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Sony a9 Full Review: Mirrorless Redefined

by on Jun.14, 2017, under Reviews

The Sony Alpha 9 is the company’s first camera aimed at professional wedding, action and sports photographers. It’s a 24MP, full-frame mirrorless camera that can shoot at 20 frames per second with full autofocus. And, just as importantly, with very low viewfinder lag and absolutely no blackout during continuous shooting.

That’s right, a mirrorless camera targeted at wedding, action and sports photographers – a strike at the DSLR’s area of greatest strength. It’s true that Olympus has pushed in this direction with its E-M1 Mark II, but Sony is promising both super-fast readout and full-frame image quality, backed up with an expansion of its Pro Support scheme that will be needed to break into the pro market. This is ambitious stuff.

Of particular note for wedding and event photographers are the a9’s speed and silent shooting, both of which are certain to have a positive impact on capturing just the right moment without any interruption from the clacking of a conventional shutter.

All this capability stems from a stacked CMOS image sensor, which includes processing circuitry nearer the pixels and features built-in memory to deliver all this data to the off-board processors at a rate they can cope with. It’s this structure that enables the camera to shoot at 20 frames per second and do so with an electronic shutter that’s fast enough to minimize the rolling shutter effect. The fast readout also allows 60 AF/AE calculations per second, promising better subject tracking and prediction.

Key specifications

  • 24MP full-frame Stacked CMOS
  • 20 fps continuous shooting with full AF (electronic shutter, 12-bit files)
  • Continuous shooting buffer of up to 241 compressed Raw files (362 JPEG)
  • 10 fps continuous shooting with AF with adapted lenses
  • 5-stop (estimated) 5-axis image stabilization
  • 3.7M-dot OLED viewfinder (1280 x 960 pixels) with up to 120 fps update
  • 1.44M-dot rear touchscreen LCD
  • Oversampled UHD 4K/24p video from full sensor width (1.24x crop for 30p)

The stacked CMOS design not only allows the super-fast readout that powers so much of the camera’s attention-grabbing spec, it also means it has all the benefits of BSI design. This means that the light-sensitive section of each pixel is closer to the surface of the sensor which, in turn, means the sensor is better at collecting light near the corners, where the incident angle will be high. It also generally means improved low light performance, and sharper pixel-level imagery.

Sony’s crammed the a9 with seriously speedy technology and is aiming it at true sports professionals. Out-of-camera JPEG cropped to taste.
Sony 24-70mm F2.8 GM | ISO 2500 | 1/800 sec | F2.8
Photo by Carey Rose

Beyond the technical wonders of the new sensor, there are a large number of significant changes to the a9 relative to Sony’s a7-series that have all been made with demanding professionals in mind; these include updates to menus, controls, image quality, and more. Will all of this be enough to tempt professionals to switch? Let’s dig in and find out.

Review History
23 Apr 2017 Introduction, Shooting Experience, Image Quality Impressions, Autofocus Impressions published
30 May 2017 Studio Scene and Raw Dynamic Range published
14 June 2017 Full review published

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Silkypix adds clarity tool and compatibility with Sigma dp Quattro series

by on Jun.13, 2017, under Reviews

Ichikawa soft laboratory has included compatibility with the X3F Raw file format of the Sigma dp Quattro series of cameras in the latest version of its Silkypix software application. Developer Studio 8 allows owners of the dp 1, dp 2 and dp 3 Quattro cameras to process the Raw files produced by their unique Foveon sensors.

The version 8 of the application also adds a clarity slider tool for the first time, as well as an updated control slider for noise reduction. Those who like hard copies of their images will be able to take advantage of a new soft-proofing function that displays pictures as they will be printed, and some general improvements to the user interface are said to make using the program more straight forward for everyone. Focus peaking is another new feature, and now a single license permits the software to be activated on up to three computers.

The application costs 16200 Japanese Yen (approx. $150) for new purchasers but those with existing licenses from software bundled with cameras can upgrade for a smaller fee.
For more information and to download Developer Studio 8 see the Silkypix website.

Press Release

SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8

RAW Photography Software for Windows and macOS Released

Ichikawa soft laboratory Co., Ltd. (Mihama-ku, Chiba-city, Chiba, Japan : Representative Director Yoshikuni Ichikawa) announces the release of SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8, the latest version of the RAW photo software series for Windows and macOS. It is immediately available on the ISL Online Store.

About SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8
SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8 is the standard version of the SILKYPIX Developer Studio series that includes adjustment of exposure, white balance and contrast, as well a correction tools such as dust removal and lens aberration.
In addition, it incorporates the advanced image processing engine as SILKYPIX Developer Studio Pro8, achieving higher image quality in high color separation performance, excellent noise reduction and more.

SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8 Key Features

Clarity Adjustment
Tone adjustment tools now include a clarity parameter to adjust the luminance level of each pixel based on information from surrounding pixels. Increasing clarity enhances details of the subject in a photo that may otherwise have muted features. Decreasing clarify results in a soft ambience with a soft focus. Clarity adjustment is a powerful tool for achieving desirable results especially in women and children’s portraits.

