Do you need UV filter aka. lens protector?

Do you need UV filter aka. lens protector?

You know that first camera accessory you have ever bought, the one that the salesman in the camera shop so enthusiastically tried to force you to buy? Yes, I’m talking about these guys; do you need UV filter?

While this might be the first filter you have bought it might be the least useful.

The only thing this will do is to protect your lens. Now that’s a good thing right? That expensive lens might need some protection right? Well this might be true, but let me explain you the mindset of those who use their cameras daily (and depend on them).

Professional photographers rarely use UV filters. They can’t afford having  extra piece of glass sitting on their lens. The filter, any filter for that matter, adds extra risk for glare, and might and will also affect colour rendition. Professionals can’t afford this, because image quality is their life quite literally.  Now high end UV filters might be good but they are quite pricey, often more expensive than basic lens repair.

One professional photographer I talked with in Japan said “I like direct communication with the subject” meaning that adding extra layer of glass would only create distance between them. I think this explains the mindset of a professional well. I think it’s quite beautiful way to think actually.

Do you need UV filter?

Do you need UV filter / aka lens protector that was sold with the lens?

Do you need UV filters for lens protection?  The salesman in camera shop might tell you that this piece of glass might save your lens if you drop it, not unlike insurance salesman.. One thing is sure, this is insurance that might cost you in image quality.

Ok, I do get that near salty water or in sandy desert, these might come in handy. Or maybe near small children. So I keep mine around just in case, but rarely use it in normal conditions.

My advice would be to use lens hood instead. It protects the surface of the lens way better from snow, rain and glare. And is way cheaper.

Please see the video above on my thoughts on UV filters.

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Layer Masks Trick in Photoshop CC

Here is a layer masks trick I use in Photoshop all the time when dealing with textures. It’s quick way to make a tiling texture also and get rid of seams.

Layer masks are very powerful as they allow non-destructive workflow, you can just paint black and white values hiding and revealing the layer below. You can also go back always to further define your masks, something that is impossible to do if you use the cloning or healing brush method. It’s good to use brushes that are sharp and have relatively small falloff in order to avoid introducing softness to the image.

This is also good to use if you need to hide parts of an image. You can hide the part you like, and then simply move the underlying layer to replace the part. It’s also kind of mesmerising to see this happening a fun way to do this. This is something I use all the time when I deal with images or textures like this. The possibilities are amazing as you can combine parts of the image and see the effect instantly.

You can also apply effects to the layer masks since what they basically are is just black and white image. Grey values can also be used to indicate semi-transparency.

It’s also good idea to keep the original untouched layer in the stack just in case you want to return back to the original or use parts of the original one.

I hope you find this useful. Please feel free to share this with your friends.

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man and boatyy

My Honest iPhone 6s Plus Camera Review

Now that the iPhone 7 is behind the corner, I thought to write my thoughts of the older plus sized model. Please click on the images to reveal unprocessed originals. Without further a due, here is my iPhone 6s Plus Camera review.

Introduction to iPhone 6S Plus Camera

Yamashita Park in Yokohama - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Near Yamashita Park in Yokohama (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

I have been enjoying using my iPhone 6s Plus Camera. The optical image stabilisation is a big improvement over the old 6 (not plus) phone I had, but for the larger pixel density, I am not quite sure. Optical image stabilisation  also makes hand held video appear super smooth and fluent, almost to the point where it looks like it’s shot using a gimbal type stabiliser.

The exact still image resolution is now 4032×3024 which is plenty for images, and I certainly wouldn’t need more from a mobile phone camera. The faster A10 chip will help the increased image processing need.

The specs of the camera are following:

  • 12MP sensor with phase detection
  • F2.2 aperture
  • Real (optical) image stabilisation
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • 5MP front camera
Sail Training Ship Nippon Maru - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Sail Training Ship Nippon Maru in Minato-mirai Yokohama. (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

The shots here are unprocessed except that the previews are resized using Lightroom. The default effect filters are nice and especially black and white images can offer some stunning contrast and sharpness. I have however not included them in this review because I hope to focus in the natural straight out from the camera images made with the default Camera app.

Unfortunately I couldn’t do video camera review since I don’t presently own 4K monitor and 4K video ability of the camera is what most people would be interested I feel. Maybe later. I can tell however that the 1080p video shot in either 30fps or 60fps is of great quality.

Buildings in Yokohama - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Buildings in Yokohama iPhone 6s Plus camera original. (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

Image Quality

The photos are generally good quality, even in low light. The white balance and colour rendition is quite natural, and there’s tons of contrast and sharpness. Quite a long way we have came since first mobile phone cameras indeed.

The noise reduction algorithm is a bit aggressive. It won’t matter as long as you don’t do pixel beeping, but once you do, the truth is revealed. Photos taken with standalone app won’t compete with those taken with proper cameras such as Fujifilm X100 or so. 100% crops look almost like painting.

