Adobe is listening to their user base about the speed issues in Lightroom and that’s a very good thing. This week, Adobe released a new version of Lightroom Classic CC called version 7.2. During my testing over the last few days, I’ve experienced significant speed improvements in three areas:
1. Panorama merges
2. HDR merges
3. Exporting images
I’m seeing dramatically faster initial previews and somewhat faster final merge times for panoramas and HDR merges. For image exports, I’m seeing a small improvement in speed.
I’m not seeing any speed improvement during other operations such as opening the program, generating previews after import, or developing/processing. However, Adobe has made it clear, through their press releases and interviews, that they are continuing to work on Lightroom speed and we should expect to see enhancements as time goes on.
To test the claimed speed improvements, I went back to some panorama images I shot last year in Iceland. Each of these pano merges were shot with with anywhere from 5 to 10 images from a Nikon 36MP camera. The initial panorama merge previews only took 20 to 30 seconds, where they would sometimes take multiple minutes in previous versions of the software.
Lightroom’s overall speed is still an issue, but at this point, Lightroom remains as my go-to program for image organization and image development. The fact that Adobe remains committed to improving speed and efficiency in Lightroom is a very good thing since I know there are lots of other software companies nipping at the heels of Adobe … and they are all bringing their A-game.
Version 7.2 also sports a few new software features aimed at organizational improvements. These are relatively small overall workflow improvements, but they will make my time in Lightroom even more efficient. They are:
1. The ability to make quick collections from folders. This improvement allows me to view the entire contents of a folder in the other modules. For example, if I’m making a book, then I can quickly make a folder a collection, and work on that in the book module. Before, I’d have to select all the images in a folder, then make a separate collection. Not a big deal, but the new method is more efficient.
2. The ability to search for folders by name using the new Nested Folder Search bar. This search bar exists over the top of the “Folders” section in Lightroom and allows me to quickly find images by searching for folder names. Cool.
3. New filter search for Edited or Unedited images. This provides one more logical way to find images based on whether or not they have any edited features (tone, contrast, brushes, etc.).
I’ve been shooting with the Nikon D500 for a couple weeks and have to say that Nikon has truly created a beautiful camera. I’ll write up a more-detailed review in our next newsletter, but so far, I am exceedingly impressed. The things I’m liking are:
1. Autofocus performance is top-notch
2. Frame rate at 10 FPS is addictive
3. High ISO performance is excellent
4. Ergonomics are best in class
5. Rear flip-screen is very useful
6. Image quality is excellent
The camera “only” costs about $2,000, so I consider it a true bargain. It fundamentally has all the professional tools of the Nikon D5, packed into the smaller body of the D500. The size of the D500 is almost identical to the FX format Nikon D750 and the ergonomics/handling are excellent. I can guarantee you are going to love this camera for sports, action and wildlife. It is a killer camera.
I just received notice from Adorama that the D500 (and D5) are in stock and ready for sale. Here are my affiliate links:
Nikon D5 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body (CF Version)
$6,496.95 with free shipping
Nikon D5 FX-Format DSLR Camera Body (XQD Version)
$6,496.95 with free shipping
Nikon D500 DX-format DSLR Body
$1,996.95 with free shipping
Nikon D500 DX-format Digital SLR Body with AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Lens
$3,066.95 with free shipping
Here are a few more photo samples from the D500.
Profoto asked me to review the new Profoto B2 off-camera flash system so I put the B2 AirTTL system through its paces shooting some outdoor portraits and photographing kids playing on a trampoline. For this test, I used the Profoto B2 250 AirTTL Location kit, Profoto OCF light shapers, a Nikon D750, the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8.
Here’s a video I put together for the Profoto B2 AirTTL OCF system.
I currently own a set of Profoto D1 Air studio strobes and think that Profoto makes some of the best studio lights on the market today. The B2 flashes take the Profoto technology and shrink it down into a small, battery-powered location kit that you can take just about anywhere. Like everything else in the Profoto lineup, the build quality of the B2 system is top-notch. Also, the quality of light is excellent when used with the OCF (off camera flash) light shapers.
The OCF system uses a battery pack to power the heads. This battery is small in comparison to other location power-pack systems and weighs just a few pounds. It is small enough that you can easily wear the pack with a shoulder strap while shooting events and outdoor action sports.
