Digital manipulation – What is and what isn’t

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Digital manipulation – what is and what isn’t?

Beyond ethics, what can we really consider as acceptable nowadays?

Before we speak about manipulation let’s not forget pure and plain lies. Many photographers have been caught lying about location, context, subject manipulation on their photographs – beforehand this is about ethics, has nothing to do with digital post processing.

In spite of the natural grey area this issue implicates I believe that to make matters simpler and easier there is a perspective we must consider, as long as we are familiar with the analogue/film process.

Plenty of times I read or engage in conversations where it is affirmed that almost everything one can do with Photoshop or with any other imaging editing software is digital manipulation. Well, it is not. For those that have no idea of what is possible within the analogue realm it is hard to realise that plenty of what we can achieve with Photoshop nowadays was also achievable using film development and/or enlarging techniques during the film era.

Just a glimpse of what was possible with film development: using different chemical solutions, altering dilution ratios, changing temperature of the diluted chemicals, increasing or decreasing development time resulted in changes in the shadow and highlight areas of the negative. Furthermore, the fine silver halide particles “changed” when exposed to different chemical combinations/brands, the output changing accordingly. But, even prior to this step we could expose a film one or two EV’s below or above its nominal sensitivity (ISO) changing dynamic range and therefore the shadow/highlight relationship and rendering. We could compensate for this in the development stage or increase the desired effect changing recommended development times.

Once the negative was ready to be enlarged a whole new frontier opened up: more or less sharpness could be achieved changing the aperture in the enlarger’s lens, cropping, recomposing, correction of converging/diverging lines, enhancing shadow or highlight areas using masks or overexposing certain parts of the image. This was a very long process, trial and error, undo was not possible. I spent hours and hours of my life locked inside the darkroom experimenting, enhancing and fine tuning my images. I have to confess that we’ve gained a lot with the digital process, our life being much easier today. Undo is probably the best command the digital era invented.

Last but not the least, print development was the last frontier. And again, different papers combined with different chemicals, temperatures and timing provided exceptionally different results. Selenium toning was just one of the final touches available, changing a print’s colour and making the image more permanent by bonding selenium particles directly to the metallic silver in the emulsion. There were a few different toners usable to finish the prints, all of them providing dissimilar results. The output of fibre-based or resin coated papers was also substantially distinctive.

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Ansel Adams book trilogy “The Camera”, “The Negative”, “The Print” is mandatory if you want to get to know (and learn) about the extraordinary potential of the analogue process. Ansel Adams was a master, second to none when it comes to exposure, development and printing techniques. “Manipulation” of the original image using analogue processes was absolutely mind blogging.

In my opinion, all that we could do to enhance and improve the original image back in those days was acceptable and therefore, my opinion again, acceptable nowadays within the digital medium. I do not consider digital manipulation everything that one can do to improve, enhance and potentiate the final result, starting from a RAW file (JPEG SOOC already have a considerable amount of manipulation/enhancement). I prefer to tag this process as “digital enhancement”, not manipulation. Jerry Uelsmann’s entire photographic carreer was based upon image manipulation using analogue techniques and his work demonstrates what was possible using analogue techniques to heavily manipulate one, or a set of photographs by creating a new reality, a completely new interpretation of a scene, clearly manipulated.

So before adding “digital” to this conversation I believe we must discern enhancement from manipulation. Putting this openly, Adams’ work is the epitome of enhancement and Uelsmann’s work is the embodiment of manipulation.

Of course, being unaware of the history, complexity and potential of the analogue process doesn’t help. Roots are always important, if not critical, for a better understanding of the present.

If you’re not adding or subtracting objects, subjects or any other items to the image or altering those that were present when the shutter was released I do not think you’ll be manipulating. If you’re using image editing software to crop, reframe, for perspective correction, to enhance shadows or recover highlights, to sharpen, to saturate or desaturate you’ll be enhancing the RAW file (the “negative”) and this is not manipulation.

John Gallo

 

Anúncios

Weather sealed does not mean waterproof, Richard Butler (DP Review)

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It shouldn’t need saying, but weather resistant, weather sealed and environmentally sealed do not mean waterproof. A cursory glance at your warranty should make this clear: no matter how good a reputation your brand has, if it isn’t covered by the warranty, you’re in ‘at your own risk’ territory.