100% crop iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

100% crop shows image noise reduction algorithm.

I am not sure how the “raw” images would look from the sensor but if I could choose I might choose graininess/noise than this fuzzy paintbrush noise reduction stuff.  There isn’t much you can do to these images after they are processed by the camera.  That said I am not sure how much average user would mind this.

The photos definitely don’t need extra sharpening.

Pictures taken hand held in low light are very nice as the one below (the model is very nice too!)

Beautiful Genchan - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Always beautiful Genchan (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

The front facing camera seems improved as it’s 5 megapixel now. The LCD screen flashy thing is nice because it tries to adjust to the colour temperature. It however shoots only 720p video which is a little disappointment. Here is a test I did with lovely Genchan, the flash was engaged.

iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

iPhone 6s Plus front facing camera in low light. (with lovely Genchan!)

Live Photos, Panorama, HDR Etc.

Live photos feels a bit of a gimmick. I can’t quite understand what’s the deal with this, except that these are kind of like GIFs with photos I suppose. Sorry but I can’t find myself using this at all, and neither the panorama mode as I am not very much into such thing, except when I wanna show my studio or setup in Facebook, as Facebook will automatically convert pano into interactive rotate thingy which is nice.

Automatic HDR is nice to have as it can automatically lift the shadows while preserving the highlights. Here is one example:

Couple enjoying a view from Marine Tower in Yokohama - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Couple enjoying a view from Marine Tower in Yokohama (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

You can see complete sky in full detail as well as the clothes details of the people and the carpet. HDR can help in situations like these. It’s nice that it is not overdone and the photos don’t look like otherworldly alien landscapes; it is simply to aid in difficult lighting situations. Right choice from Apple I feel.

Handling

Now, to take pictures with tablet is.. one thing. But also to take pictures with Plus sized iPhone feels a bit weird because of the size. I almost dropped my iPhone Plus to ocean, and once almost from a skyscraper! It is super easy to lose grip to this thing especially without a substantial case. The volume button will act as a shutter release but ah my god it’s easy to accidentally press the button on the other edge and put the whole thing to asleep! I would have preferred that the sleep button would convert to shutter release during photography session, I mean who would want to shut down the phone while taking pictures?

Man and Cruiser in Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Man and Cruiser in Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

But there’s a trick, you can use also the iPhone Earbuds control as a wired shutter release! Yeah, it’s kinda cool. (Well at least in pre iPhone 7 era.. while we still had the .. wired.. iPhone Earbuds.. There went this little cute trick to the memory lane)

The default camera app is not bad by all means, the tap to focus is snappy and it just works. The exposure compensation however is super clunky and so is the AE/AF lock. You tap and hold for it but it disengages easily, so I find myself not using it. I use the exposure compensation however, constantly.

Roses in Yamashita Park in Yokohama - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

Roses in Yamashita Park in Yokohama (Click to download iPhone 6s plus camera original)

Alternatives to the default Camera App

The default app is in many cases restrictive even though it allows access to basic features. Luckily there are alternative apps such as Camera+, Manual or ProCamera for those who want more manual control.

Conclusion

View from Marine Tower - iPhone 6S Plus Camera Review

View from Marine Tower (Click the image for unaltered file directly from the iPhone)

The camera in iPhone 6s Plus is not a groundbreaking / spacetime continuum changing improvement for most users I feel. The image stabiliser is definitely the biggest improvement over the older iPhone. I have not had iPhone 6 Plus so unfortunately I can’t compare this to that, but since I upgraded from iPhone 6 to 6s Plus this stuff is new and welcome to me. To expect completely stunning improvement will likely make you feel wanting more. iPhone 6s Plus is a nice camera and very nice video camera.

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Here is my 3D Coat PBR texturing tutorial

Introduction to 3D Coat PBR texturing

Here is a short 3D coat PBR texturing tutorial on how to use smart materials (available in 3D Coat 4.5) and quickly create a realistic physically based textures. Smart Materials are excellent way to preview different material properties in real time within 3D Coat, and new Smart Materials can be also created from scratch.

What I especially love is the 3D Coat’s ability to create ambient occlusion and curvature maps. In some cases baking in xNormal is not necessary at all. Smart Materials can then take advantage of these maps to create different effects such as edge wear or dirt accumulation in occluded places. Tweaking Smart Materials on the fly is also easy due to the built in tools, so we can always precisely set the scale of scratches and such.

I didn’t mention about it in the video but 3D Coat smart materials do cube mapping, which is kind of like Substance Designer’s tri-planar projection with a less fancy name, so no worries about those UV seams folks, they won’t show up. 🙂 Good times.

