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  • Sun, 18 Mar 2018 13:00:00 Z

    Canon interview: 'increased competition allows us to level-up'
    Canon executives (L-R) Yoshiyuki Mizoguchi, Group Executive of Imaging Communications Business Group, Go Tokura, Chief Executive Officer of Canon's Image Communications Products Operation, and Naoya Kaneda, Advisory Director and Group Executive of Canon's Optical Business Group.

    At this year's CP+ show in Yokohama, we sat down with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Canon. Topics covered during our conversation with Go Tokura, Yoshiyuki Mizoguchi and Naoya Kaneda included Canon's ambitions for high-end mirrorless cameras, and the importance of responding to changing definitions of image capture from the smartphone generation.

    Answers from the three interviewees have been combined, and this interview (which was conducted through an interpreter) has been edited for clarity and flow.

    How important is it for Canon to add higher-end mirrorless products to your lineup?

    At Canon we have what’s called a ‘full lineup strategy’. This means that we want to satisfy all of the demands in the market, so we have mirrorless and also DSLR, which combined makes an EOS hierarchy. We want to fill the gaps to satisfy customer demands across the board.

    The new M50 is an entry-level model, because that’s where the high-volume sales are. We want to establish ourselves in this market, and then move forward [from there]. In accordance with the full lineup strategy, we will be tackling [the mid-range and high-end mirrorless market] going forward.

    The EOS M50 offers 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but not at the same time. Is there a technical reason for this limitation?

    With the EOS 5D Mark IV, we do offer 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, so technically it is feasible. But given the position of the M50 in the lineup, we can’t include all of the features available in a product like the 5D IV. Given the position of the product, we wanted to achieve the optimal balance [of features] in a camera in that range. We’ve optimized the M50 as best we can [for its market position], and within those parameters, the combination of 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus was not possible.

    Canon's new EOS M50 offers limited 4K video capability, making it the first of Canon's mirrorless cameras to go beyond HD video capture.

    Another manufacturer that we spoke to estimated that Canon would have a full-frame mirrorless camera within a year. Is that realistic?

    That would be nice, wouldn't it?

    The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 is coming up - when we look at photographers shooting with Canon at Tokyo in two years time, what will we see?

    The Tokyo Olympics is a very important opportunity for us. If we look at the professional camera market, we would like to introduce a professional model at that time. Having said that, we take reliability very seriously. So when we talk about [creating] a model for the Olympics, we’re not just talking about performance. We’re also want to make sure that we can achieve the same level of reliability that we’ve always delivered [in our professional DSLRs].

    The Tokyo Olympics is a very important opportunity for us

    We also want to raise Canon’s presence overall, with camera products and also events and services. We have been instructed [by our senior leadership] to maximize the opportunity!

    Canon's gear room at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Major sporting events like this have always been a major focus for Canon, and have often served as showcases for new professional cameras and lenses. The next Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, in 2020 and is sure to be a major event for Canon.

    In your opinion, what is the most important quality for an entry-level camera?

    We are always looking for speed, ease of use, and maximum resolution. We’re also thinking about how we can deliver better image quality than a smartphone. So it’s about really focusing on speed, ease of use and image quality. Small size and weight comes into [the calculation] as well, and also the GUI.

    Looking beyond the entry-level class towards cameras aimed at high-end amateurs like the 5D class, those customers need even better image quality, and they also want to take more control over operation. They want to expand, and express their creativity. Reliability also comes into play.

    The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offers both 4K video capture and Dual Pixel autofocus - not a combination available lower down in Canon's ILC lineup (for now).

    Do you think that 4K video is a more important feature at the entry-level end of the market, or the enthusiast / professional segment?

    We believe that 4K video is important for all market segments, and all users. Given that we have a range of products, we always have to think about how best [to implement 4K] in that class of camera. And you can do more with 4K video in a higher-end camera than in an entry-level model.

    Why is that?

    The cost required to introduce [features like 4K] into cameras dictates the kind of features that we can introduce [in products of different classes]. 4K is important to offer in all market segments, and in the M50 we’ve achieved 4K at 25 fps, and that’s the best we can do at this time. We can’t introduce all of the features [in an entry-level camera] that we could in a higher-end model. Another point is that consumption of 4K footage in terms of devices to view 4K video – the penetration of those devices in the market, and their adoption, was a little faster than we expected.

    In the past, you’ve said that you won’t introduce a high-end mirrorless product until there would be no compromises compared to DSLR technology. Are we getting close?

    In the EOS hierarchy we have cameras from entry-level to professional with different features. When it comes to mirrorless cameras, we have entry-level models, and we’ve just about started on the mid-range class. What that tells you is that Canon is confident about mirrorless technology within this range of products.

    We still believe there’s work to be done before we can achieve the level of satisfaction that our users are looking for before they could confidently move from DSLR to mirrorless

    But if you look at the enthusiast and high-end product class, in terms of both autofocus and viewfinder [experience], we still believe there’s some work to be done before we can achieve the level of satisfaction that our users are looking for before they could confidently move from DSLR to mirrorless. That’s where we are right now. We’re still on the path to development.

    So far, the EOS M5 is the nearest thing Canon has made to a high-end mirrorless camera. The M5 is a great product, but a far cry from some of the industry-changing cameras that Canon has been responsible for in the past.

    Having said that, it’s not like we don’t have the components required to create a mirrorless model that would be on a par with DSLR models. For example Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, lenses that can focus quickly, and optical components like the EVF. We have the technology required to create a camera that would be satisfactory. It’s just a matter of combining [those components] together. So you can look forward to our developments in the future.

