Lightroom 5.4 Adds Fuji X-T1 Support and an iPad app

Lighroom Mobile

Last night, Adobe rolled out Lightroom version 5.4, which finally includes RAW support for the new Fujifilm X-T1 camera. They also announced a brand new tablet app called Lightroom Mobile, which now brings Lightroom’s essential tools to the iPad.

Available only to Creative Cloud subscribers, Lightroom Mobile lets you export a collection of photos over the cloud, allowing you to edit, rate, and organize images on your iPad and then seamlessly sync the changes back to your desktop. The app takes advantage of Lightroom 5′s Smart Preview feature, which allows you cut down on file size in a big way. Even if you import a huge number of image files, they won’t bog down your iPad.

In order to activate Lightroom Mobile after you download the free app, you simply sign into your Creative Cloud account right in your desktop version of Lightroom. A small row of boxes will then appear just to the left of all your Collections. Check a box, sign into Lightroom Mobile on your iPad, and the photos will suddenly appear on your device.

Once they’re on your iPad, you can preview, make adjustments, crop, edit, share, pick, flag, etc… When you sync back to your desktop, all of the edits you made on your iPad are reflected in your master image library.

Lightroom Mobile is definitely a game changer and will be a huge workflow aid to photographers of any genre. Edit photos while you’re traveling. Have your assistant edit photos on the iPad while you’re doing other stuff on your main computer. Download shots from an assignment or portrait shoot (providing you have wi-fi) and preview images with your client.

If you already have Adobe Creative Cloud ($9.99 per month), Lightroom v. 5.4 will show up in your CC control panel. If you’re not a CC subscriber, you can update your standalone version of Lightroom, so you can at least import and work on your X-T1 RAW files, you just won’t be able to use the mobile app. Kind of makes the CC seem like a much better deal, doesn’t it?

Here’s a really great preview of Lightroom Mobile on the FStoppers Website. I’ll post my own thoughts in a few days when I’ve had a chance to play around with it. LRoverview-1

CLARITY, Photography Beyond the Camera Volume 3

Clarity CoverThe latest issue of CLARITY: Photography Beyond The Camera has just been released and is ready for download.

If you haven’t seen CLARITY yet, it’s a very well done PDF magazine that’s written from the perspective that photography isn’t just your hobby, it’s your lifestyle. Shooting photos isn’t just something you do in your spare time, it’s some that consumes your passions and plays a huge part in how you live your life.

Topics covered in CLARITY revolve around creativity, deeper ideas behind image making, technical aspects of shooting, post processing and backup, and how to extend your photography passion into greater things and use it to make a positive impact on the world and on your own life.

The 3rd quarterly issue of CLARITY features 82 pages, 5 and tutorial videos and great articles by authors such as Kevin Kuboda, Piet Van den Eynde, Sean McCormack and Chris Corradino. Here are some of the topics included in this issue:

  • Lighting Essentials: How to find, shape, and bend natural light on location.
  • How to translate compositional elements into evocative photographs.
  • Exploring increased creative possibilities of shooting black & white.
  • How to keep your photos (and files) safe and accessible for the long-term.
  • Why being a mentor profoundly impacts others, including the longevity of the craft.
  • Using Lightroom to help you decide which gear to take on your next trip.
  • 14 secrets of great photography.
  • How you and your photography can change the world by providing creative opportunities and education. An interview with Cate Cameron, founder of Cameras 4 Change.
  • How to create artistic photographs of water.
  • How to “fix” your photos when your vision and results just don’t seem to line up.

I’m a huge fan of PDF publications and what I like about CLARITY is that the editors truly understand that we don’t just take pictures, we live, eat, breathe and sleep photography. It’s what we think about when we’re not out shooting and tweeting about photography. It’s what drives us and ignites our passions and it’s how we identify ourselves, not matter what our experiences is.

Published bi-monthly, CLARITY: Photography Beyond The Camera is readable on just about any device and it’s available as a single issue or as a subscription. The subscription ends up being 5 bucks an issue, which means you’re getting an entire year of inspiration and education for the cost of one lunch out.

You can download CLARITY: Volume 3 here. You can also get the other two back issues as well. Claritysamples

Springtime Aerial Photography in Alaska

Learn Photography Online with the Pros

_DSF2178I love flying in Alaska in springtime. The first few weeks following the Spring Equinox usually bring clear weather to the Anchorage area, warmer temperatures and great warm light that hits the still snow covered peaks of the Chugach Mountains between 8-9 PM. For these reasons, spring is my favorite time for aerial photography; there’s nothing quite like chasing alpenglow in my little Cessna 120.

