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Sony Joins the Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera Party

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Sony recently introduced two new Alpha compact digitals that join in the non-DLSR, interchangeable lens category that Olympus, and Panasonic are already part of, with their micro four-thirds systems. The cameras were first announced at PMA earlier this year.

Sony's Alpha NEX-5

The Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-3 provide the quality of a DSLR in a compact body. Because this type of cameras don’t utilize a mirror prism, their physical size can be much smaller than the ordinary DSLR.

Both Sony models utilize a newly developed 14.2 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor. The sensor is 60% larger than the micro four-thirds camera sensors.

What makes the new Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras so cool is that the APS-C sensor continually adjusts focus and exposure while recording video—the first of its kind. The NEX-5 offers Full HD movie capture at (1080i AVCHD and 720p MP4) with Full HD 60i recording. The NEX-3 shoots 720p HD video, saving them as MP4 files.

Features of the cameras include built-in stereo microphones, Sony’s BIONZ processor, and high speed burst of full-res images at up to 7 frames per second. The cameras are also the first to incorporate the Sweep Panorama feature that allows your images to show up to 226° horizontal or 151° vertical field of view. With a firmware update available mid-summer, the cameras will also be able to shoot 3D Sweep Panorama images with a single lens.

Sony Alpha NEX-3

Both camera models feature a 3-inch LCD, that tilt up or down for added flexibility.

Three new E-mount lenses are being introduced with the NEX-5 and NEX-3: the 16mm f/2.8 prime lens, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS standard zoom and an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS zoom.

The cameras come with a super-compact clip-on flash. They also feature dual media card compatibility, accepting both Memory Stick PRO Duo (and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo) and SD cards, (including SDHC and SDXC formats).

An optional mount adapter—LA-EA1—makes  all 30 of the Alpha family lenses usable on the camera bodies, as well as older legacy A-mount lenses (manually focusing only). Other optional accessories include an ultra wide converter that gives a 12mm view and a Fisheye converter; an optical viewfinder, and stereo microphone. The flash, optical viewfinder and mic all connect to the cameras by the accessory shoe at the top of the camera body.

Sony is shipping the NEX-5A digital in silver and black and NEX-3A digital in silver, black and red as a kit with the 16mm lens (MSRP $650 and $550 respectively); and as a kit with the 18-55mm lens (MSRP $700 and $600 respectively). The camera bodies, accessories and 16mm and 18-55mm lenses will be available in July. The 18-200mm lens will be available in the fall.

(l. to r.) NEX-3 in red, silver NEX-3 with accessory stereo mic, the rear tilting LCD is a feature of both models, the NEX-5 and NEX-3.

For more information, go to www.sony.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld


Product Review: Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II printer

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By Carrie Konopacki

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II inkjet printer. I was looking forward to seeing how the printer would perform and increase my workflow productivity.

To give you a little background on myself, the first true experiences I had in the photo world began with my Canon AE-1. The ability to have complete control over your picture from start to the final print became a quick addiction. I loved my Canon. Through the digital years, I dabbled with various other makes and used your standard printers. Was this Canon going to be a “love affair rekindled?” Could be.

Printer Specs and Features

When the printer first arrived, it was very overwhelming. Lets just say you need to find ample desktop space. The printer is 26.0″(W) x 7.6″(H) x 13.9″(D). It can handle output up to 13×19-inches. My first challenge was finding the printer a workspace. With the front and rear trays open, the printer will need around a 30”x40” area. The 1.6mm steel body adds to the overwhelming appeal and speaks “rough and tough.”

After taking the printer out of the box, I just needed to install the 10 single ink cartridges: Matte Black, Photo Black, Gray, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta, Red, and Green. The driver now installed on a Dell Inspiron 530 Intel Core 2 Quad PC, it was finally time to print. Or in my case, select the images to test print.

