Canon shooters using the EOS R5, R6, and/or 1D X Mark III, will have reason to smile soon, as an upcoming firmware update will bring some notable improvements and new features that will make their lives easier.
The update came from Canon UK, who announced the upcoming versions of firmware of the EOS R5 (version 1.50), EOS R6 (version 1.50), and 1D X Mark III (version 1.60), which will bring a range of new features and improvements based on feedback from early EOS R3 users.
Canon EOS R5 and R6
Enhanced subject recognition
Addition of vehicle tracking for cars and bikes
Improved people autofocus tracking, with better eye and face detection when subjects are wearing a mask
Addition of body detection
Ability to set a custom white balance in Live View
It’s easy to look at the impressive slate of cameras today and wonder what more they could possibly do. But there’s always room for improvement, which is why I’d like to go through some of the most useful features found on some – but not enough – cameras today.
All the features I’m listing below exist at least somewhere on the market. In other words, the technology is there. But I think there’s a big gap on the market if a company wants to stand out with their feature set, since no camera comes anywhere close to having all of these.
Note that when I’ve listed the features below, I’ve also mentioned some of the prominent cameras today with each feature. It’s not an exhaustive list and I’m sure I missed plenty, especially on brands that I’m not as familiar with like Pentax and Panasonic. If you let me know in the comments, I’ll add any missing cameras to the appropriate sections.
Without further ado, here are the features I think should be found on more cameras today:
1. Back-in-Time Buffer
One of the key skills of sports and wildlife photography is anticipating the moment. There’s always some shutter lag – and lag in our own perception – to deal with. But even with top-tier anticipation skills, you’ll occasionally end up pressing the shutter button a hair too late and missing the moment. One feature that can save the day is what I like to call a “back-in-time buffer.” It’s found on some Olympus cameras and a few smartphones.
Here’s how it works. Any time you hold down the shutter button halfway, the camera captures a constant burst of photos with the electronic shutter. (It discards them rather than saving them to the memory card.) Once you fully press the shutter button, the camera saves the backlog of images from the past half-second or so. As a result, you’ll capture a moment that you otherwise would have photographed too late.
Of course, this feature takes up more card space – and some pros may tell you just to learn anticipation skills instead – but you can always turn it off if you don’t want it.
Currently Found On: Many of the newest Olympus cameras (where it’s called “Pro Capture”), including the OM-D E-M5 Mark III and all OM-D E-M1 cameras from Mark II and beyond.
Helps With: Sports and wildlife photography
2. Sensor Dust Protector Curtain
I’ve found when shooting mirrorless that my sensor gets dirty more often compared to using a DSLR. It’s not a big pain to clean it, but I’d rather worry about other things when I’m out in the field.
I’m sure someone will correct me on this, but as far as I know, the first camera with a dust-protection curtain was the Canon EOS R. When you remove the lens on the EOS R, the shutter curtain closes in order to protect the sensor from the outside world, including dust.
Other cameras have added this feature in the meantime, including the Nikon Z9 (which doesn’t even have a mechanical shutter and instead uses a dedicated dust protection curtain for the job). I hope it becomes standard issue on all mirrorless cameras, and frankly, even on DSLRs.
Currently Found On: Sony A9 II and A1; Nikon Z9; Canon full-frame mirrorless cameras other than the EOS RP
Helps With: Any genre of photography where you’re using narrow apertures, especially landscapes, macro, and architecture
3. Voice Memos
Practically every camera these days has a microphone and a storage device. So why has it taken so long for voice memos to find their way to the masses?
High-end professional cameras have had voice memo options for ages. A quick Google search tells me it existed on the Canon EOS-1D Mark II in 2007 and the Nikon D2X in 2004, and maybe even on some earlier cameras.
Voice memos aren’t something everyone would use, but for documentary photographers, wedding photographers, and a few others, they can be a big help.
I’m glad to see Nikon adding voice memos to some of their less expensive cameras via a firmware update, including the Nikon Z6 that was released a few years ago. Hopefully more camera companies follow suit.
Currently Found On: Most flagship sports cameras; Nikon Z6 and Z6 II (not the Z7 or Z7 II for some reason); Canon 5D IV for $100 service fee; Fuji X-Pro2, X-Pro3, X-T2, X-T3, and Fuji medium format cameras
Helps With: Any sort of documentary photography
A lot of cameras are compatible with external GPS units that can tag your photos as you take them, but there’s no reason for the extra expense and annoyance of a dongle. To me, the proof is in point-and-shoot cameras. So many of them have built-in GPS, even cameras from more than a decade ago. If companies could add it to such basic cameras for so long, why isn’t everyone adding it to higher-end cameras today? (Maybe this next part is asking too much, but I’d also like to see the GPS sync your current location with the camera’s clock, so you don’t need to change the time in the menu each time you go to a different time zone.)
At least GPS is found on more cameras than some of the other features on this list. But it should be as common as WiFi and bluetooth – and it shouldn’t require you to sync your camera to your smartphone in order to piggyback on the phone’s GPS.
Currently Found On: Nikon Z9, D6, D5300; Olympus E-M1X; Canon EOS R3, 1DX II, 5D IV, 6D II; Pentax K-1 series and K-3 II; several point-and-shoot cameras; almost all smartphones and drones
Helps With: Documentary photography, landscape photography, or any time that you want to remember a location
5. Illuminated Buttons
I’ll be the first to say that you should learn how to use your camera with your eyes closed. You should instinctively know the location of every button and dial, or you’ll miss some shots in fast-moving conditions. However, for Milky Way photography or other shoots in pitch-black environments, backlit illuminated buttons can still be very useful. It certainly beats a bright headlamp that can shine into your photo or just ruin your night vision.
A few cameras have illuminated buttons, and the Pentax K-1 series even has a small light that illuminates the camera lens mount! For changing lenses at night, this makes things a lot easier. I’d like to see both these features on landscape-oriented cameras in the future.
Currently Found On: Canon EOS 1DX III; Nikon D850, D4-D6, Z9; Pentax K-1 series (separate light, not backlit buttons); Panasonic S1 series
Helps With: Astrophotography and other times when you’re taking pictures in the dark.