The heads are 250 watt-seconds each, so they pack about four times more power than a Nikon or Canon speedlight. They also recycle much faster than dedicated flashes, making it easier to photograph action with the B2 system.
The B2 battery pack is designed to hang from a light stand or over your shoulder with a longer strap. Power runs from the battery pack through cables to the B2 heads. These heads are small, lightweight and compact and mount to just about any light stand. The heads work with any of the Profoto OCF light shapers. They also work with the traditional speedrings from other Profoto systems like the D1, D2, etc.
Profoto sells a wide variety of OCF accessories including softboxes, octas, umbrellas, snoots, grids and extension cables so you can move the heads farther distances away from the battery pack. The OCF light shapers are lighter weight than Profoto’s studio light shapers. The OCF material is made out of a reflective silver-coated rip-stop nylon and is constructed very well. It is all designed to go out on the road and perform in any environment.
The AirTTL system allows full remote control of two B2 heads. It mounts on the camera’s hot shoe just like a dedicated flash. The difference is that it communicates with the B2 battery pack while allowing for full TTL control or full manual control of the flash heads. You can control the flash power from the battery pack itself or from the remote control.
The B2 system has built-in modeling lights. These are useful for studio work indoors, but the modeling lights aren’t quite bright enough to use outdoors. The modeling lights could also be used for video lighting in a pinch.
The B2 flashes are powerful enough to use outside on a sunny day. I used them with bright sun in the background and was able to shoot at f/8 and ISO 400 with a rapid recycle rate. Not bad for a small flash system.
Since the B2s are really lightweight, they can be mounted on a flash bracket attached to your camera. You’ll still use the supplied B2 battery with cable, but instead of mounting a typical Nikon dedicated flash like a SB-910, you’ll mount the B2 head to the bracket. Additionally, you can use any of the OCF light shapers while the B2 head is mounted on the flash bracket. The advantage of using the B2 this way is that you can shoot events while getting lots of power, fast recycle rates and lots of shots before the batteries run out.
The entire B2 location kit fits in a small bag about the size of a classic Domke F-2 shoulder camera bag. This means that you can take the B2 OCF system on location just about anywhere in the world and produce high-end results.
My hat is off to Profoto for innovating yet another killer product. The B2 AirTTL Off-camera Flash system definitely gets two thumbs up from me.
Buy your own B2 AirTTL OCF system here:
B&H Photo Video: Profoto B2 AirTTL Location Kit
Adorama: Profoto B2 AirTTL Location Kit
I’ve been shooting with the Nikon D4s this week and wanted to see how its dynamic range holds up against the D800/D810. To do a quick test, I pointed the camera towards a high contrast scene that included dark forest, clearing fog and the bright sun.
To process the image, I opened up the shadows and brought down the highlights in the Lightroom 5 develop module. Next I added a bit of clarity and vibrance to restore the contrast and color in the scene. My final step in Lightroom 5 was to fix the leaning trees using the Lens Correction panel. Finally, I sent the image out to Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to add a little bit of a polarization effect for the clouds.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the D4s dynamic range. I was able to pull out a lot of detail from a single 14-bit NEF (RAW) file. However, as you can see above, the image isn’t perfect. There’s some CA (chromatic aberration) and some muddiness in the shadows. That said, considering the luminance values of the shadows were extremely low to begin with (i.e. 3% to 9%), I’m happy with the result.
DXO Mark rates the Nikon D4s dynamic range at 13.3 EV (DXO Mark D4s Test) compared to the D810 at 14.8 EV. 13.3 stops of dynamic range is still excellent and I wouldn’t be afraid to use the D4s for professional photographs in high contrast situations.
Here’s the before/after so you can see for yourself how much data is recoverable in a Nikon D4s RAW file.
