Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Perfectly Clear 3.0 Preview & Special Offer

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. While I loved it for what it was, it did have some weakness which included:

  • a crude UI (especially advanced settings)
  • hard to discover features like Perfect Exposure, Perfect Eyes, etc...
  • face enchantments that would fail or miss people
  • the inability to save your own favorite settings

I'm happy to report that these issues have been addressed and featured in a much improved new user-interface:

Perfectly Clear Version 3 New UI - Click to enlarge

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

Video Demo

Here's a video where I show off the new features editing the images you see in this article...

Special Offers

Get a discount on version 3.0 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

While I tested with a pre-release version that still needed a few tweaks, I didn't have any crashes or performance problems so I'm pretty happy. All of the things I didn't like about its predecessor have been addressed and my wish list has been answered.

If you like one-click photo editing but want to dial in your own secret sauce, then this is the software you need to get!

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

The New Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II on a Rainy Northwest Hike


f/9 @ 45mm for 0.6 sec at ISO 100
Shot with the new Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens

While I own the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II, I've never had the heart to get rid of my oldest and one of my most beloved lenses - the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS. I always loved the extra focal length and image stabilization, so despite having a sharper 2.8 lens, when travelling I've always chosen the 24-105 over the 24-70.

Last year my friend Rick Sammon came to Seattle and I got my first glimpse of images taken with this new lens and I got excited because it appeared to be razor sharp. My cherished lens was definitely my softest lens, so I was way over due for a replacement.

Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II at B&H
Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II

Aside for a slightly different hood and lens cap, it's hard to tell the old lens from the new one apart at first glance. However, you only need to shoot a few handheld shots before you realize that Canon has another winner on its hands. The sharpness is like all of the new Canon L lenses - incredibly sharp - and the image stabilization performed as good as the best I've tested by any manufacturer.

To challenge myself, I decided to take this lens out for a walk on a rainy day in the Northwest without a tripod. I really wanted to see how it would work under tough conditions when mounted to my 1DX Mark II, and Mother Nature decided to toss in plenty of rain to allow me to experience the weather sealing too!

I'm pleased to report, it did great as I never had any leaks and the hood did a great job of keeping the rain off the front lens element.

Real World Shots

All outdoor images featured in this article are 100% unedited and taken from the in-camera JPEG's. Cloudy or Shade white balance was used with the Landscape creative style for most of the shots.

All images are copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may view the images while reading the article, but you may not print, edit, save, display or distribute these images in any way without an ink on paper signed written contract.


f/11 @ 27mm for 0.5 sec at ISO 160
While I did support part of the camera on solid surfaces for shots under 1/10 sec, I still had to hand hold it under conditions that would normally result in a blurry image.

While I naturally would have got better shots with a tripod, I was pleased that I could do long exposure shots of streams and still pull off a reasonably sharp shot. The IS did great and allowed me to pull off impressive hand held shots that were sharper than my tripod shots with my old 24-105.

Click the images to examine full-size originals to see what I mean!


f/4 @ 70mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 500

Auto Focus (AF) accuracy was great and the color and contrast
with this lens/body combo was excellent!


f/4 @ 95mm for 1/50 sec at ISO 640
You have to click and view screen to really appreciate the detail and sharpness of this shot, but at the time I was shooting I was pleased with the minimum focus distance (MFD) as I was closer than what B&H reports for the MFD


f/11 @ 46mm for 1/50 sec at ISO 3200

f/11 handheld in these conditions? That's something I'd normally never do without a tripod, but this lens begged me to say "why not, let's see"


f/6.3 @ 43mm for 1/30 sec at ISO 2500

I was pleased with the sharpness of the ferns while still getting a good look ahead down the trail and the brightness of this lens allowed my 1/30 sec handheld exposure to only need ISO 2500 on this dark dreary day. My previous 24-105 would have definitely need ISO 4000 or greater.


