Reviews

Press release:
Manfrotto, world leader in the equipment and accessories industry for photography and imaging, is pleased to announce the new Manfrotto 500 Video Head. This lightweight fluid head, designed for users of the latest HDSLRs and video cameras, replaces the Manfrotto 701HDV and becomes the smallest head to be built around Manfrotto’s successful Bridging Technology.

Debuted at the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas where it achieved the accolade of Best Support of NAB 2013 Wayne Schulman, Manfrotto Sales and Product Manager, Video commented, “We are happy to debut the new Manfrotto 500 video head, as it provides vastly improved support and balance for equipment while not sacrificing ease of use, safety or efficiency. The Manfrotto 500 Video Head delivers beautiful shots, ensuring smooth and controlled camera movement.”

Better support and balance for your equipment
The “hollowed out” structure of Bridging Technology heads gives the Manfrotto 500 Video Head a great advantage. Without sacrificing its light weight, it has a top plate that is broader, providing better support of the wider shape of DSLRs. The top plate is also longer, so its sliding plate has a greater range of adjustment to balance the shifting centre of gravity of a DLSR or camcorder used with interchangeable prime and zoom lenses.

Faster, easier and safer to use
The Manfrotto 500 Video Head is faster to set up and safer to use. The new side lock lever allows the camera and sliding QR plate to click quickly into the head from above. It is simpler to remove the camera now as well; with only one locking control to release, the camera lifts easily out from above.

The Manfrotto 500 Video Head is set to a fixed counterbalance of 2.4Kg but locking power on the tilt axis ensures the head is perfectly stable under camera equipment weighing up to 5Kg. To allow an external monitor or other accessory equipment to be fitted and properly supported, the Manfrotto 500 Video Head has an industry-standard Easy Link 3/8” connector.

Beautifully smooth shots 
The Manfrotto 500 Video Head has professional fluid cartridges on both pan and tilt axes which ensures that every movement made with the camera is smooth, controlled and gentle.

The Manfrotto 500 Video Head is available as a stand-alone head, in either flat-based or 60mm half-ball versions, in a kit with twin aluminium leg tripod or single carbon fibre tubes tripod. A combination including the Manfrotto 500 Video Head with Manfrotto’s patented fluid monopod is also available. The head’s comfortable pan bar can be switched between left and right sides depending on personal preference.

Prices £129.95 for the Manfrotto MVH500AH and £149.95 for the Manfrotto MVH500A Fluid Video Head. £659.95 for the Manfrotto MVK500C Carbon Fibre 60mm Video System.

Product will be available to purchase as of the start of May 2013

For more details on Manfrotto heads, tripods and other accessories visit www.manfrotto.co.uk/ 

Serif PhotoPlus X6 review

Serif, a software company that produces  low-cost alternatives to high-end publishing and graphics packages,  has added – PhotoPlus X6, a new version of their  image editing software. This is a feature-packed application at an entry level price point which should satisfy users at many levels of expertise. Let’s take a look and see what PhotoPlus X6 can do.

PhotoPlus X6 application

What do you want to do?

What do you want to do?

On first launching PhotoPlus you are presented with a “To Do” window, from here you can select;  Create, Open, Learn, and Organizer.  Under CREATE start a new image, animation, or HDR Merge; under OPEN  a list of previously edited images is displayed. Use the LEARN section to show you how to use the application.  Use the ORGANIZER to manage your photos.

PhotoPlus interface

PhotoPlus interface

ThePhotoPlus default interface colour is a light grey, which is maybe a bit too light, a dark grey may have been a better choice. However, using the application’s preferences you can change the colour scheme with a choice of five colours – none of which are ideal as a backdrop for editing.  The Preferences gives you the ability to customize PhotoPlus to your own way of working – you can add or remove tools, menu items or create custom toolbars. Located on the left hand side of the screen is the Toolbar which contains all the editing tools you are likely to need for manipulating and retouching photos. Many of the tools have shortcut keystrokes assigned, but not all!

Below the top Menu bar is the Standard toolbar which contains quick access icons to New, Save, Print, Undo, Redo, Organize etc. Next to this are toolbars that give quick access to features such as the Organizer, PhotoFix, Filter Gallery, Cut out Studio etc. You can also add your own custom toolbars with the features and tools you use frequently. The Workspace toolbar offers four options for screen display; Default, Designer, Painting and Photo Editing.  The tabs change to display the appropriate tab for the task in hand. Toolbars can be dragged out and docked on any edge, or as a floating panel. Directly below is the Context sensitive toolbar, this changes to display the settings for the current tool in use.