6. Bulb Mode Preview
Some cameras show a live preview of how your exposure is building up during a Bulb or Time exposure. This is a helpful way to tell when to end an ultra-long exposure rather than spending lots of time with trial and error. This is a big win for Olympus including such a feature when most camera companies don’t!
Currently Found On: Most recent Olympus cameras; some smartphones
Helps With: Long exposure landscape photography
7. Vibration Detection Shutter Firing
Imagine if your camera could measure external sources of camera shake – for example, a gust of wind when you’re shooting on a tripod – and only fire the shutter once it detects the image will be stable?
I’d find that to be a huge help as a landscape photographer, even if it’s not a feature I’d always keep turned on. Sometimes, I think a photo is perfectly sharp, only to realize at home (once it’s too late to fix it) that there’s a bit of low-lying blur thanks to the wind.
Very few cameras have this feature today, but a couple Phase One medium format cameras do. They call it “Seismographic vibration delay.” Hopefully the other companies are taking notes.
Currently Found On: Phase One XF IQ4 cameras
Helps With: Landscape photography
8. Native Image Averaging
I’m a big fan of image averaging as a way to dramatically improve your image quality and dynamic range. So too, it seems, is Phase One.
On a few Phase One and Olympus cameras, there’s built-in image averaging to simulate ultra-long exposures without an ND filter, as well as improving shadow noise significantly. Image averaging is basically a way to simulate arbitrarily low ISO values, and it would be a great addition for a lot of landscape photographers.
Currently Found On: Phase One XF IQ4 cameras; Olympus E-M1 III and E-M1 X
Helps With: Landscape photography and any application that requires high dynamic range
9. Sensor Shift High Resolution
One feature that’s gotten a lot of attention recently, and is found in increasingly more cameras, is a pixel-shift high resolution mode on cameras with in-body image stabilization. This mode takes multiple photos in a row with slightly different sensor positions, then merges them together to increase resolution substantially. On most cameras with pixel-shift, you can quadruple the sensor’s native resolution.
Currently Found On: Lots of cameras, but still not enough! A majority of recent high-end cameras have this, aside from Nikon and Canon cameras, which still don’t
Helps With: High resolution needs, especially landscape and architectural photography
10. Focus Stacking
Landscape and macro photographers often have a difficult time capturing enough depth of field without resorting to tilt-shift lenses or narrow, diffraction-prone apertures like f/16. Some cameras have a built-in focus stacking mode that can help you get around that problem. I’d like to see focus stacking expand to more cameras. I’d also like to see it output a single, stacked raw file rather than making you assemble the final stack yourself on your computer.
Currently Found On: Most new Olympus, Nikon, and Fuji cameras
Helps With: Landscape and macro photography
11. Photographer’s-Eye-Sensing Autofocus
Canon caused a stir when the EOS R3 was confirmed to track your eye – specifically, where in the frame you look when you’re using the viewfinder – to figure out where to focus. It’s still not a fully-featured operation that lets you track the subject (it’s just used for initial acquisition), but it’s still an amazing sight. I’d love to see this in more cameras, especially as the technology keeps improving.
Currently Found On: Canon EOS R3
Helps With: Sports and wildlife photography
12. Multi-Axis Tilting Camera Screen
As a landscape photographer, I’ve found tilting camera screens to be a huge ergonomic improvement in recent cameras. And while almost every camera these days has at least a single-axis tilt, not enough of them can tilt sideways. For vertical photography, this sideways tilt is a big help. I’d like to see multi-axis tilting screens (or fully articulating screens) find their way to more cameras in the future. Although a lot more cameras have it these days, a few companies still lack it in some of their most important cameras (like the Nikon Z7 II and Sony A7R IV).
Currently Found On: Nikon Z9, Zfc, D5600 series; Panasonic S1 series; Pentax K-1 series; Fuji medium format and X-T4 series; Sony A7S III; most Micro Four-Thirds cameras
Helps With: Composing vertical images from a tripod
13. Shutter Speeds Beyond 30 Seconds
Nikon was early to the game with extended shutter speeds beyond 30 seconds, and I really thought that other camera companies would copy them. But so far, it’s not really happening. I’d love to see more cameras on the market capable of taking multi-minute exposures without the need for a cable release.
Currently Found On: Most new Nikon cameras; Panasonic S1 cameras (up to 60 seconds); most Olympus cameras (a “time” exposure mode where you press the shutter once to start the exposure and once to end it)
Helps With: Landscape and astrophotography
14. Raw Histograms
It’s almost comical how long the “every ounce of image quality” club (which includes me) has been asking for raw histograms on a modern camera. The response from camera companies? Crickets. There’s only one camera on the market with a raw histogram, so at least I can put it in this article, but it’s not a big help because it’s a black-and-white only camera.
Currently Found On: First generation of Leica M Monochrome
Helps With: Maximizing image quality through proper ETTR
15. 16-Bit Raw
Even though I just admitted that I’m part of the “every ounce of image quality” club, even I don’t care too much about getting 16-bit raw on a camera. 14-bit raw is already excellent. But at the same time, I also know that if my camera had a 16-bit raw option, I’d be using it for my landscape photography. Some medium format cameras already have it, and it’s a contributing factor to their excellent range of colors and tones.
Currently Found On: Most medium format Hasselblad and Phase One cameras
Helps With: Landscape photography, studio photography, and other situations requiring utmost image quality
Most new cameras have eye-AF capabilities that can track the eye of the person you’re photographing. Animal-eye-AF, though, is rarer.
I admit that this feature may not be necessary once you master the standard tracking capabilities of your camera, but it’s still something I’d like to see more often. Not all photographers are pros who have hundreds of hours to spend learning their camera’s tracking capabilities inside and out, so a bit of a head start like this can be nice.
Currently Found On: All recent Sony cameras, even some aps-c; Canon EOS R3, R5, R6; Nikon Z9, and limited implementation (cat and dog only) on other Nikon Z cameras
Helps With: Wildlife photography
17. Brighter Light Compositing
This next feature is a bit difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best.