    There’s still a perception among our readers that Canon is a little conservative. Where is Canon innovating right now?

    Rather than some of the very novel features that some of our competitors have been introducing, we believe that it’s really important to deliver the basics. Speed, ease of use, and good image quality. Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus is representative of that [philosophy]. It’s not only important for stills photography, but also for video. Only Canon is pursuing this area [of development] right now. We also have Dual Pixel Raw, and we’re looking for new ways of applying [this technology] currently.

    Canon's schematic of its Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor structure. The top layer illustrates the light-gathering micro-lenses and conventional Bayer-type color filter array. The lower layer shows how each pixel is split into two photo-diodes, left and right, which are colored blue and red respectively. (Note that this does not indicate different color sensitivity.)

    With lenses, we introduced the EF 70-300mm [EF70-300mm F4-5.6 IS II USM] zoom lens, and the EF-S 18-135mm [EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM] which both have Nano USM focus motors. This makes three focus actuators: ring type, stepping motor and Nano USM. This gives us more options when it comes to optical design. For a super wide lens like the 10-24mm L [EF11-24mm F4L USM] for example, we offer ring-type USM, which provides higher torque. Our optical technology is a strength that we’re proud of.

    Maybe Canon lenses don’t look that different to our competitors, but in terms of performance, we’re able to create lenses that are superior

    We also have a range of [special] optical materials, and methods to process these materials. If you just look at specs, maybe Canon lenses don’t look that different to our competitors, but in terms of performance, we’re able to create lenses that are superior. It’s also about post-purchase support. Durability, reliability, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Our users are able to enjoy this level of performance and they appreciate that.

    We also have a new product – our new Speedlite 470EX-AI flash, for automatic bounce photography. So we believe that we can provide innovation across the system of cameras, lenses and accessories. Our customer base is also diversifying, particularly generations ‘Y’ and ‘Z’. They’re looking for new things. We were just at CES in Las Vegas, where we showed some new concept models. We got a lot of feedback, and we want to turn [the concepts] into a marketable product pretty soon.

    When we look at trends in mirrorless technology, we’re considering the technical advancements that are possible.

    Clearly, the transition to mirrorless will be a big challenge, technically. When you look ahead to further mirrorless development, are you envisaging a new lens system?

    It’s been more than 30 years since we launched our EF lens mount, and we’ve sold more than 130 million EF lenses during that time, so we can’t simply ignore that many lenses in the market. At the same time, when we look at trends in mirrorless technology, we’re considering the technical advancements that are possible. It’s a difficult question to answer, but maybe let your imagination suggest some possibilities!

    The move from FD to EF in 1987 was bold but also controversial given the legacy of FD lenses and the lack of compatibility between the two platforms. Do you think that situation will happen again?

    That’s a difficult question to answer. There was a lot of discussion and debate about that shift, in 1987, and we’re going through the same thing now. We want to nurture and support our [existing] EF customers and we’re in discussion about that at the moment.

    Canon's recently-announced EF 85mm F1.4L, showing the electronic contacts which are a defining element of the EF lens system, first introduced more than 30 years ago to replace the all-mechanical FD lens platform.

    In 1987, the shift was from a mechanical interface to an electronic interface. That [precluded cross-compatibility]. Despite that shift, the change provided significantly more value for our customers, which is why we went ahead. If it turns out that [the introduction of mirrorless] will create a similar situation, this might be a decision that we would take [again]. But we’re not sure yet.

    Because we’re already using an electronic interface, the shift will be more gradual [than it was in 1987] so [we would better able to] maintain compatibility.

    Looking ahead, what is Canon’s main priority?

    We want to improve our product lineup, including lenses. We just released an entry-level model (the EOS M50), and because young people are really getting into photography more actively, the entry-level segment is one that we always need to make sure to tackle.

    The entire concept of capturing images has changed over the past couple of years

    When it comes to maintaining market share and ensuring growth, what is the most difficult challenge that Canon is facing?

    We’ve been producing cameras for a long time, but the entire concept of capturing images has changed over the past couple of years, and we need to engage with this new style of capturing images. The first stage is our new concept cameras. It’s important for us to relax and expand our concepts of image capture.

    This is of the several concept cameras that Canon has been showing this year - an 'intelligent compact camera' designed to automatically capture images, and intelligently learn about the kinds of pictures you want to take.

    Now, maybe the camera can be beside you, or maybe even away from you, and still capture the image that you’re looking for. We need to have the technologies to respond to [these new ways of capturing images] in the way that Canon should.

    For a very long time, Canon and Nikon dominated the professional market. There’s a lot more competition these days. Is more competition good for Canon?

    More players means more activity in the industry, which is a positive thing. Having said that, of course it’s tough.

    Does this pressure generate better ideas? More innovation?

    Very much so, and it goes both ways. For all players, to be stimulated by increased competition allows us to level-up across the board.

    Is it more important for camera manufacturers to design cameras that behave more like smartphones, or that they communicate the benefits of a dedicated camera to smartphone photographers?

    I think we have to do both. We have to continue to evolve the traditional benefits that a camera can provide, and at the same time we have to consider the diversification of image capturing tools, including smartphones, and what they have to offer. Our mission is to pursue both approaches.

