Sunday, November 26, 2017

Legitimate Blogs - A Dying Breed?


The first ever photo posted on this blog in 2008

This blog was started as a convenience to me so I could stop hunting through my sent items folder and forwarding friends the same emails over and over again. I never intended for it to become a second job or something that would attract millions of readers. It just happened.

Along the way when I found myself working from 10:00 PM - 4:00 AM+ Sunday through Thursday's to cover the topics my readers asked to write about, I realized that there should be something in it for me. As a result, ronmart.blogspot.com - the email archive - became ronmartblog.com - the online review business. My goals shifted from simply writing about whatever came to mind to focusing on articles that would likely yield a return on my time investment.

During this transition I still kept to one principle - this blog would be different than most review sites in that it couldn't be bought and paid for. As a result, I resisted accepting advertising and instead rewarded products that I loved with free banner space. I resisted sponsored articles by giving the constant requests a price I knew they'd reject to make them go away for good. I resisted fake guest bloggers who wanted to write about unrelated topics just to boost their own sites, despite the fact that their presence could help push me higher in Google page rankings.

Simply put - I dismissed the games that many other sites played, and focused on only two mechanisms for income as a way to compensate my family for the grumpy guy that I'd become from lack of sleep. I accepted donations and I leveraged referrals as a mechanism to get compensated when my readers purchased products that I recommended. I thought this was fair, and despite the fact that nearly EVERY site on the web also does this - I disclosed that I was doing this.

When the holiday seasons sales would come around, I started by sharing deals because I wanted my friends to know about the deals that I honestly thought were worth sharing. However, I got flooded with requests to post deal offers and eventually became so disgusted with it that I moved to a mostly opt-in model with my deals newsletter. I got sick of the blog being a deals billboard, so I only used the blog occasionally for special deals that I felt good about posting - for my friends - and left the rest (which still about 1% of the deals I get daily in email) to my newsletter.

By not spamming you with deals, by not taking sponsored articles, and by not taking paid advertising - I lost a ton of potential earnings (to the tune of $50k+ per month from some single advertisers alone) and I lost a lot of web traffic and subsequently Google page ranking.

However, I think I won because I stuck to my principles and remained a legitimate blog - not a bought and paid for snake oil salesman - despite being sometimes accused of being just that.

For this holiday season I once again find myself with a dilemma - sacrifice thousands in earnings to keep my blog clean of more holiday sales crap, or join the crowd to avoid being assimilated.

Ara-131-Edit
Ara - my youngest of 4

My regular readers have probably noticed that I don't write like I used to anymore as I decided to sleep again after the birth of my daughter, Ara, in October 2015. I've returned to writing only about stuff for fun and mostly given up my second business - despite being a father of 4 and single breadwinner who certainly could use the extra income.


Taylor SHS Graduation 2017-511-Edit
Me with Taylor - My oldest of 4

Conclusion

This was an unplanned article that was written out of disgust of all of the holiday sales spam that I get bombarded with. While I hope people have noticed that I've been refraining from those types of activities this year, odds are you haven't given it a seconds thought. As a result, I'm pointing it out so you can take a moment to think about which blogs and influencers you can trust this holiday season and which ones are simply out to make a buck.

I wish all my remaining faithful readers a safe and happy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Ron Martinsen

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Guest Blog: PhotoPlus New York - 2017 Trip Report

by Natalia Stone - Travel and Landscape Photographer
http://nataliastone.com & http://instagram.com/natalia_stone

Nikon's D850

Out of the gate, the Nikon D850 comes with a ton of firepower. D850 boasts a 45.7MP Sensor,
7fps burst shooting - great for action photography, the newest EXPEED 5 high performance image processor which should handle the increased megapixels while still retaining the fast write speed.

If you are into time lapses, the D850 has a built-in 4K time lapse creation. If you love shooting
video, it has 4K/30p or 1080/120p slow-motion capabilities while still retaining high performance.

All in all a very impressive beast of a DSLR camera.

Click here to see Ron's Review of the Nikon D850.