The idea is that you’re taking a long exposure that doesn’t get overly bright over time. Instead, it only composites particularly bright lights into the exposure over time.
It’s easier to describe by example. If you’re photographing lightning, you can use a 10-minute exposure, and the foreground doesn’t get drastically brighter during that time. But the moment a lightning strike flashes, it shows up in the photo because it’s a bright light.
This mode would be useful for photographing fireworks or even star trails to avoid getting an overexposed foreground. It’s only found on Olympus cameras these days (where it’s called “live composite”), but I’d like to see it on more.
Currently Found On: Most Olympus cameras
Helps With: Photographing lightning and a few other long exposure subjects
18. Base ISO Below 100
With camera sensors improving so much in terms of noise and dynamic range, they’ve almost hit a ceiling. One way around that, at least in terms of dynamic range, is to implement a lower base ISO.
We’ve seen it work with the Nikon D850, Z7, and Z7 II. These cameras have class-leading dynamic range that’s about 2/3 stop better than any base ISO camera on the market. I hope more camera companies follow suit, and maybe even try to go down to ISO 50, 32, and so on. (Though implementing the built-in image averaging feature I discussed a moment ago can serve a similar purpose.)
Currently Found On: Nikon D810, D850, Z7, Z7 II, Z9
Helps With: Landscape photography and any situations requiring extreme dynamic range.
19. Built-in Flash Commander
Almost all new cameras have gotten rid of the pop-up flash, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about the loss of the weird, harsh light they used to give. But I have heard a lot of people complain that removing the pop-up flash also removed the commander mode for firing external flashes! I wish that a company would add this back, even if they only add a commander mode to fire external lights and not the full pop-up flash.
Currently Found On: Most cameras that have a pop-up flash
Helps With: Portraiture, studio photography, and other situations where you’re using an external flash
20. Star Tracking Sensor Shift
A lot of clever things can be done with a moving camera sensor. In-body image stabilization is only the beginning. One of the most interesting is the ability to track stars for Milky Way photography, a feature found on a couple Pentax DSLRs at the moment. It’s a bit of a niche feature, but considering that the baseline IBIS technology is already built into most new mirrorless cameras these days, it’s a niche feature that more cameras should have.
Currently Found On: Pentax K-1 series
Helps With: Astrophotography
One thing that impressed me while working on this article is that the unique features I’ve listed here are spread out among camera brands pretty evenly (although Olympus gets the nod for having the most). To me, this shows that every camera company has something good to offer and they can still learn from one another when making new cameras. Now it’s just time to put that into practice! Let’s see a camera that has all these features and more. I’m sure there are many possible features that I can’t even begin to guess, which aren’t on any camera today.
Are there any that I missed, or some feature you’re especially hoping reaches your next camera? For my landscape photography, I’d personally love to see a camera with raw histograms and vibration detection when firing the shutter, unlikely though it may be. But I’d frankly be excited if any of these features become more widespread. After all, as I said at the start of the article, the technology is already here – all we need is for today’s camera companies to bring it all together.
Zoner Photo Studio X is a powerful and affordable editing suite that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Now they have improved the speed of the Develop module along with some other new features, increasing its viability as an all-in-one post-production and digital asset management tool.
In early 2021, I was aware of Zoner Photo Studio X (ZPS herein) but I hadn’t tried it. When the company reached out for me to review the software, I was keen, but I’ll admit, I didn’t appreciate many of its strengths until they were right there in front of me. For those of you who are unaware of what ZPS is all about, I will do a quick rundown before going over the details of their latest, Fall update.
What Is Zoner Photo Studio X?
ZPS is a comprehensive tool for photographers, combining digital asset management with post-production. It isn’t unique in that regard, but it has numerous strengths that make it well worth your attention if you are looking for an alternative to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s hard to condense all the benefits of using ZPS into a brief overview, but I’ll do my best in bulletpoint form:
Comprehensive Tools: There is an editing module with layer support, raw editing, retouching with AI, presets, and automatic edits like portrait retouching.
Price: The price for ZPS is more or less unrivaled: $4.99 per month or $49 for the year.
Video Editing: You are able to create and edit videos, including making a time-lapse, without leaving the software.
Asset Management: A brilliant digital asset manager that even allows you to work on images without importing them to a catalog.
Color and HDR: There are powerful color grading tools and an effective HDR panel in the Develop module.
The Fall 2021 Update
ZPS receives regular, sizable updates that tend to add significant enhancements. The features tend to come in one of three flavors in my experience: brand new features, familiar features, and improvements. That is, they add new, innovative functionality to ZPS, they add tools you may have seen in other software, and then they hone and refine performance. The Fall 2021 update has something from all three columns.
Noticeably Faster Editing
One of the most frustrating flaws of editing suites for me is speed. If loading a high-quality preview, making wholesale changes, changing module, and exporting images take too long, I’m ready to start a war. Speed is central to the philosophy of ZPS, with singular features like working on images without having to import them all to a catalog. Now, some major changes under the hood have increased the speed at which you can complete edits and many of the tools within the holistic software.
Expansion of Exposure Adjustments
There are few adjustments anyone makes to files more frequently than exposure. Although many will primarily use the exposure slider, there is a lot of depth to how you make these basic adjustments and their effectiveness. ZPS has a strong HDR module and now their exposure adjustment plays into that too. There are Lights and Shadows sliders which can control the intensity of the dynamic range in your image. Remember, use these sorts of tools sparingly; less is more!
Introduction of the Texture Slider
The Texture slider is new to ZPS, but it will be familiar to many people who have experience in other software and editing suites. It is also one of the most misunderstood additions to editing. Most people gravitate towards Clarity, but Texture can often yield better results. Generally speaking, Clarity is far more a heavy-handed and invasive tool, affecting everything from sharpness to saturation. Texture is a little more subtle in how it increases or decreases the smaller details of an image and doesn’t impact things outside of detail — like color — anywhere near as drastically.
