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    In Brief: DxO One Gets Major Update with 1.2 App

    Since reviewing the DxO One earlier this Fall, I've been warming up to the device. My criticism of it still stand--it's a boutique product that's pretty expensive and has short battery life. But like other specialty cameras (eg. Ricoh Theta, Lytro), it's something I've begun to carry around in my backpack on a daily basis, and have turned to when I go to events and don't want to carry my DSLR all day. It's not a replacement for my full-frame camera, but a replacement for the iPhone camera (and a reason not to upgrade to the 6S).

    As promised, DxO is releasing software updates that expand on the functionality of the One; a new 1.2 app will enable loupe-based manual focus, expanded shutter range (30 sec to 1/20000), continuous shooting mode, new video modes, and a redesigned viewfinder. And for Apple Watch users, you can trigger the shutter from the watch to snap a photo or start video recording--no live view there, though. This flurry of updates is another reason the DxO and app-tethered cameras are interesting: the product can improve dramatically without buying new hardware. The camera is still $600, and I believe Amazon is running a promotion for the camera with a bundled 32GB microSD card. The 1.2 app will go live in early December.

    Photo Gallery: Adam Incognito with Astronaut Chris Hadfield

    Here are some photos I took of Adam and Commander Chris Hadfield prepping for their Comic-Con incognito walk, roaming the convention show floor, and randomly bumping into "The Martian" author Andy Weir! You can actually see the exact moment when Andy realizes that the two 2001: A Space Odyssey astronauts must be Adam and Chris!

    Show and Tell: Palette Modular Controller

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a new custom modular controller he's been testing for photo editing. Palette is a system of programmable buttons, dials, and sliders that tap into Adobe's suite of apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro. It's proven pretty useful for processing convention photos!

    Comic-Con 2015 Show Floor Walking Tour (Single Long Take)

    If you've never been to San Diego Comic-Con, it's difficult to get a sense of just how massive and packed the convention floor really is. Using a stabilized camera on a handheld gimbal, we give you our walking tour of comic-con, shot in a single 20-minute long take! We wade through the crowd to show you how the convention is laid out, step into a few of our favorite booths, and run into a few friends!

    Show and Tell: Testing Camera Slider Gear

    For today's Show and Tell, Joey and Norm give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the camera gear we use to film Tested videos. Specifically, camera sliders and motorized mounts that we use in the studio at on location. We've been testing the Redrock Micro One Man Crew motorized slider, which you may have seen used in previous Show and Tell videos!

    10 Awesome Wildlife Photos Taken With A Hidden Camera

    The natural world is replete with fantastic beauty, but many of the creatures in it don’t take too kindly to human beings harshing their mellow. More and more photographers are using hidden cameras, triggered by remote control or proximity sensors, to capture images of wildlife. Today, we’ll share ten amazing images of the wild kingdom taken without a human hand on the camera.

    How To Make a Handheld Camera Gimbal Mount

    There's no question that motorized gimbals do a fabulous job of hiding the bumps and bobbles when you're using an action camera. They're pretty much required equipment for multi-rotor flyers who want to capture decent footage from on high. Recent reviews of the DJI Inspire 1 Mount and the Feiyu-Tech G3 Ultra convinced me that I needed a gimbal for my ground-based video shoots as well.

    As I was browsing the selection of handheld gimbals, I ran across the Yuneec Steady Grip. Like the Inspire 1 Mount, the Steady Grip merely provides an alternate method to hold, power, and control a gimbal that would otherwise reside on a multi-rotor. The unique pistol-like form factor of the Steady Grip made me realize that I already had most of the parts that I needed to build my own handheld gimbal mount. So I abandoned the store-bought approach and went D-I-Y.

    The basic parts needed for this project are a complete gimbal assembly, a surplus pistol grip transmitter case and a servo driver.

    Gathering Parts

    My prime motivation for this project was the desire to easily swap one of my gimbals between its aerial mount and the handheld mount. Being able to utilize a gimbal I already owned presented a substantial cost savings. Adding a gimbal to the bill of materials for this project would likely make it more expensive than just buying a handheld gimbal system outright.