The Pixma Pro9500 Mark II printer utilizes a 4800×2400 dpi FINE print head, two separate paper paths, and a new printer driver. The printer is compatible with Mac OX X v.10.2.8 to 10.5.x and PCs running Windows XP/2000/Vista/7. The printer connects to computers via USB 2.0 and direct printer ports—no FireWire and no Ethernet. The printer can output 16-bit files.

The 10-color PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II printer uses Canon’s professional Lucia brand pigment-based inks. The printer was designed to output great B&W prints as well as color. Its ink system includes gray, black and matte black cartridges for printing of monochrome photographs on both fine art paper and glossy photo paper.

The printer comes with both Windows & MAC OS X: Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, Easy-PhotoPrint EX, CD-LabelPrint and Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, however most professional photographers are likely to print from whichever version of Photoshop they are using. Using the included software allows you to print directly from Photoshop and also print RAW images. These options allowed me numerous options to choose from with my inventory of prints.

Test Use

Ali. Photograph ⓒ Carrie Konopacki.

My goal was to find the most luminous, vibrant color photos and the black and white images with high levels of contrast, shadows and depth of field. And also throw in some sepia. For my printer tests, I used a variety of media, including: Canon Inkjet art & photo paper,  Fine Art paper “Museum Etching”, Fine Art paper “ Photo Rag”, Fine Art Paper, Premium Matte, Photo Paper Plus Semi Gloss, Hahnemühle Matte FineArt, Kodak Premium Photo Paper (Matte), and Kodak Photo Paper (Gloss).

Arizona Cacti. Photograph ⓒ Carrie Konopacki.

For my first print, I chose the Museum Etching media to print an image of a Cacti from a 2009 trip I took following Imaging USA. Once my enhancements were made to the image, it was time to print.

For me, the most difficult process to figure out was how to successfully operate the front feeder for the heavier and larger sized papers. After a few miss attempts and unsuccessful interpretation of the online owners manual, by sheer frustration, it became clear.

Bumblebee on Flower. Photograph ⓒ Carrie Konopacki.

I truly thought the printer had come with a malfunction. Mind you, not having used other Canon large or wide-format printers before, it took me some time to figure out exactly how the paper feed worked.

When I reviewed the online owners manual, which does give you a walk-through, with pictures and descriptive directions, I was able to figure out what to do. The front output tray needed to be placed into the feed position and paper manually fed into position from the back. Once you figure this portion out, everything else is pretty self-explanatory.

While Printing

Now that the printer was all set up, sending images to print was my next task. The printer handled anything I threw at it without any real complaints. You can even print regular documents on the printer, which I did in a pinch.

My only concern is that printing of photographs was slow.

Photo of Jake Konopacki by Herff Jones.

Using the Kodak glossy media I printed some school pictures, 2 (5×7)’s, 8 wallets, and 4 (3×5)’s in about 3 minutes. The quality was great. And the colors were representative to the true.

I was using Photoshop CS3, although I did try using Canon’s printer software to see how it would render my images. For the school images, I used the print package that was a part of the Canon Solutions menu options. Because the printer would be used by prosumers as well as pro photographers—and to see how well it printed—I didn’t use ICC profiles. The colors were spot on with the Jake’s school photos.

I did use the print screen option to make sure the picture I wanted had more of a vibrant color, with certain images.

The printer offers ICC capability, and can print both 8 bit and 16 bit images. The Pixma Pro9500, the predecessor to the Mark II was only able to print 8 bit image files.

The printer was remarkably quiet even without being in “Quiet Mode”, had great color and B&W image reproduction and was user friendly. There is also an easy one-click help button from the On-Screen Manual, which will help you diagnosis and resolve issues and/or questions.

With regards to the various papers that I used in testing the printer, I liked various ones for different prints. The goals is to make sure you like the final look on the paper you wanted, hence with the school picture, I knew the people I was handing them out to would be accustomed to glossy prints, so I used glossy media. For my cactus picture, I wanted to “soften” the look so I went with the Museum etching.