    Editor's note:

    This interview was the fourth time I've spoken to Mr. Tokura in recent years, who has become more senior within Canon since we first met back in 2014. Our conversation at CP+ covered some old ground (the perception among some industry-watchers that Canon is a little conservative, increased competition from the likes of Sony, etc.) but this year I really got the sense from talking to him that Mr. Tokura and his team will have some pretty interesting products to show us in the not too distant future.

    We know from previous conversations with both Mr. Tokura and his boss Mr. Maeda that increasing the speed of product development has been a priority at Canon in recent years. Since then, we've seen some solid refreshes at the top and middle of Canon's DSLR lineup (along with some truly excellent new lenses), but a lot of the company's energy seems to have been directed towards the lower-end, especially within the EOS M lineup. This focus on the entry-level segment of the camera market ('where the sales are', as Mr. Tokura said in our interview) makes sense, but I've expressed my own disappointment in the past about such a 'slow and steady' approach in the face of increasingly fast-moving competition.

    Canon has the technology for high-end mirrorless - it just has to put all the pieces together

    It's been a long time coming, but in this interview Mr. Tokura came pretty close to at least hinting that higher-end, perhaps even full-frame mirrorless is imminent – and maybe even within the next 12 months. As he said, Canon has the technology – it just has to put all the pieces together.

    Possibly even more exciting is the possibility of a professional model to come by 2020. Back in 2016, Mr. Tokura reminded me that Canon likes to launch flagship models in Olympic years, and the fact that the next Olympiad will be held in Tokyo is likely to present an irresistible opportunity. You heard it here first.

    Canon has shaken up the photography market several times in the past, and has the potential to do so again.

    Speaking of the future, the Canon executives I spoke to at CP+ were very keen to show me the mockups of a range of concept cameras that were first unveiled at this year's CES show in Las Vegas, in January. While none are finished, marketable products (yet) it's clear that Canon is keen to explore products that respond to what Mr. Tokura calls 'a new style of capturing images'.

    Canon is sometimes criticized for taking a conservative approach to product development, and in some cases this is true (although it isn't always a bad thing). It's important to remember though that Canon has shaken up the photography market several times in the past, and there's every chance it could do so again.

    Previous interviews with Canon executives:

    An interview with the heads of Canon's L lens factory (2017)

    CP+ 2017: 'We want to be number one in the overall ILC market'

    CP+ 2015: 'Every day I'm saying 'speed up!'

    Photokina 2014: Mirrorless 'in the very near future'

    CP+ 2014: 'We don't see the smartphone as an enemy'

    CP+ 2013: Interview with Canon's Masaya Maeda

  • Sun, 18 Mar 2018 12:00:00 Z

    Sample Gallery: Documenting a bike build with the Fujifilm X-E3

    We recently got a chance to follow local frame builder Max Kullaway as he created one of his AirLandSea bikes. To document the process, we used the Fujifilm X-E3, the 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 R OIS and a selection of the company's mid-price F2 prime lenses.

    Here are favorites of the photos we got, as the project progressed from bare tubes all the way to rideable bicycle. For the full story, check out our video.

    This is sponsored content, created with the support of Amazon and Fujifilm. What does this mean?

  • Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:00:00 Z

    Sony a7 III dynamic range and high ISO improve over its predecessor

    Sony recently announced the a7 III, a comparatively affordable full frame mirrorless camera that incorporates a host of advanced features derived from the a9 and a7R III. The combination of price point and feature set makes it attractive to both enthusiasts and pros, particularly those looking to get into full frame or perhaps even make the switch to mirrorless. While we've already shot quite a bit with it and offered our thoughts on the camera as a whole, we hadn't had a chance to take a deep dive into its image quality performance.

    And we know many of you are wondering: what's the dynamic range like? The high ISO performance?

    Let's take a look.

    Low light (high ISO) performance

    a7 III
    ISO 25,600
    a7R III
    ISO 25,600
    a7 II
    ISO 25,600

    Low light performance has improved markedly over the a7 II, putting it more or less in-line with the a7R III (and therefore a9) when images are viewed at the same size (we've downsized the a7R III shot to 24MP). These are 100% crops here (if you're viewing on a smartphone or Retina / 4K display, see this footnote* below). Roll over the captions, or click on any of the images to view our full studio scene images for each camera.

    This is a great result, but also comes as no surprise: noise performance is broadly determined by a combination of sensor size and technology, and we've recently seen some significant improvements to sensor technology made by Sony. In particular, the backside-illuminated (BSI) and dual gain architecture of most recent Sony sensors helps squeeze every last bit of performance out of these already low noise imaging chips. Furthermore, the original a7 and a7 II lagged in high ISO performance, often failing to surpass the best APS-C sensors.

    Dynamic range vs. the a7R III

    The a7 III more or less matches the base ISO dynamic range of the a7R III, when both are viewed at common size (we've normalized all our graphs to 8MP). That means both cameras will give you similar ability to make use of (brighten) shadows in Raw files if you want to show a wider dynamic range than shown with the default tone curve. And as long as you're shooting uncompressed Raw, performance is no different whether you're shooting Single or Continuous drive.

    In numbers, that's 14.6 EV and 14.8 EV for the a7 III and a7R III, respectively, which falls within our margin of error. You might see a difference in extreme pushes or exposure adjustments, but it's not likely to be photographically relevant.

    a7 III (orange) vs. a7R III (blue). There's a slight chance you might notice the 0.2 EV advantage of the a7R III at base ISO or the 0.3 EV advantage of the a7 III at higher ISOs, but we doubt it. As our test scene images show, the two cameras look very similar when viewed at the same output size.