    I chose to use the GB200 2-axis gimbal from my Blade 350QX2 quad. The entire gimbal assembly can easily be removed from its mount on the quad by lifting a lock tab and sliding the base off of its rails. I had already upgraded the gimbal with the proper frame to hold a GoPro Hero 3 camera.

    To emulate the style of the Steady Grip, I plundered my stash of old RC systems. Among them are several pistol-grip transmitters that I haven't used in years. I located a well-used Futaba Magnum Sport that looked like it would do the trick. It didn't matter that the electronics of the radio were still in good shape. I really only needed the plastic shell. Finding a new use for one of my squirreled-away "treasures" has certainly done nothing to improve my hoarding tendencies!

    The GB200 gimbal used for this handheld mount is the same one that I use on my Blade 350QX2 multi-rotor. I can move the gimbal back and forth between the two mounts.

    I wanted to be able to control the pitch of the gimbal while it is in the hand mount. On the quad, this function is controlled by a channel of the radio. I used a servo driver (also called a "servo tester") to transfer this capability to the hand mount. I'll explain later just how that works.

    Different gimbals may require a wide variety of input voltages to operate. I wanted to be sure that I provided the correct voltage for the GB200, but I could not find any specs that defined what it should be. I measured the voltage output at the gimbal power pins on the Blade 350 at around 4.3 volts. With that value in hand, I felt comfortable buying a 5 volt voltage regulator for the hand mount.

    Everything You Need to Know about RAW Photography on Android

    Android camera hardware has gotten very good in the last few years, but the quality of the images you get are largely dependent on the processing technology that a device maker has chosen to implement. When most phones have very similar image sensors, this software can make a huge difference. Slowly but surely, the power to produce better images is being granted to the users with support for RAW image capture.

    If your phone can capture in RAW, you don't have to worry about substandard processing algorithms in the phone. You can take matters into your own hands. Here's how to make RAW photo capture work for you on Android.

    What is RAW and which phones support it?

    Most Android phones are only set up to spit out processed images that have been compressed into JPEGs. This is usually fine, but you're relying on the ability of the stock software to do the scene justice. A lot of data is thrown away in the process, and a RAW file gives you access to all of that. A JPEG from a high-resolution camera sensor might be 4-5MB on Android, but a RAW file could easily be upwards of 30MB.

    These files come with file extensions like .dng and .nef (Android uses .dng). They contain virtually all the data from the sensor, so they're not ready to be tweaked with a standard image editing program or posted on your favorite social network. You need to work with each file and make changes to the colors, white balance, exposure, and more. It can be a significant amount of work, but you're not doing this because it's easy.

    On Android, RAW image capture can be done in a few ways. Both LG and HTC have opted to add the ability for users to snap both JPEG and RAW with the stock camera app on the G4 and One M9. You don't need to do anything other than pop into the settings to make this work. When you press the shutter, the phone outputs a DNG to the internal storage (or microSD card in the case of the G4) along with the JPEG. Samsung is supposed to be adding RAW support to its stock camera app in Android 5.1 for the Galaxy S6, which should be out in a month or so.

    Adobe's Updates for Creative Cloud 2015

    Since moving to a subscription model for its suite of apps, Adobe Creative Cloud's annual updates feel less momentous than the old CS releases. Performance improvements keeps existing paying subscribers happy while new features attempt to convert new users, and the idea is that these updates happen more regularly since Adobe isn't technically bound by any annual release schedule. Still, Adobe makes one major annual update across its program suite for compatibility purposes and to announce new components to its ecosystem. This year, we see the launch of Adobe Stock, a marketplace of 40 million stock images that can be bought a la carte or as part of an add-on subscription offering. It of course integrates well with existing Creative Cloud desktop apps.

    From a photography perspective, the Photoshop and Lightroom updates are respectable. Lightroom already got the bulk of its changes in its version 6 release a few months ago, but now gets a Dehaze tool for removing (or adding) fog and haze from photos. Local adjustments (such as gradient and radial filters) get the black and white adjustment sliders, too. Photoshop gets more updates, including a "realistic blur" tool, graphics accelerated spot healing brushes, content-aware fill for panoramas, and a redesigned export menu. You can find the full Photoshop 2015 feature list here.