Overall, the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II is a great 13-inch printer with excellent Black & White printing capabilities. The wide color range make your color prints pieces of artwork. Ink usage was within expectations of desired print quality and quantity. In addition, the quietness of the printer allows you to continue to work in the same room you are printing in with minimum distraction. I would definitely recommend this printer for those in the market.

For more information about the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II printer go to the website www.usa.canon.com.

♦ Carrie Konopacki’s passion and expertise in photography began at the age of 16 when she took a job as a receptionist at Olan Mills Portrait Studios. From there she began a 15-year adventure as a photography professional. First as a photographer for Olan Mills, then in college, where she planned to become a photojournalist. Learning the roots behind her passion for photography, Carrie received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She has done freelance commercial photography as well as family portraiture. Most recently Carrie worked for Studio Photography magazine.

Long Island Photo Workshop Announces Instructors for Summer 2010

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The Long Island Photo Workshop has announced its list of classes for the August 2-5, 2010 dates. This year’s classes and instructors are: The Power of Light with Tony Corbell, Professional Digital Imaging: Photoshop CS5 for Professionals being taught by Gary Small, “Paint Like a Master” with Corel Painter to be taught by Fay Sirkis, Light is the Greatest Influence being taught by Dave Black, and Professional Polish—Creating Your Signature Style with Janice Wendt.

The Long Island Photo Workshop is a Winona affiliate and PPA affiliate school, so if you’re a PPA member and attend, you will receive 2 merits for your attendance. The LIPW will be held at the Sheraton Long Island Hotel, in Smithtown, N.Y.

For more information about the Long Island Photo Workshop, go to the website www.liphotoworkshop.com.

The Power of Light

Understanding and controlling light quality is at the core of all of Tony’s presentations. You will learn how to see a unique perspective and not be afraid to push the limits of your experience and talents. Tony is a master of lighting and seeing light. Tony will discuss all types of lighting and tools in depth. Lighting applications will include additive, subtractive, reflective and transmission. Tony will show attendees how spending a few extra moments at the time of capture can save you hours in post-production making corrections.

Photographs ⓒ Tony Corbell

Tony Corbell. Photo by Bambi Cantrell

Tony Corbell is senior manager, product education and planning for Nik Software. During his career, he has had the honor of photographing three U.S. presidents, 185 world leaders, 65 Nigerian heads of state, about 600 brides and grooms, a couple of NASA astronauts and scores of famous and not so famous faces since 1979. He has spoken at over 450 seminars and workshops around the world.

Tony has received the WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award, the Photographer of the Year award from the IPC, and is one of only 40 worldwide members of the Camera Craftsmen of America. He has also been a published author, has written articles for major photo magazines, and has had his new Location Lighting DVD produced by Software Cinema.

Oh, and he’s [supposedly] the biggest Beatles fan alive!

Light is the Greatest Influence

This workshop class will center around light and how photographers can best use it to define their subject and capture the viewer’s attention, using off-camera flash and Light Painting.

Photographs ⓒ Dave Black

Dave Black

Dave Black has been a freelance photographer for more than 30 years, and he is best known for his sports photography, featured in Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Time, ESPN and other publications, however he is a true master of light and has photographed many other subjects during his career.

Dave is also well known for his artistic Light Painting. Dave has been a teacher and guest lecturer since 1986. His monthly website tutorial pages – “Workshop at the Ranch” and BEST of On the Road” attract over 85,000 unique visitors monthly. Last year he released The Way I See It …50 One Page Workshops, an instructional coffee table book.

Paint Like a Master

Attendees will learn how to use Photoshop and Corel Painter 11 to transform their images into paintings that replicate the former Master Painters such as Rembrandt, Money, Norman Rockwell and Picasso. Learning to interpret high key portraits to be painted as watercolors and low key images as classical portraiture for the look of heirloom canvas oil paintings.

Photographs ⓒ Fay Sirkis

Photographs ⓒ Fay Sirkis

Fay Sirkis

Fay will share her signature style of blending an image, and the new digital “brushes” she has created that replicate the brush strokes of the Old Masters. Students will receive some of these brushes as files to keep. In addition to discussing retouching in Photoshop, applying and blending paints in Painter, and the final printing process, Fay will also offer tips for marketing these photographic works of art.