I live pretty close to Merrill field, so if it’s late afternoon, and the skies are clear, I can head down to the airport around 6PM, preheat the engine with an MSR stove and a piece of aluminum duct that acts as a stovepipe, and run through my preflight while the plane warms up.

This involves wrangling with the wing covers, shoveling out my spot if there’s fresh show, checking the oil, checking to see how much gas I have and making sure that all the main parts of the plane are in working order. It’s 67 years old this month, and although I have it inspected every year, anything that was made in 1947 is prone to having little things go wrong. In the spring, this entire process takes between 45 minutes to an hour between lighting the stove and actually getting into the air.

AVI-N3102N-00409Dan Bailey tying down his 1947 Cessna 120, Merrill Field, Alaska

When everything is ready and I’ve determined that the engine is warm enough to start, I undo the wing tie-downs, hop in and crank the 85 hp four-cylinder Continential motor to life. It’s not much different than the Type 4, 80 hp engines that came standard in Volkswagons and the Porche 914 during the 60s and 70s. The main difference is that instead of driving the wheels, my engine drives the propellor.

After takeoff, I usually start my climb and head straight east towards the Chugach Mountians. I try to aim for around 7,500-8,500 feet, which gives me a great vantage point looking across and down at the higher peaks of the front range and the glaciers that spread out behind them. By this time, the light is just starting to get good, so I get my camera out, slow the plane down to about 70-80 mph and open the window.

Camera Gear

I’ve tried a few different camera for aerial photography. During the past couple of years, I’ve been using the Fujifilm X10 and X20, which both worked extremely well for this purpose. The 28-112mm zoom lens metal dials and small size make these very easy camera to operate while I’m flying.

I’ve also used the Fuji X-E1 with the 18-55mm lens, and while the quality is excellent, way better than the X20, there were a few small things that gave me trouble. I kept hitting the D-Pad buttons on the back of the camera. Remember, I’m mostly concentrating on flying, so if I accidentally change a setting, I may not notice. Also, with the open window at 8,000 feet, it’s pretty cold, so I’m always wearing gloves. Also, while the XF 18-55mm lens is very sharp, the zoom creeps a little too easily when I’m shooting one handed in the open air.

X-T1cNow I’m using the new 16MP Fujifilm X-T1. It offers way better resolution and clarity over the X20. I’m shooting many of the same mountains that I did last year, and I’m blow away by how much sharper the X-T1 images are. Mostly, I’m just shooting straight JPEGs with the Velvia film simulation setting.

Also, the smaller D-pad buttons are much harder to inadvertently press when I don’t mean to. I’m shooting lots the same mountains. So, while some people are complaining about those D-pad buttons being a little too small compared to the X-E2, they actually work in my favor, and not just when I’m flying. I’d rather have smaller buttons than accidentally hit them all the time. Also, the dials on the X-T1 are a little stiffer, and it’s nice to have a dedicated ISO dial. This lets me bump up when the light starts to dim without having to go into the camera menu. In fact, I don’t do anything in the menu while shooting aerials.

For aerial glass, I’m using two primes, the XF 27mm f/2.8 lens and the XF 56mm f/1.2 lens. The 27mm gives me a slightly wider view, but not too wide that I have to worry about getting the wing strut in the pictures, while the 56mm gives me a nice, slightly compressed telephoto view for shooting details and more distant peaks.

Both lenses are easy to handle, unbelievably sharp (especially the 56!) and fast enough that in the fading sunset light, I can still shoot at very fast shutter speeds to ensure sharpness while flying along in a vibrating metal box that’s moving at 80 mph.

Perhaps more importantly, though, I prefer the mirrorless cameras over DSLRs because they’re smaller, lighter and easier to handle with one hand in the small cockpit. Also, I don’t like looking through the a camera viewfinder when I’m flying the plane, that’s just too much distraction which takes my eyes completely off of what’s going on with the airplane. It’s a safety issue.

If I’m shooting while looking at the LCD screen on a mirrorless camera, I’m not hiding my eye in the viewfinder. I can shoot and still see what I need to see while I’m flying. Keep in mind, though, that my little Cessna doesn’t go very fast. Whenever I’m photographing at this altitude, I’m still far enough away and high enough above any terrain that I’d have plenty of time to react if anything happened. My own rule is that if I want to shoot close to the ground, I’ll bring a pilot friend with me and have him fly the plane while I concentrate on taking pictures.

_DSF2026It’s amazing to be up there by myself, above these incredible landscapes while watching the light change Over the course of about an hour, it goes from strong, defined rays that are only starting to show the slightest hint of warmth in front of deep blue shadows, then starts to turn a soft, reddish yellow orange hue before finally transforming to the full-on pink of alpenglow of last light.

