lab processes, film grain, color correction, plus natural light effects.
I must confess that previous versions of Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite, while interesting, did not make the final cut of power tools in my personal digital toolbox. All that’s changed in 3.0. It takes all of the good stuff from the previous versions, blends in new options, and wraps it around an interface that, while still containing a few less-than-elegant elements, retains its individuality and provides for smooth workflow.
Judging by the popularity of facial retouching software, there seem to be a lot of people out there who want to make their subjects look like they just arrived off a private jet from Monte Carlo. And they want to do it fast, and not get bogged down with little technicalities like learning how to use Photoshop. So, is it possible to just press a button and instantly have a complexion that looks like J.Lo after an hour in the makeup chair? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, so let’s take a look.
First, let’s take a look at what we have. Perfect Portrait is one of six products that combined give you onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6. You can buy the whole bundle or you can buy just the individual products that you like. And while I’m not going to address the other products here, let me just add kudos to onOne for using the same interface for each product, something you’d think would be automatic with software suites but sadly is not.
DxO Optics Pro Version 7 is a Raw converter for Mac and Microsoft Windows with some nifty tricks up its sleeve. It offers its own brand of nondestructive image editing, with tonal, exposure, geometric, and optical corrections that make it stand apart from the crowd. As was true of Version 6.6, Optics Pro 7 supports the company’s new FilmPack 3 film emulator plug-in (see sidebar below). We will have a more complete review of the film emulator in a future issue.
Optics Pro Version 7 is a dramatic departure from earlier releases. The Select pane is gone, so you no longer have to deal with tedious Projects (unless you want to). Now you go straight to work after opening a folder. Double-click on an image and that takes you right to the nondestructive editing phase, in Customize. Beyond this point the Mac and Windows versions part ways in one key respect: the Windows version runs faster than the Mac version, which continues to be laborious.
Wacom recently introduced their new line of Bamboo tablets, and we thought we’d revisit the use of stylus and tablet tools to give it a try. For our test we worked with the Bamboo Capture, described by the company as most apt for enthusiast digital photographers, although there are three intros in this new line.
Photographers, especially those dealing with large numbers of images, are always looking for ways to speed up the workflow and spend less time in front of a computer and more time behind a camera. Applications like Lightroom have improved the process tremendously, making cataloging and image adjustments easier and faster than before. If you have adjustments that you apply frequently, you can use presets to make it a single-click process, applying a number of adjustments in one operation.
Kevin Kubota has been providing presets and tools for both Photoshop and Lightroom users for quite a while now, and one of his products is a combination of a package of presets for Lightroom and a mini keyboard from RPG Keys that looks much like a numeric keypad on your keyboard. Available as a bundle for $349, or as a rental for $19.95 per month after a $49 setup fee, you get over 100 presets that do everything from black-and-white conversions to skin tone enhancements (and a number of interesting edge effects).
Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 ($199, or $99 for an upgrade from previous versions) is the latest manifestation of image-altering software that works atop the architecture of Photoshop and Lightroom, that is, a plug-in accessible through the Filters menu in Photoshop and for Lightroom as an external editor.
To launch Snap Art from an image in Lightroom you first select the image (or multiple images for batch processing), and select Photo>Edit In>Snap Art 3. You can also right click on the image and select Edit In>Snap Art 3. When Lightroom asks you how to edit the photo, the company recommends you choose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.” This will tell Lightroom to make a copy of the image for Snap Art. You can also check and uncheck the Stack command, depending on how you want to see the image in the Library—choose Stack and you can easily unstack the image later, or just have it sit side by side in the normal Library (unstacked) view.
With each successive release of ACDSee Pro, the photo management suite adds ever-more-powerful features. In this review I hope to help you decide whether or not its features match up with your own workflow, meet your needs, or even improve on existing features to enhance your photographic creations.
In my own workflow, the new version, ACDSee Pro 5, smoothed over a few rough edges in the editing process and made my management chores a bit less time-consuming. The release is not so groundbreaking that it might make you consider abandoning Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture altogether, but there are some pro-level additions that are definitely worth considering. The program never crashed and operated quickly for just about any task on a standard desktop PC. Note I said PC—there is no Mac version available or considered at this point.
I usually do not write reports on new computers, but the new 2011 Apple Mac mini (www.apple.com) is an exception. It is not because it has the fastest CPU, as that is not a major advantage for working with digital photographs. In fact, doing digital photographic editing does not involve much computation (“compute” is to calculate or reckon a figure or amount) and no calculation is needed to edit an image with Photoshop. When an image editor opens a digital photographic file, the entire image, every pixel, is put into RAM memory.