Roger Cicala’s latest blog post over at Lens Rentals shows the damage that can occur when a nominally weather sealed camera gets wet—both the damage and the detective work made clearer by the fact that this particular camera took a dip in salt water. Cicala follows the path of the corrosion throughout the camera and explains why an encounter with seawater may render your camera not just non-functioning, but completely irreparable.

As is so often the case with Cicala’s ‘big picture’ blog posts, don’t get too hung up on the specific model he’s dissecting. As he points out in the comments, he’s written off some of every brand from salt-water damage.

Check out some of the pictures from this particularly painful teardown at the top, and then click the big blue button below to see the full post on Lens Rentals.

Keep reading here: https://www.dpreview.com/news/4176919219/this-is-what-happens-when-a-weather-sealed-camera-takes-a-dip-in-salt-water

 

 

Fujifilm Festival Internacional de Fotografia de Viseu

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It is about time to say something about Fujifilm FIF Viseu – after all I have the responsibility to manage the Festival, trying to provide some guidance to a very small team of extremely talented persons: Ana, Guida, Luís you’re one of kind and this Festival will happen because you are gifted – it is my honour to be on your side, competence is not in short supply amongst you.

But how did this start? An idea ? Well, certainly an idea but a challenging although “natural” idea – to put together in the same title the Fujifilm brand and Viseu, a brand and a city, the best city to live in Portugal, the biggest city of the so called “interior” of Portugal. Fujifilm? Quite probably the most active and prolific brand of the moment within the medium – I’ve been using X Series gear since 2011, I have a strong connection with the brand, supported by the extremely professional relationship I have with João from Fujifilm Portugal, another stronghold for competence. João is passionate about people, about driving them to succeed, cherishing everyone around him. What I realised was simple after all, by putting together two references in the same sentence I was creating a new brand and excellence became paramount. The hardest part  – I thought – was to get Viseu Municipality involved and persuade Fujifilm to be the naming sponsor.

I was wrong. Through Viseu Terceiro Chappa presented a solid, trustworthy and compelling project to the Municipality and Fujifilm FIF Viseu was given 90 points out of 100. By then, Chappa and Fujifilm had already agreed in the form factor for the Festival and there was a clear idea on how to make it work for everyone: Chappa, Fujifilm, Viseu, Portugal, the artists, local, nationwide and international audience. Viseu Municipality has to be praised here: they have a plan, a vision for the city. The Mayor and everybody else one can come across from Viseu’s city management have the same attitude, engaged with their city, supportive of people that engage as well and have the will, the strength and the talent to add value to Viseu’s brand.

From Amílcar and Luís at Publico/P3 we received the same support, the same enthusiasm one must have from major partners – well before Fujifilm FIF Viseu was a reality Amílcar already had given a great thumbs up to the project.

We are still a couple of months away, but the program is closed, the venues are almost decided, everything within budget. Hopefully we will deliver a great Festival to the city, to the country.

There is one final challenge though – photographers from around the country must come to Viseu enjoying the opportunity to be part of this celebration, the celebration of magnificent photographic work on show, at proper venues, printed in large format, high-quality media. Workshops, masterclasses, one Instameet and a photographic marathon – amongst many other events – will give everyone a good reason to come to Viseu.

Our meetings have been highly enjoyable, we look at the challenges we face, smile and think how can we overcome them, how can we deliver as we know we must.

Feet to the ground though: nothing happen yet, everything is still ahead of us. Hard work, humbleness and dedication will help, no doubt.

See you around.

 

 

The real price – Fujifilm GFX 50S

Plenty has been said about the price of the new medium-format camera from Fujifilm. More often than not comments are something like “fabulous piece of kit, uncanny image rendition and quality, unbelievable sharpness and detail, the minus being the price”. I’m not a medium format user, although I used to be back in the days of heavy studio work ten or twelve years ago, therefore I’m pretty much unbiased regarding this subject… I’m not buying one, period – I do not need one.

Nevertheless, I’m a bit fed up with these comments on Fuji’s price; they seem to come from people completely, utterly unaware of market prices for all competitors the new Fujifilm GFX 50s will face in a month. Have a look here and let me know if price is an advantage or a disadvantage for the Fujifilm brand new camera. Facts are facts and if price is an absolute characteristic of a given product, then Fujifilm’s price is the lowest, therefore a plus.