A good alternative

3D Coat is a solid alternative for more expensive programs such as zBrush. It is possible to create entire models from scratch within 3D coat nowadays. Topology tools as well as UV tools have always been a favourite feature of mine in 3D coat, but these days I am creating entire models from scratch within the application, starting from sculpting all the way to the retopology and UV mapping, and now, texturing too. There are some features that even rival zBrush such as per-pixel painting. At this price point, 3D Coat is such attractive alternative indeed.

What’s also great is the support for T-Mikk tangent basis calculation, making this fully compatible with xNormal maps and like.

I will be creating many more 3D Coat tutorials soon. Please subscribe to my channel by all means.

Please check out my 3D Coat PBR texturing video below.

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Thoughts on the iPhone 7 camera

My main curiosity about Apple’s recent announcement is the iPhone 7 camera, mainly how well it works. Now I haven’t had chance to get my hands on one or even see one yet, I can only speculate based on what Apple has told us so far. Here are my thoughts on the iPhone 7 camera.

The sensor of the iPhone 7 camera seems to have same megapixel count, 12 megapixel, and again with same focus pixels as before.  Now the front facing camera is 7 megapixel for nicer  selfies and 1080p video.

The flash is now Quad LED with cool and warm tones which should help the natural feel of the flash.

Now the aperture is 1.8 which for me is the most nicest of the new features. This should allow more depth of field and allow better pictures to be taken in low light.

The image signal processor is also updated as well as the chip, now A10 version. I am hearing rumours that the colour accuracy of the iPhone 7 camera is better than before.

Now the 7 Plus has dual cameras, one wide and one telephoto. There is a new trick that allows simulated kind of depth of field thing, some kind of interpolation it seems. To me the pictures with the effect had surreal feel to them. We are so used to see those DSLR shots these days. I can’t quite say what it was but there was artificial feel to them.

As I have just upgraded to 6S Plus I am definitely not in a market for iPhone 7.  However I like the fact that even the smaller version of iPhone 7 camera now has optical image stabilisation and larger aperture lens.aving a smartphone in our pocket which rocks 1.8f lens, it’s quite amazing how far we have came.

When I get chance to play with one, I’ll be glad to report back.  I will also make a full review of my iPhone 6s Plus camera soon.

Please check out the video below for my thoughts on the iPhone 7 camera.

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Photoshop Adjustment Layers trick

There’s neat trick to limit influence of the adjustment layers in Photoshop. Just press alt (Or option key on mac) while clicking between layers. In this way we can attach adjustment layer to the layer below. A little arrow will appear. Clicking the arrow with alt (/option key on mac) will remove the connection.

This can be used for solid colours as well, and limit their influence on a simple layer below. In this way we can establish a truly non-destructive workflow. Check out the video below for this trick.

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Photoshop Camera Raw Tutorial

Introduction

Camera Raw in Photoshop is a very powerful tool. Sadly it is often ignored by photographers and photo retouchers.

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-8-28-09-pm

In this tutorial I’d like to show you can import your images to Photoshop using this method, and do most of the heavy lifting while in Camera Raw. It certainly saves time to work this way, and I would argue that adjusting settings while still in Camera Raw will yield more accurate results than using adjustments within Photoshop.

Note: You can use all these settings also in Develop module in Lightroom; Lightroom deals with RAW images essentially the same way.

I will walk you through on how to import your RAW images this way to photoshop.

Let’s get started with Photoshop Camera Raw

Go to File, Open and select the raw file just like you would open ordinary file in Photoshop. Please notice that by default “Camera Raw” format is selected in open dialog.

Now, the following window might seem confusing for first time users of Camera Raw with so many tabs and sliders. But don’t let it fool you.  This is very efficient way to deal with RAW images.

In the title bar, you will see the Camera Raw version, and the digital camera model. Below the title bar there is a toolbar with buttons. My most used ones are the Zoom Tool (z), Hand Tool (h) (you can use space just like in photoshop for quick hand action), White Balance Tool (i) and  Crop Tool (c). Typical photoshop shortcuts work, space for Hand, Alt/Option modifier for Zooming in and out and so forth.

I used the crop tool to get better feel of the image and get closer to the man. Please notice that can re-adjust cropping it any time non-destructively simply by hitting c.

Tutorial to Adobe Camera Raw

Camera Raw tutorial.

histogram-and-settings-of-adobe-camera-raw

Histogram and other settings of Adobe Camera Raw

On the upper right corner you see the mighty histogram and important data of the image provided by camera such as f-stop, shutter speed, ISO and the lens focal length and range.

The default tab is “Basic”. You might feel intimidated by so many tabs, but don’t be; most of the time you will use just few of them. I almost only use Basic and Detail.

In Basic, there is a drop down menu for White Balance. It’s good to compare “As Shot” and “Auto” and see the difference. There is often slight difference, but one of these provide a nice starting point.

I used White Balance tool to sample some grey values from the grey train metal. This is great because the rectangle allows average sampling of several pixels.