A few weeks ago I took a brand-new prototype hiking photo backpack from Naneu Bags on trek into the Northwest forest for a field test. As I previously mentioned in a blog post back in February, 2013, I found a Kickstarter campaign by Naneu for their brand-new K5 V2. I contacted their headquarters and asked the owner of the company if he would send me a prototype for testing, and to my surprise he happily agreed. The Naneu K5 V2 is specifically designed for photographers who go on multi-day back-country hiking trips with a full complement of camping gear and camera gear. In my mind, the K5 V2 seemed too good to be true. I’ve been going on back-country adventures for a long time, so I was a bit skeptical that a backpack would be able to do it all. By “all” I mean be big enough to hold both my camera gear and my hiking/climbing equipment.
After receiving the prototype and taking it out of the shipping box, my heart skipped a beat. Seriously. This bag is the real deal. I couldn’t wait to get it out on the trail, so a few days later, I took the pack out for a hike to test it in the real world. I stuffed the backpack with about 40 pounds of hiking gear, then loaded the camera bag in the front with a Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 14-24mm f/2.8. To my surprise, everything fit just fine! After a few minutes of setting up the suspension and straps, I set off for a few miles on the trail to see how the system performed.
It became evident right away that the K5 V2 is incredibly well designed and that quite a bit of thought went into every pocket, seam, strap, and zipper. Everything about the backpack is fully integrated and modular which allows you to reconfigure it for the type of trip you are taking. For example, the front camera bag will nest fully inside the main backpack if you don’t want to carry the camera gear in front. Alternately, the camera bag pouch can be repurposed into a small backpack (see below).
Everything on the system is adjsutable from strap lengths, to waist belt, to suspension height, to chest strap. I do a lot of outdoor and adventure photography and have been using technical backpacks for decades now. I’m really pleased with the technology Naneu put into the K5 V2. The materials are top-notch and everything just works. Also, since the backpack has a capacity of 80 liters, it is big enough to hold a giant load for multi-day back-country adventures. My estimate is that it is big enough for hikes lasting between 7 – 10 days.
One of the neat features on the K5 V2 are the small pockets on the waist belt. I found these very useful as they are the perfect size to hold batteries and memory cards while hiking. Also, I used these waist belt pockets to hold a smaller point and shoot camera, the Canon S110.
The camera bag portion of the K5 V2 is the perfect size to hold a pro DSLR and three f/2.8 lenses. If you travel with a smaller camera system, then you can use half of the camera bag for food/drink and the other half for camera gear.
I placed my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod in one of the exterior side pockets (see first photo), but the K5 V2 also has a dedicated tripod pouch that attaches to the back side of the pack.
As I mentioned above, one of the neat features of the K5 V2 is that the front camera bag can even be repurposed as it’s own small backpack. You can see how the setup works in the two images below of my wife. This mini backpack feature is helpful for when you’ve arrived at your base camp and want to go out exploring with a tiny day pack. Additionally, the camera bag portion ships with a shoulder strap so you can use it like a traditional around-town shoulder bag.
I don’t have any vested interest with Naneu other than the fact that I wrote the owner of the company and asked if I could test out their prototype. That said, I’ve since returned the K5 V2 to the owner, but I can’t wait to get one for myself. Seriously, it’s good. Very good. I’ve been looking for a pack like this since I started my serious pursuit of photography in the early 1990’s. The K5 V2 will hold all my hiking and climbing gear for a week-long trip, while also holding just the perfect amount of camera gear.
So, what are the downsides of the K5 V2? Well, from a design standpoint, I found very little to nit-pick. Honestly, I think the only negative is that the overall weight when loaded with all my gear is going to be too much to handle! A week’s worth of back-country gear easily weighs 40-50 pounds, then tack on my pro DSLR gear with another 10-15 pounds and the total pack weight is quickly up to 50 or 65 pounds. I take this much gear with my traditional backpacks, so it is hardly a “downside” for the K5 V2. Maybe the difference is that the K5 V2 makes it too easy to bring along my f/2.8 lenses, where before I would bring my all-in-one zoom lenses because I didn’t have the space.
Since the Naneu K5 V2 is currently in the prototype stage, you won’t be able to purchase the bag just yet. The developers are in the final phase of design and should have bags ready for the market in August/September 2013. Right now, the plan is produce two colors of the K5 V2 in dark blue or black. Head over to their website here to see their other excellent products while also keeping up to date with their progress on the K5 V2: https://www.naneubags.com. This backpack gets a very high recommendation from me and I know it will get used in my mountain adventures.