Fay Sirkis has spoken across the U.S. and Europe. She is a NY-based contemporary digital artist and photographer, with a background in traditional fine art. Fay is a Painter Master, is on the advisory council of Corel Painter, and is also a Canon Print Master. She is part of the “Dream Team” Instructors who teach at NAPP’s Photoshop World Conferences. Fay is known for her teaching methods which simplify the learning curve for students.

Professional Digital Imaging: Photoshop CS5

If you’ve wanted to enhance your knowledge of Photoshop, increase your productivity and learn real-world production time savers, this is the class for you. In addition to tips, tricks, color management and other techniques, you will also learn the nuances to the just released, latest version of Photoshop CS5. Photoshop Lightroom and its use in the digital workflow will also be discussed.

Photographs ⓒ Gary Small

Photographs ⓒ Gary Small

Gary Small

Gary Small has been a professional photographer since 1979 and has been working with Photoshop since the early versions of the program. Gary was the first person in New York state and only the seventh in the country to receive the PP of A ‘Certified in Electronic Imaging’ (CEI) designation. In addition to running a studio, Gary also conducts private tutoring and consulting on color management, Photoshop and more. He has also been a beta tester of numerous software programs and photographic products over the years.

Gary’s photo may look familiar to regular visitors of Picture-soup.com, he’s our resident digital imaging, Adobe Photoshop, Photodex Proshow Producer, and color management Guru and regular contributor to our website. Prior to his work on Picture-soup.com, he was a regular contributor to imaginginfo.com and Studio & Location Photography magazine.

Professional Polish—Creating Your Signature Style

Want to turn your images from good to great? Ever wonder how top photographers get awesome, edgy images? Want to take your work to the next level? This class will learn the secrets to creative, subtle image enhancements that save you time. As someone who knows Nik Software inside and out, Janice will help students get the most out of each of the company’s programs: Nik Color Efex Pro, Nik Sharpener Pro, Viveza, Silver Efex Pro and Nikon Capture NX2.

(l.) Before (r.) After. Photographs ⓒ Janice Wendt.

(l.) Before (r.) After. Photographs ⓒ Janice Wendt.

Janice Wendt. Photo by Joseph & Louise Simone

Janice Wendt is Nik Software’s Channel Sales Manager, leading authority and ambassador, as well as often “training the trainers” on various techniques in digital imaging. She is a commercial and portrait photographer with over 25 years of experience. She also regularly gives lectures and seminars within the educational community.

— Diane Berkenfeld

HighKey Straps makes What the Duck Camera Straps and more

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Aaron Johnson's WTD character.

Here at Picture-soup.com we love What the Duck, the adorable cartoon strip created by Aaron Johnson featuring a Duck who just happens to be a professional photographer. The strip follows WTD and his photographer friends in their exploits and experiences [that all photographers can relate to]. Recently we received an email alerting us that there are now two different What the Duck camera straps available. We decided to look further… and found an interesting company doing the manufacturing.

What the Duck camera straps are created by HighKey Straps, with materials sourced in the USA and hand-assembled in Southern California. HighKey was founded last year by Tom Baker and Andie Haugen, two Brooks Institute of Photography students who wanted more than the “same old, same old” dull camera strap that are attached to masses of cameras around the world.

The two What the Duck camera straps made by HighKey Straps.

HighKey straps are 24″ long, with adjustable black leads that allow a total possible length of 44″. The underside of all straps are lined with a textured, non-slip material. The company offers a variety of camera strap designs/colors, and you can even create your own design. Simply use the Photoshop template provided on their website and design your own strap using any picture, logo or design you want.

Two of the many camera strap designs offered by HighKey Straps.

Go to the website at www.highkeycamera.com for more information.

If you’ve never heard of What the Duck before, we insist you go to whattheduck.net now!