I spend the hour looking for interesting formations that catch my eye as I weave over valleys, circle over cool looking spires and chase colors over the immense glaciated peaks of the Chugach. My excitement always intensifies with the light and (hopefully!) culminates with amazing displays it all starts to fade into the soft light of evening.

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This is when I close the window, turn the plane around and head for home, satisfied with another aerial adventure. In some ways, it’s just as much fun to fly over the mountains after the sun has set, there’s something really cool about that.

I know that not all of my photos will be sharp, some will have the strut in them, some will be crooked, and some will just be poorly composed, but that’s all part of it. I always hope that I’ll get at least one or two really good photos, if not more. The photos in this batch are from a single flight that I did last week. When you look at them, try to imagine the feeling of true adventure that you get while flying in a tiny two seater above all this stuff and then landing on the runway during the dimming light of twilight over Anchorage.

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You can check out some of my other aerial photography posts here.

My Photo in The Very First Fuji X-T1 Magazine Ad

Fuji-X-T1-PDN-AdaI’m super psyched to have my photo used in the very first Fujifilm USA magazine ad featuring the new X-T1 camera. It appears in the March 2014 issue of Photo District News. I shot this image in early December in Anchorage, Alaska.

I was brought in to test an early prototype version of the X-T1, and was the first US photographer to get the camera as soon as it was announced last month. Since then, I’ve put it through a tremendous amount of use and abuse and have shot a wide variety of pro work with the camera. I feel like the X-T1 was deigned especially for me and my style of photography, which is why I’m so excited to see this ad in print. You can read my full review and field test of of the X-T1 here.

Fujifilm has been a client of mine for a very long time. Back in my pre-digital days, I shot exclusively with Fuij film, mostly Velvia, Provia and Astia, and they first started using my images for marketing and trade show prints around 2001. See more of my recent publications and tear sheets here.

You can get more info about the Fuij X-T1 here.

 

 

Review of the Fuji XF 27mm Pancake Lens

Fuji 27mm lensOf all the Fuji XF lenses that I’ve used, (14mm, 27mm, 18-55mm, 56mm, 60mm and 55-200mm) my sleeper favorite is the 27mm f/2.8 pancake. Why? Simple. It’s tiny.

I don’t usually get excited about this focal length. 27mm equates to 41mm when compared to full frame, which is about the same angle of view as the human eye. I don’t have any lenses in that range for my DSLR, it’s generally not wide enough to be wide, and it’s almost too wide to be considered “normal.” Essentially, it falls right in line between 35mm and 50mm, which I know are the ranges that street photographers and photojournalists love.

However, put this little gem on the front end of an X-T1, X-Pro1 or one of the X-E bodies, and you suddenly have a pro quality camera that almost fits in your pocket. With the 27mm, these interchangeable X cameras are about the same size as the X100 and they hardly weigh anything. Here it is on an X-E1, and you can see that it’s really not much bigger than the X20.

XE1w27mm

Around your neck, an X body with the 27mm lens hardly feels like you’re carrying anything at all. In fact, with this combination, my new camera bag is actually the camera strap. I’ll walk/hike/bike/ski with this setup slung around shoulder and not even know it’s there. Yet, when I see something I want to shoot, I’ve instantly got full functionality and quality of an X-Trans sensor camera.

You see, the only thing I love more than a good prime lens is a compact prime, and the XF 27mm is about as compact as you can get. Of course, small doesn’t mean anything it the glass isn’t good, and that’s where this little thing shines.

Often times, you find that small lenses like this just aren’t up to the task, but the 27mm f/2.8 is actually a very good lens. It produces exceptionally sharp images, it’s fast, and compared to some of the other XF lenses, it’s performs much better in the AF department.

Construction seems pretty good on this lens, although there’s not much there, just 7 lens elements in 5 groups, (including 1 aspherical element), a high torque coreless AF motor and enough metal to hold it all in place. The 27mm does NOT have an aperture ring, or a lens hood. I usually like to have those things on my lenses, but in this case, I’ll gladly trade them for something this small. However, it does have a manual focus ring that’s very solid and tight. No rattle or looseness at all. I’ve actually used MF on this lens quite a bit for night photography when it’s simply to dark for the AF to grab anything.

Autofocus

Autofocus has been a mixed bag for the Fuji X lenses. Having tried quite a few of them, I can say that AF performance depends largely on the lens. Some are better than others, and in fact, the 27mm f/2.8 just might be the fastest and best performer in the entire lineup.