    We're also impressed with the new features brought into Premiere Pro, which were shown at this year's NAB. Joey's been experimenting with the new Morph Cut tool and Lumetri Color panel--which incorporates Lightroom-style sliders into the Premiere Pro workflow.

    For Android users, Adobe has also released its Shape, Color, Brush, and Photoshop Mix apps to the Google Play store, building on Adobe's impressive collection of mobile apps.

    Existing Creative Cloud subscribers should have these updates automatically installed by today.

    Testing: LG G4 and Android Smartphone Cameras

    This is a follow up to our review of the LG G4 smartphone we posted last week. I wanted to give you a better look at the photos I've been able to take with the G4, and also to elaborate more on the state of Android cameras in general. The last two Android phones we've tested--the Samsung GS6 and LG G4--have produced the best photos I've seen from any smartphone, iPhone 6 Plus included. But we're still seeing stories like this Motherboard column, proclaiming that Android cameras still suck. It's a hyperbolic headline, but the point of the post has merit: smartphone photo quality is a product of more than just the camera sensor; it's dependent on factors like optics, post-processing, JPEG compression, and even the screen you're using to view those pictures. Apple has done well optimizing its camera hardware and photo software, while Android is at the mercy OEMs' hardware choices and in-house camera apps.

    For example, HTC One M9's harsh photo processing hurts its camera performance, but shouldn't be considered representative of other recent flagships. Samsung and LG are role models when it comes to excellent integration of camera hardware and software--I am loving the photos I've been able to take with them. The GS6 and G4's photo processing algorithms seem to make the most of the raw image data that that passes through their respective optics and sensors. A good image processing algorithm is the result of choices and tradeoffs. Engineers have to prioritize factors like sharpening, tonal adjustments, compression, processing power, speed, and file size. On Android, something that helps is the ability to give that algorithm the best possible image in advance by letting photographers configure manual camera settings. It all starts in the camera app interface.

    The camera app on the LG G4 is one of the most robust I've used on a smartphone. Users have almost all the settings you would find on an entry-level DSLR: white balance, exposure adjustment and lock, ISO, shutter speed, and even manual focus. That lets you effectively shoot in full manual, aperture, or shutter priority (with a fixed aperture, of course). The manual focus "dial" in the camera app threw me off a bit, since autofocus has been sufficient in most smartphones. But I liked the ability to use it for focusing on densely layered subjects like a bouquet of flowers. With the shallow depth-of-field offered by the camera's f/1.8 iris, manual focus was also very useful for macro shots.

    Google Photos Launches with Unlimited Backup

    Google's relaunched Photos service and app are here, and it's a big deal for the company. As we've discussed on This is Only a Test, Photos is our favorite part of Google+, for its automated backup feature and ease of downloading and sharing pics. Now it's split off of Google+ completely, relaunched as a sort of Gmail for Photos. That could be a good thing for Android and iOS users who have hundreds if not thousands of photos saved on their phones. But as with typical Google services, you should also think about what Google gets out of it too.

    Here's how the new Photos service works. On the app front, it's the updated version of the Photos app for Android, which Google has been using to compete with default Gallery apps on OEM phones. The app is as useful as its ever been, allowing automated uploading of every photo and video saved on your phone, either over Wi-Fi or cellular. "Full resolution" photos are now saved, up to 16MP, though they're actually high-quality compressed versions of the JPEGs found on your phone. Each phone compresses their JPEGs differently, so we'll have to do more comparisons to see whether Photos backups are truly archival quality. Still, we're just talking about smartphone photos, so most people don't care about a little bit of compression. Videos are saved up to 1080p resolution, and Google is touting unlimited backup storage using the high-quality compression setting. (You can still archive actual original photos, with a storage quota.) Detected duplicate photos on your phone can also automatically be deleted, saving you some local storage. The app is also now available on iOS with the same features, making it at least a solid complement to Photostream.