f/5.6 @ 42mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 2500

I found the corner sharpness even at f/5.6 to be consistently good


f/9 @ 56mm for 0.8 sec at ISO 200
By the end of my hike I was using flimsy objects for added support and holding my breath to see if I could pull off a sharp semi-hand held shot, and despite a few failures due to human error I always got at least one sharp one like this


f/5 @ 105mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 20,000
As I was putting my lens away (hence the odd camera settings and framing), I spotted this squirrel and did a quick point and shoot before he ran off. It's fast AF helped me lock on to the eye and get a shot before I was really ready. Since I was in One-Shot mode, I couldn't spray and pray, so I credit this lens for helping me capture this little guy


f/4 @ 24mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 640
24 isn't wide, but it's still wide enough to provide context like in this shot


f/4 @ 105mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 500

While you'll never enjoy the bokeh of a f/2.8, getting close at 105mm and f/4 does help isolate by gives the viewer a sharp and clear subject


f/4 @ 50mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 1000

At the nifty 50 range this lens is outstanding with no obvious real world distortion and crazy sharp - even wide open at f/4

Click here to check out the full gallery of unedited images

Conclusion

No tripods were used in this article and that's the real value this lens offers - especially for travel photographers like me. The fact that I can take this one lens out and get wide shots or long shots and push my shutter speeds down to ridiculous levels and still pull off a shot is a big deal. It keeps me out of the high ISO's for shots of static subjects and it does it with crisp sharpness edge to edge on every shot.

I love this lens and definitely will be upgrading my copy for my next trip to Asia.I highly recommend it for anyone who wants the versatility of this highly useful 24-105mm focal range in a lens that offers incredible sharpness and image stabilization for an incredible value for the quality and performance it offers.

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:

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, March 10, 2017

Plotagraph Pro Mini-Review & Discount - Animate your still photographs!

Unedited Fujifilm X-E2 Waterfall animated using Plotograph Pro
Unedited image from a Fujifilm X-E2 converted to a GIF after Plotograph Pro edits on waterfall

If you read my Flixel review, you learned how to take a video and convert it into a moving image called a cinemagraph. It's cool, but it assumes you shot video, so what if you had a still photo that was ripe for animation like the waterfall shot above? This is where Plotagraph Pro enters the picture.

How it works

Plotagraph Pro allows you to create a mask of what you would like to animate and set the speed and technique used to make it come to life. While masking is never fun, I found the tools to be easy enough to use and generally speaking you don't have to be incredibly precise when the viewing area is just on computer monitors (even for my 32" 4k display).

Click to see the UI with markup in the water

Using one of your still images, you can use the web or desktop app (which seems to leverage the web app) to mark which portions of your UI you wish to animate. Click on the image above to see what the markup looks like.

From there you can accept the defaults, choose a preset or dial in your own animation values before you click play (or export) to let the magic happen. Here's what that UI looks like:

Animation Properties

Videos

While you can save your animations in a variety of formats, the highest quality is in video so I've created some that you should VIEW AT FULL SCREEN to see how cool these things can be.

Japanese Stream

This animation only took about 5 minutes to create as the masking was pretty easy. The biggest mistake I made the first go around was getting too close to the rocks or the edge of the water. Cleaning up my mistakes after the first animation was easy and I was pleased with the results.

Waterfall

Feeling confident, I tried to do the waterfall using the automated masking tool and this one was completed in less than a minute. I loved the results, so I moved on to something a little harder.

Japanese Lake

This image took a little more time to mask, but only 5 minutes. However, I admit this one could still use some more work. With that said, after a little trial and error I had this one looking like you see here in about 15 minutes - not bad!

Conclusion

In minutes I was able to take two unedited photos (waterfall and lake) and bring them to life - that's pretty cool especially for sharing with your friends. What's more, if you keep the videos small enough then they'll auto play on Instagram or Facebook so you can have high quality video without requiring your viewers to hit play.

While I did this product a disservice by only showing you examples that animate water, I think you can see how easily it can bring your images to life. While I'm not a fan of its subscription model for pricing, I have arranged a discount. You can limit your cost by only signing up for a month, and you can even CLICK HERE for a FREE DEMO if you just want to check it out!

It should also be noted that you can download your videos, images, etc... so YOU CAN KEEP YOUR CONTENT if you cancel your subscription. Yes, you'll lose access to the software to edit your files, but there's no risk to trying it out. Go play with it for a few months on some of your favorite images and see what you think - I think you'll enjoy it! I thought it was a blast to use so I highly recommend it!

