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February 2012 Archives

February 7, 2012

Nikon D800 Preview

By Ellis Vener

Prior to the official launch of the 36-megapixel Nikon D800, Lindsay Silverman of Nikon came by the Professional Photographer office to let us have a quick hands-on demonstration with a “ready for production” prototype. While we were not allowed to keep any of the shots we made with the prototype, we are able to share our immediate impressions.


Physicality and ergonomics:

  • The first thing you notice is the size of the camera. Without the optional grip with extra batteries and vertical release, it feels like a slightly beefed up version of the now venerable D700. Without actually sitting a D700 down beside it, the body felt roughly the same height and length but slightly deeper and maybe a little heavier.
  • In FX (Nikon’s full-frame mode) approximately 100 percent of the vertical and horizontal image area can be seen through the viewfinder with camera control information in the surrounding black bezel.
  • The control layout on the back of the camera, in the menus, and on the right hand side of the pentaprism is another evolutionary step from the D3 to the D700 to the D7000. New on the camera’s back side is a separate button for activating live view. There is a switch around the button to go from Live View for stills to video mode. The meter patterning control (Spot, Matrix, and Center-weighted) is now a smaller crown-type switch surrounding the AE-L / AF-L lock button.
  • The controls on the top deck to the left of the pentaprism are different with a couple more options, again not a huge change, but the goal is to make more of the controls that photographers are likely to use physical rather than menu driven.
  • On the front of the camera, the focus mode switch has been simplified to just two options, auto-focus and manual focus.
  • The D800 uses the same EN-EL15 battery as the D7000. This will make life easier if you use the APS-C format D7000 as a second camera.
  • As with the recently announced D4, once again Nikon goes with a mixed media card strategy: CF (Type I up to UDMA-7 compliant CompactFlash) and one SD. The SD slot can handle standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
  • For tethered shooting there is a USB 3.0 connection. Why they did not go with a faster FireWire 800, Thunderbolt, or gigabit Ethernet connection (as with the D4) is anyone’s guess, but unless they know something that we commoners don’t know that isn’t great news for Mac computer users. But you can stream an uncompressed feed to an external drive through the high-resolution HDMI output if there is no media in the camera. The HDMI-ported signal can be viewed on an external monitor in parallel with the live view controls on the camera’s 3.2-inch (diagonal) 921,000 dot LCD.
  • The built-in electronic level now has an indicator for pitch (fore/aft) as well as lateral leveling, and these are both now visible in the viewfinder as well as on the rear LCD.


Image Quality:

To state the obvious, the D800 and D800E have lots of resolution—36.3 megapixels to be exact—in a 7,360 x 4,912 pixel array spread over a 24x35.9mm Nikon-engineered CMOS sensor. Put another way, this FX camera has 50 percent more detail-gathering resolution than the highest resolution small-format DSLRs to date, the Nikon D3X, Canon ESO-1Ds Mark III and EOS 5D Mark II and Sony Alpha A700, A900 and A77. More pixels means you can print larger or at higher resolution for standard sizes without interpolating, and you can also crop and retain image quality. If you photograph products or landscapes, or are just not are worried about moiré patterns, the slightly more expensive, limited edition D800 E variant with its less aggressive anti-aliasing filter may be more to your liking.

The native sensitivity range starts at ISO 100 and goes up to 6400 with two “Hi range” boosts. Hi-1 takes you to 12,800 and Hi-2 takes you to 25,600. There is also an ISO 50 equivalent Lo-1 setting. Image processing is done through Nikon’s EXPEED 3 processing engine. To rapidly push all of this information through the EXPEED 3 system, Nikon is using a 16-bit data pipeline with a 14-bit analog to digital (A/D) conversion. Output can take the form of 12 or 14 uncompressed; losslessly compressed, or lossy compressed NEFs, plus RGB TIFFs and JPEGs. There are three smaller format options available as well: a 5:4 ratio, a 1:1.2 “crop” and 15.4-megapixel resolution Nikon DX (APS-C) format. Full-frame continuous frame speed is 4 frames per second.

Shooting characteristics:

The D800 sports an “enhanced” Multi-Cam 3500-FX AF processing system matched with 51 AF sensor points, 15 of which are cross-type sensors. The autofocus range is said to be good down to -2 EV, light so dim that at ISO 100 it would take a 4-second exposure at f/1.4 for a subject to be rendered as medium gray. The system is optimized to recognize and lock on a human face even as it moves across the frame. In our brief tests it did this very well. One of the methods this is accomplished is by tying the AF system to the new 91,000-pixel sensor used by the new 3D Color Matrix Metering III system. By comparison, the D700’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II system used a 1,005-pixel sensor.