It’s WAY faster than the 35mm, which chugs and hunts sometimes. By comparison, the 27mm locks onto the subject with almost no hesitation, even in low light, where is where these lenses usually fall short. I’m actually quite impressed with how well it focuses in the dark. In my highly scientific tests standing inside my closet, the 27mm on my X-T1 actually wins out agains the D7100 with the 24-85mm lens. In the revered closet test, the 27mm is even faster than the super 56mm f/1.2, which proves that maximum aperture of the lens isn’t the sole determining factor.

I haven’t tried the XF 18mm, but from everything I’ve heard, the 27mm runs AF circles around that one too with regards to AF. It also focuses faster than the XF 18-55 and the 55-200, and it completely puts the 60mm to shame with how fast it focuses.

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Image Quality

So how do the images look? I’ve shot with the 27mm on the X-T1 for six weeks now, and I have to say, I’ve been really impressed. Colors look awesome and I’m honestly surprised at how crisp photos look when you crop to 100%. In addition, it produces pretty good bokeh in the background, which always looks nice for portraits. Even in super bright light, there’s a good compromise between subject sharpness and background blur.

Portrait shot at Minus 10 F

Some portrait shooters won’t touch anything with f/2 or greater, but shooting at f/2.8 has advantages over f/1.4, namely that you get more than just the eyelashes in focus. This photo below was actually shot at f/7.1 and it still holds up with a nice soft background. Plus, it’s REALLY sharp.

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The next three photos are reprinted from my Fuji X-T1 Full Size Image Examples post that I wrote last month. A few of those shots were made with the 27mm, so I’m highlighting them again here so you don’t have to go back and forth if you don’t want to. Each of these link to the full size JPEGs that are sitting in my Dropbox folder. Click on them and you see them at full resolution.

Airplane Wing

Even shot out the thin plastic window, this one has a huge amount of crisp detail and sharpness holds up extremely well out towards the edges. Check the wingtip and the mountains in the opposite corner. Click for full size.

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Reykjavik Lights Hotel

Shot under strong morning light in crisp winter air this one is also extremely sharp. Even the most ardent pixel peepers should be impressed at how well the little 27mm resolves edge detail.  This one is probably a really good example of maximum real-life sharpness. ISO 200, 1/600 sec shutter speed and f/5. Many lenses are sharpest between f/5.6 and f/8, so f/5 is just about up in that range. Click for full size.

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Northern Lights

This one was shot on a tripod with a 3.2 second exposure, wide open at f/2.8. Click to see full size. Note, the full size version is the JPEG, which has been brightened up a little bit in Lightroom. I also shot this in RAW, and so the version below is the converted version from that file. You can see how much more detail I was able to bring out as opposed to the JPEG.

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Overall

At the beginning of this post, I called the 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens my “sleeper favorite.” What this means is that while it’s not my favorite XF lens, (that medal goes to the XF 14mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle, with silver to the XF 56mm f/1.2 ultra fast portrait lens), it’s the lens that I ended up liking WAY more than I thought I would.

As I said, a 41mm angle of view doesn’t usually do it for me, but a 41mm lens that only weighs 2.75 oz? (78 grams) Now THAT’S something I can get excited about. Weight wins out here and it has made me love this little lens. The 27mm f/2.8 has become my go-to lens for unobtrusive, inconspicuous travel, around town shooting, bike trips and ultra long rides where I only want to take a single lens, and other situations where I want quality, but also want minimalism.

The Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake fits that bill and still gives me really impressive results. It’s a highly versatile lens that also fits in my creative methodology of shooting with primes and adapting to a single focal length. In addition, since it’s so small and simple, it has a very high FUN FACTOR. I’ve made the 27mm work for me in a wide variety of shooting situations, including portraits, landscapes, street, travel and yes, even some action.

I’d recommend this lens to any Fuji X photographer who likes the idea of going really lightweight and making their X body setup as compact as possible. If you want to go all X100 style with your X-Pro1, X-E2 or X-T1, then this is the one lens you should get. It’s much smaller and a way better AF performer than the 35mm f/1.4.

Compared to the XF 18mm f/2, the 27mm is said to be a little bit shaper, especially at the edge, and it’s half the weight. I haven’t tried the XF18mm, but I seriously considered it since I like wide angle lenses. Again, size and weight won out, and now that I have the 27, I know that I made the right choice. I already have the XF 14mm, and it’s really not that heavy either, so for me, the 18 would be a little too close to that focal length.

However, if you don’t have the 14 and you think you’d like a wide angle prime over one that’s closer to a nifty fifty prime, then the XF 18mm f/2 might actually be a good choice for you. AF speed won’t be as good and it won’t be quite as small, but it does come with a hood and an aperture ring.

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