Where to Buy? [DISCOUNT OFFER]

Click here learn more using my 10% discount coupon code

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy today, and use coupon code RONMART to save 10%!

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

REVIEW: Breakthrough Photography Universal Arca Plate

Breakthrough Photography Universal Arca-Type Quick Release Plate at B&H
Breakthrough Photography Universal Arca-Type Quick Release Plate

When I set out to review the hot new Breakthrough Photography X4 Circular Polarizer that everyone is talking about, I didn't know that the Arca plate even existed. However, the founder of Breakthrough Photography, Graham Clark, tossed one in for me to review.

At first glance I was like "meh, who cares", but I tossed it in my bag and actually forgot about it quickly. Then one day when I was deep in a mountain forest I found myself setting up my tripod and realizing I had forgot my Arca Swiss plate. During my frantic search I only found this 60mm plate that Graham had given me, so out of desperation I had no choice to use it.

I search my pockets for a nickel and my bag for my Swiss Army knife, but I didn't have either of those with me, so I was worried about how I'd get it on camera. I figured I'd just use my fingernail and do the best I can when I flipped it over and got a wonderful surprise:

Hand-Adjustable Stainless Steel Screw - Learn more at B&H
Hand-Adjustable Stainless Steel Screw - Learn more at Amazon

It was a hand adjustable screw that made me shout for joy!

All of the plates I've ever owned haven't had this simple, but brilliant, feature so this was a revelation for me. What's more, the grips allowed me to get a firm grip to my camera where it stayed perfectly snug for the duration of my shooting - with two radically different camera bodies (a Canon 1D X Mark II and a Sony a6500).

In short, it worked well and I'm a big fan. While I still use the larger plates when I'm at home, when I travel this is the only plate I use for my camera bodies (although I still have plates for the tripod collar of my longer lenses).

The high quality of this plate and the handy screw feature makes me wish Breakthrough Photography would make more of these in larger sizes and in l-bracket varieties. If they did, I'd probably bid farewell to my overpriced Really Right Stuff plates and go with this brand moving forward.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this product. At $15 (at the time this was written) it's probably one of the best deals and cheapest plates you can buy - despite outstanding build quality.

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:

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.

While I am only loaned most products that I review, I was given this one to keep given its low cost.

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Aurora HDR 2017 Tutorial (3 Lessons) & Discount [Apple Mac Only]

Created in Aurora HDR 2017 - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Created in Aurora HDR 2017 - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Click to learn more about Aurora HDR

Aurora HDR 2017 Tutorial - Advanced Features


Aurora HDR 2017's improved user interface
Click to learn more about Aurora HDR

While I may not be the most dynamic speaker in the world, I got a lot of emails from readers who loved what they learned in my original Aurora HDR video (found later in this article). As a result, I thought I'd cover some of my favorite new features of Aurora HDR 2017 in this new three lessons video created on October 15, 2016:

The files featured in the video were full size, and unless it was otherwise noted the processing occurs in real-time (first lesson only).

While most people bracket using a small range, for fun this tutorial includes an extreme range of three manual exposures that I blended together in Aurora HDR 2017 (see the video for more details):

Asia 2012-1853-3

I took these very long exposures in the evening in Winter 2012, but no product until now has done them justice in an HDR merge. The results you see in this article were done entirely in Aurora with no additional processing of any kind.

Original Aurora HDR Review & Tutorial

CLICK HERE to see my original review of Aurora HDR, and here's the very popular video on YouTube that even Trey Ratcliff liked:

What's New for 2017

Here's a summary of what's new:

  • Speed Improvements
  • Polarize Tool
  • Batch Processing
  • DNG  File support
  • HDR Noise Reduction
  • Top and Bottom Adjustments
  • Luminosity Masking - see how awesome this is in my new video
  • Radial Masking
  • Advanced Tone Mapping
  • and more

My new video focuses on the speed improvements and luminosity masking, as well as some of my favorite new presets. However, I'll be covering some of these other new features in a future video that is part of my full review.

I love this version way more than its predecessor, which I thought was the best HDR editing software on the market, so that's saying a lot!