Video quality:

Judging by the video we were shown, this is the best looking digital video we have seen out of a DSLR, no rolling shutter problems, terrific dynamic range, and very solid blacks.

Pricing and availability:

Nikon has set the MSRP for the D800 at $2,999.95 and the D800E’s MSRP at $3,299.95. The D800 should start showing up on shelves by the end of March with the D800E variant available starting in mid-April.

February 8, 2012

Faster, Natural Retouching with Beauty Bar Pro for Photoshop

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

Beauty Bar Pro is all about flexibility; the action set runs within Photoshop, and is designed to be an asset to your current workflow. I've never been a fan of image retouching that turns skin to a smooth, plastic texture (or lack thereof). And, I do prefer to individually retouch the images that my clients order. So, the Beauty Bar set from Craig's Actions fits perfectly into my retouching workflow. And chances are, it will fit into your workflow as well. Why? Because you are in control of how much retouching is done. If your retouching is more heavy-handed than mine, Beauty Bar Pro can accommodate your personal preference too. Because Beauty Bar is a set of Photoshop actions, you can tweak them to run the way you want.

This first example is of a typical problem for senior portrait clients—retouching acne. Using Beauty Bar, you can make quick work of even the most thorough retouch. Now, every software/workflow solution has a learning curve. And since I wanted to make sure to get things right, I asked developer Craig Minielly how he would use his action set to retouch this image:


To achieve the most pleasing result (below), Minielly ran Blemish Buster, one of the actions in the Beauty Bar set, twice. The first time he focused on finer settings, removing smaller blemishes (setting: 22/6), and the second time on larger blemishes (setting: 45/10). He also recommended a quick pass with the Blush Less action, and finally enhancing the image with the Beauty Bar Pro Custom Action (to match skin tone and texture). In my first attempt at using Beauty Bar, I didn't achieve these results nearly as quickly as Minielly—his total retouch time for the entire portrait? Three minutes. If I was more accustomed to using them, I do think I could achieve some very efficient editing times per image.


Just as a comparison, here's the same image, retouched using Portraiture. Personally, I think Beauty Bar did a better job preserving details while still removing the blemishes.


Continue reading "Faster, Natural Retouching with Beauty Bar Pro for Photoshop" »

February 9, 2012

Making Large Format Photo Negatives from Digital Images

By David Saffir

Until recently, our main options in photographic printing lived in two worlds—analog and digital. It didn’t seem possible that we’d ever have an option that would let photographers easily move back and forth between them. HP has introduced a solution that extends a bridge between those worlds, one that lets us print our digital images using traditional, darkroom-based silver halide/silver gelatin process. HP calls this the Large Format Photo Negative solution.

It all begins with a digital image. This can be created using a digital camera, or a scan. This digital image can be edited and manipulated in Photoshop or similar application. This original image can start in color or black and white.

To create the negative, you load an HP Designjet Z3200 printer with a transparent or translucent inkjet film manufactured for this purpose. Companies like HP, Pictorico and others manufacture this material. It's readily available; I purchased a roll of the Pictorico material at Freestyle Photographic Supplies in Los Angeles. It's also available at online retailers like B&H Photo and Adorama.


©David Saffir

This image shows the film coming off the printer. I placed a white background underneath the film to help visualization. 

Additionally, HP has created special printing pre-sets that are used through the normal printer driver. Install these on your host computer before the next step.

in Photoshop, create a simple adjustment layer that alters the tone curve of the image, which will optimize the negative for darkroom printing. The positive image is inverted and reversed to a negative, and sent to the printer.

The result is a black-and-white negative printed on the transparent film, which can be used in a conventional darkroom workflow. A contact printing frame is used to "sandwich" the large-format negative and printing paper, and standard chemistry can be used. Any color balanced light source can be used, although I recommend using a color enlarger with a lens and dichroic head.


©Tony Zinnanti


©David Saffir

Continue reading "Making Large Format Photo Negatives from Digital Images" »

February 10, 2012

Speed, Improved Interface Come to HDR Expose 2


By Stan Sholik

If you are interested in high dynamic range (HDR) imaging, you have likely investigated and purchased a number of HDR programs. If one of those programs was HDR Expose from Unified Color Technologies, you probably liked the very realistic results it created, but were put off by its lack of speed as the entire image recalculated each time an adjustment was made.

With a completely reengineered architecture, performance is significantly improved in HDR Expose 2. It sports a revised interface, additional presets and new tools. If you are looking for another option to create realistic HDR images, HDR Expose 2 may be what you are searching for.