Sony’s A7RIII

Sony ‘s A7 series has been on top of the mirror less camera game and the new Sony A7Riii doesn't disappoint. As an owner of a now older model Sony A7Rii, I couldn’t wait to play around with the next iteration and boy was it awesome. Sony has made a multitude of improvements - much better focusing, 10 fps continuous shooting not to mention the 15 EV dynamic range that rivals that of Nikon’s D850. A7Riii also comes with a Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode which produces very high detail raw files. Not going to lie, I walked away thinking Ill be upgrading soon.

Click here to learn more at B&H.

Lenses, Lenses, Lenses

So many new releases at the show this year, some of the highlights:

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

This all new manual focus lens would be a great addition for a landscape photographer. Amazing
at capturing every crispy detail with edge to edge quality, perfect for those massive prints and the
‘wow’ effect. Any astrophotographer would very excited about a maximum aperture of 1.4 when
every stop of light makes a huge difference in producing the best images when shooting at night.

Click here to learn more at B&H.

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

Sigma announced the new Ultra-fast 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens – super sharp with minimal
distortion - perfect for the high megapixels DSLRs like Nikon D850 I checked out earlier. If you
are a portrait photographer, you definitely want to check this one out!

Click here for Ron's Review.

Rokinon announces AF 35mm f/1.4 FE

I’ve using Rokinon manual lenses for night photography for a long time and absolutely love them
so it’s exciting for the company to be releasing more autofocus ones like the new AF 35mm f/1.4 FE .

This lens is perfect for full frame mirror less cameras, comes in a Sony E-mount for anyone
sporting an A7 series body from Sony and would be great for either portrait, landscape or astrophotography!

Click here to learn more at B&H

Epson SureColor P8000 – “Print your legacy”

Speaking of printing your work – check out this beast of a printer from Epson.
SureColor P8000 doesn't just look impressive, once you see the prints, they take your breath
away. Not for those on a shoe string budget, but worth the money for a serious professional.

Click here to learn more at B&H.

Conclusion by Ron Martinsen

I'd like to thank Natalia for covering for me in New York this year. While I was too busy to make it, I was fortunate enough to have already reviewed a couple big products that headlined the show. I've also got the Sony A7RIII in the pipeline for review, so it looks like I'll be featuring the best of the show here after all!

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these archives from previous shows:

Enjoy these and more on the Reviews tab as well as Ron's Recommendations.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Friday, November 10, 2017

Perfectly Clear v3.5 Tutorial and $40 Discount

Perfectly Clear Version 3 - Click to learn more

If you read my blog over the last year or two, you'd know that I was a fan of Perfectly Clear by Athentech because it really was a one-click photo editing tool. With 3.0 the user interface got much better and with version 3.5 it hits a home run!

Raw Editor

Built-in RAW Editor
Built-in RAW Editor means you don't need any other software to edit your photos

The stand-alone features a raw editor that gets the job done, but I'll admit that it's not as good as other products out there. However, if you want a one product photo editing workflow, it gets the job done.

Crop tool works well and offers several different overlays

Crop tool works well and offers several different overlays

In the stand-alone version you can easily crop with some great overlay choices including the rule of thirds and the golden ratio.

New Live Presets and Looks Panels

One of the nicest improvements is that you can see what your presets and looks will do before you click them as shown here:

image

Even better, you can apply a look on top of your preset to get two layers of editing in just two quick clicks. What's more, you can dial down the look directly from the window using the opacity slider.

Version 3.5 Phot Editing Tutorial

Here's a quick video where I show how quickly I can edit 8 photos that come straight out of the camera with no prior edits ...

NOTE: YouTube degrades the quality of the original 4k recording so there are compression artifacts that look bad in dark areas - this does not happen in the real product:


Before & After Images

Here's some before and after edits I did using version 3.0 and in the video above you can watch the video of changes made using the v3.5 update (free to v3.0 owners):

Perfectly Clear Version 3 - Before and After - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Perfectly Clear Version 3 - Before and After - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Perfectly Clear Version 3 - Before and After - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Perfectly Clear Version 3 - Before and After - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Discount Offer

Existing v3.0 owners get a free upgrade using AppsManager!