PhotoPlus includes an excellent How To tab, this provides information on the application and how to use the various tools. Right hand side tabs include; Layers, Channels, Histogram, Colour, History, Macros etc. All tabs can be turned On or Off or collapsed to provide more workspace area.

The Organizer

PhotoPlus X6 organizer

PhotoPlus X6 organizer

The PhotoPlus X6 organizer enables you to manage image collections.  By default the My Pictures folder is selected but you can add other folders by clicking on the Include Folder icon and then browse for your image folder(s). Thumbnails are created for all supported image types and displayed in the right side window. It’s good to see that Serif also include native Adobe Photoshop PSD and Corel PaintShop PSP files as well as many other popular file formats. Photoshop files which contain layers and adjustment layers can also be imported with all their layers in place.  The organizer uses the date stamp from the camera’s Metadata to organize files into date and time taken. From here you can select photos to be edited in the full PhotoPlus application or use the PhotoFix button for making quick adjustments. One annoying aspect is that when you select an image to Edit in PhotoPlus nothing appears to happen, but if you switch windows then you will see the image has been opened, the Organizer stays on as the top window.  I would have liked an automatic switch to the destination application. Other organizer options include upload images to Facebook or Flickr, create a Slide show or Create a Photo Project. The organizer is very easy to use and is a useful addition to PhotoPlus.

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Six Digital Noise reduction applications

Digital noise is the equivalent of film grain, but unlike film grain digital noise can be reduced or virtually eliminated by software. We take a look at six noise reduction applications to see how well they perform.

Neat image – $39.90 

Neat Image interface

Neat Image interface

Neat image is available as both a standalone application or as a Photoshop plug-in. On launching, the interface is minimal in appearance, but clicking on the Auto profile will place a rectangle  over an area containing noise. From here click on the Noise Filter Settings tab to make all the necessary Noise Level adjustments, Noise Reduction Amounts and Sharpening. Different values can be applied for High, Mid and Low frequencies for full control on all areas of the image.

Neatimage3

View each channel to quickly see which has the most noise

 

This plug-in is very fast in operation, noise reductions can be quickly previewed on the whole image or you can view the colour channels as separate windows. Settings can be saved and applied to other images. It features an impressive noise reduction filter.

http://www.neatimage.com/

4-stars

 

 

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PENTAX K-5 II

The PENTAX K-5 II is the latest model in the PENTAX digital SLR K series, featuring a newly developed, state-of-the-art AF sensor that boasts the widest range of exposure values in its class*

PENTAX RICOH IMAGING UK LTD is pleased to announce the launch of the PENTAX K-5 II digital SLR camera, its flagship model for the acclaimed PENTAX K series.

This new model is designed to be the successor to the PENTAX K-5 (launched in October 2010), which has been very well received for its compact, solid, functional body and high-quality image reproduction.

The K-5 II boasts a range of advanced functions and user-friendly features. These include a newly developed AF sensor assuring a broader AF working EV range, which lends itself well to a variety of shooting conditions and photographic requirements.

Launched in conjunction with the PENTAX K-5 II is the PENTAX K-5 II s, which is available without an anti-aliasing filter. The K-5 II s is perfect for photographers who value image resolution above all other factors and fully understand the function and characteristics of an anti-aliasing filter.

 Major Features

 1. A new SAFOX X AF module for the top AF performance in its class

The K-5 II features a newly developed, highly sensitive SAFOX X AF module. Thanks to the unit’s high-sensitivity AF sensor, which performs brilliantly in low-light conditions, this new module offers a broad AF working EV range (-3 EV to +18 EV).

SAFOX X can work with luminous flux based on F2.8 levels as well as at F5.6. This vastly increases the AF accuracy when used with very fast lenses.

Coupled with an upgraded AF algorithm, the camera delivers exceptional AF performance, including such useful features as a select-area expansion function, which automatically tracks the subject even when it moves away from a pre-assigned select point. This function is enabled as the distance data is assessed when collected by neighbouring focus sensors.

2. High-quality LCD monitor with outstanding visibility outdoors

The K-5 II comes equipped with a 3.0-inch, wide-view, airtight LCD monitor with approximately 921,000 dots. Sandwiched between the front glass panel (which is coated with an anti-glare film) and the LCD screen is a unique resin layer that cuts down the reflection and dispersion of light to effectively prevent ghost images and greatly reduce loss of brightness. The front panel is made of tempered glass to keep it scratch free.

