Pixel2ated

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On November 10, 2017, I did the almost unthinkable, and switched from an Apple iPhone 6s to a Google Pixel 2. There were a number of reasons behind the decision, but chief among them was the superior quality of the Pixel 2's camera. Most of the other functions are pretty much like any modern phone -- it makes and receives calls and texts, and you can surf the web and waste time on Facebook.

I chose to go with the "standard" size, with 128GB of on-board storage, as I keep a lot of music and photo files on my phone most of the time, and I've added a Zagg screen protector and the new Moment Pixel 2 case and their new Tele lens (so far).

The camera really is amazingly good, especially given how physically tiny the thing is. The detail, noise, and color are all excellent, and the images hold up quite well to editing in my favorite mobile app, Snapseed (available for both Android and iOS), and the mobile version of Lightroom CC. Although I haven't used the feature, it's even capable of shooting raw files.

Stools detail, Pixel 2 camera Auto HDR+, cropping and slight adjustments in Google Photos.

The pictures I've taken so far have been JPEGs with the standard camera, and without the Moment Tele lens. I have played around with a few of the special features -- notably the Auto HDR+ and Portrait modes.

Auto HDR+ yields very good results most of the time. There's lots of detail in the shadows without much noise, and the overall effect is quite natural. The Portrait mode generally does a nice job of rendering fake "bokeh" (defocused backgrounds) around the subject, although it is possible to fool the AI, with some odd results. I'll write more about that another day.

I've added a new gallery, also called Pixel2ated, for images made with the Pixel 2 (go figure), that you can visit to see my new exploits in mobile photography.

My only complaint about the Pixel 2 is that there's no headphone jack. Most of the time, this isn't really a problem -- I can connect to one of my cars' radios via Bluetooth, and there's a USB-C to audio adapter that comes in the box. Unfortunately, the adapter doesn't allow for powering the phone while it's plugged in, which can be problematic on long trips if I want to use Google Maps for navigation and listen to Spotify or a podcast. On my daily commute, which takes about an hour-and-a-half, I can easily eat up 15-20% of my battery.

The Pixel 2 also doesn't have iMessage or Facetime. The built-in text app is pretty basic and struggles with group MMS messages, so I've been fooling around with alternatives (so far, QKSMS is my favorite). For a Facetime replacement, I found Google's Duo, which is free and cross-platform, and seems to work just as well as Facetime. I think Facebook Messenger has a similar function. And, of course, there's also Skype, which works on anything.

The bottom line, after about a dozen days, is that I don't really miss anything about the iPhone. A big part of that is because of how clean Android is on the Pixel, I'm sure. It runs smoothly, and pretty much everything just works, which I could no longer say about a number of functions in the iOS world.

Maybe next, I'll find myself a Chromebook....

PhotoPlus Expo 2017 "Show Report" - Part 2

So yesterday, I promised that I'd write up part 2 of my trip to PhotoPlus Expo 2017. I'll pickup where I left off, with some more about goings on in the Fujifilm booth.

Instax Square!

Fujifilm has been almost killing it with the Instax line. I say almost, because, in my opinion, the little 2x3 images are simply too small (the Instax Wide is a bit better, at a little over 3x4). This year, they introduced square-format Instax cameras and films, and they're loaded with neat features (similar to the Polaroid POP I wrote about yesterday), but the pictures are, in a word, tiny, making an image that's about 2 1/2" square.

Traditional Film

Film has always been a big part of Fujifilm's business (it is half of their name, after all!), and it was exciting to see that the company is still showing a commitment to analog photographers, even if they weren't talking about it much. I did find, tucked into a wall across the way from the Instax display, an area devoted to 35mm and medium format films. 35mm films are available for both amateur and professional applications, in both color and black-and-white (Acros!), while 120 roll films are generally only the "pro" emulsions.

Unfortunately, it appears that peel-apart films for older Polaroid cameras and film backs are a thing of the past. That's a shame, because there are still pros who want to be able to shoot instant proofs with their medium format cameras, and so far, films from Impossible don't seem to be quite consistent enough to meet those demands.

I Finally Got a Platypod!

