A first look and brief review
Ever since Adobe announced they were moving away from a conventional licensing model to a monthly/annual subscription based system, I have been mulling over whether or not the upgrade is worth what for me is extra expense.
Like many other out there, I do not generally upgrade a software package unless it adds significant benefit or due to a hardware change forces the upgrade. Adobe may say that overall their new subscription model will be cheaper for many, in my opinion it may not be for allot of others.
The main application I use from the Creative Suite is Photoshop although I use InDesign and Illustrator frequently.
First off, I have found CC to be very much CS6 with a few added extra’s. I have been running the package on a Virtual Machine to keep it away from my CS6 install, plugins and actions. Running it on a Virtual Machine is not the best way to get an idea of speed but I must say, it seems pretty quick when rendering large 24MP files.
The installation process is now handled by an updated version of the Adobe Application Manager now simply called Creative Cloud. It gives you access to your purchased applications, trials of applications that are not part of your subscription, the creative cloud sync, a new Font / Typekit and Adobe Behace.
There are no obvious options when install the applications, you can change the install location, language and a few other settings by clicking the settings icon in the top right corner.
Something that I found interesting is the application sizes. Having installed Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere and Dreamweaver, I was left with very little hard drive space. After a little investigation, I found the the CC apps are between 300 and 700mb’s larger than their CS6 counterparts following a clean install. Photoshop CS6 uses around 513mb’s and CC 997mb’s, Bridge CS6, 234mb’s and CC 313. This is something to be mindful of if installing the suite on a computer with a small SSD or if hard drive space is at a premium. My total install of CC was 2.23GB’s large than CS6!
So whats new?
There have been updates to Camera Raw and Sharpening tools and a number of additional filters/plugins. This is by no means an extensive list, its a few of the widely publicized features that I have taken a look at.
1. Camera Raw
When I installed CC this morning, Adobe Camera Raw version 8 was installed along side. Throughout the day, there have been a number of updates downloaded and installed and I am now running ACR version 8.1.
The workflow option window has seen some minor changes with the option to now resize your images before Photoshop even handles them.
There is a new radial filter with the same controls as the graduated filter already present adding more control over adjustments.
I have tested the noise and sharpening functions within ACR with a few low light shots and have found that whilst there is a slight improvement over ACR 7.x, the improvements are not that noticeable.
The biggest difference with ACR and one that I think many photographer will find useful is that you can now reload ACR from within Photoshop, whilst working on the image. This gives you the full pallet of tools from exposure, white balance, vibrancy and noise reduction to name a few. I can see this new feature getting a thumbs up from many.
2. Camera Shake Reduction
The camera shake reduction tool sounds great, but dont be fooled. I have tried to work several images though it, from low lit church interiors to an iPhone portraits. I have found that the tool works best in well lit images with low levels of noise.
It will not save every shot and is a feature that I am not jumping up and down in joy about.
If you have applied any amount of sharpening to an image before attempting to use this tool I have found the results to be pretty poor.
The same goes for noise reduction. Its best to remove as much noise as possible, run the tool and then reassess the noise levels, they may need reducing again, shadows and blacks seem to come out very noisy after.
3. Smart Sharpening
The smart sharpening tool has also been updated and seems to work very well. Compared to CS6’s Smart sharpen tool, this new version produces some impressive results with much lower noise levels than the CS6 version.
The window has been updated to include all the controls in one screen. The shadow and highlight functions seem to be more accurate and the new noise reduction slider works well.
My one complaint would be that the preview window does not accurately represent the end result. I found that it was showing halo’s around objects that after applying the sharpening were not present.
4. Image Resizer
The image size tool has undergone a few changes. There is now a ‘Fit To’ option with the most common presents found with. The most important update for me is the ‘Preserve Details (enlargements)’ addition. I create allot of posters and canvas art and have found that this feature works very very well. I upscaled an A5 image to A3, printed it and was very impressed. It handles sharpening, noise and detail management really nicely to produce very usable results.