Soft proofing
Utilizing ICC profiles, SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8 includes a soft proof display that simulates the appearance of a photo as it may appear when printed. With this new feature, printing mistakes can be prevented, and printing result closer to the intent of the photographer can be obtained.*1
*1 It must be an environment where the monitor is color managed

Focus Peaking
Focus peaking detects the parts focused, based on from adjacent pixels in the image, and to display them with colors added to those parts. Focus peaking is extremely useful for analyzing the area of focus when the photo was taken.

One License for Three Computers
SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8 is used by photographers that utilize multiple devices including desktops, laptops and tablets running either Windows or macOS. Now each license can be used on a total of three devices in any combination of operating system.

Supports SIGMA dp Quattro series X3F file (RAW format)*2 (only supported with 64-bit)
SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8 has supported the SIGMA dp Quattro series X3F file (RAW format) equipped with Foveon X3®*3 sensor. With the SILKYPIX image engine color expression and various adjustment tools, the range of possibilities for creative expression in the SIGMA dp Quattro series X3F file (RAW format) expands.
Supported Cameras: SIGMA dp0 Quattro, dp1 Quattro, dp2 Quattro, dp3 Quattro
*2 It is compatible with SILKYPIX Developer Studio 8 series or later.
*3 Foveon X3® is a registered trademark by Foveon Inc.

New function / Improvement list
Tone – Clarity slider addition
Dodge / Color Burn (HDR) – Dodge and Color Burn can be individually adjusted
Noise reduction – Neat noise slider addition
Display warning – Soft proofing addition
Warning indication – Focus peaking addition
Preview display Select background color
Choose Rating Display / Non-display under the thumbnail display
Improved User Interface
One License Can Be Used on Three Computers

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Photomatix Pro 6 launched with more color control and realistic-looking results

by on Jun.12, 2017, under Reviews

Example picture by Ron Pepper

UK software company HDRsoft has released version 6 of its Photomatix Pro imaging application with the promise of more realistic HDR images and better control of picture characteristics. A key new feature allows users to blend an unedited version of a picture with its HDR counterpart so that the overall effect of the process can be moderated if needed.

The software now includes a tool called Tone Balancer that offers a wider range of choices in the render that assist in making HDR images that look less manipulated than usual, while a new brush tool provided the means to select and adjust color values in local areas. Lens and perspective corrections can also be made in this version with new facilities to deal with distortion, and HDRsoft says it has made the workflow easier to manage and follow.

Photomatix Pro can be used to blend multiple images to create HDR images, and it offers controls for removing ghosted moving objects and to correct small movements in the camera between exposures. It can also be used to optimise the dynamic range of single image files. The package can be used as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Adobe’s Lightroom and costs $99 for new users. Owners of Photomatix 5 can upgrade for free, while those using earlier versions can get version 6 for $29. A free trial is available. For more information see the HDRsoft website.

Press release

HDRsoft announces the release of Photomatix Pro version 6

The latest version of their software application that helps photography pros and enthusiasts create HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos in a large range of styles, from realistic to artistic.

Key benefits in the new release include:

  • More style choice for realistic results. A new HDR rendering method called Tone Balancer adds more options and presets for realistic looking results. It is well-suited to real estate and natural style landscapes.
  • Refining with more control over color. With the new interactive brush tool, users can make color changes to just parts of the image, by painting over those areas. They can also fine-tune the saturation, hue, and brightness of individual colors in a photo. This control is especially useful for removing color casts and enhancing skies and other image features. Images can also be cropped to easily remove distractions or to improve their composition.
  • Avoiding overdoing it. For a more realistic look, users can blend an original photo with the rendered image, either globally or by using a brush to select specific areas.
  • Removing distortion from your photos. A new distortion correction tool makes it easy to straighten photos that aren’t level and fix perspective issues where lines don’t look parallel when they should. These are particularly helpful features for architectural and landscape photographers.

A more intuitive workflow. Both new and experienced users will find it easier to load their images and develop them in Photomatix Pro with a guided workflow. A user can quickly open their images and move through the development process to achieve their results.

Photomatix Pro merges photographs taken at different exposure levels into a single HDR image with options for automatically aligning hand-held photos and for removing ghosts or visual artifacts when moving objects are present in the scene. Merged images can then be adjusted with a range of precise controls and settings or with one-click presets.

Photographers can quickly get the look they desire from natural-looking results to painterly images, from surreal and dreamy photos to ultra-realistic images with increased details.

Photomatix Pro can also be used to enhance a single photo to boost its shadows and enhance its highlights. The program includes a plugin for Adobe Lightroom for users who want to integrate Photomatix Pro into their Lightroom workflow.

“What’s unique about Photomatix Pro is the full range of styles it offers to render HDR photos, and version 6 makes this even better,” said Geraldine Joffre, HDRsoft Managing Director. “Unlike other apps which rely on one HDR rendering algorithm, Photomatix comes with several. Each algorithm can give an entirely different look with enhancing tones and details or fusing multiple exposures together. Photographers will find it useful to have several alternatives for processing HDR photos as things change with different subjects or lighting conditions.”

Photomatix Pro 6 is available now for $99 USD for a single-user license. Customers who purchased Photomatix Pro 5 will receive a free upgrade. Earlier versions of Photomatix Pro can be upgraded for $29 USD.

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