Ever since I heard about it, I've thought the Platypods were a great invention, and I've been meaning to buy one. Sure, I could make something similar myself, probably for a good bit less money, with parts from the local big-box hardware emporium, but the Platypod folks have really put a lot of thought into these things. I got the smaller model as a "kit" that includes , and all that l'll need to add is pick up an appropriate small ball-head and cell-phone mount. I'll be talking more about that later.

The Platypod Ultra kit that I got on the show special includes the leveling screws, a carabiner, a strap to attach the 'Pod to a pole or tree limb or some sort of beam. There was also a couple adapters so that you can convert the Platypod to a wall plate with a 5/8" baby stud, and a 3/8"-to-1/4" stud adapters. Finally, there's a weird-feeling, grippy rubber pad to keep from marring any surface you might have the rig sitting on. Additionally, you can reverse the adjustable leg screws so the rubber bits are down, instead of the pointy tips.

There are a series of holes in the Platypod for other attachments, like using drywall screws to drill it into a board, or you can change the location of the ball mount. Basically, if you need to mount a camera or a light somewhere, and you can't take a tripod or light stand with you.

Learn more about Platypods and accessories: http://www.platypod.com

By the way, I should mention that I don't get any kind of compensation for any of the links in these articles. They're provided for your information only. There's no affiliation or link tracking going on.

DXO Labs

The big news from DxO, of course, is their purchase of the NIK imaging tools from Google. Google got what they wanted from NIK, essentially the underlying graphics engine technology and big chunks of Snapseed to update and transform their aging Picasa/Google Photos application. DxO promise to update the NIK software, and I'm sure they'll also fold the technology into their imaging applications, DxO Photolab.

Also exciting from DxO will be a version of the DxO ONE camera with a USB C connection for use with Android phones. I was told to expect that in the early part of next year. That will bring a truly high-quality camera with full-on camera controls and a 1" sensor to the Android world. I'm particularly excited about that, as I'm planning to move to an Android phone -- most likely Google's Pixel 2. More on that at a later date.

MacPhun Buh-Bye

Well, not exactly. I didn't really get all the details, but there are several changes in the works at Skylum-the-company-formerly-known-as-MacPhun. First, they're no longer a Mac-only software developer. Both Aurora and Luminar are (or will be) cross-platform applications, and they've got plans to go head-to-head with Adobe in the image editing arena. So obviously, the "Mac" portion of the name no longer really applies.

But, where does the new name come from? I dunno.

Seventy Times Faster Than Flatbeds?

One of the oddest things I saw at the show was the Film Toaster. It's a curious metal box, with some slots in the side, and what looks to me like a rather precarious adapter designed to attach a digital camera with a macro lens to said box. Film carriers are inserted into the various slots, and a light source goes underneath. Slide the negs or slides across under the lens, and snap the picture.

So, I get the idea. It's not far fetched. But, I've got some concerns. First, there's a lot of strain being placed on the filter threads of the lens. Second, the lens boards are customized to match the camera/macro lens combination. So, what happens when you change cameras? Or lenses? Or both?

Finally, these things are very expensive, starting at $1500.00 plus hundreds more for the various required parts. accessories, and gizmos. We had something very much like this for 35mm slides and negatives years -- decades -- ago called the Spiratone Vario Dupliscope. And honestly, it worked really well, and for a lot less money. Further, Nikon and Polaroid have much less expensive options (for 35mm slides and negatives, anyway) on the market today. I can't see it being that difficult to build the same kind of thing for medium format film.

So that's pretty much my quick run through this years PhotoPlus Expo. I had a great time, as always (except the bus trips were less than optimal this year), and am looking forward to doing it again next year.

PhotoPlus Expo 2017 "Show Report" - Part 1

First of all, yes, I'm still alive. I've just had about no time for anything over the past few months. But, I did manage to get up to New York yesterday for a day at PhotoPlus Expo, and I figure I'd better tell you all about it. Now, where to start ....

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Polaroid OneStep2

The BIG NEWS! Polaroid Originals!

Ha! Bet ya didn't see that coming, did you? One of the funnest things at the show was a big booth of Polaroid cameras and film. Seems that Polaroid is producing a new version of the OneStep called, predictably, the OneStep 2. And, not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the original OneStep.

The OneStep 2, which costs just under a hundred bucks, uses Polaroid i-Type films. Unlike the old Polaroid cameras, the OneStep 2 uses its own rechargeable battery, so the i-Type films don't need to have batteries as part of the film pack. i-Type film is available in both color and black-and-white for $16 per 8-shot pack.