3. High-resolution, true-to-life images with minimal noise

With its large sensor measuring 23.7mm by 15.7mm with approximately 16.28 effective megapixels, the K-5 II’s latest-generation CMOS image sensor assures high-speed image data readout. By coupling this high-performance image sensor with the acclaimed PRIME II (PENTAX Real Image Engine), the K-5 II delivers super-high resolution, rich-gradation digital images free of digital noise over a wide sensitivity range — from ISO 100 to ISO 12800 in its standard setting, or from ISO 80 to ISO 51200 when expanded via a custom function.

4. Bright, clear optical viewfinder

The K-5 II features a glass pentaprism finder with an almost 100% field of view and approximately 0.92-times magnification (with a 50mm F1.4 lens at infinity) which provides a sharp, clear view of the entire image field and improves the accuracy and speed of both focusing and image composition. It also comes with the renowned Natural-Bright-Matte III focusing screen to facilitate manual-focus operation.

5. Compact, solid body perfect for outdoor shooting

The K-5 II’s exterior casing is made of sturdy yet lightweight magnesium alloy, while its chassis is made of highly rigid stainless steel. Thanks to the inclusion of 77 special seals in the body, it boasts a dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant construction, assuring reliable operation even under demanding outdoor conditions and at temperatures as low as -10°C.

The camera also features a dependable shutter unit that provides a top shutter speed of 1/8000 second and outstanding durability to withstand as many as 100,000 shutter releases.

6. High-speed continuous shooting

The K-5 II’s high-speed continuous shooting mode records as many as 30 images (in the JPEG format) in a single sequence at a maximum speed of approximately seven images per second. This allows the photographer to capture sharp, crisp images of active, fast-moving subjects, such as athletes, dancers and wildlife, with great ease.

 7. PENTAX-original SR mechanism with user-friendly options

The K-5 II features the PENTAX-developed SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism, which effectively compensates for the adverse effect of camera shake with approximately three shutter steps, to produce sharp, blur-free images. This image sensor shift-type SR mechanism works with almost all PENTAX interchangeable lenses — even those designed for film-format cameras.**

Thanks to its flexible design, which tilts the image sensor unit in all directions, the K-5 II offers several useful features to assist the photographer during shooting, such as auto-level compensation and image composition fine-adjustment functions. In combination with the optional GPS Unit O-GPS1, it also offers an ASTROTRACER function to simplify astronomical photography.

8. Innovative image-processing functions to produce distinctive photographic results

The K-5 II features a custom image function, which allows the user to easily select the desired finishing touch for an image. This function offers a choice of nine distinctive custom image modes, such as: Bleach Bypass, which creates a solemn visual effect similar to one used in motion pictures; and Cross Process, which produces eye-catching images with unique, dramatic colours. The K-5 II also offers 18 digital filters to add distinctive visual effects to images, without the need for a computer. The user can even apply several different filters to a single image to create more inventive visual effects.

9. K-5 II s achieves supreme resolution

The K-5 II s is available without an anti-aliasing filter. This filter, commonly found in DSLRs, helps smooth computer generated imagery by decreasing high frequencies and distortion, but it also reduces detail resolution. Without this filter included, the user can create rich, detailed imagery at supreme resolution levels and capture stunning landscapes and scenes with maximum depth of field and clarity. The K-5 II s is the perfect choice for studio and commercial photography where camera settings, lens selection and shooting conditions are controlled.

10. Other features

  • 77-segment multi-pattern metering system, for extra-accurate light measurement
  • Customisable slow shutter speed NR (Noise Reduction) setting, with a choice of auto, on and off modes
  • Customisable High-ISO sensitivity NR (Noise Reduction) setting, with a camera-dependent auto mode and a user-adjustable reduction strength preset for each ISO setting
  • Electronic level function, with a vertical level scale
  • Automatic compensation of distortion and lateral chromatic aberration (available only with DA, DFA and FA Limited-series lenses)
  • CTE mode, to automatically adjust the white-balance to emphasise the dominant colours of a specific scene
  • DR II (Dust Removal II) mechanism, to effectively shake dust off the CMOS image sensor using ultrasonic vibration
  • PENTAX-original hyper control system, which swiftly and accurately responds to the photographer
  • Dynamic range expansion function, to compensate for both whitewashed (overexposed) areas and black-out (underexposed) shadowy areas
  • RAW data retrieve function, which allows the user to save an original RAW data of a newly taken JPEG-format image
  • RAW/Fx button, for single-action switching of the image file format, as well as for assignment and instant recall of a specific function
  • A choice of three grid patterns while in live-view mode, including “Golden Section”
  • Long battery life, for recording approximately 980 images with a full recharge
  • PENTAX Digital Camera Utility 4 software package, including RAW-data processing (based on the popular SILKYPIX RAW-data processing engine developed by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory) and a browser application

* Within the digital cameras that have an APS-C size sensor as of August 31st 2012 (based on PENTAX’s research).

