XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K Projector Review (Podcast 798)

XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K Projector Review (Podcast 798)


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Shortly after incorporating Martin Bailey Photography K.K. I bought a projector, which I’ve used both in my studio when presenting to small groups, and during my tours when running workshop sessions that require me to share my screen or display a presentation. 1080p or High Definition resolution was the best option 12 years ago, and the price was significantly higher than many of the 1080p resolution projectors available today. As 4K has become mainstream, though, I have become gradually more and more dissatisfied with the resolution and have, over the past year, been searching for something that would provide better image quality.

The one thing I’ve learned during my search is that regardless of how much marketing blurb the maker strings together about the outstanding image quality of the projector if it’s 1080p or High Definition resolution, it will never be more than mediocre. I’ve even bought two 1080p projectors hoping the blurb is accurate, but I’ve returned both, as they just didn’t make the grade.

It became apparent that if I wanted to get better resolution, I would have to spring for a 4K projector, but some of these are way more than I could warrant paying until I found an interesting-looking model called the XGIMI (which I have no idea how to pronounce) Horizon Pro 4K projector. The price was still up there, but less than similar projectors with 4K resolution.

I’m going to share a review of this projector today, and for the most part, my review is very positive, but I have to tell you that I almost walked away from this purchase because of a very sneaky move the reseller pulled here in Japan where I bought my projector. I have had my eye on this projector for several weeks, but because I didn’t need it until January for my upcoming winter tours, I decided to wait and see what happened to the price during the Amazon Japan Black Friday sale.

I’ll include affiliate links for B&H Photo Video or Amazon.com in this post. If you buy with these links you will be helping to support the Podcast, as I get a small payment when you buy.

I was initially happy to find that the projector I had my eye on was indeed included in the Black Friday sale, but when I checked the price, the reseller had increased the base price by 15% more than it had been up until the sale and they were now marking up the projector at the same price, but calling it a 15% discount. My knee-jerk reaction was to delete the projector from my cart and walk away.

Towards the end of the sale, though, as I do need better image quality for my workshop sessions, I decided that I would bite the bullet and get this projector anyway. I wasn’t happy with this business practice at all, but I am happy to say that the projector has far surpassed my expectations, and so although it was a lot of money, I’m pleased with the purchase, and I think my workshop session attendees will be much happier now that they’ll be able to easily read text on my screen and see much more detail in my presentations and demonstrations.

Here’s a photo of the XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K projector with its box, remote control, power adapter, and power cable. There is also a manual that comes with the projector and a pamphlet that provides information on installing Netflix, which was unnecessary as it was already installed.

XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K Projector
XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K Projector

The projector itself is a little chunkier than I had hoped, but the Harman / Kardon speakers it houses on its sides sound fantastic, and they are louder than I’ll ever need unless I get a gig at the Royal Albert Hall or a similar-sized venue. If anything, I would like the ability to turn the volume down a little lower than I can before the projector switches somewhat prematurely into mute mode, but the sound is so good I’m not going to worry about this too much.

XGIMI Projector Harman / Kardon Speakers
XGIMI Projector Harman / Kardon Speakers

Above all, though, I was really happy to see that the 4K resolution really does produce a stunning image. The projector comes with Android TV loaded, so even without attaching a computer, you get a working TV, and once connected to the Internet, you can start to play YouTube videos and other TV services, as well as play music or Podcasts, including yours truly, with the Spotify app which was preinstalled. I opened the YouTube app and played one of the extended trailers for the new Avatar movie, and it was so clear and beautiful it gave me goosebumps.

XGIMI Projector Android TV Home Screen
XGIMI Projector Android TV Home Screen

Because I bought mine in Japan, it’s loaded with some Japan-specific apps and TV services, but I imagine this will be adjusted according to the country where you buy this projector. Even the Wowow on Demand app is preinstalled, so as a Wowow subscriber, I can log in and watch on-demand content from one of our cable TV providers. Even the Apple TV app works exceptionally well, and although you have to pay for content on an Apple device, if you want to watch a movie, for example, as soon as you’ve paid for it, it becomes available to watch on the projector, assuming you are already signed in inside the Apple TV app, of course.

Automatic Focus

One of the most impressive features of this projector after the 4K resolution is that it focuses the projected image automatically when you turn it on or when you move the projector. You can also start the autofocus process with the remote control, and it displays an overlay that you can see in this image, which it then scans with a built-in camera and adjust the image without you even having to touch the projector.

XGIMI Projector Automatic Focus
XGIMI Projector Automatic Focus

Similarly, you can use automatic keystone adjustment, which in addition to ensuring that your image is square, will also adjust the image size to avoid any obstructions on your wall or automatically adjust to fit inside the frame of a projector screen. I bought a 100-inch portable screen, also for use on my Japan tours, which helps to provide a high-quality image, but even when projected onto a lightly textured wallpapered wall, it looks great, and the automatic keystone feature adjusted the image size to avoid a door frame that the projected image overlapped until I moved the projector a little. It’s very impressive how it all works.

Note that for the photos I’m including in this post, I was simply projecting onto some uneven background paper, so the image isn’t as square and flat as it would be if I’d used a proper projector screen.