    What's new is mostly on the web side, where Photos has been streamlined for better archiving and search of your photos. This is where the Gmail analogy is most appropriate. Instead of treating Photos as a Flickr or Instagram like showcase of the photos you want to share, the thought is that it's an archival service first, sharing service second. The thought is that you don't have to worry about curating anything--just let Photos handle all the sorting and backup of your photo dump, and allow it to tap into Google's image-processing algorithms to digest it. Then, just like searching through old email, you can dig through old photos by searching for people, locations, and even objects Google has recognized in your photos (eg. animals, food, plants, etc). Backend work has clearly been going on for a while, since the new Photos is already up and running, and surprisingly fast. It's like Lightroom for the smartphone photos you don't plan on tweaking to death.

    So what does Google get out of it? The company said that it has no plans to monetize it with ads, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have advertising--its core business--in mind. What Google gets is an incredible dataset of user photos to refine its image-recognition algorithms. It really sounds like a play a computer vision, like Stanford researcher Fei-Fei-Li's use of photosets to teach AI how to recognize an image of a cat. Except in that case, the dataset was only 15 million photos--Google has access to orders of magnitude more data, with both active and passive user feedback just through the use of the Photos service. Improving image search puts us one more step toward better video search, as well. And unlike Flickr or Instagram, search is something that Google actively monetizes.

    For more on Google Photos, Steve Levy of Medium has an insightful interview with the service's director, Bradley Horowitz.

    Creating Time-Lapse Videos from Crowd-Sourced Photos

    Introduced at this year's SIGGRAPH imaging conference, researchers from Google and the University of Washington have developed an approach to creating seamless time-lapses videos not from the images of a single camera, but from the publicly shared photos from the crowd. In their tests, they sorted through 86 million photos to group them into collections by location, and automated a process to warp and color-correct photos taken from the same viewpoint. Those photos were then ordered chronologically and stitched together into a time-lapse video. It's a similar idea to what Microsoft had done with its Photosynth program, but the output is a video showing the passage of time instead of a 3D map. Read more at the project's website. (h/t Engadget)

    In Brief: Fujifilm and Panasonic's New Compact Cameras

    Over the past decade, mirrorless cameras emerged as a photography platform to challenge the leading DLSR makers. And while they've been successful at forcing the Canons and Nikons to innovate, the category has gone through growing pains of its own, most notably increasingly bulky body sizes that limit their advantages over shrinking entry-level DSLRs. Prices have risen as well, as MILC makers figure out how to segment their models and adjust to shorter product cycles. But a new trend seems to be bringing mirrorless cameras back to their compact roots, with Panasonic and Fujifilm both announcing interchangeable lens cameras today that look like great entry models. The Panasonic G7 is a smaller version of the popular GH4, and is equipped with a micro four-thirds sensor with 4K video recording. Fujifilm's X-T10 is a more compact version of the awesome X-T1, with the same 16MP APS-C sensor. Both retail for $800 (X-T10 body only), and aim to be more than just companion cameras for DSLR shooters.

    10 Everyday Things That Look Amazing In Slow Motion

    The human eye is a powerful tool, sure, but it’s also pretty limited. We process visual information at a rapid rate, which leaves us unable to appreciate the subtle nuances of form and motion. Thankfully, technology can help us bridge that gap. Slow motion was invented in the early part of the 20th century by an Austrian priest and transformed our perception of time forever, changing both the extraordinary and the normal into pure beauty. Here are some of our favorite clips of ordinary stuff that’s way cool slowed down.

    Testing: Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II

    For the past two years, I've been using an Incase DSLR Pro pack not just as my camera bag, but as my everyday backpack for work and travel. I loved it because it had enough capacity for all my mobile office equipment (laptop, chargers, peripherals), DSLR, multiple lenses, and even space for a second compact or mirrorless camera. The way the bulk of the pack is divided allowed me to dedicate a lot of space for camera gear, but with plenty left to drop in other equipment between the velcro dividers. But over my time using it, I found it more efficient to carry fewer lenses (mostly just a good zoom) and the pockets meant for lenses ended up getting cluttered with cables and USB battery packs. And the pack eventually died on me--the stiff plastic lining that reinforced the back starting poking through the fabric, making it really uncomfortable to wear. Thus began a search for another camera backpack.