    Note the jump in dynamic range at ISO 640 for both cameras. That's essentially the camera's second 'base' ISO, where the second stage of the dual-gain architecture kicks in. At ISOs 640 and above, most recent Sony sensors use a higher gain mode that essentially amplifies the signal at the pixel-level to get it above the (already pretty low) noise floor.** In laymen's terms, that just means 'more picture, less noise', particularly in shadows – hence the increase in dynamic range.

    Our analysis shows the a7 III to just edge out the a7R III at these higher ISOs, albeit only by about 0.3 EV (which happens to be right around our margin of error). You might see this in the deepest shadows – in fact, if you look very closely at the darkest patch in our ISO 25,600 rollover above, you can kind of see a tad bit less noise in the a7 III, but is that photographically relevant? Up to you.

    ... but it shows a marked improvement over its predecessor

    While base ISO dynamic range remains the same as its predecessor, the dual-gain design brings a marked improvement at high ISO. Shadows at high ISO will be notably cleaner on the a7 III, and that's before you consider the better overall high ISO performance – even in brighter tones – likely due to either a more efficient sensor or lower upstream read noise.

    Compared with the a7 II (green), the a7 III (orange) shows much better dynamic range (at least 1.6 EV) at higher ISOs. Also, whereas you can see noise reduction being applied to the a7 II's Raw at 25,600, it doesn't kick in until ISO 64,000 (beyond the graph) on the Mark III.

    Compressed continuous drive performance

    If you shoot compressed Raw, the camera drops to 12-bit sensor readout in continuous drive modes. This negatively impacts dynamic range, dropping 1.4 EV at base ISO and roughly 1 EV at ISO 640. Dynamic range catches up at higher ISOs, though never quite matches the performance of 14-bit readout. Even at ISO 6400, 12-bit files are roughly 0.4 EV behind - though this is unlikely to significantly impact your photography. The differences at lower ISOs and at ISO 640, on the other hand, you might notice in more extreme pushes.

    a7 III Uncompressed (orange) vs. Compressed 12-bit (light orange) performance. We're not sure about the jumps at ISO 160 and 800, but for the most part there's a drop in dynamic range at lower ISOs that more or less evens out at the higher ISOs.

    In Single drive mode, compressed Raw continues to use 14-bit sensor readout, so measured roughly the same dynamic range as Uncompressed (it dropped 0.1 EV, but that's within our margin of error).

    And if you're confused about when the camera drops to 12-bit – which is the only time you'd see these drops in DR – the only combination that diverges from 14-bit is when you shoot compressed Raw in (any) continuous drive mode. All other combinations of Mechanical or Electronic shutter, drive mode or Raw type are 14-bit.

    vs. a7R II

    We threw this one in here because the a7 III and a7R II are currently being sold for roughly similar price (the latter is $400 more expensive), so we're aware of some discussion about choosing between the two. You're unlikely to notice our measured 0.2 EV higher base ISO dynamic range of the a7 III, but you might notice the 0.5 EV advantage at ISO 640. At higher ISOs the cameras even out.

    Realistically though, there's not much difference between these cameras.

    a7 III (orange) vs a7R II (red) dynamic range. You might notice the 0.5 EV advantage of the a7 III at ISO 640, but for the most part performance is similar.


    Due to the dual-gain architecture, there are two 'ISO-invariant' ranges: ISO 100-500, and ISO 640-51,200. This means that if your midtone exposure demands ISO 400 but you're worried about clipping highlights, you're better off keeping your exposure settings the same but dialing the camera back to ISO 100 and then selectively brightening the Raw later. This affords you 2 EV extra highlight headroom, with no extra noise in shadows or midtones. If on the other hand your midtone exposure demands ISO 6400, you're better off keeping the same shutter speed and aperture and dialing the ISO down to ISO 640, affording you 3.3 EV extra highlight headroom at no noise cost.

    Wait, does this mean I should shoot ISO 640 instead of 320?

    No. Not necessarily.

    If you have enough light to expose ISOs 200-500 correctly, you should use those ISOs. For example, say you can set a shutter speed and aperture to expose ISO 320 properly. You should not rather choose ISO 640 and shorten your exposure (to preserve highlights that the higher amplification of ISO 640 might clip). That would mean lower overall signal:noise ratio due to increased photon shot noise contribution, and would essentially have the same overall effect of shooting with a smaller (in this example: APS-C) sized sensor.

    Recall that dynamic range is not everything, and generally the more light you collect, the better your image. Bill Claff's 'Photographic Dynamic Range' data for the a7R III, which uses a higher threshold for 'acceptable noise in shadows' and therefore considers total light captured more than our measurements, shows that ISO 100-400 outperform ISO 640 and higher. Dual-gain boosts low light performance, and shouldn't affect your exposure decisions any differently, other than perhaps biasing toward ISO 640 rather than 500 in low light.


    We've summarized our results in numbers in the table below.

    ISO 100 (24MP) ISO 100 (8MP) ISO 640 (24MP) ISO 640 (8MP) a7 III 13.8 EV 14.6 EV 13.4 EV 14.2 EV a7 III (compressed 12-bit) 12.4 EV 13.2 EV 12.3 EV 13.2 EV a7 II 13.9 EV 14.7 EV 11.8 EV 12.6 EV a7R III 14 EV 14.8 EV 13.1 EV 13.9 EV a7R II 13.6 EV 14.4 EV 12.9 EV 13.7 EV a9 12.6 EV 13.4 EV 12.4 EV 13.2 EV

    So what's the take-away? The a7 III's image quality more or less matches what we've come to expect from modern, well-performing full-frame sensors. There's really not much difference between the a7 III, the a7R III, the a7R II, or the Nikon D850 for that matter.