5. Lens Correction
I have not read anything about the lens correction tool being updated but it seems to run allot smoother and faster the the version in CS6. Bearing in mind that I am running CC in a virtual machine, I would expect it to run even better in a normal environment.
6. Crop Tool
Again, I have not read anything about the crop tool being updated but it seems to have a smoother mouse action when tilting the crop.
Having only used Photoshop CC for a day I cannot really give a full overall conclusion. However, I have carried out tasks that I could in CS6 and found some of the new features and updates useful.
The ability to reopen camera raw within Photoshop and made additional changes is a huge bonus. The smart sharpener is also a very welcome update as are the image resizing features.
Overall the application runs well and I did not find anything that I did not like, its everything we have become accustomed to in CS6 with a few new features.
I will continue using all the packages for the full 30 day trial before deciding whether or not to upgrade and I would recommend anyone considering the upgrade to do the same.
Really like the new 500px portfolio theme’s. Checkout my portfolio. I will be updating it very soon.
My first advert
Pixel Opas (for Sony) Review
I had been looking to extend/upgrade my radio triggers for a while now. My current lineup included the Yonguno CTR-301P’s and Pixel Kings for TTL support.
Being a Sony shooter there are limited number of triggers that natively include the Sony/Minolta hot shoe so my choices were limited from the start. I eventually chose to got with the Opas triggers from Pixel, I chose them for a number of reasons;
- The use of AA Batteries
- Compatibility with Pixel Kings
- The On/Off switch
- Transmission Range (400m)
- Being transceivers they can act and transmitters or receivers
- The 2.4Ghz band can be used pretty much everywhere
- HSS support
In the Box
Each transceiver comes in its own box, inside you will find a user guide and a nice little bag. Inside the bag, the trigger and a number of cables that enables the trigger to fire studio slaves and older flashguns, also included is a shutter release sync cable.
The build quality is what I have come to expect from the mid range, middle price bracket triggers. The plastics don’t feel as cheap as some, with a fairly rigid feel, the buttons and switches have a good feel to them too.
The bottom hot shoe fitting also feels solid with a wheel turn lock to keep the trigger firmly in place. The hot shoe fitting where you would attach your flash feels pretty solid too.
My only complaint is the aerial, its fairly rigid. This in itself could be a good thing, but if you catch it against anything or pull the trigger out of its bag with a little too much force, it may snap off. I must add, this has not happened to me, it is just an observation.
For the relatively low price (I paid £108 for a set of three), these triggers are pretty packed with features.
Running on AA batteries is a massive bonus, unlike some of the cheaper triggers available that run on expensive, hard to find batteries such as my CTR-301P’s. AA’s are radially available and I for one carry a number of spare sets for my flashguns.
There are four channels each with three groups, they seem to have channel and group memory too allowing for pre shoot setup. If you setup CH1 to fire on Group A, CH2 on group B and CH3 on group C, turn them off, change from a receiver to a transmitter or visa versa they keep your settings.
On top of the transceiver, as well as the aerial is a 3.5mm jack for cable sync connection and a mini USB port for firmware update or charging/power.
On the left, the channel select switch and the PC Sync port. On the right, the on/off switch and the receiver/transmitter select switch.
The front plate has the flashgun hotshoe, channel selection and a test or shutter release button.
The back plate has the battery door and a ¼” screw for tripod/light stand fitting.
As with most of the triggers on the market, the Opas’s are easy to setup and use, simply attach one to your camera and one to each flash you wish to use and bam your set.
The channel’s and groups make it easy to switch between setups.
Flash sync works from 1/200 all the way up to 1/8000 with HSS.
When using the transceivers with the Pixel King transmitter works ok, I did have a few misfires and the transmission range is reduced.
I have tested the published range or 400 meters, roughly pacing out 350 meters they worked without fail in open space and in a woodland area. I only managed to try the remote shutter release function to a range or 150 meters but this worked just fine too.
I have used the triggers for five shoots now and the range test, probably firing around 2000 shots and the batteries are still going strong.