One thing that the cheaper projectors I bought had that this projector does not is a case. It does have a case, but you have to buy it separately if you want to be able to carry the projector around, and the Amazon marketing blurb conveniently omitted this information from the product page. As you can see, though, the dedicated carrying case is nice-looking and fits the projector and cables perfectly.

Another accessory that I bought along with the projector is its dedicated stand, which you can see below. It’s a beautifully finished metal stand with a leveling base built into it, so you can level the projector very easily by untightening the locking nut, moving the projector, then tightening the locking nut again while holding the projector in place. This also gives you a slightly higher position to project your image onto the screen, which helps to avoid excessive keystone correction.

XGIMI Projector X-Desktop Stand
XGIMI Projector X-Desktop Stand

Unfortunately, the cable for the projector is too fat to pass through the golden-colored loop at the base of the stand arm, because that could provide some very nice cable management, and to be honest, as it stands, is nothing more than a fancy flourish, although you could cable tie everything together and bind it to that golden loop if you wanted.

If you are using the projector in a location with WIFI or an ethernet network connection, you can essentially do pretty much everything possible, and it even comes with built-in support for screen mirroring with mobile devices and computer desktops, but if you need to connect via HDMI, you have two ports to enable that, and there are two USB ports as well, so you can attach an external hard drive or USB memory stick with video, music, and photos, and play your content on the projector.

Using External Drive for Storage
Using External Drive for Storage

I installed an app called Photo Gallery, which has a paid option to display slideshows and galleries, and they look pretty good. The slideshows can be set to run as a screensaver as well, which is a nice touch. This is great in an educational or marketing environment, as you can have your images or videos play automatically when you are not using the projector. There is also an option to display shooting information from the photo EXIF data, which is helpful.

Photo Gallery App
Photo Gallery App

As a visual educator, I am excited to be able to display content in native 4K resolution now, and although it isn’t a small and compact projector, with the optional carrying case, the XGIMI Horizon Pro projector is a very portable option. I’m not a home theater buff by any means, but I imagine this projector would satisfy most people that want to enjoy a large and beautifully clear image, with most of the TV features that you need built-in, along with very respectable speakers and there is an optical digital output if you want to push the audio through an external sound system.

At 2200 lumens, you can enjoy a clear picture with the lights on, but the image quality sings in a slightly dimmed room. You can project an image from 40 diagonally to 200 inches, although the literature states that the optimal image quality ranges from 60 to 150 inches. The 60Hz image engine also ensures that video plays smoothly, even when there is a lot of motion in the video.

As I mentioned, this is not a budget projector by any means. The price I see on B&H Photo is $1,699 for the projector, and the stand is $99. The carry case, available on Amazon.com, is $69. As I say, I’ll include affiliate links below, so if this interests you, you would be supporting this podcast and website by buying using my links. Of course, the main objective of this post is to share information on a great product that I bought as a company expense and have found to be a highly impressive piece of equipment. The affiliate income and support are secondary and in no way affect how I report on this device.

Affiliate Links:

XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K Projector: https://mbp.ac/XGIMI4K

Dedicated Stand: https://mbp.ac/XGIMIStand

Dedicated Carrying Case: https://amzn.to/3Vsy8VP


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


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Where Did the Year Go? It’s Autumn Again! (Podcast 797)

Where Did the Year Go? It’s Autumn Again! (Podcast 797)


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It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I made a short movie showing the Autumn color in our local park, the Jindai Botanical Park and Gardens here in Tokyo. At the end of our November Question Time event for Patreon supporters last weekend, we talked about sharing our 2022 Top Ten images in the January Question Time, so I’ve been starting to reflect on the year a little mentally, recalling my May trip to Namibia, and feeling thankful that we finally seem to be returning to a semblance of normality as the pandemic gradually becomes more manageable and less of a threat for the majority of the population.

Unfortunately, as I went through my images of this year’s Autumn leaves in the park, I was somewhat saddened that many of the images were just repeats of previous years. The strange weather has made the leaves considerably less attractive than usual, and if it weren’t for a few other photos that I quite like, I probably would have given up on the idea of sharing any photos from this visit to the park altogether.

As it stands, I have nine images from the visit, and a couple of them that I am happy with, so let’s work through my shots anyway, starting with this image of the Crepe-myrtle trees in their Autumn dress and the sun shining through the canopy.

Crepe-myrtle Sunburst
Crepe-myrtle Sunburst

I like the sunburst or starburst effect of the sun shining through the trees. This effect is easily achieved with wide-angle lenses, even without stopping down the aperture very much, but I had stopped down to ƒ/14 for this shot anyway to get the leaves and foreground shadows sharp, although, in this image, that would have been achieved by an aperture of ƒ/8 or even ƒ/5.6.

The second image I shot of these trees, though, benefitted much more from the ƒ/14 aperture as I set my camera down on the ground to capture the grasses and leaves in beautiful detail. The closest leaves to the lens are going slightly out of focus, but everything is sharp from a few centimeters into the frame, so I’m happy with how this turned out.