— Diane Berkenfeld

Photoshop CS5 Teaser: Refine Edge Command

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Text & Images By Gary Small a.k.a. Photoshopman

Today’s tip covers a couple of ideas here. First off, the Refine Edge command is not new to Photoshop. It was introduced in Photoshop CS 3. However, in CS 5, this new and greatly improved version of the Refine Edge command also addresses the fact that (in case nobody noticed) the Extract tool mysteriously vanished. Actually, the Extract tool disappeared when CS 4 was released, but as an afterthought, the plug-in was sent along, to be put back in afterwards. Now, with the new Refine Edge command, there is really no need for the Extract tool anymore. Let’s see how it works…

In this example, I have a nice picture of a girl that was taken on location. Mom would have loved a nice studio portrait of her, instead of using the available location, but time constraints did not allow a background to be brought to the job site. You know how it is. Let’s see what we can do to give mom what she wanted.

Step 1. Using the Quick Select tool, I drag around the contours of the young lady. The Quick Select tool is an amazing tool, because it looks for the edge contrast in the area you’re selecting and “locks on” to those edges, kind of like a souped up version of the Magnetic Lasso tool. Depending on the subject and background, there are some selections that can be made with this tool in one brush stroke. One important note about the Quick Select tool, is that, unlike all other selection tools, where you have to hold down the shift key to add to the selection, the Quick Select tool is always in “Add” mode. What that means is, you don’t have to hold down an extra key to add to an existing selection with this tool. You just make another stroke on the area you want to add and it will add it to the selection. Subtracting from the selection is the same as the other selection tools in Photoshop, in that you’d hold down the Alt (Windows) / Opt (Mac) key, and draw across the part of the selection you want to remove. In the first illustration, you can see the original picture with the selection drawn out.

Here is the original image, after selecting the subject using the Quick Select Tool.

Step 2. The Refine Edge command is found on the Options Bar on top, just below Photoshop’s menus. As long as you have any selection tool chosen in the tool box, the “Refine Edge” button will be available in the Options Bar. Click the button to bring up the dialog box. You’ll see it is broken into 4 sections: View Mode, Edge Detection, Adjust Edge, and Output. If you click the View Mode drop down button, you’ll see several choices of how you can view your selection: Marching Ants, Overlay (like a quick mask), On Black, On White, against transparency, as a Black and White mask, On Layers, and Reveal Layer. In the example here, I have the subject against a black background. I usually look at my subjects against black and against white, to see if there’s any contamination or fringing when they get cut out. But that’s where the real power of this new improved tool comes into play. As you can see in the initial preview, the edges are very sharp and jagged. Let’s see how to make it look more natural.

Here is what we see when we first click the “Refine Edge” button. This shows the different view modes available. For this image, I chose “On Black” to show the selected area against a black background.

Step 3. In the Edge Detection section, move the Radius slider to the right. This increases the size of the radius, which is the area of transition. In other words, this is the area that includes some background that’s being removed and some foreground. The greater the radius, the more transition. But it gets to a point where there’s too much transition and it’s not effective, so if you think you can just crank the slider all the way to the right and get great transitions, think again. The next image shows the radius view. If you check the “Show Radius” checkbox in the View Mode section, you’ll see the size of the radius and can use this view as a means to see just how much transition you want in your selection. Anybody who has had experience with the Extract tool in previous versions of Photoshop will know exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to a transition area. With the Extract Tool, that transition area was defined by the green highlight you drew around the subject you wanted to extract from the background. This is almost the same thing. If you check the “Smart Radius” checkbox, it will try to automatically smooth out the transition. This is great for places where there is hair and uneven edges that you are trying to cut out or select. One new tool that was added was the Refine Radius tool, which looks like a paintbrush that was added to the Refine Edge dialog box. This is an amazing feature. You can actually paint across wisps of hair and it will include them in the selection while keeping everything around the hair or whatever Photoshop considers the “non-foreground” areas hidden (or unselected). If you took away too much, you can switch to the Erase Refinements tool, which is the opposite of the Refine Radius tool, and you can paint away wherever you overdid it.