    I put a call out on Twitter to get recommendations, and after looking around at a bunch of options, landed on the LowePro Fastpack 250 AW. The Lowepro Fastpack 250 was highly recommended by The Wirecutter last year, and priced at a very reasonable $75 on Amazon. That's half the price of the Incase bag I was using, and I was curious about its design. I opted for the AW model which has better weatherproofing and more straps, but the standard 250 model is just as capable and cheaper. Here's what I like about it so far.

    Shooting and Editing a Mini-Documentary in One Day

    Last week I got the opportunity to fly out to B&H superstore, in New York, to take part in a three-day documentary workshop put on by filmmaker Philip Bloom. This It gave me a chance to freshen up on some skills, get together with other video professionals to talk shop, and wander the streets of New York to put together a mini-documentary.

    The structure of the class was pretty simple. The first day was all at B&H, talking, sharing, educating, as well as screening and dissecting numerous mini-docs, many filmed by Philip himself. The second day we were all out on our own, tasked with finding an interesting story to capture (we would also have to edit the entire piece that day). The third day was a regroup back in the classroom to review the 25 films with Philip Bloom, Peter Reynolds, and Bill Weir, host of CNN's The Wonder List.

    The subject I found was a guitar maker by the name of Rick Kelly, out of Carmine Street Guitars. We talked for about 30-45 minutes on various topics, including the guitars he makes out of the reclaimed lumber from New York City. While this in itself is a fascinating story, I was really interested in him as a personality—why he hand makes guitars, what's it like teaching apprentices, and how he runs his shop—which you'll see distilled in this four-minute piece. Let me know what you think!

    Living with Photography: Adobe Lightroom 6 Review

    The image management and editing options for enthusiast and professional photographers is fairly limited. There are a few really good open-source applications for processing RAW photos, but with the demise of Apples Aperture, Adobe's Lightroom is the most popular choice. It's become the go-to program for photographers to need process the hundreds or even thousands of photos from day and event shoots, and it's what I've been using for all of my photo work since I got my DSLR. I've said it before: post-processing is an essential half of the photography equation that completes the picture. And for new photographers, it shouldn't be a daunting process--smartphones and apps like Instragram have trained a generation of young shooters the basic language of post-processing.

    Photoshop may have better name recognition and be more powerful as an image-editor, but Lightroom is my preferred app because it puts the editing tools in the context of a photography workflow. It streamlines the digital photo development process to quickly turn the photos you take into the images you want to keep or publish. And with the latest release of Lightroom, Adobe is putting more of those tools you'd typically have to run in Photoshop and incorporating them into the Lightroom workflow.

    The last major release of Lightroom was version 5 back in 2013. That release brought two features that have been essential to the way I use the program: Smart Previews and radial gradients. I've written about how the former allowed me to use Lightroom across multiple computers, and the latter for compensating for fill lighting on location shoots without the use of a flash. Last year's Lightroom update was less impressive, emphasizing camera compatibility, the launch of mobile apps, and the Lightroom website. It honestly felt more of a push for the Creative Cloud subscription services than traditional "box" features.

    This latest release doesn't feel as significant as 2013, and is a mix of new photo editing tools and mobile/service enhancements. The biggest difference for my workflow so far are the performance boosts in editing and exporting--it's genuinely speedy. I've been running Lightroom 6 (or CC 2015, if you're a Creative Cloud subscriber) for the past week on both my MacBook Air and desktop PC--here's what I think of its new features.

    Tested In-Depth: Panasonic Lumix LX100

    This week, we test Panasonic's Lumix LX100, a fixed-lens camera that equipped with a micro four-thirds image sensor. It's smaller than other mirrorless cameras, but doesn't exactly fit in the compact camera category like the Sony RX100 or Canon G7X. Still, the photos we were able to take with this camera were pretty great.