Forest Floor
Forest Floor

I folded out the screen and had the digital level visible with the intention of ensuring that the horizon was straight, but as I put my camera down, a few people that I was hoping would walk out of the frame did just that, so I grabbed this shot before a few other people walked into the frame. The result is that I hadn’t leveled the horizon properly yet, but this was my best shot because of the lack of people. I could straighten the horizon in post, but I didn’t want to throw out any pixels, so I’m living with this for now, and I do like the shot, even wonky, so I’m not too concerned.

I did use an adjustment layer in Capture One Pro and brushed in a little bit of lightness in the shadows in the foreground leaves, just to open them up a little and provide a little more balance with the elements in the top of the frame. Another thing I did as I shot was to remove the twigs in the foreground, but again, I preferred this shot and think that the twigs add a little to the feeling of the image, so again, they stayed.

Here also is a shot of the yellow maple leaves, which are generally a lot prettier, but this year they have been eaten a little more than usual by bugs, and there are some red spots in the yellow, probably caused by some chillier than usual nights over the last few weeks. We even had a frost a few times, and that doesn’t usually happen in Tokyo in November.

Red in Yellow
Red in Yellow

For these leaves, I opened up the aperture as wide as it will go, which gives me ƒ/7.1 at 500mm with the Canon RF 100-500mm lens. This is because I wanted as shallow a depth of field as I could get for the leaves to keep the viewer’s attention on the foreground leaves and make the background leaves more like supporting actors. The background is very dark, as I aligned with a shadow area in this image, so the shallow depth of field didn’t have much effect on the distant background in this shot.

In the next image, though, I aligned the leaves with an illuminated area of the background to capture the out-of-focus leaves to provide a more colorful backdrop. I actually closed my aperture down to ƒ/8 for this shot to get just a slightly deeper depth of field, as I wanted the foreground leaves, which were all close to the same distance from the camera in this shot, to be in focus, while leaving the background as blurred as possible.

Autumn Leaves 2022
Autumn Leaves 2022

I like the textures in the background color, which were smooth over the red leaves, but some low grasses had an interesting effect on the bokeh in the bottom right corner, which I found somewhat appealing. Again though, the leaves themselves aren’t very attractive, and the bear twigs on the right are just about acceptable because they allow us to see that textured yellow bokeh.

Just one more leaves shot to go as we look at the red leaves a few meters away from the yellow leaves. These red leaves were backlit, so the light was shining through the leaves rather than shining on the leaves, and although these leaves were in slightly better condition, the shot is nothing special. I’ve only really kept it in the set because I kind of like the atmosphere, but I will probably not keep this in my finals if I review it again in a few week’s time, probably as I work on my 2022 Top Ten image selection.

Autumn Leaves 2022
Mapel Hand

After spending probably less than half the time I usually spend photographing the maple trees, we had a walk through the park, noticed that the cosmos flowers were already gone, leaving just soil now waiting for the winter to set in, and we made our way through to the corner of the park that has various types of Dahlia flowers at this time of year. They were mostly past their best, with a few blooms still worth shooting.

Bee in Dahlia
Bee in Dahlia

I noticed this honey bee in the center of a yellow Dahlia, so I hit the Exposure Lock button on the back of my Canon EOS R5, as I’ve customized the camera to remap that button to switch between One Shot and AI Servo focusing, and I used AI Servo to stay with the bee as both the bee and I moved around. This made it pretty easy to get the bee’s eye nice and sharp as it went about its business.

I do enjoy photographing these Dahlia flowers and converting them to black and white in Capture One Pro, then used a few adjustment layers to black out the background. I did take a patch of black velvet to hold up behind the flowers to help reduce the processing time, but my wife had gone to the restroom, and the angle was such that it wouldn’t have been possible to hold the cloth behind this flower anyway, so I did all of the dark backgrounds in post.

Dahlia Sun
Dahlia Sun

I generally start with one adjustment layer and brush over the background with a tone curve that has the highlights intact, but the shadows dropped down as far as I can take them. Then I do at least one more adjustment layer with reduced exposure, and I’m careful not to paint over the flower’s petals around the edges.

The next Dahlia shot received similar processing, but this felt like a firework to me, so I left its stalk more visible so that it looked like the light from the firework as it climbed to the point where it exploded. I also play with the highlights and shadow sliders on the background layer to increase the contrast between the layers of petals.

The final image that I wanted to talk about is this rose photo, which I again gave the black background treatment, but I left the unopened bud visible, as it felt like a thespian waiting in the wings, probably until the main actor here withered, giving way to the supporting actor.

Apart from the slightly unattractive maple leaves this year, I guess I’m relatively pleased with this selection, although often at this time of year, the maple leaves in Autumn dress usually steal the show. With me not being able to run the 2022 Japan winter tours this year, though, I can see probably at least one of these making its way into my 2022 Top Ten selection that I’ll share towards the end of the year or the start of January before I set off for the first of the 2023 Japan Winter Tours.

Share Your Top Ten in January Patrons’ Question Time

As I said, we will review Top Tens from any Patreon supporters of Tier #3 or higher that want to join the January Question Time event, which I’ll schedule for when I’m home between trips. If you’d like to be involved in that, and share your work with the group, ensure that you select your own top ten images from 2022 and support the Podcast for at least $5 per month, even if it’s just for January, and you’ll receive an invite via the Patreon message system and via the private MBP Community Forum, that comes as one of the Patreon supporter benefits. I hope to see you there!