** Lenses compatible with this mechanism: PENTAX K, KA, KAF, KAF2 and KAF3-mount lenses; screw-mounted lenses (with adapter); and 645 and 67-system lenses (with adapter). Some functions may not be available with certain lenses.

The PENTAX K5 II and K5 II s will available now

Price

K5 II

K5 II Body only                  £799.99

K5 II + 18-55mm WR          £869.99

K5 II + 18-135mm WR        £1,119.99

 

K5 II s

K5 II s Body only                £949.99

PermaJet Mercury Ultra White Matt Canvas +
PremaProtect varnish review

 

PermaJet

PermaJet is a market leader in high quality papers, they offer the world’s largest range of inkjet papers and canvases, these include Digital photo papers, Fibre based papers, Smooth and Textured Fine art papers and canvases.

Canvas has been around for hundreds of years as a popular artist medium. It’s now a favourite for portrait and landscape photographers who want to produce a Fine Art or artistic look to their work. Printing on canvas is no more complicated than standard inkjet printing, albeit there are a few extra steps. In this review we are testing PermaJet’s latest products, Mercury Ultra White Matt Canvas and PermaProtect canvas varnish.

Mercury Ultra White Matt is a textured, heavy weight product (405gsm) with a brilliant white surface which is ideal for bringing out details in a photograph. The canvas is compatible with both Dye and Pigment ink printers from desktop size through to large format printers.  The media is available in the following sizes; A3+ (10 sheet pack), 17”, 24”, 36”, 44” and 60” wide rolls (length 15 metres). For this review we are using an Epson Pro 3800 printer together with a custom profile.

For producing colour accurate prints on specialty media you need to use a custom profile, most printers, from Epson Canon or HP do not offer profiles for third party media. However, you can in most cases, download a profile from the paper manufacturer’s web-site. At the time of writing PermaJet do not  have a profile available for this new canvas, but you can download a target file from the PermaJet web-site and print it using your printer. Post the printed targets to PermaJet and they will create a custom ICC profile for you, free of charge. The profile will be unique to your printer, ink and media combination,  new profiles need to be created for each media type being used.

Canvas-000

For printing, select Photoshop Manages Colour and from the profile drop down list select the custom profile (I have created one called PermaJet MUW Canvas). Go into the printer’s properties and make sure that No Colour Adjustment is selected, this prevents the printer from also applying a profile. The media type should be the same as used when printing the target files. The Media Type setting controls the amount of ink that is placed on the media and determines whether Photo Black or Matt Black ink is used, for our test prints we used the Epson Watercolour – Radiant White as the media type.

Canvas media is best suited to large format printers that have the facility to accommodate roll media, smaller desktop printers require rigid media. A support sheet is provided with the A3+ media as you can’t load canvas via the rear media tray, it needs to be loaded via the front  straight paper path together with a rigid support. Place the canvas sheet onto the support sheet and feed this into the front straight paper path holder. The rigid sheet ensures that the media is gripped and pulled into the printer. Now you can use the printer in the same way as you would with using any other media.

Flower

The Mercury Ultra White canvas has a brilliant white textured surface which may not suit all subjects, for traditional style portraiture it can look too cold and clinical. However, it is well suited to a contemporary style of photography that makes use of a whiter than white backdrop. Generally, subject matter printed on the smaller A3+ canvas needs to be large and fill as much of the area as possible, otherwise the textured canvas surface can break up some of the finer details in a photo.

BW

The PermaJet canvas produced dynamic colour photographs using a variety of subject matter. Colours have a wide gamut and are vibrant to the point that they seem to jump of the canvas. Primary colours are particularly strong, yet at the same time the subtle colours maintain a delicacy of tone.  Black and White photographs worked particularly well, the blacks are strong whilst still retaining sufficient shadow detail. There was also plenty of subtlety in the lighter grey tones although on close inspection the actual canvas texture was showing more than I would have liked.