Here are a couple of additional pics from my test hike with the Naneu K5 V2.
The Nikon D800 has arrived and it is a beauty! I’ve been shooting with the camera today and thought I’d put together a quick video and some sample images showing some of today’s first pictures from the studio and the outdoors. Here’s a direct link to the video if it isn’t showing up in your browser: Mike Hagen’s Nikon D800 Initial Impressions
The 36MP sensor is truly incredible and the files are massive. Working with these D800 photos will require little bit of patience as well as some more RAM!
My initial impression of the images from the D800 is that they are rich and full of life. They are filled with more detail than I’ve ever seen from a Nikon camera and I am thoroughly impressed with everything I’ve seen. Below are some sample images with a few links to full-size jpgs for you to download and work with yourself. I processed each of the images for this blog post in Nikon Capture NX2 on a MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM.
The first set of images below were taken with the Nikon D800 at ISO 200. Check out the 100% crop to assess the quality for yourself. At ISO 200, the Nikon D800 produces beautiful detail and amazing colors. As you would expect, the camera is flawless at this ISO setting. Click here for a full-resolution jpg.
Next, I increased the Nikon D800 ISO to 6400 in an attempt to see how well the camera performed at this sensitivity value. For this image, I turned off in-camera noise reduction to set the camera up for a worst-case scenario. As you can see in the cropped image, the colors are still saturated while still maintaining usable detail in the tulips. I’m exceedingly impressed with the camera at ISO 6400. Click here to download a full resolution ISO 6400 image to your computer.
As the next series of images below show, I cranked up the ISO to 12,800 and 25,600 to see how the D800 would perform at its highest ISO settings. Obviously, the image quality breaks down rapidly, but these files are imminently useable with some noise reduction in post processing. I wouldn’t be afraid to use these ISO values if I had to get photos in near darkness.
My next tests were to take the camera outdoors to see how it would do in the bright sunlight. One of my goals was to see how the camera would perform in a very high contrast situation on white cherry blossom flowers. I also wanted to see how well images might look after significant cropping. You can see the uncropped and cropped version directly below. The D800 does a great job of holding detail on the flower petals while also preserving detail in the shadows. With the D800’s 36 megapixel files, I was able to crop the image fairly tightly and still come away with a photo I could easily print at 8″x10″ or larger. Verdict? I’m impressed.
The next test was to work with my red barn to see how the camera would do with shadow and highlight detail on a physical building. The first image here was taken with no changes to the file. In other words, you see exactly what the camera recorded. The second image I added a bit of shadow/highlight recovery in Nikon Capture NX2. Again, the D800 does a wonderful job of preserving information in both the highlights and shadows.
My final shot of this initial is of some green leafs with morning dew. I could see some fine detail on the stems of the leaves and wanted to see how the D800 would render these small hairs. The first image here is the uncropped image and the second is a 100% crop. Looking at the cropped image, it is truly amazing to see how much information the D800 collects. We’ve entered a new world of photography with the Nikon D800 and I can’t wait to see what other fantastic images I’ll create with this camera. In fact, I can’t wait to do some black and white landscape work as well as some studio portraiture to really see what this camera has to offer.
One final note: DxOMark just published the results from the Nikon D800 and they gave it the the best rating for any camera they’ve ever tested. How’s that for image quality! Click this for a direct link the DxOMark stats. Quoting from DxOMark’s website:
Friday March 23 2012
- Overall score: 1st (95)
With its 4-point lead, the Nikon D800 has become the new sensor of reference — and with an unmatched quality-to-price ratio to boot: among the 8 top cameras, it is by far the least expensive (with an announced price of less than 3000 $).
- Studio: tied for 3rd (25.3 bits)
These results are living up to our expectations. Certain people openly wondered if the D800’s results would be comparable to those for medium-format cameras, and this certainly doesn’t contradict this idea.
- Landscape: 1st (14.4 EV)
Here also we expected the D800 to do well, and once again we were not disappointed. (This really wasn’t a surprise, given the results for the Nikon D7000.)
- Sport (Low-Light ISO): 3rd (2853)
Despite its smaller pixels, the D800 comes up with the same score as the D4, whereas the D3x lost several precious points with respect to the D3s.