Show Notes

Support us on Patreon: https://mbp.ac/patreon

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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Battery Grip and RRS L-Bracket for Canon EOS R5 (Podcast 796)

Battery Grip and RRS L-Bracket for Canon EOS R5 (Podcast 796)


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When I went mirrorless with the Canon EOS R and then got my second mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS R5, I said that I was going to try to use them without the battery grip to keep the size and weight of my system down. During the pandemic, when I wasn’t shooting so much, and my tours all had to be postponed, I didn’t miss the grip, but when shooting in Namibia this year, I was reminded how much I dislike having to crank my hand around to the shutter button when using the camera in portrait orientation without a battery grip. So, with my Japan winter tours coming up in January and February next year, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get myself a battery grip for the Canon EOS R5.

The BG-R10 is the grip that fits both the EOS R5 and R6 and has a cradle that holds two batteries, giving double the battery life, but more importantly, and the thing that I’ve been missing, is the ability to flip the camera into the portrait orientation and still have access to all of the shooting controls, as you can see in this photo. The AF-ON button is slightly higher than on the R5 body, so it takes a little bit of getting used to, but all of the buttons from the camera body are replicated on the vertical grip, with the exclusion of the video record button, the light button for the LED display, the Lock button and the Mode button.

BG-R10 Battery Grip Vertical Controls
BG-R10 Battery Grip Vertical Controls

Without the LED, there is no use for the Light button, and as I generally will be in landscape orientation when shooting video, I can live without the video button and mode button, too, as my main use for the Mode button is to switch between stills and video. There is a lock switch on the battery grip, but that essentially turns off all buttons on the grip, so it does not replicate the Lock button, so ultimately, that is the only button I miss.

I can reach up with my left hand and press the lock button with my thumb, though, so I can live without the lock button too I guess. Apart from that and the price of the BG-R10 Battery Grip, which is almost 1.5X more than previous grips, I’m very happy with it and pleased that I picked it up. The other related expense, of course, is that the battery grip made it necessary to replace my Really Right Stuff L-Bracket. I really dislike shooting with a camera without the L-Bracket, and I was using the smaller version for the R5 without the battery grip but had to spring for the BGR10-L bracket as well so that I’m covered with my tripod plates in both the landscape and portrait orientations. I also like the extra protection that having the bracket along the side and bottom of the camera provides.

Let’s take a step back, though, and take a look at the BGR10-L bracket itself in this photo. It has that signature Really Right Stuff engineered finish and a wide mouth in the corner to allow the battery cradle to be removed to change batteries without removing the L-Bracket. As you can see, the screw that attaches the bracket to the camera slides along so that you can loosen that screw and slide the bracket away from the camera if you need more access to the cable ports on the camera, although you can access them without sliding the bracket out. I only slide it out when attaching the wire holder for video use.

BGR10-L Bracket
BGR10-L Bracket

So that you are never left searching for the hex wrench to loosen that screw, there is a hole in the base of the L-Bracket to slide the wrench into and a magnet to keep it securely stuck to the bracket. It’s nice that this is a full-sized hex key on this bracket, as the sawn-off version that comes with the smaller non-battery grip bracket can be difficult to turn, especially in cold conditions when your hands are naturally cold too.

BGR10-L Bracket with Hex Wrench Holder
BGR10-L Bracket with Hex Wrench Holder

Here’s another photo to show the battery cradle clearance of the Battery Grip, and you can also see how the side of the bracket provides access to the cable ports.

BG-R10 Grip Battery Clearance
BG-R10 Grip Battery Clearance

The gap in the side dovetail plate allows up to 70 degrees of swivel of the articulated screen on the camera, as you can see in the following image. This might look difficult to work with, but in practical use, I’ve never really found it much of a limitation to not be able to rotate the articulated display fully.

70 Degrees of Articulation
70 Degrees of Articulation

The other huge benefit of the L-Bracket is visible in this next image, where I show the R5 mounted on a tripod in landscape and portrait orientations. I haven’t moved the nodal point to the exact center of the tripod quick-release bracket for the shot on the left, but the bracket has these markings if you need to adjust to keep the lens axis in the same location as you switch orientations.

BGR10-L Bracket Orientations
BGR10-L Bracket Orientations

Mounting the camera on the side dovetail plate like this will keep the center of gravity above the tripod, reducing the risk of introducing camera shake. If you flop the camera over to the side, you lose that center of gravity, and the camera is more susceptible to shaking in the wind or even due to the movement of the shutter, although this isn’t such a problem with mirrorless as there are fewer moving parts.

One thing I’ve seen a few reviewers complain about is the fact that the BG-R10 battery grip sticks out about 5mm past the side of the camera, and I did find that a little bit annoying, but as you can see in this photo, the L-Bracket masks that to a degree, so that’s a bonus.

Bracket Masks Extended Grip Width
Bracket Masks Extended Grip Width

You can also see the Multi-Controller on the back of the grip, which is a very nice addition, enabling us to move the focus point around while shooting in portrait orientation. Also, notice the charge indicators that show the status of charging the batteries in the grip if you plug the camera into a power source. Unfortunately, this will only charge one battery at a time.