LIMITED TIME special offer to save $40 is available when you CLICK HERE or use the coupon code RONMART40

Get my regular 10% discount on version 3.5 when you CLICK HERE.

Please note that coupon codes can change so visit my discount coupon code page or contact me if you have any problems with my code.

Conclusion

This product has come such a long way and gets better and better with each version. I was expecting a small update with v3.5, but instead I was extremely impressed with all of the enhancements. For users of Photoshop and Lightroom, you can still integrate it in as the first and/or last step of your photo editing workflow. For those who want a single solution, it is fantastic as a stand-alone solution that allows for blazing fast one click edits of your images.

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Thursday, November 9, 2017

First Look: on1 Photo RAW 2018 - The Best HDR & Pano Editor Yet?

on1 Photo RAW 2018

Try on1 Photo RAW 2018

I'm pretty busy these days so I don't have time for betas. As a result, I've been rocking along with on1 Photo RAW 2017 not paying much attention to what's coming next. Tonight in advance of the launch I finally kicked the tires and got both surprised and shocked by some of the changes so I thought I'd fill you in on some  of the ones that I think are worth your time to check out...

HDR Editor

I was super impressed with how fast and well this feature worked. Honestly, I didn't expect much as I've really been loving Aurora 2018 HDR as I prepare for my upcoming review.  However, I really have loved the fine grain control it offers with RAW images and how it it saves the merged file in a special format so that I can make non-destructive re-edits at anytime. This means that the HDR merge is never really final, and I can always go dial back in the dark and bright areas that might get messed up while editing. Check it out...

Sadly, this video doesn't do it justice because it kinda ends up with an image that doesn't look so hot. However, the image shown at the top of the article features one that I processed using HDR only (no presets) for very fast and realistic results.

Pano Feature

Some people love their panos, but I hate them. However, I thought this demo which shows how it not only does a good job creating panos, but it also adds metadata to make Facebook treat it as a spinnable pano too:

Maybe this is old news to you pano experts out there, but if you are like me and wondered how you could do this - this is it! Pretty sweet!

Mask Blur Chisel

I never quite got the hang of the chisel tool in the past, but this video here gave me one of those chimpanzee moments (you know, ooh, ooh) and I immediately wanted to go try it out.


More Cool Videos

Want to see what else is new? Start with the video above, then check out these videos...

Conclusion

I was unhappy with on1 products for a few years, so I stopped covering them on my blog. I was frustrated with them crashing, features I loved being removed, and something that remained being uninteresting to me.

With the 2017 version I got interested again, but I found myself mostly using it for Resize and not much else. However, I've spent some time this evening playing with the new features and rediscovering this product again, and I like what I see.

At a minimum I'd encourage existing on1 fans to check it out as I think it's a worthy upgrade.

For those who have been burned in the past, I'd suggest giving it another go as the setup seems to do a good job of installing things in cleanly without any headaches. When trying out the product, I hit one snag when I selected  corrupt iPhone 7 file on my NAS, but other than that it was rock solid. It feels like some of the quality issues that plagued on1 in the past have been sorted, and more compelling features have been brought back to make it something worth considering again.

Contact me to let me know your thoughts!

Try it Today & Get  Discount

CLICK HERE to learn more and take it for a spin. If you like it, then try out the MART17 coupon code to get a 20% discount off your order. Contact me if you have any troubles with the special offer.

Other articles you may enjoy

Check out the Reviews tab as well as Ron's Recommendations.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Sunday, November 5, 2017

First Look - Meural Digital Canvas Photo Frame 2.0

Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Bottom Side
Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Bottom

I've owned the first version of the Meural Digital Canvas photo frame for over a year and I've been loving every minute of it. There's not a day that goes by that I don't spend a few minutes enjoying watching some of my favorite photos displayed on it as I stare at it from my dinner table. My friends, family, and yes - even my teenage kids - all have gushed over how cool our frame is, so when the folks at Meural told me that I could review the latest and greatest version, I was all over it!

This is my first impressions, but I'll be doing a more comprehensive review very soon. For this one I thought I'd start with the packaging, as there's been a big upgrade there that makes this product feel more polished and professional versus something that comes from a startup.

Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Top Side
Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Top Side

Just check out the cool packaging which illustrates one of the great features about this product - you can not only show your own photos - but a galleries of other flavors of fine art.

When I got my first frame, I wasn't so sure about why I would ever want to show other people's art, but after exploring the available content I found myself adding a couple dozen photos. In fact, my oldest son loved some of those photos so much that he went on a trip to Norway to try to locate some of the places featured on my frame and was thrilled to see them in real life!

A Quick Peek Inside 

Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Inside
Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Inside with quick start manual

I hate unboxing videos, so I thought I'd cut to the chase and just show you some quick pics.

I don't usually do this, but I know I was worried about my frame getting damaged in shipment. I thought this could be a useful article to show just how well it is packed for those who had doubts about its safety when ordering online.

Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Frame Packaging
Meural Canvas 2.0 Box - Frame Packaging

As you can see the frame is very well protected and arrived in perfect condition to my house near Seattle even though it had been shipped from New York. I was pleased to see the protective cover and despite the cool temperatures it arrived with no issues. To be fair, I did let it acclimate to my house for 8 hours before opening just to make sure there was no condensation issues.

Meural Canvas 2.0 Box -  Hanging Hardware & Cleat
Meural Canvas 2.0 Box -  Hanging Hardware & Cleat

The mounting hardware was secured with tape (removed here) but I have what I need to hang my frame securely in the sheetrock. I didn't hang my first frame because it just rested nicely in my TV alcove and I used a couple big crystal trophies to hold it secure in place (not recommended).

Meural Canvas 2.0 Box -  Rear View
Meural Canvas 2.0 Box -  Rear View

On the back side frame, the cleat mounts are much more polished (literally) and there's better frame ventilation (although my v1 never had and heat issues). There's also a big purple port to accept the power with space to coil up extra slack from the power cable if you don't need to extend it.

Software

Web Frame Management Site
Web Frame Management Site
Partial List of Settings Shown

If you own an existing Meural frame, then you can see the new software. However, if you don't then it's evolved a lot since my original review. It's a lot more robust and user friend with support to features available both on the website AND phone.

I'll cover this more in my review, but I wanted a quick mention to let people know that the software that was the Achilles heal of the original models, is now working well and all the bugs are worked out.

First Thoughts

Everything just worked out of the box and felt very much like my original frame which is a good thing, since I liked it quite a bit.

The quality of the black frame is very different. It has more of a bevel to it, but it seems more manufactured than the wood of the first version. I can't say that is a good or a bad thing - it's just different.

Overall, this frame looks more commercial whereas the first version felt more hand made. However, from a distance they both look very similar and quite good.

The power cord cable is MUCH improved and significantly longer than the one I got with my review unit for the first version. There's also multiple adapters for different regions, but the one right out of the box worked fine in the US.

Usability wise, it felt like the much improved iOS app was more responsive with this frame than the first version, but otherwise the only noticeable improvements were a better onboarding experience than when I last did this > 14 months ago.

So far it's been working great and not really a huge difference than my first one, but that's a good thing because the firmware and software of my first one have been updated to make it act the same as this one.

My only gripe has been that he gesture feedback often leaves me giving the frame a middle finger gesture, as it just doesn't work very reliably. However, the phone allows you to do everything you need so I just use it instead as I've done with the first version of the frame.

The biggest improvement seems to be support for auto rotation, but that's not something I find very practical as I plan on putting it up one way and leaving it like that forever. In fact, I'm considering leaving this one in portrait orientation while I leave my old one in landscape.

Conclusion

Simply put, this is pretty much everything I liked about the first one but with a lot more spit and polish. It feels more like a mass distributed product rather than a one off, but still looks way better than any other digital frames I've ever used.

Definitely put this on your short list for holiday gifting as the image quality is fantastic and the ease of use via the phone app and web site make it very serviceable remotely after you get it set up initially. For my v1 the only glitch was the need to occasionally unplug and re-plug it to reboot it to get it back on my network again, but I haven't had this one long enough to see if that issue still exists.

More coming in the full review soon.

Where to Buy?

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy today.

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:

Enjoy these and more on the Reviews tab as well as Ron's Recommendations.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity