Recent Camera and Photography Articles

This page points to all recent articles published on,,, and, and is updated as new articles appear (most recent on top). For articles from previous months, check the Articles Index Archive. 

bythom US TN Knoxville Sports Oct2015 A7rII 16860.jpg

Yes, this site was quiet last week. That’s because I was down in Tennessee shooting sports. I’ll have much more to say about that soon. Can the Sony A7r Mark II shoot sports? Maybe. See above photo. (Since multiple people complained about the slightly crooked horizon of the photo I originally posted today, I went to go straighten that and found that the image wasn’t in my files yet; still transferring. So I substituted the very next shot, which was the actual shot on goal. Note the goalie [yellow socks] is out of the goal. Ball is the orange/white object just in front of #37.)

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This Week's Articles:                                                        

The Light Camera (Almost) Arrives. Light today announced the US$1699 Light L16, a multi-sensor, multi-optics, computational camera that looks a bit like a smartphone on steroids (5” tilting display, wider and deeper than most smartphones). Article on

Sony Spins Out Sensors. Sony yesterday announced that it will create a new separate company called Sony Semiconductor Solutions. This spinout from Sony Corporation will include the sensors, the LSI design group, plus other semiconductors that Sony makes for themselves and others. Article on

Branding and Nikons Shrinking Value. Each year Interbrand issues reports on “brand value” and pronounces winners and losers. They release some of the details to the public, but the full reports with all the damning details are only for sale to businesses. Article on

Nikon Does (Actually Doesnt) Do it Again. No sooner did I post my review of the 300mm f/4E where I chided Nikon on their not-a-service-advisory stance on that lens’s firmware issue when it shipped, they’ve done it again. The recently shipped 200-500mm f/5.6 may disable autofocus when a certain conjunction of steps occurs. Article on

Nikon 300mm f/4E AF-S VR Review. The 300mm f/4D was one long-in-the-teeth lens. Basically, it had been with us since the early days of DSLRs (2001). The very next year we got the 70-200mm VR, and pretty much all the telephoto options have had VR since then. Thus, the 300mm f/4D was one of the last AF-S-but-no-VR lenses to be produced by Nikon. Review on

I Was So Excited When I Saw Photoshop Fix." Adobe’s having their big conference this week, and one of the things that came across my desk was a press release with something about “Photoshop Fix.” Article on

Recent Articles:                                                        

September 28, 2015 

Let’s All Climb to the Top. At Photoshop World in Las Vegas in August, automotive photographer Tim Wallace made a point that I wholeheartedly agree with, and which I need to amplify. Article on

Nikon Glass Protector. Nikon today quietly announced the LPG-001 Protective Glass overlay for D4s, Df, D810, and D750 DSLR LCDs. Article on

Photoshop Elements Turns 14. Photoshop Elements got its near-annual update. What’s new? Another handful of Photoshop and Lightroom features have made it downstream to Elements. Article on 

Fujifilm X-T10 Camera Review. As do many camera makers, Fujifilm has taken a seminal product (the X-T1) and attempted to make a more affordable version that mimics the original as much as possible, but at a lower price. Review on

Fujifilm 10-24mm Lens Review. Quite a bit of glass is inside the lens for its size: 14 elements in 10 groups, and quite a bit of that glass is “special” (four aspherical and three ED elements). Review on

Fujifilm 18-135mm Lens Review. At 18-135mm (28-200mm equivalent), this lens qualifies as the do-everything superzoom type. With most of these superzooms there are always tradeoffs being made. Review on

Fujifilm 40-150mm f/2.8 Lens Review. Here we have a lens that a lot of people were waiting for. Coupled with the 16-55mm f/2.8, the notion was that you’d have a DSLR type of fast zoom lens set now in the Fujifilm X lineup. Be careful what you wish for. Review on

September 23, 2015 

Don’t Look Down: Climb to the Top. Here’s what my brain told me after I gave it a rest from the daily grind of the Internet: climb to the top. Article on

September 21, 2015 

The Rumor Mill is Working Overtime. I popped back into civilization earlier this month to find that wild rumors were flying all over the photographic scene. Article on

Shooting with Just a D7200. Amongst other things in my month off, I spent a bit over two weeks in Africa. Most of that time was dedicated to shooting 4K video for a client, but since we were traveling through the Okavango Delta, the wildlife possibilities were attractive enough that I wanted to bring a still camera with me, too. Article on

What a Difference a Decade Makes. I have no easy way of proving the assertion I’m about to make, as I don’t still own the older cameras I’m going to mention. Still, I trust my eyes, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking deeply at various tests made over the years that both I and others I trust did. Article on

Rokinon announced 21mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2 lenses for the Canon EF-M, Fujifilm X, m4/3, and Sony E mounts. 21mm f/1.4 data page50mm f/1.2 data page

I’ve updated the sansmirror site so that “next page” and “previous page” links are available virtually throughout, which should help with navigation on mobile devices. These links appear just under the article title. I’ll be doing that with the dslrbodies site shortly. 

September 17, 2015 

Petty Annoyances. I get a lot of gear moving through the offices, and it always amazes me when companies that should know better get the little things wrong. Article on

Finally, Desktop WiFi.  For years I’ve been pointing out that the camera companies just don’t understand workflow. They put technologies into their gear and then underutilize them in terms of user solutions. Article on

September 15, 2015 

The Crux of the Matter: Trust. Some of you might not remember Jean-Louis Gassée, former CEO of Apple. Still others of you may remember him but not think all that highly of him ("he’s no Steve Jobs...”). Personally, I’ve found him to be an insightful writer on technology via his Monday Note blog. Article on

D7100 and D5200 Get Firmware Updates. Article on

September 14, 2015

Let’s Ban Smartphones. If one wanted to walk from Spot A on the Las Vegas Strip to Spot B, one would have to dodge constantly stopping-to-selfie folk. They stop in front of you, they take up room to get their selfies, then they stay in your way while they show the image they just shot to the friends and family they’re walking with. ;~)  Article on

Mitakon 25mm f/0.95 lens for m4/3 mount data page

Posted September 11, 2015

Zeiss Names Another Lens Line. The ZF.2 manual focus lenses at Zeiss just got a full rethink. Now named Milvus, Zeiss has re-designed and re-introduced a six lens set for the Nikon F mount (and Canon EF-S). Article on dslrbodies.com21mm data page35mm data page50mm f/1.4 data page50mm f/2 macro data page85mm data page100mm data page.

Jumping Between Cameras. On my break I was juggling six or seven cameras, all but two of them new to me. I can say without equivocation that trying to do anything when jumping back and forth between six different user interfaces and designs is an exercise in frustration. Article on

Nikon 2014 Annual Report. Nikon published their 2014 Annual Report while I was offline in August, but I’ve now had a chance to read it and have the following comments. Article on

Sony Completes the Mark II Upgrades. Today Sony announced the final Mark II upgrade, the A7s Mark II. As with the other A7 models, the new camera gets a bit of body work to refine the hand position and controls, 5-axis image sensor stabilization, and improved autofocus. Article on sansmirror.comA7s Mark II data page

Tamron Introduces Two f/1.8 Primes. Tamron has joined the prime parade with two new lenses, the 35mm f/1.8 and 45mm f/1.8. Both lenses cover the full FX frame, both lenses feature Tamron’s vibration control system (VC), and both are priced at US$600. Article on dslrbodies.com35mm f/1.8 data page45mm f/1.8 data page.

Posted September 10, 2015

Good Luck, Canon. Canon has announced that they’ll finally bring the EOS M3 mirrorless model into the US in October, along with the missing M lenses. Price for the body alone will be US$580. The 11-22mm f/4-5.6 will be US$400. Article on

Olympus Introduces, Suspends EM-10 Mark II. The expected second version of the EM-10 has shown up, with minimal specification changes to this small m4/3 camera. Article on Data page for EM-10 Mark II.

Speedlights on Nikon 1’s. One of the big complaints by many Nikon 1 users is that the Nikon 1 system can’t use the standard Nikon DSLR flashes and related items (such as Pocket Wizards). Indeed, the whole “proprietary” nature of the Nikon 1 coupled with Nikon’s absurd pricing and availability issues are the most frustrating things about the Nikon 1. Article on

The GH4 Gets V-Log. Panasonic announced the GH4R and new firmware for the GH4 at IFA Berlin in August. Article on

New Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens. Panasonic announced a new 25mm f/1.7 lens to their lens lineup at IFA Berlin in August. Article on sansmirror.comData page for the 25mm f/1.7.

New Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm X. RoboSHOOT-X is a new remote flash trigger and control system for Fujifilm X series cameras. For flash control it supports up to four groups of Manual or TTL flash, plus control over additional functions such as zooming of the flash head. Article on

August 6, 2015

Nikon Q1 Financial Results. It’s a new fiscal year, so how’s Nikon doing so far? Surprisingly good according to Nikon. Article on

August 4, 2015

Three More Nikkors You’ll Be Interested In.  Nikon today introduced three new F-mount lenses, two of which are likely to be of some interest even to DX users. Article on dslrbodies.com24mm f/1.8G data page24-70mm f/2.8E data page200-500mm f/5.6E data page.

Fujifilm Returns to Forensics.  Back in the days when Fujifilm had (Nikon-based) DSLRs, they targeted the forensic photography niche with cameras that had wide, unfiltered spectral abilities, from UV to visible to near-infrared light. Today Fujifilm announced the X-T1 IR, which is a version of its top-end mirrorless camera that does the same thing. Article on

August 3, 2015

Note: Since a number of people don’t fully understand E-type lens compatibility, I have added a section on it in my Making Sense of Nikon Lens Acronyms article and notes about compatibility in each of the database entries for E-type lenses. E-compatible is not a new thing. We’ve had such lenses for seven years now, but because the 16-80mm f/2.8-4E DX and 300mm f/4E lenses are targeted at a broader, more general, and often consumer audience, a lot of folk using older cameras missed the compatibility story when it first appeared. Short version: pro cameras since the D3 and consumer cameras after 2009 are fully compatible with E-type lenses, older cameras won’t let you set the aperture (aperture is stuck at maximum aperture).  Update: I made a few small clarifications and corrections on the Acronyms page.

What We Learned from the Latest Nikon Owner Survey. Last week NikonUSA sent a survey to an n sample of people for which they had email addresses. The survey itself was a strange concoction: a set of poorly chosen either/or statements, most of which weren’t actually opposites, followed by a “what are you going to buy” hammer at the end. Article on

New Nikon Lens Rebates. As always when Nikon offers lens-only rebates, I go lens by lens with an analysis of whether these are deals you should be interested in or not. These new rebates are in effect already and last until August 28th. Article on 

July 29, 2015

CS6? The End is Nigh. Adobe quietly posted an “update to policy” about Photoshop CS6 in the Lightroom Journal (sic ;~). Article on

Previous articles can be found in the Articles Index.

Thom's Teaching Point — Selecting Sky

How about a software teaching point this month? 

One of the toughest things you sometimes encounter in processing landscape photographs is selecting just the sky. The reason generally has to do with tree limbs, bushes, and other things projecting up into the sky and making selection tough. Worse still is when you have gaps in vegetation that lets some sky through. 

The good news is that sky is mostly blue spectrum light, so we’re going to take advantage of that. We’ll work with an image you’ve seen before on this site:

bythom teaching point1

I’m not making much of a change to the image in ACR, basically just grabbing the white and black sliders and adjusting them to maximize the histogram. I don’t want you to get confused by other settings along the way. We’re just interested in that sky at the moment (and conversely, the hoodoo and foreground). I would suggest, however, that you remove any chromatic aberration, if you can, as it can impact the boundaries of the objects we’d be selecting against.

In Photoshop, go to Channels and select only the Blue channel:

bythom teaching point2

You can probably already see that the lines of the hoodoo and horizon are pretty distinct, but we’re going to go further. We going to drag the Blue channel to the New channel icon at the bottom to duplicate it. Your new layer will be called "Blue copy", but you can rename this to something useful, such as “Sky Selection”, as I’ve done here:

bythom teaching point3

Next, we’re going to do something specifically to that new channel: make sure that new channel is the only one active, then select Levels from the Adjustment menu. Bring the Black slider up until the land and hoodoo go completely black, and the White slider down until the sky goes completely white:

bythom teaching point4

You probably now know why I selected this image: it’s got clouds in it that are going to be a problem, and the hoodoo itself doesn’t really go completely black. That’s okay. We’re trying to simplify selecting the sky, and sometimes we won’t get exactly what we want on one pass. (*)

 I’ll quickly clean these things up by using a white brush, then a black brush:

bythom teaching point5

All the above only took me a few seconds from hitting the Open Image button in ACR to getting a clean black/white mask. 

We now want the white area here to be our “selection,” so hold the Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) key and click the Channel to load its white areas as a selection. You should see the cursor change as you hold the key when you’re hovering over the Channel list, and when you click you should see the crawling ants now define your selection. (Bonus point: you might find that the Refine Edge item in the Selection menu is very helpful at disguising the actual edge. But that’s a lesson for another day.)

At this point, you’ll want to click the RGB Channel to activate it, delete the Sky Selection channel you created, and move to the Layers panel. Apply whatever layer effect you want on the sky. Invert your selection and apply whatever layer effect you want on the foreground. You’re done. 

Here I’ve done a bit of over processing on the foreground and background so that you can see that I was indeed able to get this image quickly processed based upon the quick selection I made. This is not the way I’d normally process this image, as the light cues are now screwed up. But it should be obvious that I’ve touched both the foreground and sky in different ways:

US UT Escalante 0005 EP1.jpg

I made no attempt to refine my selection other than the bit of brush painting I did. Normally I’d take the time to look closely at every edge very carefully and be tweaking pixel level decisions. But I wanted to show you that you can make what’s otherwise a tough selection with just a simple use of the channel information, and do so quickly. In fact, really quickly if you take the steps I noted up through the (*) and made them into a Photoshop Action. I’d probably also create a second Action that took everything after the brush touchup through to my final “ready for adjustment” selection. In other words, to select sky you’d activate Sky Action 1, touch up the selection with brushes, then activate Sky Action 2. That makes for a pretty simple and quick method to get your selection dialed in.

Note that here we’re working with sky, and thus the Blue channel is the thing we normally find the most useful. If you were shooting a subject with a green screen behind them, guess which channel you’d use for selection? So you could also create actions for each of the channels to use in different lighting cases.

Why does the hoodoo look like it’s glowing at the edge? Guess where the sun is. You’re seeing a bit of the diffractive properties of light.

If you're wondering where the previous Teaching Points went, they're here.

© Thom Hogan 2015 — All Rights Reserved