Even more unfortunate is that you cannot provide just any USB power to charge the batteries in the grip. You have to use the Canon PD-E1 power adapter to charge the batteries. I own a PD-E1 to power my camera when using it as a Webcam and for some microscope imagery work, but I will never take this on the road to enable charging the batteries in the grip. I can’t help thinking that Canon could have designed this to use a wider range of USB power, especially when you consider I have a third-party double battery charger that charges two batteries simultaneously and works with just about any USB power you can throw at it.

Another thing I’d like to cover before we finish is the addition of the QD socket in the bottom of the RRS bracket. I attach a D Loop QD Strap Swivel to the Peak Design camera strap loops, as you can see in this next image. This makes it possible to easily and securely connect a strap to the base plate and remove it quickly by pressing the button at the top of the QD connector.

D Loop QD Strap Swivel
D Loop QD Strap Swivel

As I also have a socket in the base of the lens plate on my Canon RF 100-500mm lens, as you see here, I can attach the strap with a QD connector, and I can then sling the camera with the strap over my left shoulder, allowing the camera to hang upside-down on my right, which puts the camera in a perfect position to quickly grab the grip, and swing it up to my eye to start shooting.

Underslinging with D Loops on Plates
Underslinging with D Loops on Plates

So, although I tried to avoid going this route, it’s nice to have this system back in my shooting workflow. I find it much easier to shoot in portrait mode with the vertical grip on the battery grip, and the Really Right Stuff L-Bracket completes the system.

Affiliate Links

The Canon BG-R10 Battery Grip is available from our friends at B&H Photo (https://mbp.ac/bg-r10) and Amazon (https://amzn.to/3V3ho6K). These are both affiliate links, so you help the show out by buying with these links.


Show Notes

Get your Really Right Stuff gear here: https://www.reallyrightstuff.com

The Canon BG-R10 Battery Grip is available from our friends at B&H Photo (https://mbp.ac/bg-r10) and Amazon (https://amzn.to/3V3ho6K). These are both affiliate links, so you help the show out by buying with these links.

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Try Again! Topaz Photo AI Review (Podcast 795)

Try Again! Topaz Photo AI Review (Podcast 795)


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In April this year, I tried the Topaz Labs suite of tools and ended up requesting a refund because there were some nasty color casts in the DNG files that Topaz created after I processed some raw files from my Canon EOS cameras and viewed them in Capture One Pro. Since that review, though, I have, on several occasions, missed the pretty amazing noise reduction that the Topaz tools provided. So a few nights ago, after shooting the very dark Lunar Eclipse at ISO 3200, leaving me with a fair bit of noise to clean up, I tried Topaz Photo AI, using a trial license, and was once again amazed at how well it dealt with the noise in my image.

You can’t save your images with the trial license, though, so I bought a license and saved my image as a DNG file. It looked pretty good, and I could not see any color casts, so I was happy with my purchase and somewhat relieved to have that Topaz magic back in my digital toolbox. I was not yet convinced that they had solved their problems with saving as DNG files, though, so today, I’m going to share the Lunar Eclipse shot that I processed with Topaz Photo AI, and then we’ll move on to do a few more tests to see if the problem still exists. This time though, even if I do see the issue again, I’m going to keep the software, as it’s so good. I’ll have to put up with saving my images as TIFF files when the color cast does cause issues.

Anyway, first here is the photo that I shot of the Lunar Eclipse with Uranus (I said Neptune in the recording – sorry!) sitting diagonally down in the bottom left thirds intersection. I forfeited a little detail in the moon, but the noise destroyed most of the detail anyway, so I’m pretty happy with the result. I shot this image with the Canon EOS R5 and my 100-500mm RF lens with the RF 2.0X Extender fitted for a focal length of 1000mm. I cropped around 10% of the image away to give a slightly larger view of the moon. Now let’s test to see if my other images are still getting that color cast when processed and saved in DNG format.

Moon and Uranus Eclipse
Moon and Uranus Eclipse

OK, so I just opened the main offending image from my April tests, of a young snow monkey galloping along the side of a snowy mountain, and processed it in Topaz Photo AI. Unlike the previous suite, which had various tools for various objectives, Photo AI has all of the main tools rolled into one application, making it way less cumbersome to use. Here is a screenshot showing the settings I enabled and a before-after of the foot of the monkey, which showed a bit of motion blur from the monkey’s movement.

Snow Monkey Sharpened Foot
Snow Monkey Sharpened Foot

Click on the image to open the full-sized screenshot to explore the detail. I’m sure you’ll agree that the sharpness of the foot is incredible! Photo AI has completely removed the motion blur and cleaned up the snow on the monkey’s fur.

Here is another screenshot showing the face of the monkey, and again, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is a huge improvement in the sharpness. This is one of those images that had bugged me since shooting it, due to the subject movement, but Photo AI has completely turned that around.

Snow Monkey Sharpened in Topaz Photo AI
Snow Monkey Sharpened in Topaz Photo AI

No More Color Cast!