The speed increase doesn't come from applying adjustments to a low resolution image. HDR Expose 2 applies the changes to the full resolution tone mapped image that is one of the sharpest images you will find in an HDR program. While Unified Color says that adjustments are applied in "real time," the image does not adjust as you move the adjustment sliders, which is what I consider "real-time." While viewing the changes as you move the sliders would be most useful, adjustments are applied instantaneously as soon as you release the mouse from the slider. Performance is excellent.

The interface changes are also welcome. The workflow now proceeds logically from the top of the tools palette on the right of the interface to the bottom. At the very top of the tools palette is the Brightness Histogram. This shows the entire luminance range of the HDR image with a light gray section showing the tones in the histogram that will be reproduced on a monitor or in an 8- or 16-bit image. As you make adjustments to the image, the changes are updated in the histogram display. The histogram even includes tools to show highlight and shadow clipping. Histograms in other HDR programs are poor guides to follow, but I found the HDR Expose 2 Brightness Histogram to be quite useful and accurate.


The initial screen when HDR Expose 2 is opened as a standalone application to create an HDR image from a single image sequence. When the application is opened from Lightroom or Aperture, the upper menu bar does not appear. The available options are chosen from a Preferences panel.


After adding the image sequence to the opening screen, thumbnails of the images are shown along with ghost reduction and alignment options. A box in the lower right displays a histogram of any image you have selected. This is a nice way to ensure that you have enough images, but not too many, to create a good HDR image.


Once HDR Expose 2 creates the HDR image, you have the option of applying one of the presets to start the adjustment process. Each preset automatically tone maps the image to the 8-bit color space for display in its own way. A Brightness Histogram shows the full dynamic range of the HDR image with a gray rectangle displaying the tonal range in the tone mapped image. The Brightness Histogram can also display the highlight and shadow overlays shown here.

Twelve presets are included, and the preset thumbnails display the image that you have opened. There isn't a wide variation among the six color presets or among the five monochrome presets. All give a realistic rendering to the scene. The final color preset, Grunge, cranks up the local contrast to the max and sets this preset off from all of the others. But if you're after grunge HDR images, this is not the best program for you. The local (micro) contrast control has less range than many other HDR programs, limiting your ability to "grunge" your images. There is also an option to turn off the local contrast control all together.

If you come up with a combination of adjustments that you like, you have the ability to create your own presets. They are added to the end of the thumbnail list.

Some of the new tools remove controls, while others add controls. There's no longer a halo reduction tool. That function is handled automatically in HDR Expose 2 and works well. You can now choose automatic tone mapping, but there are controls for Exposure, Highlights and Shadows if you choose to perform manual tone mapping.


The automatic halo reduction works well, with only the slightest halos showing in these areas of high contrast.

Two new tools, Dodge and Burn, allow you to brush on or remove exposure to the image. The brush size is limited to 100 pixels, so it takes a while to burn in a large area of sky. But few other HDR programs even offer this degree of control.


HDR Expose 2 includes Dodge and Burn brushes for making very local tonal changes. I began using the dodge brush to lighten the trunks of the palm trees, and then decided I like them better dark.

Continue reading "Speed, Improved Interface Come to HDR Expose 2" »

February 29, 2012

Book Review: Visual Stories - Behind the Lens With Vincent Laforet

Visual Stories: Behind the Lens With Vincent Laforet
By: Vincent Laforet with Ibarionex Perello
New Riders/Voices That Matter

Reviewed by Ellis Vener

Until his recent migration to being a full-time director, Vincent Laforet primarily worked as a visualstories_cover_we.jpgphotojournalist—most prominently as a staff photographer for The New York Times—and later as a freelancer. It was a career Laforet was born to: his father was a shooter for the Gamma Photo Agency in Paris and gave Vincent his first camera in 1980 when he was just 15. "Visual Stories" distills the lessons he learned in his 18-year career as a still photographer, accompanied by a collection of what he considers his most successful and favorite images. If you know any young person who aspires to be a storytelling photographer or someone who aspires to be a better one, I highly recommend this book. Not only are the photos terrific and reproduced well, but Laforet — interviewed by Ibarionex Perello — engagingly tells the backstory behind each image.

However, the book package has some editorial problems. For my taste, there are too many images reproduced twice. At only 214 pages this isn't a big book, and I know Laforet has more equally terrific images in his portfolio. In one case, a photo taken from a helicopter directly over the Empire State building at sunset (also the cover image) is completely mis-captioned as "Aerial photograph of Ground Zero at sunset almost five years after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks." Ground Zero is in the photo – but so is the entire New York City metropolitan sprawl. What really makes this odd is half of the opposite page discusses the making of this image at length and why Laforet thinks it "speaks to a lot of who I am as a photographer."

Continue reading "Book Review: Visual Stories - Behind the Lens With Vincent Laforet" »

About February 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in February 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2012 is the previous archive.

March 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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