But in commerce or marketing price is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay, a seller is willing to accept, and the competition is allowing to be charged. With product, promotion, and place of marketing mix, it is one of the business variables over which organizations can exercise some degree of control.

In essence, price can be defined like a value that will purchase a finite quantity, weight, or other measure of a good or service – so, with the same amount of a finite value what other equivalent good will you buy? None, no other camera with similar characteristics and performance costs the same, not even close.

Price is one of the best features of the Fujifilm GFX 50s.

Stop the nonsense, open you eyes and get real.

The ultimate Fujifilm X Series Lenses comparison

Fujinon XF 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR versus four Fujinon primes: 16mm f1.4, 23mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2

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We all know the commitment Fujifilm has to provide the best lenses one can have. We also know, as a rule of thumb, that zooms are for versatility and primes for optical quality and image rendering, but how significant is the difference? What are we losing when the option is to use a zoom lens instead of prime lenses? And, when it comes to the most relevant focal lengths what would we do if we could try and test the trans-standard option against prime glass? Based on lab and field tests I will try to provide some answers.

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I’ve been using Fujifilm X Series since 2012, exclusively since 2014. I have had and used pretty much everything they’ve launched, from the X-Pro1 to the X-Pro2 and I’m quite familiar with the system; I use Fujifilm for everything I do and yes, I do make a living behind a camera – http://www.johngallo.co.uk

Fuji is now offering three trans-standard zooms: the entry-level XC 16-55mm , the XF 18-55mm and the premium Red Badge XF 16-55mm f2.8. The line-up is completed by the XF 18-135 f3.5-5.6 R OIS WR, although this lens is a bit beyond what a trans-standard zoom in essence is. All of them have pros and cons, like everything in life. Although I’m a user of both XF lenses, the 18-55mm and the 16-55mm, this article will focus on the Red Badge zoom when compared with the more expensive primes covering the same focal range in the Fujinon lineup, the 16mm, the 23mm, the 35mm all f1.4 and the 56mm f1.2 (regular version, no apodization filter).

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On the one hand we all know that versatility is the best attribute of a zoom lens – on the other hand we also know that nothing will get closer to prime lenses regarding optical quality.
On the money side of things a fraction of the required investment to buy four primes brings home a nice and neat zoom, covering the exact same focal range. Weight? Practicableness? Another easy win for the trans-standard zoom.

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But when it comes to maximum aperture and the ability to really work depth of field as a relevant characteristic of your photography and/or to use available light to get the image you need in difficult conditions there is nothing like prime lenses. Sharpness? There is little a zoom can do here… It is what they say, isn’t it?

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The Imatest stuff

There is no but when it comes to absolute figures: relevant lab data will enlight us, right? The average maximum aperture of the primes is f1.35, let’s round it up to f1.4. The gap is two stops, so whatever you find yourself doing the zoom will force you to use a higher ISO setting to keep shutter speed. Say, at ISO 1600 and 1/60 @ f1.4 in any of the primes you will have to use ISO 6400 @ f2.8 with the zoom, which will result in added noise. Or 1/15 shutter speed to keep ISO at 1600. This particular zoom doesn’t have optical stabilisation therefore slower shutter speeds may be a problem and blur is likely to occur.

But what is the resolution of the prime lenses and of the Red Badge zoom at full aperture? The relevance of the question is enormous: when using these four primes at full aperture you will be losing roughly 15 to 25% resolution (sharpness, MTF) when compared to the zoom resolution at full aperture (centre of the frame). This is a lot. It is a trade-off: as the aperture increases the resolution diminishes. Your option, either faster shutter speeds and less noise with primes or increased sharpness using the zoom lens according to the MTF chart. Nevertheless, motion blur contributes to a general perception of less sharpness as well as increased noise does. Difficult? Sometimes life sucks. By the way, do not forget the reciprocal rule and be aware that the smaller the sensor the more conservative you have to be when applying the rule. A monopod or a tripod may help… depending on the subject you’re portraying.

Vignetting

The primes are “merged” into just one lens for the sake of simplification; the resulting figure is the average of all four lenses combined, against average values of the zoom lens across the available focal range.