This is what the selection looks like after increasing the radius. As you can see, the edges around the girl smoothed out a bit, but some areas still need to be refined a little (see the girl’s arm), plus we can make the ends of the hair more realistic too.

Step 4. Looking further down the panel, you can see the Adjust Edge controls. These are very similar (almost identical) to the controls in the previous version of the Refine Edge command. Here you can soften (feather) the edges of the selection, as well as smooth, or add contrast to the selection edge. In addition, a slider was added, called “Shift Edge”. Think of this as a replacement for “Expand/Contract”. Moving the slider to the left (negative amount), you contract, or shrink the selection. Moving it to the right (positive amount), you’re increasing or expanding the selection.

When I checked the Show Radius checkbox, we see exactly what the radius looks like that we’re working with. With this view, we can adjust the size of the radius and fine tune the “transition” area, which will help get us a more natural selection, and cutout.

Step 5. The last section of the panel is the Output options. Here’s where you choose how you want the results to appear. Choices are: Selection (if you just want a refined selection), Layer Mask, New Layer, New Layer With Layer Mask, New Document, and New Document With Layer Mask. There’s also a checkbox marked “Decontaminate Colors”. Check this if you are cutting a subject out of a colorful background (think green screen) and you want to get rid of the color fringing that sometimes comes as a result. I’ve had this happen a lot when I cut people out of a white background and had to spend a lot of time retouching the color contamination that I got afterwards. This works really well. It is not always perfect, but it is a huge improvement! The next illustration shown is the result of choosing New Layer as my output choice.

After choosing “New Layer” as my output option, once I click the “OK” button, this is what I got as a result…a new layer with just the selected area from the original image. Note, in order to see this, I turned off the visibility (the eyeballs) of the other two layers on the Layers panel.

Step 6. After I have my cutout, all that is left to do, is to drop a new background in behind my subject, apply a Drop Shadow layer style, to make it look more realistic, then crop as necessary.

All that’s left now is to drop in a new background. I added a drop shadow layer style to make it look more realistic. Otherwise it would have looked like it was just cut and pasted and not like it was actually photographed that way.

The last illustration shows the finished product, with the addition of a corner burn to make it look like a custom printed portrait. And Voila! We turned a so-so image taken in a hurry, into a studio portrait. Believe me, it took longer to describe the process than it took to actually do it. I believe it only took me maybe 5 minutes, tops.

Here is the finished image, after cropping it square and applying a corner burn, to give it that “custom printed” look. By the way, I used the “Refine Edge” command to help create the soft selection that I used to burn (or darken) the edges of the image too.

If you like these new features, just wait till you check out Photoshop CS 5 which began shipping this week! There are over 100 improvements and new features that are sure to get you excited and trust me when I tell you, any one of them is worth the price of the upgrade! For more information about Creative Suite 5, go to www.adobe.com.

♦ Gary Small a.k.a. Photoshopman is a Professional Photographer, Photoshop Guru and master of color management. Check out his work at www.jsmallphoto.com.

Adobe Creative Suite 5 NOW SHIPPING

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By Diane Berkenfeld

Adobe (www.adobe.com) announced yesterday that it has begun immediate shipping of the Creative Suite 5 collections and the 15 individual software titles that make up the CS5 Master Collection.

More than 250 new features have been integrated into the Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection. Adobe offers all 15 software titles that make up the CS5 Master Collection individually, as well as in collections designed to incorporate those programs that photographers would need, or graphic designers or web designers. These are: Creative Suite 5 Master Collection [everything but the kitchen sink —Ed.], Creative Suite 5 Design Premium, Creative Suite 5 Design Standard, Creative Suite 5 Web Premium and Creative Suite 5 Production Premium.

Click here to read more about some of the great new features packed into Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.

Look for reviews of Creative Suite 5 programs coming to Picture-soup.com soon!