What’s more, I saved the image as a DNG and imported it back into Capture One Pro, and there is no trace of the nasty color cast that led me to request a refund in April! This is amazing! I’m pleased that this works as it should now. Topaz let themselves down by leaving that unfixed despite it being pointed out to them by many people. They have earned my trust by fixing this issue, so I’m completely sold. Topaz Photo AI is amazing! Here is the final photo for your reference.

Flying Snow Monkey!
Flying Snow Monkey!

And to show you what has been fixed, here is the screenshot from the April episode showing the color cast in the DNG file that I saved and reviewed in Capture One Pro at the time. Although it’s obvious, the offending DNG is the one in the bottom right.

Sharp Snow Monkey and Yellow Monkey
Sharp Snow Monkey and Yellow Monkey
Okunikko Autumn Color
Okunikko Autumn Color

To check a wider color palette, I also processed a recent image from Okunikko of a patch of Autumn leaves on the side of a mountain. I was amazed at how much more detail Photo AI brought out of the image, but here is the image in web size to show you that the color is all completely intact. Nothing shifts.

One other thought just crossed my mind, and that is that it is possible that Capture One made a change that fixed this color cast as well, as the Topaz team claimed that there was nothing that they could do, and Photoshop and Lightroom did not show the color cast. I’m not going to dig any deeper than this thought bubble, but I did want to point out that this could be a happy coincidence rather than the result of hard work on the Topaz team’s part. Although they have put a lot of hard work into Photo AI. It does an incredible job almost entirely automatically.

Either way though, I am very happy to have this option now, and without having to save my images in TIFF format, which I dislike doing unless I really have to. Well done to whoever fixed this. Topaz Photo AI gets a huge thumbs-up from me now. Please note that I have not communicated with the Topaz team regarding this review. I bought the plugin with my own money, and the views I expressed in this post are my personal opinions based on my impartial testing of the product.

If you’d like to check out Topaz Photo AI you can find it at https://www.topazlabs.com/topaz-photo-ai


Show Notes

Topaz Photo AI: https://www.topazlabs.com/topaz-photo-ai

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Almost Autumn, Waterfalls and the iPhone 14 Pro Max (Podcast 794)

Almost Autumn, Waterfalls and the iPhone 14 Pro Max (Podcast 794)


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I recently spent four days in Northern Japan, starting with a family event, then a little photography in some of my favorite places to shoot. The day before we left, I took delivery of my new iPhone 14 Pro Max, which I’d ordered as soon as the new iPhone went on sale, and it’s taken until now to arrive. My previous iPhone was four years old at this point, so I was ready for an upgrade, and I am enjoying the slightly larger form factor and I’m enjoying the three cameras, and the Macro mode, which is new to me with this iPhone.

I had heard that the new iPhone had a 48-megapixel camera, and I thought I’d enabled it as I selected to shoot raw images which is required to get the 48-megapixel images, but I didn’t find out until I got home that only the main 1X camera is 48 megapixels, and you have to enable Raw in the settings and hit the Raw button in the camera to shoot raw images. You can change the camera settings so that it remembers to stay in Raw mode, but when shooting raw images, the camera automatically disables the Live Photo setting. I personally enjoy playing with Live Photos more than I value the ability to shoot raw images with the iPhone camera, so I’ll probably not be switching to raw very often. I definitely enjoyed having such a great additional photography tool with me during this trip, and I’ll share a few of my iPhone photos alongside my Canon EOS R5 photos as we work through this travelogue.

Ultimately, when I want to shoot a raw 48-megapixel image with my iPhone, I have the button displayed ready to switch, but despite looking forward to the higher resolution, not being able to get that resolution with pretty much all modes that I use the iPhone camera in is a bit of a downer.

We weren’t sure how much time we’d have left to go out shooting, as the family event and meeting some old friends was the highest priority for this trip, but we managed to get everything we needed to do done in the first two days, so on the third day, we drove around to the Five Color Lakes that I’ve talked about in the past. We got slightly better fall color this year, but still, it was probably around 5 days to a week early so the colors weren’t great.

Thankfully, the natural colors in some of the Five Color Lakes themselves were nice and found themselves in some of my shots, like this one of a patch of the Blue Pond, with a little bit of fall color creeping in on the trees to the right. I placed that grey-colored bare tree along the right side of the frame and was careful to find a nice spot as that green tree on the left faded into the darkness to end the left edge of the frame.

Aonuma (Blue Pond)
Aonuma (Blue Pond)

You can see the shooting information by clicking on the images, but the main settings for this were ƒ/16 at ISO 100 for 0.3 seconds. It was overcast when I shot this, but the longer-than-usual exposure helped me to still bring out the beautiful colors, especially the blues in the water, which are caused by minerals.

This next image is the same lake from around 90 degrees to the right of the previous shot and slightly more elevated. This was actually as we came back from our walk along the track through the lakes, but I don’t have anything to share from the other lakes using my Canon EOS R5, so I figured we’d keep these together.

Aonuma (Blue Pond)
Aonuma (Blue Pond)

I like this one because of the more pronounced reflections on the trees in the blue water and because we can see some nice detail in the pond bed in the bottom left corner. I hand-held this shot because I had to get down low to shoot through some trees, and my wife was starting to get a little bit impatient as she was ready for lunch, so I didn’t spend the time necessary to lower my tripod legs. I did increase my ISO to 200 though so that I could get a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, which was going to be better for hand-holding my 105mm focal length.