Revamp of Noise Reduction and Sharpening
On the note of details, ZPS has improved their Noise Reduction and Sharpening tool. Its strange, 10 years ago I didn’t really think about noise too much as I didn’t ever push my ISO very high. Now, ISO performance is so good on modern cameras, I regularly opt to shoot deep into the thousands. I conducted a recent commercial shoot where the brief was to keep everything natural, which meant using no artificial lighting (for a few reasons beyond look, like the shots being candid). Most of the shots were great as-is, but some of the darker images had some heavy noise.
This is where the Noise Reduction tool comes in and an effective one can make working in higher ISO ranges a dream. I find that my most common issue with noise is not the shadows, but luminance and color noise. This update to ZPS’s tool specifically targets that functionality.
While the above are the highlights of this Fall update, there are a number of other improvements too. Besides already handling 4K files, the Video editor has seen a number of adjustments and improvements like live preview of changes to the timeline.
If you are looking for a new digital asset manager, image editing suite, and cost-effective all-around solution to post-production, ZPS is worth a look. They won both the TIPA and EISA awards for best photo software and that they’ve revamped the free and unlimited online gallery Zonerama. The value for money is staggering given just how comprehensive a set of tools ZPS offers for a fraction of what its rivals would charge.
It doesn’t matter what kind of photographer you are, chances are your images will benefit from being edited in some way. If you are serious about your pictures looking their best, these six key Photoshop techniques are well worth mastering.
Adobe Photoshop is a vast program with tools and features that can alter your images beyond recognition. While the extensive list of things the program can do may feel intimidating to many, you’ll be pleased to know you don’t need to learn every facet of the editor. Many photographers use the same few tools, again and again, to transform their images to a high standard. I know I fall into this category of users who have tried, tested, and rejected many of the features in Photoshop over the last 20 years of using it. In all that time of using the program, I have managed to distill the many features on offer down to just six key tools that I use every day.
Dodge and Burn
Starting off the list is a pair of tools that are based on a traditional darkroom technique. Dodging and burning is a way to lighten or darken areas of the image with the use of a brush. Dodging will lighten things, while burning will darken them. Both the dodge and burn tool can be found on the same icon on the toolbar. To switch between these two tools, you can right-click on the icon, which will reveal a dropdown of all the options in this group.
Once you have the correct tool selected, you have some further controls at your fingertips. First, you can select if the dodging or burning will affect just the highlights, midtones, or shadows from the range menu. Next, you have an exposure percentage, which alters the strength of the tool. The higher the number, the stronger the effect will be. These two controls can be found on the top menu bar. Lastly, there is a Protect Tones option, which when selected will minimize the clipping in the shadows and highlights. This option also tries to keep colors from shifting hue. I personally always keep this last option selected, but you may want to experiment with toggling this on and off to see which you prefer.
Mastering dodging and burning can take some practice to dial in, but the results can enhance an image. It doesn’t matter if you shoot portraits, landscapes, wildlife, or even still life, dodging and burning can sometimes be all you need to transform your image into something special. If your pictures sometimes look a little flat and two-dimensional, this tool can change all that.
The Pen Tool
If you need to make complex selections or “cut out” something out from a busy background, the Pen Tool is just what you need. I must admit, for many years, I resisted this tool, as I thought it was something more for graphic designers and not photographers. Once I did start to use the tool, though, I never looked back. While there are many great tools for making sections, nothing can beat the human eye and a steady hand.
The Pen Tool is located in the toolbar just below the dodge and burns icon. Once selected, it’s just a matter of drawing connected points around your intended object until you complete your selection. The great thing about the Pen Tool is that by dragging any of the points, you make it possible to create curvy lines to any degree. This means any complex shape you can think of can be drawn with the Pen Tool.
Once you have all your points drawn around your object, it’s just a matter of right-clicking with the mouse and asking Photoshop to make a selection for you. This selection can then be easily used to separate an object from a background or used in an image mask on various adjustment layers. While the Pen Tooll can take some time to get used to, I urge users to hang in there, as it still is the best way to get consistent and accurate sections of difficult objects.
The Shadow/Highlight Tool
Sometimes, you will take a picture that is generally well exposed but is still lacking some detail in the shadow or highlight areas. When one or both of these parts of the image need some adjustment, the Shadow/Highlight command is a great tool to use. To access this tool, head over to “Image” in the menu at the top, then down to “Adjustments,” where you will see “Shadow/Highlight.”
Be sure that the preview option is selected in the dialog box so any adjustments you make with the controls are visible in real-time. Once you are happy with the changes, you can hit ok and the adjustments will be made. I think you may be surprised at how powerful this tool is at rescuing detail in both the darker and lighter parts of the image. The great thing about this particular tool is that no manual selections are needed. Photoshop knows where the shadows or highlights are and alters their value based on your input. For most users, the main Shadow/ Highlight sliders will get you where you want to be. If you want to fine-tune those adjustments even further, there are more options available to you if you click the “Show More Options” button. I have to admit that although I use this tool regularly, I have never needed to fine-tune those adjustments with the extra tools that are made available when you click “Show More Options.” For most users, the original Shadow/Highlight sliders will get you where you want to be.
I have grouped these two tools, as the pair work well to fix problem areas in your photographs. Both these tools can be found in the same place just above the brush icon in the toolbar. By right-clicking on this particular icon, you will be greeted with several tools all related to repairing the image in some way. Both the tools we need can be selected here.
The Spot Healing Brush
The Spot Healing Tool is reasonably self-explanatory and is used to remove spots or blemishes from your work. Spots on someone’s face, unwanted specks on clothing, and sensor dust on your images are just a few examples of where this tool works well.
Because you apply this tool with a brush, you can tell Photoshop exactly what you want to be fixed. One point worth mentioning is that you don’t necessarily need to apply this tool in just small spots. Thanks to the fact you apply it with a brush, you can click and hold the brush down and draw any shape you need. For example, an unwanted thread of sensor dust can easily be fixed with a drawn squiggly line that follows the offending piece.
The Patch Tool
The Patch Tool works slightly differently in that you create a selection around something in your image and then tell Photoshop to source a particular area in the image to patch in a repair. I have this tool set up to “Patch source from destination,” although you can also “Patch destination from source.” Both of these options can be selected in the toolbar at the top of the screen.