16-55mm average across all focal lenghts at full aperture (f2.8): 0.53EV

Primes average, all combined at f2.8: 0.39EV

At f4.0, zoom 0.35EV, primes 0.32EV

The trans-standard lens seems to put up a very good fight here, specially due to the fact that at f2.8 it is at full aperture, unlike the primes.

Distortion

Same criteria as above.

16-55mm trans-standard average across al focal lengths: 2,71% barrel

Four primes average: -0.6% pincushion

Needless to emphasize the advantage of the XF primes here…

Chromatic aberrations

Yes, you got it, same criteria.

16-55mm trans-standard: 0.91 pixel

Four primes: 0.31 pixel

Again, primes are much better taming chromatic aberrations. Make no mistake here.

Resolution

The chart below needs little if any explanation; it is absolutely clear and unmistakable. The higher the number, the better. Zoom lens data always before the prime counterpart data; highlighted in green the best at the given focal length/aperture/centre, border or extreme of the frame.

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The above array of numbers also establishes a hierarchy within the prime lenses, regarding resolution and resolution only. The champion here is the Fujinon XF 23mm f1.4, followed by the 56mm f1.2mm; then in third place we find the 16mm f1.4 and finally the 35mm f1.4 – Fuji, when are you going to replace this lovely but dated piece of glass by a much more substantial 33mm f1.0 with LM and WR? In doing so you would also be making a statement, a very good one by the way… Looking forward to it…

To conclude this boring data stuff I have to say that at 16mm the trans-standard zoom has 5.6% barrel distortion with the other extreme (55mm) having 2.4% pincushion distortion. Both values are too high to ignore, specially when one takes into account the weight, size and price of this Red Badge lens. The 24-70mm f2.8 USM L II from Canon (full frame) has 2.8% and 1.3% respectively, nearly just half… Nikon’s equivalent Nikkor lens has 3% barrel distortion at 24mm and just 0.5% pincushion at 70mm.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS for Canon APS-C cameras has 2% barrel and 1.15% pincushion distortion at the wide and tele ends of the zoom, respectively and this is not an L-Series lens. Nikkor equivalent for their range of APS-C cameras (G Series though) has 2.18% barrel distortion at 17mm and 0.87% pincushion at 55mm.

Regarding resolution the Fujinon is better than any of the two APS-C lenses from Canon or Nikon which is absolutely expectable: it is a much more recent piece of kit, therefore distortion should have been on par, not under engineered.

Fujifilm’s other option, the XF18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS, has 4.6% barrel distortion at 18mm – not brilliant either although better, but only 0.78% pincushion at 55mm. Overall, the 18-55 has less resolution in the centre of the frame but is surely much better in the border and extremes of the frame. Sure, Fujifilm’s firmware corrects in camera these issues, but the final result is always worse than what it could have been if lens design was better regarding distortion. After all, auto-correction is a lossy procedure and the price we’re paying for this Red Badge stuff raises higher expectations… Fujifilm released firmware version 1.12 for the Red Badge zoom lens improving chromatic aberration correction.

Out on the streets

OK, enough of this lab wording and let’s go out to the field, press the shutter button and notice the differences between these lenses.

All photographs have been taken with an X-Pro2 body, carbon fibre tripod and remote trigger.

I have taken a set of four pictures with the trans-standard lens at four different focal lengths: 16, 23, 35 and 55mm, at f2.8, f4, f5.6 and f8 respectively. Then I did the same using the matching set of primes. The following photograph is only for illustration purposes (Fujinon XF35mm f1.4 R@f8). A set of 32 high-resolution pictures is available for download here – 6000 x 4000 dpi, ISO 200, Tiff files, straight ACR RAW conversion, no filters applied. Note, they are all (in camera) corrected RAW’s.

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If you want to get to know how each one of these lenses performs at different apertures in the real world feel free to download the files, open them and fiddle with it. This is the real thing. Files are named in a simple way: focal length, aperture.