There are also several presets for different lighting conditions such as fluorescent which is by the way the condition under which this image was taken. I fine adjusted the colour temperature by dragging the Temperature slider right. Ending up at about 4200 Kelvin, I warmed up the image just slightly. I moved slightly the Tint for getting more greenish than purplish image; in my experience digital cameras often tend to produce images that are slightly too reddish.

Now, under these two sliders are base settings for exposure. For recreational purposes you can use “Auto”. This will affect only the sliders under it, not white balance or cropping. As you will see, the adjustments that Auto setting makes are usually way too harsh. Click “Default” to restore peace on earth.

With Exposure slider you adjust the main brightness of the image. I ended increasing the exposure about +0.55. It’s good to zoom closer with hitting z to see the impact this has on details. I increased contrast ever so slightly at about +5, Highlights  by +23, Whites by +15 and decreased blacks by -10.

I added Clarity by +8, Vibrance by +5 and Saturation by +5. I recommend to use the last two sliders sparingly as these will increase visibility of noise in the image. It’s good to zoom in to see the impact of these settings for finer details. These again are exactly same as in Lightroom’s Develop module.

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-9-16-41-pm

Now, let’s move on to the next tab Tone Curve, by clicking the curve button on right of Basic. This has two tabs, Parametric and Point mode. Point mode works like Curves inside Photoshop by adding points and manipulating them. I tend to use this since I am so used to this style. Adding a slight film like s-curve increases the “punchiness” of the image.

I went back to the Basic tab to undo some of the Black adjustments since the curves are now doing the same thing.

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-9-25-26-pm-693x600

Now, before we move to the Detail tab, it’s good idea to enable Lens Corrections. This is super useful feature of Camera Raw. The software will identify the lens model and apply automatic corrections based in the profile. Especially this is useful for correcting lens distortions and aberration. The difference is quite huge.

There’s some chromatic aberration (aka. purple fringe) in the man’s cheek as you can see. This is typical for the Canon EF 135mm zoom lens I used.

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-9-31-40-pm-697x600

Let’s enable “Remove Chromatic Aberration” to eliminate it. BOOM!

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-9-32-51-pm-695x600

I left other profile options as they are since the result appears correct.

Now, let’s move to the detail tab. This is where Sharpening and Noise Reduction happens. I recommend not to go overboard with sharpening since too harsh sharpening might be impossible to deal with later.

I like to add just a bit of crispness to the image.  Same goes for the noise reduction settings. I ended up using values something like this. I keep the image at 100% rather than going sub-pixel level when adjusting these. The colour noise reduction works wonders.

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-9-38-33-pm-696x600

The image is looking quite good.

Next tab HSL/ Grayscale allows some high quality B&W correction magic happen, again much like in Lightroom. This is, by the way my favourite way to deal with B&W mix in Photoshop.

screen-shot-2015-07-01-at-9-44-37-pm-696x600

But since this time we are dealing with color image, we’ll leave “Convert to Grayscale” unchecked.

In Effects tab I added some Post Crop Vignetting, again much like in Lightroom.

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Camera Raw settings dialog

I left camera calibration settings as they are and moved on to the presets. It’s good idea to save a preset if you are working with super important project so you can preload the settings again, and of course if you are working with series of images. Saving a preset will save XMP file.

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Camera Raw Save Options

We are basically done. From now you can click “Open Image” to open the image in Photoshop, or “Save Image..” to save the image in DNG (Digital Negative) or TIFF format. DNG is Adobe’s recommended way of archiving the images losslessly. If you don’t wish to open the image in Photoshop for further editing, click Done.

Opening the image from Camera Raw directly to Photoshop will result 8-bit image. To output 16-bit image, one must use “Save Image..” dialog from Camera Raw and save as 16-bit TIFF. I am not aware of a better way of achieving this. Please let me know if you are aware of it.

Here is the final image. I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. Please leave a comment below or check my Lightroom Raw tutorial in Youtube.

trainman_1-837x600

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Beauty within you.

Strength and Elegance

Here are some thoughts about the future of my channel.

It’s never easy to make something new, or try something for the first time. We get a lot of resistance, knocks and small rejections. We need to be resilient and flexible. We must not give up.

I have this crazy dream. I want to empower others and offer my strength to others. I have been in the creative industry in different roles for so long. I have had my company Shima Media (that’s long time ago). I did graphic design and website design. I teached young wonderful students how to use their passion to create. I made commercial movie for Getty Images.

I would like to be a kind of a guide for creators. Anyone can be a creator, if we take the effort and have right attitude. Chances are that you already have the tools you need to create something unique and powerful. Instead of buying something what someone else has done, what about do it yourself and have fun doing it? This will ensure your vision and originality. And can be a tons of fun.

I hope you enjoy my channel. Let’s  create new world together.

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