I then use this tool to make a selection around a problem area in my work and then drag said selection to a part of the picture that I want the program to reference from when repairing. The great thing about being able to drag the selection around is that Photoshop shows you in real-time the area you going to potentially use to fix things. This visual preview can be invaluable when you are trying to line something up in your work. Think trying to fix a problem area on a tiled wall or trying to remove something on a visible horizon in your landscape work. I find that many photographers underestimate the power of this particular tool and prefer to use some of the newer tools for repairing areas in their work. What I especially like about the Patch Tool is that you tell Photoshop exactly where to “look” to repair. Most of the other repair tools in the editor do this automatically, which can sometimes lead to undesirable results.
The Curves Tool
I think many people find the Curves Tool a little intimidating and tend to shy away from it. This is a great shame, as this one tool alone can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to changing the appearance of your images. Head to “Image” in the menu at the top, then down to “Adjustments,” where you will see “Curves” is an option.
From here, you can make changes to the image’s tonality by adjusting the straight diagonal line on the graph. By changing the shape of this line, you can affect the highlights, midtones, or shadows of the image. You may have heard photographers talk about adding an “S-curve” to their work, which means they have taken the straight line you are greeted with when you open the curves tool and changed the shape so it more resembles an “S” shape on the graph. S-shaped curves are one popular tonal tweak used for boosting contrast and color saturation.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Curves Tool can also be used to adjust individual color channels of an image too. This is really where this tool comes into its own in terms of controllability and possibilities. In my work, I love using curves to change the values of just the blue channel to give my pictures a more stylish look. It’s amazing what a few small tweaks in this tool can do to transform your work.
While there are certainly many more tools that the program has to offer, the six suggestions mentioned above will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to editing your work. The main reason I wanted to write this article was to help readers to cut through the noise that is out there when it comes to using such a versatile piece of software such as Photoshop. If you can master a few key concepts when it comes to using the editor, you will be able to get your images where you want them to be in a fraction of the time. The way I see mastering Photoshop is a lot like becoming comfortable communicating in a foreign language. You’d be surprised how little you can get by with if you learn a few key phrases. Memorizing every single word in the dictionary may be impressive, but it isn’t necessary.
Do you use all the techniques mentioned above? Any key features you think are missing from the list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
After much teasing, the new Nikon Z9 flagship full-frame mirrorless camera has arrived. Built for speed and durability, it features a blackout-free electronic viewfinder, a newly-developed 45.7MP full-frame BSI stacked CMOS sensor, 30 fps bursts (JPEG), and 8K/30p as well as 4K/120p video capture. All these features arrive in an extremely well-built, pro-level body with an integrated vertical grip.
The Z9 is also Nikon’s first mirrorless full-frame camera to ditch the mechanical shutter in favor of a purely electronic one. And Nikon promises “the world’s smallest rolling shutter distortion,” which roughly translates to, “you won’t even notice the mechanical shutter is gone.”
Let’s take a closer look at what else this beastly new camera has to offer.
8K/30p and 4K/120p video capture using the full sensor
493 AF points covering 90% of the frame
People/eye, animal and vehicle AF detection
Build quality & body features
The Nikon Z9 looks quite a lot like its DSLR flagship cousin, the Nikon D6. This includes the shape of the body and grip as well as the button placement (hello illuminated rear buttons) and the menu design. Both offer integrated vertical controls and make use of the high-capacity EN-EL18 series battery.
Nikon says the chassis of the Z9 is as rugged and durable as that of the D6. And the overall build quality is also a match, including the level of dust and moisture sealing. However, the Z9 is 20 percent smaller than the D6.
As you might expect, the Z9 offers dual card slots, accepting both CF Express (Type B) and XQD cards. You’ll also find a full-sized HDMI port on the body along with a USB port that can be used for charging.
Viewfinder & screen
The Z9 uses a 3.69-million dot electronic viewfinder panel, the same resolution as the Z7 II and Z6 II. However, the maximum brightness of the panel has been increased significantly, which should make it easier to shoot in very bright light.
The EVF also offers black-out free shooting thanks to what Nikon is calling “Dual-Stream technology.” It works by pumping two feeds to the EVF or LCD (whichever you’re using) and combining them to ensure an accurate view of the scene/action is always displayed.
On the rear of the camera, you’ll find a touch-sensitive 3.2-inch LCD that can be tilted both vertically and horizontally.
Nikon Z9 photography performance
Nikon says the Z9 is “the fastest, most powerful Nikon flagship ever,” and we believe it. The EXPEED 7 processor alone is 10x faster than the one found in the Z7 II. This results in the camera being able to read data off its sensor so fast, there’s no distortion when using the electronic shutter—hence the lack of a mechanic shutter.
And the processing power also means the Z9 is capable of 20 fps RAW burst shooting with a buffer of 1000+ images. Additionally, the camera can shoot 30 fps in JPEG-only mode (full-res). And if that isn’t fast enough for you, there’s also a 120 fps JPEG burst mode if you knock the resolution down to 11MP. All of these burst modes work with full-time AF/AE.
The camera also features an impressively fast max shutter speed of 1/32,000 sec. Additionally, a new “High-Efficiency RAW” option produces files 1/3rd the size of traditional uncompressed RAWs. And Nikon says there’s no image quality penalty when using this mode.
Nikon Z9 Autofocus
What good is super fast burst shooting without rock-solid autofocus? Nikon engineers seem to agree. The Z9 sports the brand’s “most intelligent AF system yet,” which consists of 493 focus points covering 90% of the frame. And AF calculations are made at 120fps, so we expect performance to be top-notch.
This is also the first Z-series camera to incorporate Nikon’s much-loved 3D-tracking feature, plucked directly from its DSLR line. When using 3D-tracking, you’ll find options for both face and eye detection as well as a list of other detection modes. These include dog, cat, bird, plane, train and bike detection.
Nikon Z9 Video features & performance
The Z9 is capable of both 8K/30p and 4K/120p video capture, both using the full width of the sensor to maximize video quality. Footage can roll for up to 2 hours, even in 8K mode.