    But if you're coming from one of the original a7 cameras, you'll notice the dramatic increase in low light performance. The a7 III bests its predecessors both in dynamic range and general noise performance at higher ISOs, thanks to a number of sensor improvements (efficiency, BSI, dual-gain). Interestingly, the a7 III, which we'd imagine shares a similar sensor to the a9 minus the stacked design, offers roughly 1 EV more dynamic range than that camera at ISOs 100 and 640 (the cameras even out at the highest ISOs). General noise performance of the a9 - if you're not pushing your files - is similar though.

    The a7 III's image quality more or less matches what we've come to expect from modern, well-performing full-frame sensors

    The a7 III offers great image quality performance at an affordable price point. That said, it's not image quality that sets this camera apart from its contemporaries but, rather, its significant other capabilities like autofocus, silent shooting, video and a number of other things we'll be delving into in our full review.

    * Retina & smartphone optimized 100% crops:

    a7 III
    ISO 25,600
    a7R III
    ISO 25,600
    a7 II
    ISO 25,600

    ** Technically speaking, it's not exactly more amplification. Rather, the sensor switches to a different circuit within the pixel that has different capacitance at the floating diffusion node. This essentially generates a larger voltage swing (signal) per photoelectron captured, which means the signal - your picture - is less affected by the noise floor of the sensor and electronics.

  • Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:00:00 Z

    Photo story of the week: Flowing under a solar storm
    A night of stunning Northern Lights dancing above Haukland Beach, the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway, on a moonless evening.

    The serene stream that flows from the surrounding mountains and pours into the Norwegian Sea curved into a beautiful shape, paralleling the curves of the Auroral display. Haukland is a very good location for shooting Aurora, since it has numerous interesting features (such as the mountain and the stream), and since any water left stationary frequently freezes over and supplies more variety and interest. It's also relatively shielded from artificial lights.

    This image was taken in the winter of 2016 during my Lofoten workshop. I used a Sony A7R and a Samyang 14mm F2.8 with a Metabones adapter. The photograph was taken at F2.8, ISO 3200, and 8 sec exposure. The high ISO, wide aperture and long exposure were used to counter the darkness and produce a balanced exposure.

    Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on Instagram, Facebook and 500px, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates. Erez offers photo workshops worldwide.

  • Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:59:00 Z

    AI-powered Google Lens visual search tool is now available on iOS devices

    The AI-powered Google Lens feature uses visual recognition to provide information about whatever your smartphone's camera is pointed at. For example, it can identify landmarks, a type of flower, or provide information about a restaurant or other businesses you're photographing.

    Google first showed of this feature at the I/O 2017 event, then integrated it into the company's Pixel phones, and later made available for all Android devices. Now, the final step of the natural Google Lens evolution is complete: the company has announced that Google Lens is coming to Apple's iOS operation system:

    iOS users should see a preview of Google Lens appear in the latest version of the Google Photos app over the next week. So, look out for the update and, if you haven't got the Google Photos app already, you can download and install it from the iOS App Store.

Digital Photography School

  • Sun, 18 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    As photographers, we often spend most of our time behind the camera rather than in front of it. I certainly was no exception! However, this past year, I made a conscious effort to put myself in front of my own camera more often including doing a self-portrait project. I was surprised by the ways in which those experiences have shaped the way that I now interact with my clients as a photographer.

    Here are three of the lessons that I learned through my self-portrait project, as well as the ways that they’ve helped me become a better photographer.

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    1. Being photographed is really awkward!

    As I began my self-portrait project, one of the first things I noticed was how absolutely awkward it was to be in front of the camera. I initially started out tethering my camera but decided that I really wanted to emulate the way that my clients feel in front of the camera as much as possible, so I ended up simply using a remote.

    The remote method was much more challenging and much stranger! I knew what types of posing would be most flattering in theory, but I discovered that when I was in front of the camera, sometimes the posing instructions that I’d typically use left me with a lot of questions.

    When I gently rest my hand on my neck, should my fingers be open or closed? Where exactly should my hand be on my neck so that I don’t look like I’m strangling myself? When I’m looking to the side of the camera, exactly how far to the side should I look?

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    Put yourself in the subject’s shoes

    As photographers, we’re around cameras and photography equipment regularly – it’s just a part of our lives. It can be easy to forget that this is often not the case for our clients. Often times, clients have portraits done annually (if even that often) and may arrive for a session feeling just about as comfortable as they might at the dentist.

    They know they want to end up with images that are both flattering and capture their personalities, but they aren’t quite sure how to make that happen.

    Since I’ve been experimenting with self-portraits and experiencing that awkwardness first hand, I’ve started nearly every session with a brief conversation where I essentially say, “Hey, I know that having your photo taken can feel really awkward. I might ask you to stand or move your body in ways that feel strange and unnatural to you, but try to trust me – I’m on your team, and want to deliver photos that you will absolutely love!”

    It’s so simple, but even just acknowledging that sometimes portrait sessions might feel a little strange and uncomfortable can go a long way towards making them much less strange and uncomfortable.

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    2. Posing and wardrobe are really important

    My personal photography style typically tends more towards lifestyle/documentary than styled sessions. As such, I don’t often give a ton of complicated posing directions or wardrobe instructions for my sessions.