Special Offer

Aurora HDR Coupon Code
Click to learn more about Aurora HDR

Click here to learn more, download a free trial or order today.

Stuck in customs also has a special offer here too.and don't forget to check my discount coupon code page for discounts on most products at StuckInCustoms.com.

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, January 27, 2017

REVIEW: Sony a6500 (Part II of II) - Good camera but not with the FE 24-70 f/2.8 G Master Lens


Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)

If you haven't already, please check out part one in the article titled REVIEW: Sony a6500 & 24-70 f/2.8 GM (Part I of II) as this review picks up where that left off.

Random Camera Body Thoughts

This camera features the same articulating display as the a6300 that is better than nothing but doesn't allow for selfie shots (a good thing?) and often doesn't do what you want when you find yourself wanting an adjustable LCD.

What I did often do was accidentally change the focus point when I brought my eye up to the viewfinder as my house would bump the screen and move the focus point. This irritated me quite bit, but I got used to it.

The annoying Sony menus are just as bad as ever, despite some minor changes that some suggest are improvements but for me it's much of the same.

The excellent eye tracking AF still requires you to set the camera to continuous autofocus and press a button to engage it, but it still works very well as did its predecessor. In this shot I gave it a spontaneous test and it successfully found his eye and not those of the distractions in the background:

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/4 @ 25mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 4000
Eye AF still works great

Unfortunately this image was softer than expected which was due to the performance of my test lens and being at f/4 with it. Given a sharper lens, this should would have only been better as the eye AF worked brilliantly.

All the rage about this camera body has been about its improved burst mode performance, but I'm a Canon 1DX Mark II owner so if I care about burst mode I go grab that camera. As a result, I didn't do much burst mode  shooting. I did confirm that it can quickly bang out 110 frames before the buffer fills, but it takes quite some time for it to flush that buffer even using a fast SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card. I also had mixed results with the accuracy, but given then fully frame (FE) lens (vs a cropped E-mount) I was using I decided not to explore this feature in depth.

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/5 @ 35mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 200
Even shooting on a snowy day for a couple hours, the battery performed very well

Finally, battery life was excellent in my testing (even in the cold) and Sony's excellent focus peaking worked extremely well as usual but I still wish they'd offer more color choices.

Bookshelf Test

For my bookshelf shots I always clean the lens, reset the camera to factory default, turn off stabilization (Steady Shot), use a single small AF point focused around the world tolkien on the red book, set the camera level on a tripod and then use the timer on aperture priority to get a clean shot. I've done this hundreds of times, but this time I was shocked at the results.

If you missed the first part of this review, the lens being tested with this camera is the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens.

The worst lens I've tested in years? Huh?!!!!!

Click to see full-size JPEG created from original RAW
f/2.8 @ 24mm for 25 sec at ISO 100 - 1st attempt
See here for the 2nd attempt shot

Thinking I must have obviously done something wrong, I repeated the entire process again and even used a new cleaning cloth on the lens - again the same results. The reason for my concern was extreme softness when wide open as shown here:

image
Cheap kit lens results were not what I expected from a $2000+ USD lens

To give the Sony every benefit of the doubt, I couldn't show you the JPEG's like I normally would because they were just too bad. Instead, I used the RAW files with the latest version of Lightroom and chose Camera Standard for the Camera Calibration Process 2012 Profile and I enabled Profile Lens Corrections.

I've never given a camera this much advantage in my testing, but I felt this camera needed it given what I was seeing with this lens.

I can only conclude that this could be one of three issues:

  1. Despite using a ziploc, perhaps condensation occurred when shooting in the snow and some inner element is smudged.
  2. I've got a bad lens that wasn't assembled properly or got dirty when assembled.
  3. This lens simply isn't as good as many people says it is when paired with this camera.

DxO test with the a6000 using this lens seem to indicate that it is much softer than when paired with the phenomenal Sony a7R Mark II, but no kidding right? Still, could it be this much worse?

Unfortunately Imaging-Resource lens test (formerly slrgear.com) didn't exist for this lens, so I have to assume #1 & #2 which is unfortunate as I won't likely have a chance to retest this lens / camera combo.