For the post-production wiz, Z9 shoots10-bit N-Log and/or HLG footage, to maximize color-grading potential. There’s also Nikon’s “Flat” color profile. On the sound side, the camera offers both a headphone and microphone jack and can record 24-bit audio.
And coming 2022, a firmware update will unlock 8K/60p capture in a new 12-bit “N-RAW high-efficiency” video format.
Pro-grade cameras tend to offer pro-grade connectivity and the Z9 is no exception. Nikon added a new menu tab dedicated to network settings to make things easier. And the camera offers both Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi (2.4 or 5 GHz) and plays nice with the existing Snapbridge app.
For the launch of the Z9 Nikon has also introduced a new pro-grade app dedicated to in-the-field file transfer called “NX Mobile Air.” The app lets you tether the Z9 (and other existing Nikon cameras, TBD) to a 5G-enabled smartphone or smart device, to transfer files to an FTP server.
The Z9 also offers a wired LAN port for super-fast file transfer.
Who’s it for
This is very much a professional camera intended for the hands of photographers working in fast-paced and/or extreme conditions. And Nikon likely built the Z9 with sports and wildlife shooters as well as photojournalists, in mind. It will compete with flagship DSLRs, as well as pro-grade mirrorless cameras like the burly Sony A1 and the upcoming Canon R3.
Price and availability
The Nikon Z9 should be available by the end of 2021 for $5499.95.
Adobe has just released Photoshop 2022, version 23.0.0. As always, it leans more towards evolution than revolution, but with more than two decades of evolving, you know any large changes are going to be useful.
For improvements, my pick would be Object Finder, which improves upon Object Selection, an automated selection tool. There was a time where I could not get useful selections through any automated methods, but in the last year or two, I have been leaning on Object Selection more and more. As a result, I’m pleased to see they have refined this tool and added some functionality.
As for some newer features, I always go straight to the Neural Filters, partially because they’re still novel, and partially because they’re getting increasingly impressive. For example, the Landscape Mixer tool (which is still in beta), allows you to change the season of your image automatically, as well as the time of day, or even the textures. The example Adobe gave that was the most impressive was an ordinary, green landscape with hills and trees, that the new tool turned to winter. The snow on the ground isn’t overly impressive, but it even realistically added snow to the leaves of the trees too.
Sony has introduced the Sony Xperia PRO-I which, from looking at the specs, looks like a smartphone that’s been specifically designed with photographers in mind.
The Sony Xperia PRO-I is the World’s first smartphone to include a 1.0-type Exmor RS image sensor with phase-detection AF (autofocus) which means its low light performance should be excellent and the bokeh it produces will look great. Sony also says the inclusion of the image Exmor RS image sensor will also mean the device offers a high dynamic range.
The 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor is actually the same one used in the RX100 VII camera but it’s been optimised for smartphones.
Other features photographers will be interested in include 315 phase-detection AF points that cover 90% of the frame, Real-time Eye AF, Real-Time Tracking, 20fps AF/AE burst shooting, dual aperture (f/2 and f/4) for improved low light performance, RAW shooting and ZEISS Tessar Optics with T* anti-reflective coating.
The Xperia PRO-I also features a dedicated shutter button that boasts the same shutter switch module as Sony’s RX100 series cameras and requires similar button strokes to operate AF and shutter release. The user can also long-press the shutter button to quickly launch Photography Pro and start shooting immediately, even when the display is off
Another World’s first found in the Sony Xperia PRO-I is its ability to record 4K video at 120fps and there’s a built-in strap-hole as well as a dedicated shutter button for easy, quick control. The Sony Xperia PRO-I is also the first Xperia smartphone to support Eye AF and Object Tracking during video shooting. For those who shoot video on a regular basis, there’s a new Videography Pro mode, too.
Other features include a 4K HDR OLED 120Hz refresh rate display, 4500mAh battery, 3.5mm audio jack and Full-stage Stereo Speakers.
As for the cameras, there are 3 rear optics built-in with a newly developed 24mm lens capturing better images with less peripheral image distortion and improved contrast/sharpness. Supporting the 24mm lens is a 16mm and 50mm lens along with a 3D iToF sensor.
Pricing and Availability – The new Xperia PRO-I will be available in Early December for approximately £1,599.
Take a look at these sample photos captured on the Sony Xperia PRO-I.
Pricy flagship cameras almost invariably get the fanciest new hardware and features before their budget-friendly counterparts. The question, then, is how quickly those bells and whistles will funnel down the line into cameras attainable for enthusiasts and not just die-hard pros. The new Sony A7 IV borrows a substantial amount of hardware and numerous features from more advanced models, including the video-centric A7S III and the do-everything flagship Sony A1.
The aptly named Sony A7 IV (which is currently up for pre-order) follows the excellent A7 III, which debuted back in 2018. Sony has made some very notable upgrades to the base-model A7 during those three years and the resulting camera looks impressive, at least on paper.
Sony A7 IV imaging hardware
At its heart, the A7 IV keeps a 33-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor. That’s a considerable jump from the 24.3-megapixel sensor in the A7 III and many of Sony’s other cameras. The A7 IV also employs the most recent BIONZ XR image processor, which it borrows from the top-of-the-line A1 and the video-centric A7S III. That processor provides the power that enables many of the Sony A7 IV’s most notable new features.
That sensor and processor combination provides a native ISO range of 100 to 51,200, but it’s also expandable one stop above and below those maximum numbers. The A7 III offered excellent low-light performance for its specs, and with considerably more processing power on-hand, we wouldn’t expect anything different from this most recent model.
Sony A7 IV autofocus
This is another area in which the A7 IV borrows tech from its more expensive Sony Alpha pals. The A7 IV offers 759 total AF points with 94 percent frame coverage, which matches the A1. The two cameras also share the same AF algorithms. The A1’s ridiculously fast sensor readout will still give it a noticeable advantage when it comes to overall AF speed and performance, but this should be a big upgrade from the previous generation A7.