    To model that, I tried taking self-portraits in a whole variety of clothing options. I captured myself wearing everything from a hoodie sweatshirt to a dressy sweater and scarf. I tried taking portraits with my hair up as well as down, and I experimented with heavy makeup as well as no makeup. Also, I tried posing in the ways that I usually sit or stand, followed by some of my “go-to” gentle posing techniques for women.

    I knew that both posing and wardrobe/styling were important, but I’m not sure that I realized just how important they were until I was able to see some side-by-side images of myself in different poses and the same pose with different clothing choices.

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    The long sleeves here are important to put more emphasis on my face, as opposed to the arms like the image on the left.

    Make specific wardrobe and posing suggestions

    I now find myself being a bit more specific when clients ask for clothing suggestions. For example, prior to my self-portrait project, I probably would have told clients, “The most important factor is to wear something you feel comfortable in. As a general rule, most people look great in jewel tones.”

    Now, I’d be more likely to say something like, “The most important factor is wearing something that you feel comfortable and confident in! When it comes to portraits, I recommend that you wear a jewel-toned jacket or cardigan with a solid black, grey, or white tank top or t-shirt underneath, which allows us so much versatility in your images.”

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    Similarly, I’ve found myself giving more detailed instructions when it comes to posing, often even using my own body to demonstrate exactly what I mean. Most clients were excited to receive more specific instructions to follow – it leaves less open to interpretation, which in turn makes them feel more confident that they’ll love the end result of our session.

    3. Positive affirmation is absolutely crucial

    Since I wasn’t working with my camera tethered to my laptop, I had absolutely no idea how things were looking as I was shooting, so hearing comments from people as they walked by was huge! When one of my daughters walked by and said,”Oops! I can’t see your head!”, I knew I had to stop and make adjustments right away.

    3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project

    Any sort of feedback like that was helpful, but when someone positively affirmed how the images were looking, it held a lot more importance than I would have thought!

    For example, one afternoon a neighbor friend drove by and hollered something positive out her window as I was working on a self-portrait in the front yard. That simple comment gave me a huge confidence boost, and the next images in the set were significantly better than any of the ones I’d taken previously.


    I’m an introvert by nature, and can sometimes have a tendency to go inside my head while I’m working. My brain is sometimes going a mile a minute, and I can forget to communicate what I’m thinking or seeing to those in front of my lens.

    Since practicing self-portraits, I have really focused on positively affirming my family, friends, and clients as they’re in front of my lens. Telling them what an amazing job they’re doing with super awkward posing makes a difference. Commenting on how much you love the images so far is huge as well. Commenting on real attributes that make the person in front of your camera feel incredible makes a huge difference.

    Give your friends, family, and clients the necessary feedback and positive affirmations that will allow their confidence in front of the camera to grow, and it will be a game changer for your sessions!

    Have you ever done a self-portrait project? If so, what did you learn? Please share your experience and self-portraits in the comments section below.

    The post 3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.

  • Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:00:00 +0000

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks

    For myself and many other photographers, probably you included, one of the more difficult parts of the hobby is figuring out where to shoot things like nature photography.

    If you have a big trip or a vacation planned, whether it be an exotic location or somewhere not so far away, then that question is answered for you. But for evening shoots after work, spontaneous sessions or weekend outings, a bit of planning is necessary. Enter the wonders of your local parks!

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks

    A park can take many forms and can exist in any location, and almost any country. It is generally defined as a “large public green area, used for recreation”. They come in all sizes, and each features their own unique variety of plants, animals, and landscapes.

    Parks can be as small as a local city or county park, a larger state park, all the way up to a massive national park. Their common thread is that they have been well-defined and set aside for public use, and are perfect areas to practice nature photography.

    Why shoot at a park?

    Parks are unique and useful to us photographers because they can be a testing ground for new equipment, a safe practice area for new techniques, or a fully-realized background for your real work.

    Parks are attractive because they are a (usually) safe, well-defined area, a miniature representation of the local environment. They give you a small, diverse biosphere of flora and fauna, all wrapped up in one package.

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks

    Parks are also numerous, and you have a lot to choose from, regardless of size or classification. Even national parks, with the fewest number of all the types, are plentiful. Over 100 countries worldwide have lands designated as national parks, including 59 in the United States alone. This doesn’t even count other sites in the national registry, such as forests, seashores, and historic sites.

    The bottom line is you’ll never have a lack of subject matter when visiting one of these areas.

    Preparing for the shoot

    Preparing for a photo shoot in a park isn’t really any different than most other outdoor environments. You’ll want to pack and check all of your normal gear, including:

    • Camera body – If you’re hiking to a location, you’ll probably want to keep the number of bodies down to one; otherwise, maybe bring a film or instant camera as well for backup.
    • Lenses – Again, you don’t want to weigh yourself down too much, but always bring lenses to cover most of the situations you’ll find yourself in. If you’re shooting landscapes, bring a wide-angle prime lens, or at least a zoom that covers focal lengths down to 18 to 24 mm.
    • Tripod – Some camera bags and backpacks have holders for your tripod. Otherwise, take this into consideration as tripods are often not heavy, but bulky and unwieldy to carry while tromping through the park with your other gear.

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks - use a tripod

    • Filters and other accessories – Don’t forget the little things such as UV filters, neutral density filters, remote shutter releases, and microfiber cloths to keep lens glass clean.