I did spend a lot of time carefully comparing them and I have to say that lab figures are correct for the majority of the images/comparison at hand. Indeed, the trans-standard zoom is far from brilliant in the border and extreme of the frame, being easily surpassed by the prime lenses. Have a look yourself – this may be an issue for some users and completely negligible to others – it really depends on what type of photography you do, your personal style, how often you use lenses at their maximum aperture and how important resolution is when trade-off is versatility. At 16 and 23mm the Red Badge zoom performs extremely well in the centre, at 35mm performance is very good in centre as well. At 55mm performance is not that good, although acceptable. Border and extreme of the frame are the Achilles heel of this Red Badge lens. When compared to the XF 18-55mm at 55mm the cheaper trans-standard is globally better resolution wise than the “pro” lens. I dare say, based on my experience as a professional photographer relying on Fuji X Series gear to make a living, that the logical, balanced option is to buy the XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS (not weather sealed) instead of the higher-priced, heavier 16-55mm Red Badge trans-standard (weather sealed).

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If all the other features of prime lenses are pivotal for you, then do not hesitate, buy the set of prime lens on show, they will outperform any trans-standard zoom lenses one can dream about, except for versatility and weight – weight that you’ll add to your bag and remove from your bank account. The full set of primes tested here amount to more than £2600.00 (UK, January 2017) which is a lot of money by any standards. Furthermore, if rain, dust and freezing conditions are your playground, only the 16mm f1.4 is weather sealed: all the other primes tested here aren’t.

In short, pros of the XF 16-55mm f2.8 Red Badge trans-standard zoom:

  • Very good to excellent resolution in the center of the frame
  • Weather sealed
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Constant aperture throughout the entire zoom range
  • Easy and smooth to operate; everything has a firm, pleasant look and touch
  • Controlled vignetting, even wide open
  • Versatility, it can cover an extreme wide range of subjects, in almost every environment and situation

Cons:

  • Price, given the optical performance in the border and extremes of frame
  • Weight and size, given the optical performance in the border and extremes of frame
  • Optical performance at the borders and extreme of the frame, specially from 35mm onwards and from f4 onwards
  • Distortion at 16mm and 55mm – unacceptable at this level of pricing; this is Fujinon’s reference trans-standard zoom for the X series cameras

If you can live without weather sealing you’d be better off buying the Fujinon XF18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS trans-standard; with the addition of image stabilization, better resolution in the borders and extreme of the frame, lighter, smaller and around 30% cheaper it is a no brainer: a very solid performer with the right size and balance for the X series cameras.

For the real thing when it comes to speed, image quality, extremely controlled distortion, CA’s and vignetting, think about at least these three primes: 16mm, 23mm and 56mm. They are the ultimate photographic tool for those that do not need versatility and are not willing to compromise on image quality, bookeh and depth of field as a composition tool. Remember though, only the 16mm is weather sealed…

The 35mm is getting out of date – slower focus, noisy, no WR – optical performance should be better, specially if you think of this lens as THE lens to have in any system, given the focal length (roughly 50mm full frame equivalent). Fuji?

John Gallo, January 2017

 

Links:

Set of 32 high-resolution Tiff test images (1,40GB download)

John Gallo’s website

John Gallo’s bio

Chappa

Fujifilm Europe

Fujifilm Portugal

Imatest

Fuji Rumors

Hyperion wrist strap

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A few weeks ago I’ve reviewed Hyperion Camera Neck Strap – now I got a similar, but shorter, wrist strap from Hyperion. Well, different colour but all the same feeling, quality and plush.

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Hyperion is selling these camera straps on ebay – they are hand made in Greece; Pablo manufactures every single one with love – one by one, by hand and tailor made. You can set specific length, color and trimming.

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Neck and Wrist Handmade Camera Straps, 238 Colour combinations to choose from. Fully Customizable in Length. Worldwide Shipping.

Link to Hyperion Camera Neck Strap review here.

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Website: https://www.hyperioncamerastraps.com

Order processing

Email Pablo: pabloko@msn.com , telling him the type, the colour combo you want and your mailing address. He will make the strap and send you a photo of it when ready, to approve it. He will mail you the strap – good news, soon it will be in your hands.

You can pay through pay-pal or bank transfer.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HyperionCameraStraps/?fref=ts

ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/HYPERION-Handmade-Neck-and-Wrist-Camera-Straps-/272404353338

Photographs: Fujifilm X100T Black – One light bulb, handheld. Classic Chrome film simulation, RAW and Adobe ACR, Photoshop to taste.