The A7 III used Sony’s lock-on AF system, where as the A7 IV steps up to the newer real-time tracking AF. This bump should make the A7 IV much better when it comes to tracking faces and other objects, even when they change direction and orientation or they go outside the frame completely. This comes in handy for photographers who shoot things like weddings or other movement-heavy activities and they don’t want to have to constantly adjust the focus tracking.
When it comes to tracking, the A7 IV can detect human eyes, but now it can also lock onto animals and birds as well.
Upgraded memory card slots
The A7 III had a pair of almost-matching SD card slots (only one of the pair supported UHS-II cards). The A7 IV upgrades its primary memory card slot to a CFexpress Type A spec for extremely burly transfer speeds. The other card slot is a familiar UHS-II SDXC/SDHC option.
That fast storage along with the powerful new processing hardware keeps the A7 IV’s maximum burst rate at 10 fps (mechanical or electronic shutter), but it can now shoot more than 800 raw+JPEG photos before it runs out of room on the buffer. That’s 8 times what the A7 III offered. The A7 IV also parallel processes images, so it can immediately access menus, even if the camera is still recording images from your last burst.
What about image stabilization?
Optical Steady Shot inside the A7 IV offers up to 5.5 stops of shake reduction with compatible lenses. This isn’t a huge jump over the A7 III, but Sony says the mechanism is the same one found in the A1, so while the rating may not have jumped very much, overall performance should provide a noticeable real-world improvement.
Shooting video on the A7 IV
Sony fancies the A7 IV as a true hybrid camera that’s capable of great stills and video in the same body. Sony has made some considerable improvements to this camera’s video shooting capabilities.
The A7 IV outputs 4K video at 24p and 30p by shooting oversampled 7K footage that covers the full width of the sensor. If you want to jump up to 4K 60p, the field of view crops down to what you’d get from a Super 35 camera. Despite the smaller sensor area, it’s still oversampled at 4.6K. All of this gets a boost from the heat-management structure that’s also found in the A7S III. It prevents the camera from overheating. You still can’t shoot super high-res for hours, but it will keep things cool enough f
It appears as though Sony has drastically improved the autofocus features available during video mode. You now get access to real-time tracking, as well as eye tracking with AF engaged. As with stills, it can lock onto humans, animals, and birds as they move across the frame.
The A7 IV can record in a litany of different formats, including S-Cinetone, which you’ll find in Sony cinema cameras, as well as S-Log3. Using the latter, you can pull more than 15 stops of dynamic range out of the footage in post.
Other video features
In addition to the nitty gritty features, Sony introduced a couple interesting features in the A7 IV. Breathing control helps prevent a phenomenon in which a lens’s field of view changes as you focus. It primarily affects large-aperture lenses and it’s way more noticeable when shooting video than it is with stills. In this mode, the camera actually received position information from the focusing element in the lens and automatically makes adjustments using Sony’s Clear Image Zoom tech to compensate. It only works with a handful of first-party Sony lenses (including just about all of the G Master line), but won’t work with any third-party lenses at the moment.
A new mode switch underneath the typical mode dial allows shooters to quickly and easily swap between still and video modes. When you switch back and forth, the camera will remember all of the controls and settings you were using last time you were in that specific mode and revert to them. So, if you’re trying to shoot stills and video with different settings and aesthetics, you can do so without having to make a ton of adjustments every time you switch.
Sony A7 IV display and viewfinder
The A7 III’s electronic viewfinder wasn’t particularly impressive, but the A7 IV boasts a 3.68 million dot viewfinder with a refresh rate that runs between 60 and 120 fps. The rear screen now offers a more useful and familiar 3:2 aspect ratio and full rotation features to make it more valuable when shooting video or from weird angles.
Who should buy the Sony A7 IV?
Sony says the A7 IV will start shipping in December 2021 for approximately $2,499 in the US. For an extra $200 on top of that price, the 28-70mm kit lens comes with it.
That price puts it in direct competition with bodies like the Canon R6. It comes in more expensive than the Nikon Z6 II and the Panasonic S5, but they’re in the same ballpark.
At least on paper, the A7 IV has a lot to get excited about. With better autofocus and considerably more resolution, the A7 IV does a great job playing the catch-all role for the Alpha lineup. It can’t match the speed or massive resolution you get from the A1, but it will save you $4,000, which is a big deal.
We’re looking forward to getting a hands-on review with the A7 IV once units become available.
Former AP editor and passionate wildlife campaigner, Keith Wilson, is the picture and text editor of a new book called Fox: Neighbour, Villain, Icon. He tells us more about the book, which you can support on Kickstarter.
A growing cub cautiously explores the field margins close to its earth in Derbyshire, By Andy Parkinson
Why the fox – and why now? Well, why not – and there is no time like the present! The fox is the last predatory mammal or carnivore the UK has. Many centuries ago there were wolves, lynx, bears, even lions if you go back further.
So the fox is the last connection we have with the wilderness. Bu for everyone who likes foxes you will find somebody who despises them – they are an intrinsic part of UK culture. Red foxes can be found all over Europe and Asia, but somehow in this country there is a really perverse love/hate relationship with this animal.
What are you trying to achieve with the book? We are not only documenting the fox’s lifecycle but also seeing how it’s coexisting in both an urban environment and a rural environment. We are even looking at some of the folklore surrounding the fox, which goes back many centuries.
A vet tends to an injured red fox that has been hit by a car and brought to the Fox Project, a dedicated hospital and rehabilitation centre for foxes in Kent. By Neil Aldridge
We have scientists contributing to the book, farmers, hunt saboteurs as well as those working in fox rehabilitation and rescue. And this is all depicted with some stunning wildlife photography.
A fox hunt led by the huntmaster and his hounds makes its way through a farm in West Sussex. By Matt Aldridge
While a lot of people supported the fox hunting ban, many now regard foxes as a pest, an annoying predator of their hens, or even as a health risk. Did you find this when working on the book? Totally – there are a lot of ambivalent attitudes here in the UK. Many people think there is now a problem with fox numbers since the 2004 hunting ban came into force. In fact, fox numbers are up, but only in the cities.
In rural areas, they have declined, even with the hunting ban. This is down to loss of habitat, and the encroachment of humans. People say ‘oh this wild species is invading our garden.’ No, you have expanded into their habitat!
Two young cubs play affectionately together in a quiet forest in Derbyshire. By Andy Parkinson.
Also the fox is an opportunistic omnivore, so it will always go for an easy supply of food. It has a varied diet, which is one of the reasons it survives so well.
As for the hunting ban, hunting IS still going on, it is just that the authorities are turning a blind eye to it.
A red fox looks out from the safety of her rehabilitation enclosure at a secure location in Kent, England. Her face bares the infected scars of a dog attack, By Neil Aldridge
So is this a book about foxes with supporting photography, or a photography book first and foremost? It’s a good mixture of photography and supporting text and yes, it is photography-led. So you’ve got the three photographers Andy Parkinson, Neil Aldridge and Matt Maran, who all approach the fox from different angles.
Neil is more of a photojournalist while Andy is focused on capturing wild foxes in their natural habitat, as undisturbed as possible.
An adult vixen on snow covered ground in Derbyshire. By Andy Parkinson
Matt, meanwhile, has been documenting foxes in London for years. So there is a great variety of fox imagery, including the fox’s interaction of people.
A fox in the city, by Matt Maran
How is the Kickstarter campaign going? It’s going ok but we are not there yet. The campaign ends on 30th October and we still need the support of AP readers to hit our £40k target. Paper prices and other book production costs have got a lot higher owing to economic factors. Chris Packham wrote the forward, and has backed us from the beginning.
After this, do you plan to do a book on other kinds of British wildlife? Who knows. This latest book has been two years in the making, and was planned before the pandemic. As the picture and text editor, I am very pleased with how it’s all looking. The book features some award-winning pictures, but also a lot of images which haven’t been published or posted online.
Fox: Neighbour, Villain, Icon is beautifully illustrated hardcover book with over 100 fox photographs by the three award-winning photographers You can support this very worthwhile project, and find out more about the book, here.
Further reading Wildlife photography tips and techniques
Sony just announced the Alpha a7 IV, the latest “low-end” model in its full frame mirrorless camera line but with some decidedly high-end features. The new Sony A7 IV features a 33-megapixel full frame Exmor R CMOS image sensor and Sony’s latest generation image processing engine, the Bionz XR.
This image sensor and processor combination is designed to help the Sony A7 IV capture high resolution photos with accurate color and low noise for crisp images that look true-to-life. The Sony A7 IV will also be able to capture 15 stops of dynamic range and features an upgraded 759-point phase-detection autofocus system with 94% coverage. The new Bionz XR processor also helps the A7 IV’s overall speed; it’s capable of shooting at 10 frames per second (fps) with AF/AE tracking.
For video, the Sony A7 IV can shoot 4K in 30p with 7K oversampling in full frame readout without pixel binning, and 4K in 60p in the Super35 format for slow motion. It also can capture real-time Eye AF while shooting video for humans, animals and birds. This AF feature was previously only available for still photography.
While the Sony A7 IV, which will retail for $2500 when it goes on sale in late December 2021, represents the bottom end of Sony’s full frame mirrorless line, many of the features listed above comes from its top tier Sony A1, A7S III, and A9 II and A7R IV cameras. The A7 IV will be replacing the A7 III, Sony’s old “basic” model that came out in 2018 though we’ve heard that model will remain available for some time. (That’s a good thing for photographers on a budget, the Sony A7 III debuted at under $2000 and now can be found for less than $1800.)
Here’s a rundown of the key features in the Sony Alpha a7 IV camera:
33MP, full frame, Exmor R CMOS image sensor
Bionz XR image processor
Can capture a reported 15 stops of dynamic range
Upgraded 759-point phase-detection autofocus system with 94% coverage
Improved AF-S speed/Improved low light AF down to EV-4
AF tracking for continuous shooting at F22
New Creative Look and Soft Skin Effect settings
Real-time Eye AF for Humans and Animals including Birds (for both stills & video)
In-body 5-axis image stabilization with a 5.5 step advantage
10 fps shooting with AF/AE tracking
ISO sensitivity range expandable to ISO 50 – 204,800
828 continuous RAW+JPEG shooting
10-bit HEIF format (4:2:2 or 4:2:0)
Advanced external flash control
Side opening, 3-inch, touch-sensitive vari-angle LCD with 3:2 aspect ratio
Dual slot memory card storage: CFexpress Type A + UHS II (slot 1) and UHS II (slot 2)
Separately assignable menus/buttons/dials with Still/Movie/S&Q
3.68 million-dot OLED QVGA EVF with high 120fps
Improved live-view image quality
Improved grip holding and top-panel REC button
4K 60p video recording in Super35 format for slow-motion
4K 30p video recording, 7K oversampling for high resolution footage
S-Cinetone and Creative Look for quicker delivery of work
10bit S-Log3 with 15+ stops of dynamic range
10-bit depth, 4:2:2 color sampling, Intra-frame encoding (XAVC S-1
High-efficiency MPEG-H HEVC/H.265 (XAVC HS)
Optical “Active Mode” image stabilization
Digital Audio Interface for cleaner, clearer audio recordings
7-step AF Transition Speed, 5-step AF Subject Shift Sensitivity
Easy subject tracking with Touch Tracking
AF Assist supports focus transition when using AF
Intuitive depth-of-field visualization with Focus Map
Breathing compensation for minimizing focus breathing
Heat-dissipating structure for longer movie recording
UVC/UAC 4K15p/FHD60p online communication & streaming
Up to 4K 60 simultaneous recording while live streaming
Movie shot marks can be added to recorded movie clips
Improved Imaging Edge Mobile connection settings
WiFi 5GHX/USB 10Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen2) High-speed transfer
Pricing: $2500 (body only), $2700 with FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens
Availability: Late December 2021
Editor’s Note: This is a breaking news story. We will add more images and information about the new Sony A7 IV as we gather it. Check back at Digital Photo Pro later today for our first look review of the Sony A7 IV.
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