Canvas texture can interfere with image

Canvas texture can interfere with image

The other new product is the PermaProtect, this is a fast drying water based varnish that is applied to the printed canvas. The clear varnish offers protection against, UV, handling, abrasion and airborne pollutants as well as increasing the lightfastness of the canvas. The varnish also has the benefit of increasing the colour saturation and density of blacks.  PermaJet claims “that the varnishes will not discolour or change over 85 years.”  This claim is based on independent tests by a well known UK laboratory. The varnish is available in Gloss, Matt and Satin in 250ml pots and 2.5 litre cans. There is also a custom foam roller kit (sold separately) for applying the varnish. The roller has very fine pores to ensure an even application, don’t be tempted to use a roller from your local DIY store as these are generally designed for use with thicker emulsion paints. The varnishes can also be applied to other canvases and Fine Art papers.

Finish

Before applying the varnish, you should ensure that the ink on the canvas has dried for at least 24 hours. Stir the varnish for 2 minutes and then pour a small amount into the tray, this has a milky white look but will dry clear. Load the roller evenly for consistency and then apply a single coat to the entire canvas making sure all areas are covered. You can apply more coats to increase the colour vibrancy but it will extend the drying time. The canvas will be dry in less than 20 minutes. Applying the varnish using the roller kit was a simple task, we didn’t encounter any problems, although you should apply it in a well ventilated room. The roller and tray can be washed in water after use and then re-used again. The finished canvas print can be mounted on acid free museum board or stretched onto a wooden frame, PermaJet can supply all the necessary items for this

Conclusion

Colours

PermaJet produced vibrant colours on our test reels

Large photographs printed on Canvas and displayed on a wall look impressive and can add another dimension to your pictures. The PermaJet Mercury Ultra White Canvas produced vibrant well saturated colours on our test photographs, together with an exceptional brilliant white canvas base. However, I should point out that we used our own custom profile created with an X-Rite i2Pro spectrophotometer. We were informed by PermaJet that this is the same spectrophotometer that they use to create their profiles, so in theory you should be able to achieve a similar result.  A coating of PermaProtect varnish ensures your photographs will be well protected against dirt and air borne pollutants.

 

Price:

  • 10 sheets of A3+          £ 47.95
  • 17” roll (15 mtrs)          £102.00
  • 24” roll (15 mtrs)          £144.00
  • 36” roll (15 mtrs)          £219.00
  • 44” roll (15 mtrs)          £264.00
  • 60” roll (15 mtrs)          £360.00
  • Foam roller kit              £    4.50
  • Varnish 250ml              £    7.49  Gloss, Satin & Matt
  • Varnish 2.5 Litre          £  53.99  Gloss, Satin & Matt

 

Highly recommended

www.permajet.com

DXO Viewpoint review

When shooting buildings with a wide angle lens, the photograph can display unwanted perspective distortions, especially if the camera is tilted upwards to get everything in. There are several solutions to correct these problems including; choosing a longer lens and moving further back, use a Perspective Control lens, or just take the picture and manipulate it in PaintShop Pro X5 or Photoshop. The alternative solution comes from DXO with Viewpoint software.

Uncorrected photo

Uncorrected shot showing building leaning inwards

DXO Viewpoint is an application for correcting perspective and distortions in an image, perspective can be in the vertical or horizontal plane, or even a head on shot that hasn’t been correctly aligned. Viewpoint installs both as a standalone product and as a plug-in to Photoshop or Lightroom. As a standalone version it opens JPEGs or Tiff files  (RAW and Photoshop PSD files are not supported).  However, when using Viewpoint as a plug-in you can use any file that is open in Photoshop or Lightroom.

The DXO Viewpoint interface

The DXO Viewpoint interface

The interface is simple in appearance, the tool bar at the top contains 9 icons; Display Corrected image, Before and After image, Fit to screen, 1:1 view, Zoom settings, Grid, Pointer, Hand and Zoom slider.  On the right hand side are the Correction options; the first panel is Anamorphosis, this corrects distortions made by wide angle lenses. The second panel contains the Keystoning effects. At a simple level you can choose between Vertical, Horizontal or Rectangle. Clicking on the drop down arrow reveals the advanced settings, these enable you to add numeric values for the amount of corrections needed or simply drag the sliders.

The DXO Viewpoint interface

The DXO Viewpoint interface showing before and after

Below this is the Horizon tool, this can be used on a horizontal or on a vertical element in a picture. A slider can also be used to fine tune the correction. The next panel is a crop tool, the correction options are Auto and Manual, plus an Aspect Ratio drop down list which includes several options from Unconstrained, 16:9, 5/4  through to 1/1. The last panel is Visualization Loupe, this is a 100 or 200% magnification of the cursor position or it can be set to magnify the anchor point that is being positioned.

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