After lunch, we swung by my favorite waterfall in Japan, which I also visited last October and many times before. In this next image, you see the Tatsusawa Fudodaki. This waterfall is incredibly soothing to visit and photograph, although the fall color managed to elude us again this year. There is a little yellow creeping in, but it’s not quite there.

Tatsusawa Fudodaki
Tatsusawa Fudodaki

Looping a Live Photo

Here is a video that I shared of a live photo, which I set to loop here on the website, so it looks like the water is continuously rippling. Note that to make this work you have to use the code that you’ll find when selecting the Embed option on Vimeo rather than just pasting a link to the video into WordPress. Also, to force the video to autoplay and loop include the options “autoplay=1&loop=1&background=0&autopause=0” in the embed code.

The first loop is very subtle and probably hard to miss, but here is a second live photo of the Kegon Falls from the following day, also shot with my iPhone 14 Pro Max, and shared to Vimeo, then set to loop. With more obvious movement, this looks much more effective as a loop.

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of what I call Moving Stills, which are scenes that I would generally shoot as a still photograph, but since we got video in our cameras, I started to switch to video and record 15 to 30 seconds of video so that the slight changes in the scene are recorded. Creating a loop with the Live Photo options is a great way to do this with the iPhone, which is generally a more casual way to shoot. I’ll be exploring this more as I get into my Japan winter tours which will be going ahead in January and February next year. Due to a little churn in the booking situation, we currently have one open space on all three tours next winter, so check out the tours page if that may interest you. I’ve also published the 2024 dates if you are planning a little further out.

Long Exposures from Live Photos

Another thing that I found recently, as I played with the iPhone 14 Live Photos, is that you can also select the Long Exposure option in addition to Loop and Live Photo, and this takes the information you have in your image and creates a long exposure, as you can see here, from the same image that I shared as a loop above.

Kegon Falls iPhone Long Exposure from Live Photo
Kegon Falls iPhone Long Exposure from Live Photo

For comparison, here is a similar long exposure shot with a 3-stop neutral density filter using my Canon EOS R5 camera. With almost four times the resolution, the EOS R5 image definitely provides more freedom to print large etc., but the quality of the image for everyday use and sharing with friends is really not a lot better than the iPhone image. Of course, I’m not saying that I can now do away with my Canon gear. There is still so much that I cannot do, but this really comes down to resolution, longer focal lengths, and faster frame rates at this point. With the computational photography that the iPhone uses, we can even get a nice shallow depth of field in Portrait mode, and the Macro capabilities of the iPhone are now incredible too.

Kegon Falls from Canon EOS R5
Kegon Falls from Canon EOS R5

Although not in Macro mode, here is a video that I shot of a frog sitting near to a mountain stream during my visit to the Five Color Lakes. This is a 20-second or so Slow Motion video, so the water is very nice in this, but also you can see that the frog was captured very well too, at probably around 15 to 20 centimeters.

OK, so back to the second photography day from my recent trip, as I wanted to share one last photo before we finish. I’ve been doing this for many years too, but one of the things that I love to do with long-drop waterfalls, is to pan vertically with a longish exposure, to capture the movement of the water as it tumbles through the air. Here is my favorite photograph of the Kegon Falls in Okunikko shot using this technique.

Water Falls
Water Falls

The shutter speed for this image was 1/10 of a second, and as with any panning technique, it’s a little hit-and-miss. You might get some shots that you don’t pan perfectly vertically with, and it takes a bit of practice before you can pan with the water. Luckily, the way the Canon EOS R5 electronic viewfinder works gives a stroboscopic view of the scene you are shooting as you release the shutter in a burst, so you can see that you are staying with the water when you get it right.

I also converted this to black and white and increased the contrast using a Luma Curve in Capture One Pro to remove the distracting brown rock from the sides of the image. I’ve often thought of creating a Japanese-style scroll or Kakejiku of this kind of photo, but the kits available to make them are a bit cheesy, so I’ve never put this plan into action, although I think they would look good in that format.

Anyway, we’ll start to wrap it up there for this week. I had a lot of fun, both just getting out into the mountains with my wife and with my new iPhone 14 Pro Max. I’ve used the iPhone camera for video and slow motion, as well as for Timelapse photography over the years, but now having the three cameras following my upgrade, I am enjoying the additional creative options for still photography, as well as playing with the various Live Photo options, as I’ve shared today. I doubt very much that these will be the last iPhone photos that you see from my travels, and I hope that you find what I do interesting.


Show Notes

Check out our tours and workshops here: https://mpb.ac/tours

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


2022 5DayDeal Photography Bundle (Podcast 793)

2022 5DayDeal Photography Bundle (Podcast 793)


Visit Library for MBP Pro eBooks

It’s that time of year again! The 2022 5DayDeal Photography Bundle has just gone live, and this bundle is packed, once again, with goodies to enhance your photography. Today I’m going to share some of the products that I feel are particularly interesting and useful, and of course, links to the sale so that you can stock up on some of the best quality photography education available today.