UPDATE: 24-70mm GM on the Sony A7R Mark II 

As promised, I decided that the results from this lens were so bad that I wanted more verification if it was the lens or the camera. Thanks to Jeff Goldner who generously loaned me his A7R Mark II so I could do this. Please note that I didn't want to reset all of Jeff's settings so these shots have DRO Off which is why they feel darker.

After some testing tonight, I've concluded that the problem is definitely the lens - and that's sad given both its price and the hype about it. Here's the f/2.8 bookshelf shot:

Click to see full-size original JPEG
f/2.8 @ 24mm for 1.6 sec at ISO 100
It's not the camera, it's the lens - it's just soft at f/2.8 when you view the original

When you zoom into 100% (and click below to see the true 100% image) you see that even the mighty A7R Mark II confirms this lens is just soft at f/2.8.

Better camera - same result

For fun, I included the 70mm here which shows the same bad results:

Click to see full-size original JPEG
f/2.8 @ 70mm for 2.5 sec at ISO 100
Things don't get much better at 70mm either

Better camera - same result

So I have to say that I'm very unimpressed with this lens, so unless I have a really bad copy I  wouldn't sink $2000 USD into this lens.

it should be noted that this lens, like all lenses does get much better at a couple stops past wide open so f/5.6 looks pretty good. See later in this article for those results and click here to see the full gallery of bookshelf shots with the Sony A7R Mark II with the 24-70mm GM lens.

For reference, to see what the Sony A7R Mark II is capable of, check out the results possible with the 90mm G Master lens - http://photos.ronmartblog.com/lens/sony/90mm.

Moiré pattern issue

image[5]

The moiré pattern issue I highlighted in part II of my a6000 review was present in a big way which was very disappointing given the fact that there wasn't incredible sharpness that typically comes with other cameras that have this issue (most frequently due to the lack of a low pass filter),

It should be noted that the Sony A7R Mark II does not show this problem (but the Mark I did slightly on occasion).

f/5.6 & f/8 didn't suck as much (of course)

Click for full size
f/5.6 @ 24mm for 10 sec at ISO 100
Better, but I still prefer the 16-24mm Zeiss results

Click for full size
f/8 @ 24mm for 20 sec at ISO 100
Also better and about the same as above


Sony a7R Mark II f/5.6 @ 24mm for 8 sec at ISO 100
While there is more distortion, the image quality is good - not stellar - but good

Comparing at 100% with the a6300

Maybe my eyes are just used to looking at the Canon 1DX Mark II with the Sigma 85mm Art series lens, but I expected more out of this lens at this price point:

f/8 @ 24mm for 20 sec at ISO 100
f/8 @ 24mm for 20 sec at ISO 100

In fact, if I look at 16-24mm Sony Zeiss lens I tested with here you can see that it's much better:

Sony a6300 f/8 @ 70mm 100% View
Sony a6300 f/8 @ 70mm for 20 sec at ISO 100 
using the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens

This is a heavy weight this lens that comes it in at 81 grams heavier than the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and just 14 grams lighter than the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8G ED). When you couple this with its huge 82mm filter size and 5.35" 136mm) length that exceeds the Canon & Nikon, it definitely seems like the Zeiss 16-70mm might be the better way to go!

Oh and if you are wondering what this lens is like at 70mm or higher ISO's, then be sure to check out the full gallery of images at http://photos.ronmartblog.com/sony/a6500.

ISO Testing

While you can view a lot more bookshelf shots here, here's a quick look at the noise found at ISO 6400:

f/5.6 @ 24mm for 1/6 sec at ISO 6400 - RAW PROCESSED in Lightgroom
ISO 6400 from RAW processed in Lightroom (no noise reduction)
(Camera Standard and Lens Correction)
Click the image for a full size version of the thumbnail
(or
click here for the full size image)

The RAW processed 6400 ISO version, even in Lightroom, looks a lot better than expected. However, the standard in-camera default noise reduction destroys the image as shown below:

f/5.6 @ 24mm for 1/6 sec at ISO 6400 - Unedited In-Camera JPEG)
Screen capture of in-camera JPEG for the raw file above
Default noise reduction destroys details pretty bad!