The triggers are advertised to work with the entire Sony DSLR/SLT range. I have tested them on my A200’s, A77’s and a friends A580, A700 and an A900. However, when I attached them to my A200, they would not fire. The shutter release function worked though. They worked without issue with all the other bodies.
Overall I have been really impressed with the triggers. The compatibility with Pixel King triggers, use of AA batteries and doubling up as a shutter release are for me, really big plus points.
As I stated above, the aerial is big and may be snapped easily but carful usage would minimize this risk.
I would recommend these triggers to anyone looking for a budget setup or someone wanting a good customizable manual setup.
I was really pleased today to see another of my pictures published in another international magazine.
Focus Stacking Tutorial – Photoshop
Checkout my new tutorial on Youtube, it will walk you through the Focus Stacking Process built into Photoshop CS5 and above.
Just a few posters I made on my iPhone earlier. I used the Phoster app along with pictures I have taken I’ve the last few years.
Posted with WordPress for iPhone
Time for a ‘Rant’ @ British Telecom
For the past week my internet connection has been, for want of a better word ‘CRAP’. I have BT’s Total Broadband Option 3 with BT Vision and BT Talk.
Once displayed, I am unable to use my broadband connection, view any on demand TV or use my talk phone. As you can imagine, if I’ve paid for an on demand film and every five minutes the BT Vision box displays a connection error it can get a little more than annoying.
I let it go on the first day as I though there may have been a localised problem, but called BT on the second day who were next to useless trying to tell me it was an internal network issue even though I told them I had plugged my laptop directly into the UBS and Ether1 port on the ‘Home Hub’.
After a few more phone calls BT finally sent an engineer to my house today after advising me that if the engineer found there to be a problem within the four walls of my house I would be liable for costs. The engineer arrived at 1550 and conducted a few tests, concluding that there was a strange noise fluctuation on our line and that it was in fact a BT problem. Offering no solution the engineer said he would report his findings back to the support team who would look into the matter further.
Tonight, when it happened again, I rebooted my hub and noticed that the engineer had set it back to factory settings and that the BT Openzone or BT Fon service was enabled and that my iPhone had automatically connected to it. I tried connecting my laptop and hey presto it connected. My PC was still displaying the error but my laptop was able to connect to the internet using the Openzone/Fon network running off my Hub??? How does that work out??
BT if you read this or my tweets, please get back to me as soon as possible!!
A quick & easy way to sharpen your pictures in Photoshop
There are allot of plugins and third party applications out there for image sharpening. Most of them do the job well but can be expensive. I’ve often found, reading online forums that these plugins and apps are recommended over what is already availible in Photoshop.
Photoshop is already an expensive package and one that allot of its users do not fully explore before buying or installing plugins and apps to complete tasks that are easy enough to accomplish in Photoshop itself.
This is a quick run though of how to add sharpening to an image to bring out more detail, it takes about five minutes to complete and can easily setup as an action within Photoshop allowing a single click sharpening tool.
To get started, open Photoshop up and load an image that you want to sharpen. (to enlarge any of the screenshots, simply click them.)
I have used a picture of one of my dogs, Martha, basking in the summer sun to top her tan up.
Once you have opened your image, make sure the layers pallet is open. Click the background layer and drag it down to the new layer button to copy the entire layer.
All you have left to do is blend the layers, make sure that the background copy or grey layer is selected in the layers pallet. Above the layers pallet are then blending options, this will be set to ‘Normal’ as default. Click the drop down and choose either ‘Overlay’ or ‘Softlight’.
Initially, you will probably not notice any difference in image sharpness, your eyes are deceiving you. Next to the new copied and sharpened layer, click the eye icon to turn the layer off and on again. You will notice a subtle difference. If you stuck with a radius between 3 and 7, the sharpening effect should be effective but not look over done.
Before creating this method as an action, I would recommend playing around a few more times with various images to get an idea of what radius works best for you.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Sidmouth, a walk with the dogs
A few weekends ago, we met up with some friends at Sidmouth beach for a BBQ. As the dogs were still allowed on the beach it made for a great day and walk.
Click the picture for a larger version.
Thanks for looking..