Although I skip a year every so often, I’ve been working with the 5DayDeal team since their very first sale, and from the inside, I have to tell you that they are one of the most professional teams out there and always a pleasure to work with. It’s also very nice to see how sophisticated their production has become. For example, here is a video they put together to showcase this year’s bundle. I think they’ve done a very good job of this.

Anyway, first, let me explain the pricing structure of the bundles, along with savings made on each bundle, and then we’ll pick a few to look a little deeper into. The Main Bundle includes over $2,200 worth of photography education but it’s available for just $98, and, as the name implies, this is available for just five days, until October 18, noon, Pacific time. You can upgrade to the Pro Bundle for an additional $39 and get another $1,400 worth of education. The 5DayDeal team has always been big on helping you to help charities, and you can add their Charity Bundle for $29, adding another $1,300 worth of coolness! The full set costs just $166 with over $5,500 worth of photography education and tools, a total discount of over 97%.

The complete bundle contains 719 training videos, over 135 hours of training, and 2,693 LUTs and Tools. I rarely finish looking through everything available, but if you pick out stuff to ingest as time allows, it is a great way to up your game.

5DayDeal 2022

Perfecting the Headshot

So, let’s jump in and look at some of the products in the Main Bundle. The first thing that I wanted to mention is Perfecting the Headshot from Fstoppers. Headshots seem easy, but there is much more to creating great headshots than meets the eye. The number one challenge any photographer has when photographing people is learning how to break them out of the all too common “deer in the headlights” look and make them look comfortable and engaging. In this tutorial, Peter Hurley dives deep into the human psyche and explains why people almost always have apprehension and fear when looking into a camera. After learning what causes people to look that way, Peter teaches you multiple techniques to make your subjects look more confident and attractive in 10-and-a-half hours of content.

Mastering landscape photography 

Next up, Mastering Landscape Photography, which contains 20 videos that will show you how to master the finer points of landscape photography with skills such as smoothing out water, creating reflections, showing motion on moving water, panoramas, and more. The course covers must-have landscape photography gear and the features you need in a photography backpack, and techniques for shooting great landscape photos and focusing techniques to create tack-sharp photos every time.

Dramatic Black & White Landscapes

Creating Black and White landscapes is an art all of its own, but help is at hand with the Dramatic Black & White Landscapes course.  In this tutorial you’ll learn how to process and create dramatic and impactful black-and-white images utilizing photoshop, including…

– Utilizing smart objects in a black and white workflow
– Utilizing Adobe Camera RAW in Black and white conversions
– Maximizing contrast
– Maximizing visual flow
– Using Luminosity Masks to maximize contrast and depth
– Cleaning up visual distractions
– Controlling visual flow through color seperation

The course contains 4 tutorial walkthroughs with a combined runtime of 1.5 hours

There’s much, much more in the Main Bundle, but these three are some of my favorites. The Pro Bundle adds heaps more material for a relatively small additional fee, so it’s highly recommended. Here is a taste of what’s inside…

Milky Way Made Easy

Despite the non-professional sounding title, Michael Shainblum has done a great job with his Milky Way Made Easy course.

Learning how to shoot the milky way can be intimidating, but this course explains basic and advanced techniques in easy to understand video tutorials. Whether you are just getting starting taking your first night sky long exposure, or are advanced and just looking for some new tricks and tips to elevate your images, you’ll probably find value in this course, which contains 25 videos total over six hours of content, including a section called Single Exposure Shot at Crater Lake.

In this tutorial Michael covers how to shoot and compose a single exposure of the Milky Way. He then covers post processing techniques to clean up the photo and bring out the Milky Way. Even if you are an advanced shooter, this video shares some different techniques that you may not have seen before. You’ll learn techniques for properly planning out and scouting for night sky photography, gear for night sky photography and focusing techniques, including photo stacking.

Pro Bundle 2022

Other sections include Twilight Blend On the Oregon Coast, Star Trails Tutorial at Sparks Lake, Moonscape Processing at Smith Rock, and Basic Light Painting at Mystic Beach.

Again, there is much more in the Pro Bundle. You can learn Frequency Separation Retouching, Compositing for Portraits in Photoshop, real estate photography, woodland photography, Newborn photography, Mastering the Adjustment Brush Tool, Advanced Portrait Editing Techniques, Launching Min-Sessions like a pro, and a realistic sky replacement workflow.

The Charity Bundle

With the Charity Bundle you’ll learn creative photography concepts, The Thriving Artist Method, exposure blending, creative blurs, the art of digital blending, wedding photography, and a Lightroom sunset workflow, among other things. Plus, of course, the charity aspect of this and the sale itself is one of the most amazing things about the 5DayDeal. Since 2014 the team has given over $2,000,000 to charity, so it’s not just the photographers that buy the bundles that benefit.

Charity Bundle 2022

So, the 5DayDeal lasts just five days, but this blog post is eternal, so if you arrive after October 18, 2022, the sale will be gone, forever. The team will, I’m sure, be back next year with another set of cutting edge products from some of the worlds best photography educators, but this sale has to end on October 18. If you are in time, do check it out, and if you heard about the sale from me, please do use my link (https://mbp.ac/5daydeal). Please also share this post with your photography friends.


Show Notes

Visit the 5DayDeal webiste: https://mbp.ac/5daydeal

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.