UPDATE: Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Click to learn more about this lens at B&H
Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Good news boys and girls, thanks to my friend Jeff Goldner, I was able to test the a6500 with a proper lens - the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. This lens shows what this camera is really capable of, and it was a lot more than the lame 24-70mm GM was showing us.

While it naturally doesn't have the dynamic range and detail of the flagship A7R Mark II (90mm tests shots here), the results are very sharp and detailed:

image
Click for the full in-camera JPEG original of this image

I also upload more in the gallery here, but this validates my original concerns. I'm glad about that because this is a camera that I've loved, even if the need for it is reaching its end of life given all the great choices on the market these days.

More Real World Shots

See the first part of this article for a bunch of real world shots and more info about my methodology, but here's a few more:

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/4 @ 42mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100
Standard Creative Style does a good job, but...

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/4 @ 42mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 100
Landscape Creative Style is still my favorite - I love the color I get with it!

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/9 @ 42mm for 1/80 sec at ISO 200
Assuming I had a good lens, I wanted to do some depth of field tests at f/9,
but in retrospect the only value of this shot was the detail on the close snow covered leaf

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/3.2 @ 42mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100
When I compare the subject sharpness at both open and closed down apertures, the results favored f/9 over f/3.2 for detail in the foreground subject

Conclusion

Sadly, it turned out to be one of the worst camera/lens combos I've tested and really the first Sony camera and lens combo to let me down in quite some time. In fact, It made me wished I had chosen a different E Mount lens as this combo had me doing a lot of duplicate testing in the hope that I could pinpoint the problems to something I could fix instead of this camera I wanted to love.

Since I loved the a6000 and a6300 using the the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, I'm going to give Sony the benefit of the doubt and suggest that users go with that combo over the more expensive Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens tested here. I suspect/hope that would give results closer to that I'm used to seeing from Sony these days.

UPDATE: The results with the 90mm G Master prove my point above, so when paired with a good lens this camera is still a decent camera. That said, the remainder of my conclusion still remains mostly unchanged...

I do find the $1398 USD price tag of this camera (at the time this was written) to be quite expensive for what you get - especially since I'm not seeing huge improvements over the a6000 (currently $548 USD) and a6300 (currently $998 USD).

Unless you need the video or burst mode improvements, I'd suggest going with one of the previous aX00 models over the a6500. I'd also prefer an easier to grip and full-frame sensor of a a7 II  (see my a7 review) over a cropped sensor at this price point, so it also seems a better choice if the incredible a7R II is out of your reach.

My once most heavily recommended camera has moved to my look elsewhere list. It's not that it's a bad camera (when paired with a great lens), it's just that it's moved into the full DSLR price range. The 7D Mark II and excellent Nikon D610  offer much more in terms of dynamic range and platform benefits with the range of lenses and flash accessories without a huge penalty in weight / size, so I think the need for this camera has faded away.

Where to Buy?

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy today.

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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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

REVIEW: ColorByte ImagePrint 10 - Discount Offer & Tutorial

Get better than Epson prints on Epson paper with ColorByte ImagePrint 10.0.17 & up
Print on Epson paper on a Canon PRO-1000 with ColorByte ImagePrint 10.0.16 & up

Back when I reviewed ColorByte ImagePrint 8 it made great prints, but the user interface - especially the mechanism for getting ICC profiles - was cumbersome. While this new user interface won't win any design awards, it's fairly straight forward to use. What's more, it requires a lot less clicking than printing directly from Photoshop using a operating system driver.

A word about sharpening

It should be noted that by default ImagePrint assumes you've sharpened your image and it won't apply any additional sharpening.

It has been my experience that Photoshop and especially Perfect Resize are much better at resizing images than letting ImagePrint do it, so if you let ImagePrint resize your images then they will be a little softer than what you'd get from the driver and  Photoshop as you'll see below.

image
Corrections Window

To compensate for this you can use the Corrections feature (shown above) in ImagePrint to add sharpening, but my preference is to use Perfect Resize to the exact output size, and then sharpen in Photoshop before bringing the image into ImagePrint. This will give you the best resize and sharpness.