If you ask me, nothing says "cool" like a Polaroid SX-70

If you've already got a Polaroid OneStep, 600 film is also back in production, along with SX-70 and Spectra films. And, you can also purchase refurbished SX-70, Sun 600, and Spectra cameras.

Seriously, this was the funnest thing at the show. But wait. There's more!

Polaroid POP

If you think Polaroid is going to let Fujifilm have all the fun with analog/digital hybrid instant cameras, you'd pretty much be wrong. And honestly, I think Polaroid's done a better job of it.

The Polaroid POP is a sub-$200 digital camera with image editing, WiFi transfer, and color printing in one nifty little unit. Using the screen on the back, you can edit your shots and choose which ones you'd like to print. When you tell it to "go", a digital print pops out of the top, like a little picture toaster. You can offload images to your tablet or phone for editing and archiving or social media sharing, and store them on a micro-SD card. And, you can even send them back to the camera for printing later on Polaroid ZINK paper. It takes about 30 seconds to print, at a cost of about a dollar each.

This was the second funnest thing at the show. Okay, that's it. I went all the way to New York, just to see that. No, not really. There was more.

Rick Friedman on the Unique Photo stage

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I love to see this guy. He's always entertaining, he's a nice guy, and I always learn something. And, usually, he makes me spend money, though I didn't this time. He's the one who got me sold on the Rogue Flashbender speedlight modifiers.

Rick Friedman: Making it look easy!

As usual, he was making the amazing look simple, and doing it in a way that mere mortals can actually reproduce using gear that mere mortals can actually afford. He was using a couple or three Nissin flashes and their little radio transmitter on a Nikon D-something-or-another. They make them for Canon, too, and the idea works equally well with the Yongnuo YN560-series.

I still need/want to get one more of the Flashbender XL sets, but I'm not in a super hurry for it just yet.

Soon, though. Soon. I have some ideas for shoots I want to do. Just need time, the right location(s), and a willing victi--- er, subject.

Okay. Time to get serious, and talk about Fujifilm...

The Fujifilm X-E3: How Not to Improve a Camera

Most of you know how much I enjoy my X-E2 and X-E1 cameras. They have neat "rangefinder-like" styling. They have a plethora of well-thought-out and well-arranged controls. They're a nice, comfortable size. They have a nifty, useful pop-up flash. About all it was lacking was a tilting LCD.

We wanted a tilting LCD screen. We didn't get it. Instead, we got a smaller body and a larger screen. That means we lost some buttons and a 4-way selector, replaced by a quirky touch-screen. We wanted a tilting LCD screen. Well, that, and the 24MP sensor and processor from the X-T2/X-T20. At least we got that.

Which means that when I do make my next body upgrade, I'll need to leave my beloved X-E series behind, and move to something in the X-T line. Probably the X-T20. Which retains the controls I love, and adds the tilting screen and new sensor/processor we wanted.

Fujifilm's digital photography website is: https://goo.gl/ULs151

I guess that's about enough for tonight. I'll do another post tomorrow, along with my early-on thoughts about Adobe's direction with Lightroom CC.

 

2017 Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Show

We spent a wonderful, if wet, day yesterday at the Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Show at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, on Maryland's Eastern Shore.  In addition to the boat show, which featured a dozen or so restored and/or working Chesapeake Bay boats, there's a really neat little museum in Crisfield with displays showing the history of the town and its importance in the history of America's seafood industry, the Bay, and the region.

All photos taken with a Fujifilm X-E2 and XF18-55mm lens in JPEG mode with Astia film simulation applied, and then edited in Snapseed on an iPad Air 2.

We didn't take any pictures around town in Crisfield this visit -- I have in the past, and we'll probably go back down, but we were left wondering how much longer the "town" of Crisfield will survive. Many of the buildings on Main Street are vacant and dilapidated, as are a huge number of the residences. It's definitely not the quaint-if-smelly town I remember from when I was young, and you could still find huge piles of oyster shells around.

On the way from Crisfield to Berlin, we came across a really neat old building that we may want to go back and photograph. I did manage to grab a quick iPhone picture before "traffic" forced us to move on. I didn't even try to shoot that with the Fuji, because I was more interested in getting the geotag so we can go back -- the whole town there is begging to be photographed.