    Since you’re shooting outside, you also need to be prepared for events and conditions outside your control, such as the weather. Depending on the size of the park, there may be hiking and long walking involved. So, you’ll also need to plan ahead and consider items such as:

    • Appropriate clothing – Long sleeves and long pants for mosquito-prone environments, hats, extra dry socks for long hikes.
    • Items to protect against the sun – Sunscreen and sunglasses.
    • Defensive items to keep yourself safe – A knife, or bear spray, if you’re traveling into areas where bears are known to live.
    • Location tools – To help identify where you are and where you’re going, such as a GPS receiver, paper maps (absolutely the best idea), and a compass.


    As with any outdoor excursions, you’ll need to plan ahead a little, both physically and mentally, when venturing out into a park, especially a state or national park or forest.

    First, just make sure you know what you’re getting into. If you’re going to a large, sprawling national park and have never been to the area before, then it’s pretty tough to physically scout the location before your shoot. The best you can do in that situation is to do as much research as you can online, or talk to friends or co-workers that have been to the area before.

    For a smaller park, or one that’s close by, the best idea is to scout the location first. What hazards are present? Native animals? Plants?

    Here in Florida, we have a tree (uncommon, but it exists in the wild) called a Manchineel. Everything about it from the leaves to the wood itself is extremely toxic. Even brushing up against it can end badly. These are the kinds of things you want to research well before you explore a park, especially the larger ones that may take you into more remote areas.

    photo of a lake - Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks

    Wildlife dangers

    On the fauna side of possible dangers, you have the local wildlife. Here in Florida, it’s primarily alligators and snakes, although some areas of our state are habitats for small populations of bears and panthers. First aid and snakebite kits are a smart idea for almost any wilderness area around the world. Other areas of the United States and around the world have larger animals that can pose a serious threat to explorers and photographers, such as bears.

    Black bears alone exist in approximately 40 of the 50 states in the U.S., and they, along with the other species, need to be respected and avoided. Many photographers and tourists have been making headlines in recent years by getting too close to bears, without thinking of the possible outcomes to themselves or the bear.

    While unprovoked attacks aren’t very common, it is very easy to surprise or startle a bear, and it’s always recommended to carry bear spray in the wild when in bear territory.

    What to Shoot

    The possibilities of subjects in an outdoor park are almost endless. Some of us will go just to shoot a sunrise or sunset, while others want to take home photos of local wildlife.

    Landscape photographers can focus on grabbing a shot of that sunset, or other features of the environment, such as lakes, mountains, and rivers. Open, panoramic scenes captured with wide-angle lenses are a favorite, as are forests, trees and the changes in the color of leaves. Flowing water such as waterfalls or fast moving rivers are good candidates for a long exposure photo, and even plains and prairies can be framed into beautiful minimalist compositions.

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks

    There is a never-ending variety of flora and fauna that can be photographed, such as flowers, trees, plants, and animals such as small mammals, reptiles, and an endless variety of birds. Many parks have some species that are concentrated in that area and offer opportunities for us photographers that we can’t get anywhere else.

    Here on the west Florida coast, my nearest state park is home to the Florida Scrub Jay, endemic to this area, and concentrated higher in this one park than anywhere else. It’s almost a rite of passage to photograph one. Many parks around the world are home to their own species as well.

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks - bird

    Environmental Awareness

    Finally, we need to address an overall importance when discussing capturing images of our beautiful environment; we as photographers need to be nature’s greatest champions.

    I would suspect that most of us who love to be outdoors, already have a desire to be careful when enjoying our parks. But as we’ve seen recently in the news, not all of us take that into consideration. The commonly heard phrase, “leave nothing but footprints” may sound cliche, but it really is a best-case scenario of what we should strive for as we enjoy the great outdoors.

    Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks - bird photo

    The plants and animals that make their home in these areas were likely there long before we visited. It is our responsibility to leave the areas as we found them, without adding or taking away anything from the environment. This will ensure that future generations of photographers and explorers will be able to enjoy those areas too.

    What was your best experience visiting and photographing a park for nature photography? Where do you want to go that you haven’t been yet? And what tips would you give others who are ready to visit and document the great outdoors? Please comment and let’s discuss below.

    The post Tips for Doing Nature Photography at Your Local Parks by Tim Gilbreath appeared first on Digital Photography School.

  • Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000

    Tips for How to Enhance the Mood in Your Foggy Photos

    I love photographs of foggy scenes. It can be a view of a busy street, a sprawling city skyline or a secluded mountain valley. Mist and fog are transformative and can give a well-known location a completely different feeling, filled with mystery and depth.

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos

    There are so many things you can do with your foggy images to give them the kind of mood and feel you want.

    In this article, I’m going to choose an image that features fog and edit it a few different ways. I’ll show you a few simple factors that you can put to use to help you learn to completely control the mood of your misty and foggy images.

    The Photo

    This is the photograph that was kind enough to lend itself to be a guinea pig for our little experiments.

    foggy image of a tree - How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos

    It’s an image I made early one morning in the mountains of Virginia and of course, it is a RAW file…for now. Below we’re going to look at how some easy changes can literally transform this photo.


    We all know about contrast to some extent. At its core, contrast is simply the difference between light and dark in an image. When there’s a big difference and the lights are bright and the shadows are dark the photo is said to be high contrast. The opposite is true with low contrast photos where there is a very little gradient between the lights and darks.

    The reason I’m refreshing you with a little Photography 101 is that fog inherently makes most images low contrast. You can choose to further reduce the contrast or bump things up as I’ve done in our first example.

    Here’s our test photo with a large amount of increased contrast (using the Contrast and Blacks sliders) applied.