Color Prints Compared

The image in this section were printed on the same paper using profiles provided by Red River when printed from Photoshop and ColorByte when printed from ImagePrint. The original was a 3456 x 5184 pixels PSD using ProPhoto RGB 16-bit, and the same file was used in both Photoshop and ImagePrint.

All of the prints featured in this article were scanned with a Epson Perfection V850 Pro Scanner using Epson Scan software. Dust and lint was intentionally left on the bed to prove that it was in fact a scan of print. All prints look more vibrant in real life.

Click the images to see the full size original scans for more detail. For best results, open the originals in Lightroom or Photoshop and compare them side by side. Please leave your browser open on this article while you are doing the comparison and delete the images after you are done comparing. 

Please note that it is near impossible to see any differences unless you are viewing at 100% or more, so do not use the thumbnails featured here to draw any conclusions.

All images are copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may not print, save, edit, or otherwise redistribute all or part of any of the images featured in this article.

Canon PRO-1000

The following print was done on the same paper, Red River Paper Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag with one printed using the best printer driver settings in Photoshop using the OS driver:


Canon PRO-1000 from Photoshop 2017.0.1

and another done using the Mixed Warm display lighting setting from the ImagePrint profile in ImagePrint 10.0.18:


Canon PRO-1000 from ImagePrint 10.0.18

The net result is that the image in ImagePrint has a much more accurate sky color (better blues) and the tonal range in the reds is slightly better. Unlike the Epson, I didn't measure any improvements in shadow details which could be due to the experience ImagePrint has had building Epson drivers over the years.

Epson SureColor P800 

The following print was done on the same paper, Red River Paper Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag with one printed using the best printer driver settings in Photoshop using the OS driver:


Epson P-800 from Photoshop 2017.0.1

and another done using the Mixed Warm display lighting setting from the ImagePrint profile in ImagePrint 10.0.18:


Epson P-800 from ImagePrint 10.0.18

Like the Canon, the sky color was much more accurate (better blues) but in this case I felt the tonal range in the reds were much better. I also saw a slight improvement in the detail in the shadows:

Black & White Images Compared

NOTE: I'll do B&W image comparisons in the near future.

Video Review & Tutorial

I've created a simple 10 minute demo of how I like to use this product and what I like about it. I've avoided getting into too much detail as this is meant to be a basic overview along with my opinion instead of a fully featured tutorial.

NOTE: While I demo this product using Windows, there is a Mac version as well.

Want more videos?

The ColorByte home page features a list of videos that discusses what's new if you are upgrading, and it is helpful to go to the Exclusive Features and Tutorials pages to quickly learn about all this product has to offer.

Conclusion

At the end of the day this product isn't just using your printer driver - it is using its own version of a more advanced version of your printer driver to give you the best results possible. This low level control of your printer coupled with excellent ICC profiles really does result in the best print quality I've seen both in color as well as black and white prints. Of course if you are handy at creating very high quality ICC profiles and are happy with the results you are getting it might not be right for you, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

The utilitarian user-interface is painfully out of date and quirky, but it's functional and does its job well. The resizing is poor compared to what you get from Photoshop or Perfect Resize so external resize and sharpening in advance is his highly recommended.

Despite it's steep price, I highly recommend it for those who earn income off of their prints and wish to give their clients the best print quality possible. I don't recommend it for hobbyists unless you are very unsatisfied with the quality of the profiles you have now for your favorite papers, and you are willing to absorb the price for better results.

If price is the only thing holding you back, then see my discount below.

Where to Buy?

Purchasing this product is a little unconventional because it requires a USB dongle to be plugged into your computer when you use this software. While you can purchase direct (please tell them you came from ronmartblog.com), I've arranged a special discount that I'd recommend you take advantage of instead. Here's details:

Get 10% OFF ImagePrint

I have worked a special arrangement with ColorByte to offer you the first ever discount that was made available for a blog several years back. ColorByte is offering a 10% off discount to readers of this article when you contact JVH Technical, LLC by phone or email. You can not get this discount through the web or ColorByte directly, so you must contact JVH and you MUST mention this blog in order to get the discount.

If you have any questions or concerns about this discount program, please don’t hesitate to  contact me directly.

NOTE: This product does offer a 30 day money back guarantee as well as a free demo that will watermark your prints.

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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