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos - higher contrast tree image

    A relatively large amount of contrast in a misty scene instantly changes the tone of the photo by adding a sense of brooding. The light areas become brighter and the shadows deepen. High contrast images, in general, have more impact but that’s more of a preference than a rule.

    Alternatively, you can choose to embrace the softness of foggy images and decrease the contrast even more. Now I’ve lessened the contrast using the Tone Curve to fade out the tree.

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos - lower contrast tree image

    Low contrast can make your image extremely delicate which imparts an artsy, nearly abstract vibe. Oddly enough, low contrast foggy photos can be surprisingly workable in black and white as well.

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos - b/w tree

    Color Temperature

    Believe it or not, color temperature has one of the most perceivable impacts on photos of fog and mist. Perhaps even more so than anything the feel of the photograph and how it conveys mood is determined by the temperature of the color tones.

    Now I’m going to take that high contrast version of the photo from the last example and change nothing but the color temperature. The version is nice and soothing cooled down. I adjusted the White Balance from 6150K to 4350K.

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos - cool image of a tree

    Next, let’s warm the color temperature back up considerably from the base 6150K to 7350K

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos - warmer image of a tree

    See what a difference that makes? Misty and foggy images with a cooler color temperature are more ethereal and give the viewer a more ominous, darker experience. On the flip side of the temperature coin, warmer toned images are generally viewed as more upbeat and comforting.

    It’s funny how changing the color temperature can have such a drastic effect on identical scenes.


    The overall all brightness of a photo is very subjective but when it comes to foggy photos there’s a very particular change you can make to your photo to take it from mundane to wow. “Wowdane” maybe? You know what I mean.

    You accomplish this by making use of your old friend in Lightroom, the Graduated Filter. I’m going to use the cool toned image from the last example but the only change I’ll make is to add some increased exposure in the top portion of the photo.

    How to Control Mood in Your Foggy Photos - darker

    By brightening up the fog in the tree top the entire photo becomes more impactful and punchy. The fog seems to “glow” and becomes more like something out of the pages of a storybook.

    Experiment with your photo by moving the Graduated Filter around to add directional lighting or even opting for the Radial Filter to localize the effect even more. I use a Graduated or Radial Filters (or both) in virtually all of my landscape and nature photos and it becomes especially useful in those which feature fog or mist.

    Embracing the Haze

    Some final thoughts on working with images of mist and fog include using the suggestions above, but I also encourage you to revisit the same image more than once while editing. Look for ways to change the mood and tone of the photo by changing the color temperatures. Don’t be afraid to go to extremes with contrast.

    The great thing about working with these types of scenes is that they offer incredible creative opportunities for both you and the viewer.

    The post Tips for How to Enhance the Mood in Your Foggy Photos by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

  • Fri, 16 Mar 2018 18:00:00 +0000

    Weekly Photography Challenge – New Things

    Last week your challenge was antiques or old things. So let’s change it up and do the opposite this week.

    I photographed my new Fuji X00F when I first got it.

    Weekly Photography Challenge – New Things

    Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

    Share in the dPS Facebook Group

    You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

    The post Weekly Photography Challenge – New Things by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

  • Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000

    Introducing the new Sony a7 III – Let’s see what all the fuss is about

    Sony recently released their newest full frame camera, available in April 2018 (at the time of this writing), the Sony a7 III. There’s been a lot of talk about it – let’s take a look at a few hands-on field tests to see what all the fuss is about.

    Official video for the Sony a7 III

    Check out some of the specs and features of the new Sony a7 III in this official product feature from Sony.

    Some of the specs for the Sony a7 III at a glance include:

    • 24-megapixel full-frame sensor
    • 5-axis image stabilization
    • 4K video
    • 693 focus points (same as the more expensive a9)
    • 10 frames per second mechanic shutter
    • 15 stops dynamic range
    • Dual memory card slot
    • Uses new NP-FZ100 battery with an improved life up to 710 shots per charge
    • Touch-screen for focus
    • Ultrafast tracking focus and eye focus

    Things missing:

    • No GPS
    • No time-lapse

    Sneak peak and predictions

    Dave Altizer from Kinotika goes over some of the specs of the Sony a7 III and why you might be excited about this entry-level full frame camera. Coming in at $2000, it has many features of its big siblings the a7R III and a9, without the big hit to your pocketbook.

    Early thoughts

    In this video from PhotoRec TV, hear why this photographer’s headline for the Sony a7 III is,

    “With this camera, there isn’t much to complain about!”

    He talks about some of the differences between the Sony a7 III and the a7R  III, as well as the high-end a9. Also, learn about some of the things he’s excited about in regards to this new camera including the longer lasting battery, dual slots, the joystick, USB-C, and touchscreen interface.

    Full hands-on review

    Finally, in this video go more in-depth with a hands-on review from Sony artisan photographer, Jason Lanier. He puts the camera through its paces testing the autofocus, burst shooting rate, buffer time, and more. This is a really helpful, real-world review that may help you decide if this camera is for you.

    If you found that one valuable he’s got another video where he tests Canon lenses on the Sony a7 III with amazing results. And he doesn’t even own a Canon camera body!

    What are your thoughts? I don’t know about you, but just watching these videos I was really impressed with its fast focus abilities. This could be a game-changer for sports or wildlife shooters, or even those doing video. Are you ready to give the Sony a7 III a try?

    The post Introducing the new Sony a7 III – Let’s see what all the fuss is about by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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